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On "Assassins of the Storm"

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Samuro, Varian, Ragnaros, Zul'jin and now Valeera. That's five assassins from the Warcraft universe that were added to the game one after another. The community wasn't very pleased with how the Warcraft heroes have been preferred lately and Game Designer Centaurik wrote a long post explaining their hero choices, admitting that they overdid it with assassins, promising more Hero diversity in 2017.

TL;DR

  • Expect more hero diversity introduced in 2017. There will definitely be more support heroes.
  • The team has a fixed hero release schedule that allows to bring in a new hero every three or four weeks, but at the same time there's little room for reshuffling, as the hero development process starts 9 to 12 months before release.
  • Samuro was considered one of the first heroes to be added to the game and after two years he got released.
  • Varian was considered to be a Gladiator archetype, which was then renamed to Multi-Class.
  • Ragnaros was a Specialist (Core-Replacement hero) first, designed to influence the battlefield from afar, but was redesigned to what we see today.
  • Zul'jin was added, because a Sustained Range Attacker was not added to the game for quite some time.
  • Even though the latest hero releases are all assassins, they offer a very different experience, e.g. Valeera is very different from existing assassins and you'll need to figure out how to effectively use her combo mechanics and strike foes from the shadows.

Blizzard LogoCentaurik

We’ve seen a lot of discussions about our recent hero releases in the community lately, and we agree that we definitely overdid it a little bit with the Warcraft assassins over the past few months. I wanted to step into this thread to say thank you for sharing your feedback on this with us, and to hopefully give you a little more context into how we wound up with what’s happened.

Something that’s important to consider is that our development process for each hero starts nine months to a full year ahead of their planned release dates. After a certain point in the pipeline it becomes very difficult to shuffle heroes around without slipping on our goal of putting a new hero into your hands every three to four weeks. By the time we took a step back and said “You know, we sure have released a lot of assassins lately…” we were well past the point where we could change things up. :-(

First up was Samuro, whom this team has been wanting to do for over 2 years, and we were finally in a place we could ship him. Awesome! Next up we had Varian. He was what we had labeled a “Gladiator” archetype, which would later be renamed to Multi-Class (as we felt it was more true to what it meant).

Next up was Ragnaros. Originally, we had pitched him as a Core-Replacement Hero, who would influence the battlefield from afar. Something we had penciled in as a Specialist. About 2 months into development, however, we moved away from that design to the Ragnaros you know today. We considered leaving him a Specialist, but thought his role as a Bruiser would be more accurately reflected as Assassin, a la Thrall.

A while after we were into Rag and Varian design, we realized that Zul’jin would make an excellent addition, as we hadn’t added a Sustained Ranged Attacker to the game in quite some time. However, we realized we now had 4 Warcraft Heroes in a row. We decided to stick with it, due to what kind of flexibility we had (or really, didn’t have) in maneuvering the schedule. 

About 3 months after we had started work on the next set of Heroes to follow Zul’jin, we had to shuffle up Valeera to follow Zul’jin first, due the needs of the team as a whole. At the time, we didn’t pause to consider the ramifications of what it would mean as a player experience, in terms of getting a diverse roster of Heroes in regards to our Archetype definitions and our Universes. 

At the time, we were looking at the Heroes, and from a very Game Designer view, we saw this:
  • Stealthed 3-Card-Monté assassin
  • Multi-Class Hero: Warrior, Bruiser, Dive Assassin
  • Bruiser with Heavy Map Implications
  • Sustained Ranged Attacker
  • Enemy Carry Disabler


Now, while to us that’s 5 very different experiences (and in fact a new role in the form of a Hero that focuses on Disabling a team’s primary damage), in the current Heroes Archetype listing, that’s 5 Heroes that can be called “Assassin”. 

We realize that unleashing so many Warcraft assassins back to back wasn’t the best decision in terms of hero diversity, and isn’t quite as exciting for those of you who don’t necessarily enjoy assassins as much as the other roles. 

However, once you’ve had the chance to try out Valeera, we’re confident you’ll find her playstyle is pretty different from our other assassins. Internally, we’ve had a blast striking from the shadows and figuring out all of the various ways to use her combo mechanics effectively, and we hope that you’ll find her just as fun to play as we do. 

We know there are also some of you who have concerns about another stealth hero joining the Nexus so soon after Samuro’s release. Valeera has undergone many rounds of playtesting and iteration, and one of our primary focuses was on not only how much fun it is to play as her, but how it feels to play against her as well. We think we’ve reached a nice middle ground, and we’d love to hear your thoughts after you’ve played a few games with and against the rogue.

