Post-patch gameplay impressions
Changes made in patch 13.0
"Old Burst Down" Build
Alternative talent choices
Post-patch gameplay impressions
Gameplay of new Kerrigan definitely felt good. The range increase for “Primal Grasp” is built-in, so you have a free talent on level 1. And i decided to invest that talent in “Sharpened Blades”(20% damage increase for “Impaling Blades”), as i was playing the same old Burst Down build. Overall, new Queen of Blades felt snowballier than before. The chase down potential of “Queen’s Rush”, and the ability to cast Kerrigan’s version of “Blood for Blood” at the start of the fight, to get some shields, made me like the “new-old” build.
At that time, it was my first PTR game with Kerrigan and i was unaware about two new insane builds, which developers prepared for patch 13.0. Those we will, of course, discuss and see how good they are, but firstly let’s review the patch notes and see what changes were made to Queen of Blades.
Changes made in patch 13.0
In their blog, developers stated that they wanted to provide slight buff, and at the same time create new builds for Kerrigan. The actual changes:
Seasoned Marksman (Talent) removed
Focused Attack (Talent) removed
Searing Attacks (Talent) removed
Sprint (Talent) removed
Blood for Blood (Talent) removed
New Talent (Level 13): Queen’s Rush
Activate to increase Movement Speed by 25% for 4 seconds. Hero Takedowns automatically activate this effect.
New Talent (Level 16): Essence for Essence
Activate to steal 10% of an enemy Hero’s Health, and gain twice that amount as Assimilation Shields
Lingering Essence (Talent)
Assimilation Shield duration increased from 12 to 20 seconds
New Talent (Level 7): Assimilation Mastery
Increases Health and Mana Regneration by 100% while Assimilation Shields are active
Damage increased from 50 (+20 per level) to 60 (+22 per level)
Mana cost decreased from 75 to 50
Clean Kill (Talent)
Now also increases the damage dealt by Kerrigan’s next Ravage by 20%
Half of Ravage’s Mana cost is now refunded when jumping to an ally
Range bonus increased from 25% to 40%
Impaling Blades (W)
Mana cost increased from 60 to 75
Primal Grasp (E)
Range increased by 20%
Mana cost increased from 50 to 60
Cooldown increased from 8 to 10 seconds
Damage decreased from 50 (+13 per level) to 40 (+10 per level)
Sweeping Grasp (Talent) removed
Psionic Pulse (Talent)
Damage per second increased from 12 (+2.4 per level) to 15 (+3 per level)
New Talent (Level 1): Energizing Grasp
Refunds 10 Mana per enemy hit, up to a maximum of 60
Damage per second increased from 25 (+2.5 per level) to 30 (+3 per level)
Cooldown reduced from 120 to 100 seconds
Duration reduced from 9 to 7 seconds
Cooldown now begins once the Ultralisk is killed
Ultralisk can now be reborn more than once, so long as the egg isn’t destroyed within 8 seconds of the Ultralisk’s death
All the changes listed above can be sorted in 4 categories. First category is removal of Auto-Attack talents. Previously, there were some builds based around right clicks, but they were weak. So, Blizz decided to remove them, while providing new options and talents for new builds.
Second category is about “Sprint” and “Blood for Blood” removal. It is important because what devs did is they gave Kerrigan her own version of those talents. “Queen’s Rush” is her version of sprint. It provides slower speed boost, but activates for free each time hero is taken down. “Essence for Essence” is basically BfB but for shields, not HP. These are very cool changes, as they make talents more unique and hero related. In my dreams, i wish that every hero had such talents, and there were no common talents.
Next category of changes is about the usual abilities talent overhaul, and it’s probably the biggest one. Here we can see tons of buffs for “Ravage”, both for the ability and talents. All these changes create viable “Ravage” build, boost ability damage, and lower Mana cost. Other than that, we see changes that nerf “W” and “E” abilities a bit. Overall, Kerrigan’s AOE and single target damage remains the same. These changes are the tweaks to the DPS output. They are needed to compensate the “Q” damage buff, as well as “Sharpened Blades” talent.
Last part is about changes to ultimates. The changes to “Ultralisk” make it so that you have a 20 seconds longer cooldown, and the upgrade is buffed a bit. But what is more interesting are the changes made to “Maelstrom”. The damage was increased, while the duration was lowered. Overall, it has same damage output, and even more damage prior to late game, but the damage is done a bit faster.
