Our bi-weekly ritual has been completed, and the pact has been sealed. Praise our dark masters. Praise Hi-Rez! Something like that, anyway. It’s been two weeks, so we get another patch, at the very least. This patch sees the release of the second god of the Celtic pantheon, Cernunnos, six premium skins, mastery skins for Kuzenbo, some new emotes, new avatars, a new recall, and a plethora of god and item changes. How many changes are in a plethora, Pepe? A whole darn lot, El Guapo.
Cernunnos, the Horned God
When Cernunnos was revealed, it was expected he would be incredibly strong. One day of testing has shown he is…incredibly strong. He has a lot going on, so let’s dissect him a little bit.
- Passive – Heavy Glaive: He gets a 25% damage cleave in melee range when he launches his basic attacks. These do not apply on-hit effects. This is passive is fine. It gives him clear support at a risk, and it makes him a little stronger in the jungle.
- Shifter of Seasons: Like Chronos’s Accelerate, this is a multi-outcome skill. Each season gives Cernunnos something different on his basic attacks. Spring gives lifesteal that scales from 8-20%, Summer grants bonus damage scaling from 5 to 25 and is then added to 20% of your power, Autumn ignores protections scaling from 5 to 25, and Winter grants a slow scaling from 7-15%. This ability has a .5s cooldown and no mana cost. This is his bread and butter ability, and it is incredibly strong due to the flex here. This ability is out and out amazing.
- Bramble Blast: A bursting line skill shot, this ability detonates on contact with a god, wall, or when it reaches the end of the distance. If it hits a god, the god is rooted, takes damage scaling from 40-200 + 75% of your power, and the brambles spawn around her in a circle. The brambles deal damage scaling from 4-20 + 5% of your power. every .5s and slows for 20%. This scales from 60-80 mana and has a fixed cooldown of 13s. Giving hunters control is always a tricky prospect and this is not an exception. This ability is very strong when used correctly.
- Horn Charge: A dash through all types of enemies, it can be canceled, and it’s very fast. The damage on it scales from 90-290+80% of your power, has a scaling cooldown of 17-13s, and the cost scales from 70-90. Yeah, the scaling on this thing is nuts, and it’s super fast. Another tool for
- The Wild Hunt: A lower damage, bigger area, more status-inducing version of Izanami’s ultimate. It scales from 200-400+90% of power, polymorphs those caught inside for 2s (silences and disarms, and ignores diminishing returns). The cost scales from 100-140, and the cooldown is fixed at 90s. It is literally double the size of Izanami’s ult (15 vs. 30), and detonates after 1s. Holy crackers. The amount of control and burst this gives is nuts. This thing is just GOING to hit multiple gods if it is used in a fight, almost no question about it. Sure, the burst could be higher, but with the high, sustained damage on the rest of the kit, it would be even more ridiculous.
Verdict: Expect this guy to get some serious nerfs in the next patch. I can’t see him staying like this for any length of time. Skilled players are just dominating with him.
I love dressing up my dolly in games, so skins are always right up my alley. Look good, play good. That’s just science. This patch sees a new skin for the Morrigan, Izanami, Loki, Kukulkan, Chronos, and Bellona.
- Twisted Metal Morrigan: Disaffected emo club kid the Morrigan has arrived. The card art is fantastic, and the skin does an alright job of capturing the feel of the card. There are some differences, but overall I feel you get what the card is selling. The biggest complaint is people saying the model is fat while the card art portrays her as slender. I guess so? It’s just the default the Morrigan model, guys. It is part of the Gothic Chest, a 55 item chest costing 200 gems.
- Dreadful Doll Izanami: There’s a spooky doll, looking back at me. It’s not quite a puppet/marionette, so hopefully Arachne still gets that one. The skin looks good and the voice work is solid. Izanami doesn’t have a lot of skins, so more are welcome. It is part of the Gothic Chest, a 55 item chest costing 200 gems.
- Loki Charms Loki: A holiday themed skin for St. Patrick’s Day. Great looking skin, great voice lines, unfortunately the god is still Loki. He comes bundled with the Shower o’ Gold recall skin, and the Pot o’ Gold ward. You get these three things together from the Spring Holiday chest, an 11 item chest costing 400 gems.