Now that Valeera is out in the wild, we think you’re going to be pretty happy with the rest of the heroes we have planned for 2017. The feedback you, the community, has provided us has greatly influenced our planning. You can definitely expect more diversity in terms of both role and universe compared to 2016. I would hope that in January of 2018, we’ll be able to look back and see a much wider offering of Heroes (including, yes, Supports!). 

We can’t wait to show you what we have in store! Thank you so much for continuing to provide feedback! We’ll see you in the Nexus!

(Source)

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I'm really glad they officially addressed this. No way to ease a community than have a proper press release of "woops, and this is why".
Personally, I wasn't too upset because they have been drastically varied assassins. If they had more than 4 categories this might have even been a moot point. I understand why people are upset, but once I just saw the rework of Tassadar and Rexxar (unexpectedly) in this coming patch I felt even better about it. They are HUGE reworks that looks like both might move up in the latest tier rankings. It may make Tassadar back to the true lane soak/off heal/field control he's already played as.

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3 minutes ago, Laragon said:

I'm really glad they officially addressed this. No way to ease a community than have a proper press release of "woops, and this is why".
Personally, I wasn't too upset because they have been drastically varied assassins. If they had more than 4 categories this might have even been a moot point. I understand why people are upset, but once I just saw the rework of Tassadar and Rexxar (unexpectedly) in this coming patch I felt even better about it. They are HUGE reworks that looks like both might move up in the latest tier rankings. It may make Tassadar back to the true lane soak/off heal/field control he's already played as.

I agree. I've got no issues even with 10 Warcraft assassins in a row when they are diverse. Warcraft is their biggest universe, so it's understandable that the game contains the most Heroes from WoW; on the other hand, I think it needs more healers.

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21 minutes ago, Laragon said:

I'm really glad they officially addressed this. No way to ease a community than have a proper press release of "woops, and this is why".
Personally, I wasn't too upset because they have been drastically varied assassins. If they had more than 4 categories this might have even been a moot point. I understand why people are upset, but once I just saw the rework of Tassadar and Rexxar (unexpectedly) in this coming patch I felt even better about it. They are HUGE reworks that looks like both might move up in the latest tier rankings. It may make Tassadar back to the true lane soak/off heal/field control he's already played as.

I love the Tassadar rework, however there is still one little problem that will still plague him forever: he is not Medivh.

Anyway, I can't wait to see more Support/Healers added into the game. We seriously need more.

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20 minutes ago, Stan said:

I agree. I've got no issues even with 10 Warcraft assassins in a row when they are diverse. Warcraft is their biggest universe, so it's understandable that the game contains the most Heroes from WoW; on the other hand, I think it needs more healers.

Tbf, the lack of supports is getting a bit annoying, and more would be appreciated. Not to mention the reworks for some (Tyrande is in a serious need of talent rework or Lili getting some buffs)

But hey, judging by Axolotl, we'll be getting Malthael and Firebat after her so I'm kinda hyped :D

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3 minutes ago, Dejo93 said:

Tbf, the lack of supports is getting a bit annoying, and more would be appreciated. Not to mention the reworks for some (Tyrande is in a serious need of talent rework or Lili getting some buffs)

But hey, judging by Axolotl, we'll be getting Malthael and Firebat after her so I'm kinda hyped :D

Uther needs a MAJOR rework, which Blizz actually stated he will have to fit the fantasy of a tanky support.

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1 minute ago, Valhalen said:

Uther needs a MAJOR rework, which Blizz actually stated he will have to fit the fantasy of a tanky support.

He seriously needs it. The delay he has is really shutting his potential down. As for future supports, I'd like some1 like Lion or Shadow Shaman and even CM from Dota in the future. I know the healing mechanic isn't the same on them all, but some innovation is needed

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12 minutes ago, Dejo93 said:

He seriously needs it. The delay he has is really shutting his potential down. As for future supports, I'd like some1 like Lion or Shadow Shaman and even CM from Dota in the future. I know the healing mechanic isn't the same on them all, but some innovation is needed

If anything we need a true Priest in the form of Velen or Anduin.

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28 minutes ago, Valhalen said:

I love the Tassadar rework, however there is still one little problem that will still plague him forever: he is not Medivh.

Anyway, I can't wait to see more Support/Healers added into the game. We seriously need more.

Personally, I HATE playing as Medivh and love playing as Tassadar. But until he can completely nullify most single target ultimates... I get it. I just don't like it.

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5 minutes ago, Laragon said:

Personally, I HATE playing as Medivh and love playing as Tassadar. But until he can completely nullify most single target ultimates... I get it. I just don't like it.

