Nation of short-lived, heat radiating humanoids, who also have darkvision (50). In EA, the main path they have access to is fire. They have minor access to astral and blood through their cap-only warlocks, along with minor earth access through the slow-to-recruit Anointed of Rhuax. In EA, most Abysian units are heavily armoured and thus use a good amount of resources. Capitol sites produces a total of 6 fire gems per turn.
Slayer (70g 10r) - Stealthy Abysian assassins, minor use. Outclassed in every way by the demonbred. Forts tend to be used to recruit mages instead. Situational use, just like every other assassin.
Warlord (80g 38r) - Commander with 80 leadership. 2 map move. Since your Anathemant Dragons/Salamanders both have 55/50 leadership, respectively, there's little point in recruiting the warlord. He could quite possibly be used for light thugging.
Beast Trainer (45g 41r) - Commander, with only 10 leadership but has Animal Awe(4) and Beastmaster(+3) Rather situational use. They can be used to lead a group of indie-elephants to alleviate their morale problems, or any other group of animals.
Anathemant Salamander (175g 1r, F2 H1, 9 research) - Mage with 50 normal leadership and 10 magic leadership, doesn't start with old age like the Anathemant Dragon. Sacred. Since they have fire resistance and good leadership scores, don't be afraid to use them to lead an army of Abysians.Seeing as how they have F2 instead of F3, most people usually prefer recruiting the Anathemant Dragon instead, unless they're tight on gold. However, since the Salamander starts with no old age, it would be a good idea to recruit them instead of the Dragons in enemy dominion that has either cold or death scales, so you don't have to worry about your Dragons racking up afflictions and dying shortly afterwards. F2 is enough for phoenix power, which brings you up to F3 and thus get access to falling fires/prison of fire/fire cloud.
Anathemant Dragon (265g 2r, F3H2, 11 research) - Mage with 55 normal leadership, 15 magic leadership, starts with old age. Sacred. The mage most people rely on as EA Abysia. F3 gives you access to most of the useful battlefield fire spells, but using phoenix power to bring them up to F4 will make the scaling fire spells (slightly) stronger, and make all other fire spells cost less fatigue. Also, with a few fire gems and phoenix power, you can let one of your Dragons cast Heat from Hell.
Note on Anathemant Dragon and Salamander - They're both sacred, so don't be afraid to go with something like E4+ on your pretender to get reinvigoration on them.
Warlock Apprentice (55g 1r, B1, 7 research) - Cap-only mage with 10 leadership, 5 magic leadership, and 5 undead leadership, not sacred. Rarely used, unless you're tight on funds for some reason. If you're going to blood hunt/cast blood spells, most people would rather recruit the Warlock. Although, they can be used to forge sanguine dowsing rods.
Warlock (135g 1r, S1B2, 10% F/E/S/B) - Cap-only mage with 10 leadership, 20 magic leadership, and 10 undead leadership, also not sacred. The abysian staple for blood hunting. They cost less initially but due to them not being sacred, upkeep will eventually be higher than if you recruited a bunch of Dragons. Astral and Blood give a tiny bit of variety to the otherwise pure-fire nation. They can be used to potentially access the higher level blood summons, through empowerment ad boosters. Also can be used to cast a handful of useful blood spells in a fight.
Demonbred (80g 14r) - Cap-only, stealthy flying assassin. Superior to the standard Abysian slayer, and arguably the best recruitable assassin in EA, and perhaps the entire game. Rather situational use, just like every other assassin.
Anointed of Rhuax (425g 1r, F4 E1 H3 10%F/E/S/B) - Cap-only, slow to recruit, sacred mage. Doesn't have old age. These guys are great. F4 is nothing to sneeze at, especially if you use phoenix power to go up to F5. However, it's typically better to have two Dragons than one Anointed of Rhuax. They're capable of casing heat from hell or fire storm with just phoenix power and a handful of gems, and that's their main use. Just throw in two of these guys with a squad of dragons/salamanders + (preferably abysian)units to cast fire storm and heat from hell for the army.
Abysian Infantry comes in four variations, two of them use shields, and the other two use two handed weapons.
Abysian Infantry (20g 26r) - Standard abysian infantry, uses an axe, has no shield.
Abysian Infantry (20g 26r) - Standard abyisan infantry, uses a flail, has no shield.
The two handed weapon wielders come in two forms - axe or flail. Axes do more damage upfront, but flails get two attacks. Generally, the two handed weapon wielders are fine against indies, but have no way to defend against missiles due to their lack of shield, which could be a problem if the enemy has a army of archers.
