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Heroes of the Storm Development Updates: Apr 12

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The Heroes of the Storm dev team posted a lengthy blog post about upcoming matchmaking improvements, Ranked play, new Hero balance, toxicity, 3rd bans, and more!

A reddit AMA is scheduled for tomorrow at 10 a.m. PDT, and the Heroes of the Storm dev team will be answering your questions for about two hours. You can find more details here.

  • Queue times determine match quality. The matchmaker is always seeking to make the best possible matches it can based on a set of criteria it uses to find equally skilled allies and opponents. Blizzard has been favoring reducing queue times a little too much, so expect longer queue times in favor of match quality in the future.
  • MMR is an internal numerical representation of your skill that's adjusted based on the outcome of the games you play. It isn't accurate when players take extended breaks from the game and can lead to situations where a player's current skill no longer matches their MMR. The devs are working to institute both MMR and rank decay. Players who have not played for a while will have their MMR slowly adjusted to compensate.
  • Performance-based matchmaking will return soon, but given its inefficiency at the highest levels of Ranked play, it will no longer adjust point totals for Grandmaster and Master league players.
  • Those who play enough Ranked games during the current season will only need to complete one placement match when the next season begins.
  • New players can no longer place higher than Platinum 5 at the end of their placement matches going forward (was Diamond 3).
  • A third ban will be added for each team during drafts.
  • Hero swaps in Ranked are lower on their priority list compared with some of the other improvements, because they lead to increased draft time, complexity, and player confict during the draft. The team is more open to alternative ideas like position swaps, in which players could rearrange their team's pick order.
  • Over time, they developed a cadence of realeasing balance updates for new Heroes every two weeks. This gives them enough time to collect data and allows players to learn how to play with and against newest Heroes.
  • Hero League data is critical to Blizzard and they don't plan to lock new Heroes out of ranked modes. They hope the addition of a third ban will help solve the issue.
  • A new system that uses machine learning to help improve validation of player reports is being worked on.
  • Punishments for repeat offenders will be revisited. Blizzard's going to start escalating penalties from silences, to suspensions, and even bans as repeat offenses stack up.
  • A new loss forgiveness feature will mitigate ranked point deductions for players who lose a game due another's failure to participate.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

As many of you are aware, there’s been a lot of feedback and community conversation about topics like matchmaking, ranked play, new Hero balance, and player toxicity. It’s clear to us that some players in the Heroes community are unsure if their concerns are being heard. We take your feedback seriously, and we definitely haven’t done enough lately to acknowledge and respond to it. We can do better, so we’d like to shed some more light on a few of these topics today, starting with Matchmaking.

MMR and Matchmaking

Our goal with matchmaking is to ensure your Heroes of the Storm games are fun, fair, and challenging. While we’ve made progress in some areas, we don’t think we’ve hit that goal in all of them. We’re working on some matchmaking improvements that will bring us closer to our objective and hopefully give players more positive gameplay experiences.

Queue Time vs. Match Quality

Matchmaking in Heroes boils down to striking a balance between creating the best possible matches in terms of player skill, and initiating games in a reasonable amount of time. Currently, the matchmaker is always seeking to make the best possible matches it can based on a set of criteria it uses to find equally skilled allies and opponents. The longer players wait in the queue, the looser these restrictions become in order to get players into a match as quickly as possible. We originally set up these somewhat elastic matchmaking rules to speed up wait times. Unfortunately, decreasing wait times sometimes comes at the expense of match quality. This can be especially noticeable at the highest skill levels, where there are fewer players in the queue at any given time. When this situation occurs, players can find themselves in games that include allies and enemies outside of their skill range.

Given all your feedback, it’s clear we’ve been favoring reducing queue times a little too much. Moving forward, we’re going to harden these rules in order to enforce higher quality matches. As a result of the changes we plan to implement, higher-skilled players may see longer queue times in exchange for higher quality matches. 

MMR and Rank Decay

Your matchmaking rating (MMR) is an internal numerical representation of your skill that is adjusted based on the outcome of the games you play. This value is most accurate when you regularly play within the current meta against other active members of the player base. When players take an extended break from the game, or only play a few ranked games each season, it can create situations where a player’s current skill no longer matches their MMR (if only temporarily). We’ve heard from those of you who feel it’s unfair to be matched with players who are in this situation.

