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Not so much Marvel in The disney financial Thing so far [Transcriped below]

trends provided us with further confidence around underlying consumer demand for our parks and experiences. At studio entertainment, operating income decreased in the quarter due to lower three Cal distribution and home entertainment results. Worldwide theatrical results continued to be adversely impacted by COVID-19, as theaters were closed in many key markets both domestically and internationally. With no significant worldwide thee Cal releases in the quarter, we faced a difficult comparison against the strong are performance of the lion King, and toy story 4 in the prior year quarter. The decrease was partially offset by lower marketing expenses. Lower home entertainment results were driven by lower unit sales, also partially offset by lower marketing expenses. Unit sales were lower in the quarter as there were no comparable releases versus the prior year performance of avengers end games Aladdin and captain marvel. Turning to media networks, operating income was up in the fourth quarter due to higher result brooding partially off set by lower results at cable networks. At broadcasting, the increase in operating income was primarily due to affiliate revenue growth and lower programming production and marketing costs. The decrease in programming and production costs was largely driven by COVID-19 related production shutdowns and cancellations of network programming. The shift of college football games to fiscal 2021 and a delay in airing new season premiers. Lower results at cable networks were driven by decreases at ESPN partially offset by increases at FX networks and the domestic Disney channels. ESPN results were lower as affiliate and advertising revenue growth were more than off set by higher programming and production costs. At ESPN, higher programming and production costs were largely due to COVID related shifts of rights costs for the NBA and major league baseball into the fourth quarter. This included two NBA finals games and 16MLB post season games that fell into the 53rd week. Total ESPN advertising revenue was up 26% in the fourth quarter. Including the benefit of a 53rd week. The return of live sports events drove higher rates, slightly off set by viewership declines. So far this quarter, ESPN, domestic linear cash ad sales are pacing below the prior year primarily due to shifts in college football schedules particularly for the big ten and the pack 12. Given the timing of programming remaining in the quarter, we currently expect that ESPN advertising revenue will end the first quarter higher versus the prior year. Total media network's affiliate revenue increased 12% in the quarter driven by a benefit of 8 points from the 53rd week, and 8 points of rates off set by a 4 point decline due to a decrease in subscribers. The decrease in subscribers benefitted by about 2 points from the launch of the ACC network. At direct to consumer international, an operating loss of $580 million in the quarter was an improvement of approximately $170 million compared to the prior year. This improvement was driven by higher results at Hulu, and ESPN plus. Partially offset by costs associated with the ongoing rollout of Disney plus at a decrease at our international channels. At Hulu, the improvement was primarily due to both subscriber and advertising revenue growth. Partially off set by higher programming, and production costs. The improvement at ESPN plus was due to subscriber growth as well as increased pay-per-view income from UFC events. Hulu ended the fourth quarter with 36.6 million paid subscribers, ESPN plus...Disney police ended Q4 with 73.7 million paid subscribers, or an increase of over 16 million subscribers first Q3. Disney plus hot star subscriber additions were the largest SKRIBTer to this increase. Driven by the start of the delayed IPL season. Disney plus hot star subscribers now count for a little over a quarter of our global subscriber base. Disney plus's overall ARPU this quarter was $4.52. However, excluding Disney plus hot star, it was $5.30. On our last earnings call, we said that we expected the fourth quarter operating results of your DTC business to improve by approximately $100 million relative to the prior year quarter. Our results came in better than that guidance with operating income at our DTC businesses, improving by approximately $300 million versus the prior year. Due to better than expected performance across all three of our streaming services. I will note that we do not plan to further update any of our subscriber numbers until our investor day on December 10th. At our international channels, lower results were due to lower affiliate and advertising revenues partially offset by a decrease in costs. Switching gears, I want to take a moment to give you an update on our 21CF acquisition. We've previously stated our expectations that the detail would be accreted to EPS excluding the impact of purchase accounting for fiscal 2021. While COVID certainly had an impact on these numbers, we estimate the acquisition of 21CF and the impact of taking full operational control of Hulu were accretive in both Q3 and Q4 of fiscal 2020e including the impact of purchase accounting. As a practical matter, given our recent reorganization, and the successful and complete integration of these assets into the Walt Disney Company, it is no longer practical nor do we believe it would be insightful into our businesses to break out 21CF performance. Therefore, we do not intend to discuss legacy fox results or accretion on a go forward basis.. As we've discussed on prior calls, while our liquidity position remains strong, we are continuing to manage our leverage, with a long-term commitment to return to levels consistent with a single A credit rating. As part of that commitment, and given limited visibility due to COVID, and our decision to prioritize investment in our DTC initiatives, the board has decided to forego payment of a semi annual dividend in January 2021. Our capital allocation strategy will continue to prioritize investing in the growth of our businesses, particularly in the direct to consumer space. However, we anticipate the payment of a dividend will remain a part of our long-term capital allocation strategy following the return to a normalized operating environment. As we look forward, we expect that our results in fiscal 2021 will continue to be impacted by COVID-19. Our visibility is limited, and will be influenced by a number of factors, including but not limited to the recovery of theatrical exhibition, confidence in consumer travel, and the continued resumption of live sports. But as we sit here today, there are a few items we would like to highlight that may help frame expectations for the first quarter. Our parks and experiences business continues to be impacted by COVID-19. And we do not