Overview of noticeable changes
My impressions of the patch
I think that Li-Ming patch has been a successful step in the right direction. The developers managed to solve a lot of problems at once. Coupled with weekly balance updates, the patch managed to get rid of the stale Meta-game. New heroes have invaded the Heroes of the Strom universe on competitive and casual levels of play.
Greymane and Lunara have successfully entered a tournament scene. It turned out that Greymane and Lunara needed small tweaks to enter professional tournaments. While Greymane had his ability numbers tuned up a bit, Lunara had received small rework of her auto-attack mechanics. The developers changed mechanics in such a way that the auto-attack animations allow a player to stutter-step with Lunara. In the last few weeks, we have seen many Lunara and Greymane games. Professional teams play theses heroes a lot in different tournaments.
As for the game itself, Blizzard has introduced tons of talent changes with the patch. There are a lot of stuff to discuss, so let’s start with the overview of noticeable changes that have affected the game in one way or another.
There were a lot of new stuff introduced, so I split this part into a few categories: hero changes, the new hero, and other changes. Let’s start with hero changes. They are the most impactful and important in my opinion.
There is a level 4 talent, Focused Attack, that has been hit with a Nerf bat. The developers have reduced the auto-attack damage bonus from 75% to 60%. This is the talent that has been constantly picked by Sonya and Raynor players. So, we can think of this change as a slight tuning of their damage output. Before this patch and earlier balance patches, Sonya and Raynor were secretly two best heroes in the game. It is logical that they got some tuning in balance patches and in February patch.
Two old heroes, Nova and Rehgar, have received a complete overhaul in the last patch. As a result, we received two new heroes. In the case of Rehgar, the changes were very successful. We see Rehgar in almost each game. He has been played in many competitive matches. His win rate is 60%+. We can clearly see that Rehgar has changed a lot. Previously, he was one of the worst Supports in the game; now he is one of the best.
On the contrary to Rehgar story, there is Nova remake. After the remake, Nova is considered an underpowered hero by many. The idea that stands behind the gameplay remake is cool. However, Nova needs extra attention from the developers. Her remake turned out to be not that successful. She sits at 40%+ win rate. This is, of course, partly due to gameplay changes. She is no longer a burst-damage oriented hero. Instead, she is a hero that should be good at poking wars. Hots players need some time to adjust themselves to the new play style. I think that after some time her win rate will increase, but not much. Personally, I liked the idea behind the changes. Right now, Nova lacks more damage numbers and more tweaks.
Now that we are familiar with two remade heroes, let’s take a look at other heroes. They haven’t been changed so drastically but received some attention from developer team. I’m talking about Cho’Gall, Zeratul, Lunara, Sonya and The Butcher.
Cho’Gall have(has) received nice tweaks. While underused talents were improved, some overused talents were slightly changed. The remake has increased the effectiveness of the Twisting Nether Heroic. Runic Bomb was also affected by the changes. There is a “must have” talent that makes it so that your Runic Bomb doesn’t disappear after a detonation. Combined with Cho’s talent that returns Runic Bomb to him, the spell becomes a heavy hitter and can chop away the half of hit-points of enemy Assassin. Overall, Cho’Gall changes are great.
This patch features a lot of improvements for Zeratul. His damage on Q spell has been increased. The Shadow Assault Heroic received a lot of tweaks. The developers have changed the Heroic perfectly in my opinion. Now, it has a low cooldown and Mana cost. They also increased the range of the Heroic and tuned down the duration to 4 seconds. These are great changes. You rarely used Shadow Assault for its full duration. Main problems were: long cooldown and a big Mana cost. Now both problems are gone.
Lunara also received some improvements. Her Wisp was improved in this way: cooldown and Mana cost were reduced. Of course, in the last patch, the main concern of Lunara players wasn’t the Wisp ability. It was the way her auto-attack works. The developers have changed auto-attack mechanics, so, you can play a decent stutter-stepping game now. Overall, these changes are great, as they were needed for the hero to enter the competitive scene. Immediately, Lunara became Tier 2 hero instead of Tier 4 hero. Now we see a lot of successful Lunara games in many casual and professional games. Definitely, the development team has nailed the needed changes.
As I’ve said before, Sonya has been secretly the best hero in the last patch. It is okay that she received some small changes. The developers tuned her W ability a bit. Considering the Focused Attack change, I think that Sonya is in the perfect spot now.
The last part is about The Butcher. The developers have changed the behavior of his Heroic, Lamb to the Slaughter. I think that the change is a huge improvement. Now, any defensive effect that you can grant to a target of the Heroic no longer removes the Chain but suppresses it. What that means is that the Heroic is playable against heroes that have Ice Block, the Unstoppable effect, and other defensive effects. For example, Divine Shield no longer removes Lamb to the Slaughter. Instead, the Chain persists on a target for its full duration, and once Divine Shield is over the target will be pulled back by the chain. This is a nice “quality of life” change for The Butcher players, as well as for professional teams that like to bring different pocket starts on major tournaments.
