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Were the Human Nerfs a Mistake?

13.11.18 | RehcraM 24106

Introduction

Balance is one of the most discussed subjects in pretty much any PvP game - ours is no exception. The discussion frequently revolves around what races should be nerfed/buffed, but rarely dwells too much on what specifics should be changed, and even more seldomly why. How to go about balancing is very important, and I believe Blizzard may have slipped up with the recent patch.

In this article I'll be handling this rather controversial subject with the premise that Human in 1.28 was too strong and should be nerfed, although this is (as always) up for discussion.

The Changes

Patch 1.29 and 1.30 brought many changes. As I only will have my focus on two of them, I won't bore you by reeling the entire thing up. If you want to read more about the changes, I'll refer you to the following articles:

  1. Patch 1.29 is LIVE!
  2. Warcraft 3 Patch 1.30 - Highlights and First Impressions!
  3. PTR Update - Patch 1.30

There was a ton of confusion regarding Defend when the patch notes were released. The only lasting change was that 'Defend would consistently reflects damage from piercing attacks again', but what does that even mean?

Apparently there had been a bug with the coding of Defend, meaning some Piercing attacks would just vanish into thin air. Of course abilities should work as stated in the tool tip, but this bug fix turned out to be a rather harsh nerf for Defend, as shown with testing done by Reddit user /u/ambrashura.

The second nerf I want to touch on is Miltia's duration being changed from 45s to 40s. Perhaps seeming rather innocent at first glance, this change has had a major impact to the early game of Human. Affecting both creep routes and early expansions, making these much harder to achieve and, on some maps, close to impossible to work.


ToD v NightEnD  WGL:W 2018 EU Qualifier (1.30)

As earlier stated, the article's premise is that Human was too strong on patch 1.28, so why is it something to get worked up about and why do I think these nerfs was a mistake? There are two main reasons to this.

Reason #1 - Uniqueness To Each Race

With the nerfs we also saw a buff to Riflemen, specifically lowering their attack cooldown and thus giving them more damage per second (DpS). So maybe hindering Human's fast expansion possibilities was intended to push for more tier 2 heavy strategies like Riflemen/Caster timing attacks.

I think it's a shame if this is the case. Each race having their own traits is, in my opinion, very important. It makes for more diversity, and gives each matchup a distinct flavour, when races are unique with different styles of play, mechanics, strength and weaknesses. If every race gets the same set of tools, then the meta will devolve into pure optimization.

I'm putting it far on the edge, I know. My point is that Humans fast expanding in order to afford their expensive tier 3 has been a core part of their flavour. Playing on the back foot in the early stages of the game until you are able to strike make with a devastating amount of pressure is something I've always associated with Human.

Right now fast expanding against NE is pretty much suicide, perhaps with the exception of maps like TS. That is, of course, also a ramification of the current power of NE's early game, so I can't put all the blame on Militia/Defend. But even still, it's becoming more common for Humans to opt out fast expansion against UD as well. I think this is a shame.


Romantic v 120 GCS:W 2017 (patch 1.28) 

Reason #2 - Beginner Friendliness

Alright, so what if fast expansion stay meta and a central part of the Human strategy répertoire but we are still toning down the Human early game to make expanding more difficult.

I think this is still a problem since balancing should cater to players of all levels -- both the most competitive and the newcomers. Making fast expansions should most definitely not be a walk in the park that you suffer no losses/delay from, but it should still be feasible to fast expand even if you don't perform the act to perfection. I want beginning players to be able to look at a replay of a pro player and try mimicking him without being obliterated within <4 minutes by an equal opponent 

With balance changes you are likely to fall into one of two ditches:

  1. Making fast expanding too difficult for new players
  2. Making fast expanding too easy for veteran players

Personally I'd rather want to see securing an expansion leaning towards being a bit too easy rather than a bit too hard, and then compensate by reducing the power of Human's late game rather than early game.

Epilogue

I find that it's a difficult subject. Both because it's such a controversial matter and because balance philosophy is quite intangible.

Maybe the Human players just need to find their spot again in the meta - cracking the riddle that is the meta. The changes have definitely led to some interesting strategies as seen in this replay between Infi and 120

As always, I'm curious to hear your thoughts, so please share your opinion with the rest of us!

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