have visibility into how long these impacts will last. While some of our parks are open with limited capacity, we currently anticipate Disneyland resort will remain closed at least through the end of the fiscal first quarter. Disneyland Paris is also currently closed. Because we have no significant tent pull three Cal released planned for Q1 we expect that our theatrical results will be meaningfully below the prior year during which we released star wars, skywalker and frozen 2. We also anticipate that home entertainment, stage play, and studio TV -- results will be meaningful lower year-over-year. Similarly, at consumer products, we expect merchandise licensing results in Q1 to be adversely impacted due to comparisons versus Star Wars and frozen merchandise in the prior year. At ESPN first quarter results will be significantly impacted by higher rights and production costs, due to the shift of four NBA finals games and three additional college football playoff games into the quarter. Along with incremental regular -- in college football rights costs shifting into the quarter. This impact is partially offset by an expected delayed start to the 2020, 2021 NBA season. We expect the Q1 operating results of our DTC businesses to decline by approximately $100 million relative to the prior year quarter. Driven by continued investment in Disney plus, partially offset by improved results at both ESPN plus and Hulu. At our international channels business, we expect first quarter operating results to decline by approximately $300 million versus the prior year quarter, driven by a combination of higher sports rights costs, due to timing shifts, COVID related impacts, and channel closures. Our capital expenditures in fiscal 2020 were approximately $4 billion, down about $850 million from the prior year, due to decreased spending at our domestic parks and resorts. We expect Cap Ex in fiscal year 2021 to be $550 million higher versus fiscal year 2020, due to increased investments at our media and entertainment distribution businesses and at corporate. Partially offset by reduced spending at parks experiences and products. As we've previously noted, we will start reporting under our new organizational structure in the first fiscal quarter of 2021. While our reporting segments will change, we intend to provide key financial and supplemental information including much of what we report today, particularly as it relates to our direct to consumer businesses. As always, our goal is to provide needed transparency into our businesses. We remain very excited about our future, and we also look forward to sharing more details on our evolving DTC strategy at our December 10 virtual investor day. And with that, I'll turn the call over to Lowell, and we would be happy to take your questions.
Speaker: Okay. Thanks, Christine. And as we do transition to the Q&A, let me note that since we are not physically together this afternoon, I will do my best to moderate this by directing your questions to the appropriate executive, and with that, operator, we are ready for the first question. Operator: Of course. Our first question will come from Michael -- with Moffitt -- Speaker: I have two for you to Sheppard, the first is on ESPN, announced cost cuts, I wondered if the company has taken a fresh look at their content rights needs and if there is any update on willingness to maybe cut back on some of the right they previously had, anything about that. And secondly, for whoever you want to send it to, over the years Disney made a pretty smart decision to cut back on the number of films they released every year to focus on quality and franchises, and I just wonder now with -- and the new game plan at DTC, how will kind of the quality of the franchise and the content output be managed as is increased, looks like a change in terms of the output of the organization, just want to hear about the quality management of that. Thanks, Lowell. Speaker: Okay, Michael, thanks, I'm going to turn both of those over to Bob. Speaker: Thank you, Lowell, hi, Michael. In terms of ESPN and the cost cuts, we are obviously watching our costs across all of our operating units carefully in light of the adversity we're facing with the pandemic. But long-term, you know, as we look at our contents right need, we're looking at it from a shareholder standpoint, if it's accretive to shareholder value, then there are decisions that we make going forward, in terms of looking at new rights as they expire and what we want to put on to our service. So we're being very deliberate, and we're being very careful, and analyzing everything to make sure that it would be something that would be addive to us, and I might say we've gotten very good relationships with all the leagues, and it's important, we continue to believe in sports, as a matter of fact, in 2019, 93 of the Top 100 programs in viewership on television were sports. As you know, we've got the most trusted brand out there in the world in terms of sports. So we believe that's a nice recipe for future success. But we realize that the world is changing, and there is a lot of dynamics at play. But we'll only do continued rights deals as long as they add shareholder value. In terms of the second question in terms of looking at the number of films and the amount of content that we've put into this system, you're right, over time we've been very, very discriminate in terms of what types of films we make and how many we make, and I think that's really benefitted the company. We're in a world, though, now in a subscription business where we're managing churn, and we have a unique combination of assets in this company that are all at play right now in Disney plus, where we've not only got the most desirable library in the world, but we realize, and that really helps, by the way, minimize churn, but we also realize that new content that we've put adds subscribers, it is very clear to us that new content adds subscribers, I think you'll see a continued increase in investment in our direct to consumer platforms, and that will then fuel some of the growth that Christine will talk about as the investor conference that we expect on December 10th. Speaker: Michael, thanks for the questions. Operator, next question. Operator: Thank you, our next question will come from Alexia -- with JPMorgan, please go ahead. Speaker: Thank you, just a bit of a follow-up question, if I may, on the studio content commentary. I would love any color you could give potentially on what you learned from the release of -- now lawn, and how you think at least how you've thought about it in the past, your decision to allocate content on different platforms, for example, why moue lawn goes to -- but -- going directly to Disney plus, for example, any thoughts there. And then my second question is really on the parks. You've made some real improvement in cutting your losses this quarter from the last quarter. I