Patch 4.23 – Rally to Rome: Balance Breakdown

A look at the balancing breakdown of SMITE patch 4.23: Rally to Rome, what the balance is trying to achieve, why it is occurring, and whether or not it is going to get the job done.

It is safe to say the previous balance changes implemented during 4.22 did not achieve many of their stated goals. Patch 4.23 is the last “major” balancing pass prior to the SMITE World Championships taking place at HRX from January 4, 2018 – January 7, 2018. Patch 4.24 is technically the patch the tournament will take place on, but the patching cycles is such that the time played on that patch will be minimal. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the balance changes in 4.23, and how 4.22 shook out.

Balance Breakdown: 4.22 | 4.23

The Curious Case of Post-Super Regionals Balance

As mentioned in the last patch, the design team acknowledges they have somewhat painted themselves into a corner regarding meta game-play viability. No matter how much they might want to address the triple guardian, double hunter strategy used by Elevate (EU) at Super Regionals, the very fact it saw so much success at Super Regionals mean they can’t change it. This was the strategy that Elevate used to secure a trip to worlds, and take Obey Alliance (EU) to their ragged edge. Any changes that directly address this strategy in a meaningful way also impacts Elevate. It’s a lose-lose situation.

Patch 4.22 saw a strength-reduction to titan’s bane. The change was targeted at reducing the strength of hunters, while also forcing warriors to build a bit more damage-oriented if they wanted to be effective damage dealers. Of course, assassins were forgotten in this mess, and took a hit they could ill-afford. Reducing the efficacy and ease of penetration also meant the triple guardian comp was looking better than ever, as it indirectly made tanks a tad stronger. While everyone assumed more changes would be coming along, it’s fair to say 4.22 didn’t do a great job of addressing the pressing issues around physical damage dealers.

Jotunn’s Wrath sees a pretty significant price decrease this patch, moving from 2450g to 2350g. This is to compensate for the other penetration item changes occurring last patch and this patch. It’s seen as a largely assassin or offensive warrior item, though it works fairly well on a number of hunters, too. This is a meaningful change, for sure.

The mage changes look like they are doing the trick, though it creates a situation where damaging guardians are even better off, as magical protections were reduced in a few key items, and damage was increased. As guardians are already tanky brutes, this just helps out the role even more. Nothing short of some base damage/scaling changes are going to address this problem, unfortunately. Still, bringing back some burst capability is a big deal to the viability of mages.

Roll it Back, Roll it Back, Waaaaaay Back

Remember when executioner’s got buffed at the mid-season mark as a result of the ichaival change, along with all of these other hunter items? Everyone was really confused as to why you would buff every item to account for a one-item change. As it turns out, most of those changes have been detrimental to the state of the game and are being slowly reverted.

The power reduction on executioner’s is simply a return to the pre-mid-summer state of the item. The belief is that the item has become too core for every hunter, and there isn’t enough build diversity. While true, a slight power reduction isn’t likely to change how frequently the item is picked up, especially when coupled with the titan’s bane change from last patch. The penetration has to come from somewhere, after all.

Likewise, when devourer’s gauntlets was changed, everyone was surprised since it was already such an effective item for the cost. As it turns out, it was too good for that cost. Shocker. Getting the stacks online before your opponent was just such a huge power spike, and it was incredibly cheap to do so. The change is meant to continue to make hunters ramp slightly slower than they have previously, and delay their power spikes to a more equitable point.

It should be interesting to see how these changes impact hunters in the SWC. The core builds have been delayed around 400g and have seen both power and penetration reduction. It should be interesting to see if this matters or changes the way the map is played at all.

Sustain in the Membrane

One of the recent goals has been to decrease the personal strength of items that provide benefits to the team. It’s an admirable goal, but one that can feel bad for the individual player. It’s hard to quantify the benefit you provide your team by your presence, but you know your individual resiliency.

The changes to jade emperor’s crown continues this change, reducing the personal protections, but leaving the aura untouched. This is a big deal. The aura mitigates a lot of damage for the team, and it would be easy to nerf the impact the item makes, particularly on the heels of the aura changes earlier in the season. I assume this is because the item requires risk and positioning to utilize effectively, but assumptions are always dangerous. Still, this is a reasonable change, and a nice one to see.

In the same vein, gladiator’s shield has seen a slight reduction in physical protections. While this item doesn’t provide an aura to your teammates, the effect it gives provides a massive level of sustain if you play a god that can utilize it well. The reduction of the physical protection creates a situation where you want to get rid of it earlier than before, and it’s not a guaranteed pick-up for every warrior. Don’t expect it to disappear, though. Unless god diversity changes, it’s still going to be a killer item. It’s just a little worse than before.

Hail Hydra

Here’s the second part of those physical penetration items – the one designed to help assassins. Hydra’s lament has the bonus damage increased from 30% to 40%. While some hunters could benefit from the item, ensuring full use of it is trickier for them on the whole. However, this does create a place for ability-based assassin to suddenly do a pile more damage. Assassins who can make use of jotunn’s wrath benefit to an even larger degree.

As I have mentioned before, the counter to triple guardian, double hunter when it popped up earlier in the season was double guardian, double hunter, assassin. If everything holds true, I would expect this to be true again thanks to the item changes alone.

God Dang It

With the release of Discordia in ranked, it’s not surprising to see some changes coming her way. I’m surprised she wasn’t touched more, honestly. Her level of control and burst are both staggeringly high, which is problematic. Even a 10% reduction in scaling on one ability isn’t likely to change it too much. The control into the burst into the escape/follow-up is crazy. Her numbers are just off the charts. Sure, some of this is due to people not yet fully understanding how to avoid some of the damage, but it’s a full 20% higher than a comparable mage in casual play. Perhaps she’s just a pub-stomp goddess. I don’t think that is true, but time will tell.

Along with the other assassin item buffs, Susano and Camazotz both saw buffs. Both of these fine gentlemen saw pretty meaningful nerfs earlier in the season, with Susano even seeing a passive rework. It’s not as if these were unwarranted nerfs or revisions – the rework puts Susano in a place where he CAN see adjustments easily – but as the meta changed and patches progressed, they were put in an increasingly worse position. The changes here rollback some of the damage nerfs the pair saw earlier in the year, setting them up nicely.

Camazotz and Susano are both characters strongly associated with Adapting (Jungler – NRG Esports), seemingly creating a similar situation to we saw in 4.22 with Fenrir. However, many junglers have a strong Camazotz and Susano, leaving this more decidedly a wash. Susano being in a strong position helps just about all the top teams, frankly.

Beyond these, Ra and Kukulkan saw changes – Kukulkan receives some movement speed and Ra gets a buff to Divine Light. These are fine changes, and they will help. They won’t make a huge impact, but every bit matters. Medusa also saw a buff, which will help her damage considerably if you land viper shots consistently. It’s interesting hunters are starting to see buffs, which might continue if items for hunters trend down. It’s a slippery slope.

Things to Watch

Expect a few tweaks going into 4.24, despite the “only in case of emergencies” messaging in 4.23. Discordia will almost certainly need to be touched again, and seeing one final changed focused on edging out hunters and tanks isn’t off the table. It would be funny if we ended up in a place closer to the start of the season where burst was king. It was exciting, at any rate.

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