To alleviate this, and to help improve the accuracy of a player’s MMR and rank, we’re working to institute both MMR and rank decay. Players who have not played any games for a while will have their MMR slowly adjusted to compensate. Likewise, players who do not regularly participate in a given season will see a decline in their rank points over time.

All of this said, it’s also very important to us that the decay rate is not overly punishing. We’re still working on the specifics of this decay system, and we’re interested in hearing any feedback you might have.

Performance-Based Matchmaking

Performance-Based Matchmaking is a system we introduced late last year, which aimed to improve MMR accuracy by taking your individual performance into account when adjusting your MMR. Its release unfortunately coincided with some unrelated issues that occurred during the new ranked season. As a result, we disabled performance-based matchmaking so that we could focus on addressing those issues. While it was active, we absorbed your feedback and took note of additional improvements we wanted to make.

When we bring this feature back, we intend to add additional context about how point adjustments are determined. This should help you better understand how you’re performing and where you can improve in the future. Keep an eye out for those details in the near future.

We also received feedback that performance-based matchmaking isn’t as effective at the highest levels of ranked play. This subset of players is relatively small, which can result in too few players setting the standard for in-game performance in specific situations. As a result, when performance-based matchmaking returns, it will no longer adjust point totals for Grandmaster and Master league players.

Though we had disabled the performance-based matchmaking system’s ability to adjust players’ ranked points, it has continued to gather live player data and improve upon itself over time. We believe it is ready to be turned back on soon, and we’ll have more details to share with you in the coming future.

Ranked Play

We know that many of our most dedicated players have been curious to hear about any updates we might have in store for ranked play. We are working on several improvements for ranked, and we’d like to share a few of them with you today.

Placement Matches

Placement matches were primarily intended as a way for us to gain more information about your skill level in the absence of previous match history. However, the more games you play during a season, the less necessary it becomes to reassess you at the start of the next. Going forward, those who play enough ranked games during the current season will only need to complete as little as one placement match when the next season begins. After completing your placement, you will be placed based on your MMR at the end of the previous season.

New and Returning Player Seeding

The first time a player steps into ranked play, we use the knowledge we have about their performance in other game modes as a general starting point for assessing their skill. We also do this if a player hasn’t played ranked in a long time, and their MMR in other modes is now significantly different than their existing ranked MMR. Currently, players who enter ranked play for the first time, or after a long absence, can place as high as Diamond 3 after completing their placements.

We recognize that being placed highly when a player is new to ranked can lead to some less than positive experiences if they lack some of the more nuanced game knowledge necessary for success in that league. As a result, new players can no longer place higher than Platinum 5 at the end of their placement matches going forward.

Additionally, we believe the introduction of MMR and rank decay will help account for players who take long breaks from ranked play. As such, these returning players will no longer be re-seeded into placements based on their skill in other game modes.

Hero Bans and Swaps

We’re going to add a third ban for each team during drafts. We’ve been considering this addition for some time, but we wanted to wait until our Hero roster grew to an appropriate size. We believe we’ve now reached that threshold, and adding a third ban should provide teams with another layer of strategy when choosing their Heroes for a given match. We’re currently planning to add this ban to the existing mid-ban phase rather than create an entirely new third phase. This will enable us to keep drafts moving quickly, so that players can get to the action. It also allows teams to use that additional mid-ban to react to the draft as it unfolds.

Second, and more nebulous, is the addition of a Hero swap feature. We’ve seen a lot of mixed discussion on this topic in the community, and there are many things to consider when introducing this system to Hero League, including increased draft time, complexity, and player conflict during the draft. Because of these complexities, Hero Swaps are lower on our priority list compared with some of the other improvements we’re discussing today.

Despite these concerns, we’re still exploring a few options. We’ve considered alterative ideas like position swaps, in which players could rearrange their team’s pick order. We’ve also considered simply using the same “first come, first served” pick method that exists in Team League and Custom Games, and we may bring some of these ideas to Unranked Draft as a test.

We’d love to hear your feedback on this topic, so let us know what you think!