guess is it feasible to continue to see further improvement that segment without Disneyland opening. Speaker: Thanks so much. Bob, I'll turn them both to you, moue lawn and Seoul, and some of the trends we're seeing in parks. Speaker: Great. From a studio content standpoint, we were very pleased with the results of moue lawn as a premier access title, and as you remember, that was our very first Foray into strategy like premier access. Unfortunately, that title met with some controversy, both in the US and internationally shortly after we released it. But we saw enough very positive results before that controversy started to know that we've got something here in terms of the premier access strategy. And I think we'll talk a little bit more about that at the investor conference in December. In terms of Seoul, we also realized that part of the life BLOOFD Disney plus is providing great content to the base level subscribers that are in there. In premier -- in Disney plus, and so the idea is that we thought it was a really nice gesture to our subscribers to take Seoul during the holiday period and provide that as part of the service. But, I think what we've learned with moue lawn, there is going to be a role for it strategically within our portfolio of offerings, and, again, we're going to talk more about that as the investor conference in December. In terms of our opportunities to continue to improve parks, we're actually very encouraged by what we're seeing right now in our parks across the world. There's really two dynamics going on. Number one, our operators, which you know are the best in the world are becoming much more efficient and effective in operating under COVID guidelines. And we've been able to pretty materially increase our capacity and still stay within the guidelines that local governments are giving us, for example, 6 foot be social distancing, and this is happening across our parks across the world. In fact, Walt Disney world, which was at a 25% capacity constraint which was our industrial engineering estimates to keep 6 foot social distancing, now has been able to increase to 35% of capacity. So, almost a 50% increase in the number of guests that we can allow in, and still adhere to the local guidelines and the guidelines that are stipulated by the CDC with the 6 foot social distancing. So, we're very pleased by how we've become adept at operating under these constraints. But the second thing that's even more encouraging is the demanding demand that's growing for our parks across the world. I think it says two different things, number one, shows the love that guests have for our experiences that we have within our parks and the tremendous IP that we as a company have. But I also think it speaks to the trust that people have, given the track record that we now have after months of operating across the globe, with very stringent guidelines, and we're very pleased with our track record, I think people are now through forward bookings, and reservations, showing some very encouraging signs about their willingness to come and spend time with us at a Disney park. Speaker: Thank you. Speaker: Alexia, thank you, good to hear from you. Operator, next question. Operator: Our next question will come from Ben DOIG with Morgan Stanley, please go ahead. Speaker: Thanks, good afternoon. Christine, I know you're not going to be providing the accretion dilution analysis going forward, I get it. A lot of moving pieces, it P can you tell us whether there are additional costs that you expect to come out of the business, I think you talked 2 billion worth of synergies, if you look at 21 versus 20, still more to go, as you work through the independent immigration et cetera. And probably for Bob, I know you're saving a lot for December 10, but you announced a pretty substantial reorganization of the company, in a year that's obviously had a lot of disruption, particularly around the -- business -- et cetera, I'm just wondering if you could talk a little bit more about your motivation there, kind of the reaction you've gotten from your senior executives, many have had their roles shift pretty -- giving up P&L accountability. Wonder if you can talk about your confidence that you're going to get what you want out of this from a company perspective, and that you can manage the risks of separating content production decisions from monetization decisions, because it is a pretty substantial change. Thank you. Speaker: Okay. Hi, Ben. Speaker: Hello. Speaker: It's Christine. Let me take your first question, which was on the cost savings that we achieved from the integration of 21CF. And we did immediately, actually, we exceeded that 2 billion number. And so we feel really good about the momentum we have on the efficiency side. And we're also going to take the opportunity to continue looking for operational efficiencies. The one thing we've learned in this COVID environment is there are ways of being more efficient, and we'll continue to mind those. And it actually has really helped us not only in segments like our parks business that are directly impacted but throughout the entire company. So we'll continue to drive towards greater efficiencies. And you asked about how much did we incur in the restructuring charges related to fox? Overall, fox restructuring charges were 1.7 billion, and 1.2 billion of that was incurred in fiscal 19. So, 500 was done this year. And in this quarter, where we had about a little under 400 million of restructuring charges, a portion of that was also fox related. It comes out to about a little over -- a little less than 30%. So the balance was related to our cuts at reductions in force at parks. Speaker: Got it. Speaker: And the terms of the question on the reorganization, I would suggest that maybe given everything that's happening in the world, this is the perfect time for us to do such a reorganization. And I'm 100% confident that this is going to play out exactly as we had intended. It's going extremely well, and despite this disruption in everyone's roles, I think we have 100% buy in. I think that because we have clarity on accountability, whichever really likes, and we separated out rules to what people tend to do best. -- what they do best, same with distribution. So distribution, who manages the P&L, will set the parameters for our annual and long-term budget framework that's then agreed to on the slate with the content creators, and the content creators then green light the individual projects, then shepherd development and production. So, essentially distribution is now able to optimize the commercialization without maybe too much unnecessary regard for legacy distribution platforms, but at the same time our creatives who as you know are the best in the world, are really free to do what they do, and that's just make the best content and storytelling possible. A lot of collaboration between the two groups, but ultimately