Hello new player. Best put on a pot of tea before you start reading, this will take a while.
You've started playing and are perhaps overwhelmed with all the different things you are presented with. What should you level up? How do you do it? And what use they are?
In this guide I’m going to focus on Defenders. Why you should level them up and use them actively.
All too often I see people not using defenders when they could be doing so, and hopefully i can help you appreciate their use.
What are defenders?
Defenders are like NPC heroes you can use to help fight the storm. They can be useful in a range of missions and can help boost your firepower, especially when there isn't a full lobby.
Like most items that come with "cards" in StW, they come in a range of rarities, from Common to Legendary. I highly recommend not wasting too many resources on levelling up the lower rarities. Defenders frequently appear in the store and they can also be obtained from Llamas.
You will gain the ability to recycle defenders and gain back most of the materials you have spent on them, but early on, just level them up to level 10 using Hero XP. Its worth noting they levelling up defenders takes 50% of the XP and evo mats levelling up a hero does.
All defenders use 33% less ammo and 33% less weapon durability than players.
How to use them in missions
In order to summon a defender you need to place a defender pad. Once placed then you can interact with the pad, choose a defender, a weapon for them, and determine how much ammo they should get (for ranged weapons). Once summoned they will then attack any husks that come in range.
It goes without saying that in order to summon a defender, you must have a defender to summon and a weapon for them to use. Also there is a limit on how many can exist in a mission, more on that later.
Defender pads require certain resources, one of those being Bacon. If you are an active user, you will find yourself burning through bacon, so always be on the lookout for it. You can often find bacon by searching baths, sinks, toilets, dog kennels, and tins of spam (that are spotted around the map).
Also i highly recommend running red toolbox expeditions when they become available to you (read a guide on expeditions for more info). They are a good source of bacon.
You also need a fair amount of nuts and bolts, you can get plenty of these destroying vehicles, parking meters, and searching cans. Red toolbox expeditions are also good for these. Wooden planks you get from destroying trees and duct tape is craftable using herbs (search plants, red toolbox expeditions) and adhesive resin (break trees, red toolbox expeditions). Duct tape can also be obtained by smashing rubber ducks. You can often find a few rubber ducks at the bottom of deep mine shafts on wilderness maps.
Expeditions are definitely the way to go once you can run them and you have spare heroes levelled up to send on them. It might be a while before you have that luxury though.
How many can you use?
In normal missions there can only be a maximum of 4 heroes or defenders. So if the lobby is full, you won't be able to use any defenders. However, with less than 4 players you can add defenders, one for each missing player. Should a player join after a defender is placed, a defender will be unsummoned.
In 4 player missions (those marked as 4 player recommended) the limit of players + defenders is increased to 8. Be aware you can only place a max of 3 defenders yourself, so someone else will have to place at least one defender to get the max of 8. If people are fighting over summoning defenders, that is, everyone wants to summon one, then anyone with more than 1 will find one of their defenders unsummoned to make way for another players (i think this info is correct, its been a while since i've had that situation).
There is one more scenario which allows you to place a lot more defenders. If you are doing a SSD (Storm Shield Defence) or Endurance, you can have up to 3 defenders to fill player slots plus another 4 (IIRC), for a total of 7 defenders. Should a person join, if you have more than 6 defenders, one will be unsummoned, and so on for each person that joins. It used to be that in order to have more, they had to be assigned to storm shield and of different types, and you could have 5 extra. Defenders no longer need to be assigned in advance, and I don't think there is any limit to which types you have, so if you wanted, you could have 7 melee defenders or 7 snipers (assuming you have that many).
To be blunt, the AI is dumb. They will fire weapons at max range, doing less damage due to damage fall off, they will walk into places they can't get out of, and they will stand in areas taking damage when they could simply step outside the area inflicting damage. They will try and move out and seek cover when they are at half health or thereabouts. Keep an eye on your defenders.
Types of Defenders
There are 5 types of defenders, each focused on a different weapon type (or types).
Melee Defenders: This is the only defender type that is lacking an obtainable female version. There is a female melee defender called Val but it was limited to a specific event. So, we can only hope that Epic bring her back one day. She had a perk, increased movement speed, that is not available on any other defender. Melee defenders are good to use as a distraction. They have the most health and shield of all defenders so can take a bit of a beating. Good to place near the objective to clean up any husks that make if past your trap tunnels (look for guides on making trap tunnels) or the players. One technique involves putting their defender pad 4 tiles away from the end of a trap tunnel. They will not enter the trap tunnel but will take on any husks that make it through.
Assault Defenders: There is a unique one that you won't be able to get unless Epic reintroduce her, called Jill. She is limited to Epic, there is no Legendary variant.
Assault defenders can use ARs and SMGs. They are good for taking down waves of husks at medium range, although this can vary depending on the weapon you give them.
Pistol Defenders: A bit similar to AR defenders, they can use pistols and SMGs. Use them similarly to AR defenders. There is also a unique defender you probably won't be able to get called Idris, who is also restricted to Epic rarity.
Shotgun Defenders: Often overlooked because of how shotguns generally have limited range, but with the right weapon can be good for close range crowd control. They can make a decent alternative to a melee defender.
Sniper Defenders: At one point these were the only defenders you would see most of the time due to a trick of sealing them inside a box, making them immune to husk attack, while using a piercing sniper rifle like the Obliterator or Neon sniper. Epic fixed this though. Still, good defenders to use when you want long range defenses. Put them in an out of the way position so they don't get mobbed (they have the lowest health and shield) and let them take out husks from range. Especially useful against lobbers.
