Dwarves is a comp that has had many swings in power level throughout the game's brief history - at some point in time it was considered one of the best comps, but nowadays it's usually considered one of the worst ones (if not the actual worst). However, a lot of players take this to mean it's a comp that you cannot play, which I believe is far from the truth. Even though you're never actually forcing Dwarves (I believe you should force very few things in Storybook Brawl), I think it's totally reasonable to be in a spot where they are your best choice, and then you need to know what to do.
My goal with this article is not to push you towards playing it all the time, but to equip you with the knowledge you need to have if you do find yourself in a position where playing a Dwarves comp is your best chance to finish well. If you never try to play Dwarves just because it's not considered good right now, I think you'll miss out on some great opportunities.
Pros and Cons
- Not many people play Dwarves, so your pieces aren't contested. This does not make that big a difference, but it makes it slightly easier to find Dwarves.
- You don't require anything specific. A Slay comp usually does not work without Baba Yaga or a combination of Treasures; a Wizards comp often needs Merlin's Hat + Crystal Ball; a Trees comp doesn't work properly without several level 6 characters, and so on. With Dwarves, there are things that are nice to have, but nothing is mandatory, so you can never truly "fizzle" once you're in it.
- You're hard to cheese out. Since there's no specific character that's central to your gameplan, you don't run the risk of being completely blown out by something like a Doombreath on your Bearstein, a Medusa on your Good Boy or a Pigomorph on another key character.
- Your comp is very simple to play. You don't need to change too much from round to round, you don't need high APM the way a Crystal Ball comp does, and there are relatively few hard decisions that can mess up your entire game.
- Your comp is consistently strong throughout the game and will be online before almost anyone else's. It's quite common to hit the later stages of the game as the healthiest person in the lobby if you are Dwarves, which means you can get a good finish even if you don't win the entire game, because you have enough of a health buffer to absorb hits while the other players kill each other.
- You can eliminate players early. Dwarves is the kind of comp where your frontline becomes very beefy overall (you don't rely on a single backline character that ends up soloing the fight, like a Queen of Hearts or a big Ranged character), which means that you often win fights where few or none of your characters die. This results in dealing a ton of damage early on and possibly eliminating players before their comps ever get the chance to outscale yours.
- Your power cap is pretty low compared to other builds. If you play against a very good version of basically any other comp that's fully online, you're not going to win. Basically Dwarves is never getting first in SBB99.
- Your board is usually just stats. You get to cast a spell each turn, like mostly everyone else, but that's it in terms of interaction. There's basically no way for you to cheese anyone or to beat a superior board, there's no confluence of things that might happen for you, no 5%er you can hit, if you're outclassed, you're just going to lose the fight.
- There's not a lot of flexibility. Dwarves mandate more Dwarves and get stronger for each Dwarf you have, so it's a big cost to remove a Dwarf and add something else. Other comps can add Soltak Ancient, Doombreath, Lightning Dragon, Cupid and Medusa to adapt to whichever opponent they are playing against, but if you do that, every one of your characters gets a bit worse. So cutting one character for a Doombreath isn't just costing you one character, it's costing you one character and 10% of the strength of each of your other characters. This means it's hard for you to "fix" any problems that you might encounter.
- There's no "Dwarves Hero", and some heroes just aren't interested in going Dwarves because they won't be able to make use of their hero power. Fallen Angel, Evella and Mihri, King Lion are examples of heroes that very rarely go Dwarves because their hero power just takes them in a completely different direction and they tend to ignore Dwarves altogether.
- Since every character is neutral and mostly works with other Dwarves, it's hard to pivot away from a Dwarves comp. If you have an assortment of characters and then you hit level 6 and find a Good Boy or The Great Pumpkin, chances are you're going to have three or so characters that they work with, and then you can pivot from there. If you find Bearstein, chances are you'll have some Animals; if you find Oni Tyrant, chances are you'll have some Monsters, and so on. With Dwarves, you're never going to have any of that. It doesn't mean you can't pivot, but it's a much harder transition than if you already have a couple of characters lined up.
All in all, I would say it's definitely possible to get first place with Dwarves (I have done that multiple times in Mythic ladder lobbies), and the game isn't about only getting first places anyway - if you get second losing to a perfect Trees comp, that's still a very good result.
