2016 Hero Championship – Judged on power

Once again, the forum-based Hero Championship finished at new year (funny, that, almost like it’s an annual thing). I wasn’t initially planning on repeating this idea from last year, but on reflection I realised the results based on power level would be rather different this time around. Fun factor not necessarily so much so I’m not repeaing that one. I don’t have much to say on the actual results, obviously I disagree with some of them, I was surprised by some of them as they don’t quite line up with what I was under the impression were prevailing views in the community, there were some engaging, heated and amusing debates on some of the matchups. Business as usual essentially. Anyway, on to the main point here, how I personally would’ve called the championship if I picked each winner based on power level and nothing else.

As last year, I’m skipping forward to the quarter-finals. So a few honourable mentions – my 3rd and 4th place last year, Grima and Hama, go out to Gloin and Boromir respectively; Gandalf loses to Dain; Galadriel to Caldara; and as in the actual championship, one of the most difficult matchups to call was round 3 Arwen vs. Denethor. In the actual championship I abstained from voting for that matchup, but here on reflection I concur with the actual championship result and give the nod to Arwen. So our quarter-final matchups are:

A. Boromir (Ta) vs. Eowyn (Sp)
B. Erestor vs. Elrond
C. Dain Ironfoot vs. Arwen Undomiel
D. Caldara vs. Gloin

While some certainly had easier routes than others, unlike last year I don’t feel like any of these are heroes I wouldn’t expect to see in a top 8. We have three heroes in common with my 8 from last year (Boromir, Elrond, Dain) and three in common with the actual championship (Eowyn, Elrond, Arwen). The change from last year is certainly interesting, because while some of it comes down to how the heroes were distributed and thus how their earlier matchups went, conversely some of it is simply that some of these heroes have really come into their own this year one way or another.

A – This is the easiest one for me to pick. I have of late gained additional appreciation for Eowyn, with her ability to go from 4 willpower all the way potentially up to 8 in multiplayer, and she is absolutely a top tier hero; but of these eight she is probably the first I’d drop if I were trying to pick an actual top 8 most powerful heroes. Meanwhile Boromir is a powerhouse.

B – Both these heroes actually had kind of easy runs through the earlier rounds to get here, but that doesn’t diminish the fact they are both definitely top tier heroes. I don’t actually use Erestor that much myself, but I know that he is phenomenally powerful for that passive boost to your draw speed enabling either discard shenanigans or just an incredibly efficient deck. Meanwhile Elrond offers resource-smoothing, a very potent healing boost, and most significantly the ability to accelerate your deck by playing cards for free with Vilya. Here I rather run up against a question of how I’m defining power, since heroes can be powerful in different ways. In this matchup, I would say that Elrond has the greater ceiling for how powerful he can be (mostly thinking of Vilya here), but it requires setup; whereas Erestor is powerful out the gate and requires nothing else adding to him. Additionally of course, Erestor’s draw can be used to help set up incredibly powerful things like Elrond/Vilya. Of course Elrond/Vilya can also set up powerful things by negating the requirement to pay for them, but then you’re setting up your powerful effect via an effect which itself needs to be set up, which multiplies up the difficulty involved and potential for something to go wrong. I might be misjudging things, but in the end I think I’m going to give the nod to Erestor here.

C – This is much the same as B. Dain is a hero of phenomenal power once set up (the setup in this instance being a swarm of Dwarf allies), whereas Arwen is powerful out the gate and can enable that sort of setup. Arwen of course has flexibility when combined with Elven-light to provide card draw as well as/instead of resources, which might be considered to set her above Erestor who only does cards; but on the other hand I’d say the power of a Dain-boosted Dwarf swarm eclipses that of Vilya, not to mention that while it takes a bit of time and setup to establish a full swarm, Dain’s ability applies immediately to any Dwarf heroes in play. Arwen is obviously much more flexible and can power up a wide variety of archetypes, but as big a boon as she is to those various decks, she isn’t the absolute reason the power combos in those decks are powerful, she simply makes them easier to achieve. Maybe my perspective of the power of Dain+Dwarves is a tad overinflated, I must admit I haven’t played Dwarves recently at all, but I still feel like the potential power of it outstrips most other things you can do in this game. While Arwen’s amazing power has shown itself time and again over this past year (and even a year ago when she was new and I hadn’t used her yet I already thought she was a top tier hero), Dain remains the Dwarf to beat here.

