|“||Light cavalry unit with increased attack range.||”|
|—Age of Empires II description|
The Elite Steppe Lancer is a cavalry unit in Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition that can be trained at the Stable once the Imperial Age is reached. It is a light cavalry unit that carries a long spear and can attack at range, albeit it is very short. It is only available to the Cumans, , and Tatars.
Elite Steppe Lancers are most effective in either large or small groups, as their range enables larger masses to attack from behind another in a similar fashion to the Incan Kamayuk, while their speed and range allows smaller groups to hit and run in a manner similar to Cavalry Archers. Their range allows them to attack through walls, making them good at defending or attacking in walled areas. This also means they can be a great defense against enemy rams. They can be considered medium cavalry as their other base stats and cost sits on the middle-ground between the Knight and Light Cavalry lines. Masses of Elite Steppe Lancers work especially well in choke points, and can work well in combination with other, more durable units, as they can attack over their backs while remaining safe.
On an individual level, an Elite Steppe Lancer will lose against heavily armored units like the Cavalier or Paladin, but functions well against less armored units, or when used in tandem with cheaper units which function as a health buffer. They can work especially well together with the various trash units (Halberdier, Skirmisher, and Hussar), as their inherent range will allow the trash to automatically form a buffer between the Steppe Lancers and any dangerous opponents. Micromanagement is important when the player decides to go for masses of Elite Steppe Lancers.
Elite Steppe Lancers are also effective for quick raids and hit-and-runs. Their range allows multiple Lancers to more easily attack a single villager or siege unit, quickly eliminating the target while other cavalry would still be attempting to get close enough to attack. Elite Steppe Lancers are also useful in home defense scenarios, as they have a short creation time. Elite Steppe Lancers should therefore be utilized as raiders both offensively and defensively due to their penchant for hit-and-run attacks.
They are the cheapest non-trash non-unique melee cavalry, and this may make them very cost-effective against trash units (even, to some extent, Halberdiers, due to their slight range advantage), especially in the late game, so they can be considered a mounted "trash buster" (especially important in the case of Tatars, as they lack good infantry).
Probably the best ways to counter an army of Elite Steppe Lancers are with camel units (especially Mamelukes and Imperial Camel Riders), Genoese Crossbowmen, and Kamayuks. Being a cavalry also means that masses of Halberdiers and Viking infantry (with Chieftains) can be a threat to Elite Steppe Lancers.
All civilizations that have access to the Elite Steppe Lancer have a bonus that may make their use slightly different:
- Cuman Elite Steppe Lancers move 10%/ faster in the Castle/Imperial Age, but since they have Husbandry, this effectively only results in a speed +5% bonus in the Imperial Age. Regardless, this enhances their raiding capabilities. Since update 36202, they also benefit from Steppe Husbandry, which increases their creation speed by 100%, making them much more easy to mass.
- Mongol Elite Steppe Lancers have +30% hit points. This makes them better at soaking damage than their Cuman and Tatar counterparts, and compensates for their low pierce armor, while also making them noticeably better than the Scout line at taking melee damage.
- Tatar Elite Steppe Lancers do +25% extra damage when attacking from higher ground, which may make them more useful than the Knight line on maps that feature a lot of elevation, as their range may give them an edge in pitched battles in these circumstances. However, since their range is very short, this is rather situational. Since update 36202, they also benefit now from Silk Armor, making them more resilient against arrow-fire, and since update 42848, they receive extra melee armor, making them stronger in melee combat.
|Unit strengths and weaknesses|
|Strong vs.||Light Cavalry, Skirmishers, Villagers, siege weapons, archers, masses of cluttered units (if massed), buildings (if massed)|
|Weak vs.||Stronger cavalry, Halberdiers, Monks, camel units|
|Hit points||Bloodlines (+20)|
|Attack|| Forging (+1)|
Iron Casting (+1)
Blast Furnace (+2)
|Armor|| Scale Barding Armor (+1/+1)|
Chain Barding Armor (+1/+1)
Plate Barding Armor (+1/+2)
Silk Armor (+1/+1, Tatars only)
|Conversion defense|| Faith|
|Creation speed|| Conscription (+33%)|
Steppe Husbandry (+100%, Cumans only)
- Cumans: Elite Steppe Lancers move 10%/ faster in the Castle/Imperial Age.
- Mongols: Elite Steppe Lancers have +30% hit points.
- Tatars: Elite Steppe Lancers deal +25% damage when attacking from higher elevation.
- A team containing Berbers: With Kasbah researched, researching Conscription is 25% faster.
- A team containing Bulgarians: Blacksmith technologies that benefit Elite Steppe Lancers are researched faster.
- A team containing Huns: Elite Steppe Lancers are created 20% faster. Researching Bloodlines and Husbandry is 20% faster.
- A team containing Lithuanians: Researching Heresy and Faith is 20% faster.
- A team containing Teutons: Elite Steppe Lancers are more resistant to conversion.
- Initially, Elite Steppe Lancers cost 70F/30G, have 12 attack, 1.9 Rate of Fire, and move at a speed of 1.5. With update 34055, they now costs 70F/45G, have 10 attack, 2.3 ROF, and move at a speed of 1.45.
- Initially, Elite Steppe Lancers had a small collision size, allowing multiple of them to be stacked tightly. With update 34055, their collision size is doubled.
- Mongols: Initially cannot train Elite Steppe Lancers. With update 35584, they are added to their technology tree.
- Since update 36202, Elite Steppe Lancer attack increased to 11.
- Since update 36202, Cuman Elite Steppe Lancers now benefit from Steppe Husbandry.
- Since update 36202, Tatar Elite Steppe Lancers now benefit from Silk Armor.
Lords of the West
- Since update 47820, Elite Steppe Lancers cost 70F/40G.
- Before update 34055, Steppe Lancers had a higher attack, a small collision size, and moved at the same speed as the Light Cavalry, allowing Cuman and Tatar players to stack masses of Steppe Lancers in very small spaces (which in consequence allowed the stacked Steppe Lancers to deal high amounts of damage to an opponent but receiving low damage themselves), leading to the community viewing the Steppe Lancer as overpowered. This issue led to many players dropping out from ranked games when they encountered an opponent Cuman player (since in the release version, they were 10% faster and had Husbandry, making regular cavalry counters ineffective), as well as led to hosts kicking players who picked Cumans or even Tatars in non-ranked games.
- Stacking Steppe Lancers in a small space can still be done, but it now requires heavy micromanagement and specific commands like patrolling a compact area in a compact formation.
- The Steppe Lancer line was originally exclusive to the new Central Asian civilizations introduced in the Definitive Edition (Cumans and Tatars). However, in update 35584, Mongols received Steppe Lancers and the extra HP of Light Cavalry affected them.