image source: http://wedorg.deviantart.com
Overall patch impressions
Changes to Kael’thas
“Living Bomb” Build
"Gravity Lapse" Build
Alternative talent choices
Overall patch impressions
Recent patch, by the number 13, left me with very positive impressions. Especially, the PTR experience felt good, as PTR ping and overall game performance was very smooth. Other than that, there were many changes that patch brought, like the changes to Hero League and Team League. However, the positivism quickly disappeared when i faced the level of play in placement matches. But that’s different story. One of the changes i was also excited about, and still am, were changes to Kael’thas.
“All who oppose me shall burn”
(Changes to Kael’thas)
As developers stated in their blog, they were happy about Kael win rate, but were concerned about his style of play. Dev team said that they don’t like that there is only one viable build for Kael, so they decided to rework him.
Mainly, that was due to build doing highest damage possible, among other builds. At the same time, the build offered decent survivability. You were able to do tons of DiPS from safe distance. Also, Ignite Build was ridiculously overpowered in terms of AOE burst damage output.
So, it is great to see this build removed and Kael reworked. Previously, the mechanics of the build created very unpleasant experience for players, as only one mistake could lead to full team wipe in just few seconds.
The actual changes:
Spell Shield (Talent) removed
· Arcane Barrier (Talent)
· Shield duration increased from 3 to 6 seconds
· Verdant Spheres (Trait) (D)
· Sunfire Enchantment (Talent)
· Damage increased from 78 (+16 per level) to 85 (+18 per level)
· Flamestrike (Q)
· Damage increased from 74 (+20 per level) to 80 (+22 per level)
· Mana Tap (Talent)
· Now restores 5% Mana per target killed, rather than a flat amount
· Ignite (Talent) removed
· New Talent (Level 16): Fury of the Sunwell
· Casting Flamestrike will cause a second Flamestrike to be cast 1 second after the first explodes
· Living Bomb (W)
· Damage over time increased from 60 (+18 per level) to 60 (+22 per level)
· Explosion damage increased from 30 (+9 per level) to 30 (+11 per level)
· Fission Bomb (Talent)
· Damage bonus reduced from 75% to 30%
· Now also increases the explosion radius by 30%
· Pyromaniac (Talent)
· Cooldown reduction increased from 1 to 2 seconds per tick
· Backdraft (Talent)
· Slow amount increased from 40% to 50%
· Slow duration reduced from 2.5 to 2 seconds
· Gravity Lapse (E)
· Range increased by 25%
· Gravity Throw (Talent) moved from Level 16 to Level 13
· Pyroblast (R)
· Range increased by 20%
There are two main things in those changes: “Ignite” talent removed, and tons of buffs for spells and talents. “Ignite” talent removal means that overpowered “Flamestrike”(“Q”) Build is no more, as talent applied “Living Bomb”(“W”) to all enemies hit by “Q”. This talent was the source of problems and imbalance.
As for spells and talents buffs - Blizzard might have overbuffed Kael. The damage on “Q” and “W” got increased by 10%. Range on Pyro and “E” got increased. The talent for range and speed increase for “E” is still there! With Gathering Power nerf, this talent is auto pick for level 4. Now, you shoot your Gravity Lapse from “few screens away” distance!
Lastly, the changes to “W” talents are very strong and led to new “Ignite” Build.
This time “Living Bomb” is your main damage source. The key talent, to wreak havoc, is on level 13. The only difference, compared to old Kael, is that the range of your “W” is lesser. However, with all those buffs and improvements, overall amount of DiPS feels much higher.
Without further discussion let’s jump to new “not overpowered” Kael Build!
Feel the power of Balance!
(“Living Bomb” Build)
(Mainstream build, that one that people are climbing the ranks and mmrs with)
This build feels pretty much like the old “Ignite” did. You throw your spell at clumped up enemies, and they almost immediately lose lots of HP. However, this time you can’t do it from a safe distance. Also, it is a bit harder to execute. But the damage! Oh, my!
Overall, this build is new “to go” build for Kael’thas.
image source: http://www.heroesnexus.com/talent-calculator/50-kaelthas
As you can see, there are some changes compared to the old “Ignite” Build. Firstly, you take “Tri-Optimal” talent to further buff the range, and speed of “Gravity Lapse”. The buff of the ability range, and the nerf of “Gathering Power” talent, made the upgrade for “E” most valuable talent on level 4.
Coming up next is Heroic choice. The 20% of range buff is what “Pyroblast” needed, to be more viable. In competitive scene we will see, most of the times, the “Phoenix”. It is too damn good! However, Pyro is very viable now, as the range increase will allow you to cast it from the safe distance, and not get rekt while channeling!
