Age of Empires 2 Civilizations Tier List
Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition brings fresh content such as new Civilizations and Ultra Textures that could not be seen in the earlier HD version of the game. At the moment, AoE2 DE features 35 unique Civilizations (races) that you can play and conquer with. Each of these civilizations feature different units, bonuses, technologies and a focus on a set of unit upgrades to make them even stronger. As one race may excel in Cavalry units, the other race may not have a population limit-- meaning you don't have to build any houses to reach the 200 population cap. Some civilizations are more powerful than others, especially for beginner players and those who are just starting out in AoE 2 DE. In this Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition Civilizations Tier List we'll be going over each of the races available in the game and determining the strongest AoE2 DE Civilizations based on a lot of pro player games and 1v1 Arabia matches in the latest patch.
Make sure to check out our Age of Empires IV Civilization Tier List if you're also playing that alongside AoE2!
Civilization Tier List Descriptors
S Tier - Overpowered. Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition Civilizations which are incredible in the latest patch and these are mostly banned during pro player matches because how strong they are. Any of these civs are a great choice if you want to win a majority of your games.
A Tier - Powerful. Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition Civilizations which are very popular and will give you an advantage over other opponents, especially in ranked games. These Civilizations are strong and are very suitable for beginners because AoE2 DE can be hard for new players at the very beginning.
B Tier - Balanced. Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition Civilizations which are balanced. These races will be alright for a casual playthrough where you enjoy playing the game and not focusing on rushing and winning your opponent. Though, in good hands any of these will be more enough to score a victory.
C Tier - Underpowered. Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition Civilizations which are hard to play and not worth it if you want to win at all. These Civilizations will get steamrolled by any other race from the A and B tiers.
Civilization Tier List
This AOE 2 DE Civ Tier List is updated for the latest patch 54480 (October 5th 2021).
Lithuanians are incredibly strong on hybrid maps and their bonus starting food makes them a great beginner civ. By playing Lithuanians you're guaranteed 150 additional Food at start which helps this civ win most of the early-mid game encounters. Great cavalry units combined with strong late-game due to halberdiers and skirmishers that are very fast make it a popular civ for ranked and pro play. Lithuanian's main focus is on Cavalry and Monk units.
The Chinese always start with six villagers which can make your civilization snowball on certain maps where food can be found near the Town Center. Their focus is on Archers, with Chu Ko Nu being the unique unit here. The Great Wall and Rocketry are the unique technology upgrades and overall the Chinese are a very versatile civilization that can be extremely powerful on some maps.
Aztecs are incredible during the early game but their power falls off in late game as they lack transition options to counter certain enemy types. This means that Aztec players prefer to end their games relatively quickly or hinder the opponent to the point of no comeback. Their main focus is on infantry and monks, with the Jaguar Warrior being their unique unit. Even though their power falls off later, they're still one of the strongest civilizations that you can pick right now.
Vikings have the Berserk and Longboat unique units as they focus on Infantry and Navy units. Viking ships have a big discount that makes their naval compositions even better and the fact that Infantry gains extra health makes them a strong choice for land fights as well. Overall, Vikings are fantastic on maps such as Arabia as they offer a lot of variety in terms of countering other civs.
Mayans are the best tournament civilization in Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition because they have unit compositions and transitions available to answer any map and situation. Plumed Archers are their most valued units which get accompanied by a strong set of infantry units. Their Cavalry is not that good but the fact that Plumed Archers are so quick makes up for it.
Japanese have cheaper gathering buildings which gives them a big economical advantage throughout the game. On top of that, they are also very versatile-- meaning they can swap between water/ground build orders relatively quickly. The Japanese focus on Infantry units, with Samurai being their special one. Yasama and Katapurato are the unique technologies which allow the Japanese race to siege enemies easily.
Koreans get free armor upgrades, cheaper wood units and their wagon units are extremely hard to deal with. They have a heavy focus on Towers and Naval units-- War Wagon and Turtle Ship. The Koreans are mainly a defensive civilization that has to be played slow because a majority of their units are rather limited in terms of enemy harassment and siege.
Franks are a great civilization for new players. They have a focus on Cavalry and the Throwing Axeman is their unique unit. Chivalry and Bearded Axe are the special technologies and they excel in the Knights department. Their Cavalry is straightforward to build and the Infantry is incredible. Though, the Archers are very weak and siege weaponry is mediocre at most. The Franks have a 25% cheaper Castle, their farm upgrades are free and the foragers also work 25% faster. Lastly, their Cavalry gains +20% health.