some level of independence in terms of each being what they can be, and doing their jobs best. Speaker: Thank you. Speaker: Okay, Ben, thank you. Operator, next question, please. Operator: Our next question will come from Jessica -- with bank of America securities, please go ahead. Speaker: Thank you. Two questions. Could you comment on the change of management at star, does that affect your strategy in India or outside of the -- of the star branded service? And then secondly, sorry to be negative, but did the sports viewing decline? There is just so much going on, I wonder if you could give us your thoughts, there was no fans in the stadium, so changed the viewing experience, the calendar changed, there's a lot of sports in a short period of time. Do you have any concerns about how this will impact consumer behavior post-COVID, I would love your thoughts on kind of the longer term outlook of sports. Speaker: Okay, Jessica, thanks. I am going to turn both of those questions over to Bob. Speaker: Okay, I'm going to take the last one first, in terms of sports ratings, you know, sports ratings, we feel that in context of everything that's happening, are actually -- up quite well. We would be careful not to draw any conclusions about the ultimate -- of sports, sort of the long-term impact that you suggested during this pandemic. We really think that we're sort of looking at apples and oranges here. I think the best -- we probably have is the NFL, which has been relatively -- Monday night football of viewership has been down 4%, relatively modest despite all the headwinds. I mean, we've got the risk of seasons not finishing, to your point, we don't have fans in the stands, we have the risk of gains individually every week being canceled, we have election news as competition, and you know, we really can't have our fans doing what they like to do the best, which is watch in the communal setting. They've pretty much are watching by themselves. Despite all those headwinds, the fact that our Monday night football business is relatively flat in terms of viewership is really, I think, really encouraging. And if you adjust, if you will, viewership over the last couple months, for the amount of available content, you see that they kind of slide together. We don't have any concerns about the long-term health of sports, obviously we have got some headwinds as it pertains to short term challenges and hurdles, but we think that all in all, in context, the -- sports is pretty decent given everything going on. In terms of India, obviously we have an executive there -- who we love, and we wish him well, he gave us some indication several month ago he was thinking of moving on. We've got a really deep -- there, and we feel that we have all kind of opportunities, and a lot of success so far with Disney plus, and we have no reason to believe that that success won't continue and even accelerate going forward. Speaker: Thank you. Speaker: Jessica, thank you. Operator, next question, please. Operator: Our next question will come from Doug Mitchellson with Credit Suisse. Speaker: Two quick ones and a main question. The quick are the map on India -- math) if I have it right on the comment of $5.30 -- 2.5 million added in the quarter. I was looking for an update on the cruise ships that were on order. The main question is having reupped some Disney plus distribution deals, what changes are you seeing now now that you're out of the uncertain launch phase and the value on both side is better defined for you and the distributor, does the economics of those deals change, or shall we think about the cost of that marketing channel locked in, I ask, because you add more and more original content to your streaming services, I would think the benefit starts to shift in favor of the distributors as you add more value to the services, that would be helpful, thank you. Speaker: Okay, so I'll let Christine sort of quickly address your India question. Then I'll turn over the cruise and the Disney plus questions to Bob. Speaker: Okay. Hi, Doug, we're not -- the comments that I gave on the hot star Disney plus India subs, we just don't comment on those economics. So unfortunately we can't give you any more detail on that. Speaker: And in terms of cruise ships, as you know, we just got new guidelines from the CDC that are quite thorough, let's say. And they really entail some really high hurdles in terms of not only testing by the potential guests that we host on the ships, but also a process that has to happen in order to certify our first sailings. Those will necessarily result in delays beyond what we had hoped in terms of guesting our ships back in service and making magic for our guests. I guess the best news is that we now do see some light at the end of the tunnel. I think we have an opportunity to create sort of a Disney bubble if you would, on each one of our cruise ships and demand is very, very strong for our cruise ships. We're seeing extremely strong demand in the back half of fiscal year 21, and all of 22. In terms of bookings. That said, that then creates the demand for the new ships that you asked about, and right now, we're anticipating delivering our first new ship, the wish, in summer of 22, and then we have our next two ships in 24, and 25. So after a slight delay of roughly six months on those ships, we think that we're going to be able to bring them on to service. We hope and expect that the world will be back to normal by then and anticipate having a fine time trying to fill up the demand of those ships, and we think there is going to be so much pent-up demand we don't expect to have much issues given the love that our guests have for Disney cruise lines. In terms of the distribution deals and the changing landscape over times with those, you know, we're really pleased with our partnerships to date, we try to limit them, we don't do too many. But we use them to strategically pursue growth of our subscriber base, and lower subscriber acquisition costs. So, as you know, we have one or two of these in each market. That's about it. But it really does help us sort of provide a base during our growth phase, and we've got full flexibility over time to either ramp those up or ramp those down as we see fit. Speaker: Great, thank you. Speaker: Thanks, Doug. Operator, next question, please. Operator: Our next question will come from Jason...with Citi, please go ahead. Speaker: Just a question for Mr. CHAP he can. Can I go back to the reOregon that you announced. You know, the more content, it seems that you put on
submitted by TheCloakOfLevitation to MarvelStudiosSpoilers

Auto Chess Tier List (Work in Progress)

EDIT 11/16 - SOME MORE UPDATES COMING. Green Dragon moving up a tier to S, also going to mention Cyclops as extremely nice for midgame until you get Giant / whatever, and Red Dragon as a counter to psy elem stacking. Also coming around to Time Stop as likely best ultimate.
