With patch 1.29 announced and the Warcraft 3 Invitational starting in just a few days the entire community seems ecstatic for the nearby future of the game. But what will change once the hype settles? Will the patch have any impact on the game's strategies or will we just loop back to what has been played for the past several years?
The goal of this article is to reflect over the balance changes and prepare the ground for even more speculation and healthy discussion in the community. Some of my prediction may be very bold and turn out to be completely incorrect, but hey, isn't that the delightful part of pre-patch speculations?
Instead of looking at the actual changes one-by-one I'll be looking at some of the matchups, where I think there is a chance of things being shaken up.
First of: Night Elf vs. Orc:
I think the meta in this particular matchup is quite likely to change due to several reasons. The most obvious one being the change to Blademaster's critical strike. In order to fight the Night Elf's horde of Cycloning Talon's, Orc players have had to capitalize as much as possible before the Talon's had their Master upgrade finished. This meant taking control of the map and make sure to have some good camps crept. The items gained and experience on Blademaster will, however, no longer favor the Orc as much as it used to, as the damage output for a well-crept Blademaster with good items is significantly lower than it used to be. Hence the change may very well give them a push to become the favored in the matchup if nothing changes.
So, what can Orc's do to change this? Well, luckily for them another change will come, which may very well come in handy. Far Seer's Feral Wolves now have 250 hit points instead of 200. This is a quite significant buff, and particularly because a single wolf no longer dies to a Wisp's detonate (which deals 225 damage to summoned units). This will make early game harass much more inconvenient for the Night Elf player. Though this kind of harass won't win you the spot, it will definitely hurt the Night Elf's wood income, which will (if successfully executed) delay their tech a substantial amount.
If this established scenario with Far Seer as a first pick becomes a reality, another thing may change the course of the matchup. Because will Night Elf even need to use Druid of the Talon if they are not facing a Blademaster that needs constant Cycloning? I think that is very doubtful. So they might very well turn to use Bears and Dryads.
Moving right along; let's talk a bit about Undead vs. Human:
An interesting change that was made to Dread Lord was, that the Carrion Swarm now will be able to target mechanical units. To fend of the Human's Siege Engines and Flying Machines Undead have been using Panda. But will The new Carrion Swam make Dread Lord preferred for this purpose? Let's have a look at the numbers!
The first thing that springs to eye is the 30 extra mana that Carrion Swarm costs. Though Dread Lord initially does have a larger mana pool, it is that much more mana that will need to be regenerated once it's depleted.
Another thing that benefits Breath of Fire over Carrion Swarm is its ability to hit structures. This is especially quite meaningful against Human because they have a tendency to get a lot of towers against Undead.
The by far biggest issue with Carrion Swarm is, however, the damage limit. If we for a second imagine the very likely scenario of your Destroyers being charged at by an army of Flying Machines: Your Panda will only have to hit five Flying Machines with Breath of Fire in order to that being a superior spell against them. Hitting more than five flying machines hardly seem unlikely to me.
Because of this I find that Panda will still be the better hero for Undead to opt for against Human players.
On a related note I find it unlikely that Dread Lord as a first hero will become meta in any matchup. Death Knight is simply too great a starting hero. As a cheesy strategy Dread Lord ghoul rush will, however, still be extremely deadly for the unexpecting opponent!
Undead vs. Orc
This is another matchup where I am super excited to see how the meta will pan out. I think it's highly unlikely that Orc still wants to take it to take it to late tier 3 against Undead. Both because of the Blademaster nerf, but also because of the buff that Dread Lord's sleep got, which will help Undead locking Blademaster down and hence delaying his damage output.
Instead I think we'll see a lot more aggression from the Orc's side at tier 2. Due to the former mentioned Dread Lord buff, I deem it very likely that the Orc will start playing Far Seer and Tauren Chieftain instead of the regular Blademaster, Shadow Hunter, Tauren Chieftain composition.
Orc vs. Human
I think very little change in this matchup, or at least the changes will be somewhat delicate. I still think Orc's will play Blademaster, as nobody generally gets to creep all that much in this matchup anyway. Therefor the nerf won't affect Blademaster nearly as much. Also I find that Humans have the tools to deal with Far Seer quite effectively in the early game.
What I hope to see, is that Human's want be as inclined to do an early tier 2 towerpush. What might change this is the buff to Mountain King's Thunder Clap. The buff is quite significant on level 2 and 3, which could be quite impactful against the Orc army. This may make it more attractive for Human to slow the pace of the game down a bit and take the time to level up Mountain King.
I know I stated that I would be looking at specific matchups, but there is one hero that I would like to talk about specifically; Goblin Alchemist.
This is a hero that I before the patch had found to be quite underappreciated. I definitely think he'll have his time in the limelight now, though! When I initially saw the changes to Healing Spray I must admit I underestimated it slightly. I thought it would just allow you to avoid some awkward situations, where you accidentally healed the opponent's units. After play-testing it on the Public Test Realm, I have found that it actually allows you to be significantly less careful while using compared to before, which can help your vanguard a lot.
The other change that Alchemist received was the damage buff to Acid Bomb. If I'm being completely honest, I'm actually not certain why they decided to do this, as Acid Bomb already was a great ability - but I certainly won't complain about buffs to the goblin and his brute.
Even though I've praised him quite highly he still has one glaring issue, which makes it super difficult to play him as a first hero; his armor.
Comparing his amount of armor with other Tavern heroes really exposes his main weakness. It makes it that much harder to creep early on, and skirmishes with the opponent can be devastating.
Overall I think Goblin Alchemist definitely will have his place in certain games, where you are expecting a big fight coming. The impact a level 2 Alchemist can have with Healing Spray and Acid Bomb is simply too big to ignore, and I am excited to see him being played!
That was some of my thoughts on what's going to change. What do you guys think will change once 1.29 goes live?
I hope you all will be watching the upcoming Blizzard event, where we will see some of the game's very elite playing around with the patch! I hope you enjoyed the article, and don't forget to 'Bob and weave, you fool!'.