Before we get to the list you’re actually here for, I’d like to go over some general concepts which I hope will be helpful to new(ish) players. They’re more like rules of thumb, but you should at least be aware of them before breaking them.
- 1-keys and panic point trading
I’ve excluded 1-keys from the list because you shouldn’t really judge them as combat units. They can be helpful for that, but their main point is to either take panic points before they are well-defended or to reconquer them once they are. Don’t use them to take unclaimed panic points unless they would survive. Else it’s generally not worth it, because your opponent can just retake the point with their own 1-keys, and then you both paid 1 but they get the point.
Muffintop is special in that you like to keep it in reserve in case you ever need to cheaply remove poison or patch sth. up. Always consider using Clinico instead though (or Bluelien if you have it), because that gives you prolonged benefits over the entire match whereas Muffin is just a flat -1 key.
- Key trading
You want enemy phobies you kill to cost more, or at least no less, than the ones you lose in the process. So when you attack and kill sth., you should ask yourself how much you will lose on the counter-attack. Identifying opportunities of attack while considering counterplays is one of the most important (and hardest) skills in this game, but there are just too many variables to make a comprehensive guide or sth. You just have to learn from experience.
A few guidelines i can think of though:
If you can take a panic point while trading two equally expensive phobies, that’s in your favor.
Retaking a panic point is worth roughly 1 key, so it’s also fine to trade a phobie that costs you 1 more key if you also get to conquer a point while doing so.
Sacrificing units to take points doesn’t mean much if you can’t defend them, i.e. you need to be able to kill whatever your opponent could reclaim them with.
Equal trades while you are ahead on panic points work mostly in your favor (as you are keeping your opponent busy, so to speak, while the clock is ticking).
Depending on how aggressive you and your opponent play, measured key and panic point trading isn’t always possible. If the match devolves into a complete brawl, just embrace it. When you have to choose between phobies to kill because you can’t take care of everything that’s thrown at you, pick the biggest threats, not necessarily what’s most expensive (Snowball on cooldown f.e. is rarely a priority).
- High cost phobies
It’s a pretty tempo-oriented game, meaning you are (or should be) quite busy constantly fighting for panic point control. If you’re just saving up keys while letting your opponent take over the map, it will usually lead to a loss, which is why 7+ cost phobies don’t see a ton of play. The other reason is ofc that they’re simply more expensive, so you can’t have as many of them. What this means in relation to this tier list is that you should look at „good“ phobies as „good in comparison to others of the same cost“ and not expect expensive units to win you matches by themselves just because they’re high on the list. By rule of thumb you can afford to play like 1 big (i.e. 7+ keys) phobie on small maps and about 2 of them on big maps. A good time to start saving up keys is when the match is in a stable state and you’re near the maximum amount of phobies, but during very active matches with constant trading there’s nothing wrong with relying exclusively on mid- to low-cost units. It’s probably even the better choice.
- Push and pull
Pull abilities are very dangerous, but ofc the rules of good trading still apply. You may snipe an inconvenient defender like Stabby, but if it means you then lose your Miss Moffat you’ll have traded down even if you also took a panic point. Also keep in mind that in order for pull to be effective on maps without chasms, you need to first create a force to actually dispatch pulled phobies with. Moffat / Attractor comes later.
Push is highly map-dependent. Without chasms to potentially push sth into, you should mostly avoid using phobies with such abilities. Heavo 2.0 is an exception in that it works well on a variety of maps, because it can bust whole formations with its combination of high hp, 2 movement and a ranged group push.
- Melee and ranged
Ranged units aren’t stronger per se, but your team should generally have more ranged than melee phobies. That’s for one because you want to maintain distance to panic points you’re defending, else your defenders get whittled down with every exchange of 1-keys (since 1-keys are melee). Secondly, being able to keep your distance is safer in general – having to come 1 tile closer often means taking significantly higher damage from the counterattack. Thirdly, ranged phobies simply have more tiles available from which to attack or defend any specific tile. If you have too many melee fighters, it becomes difficult to focus your efforts on a certain point or unit.
- Slow and mechanical phobies
There are plenty of really nice slow moving phobies. All the ranged ones, that is. But if you use too many of them at once your overall lack of mobility will cause problems, since they get in each others way when you need to reposition and it becomes hard to gang up on opposing units. So just don’t overdo it i guess. On small maps i’d say use no more than 2, on big maps no more than 3. Even less if there’s a lot of ground to cover.
Similarly, going overboard on mechanical phobies can also lead to a bad time, even if the ones you pick are individually pretty decent. Only mechanicals have a dedicated counter as effective as electrical damage (which ofc makes up for their better stats and poison immunity).
- Situational phobies
I’ve added an extra tier at the end of the list for niche phobies that only have one specific job or need to meet a lot of conditions before they have an impact. None of them are fighters, but under the right circumstances they can all be good, some even great. Just don’t play them willy-nilly and expect positive results.
Lastly, I’m not going to give my reasoning for why all these phobies ended up in their respective tiers, 'cause that’s too much work. Feel free to ask though if you want me to elaborate on some of them.