EDIT 11/12 7:35PM EST - per Odd-Translator614, interest is not in fact capped at 50! I will go back and edit the thread and post around this and any other context offered later - wanted to put the edit up immediately though.
EDIT 11/14 - This has been disproven - tap on chess piece icon in top section of screen to confirm your expected income.
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So, despite its general lack of fairness and balance, I have been rather enjoying this "roguelike" game mode. I have played 15 or so matches (best attempt, 5.85 million damage; presently #1 on NA-14) and feel that I have a strong grasp of what works well and what works, well, less well. As such, here is my attempt at a tier list. You will note that I will alternate between units, factions and passives here, and that not all units, factions or passives will be covered (please share your own experiences about ones that I gloss over and I will update).

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SS TIER
  • LUCK. Applies to any roguelike, but even more true here. You will do all the right things and still get rolled, or you will make big mistakes and succeed. This applies heavily to your available spells and unit comp as well - for instance I just played Rampart and did not see Dwarf even once (kind of a key unit there, lol...). That said, there is still a skill component that is worthwhile to consider, hence the rest of the post.
  • INTEREST - one extra piece per 10 that you hold, capping out at 5 for 50. Adds up to a very significant amount of extra pieces, with the opportunity cost of holding less power at any given point and therefore being more likely to lose your next match. If you can maximize interest early on, you will snowball and therefore be less likely to lose an unlucky matchup. Goes without saying that this means that you do NOT want to buy every shiny purple and orange unit that you see unless you either (i) will have 50+ pieces for next battle, or (ii) have a plan for them that merits the sacrifice. Certainly do not buy units that you do not immediately need when you are below 50 80 pieces, and DO sell units that you no longer need if it will put you into the next interest tier.
  • RAMPART faction - discussed further below, however I feel that this is easily the strongest singular faction at present.
  • MIXING IT UP - some quick math will tell you that you may be better off with 2x units from 4 factions than 8x units from one. This is because going from 0 to 2 units gives you a power spike from faction boosts that levels out (less of an incremental benefit) when going from 2 to 4, etc. Further, some units are just not that good, and if you are, say, trying to fit in Wight and Vampire to "optimize" your Necro team when you could have put in an Iron Golem and Stone Gargoyle instead - you are weaker overall despite the great feeling that you are doing something synergistic.
  • SELLING UNITS - there is NO tax of any kind - you buy a unit for 3 tokens in one turn, you sell it for 3 tokens in the next. What does this mean? If you are just below the threshold for the next interest point gain, and have space for more units (as you should), go ahead and buy stuff that looks interesting. Next turn you can simply sell them back and you did not lose anything in the process. Now, if next turn there are options for you to immediately upgrade a unit that you bought in previous round, you just bought yourself a free advantage for nothing spent. On the other hand, DO NOT HOARD units that you will not likely use again, sell them immediately.
  • FEATURED FACTION - this can really swing things in your favor, or otherwise. Is the featured faction Rampart or Tower? Then you are more likely to have a good run, esp. during early to midgame due to the prevalence of strong units / synergies from these factions as discussed further below. Is the featured faction Stronghold? More berserkers and ogres, plus wolf riders being rather strong early on. Is the featured faction Conflux? Meh - more psychic elementals but you don't need tons of those; early Stone Elementals are good, but the rest of conflux lineup is mediocre. Is the featured faction Castle? Sorry about your luck.
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S TIER
  • Fanatic unit group - I consider it a requirement to have at least two but ideally four units from this group. The obvious standouts are the berserker and tanks, which are plentiful and easy to upgrade. The benefit here should be obvious to all - use these guys to increase your chances of defeating the luck monster - your entire team will heal from damage as they deal damage, the benefit of which stacks from any other mitigation option that you have such as Tower faction boost, Guardian passive boost, Rampart shields, etc. Use Fanatics.
  • Psychic Elemental - dude is stylin' AF AND a nuclear weapon. If the other side has one and you do not, you will probably lose unless you have a significantly favored formation or you are running some weird formation focusing on 1 stack units (which still take a lot of damage due to the % HP component). Presently needs rebalancing - the ability should go off at 2:30 and not 2:40 in my opinion. Two at level 1 are significantly better than one at level 2 - if you can pull this off early you will blaze thru the "midgame".
  • Berserker / Giant - both are required if you want top score on last level; and the more, the merrier. Never use more than one giant at a time (last level an exception). For berserker, as with Psychic Elemental, two at level 1 are significantly better than one at level 2, however if you pull off a snowball you will hopefully be able to stockpile a level 2 + two level 1s, or even 2x level 2s + 1-2 level 1. Of further note is that they belong to the Fanatic unit group, ALONG WITH Ogre, which means that you get both Stronghold and Fanatic boosts from using them, 'nuff said.
  • Stone Gargoyle - cheap and amazingly tanky, even more so with level 2 or 4 Tower group bonus, AND high damage! I have had these guys singlehandedly turn losing battles around multiple times now, plus they seem to be especially good in the 4x cyclops boss stage (I usually lose it without them, usually win with). The Beast group is a pretty good one to boot, esp. as Psychic Elemental is there. Hidden MVP unit, check them out. I bet they take Nagas and really most other DPS 1v1...this would be cool to test.
