Kaelthas is the hero who has not been seeing any changes for the longest time of the entire hero roster according to heroespatchnotes.com (since November 2018). In terms of winrates he seems to be currently on the lower side of average according to heroesprofile.com. Over the last 8 patches (arbitrarily chosen time period), he has a winrate of 49% for all ranks, 51.7% for Master + Diamond and 47% for Bronze + Silver + Gold. That should also show that he is not really oppressive in lower rank play as people seem to believe a lot. In addition it is safe to say that Kael'thas is not valued a lot in higher rank and competitive play.
Now you could say being a bit a bit under average is fine in terms of balance, that he doesn't need large changes and that not every hero can be at the top, and I would probably not have too much to argue about that. Regardless, I would like to talk about his weakest aspect which are in my opinion both his heroics, in case he will receive changes in the future again, and probably changes to his heroics could be made that don't push him over the top. I am not going to discuss his level 20 upgrades for his ults which are both bad, but that is the case for many ults in this game and this text will be already long enough as it is. In terms of winrates both ults are very compareable by the way.
The weaknesses of Pyroblast should be evident. There is tons of counterplay with how telegraphed the ability is. Healers can heal the target up before it hits, there are spell shield talents, healers can grant spell shields (esp. Brightwing), there are "protected" abilities like Varian parry, Genji deflect, Medivh shields, Tracer can rewind, there are iceblocks and so on and so on. The only game mode where Pyroblast feels annoying to deal with is QM with the no healer comps, but the game should not be balanced around that clown fiesta mode.
Still, it is a rather unique ultimate in the game and it can be quite fun to use, and while often if it is not that effective, there are some heroes and compositions that have less counterplay so I am ok with it having a fun and niche role. The question is if it really needs to have a 100 second cooldown for example, which should put it closer to the top tier ultimate ability category. Other possible buff options would be even more damage, shorter cast time or traveling speed. Or maybe someone has some more unique idea.
Coming next to Phoenix, the seemingly more universally useful heroic. Believe it or not, this ability never got any balance changes since Kaelthas release in 2015, apart from a cooldown nerf from 40 to 60 seconds in early 2016, where he had all kinds of other tools that made him so feared. Obviously a lot of things happened to the game overall since as well (*cough* power creep *cough*). While 60 second is fairly low cooldown and thus should not be as impactful as a 100 or even 120s cooldown ability, it feels a bit too unimpactful still, and there are other heroics with 60 second cooldown or similar that can be very impactful.
Phoenix is also not very original in design. It is a circular AoE ability that does damage to units in it – nothing else. It also does not do damage to everything within the circle, but the Phoenix attacks one specific target within the circle and does reduced splash damage to units close – the splash radius seemingly very small, only one of the three bottom Target Dummies in Try mode for example gets hit . That means while it can serve as area denial, it is not really an AoE damage ability that can hit the whole enemy team usually, and it also is not as great at waveclearing as you might think.
There are two other heroic abilities that spontaneously come to my mind that are somewhat compareable – Tyrande's Star Fall and Whitemane's Divine Reckoning. Those do not only do damage (equally within the entire area), but also have utility (Whitemane getting huge amounts of mana and healing, Tyrande getting CD reductions on her Q. Their other parameters are slightly different – Phoenix has a marginably larger circle and a slightly shorter cooldown. The damage is applied over a different time period (4s Reckoning, 6s Starfall, 7s Phoenix), which means Phoenix could deny for longer (though I would argue the damage is too low to truely deny people on its own), but also needs longer time to manifest its full effect. I compared their damage output in a few screenshots in Try Mode:
- Phoenix vs single Dummy
- Phoenix vs 3 bottom Dummies (ability centered on middle dummy)
- Starfall vs single Dummy
- Starfall vs 3 bottom Dummies (ability centered on middle dummy)
- Reckoning vs single Dummy
- Reckoning vs 3 bottom Dummies (ability centered on middle dummy)
As you can see, Phoenix is the better damage ability against a single target, but against multiple targets it is the worst of the three – besides Kaelthas ability having no further utility, and besides Kaelthas being an Assassin rather than a Healer like the others. It actually might be more compareable to Raynors Raiders in team fights, except that those are up all the time while alive and can scout bushes for you too.
How could Phoenix be better? It could get a lower cooldown again appropriate to its impact, or it could be more impactful by letting the phoenix hit everything in its circle, or the damage could be buffed… or maybe some kind of new utility could be added like Starfall and Divine Reckoning, I don't know, maybe other people are more creative. But as it is, you just throw it down because you have nothing better, but you are never really impressed by it, and it feels really unexciting. If necessary they can also increase the cooldown along with any buffs.
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