How to Start a Godtear Collection - 2022 Edition
Updated: Aug 20, 2022
It’s been about a year since I published the original version of this article. I think it’s the most frequently shared article that has appeared on this site. This is because the first major question for someone who has decided to collect this game is what to buy first.
I’m always pleased to see any of my content shared, but lately I’ve been feeling that this one needs more of an update. It came out around the same time Styx did, so there have been four releases since (Kailinn, Skullbreaker, Jaak, and Lilly). Along with Styx, these champions have really shaken things up.
I still do not think that synergistic combos are the goal when starting a collection. In Godtear, you are compelled to send a champion to contest each cluster of objective hexes on the board or else essentially concede five or six steps. As a result of this and the way the objective hexes are laid out on the board, champions tend to end up in 2 or 3 “lanes” created by the clusters of objective hexes. Champions meet each other in the lanes, creating a series of somewhat isolated matchups.
You tend to end up with three one on one matchups in the Death and Change. In Quest, Chaos, and Knowledge, you often end up with the same if the middle area without hexes becomes a lane of its own. Otherwise, you might have a couple of 2 on 1s or a 2 on 2 and a 1 on 1. Life is really the only scenario where all the champions will usually bunch together. Followers are not compelled to cover the lanes as much, of course, but in general the crews in your war band will interact with the opponent way more than they will interact with each other.
Because of this, I think list building is more about counters than about synergies. If your champions are going to be isolated against other champions, the matchup is everything. This means that champions which go well together are not necessarily ones which synergize in the traditional sense. Champions which go well together are champions which can counter different types of opponents, thus giving you a range of good options for handling what you see across the board during deployment.
This is why I have written about matchups for guardians, maelstroms, Shapers, and slayers in previous posts. If you want to know which champions are good at what things, here’s my answer. Choose champions that can handle a variety of matchups and roles. This is not to say that there are not good combos. There are. But they are not the main issue for list building.
In general, I'll refer you to the Champions section of this page, which has explainer articles on most champions and in-depth analysis of some.
So, the real question: what champions do I buy?
If I were a new player with no champions yet, this is how I would go about starting my collection.
The First $125 - Your Core 4
Obviously, you should buy from your Friendly Local Game Store because it’s the right thing to do and also that’s how you build community at the same time that you build your collection. For the sake of this article, I’ll just use the prices on the SFG webstore. I'm using US dollars because I am in the US.
Item #1 - Borderlands Starter Box - $54.95
This is a great value. Not only do you get two champions at a discount, but you also get a board and all the objective hexes, tokens, etc. that you need to actually play. This is definitely the more competitive starter set of the two. Nia is pretty solid, but Morrigan is quite bad unless you want to go all in on making her work. Nia is actually a good complement to Morrigan, but making the Lich queen function will require lots of dedication. You can go that route if you like, but I wouldn’t. The Borderlands set, on the other hand, offers you two very versatile and strong champions who can combine with a very wide range of others you might add later. Titus is elite at killing tough followers, and his Glory Seekers offer both slaying power and utility which round this crew out nicely. Finvarr is a very powerful and versatile champion who can take punches and protect banners while also giving you options for damage dealing and mobility. These two are a great start to any collection.
Item #2 - A Shaper - $32.95
I recommend a shaper at this point. These champions will really open up the game for your other two champions. Shapers do a bit of everything, but they’re outstanding at manipulating the positions of models and hexes. You’ll want one. I would not recommend Rattlebone. If you are going the Eternal Glade Route (not recommended), then you already have Nia. Instead, pick one of Raith’Marid, Shayle, Styx, or Lily. Raith is the consensus top shaper in the game. He does it all. You will not be sorry to have him. Shayle and Styx are excellent as welI. Shayle is fragile, but has extremely powerful tools for moving enemy models. Styx is a boss in the banner game who can permanently haunt an area of the board while still threatening far away banners. Lily is rather new, but she seems to combine very powerful claim denial and board manipulation with high mobility. She literally can’t attack, though. I’d recommend starting with just one shaper, although I think all four are strong. Honestly, pick the one that looks coolest to you.
Item #3 - A Heavy Hitter (Rangosh, Skullbreaker, or Keera) - $32.95
So, you can score by KOing followers and protecting flags. You can deny flags with your shaper and your super-fast elf guy. What you need now is the ability to Slay, queen. There are numerous slayers, but Rangosh, Keera, and Skullbreaker are the quintessential Slayers who really hit like a truck. Peet and Lorsann are great mobile, banner squishers, Maxen has a sweet support game, and Morrigan is… a whole thing. Rangosh, Keera, and Skullbreaker are are the purebred slayers. All three will put out serious hurt, but they do so in different ways and have different weaknesses. Rangosh is probably the strongest all-around Slayer, but Skullbreaker is not far behind. Both of these melee brawlers have speed and hitting power. Rangosh leans a bit more towards damage output whereas Skullbreaker is a bit more mobile overall, but the two are similar. Both of these monsters are largely self-sufficient and can pair well with anyone, although Rangosh especially loves accuracy boons. Keera is a bit of a variation because she attacks through her followers at range. Keera herself is slow and fragile, so she is probably somewhat less forgiving to play than the other two big hitters. Still, she threatens a huge area and can really demolish a health pool. She’d go very well with Styx, Lily, or Raith, but not so well with Shayle. If you got the Eternal Glade starter, then you have Morrigan. I’m sorry. Great model, though.
So, where are we overall?
At this point, you have one champion from each class! Not only that, you have four champions who are widely considered to be strong competitively. This set of four can play any scenario well. They can also handle a wide range of opponents and form three very different combinations.
