There was a time when Humans were indecently winning any single competition and more, usually being 2nd and 3rd places as well.
This was in 2014 though and nowadays, Human players are not smiling anymore.
The latest two patches nerfed at different degrees all the strengths of the Alliance. What did they gain in exchange? How do these balance changes compare with those of the other races?
Among players taking breaks and others changing race, Human players around the world unanimously criticize those changes. Let's go in depth and see what this is all about!
Ah 2014... I am so glad I was not following the pro scene back then! Who wants to see a Human mirror? Or let's say six in a row?
It is pretty much what happened during the World E-sport Championships 2014 in Hangzhou. Four Humans ranked on top, from the gold to the chocolate* medals : Infi, ReprisaL, HawK and Yumiko (* French idiom used to name 4th place finishers.).
TH000 even played Undead for that one, maybe he should not have since he finished in last place. He probably thought then that it would make it for too many humans at the same time?
The Humans nearly had all the top two places of all premier tournaments that year :
Thank you, Lucifer, for ruining a nearly perfect Human family picture!
What were their real strengths before 1.29?
Footmen's defend (capability to support and reflect piercing damage) has been nerfed drastically. The militia duration time has been decreased from 45 to 40 seconds.
Brilliance aura mana regeneration decreased at level 2 and 3.
Upgraded masonry cost has been increased.
Their food count has been increased from 3 to 4.
I could not find any player complaining about the nerf on siege engines ("tanks"). They make for unwatchable lame games most of the time, require little skill to be maneuvered, and are a pain to play against. The upgraded masonry nerf is not a huge deal neither, it is still very strong.
The real issue is that Humans rely on a two-bases play against most races and now that expanding has been proven way harder, if not impossible on some maps and even more so if the map is large, or if your opponent has a Keeper of the Grove or a Far Seer.
The biggest issue Human has faced with the new patch is the the duration of Call to Arms.
If this makes getting an expansion up much easier on small maps like EI or LR (since you can start building faster -ed) it forces Humans to play on one base on larger maps like TM.
I cannot help but thinking that this change only brought a worse balance issue inside the competitive map pool.
With the new patch, setting a second base against any race has become almost impossible due to the nerf applied on the Alliance on tier 1.
We are forced to play useless rifles. Asian Humans usually do not consider playing rifle/casters strategies, so I do not know how they will play on this patch.
I tried to get feedbacks from all scenes and I went through War3station to contact Infi. Known for acting on impulses, Infi did not beat around the bush and decided to play orc full time, even during offline events - something he never did before :
I do not want to talk about Human balance changes anymore. I am an orc player from now on.
HawK has been upset as well, taking a break from a game he feels is broken now.
I will need more than one book to write everything that I think about this patch and what I want to change (...).
And I saw your latest article where you wrote that I focused on WOW now. This is not what I am doing., I do not play Warcraft anymore because this patch is a spit in the face to everyone that plays this game. I am sick of it and have no desire to play.
And do not even get me started on the new elves ballistas and the Lamborghini acolytes!
TH000 is sticking to the Human race for now, but encouraged his fans to change their race on his stream, noting that "the Alliance was doomed".
Actually very few units or heroes received a real buff with the latest two patches. The only exceptions are the gyrocopters obtaining the flak cannons upgrade at Tier 2 with stronger statistics overall. This is the perfect counter to Undeads playing mass destroyers, but does very little against Orcs and Night-Elves.
Water Elementals have an increase attack but less hit points. The MK has a better clap but a weaker bolt (that was nerfed twice in a row).
I did not even mention several meaningful nerfs for the mortar teams, the spell breakers, or priests. I do not want to go overly technical here and I am not saying that those changes are bad per se as we want to see a new meta from humans as well.
It just seems to me, after doing the maths, that Humans were just not given any new options with very little meaningful buffs on their weaknesses.
Although Rifleman and Flying Machine have been buffed, Flying Machine only are a limited option - for aerial dogfight only. The other races also got new things to play with, and the Riflemen haven't been able to break through in the profession scene so far.
About the Mountain King : The Stormbolt ability, I cannot understand why Blizzard chose to nerf his little hammer twice in a row (...) Coil has a longer range than Bolt and can also heal Undead units. Hex costs only 70 mana and can be casted immediately.
The MK does not compare well to those, it takes time before throwing the hammer which means the spell can be cancelled or avoided. His usage in the professional scene might be in question now.
If I could understand one nerf in 1.29, but two in a row?
No way. -Chaemiko
When Humans play on one base they pretty much only have one option : riflemen + casters. And that is what they have been doing, for those who kept playing, like ToD during WGL.
Sure it can work a decent amount of times, especially with their attack speed buff in 1.30, but was not this patch supposed to revolutionize the gameplay? The risk I am seeing here is to have Humans play the same strategy against all races all the time, pretty much what orcs were doing until 1.30.
I've read on social medias that Humans needed to adapt and create new strategies. They are trying, we saw Chaemiko make invisible rifles against Colorful during WGL September, or Sok going Pit Lord 2nd with the sweet new cleaving attack ability. They are trying new things, but overall they rely on riflecasters pushes.
Invisible riflemen from Chaemiko!
I am talking heavily about the pro scene until now, but let's talk about fun and recreational play. Imagine four brothers waiting for their X-mas patch to finally arrive.
Brother has a new Crypt Lord, a new Dreadlord, a new meat wagon, and new necromancers - better way to expand as well.