I'm no expert on combat stats, however I believe the axe units should be used against units with high protection. Flails are most likely the better choice against units with many hit points, though in the end the difference between them is negligible. Of course, if you're facing units resistant to either slash or blunt, then you should obviously stop recruiting those axe/flail wielding abysians.
Abysian Infantry (20g 27r) - Standard abysian infantry, uses a axe and shield.
Abysian Infantry (20g 28r) - Standard abysian infantry, uses a morning-star and shield.
The differences between axe and morningstar seem to be minimal. However, most people tend to recruit the morningstar variant instead.
Salamander (60g 1r, max 5/month) - Fire breathing animal unit, can only act in an undisciplined formation.
Deals a good amount of damage with their fire flare, can be a problem getting them close enough to the enemy for that. If you do manage to get the positioning right, they could be a great help.
Misbred (20g 5r) - Cap only, stealthy flying unit. Must be led by a commander with undead leadership. Really strange use on these guys. Their most likely commander, the demonbred, has 0 leadership, so he's out of the question. Warlocks are pretty much your only choice for national leadership here, but then the flying and stealthy aspect of these guys are wasted, and all you're left with is an old-age, flying fiery man.
Burning One (55g 41r) - Cap only, sacred berserker infantry.
Very, very solid unit, even without a bless. That said, they're not worth taking a bless on since they're cap only, unless you really want to. Again, they're unexpectedly strong even without a bless, not to the point of giants, but still.
National Spells :
Summon Spectral Infantry (Conjuration 2, D1F1, Ritual, 5 death gems) - Summons five smoulderghost units, ethereal, 0 protection abysian warriors. You probably won't be using this too much as EA or MA Abysia. None of your commanders even have a chance of getting death, so the only way you'd be using this is from searching for death somehow(pretender?), then empowering/somehow acquiring a F1D1 or higher path mage.
Inner Furnace (Enchantment 5, F3, Combat Spell, 1 Fire Gem) - The caster invokes the power of Rhuax to strengthen the heat burning in every Abysian. All soldiers on the battlefield have the area of their heat effect increased. Effectiveness of this is questionable, but since most of your mages SHOULD be F3 or higher, you may as well use a turn to cast it.
Contact Scorpion Man (Conjuration 8, E1F1, 12 Earth Gems) - Summons a scorpionman unit(non-commander). Has a ton of weapons on him, so he can really deal a lot of damage. Not too sure if he's worth the gems, however.
(Recommended) Pretender Design :
Scales - Order 3, Growth 1+, then whatever scales you want. Production, magic are good choices.
Order, because every nation benefits from money, and Growth is there to deal with afflictions on your old mages(the Anathemant Dragons). If you have excess points, then production would be nice, but you could work with magic scales too. Misfortune 1 can be brought, if you take Order 3, but if you play expecting to last a long time, then eventually those events from misfortune could come to hinder you in the long run.
Going Turmoil-Luck is also a very viable strategy, but it really can go either way. Taking magic/productivity scales in addition to Turmoil-Luck supposedly adds some nice events to the list of possible events that happen to your nation.
Dominion Score - The higher the better. 7+ is the generally accepted amount. On the other hand, since all your priests can blood sacrifice, you could probably make do with a lower score. As Abysia, it'd be smart to make sure fights take place in hot lands, and to spread your heat 3 dominion out so you'll get slightly more income.
Magic Paths - This is really up to the player.
Personally recommend F5 or higher so you can have a chance at securing a global - eternal pyre (F6). Get there with a flame helmet to boost you to F6 if needed. Blood and Fire lead to Arch-Devils. The minor fire bless gives an attack bonus to blessed units. Not that great, but also doesn't hurt to have. Could be helpful in removing those damn elves.
B4+ can be useful, since you have recruitable(but cap-only) blood hunters with low paths in blood. With B4 alone, you can ratchet up to B7. Blood thorn -> Brazen Vessel -> Armor of Souls, assuming you choose a pretender that has all slots available (ie, not a immobile/snake). You most likely won't be able to compete with a "real" blood nation, but you could probably snag a few of the unique blood summons (Arch/Ice Devils). Strength bonus for your blessed units isn't that great either, but it's alright.
E4+ on your pretender can also be useful to buff your Anathemant Salamanders/Dragons. If you take blood and earth, you can access demon knights(infernal crusade, eventually), and Father Illearth. You can also forge earth boots to help out your Anointed of Rhuax, more on that in strategy.
All the other paths could be useful in some way. Don't be afraid to experiment!
Death or Astral can also be useful if you want to have some form of late game power. Tartarians/death summons, wishing.
All the other paths could be useful in some way. Don't be afraid to experiment!