New Hero Balance

We do our best to provide fun and satisfying experiences with every new Hero we release. This goal can take many forms, from offering exciting new abilities, to bringing the fantasy of a character to life, and making sure they’re fun to play as, with, and against. It’s also important that each new Hero feels impactful in players’ hands and has the potential to shift the meta. We’d like to share how we look after our new Heroes in the days following release.

New Hero Balance Changes

We received a lot of feedback from players who felt that both Maiev and Fenix were too powerful on release, and we agree. In the past, many of our Hero releases have been considered balanced, or even weaker than they should be. When a new Hero is weak, it tends to see minimal competitive and ranked play, which limits how much live Hero data we’re able to quickly gather and doesn’t evolve the metagame. We want new Heroes to feel compelling for players at launch, but we also want to do that while maintaining the core gameplay balance of Heroes of the Storm. We’ll continue to work toward improving on this going forward.

Over time, we’ve developed a cadence of releasing balance updates for new Heroes every two weeks. This gives us enough time to collect data and allows players to learn how to play with and against the latest additions to the Nexus.

Occasionally, we’ll release a balance update for a new Hero outside of this time frame, as we recently did with Maiev (and Zarya even further back). This isn’t ideal, as it doesn’t give the community enough time to actually explore a character’s strengths and weaknesses aside from initial gut reactions. It also means we have to make these decisions with very little data and live play experience. Our goals are to avoid knee-jerk reactions, to give players enough time to learn new Heroes, and to gather data before we make any balance adjustments.

New Heroes in Ranked

We understand that some players in the community would like us to lock new Heroes out of ranked modes for a couple of weeks following release, and we’ve discussed this internally. Despite this concern, Hero League data is critical for us to fine-tune a new Hero and hit their two-week patch timing. We hope the addition of a third ban in ranked play will help relieve the pressure when expending a ban on any new or reworked Hero that may be considered too strong.

Toxicity and Reporting

A competitive game of Heroes can really get the blood pumping, but we understand that just one player’s negative behavior can ruin the fun for all 10 players in a match. We want to make this clear: Toxic behavior will not be tolerated. We’ve been working on improvements to the ways we detect negative behavior, mitigate detrimental effects on others when it occurs, and message when we take corrective action.

Ramping Up Actions

We’ve been working on a new system that uses machine learning to help improve the validation of player reports. Our internal testing shows the new system allows us to take action against many times the number of reports than we could using our previous methods, while also maintaining an even higher level of confidence in those actions. We’re still doing some additional tuning, but we expect to be able to roll this new system out in the very near future.

Repeat Offender Penalties

Along with the improvements around detecting toxic behavior, we’re also revisiting punishments for repeat offenders. Currently, repeated abusive chat penalties result in an escalating silence duration. This has proven to be enough for most players to get the message, but a subset of players continually return to their toxic behavior, continuing to ruin games for everyone around them. Rather than simply issue them even longer silences, we’re going to start escalating penalties from silences, to suspensions, and even bans as repeat offenses stack up.

Non-Participation and Intentionally Dying

Going AFK during a match, leaving matches early, and dying intentionally are all behaviors that harm the game and compromise a match. We’ve been working on ways to address these behaviors while limiting the negative impact they have on others. As part of this endeavor, we’re deep into development of a loss forgiveness feature, which will mitigate ranked point deductions for players who lose a game due another’s failure to participate. The leaver will be penalized for the loss and repeated offenses will result in harsher penalties. The system will initially only forgive losses caused by leavers, but we plan to expand it to include AFK players and intentional dying in the future.

Communication

One of the challenging parts about combating toxicity is that most of the action happens behind the scenes, so it can seem like nothing is being done. A few months ago, we started sending e-mails to players when their reports on non-participating or intentionally dying players lead to action being taken against the offender’s account. We eventually want to bring those notifications in-game where they’ll be more visible. In the meantime, we’re going to increase visibility for the suspension and ban waves we issue by bolstering our broader communications. This is something we’ve done sporadically in the past, but we’ll be moving to a more consistent cadence going forward.