Italians just like Malay, they are mainly a water map civilization that focuses on the Navy and Archers. Their Fishing Ships are much cheaper, trade units are cheaper and the Fishing Dock upgrades are also less expensive. Genoese Crossbowman is the unique unit for the Italian race and the Italians are incredibly flexible on hybrid maps. Italians have power spikes during every stage of the game, which when utilized properly easily makes them an A tier civilization.
Huns have retained their position in the S tier for a while due to the no house requirement and huge versatility that allows them to transition into any unit build they want. The Huns focus on Cavalry and Tarkan is their special unit. Marauders & Atheims are the special upgrades and they have access to a fully upgraded Paladin which makes them very powerful with a strong economy.
Britons are not a very versatile civilization but they get the cheaper Town Centres. Their main focus is on Archers as the Longbowman is their best unit and overall, long range units are so much better in AoE 2 DE than any melee ones. Britons are easily countered but if your enemy doesn't micro manage their units very well then you've got a huge advantage by picking Britons.
Malians offer a lot of transition options and a wood advantage due to the fact that their buildings cost less wood. The Malians heavily focus on Infantry units-- Gbetos as their special ones. They grant your whole team research speed, and the Malians themselves get Gold Mining for free. Cavalry and Infantry are the definite carries in this particular civilization and they must be strategized to win fights before the end-game.
Vietnamese are a very underrated civilization considering that they have really smooth transitions from feudal to castle age. Their focus is on Rattan Archers and they manage to unlock a unit for free for their whole team. Their archers are really good and overall, they're an above-average civilization on most maps.
Portuguese are usually the least played race in competitive games unless it's a water map as they heavily dominate water maps. They have a focus on the Navy and Gunpowder units which means they're not that great on land maps. Organ Gun and Caravel are their unique units. Caravels can hit multiple units at once which makes them an exceptional water unit but other than that the Portuguese have nothing special to their name.
Khmer have a strong Imperial Age but they have high Gold costs which are unsustainable at some points in the game. They focus on siege weapons and Battle & Ballista elephants. Khmer shine with Elephant units and Siege weapons and that's about it. Their infantry and cavalry are mediocre at best but they're much better than any B or C tier civs out there. A thing worth noting is that the January patch of 2020. allowed Khmer farmers to instantly drop off food, instead of walking towards a TC or Mill, which boosted their rankings quite a bit.
Mongols require a lot of time to be developed properly. Though, once they do, they are one of the strongest high skill cap civilizations in Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition. They focus on Cavalry Archers with the Mangudai being the unique unit for them. Nomads and Drill are the special technologies and overall they are arguably the best civilization, especially in the hands of an experienced player.
Berbers are a strong civilization that focuses on Cavalry and Navy. The Camel Archer are its unique units and Kasbah & Maghrabi Camels are the main technologies in this race. The cheaper stables in Castle Age provide an immense advantage over other players. As a Berber you can transition all the way to Camel Archers relatively easy, making it a great beginner civilization.
Slavs get a % farmer speed bonus along with Tracking and Supplies being free. The Slavs are an infantry civilization with a focus around the Boyar unique unit and Orthodoxy & Druzhina upgrades. Their Cavalry, Monks and Infantry are incredibly powerful, though they lack a lot in the Archer and Navy department. The Archers are compensated by the cheaper siege weapons which evens it out on land battles. On water maps they're a bad civilization but who plays water maps anyway?
Incas don't get a great economy bonus other than the 10 population house bonus. Incas thrive during the Feudal age but after that their power falls off immensely which is why they're mostly a civilization famous for villager rush strats. Infantry is their unit category of focus and Kamayuk & Slingers are the Inca unique units.
Persians have faster production Town Centers, Knight bonus against Crossbows and a good technology tree. Their focus is on Cavalry units and War Elephants. Kamandaran and Mahouts are their special technologies available in the AoE2 Definitive Edition of the game. It's worth mentioning that the Persians are the only civilization in the game that has a full Cavalry technology tree-- including blacksmith upgrades. Persians are a go-to pick for most hybrid maps but there's usually much better choices.
Celts are a Western European civilization with a focus on infantry and siege weapons. The Celtic unique units are the Woad Raiders, with Stronghold and Furor Celtica being their special technologies. The Celtic civilization has powerful infantry due to their higher movement speed but their Archers and Cavalry lack upgrades. Along with that, the navy is incredibly weak and Monks are even weaker though this civ remains in the B tier due to the strong siege weaponry.