Exactly. I like Tassadar way more. But everything Tassadar can do, Medivh do it better. Shield? Check. Scouting? Check. Crowd Control? Double check.

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2 hours ago, Valhalen said:

Exactly. I like Tassadar way more. But everything Tassadar can do, Medivh do it better. Shield? Check. Scouting? Check. Crowd Control? Double check.

On paper you are right, but we dont see Medivh in competitive play because Tassadar can give you shield for eternity, and Medivh just for 1,5 seconds. I like both, they are full of utility and good design characters, but it´s a shame that Medivh dont have some love because he doesn´t have heal. Just look for Auriel, if she doesn´t have heal in her kit, she probably will be in the same place of Medivh. Also i´m looking for Anduin or Velen too.

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2 hours ago, Valhalen said:

Exactly. I like Tassadar way more. But everything Tassadar can do, Medivh do it better. Shield? Check. Scouting? Check. Crowd Control? Double check.

Wave clear, check. Objective traveling, check. Escape ability, (not as good) check... STOP CRUSHING MY DREAMS.

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7 hours ago, Iginis7 said:

On paper you are right, but we dont see Medivh in competitive play because Tassadar can give you shield for eternity, and Medivh just for 1,5 seconds. I like both, they are full of utility and good design characters, but it´s a shame that Medivh dont have some love because he doesn´t have heal. Just look for Auriel, if she doesn´t have heal in her kit, she probably will be in the same place of Medivh. Also i´m looking for Anduin or Velen too.

The main difference is that Medivh doesn't even Shield, he makes you Invulnerable. And that thing has a pretty low CD. Honestly I think Medivh is one of the best characters in the game due how much he brings to the table. He fits into any composition and can partake into any objective.

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12 hours ago, Stan said:
  • Stealthed 3-Card-Monté assassin
  • Multi-Class Hero: Warrior, Bruiser, Dive Assassin
  • Bruiser with Heavy Map Implications
  • Sustained Ranged Attacker
  • Enemy Carry Disabler

With first 4 points everything is clear. Valeera, Varian, Ragnaros and ZulˇJin. Enemy Carry Disabler?? Support with tons of CC or Heavy DMG reducer??? Something is strange here..

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1 hour ago, Dantalian said:

With first 4 points everything is clear. Valeera, Varian, Ragnaros and ZulˇJin. Enemy Carry Disabler?? Support with tons of CC or Heavy DMG reducer??? Something is strange here..

I believe that may have been Samuro but I could be wrong

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1 hour ago, Dantalian said:

With first 4 points everything is clear. Valeera, Varian, Ragnaros and ZulˇJin. Enemy Carry Disabler?? Support with tons of CC or Heavy DMG reducer??? Something is strange here..

I think that 3-Card-Monte assassin is Samuro because 3-Card-Monte is a card trick where you point a correct card to win. Enemy Carry Disabler is Valeera with her stealth kit. :)

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3 hours ago, Dantalian said:

With first 4 points everything is clear. Valeera, Varian, Ragnaros and ZulˇJin. Enemy Carry Disabler?? Support with tons of CC or Heavy DMG reducer??? Something is strange here..

Ethme is right. Carry disable is Valeera with silence/stun and ability to burst down some heroes like *probably* Li-Ming, Kael, Chromie, Jaina...
Imagine how much of a disable/ganker Zeratul or Nova could be if they could silence or stun you rather than just slow. It's dangerous to be alone as some heroes again. Positioning has to be much more conservative.

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2 hours ago, ethme said:

I think that 3-Card-Monte assassin is Samuro because 3-Card-Monte is a card trick where you point a correct card to win. Enemy Carry Disabler is Valeera with her stealth kit. :)

Thank you for clarifying this for people :D They wrote in chronologic order so it would be weird to put Valeera on top, with some wird name. But apparently valeera will be excelent at killing the backline! I guess they wanted more diversity instead of 'just' a Zeratul. Let's hope it doesn't feel the same.

15 hours ago, Dejo93 said:

Tbf, the lack of supports is getting a bit annoying, and more would be appreciated. Not to mention the reworks for some (Tyrande is in a serious need of talent rework or Lili getting some buffs)

But hey, judging by Axolotl, we'll be getting Malthael and Firebat after her so I'm kinda hyped :D

Lovely! Axolotl was right all along so I'm putting my money on this forecast. Firebat is a bit disappointing with so many viable choices in the SCII scene. Why bring all these Terran nobody-units out while you can pick some actual characters?

Malthael on the other hand.. NICE. Assassin? Cloaked? Hero kills lower death timer Trait?