With ranged weapons, defenders will burn through ammo, so consider keeping some slow firing weapons to use specifically with defenders, unless you enjoy constantly crafting ammo or searching for it. With melee weapons this is not an issue, you just need to worry about durability. Early on, use just about any weapon you can, even weapons you find from chests or other objects.
Note: There is no point giving a low level defender a high level weapon. Same as with players, they can't take advantage of the higher level weapon, especially in Stonewood anyway where effective power level is capped. I sometimes use a common Stop Axe with my melee defenders in Stonewood because they do just fine with it.
Defenders come with perks, just like weapon and trap schematics, except you can't change them. So always have a look at the perks and decide whether you want to invest in levelling them up. Increased fire rate sounds nice as its more DPS, until you stare in horror at just how quickly they burn through ammo because of it. For ranged defenders increased crit or damage are good. For melee defenders increased health and shield are good. Also with melee defenders take note of extra damage from specific weapon types. No point giving a defender with a bonus to axes a sword and vice versa if you want to take advantage of that bonus.
Abilities that affect other players
Also affect defenders. BOOM BASE that increases damage of people within 5 tiles of BASE? Yup, affects defenders. Warcry? Yup, affects defenders. Basically, if an ability affects players, then it should also affect defenders. Keep this in mind. When i know i'm going to be using defenders in a base defense i usually use my Steel Wool loadout which is Steel Wool Syd with BOOM BASE team perk.
Protect your defenders
Did I mention defender AI is a bit dumb? They also can't build their own defences. Also, if their defender pads are destroyed, then they will unsummon. Consider protecting your defender pads and the areas your defenders are located with roofs and possibly walls with windows or doors.
Place walls with an opening across the path of the husks to channel them (look for a guide on husk pathing, you should find such info in any good guide on trap tunnels), and have you defenders attack them behind that. It will also provide some protection from ranged husks.
If your defender is down, you can run over and revive them. Press the interaction button and hold for a few seconds until they stand up.
Using defenders in specific types of missions
Most people will acknowledge the use of defenders in the typical defence missions. Evacuate the Shelter, Retrieve the Data, Atlas, etc. What people sometimes don’t consider though is using them in other missions, especially if you are low on players.
Build the Radar: You’re half way through building a radar and then you hear the noise, it’s a husk patrol. Out of nowhere something comes flying towards you and you understand that they are not passing by. You have to take a break from building, especially if they have the sort of husk that can do some damage to your radar. Well, before starting to build, why not spawn a defender and let them deal with any wandering husks?
Destroy the Encampments: Sometimes you don’t get people joining for whatever reason. Time of day, or whatever, and the PL is high enough that taking out the encampments solo is a bit of a challenge. Maybe you can handle the first 5, but then come the super encampments. Too much for you to solo? Or you just want to speed up taking them down? Summon some defenders. Main thing here is to ensure you place the pads far enough from the encampments so they don’t get destroyed by the husk spawns. About 5 tiles away should be safe. Make sure they have good line of sight to the encampment. Put up a few walls and roofs to protect them. It also means they are off to one side so the husks will not surround them easily. I recommend for this 1 melee defender to deal with husks as they get close, a shotgun/AR/pistol defender, and then another ranged one, possibly a sniper, depending on the terrain. Place the melee defender first as they won’t trigger the encampment to spawn. Place the second ranged one, then quickly the third, because the second one will definitely trigger the encampment unless they have a short-range weapon. Another option is just go for 3 melee defenders and lead the husks to them as they spawn. Just watch out for the ranged husks. In Stonewood it should be viable. I wouldn’t recommend 3 melee defenders in later areas though.
Keep in mind, the more objectives you complete, the higher the rewards, so don't just sit back when you have done the minimum. Keep going!
Daily quests You like vBucks don’t you? You like getting them easily right? You know those missions where you have to kill 300 husks with a certain type of weapon? Well, defenders using those weapons count as kills for your daily quest, and its easily possible to get the required number of kills with the right defenders. First set yourself to private game. You don’t want others grabbing your kills. Choose something not too high level, if you are just starting out, then choose a low level single Atlas or Retrieve the Data mission. If you can, choose a constructor so you can drop a B.A.S.E. Put up a basic wooden pyramid or inverse pyramid (see any decent build guide), slap down 3 defender pads and spawn 3 defenders of the right type. Now start the mission. Let your defenders do their job and help out as required. You won’t be in a position yet to totally go wandering around the map while your defenders deal with the hordes. But if you are feeling confident, feel free to slap down some traps and leave them to it.
When done, remember to set your privacy mode back to public. You don’t want to be sat there wondering why nobody is joining your games live I’ve done on occasion 😀
“Hold on!” you cry! This is meant to be a guide focused on newbies! 3 defenders of the right type? Well, let’s move on to the final section.
Specific advice for new players and early game
So, what about very early game and my suggestion to slap down 3 defenders of the same type? As I mentioned near the start, you can get defenders from the store and from Llamas. I don’t recommend early on trying to get too many heroes levelled up and having many separate builds. Focus on getting one levelled up decently first and spare some hero XP for defenders. For the moment, just grab all defenders, regardless of type. As you can, level each one up to level 10, that’s enough while you are still in Stonewood. Look to get 3 defenders of each type, don’t worry about rarity for now. Common ones will do just as well as Legendary ones. As you get better variants, swap them out and recycle them for most of the XP back or put them in the collection book (if you can).
Yes, it can take a lot of XP and evo mats, but they are always there for you in a pinch, and unlike players, they will always help with the objective and won’t go AFK because they have decided to go to the toilet half way through a mission.
Hope you found the guide useful and remember to use those defenders actively.
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