Oxy had a chance to play Orphea at BlizzCon and share his thoughts on the first Nexus-born Hero.
Hey everyone! I once again had the chance to attend BlizzCon this year, meaning I also got to play some Orphea. As is tradition for such announcements, here’s a wall of text about the hero’s abilities, some of her talents, her design, and her power level. Although I was also going to discuss her controversial nature, I’ll be keeping that for another post.
Orphelia is primarily the brain child of developer (and much appreciated acquaintance) Kyle Dates.
If the 1-month her release schedule stands true, Orphea should be available to everyone on November 13. She may also be available on the PTR starting November 6, if PTR there is. Further, she’ll be given out for “free” to those who have acquired this year’s virtual ticket.
Stats, Abilities, and Talents at a Glance
Click the spoiler below to reveal Orphea’s statistics, abilities, and talents.
Ability and Talent Discussion
Orphea’s character overview goes something like “a ranged assassin who dances around her enemies while using spells to empower her attacks.” Shadow Waltz’s name, then, provides a clue on how important it is. Indeed, Shadow Waltz is packed with effects, and saying that the ability defines Orphea would not be an understatement. One may be tempted to draw a comparison with League of Legend’s Kalista and her rather unique passive, Martial Pose, which lets her hop about after delivering basic attacks. I’d say the comparison is valid, although the two character’s gameplay are anything but similar.
Naturally, the most notable aspect of Shadow Waltz lies in its potentially very low-cooldown dashing effect. To put things into perspective, abilities which provide similar levels of mobility (Vault being a classic example) are typically gated by a cooldown of 8 seconds or more. On successful hero hits, Shadow Waltz shaves off 70% (5 seconds) of its own cooldown.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking this brings Orphea’s combat mobility to anything near Illidan levels, however; while it does let you avoid quite a few slower skillshots, one has to consider that all of Orphea’s abilities have a rather hefty cast time or delay of sorts to them. Shadow Waltz itself has a cast time of 0.5 seconds and is rather predictable. The dash mostly serves to make up for the time spent casting, as opposed to being a legitimate way of moving about really fast.
In any case, considering her potential damage output, anything more would be ludicrous. Blizzard agreed too, it seems: The press kit that was released recently presents a Shadow Waltz with a cooldown of 5 seconds and a bit more damage than the BlizzCon version of the hero. And, given the general dislike of high mobility heroes, I think we’re playing it safer than sorry.
Quite predictably, hitting Shadow Waltz was very satisfying because it opened up a good bit of playmaking potential, between being able to be aggressive to juking projectiles. In parallel, missing it made me feel miserable, as I felt disempowered (and rightly vulnerable) until it was available again. Is this too stark of a contrast? My initial reaction is to say so, though playing with and against players closer to my level will let me judge this more reasonably.
The dashing part itself sometimes felt a bit awkward in the sense that it triggers on the following click (as in, clicking towards a location “forces” Orphea to dash towards that location). In practice, this means you have to be extra careful following Shadow Waltz hits not to waste the effect or, worse, dash where you don’t want to be. An annoying side effect of this is that Orphea will dash towards her basic attack target if this target move out of her basic attack range. I understand why this is the way it is, but I’m not a fan of this behaviour.
Synergy-wise, Shadow Waltz’s dash naturally allows you to follow up with Chomp. It also makes basic attacks safer to deliver for the purpose of triggering one’s trait, Overflowing Chaos. I’ll be covering those abilities below.
Notable Shadow Waltz Talents
In my experience, the majority of my offensive Shadow Waltz hits were “just the tip,” making En Pointe a reliable choice at level 1. A 50% damage increase on one’s main ability is quite substantial, and it did have the side effect of being useful for PvE purposes, unlike the alternatives.
Insane and probably quite fun if you’re good. Since I was not, it became a cooldown reset at best.
