While AWBW offers a large selection of COs, not all of them are equal in strength and therefore viability. To ensure a fair competitive environment where not only a select few COs are used, they are ranked according to their strength into tiers. Those tiers provide the basis for the banlists of games in Tournaments, the Global League and the automatically created public Z Games.
It is important to understand and keep in mind that CO strength can be very map-dependent; COs that strongly favor a specific type of game will thrive on maps that allow for those games while struggling on maps that do not. The tier list for Standard is based on an average map with 3 Bases and 1 Airport, around 17-22k income, at least 2 fronts and balanced terrain.
As a rule of thumb, powerful day to day abilities are always good, but lend themselves to smaller maps with lower overall funding, where games can be decided by small vehicle advantages and the fight for contested properties. Cheap and movement/firepower-based powers are a lot more useful on the same type of maps that encourage early combat, as they are better if a larger part of the army actually makes use of the boosts. Mass damage or otherwise game-deciding powers are stronger on larger maps or more generally maps where it is easier to avoid combat without losing too much in income.
The addition of Fog of War has a minor effect on the tier rankings compared to Standard - the fog of war mechanic itself is relatively inconsequential for balance except for Sonja, who naturally benefits from it, but many maps built specifically for Fog of War are larger and reduce the risk of stalls brought about by the inherent lack of information in the game mode. As such, COs whose playstyle relies more on heavier terrain such as Grit and Sturm can see a drop in performance, while COs who enjoy large open space typical on fog maps do comparatively better.
The only game mode that significantly alters the standard settings tier list is High Funds. Because the increased availability of expensive units leads to earlier and more frequent use of CO powers, COs who are able to more effectively create advantages with their CO powers rank higher relative to standard in the tier list.
There are two special categories of COs that are usually banned from competitions. The COs of the broken tier (tier 0) are typically strong to an extent where they completely destroy their competition – it is easier to win with a tier 4 CO against a tier 1 CO than with a tier 1 CO versus a broken CO. The other category is the luck tier, which consists of the COs that rely solely on luck, going counter to the basic idea of competition.
|Tier 0 (Broken)|
|Tier 1 (Top)|
|Tier 2 (High)|
|Tier 3 (Mid)|
|Tier 4 (Low)|
|Fog of War|
|Tier 0 (Broken)|
|Tier 1 (Top)|
|Tier 2 (High)|
|Tier 3 (Mid)|
|Tier 4 (Low)|
|Tier 0 (Broken)|
|Tier 1 (Top)|
|Tier 2 (Mid)|
|Tier 3 (Low)|
On maps favoring or disfavoring the particular abilities of the individual CO, they can easily go up or down a tier.
The broken COs break the rules that other COs have to follow, having abilities that lead to them either having a lot more funds or extremely cost-efficient units. Hachi and Colin are broken regardless of map, as having more funds available simply isn’t something that normal COs can contend with. Kanbei is basically always broken, except on maps so convoluted and massive that nobody would ever play on them, or maps with exactly 1000 starting income per preowned base. Grit and to a small extent Sensei can be made less broken by map design, but are generally powerful enough to run over tier 1 COs and contest the other brokens.
Sturm is not powerful enough to fight the broken five, but his perfect movement breaks almost all maps and as such he is often banned in tier 1. Nell is sometimes considered a broken CO, but is luck-reliant and thus lumped in with the other luck COs; she's either roughly as good or better than the tier 1 COs given average luck and a lot better if lucky on the right shots.
Not only does Hachi have a respectable day to day ability, he tops it off with a broken COP and a completely broken SCOP. Being able to build from cities at half price means that he does not have to play the game by its rules. As soon he has enough units on the field to charge his SCOP in a manner that does not lose him the game, he can start saving money and build the bare minimum necessary. Once he charges his measly five stars, Hachi can then build a swarm of Md. Tanks (or whatever else fits the situation) while topping off his unit count as well. If those units are not enough to win, they will recharge SCOP very soon, turning this into a cycle of Mega Tank spam that most COs are not equipped to deal with. The only real way of stopping him is to somehow win before he builds enough units to charge his SCOP, which is impossible for most.
As the other funds-based CO, Colin is just as capable of amassing an army that normal COs cannot match. Compared to Hachi, he suffers from a few weaknesses though. He might struggle to save money because he cannot reinforce directly from the frontline, thus being punished more for doing so. Colin also has no way to boost/recover his unit count, which makes him liable to being overwhelmed against Hachi or Sensei in particular and requires him to have many production facilities to compete. His COP is, if you have to spend the money immediately, less powerful than Hachi’s COP (which in turn is weak compared to Hachi’s SCOP). On the plus side, he can obtain an absurd amount of funds if he is allowed to save up and use multiple COPs, and set up SCOPs that are impossible to play against. Having 80 percent cost units is usually slightly stronger as well, despite the attack penalty.