All these changes shift the gameplay even more in the momentum based side, while making Kerrigan snowballier as well.
With all the buffs listed above, new builds appeared. First one is based on “Ravage” ability, and promotes aggressive style of play. In this build Kerrigan is very good at long distance initiations, “snowballing” the fights, and finishing off the targets. On the other hand, second build, based around her Trait, allows Queen of Blades to fill the role of semi-tank, while providing decent amount of disables, burst, and space for your teammates.
“I take no prisoners”
This build is very momentum based. Kerrigan gameplay in general is momentum based, but this build emphasizes on it even more. Basically, you are looking to do two things. First one is to capitalize on positional mistakes of your enemies; to do that you are able to perform crazy initiations with long-ranged “Q”. Second one is to quickly clean-up damaged targets, using all your damage output for that, and then switching to a new damaged target. This won’t be hard, as this build provides a lot of mobility across the fight.
As you can see, on every tier that you have upgrade for “Ravage”, you go for it. The level 1 talent, “Siphoning Impact”, will provide nice sustainability buff. But this talent is optional. If you know that additional sustain won’t be needed, or you really need that damage buff, you can choose “Sharpened Blades” talent.
Next 2 talent tiers will be your core upgrades to “Ravage”. At Level 4, “Clean Kill” will refund 100% of Mana cost, and will increase damage of next “Ravage” on 20%, on each takedown. Keep in mind that this means any takedown, be it hero, creep or mercenary. This creates very imba strat for “Infernal Shrines”, which I’ll describe in Pros and Cons to this build. Level 7 talent, “Adaptation”, will allow you to jump on allies for half of the cooldown and mana cost. “Adaptation” adds very strong mobile and juking potential to your hero. Now, you are able to fake some initiations, to bait key enemy spells, and jump back to allies. Lastly, it’s just good for repositioning.
For Heroic, i prefer “Maelstrom”, unless there is very strong need in zoning someone. Then i go Ultralisk. Overall, “Maelstrom” fits this build much better, in terms of gameplay. It adds damage to both, initiation and cleaning-up potentials. However, it is more momentum based, so if you are new player, you might want to try playing with “Ultralisk”. This way you won’t be forced into quick decision making, as “Ultralisk” provides stable results. And also requires some control, from time to time.
Level 13 talent will make you god-like in terms of mobility and initiation. You are able to jump onto allies or foes through textures, walls, etc. Also, repositioning across the fight becomes much easier. I’m not even talking about cleaning up here. You just fly across battlefield from target to another, in just few seconds of time!
There is no “set in stone” talent for 16, so i prefer “Overdrive”. It adds a lot to your damage output, but at the same time it doesn’t have such drastic Mana effect, as your “Ravage” costs no Mana if you make a takedown with it. This talent is, of course good, when you try to burst someone down, but it has insane value when you are cleaning-up the targets with “Ravage”!
The talent choice at level 20. Personally, i like to play with upgrade for “Maelstrom”. However, such play style is very risky, and one mistake can cost you a fight, or even a game. This build provides insane mobility, but as you know many heroes are getting Blinks on level 20. So, if you are new to Kerrigan, or don’t feel like playing risky, it is better to take “Bolt of the Storm”
Pros and Cons
The ability to jump on allies with reduced Mana cost and cooldown, insane range, and Mana cost refund on kill – all these things make “Ravage” very versatile spell, and Kerrigan very mobile hero.
Insane chase-down and cleaning-up potential
Combined with other spells, “Ravage” offers high damage output, with tons of CC, mobility, and overall fast paced fights. This all comes from cooldown reduction, or negation, due to the talents mentioned above.
Be it ally or foe, you can jump on him through impassable terrain, and from very long range. This creates different juking and initiating possibilities, which can be combined with the combo to achieve some insane comebacks and plays.
High skill cap
As it always is with Melee Assassins, they are hard to play. Part of it comes from mechanic, part comes from hero design, and so on. In case of Kerrigan, it is about landing your combo, monitoring your positioning, and overall game understanding of when to go in and go out. This builds is very mobile, so it is easier to reposition your hero, but other two points remain the same.
About the “Infernal Shrines” start. The creeps, who are spawned by the shrines, have fixed amount of HP. And at some point of the game, near level 7, you are able to one-shot them with “Q”. Combine that with “Clean Kill” talent(refunds Mana on kills), and you are able to do the shrine on your own, and very quickly!
“What’s up with all these bratty princes anyway?”
