Tags for a long time were the unspoken boogeyman of AWDS. Their inclusion in serious discussion was not taken seriously -which is still the case to a certain extent- assuming they weren't simply passed off as a broken mechanic. After spending a good year dissecting this mechanic of the game, Mara Sargon found that Tags basically function on the same principles as COs. The following essay attempts to explain how Tags were generally regarded, and how they actually operate.

How Tags Were Regarded Edit

For the longest time, Tags were up there with Force Ranks as being optional, or not really counting as a valid balance consideration. After all, you can leave Tags out of the equation, but you _must_ use a CO for the game to be playable in a reasonable amount of time. For this reason, a lot of Tag discussions between '05 and '11 sounded like something like this:

"First Tag wins, bro."

"Nah, bro, named Tags win."

"Olaf/Drake pwns, bro."

"Naw, man, Eagle/Sami's in ur base killin ur dudes, bro."

"Adder/Koal, bro. First Tag wins, bro."

"I gotcha, bro."

Was that painful to read? Good, so were the real discussions. The point is that people thought they understood Tags without ever playing around with them. A basic point here and there was nailed, but the nuances of the Tag mechanic remained totally unknown.

How Tags Actually Work Edit

Explaining how Tags work requires knowledge of how the COs work, as Tags are merely an extension of COs. Be sure you've read The Player's Guide to AWDS or have equivalent background knowledge before continuing.

Explaining each and every individual Tag is impossible for the purposes of this short essay, but this basic rule should help you understand their capabilities: every Tag is approximately a tier and a half more powerful than its strongest component CO. The reasons for this vary. Early in Tag research it was thought that banking on Tag Breaks was the optimal way to play a Tag, and that the two-moves aspect of any TB mixed with the COs' respective SCOPs to magnify their power. This is true for a large number of them, but a good chunk of Tags function better without ever firing off a TB, including some of the named Tags.

Using Tag Breaks Edit

When a Tag relies on Tag Break, it is essentially banking on a combination of Lightning Strike, Ghetto Victory March, and the SCOPs of the COs involved. Overall strength stems from the component COs using one another to achieve actions they could not perform alone. If you take Shaky Alliance, for example, any time the Tag Break is used you gain the ability to perform an all-out assault that the component COs could never accomplish due to issues of HP and firepower. Even ignoring the bonus firepower and luck, you're still left with this: Hawke does mass damage, heals his units a bit, and goes nuts with the enemy front line, ignoring counterattack damage entirely; Andy brings all units back up to fighting strength, dumps more firepower into the equation, brings in movement to boot, and continues annihilating what's left of the enemy. Where Hawke would normally try to strangle his opponent's economy, and Andy would try to bring a fast moving, longer-lasting front line into play, together they create an entirely new strategy to pile-drive an opponent. The list goes on, but you get the point.

This begs the question, for some people, of how you're supposed to counter Tag Breaks when they can get this devastating. The answer is simple enough: being powerful only keeps you on top until you reach your own tier. Shaky Alliance is devastating, yes, but remember that it must compete with the likes of Earth and Sky, Stormwatch, Olaf/Drake, and Von Bolt/Rachel. Shaky Alliance has sufficient force of firepower and healing to bounce back from their assaults, but each of these Tags are also quite capable of bouncing back. This holds true for every Tag tier, just as it does for CO tiers. As such it comes back player skill and map layout.

Not Using Tag Breaks Edit

When Tags _don't_ rely on Tag Break, an interesting quirk of the power formula crops up. If one CO uses a CO power and then you change COs, the power switches off; both bars will charge normally when your opponent attacks. This completely eliminates post-power weakness in these Tags, and opens up opportunities for near-constant CO power use. A particularly nasty example is Grizzled Vets, the most powerful thing in the game, period. With this Tag, the use of Copter Command can easily spiral into into a 3 or 4 turn series of Merchant Union and Copter Command (or Airborne Assault if it gets vicious) firing off one after the other and creating a massive doom force from Hell that only Javier loaded with more towers than God could possibly hope to deal with. Slightly more sane examples would include Kindle Tags, Colin Tags, and some Eagle Tags.

All of this being said, there is a reason Tags only move up a tier and a half rather than two full tiers. Devastating though Shaky Alliance may be, Sensei's free production is still too great for him to cut through effectively. Bruise Cruise may bring good odds and decent defense to the table, but Olaf is still going to deal a snowy smack-down. Combining CO traits, as far as can be observed, can only overcome the next tier before hitting another hump.

Every Tag's mixture of CO traits can not be listed here, but hopefully you now have a good enough understanding of how they work for this not to be necessary. What you hopefully take away from this essay is that Tags are not a broken game mechanic: they are a fully playable aspect of the game, with their own balance quirks fitting them into various portions of the tier list just like single COs.

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Advance Wars: Dual Strike AWDS Tag Theory - AWDS Unit Guide