Iconic Diablo villain The Butcher has been terrorizing people in Heroes of the Storm since he arrived in the game last week, and not always for the right reasons. Despite being a very cool and well-designed hero, many HOTS players feel that he’s ridiculously overpowered at the moment.
If you take a look on Twitter, for instance, you’ll see a common refrain:
What is it about The Butcher that makes him such a terror? A few different aspects of his character add up to a hero that, when placed in the right hands, is practically impossible to kill by late-game in a given HOTS match.
First there’s his passive trait, Fresh Meat. Whenever The Butcher kills an enemy, they drop a piece of meat (indicated by a small droplet of blood) that he can collect. These units of meat stack on top of one another to make The Butcher increasingly powerful—each one adding 1% to his attack damage. You can also upgrade the trait during a game so that the 1) fresh meat heals The Butcher whenever he collects it, 2) it improves his attack speed as well as his attack damage, and 3) he can collect up to 35 units of meat instead of just 25.
Ok. That’s all context to understand how The Butcher’s fresh meat trait pairs with one of his core abilities: “The Butcher’s Brand.” This is a special attack that marks an enemy target for a few seconds. During that time, any of The Butcher’s attacks on that target will heal him.
Butcher’s Brand is a standard life-steal ability on one level. The trouble with it right now is how it pairs with the Fresh Meat trait. By the end of the game, The Butcher can turn enemy heroes into de facto health potions—killing them while simultaneously recovering from near-death scenarios.
See how this worked for me in a game I played as The Butcher over the weekend. This clip starts with the enemy team’s Sonya character attacking me when I was very low on health. I was pretty sure I was done for...until I activated Butcher’s Brand:
Wowsers. Just look at that life-steal.
I went from almost no health to full health in a matter of seconds, and killed my opponent in the process. That is insane. The man talking in that video is Kotaku reader Smi1ey. He’s been playing HOTS since its early beta stages, and said that he’s never seen anything quite like that.
Butcher’s Brand seems particularly egregious when you lay it on top of the character’s other abilities. Like his unstoppable charge move, which can track a character even when they try and teleport out of the way:
There are counters to The Butcher’s abilities—even the ridiculous ones. Fellow video game writer person Chris Carter suggested to me on Twitter that Butcher’s Brand is “super easy to deny,” and that the unstoppable charge can easily be juked by teleporting away “at the last second.” The Sonya I was fighting this weekend, for instance, should have avoided the fight until my W was on a cooldown. Some players on Reddit agree with his take, saying that people who complain about the life-steal being overpowered don’t realize that they’re really just supposed to run away from it. Also, it’s worth noting that I was two levels ahead of the enemy Sonya you saw me kill, which gave me an extra leg up.
But still: Sonya is supposed to be a friggin’ tank! And I was almost dead. The problem here isn’t that it’s literally impossible to kill The Butcher, or that he has too many hitpoints, deals too much damage per second, or anything like that. It’s that his current character design adds up to something that sure feels like it’s invincible for many players who don’t meet the specific requirements to deal with him yet—be it a proper team build (which can be a hard thing to find, given the game’s matchmaking issues I discussed in my review), counter character pick, or whatever. And that’s not a very fun enemy to play against.
Maybe the Heroes of the Storm community just needs more time to adapt to the guy. But I’m guessing that The Butcher is gonna need some fine-tuning before he really starts to fit in in Heroes. For the time being, we can enjoy him for being the OP god that he is, to quote another Butcher critic on Twitter.
UPDATE (7/8/15): A Heroes of the Storm community manager weighed in on The Butcher’s current balance in a forum thread about this article, saying that the character currently seems to be very well balanced overall (emphasis added):
So, it has been a week since the Butcher has been available to the public. So here’s a little information on how he’s doing overall in the live environment.
According to stats, the Butcher has a positive win rate at lower MMRs. However, when we assess his win rate when looking at higher MMRs, he starts to even out very nicely. The Butcher is just barely under a 50% win rate when looking at average to high level play. Currently, he appears to be nowhere near overpowered or underpowered.
Obviously there is always more to balancing a hero than just win rates, but at a high level, he seems to be looking fine. The dev team will continue to monitor his success (and failures) in the Nexus and tune as necessary, just like the rest of the roster in Heroes of the Storm.
In other words: he’s saying I was wrong, and that he has the stats to prove it. As many commenters here suggested, The Butcher is indeed easy to counter—provided you have the right tools. He’s incredibly vulnerable when faced with any enemy champion who has strong stuns or blinds, for example. These sorts of abilities immobilize him and stop him from dealing damage (or pulling off an insane life-steal like the one I showed) for a few seconds, which is more than enough time for a hero or two to take him out since the guy is super squishy (that’s MOBA-speak for easy to kill).
I’ve begun to appreciate this more and more over the past few days as I’ve continued to play as and against The Butcher, and have noticed players already starting to adapt to the guy by using the tactics I just mentioned. I jumped the gun on this story, and apologize for making a bad judgement call.