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33 minutes ago, Skyewalker said:

Thank you for clarifying this for people :D They wrote in chronologic order so it would be weird to put Valeera on top, with some wird name. But apparently valeera will be excelent at killing the backline! I guess they wanted more diversity instead of 'just' a Zeratul. Let's hope it doesn't feel the same.

Lovely! Axolotl was right all along so I'm putting my money on this forecast. Firebat is a bit disappointing with so many viable choices in the SCII scene. Why bring all these Terran nobody-units out while you can pick some actual characters?

Malthael on the other hand.. NICE. Assassin? Cloaked? Hero kills lower death timer Trait?

Nope Specialist. Member those cancerous adds in the boss fight? Now you can summon them and spread their cancer in the Nexus :D 

 

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Ok, everybody will deslike, but i hope to see Malthael or kel'thuzad as support. It will be cool to see a dark hero support XD

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Nice to see a little reasoning from them. To me personally, I wasn't THAT annoyed, as there will often be more damage dealers on your team than Supports, Warriors and Specialists, so it stands to reason that they will add more Assassins than all of the other roles. One of those heroes, Varian, technically counted as two types, as for the sake of simplicity, Varian is referred to as either a warrior or an assassin depending on his build, rather than a multiclass. 

The bit about Ragnaros also explains a great deal why he has a lot of Specialist elements too. 

However, having a bunch of assassins from the same universe sort of sucked out the excitement and hype for new heroes. I'm not exactly fond of another stealthy assassin so soon after Samuro, especially one that throws stuns and an entire arsenal of jukes in there, and I am also unsure why they feel the need to flesh out the roster of Assassins more when there is such big gaps between leading Support and Warrior meta picks and the less picked options. 

Besides that, it's the 20th Anniversary of Diablo! The HotS in game event was over before the events in other games had even run halfway, and while we had a substantial event last year, a d3 Diablo skin and another hero from the 'verse are highly requested. 

I've read good and bad things about the Tassadar and Rexxar reworks, I'll have to try both of them, but I am already dubious about a 40 regen globe quest for shields to get the maximum value, as well as still not having vector targetting for Force Wall. 

Edited by Plergoth
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Yeah the wow universe has been drawn on a lot, it's tiring, but my main problem is the amount of assassins coming out. Would like to see diversity in roles as well.

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18 hours ago, Valhalen said:

Exactly. I like Tassadar way more. But everything Tassadar can do, Medivh do it better. Shield? Check. Scouting? Check. Crowd Control? Double check.

You have to be joking when you said this. Taz can shield all 5 players for long periods of time. You have the E from Taz that make him pretty much impossible to kill and not only that his AOE dmg is way better than Meditvh, that's without mentioning the rework because I haven't play him yet. Taz is way way WAY better than Meditvh in every single aspect. 

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On 1/18/2017 at 4:16 PM, Klovzz said:

You have to be joking when you said this. Taz can shield all 5 players for long periods of time. You have the E from Taz that make him pretty much impossible to kill and not only that his AOE dmg is way better than Meditvh, that's without mentioning the rework because I haven't play him yet. Taz is way way WAY better than Meditvh in every single aspect. 

Medivh can also make shield (with invulnerability) the entire party as well, every 5 seconds. His Arcane Rift is harder to hit, but it does provide a much larger AoE damage due the reduction in CD if it hits enemy Heroes. Even with the rework, I doubt Tassadar will perform as good. He will, however, provide a huge pool of utility, more than before.

Edited by Valhalen
Godamn this autocorrect

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Axolotl hasn't posted for some time, the guy who wrote about the Malthael kit was an imposter.

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      Oxygen discusses Heroes of the Storm's newly announced performance-based matchmaking system and why it may prove to be problematic.

