The Winners and Losers of 2.18 Balance Patch
Hello, Agigas here!
The October 20th patch 2.18.0 was teased as a large balance patch a long time ago. While the current meta has felt very pleasant thanks to a great hotfix patch before the World Championship and a successful Bandle City release, a balance patch is always welcome to keep things fresh and exciting!
In this article, we will take a look at how this balance patch should impact the meta – which popular archetypes should rise, and which ones should fall. With the nerfs of dominant meta archetypes and a plethora of interesting buffs, there are a lot of things to talk about, including some important ripple effects.
I hope this analysis will help you get a sense of the direction where the meta is headed and will allow you to make better deck choices. The evaluations and conclusions here are based on my personal opinions, but I also back them up with Mobalytics’ Plat+ win rate stats.
If you would be interested to learn more about the patch and finding out what the most impactful changes are, feel free to check out my analysis of the 12 most impactful changes.
Zoe Nami is the deck that is the most impacted by the nerfs. The Nami nerf makes the deck a turn slower to develop its game plan, making it easier for the opponent to race it down or set up a control strategy.
However, it is the Sparklefly nerf that really hits the deck hard. Not only it makes the deck slower and more mana-intensive, but this change also prevents Sparklefly from being tutored with Gifts from Beyond‘s Crescendum. With the deck effectively losing 3 additional copies of Sparklefly, banking your whole gameplay around buffing them up won’t be a consistent strategy anymore.
While the Nami archetype as we know it isn’t viable anymore, there is still room for experimentation and changes. If the deck was to survive as the Targon version, it will need to play another 2-cost unit, likely Boxtopus or Marai Songstress.
Another likely outcome would be for Nami to drop the Targon package for Fizz and Pranks, which was pretty decent with a 51.5% win rate last season. But no matter what the next step for the archetype is, Nami’s nerf will still be there and impactful.
I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of Nami going forward, and I doubt it will get into Tier 1 anymore even though the champion itself is still strong. Zoe Nami has been a dominant Tier 1 deck this whole season – removing it from the meta will for sure have a big impact and some ripple effects.
First of all, while Poppy didn’t get nerfed herself, a lot of the aggressive cards often paired with her did get hit.
Bandle Swarm gets affected pretty heavily by the nerfs to Tenor of Terror, which had many synergies with the deck, and Relentless Pursuit, as the deck often needs a lot of mana to play both
The archetype is also affected by the upcoming meta changes. It had a very good matchup against Zoe Nami with a 62.5% win rate against it, which should disappear, and a much worse one into Dragons (50% win rate against it last season, should get clearly worse with the patch), which will be on the rise.
While Bandle Swarm, featured here, is the most affected one by the nerfs, other Poppy aggro decks, such as Poppy Elusive or Poppy Burn, are also losing from the patch – they all are touched by nerfs and share similar matchup tables.
Overall, Poppy aggressive decks should still be in a pretty decent spot. I expect them to see a drop in win rate and play rate, but to still see Poppy being a popular meta pick. Yordle Burn is the one that lost the least here from this patch, as it will simply replace Tenor of Terror with Lecturing Yordle, and will likely still hold a Tier 1 spot in the future meta.
Draven‘s nerf is the most impactful change from this patch to Draven Sion. With this change, Draven won’t be safe anymore from the numerous 2-damage cards, such as Mystic Shot, Fleetfeather Tracker, Avalanche, Blighted Ravine, or Withering Mist.
The change to Twinblade Revenant, however, is more ambiguous. While losing the Challenger keyword is a big loss and will remove some of Draven Sion’s ability to control the board, the addition of the Fearsome keyword will help Twinblade Revenant as an aggressive unit.
Finally, the nerf to Aloof Travelers will simply push players to play the versions without it. This does not seem like a big loss, however, it is important to note that this will diminish Draven Sion’s ability to adapt to any meta, and like the change to Twinblade Revenant, makes Draven Sion worse at answering the opponent’s threats.
Overall, those changes seem to push the deck on a more aggressive playstyle. This will certainly make some matchups harder, such as Darkness as you won’t be able to challenge their champions anymore.
When it comes to the meta, there is both some good and bad news for Draven Sion. The downfall of Zoe Nami is extremely beneficial, as Draven Sion only had a 38.2% win rate against it. However, the fall of Poppy decks isn’t so great (61.3% win rate against Bandle Swarm), as well the rise of Darkness (47.1% win rate against it and will get worse).
While the patch will certainly nerf Draven Sion’s ability to adapt to every meta and diminish Draven’s power level, the deck keeps a lot of its strengths, and will likely keep a Tier 1 spot in the meta.
With so many of the Tier 1 archetypes getting nerfed, being a Tier 1 deck relatively untouched is a big advantage.
