Last year's fall has been filled with content for both Heroes of the Storm and the gaming world in general. Chances are high that you've spent last month, or the few before it, playing AAA games, and not paying attention to the Heroes universe. In such case, you will be very surprised by how drastic the game, you have left weeks ago, has changed. Visually, and in terms of gameplay, the game is almost the same; there were some small tweaks and changes. However, game pace and overall feel have drastically changed. The game now feels extremely dynamic, and it seems like all of the heroes are made of paper, in terms of survivability. Suddenly, heroes with stuns and high burst damage output are popular again. In almost any game you will see the same burst oriented heroes, such as Tyrande, Thrall, Kaelthas, Diablo, Nova, and so on.
I think it is needless to say that burst oriented heroes like Jaina, Zeratul, Nova, and so on, are popping heroes like a balloons. So, what exactly happened? There were a few patches with not much content added, but why does the game feel and play so differently? This article is aimed to answer these questions and highlight the most recent and important changes that led to the game's current state, as well as guiding you through the scaling changes and briefly explaining the benefits of popular heroes.
Overview of the events that occurred in Heroes of the Storm over the past few months
In November of last year, there were two major events. The first one was in Blizzcon. There, developers announced a new game mode called "Arena" coming to Heroes sometime in the near future. It seems it is going to be a fun mode based around crazy hero combinations, picks, and opportunities. The mode looks similar to Tavern Brawl in Hearthstone, in terms of rule breaking and joy. Here, take a look:
Exciting, isn't it? Oh, the battle of ten Illidans! I don't think we are prepared. Also, that IGN reference :)
Now, here is more detailed overview of the upcoming mode:
Looks exciting and delicious, especially those ten Novas with ten Triple Taps, and the ability to play any hero regardless of the hero pool you own.
Apart from the Arena, the second major event was, of course, the November patch. It brought the so-called scaling changes, which are the reasons the game now feels and plays the way it does. Also, the patch introduced new hero, Cho'Gall. The hero wasn't obtainable through the shop. Instead, some players received him for free, while the other players had to play a game with players that already owned him, to receive a hero. A more detailed explanation of the changes awaits you down below after I finish the overview. For now, I'll tell you that the scaling changes reworked the amount of the hit points and damage each hero gets per level and at the start of the game.
In December, the world of Heroes was introduced to the Lunara patch. Obviously, it added another new hero - Lunara. Also, the patch buffed the Gathering Power talent, which is one of the reasons you see so many Novas and Zeratuls together with Kael'thas. Lastly, as part of the contribution to Blizzcon champions, their mount was added to the shop. It only costs5k gold. It looks awesome. Oh, there are also New Year's stuff and matchmaking improvements. To celebrate New Year's all of the prices were reduced by half in the shop. As for matchmaking improvements, you can read more detailed description in the link below. I'll just say that developers are doing some changes to improve the algorithms on which matchmaking creates games, as well as working to improve overall experience towards more satisfying matching. However, in my personal experience I can't say that something is changed. You still get weird composition of heroes if you play in Quick Matches. Hero League still gives you mates and enemies that are far from your matchmaking rating. Lastly, the main problem is not fixed - the overall player base number is small, and is not enough for a satisfying experience.
The scaling changes, and the way they affected the game
On November 17th, developers have released a patch. Apart from the Scaling changes, the patch also brought Cho'Gall, a new map, and some talent tweaks into the world of Nexus. So, what are the scaling changes? As it is understandable from their name, they change the way Heroes are scaling throughout the leveling. Previously, heroes where getting flat amounts of hit points and damage with each level. Such a state of things has created gameplay where a 2-3 level lead creates a very significant advantage over the enemy. You had much more hit points and damage, so it was hard for the enemy to comeback.
Now, with Scaling changes being live, heroes are getting 4% of HP and damage increase with each level. This leads to 2-3 level advantage not having a significant impact on the game, as it basically is an 8-12% buff in hit points and damage, which is not that hard to overcome in the team fight. Such changes also mean more possibilities for comeback and games creating less snowballing. Now, only the talent tier is what matters, and while you are on the same talent tier with your enemy, you won't notice any pressure from additional stats.
For those who can't recall actual numbers, I can tell you that now you are receiving less stats per level than before, and what actually matters is talent tiers. If you are level 13 and your enemy team is level 15, you can fight with them and won't even notice any significant advantage on their part. However, if the enemy is level 16 while you are level 13, it will be hard to turn tides in your favor, as that level 16 talent will create additional pressure.
