UPDATE: As of the June 2016 patch, this tip has been modified but it still works.
I have a tip for extra, free gold and experience that none of the other guides currently mention. This is not a full guide to level 100 - The other guides cover strategies on how to get there somewhat more in depth. However, this is a quick trick that will net you extra gold and experience for no extra work.
While questing, you will notice that the fights are in stages. After you complete the stages, you can select "Reward."
After completing the fights, but BEFORE you select reward [Update: The most recent patch prevents you from backing out just before you select reward. You will have to play the last match on a higher difficulty if you want the higher reqards now], you want to back out to the main world overview. At this point, choose "Challenges" after selecting any kingdom and enter any challenge after changing the difficulty to Warlord IV for +100% experience and +100% gold. After the challenge starts, immediately retreat. At the bottom left of the screen where it shows your hero stats, your percentages for gold and experience should have gone up to reflect the change to Warlord IV.
Once the percentages have increased, go back to the city where the reward is waiting for you. Select reward, and the +100% gold and experience bonus will apply, even if you played the underlying missions at a different difficulty! You can of course freely lower the difficulty again before the next fight starts.
This also works for PvP! In PvP, there's no difficulty setting. The rewards are based off of what the percentages are that show at the bottom left on your home screen, so be sure to go into a challenge at Warlord IV and quit out before beginning all PvP matches.
Difficulty no longer affects PvP as of the most recent patch.
Note that this trick will not add anything if you already regularly play the game at Warlord IV difficulty - but if you're doing that, you're probably already a high level with a very strong team and probably already have this achievement.
I'm also going to add here one of my teams, one that I used all the way up until about level 200. It is a very good team and very achievable for beginning players. I have won against some very high level players in PvP using this team even before I managed to level them up particularly high or add traits. Currently with a team of all maxed level Epic/Legendary/Mythics with all maxed out traits, I win 99% of all my matches with ease.
Slot 1: Hobgoblin (Ultra rare)
Slot 2: Goblin (Common) (This one can be switched out for Goblin Rocket once you get it, but the green mana bonus from the third trait is very valuable so you may elect not to. Arguably Goblin Rocket is really worth consideration in the team once he gets his 3rd trait, causing skull damage to burn enemies. His gem explosion allows for board manipulation as well which can be extremely helpful. It's a tough call between the two, since the goblin gets enough mana to completely fill with only one green match, but Goblin Rocket makes yellow gem matches useful. I will be testing out teams with Goblin Rocket once I get its third trait and will report back which team seems to be more successful. Note Goblin Rocket is not a marauder so you are losing bonuses from that as well, which is why Goblin gets the slight edge in my book).
Slot 3: Boar Rider (Rare)
Slot 4: Goblin Shaman (Rare) (I could see this troop being replaced by Goblin Rocket as well instead of Goblin)
Banner: +2 Green (Use +1 green, +1 red if using Goblin Rocket)
This team can get very strong due to each of their special abilities giving you an extra turn, and you can often chain them allowing you multiple turns in a row. You may want to mess with the order a bit to see what works for you, but I can't see Hobgoblin being anywhere but first considering his attack is the highest and has skull defense as his third trait. Many of your kills will be from skull matching, with the Hobgoblin doing 17 damage (after synergies bonus) once leveled up to level 17 without traits, kingdom bonus, or ascending at all. After traits, ascending to mythic, and kingdom bonuses I do 31 starting damage in PvP matches, which sometimes means a one hit kill. You can also often set up skull matching for yourself by destroying a row with the Boar Rider (and Goblin Rocket if using that troop), which is extremely powerful. They also get some great synergy bonuses for having 4 units from the same kingdom. Overall, even after originally switching my team to this setup and not leveling the units up much, I was still regularly able to win at both quests and PvP (even against the teams with 4 legendary dragons and such). Try and get the Goblin Shaman's first two traits as soon as possible as those will both help quite a bit. After that aim for Hobgoblin's first two traits and finally Boar Rider and Goblin's 3rd traits, which will be a grind but improve them significantly. Hobgoblin's 3rd trait is also very helpful once you get that far.