Awake Expansion? - Abysia doesn't have much problems with expanding, so an awake pretender probably isn't the best idea. However, a strong awake pretender alongside Abysia's rather outstanding early-game prowess can lead to a REALLY strong rush against another nation. Likewise, it could deter a rush from a stronger nation. I wouldn't recommend an awake pretender, but it could be useful
Dormant High Path/Multipath? - Abysia is lacking in magic diversity, so it could be a good idea to have a pretender who has something other than FIRE. However, high fire/blood could be useful, as mentioned before. A dormant titan with decent paths and mid to late-game SC potential is a favorite choice among most nations, and Abysia is no exception.
Imprisoned? For even more scales and/or better magic paths, if you're confident you won't be needing your pretender for that long. Abysia isn't and shouldn't be reliant on its pretender god in the first place, so this is a really viable option.
Expansion as Abysia:
An army of 10-20 abysian infantries is often times more than enough to take on most indie provinces. As usual, avoid elephants/barbarians/HEAVY CAVALRY!!! unless you're confident you can take them on. Burning ones are also excellent for expansion, either alone or supported by the standard abysian infantries. Your anathemant salamanders/dragons can also be used to help expansion, by casting fire spells.
Be careful, however. Since Abysian troops cost a good amount of resources, losing your army before you secure your cap ring could really hinder your expansion. Consider hiring mercenaries if you think you're falling behind, or whenever you have excess gold and no ideal place to build a fort/palisades, or if a temple wouldn't be worth it.
Don't neglect forts/palisades! Getting another place to churn out your Abysian mages (Salamanders/Dragons), and Abysian units is always a good thing, even if you lack the gold to reach the resource limit when recruiting.
Abysia is rather straightforward in research goals. It's usually safe to rush evocation up to 3 or 5, then dip into conjuration 3 for phoenix power, and then choose one of the other schools depending on the situation. Enchantment or Blood are the obvious choices to get some form of late game power, and you'll also eventually have to get into Construction too. Of course, what you research should always depend on what you're going up against.
Evocation 3/5+ - for Fireballs(F2) and Falling Fires(F3) respectively. Standard evocations for Abysia. Higher level evocation leads to Fire Storm(F5, Evo 7), a battlefield enchantment. At evocation 8, you get Second Sun(F8) and Pillar of Fire(F2). Second Sun is a global enchantment that makes every province hotter, which is all neat and good for Abysia, but shouldn't be a major goal. Pillar of Fire is a 100 range evo spell. While Pillar of Fire seems to be inferior to Falling Fires in destructive capability, the important part is the 100 range. You can cheese the opponent by putting all your mages(and infantry?) at the rearmost position, which could cause the opposing army mages to go off-script, if they're using limited-range spells. Otherwise, if they're also using 100 range spells, then it won't matter as much.
Conjuration 3 - Phoenix Power, at conjuration 3. Higher levels in conjuration also lead to useful fire summons/spells like Kings of Elemental Fire (Conj 8), and the useful battle-spell living fire (Conj 7).
Thaumaturgy 4 - To get bonds of fire(F1) and prison of fire (F3), these spells could be useful if you're going up against nations with strong national troops/a bless.
Alteration 2/5 - For combustion (F1) and incinerate (F3) are also useful spells against bless nations with small armies.
Enchantment 6 - To get access to eternal pyre(F6), if your pretender has the paths for it/you get an anointed of rhuax with F5+. Enchantment 6 also gives you access to heat from hell(F4), a rather useful battle enchantment if your armies consist of nothing but Abysians. At Enchantment 4, you also get flaming arrows, which could be useful if you have a province (preferably with a fort) that lets you recruit cheap archers.
Earth Magic, various paths - Also, if your pretender/some other mage has E2+, then alongside with Construction 4, you can forge earth boots. Earth boots allow your Anointed of Rhuax to go up to E2, which then lets them cast Summon Earthpower(in battle) to bring them up to E3, and a reinvigoration effect. Earth is a really great path, and it extends the role of the Anointed of Rhuax past "casting fire battlefield enchantment spells and then flinging fire".
With E3 Anointed of Rhuax, you can cast stuff like Earth Meld (Alt 2), similar in function to Prison of Fire. Blade wind (Evo 4), a evocation spell with a huge amount of effects that really messes up low protection units. Destruction (Alt 4), which breaks the armor of a squad of units. Unlike iron bane, it doesn't mess up your units. Curse of Stones (Alt 4), which fatigues the enemy army's units and mages. Maws of the Earth (Alt 5), a even huger Earth Meld with a damaging portion. Iron Bane (Alt 6), may seem questionable, but if you ever find yourself fielding low protection units who wouldn't mind Iron Bane, then it could be useful. If you're using a true Abysian army you probably shouldn't even bother with it. Legions of Steel (Const 3) makes the armour of a squad of units tougher. Strength of Giants (Ench 3) makes a squad of units hit even harder. Magma Eruption (Evo 6) is a really damaging spell.
