This is an exercise in pure narcissim, and I would have preferred to keep it on my profile rather than post it publicly, but I don’t actually seem able to do that, so just pretend I’m Guise, and ignore this thread if you don’t care about my purely subjective opinions.
I’ve played every hero in the game numerous times (at least 10 each for the six mini-expansion heroes who released with Oblivion, which I failed to buy and never tried out until I got the app, plus fifteen or twenty times with the actual Oblivion heroes, and not less than thirty or forty with everyone else - counting app games, the core set heroes are probably past seventy by now). I have a pretty good handle on how they operate, what I like and don’t like about them, and generally how powerful they are (at least the way I play them; there is some variation, but I’m pretty sure I can still speak with some authority as if my observations in play were partly objective). Nightmist is the hero I win with the most often, and probably the one I’m best at maximizing the value of at the table even if the villain is ultimately too strong to beat, but I don’t think I’d call her my absolute favorite. So I wanted to list the ones who are my favorites, and see how that list compares to what kind of performance I tend to be able to command out of them. I might also throw in a bit of discussion of how I feel about flavor vs. mechanics, and perhaps eventually turn the whole thing into a chart, giving each hero a rating in three categories and sorting them by their final score. Maybe I’ll do Villains later as well, although that’s a harder thing to quantify due to all the various levers you can adjust.
#1. The Naturalist. I absolutely love playing him; the frustration of having to wait a turn before getting your Form lined up with the cards he plays is very much in line with the experience I have as a former Magic the Gathering player, where you have to plan ahead and take new information into account when formulating the correct play. The wide variety of abilities he has access to, assuming you have time to switch forms first, beggars the replayability potential of every other hero, plus the color-coded icons are just super-cool to have on the cards, making the game feel so much more interactive and helping the already comicky-looking cards to “pop” even more.
#2. The Idealist. The absolute standout of the six new heroes I discovered this year, I hope she’s canonically 18 by the time Void Guard is caught up to the present day, because I do believe I have a bit of a crush going on toward her. (This is funny for an extremely personal reason that I probably won’t be sharing anytime soon, and certainly not in this parenthetical aside.) As with Natch, she’s powerful but makes you do a bit of work to earn that power, making it feel like more of an achievement when you do because of the challenge that it presented. I don’t particularly like her personality, and could think of a lot of better Constructs for her to dream into being, but in terms of gameplay, she’s difficult for me to put down. I particularly like the little surprise mechanic built into her, which I won’t say anything about so as not to spoil anyone who hasn’t experienced her in play - the “wait, WHAT?” moment I had the first time I saw that certain single card in her deck is an experience I wouldn’t want anyone else to miss out on.
#3. Lifeline. When I first played him, I thought he was the absolute worst of the new heroes in OblivAeon; all he seemed able to do was hurt himself (I think I shuffled a bit poorly, because I’m pretty sure my hand in my first game with him was Harrow x3 along with an Unleash Energy or a Haunting Memories). It took a long time to figure out what his deal was, and a longer time to really start appreciating what he can do. I don’t know if I agree with the Statistics Project about how powerful he is - in my one OblivAeon game, he certainly briefly became the most effective hero I’d ever played because of an Oblivion Shard he was holding, but that hardly proves much since that’s intentionally designed to be the most broken of all the super-powerful Reward cards). But his wide variety of specialized tools and his potential to produce super-broken combos with enough calculation and setup are definitely qualities that play very much to my strengths. Unlike the heroes before and after him on this list, my fondness for Lifeline also extends to the pure flavor perspective; I love everything about Tarogath as a character, and having an Endling as a hero is even cooler than when Sky-Scraper and Omnitron-X gave us hero versions of the core set’s better-balanced villains.
#4: Chrono-Ranger. My first love, prior to any of the other games being released (I started as a player around the time Shattered Timelines came out), CR’s habit of breaking the usual x2/x3 rule for card quantities does a lot to improve my opinion of him. As with Idealist, this is almost entirely a gameplay rating; I don’t care much for Jim Brooks as a character, never having cared much about the normal people who somehow keep showing up in superhero stories (his metal arm helps, but his general lack of personality keeps it from helping much). But in play terms, there isn’t much I enjoy more than the amount of tutoring his deck offers you, with so many specialized tools that you can get exactly when you want them - this is exactly how I wished Mister Fixer would work when I had my first couple frustrating games with him.
