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Pairing refers to how different stacks of units pair up with each other in battle, or in other words, who attacks what.

The basics of pairing are explained in a section of one of Alzorath's old guides. However, as of early 2010 the mechanics have changed somewhat. While stacks that don't find a target in normal ("first round") pairing, which may happen for instance in battle where one combatant is using a short stack, all used to attack the enemy top stack, they now instead distribute over all enemy stacks in a second (and if needed even more) round of pairing.

Additionally, a stack will not attack the stack it would be normally paired with, if the target stack is too small. Stacks that are deliberately designed to be just large enough to get attacked, but too small to mean a significant loss of army power when wiped, are commonly referred to as fake stacks. The determination of whether a small stack gets attacked or passed over depends on the relative sizes of the attacking stack as well as the target stack in their total armies, as well as on what other stacks have already hit the target stack. This mechanism is explained by masupilamu, who posted the below example on the UBB.[1]

lemme post you an example, one that i took liberty to test as well.

Mage A


vs Mage B


i'm assuming you know how fakes work. result of battle is as such:

a hits w
b hits x
c hits w
d hits w

how this "over-spilling" explains such an occurance is this:

25% + 25% would have been overpowering on the 2.5% that it'll target hence it went to hit the 92.7%.

if however, the stacks were as such:


then the result of the battle would be:

a hits w
b hits x
c hits w
d hits x

this is because 25% + 25% is not too big for 5% to handle. i hope i explained it as best as i could. was explained to me in similiar fashion on irc as well.