Brother has a cool Far Seer, fun Serpent Wards he never used before. He can play with big taurens now, building a tauren totem he did not know existed.
Brother is even happier, with his new KotG, he can play with Mountain Giant and taunt everyone with his new toys. His hunteresses place little owls everywhere.
Brother , what did he get? New gyrocopters, a bad orb that is still bad and overall mum and dad took many toys from him. Now he wants to cry, leave the house after punching brother in the face.
Blizzard usually does not undo what they just patched, they only sometimes reduce the changes. That's what happened to the incredibly powerful Healing Spray from the alchemist between 1.29 and 1.30 : the effect was reduced a little but it was still a buff.
So, of course, Blizzard may want to grant a few militia seconds here or be less harsh on the footmen there. But that would not change the gameplay.
I went ahead and asked several Human players what they would change for a patch 1.31 considering they could not undo what was implemented in patch 1.30. Here were several suggestions from them along with some of mine and others found on social media.
While all weak heroes from the other races, as well as most of the neutral ones, were improved, nothing happened to the legendary weak Bloodmage, only used sometimes as a second hero against Orcs or Humans. He can also be seen as first hero against Orc on EI.
With the new banish, the Bloodmage could be used to save his own units. This little scroll of speed effect would be a plus for the gameplay, you could, for example, cast it on a MK to bolt units that are running away. Only by removing the movement speed issue with banish, you could start saving units and your own Bloodmage. At the moment, some players use it this way just to get surrounded.
Flamestrike is currently weak in battle, because you can lose all your mana for a raider, a hex, or a sleep without achieving anything.
For the Paladin, he could be a usable first hero with a better devotion aura.
Both those changes on Bloodmage and Paladin could change the gameplay and improve the resistance of footmen. It could also be an alternative to the AM first tradition.
- Footmen - Defend : Given by default. [HawK, ag3nt]
This skill is worse now and not worth researching, so let's give it by default ?
- Archmage - Animal War Training : The Archmage is the hero with the smallest hp at Tier 3. Let him have +150 hp when Animal War Training is researched, since he rides a horse! [TheGreatWall]
This would help the AM survives the usual hero focus from Orcs and Undeads.
- Dragonhawk Riders - faster Tech : Remove the Arcane Vault requirement for building them. It will allow for an easier aerial play for Humans. [Chaemiko]
A small change for a new meta. Humans rarely play with air units.
- Priests - Mana : Improve their mana regeneration rate [DarkTetine on reddit] or reduce mana cost for healing [HawK]
If brilliance aura is less effective now to have HU players use different starting heroes, priests healing capabilities should be buffed as they poorly regenerate their mana and are currently Brilliance aura's dependent.
- Spell Breakers - Control Magic : Make it available at Tier 2 [ WasD]
Never used skill since when you reach Tier 3, summons become irrelevant or too big to be controlled. At T2, this tech could be viable and help fighting treants most notably.
- Change item drops : Fewer or no more lightning shields, book of the dead, crystal balls. [ag3nt]
The first two can severely cripple HU a lot early on. Humans have the best scouting abilities, so let's not give away such an advantage with a crystal ball.
Let it be clear that this is not a request to implement all those changes. These are just suggestions that would potentially allow for a different meta for the Human race and a better competitiveness. Just calm down before typing in the comment section.
I also asked Remo in which direction he thought the changes should be headed :
What I WOULD like to see is more capability for humans to be able to go tier 3 with one base. That is pretty much impossible on the high level.For that I think the race is lacking a third hero with a strong level 1 spell. Paladin is alright but level 1 holy light is at best decent in the late game. Ideally you would want to be able to add a third hero from the tavern to not have to wait so incredibly long.So perhaps that is something that could be looked towards, take one of the underused tavern heroes (firelord screams out) and change one or two of his skill to the human late game needs. -Remo
My NE vs HU is historically my worst matchup, but I cannot practice it! I barely meet any Human on Netease nowadays... - TheyCallMeOC on Twitch
I will do a follow up to this article on my Twitter later, as I do not have the datas yet from Netease whether or not the amount of Human players decreased with the patch. That is stll the overall feeling at the moment.
With Infi changing race, HawK on a break, and Romantic banned, we could have a real shortage on high level Human players very soon. And with very few high level Undeads, we could have to watch a lot of NvO, OvO and NvN matchups in the next few weeks.
Patch 1.31 is far from being on the way since now Blizzard works intensively on battle.net's architecture with their patch 1.30.2. Let's hope that Human players will be able to wait a little bit longer...
Meme from YoungRichFamouZ ToD, Infi and others facing patch 1.30
- Acknowledgements : I want to express my gratitude to HawK and Chaemiko for taking the time to voice their opinions. Thank you Emoji, LawLiet and Bluetale for contacts and translation.
ag3nt was also a big help, he has a deep knowledge of WC3 mechanics and was actually the first who managed to reproduce the infamous Infi's fast building bug from GCS Summer 2018.
- Disclaimer : I am historically a pure Undead player and have no special interest in making Humans overpowered (that will answer some potential angry comments in advance!).
Let's conclude on wise words :
Well I cannot say what it's like to play human at high level (...) as I am no human player. I am only someone from the outside looking in; and that position is important to remember for anybody who gives their opinion on any balance issue. -Remo
Right when we pressed the "publish button", Matt Morris announced a change for Humans on PTR for this month. Stay tuned!