       
      One of the biggest changes announced at BlizzCon 2017 was the introduction of the performance-based matchmaking system for ranked game modes in Heroes of the Storm.
      In a nutshell, this new system seeks to quickly adjust individual player matchmaking rating (MMR) by using data from past performance, other players, and a number of other unspecified systems. Unfortunately, players quickly found out how flawed the system was upon receiving seemingly unjustified penalties to their MMR despite perceived strong performance, and ultimately figured out how to game the system to maximise their gains by exhibiting counterintuitive in-game behaviour.
      And unfortunately for Blizzard, the release of the system coincided with other “bugs” that affected placements and general matchmaking, which exacerbated the problem. Not one but two placement match history resets have now been performed. Blizzard claimed that the issues were not related to the new performance-based matchmaking system, but the system in question has been disabled for three days at the time of writing. I can’t help but to wonder why the system was disabled if it in fact wasn’t part of the issues, but I’ll offer Blizzard a highly skeptical benefit of the doubt for now. They need all the help they can get.
      However, I’m not here to criticise Blizzard’s course of action, which I believed to be reasonable and timely enough, if not a bit opaque. I’d much rather look into the very existence of the performance-based matchmaking system. I’ll start by going over some of the comments made in the official system announcement linked above.
      Blizzard (Source)
      The team-focused nature of Heroes presents challenges when using this system to determine an individual player’s matchmaking rating, since any single player is only 1 part of the 5-man team that won or lost the match. The system works since, all things being equal, a player will win more games than they lose over the long run if their skill is higher than other players at the same rank.
      I must admit I was not ready to respond to a “we know it works, but we’re changing it anyway” approach. Leaving aside the obvious flaw in basic argumentation theory, I know how frustrating it is to have a strong performance and still lose; I’ve certainly been there before. But, in general, players need to be groomed into being able to look at the larger, statistically-significant picture. If you consistently perform well and are never the cause for losses, you will rise. After all, the opposing team would have 5 chances of “messing up” whereas yours would only have 4. This means that if you can maintain an approximate 55.5% win rate, you know you’re good. (That approximate 55.5% value comes from 100 - 4 / 9 * 100; this calculation essentially compares each team’s chance at a liability if you’re never a negative factor, hence why it only take 9 players into account and giving each player an approximate 11.11…% of the responsibility for losing.). If your win rate is actually higher than that, you may even be good enough to even make up for negative factors on your team. That’s powerful, and certainly doesn’t require any fancy system to work, even in a team environment, unlike what Blizzard seems to be claiming. Even if your impact is small, you still have an impact.
      However, I don’t want people to get me wrong here; in theory, I think that the idea of a performance-based matchmaking system is great, though just not for the purpose of long-term MMR adjustment. If Heroes of the Storm did have a way to accurately identify high- and low-level players, the matchmaking experience would be vastly improved for both groups: high-level players would no longer have to endure low-level players with high MMR uncertainty, whereas low-level players would no longer be thrown into victimizing and soul-crushing matches. Higher match quality promotes player retention; player retention is profitable for everyone.
      Blizzard (Source)
      What differentiates a highly skilled player on a given Hero isn’t always obvious, though.
      In a complex game such as Heroes of the storm, is it ever? The system is claimed to be “dynamic”, which means that, over time, it reevaluates how it defines skilled play for a given hero as it is fed new data. However, in practice, I just don’t think "skill" is something that can be reliably measured by in-game performance data alone. Nor should it be. Let us draw comparisons between Heroes of the Storm and chess, which has used a similar matchmaking system known as ELO for some decades now. In chess, what would you say matters most between the two following statements?
      Claiming multiple pieces without trading your own?
      or…
      Focusing on claiming key pieces during key moments?
      The answer is “it depends”. Although both tactics may lead to victory, the first style is opportunistic whereas the second is analytical. Unfortunately for the second player, their strategy would be much harder for a performance-based system to evaluate; how would it know what defines a key piece, let alone a key moment? The first approach is mathematical; one is better than zero and, generally, “free” trades correlate with winning, which is more or less why they are inexistant at a high level chess unless intentional.
      In chess, you aren’t rewarded for losing less, and the reason for this is that the underlying ELO system is robust and self-correcting; rating resets don’t occur every couple months, let alone twice in a week, and rating gains and losses are small. Of course, the ELO system isn’t beyond reproach, but I think it’s fair to say that players understand that long-term results are what matter, not individual game results. And, it doesn’t run the risk of overvaluing Queen taking Rook because of insufficient or misinterpreted data.

      Queen literally takes Rook during a Tribute fight. Siege damage is important to Zagara, says data.
      As you can tell probably tell by now, I’m very skeptical about how such a system is supposed to evaluate what differentiates a highly skilled player, period, regardless of what hero it is they’re playing. Here’s a concrete example of what I mean by that: Although I don’t consider myself to be a particularly strong mechanical player, I have always managed to maintain a rather high win/loss ratios, for a team game, back in my active days anyway. Why? I’d be lying if I didn’t say that many of these victories weren’t simply due to outdrafting opponents, clear non-confrontational shotcalling, encouraging teammates, defusing infighting, taking every match seriously, knowing when and why to engage, going over mistakes, and generally making powerful macro decisions. On top of being that one weird guy that says “can play anything*, prefer assassin or specialist, let’s try to ban x and pick y.” Doesn’t reading that first thing in any given lobby instill confidence in the rest of your teammates? I bet this translates into wins every once in a while, so why not do it?
      I tend to thrive on waveclear tanks with strong engaging power because they let me decide exactly when a minion wave needs to push or when an enemy hero needs to die despite low mechanical ceilings.

