The Queen of the Forsaken, Sylvanas, who was introduced into Heroes of the Storm back in 2015 is next in line to receive a rework of her basic abilities and talents. Previously, the 'specialist' relied on applying map pressure through the use of her trait which disabled enemy fortifications and minions. But the development team wanted to take her kit in a different direction, one more focused on teamfighting.
Sylvanas’ updated talent tree and abilities can be found here.
Prior to his rework going public, InvenGlobal got the opportunity to speak with Adam Jackson, a Live Designer who directly worked on bringing Sylvanas’ kit into 2018 and beyond.
When the opportunity to rework one of Blizzard’s most famous or infamous characters (depending on who you’re asking), Sylvanas, was placed on the plate of Jackson and his mind immediately went to work.
A high-level player himself, Jackson knew the task of turning a hero into an assassin was no easy task and the pressure was on. Unlike the rework Stitches recently received, this was not just tweaking a few abilities and having her play the same but have some quality of life adjustments. This was an overhaul and in preparation for this rework, changes were made back in April.
“She went through a lot of iterations for this rework. There are a lot of things I was thinking about for this rework. The first was: we have to find a way to deal with her trait, make it more healthy and have better gameplay there. We actually nerfed the trait to basically only work off auto-attacks on live in preparation for this as we knew we were going to rework her down the road but we wanted something as a stopgap in between just reduce that frustration.”
“The second one was that we really wanted to add some sort of gameplay to her base kit. Banshee’s Curse, the other half of her new trait, ended up fueling a whole lot of that but basically, her base kit on live is really flat and dry. Her Q is automatically cast from her, her W is point-and-click and it just spreads kind of everywhere with no real thought to it. The E is really the only ability in her base kit that is real gameplay because there is kind of a little game of when you are going to teleport. But we really wanted to add some mastery to her because we knew we wanted to turn her into a team fighter and if we want to make her a team fighter then we really were looking for ways to add counterplay gameplay on her side to enable some mastery.”
How Jackson and the development team went to work making Banshee’s Curse drive her in the direction of a teamfighter was to increase the impact of Sylvanas attacking one individual. The more stacks you apply through auto-attacking, the more presence she has when skirmishing with the rest of her team, something she lacked in past.
“Banshee’s Curse was kind of the beginning of where I wanted to go with it. It is kind of like a reverse Lunara trait. Lunara kind of wants to spread her damage everywhere and Sylvanas really wants to focus down one person. That is kind of what her entire kit is now telling her to do: auto-attack a guy to get your three stacks on them and then just unload everything. Once we got that gameplay down, a lot of talents and a lot of other iterations on her base kit kind of fell into line.”
Once the passive aspect of her trait was flushed out fully, their attention turned to making the ability for her to disable structures the press of a button opposed to it always being active.
“The other half of the rework had to do with her trait and so we made it active trait where you have a window of time where you are powerful. She has some really cool effects that come on her so the enemy team is going to know when she can shut things off so they can shove her off their tower if they want.”
Historically, Sylvanasa spent the majority of the game off in another lane doing her own thing. Collecting mercenary camps, split pushing and spending as little time with her teammates was what was expected when you saw an ally lock-in her portrait during a draft.
Now? Jackson is convinced that she will make an excellent ranged assassin. He is even so bold to say that she can fill the role of other established play-makers with strong damage dealing abilities.
“I think as far as team fights she is going to be a full-blown assassin. She's not completely auto-attack focused. She does have some auto-attack talents and a build but she does kind of weave in spell and auto-attacks depending on how you build and want to play her. But her unique spot and what she can do is definitely still her trait. Our goal is that you're going to bring her as a normal ranged assassin and that she is going to fit the exact same slot as Valla and Zul'jin or whatever. The reason why she is special is that she can push really well with her team if you get an objective and come out ahead or if you want to get mercenary camps. She now wants to push with her team rather than only wanting to go off on her own and shut off towers on a side lane most of the time.”
The way Jackson talks about Sylvanas when discussing a reason to play her over other more established assassins speaks to his confidence that they have hit the nail on the head when it comes to her rework. Need to dive on a Hanzo and trade effectively? Sylvanas is your girl. Need to push with an objective? Sylvanas is your girl. Not too many heroes can say that, according to Jackson.
“The first thing that she's got is the ability to shut off towers. Nobody else has that, so if you ever win something in the game it greatly changes how the enemy team has to deal with you. Normally the other team is going to send a minimal amount of stuff to go deal with your pressure. If you win an Immortal or Punisher, they usually send three or four people and have someone dual soak. You cannot do that against Sylvanas. If she wins an objective on you you have to go deal with it with your whole team or suffer the consequences. So that is the first one that is not too different from live."
"The second reason to pick her now is that she's a lot of flexibility on how she can engage. She is very, very, very good now in creating small one-v-one skirmishes and scenarios and coming out very far on top. If you're a very aggressive player or someone who likes a high-octane hero that can really single someone out and blow them up, she can do that now. If she can find someone who is kind of on the sidelines and is alone she can E in on them, just get three stacks on her trait, just blow all of her cooldowns and basically kill them very quickly, especially with certain talents and builds. She's very good at sniping people while diving but she is also very flexible and playing a back-ranged hero too. She can still W someone and auto-attack someone to get the damage spread around and kind of be a nuisance from the back line. She is very flexible in how she could play and I'm very excited to see what people do.”
The challenge of turning a hero who historically interacts very little with the opponents into an assassin is not only a challenge from a design perspective but an educational one as well. Players who are more casual and don’t check Reddit or patch notes for weekly updates to their favorite heroes will need to understand that this is not the same Sylvanas they may have been main-ing for the last few years. Not only will she feel a little different but needs to be played differently as well. Jackson isn’t too concerned, however.
“Honestly she doesn't play so much different in the p-v-e element that I think it will be too jarring. Mainly the major difference is that you have to activate your trait as you have a window of time. What's going to feel more different is the Banshee’s Curse trait you will see right away the first time you auto-attack a hero you're going to see a Lunara-esque icon. When you get three of them they're all going to light up and you're going to get some spell effects. They look pretty cool so right away you're going to know, ‘Hey I'm going to want to be hitting people three times and then doing stuff at my abilities.’ One of the other ways I really want to educate people right out the gate that this is a really different hero is that her talents now are much, much more impactful than they ever were on live. One of my goals was especially her level 1 talents are extremely powerful and they really point you to playing her in very different ways. So her base kit is going to be weaker right out of the gate but a lot of her power is going to come out of her talents which is really going to dictate how you want to play. I think there will be a little bit of a learning curve because her talents kind of point you in different directions.”
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.