Well, Li-Ming is a new superstar. She is a hero that is great and successful in many ways. First of all, she is a new mage hero. In addition to Jaina and Kael’thas, we will also see Li-Ming in professional games. Right now, Li-Ming is slightly overpowered, so she has almost 100% ban rate. However, as soon as she receives small fixes, I think we will see her in many competitive games.
Second of all, Li-Ming is a superbly fun hero. She is that fun because of two things: she is a high skill-cap hero and she can “carry” games on her own. Heroes of the Storm doesn’t have many glass-canon heroes, so, Li-Ming is a nice addition to the hero pool. Oh, the ability to “carry” games on your own! It is unbelievable, especially for such team based game like Hots.
Lastly, she is a nicely designed hero. Li-Ming really has an image of Arcane Wizard. Her talent pool is very diverse; she has a lot of fun talents. Also, she has different talent builds and strategies for different team setups and situations. So, Li-Ming is definitely an addition that is incredible and successful for the Heroes of the Storm universe.
This part will be mostly about the changes made to the structures. Of course, I will also mention juicy damage numbers. Yeah! That is right! Juicy damage numbers! Now Heroes of the Storm screen is covered with colorful numbers floating outwards of battling heroes! The player base has demanded a viable death recap for a long time. It seems like the developers are either don’t want to give it or do the stuff in their own way.
New juicy numbers definitely help to understand what is going on. They don’t remove a problem that is created by the absence of death recap, but you do understand better what is happening on the screen. It is also a good change for viewers. So overall, it is a great “quality of life” change.
As for the structures, there are two patch notes that I want to mention. The first one is about damage increase. All structures do 50% more damage against heroes. This is a welcomed change in my opinion. The structures have been very squishy after the scaling changes patch and they needed some improvement. It is a nice change. It will turn off early five-man pushes that we have seen in professional games. It also makes an early game tower and fort dives more punishable.
The second change is also an aftermath of the scaling changes patch. It was done to make sure that structures are less vulnerable. Literally! The structures no longer can be affected by the Vulnerable effect. This is an improvement of their survivability. At the same time, the change is a huge blow to the pushing power of heroes with Vulnerable effect, such as Sylvanas, Jaina and so on. They could apply the effect to the structures. This made such heroes very valuable for pushing. I think this also a welcomed change, caused by an adaptation to the scaling changes patch.
Lastly, I want to mention this change: Arcane Sentry damage (Arcane Punisher’s laser on the Infernal Shrines map) has been reduced by 20%. I think I’ve seen player dying to the sentry, and I think you did. Of course, this change won’t eliminate such guys, but it will, at least, make ridiculous damage of Arcane Sentry less ridiculous.
I think that Li-Ming patch is a good patch, made with a good approach. Previously, the game has had a lot of balance issues, as well as other issues. While not every major issue has been solved, this patch clearly shows that Blizzard is good at dealing with this kind of situations. Look how gently they have solved the problem with Tyrande Meta-game.
Tyrande Meta-game had two main issues. No. I should say three. Apart from Tyrande, the issues were: a stale hero pool (we’ve seen a soup from 10 heroes in almost each game) and incredibly overpowered stuns (they were a part of the consequences that plagued the game after the scaling changes patch).
Look at the game now. What to do we see? We don’t see Tyrande in each game. She is a viable hero, and she wasn’t nerfed into oblivion. You can still play her and she is good at what she does, but she is not overpowered. The same approach Blizzard has used to deal with other two issues. As the results, the hero pool became diversified and the stuns problem has been addressed. Now we see new heroes in the mix with old heroes and Meta-game is not boring or stall.
Of course, Blizzard is not perfect. So, I want to remind you about the fire guy, Kael’thas. This dude has been imbalanced since his release. The developers have tried remaking him. He ended up being less imbalanced, but he still is imbalanced. I really hoped that he would be changed this patch. Well, it didn’t happen. Sadly. So, apart from Li-Ming played in each game, I think the absence of the remake for Kael’thas in this patch is my only concern.
Overall, I think that the game is headed in the right direction. The success of Li-Ming patch, as well as huge announcement about an upcoming major tournament, Heroes of the Storm 2016 Spring Global Championship; shows that the developers are not going to abandon the game, and a bright future awaits the game.
Of course, there are still a lot of issues that need to be addressed. The game doesn’t have its own pick/ban system. The ladder and matchmaking systems are non-existent, compared to other MOBAs. A reconnect feature is not that great and so on. These are core features of the genre that developers should add to the game to improve it.
The amount of work, the success, and the transparency of the development team promises a great future for Heroes of the Storm. I think that this patch was one of the major stepping-stones that Blizzard have done to make Heroes of the Storm a great game. I think that the game has a great potential and a great future, and I’m very satisfied with the last patch. I think Hots could use more heroes like Li-Ming and more patches like the last one!