Blizzard has had some big problems in the past with balancing their games (I’m looking at you, Feral Druids). Heroes of the Storm is no exception to that rule — but the highly competitive nature of MOBA games makes balance a necessity.
So it’s important to remember: Sylvanas has been a problem. She was a problem when she was on the public test realm, she was a problem when she was released and she has remained a problem on maps like Battlefield of Eternity and Haunted Mines.
Despite my personal feelings that she was over-powered, I think Blizzard was too heavy-handed with their last round of changes to Sylvanas. I think it was unnecessary to dampen her so aggressively. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they could ratchet some of the number dials back up on a few of her abilities and talents.
But it really does make you wonder: What could they do to make her perfectly balanced?
Why was she such a problem?
The biggest problem was the Banshee Queen’s passive; Sylvanas can do something that is unparalleled throughout the MOBA universe — she pacifies enemy minions, towers, forts and keeps. Coupled with her strong damage, that meant she couldn’t be left alone at any time in a game. Her ability to push a lane could not be over-stated, because once a player learned how to split their attacks across multiple targets, she simply wouldn’t take damage from non-player sources. The Black Arrows also allowed her to capture mercenary camps by herself, simply by using her auto-attacks — also a feat no other character can manage.
Additionally, picking the right talents in the past made Sylvanas as powerful an assassin as Jaina or Kael’thas in addition to her Black Arrow passive. She was often referred to as “the third mage,” during the height of Jaina and Kael’thas’ reign and Blizzard saw it fit to hit all three with the broad side of the nerf bat.
What have they tried so far?
When Sylvanas made her debut she came with an incredibly low health pool. She was able to be taken out with only a few hits. It was the intention that it would force players to be very careful with her position. And then Blizzard was kind enough to give her a powerful escape in the form of her Haunting Wave, as a trade off for the low health.
As she found her place in the game’s meta, it became apparent quite quickly that Sylvanas’ fragility wasn’t going to be enough of a restriction. The health-for-mobility trade off Blizzard gave her only led to more problems. In addition, she was able to pick up the Bolt of the Storm talent at level 20, furthering her ability to escape and marginalizing the low health drawback that Blizzard had intended. When combined with the unreasonable amount of burst damage she could dish out, it meant that teams couldn’t just send a single person to deal with her. And that was just the mediocre Sylvanas players; a good Sylvanas could foresee an upcoming attack and be able to retreat with Haunting Wave well before she had to be worried.
So after a few months, Blizzard followed up by weakening several of Sylvanas’ generic talents, starting with Blood for Blood and Envenom — both huge factors for her outrageous burst damage potential. Then they piled on another nerf, weakening the damage and silence duration of her Wailing Arrow heroic ability.
It kind of worked, since Sylvanas sees considerably less play now. However, despite these changes, I think Blizzard missed the key problem with Sylvanas from the beginning. The problem wasn’t with her burst damage — it was her passive. It’s just too strong in this genre of game.
I think there’s an easy solution, and it’s focused on her weaker heroic, Possession.
I’ve heard several suggestions for replacing Possession with a new heroic altogether. However it’s lore-friendly for her to have it. Possession is a hallmark Sylvanas ability. It’s something she’s been known for all throughout her Warcraft lore and I feel Blizzard would be doing us all a disservice as fans if they began focusing more on the “competitive game play” aspects of Heroes of the Storm and ignored the rich lore of their games that brought us all here in the first place.
Instead of removing Possession from Sylvanas I have a more radical suggestion. I suggest Blizzard exchange her trait with her heroic. They have already given a similar trait to Azmodan.
Using the same idea of “once every 20-30 seconds do this,” you could use her ability to possess a minion in a lane. Then they could give her some talents to make her builds more diverse and make the trait more powerful. Maybe her level 7 talent could allow Possession to stack up to 7 times, so she can clear a wave. Something like that would give players a good reason to choose something other than Unstable Poison as an added bonus.
Now, you’re probably wondering where that leaves her old trait, Black Arrows. Well, she is missing a heroic ability without Possession and Black Arrows would make a great swap. Make it a “passive heroic.” If a player selected Black Arrows over the Wailing Arrow, then Sylvanas could push down forts and lanes with ease. Again, there is precedence for this: Gazlowe.
This would make Sylvanas, from a play perspective, a combination of Azmodan and Gazlowe. As a fair exchange, they could revamp some of her other abilities. Perhaps some fresh talents to replace the damage the took originally? At the very least, allow players to build for the damage again if they wanted to.
I’ve heard several more options of reworking Sylvanas and I think everyone agrees that she still needs changes. So, I hope that Blizzard can get around to fixing her, in some way, to give her the proper balance between being played and being played too much.