Second build, created by new patch, makes Kerrigan a viable semi-tank. She will be good at absorbing some damage on the front line, space creating for the teammates, and focusing down the target. However, the gameplay is not as straightforward as it is for Warriors.
There are no “to go” talents for level 1 and 4, in this build. I prefer to go talents that buff “Primal Grasp”. Firstly, because they are violet, and all the other talents of this build are violet. Secondly, they fit in the general mind set. Damage over time effect provides additional shields, and Mana gain is always nice to have. Especially now, when Mana cost of “W” and “E” are raised. It was not the problem for “Ravage” build, but can be for “Assimilation” build.
All other talent choices are straightforward. You are buffing the Trait, and the ultimate, which is your main generator of shields. Level 7 talent will provide additional Mana\HP regeneration. It is always viable for tanking, as you want to absorb as much damage as you can.
Your Heroic is, of course, “Maelstrom”. Note that the amount of shields generated by the Trait is doubled versus heroes. That makes “Maelstrom” the default ulty for tanking.
Level 13 talent will increase the duration of the shields to 20, up from 6. This is very good upgrade for prolonged fights, as well as buff to the level 7 talent, as it will be able to provide that increased regeneration for 20 seconds instead of 6.
Level 16 talent is where the magic begins. The 100% to the amount of shields that are generated from abilities will make you insanely durable. As i mentioned before, the amount of shields generated from heroes are doubled. What this means is you now gain 40% of the damage done to heroes as you shield! Just “Maelstrom” ability will provide insane amount of shields if used on few heroes.
The upgrade to the “Maelstrom” will be a nail in the coffin of your enemies, and insane boost of your tankiness. Not only Heroic will now have increased range, but also it will generate double the amount of shields! Combined with previous talent upgrade for the Trait, “Maelstrom” will now convert 80% of the damage in shields!
Pros and Cons
Very good semi-tank potential
Kerrigan is able to fulfill semi-tanking role with shields that are generated through the Trait. Also, her lockdown potential make her very good at space creating for the team. In this build she is much harder to kill, and failing to do so, usually, results in some insane fights and turnarounds.
Compared to other builds, this build offers much more sustain. And this sustain is generated over and over again, unless your Mana is no more. From this prolonged sustain comes third strength described below.
More oriented at prolonged fights
Usual Kerrigan gameplay is momentum based. This build offers another approach, as you are not afraid to stand in the fight, on the front line. Moreover, this build is designed to change the gameplay into more bruiser oriented. All this, plus the consistency of the sustain makes Queen of Blades very good at drained out fights.
Less burst damage output
The build is kind of trade off. You give some of the damage and utility talents to have more sustain. So, it’s expected result that your burst damage potential is lowered. It is, of course, still there. But don’t be surprised if you will lack bits of damage to finish-off the target on your own!
More teamplay dependent
In general, Kerrigan game flow requires teamplay. This build is even more teamplay oriented, as your main goal is shifted towards assisting, and creating space for other teammates. Opposed to hunting for the targets. And that means that you will be looking out for your teammates, not vice versa, as it is for usual Kerrigan style of play.
Overall, Kerrigan with “Assimilation” build is very flexible pick. She provides nice damage soaking, but at the same time has very good damage output and lockdown. Queen of Blades feels like old Illidan, in terms of sustain, but more momentum oriented, in terms of damage output and mechanic. Also, she is even better at those clumped up, or tight-spaced, fights.
“The Good Old Call”
(Old Burst Down Build)
The build is there, it is viable, and it received some reworks. Overall, all the reworks feel like quality of life changes and improvements. Also, “Ravage” and “Assimilation” based talents add some flexibility and utility to this build. Now, you have more options, which allow you to react on enemy counter-plays.
With this build you are going to do as much burst damage as you can, be it one hero or group of enemy heroes, at the moment when enemy is out of position, or it is favorable for you to engage. This build is very momentum based, and represents the essence of aggressive Kerrigan gameplay.
This is common talent choice pattern, which is now more diversified with alternative talent picks. Some of them I’ll describe down below, while other part will be described in the alternative talent section of the guide.
As you may know from the patch notes, the range upgrade for “Primal Grasp” is now built-in, so “Sharpened Blades” talent comes as natural choice.