#5: Tempest: Not much in the core set can compete with the game’s later innovations IMO, but Tempest was the second character I ever played, and I still think he’s the most powerful by far of the core set heroes (except Legacy if you count his power in terms of what a large team of heroes gains from him simply being among them, and I don’t count that; the effectiveness of a single hero is what we’re looking at here). You’ve probably noticed by now that I’m very into complexity, and so the most multifaceted of the core set heroes was inevitably also going to be my fave; the incredible potency of his attack cards, the interesting puzzle of keeping him alive with fairly low HP, and the necessity to wrap your brain around initially-weak cards like Vicious Cyclone and figure out how to make him good - I eat it all up. Plus of all the various hero variations, Tempest almost certainly has the widest array of different experiences by switching to another character card - Wraith with Sleuth instead of Stealth is pretty much still Wraith, and Bunker’s unmatched fifth variant just feels like an apology for how pathetic his base version is, but all of Tempest’s four versions bring something totally unique to the table, from the frustrating puzzle of Sacrifice to the suicidal awesomeness of Arc of Power, with neither his base version nor the Extreme PW version being any slouch either.
#33. Setback. Much as I enjoy this guy’s personality and the jokes that he lends himself to, his deck is much too complicated for a guy whose powers are mostly very vanilla, with the need to make his Risk power viable resulting in most of his cards being intentionally overcomplected. I do enjoy the Unluck mechanic in general, but neither of his two character cards really uses it in a way I find satisfactory. And there probably isn’t another hero who has more capability to unintentionally wreck his own team; I can live with a little friendly fire, but a Risk at the wrong moment can completely ruin a party’s efforts. I want to stress that I absolutely do not hate Setback; i can and have definitely had good times playing him. But on any quality listing, there must be someone towards the bottom, even if they are simply “least best” instead of “worst”. And the number of times I have been successful playing him have been somewhat of a minority, compared to the number of games he’s been either unsatisfying or an active hindrance in.
#34. Akash’Thriya. This one is kind of a shocker to me; when OblivAeon first arrived, she was the new hero I was most excited to try out, and playing her ten or so times didn’t dampen my enthusiasm any. However it’s likely that I had to play her a bit wrong in order to enjoy her properly, and this is a rare case of my enthusiasm going down sharply with more gameplay experience. I still think she’s one of the coolest heroes on a purely conceptual level, but the insane amount of self-damage she suffers, and how incredibly hard she needs to work in order to achieve a very minor and temporary effect, have led to my finding her increasingly disappointing with nearly every game she played. My only really positive experience with her involved making Akash’Flora immune to damage so that all heroes got extra powers every turn, and that kind of an exploit is very much outside of her deck’s general wheelhouse; Flora in general is the only thing about her deck I really like any more, and it’s far too fragile to more than occasionally have a dramatic effect on gameplay. I think in my future non-app games, I will intentionally play her wrong in all sorts of probably-broken ways, just to justify the extra effort of constantly shuffling the environment deck and then having to retrieve all her cards after the game, not to mention actually letting her enjoy that insanely high health total instead of depleting to the usual hero HP range within a couple of turns due to her extreme tendency toward self-damage.
#35. Bunker. I don’t hate this hero anywhere near as much as I used to; playing him seventy or so total times (more than any other hero, since I go by variants and he has the most of those) has allowed me to appreciate his nuances quite a bit more than I used to. Still, he’s still pretty lacking out of the box in a lot of ways, and really needs a lot of support from the rest of the team to be truly successful, without having as great an upside most of the time as other heroes of whom that is similarly true. The revisions to him coming in the Definitive Edition will probably do a lot to improve the character, but it’s unlikely to have much effect on my appreciation for him in this game engine.
#36. Doctor Medico. Easily the worst experiences I have had in Sentinels have involved characters primarily themed around healing; over in the Cauldron fan expansion, I think that Doc Havoc’s intentionally-broken healing abilities kind of ruin the game. While the designers made an admirable effort at letting Medico do interesting things instead of just being a total healbot, it isn’t really enough to justify how much of a distorting influence on gameplay he tends to be, not to mention that his personality is utterly bland, he’s visually quite boring to look at, and he was admitted by the designers to be practically the last character they threw into a universe that had already been mostly designed. Of the six new heroes, he interest me the least by a very large margin, and more games being turned into cakewalks thanks to his presence are likely to make my opinion of him continue to dive.
#37. Ex-Patriette. I don’t find her “guns” shtick interesting, the Ammo mechanic feels very primitive and poorly designed, her base power is seldom worth anything, I have a terrible win/loss and death/survival ratio with her across 40 or so games, and she’s mortally opposed to one of my favorite villains…there isn’t much for me to like about this character or this Hero deck. I used to think she was at least better than Bunker, but playing him a whole bunch more times in the App and the release of his last couple amazing variants thoroughly broke that near-tie for last place.
The top and bottom 5 will do for now; I’ll come back and complete this later, assuming people don’t ask me to avoid doing so. I pretty much already know who the sixth best and sixth worst are going to be, and probably most of the top and bottom 10 overall, but actually verbalizing my reasons in an organized way, that’ll take more effort than I’m up to putting in just now.