D – This is really the clash of 2016’s titans. Caldara decks exploded into the top tier with the additions of Sword-thain and ally Imrahil, while Gloin decks gained no new goodies but were simply returned to the spotlight by CotR’s Sean for us to learn just how broken he actually is. And, as it turns out, how broken he has been for several years without anyone noticing, since the release of Elrond in Shadow and Flame enabled him to use Narvi’s Belt/Song of Wisdom plus a Warden of Healing to become functionally immortal. In mitigation one could point out that simply not dying isn’t enough to win you a quest, but when enemy attacks stop being a credible threat it becomes a lot easier to focus on everything else. On the other hand of course, Caldara decks, while not quite on the level of “every attack undefended all game,” can have a similarly lackadaisical attitude to incoming attacks since any chump-blockers in the Spirit sphere can be easily returned to play from the discard pile by Caldara.
While Gloin has flexibility in what he spends his mountains of resources on, in a lot of cases the best option will be to simply amass an army of allies just as Caldara does Both require some setup, but while Sword-thain/Imrahil were sizeable boosts to Caldara decks, her ability is still useful even if you’re only getting 2 allies out of the deal so all the really required setup is allies in the discard pile and preferably Fortune or Fate. This is a bit easier than Gloin needing hit point boosts and constant sources of healing. So Caldara sets up easier. The final clincher for me is that contrasting their respective abilities to muster large armies, Gloin relies on spending resources normally and is thus confined to the Planning phase, while Caldara can do her thing at any time. A relatively minor point, but at the heady heights of power these heroes occupy, every little thing counts.

Semi-finals then:

E. Boromir vs. Erestor
F. Dain Ironfoot vs. Caldara

As happened when I did this last year, by the semi-finals we’ve completely diverged from the actual championship as voted on by the community. We’ve also got two new contenders compared to what I had last year.

E – This one is actually pretty easy to call once again. In fact last year it came up pre-quarter-finals and my feelings on it haven’t particularly changed, except for the fact Boromir has gotten easier to power up with the releases of Leadership Denethor and Captain’s Wisdom. Boromir wins.

F – Now here’s a more interesting debate to be had. I’ll say as before that the potential power offered by Dain is basically unmatched, especially if one were to build a full four deck fellowship of Dwarves. On the other hand, Dain does not in himself offer any help in the mustering of this army, and while Dwarves haven’t been completely neglected, the Dwarven Sellsword being a nice addition to the archetype, they haven’t really been bolstered a whole lot since the Hobbit boxes while Caldara has been going through her meteoric rise, and it might be argued that Dwarves are finally starting to lag a bit. Again, for the potential to brute-force a quest into submission Dwarves may have the highest ceiling with Dain in the mix, but the reliability of Boromir and Caldara setups has been growing by leaps and bounds, and both have more interesting and complex (but still reliable) solutions to problems than simple numerical superiority. I’m really not sure, and I may be partially motivated here by a simple desire to not have a repeat final from last year, but I’m going to go with my gut and say Dain has finally fallen behind a bit, so I give this to Caldara.

Third-place playoff:
Erestor vs. Dain Ironfoot

Dain wins this one. Honestly, aside from Boromir the top half of my bracket here was definitely the weaker half, while still being incredibly powerful in their own right compared to most heroes in the card pool.

And the grand final:
Boromir vs. Caldara

Well. How do we compare these two? Boromir is perhaps better at dealing with the unexpected at times, since he can always ready another time, but Caldara’s armies of allies are no slouch in terms of number of available actions. Boromir requires that you keep lowering your threat while Caldara has no such stipulation leaving you free to focus on drawing and playing the cards which make you win. On the other hand the whole point is that you need multiple cards to try and match the amount Boromir can do. There is of course one of the arguments I made last year comparing Boromir to Dain, that Boromir doesn’t really quest, while Caldara since she musters Spirit allies can amass a large quantity of willpower. I can raise the argument I levelled at Gloin earlier – that the jank required for Boromir to unlock his full potential does require a certain amount of setup while Caldara gets going faster. On the other hand, the Boromir setup has by this point been potentially contracted to one planning phase a lot of the time so I don’t know if that can really be considered a valid criticism like it potentially used to be.
I could easily go either way on this one. Of course speculation has been thrown around that maybe FFG will errata Blood of Numenor/Gondorian Fire, which would certainly push Boromir down. On the other hand, we don’t know that for sure, and for all we know they might errata something Caldara related as well. In the end I’m going to go mostly with my personal preference, along with the willpower argument again and give this to Caldara.

So how I think the Hero Championship would’ve turned out if based entirely on power level, top 4:
1. Caldara
2. Boromir
3. Dain Ironfoot
4. Erestor

As I noted, a few matchups I could easily have gone the other way. The ranks of really powerful heroes are definitely getting more populated than they used to be, and it’s hard to really judge between them. My choices are certainly not definitive, and I’d be curious to hear other people’s thoughts.

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One Response to 2016 Hero Championship – Judged on power

  1. NathanH says:

    Caldara is beyond powerful these days and keeps getting better. I think that as well as Sword Thain and Imrahil, she is significantly helped by Arwen as well, because 4 resources is the cost of some key components of the deck (Emery/Sword Thain, Zigil Stargazer, Imrahil) and so Arwen really gets things moving. Imrahil is definitely a big deal though, particularly since I only have 2 Fortune and Fates so losing Caldara permanently is something that’s always happened to me a lot.


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