The Protoss Dark Archon is a unit in the real-time strategy game Starcraft. Formed by the merger of two Dark Templar warriors, the Dark Archon boasts what may be the most powerful set of special abilities in the game. Visually, it resembles the Archon -- a Protoss figure surrounded by a flaming sphere -- but the Dark Archon's colors are hellish black and red, rather than energetic blue and white.

Like most of the Starcraft units with powerful special abilities, the Dark Archon has no conventional attacks. Its three special abilities are Feedback, Maelstrom, and Mind Control.

Feedback is useful only against units which have special abilities of their own, and hence have energy points. It depletes the targeted unit's energy, and does damage to that unit equal to the energy drained.

Maelstrom resembles the Terran Ghost's Lockdown ability and the Protoss Arbiter's Stasis Field ability, but affects biological units. It freezes all enemy biological units within a small area. The effect does not last as long as Lockdown or Stasis Field, but allows plenty of time for a small group of Zealots to clean up the frozen foes.

Mind Control has been called the single most powerful ability in the game, and quite rightly. It targets a single enemy unit and converts it instantly to a friendly unit, under the invoking player's control. It is quite costly: besides its taxing cost in energy points, using Mind Control fully depletes the Dark Archon's shields.

Mind-controlling an enemy Protoss player's units is not terribly interesting, though it can be useful to snatch a Carrier or Arbiter -- or another Dark Archon, for that matter. Much more interesting is to take units of another species, thus gaining their advantages alongside those of the Protoss. In a large game with lots of available resources, it may even be useful to mind-control a Zerg Drone or Terran SCV -- and build up a combined, two-species force.

The Dark Archon, the fusion of two noble Protoss Dark Templar assassins, is the most powerful spellcaster in the game of StarCraft: Brood War. There is not a single spellcaster that can match it in potential use.

It's a pity that its potential is not utilized often. Watch a replay (or VOD for those lucky enough to have access to them) of one of the top Protoss players such as Reach and I guarantee you won't see a single Dark Archon in a single one. There are many reasons for this:

1: Cost.

The technology costs alone make the Dark Archon quite worthless in a serious match. To even gain access to the Dark Archon, a Protoss player must first construct a Citadel of Adun and a Templar Archives. The Citadel's costs aren't too extravagant, just a slick 150 Minerals and 100 Vespene Gas. The Templar Archives, however, cost 150 Minerals and 200 Vespene Gas. This cost is quite steep at the point of the game in which you can immediately spend resources of this amount. That 200 Gas could have gone to a small squad of Dragoons, an attack upgrade, any number of things that may be of use.

Compare this to the other attractive alternatives presented to the Protoss player: The Stargate and the Robotics Facility. The Stargate is a popular option when a Protoss player is battling a Zerg opponent; the Corsair is a quick unit that can scout out the Zerg player's technology and harass his source of control: (food, supply, what-have-you) the Overlords. The immediate benefit of constructing a Stargate against a Zerg player is ENORMOUS in a game like StarCraft, where scouting is king. Zerg players constantly change the shape of their army. A speedy Corsair is much more useful than an easily-spotted (to the Zerg, anyway) Dark Templar in the mid-game. The Stargate also costs a low amount of resources to construct; it can be bought for the small sum of 150 Minerals and 150 Vespene Gas.

(Oh yeah, the Protoss player can also build a Scout from a Stargate, but the Corsair is cheaper and faster. Scouts are rarely seen in high-level play.)

And, of course, there's the common choice to opt for the Robotics Facility. The Robotics Facility allows access to the Protoss Shuttle, a unit commonly used to expand to distant islands on the battle map or to drop a squad of offensive units on a cluster of Workers or enemies laying siege to your base. All this for 200 Minerals and 200 Vespene Gas.

The Robotics Facility also opens up the Protoss player's tech tree to the branches of the Observatory and the Robotics Support Bay. The Observatory is a staple of the modern Protoss versus Terran match-up; it allows the Protoss player to purchase Observers, which allow the player to view the normally hidden Spider Mines quite often laid by the Terran player's force of Vultures. The Robotics Support Bay allows the construction of the Reaver, a difficult unit to control, but very destructive when micromanaged properly.