The emperor of Yellow Comet tends to win against nearly everything as long as the map is small to average-sized. His stats make it impossible to fight any of his units with the same type of unit, and often makes it impossible to fight him at all. On bigger maps where Infantry units meet each other later than vehicles and the game is unlikely to be decided with the first battle, he can be overwhelmed by the funds-based broken COs. Any reliance on transports, naval or a lot of air units also tends to hurt Kanbei, as he pays premium for units that do not become that much better.
The combination of a very threatening day to day ability and a swarm of infinite Infantry, courtesy of his COP, allows Sensei to overwhelm his opposition with sheer numbers. Together with extremely cost-efficient Mechs and B-Copters, he shines on small maps where fielding the units to beat that is very difficult. Similar to Kanbei, Sensei falls off as maps become bigger and higher-funded, without quite as absurd stats to fall back on.
Grit is a CO who is not just broken in one sense of the word. Additional range on indirects means that Grit can push back anyone once it comes to an indirect standoff. It makes his Artillery about as good as normal Rockets, making his army extremely cost-efficient by default. The minus 20 attack is a harsh penalty for Tanks and B-Copters in particular, as those are generally expected to attack other Tanks and Copters. However, his heavier units such as Md. Tanks or Fighters as well as his Anti-Air are still serviceable, enabling him to round off his army with the necessary defensive units.
Unfortunately for Grit, there are maps where Artillery are useless without having built at least a couple of Tanks, mostly on maps where you need them to fight for contested properties. In more extreme cases, such as extremely open 2-base maps, they might be impossible to protect altogether. On those maps, Grit ends up being one of the worst COs as his style of play simply won’t work no matter what.
While most brokens see little play due to being banned nearly always, Javier2T sees even less play because having two Comm Towers per side is very rare. While his day to day is technically only +20 defense (and another 20 percent against indirects), that plus his powers giving him obscene stats is enough to make him vastly better than normal COs due to the way defense works.
The original villain is far less powerful than the other broken COs, but will nevertheless often end up banned in tier 1 games due to his perfect movement breaking the map. Sometimes he can gain a funding advantage due to Infantry crossing Rivers and Mountains, other times his Recons completely ruin the early game.
Maps with sparse enough terrain in the right places negate this advantage, however, and render him weak enough to be allowed to fight in tier 1. If he's unbanned for this reason, his 80/120 stats make for a reasonable day to day, being better than average due to defense being more important and slowing down the game to allow for his powerful SCOP to come online. However, he can struggle against other COs with a defense boost, or alternatively against more powerful SCOPs on bigger maps.
All luck COs operate the same, with the difference that Nell is generally around tier 1, perhaps better, while Jugger and Flak are tier 4 on average (Flak being the better one). All of them profit from the fact that they threaten very realistic 2HKOs onto cities in the important 55% matchups, assuming they own a Comm Tower. They enjoy having a lot of bases to pump out Infantry while hoping that they do enough damage once their powers are activated.
As day to day abilities are always useful, it is no surprise that the COs with the universally strongest day to day boosts end up in tier 1. This allows them to pressure and gain advantages against lower tier COs. Hawke has strong powers to boot, while Sasha mostly shuts down enemy powers, making Javier 1T and Von Bolt the only tier 1 COs that fall off slightly on maps with larger size or allowing for more passive gameplay.
Similar to Kanbei, Von Bolt’s biggest strength comes from his enhanced defense, which shines particularly on heavier terrain and small maps. On bigger maps the effects of his day to day are diminished as properties are not contested by straight out Infantry/Tank on Infantry/Tank battles anymore. His power has a decent effect but is overpriced at 10 stars, making him prefer games that don’t get to that stage to begin with. On small maps he tends to be the best choice.
An additional ten percent income is, depending on map size and other features, about as good as +10/+10 stats. Not having to worry about any sort of strong powers for a long time, Sasha shuts down all SCOP-reliant COs and is particularly powerful on slightly larger maps where properties are contested by vehicles rather than Infantry. On the other side, she tends to do worse on small maps where Infantry strength is key, and she can suffer due to her inability to threaten 2HKO onto cities without her power.
