"Well, Bob, here we are on the verge of another season of rampant violence and mayhem! Let's take a look at all of the leagues and see who's going to come out on top in each one and then in the interleague playoffs leading to the Blood Bowl!"
The Old World Association (OWA):
Reikland Reavers: The Human side aren't meant to have any really complex or unusual skills, but what they do have is reliability. Between their Blitzers being able to pass after tackling, their Catchers having Sure Hands, and their Throwers having Dump Off, they'll almost always be able to secure the ball for the extra Star Power that that entails. Also, with Ogre being able to ignore Guard to ensure that the players you want tackled, get tackled, there's a lot to be said for a team that always does what you want it to, even if it doesn't do anything spectacular. Combine that with the high number of Star Players in the OWA that have abilities that mirror the Reavers' like Long Bomb Silver and Mighty Zug and it's pretty easy to build a very consistent squad. The only thing the Reavers really lack is Sprinting. Unless they pick up someone like Aurora Silverleaf or Marcus Sieberman, they're pretty much stuck with the hand that they have for each round. But that's usually good enough.
Athelorn Avengers: As the Humans are about Passing, the Wood Elves are mostly about Sprinting. The idea with the Avengers is to cycle through your deck to your best cards and be able to play them in as many rounds as possible. Like the Reavers, they don't have many extra skills. It's more about finding the right regular card or star player to push the team over the top in a tournament or a key matchup. In contrast to the Reavers, Avengers players should focus on trying to get some beef from the OWA Star Players, like Cornelius Krieg or Freebooter Linemen or, of course, Morg 'N Thorg. The Avengers will be quite draw dependent a lot of the time and their Wardancers have to be quite selective in their targets.
Grudgebearers: The Dwarfs are a difficult side to play, because they're not only extremely reactive, showing much of their upside when being tackled or otherwise responding to the actions of opponents, but they consequently are also quite dice dependent. Tackles often need to go their way. When they don't, they benefit from their players only losing one Star Power, rather than the 2 which is common to most other teams. The Guard ability being extended to Blockers makes it so that if they do secure the ball, it's easy for them to dig in and retain it and still have enough Star Power to contest their matchups. But many players find the GBs to be trying to play if the dice are not regularly in their favor. Lacking a heavy hitter to win a matchup for sure like the other two sides have is also a tough situation for many players. Key Star Players for the Dwarfs are those with a lot of Passing or Sprinting, like Eldril Sidewinder, Jordell Freshbreeze, and Freebooter Throwers. A real matchup threat like Mighty Zug or Deeproot Strongbranch is also helpful.
"Well, Bob, it looks like things aren't going to change too much from last season, barring some surprise contract negotiations (or agent slaughter) by Morg 'N Thorg. The Reavers should win the league handily, followed by the Avengers, with the Grudgebearers adding yet another season's line to the big Book as they try to figure out how to take revenge on the other teams for finishing last!"
The Chaos Wastes Confederation (CWC):
Skavenblight Scramblers: The Skaven are one of the best teams in the game, mostly because of their Gutter Runners. The ability to swipe the ball and Sprint to a better hand is a great set of skills. Like the Wood Elves, they lack durability, but the Sprinting of the Runners and Blitzers more than makes up for it. The Cheating on some of your key players can be a little risky to well-laid Skaven plans, but it's usually better off to just embrace it, rather than try to minimize damage. The Skaven function best in combination moves, usually initiated by a Gutter Runner. Don't be afraid to follow up just because of a Cheating token. Emphasizing more of what the Scramblers do best among the Star Players, like Niknik Yellowtail and Blightmaw is usually the best path to take. The outright strength of Bonecrusher is also quite useful.
The Gouged Eye: Orc players must be aggressive. Their main ability is Tackling, as 6 of their 12 players can do so. Since they lack other approaches, you have to be willing to Tackle to force your opponent to use up their Linemen, and to injure opposing players to clear them out entirely and move the ball back to midfield. Unfortunately, Da Troll is kind of weak as a crusher, since his main ability is dependent on a 25% chance (two Tackle results.) However, Sure Hands on their Throwers and some luck with Cheating means that the Orcs should be durable enough to hang in most matchups. Since so many opponents will try to play tit-for-tat and tackle your players in response to your tackling theirs, Morkai the Everchanging is actually kind of brilliant for the Orcs, as is Bite-Bite, since you can try to pile all of your ejections on a single player who's already on his way out.
Chaos All-Stars: Like the Orcs, Chaos players must be aggressive. They must use their Beastmen to Tackle and gain more Cheating tokens and they must be willing to injure opposing players with their Chaos Warriors to gain the Fan bonus. Trying to avoid Cheating because you're afraid of randomness means you shouldn't be playing Chaos(!) in the first place. Embrace it and try to pile up Cheating tokens, since you don't have much in the way of Passing to gain the ball most of the time. Get into fights and be ready to scrap to hold a key matchup or the tournament. The Minotaur, of course, is easily your most important card for his abilities and his response to tackling. Focus on players with Passing and Sprinting from the Star player deck, like Grashnak Blackhoof, Hide-Sneak, and Freebooter Runners and Throwers. Don't be afraid to recruit Lord Borak, either, and just totally embrace the Cheating angle.
"Bob, the CWC is always subject to a certain amount of... Chaos, but it looks like those sneaky rats are going to scuttle away with the title again. I have the Scramblers in first, followed (we think) by the unpredictable All-Stars, with The Gouged Eye bringing up the rear, although threatening to stab everyone ahead of them in the back."
