Thank the benevolent Heroes of the Storm balance team gods. The iconic Warcraft villain Kael’Thas’s reign of terror in Blizzard’s new MOBA is finally coming to an end.
Blizzard dropped a ton of new content and changes to existing content into the public beta version of Heroes of the Storm (known as the “public test realm,” or PTR for short) last night. And while juicy new additions like the Diablo III Monk character Khazarim and another playable grabbed many people’s attention, experienced Heroes players zeroed in on some small but very important details about the fire-casting mage Kael’Thas. Specifically, the ways they’re trying to nerf him.
Kael’Thas has been an incredibly powerful ranged assassin since he arrived in HOTS at the beginning of this summer. Whether or not he’s technically overpowered was up for debate for a while, though, likely because of three main factors:
- He’s relatively weak and easy to kill hitpoint-wise like most of the game’s assassins.
- He only becomes monstrously powerful if you level him up a specific way.
- Also like many assassins, he requires a good team composition and a skilled player to reach his full potential.
All those factors aside, Kael’Thas was starting to seem more than a little ridiculous given the amount of damage he’s able to pump out in a given game. Take, for example, this stats breakdown from the end of a recent match I played with a Kael’Thas on my team. Look at how his damage compares to everyone else’s in the game:
Granted, we were winning by an impressive margin, and the Kael’Thas player on my team is currently rank 1 (the highest rank one can achieve in the game’s competitive “Hero League” mode). But still: He dealt almost twice the damage anyone else in the game did!
What makes Kael’Thas so powerful? A few key factors, the biggest of which is the way that two of his different abilities pair with one another right now. He has two different basic fire attacks in the game. Living bomb, which sets a person on fire, dealing persistent fire damage before exploding on them:
And flamestrike, which creates a small circle of flame after a short charge-up period:
Both of these are already powerful abilities. But when Kael’Thas hits level 16, he’s been able to select an upgrade that applies living bomb to any target hit by a flamestrike...without even casting that ability separately. It can be made even more powerful when Kael’Thas uses his trait (an active or passive ability each HOTS character has and can use by pressing “D”), which amplifies the power of whatever spell he casts after activating it.
The unlockable-at-level-16 upgrade to Flamestrike has made Kael’Thas a nightmare to go against in late-game team fights, when everyone is literally fighting for their lives and doing their best to survive with as low health as possible.
In their extensive patch notes, Blizzard said that they’re now removing the offending trait from Kael’thas’s ability kit, and instead replacing it with one that casts a second flamestrike—which only happens after another delay giving you time to dodge it.
Players who’ve tried out the altered mage on PTR already say that the nerf hasn’t actually done any significant harm to Kael in the process. Instead, it’s made him”really solid without being the OP monster we all know him as right now,” as one player put it on Reddit.
It’s better to apply minor changes like this to a MOBA character than a ton of major alterations at once that might end up nerfing him into the ground, which is how character nerfs can (often) go awry in games like Heroes. This way, I’ll still be glad to see Kael’Thas on my team...but won’t be terrified to see him on the other team.