Chomp is Orphelia’s hardest hitting ability, and a pretty interesting one despite its apparent simplicity. The closest comparison I can make is Leoric’s Ghastly Swing, which may seem quite strange considering Orpelia is a caster, which are generally associated with staying away from trouble. Orphelia’s kit, however, does provide her with a surprising amount of survivability between dashing around and the healing provided by Overflowing Chaos. This makes Chomp less dangerous to use than one might think, though walking up to an opponent never really turned out to be a good idea.
The 0.625 seconds cast time made it relatively easy to avoid by simply walking away, meaning that Shadow Waltz’ing aggressively was necessary to secure hits without the help of crowd control. I was also interrupted quite often and seemingly unintentionally. I think I wouldn’t mind if the ability went off even when hit by crowd control. From a thematic standpoint, it might make sense, as the spell emanates from that family-heirloom-coffin-artifact-object Orphea lugs around.
From a waveclear standpoint, Chomp’s area of effect is wide enough to hit the entirety of a typical minion wave, but its short range made it dangerous to use, and of little use while defending a siege.
For all the reasons stated above, I ultimately feel like Chomp could benefit from a damage increase; 10 to 15% might just do the trick. Some kind of effect befitting the eating theme could also be nice, though overloading Orphea’s base kit is risky. Plus, there are some talent choices that do this.
Notable Chomp Talents
Remember what I said about using Chomp aggressively? This makes it less dangerous to do so, on top of providing Orphea with a second self-peeling tool to use against melee assassins. The caveat is it made it much harder to be aggressive, as the backwards dash was sometimes undesirable.
In general, I really like talents that change how things should and can be used. The game has a few of these already, but I hope to see even more examples of this in the future.
Chomp, Chomp, Chomp. This talent makes Chomp’s cooldown line up with Shadow Waltz perfectly for a very satisfying and natural ability loop.
Dread is an ability that exists in a moba.
I am stating this because I find it dreadfully generic. It fits Orphea the same way it might fit any caster, period. This makes sense somewhat when considering that Dread most likely exists to lower Orphea’s skill floor. Indeed, if Shadow Waltz and Chomp are difficult to use due to their short range and cast time, Dread is something that can be flung in the general direction of one’s opponent or minions with reliable but ultimately unremarkable results.
Better players may be able to target Dread in a way that both the initial “shockwave” and resulting “flamestrike” hit the same target for a good bit of damage. The tacked-on slow helps with following Shadow Waltz and Chomp casts, on top of being Orphea’s only source of non-heroic crowd control.
I can certainly understand the need for characters to be able to do something when everything else is out of reach (or the player’s skill level), but I also can’t help but feel that Orphea’s design is already beyond the grasp of the less experienced players. And so, I feel like Orphea could have gone all out on the Shadow Waltz synergy theme, though Dread does work very well with the Crushing Jaws heroic ability.
Notable Dread Talents
Gaining access to a reliable slowing effect felt like a big improvement for the entire hero’s playstyle, between easing spell hits to keeping enemies within basic attack range. It also allowed me to trigger Ancestral Strength (Non-Heroic Abilities deal 25% more damage to Stunned, Rooted, Silenced or Slowed enemies and grant 1 additional Chaos when hitting Heroes) on-demand.
This talent turned Dread into a pseudo-Fury of the Sunwell-empowered Flamestrike. This is very likely to be the go-to level 16 talent.
Overflowing Chaos (Trait)
With such a classic passive basic attack empowerment, we are now knee-deep into League of Legends territory. Which is fine with me; I’ve always been a fan of promoting casters to attack as much as possible, as it’s a simple yet effective way of rewarding player skill.
Overflowing Chaos felt like it was a significant part of Orphea’s damage output due to its reliability. From numbers alone, a 3-stack hit deals about as much damage as a Shadow Waltz hit, and can’t be whiffed on top of providing a very reasonable amount of self-sustain. In most games, my healing output was about one third that of a typical healer.