I will also include a few other tips I wish I knew from when I started the game:
- Join a high level guild immediately. The rewards you get from being in a guild are imperative to progressing swiftly in the game. I would suggest joining the gems of war forums and looking there for posts about recruiting guilds to find a good one. Alternatively, you can join my guild if there's currently room and are willing to meet the trophies/donation requirements. We started the guild in late April and have already zoomed up to rank #140 at the time of writing this (update: #34 as of 9/16/16), and I firmly believe we are the fastest growing guild outside of the top 10. We currently complete about 7-10 guild tasks per day. The guild thread is here where you can request an invite: TrueAchievementElite Guild Thread
- If there's a chance you will keep playing this game after you unlock every achievement (I wasn't planning on it, but the game was so fun I kept going, plus it sounds like the developers are eventually planning on adding more), save up gems to buy the dragon armor. Do not spend a single gem (except possibly with the exception to complete tasks) before you do this. If you are sprinting just to level 100, then you can buy the lion armor which is cheaper and has the best experience boost in the game, although some still prefer the dragon armor even if solely going for achievements.
- At the start of the game, immediately finish the Broken Spire questline. This will open up the ability to unlock a character class. Once it's unlocked, switch to that class. You need 250 wins in every character class to unlock a special weapon for that class, so the sooner you unlock this, the sooner you can start working towards those 250 wins. You don't need to actually have your character on your team for the wins to count. Other than making sure you unlock them all and getting the 250 wins, you can largely ignore character classes. Currently, teams with 4 troops, except in very limited circumstances, are almost always better than teams with your character on them.
- Never use glory for anything other than the weekly featured troop. Glory ultimately becomes the most coveted resource in the game at high levels. This is because the weekly featured troop comes with arcane traitstones, which is currently the only reliable way of getting arcane stones, which you will need 12 of to fully trait epics and 16 of to fully trait legendaries. There is a great resource that tells you which troops require which arcane stones here: http://community.gemsofwar.com/t/list-of-troops-per-arcane-s...
- Which arcane stones a troop needs to fully trait will correspond to the mana colors they use. For instance, a troop that uses blue and yellow mana will always translate to an arcane blade traitstone needed for their 3rd and possibly 2nd trait depending on rarity. Epics will always need 12 copies of their specific traitstone while legendaries will almost always use 16.
- Maps are now one of the best ways to get resources efficiently. You can farm maps with the following team: Templar, Tyri, Valkyrie, Finley. Both Tyri and Finley are epics, but you are guaranteed to get them for completing their questline so this is not a hard team to make. Tyri's skill has a 20% chance of giving you a map each time it is cast. With this team you can effectively buff up the armor of your troops and remove skulls from the board while getting souls and maps from Valkyrie and Tyri. In my experience you can get about 5 maps in 10-15 minutes.
- Complete all your tasks daily for maximum returns. For all of your tasks like "3 troops of a specific kingdom/race", make sure you have Valkyrie in each of those teams as your 4th troop. Valkyrie's skill gives you souls, which you are going to need hundreds of thousands of (specifically, you will need 1,217,815 souls to max out everything as of 7/11/16, although this count includes troops that aren't yet released on the console version. Source: http://community.gemsofwar.com/t/total-souls-required-to-max...
). The maximum number of souls you can get in any given match is dependent on your soul percentage at the bottom left under your character. This is affected by three things: VIP level, armor, and difficulty. The dragon armor is not the best armor when it comes to soul bonus, that distinction belongs to the celestial armor with +100% bonus. Hardcore players buy both the dragon and celestial armor and switch between them depending on what they are going for (i.e. Dragon for PvP and Celestial for quests/challenges). Currently with my Armor, VIP level 2, and Warlord I (IMO the best time spent per match vs. soul gain ratio) my maximum souls per match is 80, which is not particularly hard. It only takes 3 casts of her skill before I max out my 80 souls for the game. Farming souls at the same time as completing these tasks is a great way to kill two birds with one stone, although it will be slower than if you went all out just aiming to finish the tasks as fast as possible.
- For ease of completing tasks, I have a team pre-made for every single task that has a chance of coming up. I also made it so 2 tasks can be completed with one team (for instance 3 red mana troops that are all from Adana would let you work on either or both tasks). Make sure you label your team names to reflect which tasks you can complete with them. You earn a new team slot every 10 levels (up to level 190). You will get to know the possible tasks as you play the game. Alternatively, a developer listed all the possible tasks you can be assigned (after the initial set of tutorial tasks) here: http://community.gemsofwar.com/t/console-task-update/9283?u=...
