Nearly a week ago, the newest changes to the Newerth battlegrounds were introduced in one of the“larger balance patches we have seen in quite a while.”

From various hero and item changes to a complete overhaul of the jungle and magic armor system, DOGKaiser showed that he has most certainly been hard at work over the last few weeks.

In light of these recent changes, lead balance designer DOGKaiser joined the incredible duo of BreakyCPK and Tralfamadore in a thorough discussion behind the reasoning behind all of these changes.

Following this presentation, we were treated to an absolute spectacle of a 1v1 showmatch featuring the reigning champions Trademark eSports taking on Tt eSports for the $1000 prize. Check out the video if you haven’t already, and the recap by Crowslaw.

But we’re here to talk balance, and that’s what we shall stick to.

Starting with the various hero changes, there was definitely nothing too extravagant or completely game breaking. Many heroes received small tweaks and fixes in what DOGKaiser said was an “attempt to make them viable for the (competitive) scene.”

From simply buffing Blitz’s starting movement speed to 315 (originally 300) to a large damage nerf to Silhouette’s passive Death Lotus ability, this patch saw a wide range of changes throughout the Newerth lineup. However, with the various alterations to so many different and versatile heroes, it is unlikely to change the favored lineups throughout the competitive scene. As Tralfamadore and DOGKaiser both agreed, the “metagame is just too strong right now,” resulting in teams sticking as close as possible to what they know.

However, with the relaunch of HoN Tour this weekend (so excited!), we can expect to see a much larger hero pool given the vast amount of teams that have signed up (over 1000 teams now). Just because you don’t see big players like sLiCKz and bkid picking Blitz doesn’t mean that many unknown teams haven’t been practicing and perfecting the art of the speed demon (or cat, or whatever he is), and utilizing him to his vast, untapped potential.

Moving on from the hero changes, several popular items also saw slight alterations, once again in an attempt to make them more viable in the current metagame. Pickled Brain (possibly the most changed item in the history of Heroes of Newerth) is once again at the price of 950 gold, making the Ring of Sorcery a little bit easier to acquire, as well as inadvertently dropping the price of Icon of the Goddess. I’m sure AngryTestie will be gleaming with joy every time he picks Defiler or Doctor Repulsor.

The cost of the Nullfire Blade recipe was also reduced by 50 gold. As DOGKaiser explained, the item was only reduced in cost in an attempt to “have more heroes choose the item, rather than choose it for a counter... To make it more accessible.” He believes the item is healthy for the game, and promotes good gameplay, and I’m inclined to agree 100%; that item is fantastic. I also agree with Tralf when he claims the Nullfire blade is “overlooked by a lot of competitors. It has so many uses, especially in the current meta.”

Spellshards was also largely buffed—for the most part anyway. While the cool-down reduction aspect of the item has been removed, everything else about the item has been improved to possibly make it an item that will be picked up more often. It’s cheaper, provides better stats and more regeneration while continually providing that huge Magic Armor penetration that we all love (and hate) so much. I still don’t believe the item is ready for the competitive scene, particularly when you’ll nearly never see a Thunderbringer in the way the metagame currently stands. Personally, I believe it’s the concept of the item that holds it back from stomping its way into competitive gaming.

At a reasonably cheap price of 4100 gold (at level three), you can’t help but look at that precious Hellflower that sits only 600 gold away, dangling like a fresh cut of lamb, the scintillating 4 second silence just a few creep camps out of reach. Although I will admit that the buildup to Spellshards is a lot simpler—and you do begin to see effects much sooner than a Hellflower—I just can’t see professional teams opting for it over other items when it’s all said and done.

Along with this change to Spellshards we also saw a rather complex (well, somewhat) rework of the complete notion of Magic Armor. Originally every hero began with that beefy 5.5 magic resistance; we can now see a variety of different numbers for the various heroes scattered throughout Newerth.

While it is currently a very small step in what could possibly be a much larger component of the game, DOGKaiser and Tralf are still unsure of how this will affect the way teams play each game. I believe it could promote much more aggressive play, with earlier magic burst heroes being the go-to lineups. Fayde is going to have an amazing time in the coming weeks and months, I’m sure.

Moving on again, probably the most game-changing alteration was to the Forests of Caldavar map itself, as we saw something of an overhaul of the neutral camps in an attempt to create a “less luck-based jungle.” While originally jungling with any hero could be either very soothing and easy one game and an absolute horror show the next, DOGKaiser has reworked the damage, experience and spawns of each camp, streamlining it to make the game more consistent.

The overall jungling experience has been chopped and changed to assist in the few different junglers who must rely on tanking the damage from the camps in order to effectively farm, rather than relying on minions to do all the dirty work.

All in all this week’s patch was a solid improvement to the introduction of so many new heroes and items into the new metagame and competitive scene. It’s not there yet, but it’s certainly a start.

- YUMstix`