What I want to show you, is how stuff that many BW fans loathe (heroes, items, creepcamps, upkeep) plays a big part in WC3's macro game.
Before we start, I'd like to clarify 2 things:
1) This is not a WC3 vs BW/SC2 bashfest, please keep that in mind
2) By "macro" I don't mean the mechanical aspect of it (producing, teching, expanding) but the decisionmaking process behind it (what, when, why).
Part 1: The Third Resource Type
Unlike common thinking, you have 3 resources in WC3, not just 2. Gold and lumber are important, but the third one is the hardest to obtain and more often than not crucial to player's success or failure.
I'm of course talking about experience here. It is essentially a resource, which you can:
a) gather - by killing stuff
b) spend - to level up your heroes, making them stronger and opening new options
c) deny - by preventing your stuff from dying.
It is vital to the gameflow in WC3 just like any other resource type, and quite big part of gameplay focuses on gathering and denying it, making for some interesting mind-games (more on that later).
I put it in the beginning, so it would be easier to understand the following parts as it is one of the focal points for them.
Part 2: Heroes
Heroes play pretty big role in WC3, different for every army as some tend to rely more on them (Undead) while other rely more on their units with heroes playing a supportive role for the most part (Human).
They are a way to gather and spend the aforementioned third resource type - experience, and this involves many crucial decisions which aren't always easy.
1) Should I get heroes?
Usually, you want at least one hero with your army, although Axslav proved in his game vs Grubby that sometimes you can do without them. We will not go into hardcore here and assume that you should.
The real question here is: how many of them? Should you stick to just one? Would 2 be better? Or maybe 3 of them is the way to go? Is it worth it to tech to a higher tier for another hero?
2) When to get heroes?
Timing here is rather important. You always need to consider the expense to benefit ratio. Will purchasing a hero (which costs a significant amount of resources) give me the advantage I need or can I withold with it some more and buy something else instead?
3) Which heroes to get?
What options does a certain hero open for me? Which other heroes he works well with and which hinder him? What hero(es) does my opponent have? What's enemy's army composition? What is he likely to get? What can my opponent do to counter it? Does my hero need high levels to be effective ("breakpoints")?
As you can see, each initial questions opens up some more and all of them are important and should be considered carefully.
Part 3: Creepcamps
Creepcamps are mini-expansions which let you gather a small amount of gold and various amounts of experience, perhaps some items as well as open some important options:
1) Access to an expansion or a shop
2) Creepjack possibility - which can give you big advantage in combat even if your army is considerably weaker than your opponent's
Primary role for creepcamps is seen in the gather/deny experience meta-game, in which you are trying to gain advantage over your opponent. Creepcamps can only be cleared once so by neglecting this possibility, you keep it open for your enemy.
Clearing a creepcamp also opens up a lot of questions:
1) What kind of force do I need to clear it?
2) What are the odds of enemy creepjacking me?
3) How much time is it going to take?
4) What is the possible gain?
Again, we're entering the cost to benefit ratio with a multitude of variables included.
Part 4: Items
Items are also a big part of the macro game. They're vital to both heroes and units and open up a lot of interesting possibilities. But let's look at them from the macro perspective.
1) You can sell them for gold, which means that if a certain item is not of great benefit to you, you can always sell it for a boost to your income
2) You can buy them, which means you sometimes need to choose between purchasing units/tech/heroes and items. You must carefully consider which would be more advantageous for you in specific situations.
Items tie up to the entire hero and creepcamp thing too, as they can make heroes more effective, chance of getting specific items is higher at certain creepcamps etc.
Part 5: Upkeep
Ahh, one of the most loathed things about WC3, the upkeep which keeps increasing as your army size does. It is actually a big part of the economical warfare in this game. It is a tool that forces you into thinking about your economy and the current global in-game situation. Namely, is my economy better than my opponent's? Is it beneficial for me to enter higher upkeep?
You can play with upkeep in different ways, you can either operate on a small scale and not enter higher upkeep, allowing you for more item and tech purchases or consider one of the 2 things if your economy is good enough:
1) Flood enemy with too many units to counter and thus deal the decisive blow. (If you have better economy than your opponent, especially when it's a lot better)
2) Force enemy to enter higher upkeep in order to keep on par in army strength. (If you have similar economy, ideally when yours is a bit better as the upkeep won't hurt you so much)
I know that this thread doesn't cover everything thoroughly, I tried to keep it brief. I am also aware that it poses more questions than gives answers, but that's why we call it a discussion forum, don't we?
Anyway, feel free to post your thoughts on the matter, discuss them at length or, if you're up to it, expand on the basics I outlined here.