After the scaling changes, heroes from level 1 to level 19 have more hit points and damage compared to previous patches. At level 20, the balance of things is the same as it was before. So, everything that is before level 20 changed. It includes the amount of damage you can deal, and the amount of damage you can receive. Through the first nineteen levels, heroes now do more damage, and of course can take less damage. This is why fights are extremely dynamic, and heroes feel like they are made of paper, but this is a part of the story.
Structures, the Gathering Power talent and stealthy heroes
The other part is that only hero damage and hit points were changed thorough the scaling. That is the thing I want to stress, because it impacts the game much more than it seems at first glance. The talents weren't changed. They have the numbers and the effects they had in previous patches. The building stats were changed, however, your hero does significantly more damage to structures than before. This leads to Specialist heroes, and heroes in general crushing, structures much faster. One fight over an objective, which can last 10 seconds, could cost you gates on some lane. In competitive matches, you even see teams destroying the gates/tower of the enemy team at level 1, as soon as the game starts. On some maps, you are able to kill the fort and push forward to the keep with just the first map objective if you have Sylvanas in your line-up.
Not only were the talent numbers not tuned down, but some were tuned up, like the Gathering Power talent. It is one of the reasons why you see Zeratul and Nova being so popular once again. Thing is, with the scaling changes in motion and with the buffs to Gathering Power, they have enough damage to solo kill many heroes.
Also, in the current environment, where heroes do moderate damage and have the amount of hit points that doesn't allow them to soak that damage, heroes with stun abilities have insane value. Thing is, the duration on stuns wasn't adjusted to current survivability of the heroes, so it is common to see the hero being blown up for the duration of one Stun. This is the reason why we also see many heroes with stuns.
Lastly: of course, with such a state of things, heroes that provide burst damage are gaining popularity again. This is the reason why the Meta game is burst-oriented. In an environment where health pools are low and damage is high, heroes that deliver burst damage or have the ability to disable other heroes will be the most efficient ones. Basically, almost any hero now feels like a glass canon.
The Heroes that are popular and effective in the current Meta game
Currently, the game is based around 10-15 heroes that are best in the glass canon environment. You see them picked in almost any competitive game, as well as in Quick Matches and Hero League. As a result, the Meta game revolves around mass ultimates that deal a significant portion of damage or split an enemy team apart. Rarely played before, you can see now Thrall in almost any game; his ultimate does significant damage and splits enemies. He is often coupled with Diablo to combo Sundering with Apocalypse. This combo leads to a team wipe if your enemy doesn't have disengage. Also, Thrall is effective at poking enemies with Chain Lightning and has an easy time soling a lane. And, of course, his right-click damage is insane now. Diablo is not only good in Thrall and Tyrande combos, but also on his own. He brings in strong initiation power, which can provide hard crowd control or tons of damage, depending on the talent choices and Heroics. Lastly, his Trait is effective and annoying to play against.
Speaking of disengage: as Meta game favors aggressive playstyle, heroes with disengage abilities also became more popular. Moderately picked before, now Tassadar and Falstad can be seen in any game. They both have ultimates that can split an enemy team apart or disengage. Also, after recent talent tweaks, auto-attacking Falstad is doing even more damage.
Speaking of auto-attacking, Raynor is a superstar now. As the damage is increased by 4% per level, Seasoned Marksman has more value. The Hyperion is superb in aggressive pushes and in general versus paper buildings. Jimmy also has increased survivability and provides additional stun later into the game. His level 13 talent (Relentless Leader) makes him okay with all those stuns. Lastly, he is very effective at killing Warriors, which are struggling to survive even without him.
Of course, when speaking about heroes that are effective in current Meta, I need to mention Tyrande; she is effective at everything. Her Trait allows you to kill heroes in the blink of an eye, and her healing is just absurd. The amount of utility she provides is insane. You have a constant understanding where enemy is. Lastly, due to the range of her spells, she is almost always in a safe position. The level 20 upgrade for her Heroic is just unbelievable! Each member of your team runs around with the 40% movement buff for 8 seconds! What is this Blizzard? The Heroic has 50 seconds of cooldown time, but it is used more often, because of the popular Owl build! For those unfamiliar with Tyrande, or the build, I’m talking about this build. It deals tons of damage, and provides lower cooldowns on heals and ultimate, which not only heals but also allows stealth engages. And this ultimate is almost always up thanks to the cooldown reduction from the Owls. Sometimes, the builds is even played with "Battle Momentum" talent at level 7, to have even better cooldown reduction.