The Dark Sorcery Syndicate (DSS):
Naggaroth Nightmares: The Dark Elves are one of the most versatile teams in the game. You can lean heavily on their Blitzers and Witch Elves, despite the risk of Cheating, since you can make excellent Tackle attempts against bigger opponents and not worry as much about responses in the case of the Blitzers, since you'll be able to move the ball at least to midfield, if not to one of your players when the Blitzers get downed. The Runners' ability to Pass or Sprint and the Assassins' Dauntless ability (only on Star Players in other leagues, other than the Looney of the Lowdown Rats) makes it easy to tailor your approach to specific circumstances. However, the Nightmares do lack a lot of Star Power, so keep an eye out for Star Players like the amazing Queen Nefaria, Sepulchre, Luther von Drakenborg, and, of course, Morg 'N Thorg.
Champions of Death: The Tomb Kings are one of the best teams in the game, which may be why they're appropriately named the 'Champions of Death.' With 9 of 12 players having the Regeneration skill and, thus, a 1 in 6 chance to stand right back up after being tackled or otherwise downed, the durability of your team and the subsequent frustration of your opponents will be obvious. The downsides are meant to be built in, as Zombies with a 2 strength Tackling ability are pretty weak and the Skeletons are just Linemen. But they're Linemen who have a chance at standing up and using Guard again! Ghouls are the only Passers and Sprinters and also drop three points of Star Power when downed (to 0), instead of the usual 2, but Wights and the power of the Mummy usually outweigh any real lack of matchup strength. Star Players that are heavy on Passing and Sprinting can only help the never-say-die Undead. Hubris Rakarth, Jabber, and Emil von Carstein are some good choices.
Black Fangs: The Vampire Counts are a difficult team to play well. Having 6 of 12 players with Guard means that you'll have more chances to protect your "big" units in the Vampires. However, Vampires don't actually become "big" without Blood Tokens, which you only gain from injuring another player. You can injure your own useless Thrall Linemen to gain that bonus and can set up your own Thrall Throwers to enable another feeding without dropping the ball, allowing you to pick and choose targets more easily. But it's absolutely essential that you have multiple Vampires in hand to make those tokens available and no one on the Fangs has Sprint. That makes Star Players with that skill, like Jabber, Bigg Nife, and Freebooter Runners your top priorities.
"Y'know, Bob, just like last year, the Champions of Death should be the champions of the DSS. It's almost like they keep coming back! However, the Nightmares should be right on their heels, while the Black Fangs once again look like they didn't get out of their coffins in time. Better luck next bite- I mean, 'night'!"
The Putrid Players Guild (PPG):
Nurgle's Rotters: The Rotters are a complicated team. You want to lead with your Pestigors to get disease tokens in place, but the Pestigors are the ones with the Passing skill which you usually want to place second or beyond at key matchups, to avoid presenting tackle targets. Of course, the Disease tokens are a deterrent against those tacklers, so it presents an interesting quandary. You'd like to follow up with Clinging Rotters in the hopes of adding a free lineman, but at 2 Star Power, the prospect of using them successfully is fairly low. Plus, 4 of your key players having Regeneration means that the Nurgle theme of durability is well represented. The Beast of Nurgle, however, is one of the best 4 SP players in the game, since he can conceivably lock the ball in the hands of one of your Pestigors. But the Rotters, in general, are about playing the waiting game until your opponent makes a poor choice and then exploiting that. Among Star Players, Pusbubble's Sprinting comes in handy along with another Disease token, but the players with Treachery, like the crowd of goblins, Max Spleenripper and, of course, Morg 'N Thorg tend to be beneficial for providing hand disruption in addition to the board disruption that Disease tokens are causing. Max only furthers the Pestigor strategy, since he can often hold a spot on his own for a long time.
The Zharr-Naggrond Ziggurats: Strangely enough (or perhaps not), the key players for the Chaos Dwarfs tend to be the Hobgoblin Throwers and Runners. While the outright power of the Blockers (losing only one SP when downed like their Dwarf brethren) and Bull Centaurs are great, the Hobgoblins are the ones that provide enough tricks to enable you to play that power in the right matchup at the right time. The Runners are exceptional. With Sprint, Cheating, Dodge to force a re-roll AND Fend to stand up someone else (plus the Treachery when downed), that one card can totally transform a matchup to your favor. Having Fend means that Freebooter Runners and Throwers become much more useful to replace your Linemen and increase your Passing, but Zzharg Madeye and Scrappa Sorehead can be just as good.
The Lowdown Rats: In contrast to the Orc and Chaos teams, Goblin players just need to be insane. Just dive in and disrupt things as much as possible. With abilities like Spree and Frantic, it will often turn out in your favor. And, if not, it will still be funny. The Goblins are also the only team with two 4 SP players in their base set, which means that after a torrent of miserably weak goblins you could close out a tournament with not one but two Trolls who can also move goblins to other matchups at your whim. Don't hesitate to cause trouble to all your opponents, as they'll be so wary of the frenzy you can create that they'll often try to avoid you... until it's too late. Most of the high SP Star Players, like Ripper (yet another troll) and Hthark the Unstoppable (and, yes, Morg 'N Thorg) work well to give the goblins some toughness. But don't be afraid to pick up players like Skeezy, if only for the prospect of wholly removing the ball from a tight tournament, just to see what happens...
"This one's anybody's guess, Bob! But I'm saying the smart money (and bombs) go on the reliable Rotters to win the PPG this year, leaving the Rats and Ziggurats to fight it out for second place. That is, if the Fanatics leave a stadium standing to play in!"
"As for the playoffs, I see a disgusting whirlwind of destruction between the Reavers and the Rotters that leaves Papa Nurgle's team on top, with the walking dead staggering past the Skaven in the other game. Despite the power of a god of Chaos, I don't think the Rotters can hold out against the constant presence of the Khemri, giving the Champions of Death yet another Blood Bowl victory! But we'll see how it plays out, if we all survive!"