Patch 1.6 Breakdown: Evaluating Heimer Tweaks and Other Balance Changes
Perhaps one of the most anticipated patches since the release of Rising Tides, 1.6 is finally here and brings with it not only an exciting new event but also a ton of highly impactful balance changes! As the meta was growing stale for many players, these tweaks coming with 1.6 has everyone brimming with excitement. Prior to the update, Riot released a few notes on their targeted categories for this particular patch:
Adjustments to some of Heimerdinger’s associated cards (his bots).
Reworking discard units to increase their satisfaction and usability.
Adjustments to direct damage on cheap Noxus units.
Let’s take a look at how they tackled those changes along with the other balance adjustments they made!
For the last few patches, Heimer has been one of the few champions to consistently have a top-tier deck. Whether it be with Karma, Vi, or other variants, Heimerdinger has been what makes these lists tick — and would often serve as their main win condition.
The prevalence of highly-efficient 3-mana spells in Legends of Runeterra made Heimerdinger a one-yordle Elusive death squad that could reliably fill the board with Elusive 3|1s in one turn. Tack on the fact that these Elusive units can be generated at Burst speed with the likes of Twin Disciplines and Flash of Brilliance and Heimer is truly a force to be reckoned with. For some time, Riot has adjusted his power level indirectly by tweaking the costs of cards such as Deny and Deep Meditation.
But in the grand scheme of things, these changes weren’t directed at Heimerdinger and so they were largely ineffective at taming the beast. And the aforementioned change to Deep Meditation even ended up buffing Heimerdinger! As such, Riot is taking action. Fortunately for Heimer, the nature of the card lends itself to relatively simple tweaks. Heimerdinger’s turrets are the main problem and Riot decided to shift them around in patch 1.6. The keywords on the 3-mana, 4-mana, and 6-mana turrets have changed from Elusive to Fearsome, Fearsome to Overwhelm, and Overwhelm to Elusive, respectively.
Bumping the Elusive keyword to 6-mana makes the Heimer Elusive archetype virtually non-existent (though there are viable 6-mana spells such as Harsh Winds, Atrocity, and Back to Back), while still keeping Heimer true to his design intent. At the end of the day, our favorite yordle is still functional and his fans could hope he is going to be around in the post-1.6 meta.
Shortly after his rework in Patch 1.4, Braum is receiving a slight nerf in 1.6. As the balance team is wont to do, they aggressively tweaked Braum in his rework to ensure that he saw play. As their patch notes mention, they were fully prepared to dial him back should he need it and they took patch 1.6 as an opportunity to do just that.
His newfound strength proved to be too much and Riot recognized that this needed further adjustment. In 1.6, Braum’s power drops back down to 0 at level one and 1 at level two. This should prevent him from taking over games early on.
I expect this likely won’t change the card’s playability. While his 1 power certainly helped him serve an additional purpose, his reworked ability (generating a Poro when he first takes damage) remains the same and provides the same board stability Braum has been capable of since 1.5. Freljord decks will still play him. He will continue to be present on ladder.
Anivia’s previous changes in Patch 1.4 have made Reanimator Anivia decks all the more powerful. Her reduced cost has made it significantly easier to pull of resurrection combos — whether it be through The Rekindler, Chronicler of Ruin, Mist’s Call, or otherwise — and these decks have eventually risen to the top of the meta. Personally, I find these ‘Zombie’ archetypes to be remarkably fun and they are right up my alley, but I admit they can prove to be frustrating to play against (especially considering the buffed early game through Braum’s rework).
One of the strong suits of the archetype is that LoR’s current card pool provides few streamlined options for removing both Anivia and Eggnivia in the same round (or even a couple of rounds). This bolsters Anivia’s survivability and makes her wonderfully resilient. Unfortunately, it also puts a target on her back from the balance team as her newly reduced cost simply makes her too efficient.
To fix this, Riot has decided to reduce the health of Eggnivia from 2 to 1 in Patch 1.6. I appreciate this tweak because it does little to change Anivia’s playability and doesn’t reverse anything that was changed in Patch 1.4. It simply provides players who find themselves facing a flock of Anivias the ability to better defend against them. This is a welcome change and I am happy to see the balance team taking stances like this to preserve the longevity of the game’s playability.
Followers & Spells
Will of Ionia
One of the most catch-all cards in Legends of Runeterra, Will of Ionia is finally getting nerfed in 1.6. As an easy auto-include in every Ionia deck, this spell is remarkably powerful. While bounce effects are generally useful in other card games, Will of Ionia at 4-mana was far too mana efficient for the threats that it hoses. Decks that rely heavily on buffing an individual card (such as some Braum decks) or landing an expensive unit (such as Nautilus) are completely countered by Will of Ionia alone.
The balance team has increased the cost of Will to 5 mana to force deckbuilders to think about their card’s choices in Ionia, as well as to decrease its efficiency. Overall this change should open the gates for several archetypes that couldn’t compete with the card.