      And now you know how to ban me out.
      *…whereas I couldn’t outplay most of my opponents to save my life. I accept my fate as one of the worst Illidan players in existence, and I’m fine with it.

      I have nothing to add, your honor.
      The great irony here is that none of the aforementioned elements that I feel make me, and probably many other players, reasonably strong are – nor can be – taken into account by any automated system because they’re simply too subjective. Why exactly am I being punished for not mindlessly using my abilities on-cooldown and padding my numbers? We get it; dealing damage is important. But what about useful damage? How can that ever be taken into account by a machine? This might sound like an argument from incredulity but, as I see it, we have plenty of evidence to conclude that the system isn’t quite working as intended.
      Of course, within this system, winning is still what matters most, and by far. Fortunately for me, my skillset does tend to translate into wins. But obfuscating one’s point gains and losses behind questionable variables is going to, at best, confuse players, and at worst, breed harmful behaviour. These two consequences have already been observed.
      TL;DR:
      A solid performance-based matchmaking system can have positive effects on matchmaking by allowing players to find their appropriate MMR faster. However, what defines a good player in a complex, team-oriented game goes well beyond what any data collection system can collect, interpret, and use. In its current state, the performance-based matchmaking system is at best unnecessary and at worst obfuscating, and ultimately risks breeding harmful player behaviour.
      I’ll allow myself to end on a bit of wisdom: If you play to improve, you’ll never lose a game in your life. And the sooner you quit worrying about your rank, the sooner you’ll be able to focus on what really matters.
    • By Stan

      After Lunar Rocket Racing, it's time for Lost Cavern! Lay waste to the enemy Core on the single-lane map with no talent or level restriction. Complete three matches to get a Lunar Loot Chest.
      Blizzard (Source)
      This week’s brawl is Lost Cavern! It’s all-out mayhem on our single-lane battleground – Lost Cavern. Queue up, choose your Hero, and try to best to bring down the enemy Core!

      Rules:
      Shuffle pick - Choose from one of three Heroes before entering the battle. Standard play - no talent or level restrictions. The first team to destroy the enemy Core wins! Rewards:
      Complete three matches of Lost Cavern to earn a Loot Chest! Find out more about the Heroes Brawl game mode on our Heroes Brawl site; and as always, you can find more information on this week’s Brawl by clicking the Brawl Info button at the bottom of the play screen when preparing to queue for the Brawl game mode.
    • By Stan

      Blizzard just rolled out a patch with various bug fixes. Check out the full patch notes! 
      Blizzard (Source)
      Bug Fixes
      Heroes, Talents, & Abilities
      Genji: Fixed an issue preventing certain cleave attacks, such as Malthael’s Basic Attacks and Xul’s Cursed Strikes, from removing stacks of Genji’s Dodge. Ice Block: Fixed an issue allowing certain Abilities to be cast during Ice Block, including Jaina’s Ice Blink, Brightwing’s Storm Shield, and Malfurion’s Astral Communion. Jaina: The Wintermute Talent now correctly causes Jaina’s Water Elemental to mimic her Basic Abilities. Lunara: The Galloping Gait Talent no longer permanently grants a permanent Movement Speed bonus. Tyrael: The Stalwart Angel Talent’s tooltip now displays the correct values for its duration and Armor bonus. Maiev: Casting Spirit of Vengeance just as a Core is destroyed will no longer cause the Spirit to cease animating. Maiev: Activating Naisha’s Memento will now correctly display an icon indicating its duration in the buff bar. Nova: Fixed an issue causing Holo Decoys to deal slightly more damage than intended after learning Lethal Decoy. Rehgar: The Rising Storm Talent will no longer increase Lightning Shield’s damage versus non-Heroic enemies.
    • By Oxygen
         
