Short introduction: my name is Haeth, I am a master player on EU and Whitemane is my
second most played character after Auriel. I am posting this thread in solidarity with Anemone and their Holy Crusade against the Unholy Rework.
Ever since I saw the release trailer for Whitemane I had become infatuated with both the flavor of the hero and her gameplay possibilities. A healer that interacts with the enemy team in order to heal the teammates? Count me in! An abundance of buttons that interact with each other in multiple ways and should be used in a different order to accomodate for the situation? Hell yes! The original design of Whitemane was a masterpiece in terms of engaging and rewarding gameplay and feeling like you're interacting with the game 100%. Unfortunately, this original feelings is completely gone after the recent rework and I want to explain why Whitemane doesn't feel like Whitemane anymore.
1. "The Level 4 problem".
It is true that Whitemane had an issue with her level 4 talents, because all of them were basically different ways of dealing with Desperation. So no matter how much you change them, there was always going to be a clear winner, that allows for most efficiency, and therefore the other talents on the tier would always be obsolete. However, having a mechanic that allows you to deal with Desperation stacks through micromanagement was a core part of the hero's identity. With > you would have to memorize patterns like "Q-Q-Q-1-Q-Q-Q" (Healing your team to maximum after 16, when the team is doing the boss; it would proc your > twice, and it would give you some of the mana back with clemency), or "Q-Q-Q-E-W" (That's for the E-build. Burst healing a teammate, then rooting someone to land both of the E charges, so you get your mana back), or "Q-1" to actively regenerate some mana through Clemency and High Inquisitor when you're out of fight. All of this would give you a considerable amount of agency over your resources and would reward experienced Whitemane players who knew how to manage their mana.
Now, I know the developers have stated that one of the goals of the rework was to deal with this level 4 problem, and create talent diversity, but outright removing an entire layer of mana-regenerating mechanics feelings like amputating a finger when you get a splinter stuck in it. Yes, you've dealt with the mana restoration talents all right. Because there aren't any anymore. You can't be rewarded for knowing how to manage your resources, because there is almost no resource management now. You simply run out of mana if you spam your Q, and there is no way you're getting it back. So, not only this is less gameplay depth than before, this always feels terrible, as if the game was punishing you for pressing your buttons.
2. Loss of Fanatical Power and burst damage.
If you look at the most picked healers in masters, those are always characters that can do something besides healing, characters that have carrying potential. Stukov because of his silence, displacement, slow and root combo, Malfurion because of his root and silence, Tyrande because of her stuns. Now, what does Whitemane have to offer besides her healing? Her hidden strength used to lie in the ability to turn around on an insolent Valla or Li Ming and show them who's the inquisitor in the house. It wasn't easy to execute and it required practice and game knowledge, so that you can choose a good moment and make yourself expose with the negative armor. The full late game combo used to look something like QonSelf-Fanatical Power-Purge the Wicked-R-E-W, it was important to get a Zeal on yourself, so you would get healed from the damage, it was important to place the damage ult and the armor debuff before the W cast, because you couldn't cast anything during it, and it was important to land your E and W correctly, so that you root the opponent in the middle of your ult. It was a sight to behold, Whitemane burning heretics with Holy Light while laughing like a maniac. This is, of course, not possible anymore. At least, not fully possible. You could still try to burn someome with the ult and the root, but it's not as bursty, and you can't root 2 people anymore. The team fight carrying potential is gone.
3. The new AA build is counter-intuitive and promotes bad gameplay
A while ago, in one of the AMA threads, I saw a dev's post that explained how they choose which characters in the game become auto-attackers and which become mages. And I remember it being something along the lines of "AA heroes use practical weapons like bows, rifles and swords". While it's a minor point by itself, I think it does contribute to the AA build on Whitemane feeling like it doesn't belong there. Having a frail lady with a magic staff rely on the same gameplay principle as Tyrande or Raynor just doesn't feel right. It doesn't feel like you're doing damage, even if the numbers are high, it always feels like you're tickling your enemies.
Besides that, when you're using the AA build, it actually mathematically makes sense to almost never use your most iconic ability, your W, because it makes you miss out on healing per second and extending the duration of Zeal. That's right, it forces you to not use the ability with the iconic laughter. And when you want to root someone, you actually need to CANCEL your W as soon as it lands, so that the root goes through, but you don't miss out on healing and can continue stutter-stepping. It's not an intuitive thing to do for Whitemane, and it punishes you for channeling your ability. It is worth pointing out that almost no auto-attack heroes in this game in general have combat channeled abilities, as it would interfer with their playstyle.
Another issue with the auto-attack build is that, unlike Tyrande, who can get her healing through and then hide in the back line, sacrificing her CDR, you are actually forced to be auto-attacking the enemy in order to get your healing through, which puts you at risk and leaves you open for the enemy to CC you and burst you down. This build works pretty well in lower leagues, where people don't focus one target, but it's pretty much impossible to get full value out of it in masters, where people will punish bad positioning very quickly.
4. Early game weakness and lack of agency
It used to be the case that you would tell your teammates to not "go yolo" until level 4, because that's when you would get your primary power spike, that would allow you to manage your mana and have the opportunity to heal your teammates in quick bursts whenever they would get in trouble. In her current iteration, Whitemane does not have an early game power spike like that, and she is stuck being OOM after every random brawl that occurs between the teams. You are pretty much forced to make a choice between saving someone and not having to go back to base, which makes your early strategy pretty one-dimensional. It's a choice between healing a little bit, and spending all your mana. In both cases, you lack agency over team fights, and you are forced to just hope your teammates can do all the work for you. This issue is, of course, heavily exacerbated by the loss of Fatatical Power that would often serve you as a "panic button", and would allow for calculated risk plays even in the early game.
5. New abilities and talents feel unrewarding and bad to use
- Clemency costs 75 mana and is usually not worth it, even to remove one stack of Desperation.
- The level 1 stacking talent is irrelevant both in the early game due to how little it provides, and also in the late game when the amount of mana you have doesn't affect anything. From my experience, you get 150 stacks on average, which is not that much value anyway.
- The new Fanatical Power seems like a trap talent, that isn't all that useful at level 20. If you use it on a split-pusher, you still need to somehow be dealing damage to the enemy team in order for it to be useful. It makes little sense to use it on anyone else too, because you can just Q them and then extend the duration with AA anyway.
- Level 13 talents seem to be very unequal. Saintly Greatstaff is the only one that provides direct guaranteed healing value. Having to choose between reducing enemy damage and healing allies for more feels like a frustrating choice. A similiar situation appears on level 16 when you get offered a root, which forces you to pass on talents that provide more healing.
So, my inevitable conclusion is that, Whitemane has unfortunately been reduced to being a very one-dimensional hero that offers bad choices, has very little gameplay depth, frustratingly little playmaking ability and overall doesn't feel like her old self anymore. The rework was too drastic of a change, and I don't believe she needed a full-fledged rework to begin with. I consider her initial design to be almost perfect in terms of depth and fantasy, and her only real design flaw was uneven level 1 and 4 talents. This rework has obviously solved that issue, but the cost that was paid is too much. If I may say so, it is very much like blowing up your entire house to get rid of a big spider in your kitchen.
TL;DR: The rework is too drastic and was not needed. Her initial design was good, and there was no reason to change it so much in the first place. Whitemane lost depth because the new mechanics are simplistic and don't allow for playmaking anymore.
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