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Analysis of ToD's The ULTIMATE Feedback, Balance Video

15.12.18 | UgriWC3 3366

Introduction

On December 11th, ToD expressed, once again, his frustration with the Keeper of The Grove on Twitter. Matt Morris, Lead Designer at Blizzard's Classic Department, actually answered him, asking for more detailed feedback.

ToD delivered by uploading a quality video detailing his point of view about the current (im)balance. Specifically the meta he perceives to exist in favour of the Night Elf race.

The video itself is worth an article as it covers various points, some of which you may contest even - so please do watch it. However, apart from running though the main points, I want to focus on the process of taking feedback itself, and two example angles that are also relevant for this current patch potentially.

First then, without further introduction, here is the video : "Warcraft III current balance: THE ULTIMATE FEEDBACK" by ToD - and respect to his passion and effort!

Origins story

It all began on a Sunday afternoon; after ToD lost yet another game against Sonik. He took to Twitter to express his frustration with the Keeper of the Grove (KOTG), also tagging Matt Morris, the man mostly in charge of balance updates for Warcraft III.

To my surprise (and likely ToD himself), Matt replied, asking for more detailed feedback. ToD delivered with a 24 minutes video.

First - The Video itself

Opinion guide: To save time, I will also highlight my own perspective on these topics via Color code: I agree, I disagree,  I do not know.

Sonik vs ToD

The intro shows a few clips of the game played on Turtle Rock. We see Sonik losing his heroes several times, harassing with his KotG, then winning the game. The video of this game is not uploaded on YouTube so it is impossible to determine if ToD lost to imbalance or due to his own mistakes.

Patch notes (link):

I will not go into the details of each balance change showed in this segment, but overall yes, even the most dishonest NE usually recognizes that his race has been buffed in 1.30, while HU has been nerfed. KotG, Moon Wells, Huntresses, Archers, Mountain Giants and Glaives were drastically buffed.
We detailed the HU balance changes in this article, the only real buffs were for the riflemen attack speed and flying machines to deal with destroyers.

Entangle imbalance (link):

Here ToD focuses on the NvH matchup only, but overall, entangle duration is so long that you are bound to lose unit after unit early game. The fact that the entangled unit cannot attack makes it even worse. ToD states you need to wait for priests with adept training to get some dispel, but we of course also know Troll Priests are becoming popular for this purpose as well.

It is also true that even late game, dispel is not always an easy option for Humans and Orcs with wisps detonating and removing all the mana of priests and spirit walkers. What made it worse for Humans was the nerf on the brilliance aura.

Note: Priest mana regeneration rate has been increased in 1.30.2 while entangle duration has been reduced a little. Just one second on level 2 and 3 though, that will not affect the early game.

WGL Qualifier - Foggy vs ToD (link):

ToD aims to show the KotG imbalance through his series against Foggy during WGL Europe Qualifier. He takes down the Ukrainian army early, sniping a zeppelin, but still lost the game. I feel it makes more sense to just watch that game casted by Neo though.

"Hinderburgest" was Neo's comment about the incident, with Foggy down to 26 food after losing his zeppelin. His army was composed of the Alchemist, 3 archers and a dryad (14 food).

ToD counterattacks with AM/Naga, 5 riflemen and two priests, that is only 29 food. After one minute of siege, Foggy has already two dryads and a bear (20 food) and has killed two riflemen thanks to entangle and acid bomb. So ToD is down to 23 food and is fighting in his opponent base. Then both get reinforcements but the Frenchman has no TP and doesn't manage to load his damaged units in the zeppelin. He loses three riflemen and a troll priest for his efforts.

Then during the final battle, ToD is confused by the bear illusions and focus on them, even loses his naga chasing a bear. At this point he is not in the lead anymore and loses the game a few minutes later, running into a corner without a TP, his heroes getting caught out of position and falling to the enemy.

Overall I disagree that Foggy's victory was solely due to the strength of the KotG/Alchemist. After taking down the zeppelin, it seemed like ToD lost his grip on the game - losing multiple units and heroes due to his own mistakes. As Neo suggested, he could have creeped, leveled up his heroes and capitalize on his early advantage. It seemed to me that ToD tried to rush too fast to victory. Entangle did show it's strength in allowing Foggy to pick off unit after unit, but it's not like ToD did not know about the strength of this spell before deciding a siege was his choice.

To admit some broader context to this though, an Undead losing 14 food early game can just type GG and leave. Some races can handle early blunders better than others. 

Interesting note on this point - Foggy disagreed on twitter about the video. It's quite rare to see Foggy argue on social medias.

WGL Shanghai results / TH000 elimination (link):

I think that this is the weakest point of the video. TH000 was eliminated in the group stage for sure but ToD fails to mention that:

  • TH000 demolished Neytpoh [2-0]
  • This group had one former winner (TH000) and two former finalists (Lyn and Foggy). Only two of them could qualify.
  • TH000 did not practice Human too much as he was upset with the patch.
  • Foggy had beaten TH000 multiple times in the past during WGL: Fall 2016Summer 2017, Winter 2017 in the group stage, before losing [3-4] in the finals. This is far from being unprecedented and you cannot just blame the patch as the sole reason for TH000's elimination.