So, when should you go Dwarves? Basically when it falls into your lap. If you pick up an early Crafty and multiple copies of Bossy, for example, that's a reasonable spot to start thinking of going Dwarves. A Pollywoggle that turns into Princess Wight is also a good way to give you a direction, as is seeing a shop with Princess Wight and Dubly once you hit level 3, or even a pair of Angries at level 5 when you already have a Dubly out there.
There is no Hero that compels you go to Dwarves, but there are some who offer some incentives:
Dwarves comps don't rely on any Treasures, but there are plenty of level 2 and 3 Treasures that are useful, such as Deepstone Mine, Ring of Meteors and Haunted Helm. Celestial Tiger lets you double-dip on those and is therefore a good candidate for going Dwarves.
The Fates used to be a better Dwarf hero when you had Fanny (Bossy is a little bit of a worse character), but it still works reasonably well with them because they are easy to triple and the bonuses tend to scale. If you get a golden Triply then Fates is going to give it a lot of stats, and the +3/+3 could also translate into Greedy and Angry surviving extra hits and pumping your whole team.
King Midas's stock is not very high right now, but it's also a hero that can reasonably go Dwarves, as you don't rely on any treasures. Dwarves are already an early-game comp, so pair them with King Midas and you could be killing people very early in the game.
Crafty is a character that remains useful for a while, because it scales as the game goes on. Having an upgraded Crafty is a big power boost in the early-mid game and, while it's not necessarily a Dwarves character, it's one of the early drawings towards the comp.
Tiny is barely a Dwarf. Its stats are just a bit awkward, and they don't really benefit from stat boosts very much - having a Bossy makes almost no difference to a Tiny, for example, as it's likely to just trade in combat anyway. Usually you look to replace this early.
Bossy replaced Fanny a couple of patches ago, which was unfortunate for Dwarves because Fanny was, in my opinion, simply a better character. Bossy is still fine to have, especially if you triple it, but it's one of the first Dwarves to leave the comp as you go into the higher levels because +2/+2 is just not that strong.
Dubly is the bread and butter of a Dwarves comp - almost every other piece is replaceable, but if you don't have Dubly then your comp is unlikely to work. This will get into your board as early as level three and it will never leave - ideally you triple it, and then you find another one and triple that one too.
One interesting characteristic of Dubly is that it makes it so that some of the spells that you'd otherwise ignore have a stronger than normal impact. Something like Merlin's Test can give a character +8/+8 or +12/+12, and that's quite a power boost. Similarly, Blessing of Athena, Gingerbread Party and Stoneskin can be purchased more than normal depending on how many Dubly/Triply you have.
As a general rule, getting a lot of health scales better than getting a lot of attack, because the extra attack becomes wasted at some point, so if you have the choice of boosting attack or health on your Dubly/Triply, usually go for health.
Lucky is also almost not a Dwarf - you can be happy to play him early but you're looking to replace him like in any other comp.
Princess Wight is a big draw towards Dwarves, especially if you get her early. She can make your board early on, but ideally she just sits in your bench for the entire game giving stats to all your Dwarves.
Greedy is a solid addition to a Dwarves comp - it's relatively well-statted and it uses the Dwarf boosts very well. You often keep her for a long time, though she's removed in the end-comp.
Amy is just an average character. She is strong when she first becomes available at early level 4 but usually falls off relatively quickly. The Dwarf bonuses make it so that she is useful for a much longer time, but in my experience the dream of having a big Amy carrying the late-game fights with a bunch of Lordy bonuses is very unlikely to come true. She can be a good role-player in your late-game comp but ideally by the very end she is replaced as the other characters are more important and you just get duplicates.
Angry is a very strong character in a Dwarves comp, and it's the first real payoff for being dedicated Dwarves as opposed to just having some Dwarves. When you first acquire Angry, he's very likely to survive at least one hit, possibly multiple (especially since he boosts himself with each activation). Angry is also a hate-piece to everyone who has a lot of small characters (such as Animal comps) or the treasure Ancient Sarcophagus.
Angry will usually go in your first slot, and it usually remains in your final comp. In the super duper late-game it's possible to replace Angry if it always dies in one hit, though (such as against Trees).
