Season 1 is just about to finish, so it's worth looking at the data to see which leaders performed best and try and think a little bit about why. Generally speaking, Baron Rivendare (thanks to his Chill of the Grave talent) has been identified as the strongest leader, so how does he show up in the data?
We took the (very) simple metric of averaging the honor of the top 25 players per each leader in order to get a rough gauge of how each one was performing. This has a lot of caveats, but should be enough for a preliminary picture.
So, it's pretty clear from first glance that Baron is an outlier, though perhaps not so much to justify his massive play rate compared to any other leader. What's also surprising is so is Thalnos, who is noticeably weaker than any other leader. Sylvanas is the next lowest leader, though we have to note that she was not available for players outside of bundles or guild rewards until much later in the season, which would have pushed her down.
Apart from those two leaders, I'd say balance actually looks surprisingly decent. The gaps between leaders is relatively small in most cases. If we're forced to (roughly) group them, this is what we get (with the caveat with Sylvanas):
- S Tier: Baron Rivendare
- A Tier: Old Murk-eye, Maiev
- B Tier: Rend, Tirion, Hogger
- C Tier: Jaina, Grom
- D Tier: General Drakkisath, Charlga, Cairne, Sneed
- F Tier: Sylvanas, Thalnos
What we can see is the effect that the modifiers had on performance. In Season 1, we saw Heroes Resolve (Your leader gains 1 level each time it is played), and Fortification (Towers have double health) as the modifiers outside of clean fight. We also saw Dragon Towers for quite a large portion of the season.
Heroes Resolve seemed to have the biggest effect on our B Tier of leaders, each benefiting greatly from the scaling leader levels. Fortification is mostly notable for how it interacted with Dragon Towers, which make melee minis much weaker. Sneed, for example, was an early performer that rapidly fell off with this change.
Generally, the Dragon Towers seem to have pushed the meta towards ranged, as we can see with Baron and Murk-eye, and the low(er) performance of our D tier. For Thalnos, it seems to make his low performance that more damning, but we can also consider that the best two backline sniping spells.. are not spells (Safe Pilot and Whelp Eggs).
In Baron's case it only meant that the rich got richer, as he was able to double dip into his naturally strong Chill of the Grave talent and a set of PvP modifiers that benefitted it further. It might be necessary to shift more skeletons spawns away from the towers and towards the barracks, or change the talent to summon something other than mages with an attack speed slow, which is rather potent.
Charlga has slightly underperformed, landing in D tier while she should be decent against the towers modifers. But some players have performed well with her this season, and I think her weirdness is depressing her winrate more than her strength. She is at least, not an outlier in the data, despite the frequent low-rankings she has been given in tier lists in the past.
Overall, once we take the modifiers into account, we actually see that balance between leaders is fairly close. That is, the modifiers are having the (intended?) effect of pushing some leaders up the rankings for that time period, but otherwise, we don't see massive differences. This can partly be attributed by the generically-good minis that feature in most armies, making leader choice less impactful than it otherwise might be. But it's still a positive sign that we're not as far away from a well-balanced PvP experience as might be imagined. Going into Season 2 with the Chimaera, we should see another shake-up with Rocket Towers returning as well as the Double Gold modifier showing up.