We recognize that we haven’t been as communicative with the community recently as we could have been, and going forward, we want to increase our presence and share more of our thoughts and plans with you. We hope our post today has addressed some of your questions about our plans for Heroes of the Storm in the near future. If not, several members of the Heroes development team will be available to answer more of your questions in an AMA thread on the Heroes of the Storm SubredditThe AMA begins at 10 a.m. PDT on Friday, April 13, and we’re planning to answer questions for about two hours. Until then, we’ll see you in the Nexus!

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They said exactly the right things to attempt to fix this. But the lack of the date for it makes me cautious. If they don't give us a date or at minimum an estimated month, this will just be saying things to quell the commoners, not actually fix anything.

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58 minutes ago, Stan said:

The matchmaker is always seeking to make the best possible matches it can based on a set of criteria it uses to find equally skilled allies and opponents.

April's fools was 12 days ago

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HoN of Newerth used to have a feature where,  before you queued, you could opt between "faster queue" or "fairer matches" (it probably still has it, haven't played it in a while tho it's my favorite game of the genre to date). I believe others should adopt that. 

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If only they would spread out these announcements like they spread out big updates.

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53 minutes ago, SteveFrost said:

HoN of Newerth used to have a feature where,  before you queued, you could opt between "faster queue" or "fairer matches" (it probably still has it, haven't played it in a while tho it's my favorite game of the genre to date). I believe others should adopt that. 

That seems an amazing middle ground for people that actually don't care about game balance. Because some people really don't mind getting blown out or just mindlessly crushing their opponents. You could filter these guys out and get the more serious people together that are less tilted by queue times because they're in this for the match quality. I remember some people queueing 20 minutes in the past and queueing again because match quality was better since it filtered a lot of people that just gave up and only the really hardcore ones were left.

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14 hours ago, Stan said:

Non-Participation and Intentionally Dying

Going AFK during a match, leaving matches early, and dying intentionally are all behaviors that harm the game and compromise a match. We’ve been working on ways to address these behaviors while limiting the negative impact they have on others. As part of this endeavor, we’re deep into development of a loss forgiveness feature, which will mitigate ranked point deductions for players who lose a game due another’s failure to participate. The leaver will be penalized for the loss and repeated offenses will result in harsher penalties. The system will initially only forgive losses caused by leavers, but we plan to expand it to include AFK players and intentional dying in the future.

i'm sick of losing beacuse of a moron who calls "gg" and goes afk in the base or just hit minions in the head so he wont get kicked from game but does not participate in game in any meaningfull way cause we lost one sing tf at begining of game.

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On 13/4/2018 at 1:00 PM, MasterKast said:

i'm sick of losing beacuse of a moron who calls "gg" and goes afk in the base or just hit minions in the head so he wont get kicked from game but does not participate in game in any meaningfull way cause we lost one sing tf at begining of game.

There are no penalties for those people.The only " punishment" blizzard uses is the chat ban and preventing you from joining ranked games.Then the cycle repeats.

They should use account suspensions,only when someone wont be able to play for lets say a week will he be afraid to act lika that during games.But thats not how blizzard works.Lets mute the people who complain and call it flaming  :)