The level 13 choice is your power spike! Once you acquire it, your DiPS will skyrocket! Main idea here is to use Kael’s “W” on clumped up enemies, just like you did with “Flamestrike” in previous patch. However, for this talent to be effective you need to perform combo of 2 applications of “Living Bomb”. So, you will need your trait to be available, as it allows to use “W” for free and without cooldown.
Lastly, i want to talk about level 16 talent tier. This tier has two viable options. First - is the “Backdraft” talent, to further increase the effectiveness of the “Living Bomb”. The talent is very strong and straightforward, just like Valla’s “Frost Shot” talent. More interesting, for me, is the second option - the ability to shield yourself based on the amount of maximum Mana. The “Arcane Barrier” talent. This talent stacks very well with level 1 talent choice. And provides insane amount of survivability, as on level 16 you will be able to gain almost 2k HP shield! On maps that offer tons of globes, this talent is even stronger. Needless to say, that “Arcane Barrier” will become even stronger the more game progresses.
Pros and Cons
Tons of DiPS
Before the patch, Kael was doing DiPS with “Flamestrike”. Now he is doing even more damage, thnx to 10% damage buff on abilities and new “Living Bomb” build.
Huge range of Gravity Lapse
“E” is a great tool. It can be used both, defensively and offensively. Now, with the range increase it is very strong ability. GL allows you to do crazy initiations, saving of allies and other useful stuff.
Great survivability or CC, depending on talent choices
The 50% movement speed slow from “W” or 6 second shield, which provides HP amount that equals your full health or even more. The choice is yours, but both options are great and are very powerful.
Easy to execute
Just like the old “Ignite” build, this build is very easy to execute. You just pop two “Living Bombs” on stacked enemies and something bad happens, to their HP and morale.
The positioning still is a key factor for Kael. This new build has more positional dependency, as there are no talents that increase the range of “Living Bomb” spell. So, you have to be in close range to perform “W” combo. If you played Kael before, it won’t be a huge deal to readjust yourself to new build.
Devs didn’t lie! Indeed, they’ve created build diversity for Kael! There are other two builds except the main build. One is based around “Gravity Lapse”, and the other is based around “Flamestrike”. However, they both are very situational and specific. So, i guess we won’t see them often in either competitive play, or usual pub games.
“I just shot Tornadoes!”
(Gravity Lapse Build)
New “E” build turns Kael into disable cannon! He just fires tons of Gravity Lapses. The damage output depends on the skill aim. So, this build looks more like a wombo-combo build, and oriented on very good teamplay and communication. Also, it requires some space creation from mates and is harder to play than the “balanced” build.
General idea is to catch 3 enemy heroes in “Gravity Lapse”, and unload any damage you have on them.
Level 1 talent choices will be “Convection”. This talent fits the build, as the gameplay of the build is based around disabling heroes and unleashing damage onto them, while they are stunned.
For this build the upgrades for “Gravity Lapse” will be taken not only at level 4, but also at level 7. If you hit 3 enemies with GL, you will have your Trait off cooldown. This will allow you to apply two “Living Bombs” onto enemies that are stunned by “Gravity Lapse”, as your Trait will be available thanks to “Tri-Optimal” talent!
For “Heroics” both ulties are viable. It is my personal preference to go “Pyro”, as it stacks very well with the way the game flow goes, in this build. If you have at least 1 ally with AOE stun, which will be timed right after your “E” expires, then usually “Pyroblast” lands onto few enemies)
Rest of the talent choices are similar to previous build - you take your power spike talent at 13, “Chain Bomb”, then the talent on 16 is chosen, depending on the circumstances of the game. Keep in mind that “Arcane Barrier” won’t be so imba, as you didn’t take the talent that increases your Mana pool.
Pros and Cons
Strengths of this build will be similar to previous one. You do tons of DiPS, “Gravity Lapse” has great range, and you will be looking to use it as AOE disable. And, of course, great survivability, or disable, option is still there. However, this build has more downsides. They are described in Cons.
Stronger “Flamestrike” and “Gravity Lapse” abilities
“Q” will do 20% more damage and GL will be used like AOE disable, as you are not afraid to use your Trait for it, thanks to “Tri-Optimal” talent. The increased “Flamestrike” damage will increase overall DiPS on ~ 8%
Lower Mana pool
The “Mana Addict” talent is not a part of the build. So, you will have less mana than usual. Overall, this won’t make huge impact unless you meet some crazy sustain oriented enemy setup.
Lower “Living Bomb” damage and radius
As we don’t take “Fission Bomb” talent in this build, the damage of the “W” xplosion will be 30% less. This will decrease overall DiPS amount on ~ 6 %.
Higher skill cap
Hitting multiple targets with GL will require some skill and experience. Also, part of the damage will be based on the “E” ability. Lastly, the positioning value is still there, and is higher for this build.