Orphea’s very snappy basic attack animation made Overflowing Chaos easy to trigger on demand. Her sustained basic attack DPS is also very reasonable for a caster, lining up with that of a few tanks. It should be noted that hitting multiple heroes with a single cast of any basic ability DID grant several Overflowing Chaos stacks, making the tooltip a bit misleading; something along the lines of “Each enemy Hero hit with a Basic Ability grants 1 Chaos” would probably clear up any confusion.
Notable Overflowing Chaos Talents
A reward for playing well in long fight? Sign me up! Comparing this talent to Tal Rasha’s Elements really puts how strong it is in perspective.
Eternal Feast (Heroic Ability 1)
You know how most heroes have that one really powerful heroic ability everyone likes and something like Dragonstrike, seemingly invented to annoy teammates? Yeah… Eternal Feast is the latter. Of course, I’m exaggerating to make a point, but from my experience, Eternal Feast required a fantastic setup to see any value at all. That 1.5 seconds delay feels long, and even when it hits, it doesn’t feel like it deals all that much damage. To add insult to injury, its cooldown is 15 seconds longer than Crushing Jaws. There are a number of simple ways Eternal Feast could be made more competitive, from reducing its initial delay to lowering its cooldown to simply increasing its damage significantly to give it a real sting; a 30-35% increase might do it.
Crushing Jaws (Heroic Ability 2)
As strongly implied above, Crushing Jaws overshadows Eternal Feast in almost every way. I like to think of it as a smaller but faster Grav-O-Bomb 3000 on a hero that can actually follow up with significant damage of her own. Crushing Jaws’ main point of appeal is that it lets Orphea one-combo-kill squishier heroes without help, something that’s otherwise impossible. Considering the ability’s short 50-second cooldown, this is most definitely worth it the moment you hit level 10. I don’t think I need to go into the team fighting implications of pulling and stunning two or more heroes at once.
Balance and Competitive Viability
Disclaimer: Last year, I predicted Hanzo would see little to no competitive play. His patch notes include a lot of undo-redo, but overall, I’d argue he was slightly buffed over his initial state. The result? He’s the most picked assassin, and 7th most picked hero in HGC phase 2 (and first in phase 1!). Is the meta unpredictably favourable? Am I underestimating his buffs? Is the map rotation good? Am I just bad at this? Though that last one is likely, the long-winded point I’m trying to make is that there’s a lot we just can’t know. So, take everything with a grain of salt.
That being said: I think Orphea lacks the tools that define a competitive caster hero on top of being pretty hard to play. What are these defining tools, you ask? On-demand powerful burst damage, safe and strong waveclear, and crowd control. Exceptions certainly exist, but most high tier casters feature one of these elements very prominently (Li-Ming for burst) or a healthy mix of it all (Jaina).
Orphea certainly felt pretty balanced, even in her current untested-BlizzCon state. However, casters who are “merely” balanced don’t tend to be all that popular. Her waveclear is okay but unsafe and her ability to do mercenary camps is poor, as is her general PvE damage output. Remember that neither Shadow Waltz nor Overflowing Chaos trigger against non-heroic targets. Against heroes, her damage output definitely felt well above-average, but the obvious lack of crowd control is most certainly what is going to ultimately hold her back. I do believe Crushing Jaws to be a really powerful heroic ability however, to the point where it might just make up for everything else, assuming it is left untouched.
I did also find her self-sustain powerful. I even initially thought she might be capable of solo laning, but that might make your other lanes a bit awkward, especially if the meta is frontline heavy. Plus, her limited waveclear would make any kind of rotation hard to pull off.
I like Orphea, but I’m not by any means infatuated. Every aspect of the character – from ability design to appearance to balance – has several good elements offset by one or two elements I find weaker. I don’t think she’ll see competitive play unless fairly big changes are made, but this really doesn’t have to be a goal for every hero. Sometimes, you just want a solid release showcasing a couple interesting mechanics and neat looking spells, which is exactly what Orphea has to offer – but no more.
Oxygen shares his experience playing Orphea at BlizzCon.