Edited by Kurosu

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      Abilities
      Crossfade (W) Healing decreased from 16 to 15 per second Movement Speed aura reduced from 20% to 10% Amp It Up (E) Healing Boost heal reduced from 114 to 112 per second Speed Boost Movement Speed reduced from 45% to 30% Wall Ride (Z) Moved from (Trait) to (Z) Skate Mode (Z) Removed New Trait – Push Off While Wall Ride is active, you can jump off the wall, dealing 100 damage and slowing all enemies hit by 75% for 1 second Talents
      Level 1 Maximum Tempo (E) Removed Party Mix (E) Moved from Level 7 New Talent – Smooth Moves (Z) Increase Wall Ride duration by 1 second; while Wall Ride is active, your Basic Attacks heal Lúcio for 30% of their damage and restore 0.5 Mana Level 4 Chase the Bass (Q) Removed Subwoofer (Q) Additional functionality: Close enemies are knocked back 75% further Quest: Hit 3 enemy Heroes with the same Soundwave Reward: Increase Soundwave arc by 50% and range by 20% New Talent – Supersonic (Trait) Push Off recharges 100% faster while you have the Wall Ride buff Level 7 Sonic Amplifier (W) Removed Reverse Amp (W) Moved from Level 10 New functionality: While Amp It Up is active, Healing Boost deals 50 damage a second and Speed Boost slows by 20% to enemies in the aura New Talent – Good Vibrations (Q) Every enemy hit with Soundwave grants Lúcio a 35-point Shield for 7 seconds; this value is tripled for enemy Heroes hit Level 10 New Heroic – High Five (R) Activate: Quickly skate towards target allied Hero, healing them for 250 and granting Unstoppable for 1 second (15 second cooldown per allied Hero) Level 13 Beat Mixing (W) Removed Can't Stop, Won't Stop (Trait) Removed Back in the Mix (Trait) Removed Hard Style (Trait) Removed Slip (Z) Moved from Level 1 New functionality: While Wall Ride is active you gain 20 Armor and if you pass through an enemy Hero, you gain 40% Movement Speed for 1 second New Talent – All Together (W) Each allied Hero in your Crossfade aura grants 5% base Movement Speed (this bonus stacks with other Movement Speed buffs) New Talent – Heavy Casters (Trait) Push Off no longer Slows but instead Stuns enemies for 0.5 seconds Level 16 Bring it Together (E) Removed Up the Frequency (E) No longer reduces Mana Cost Additional functionality: While Wall-Riding, increase your Basic Attack range by 40%; Basic Attacks lower the cooldown of Amp It Up by .45 seconds New Talent – Up to Eleven (E) Activate: Increase the duration of your active Amp It Up by 2 seconds (60 second cooldown) Level 20 Synaesthesia Auditiva (E) Removed Bonus Track (E) Removed Nonstop Remix (R) Removed New Heroic Mastery – Mixing Fire (R) You can now High Five enemy Heroes, damaging them for 225 and reducing all healing done to them by 50% for 3 seconds. Passive: Increase the duration of Amp It Up by 1 second New Talent – House Party (W) All of your healing is increased by 10% for each allied Hero in your aura New Talent – Summer Anthem (W) Activate: Other allies in your Crossfade aura cannot be reduced below 1 Health for 1.5 seconds (75 second cooldown) Developer Comment: Lúcio’s rework is unlocking some new ways to help your allies and further harass your enemies! His old Trait, Wall Ride, is still completely functional but has been moved to his Mount (Z). The replacement Trait, Push Off, is a new utility Ability that gives Lúcio more mobility with a built-in way to peel enemies for his allies.
      That is just the beginning, though, as Lúcio has also gained a new Heroic Ability—High Five. This Ability allows him a small bit of burst healing to help compete with Sound Barrier while also granting an on-demand Unstoppable buff to allies that may have bitten off more than they can chew. If you were a big fan of Reverse Amp, no need to worry, it stays on his kit in the form of a talent and has similar functionality! In response to the added power, we are slowing him down a little so he is not quite as frustrating to lock down.
      Ranged Assassins
      Chromie