Foggy versus Infi semi finals - MG imbalance (link):

Foggy had never beaten Infi offline in the past, even losing [0-3] in the quarter finals last season.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that Foggy cannot beat Infi offline at all. The point made about MG is totally accurate though I feel. They take forever to kill, they have endless taunts, they have huge siege damage with clubs, they can be staffed... but worst of all, they can be instantly healed by the Alchemist or at the fountain on Concealed Hills - and let's not get into KOTG's ultimate in this context neither...

As Foggy stated, it is true that HawK had probably the best counter to MGs with his strategy (AM/Alch/MK riflecasters with knights later on). That does not mean that MG should not be nerfed. They totally should and apparently will be next patch.

Note: Infi demolished Colorful [3-0] playing Human in the quarter finals. It's not like this patch is making a weak NvH player very strong all of a sudden.

Players offracing NE - TH000 [28-5] Fly100% (link):

Fly practiced with TH000 before facing Moon in the quarter finals. We know that TH000 is strong with any race, but he should not be able to beat the best Chinese Orc in history [28-5], a stunning 84% winrate!

Lyn and Fly100% were simply bullied out of the playoffs by Moon, and then Lyn was easily defeated by Infi, playing NE, in their match for 3rd. Infi wanted to make a point to Blizzard (and a few people who had been talking at that point), showing how easy it was for a NE to just mass Tier 1 units with a KotG and overwhelm any Orc. NvO is probably the most imbalanced matchup nowadays.

Classifying Infi as NE (link):

Infi played NE twice and only when facing Orcs during the tournament, against Cash and Lyn. He played UD once in a goofy game against pcg. For all the rest of his matches he played Human, beating 3 NE Sonik, Colorful, Zhou_Xixi with his main race, without dropping a single map.

Patch 1.30.2 changes are "not enough" (link):

Those changes do focus on the NvH matchup. I agree that Brilliance Aura buff at level 3 is quite irrelevant since you use this aura only when reaching level 7.

Priests and Spell Breakers are buffed however, while the KotG, Huntresses, Glaives are nerfed.

I feel we need to see more of this patch to state that these changes are not enough to balance the NvH matchup.  There is also the devotion aura buff that Blizzard forgot to include in the patch notes (what a blunder!).

Nothing in this patch will really help orcs against NE however, except for the sentinel upgrade not being for free anymore.

Requesting a Blademaster nerf (link):

If you nerf the Blademaster now, it will for sure help Humans against Orcs but do they need any help in that matchup? I do not feel Orcs are dominating Humans in an unfair fashion at all nowadays.

And Orcs are struggling so much against Night Elves now, all matchups must be considered before buffing or nerfing anything. Moreover, the BM has already been nerfed twice (critical strike and agility).

 

Non-partisan feedback

I feel this is very challenging for Blizzard to receive genuine non-partisan feedback. Two years ago when I was first asked to contact players to get their balance changes suggestions, only one suggested a nerf on his own race. It was TH000, then suggesting to increase tank's food cost.

Asking feedback from players, whether they are professionals or amateurs, seems to always end up in a buff for their own race or a nerf for a matchup in which they struggle. Furthermore, the suggestions tend to focus on a single matchup rather than the impact on the 3-race balancing-act that is Warcraft 3.

Patch 1.30.2 tried to take the Humans players complains into account. Through ToD, Infi, HawK and TH000, Human players are lucky to have leaders who are very vocal on social media. They do not hesitate to point fingers at Blizzard's mistakes. But, I think it is really too early to tell if the NvH matchup is still imbalanced. 

Why did Blizzard nerf HU so much with their previous patches? I do not know which feedback they used. Patch 1.30.2 was absolutely an effort to listen to those HU players however.

 

Orcs are in need

This was to me the biggest lesson learned at WGL. Orcs cannot beat a NE Tier 1 army with a single KotG hero, whatever they try. 

It seems relevant to point out how the best Orc players globally are more introverted, especially compared to the Human pro's mentioned above: Fly100%, Lyn, FoCuS or even Cash are not the kind to bluntly point fingers at Blizzard for their patches.

I hope that the Classic team watched Moon v Fly100%, Infi v Lyn and Moon v Lyn during WGL. Moon is a legend but would never have won [6-1] against Fly100% and Lyn under a previous patch.

 

What about Undead?

Maybe this is a habit we should not focus on too much, but the weakest race of the tournament was not the Human race, but the Undead.

Here I want to point out once again how difficult it is to balance this game. Historically, Night Elf has always been the most played race in the world, especially in Korea. This is probably Moon's effect - I do not know. So having more NE qualifying for the final stages of tournaments does not really mean that this race is the strongest per se.

In contrast, Undead has been underplayed ever since the likes of MaDFroG, FoV and Sweet retired.

There are not that many Undead players anymore. However, 120 showed that without any new patch, he could win two Golden Leagues consecutively - so was Undead that bad in the first place? Happy cannot seem to lose to any major European nor Korean player whenever he plays a showmatch or a tournament.

At this point I am bias as well, but I consider UD may need a buff or some new strategic options.

But surely no patch would make pcg or tbcbm world class players yet. Competitively wise, there are only three players that can perform with this race: 120, WFZ and Lucifer. No patch is going to change that anytime soon.

 

Outcome wanted

What remains clear is that Warcraft 3 balance is a very tricky business. Change one element, and an unrelated matchup may suddenly turn on its head. Inject a new idea to invigorate the game's meta, and half the community finds fault on both sides of the good and bad consequences of such. Considering ToD's magnificent video for yourself, what do you think the next move should be patch-wise? Are we asking for too many things at once? Is there an obvious solution? 

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