With an effective day to day of +10 defense (and +20 defense against indirects), Javier can generally keep up with the other Tier 1 COs. His biggest asset is his COP, which is extremely powerful in smaller skirmishes and can make counterattacks close to impossible if used effectively. As such, Javier prefers maps small enough so that just one use of COP can decide the game, but not small enough for him to fall behind before he can capture his tower.
While not the best non-broken SCOP, Black Storm is still powerful enough to end games against the other Tier 1 COs if Hawke is not too behind yet. His attack boost allows him to threaten city 2HKOs against Sasha and lower tier COs and makes him able to hang on in day to day combat in general. As a SCOP reliant CO, Hawke prefers bigger maps, although he is fairly countered by Sasha on those.
Tier 2 consists of COs that either have extremely potent, but expensive SCOPs or abilities that are powerful, but too situational to be good on every map. They all have preferred game plans and their strength on a given map depends on how much the map allows them to execute that plan.
With an extremely strong win-condition, all Eagle needs is enough time to get there. Stronger air units are relevant on maps where B-Copters are extremely dominant and can’t be fully countered by Anti-Airs, but otherwise he has to get to nine stars without much help. He does have the advantage that he still gets everything out of his SCOP even if he only manages to charge it at the end of his turn. That makes it important for Eagle’s opponents to start trading units (and hopefully gain an advantage) as soon as possible, to either end the game before Lightning Strike or neuter its effectiveness a bit.
Yet another button that often ends the game, Winter Fury is particularly powerful on maps where the snow cuts off reinforcements, allowing Olaf to tear through the already weak 8HP units. As with the other COs that rely on their SCOP to win, he prefers the maps to be bigger and the properties not too contested.
Powerful direct units allow Max to threaten 2HKOs wherever he goes, and the combination of firepower and movement makes walling against his powers a daunting task. Having unusable Artillery is a real drawback, and as such Max has to avoid positions where attacking without indirect backup is impossible. He excels in fast-paced games, where his powers are most efficient and he does not have to contend with powerful SCOPs. Max generally lacks the power to go against Tier 1 COs except on the most open maps, while falling off in his tier if artillery is indispensable.
One of the most specialized COs, Sami’s strength depends mostly on the funds/base ratio. The lower it is, the more footsoldiers are around and the better she will perform. She always threatens the enemy Infantry, and can be very hard to deal with if given the time to bring a few Mechs to the frontline. Given suitable maps, Sami can even pressure the defense-boosted tier 1 COs if allowed to play to her strengths. Weaker direct units are a real handicap, and she has to take care to not be dragged into an all-out tank brawl. As such, Sami can fall off a tier or more very easily, particularly on 2 base, no airport maps where mechs are not viable. On average, she does just fine in tier 2 with enough offensive potential to pressure Eagle/Olaf and being able to trade blows against Max if Infantry battles matter enough.
In many ways, tier 3 is a mirror of tier 2. The SCOPs of the SCOP-reliant COs are a bit worse in general, and the situational day to day COs are less threatening on most maps. There is sometimes an overlap between those tiers if the map strongly favors either long powers or good day to day abilities.
As Andy does not have a day to day ability and has a fairly lacking COP, he is also a CO that relies on his SCOP. However, his SCOP does not function as an instant win but rather augments his tactical potential by forcing the opponent to finish off his units. Trades that would be disadvantageous with other COs favor him, certain units don’t have to be protected perfectly and he gains attack opportunities that would not exist otherwise. While that makes Andy very resilient even against many nominally higher tier COs, he can lack the raw power to end games in his favor. Against mass damage COs in particular Andy is often unable to use his power offensively, making him less of a counter than he might seem at first glance.
Lash needs heavy terrain and vastly prefers small maps as well as no Airports. She particularly excels at contesting properties that are surrounded by Forests, although any terrain allowing her to 2HKO will do. As her powers (SCOP in particular) need the same features to have a large impact, her strength varies wildly, from around Tier 1.5 on the right maps to Tier 4 on maps full of Roads and Shoals.
A bit unusual for a CO whose main strength is the SCOP, Rachel prefers smaller maps where her missiles can’t be played around and decimate the opposing army. Small also refers to the actual map size in her case, while it is usually just an approximation for the closely correlated funding and reinforcement ranges. Her repairs can be a disadvantage in cases where repairing prevents her from building important units, but are very powerful on maps with limited production facilities.
A full +40 attack on properties is a lot numerically, but limited in its application. As fighting from properties is already good to begin with, Kindle mainly shines at making hers virtually incontestable. She prefers games that start with small skirmishes around properties, giving her an opportunity to use her day to day and powerful COP. On maps with enough cities her SCOP is a reasonable alternative, although it is also better if she can use it mid-combat instead of having to rely on it to break walls.