  • Fire Wall - seems like the single strongest spell in this mode to me. I think that any run that does not proc it is much more likely to fail than otherwise. The AI especially likes to land it on cavalry that just hit your backline, significantly improving the odds that they die before wrecking it (even death knights get taken down to critical health). Even more glorious is when it lands on a blue 9-stack caster and completely obliterates it. #cya EDIT - ScromegaPrime points out that this is not as useful on the last level as buffing options - will edit further later.
  • Druid and Pegasus - they are CHEAP and have both an excellent faction passives and excellent buffs. I noted that their buffs seem to work in a T-shape only and will not land on 1-stack / SSR units that are diagonal unlike the main game where Dwarf can buff diagonally in these conditions. Noteworthy that Pegasus can buff melee and tanks and has the excellent Sniper passive.
  • Animate Dead / Undead Army - both of these spells, while not having as much instant oomph as others, seem to fare quite well by sheer virtue of the distraction caused, esp. if the enemy does not have units that multi-hit 9 stacks. I also did some comparison in damage done by, say, Undead Army and Chain Lighting (I have one, and enemy hero has the other - not apples to apples but whatever) and surprisingly they are not very far apart. And we have not even gotten to the interaction that these spells have with the Forbidden Arts group discussed under Lich (below), nor the potential for the skeletons to outlive the rest of your army and still get you the win (buy time for that last spell to go off...).
  • TOWER faction - awesome global DR boost! Stone gargoyle + Gremlin are an excellent early to midgame combo and Iron Golem is a serviceable tank if RNG does not give you the fanatics early on. I will say that their purples do not seem to be that great however (buy them when you need them but do not try to upgrade them).

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A TIER
  • Lich / Forbidden Arts group - while I am not sold on usefulness of the Forbidden Arts group yet, it definitely seems to be built around this unit and the bonus at level 2 is 75% of the bonus at level 4. The Necro faction has probably the strongest offensive boost, which at level 2 is 80% as good as it is on level 4. What this means is that Wight + Lich make a formidable duo just by themselves. Also, both Walking Dead and Mummy happen to be Fanatics. Finally, she is a 4-stack unit, not a 9- stack. With these factors in combination, I think that she is easily the strongest blue offensive unit. However, I feel like she does peter out at a certain point, esp. when you start adding Psychic Elementals and Berserkers to your lineup.
  • Ogre and Dwarf - both are Fanatics, one provides direct healing and the other one provides a ton of HP, both items coming at a premium in this game mode. Also - Ogre synergizes with Berserker for a strong boost to both, and Dwarf synergizes with Wood Elf, Pegasus and Druid. Cheap cost in comparison to higher rank options means it is feasible to get them to 3*. Best tanks in my opinion.
  • Mummy - if using Lich, you want him in front of her as he will perma Low Morale his target, which doubles the Necro faction bonus. If not using Lich, he is still a fanatic, although I would not place him ahead of the other tanks as of this point (and likely you will use him + Lich thru midgame before selling both for berserkers / fanatics towards endgame unless you happen to get Lich to level 3 - but I still think she is not ideal vs the final bosses - someone else feel free to correct or qualify).
  • Stone Elemental - very strong tank, especially early on. His "bomblets" die fast once they trigger, but serve as adequate fodder, esp. when the enemy does not have multi-hit units presently attacking them.
  • Wood Elf / Sniper group - overall best single target damage in the game? I think so, esp. if you have a source of slow for her, a Druid to buff her and a Pegasus to stack Sniper. Has what is arguably the strongest faction bonus to boot, which scales further with these units. As for Sniper itself - more damage = less problems; esp. if you can quickly take out the enemy's first tank so that your units can re-target the cavalry that is sitting on their face.
  • Magic Airship - seems to be very strong in this mode. I did not notice if the ice attack causes slow (which would help wood elf) but it certainly does a chonky amount of damage. I find that these guys can take enemy cavalry by themselves if they are targeting them. Not that expensive and synergizes with Stone Gargoyle / Iron Golem nicely. Should not be on your endgame team, but very nice during early to mid.
  • Red / Green Dragons - I have not done any runs with Dungeon yet, however when I see Red Dragons I feel like I am more likely to lose than not. I have taken to splitting my army on first and fourth rows to mitigate both their damage and impact of enemy cavalry which is most likely to be on these rows. Curious for feedback on how to optimize these - what other units interface with their Burn? As for Green Dragons, they are Rampart therefore they are strong by default, and their skill is even more painful than Psychic Elemental for your backline, esp. if the battle drags out. I think that having these units together is a good combination for midgame.
  • Beast group - this is largely good because of Stone Gargoyle + PsyElem; applies globally and not just to beasts which is pretty darned great. None of the other units in Beast group are that great, though (I mean, they are fine, but not better than other options).
  • Air Arrow - not sure if I am right but this seems to be the best of the "Arrow" spells, esp. since the AI likes to drop it on pesky ranged units and the stun from Earth Arrow only lasts a second. Curious as to feedback here - has anyone had great luck with Earth Arrow blocking unit abilities / etc?