      Abilities
      Sand Blast (Q) Now hits all enemy types, though stops travel after one hit Deals 50% damage to Structures Baseline quest has been removed Casting a Sand Blast now spawns an Echo that replicates Chromie’s Sand Blasts and Basic Attacks, dealing 50% damage; Maximum of one Echo active at a time Damage reduced from 315 to 280 Cooldown increased from 2.5 to 3 seconds Cast time reduced from .8125 to .5 seconds Initial missile speed has been reduced, but acceleration has been added The time the missile takes to travel its full distance has been increased from .4375 to .625 seconds Dragon's Breath (W) Ground warning is no longer visible to enemy heroes Damage reduced from 390 to 195 Now fires a succession of 3 blasts with a 0.75 second delay towards a vector targeted direction Cooldown increased from 8 to 15 seconds Mana cost increased from 50 to 75 Time Trap (E) Once placed, now requires Chromie to re-activate the Trap with (D) to detonate and puts all units in the area in Time Stop Now affects allies as well as enemies Search area increased from 1.5 to 2 radius Mana cost increased from 25 to 30 Health increased from 300 to 500 Timewalker/Bronze Talons (Trait) The Bronze Talons Basic Attack component of her trait has been removed Talents
      Level 1 Deep Breathing (W) Stacks increased from 12 to 25 Bonus reduced from 5 to 2 per stack Bonus at maximum stacks reduced from 140 to 50 New Talent – Once Again the First Time (Q) Quest: Hit an enemy Hero with Sand Blast 40 times Reward: Sand Blast’s maximum Sand Echoes increased from 1 to 2 Mounting Sand (Q) Removed Level 2 Andorhal Anomaly (E) Moved from Level 18 No longer causes all three charges to refresh at once Additional functionality: Reduces the cooldown of Time Trap by 5 seconds All Time Traps are detonated at the same time New Talent – Chronic Conditions (E) After Time Stop ends, enemies affected by Time Trap are Slowed by 25% for 3 seconds and allies gain 25% Movement Speed for 3 seconds New Talent – Time Troubles (E) After Time Stop ends, enemies affected by Time Trap lose 20 Armor for 3 seconds and allies gain 20 Armor for 3 seconds Enveloping Assault (W) Removed Timely Surprise (E) Removed Level 5 Mobius Loop (W) Cooldown reduction reduced from 3 to 1.5 seconds per enemy Hero hit Mana return reduced from 100 to 40 per enemy Hero hit Bronze Talons (Q) Has been redesigned When Chromie hits an enemy Hero with Sand Blast, she deals 30% additional Basic Attack damage for 5 seconds New Talent – A Proper Greeting Passive: When Chromie damages a Slowed, Rooted, or Stunned enemy Hero, she deals 25% additional damage for 5 seconds Dragon's Eye (W) Removed Chrono Sickness (E) Removed Level 8 Slowing Sands (R1) Redesigned: Slow now increases the longer an enemy is in the affected area Now Slows by 5% every 0.25 seconds, up to a maximum of 70% Temporal Loop (R2) Range reduced from 11 to 8 Now also increases the recharge rate of Chromie’s Basic Abilities by 500% for 3 seconds Level 11 Here and There (Active) Now has a range of 9 Now teleports Chromie to a targeted location near a Sand Echo, and teleports the Sand Echo back to her old location New Talent – Gnome Speed Ahead! (Q) After casting Sand Blast, Chromie gains 200% increased Health and Mana Regeneration and 20% Movement Speed for 3 seconds Bye Bye! (B) Removed Level 18 New Talent – Unravelling (R1) Every 0.25 seconds, enemy Heroes Slowed by Slowing Sands have their Spell Armor reduced by 2, up to 30 Stuck in a Loop (R2) Now also increases the duration of Temporal Loop’s cooldown reduction buff by 3 seconds New Talent – Blessing of the Bronze Passive: While Chromie is alive, she and all her allies gain 10% Movement Speed and their Basic Abilities recharge 30% faster Pocket of Time (R1) Removed Developer Comment: Our goal with this Chromie update is to create various degrees of success that Chromie can enjoy, so that she doesn’t feel like quite the same all-or-nothing mage that she’s historically been. Traditionally, Chromie has often required a hard counter to keep her in check or completely wrecked an opposing team, creating polarizing experiences.
      We’re instituting a lot of changes that allow Chromie to get partial success with her Abilities (multiple Sand Blasts baseline, 3 blasts of Dragon's Breath), while also widening her toolkit (friendly Stasis, Basic Attack damage, PvE damage). While we’re diversifying her kit, we also want to make sure that Chromie feels special, and we think that her Sand Echoes and predictive gameplay with Dragon's Breath are still unique parts of her that embody the feeling of artillery mage while still having moments of counter play for opponents.
      Lunara

      Talents
      Level 4 Blossom Swell (Q) Movement Speed bonus reduced from 15% to 12% This Movement Speed bonus now stacks with other Movement Speed bonuses Developer Comment: Due to Lunara’s unique Movement Speed mechanics, our recent update to Blossom Swell was not as beneficial to Lunara as we had hoped. To address this, we are slightly reducing its bonus but allowing it to stack with other Movement Speed bonuses, including Lunara’s trait, which should dramatically increase the total Movement Speed that she gets from this talent.
      Bug Fixes
      Fixed an issue where the healing nameplate UI would be hidden when the total equals 0. Fixed an issue where broadcasts would sometimes appear twice when sent Revamped Hero roles, further reworks, and a merged Hero & Team League are coming soon!