Maelstrom Matchups - November 2023 Edition, by Dave M
Godtear is a game about interactions between yours and your opponent’s models. Knowing what matchups are likely to create favorable interactions is a key part of mastering the game and can be the steepest learning curve. In this article, I will attempt to break down what I consider to be the favorable and unfavorable matchups for each Maelstrom warband.
Let me start with a bit of framing and hedging here. There are dizzying amounts of different matchups which can occur given the 26 different champions currently available. I have not played them all. I don’t have that kind of time unfortunately. Some matchups I have played often enough to be fairly confident of how they will play out (Titus v. Rangosh, for example) whereas others I have not played at all. There is going to be some educated guessing in this article.
You may disagree with my matchups - one person's view of a bad matchup is another person's view of a favourable matchup. Understanding my rationale and your own is another route to getting better at the game. Feel free to let me know if you disagree with what I’ve got here; you may very well be right and pointing it out to me will improve my play.
I tried to find 4-5 matchups which I consider to be the most favorable and 4-5 which I consider to be the least favorable for each champion. This is arbitrary, so there are going to be some close calls. Note that this will not be consistent across champions. That is, me saying that Champion A has a favorable matchup into Champion B does not necessarily mean that I am also saying that Champion B has an unfavorable matchup into champion A. This is because B might have five matchups more unfavorable than A while A does not have five matchups more favorable than B. It’s all relative, I’m saying. Additionally, I will focus on more "unique" matchups - it would be easy to say lots of people have a good matchup into the less powerful champions.
I'd also recommend looking at Grumpysarn's old matchup articles. They were one of the most helpful things for me as I was getting into the game.
The Maelstrom Matchups
Ok, those provisos aside, let’s dive in. I made a small table for each Maelstrom champion. Green means that the matchup favors the champion whose name appears atop the table. Red means that the matchup is unfavorable.
We'll go in alphabetical order, so first up is...
Blackjaw's main vulnerability is his own limited damage to champions, relying on his fragile followers to do that for him. However, Blackjaw can potentially score more battle ladder points in a single phase than any other champion. Therefore...
Blackjaw excels into warbands with numerous, fragile, followers, such as Helena or Rattlebone. Styx's follower's aren't numerous but each Kick is a 50% chance to take out a dog. He can reap the followers of these warbands and take little damage in return, whilst they have few attacks to limit the Unburnt Reavers. Lorsann has the most fragile followers in the game and they are a big part of her kit - more food for Blackjaw. With Lily it's a game of "ultimate chicken": his ult counters hers. Plus, the Thornlings passive just provides more points for the 'jaw. Because his followers are numerous, fragile and what he relies on to hurt champions, most of Blackjaw's worst matchups are other maelstroms. Fenra, Jeen and Kailinn can hunt his followers far more effectively than Blackjaw can theirs. Rhodri and Keera's followers are tanky enough that Blackjaw will struggle to score points off them, whilst Blackjaw is vulnerable to both of Keera's attacks in return.
Fenra is a banner crushing extraordinaire, who also excels at killing spread out or slow followers. However, she herself is fragile and offers little in the plot phase.
Blackjaw's followers are easy prey for Fenra, with Shatterstorm able to target ones several hexes apart. She does almost as well into Jaak's followers for similar reasons, and she is able to dodge spider staff and can effectively reach his banner. As with Jaak, she has a good chance at reaching Mourneblade's banner. Plus, her passive somewhat counters the Knightshade's passive, freeing allies, whilst the immobile Knightshades are vulnerable to her attack's passives. Rhodri's follower's are similarly immobile, with Fenra being one of the few maelstroms able to crack them as her follower's are easily able to surround them. Her dodge protects her well against Shayle and Landslide, again being able to crush the banner.
Peet is Fenra's absolute worst matchup. His warband punishes her immobile plot phase, can reliably deal two accuracy 7 attacks in a phase and potentially even four in a turn. Plus, the Stabbers are rubbish targets for her Shatterstorm. Halftusk, Luella and Lorsann can all get past Fenra's high dodge. And worse, she has no plot damage to stop the Froglodytes and Luella can hunt the Curs. Raith has easy access to accuracy boons to threaten Fenra, doesn't worry about the Curs attacks and he provides few followers for her to hunt.
Grimgut is a unique one and hard to capture in a sense of 'matchups'. He can effectively block the path of other's with his Retchlings, but can struggle if someone gets past that or a champion gets in his face.
Therefore Grimgut does well into Warbands with a low number of attacks and limited displacement abilities, such as Nia, Rattlebone, Helena and Finvarr. He can block their path's well and even the Quartzling's aren't tough enough for him. His Retchling's can kill the numerous followers of Rattlebone, Helena or Blackjaw. Plus, Blackjaw's followers struggle to threaten someone that can eat them as effectively as Grimgut does. What's more, Blackjaw does not want to waste his ult on the cute lil' Retchlings and he can't move them in the plot.
As he can't hurt champions and relies on his Retchlings to stop them, he struggles into Kailinn and Skullbreaker who can move through his followers and then beat up the big tub of guts himself. Jeen's attacks can clear the Retchling's effectively, whilst the Shrikes can push them aside. Shayle is similarly able to push around Grimgut's crew: denying their blocking and protecting his own banner. Whilst Jaak is not great into the Retchlings, he can reliably spider staff Grimgut: killing him and protecting his banner.