  • Chain Lightning / Time Stop / Infernal Flame - I am a bit torn about this as I want to put them into B tier, but I am not writing in detail on options in B tier so... As of this point, I am not convinced whether either is better in ANY application than Undead Army. I have tried Time Stop and have had it used against me and I generally came away with the impression that it's not great. As for Chain Lightning, it does great damage, esp. to units like Giant, but nothing like the main game Sol'myr version (in fact, as stated above, Undead Army seems to do similar damage when you add up the impact from skeletons). It is likely that these spells are "balanced" around Conflux faction, however that is a faction that you are less likely to be running 2-4 units of at any given time than others.
  • NECRO faction - in part discussed above; Lich and Mummy units make this strong, however you will not want to run more than two units due to the rest largely being weak and inefficient. And yeah, you can forget about going full Necro + death ripple; it sux.
  • Guardian group - not near as good as Fanatic but serviceable until you get there. Somewhat marred from being restricted to tanks and the horrible Angel / Genie units, with three of the tank options being purples. Probably the best way to take advantage of the boost here is to run Stone Elemental and Iron Golem during early to midgame.
  • Platoon group - EARLY GAME you want to pivot your deployed units around maintaining this bonus. Counterintuitively, this means that pikeman pairs with gremlin better than he does with marksman - so buy both and then your marksman benefits as well! Wolf riders are another good option for maintaining this bonus, as are skeletons if you luck into an early Lich. Don't plan to use this for very long, and don't even bother going for the 4x boost.

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B TIER
  • A lot stuff falls here, and you generally do not want to use any of it (at least, not for long). Why would you, when you could use the units above?

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F TIER
OK, here is where things get controversial. These are my opinions, feel free to flame or substitute your own.

  • Cavalry / Blitz group - let me put it bluntly - if you use these units for more than a temporary filler, YOU SUCK. First, their damage is atrocious (just compare their ATK to other tiers; they are slightly stronger than TANKS), and second, you are relying on pure luck that you will be able to get into the backline because it is not possible to preview enemy formations in this mode. Last but certainly not least - every time you play these units, you inject them into matchmaking so that other players have to face them. I will not argue that they can easily turn an unfavorable matchup in your favor, IF YOU GET LUCKY. By the same token, if you get UNLUCKY, you will be raging at your phone for getting beat up by a significantly weaker player just because their cavalry made it into your backline. Putting a nice stinky bow around the topic: you are statistically unlikely to put your cavalry on a row that is empty for your opponent so you will lose more games than you will win on average and get kicked out, but the games you win will equate to losing games for your opponent (or yourself when you face cavalry later) where they had no real control over their loss. Do not play cavalry.
  • Angel - steaming hot garbage in this mode. I started out buying them every time I saw them (cuz, angel, d'oh) but I have never, and I repeat, NEVER seen them take top damage, their rez is unreliable, and only seems to go off once, even if you have two angels - (PLEASE FACT CHECK THIS), and they are made of paper. Also, castle sux and you are probably not going to be using Guardian units.
  • CASTLE faction - yep, it sux. I mean, the bonus is good, but there are no GOOD damage dealers here to begin with. Angel, as discussed above, is not, and as for pikeman and marksman you will not only NOT be running them much past midgame, but also in the time that you are running them there are very few 1-stack or 4-stack units that you will encounter. And they have 2 cavalry, lol (Cavalier actually pretty darn gud, but it's cavalry, see above).
  • STRONGHOLD faction - aside from ogre and berserker, there are literally no great units here. Roc and Cyclops are certainly serviceable and can easily turn fights, HOWEVER you do not control their placement in context to the enemy formation like you can in the main game, significantly increasing the likelihood that their skills are wasted. As for the faction bonus - sure, it's OK, but level 2 is plenty fine and you will have this anyways with Ogre and Berserker.
  • Genie - I tried her out a few times (as far as 2*) and am just not convinced. You are trading a 4* damaging unit for one that heals only. Both her faction and her passive are good (see above). But once the tank dies, what good is she? Tanks will inevitably die unless you completely overpower the enemy, and then it's a damage race, and by the way, your tank is still as likely to die first as theirs because YOU HAVE ONE LESS DAMAGE DEALER ON THEIRS + she has no skill past her heal-attack! Anyone have a different experience here?
  • Giant - I am putting them in F tier as well for dramatic effect; you guys keep spamming them everywhere when they really only fit within a narrow, focused comp. Every time I go against 2 giants I laugh to myself as my team crushes theirs and I picture you raging "BUT I HAD 2 GIANTS AND HE HAD A PEGASUS AND WOOD ELF!". Well, my pegasus and wood elf not only synergize with each other but also with other units; also they don't go into a spinny little confused frenzy when skeletons get summoned on top of them.
  • Black Dragon - I am not convinced that it's any good #changemymind. Significantly less DR than other tank options, much harder to upgrade, weak and limited faction and passive bonus... Much like in the main game, he is a better off tank than he is main, however there is no luxury here of being able to decide who is main and who is off, and his passive will not save his ass from dying in the first 15 seconds, esp. if just 1*. EDIT - ScromegaPrime points out that they excel at the last level - will edit further later.