For Bandle Tree, the only nerf is on Aloof Travelers – though the change to Tenor of Terror will matter sometimes because the deck has access to it through the Manifest mechanic. While this nerf is important, it should not change the ability of the deck to defend itself by swarming the board until it wins thanks to The Bandle Tree.
Moreover, Bandle Tree seems to be a big winner from the meta evolutions. Darkness has been a growing force during the last season and is one of the winners of the patch, and Dragons is expected to be the big newcomer of the upcoming meta – Bandle Tree has respectively a 68% and 81.3% win rate against those decks.
Moreover, the nerfs to Poppy aggro decks (42% win rate against Bandle Swarm) will help Bandle Tree retain its Tier 1 position.
Going forward, Bandle Tree is expected to be one of the most popular Tier 1 decks and should keep in check slower archetypes without good access to landmark removals. If you’re looking for something strong right at the start of the season, Bandle Tree is one of the top choices.
With its most popular list at a 51.5% win rate, Dragons were already closer to being competitive than most players imagine. Now, with tons of great buffs to the archetype, it does look like Dragons could find its place in the meta once again.
The most important buff to the archetype is
With this buff, Dragons will now be very decisive at finishing games, which was one of their biggest weaknesses. The opponent won’t be able to use their Nexus health as a resource, and because Dragon Clutch comes at Burst speed they will need to consider going for some bad blocks to play around it.
While the other buffs are individually a bit less impactful, they all add up to make Dragons great again. Herald of Dragons won’t die too ping effects anymore, Solari Priestess and Ruined Dragonguard will now offer a real board presence, and Aurelion Sol will level up a lot easier – often the turn he hits the board.
The Dragons archetype is the most hyped-up deck coming into the 2.18 Patch, and for good reasons. It is still too early to tell how high the deck will place, but I’m overall optimistic.
It’s also with mentioning that we could also find some very different builds using the Dragons’ buffs. For example, Targon FTR synergizes particularly well with the new Aurelion Sol level-up condition and also gets a buff for Faces of the Old Ones.
Darkness has been one of the most popular decks for quite some time, but it wasn’t showing amazing ladder stats so far with a 51.6% win rate. It was performing a lot better in tournaments, where a Poppy ban would push the archetype in Tier 1.
With the patch, the Poppy Aggro archetypes’ play rate should drop. Yordle Burn, the least impacted deck, is actually a pretty decent matchup for Darkness. This meta evolution will clearly favor Darkness on the ladder.
Moreover, Dess & Ada also get buffed in the Darkness archetype, where it will often come down on turn 8 as a one-sided board clear with a 7/6 body attached to it, at the same time instantly leveling up your champions. While Darkness wasn’t playing the card so far, it should now become a common inclusion, as it will help Darkness with two of its biggest weaknesses – dealing with wide boards and finishing games.
Another important new strength of Darkness will be the Draven Sion matchup. Often labeled as Darkness-favored, this matchup was actually deceptively close – 52.9% for Darkness, with the margin getting even narrower than that in Master rank. With Twinblade Revenant losing Challenger, Draven Sion will now struggle to remove Senna and Veigar. Moreover, Draven getting in range of Darkness’ base damage is also very impactful.
On the other end, The Bandle Tree will still be a force to reckon with and is part of the winners of the patch as one of the rare Tier 1 decks to not get too impacted by the changes. This deck should continue to limit Darkness’s power on the ladder, as Darkness has a 31.3% win rate against it.
Because of that, I don’t expect Darkness to become a dominant archetype on the ladder. However, this patch should confirm Darkness’ position as a strong competitive option.
Pretty much every Tier 1 Staple was affected by the nerfs, but Gangplank Sejuani seems to have slipped through it. While this deck isn’t considered as a dominant archetype, it does show really strong performances both on the ladder and in tournaments thanks to its pretty evenly distributed matchup table.
While the evolution of other archetypes’ popularity shouldn’t matter too much for Gangplank Sejuani, there is one nerf that will definitely help the deck – Aloof Travelers. Gangplank Sejuani’s win conditions are very susceptible to Aloof Travelers. After the patch, we can expect a lot of decks, such as Draven Sion or Darkness, to cut this card from their deck, and therefore have a worse matchup against Gangplank Sejuani.
Gangplank Sejuani shouldn’t get out of control after the patch. However, it remains as the only non-nerfed Tier 1 Staple, has a flexible matchup table heading in the new meta, and should win some percentages against decks cutting Aloof Traveler.
With a lot of buffs and almost every Tier 1 Staples being nerfed, it looks like the upcoming meta should go through a lot of exciting changes.
If you have any questions, feedback, or want to discuss those balance changes, I’ll be happy to read and answer you in the comments below!
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Thanks for reading!