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I guess this is really a pointless topic, since in shonen manga people get magically strong very conveniently for the plot, but anyway.
Since quincies are humans (presumably except for Yhwach) one should expect that the Stern Ritters have a human life span. Moreover, since they were hiding from shinigami, they could not have been fighting either shinigami or a lot of strong hollows during the time between the first quincy war and the invasion of Soul Society, otherwise people from the technology department would have noticed an unusual flux of souls. So basically they hid in a corner for a thousand years.
Now I'm willing to admit that Ywahch's blood can magically grant über quincy powers. Also I am guessing that they did a fair amount of training between them. But still, those are humans with at most a few decades of experience, and who essentially should have never been in a life or death fight before (or at least not against opponents even close to their level).
On the other hand, captains of Soul Society are between 60+years in the case of Hitsugaya and more than 1000 years old. Some of them have fought in the first war against quincy, all have faced Aizen or Espada, and before that presumably many strong hollows at least at Adjucas level. All of those opponents were trying to kill them and not just training. Ichigo and his friends may be human teenagers, but even them have been in many life or death fights, many of them against captain class opponents in the case of Ichigo. And all hollows basically lead of life of kill or be killed, whether their opponents are shinigami, quincy or other hollows.
So according to what we know of the history of bleachverse, SR should be arrogant, inexperienced soldiers in their first real fight, who would basically be using their powers for the first time (or so) in a real life or death fight against real opponents (and not some training or some fight against fodder hollows). And facing opponents several hundred years old with immense battle experience. And yet, the ones who are acting like complete morons in this war are the shinigami. Why ? Even if the quincy have been spying and plotting for 1000 years, it's a bit much.
And that's even worse if Ywach woke up only 9 years ago (I'm not sure about this part) and he just randomly picked 26 guys to give this über power to.
What are your thoughts on this ?
I think the Quincy are the strongest villains so far, moreso than the Arrancar or Fullbringers. Sure Yama could have killed all of the Sternritter alone (except Yhwach perhaps) but that's not all it takes in a war...
If by 'strong' one means 'dangerous' then the Quincy clearly are the most dangerous ones so far.
In terms of pure reiatsu, maybe they are not that much stronger than the Espada, but they make up for it in other ways.
As for combat experience, I think they could've had target practice or something made with their reishi control, but yeah they probably didn't have any real enemies to fight.
Ironically Yhwach mocked Yama for the very same thing, the Gotei 13 has forever been fighting while the Quincy just hid in silence.
It's possible the Quincy have perhaps been fighting eachother like a gladiator arena for a spot in the Sternritter, they are twisted enough for that. Sort of like Arrancar.
When it all comes down to it they are the final boss of Bleach, Shonen tradition says they should be the most dangerous so far.
I don't place a lot of importance on experience. More often than not, the major game-changing factors in combat aren't experience, but rather difference in power, or difference in speed. Behind these two factors is "matchups", I.E., whether one's secret abilities negate or counter the opponent's secret abilities. Even when characters are equally matched.
That said, I don't think the Quincy are as inexperienced as they sound. They were hiding in the shadows forever, and if vengeance was on their mind then preparation for said vengeance probably was too. I don't find it hard to believe they were training that whole time. They may have kidnapped enough arrancar for training purposes before going into hiding, or could've been traveling to Hueco Mundo in secret, since it's not like Shinigami went there often.
I think the issue here is that there were two sides of the quincy so to speak. 1000 years ago there was juhabach and his quincy that got defeated. However until recent times it appeared that there was vandenreich on one side and quincy in the human world on the other. The quincy that was with mayuri said that the quincy fled to sereitei and created the shadow dimension and remained there for all this time. He said "quincy", not juhabach which implies juhabach did not create the dimension alone. So the implication here would be that juhabach escaped yamamoto, gathered whatever quincy he could and then went on to create vandenreich. Perhaps it was among the quincy that remained in the human world that the song was spread... Juhabach would just occasionally gather quincy from the human world so as to bolster his numbers and strength through selections.
I think quincies were not just "hiding in a cave", I think they were training for a 1000 years, specifically to destroy Soul Society and kill its captains. But even with this, I would say they are still weaker than a captain, that's why they needed to steal the bankais.
Bach knows perfectly how a skilled shinigami looks like (yamamoto), and that's everything he needs to train an army of shinigami-killer quincies.
What about Ichigo?. Look what he's accomplished in less than a decade and he's part Qunicy. It really comes down to intelligence and power in the Bleach universe. Otherwise, Yama-Jo would've gone to Hueco Mundo himself and waisted Aizen in no time flat.
Perhaps the difference in that quincy have had less to do over the past 1000 years. Just look at the colossal amounts of crap the shinigami have put up with during the past 112 years. The first division have had 2 captains. The second has had 2. The third has had 2 (rose, then gin, then rose). The fourth has had 1. The fifth has had 2, The sixth has had presumably 2. The seventh has had 2. The 8th has lost one and is currently captainless (unless love takes over in which case it will be 2). The 9th has had 2. The 10th has had 3 at least. the 11th has had 2. The 12th has had 3. The 13th has had 1.
Seeing the captain rotation it is quite evident times have been tumultous for SS. They come and go every couple of decades. Captain class shinigami come over every couple of decades or so however the shinigami have seen them die just about as fast as they come to some extent. Can you imagine how strong the gotei 13 would be without all the crap aizen alone put them through? Imagine a gotei 13 in which the 6 vizards never had to be replaced and aizen and co did not abandom the squads. It would be quite a colossal amount of power and it would be something vandenreich would have to fear. If aizen hadn't been the colossal douchebag he was they would even have had a suitable replacement for freaking yamamoto and wouldn't have had to settle with shunsui (who isn't doing a bad job but still lacks severely in terms of strength when compared to yamamoto or aizen).
On the other hand the quincy do not seem to have had those problems over the past 1000 years so in turn they were able to accumulate a number of captain level quincy to fight. The stern riter so far seem to be on roughly the captain level rather than the VC level which makes them a scary force. I can't imagine a VC without bankai winning against one anyways based on what we have seen so far.