Heroes of the Storm

Vision Control and Counterplay: A concerning trend in recent HotS balance history

Something that’s been on my mind since Junkrat’s Big As change: a lot of the stronger ranged DPS heroes in the competitive hots meta right now have superior vision control. Chromie has Time Trap and her lvl 1 active. Junk has traps (and even W controls vision in bushes). Hanzo has Sonic Arrow (to be fair, this one got hard nerfed in 2018 and doesn’t remain on the ground indefinitely). And that brings us to this week, when Zagara received hefty buffs. Zag is a hero that can place a long duration ward on the ground every 18 seconds with 3 charges.

Vision control is extremely important at top level play. It’s a really big deal when your team knows where it is and isn’t safe to step up, which bush an enemy hero is rotating through or hiding in, when your opponents are starting a camp, et cetera. It can influence the shape of a teamfight in all sorts of ways.

When a hero has good enough teamfight power to rival heroes like Cassia or Sylvanas but it also has superior utility or vision control, it becomes a top priority pick. If (hypothetically) Zag can do 90% of what Sylv can in a fight but Zag is providing vision of every single chokepoint entering into the shrine simultaneously, that’s easily enough value to outshine the Sylv.

I don’t know what the balance team should do about this, if anything. But I think at the very least, it’s important to make sure these vision mechanics have realistic counterplay. Zag is probably a good example of a hero where the design isn’t so toxic, thankfully; the creep tumors have a visual indicator, a small healthbar, and a vulnerability against AoE abilities. You see the purple on the ground, one fire stomp can reveal the ward, your DPS pumps in a single AA and the creep is removed. Hanzo’s reveal can’t be killed but it has a long CD, a small area, and a visual indicator for the enemy side. Lunara’s wisp dies to just two ticks of damage. These heroes have strong vision control with fairly reasonable limits.

Chromie and Junkrat are much more egregious offenders. Chromie’s traps are killable, but they are stealthed with no visual indicator once armed. Junkrat’s traps and mines are unkillable. They are visible, but only from within the bush (contrasted with Zag and Hanzo). With Big As, the trap can’t even be tripped by minions or summons; you just have to walk into it or cede control to the Rat. Both Chromie and Junkrat’s traps apply strong CC and have enormous threat behind them when the team can follow up. Unlike Hanzo and Lunara, these traps have unlimited duration.

I don’t know what the answer here should be, what could make these abilities less toxic without ruining the heroes entirely. Or how utility vs raw teamfight power should be balanced in general. But I am worried about this overall trend where DPS with strong vision control are getting buffed, sometimes becoming meta powerhouses like Chromie. And I want there to be reliable answers when I see these heroes on the enemy team.

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