Jeen is great at crushing banners and using her Golden Shrikes to break enemy defensive lines. Therefore, she does well into the likes of Halftusk, Mourneblade, Grimgut and Lily, as their followers can be pushed (or killed) out of the way in both phases: preventing Thornlings or Frogs from blocking objective hexes, or stopping Knightshades or Retchlings from bogging down allies. Plus her speed allows her to get the faraway banners of Mourneblade or Lily. Her high number of low strength attacks means she can chunk through small followers such as Blackjaw's or those listed above.
However, her low strength attacks also means she struggles into large followers, such as Shayle, Styx and Keera. Landslide can also push Jeen around, keeping her at arm's length. Although her passive looks helpful, Jeen's low health pool makes her vulnerable into Keera and Rangosh. Whether through the high health pool of the dragons or Brutal Master's removal of the Bandits, Jeen can struggle to score points off their followers too. Rhodri's followers are too tough for Jeen to kill, plus can't be pushed by her Shrikes.
The scary pony can go anywhere she wants and kill most things on her way. It's hard for an opponent to stop her doing what she wants. Except, of course, crushing banners.
Kailinn therefore excels at punishing vulnerable champions that want to stay at the back, whether directly herself or through her Virtues. Keera, Lorsann and Shayle are amongst the most fragile champions in the game and struggle to escape them. Kailinn's attacks are also ideal for their followers, plus her ultimate can score 4 diceless steps off Landslide or the Dragons. Losing follower's particularly hurts Lorsann, whose followers excel as 3, and Shayle too who only has the one follower. The Thornlings are perfect targets for Kailinn, plus Lily cannot out run her and Kailinn is too fast to be particularly bothered by pushes. Like Lily, Blackjaw provides a wealth of followers for Kailinn to harvest and then provides minimal damage to stop Kailinn in return.
Kailinn struggles to kill Rhodri's high armour crew, limiting her point scoring to offset his safe banner. Jaak and Raith can hurt Kailinn, shouldn't give up many points in return, can potentially reach her banner and also stop Kailinn's allies crushing the banners that the pony herself cannot touch. Rangosh and Peet both punish Kailinn's relative fragility. Through the Stabber's high dodge and Rangosh's own passive (and his followers spreading out) neither warband gives up many follower points to Kailinn. What's more, they can also punish Kailinn's allies that have to try and crush their banners as she cannot.
Luella is quite niche, excelling into high dodge, low armour targets and struggling into anything else. But what she's good at, she's excellent at and there's a lot of valuable warbands that she's great into.
Luella punishes warbands with armour 1 particularly well, especially if they rely upon their followers. The Toothbearers, Sneaky Stabbers and Mistwood Rangers are easy targets for Luella, then when she is done with them she and the Shield Maidens can take down Skullbreaker, Sneaky Peet and Lorsann easily enough. Peet and Lorsann can barely scratch her in return and she's a tougher target than most for Skullbreaker. Whilst not as easy a target, Luella can reliably take out Blackjaw and Fenra's followers too, mitigating a lot of their power, and then once more targeting the champions themselves with little risk of return damage.
Usually Luella packs the speed to find and kill whatever target she wants - Shayle is the greatest at preventing that: Landslide keeps her away from where she wants to be, whilst Shayle slows her or the Maidens. Mourneblade is similar - Luella's ultimate is her only means to escape the Knightshades by movement and they are tough targets for her attacks, bogging the usually speedy dwarf down. Rhodri works into Luella from a sheer denial perspective - she will struggle to score any points off him. Meanwhile Titus and Keera can both hurt Luella and her Shield Maidens and take little damage in return: Keera is maybe the best option in the game for hunting Luella.
Titus provides powerful, versatile attacks, into followers or champions. But this comes on a fragile, slow base.
Titus doesn't mind tough followers and is able to cut down champions too - Nia doesn't have the attacks to stop him or his followers and can't out run them either. Halftusk is in the same boat, with Titus able to move the Frogs off hexes too. Mourneblade's followers are ideal targets for Titus' attacks, whilst I'll Kill You All! and Roar of Battle gives him plenty of tools to get free of the Knightshades too. Finvarr's crew simply don't have the control or damage to stop Titus doing his thing or taking him down. Fenra is theory-based, but Titus's crew has solid accuracy with which to handle her. Plus the Glory Seekers have a good defensive profile and spread out well, mitigating her ability to get strong enough attacks into them.
Rangosh-Titus is one I've played enough to know Titus loses it hard - he goes down to Jawbreaker way too easily and will struggle to catch the Bandits in return. Skullbreaker and Keera are in a similar boat. The Dragons may look like a tasty target for Titus, but he is unlikely to one-shot them and usually gets eaten by Keera's attacks in return. Jaak's attacks punish poor slow Titus, whilst Lily's pushes do the same. Worse still, Titus will struggle to score much from Jaak's spread out followers and is one of the few Maelstroms without plot damage to counter Lily ult.
Look, I know... these are not perfect. Picking 4-5 good and 4-5 bad matchups just to gives a somewhat simple structure, but it's easy to see ways of complicating this to make it more accurate. You could introduce different shades of red and green to show how bad the matchup is. Every matchup could have a color coding to give you a more accurate sense of... whatever. No. This is how I do all 26 champions without going crazy.
I haven't considered scenario at all, I know. Please have a look at the scenario articles for some insight there.
Hopefully, this article got you thinking more about matchups even if you don't agree with these tables and can see ways of picking them apart. As long as reading this stimulated your strategic analysis capabilities, I'm happy. Thanks for reading.