First off, I wanted to address the Multi-Class topic, and the Quick Match one in the same blog, as in many ways, they are inherently linked.
Now, let’s go over multi-class first. There are many things that need to be understood about this Hero type that you may not think about at first glance. Multi-Class, from a Blizzard definition, is a Hero that can play multiple roles – be it, warrior, support, assassin, or specialist (in theory). From a practical standpoint, this is a Hero that basically chooses their defined “role” at Level 10. In Varian’s case, he has Warrior, Assassin (Colossus Smash), and Assassin/Bruiserish (Twin Blades) roles. Now, this sounds really cool, and in a lot of respects, it is! A multi-class type Hero potentially brings some interesting flexibility to your draft. In a perfect world, the enemy team wouldn’t necessarily know how you were going to spec them, and this would allow your team to adjust on-the-fly depending on how the game is going. This also allows for even greater map-by-map build flexibility (Oh, I’m on Warhead? This would be and awesome twin blades map, because I can be sneaky and solo bosses!).
As cool as this all sounds on paper (and sometimes is in practice), the potential issues it introduces are numerous. First, we’ll touch on Quick Match, but we’ll hit it in detail later. With this type of Hero, you have the incredibly hard job of trying to design a team comp around a Hero that could be multiple roles. For assassin roles, this isn’t a big deal, but when a team adds the possibility of the multi-class Hero going tank (which is the big issue right now), you throw a wrench into things. Do you call Varian an assassin and run the risk of one team having a tank and the other being tankless (which in many cases can cause the team with the tank to have, at the very least, a slight advantage). Or, do you classify him as a warrior and “force” the multi-class player to play the tank role (taking away player choice and multi-class purpose), or leave his team tankless and at a disadvantage themselves. Quite the multi-faceted conundrum, though not unsolvable!
Second, you have the issue of balance. We’ve seen this for the entirety of Varian’s existence, and even though he’s our only current example, I would venture to guess any future multi-class will have this issue as well. Varian started off with his Twin Blades build being very strong, and the rest being very weak. Fast-forward to now and you have a very dominant warrior build and two decent, but underused assassin builds. I’m not on the balance team, but I can imagine trying to make three builds completely balanced to the point where you could pick any of them and not be “wrong” is a tall order.
On the flip-side of that same balance coin though, you have talents. This is another extremely difficult part of a multi-class design philosophy. Do you make all the talents leading up to Level 10 flexible and able to be used regardless of what build you take? Or do you have a “cookie cutter” build per role up until 10, which can potentially screw the player over if they didn’t take the “right” talents for the role they chose at 10? Then for Varian specifically you have the darn Level 4 tier. We are now at a spot where you essentially only have one choice, out of a tier of only two talents. Looking at this from Blizzard’s perspective, I can see why Varian has had such a balance rollercoaster ride.
So how do we fix this? Let’s touch on Varian first, then multi-class in general, and finally the Quick Match issue.
Right now, Varian’s issues seem to stem from a combination of numbers and talents. I won’t dive into numbers as those are things that can constantly be tweaked in small amounts up and down (and with Blizzard’s patching schedule this is – and has been – a completely legitimate option, even if it takes a few rounds of small buffs or nerfs to get things right). Let’s talk about talents though. After the recent update where his parry talents were toned down a bit, new build options were opened up. I’ve always loved Varians 13/16/20 tiers, because they provide a lot of situational, reactive options, and you can be rewarded for analyzing your current situation and needs. As I said above, his Level 4 tier is what needs help the most. It’s hard to put anything up against Shield Wall and expect it to compete, and it’s a testament to how absolutely ridiculous Warbringer was initially to edge out Shield Wall in almost every scenario. But now that the stun has been removed, poor Warbringer has been left in the dust, no matter how many buffs they try to give it. I know this has in some way been proposed before, but I would love to see some more synergy between his abilities. I would like to see Warbringer get a root aspect to it, but only Lion’s Fang was applied to the target first (this also could make Lion’s Maw more valuable if you go this route since it allows the effect to persist longer, giving more time for root potential). This would potentially give you another form of CC, that wouldn’t necessarily chain in the way a stun/taunt combo would, but would be somewhat skill-based versus a simple point-and-click. You would of course have to rework the full Warbringer talent to do this, lower the cooldown reduction some, and perhaps even shorten the range of Charge when you took it by a small amount. It’s all about opportunity cost. Now you choose between damage immunity and a second CC, just not one that combos quite as well with your already excellent Taunt. Opening up your Level 4 options also has the added side effect of allowing for Victory Rush, perhaps with some slight tweaks, see play again as well! Finally, I also wouldn’t mind seeing Varian’s Stormwind and Dalaran Banners given small cooldown reductions as well (even if they were nerfed slightly) to allow for more frequent, situational use versus the catch-all armor banner.