Tweedle Dee is another powerhouse that makes very good use of the Dwarf bonuses - in many regards, it acts as an extra copy of Dubly. You're likely to want Tweedle Dee in your final comp as well, possibly multiple of them.
Lordy is, of course, the big payoff. If you have seven Dwarves in your comp, then it's giving each of them +14/+14 no questions asked. Even if we don't consider any other synergies (such as Dubly and Tweedle Dee), it's adding 105/105 stats to the board as soon as you acquire it, which is a number that most Good Boys would kill to achieve this early in the game. Once we factor in all the synergies, you can get upwards of 200+ stats in a single un-upgraded Lordy, which will result in winning most fights versus any comp that is not fully online.
Echowood is not a Dwarf, but it gets an honorable mention as the only non-Dwarf character that is actually important to the comp with some regularity (aside from Princess Wight, of course). Lordy and Angry really want you to have more Dwarves, so you need to have a really good reason to use up a board slot in a non-Dwarf character, and Echowood is the only one that is good enough for that.
It's often hard to know if Echowood is even going to be an improvement in your board - sometimes it's actually not. As a general rule, I think it's almost always going to be better than a random Dwarf. Consider the following board:
Now, your last slot can be Amy or Echowood. If you play Amy, Lordy is going to give every Dwarf +14 attack (and the same for health). This is 98 with an extra 42 for the Dubly and Triply, for a total of 140 in stats. If we "double" the stats from Tweedle Dee as well, we end up at 154.
Now, if we have Echowood, Lordy is only going to give every Dwarf +12 attack, and there will be one fewer Dwarf getting it. This is a total of 120 in stats after all the synergies. However, the Echowood itself will also get +120, so you get a total of 240 in stats - much more than if you had Amy.
Of course, this is a simplification - there are other factors at play (the bonuses are more concentrated rather than spread, Angry is less likely to trigger, Amy is ranged, Echowood will get bonuses in the middle of the fight from Angry, Tweedle Dee and Treasures, etc), but the example serves to illustrate that Echowood is deceptively powerful in a Dwarves comp and usually worth playing even in lieu of a Dwarf.
There is no treasure that is required for Dwarves, but some of them are better here so you should pay particular attention to them:
Ring of Meteors is a very good Dwarves treasure from start to finish. Early on it's not going to kill any of your characters (Tiny is the only vulnerable Dwarf and you aren't super interested in playing it anyway, plus you can pump with Bossy) and it will help trigger Greedy for passive gold, and later on it will trigger Angry. Getting an early Ring of Meteors, especially on Celestial Tiger, is usually a pull for me towards Dwarves.
Obviously, Deepstone Mine is good in Dwarves, though don't feel bad about replacing it in the later stages of the game as the bonuses it gives will fall off even with Dublys around.
Haunted Helm is incredibly strong in Dwarves because a lot of them scale well with health. Giving a Dubly +20 health can solo a fight and make sure none of your backline characters ever die, and it also works incredibly well with Greedy and Angry to make sure you get more triggers, as well as Tweedle Dee. This treasure is much stronger than Sting in a Dwarves comp.
Since this comp has two powerful five-cost characters that it's trying to triple (Angry and Tweedle Dee), one of which is often entirely uncontested, you often end up discovering some level five treasures. Of those, the most noteworthy one is Ambrosia, because the positioning in this comp is very flexible, so any unupgraded character other than Angry can go in slot 7. The dream is to have Lordy or Echowood, but if you don't have those (or if they are already upgraded), then you'll be happy with Dubly or Tweedle Dee in there as well, and it costs you nothing to put them in the right spot.
The End Game
There isn't really a set combination that is required to win with Dwarves, but ideally your end-game comp consists of the following characters:
- Tweedle Dee
That's it. This is only 5 characters, so you're going to need some duplicates, which is usually not that hard to acquire. Having any combination of these characters is enough to win a fight against most comps that aren't yet fully online and even some that are depending on which ones you have.
Positioning is usually flexible, with the exception of wanting Angry in the first slot. I usually have the characters that need to be alive to get a bonus (such as Dubly) in the backline, but your enemy's comp is going to dictate your positioning here more than anything else.
Overall, Dwarves is certainly not the strongest comp around, but I believe there is a right time and place for it, and hopefully this article helps if you ever find yourself in that spot.
See you soon,