Compared to the “Living Bomb” build, this build trades some damage, “Fission Bomb” talent, and Mana for better control over the enemy, “Gravity Lapse” upgrades, and damage sources (“Flamestrike” 20% damage boost and “Pyroblast”) that are harder to use, but efficient for more skilled players.
Overall, this build provides more control and damage, than the LB build, but has higher skill cap.
”Weird wombo-combo stuff”
This “Q” build does tons of damage, on paper. Damage wise it’s greater than other two builds, on paper. But in reality it’s very hard to pull off, and most of the time enemies will miss half of your damage. So, build relies heavily on team play and stun abilities of your allies. Out of all described Kael builds, this one is very hard to pull off and will probably be seen only performed by professional teams. If performed at all. Let’s look in to it, to do some theory crafting.
The only difference we see from standard “Living Bomb” build are talents on level 13 and 16.
They both will upgrade the “Flamestrike” ability. There is no more “Ignite” talent on 16; it was removed from the game completely. The talent on level 13 is the same - it will boost the cast range of “Flamestrike” ability. New talent, on level 16, will cast additional “Q” at the same location as original “Q” was cast, but 1 second later. Basically, in 3-4 seconds period of time you will be able to do double the amount of “Flamestrike” damage. However, the problem lies in those 3-4 seconds. If it is not a big deal to hit target with “Q”, it is a problem to hold it in place for another 2 seconds so it will be hit by second “Q”, that will appear on the same place as previous one.
Pros and Cons
High ability range and heavy AOE damage
In general, Kael is very hard to reach hero with this build. Main damage source, “Flamestrike”, just like in the old “Ignite” build fires from few “screens” away. The long range of GL allows reacting to enemy movement from a far. On its own, “Flamestrike” does moderate damage. Combined with the power of teamplay it allows to dish out crazy damage numbers.
Very strong combo potential
The mechanic of “Fury of the Sunwell” talent just screams “combo potential”. And indeed, some setups with big AOE ulties and stunning abilities are what allow you to open this talent to its full extent.
Lesser positional dependency
Due to high range of most of the abilities, and especially the damage source ability, positioning is very easy for this build. You want to stay at the backline to fire your “Q” once every 7 seconds, just like in the old “Ignite” days. And sometimes assist your allies with “Gravity Lapse”.
Teamplay dependent mechanic
Some teamplay and communication are required for Kael player and his teammates to fully realize the power of Sunwell. Otherwise, enemies will only be hit by the first “Flamestrike”, and half of your damage won’t go through. Enemy heroes will simply walk away!
I think there’s not much left to say! The “Flamestrike” build playstyle is the one that people used for good old, non-existing “Ignite” build. Now, the builds is no longer popular and servers different purpose. It has some potential and viability for professional matches and good teamplay. Other than that, you will only see it in placement matches from people that are “very familiar with meta”, and “Kael’thas is my main” type of players)
Alternative talent choices
image source: http://www.heroesnexus.com/talent-calculator/50-kaelthas
Not much left to say here! These are some talent options that may be viable for you, depending on level of play, team comp, and overall feeling of game direction.
If you feel that you won’t need tons of Mana, there are two talents you might want to pick on level 1. First is “Fel Infusion” talent. This talent is good when know that fights will be prolonged. The talent will provide free heal, and will lessen the load on the support hero. It heals for ~5-7% (depends on the game progression) of your max HP each 6 seconds, provided you will use your Trait each 6 seconds. Second talent, “Convection”, will add some damage numbers to your overall damage output. Talent is good addition to single target burst. However you need to keep in mind its mechanic.
The Heroics are matter of preference, but “Pyro” is still some risk-reward ultimate, while “Phoenix” provides stable zoning, dps, and results.
Lastly, there is always an “Arcane Barrier” talent for safer approach, or if you feel that you need additional survivability.
In some very rare and particular cases, you might want to go Poison on 4, or upgrade Heroic, or take “Presence of Mind” on 20. But these cases i won’t describe due to their rarity, so that’s it for alternative talents!
At first, i was very happy to see Kael changes. I thought - “finally they removed this stupid one key tons of damage build”. My happiness didn’t last long, as i discovered that in pursue to create build diversity and rework hero, devs created two specific builds that won’t see much use and one imba build that will be used by everyone.
There are, of course, few positive things. Firstly, you have to press 3 buttons instead of 2. Secondly, this build positively reflected Kael contest rate. On recent NA August Open tournament, he was one of 3 most contested heroes, and was either banned or picked. Thirdly, people are even more positive about Kael’thas. However, it is need to be mentioned that this positivism quickly fades when they have to play against him, but not with him! Lastly, the rework positively reflected the win rate of Kael’thas players.
So, overall I’m very positive about the Kael rework, until i have to play against him. Probably, it has to be said that the alternative builds, opposed to the mainstream build, are more fun than the ones that were before the rework. But what’s the point? Everyone is playing the mainstream “I bring the power of game balance” build...