Now, let’s talk about multi-class in general. My hope is that next time around (and I mean, there’s not many people that wouldn’t like to see a feral druid or a holy/shadow priest), Blizzard will take a lot of the lessons from Varian and put them into practice. In my mind, a multi-class Hero is one that can adapt to the given situation, while giving up some amount of power to do so. Mediocre base power, with most of your power coming from your talents. I can choose to heal more, but maybe I give up CC to do so. I can choose more damage, but maybe I give up utility to do so. Talents based on current situation, not cookie cutter builds. Somewhat like Varian, the Level 1, 4, 7 talents augment your base kit, then post-10, your talents give you the power to augment and enhance your choice. Perhaps even post-10 talents that “morph” based on your Level 10 Heroic (with 2-3 talents per tier, per Level 10 that was chosen). The sky is really the limit on the ideas here, but it’s hard to go into detail without designing a full, new multi-class kit -
So, I’ll do that real quick for fun:
Priest (Holy/Shadow) - https://heroeshearth.com/concepts/heroes/tbkzord/multiclass-priest/
Trait - Power Word - Fortitude: Increases the health of the Hero you cast this on by X (or X%). Can only be active on one hero at a time. Only increases health potential (essentially gives you the ability to have a higher health pool but doesn’t heal you up to it when it is cast)
Q - Penance: Channeled burst heal or damage depending on ally or enemy target
W - Renewal: Small initial heal with moderate heal over time
E - Shadow Word - Pain: Damage over Time single target spell
R - Shadow Form, Mind Flay, Channeled aoe damage with small heal around channel point, shorter CD. Lowers healing of Renewal by X%
R2 - Holy Form, Dispel, Removes all status effects and damage over time effects, moderate CD, 60+ sec. Lowers damage of Shadow Word - Pain by X%
1 Key lvl 10 Shadow Form - Fear, 60s CD, fear 1 enemy for X sec in the opposite direction of the caster
1 Key lvl 10 Holy Form - Power Word - Shield, 60s CD, Shield an ally for X for X sec
This is just a base concept without hard numbers so try not to pick it apart too much. You would modify your trait and basic abilities for Levels 1, 4, and 7, and then post Level 10 you would get two or three Shadow/Holy talents per tier that would augment abilities or provide utility based on your choice of Heroic.
Finally, let’s address the topic of Quick Match matchmaking. Multi-Class, as talked about above, introduces an interesting conundrum for the matchmaker and its ruleset. So what I suggest, is that we give the matchmaker more rules to increase its flexibility.
“Wait a minute TBK. Won’t more rules make things less flexible, not to mention slower?”
Well, in theory, no. I’ve talked about this on our podcast, Lords of the Storm, a few times now, but what I would like to see is Hero selection in Quick Match fundamentally re-looked at. Up until now, all you do is pick a Hero in Quick Match, and queue up. The matchmaker then finds you a match and a team based on a certain set of rules, which multi-class can inherently make much more complicated. I am proposing two potential solutions to this.
First, allow players to queue up into Quick Match with anywhere from 1-3 potential Heroes they want to play selected. This would automatically give the matchmaker incredible amounts of flexibility to form teams, as it would many times have double or even triple the number of Heroes to work with. Because of this, you would theoretically be able to add slightly more rules around comps, especially ones involving multi-class Heroes, to allow for player choice in their multi-class role, instead of locking them into a certain type (for example, you could always pair a Varian with another tank, allowing you to dual tank or go a dps build depending on your preference and the enemy team). You could of course still queue as a 2-, 3-, 4-, or 5-man with whatever you wanted, or queue with a single Hero selected to make sure you got to play that particular Hero. For me personally though (and I’m sure many others as well), I would often times have more than one Hero selected for variety or perhaps even faster queues.
Second, allow players to “pick” their multi-class role, if they want to, before queuing into Quick Match. This would provide the matchmaker with the knowledge of what role the player is going pre-game, and once the player hit Level 10 in-game, the talent/role that they chose when they queued would be automatically selected. This would allow the player to play what role they wanted, allow the matchmaker the knowledge it needs to make a good comp, and keep the player from “cheating” the system by selecting something other than what they queued for.
I believe one, or hopefully, both of the above options have the potential to make quickmatch a much better experience for players, and for the matchmaking system to provide more quality games all around. This system being in place would also pave the way for future multi-class heroes to easily transition into the quickmatch ecosystem. As always, thank you for reading and if you have any thoughts please leave them in the comments below!