So, would you rather pay 300 Minerals and 300 Vespene Gas for a Citadel of Adun and a Templar Archives, which allow access to the very powerful High Templar and Dark Templar, as well as the Archon and Dark Archon..

...150 Minerals and 150 Vespene Gas for the Stargate, which give you an invaluable Corsair and, perhaps later, the dreaded Carrier...

...or 200 Minerals and 200 Vespene Gas for the Robotics Facility, which allows construction of the Shuttle and later allows construction of the Observatory for 50 Minerals and 150 Vespene Gas or 150 Minerals and 100 Vespene Gas for the Robotics Support Bay (which ends up costing more than the Templar Archives)?

In the end, it's all up to the player, but the invaluable Corsair and Observer are both much more useful than the Dark Archon.

2: There are better things to make at your Gateway.

So, you've decided to go against my advice and make that Templar Archives anyway. Maybe you know that I'm a Zerg player at heart and I'm part of some big anti-Dark Archon conspiracy. The first statement is true, the second is debatable. But, consider the following:

A Dark Archon can only be formed by converting two Dark Templar into it.

Sure, it doesn't sound like much.. but Dark Templar cost 125 Minerals and 100 Vespene Gas each. Dark Templar also have the amazing built-in ability to stay cloaked permanently. They cannot be seen unless they are trapped in a Stasis Field, covered in the green goo of the Zerg Queen's Ensnare spell, being slowly sapped away at by the Zerg Defiler's Plague spell or are sighted by a static detector (such as a Missile Turret) or mobile detector (such as a Science Vessel). This has great implications. Stasis Field is rarely used in a serious Protoss versus Protoss game, the same for Ensnare and Plague (a pity at that, they are both awesome spells) and detectors can be (and usually are) killed. As a Zerg player, I've fallen victim to the classic DT/Sair combo, in which the Protoss player builds Corsairs (The Sair in the combo) to destroy Overlords and Dark Templar (the DT, as it is commonly called in Starcraft shorthand) to destroy all of the units that were within the Overlord's vicinity (quite often innocent Zerg Drones). Dark Templar are also commonly used as scouting units, their invisibility being a major asset in that situation. And, of course, you can simply use it to kill enemy units. Dark Templar are GREAT assets to the Protoss army and TWO DARK TEMPLAR ARE MORE USEFUL THAN ONE DARK ARCHON.

Also, the cost of the Dark Archon could go toward the purchase of High Templar or Archons (the regular kind). High Templar are notorious for their Psionic Storm skill, dealing massive Area of Effect damage in the area of the spell's target. (While Minerals, Vespene Gas and time must be spent researching Psionic Storm, it is among the best spells in StarCraft and is commonly used.) Also, after the High Templar is out of energy for casting Storms, you can wait for the Templar to regenerate its energy or merge two of them into an Archon, a powerful tanking unit that is well-known for its ability to destroy large masses of units before dying.

The Dark Archon, on the other hand, begins only with its Feedback skill. Feedback is a weak skill at best. For 50 Energy, it can deal a maximum of 250 damage to a unit that has energy (which accounts for at least a fourth of all StarCraft units). More often than not, it will deal 200 at maximum (the reason being that spellcasters in Starcraft have 200 base energy and 50 more can be added if energy upgrades are researched. Most players do not bother with these, as spellcaster energy is quite often used by the player as soon as the player gets it). More often than THAT occurrence, it will deal a negligible amount of damage, because the unit that was the target of the Feedback spell didn't have its maximum energy at the time.

Now, it is true that many spellcasters in StarCraft quite have more energy than health. The Ghost, Medic, Defiler, Queen and even the mighty High Templar can potentially die INSTANTLY to one Feedback. However, the Ghost isn't used that often against Protoss players. The same is true of the Medic, Defiler and Queen. The High Templar is the only unit that a Dark Archon would be of practical use against.. Except for the fact that its powerful Psionic Storms can be more easily managed by simply dodging them instead of investing heavy amounts of resources on a Dark Archon. Also, Feedback targets a single unit. With StarCraft's user interface, it is hard to single out that one spellcaster that could spell your doom among all of the other things that are constantly going on. Having a pair of Dark Templar assassinate that irritating High Templar and go on to slay others is much more efficient than a clunky Dark Archon.