- Breezy Chibi Kukulkan: The second chibi skin, this skin presents an adolescent Kukulkan who is totally a trash talker. He’s cute and has good animations, but his voice lines will totally troll people. For some people, this is a good thing, not so much for others. Your mileage may vary, here. He’s part of the Spring Holiday chest, an 11 item chest costing 400 gems.
- NRG Chronos: Robot from the Future Chronos. He’s got a sweet Daft Punk helmet, and is themed after the reigning SWC champs NRG. The voice lines are BM city, and were written by the team. I say BM, but really they are just heels in the wrestling tradition. It’s all in good fun and good sport. This is a branded skin, so it’s not for everyone, but it’s a great looking skin with solid voice work. It’s a direct purchase for 400 gems for a limited time, with the money spent going to the SPL prize pool.
- SPL Bellona: This is a cutoff jeans, belly shirt SPL-branded Bellona skin. This is Twitch-reward only skin for watching Hi-Rez streams. Good luck, guys and gals.
There were two avatars added this patch, one that people really care about. That’s Cutesy Thanatoast, the fan-favorite artwork being made into a real item. The other is Top 5 Plays avatar.
In addition to the Cernunnos emotes, Scylla gets a dance emote, and there is a new global emote tied to Smite’s birthday event, running from March 21, 2017 – March 27, 2017.
Minor bug fixes for the most part, but there is one big item found here: players will now receive a notification when they are reported. This could be for the good, but will likely be for the bad. It all depends on when the notification occurs. If it is as soon as it happens, people reported will likely just spam report other people, cluttering the system and making it a bad scene. If you are notified the next time you log in or after X amount of time, it would probably be a bit better.
Buckle up, we have a lot to cover. We are getting a lot of item balancing at this point in the season, and a good mix of buffs and nerfs.
- Bancroft’s Talon: The scaling lifesteal from losing life increases from 15% to 20%, and the passive lifesteal receives a similar bump, going from 15% to 20%. This makes Bancroft’s Talon and even more attractive option for a lot of gods, and provides it a noticeable boost. The takeaway you should be getting is sustain is considered a little high. This comes into play for other items.
- Book of the Dead: This item hasn’t seen a lot of use outside of specific gods in specific modes, and had luxury item prices attached to discount effects. The Book of the Dead saw a 200 gold price reduction, from 3000 to 2800, and saw an increase in it’s passive lifesteal, moving from 15% to 20%. This might help in some edge cases, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one further buff to this item. This should help survivability noticeably, but the impact is still fairly minor without significant focus to make it good.
- Fatalis: This item takes a direct nerf, moving from 20% to 15% attack speed. So about that sustain for a low cost.
- Hastened Fatalis: This item receives a 150 gold price increase, moving from 2150 to 2300. With the addition of penetration, this item has seen a lot more use in a lot of builds. This is a good change, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be another slight tweak later on. This doesn’t impact sustain too much, but makes it come online slightly later. A reasonable change, though probably too small of a touch to be of much consequence.
- Flickering Ritual: Another ritual nerf, this item moves from 750 gold to 1000 gold. While this does matter, it doesn’t change the huge impact it has, nor the fact that this causes all kinds of problems to appear. Expect continual ritual changes throughout the season.
- Heartseeker: This item received a solid power increase, but it was just flat out too good for the cost. This item received a 300 gold increase from 2100 to 2400. This was a good change, and should lower the rapid power spikes that a lot of assassins and warriors were able to receive.
- Soulstone: Just a text change. It’s not a terrible starter, but it’s fallen out of favor with the strenght of Sands of Time. It’s situationally a good choice, which isn’t a bad thing. Lots of starter options right now.
There are a lot of changes that occurred this patch. To break them up a bit, gods that had a healing decrease of 100% all had their text updated to say “prevents all healing”. This means ALL healing is reduced to 0, not that it is reduced by 100%, and if you are over 100% you can still heal. A meaningful change in some cases, and just a clarification case in others. Ne Zha and Ra also received a text update, but are otherwise unchanged.
Apollo has seen a lot of play in season four, and his beginning of season buffs put him damn near top of the list for best hunter. His clear is strong, he’s relatively safe, and has global pressure. It’s not too surprising he’s seeing a nerf, though he’s actually not seeing a lot of SPL action due to the meta that has emerged (see the latest SPL article for more info). Anyway, I don’t think any of the below nerfs kill him, but they do make him more middling.