Riot has been nailing these minor, yet prominent, balance adjustments lately and Basilisk Rider is another example of their prowess in this arena. The initial bump of the Rider’s health in Patch 1.4 gave the Overwhelm-based archetype the midgame it needed to demand respect from the top-tier decks in the meta. It was also a bit overkill and the balance team’s adjustment of Basilisk Rider’s power is exactly the type of minor on-the-fly adjustment I have come to love about this game.
Flash of Brilliance
Patch 1.6 is giving Flash of Brilliance the “Deny” treatment. As it turns out, getting cards or units for free is extremely powerful. Flash of Brilliance used to do both of these things when paired with Heimerdinger and Riot has seen that it is simply too efficient. Not only does Flash now require at least 1 non-spell mana to be cast, but it also now generates an Overwhelm unit instead of an Elusive one when Heimerdinger is on the battlefield.
Players will now have to put more thought into their use of Flash of Brilliance to maximize their mana efficiency. Heimerdinger will not be able to pump out numerous free 3|1 Elusive units any longer. These changes will equate to more interactive games, which is always a plus.
Crimson Disciple & Legion Grenadier
The efficiency with which certain units can deal direct Nexus damage (outside of combat) has been on Riot’s watchlist for the last few patches. In particular, cards like Crimson Disciple and Legion Grenadier have high combo potential while also being threatening units in their own right. Since the onset of Rising Tides, the Crimson Disciple/Imperial Demolitionist combination has been an auto-include in Noxus decks regardless of other synergies. However, Imperial Demolitionist isn’t the only card that combos well with Disciple. Any card that can deal small incremental damage turns into a Mystic Shot to the enemy Nexus when targeting Crimson Disciple.
It is not uncommon for Disciple to deal 8+ damage throughout a game without ever needing to attack. She sees support in plenty of other regions — most notably of which is Freljord with its health buffing spells. The pressure that this single 2-drop has the potential to create is baffling and ultimately too much. Riot has reduced the damage that Crimson Disciple’s passive ability does to 1 to mitigate the game-warping power that Disciple had.
Legion Grenadier is on a similar page and received the same nerf, bumping its Last Breath effect down from 2 damage to 1. I am happy that Riot decided to buff the health of Grenadier to offset the nerf. This change keeps Grenadier relevant and capable of sticking around a bit longer.
These Noxus-based direct damage effects have been meta-warping and I am glad to see them receive adjustments. At the moment, I don’t think the changes to Disciple and Grenadier will be enough to knock the deck out of the tier list, but decreasing the damage output by half on a repeatable effect — like Disciple’s — is a significant reduction. Time will tell, but I suspect we’ll be seeing fewer of these decks around overall.
Sump Dredger, Zaunite Urchin, Arena Bookie
Oh boy, was I excited when the team announced they were changing Discard effects in 1.6. I love the Discard archetype in LoR, but it needed a little extra “umph” to break it back into the upper echelons of ranked play. The most notable changes here come to Sump Dredger and Zaunite Urchin, but Arena Bookie also received a small update.
Prior to 1.6, the Discard effects attached to these cards was just that: a Discard effect. Come 1.6, Riot has adjusted the mechanic to now include a draw component to discard effects as well. Sump Dredger still requires you to discard a card to play it, but it now draws you a card as well! That’s huge! Not only is it a strong body, but now its play effect isn’t so taxing. It did receive a slight balance check in the form of a cost adjustment — Sump Dredger is now a 3-mana 4|3. A number of the Discard payoffs require you have an empty hand (such as Jinx), which doesn’t synergize with extra card draw effects, but at the end of the day, more cards only give you more options in a game of LoR.
Zaunite Urchin received the same change (less the cost adjustment). They no longer have the Play and Last Breath abilities, instead adopting the newly reworked “To play me, discard 1 and draw 1” effect.
In an effort to bolster the 2-drop slot in the curve of Discard decks now that Sump Dredger is a 3-drop, the balance team also gave Arean Bookie a little touch-up. Bookie is now a 2-mana 2|2. It’s Round Start ability remains untouched, but at 2-mana Bookie is a strong contender for Discard decks going forward and is likely to start seeing more play — if for nothing else than to see how he works in the deck.
Overall I feel that these subtle, yet impactful changes to Discard-based followers will be a boon to the archetype as a whole. I look forward to approaching these decks with a new lens and seeing what can come out of an already incredibly fun archetype.
Riot continues to impress with their understanding of the meta. True to form, they also snuck in a few unexpected changes that I didn’t quite have the time to cover in this article. You can check out the full 1.6 patch notes here if you’re interested in those. Even after seven months, I never grow tired of the consistent unabashed nature of the balance team. They are never afraid to revert over-tuned changes or even rethink their initial approach to changes they make.
We should be in for yet another meta shake-up as Heimerdinger, Braum, Eggnivia, Will of Ionia, Basilisk Rider, Flash of Brilliance, and the Direct Nexus Damage effects all receive nerfs. Luckily for Piltover&Zaun players, the discard archetype is seeing some buffs to some generally underplayed cards.
What are you most excited about with the balance changes in 1.6? Did Riot adjust everything you hoped they would? What do you think they missed? Let me know your thoughts here in the comments or on Twitter.