  • Prayer - lol, this thing goes off before any damage is done. Silly AI, silly game. I suspect that it may be useful for the last level (more so than other spells? does CL do % damage there?), but I figure you are unlikely to make it that far with this crap to begin with. I don't think that I have lost any even games vs players with this spell to date.
  • Purple Tanks - aside from Mummy and the random ass leprechaun motherfucka (B+ tier; honorable mention for best raw DR on a tank, albeit weak faction bonus), I am not convinced that any of these are worth investing in. Unit DEF scales with upgrade rank as opposed to unit color, making a 2* purple tank less durable than a 3* white despite the marginal HP advantage. Not to mention that it is expensive and rare to 3* a purple unit - and why bother when you can use green / blue tanks and spend all of those chess pieces towards improving your damage dealers?
  • (Most) Purple DPS - interestingly, many of the options here actually have LOWER attack than Blue DPS. I am not sure why this is the case - I suppose it is to balance out their generally stronger abilities? Be wary investing here. Also note that 4-stack DPS have the very weird and aggravating habit of sometimes deciding that they are rogues and want to backstab a mofo (Psychic Elems and berserkers do this also) - when this happens and the enemy range line has not yet acquired your tank, you can say goodbye to your DPS. This simple fact in tandem with all of the other RNG and luck that you have to deal with is enough to rule out otherwise promising units like Naga and Fire Elemental from heavy investment).
  • Aside from a few notable exceptions and last fight, any duplicates of the same unit. Using two 2* marksmen? Chances are that swapping one of them with a 1* gremlin will get you a significantly better result due to Platoon benefiting the marksman. In general, try to avoid doing this unless you really have no other option.
  • Most 9-stack units - I have clarified exceptions here already, but yeah, the fact is that these units suck even harder in this game mode than the main game. Why? Because psychic elemental and fire wall. Melty meltface / NUCLEAR LAUNCH DETECTED -> no more units. Firewall will literally take, say, a full health 2* Monk unit to DEAD (I have seen this shit personally). Meanwhile, if you still have any notable 9-stack units when psychic elementals start appearing, expect to lose a third of your in-battle health bar at 2:40 (and 10+ hearts after the battle is over). Of course you have to use them early on, but do not keep using them for longer than you absolutely have to.
  • Level 10 - considering that the bulk of the best units are blues, I don't think it is worthwhile to spend all dat stuff to go from 9 to 10 for nearly all situations unless you had some insanely lucky ridiculous snowball and have a ton of health that you can risk in the short term. Further - higher chance for purple/orange units is not necessarily a large advantage because the chance of you seeing the good units vs the questionable ones is still rather low. That said, more impact of your spells is good, and if you hit level 10 early (I did on my best attempt so far, although I admittedly had great luck throughout), you are more likely to get a GREAT final score via berserker stacking than otherwise.
  • Refreshing - so this may be a tough pill to swallow, but if you are doing any meaningful refreshing of units available while also below 50 chess pieces / not level 9, you are probably going to lose and may as well give up now. Yes, you got unlucky / shafted, nothing but waves of goblins and and vampires for days - what that means is that you likely already lost and may as well save yourself the next 10-15 minutes of mounting frustration. In general, it is possible to put together a solid team with random options unless they are truly horrid as long as you pay attention to synergies. Also, in general, chasing the upgrade that converts your two 2* units to one 3* is (i) not statistically likely, (ii) will only give a marginal power boost for that unit.
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MY SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING BALANCE
  • Psychic Elemental - add 10 second delay to its ability FFS. It would still be an excellent unit, but at least there would be a shot to punish players stacking them by killing them before its ability goes off. As it stands, I can have a full line (half my army) vs an enemy tank with psyelem behind them and VERY UNLIKELY that I kill both the tank and the psyelem in 20 seconds.
  • After hitting Battle, give us the option to see enemy formation (but not units) to deploy our forces. Or even just see their units and make us guess where they are. I would love to have the option to, say, not use my wood elves when the enemy has a psychic elemental, etc. Why is this not a thing??
  • Trading chess pieces for health - why is this not a thing? AND/OR remove interest from the game and convert the concept to health regen instead. The concept of interest makes for MORE RNG as you are more likely to go against someone who played as well as you but spent all of their savings for whatever reason (maybe trying to stay alive, maybe got greedy) at the same time as the game cached their formation for your "enjoyment" - this player likely got kicked out shortly thereafter, but they still took away 20 of your hearts in an impossible battle. Or maybe this player was you - played perfectly, good unit mix, finally reached enough material to unlock 8th unit at the same time as a sweet purple became available and decided to spend everything for the future snowball - BOOM game caches your formation and now everyone else has an impossible fight at that stage... ;)

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MY QUESTIONS FOR THE COMMUNITY
  • I am still trying to figure out how to optimize around the last level. So far, it appears that Druid-buffed Berserkers and to a lesser extent Giants rule here, however I have only seen the gargoyle so my experience is rather limited. My gut says that optimizing buffing / healing / DR / regen (so 4 fanatics / Ogre / Prayer (?) ) are "best-case" - what do you guys think, or what have you seen here?
  • Did I miss anything significant? I wrote this with the rather selfish interest to improve my own knowledge and strategy - let me know where I got it wrong!
submitted by Maxyim to era_of_chaos

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