Turks are a very gold-hungry civilization that really struggles when easy gold is not present on the map. If an opponent cuts off your gold supply you're pretty much done for as a Turk. Janissary is the Turkish unique unit and this particular race focuses around Gunpowder Units and they do succeed in that as their Gunpowder Units have greater range, health points and recruitment than any others in the game.
Cumans were absolutely broken during the first patches and even after many nerfs they still remained on top of tier lists. The nerfs kept on going, patch after patch and now they're sitting at the B tier because their economy is still rather strong. Cumans focus on Cavalry-- the very popular Kipchak unique units that were nerfed to the ground. They still feature fully upgraded Hussars, Paladins, and Steppe Lancers, as well as the Steppe Husbandry which makes them a solid choice.
Magyars gain an early advantage by having an attack bonus on their Scout units. They're mainly a Cavalry civilization with their focus being on Magyar Huszar units. Magyars have outstanding mounted units at their disposal but their Infantry, Navy and Siege Weapons struggle a lot.
The Ethiopians gain 100 food and 100 gold for free whenever they advance an Age. This is an incredible "passive" skill that benefits this civilization greatly during the early stages of the game. Ethiopians have a focus on archers and siege weapons. Royal Heirs and Torsion Engines are their unique technologies & Shotel Warrior is the special unit. Ethiopians are an underutilized civilization because they can be hard to play.
Byzantines have a focus on Defense, with having unique Cataphract units and Greek Fire & Logistica technology upgrades. They have a huge technology tree that only lacks economy upgrades and Herbal Medicine. This civilization features excellent Navy, Monks and Archers but the Cavalry lacks upgrades. Along with that, their siege department lacks a lot of the key units so it is average at best. Overall, Byzantines are an incredible civilization only in the hands of an experienced player and mediocre at most for a beginner.
Bulgarians have a focus on Infantry and Cavalry. They have a stone cost reduction for economy buildings which comes in handy early on in the game. This also allows the Bulgarians to do some incredibly fun early game rushes since a second Town Center costs 50% less stone. On top of that, they also feature the Krepost-- a mini version of a Castle.
Spanish suffer from unsafe wood and stone lines so they're not a preferred race of choice on particular maps which makes them meta dependent. As they are a Monk and Gunpowder civilization, their focus is in these areas and Conquistador & Missionary are their unique units. Overall, they're a solid civilization for a casual round but if you'd like to win there are much better options.
Indians receive a great economic bonus as their fishermen work faster and the villagers become cheaper as you advance through ages. They focus on Camels and Gunpowder Units & their special units are the Elephant Archer and Imperial Camel. Unique technology for the Indians are Sultans and Shatagni & their Camels have excellent upgrades. What makes them B tier is the fact that everyone knows you'll go Camels as an Indian civilization so it's easily counterable.
Saracens are a cavalry and naval civilization with a focus on Mameluke units. They feature the Madrasah and Zealotry unique technology upgrades and overall their navy is very powerful as well as their cavalry. Though, they lack a lot on the infantry and archer side of things.
Tatars can obtain 50% more food from herdable animals and their main focus is on Cavalry units. They have incredibly strong Archer Cavalry and they get Parthian Tactics upgrade for free, along with the 50% increased damage bonus when they're on high ground (yes Anakin you heard me). The Tatar unique unit is the Keshik, a heavy cavalry unit which generates gold when fighting other units
Teutons are balanced and that's about it. There's nothing good or bad about them at the moment. Their focus is on Teutonic Knights and Infantry in general. Overall, a very solid all-round civilization that can be fun for beginners due to the Garrison increases to Towers and Town Centers.
Malay are very good on maps that have a lot of water because they focus on Navy and Infantry units. With them being a primarily Naval civilization, their navy tech tree is fully kitted and that's what makes them a great civilization. The main problem comes when you're on a map without water-- this civilization is borderline useless at that point.
Burmese feature free Lumber Camp upgrades and cheaper monastery technologies. Their main focus is on Elephants and Monks with Arambai being the unique unit. The Burmese have excellent Cavalry, Monks and Infantry but their Archers are useless without many of the key upgrades.
Goths are arguably somewhere in-between of the B and C tiers because your opponent will always know the build path and unit focus you're gonna follow-- infantry. This means that it's an easy civilization to counter so it is not a great race for competitive play but for casual play and beginner players they're more than enough... Huskari are the Goth unique units and Anarchy & Perfusion are the unique technologies.
Sicilians are a new civilization and they're not really any good. They're currently the most underpowered civilization because they get countered by a plethora of matchups and they don't excel on any of the maps either. The Sicilians have the Serjeant unique unit and First Crusade & Scutage unique technologies as well as the Donjon unique building.