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Heroes of the StormNov 28, 2017 2:00 pm CT

Developers comment on Heroes of the Storm Support nerfs

Yesterday, Heroes of the Storm blindsided most of its playerbase by announcing nerfs to nearly every support character in the game. The only support hero to dodge the nerfbat was Li Li, who received buffs as a result of a lackluster rework last week. Hours after unveiling the patch notes, the developers shared their reasoning behind the nerfs. In short, they want to move players away from double support team composition. For the long version, you can read their post below.

Originally Posted by Blizzard Entertainment (Official Post)

Over the last several months we’ve seen double Support team compositions become more and more prevalent in all levels of play, including esports. While we think this is an okay strategy to see some of the time, we are currently seeing too much of it and will be making some tuning and design changes going forward to address its over-prevalence.

Before diving into the specific changes and reasoning, we’d like to provide some context on double Support and our current stance:

  • We know characters like Tassadar, Tyrande, and Medivh cannot be played as a solo Support. They need to be paired alongside a healer. This is totally fine! We are perfectly okay with these characters showing up in double Support comps (because otherwise they wouldn’t have a team composition they fit in).
  • We are mostly trying to move away from the “double healer” team compositions that we are seeing so commonly. Like everything, double healer is okay in moderation, we just don’t want this to be a common strategy that doesn’t care about map, enemy team composition, etc.
  • Most team compositions right now are setup as the following:
    • A tank for your primary front line
    • A bruiser or second Warrior as a secondary front line
    • A healer to keep your team alive
    • This leaves 2 spots on a team, and with one of those commonly being occupied by another healer or Support, it means we only see one Assassin. This also forces Assassin picks to be into a smaller subset of ‘hyper carries’ such as Valla or Greymane. While these characters are cool, we really want to create some space for Mages and other characters to shine as well.

Along with the above, we wanted to touch on why we think we’re seeing double Support more now than in the past:

  • About a year ago we introduced a new Armor system. This system ultimately made a lot of Warriors more efficient heal targets, and we mentioned that we planned to go through and remove some healing from Supports when we first implemented the system. This is a change we never ended up doing, so we’re looking at taking care of it now.
  • We’ve also been going through all our characters and trying to focus them with specific strengths and weaknesses. While this goal is important to make sure that all characters feel and play in a unique way, it’s also likely made double Support more powerful. Uther, for example, has the weakness of being an inefficient long-term healer, but can prevent tons of burst and keep allies alive during critical moments. If you pair him with someone like Lúcio or Auriel (healers with high efficiency) then you get the best of both worlds; you can prevent burst and out sustain the enemy team. Essentially these healers have more powerful strengths and complement each other’s weaknesses.
  • In a vacuum, our Supports are pound-for-pound more powerful than our other Heroes. They are designed to provide enough healing for a team of five, while still bringing things like wave clear, crowd control effects, or decent damage. It’s possible that double Support has always been the ‘best way’ to play, and the community has been trending in this direction for a while.

So, with all of that in mind, over the last several months the Live Design team has been debating how to address this:

  • If we nerf healing numbers, do we just see teams bringing two Supports more often to have enough healing?
  • If we buff healing numbers, can you make due with a single Support, and potentially see less double Support?
  • Should we be buffing a group of characters that we already feel are pound-for-pound more powerful than other characters?

While we’re still actively debating the best solves, we wanted to take a crack at this, so we have a number of changes hitting the Nexus soon.

Here is a general list of changes we’re making to Support Heroes:

  • Weaken wave clear:
    • Cutting a handful of talents such as Lightning Bond on Rehgar
    • In general, making it so wave clear on Supports is worse. This should be an understood handicap for running multiple healers.
    • Your team will have slower lane rotations and less ability to quickly take jungle camps while efficiently soak lanes
  • Decrease Damage by 5%~:
    • This will also help reduce wave clear slightly.
    •  Bringing two healers will mean your team is giving up more damage, hence having less kill potential.
  •  Decrease Healing by 5%~:
    • This will help address the addition of Armor and will simply pull a little bit of healing out of the game.
  • Decrease Health by 5%~:
    • Certain Supports are unusually tanky for being ranged backline characters. Also factor in that they can heal themselves, and they end up being very difficult for the enemy teams to focus fire down.
    • With slightly reduced health pools, we want to put some emphasis back on focusing these healers.