      Our fifteenth Heroes of the Storm Meta Tier list for the Blaze patch of January is here!
      We present our fifteenth Heroes of the Storm Meta Tier List for the Blaze patch of January 2018.
      Note: This list also takes the January 16 balance patch into account.
      Welcome to Icy Veins's Meta Tier List for the Blaze patch. The goal if of this list is to try and detail game's current metagame state. The prime goal of such lists is to inform players regarding popular and trending team composition drafting strategies (i.e. the drafting metagame). Although tier listings are generally the product of balance, many factors come into play when discussing the relative perceived strengths of heroes, including player regions, maps, play style, skill level, and, of course, personal perception. As such, any tier list—including this very one—should never be interpreted as gospel, but rather, as a guide to better grasp what to expect with regards to typical drafting experiences. One useful application of such lists is to allow you know which heroes to look out for in terms of practice and counterplay, ultimately improving your knowledge of the game.
      Using the list
      As stated above, tier lists are easy to mistake for gospel. As new strategies are discovered and experimented with, so changes the perception of the relative strengths of each hero. Tier lists still prove to be useful as a snapshot of player expectations in terms of drafting. Although it is generally considered preferable to focus on high tier heroes (Prime and Core tiers), it is important to note that Heroes of the Storm's wild character and map designs make it so that any given hero's tier position is prone to fluctuate depending on the situation at hand.
      One classic example of such is that of Kerrigan on the Infernal Shrines map. Although we currently judge her to be a low-to-mid-tier hero, her drafting priority shoots up to first-pick or first-ban material on this specific map due to the nature of its objective. Certain heroes also synergise so well with each other that the sole fact of having the opportunity of drafting them together is generally enough to increase their potential. Tassadar and Tracer, for instance, are generally nightmarish to deal with for many. There are too many examples of these interactions to reasonably produce here, but we invite you to consult our guides to know exactly where and when each hero shines. The guides have been linked in the lists below for your convenience - just click any of the hero names to access them.
      A ↑ next to a hero's name means its tier list position has increased since the previous month whereas a ↓ means just the opposite. Additionally, a + or - sign indicates short-to-medium term predictions (which is to say, about a month) for tier increase(s) or decrease(s), respectively. These are often updated after significant balance patches and/or when clear trends are emerging.
      If you're newer to the game, also consider visiting our glossary for a comprehensive list of discrete Heroes of the Storm terms.
      Current map rotation
       
      Prime Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Arthas Genji - - E.T.C. Greymane     Sonya↑ Hanzo↑↑↑     Prime tier heroes are considered to be extremely strong in all situations, and show no obvious weakness. They are very often banned or picked right away, as they generally dictate the pace of most matches.
       
      Core Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Anub'arak Falstad Alexstrasza↑ Azmodan Dehaka Junkrat↑↑ Brightwing Nazeebo Diablo Kerrigan Lúcio Zagara Muradin Li-Ming Stukov↑ Sylvanas↑  Stitches Malthael↓ Uther   Varian (Tank) Nova↓-       Valla       Zul'jin     Core tier heroes are strong in a wide variety of situations and have few counter-picking possibility. They should form the core of your team, and be picked after Prime Tier heroes have been distributed.
       
      Viable Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Artanis Alarak Ana Abathur D.Va Cassia Auriel Murky Garrosh Chromie Kharazim Probius Johanna Gul'dan Li Li+ Sgt. Hammer↑ Leoric Illidan Lt. Morales Xul Zarya Jaina Malfurion (reworked)+   Blaze (new) Kael'thas Rehgar   Tyrael (reworked)↑ Kel'Thuzad Tyrande     Lunara       Ragnaros       Samuro       The Butcher       Thrall↑       Tracer       Valeera↓↓-       Zeratul+     Viable tier heroes are generally well-rounded that have either fallen out of favour, or, inversely, are on the rise in popularity, due to the current Prime tier contenders.
       
      Niche Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Chen Cho'gall Tassadar Gazlowe Cho'gall Raynor   Medivh Rexxar Tychus       Varian (Damage)     Niche tier heroes have niche application on certain maps or for certain team compositions. They are generally picked to "round out" your team composition when your team composition is missing out on key components, such as a "jungler" (mercenary camps), a solo laner, or solid waveclear.
       
      Bottom Tier
      The Lost Vikings Bottom tier Heroes are deemed to be either considerably weaker than the majority of other Heroes, or much more challenging to play properly. Although they may situationally shine, these Heroes are generally avoided by most players.
       