- The Gems of War forums have invaluable information. For instance, the weekly troop is announced a day or two ahead of time in this thread: http://community.gemsofwar.com/t/the-un-official-console-wee...
By using that information, you can decide if you want to save up glory for the arcane traitstone that will be coming (the arcane stone will always correspond with the featured troop). It's also been announced that guild tasks will be nerfed at some point in the future, so you know to take advantage of them as much as possible now.
- A great site I use to look up troops and their information is http://ashtender.com/gems/
- Level your kingdoms. Do not ignore them. A highly leveled kingdom is the lifeblood of a strong economy. You can get tribute every hour and the more kingdoms that tribute, the more free resources you get. Each level gives 1% additional chance to tribute (or 2% if your kingdom happens to have 3 gold stars). I would recommend getting everything to about level 5 or 6, then pushing your magic kingdoms to level 10. This is because at level 10 you will gain the corresponding stat increase for all of your troops from your matches from then on. After you level your magic kingdoms, get your attack kingdoms to 10. After that I'd raise everything else to level 7, then slowly work towards raising each individual city to 10, prioritized by how much glory they tribute to you. Alternatively +1 life is generally considered better than +1 armor if you want to prioritize those kingdoms.
- Make your home kingdom Whitehelm. This is because Whitehelm has the best glory rewards, which again, in the late game, will be the most important resource (and home kingdom status doubles these rewards)
- Save the challenges at 1-4 stars to complete at the same time as tasks. Most of the tasks you won't want to be playing against an actually strong team, and this is a good way to double up. Remember, all of these task teams should include Valkyrie in them for maximum soul farming efficiency.
- Only play the 5th star challenges on Warlord IV difficulty. This is because you get a whopping 275 souls for completing them for the first time (with the dragon armor soul bonus, or even more if you have the celestial armor (IMO gems are likely better spent on gem chests/event chests after you own the dragon armor, however, unless you have an overabundance of gems)). This is a one time bonus and you want to take advantage of every single one. The Warlord IV bonus for the previous star difficulties does not give a big enough increase to justify the added time it takes to kill opponents, in my opinion, but the final star is well worth it. A good team in my experience to easily win all challenges on Warlord IV is: Jarl Firemantle, Goblin Rocket, Goblin Rocket, Goblin Rocket (+2 red banner). This is only a viable team once Goblin Rocket has its first trait, fire link. I don't like using this team in PvP because it's too luck dependent, but it's great for challenges as you can just quit out if you have a bad board/bad start. Once Jarl gets rolling, he self-charges with his spell and you can often kill an entire enemy team without losing control of the board more than once or twice. I'm lucky enough to have 2 Jarls so I actually use a team of Jarl, Goblin Rocket, Goblin Rocket, Jarl which is even stronger even though you lose out one one fire link. Finally, Moloch also makes for a strong team member once he has his second trait, fire link (and makes the team even better once he has his third trait, suppression). If I had Moloch fully traited, my final team would probably be Jarl, Goblin Rocket, Moloch, Moloch. 2x Suppression combined with Jarl is a devastating combination.
- If you are about to win a match and you have the choice between casting a spell and using skulls, always use skulls (make sure that the final remaining troop doesn't have skull damage reduction or you may not win after all). This is because the skulls, as with any manual move (i.e. not as a result of a cascade or spell) has a chance of giving you a gold key. In PvP this happens far more often than quests/challenges. Also, rarely your final move will cascade so many times you will get a map. I've gotten dozens of keys and 3-4 maps just from opting to use skulls as my final kill over casting a spell.
- As of 9/16/2016 the best team in the game, or at the very least one of the top few, consists of:
The Great Maw
Jarl Firemantle (or Sheggra)
Banner: +2 Yellow
Better yet, the only essential traits for this team to work is having all of Mercy's traits so she she starts the battle with full mana. Jarl/Sheggra's first trait will help and all 3 of Maw's will also be very useful, but still overall not necessary for a wildly successful team. Please keep in mind new troops are released weekly, as well as changes are sometimes made for troops, so this team isn't guaranteed to stay at the top or even towards the top depending on what happens in the future.