Blood (x) - If you do decide to get into blood magic as Abysia, then obviously researching blood is a requirement. Some useful goals are Blood 6+ for access to the unique blood summons, and Blood 7 for leech. Since the Warlocks only have low paths in astral and blood, you'll definitely want your pretender to have Blood 4+, and another path or two, for the unique summons. Earth for Father Illearth, Fire for Arch-Devils (also eternal pyre access), Water for Ice Devils, Death for Curse of Blood(vampire lord and his vampire defense force that are all immortal in your own dominion).
Construction 4/6/8 - Obvious choice, almost every nation is required to eventually research construction. Either for boosters or other useful items. Construction 8 gives you access to artifacts.
Fire, fire, fire! - Straightforward, research up some evocation, build up an army of abysian infantries, stick some mages in there(script them to cast fireballs/falling fires first, however), and just attack. Simple, but it usually does work. Stop and adjust/dump some more mages in/add battlefield enchantments when necessary.
Assassins? - The demonbred assassin can be incredibly effective. While it's true that your capitol should be recruiting mages(Anointed of Rhuax!) instead of these guys, they can be worth it if you manage to snag a key commander/mage right before a fight. For an example, if you manage to kill a commander that was leading around 120 troops, and you end up going into battle against only 40 troops and crushing the rest of the enemy mages. Or you could just stick them into a fort, and hope for the best. Worst case scenario is that it inconveniences whoever you're at war with.
Blood Slave Management - Note that the warlocks also radiate heat, so the blood slaves will still be burned if you assign them to a warlock, even worse if you pluck a warlock and his 30 blood slaves in the middle of your huge blob of abysian soldiers. Instead, get an indie commander and place him a moderate distance away from the army and the warlocks.
Battlefield Enchantments - Because Fire evocations alone will eventually be unable to cut it, you'll want to get into casting some battlefield enchantments. Heat from Hell and Fire Storm are the more obvious choice here, being available either through your pretender or a lucky/flame helmet Anointed of Rhuax.
Kitting out thugs, blood summons - Blood can also be a useful school to research in, as mentioned before, giving you access to potential thugs/SCs. Arch Devils, Ice Devils, Father Illearth, Heliophagus, Vampire Lords, and any of the Demon Lords can make solid thugs/SCs.
Some useful thug/sc equipment Abysia can forge:
Fire Brands(F1 E1)
Shields of gleaming gold(F1 E1)
Robe of Shadows (S2)
Starshine Skullcap (S2)
Charcoal Shield (E2F1)
Bracers of Protection (E1)
Amulet of Antimagic(S1)
Girdle of Might(E1).
Getting earth gems/astral pearls can be tricky, I'd recommend sitesearching with a anointed of rhuax and a warlock to find fire/earth/blood/astral sites. Getting S2 can take a while, since the chances of your S1B2 warlock getting S2 are abysmally low.
Late-Game Power? - Unfortunately, Abysia doesn't have much going on in the way of late-game power. Blood can be useful in securing some powerful summons, and the kings of elemental fire can also be useful, but your Anathemant Dragons will eventually be of minimal use in the lategame. "More Fire" won't do much if Tartarians are already running around. Choosing a pretender with high blood/death/other paths could help in securing the more powerful summons before they get snagged. Also, building up an early game advantage by eliminating a weaker nation early on will help you in dealing with the late game.
Rain - An obvious counter to Abysia. Rain reduces the heat aura of Abysians, basically making them into rather overpriced heavy infantry. The main kicker here though is how it makes all non-underwater fire spells cost double their usual fatigue. This leads to less fire spells being cast, and your infantry are considerably less impressive.
Dealing with rain - There's actually almost nothing you can do about it. It's an Evocation 2, W2 spell that needs only 1 water gem to cast. It tips the scale greatly in the enemy's favour, and unless you considerably outnumber them, then that fight you should've won may end with your loss. If you know your enemy will be casting rain, then at least make sure you're fighting in Heat 3 dominion. Possibly, you could use assassins and try lucking out with assassinating that one mage who's scripted to cast rain (a smart opponent would script a handful of mages to cast rain, ignoring the wasteful spending).
Iron Bane - Makes armour on the entire battlefield weak and rusty. This, fortunately, also applies to the enemy's army as well. Iron bane is particularly bad for Abysia because of the fact that your heavy infantry pretty much relies on their armour to reduce damage, and have low to mediocre defense scores.
Dealing with iron bane - Like rain, little you can do about it. Once it's cast, you can't anything about it.
(more counters later)