dota 2, storm spirit, 7.07

Balling back into the meta

Sometimes some of the smallest changes can propel a hero back to relevance. That’s not what happened with Storm Spirit once 7.07 rolled around. The patch brought along a lot of large changes to the game. Many of which benefit Storm Spirit’s play-style.

Return to lane dominance

Storm Spirit has always been a hero best utilized in a solo lane. This is because of his heavy dependence on levels to be relevant. But the other reason he excelled was the ability to magnify a skill gap between two players. As a midlaner there was nothing worse than being left alone to get zoned out by a competent Storm player. Frequently resulting in a huge advantage in both Gold and XP for the Storm. His remnant along with his passive allow him to dominate the laning stage. A 180 magic damage nuke (one remnant, one overload) at level one is nothing to laugh at.

Though it was this hero’s need for levels and an early advantage that hampered him in the previous patch. The mid lane was so much different back then that each hero was constantly babysat by a support. If they weren’t careful they could sap away a ton of XP from the Storm. Thus slowing him down from his first power peak in the early mid game. With the traditional dual lane setup in mid on the last patch, Storm’s early gankability was also an issue. Before getting Ball Lightning at level six the hero is very slow and has no save. Something that is not as easy to exploit in the current meta that has re-emphasized the laning stage.

dota 2, storm spirit, remnant

Improving Storm’s item scaling

Even at his previous popularity, Storm’s itemization was a little bit odd. You would always start off with a stack of tangos and a Null Talisman. The end goal was a Bloodstone, as it still is, but the item is really expensive and there was a huge lull between getting the Soul Ring and the Soul Booster that left you in limbo with your gold. You didn’t want to spend it if you could snowball properly, but you also still felt squishy enough to lose it at any time.

That is no longer an issue with the introduction of Kaya. An item seemingly handed down by IceFrog to Storm players. For a poultry 1950 gold you can give your Storm a bunch of mana, cooldown reduction and spell amplification, providing the perfect bridge from your early game items to the reworked Bloodstone. Though now more expensive, it is arguably even stronger on Storm Spirit due to the addition of a Perseverance instead of a Soul Ring. This regen allows you to show up to more early fights to farm heroes instead of creeps. On top of talents that are already incredibly strong, this hero now scales without having to rely on snowballing out of control to dominate a game.

dota 2, storm spirit, talent tree

A Storm Spirit can take over a game if left alone for too long. But that does not mean the hero is broken. If you see one pop up in your pubs there are two easy ways to counter him. Drafting stuns and silences makes a Storm Spirit’s life absolutely miserable. Coupling those mechanics with large amounts of burst damage is the best way to attack a Storm. Heroes like Templar Assassin, Silencer, Viper, Anti-Mage and Juggernaut can be very effective.

 

 

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Ben Brode’s favorite meme isn’t playable: What happened?

As stated on a recent Reddit AMA, Hearthstone Game Director Ben Brode’s favorite meme is the infamous “4 mana 7/7”, Flamewreathed Faceless. Poking fun at the card’s perceived overpowered-ness and the community’s salt that erupted as a result, the meme now has an ironic twist: Flamewreathed Faceless is far from oppressive.

In fact, it’s currently borderline unplayable, seeing zero competitive use in any Shaman decks. How did this card go from all-conquering outrage and humor generator to storied collection-filer? How did the 4 mana 7/7 go from OP meme card to an unplayable meme card?

Rise of a Giant

When Flamewreathed Faceless was released as part of the Whispers of the Old Gods expansion, it became emblematic of the power and frustrations expressed in the all-conquering Aggro Shaman. The card quickly slotted in, forming a staple part of the deck. Being able to plop down a huge body that required an immediate answer granted the deck some surprise wins. This was especially effective against Control or Midrange lists that lacked cheap, single-target removal.

The main advantage of the 4 mana 7/7 was how impactful just a single attack to face would be. 7 health is a huge chunk of starting HP, and against a deck as aggressive as old Aggro Shaman, it’s crippling. Even the presence of Flamewreathed Faceless in a deck can prove fatal, as saving removal for it can leave a Tunnel Trogg or Totem Golem unchecked, allowing burn to finish the opponent off.

Servant of Trogg-Saron

Tunnel Trogg was a huge part of Flamewreathed Faceless’s success – and hate

Flamewreathed Faceless’s fortunes were intimately tied to that of a far smaller minion: Tunnel Trogg. This minion determined the power of Flamewreathed Faceless in two main ways. Firstly, it was a key and powerful synergy tool for the card’s 2 overload. Flamewreathed Faceless’s downside was always the lack of immediate board impact. Even at 4 mana, a deck as proactive as Aggro Shaman could rarely take turns simply plopping down stats. Buffing Tunnel Trogg by 2 provided a much-needed immediate damage impact.

More generally, Tunnel Trogg was the card that lead Aggro Shaman to come into being, and its the card whose rotation returned it to obscurity. Without its niche as a punchy minion with which to top curves, Flamewreathed faded with it. But surely the sheer value and efficiency of the 4 mana 7/7 would give it other uses?

Stats don’t rule all

Other cards can provide premium stats for cheap, without clunky overload mechanics

Unfortunately for meme-aficionados everywhere, Flamewreathed Faceless simply couldn’t find a home in other Shaman decks. Revive-focused “Bogchamp” Shamans flirted with it for a while, but ultimately its lack of taunt and crippling overload relegated it in favor of beefier Taunt minions that could be more easily comboed across multiple turns. Midrange Shamans found the tempo loss when it was hard-removed too damaging against control, and the vanilla body did little against aggro.

In short, the card fell into the trap of many Hearthstone cards: Not doing enough, soon enough. The downside of the overload meant that playing Flamewreathed became a short-cut to Tempo oblivion against many enemies. Sure it could trade favorably, but only if not removed and after giving up 6 mana across two turns.

If the card had Taunt or some other immediate effect, it perhaps would have lived on. But as it was, it became an unwieldy anchor on any deck that wanted to run out. Not contributing to win conditions and slowing down the game plan, it was an easy cut to make.

The meme, eternal

While Flamewreathed Faceless has vanished from competitive Hearthstone, it’s memory and memery live on. The joke changed/grew subtle. The punchline was less about Blizzard releasing an overpowered minion and more about the hysterical overreaction of Hearthstone’s community to ill-judged overpowered cards that prove anything but in the long run.

The fact that Purify sees play in strong, meta Standard decks without any changes, and the infamous 4 mana 7/7 is unplayable is a estament to the community’s collective inability to judge cards in the long run; and on the subtle and evolving ways memes can grow from complaints to community satire.


Artwork courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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