Individually, each of these changes are small. However, we feel the sum of these changes could have a meaningful impact on the meta. We’ll be reading your feedback, playing, and looking to data to see the results of this. We may be making more changes in the future if this doesn’t do enough.

Before closing, we wanted to take a few moments to provide some context around making sure our Healers still feel awesome:

  • We will continue to do talent reworks and Hero updates to all characters, including Supports.
  • We feel that adding interesting “mini-games” for characters to play can create rewarding and challenging gameplay moments. If you’ve had a chance to play Ana, she can have very high highs, and very low lows. While we’re not going to suddenly make a bunch of our healers skillshot based, we have learned a lot from Ana and will be iterating on things moving forward.
  • Speaking of Ana, and more recently Alexstrasza, healers that have a hard time healing themselves push players into double Support strategies more often. Moving forward, this is also something we’ll be looking at. For Ana specifically, we’re exploring adding a self-healing mechanic to her trait, Shrike. While these updates won’t be a part of this initial release, it is something we’re working hard towards.

Thanks for taking the time to read this and hopefully this has provided some context for the massive number of tweaks we are making. As always, we look forward to reading your discussions and seeing you all play with this in the live game.

– The Heroes Live Team

Tackling game balance for healers is always difficult and I don’t envy the Heroes of the Storm development team, nor any other development team who tackles this particular problem. Overwatch has struggled with Symmetra and Mercy in the past. Mercy in particular received a redesign that went through multiple iterations. World of Warcraft has revisited healer dynamics time and time again since the game’s launch. On one hand, players can find it rather dull if being a healer or support character literally means not having the ability to do anything but heal. Being a healer feels more satisfying when, if you need to, you can exert some control over a situation, such as clearing a wave or taking a mercenary camp as Rehgar. On the other hand, if healers can do too much, you erode the niche of other characters.

In this particular case, however, I’m not sure the strength and versatility of support characters is necessarily causing the rise of double support camps. It very well could be a contributor, but it seems more likely they’re on the right track when discussing heroes like Ana and Alexstrasza. Most healers in Heroes of the Storm have distinct strengths and weaknesses. Malfurion, for example, is an efficient sustain healer with strong utility, but is limited in his ability to deal with burst damage. Uther’s direct heals can handle burst damage and apply damage mitigation, but his mana efficiency is dreadful. He has a hard time keeping up if his team is continuously being poked. Where Malfurion struggles, Uther excels, and vice versa.

Before dual support became as prominent as it is now, it was still common to pair Tassadar with a sustain-style healer such as Brightwing. Brightwing puts out great healing numbers, but struggles against burst damage. Tassadar’s shields both mitigate burst damage and contribute extra healing through its lifesteal effect — especially with a Greymane or a Valla as your hyper carry assassin. The two are a natural pair and while Brightwing’s global presence and waveclear are contributors, it’s more than that: If Brightwing is all you have, there’s little she can do about burst damage. If Tassadar is all you have, your only source of healing is the lifesteal on his shields. When you put them together, those glaring weaknesses are eliminated. Simply by being there, Tassadar makes Brightwing better.

The recent additions of Ana and Alexstrasza exacerbate the problem. Ana cannot currently heal herself outside of her long-cooldown grenade. She has limited escape options. She’s vulnerable to dive and can be easily chipped out of a fight. However, pair her with another support, and her support buddy can take care of that problem. Alexstrasza spends her own health to heal others, meaning she needs to carefully manage her health to keep her team in a fight. She, too, is deeply vulnerable to having her health chipped away. However, pair her with another support character, and suddenly her health is no longer a concern.

It’s good the developers recognize the problem of Ana and Alexstrasza, but the issue extends to the entire support roster. Anyone who raided in World of Warcraft in its early years can attest to the fact that when healers are too niche, the playerbase’s general solution is to simply bring more healers. Back in the day, when almost all of a Druid’s healing throughput was in the form of heal-over-time effects, you really wanted someone like a Paladin along for the ride to drop big, direct heals. And when all you had was a Paladin, things got awfully dicey for your tank when there were no heal-over-time effects to smooth out that gap between the Paladin’s monster burst heals. If you brought both (and maybe even a Priest for mitigation shields!), you were sitting pretty.

Is making each support character a jack-of-all-trades with no weaknesses the solution to the problem? Probably not, but easing off of each healer’s weaknesses (while not eliminating them outright) might be a start.

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