      Metagame assessment
      Happy new year to everyone. This list is a tad late, as was the last one, but I was, once again, waiting for one of those odd rework patches that come out a week after featured hero releases and go untested on the PTR for some reason. HGC matches also began just yesterday, meaning that new trends  are likely to emerge shortly; today saw unexpected Cassia, Tychus, and Leoric make an appearance, which was certainly exciting. As per usual, I'll be updating the list as I see fit throughout the next few weeks. The last few lists have generated quite a bit of discussion, which is great to see. Although I cannot reasonably respond to every comment, I do read everything posted. Keep it up!
      Blaze. My initial PTR assessment of the hero, which was quite positive, was followed by a sudden realization: he does a lot of things well, but nothing exceptionally well. Blaze is the quintessential jack of all trades, master of none type hero. Generally, that's not a particularly desirable trait, because heroes are generally picked for their niches to either counter opponents or synergise with allies. For a warrior, he can't really solo tank, meaning he often ends up in that strange spot where you need a pretty well fleshed out team composition to make him work. But when he works, he does work well. He can hold his own in a solo lane, but his waveclear isn't quite good enough to deal with mercenary camps pushing before Grill and Kill, which can be frustrating. Certain heroes, such as Leoric and Malthael, completely shut him down as well. This leads me to believe that he won't see much tournament play if at all, unless teams are messing around. Viable as a late pick when you don't really know what else to pick because your team composition is already fine.
      Sonya. She's currently the most popular pick in the game. You can't go wrong with a bulky solo laner that can duel nearly anyone, output as much damage as an assassin, and clear mercenary camps with ease. Leap lets her setup really well if your team composition lends itself to that. Still, I don't think she deserves bans.
      Hanzo. This important Overwatch figurehead could just not be allowed to remain seen as underpowered for over a month. After unsuccessfully giving him a blanket 10% damage buff across the board following poor PTR feedback, Blizzard adopted the bolder strategy of making his basic attacks deal ability levels of damage thanks to the Sharpened Arrowheads changes. What was initially supposed to be a difficult to master skillshot-based hero now  has access to what is arguably the most powerful basic attack in the game, though the Serrated Arrows + Never Outmatched combo I discussed last patch remains useful for trivializing map objectives on Battlefield of Eternity and Infernal Shrines while allowing Hanzo to solo any mercenary camp from level 7 and on. With the help of another hero, bosses also become possible at this level. Losing map control or suffering one or two early deaths against Hanzo is devastating. Explosive Arrows lets him waveclear relatively well too, though particularly with Piercing Arrows for double hits on minions. The Natural Agility range increase made it much more usable, to where Hanzo can now reliably escape most if not all heroes with proper positioning. It is interesting to note that these buffs coincided with Hanzo's first free week.
      Junkrat. The proverbial death of the double healer meta means it's time for sustained poke to shine. Junkrat's popularity exploded recently as players discovered that a mix of reliable ranged waveclear, playmaking (through Concussion Mine) and potentially fight winning RIP-Tire hits made the hero a force to be reckoned with. Just be sure to pick up Endless Nades; that's your late-game damage.
      Malthael. Hanzo does really well against him, so I'm not surprised by the dip in popularity. Malthael is still very powerful, though unlikely to draw bans before second round, if at all. Always a solid pick against double tank as well as a solo laner.
      Nova. She (along with Valeera) were allowed to remain oppressive for quite a while, benefiting from the turmoil generated by the stealth rework and Blizzard employees taking a couple weeks off for the holidays. Nova is now in a good spot, with clear counters and niches, though I'm still disliking how easy Lethal Decoy makes her to play. I feel like she'll keep a potential caster meta in check for quite some time now that she's back on the radar.
      Alexstrasza. She's doing rather well. Dragonqueen is now being appropriately treated (though not quite respected by opponents) as a heroic ability by players to fight over objectives and while sieging.
      Stukov. His high healing output makes him rather strong in a poke-heavy meta. I think players are going to experiment with the Growing Infestation + Virulent Reaction (+ Bio-Explosion Switch) combo to make Stukov a lot more aggressive than we're used to seeing him be. Flailing Swipe continues to be great as a pseudo-Mighty Gust in terms of disengaging. Stukov is probably one of the best solo "all purpose" hero leaguing healer at the moment.
      Sylvanas. Any change to minion or structure damage end up being indirect buffs or nerfs to Sylvanas. Since structures were recently buffed again and Sylvanas's direct counters were nerfed quite heavily, I think she's back to being relatively high priority. Possession is really strong now, as is Mercenary Queen, though only if there's nothing for Barbed Shot to work on.
      Tyrael. Though he's not notably more powerful than he was before, I think his rework opened up a viable bruiser build for him, increasing his versatility. He's sitting at a healthy 50% win rate at the time of writing. HGC already saw him picked rather often - though, that's pre-Tyrael patch, where he is arguably weaker - , and I'm certainly looking forward to see what kind of builds players are going to gravitate towards. Holy Ground is still great, and comes online 3 levels earlier than it did before.
      Valeera. She suffered the same fate as Nova, though her overly simplistic ability set makes small nerfs very impactful. At the end of the day, she's probably going to require a broad rework, because as of right now, she either bursts her target down and feels "unfair", or doesn't and feel "worthless". Right now, she's erring on the side of the latter.
      Malfurion. Possibly one of the best rework ever done, though his vastly increased skill cap may make him less popular. His sustained healing output is excellent, but his lack of burst management still makes him difficult to play.