The Dark Archon's other abilities, Maelstrom and Mind Control, must first be researched before they can be used, like many of the abilities in StarCraft. Maelstrom is quite a useful skill. It stuns organic units for a very short amount of time and leaves them open to attack from your units. Zerg units are all organic, so Maelstrom is quite useful there. Protoss and Terran forces are mostly mechanized; against these races Maelstrom is a waste of resources.

Mind Control is a very intriguing skill. Any idiot can see the advantage of taking over an enemy unit. I've heard legendary tales of this spell's usage. They may or may not be based on real occurances.

Legendary Tale #1: The Overlord Thief

Legend has it that a very long time ago, perhaps before replays, a Protoss player stole a Zerg Overlord from a Cerebrate by cunning usage of the Dark Archon's Mind Control ability. The Overlord had its speed upgrade (Pneumatized Carapace for the purist) and transport ability (a.k.a. Ventral Sacs) researched. With these abilities falling into the wily Protoss' hands, he did not have to construct a Robotics Facility, for the Overlord could carry burdens (like a Shuttle) and see the unseen (like an Observer). This player was able to ignore an entire branch of the tech tree because of this one skill. It is not known if this player won the game or not, but this story strikes fear into hearts of many and ushers awesome, nerdy respect (hey, I can't be totally pretentious). The name of the player is forgotten, but his legacy will always remain.

Legendary Tale #2: The Protoss Siege Tank

Legend has it that in what would not be a typical Terran versus Protoss game, a wily Protoss was able to turn the tables in a macro game. It was Zealot versus Vulture, Dragoon versus Siege Tank; the classic battle that had been fought for many years. The Protoss was able to Mind Control a single Siege Tank and an SCV (for this madman had constructed more than one Dark Archon). He used the Tank with his Shuttle to put it on cliffs to destroy many tactical targets and when things looked grim for this Protoss Tank, it was sent to base for rest and repair.

Now, these two stories make Mind Control seem very tempting. It is easily the best spell in StarCraft, potentially. However..

i: When a Dark Archon uses Mind Control, it loses all of its Shields. This makes the Dark Archon an easy target with only 25 HP keeping it alive.

ii: Mind Controlled units, more often than not, die. The examples above are legendary because the Protoss player was able to utilize it well and keep their mind-slaves alive. In a typical game, this is VERY difficult. It is very easy to get your Mind Controlled unit, army and Dark Archon killed because of the time spent attempting to manage all three.

iii: Why Mind Control when you can rip your enemies to shreds with a well-aimed Psionic Storm? Psionic Storm is notorious for slaying large crowds of units. Killing 20 is better than converting one.

So, you see, the risk greatly outweighs the return of constructing a Dark Archon. It's a very specialized unit in a game that demands flexibility. However, there's one redeeming factor..

Dark Archons are badass.

There are many units in Starcraft that are not used to their full potential. For years, many Zerg players avoided using the Zerg Defiler. The ability it begins with, Dark Swarm, allows units under it invincibility from ranged attacks from the outside, while being able to fire upon enemies outside of the Swarm or deal melee damage. For years, people were very timid in their use of the Defiler. Zerg players were content with their large armies and their macro style of play (macro meaning macromanagement, as opposed to micromanagement). Zerg players amassed large armies and pitted them against their opponents' large armies. This was a crying shame, because

Defilers are badass.

One day, in the Terran-dominated KeSPA (Korean e-SPort Association) rankings, a player named JulyZerg took the number one spot. One of the things he is notorious for, besides his aggressive style of play, is the use of the Defiler.

JulyZerg is badass.

StarCraft is a game of weapons and war. In the Defiler's case, it found a worthy pair of hands in the capable JulyZerg. Perhaps, someday, the Dark Archon will find a worthy Protoss to serve. Maybe it will find its niche in such an expansive, ever-changing game with so many styles of play.

StarCraft is badass.

Until then, it'll just be two wasted Dark Templar.

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