Oh by the way, if you did not take my advice on which starter set to get, you have Morrigan and Nia. Don’t start by playing with Morrigan. It will make you sad. Nia is cool, though. I’d recommend pairing her with a powerful guardian who can exploit her ability to extend the scoring zones. Rhodri, Jaak, and Mourneblade are good choices. Your list also needs some hitting power, and I think you deserve a Rangosh or Kailinn in your life.
Beyond the Core 4
From here, it’s wide open. Play some games before making your next purchase. Find out what aspects of the game give you joy. The next additions to your collection will take it from being a generally sensible and solid list of champions into one which activates more specialized playstyles.
If you want to just be really competitive, then consider Raith and Kailinn. Overall, Godtear is an extremely well-balanced game. It is not perfectly balanced. I don’t think it’s ever possible for an asymmetric game to be perfectly balanced, and that’s fine. In my humble opinion, Morrigan and Rattlebone are rather bad whilst Raith’Marid and Kailinn are somewhat ahead of the curve. I know most experienced players who would agree with me. These two are simply strong and will be strong in any list. I say life is short, so play them without shame. Just one perspective.
In any case, I'll set these two aside as I proceed, but know that either of them can be an excellent addition to any collection and contribute to any playstyle.
Stylistically, the essential fork in the road here is whether to more deeply explore the beatdown aspect of the game or the control aspect.
This is an approach to the game that is generally fine with all the banners getting crushed because the hope is to win in the Clash Phase. If you want to roll some dice and melt some face, then additional Maelstroms and Slayers are obviously what you need. This the most fun way to play for me. It’s also the most dice-reliant way to go, so you have to be a person who gets a thrill from taking chances in order to have fun this way.
Double Slayer is really rewarding if you are able to think deeply about the timing of your KOs and about how to use the positioning and action denial that comes with them to maximum effect. Double maelstrom can be very effective at creating banner denial since your opponent will be loathe to put their followers in your path.
If you went with Rangosh, consider pairing him with Maxen. The little dwarf tinker will supercharge Rangosh in two very important ways. First, he will supply Rangosh’s attacks with much needed accuracy boons. Second, he will provide ranged attacks which can finish off Rangosh’s wounded victims and remove their banners in the process. Rangosh and Maxen are both perfectly fine on their own, though, so don’t feel like these two are a codependent pair.
Regardless of your core 4, most of the reds and yellows are in play. Peet is a terror in some matchups, as he and his follower have uniquely high dodge stats. Lorsann is a bit underpowered, but is still viable, especially into low armor targets (which the new releases all are). Since you already have Titus, a more durable Maelstrom like Luella might be a good choice. Blackjaw is another great all-around maelstrom, although he needs softer targets than Titus does. Jeen is much more of a banner denial piece, so make sure you have other ways of scoring clash phase steps built into your list; she goes very well with a pair of slayers. Grimgut is more of a control character despite his official class.
As an example, If I had a core 4 of Titus, Finvarr, Styx, and Skullbreaker, I’d probably unlock beatdown mode by adding Luella and Rangosh.
If you want to explore the banner game more deeply, I recommend snagging someone who can go with Finvarr and your shaper to play a full on banner game. The control play style is very strong and rewards players who are aware of what both their own models and their opponent’s models can do. This is also a less dice-dependent way to play, so it is nice for those who value consistency. It feels very chess-like.
A good lens for evaluating a control list is to consider how the list would perform in the various scenarios. Someone like Rhodri will be fantastic on Life, but struggle on Quest, whereas the opposite is true for someone like Mourneblade. Life and Knowledge tend to emphasize a champion's ability to hold down an area, whereas Death, Quest, and Chaos tend to emphasize a champion's ability to influence a large area of the board. Control lists need to adapt to scenario a bit more than beatdown lists since they really need their banners to be safe.
Since Titus and Finvarr can play any scenario well, I'd recommend looking at the shaper in your core 4 and deciding from there. Did you get a mobile banner cusher like Raith or Lily? Cool, complement them with a point-holder like Styx, Rhodri, Grimgut, or Halftusk. Need someone who can touch far away places? Consider Mourneblade, Jaak, or a speedy shaper.
Rattlebone and Helena are a bit disappointing, but all the other greens and blues are potentially good options at this stage. Shayle and Lily seem to overlap each other a bit, so perhaps consider other options if you have one of those two already. Finvarr is such a solid all-arounder that he can play with anyone. Halftusk’s accuracy is becoming more valuable as more releases are bringing high dodge values. Rhodri is a very strong option into some popular champions, particularly maelstroms. Jaak is a great mid-lane champion who would combine especially well with shapers who can grant accuracy boons. All things being equal, I’d go with Mourneblade. He may not be the most competitive option, but he’s wicked fun and will pair nicely with Finvarr. Grimgut also belongs in this category even though he is officially a Maelstrom. The Retchlings offer a phenomenal scoring denial/banner protection combination that can be swiftly redeployed for maximum board control.
As an example, if I had a core 4 of Titus, Finvarr, Styx, and Skullbreaker, I’d probably activate full control mode with Rhodri and Shayle.
If it feels like I’m recommending lots of models, it’s because nearly all of the models in the game are very good. Of the 25 released champions, I’d say 23 are viable for competitive play. I wrote this because I know that a wide open landscape of options can make it hard to know where to start, but please don’t read this article and think that your options are limited by the formula offered here. If you just want a starter box and four shapers, do you. It will probably be fine.
Truly, I say pick the models which look coolest to you. In many games, that’s a recipe for heartbreak, but not in Godtear. Unless you just love ice liches. In that case, reconsider.