Millificent Manastorm. Deathwing. The Lich King. Captain Eudora. Jandice Barov. Ragnaros the Firelord. Tirion Fordring. Captain Hooktusk. Millhouse Manastorm. Maiev Shadowsong. Now, Queen Wagtoggle. No matter how good they are now, at some point all of these Heroes sat at the top of the meta. Some were nerfed. Tirion was removed. Jandice saw the removal of a minion her Hero Power abused (yeah, yeah, not a direct nerf, I know). For some, like The Lich King and Millificent Manastorm, the meta simply moved on. What made them so good? Was it the meta? What made their Hero Power better than the rest, even for a short moment? That’s what I’ll be exploring today, in the first of a short set of articles aiming to show just what makes a good Battlegrounds Hero.
All information in this article is based on my experience as well as publicly available data. Tier placements, pick rates, and average placements are based upon HSReplay’s free data on 11/29/2020.
First off, I’m going to look at five measures of Battlegrounds Heroes- power, flexibility, survivability, Tavern Tier advancement, and searching capabilities. Not every Hero fits neatly into one category or another, and some fit into multiple. I’ll have an article breaking down which is which, but I’m still trying to figure out a way to make that interesting.
Survivability isn’t something that comes into play for the vast majority of Heroes. They have 40 Health, and when they die, they die. For Patchwerk, the Great Akazamzarak, and Lich Baz’Hial, though, their Hero Powers factor directly into it. Patchwerk is an easy example- he has 15 extra Health. He’s able to take more hits over the course of the game, and his survivability is better than every other Hero. Unfortunately, that’s all he has going for him, but it’s enough that it (Patch)works. Yes, bad pun, why not.
The Great Akazamzarak has extra survivability from Ice Block when he gets it, while Lich Baz’Hial actually has less survivability when using her Hero Power, because she trades Health for Coins. All of those Heroes are mediocre at best, but survivability is a factor that can make or break (Lich Baz’Hial) a Hero.
Tavern Tier Advancement is pretty self explanatory. Minions from Higher Tavern Tiers tend to be stronger, and being able to get to them early is a good thing. When Bartendotron was in the game, his ability to advance his Tavern Tiers faster was what he relied on. The no longer around Lady Vashj and the current Galakrond don’t fall into this category despite accessing higher tier minions earlier, though. Currently, the only Heroes with this at play are Chenvaala, who can upgrade faster due to discounts from buying Elementals, and Millhouse Manastorm, who has more expensive upgrades and can’t advance as fast. To some extent, you could argue that Forest Warden Omu and Skycap’n Kragg allow you to advance faster, but since their Hero Powers don’t directly affect Tavern Tier advancement speed, I’ll ignore them for now.
Searching capabilities are an interesting point. There are two variations on it, the first being ability to access specific minions (Tess, Ysera, Alexstrasza) via Hero Power, and the other being ability to access random minions via Hero Power (Galakrond, Nozdormu, Elise Starseeker, Aranna Starseeker, etc). Depending on how they’re done, they can be very powerful. The ability to access specific types of minions on demand is very strong, but the majority of Heroes with this ability (Alexstrasza, Fungalmancer Flurgl, Patches the Pirate) have some sort of drawback- it’s costly, you need to get to a certain Tavern Tier first, you need to sacrifice minions, something that prevents the Hero from easily forcing a comp. Unfortunately, these drawbacks have kept the majority of these Heroes in the lower ranks, but it’s notable that Ysera, who has no real drawback, is a Tier 2 Hero.
Accessing random minions seems to be a tuning thing. Heroes like Galakrond, Elise Starseeker, and Nozdormu are fairly strong thanks to their finely tuned Hero Power, but pre-buff Elise Starseeker and Galakrond, along with the current iterations of Aranna Starseeker, A.F. Kay, Malygos, Captain Eudora, Captain Hooktusk, Dinotamer Brann… weak. However, if Elise Starseeker and Galakrond are any indication (or the differences between pre and post nerf Captains Eudora and Hooktusk), all it takes is a small change for Heroes with searching capabilities to go from bad to good, or vice versa.
Power is a really simple measure. The Hero can either buff their minions (Ragnaros, Al’Akir, Edwin VanCleef, The Lich King, Queen Wagtoggle, George the Fallen, and many more), force an advantage in combat (Illidan Stormrage) or do something that allows them to grow their comp more easily (Maiev Shadowsong, Arch Villain Rafaam, or Reno Jackson, to name a few). Depending on the Hero Power, this is either enough or it isn’t. How much it costs, how often you can use it, what minions it can buff, how much of a buff it is, any drawbacks (Maeiv needing to wait two turns, or Sindragosa needing to freeze minions) and how controllable it is (straight up buffs vs Dancin’ Deryl or Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End’s randomly landed buffs) are some of the factors that affect the success of power-based Heroes. These Heroes are all over the tier list, and a lot of them have other categories factoring in, like Arch Villain Rafaam’s flexibility.
The last category is flexibility. In general, this is two things, the first being what comps they can benefit from using their Hero Power with, either from their Hero Power only affecting one Tribe, such as Lord Jaraxxus or Patches the Pirate, or indirect benefit, such as Illidan Stormrage using Beasts to guarantee triggering Monstrous Macaw or Dinotamer Brann going Murlocs because his Hero Power finds them easily. The other thing is how much bang they can get for their buck, like Lord Barov potentially turning one Gold into three, Maiev being able to get a one gold minion, Skycap’n Kragg having extra gold, Forest Warden Omu being able to do more on Tavern upgrade turns than just Tier up, or the removed Trade Prince Gallywix’s ability to save Gold for later. As a rule of thumb, more flexibility is better, and flexible Heroes are better than inflexible ones.
So now that I’ve established these measures, what makes the top Heroes so good?
For the most part, power and flexibility. Currently, all Tier One and Tier Two Heroes (except Ysera) have Hero Powers that buff minions, allow them to more easily get minions (Millhouse, Arch Villain Rafaam, Maiev Shadowsong), give them extra flexibility (Forest Warden Omu, Elise Starseeker, Jandice Barov), or give them higher tier minions earlier (Galakrond). Some have a combination of those factors.
Still, why have some Heroes been super powerful and needed nerfs or been removed? Well, most of those Heroes had really good buff Hero Powers. Looking at a few of the notable ones, Dinotamer Brann, Tirion Fordring, Ragnaros the Firelord, and Deathwing- and, now, Queen Wagtoggle- all gave large buffs that could be accessed quite often. The other group of nerfed Heroes tend to be incredibly flexible, such as Captains Hooktusk and Eudora. They both had large power spikes from Golden minions and the Discovers that came from them, but Hooktusk in particular was super flexible and able to get extra Gold from tokens.
Looking at this, it seems that top Heroes are either super flexible and able to carry out their game plan plus a little, or give large buffs that carry them to victory. There aren’t many top Heroes with Hero Powers that don’t buff minions or make them more flexible. Maybe Blizzard should take a look at buffing some of the more unique Heroes in other categories?
Until next time,