- So Beautiful: damage decreased by a flat 10 at any given rank, so just 10 base damage lost total. Fairly conservative and reasonable.
- Serenade: a scaling protections reduction of 5 per rank beginning at rank 2, for a top end loss of 20 protections. This is meaningful, and scales back his safety quite a bit. I think it’s maybe just a touch much, but it’s probably fine.
King of the Kappa? More like King of the Crappa! I’m just kidding, though the internet certainly seriously says things like that about him. I think he was a underpowered on release, so seeing tiered buffs isn’t surprising. I like this incremental approach in a game like this, so you can more easily hit a balancing point without needing to seesaw between buffs and nerfs quite as much. They still happen, but it’s rarer. The biggest problem is his kit wants you to use a lot of things situationally, so the synergy isn’t obvious. I am not sure there is an easy fix for that, though I DO think the SPL will pick him up as at least a pocket pick at some point. I don’t think he’s as bad as people say he is. After the buffs, he’s doing even better. Good changes.
- NeNe Kappa: a flat 10 damage increase across each rank, for a total of 10 additional base damage. A solid, incremental change.
- Shell Spikes: a QoL change to be usable in knockups, and a much increased cooldown reduction to NeNe Kappa upon taking damage. This is all good in theory, but it requires more interaction with NPCs to really make it shine. For the most part, players can just leave you alone when they see the graphic and make it almost meaningless. That said, it has some okay counterplay potential to stop pushes. It’s an alright change, but I don’t think it has much overall impact.
Poor old man. The world keeps changing around him. He must be so confused. Sylvanus has been considered strong because of his early wave clear potential, but he’s decidedly average in the SPL. Organized play greatly reduces his impact, but in less organized play it’s easy to see how impactful he can be. It’s like Janus, to a certain extent.
- Verdant Growth: This sees a scaling cooldown increase moving from a flat 12s to 16s to 12s. As far as nerfs go, it’s not too too bad, and evens the early game a bit in casual and ranked play.
A great late game hunter, Xbal has been having trouble keeping up with the times this season. One of the buffs is a much needed change to his sustain, allowing him to clear a bit more consistently without really impacting his scaling too much. The other is an increase to risk/reward, but increasing the scaling of his escape. This allows him some added deterrence in cases of being chased, while also increasing the risk/reward of using it offensively.
- Branching Bolas: this starts at 3 mana per shot, and increases by 3 per rank, moving from 6/8/10/12/14 to 3/6/9/12/15. Early on this helps a lot, and top end the slight increase doesn’t matter.
- Rising Jaguar: the scaling increased from 20% to 30% of power, and the bonus damage against poisoned targets similarly increases from 20% to 30%. As I said, better deterrence, more risk/reward.
A god absolutely thriving in the current meta, it’s not a surprise Zeus is seeing his early game threat reduced. This actually impacts his total threat to some degree, but later this matters much less. He will still do a pile of area damage. The swingy early game continues to see some touches, unsurprisingly.
- Aegis Assault: this ability loses 20 base damage to its direct hit at every rank, moving from 80/125/170/215/260 to 60/105/150/195/240. It’s an understandable change in the current meta, for sure. It should more or less do what they want it to do, which is make the early game a little slower.
My man! I love this guy, even though he’s without a home in most metas, honestly. He feels riskier to play than he needs to, and he’s not really all that intuitive. The changes try and fix that to some degree, while still keeping the core concept of resource management and risk alive. These are all good changes, though I expect to see a few more. There are still bugs with ZK as of this writing, but hopefully the damage on Expose Evil gets hammered out.
- Expose Evil: when you remove this skill with Book of Demons, it now deals 75% of the remaining damage instantly, rather than 40%. Unfortunately, this skill is bugged, and has been, and this is dealing less damage than it should. Keep an eye on it.
- Exorcism: the travel speed of the demons increases, decreasing the time between damage and healing. Good, solid QoL change.
- Book of Demons: just a tooltip update to discuss the Expose Evil changes.
- Recall Demons: another travel speed increase, like in Exorcism. It was good then, and it’s good now.