While mass damage SCOPs are always powerful even if rain is not the strongest weather effect, Drake greatly suffers from his weakened air units. 80/100 B-Copters can’t fight enemy Copters and don’t contribute well to 2HKOs onto Tanks, making them a painful purchase. As maps rarely feature naval combat (especially without air units), his naval boosts are usually limited to the occasional Black Boat. Thus he tends to just be a worse Olaf, with the option to fire off his COP if he cannot afford to wait.
Tier 4 was split in two in the past, but the differences were minor and as such the COs were merged into one single tier again. Noticeable is that none of the COs have mass damage and defense boosts, instead having at best situational or even disadvantageous day to day abilites and powers that are limited in scope. That makes all of them a bit flawed by definition, as they prefer fast-paced games to make the most out of their powers but don’t necessarily have the ability to force those games. Jake/Adder/Koal are usually the safest choices, with Grimm suffering from the movement boosts common in this tier and Jess being very situational.
With a day to day of 130/80, Grimm changes the way the game is played by granting both players 2HKOs regardless of terrain, also making indirects hard to protect and copters more cost-efficient at countering Tanks. Unfortunately for his powers, more firepower does not actually synergize too well with that, as they do not grant that many relevant additional OHKOs or 2HKOs. This makes them most useful in scrappy battles with many wounded units on both sides, but are often underwhelming as the difference only matters for a limited amount of attacks and his units are still vulnerable at 90 defense. He has a hard time against any movement boosts and lacks them himself, but can potentially punch holes through some higher-tier COs given small maps.
Terrain-specific boosts are by nature map-dependent, and Jake at least has the advantage that Plains tend to be very common. If he is able to achieve 2HKOs onto contested properties and the fronts have many Plains in general, he can potentially rise from tier 4. His powers give additional range to indirect units, but that can be a bit of a trap. It tends to threaten less than one might assume, as actually having to use the power for the additional range is expensive and not worth it if not much is achieved overall. His indirects also profit less from his firepower boosts and the additional vehicle movement on his decent SCOP, making them better as a supplement to his army than his main focus.
Cheap movement powers favor footsoldiers over anything else, allowing them to threaten many first strikes while being able to follow up with the entire army. Therefore Adder prefers maps with a low funds/base ratio that makes Infantry and the battle between them the most important. His Mechs are also useful, but he often cannot afford to develop them if that slows the game down too much.
While very similar to Adder on the surface and preferring the same unit compositions and type of games, they still differ in their strengths. An additional star makes Koal more reluctant to use his COP, and he is unable to threaten with it quite as early as Adder. His day to day boost on Roads is mainly good if that allows him to get 2HKOs onto cities, as 0-star terrain is too disadvantageous to prefer fighting from them even as Koal. Both his powers can be useful for punching through walls and cleaning up given enough Roads, making Koal a good pick for those maps.
While her day to day allows her Tanks to 2HKO other Tanks on cities with a tower, Jess is crippled by her weak Infantry and to a lesser extent her weak copters. 90 attack Infantry are unsuited to fighting for contested properties, and later in the game will be unable to reliably find some 2HKOs and combat enemy Infantry in general. This problem is exacerbated on maps where copters are powerful, where Jess has to choose between not building them, or building 90/100 copters together with additional 90/100 Infantry units, as she won’t be able to afford more of the vehicles she would prefer. As such, Jess vastly prefers maps without airports and a lot of funds per base, encouraging the vehicle combat she excels at.
Another highly specialized CO, Sonja's viability is almost entirely dependent on the presence of Fog of War or not. Outside of fog, her kit is a weird amalgamation of an ability that mainly serves to annoy her opponent, an ability and SCOP that encourages early combat and quick games focused on direct trading, and a disadvantage that completely prevents her from doing so. Thanks to her negative luck, Sonja is unable to reliably 2HKO even onto Roads (or Plains with 1 tower) as well as hurting her average damage, making her the equivalent of a 90/100 CO that can’t even rely on those stats. As her SCOP is only powerful to begin with if both players are already locked in unavoidable combat, the final verdict for Sonja is that she is unplayable even in tier 4 in Standard.
Additional defense against indirects generally has the problem that indirects still do a lot of damage, and without a tower, Javier has nothing else going for him. While probably better than Sonja, he is still useless except in very niche situations. An example would be maps with a 2v1 base setup where the sole base will inevitably get overwhelmed, but has the time and terrain to setup an indirect defense. On top of that, maps without a tower are rare to begin with, which makes Javier 0T a very rare sight.
Original source: Hellraider's CO Tier Thread