Back in the days when Kerrigan had “Rewind” on 13, “Envenom” was much stronger and was default pick. No longer is the case, but “Envenom” still picked for additional single target burst. If you feel that you won’t find isolated targets and fights will be 5×5, then “Fury of the Swarm” is better choice. However, it’s a tricky choice, as it requires you to be able to land your right clicks. So, if you find yourself against heavy stun comp, it is better to go “Psionic Pulse” talent, as it will work during disables.
Level 7 talent choice is usually goes either in favor of “Impaling Swarm” or “Battle Momentum”. Zerlings, created by “IS” talent, are good to absorb enemy spell projectiles, while “BM” is better for constant fights, or prolonged fights. You might also consider picking “Adaptation” talent, in case enemy has a lot of spells that block pathing, or you feel that you will need to reposition yourself a lot.
“Maelstrom” Heroic is usual choice, unless there is a critical need to zone a hero. Then you go for “Ultralisk”. Overall, “Maelstrom” is better, as it adds tons of AOE burst down potential. After all, bursting down the targets is the core feature of the build.
Previously, “Sprint” was uncontested level 13 choice. Now, new version of it feels a bit clunky, as you are not able to change positioning quickly. New “Sprint” is good for chasing down targets, or keeping enemy heroes in range of the ultimate. But if you need to change your position fast, “Eviscerate” is much better talent. Not only it will allow you to do some crazy initiations, but also, if combined with “Adaptation” talent, you will be able to quickly reposition yourself near allies.
Splendid amount of choices are available on level 16. Usually, it is Kerrigan version of “Blood for Blood”, as it provides both, burst and survivability. New “Assimilation” upgrade is viable choice if you are looking to drastically increase survivability. “Overdrive” is excellent choice if you are looking to make fights extremely momentum based.
Lastly, “Bolt of the Storm” is your level 20 talent. Positioning is the key element of success, and “Bolt” opens up new aggressive and defensive possibilities. Heroic is upgrade can be a viable choice, when team composition is based around Queen of Blades.
Pros and Cons
Very high single target/AOE damage burst
After the reworks, the DPS is even higher than before. This buff makes Kerrigan even more viable for burst down setups, as she brings insane numbers for both, single target and AOE damage output.
Flexibility, with new talents
Not only DPS of this build got buffed! More options and choices appeared, with the addition of new talents and buffs to the old ones, which make this build less straightforward and more flexible.
High Skill Cap
Positioning, mechanical skill, and overall game feeling\understanding of when to go in, when to go out, whom to focus, and so on are still key parts of the success. They make this build very challenging, but also very rewarding for players that are able to master Queen of Blades.
Overall, the build feels the best choice, but is the hardest to execute and master. New buffs and reworks definitely increased Kerrigan viability. However, the main problem is still there, and I’ll describe it in the Conclusion(s) part.
Alternative talent choices
“Block” is viable first level talent, when you know that you won’t have problems with Mana, and gone tanky “Assimilation” build.
“Blade Torrent” can be viable choice, for level 16, when capturing as much heroes as you can is critical for the fight result.
“Fury of the Swarm” is nice talent when you are facing enemy setup that has almost no stuns, or ways to mess up with your auto-attacks. The talent will provide additional AOE damage and small sustain increase.
Other than that, “Torrasque” is good for trolling)
Also, thing worth mentioning is that the attacks of your “Ultralisk” create the shields from Trait, like your right clicks, or abilities, do!
Generally speaking, i like new Kerrigan. She received nice buffs and is more flexible now. Two new builds make her more viable for picks and strategies. At the same time, old build is even better, as it does more DPS and has more options.
However, the main problem is still there. And this problem is that her success and usefulness, mostly, is based on enemy mistakes. If you encounter enemy that is not afraid of Kerrigan, is not panicking when he sees her, and knows what to do, you will have a hard time being useful for your team. Also, her late game scaling is still bad.
I had hopes that the hyped rework of Queen of Blades will solve these issues. But it seems like developers are fine with such state of the hero. Also, it seems to be a design philosophy behind it, which developers aren’t changing.
Personally, i feel sad about this. Mainly, because when you face experienced opponent there is not much you can do, to outplay him. You can see similar situation in professional games, when one team dominates early-mid game, but can’t finish the game. And in the end falls victims to many ways Kerrigan can be outplayed, in later stages of the game. Good example of that are the games from recent MSI MGA, between C9 and Tempo Storm. You can watch them here: game 1 and game 2.
In the end, the Kerrigan overhaul is a positive thing. It feels refreshing and interesting to play new builds, and adapt new talents to the old build.