The major changes of 1.29 revolved around heroes. We've seen some new strategies in tournaments, but what about the average player on Battle.net? Did they adjust to the changes? In this article, we will go over the hero choices that are made every day on Battle.net.
If you haven't read part 1 of the series, check it out here.
As a first exploratory research, I am going to take a look at the relative usage of heroes by race. I will focus on 1vs1 games. If you're interested in learning more about hero usage in team games, let me know. I am planning to dedicate part 4 of this series to team games.
As shown in part 1, we had a lot of new players come to Battle.net with patch 1.29. Since many of those new players probably come from W3Arena (where the average skill level is considered to be higher than on Battle.net) it is possible that these players also bring a different play style. For example, I can imagine less experienced players to go for Paladin more often due to his divine shield. An increase of more experienced players will effectively decrease the relative usage of heroes that are favored by less experienced players.
To account for that, I created a subset of players that have already played on Battle.net before 1.29 was introduced. They are represented by the blue bars in the graphs below. The labels above each bar show the change in percent from 1.28 to 1.29. Orange for the full sample and blue for the smaller sample of players that have played on both patches. The graphs are ordered by the hero used most often in 1.29.
Battle.net Hero Choice on Northrend: Nightelf (1vs1)
Alchemist is used 2.8 times more often. Battle.net veterans have used him 3.6 times more often. However, he is still trumped by all the other tavern heroes except of Firelord and Pit Lord. I was quite surprised by how often Nightelf players on Battle.net use the Keeper in Solo games. We can see that new Battle.net players choose him slightly less often and his use has generally decreased. Priestess of the Moon used to be the 3rd most picked hero, but is now beaten by Panda and Naga.
Let's take a look at first hero choices as well:
Battle.net First Hero Choice on Northrend: Nightelf (1vs1)
Even though Nightelf players choose the Keeper effectively less often, he is being picked as a first hero more often. Warden has lost a couple of points - probably due to the blink nerf.
Battle.net Hero Choice on Northrend: Human (1vs1)
Once again, the most notable change is about the Alchemist. He appears 5.6 times more often in Human Solo games. Seasoned Battle.net players have been a bit less welcoming though - they only pick him 2.8 times more often than before. Even though Mountain King received a buff, he is used slightly less often. Maybe Human players prefer to play Alchemist as second hero. Paladin usage has also dropped. By comparing the changes between new and old players we can say that this is mostly caused by the increase of players. Furthermore, I can also imagine that some players prefer the Alchemist's healing abilities over the Paladin now.
Battle.net First Hero Choice on Northrend: Human (1vs1)
New Battle.net players use Archmage more often as a first hero and Mountain King less often. Other than that, first hero choices haven't change much for Human players.
Battle.net Hero Choice on Northrend: Orc (1vs1)
As expected by RehcraM, Blade Master makes less appearances. Instead, Orc players are picking Farseer more often. Orcs also use the Alchemist more often than before, but they generally prefer Orc heroes. Even though Shadow Hunter received some interesting buffs, his usage has not changed much.
Battle.net First Hero Choice on Northrend: Orc (1vs1)
Since Blade Master and Farseer are usually picked first, this change shouldn't come as a surprise if you've read the paragraph above.
Battle.net Hero Choice on Northrend: Undead (1vs1)
This is an interesting graph. In my opinion, Dread Lord has received some great buffs. However, he is generally used less often on Battle.net than before. However, old Battle.net players are actually using him slightly more often. Crypt Lord has also been buffed but is used less often. It seems that new Battle.net players like him less. Undead players choose the Alchemist more often than before, but he is still just the second last.
Battle.net First Hero Choice on Northrend: Undead (1vs1)
In this graph we can see that old Battle.net players generally use the Crypt Lord as first hero more often than new Battle.net players. However, they are not using him more often than before 1.29. Even though many players seem to be indifferent towards the Dread Lord, Battle.net veterans seem to embrace him more often as first hero due to the changes in 1.29.
The Alchemist has arguably received one of the biggest buffs. If you have followed the competitive scene, you have probably noticed more appearances of this previously underused hero. I think it's safe to say that he has also gained some ground on Battle.net. But how is he actually used? And how successful are players with this hero?
Human players are usually playing the Alchemist with Archmage first. They win about 60% of their games with this combination - not bad! Nightelfs choose Alchemist as a 2nd hero with Demon Hunter first - 56% win rate. Orcs and Undeads prefer the Alchemist as 3rd hero (BM, SH, Alchemist or DK, Lich, Alchemist). These tri-hero combos are very powerful and win about 66% of their games each. However, the Alchemist wins less than 50% of his games if he is picked as first or even solo hero.
We've seen that the introduction of 1.29 has caused quite some movement on Battle.net. To be fair, there are many shifts towards certain heroes that I cannot really explain. Of course, there is always some variance - even with such a large sample. The biggest winner has probably been the Alchemist, but other heroes are still used way more often by the average Battle.net player. Even though I haven't seen the Farseer much in competitive games, he has gained some ground on Battle.net as a solid first hero. Same goes for the Keeper. Furthermore, I was expecting Undead players to use the heroes that received a buff more often. Maybe the changes are not as good as I expected or Undead players need more time to adjust. After all, my sample does not encompass all the time that has passed since the patch was released.
If you have any questions about this article, let me know. In part 3 of this series, I will break down race statistics. So stay tuned!