Hello, Agigas here!
Today, I wanted to go over the balance changes announced in the patch 2.5.0 notes, and talk about what those changes mean for each card. I’ll also be releasing a meta-analysis later today, so if you’re interested to see how the meta should evolve stay tuned! 😄
To evaluate how impactful a change is I’ll be assigning two letter-based grades to each card: the first one represents the power of the card prior to the patch 2.5.0 changes, and the second one rates the card after the patch. These grades are not meant to be ‘absolute’ – their sole purpose is to illustrate the commentary I provide and define how relatively impactful the change is.
- S – Very powerful card, you can’t really ask more from it.
- A – Strong card, and if you are in an archetype where it fits you’ll be happy to bring it in.
- B – Decent card, playable in the right archetype but isn’t going to enable a competitive deck by itself.
- C – Doesn’t find a home because it is not good enough and/or doesn’t have a competitive archetype.
- D – Weak card and doesn’t have any viable archetype.
Twisted Fate: S+ ➔ S. This was one of the most expected nerfs of the patch. Twisted Fate has been at the top of the meta for a very long time thanks to his flexibility, and recently he has become very oppressive in decks looking to level him up.
Twisted Fate’s level 2 is extremely powerful and is supposed to be difficult to achieve. However, if you’ve played in the last two months you’ve likely seen more level-ups of Twisted Fate than of any other champion. Because of the powerful cycling effects (ex. Rummage, Pick a Card) the level-up was happening way too fast, leaving very little time for the opponent to react. It doesn’t help that the two most recent regions, Targon and Shurima, have very few options to quickly remove Twisted Fate.
Slowing TF down with this nerf will give the opponent more time to remove it, or an opportunity to out-race it. Still, the quest looks very achievable even after the change, and it is actually not too big. Decks looking to level TF up should still be able to do it. The nerf didn’t affect Twisted Fate’s flexibility aspect, so I expect him to still see a lot of play in decks looking to include him for his versatility.
Overall, the nerf looks well-measured – TF should remain as a strong and popular champion but will feel less oppressive. Rather than heavily hit the champion itself, the balance team chose to make bigger changes to the package that made him overly strong in TF Fizz shell.
Fiora: S ➔ A. This nerf was also an expected one. The Fiora Shen archetype was showing great results and for too long now. This change will make Fiora less dominant on the board. It will also make the level-up and win condition harder to achieve, as you will be more reliant on protection spells to keep her alive. She won’t be able to freely pick off 2/1 units anymore.
Overall, I do think that Fiora Shen’s recent success was partly due to Fizz TF protecting it from its natural predators like Ashe Noxus (see my article about the previous meta’s offenders). Hence I think the archetype would have been just fine without a nerf, as its counters could come back after Fizz TF’s nerfs.
However, Fiora has been Tier 1 for a very long time and I think this is where most of the problem is. She wasn’t going to be too overpowered but nerfing her freshens up the meta and hits yet another top deck.
Jarvan IV: C ➔ B. This champion has been a major letdown from the Empire of the Ascended expansion. He saw some experimentation in the first days but was quickly left behind.
This buff is obviously welcome and will make Jarvan stronger, allowing for a better board presence and resiliency to removals. However, the stat buff alone is unlikely to be enough to make Jarvan that much more competitively-viable as the champion’s problems have nothing to do with stats. His main issues are that he comes down too late into the game, and he is hard to level up.
Overall, this buff is good but shouldn’t change the meta.
Shyvana B- ➔ B. Shyvana didn’t see play even despite her last buff, so it’s not a big surprise to see her once again in the patch notes.
She finally receives the Fury keyword that all her dragon friends have – but it comes for her at the cost of an attack point. Her ‘vanilla form’ is weaker, but as soon as she secures her first kill, she will feel much better and more resilient.
This looks like a fair trade-off, and Shyvana looks slightly better overall, especially when you consider the synergy with Dragon Chow. However, this is a minor buff, and I don’t expect Shyvana to suddenly carry the Dragon archetype just because of it.
Lulu: B ➔ B+. Lulu has been the least played champion for a long time, and she now receives a buff to try to remedy that. However, gaining an attack point was probably the smallest buff she could have got. It allows her to trade more efficiently, but Lulu doesn’t want to trade – she wants to survive, to support more allies.
Also, Lulu’s main problem is with her card package. Her archetype as a whole is struggling, and Lulu was actually already pretty decent herself. This buff shouldn’t change too much the current state of the support archetype. Maybe with the nerf to Fiora more players will go back to the Shen Lulu Demacia archetype that saw experimentation in the first weeks of the Call of the Mountain set.
Overall I think Lulu is a pretty good card and should see experimentation, but it could be hard for her to find a competitive archetype.
Pick a Card: S ➔ B. Pick a Card will now cost 1 less and draw 1 less. This is very clearly a nerf, as the extra card was way more relevant than the extra mana cost.
This change also concerns TF’s champion spell
Wiggly Burblefish: S+ ➔ A. Wiggly Burblefish was a staple of Fizz TF, and also saw some play in other archetypes with TF and a lot of draw power (Aphelios TF, TF Go Hard). Free units are abusable, especially when the unit in question has as strong a keyword as Elusive.
This nerf is pretty straightforward – it affects the power of Wiggly Burblefish as a payoff without changing the difficulty of the setup. I think this change is really big – since Burblefish is a card you would play multiple copies of over a single turn, lowering its attack power is very impactful. Finding a lethal attack in a single turn of Burblefish spam will be much harder to achieve.