Let's talk supports: Uther, Kharazim and Morales are the best for now. Uther has been top tier in the Meta for as long as the game exists. It's no wonder that he is now, as he is very good in the burst Meta game. He provides tons of options to save allies and negate the burst damage. Also, he has a 1 second stun, which basically means death for any squishy.
Kharazim is now played in more of semi-support role, using Seven-Sided strike and healing talents to quickly burst one hero down (usually it will be Warrior). Morales is insanely good when protected. Both her Heroics are insanely good, but really teamwork dependent. Stim Drone is insane on right-click heroes, while Medivac is good at bigger maps. With Medivac you can secure advantages, camps and force unexpected fights.
It is now common to see two semi-supports, Tyrande and Tassadar, in one team, or one of them in each team. Such a drafting approach allows to squeeze in another playmaking hero, be a it burst damage hero, right-click or a hero with mass ultimate.
On the Warrior front, apart from already mentioned Diablo, we also have ETC and Muradin. ETC is good at wombo-combos (he also provides stuns and body-blocks and his survivability is nice. Sometimes, he is played with additional healing talents to bring in AOE healing). Muradin is just more disruptive and sustainable version of ETC, but with no combo potential.
As for bruisers, you can often see Sonya and Tyrael. Sonya's damage right-click and ability damage is insane, and she has okay time dealing with stuns thanks to her Heroic. She is also used to killing enemy Warriors. Tyrael is well rounded hero in general. In current Meta, he is picked for Sanctification (as it allows absorbing enemy initiation, wombo-combos, and is a very versatile Heroic in general) and Holy Ground (as it allows splitting enemy team apart and do some insane body-blocking).
This last part is devoted to the heroes with high burst damage: Jaina, Kael, Nova and Zeratul. I guess it is not much left to tell here. They are good at killing people. No, I should say insanely good. Right now, they have absurd solo kill and team fight potential. Jaina provides slows and extreme amounts of AoE damage. She is usually played with Ring of Frost to combo things up and quickly burst down half of the enemy team. Kael has the Gathering Power talent and extremely effective, long-ranged, "you probably going to die after this" stun. His Chain Bomb power, I guess, requires no introduction. Lastly, both mages are good at wave-clearing. As for the stealthy duo, they are just insanely good at killing isolated heroes in the blink of an eye, mostly because of the absurd damage numbers (after the Scaling) and the Gathering Power buff. Apart from the spell builds, Zeratul also has a few right-click builds, which are effective at winning games (I find this one particularly fun to play).
I hope this Nexus guide helps you understand what the hell happened with Heroes of the Storm for the past few months, and why the Meta is so wild and based around heroes with the burst down potential. The game is definitely in some kind of transition period. The patch coming out next week, January the 13th, should change the way of things into a more balanced and well-rounded experience. Right now, the game feels like it was during the Alpha testing - everything is overpowered and you just chose the overpowered stuff you like more and play it :)
Oh, I completely forgot to tell the story of Specialist heroes! As it is always with these heroes they are picked around the map or specific drafting idea. Zagara is picked on maps where she is extremely good, the maps that have clear solo lane, like Blackheart's Bay or Dragon Shire. She also has nice team fight/combo potential with Maw and the vision from creep can be absurd. However, she may have a hard time surviving in current Meta.
Next we have Abathur the Slug. He is ridiculously good with Mine build at big maps that require constant rotations to the objectives, like Cursed Hollow or Infernal Shrines. Also, he can be extremely good in team fights by copying heroes with burst damage like Jaina and Zeratul, to completely delete enemy hero from the game.
With paper town Meta, and paper heroes, Murky has a fun time in Quick Match and Hero League. It seems like he is doing too much damage to both heroes and structures. Also, the 3 second stun is too much to handle for any hero.
Lastly, we have Sylvanas and Valla. They are kind of sharing the same fate. Both are good at destroying buildings, heroes and team fights. (Sylvanas has nice minion\structure-clear and her "turn the structure off" button can be ridiculous on some maps. Of course, Silence is good in burst down comps. Valla also has nice wave-clear. She has 3 builds which you can weave in your comp, depending on your needs. Lastly, both Heroics are good, especially Rain of Vengeance to combo things up) However, they are usually used as a replacement for a more imbalanced/popular hero in the Meta. I can't say that they are tier 2. It is just the heroes that are picked over them are tier Imbalanced or Godlike, in the current Meta game.
That's it! See you in the Nexus!