The Wiggly Burblefish payoff doesn’t look impressive and self-sufficient to me anymore. I think it still has potential with some support as a free Elusive (ex: it is still an amazing card to pair with Mind Meld), but the fact that a bunch of Wiggly Burblefishes won’t be able to kill the opponent easily by themselves is a major change.
Dreg Dredgers: A ➔ S. Good old days, where Deep was so good it ended up being nerfed!
Now we’ve seen that change reverted, and it will help Deep to contest the board in the early game much better. Dreg Dredgers will now be able to trade with all aggressive 1-drops and most 2-drops, making it way harder to push damage against it. This a very impactful change.
The Dreadway: C ➔ B. This change, aside from removing the Ledros Timelines combo from the game, is also a pretty major buff to the Dreadway.
Having 6 health points instead of 8 isn’t a big loss, as the unit will still be really hard to remove with damage. The cost reduction, however, is very impactful. Being able to play your Dreadway a turn earlier in a late-game situation can heavily swing a match. I am very excited to see if this will be enough for an archetype to emerge around the Gangplank control package.
Shadow Assassin: C ➔ A. The change from 1/2 to 2/1 is a clear buff – there is no use for the extra health point when the attack power is so low. With this change, Shadow Assassin should be back as a good flexible option for Ionia decks, good at Elusive pressure or contesting the board, while drawing a card.
I think this is a great change that will help the Ionia region, but I don’t think Shadow Assassin will be an auto-include like she was before her original nerf. The game and archetypes have evolved since, and she still lost a health point compared to the pre-nerf version.
Fae Guide: C ➔ C+. This change looks very minor to me – what matters about Fae Guide isn’t his stats but his effect. The extra point of health is always welcome, but it doesn’t make it easier or more consistent to build around Fae Guide. I don’t think this change will help Fae Guide to break through into competitive play.
Legion Rearguard: C ➔ A. This is a great revert of a previous nerf, and Legion Rearguard is now back in consideration as a good aggressive option for Noxus.
Since his nerf, Legion Rearguard wasn’t seeing any play. I doubt that this buff will create decks as oppressive as they were before his change, as the game has evolved since then, but will certainly help and provide one more option to play with.
Sea Scarab: B ➔ S. +1/+1 on a 2-cost unit is a very important buff, – it is now a lot better at contesting the early board. Sea Scarab was already a pretty good unit in Deep, and this buff should make it an auto-include that will clearly improve the deck.
Sea Scarab is a unit you would like to keep alive in early, so it can see some other units die before it dies itself, enabling more Toss. With its previous 1/2 stat-line, Sea Scarab was not only very bad in terms of board presence, but also very hard to keep alive if you need to block. With these new stats, Sea Scarab will now have more effect on board and will be able to survive combat easier.
Esteemed Hierophant: D ➔ C. The Sun Disc archetype is underperforming a lot so every buff is welcome. Unfortunately, this change is not impressive at all, and will very rarely help you restoring the Sun Disc – you’ll most likely still have to level up two Ascended champions.
Callous Bonecrusher: D ➔ C. Unfortunately this is still not a good Reputation payoff – the card really lacks a keyword to make it shine. Callous Bonecrusher has pretty impressive stats now – even when cast for its full cost – but I don’t think a stat-stick with no keyword or useful effect can be competitively-viable.
Aphelios: S+ ➔ B. This is a big change regarding the Moon Weapons’ raw power, but there are also some other consequences.
Raising the weapons’ cost up to 3 mana disables the turn 3 Crescendum into Boxtopus play pattern previously available for Aphelios Bilgewater archetype, which was a huge part that led it to snowball in the mid-game. It also makes it much more expensive to cycle through Aphelios’ weapons to gain a lot of value and level him up.
An interesting interaction that might be now worth exploring is the new synergy between Aphelios’ weapons and Tri-beam Improbulator.
Overall Aphelios loses a lot through that change, and I expect this nerf to make him a lot less dominant – his best shells could easily fall down to Tier 2.
Gifts From Beyond: B ➔ B. This is not really a buff because the weapons themselves now cost 1 more mana. It still changes some minor things (ex. – Gifts can now be created by Burblefish) and affects play patterns of a spell a little bit, but nothing really significant that should impact the card power-level.
The Veiled Temple: S+ ➔ A. This landmark has proven to be a real powerhouse and was a big reason why the Aphelios archetype was so successful. Cheating on mana enabled the archetype to gain control of the tempo, and the stat boost made it even easier to dominate the board, while protecting a key unit like Aphelios.
The mana refill aspect of a landmark wasn’t touched, so I expect Veiled Temple to still be a strong card. However, the stat boost will only be on the attack. This is extremely important, and removing the health boost affects the most important part of the temple stat buff – protecting a unit. No more immortal Aphelioses.
The attack buff will still be quite impactful in very late-game situations where the buff goes onto resilient Celestial units (ex: The Great Beyond, The Immortal Fire, The Destroyer), but will make it way harder to stick a unit on the board in the mid-game.
Overall it’s a great nerf, and the landmark is still looking powerful for the tempo gain but should not feel nearly as overtuned as before.
This patch should be very impactful, with a lot of big changes to the meta. Both Fizz TF and Aphelios decks got nerfed very hard, and I don’t expect them to keep their ‘meta king’ status.
There are a lot of minor buffs to various underplayed archetypes, which is good but should not have a decisive effect on the meta – the buffs to Deep are looking to be the most impactful ones.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read, and are excited for the new meta! If you have any questions, feedback, or want to discuss those balance changes, I’ll be happy to read and answer you in this dedicated Reddit post or in the comments below! 😄
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