With a win rate of almost 54%, Malthael has arrived into the Nexus with a kit that’s clearly incredibly strong. Is he a welcome addition to the existing roster and is he truly overtuned? Here’s my thoughts.
I’m going to admit that I’m slightly biased when it comes to Malthael. As you’ve probably guessed from my love of Lunara, I absolutely adore heroes that can apply damage over time. Not only are they often mechanically challenging, but they’re also incredibly annoying to fight against. It turns out Malthael ticks both of these boxes.
What I find particularly interesting about Malthael is that despite a kit that’s largely straightforward on paper, he is undoubtedly difficult to play well. Despite being a melee assassin, a large proportion of his time is actually spent poking away with Death Shroud. This one ability - key to much of his damage potential - is fundamental in not only unlocking Wraith’s Strike and Soul Rip, but also softening up the opposition.
A Malthael that dives early is a dead one, and even when the enemy team are low health, he can still die incredibly quickly if he dives too deep, or his trait (Reaper’s Mark) isn’t applied to quite enough of the opposition. The depth of Malthael’s play is drawn from not only his ability to cast Reaper’s Mark across as many players and minions as possible, but to also manage those marks once active.
My early play with Malthael saw me die a great deal, largely based on my assumption that Soul Rip would sustain me in even the most lopsided of encounters; how wrong I was. Not only did this regularly end badly, but made me realize the value of landing an effective Death Shroud and engaging only when the time is right. There are few moments more satisfying on Malthael than applying Reaper’s Mark against the entire enemy team, only to dive in and watch your health repeatedly rise as you cast Soul Rip back to back. By the time you reach level 16, having picked up Tormented Souls, Ethereal Existence and Momento Mori, there are few teams that can survive such AOE pressure.
Though his damage potential is eye-watering (I’ve had several matches with hero damage in excess of 150,000), he’s also incredibly easy to shut down. A well timed Cocoon when he activates Tormented Souls, or a Storm Shield upon Death Shroud’s arrival can do wonders for locking him down and mitigating much of his threat. Even a stun, capitalized on by the enemy team, can see him killed near instantly. He also has to battle regularly against the likes of Li Ming, Kael’thas and Gul’dan who - for the most part - can bombard him with impunity, in the knowledge that he has few reliable means of reaching them, unless he overextends.
It may appear from what I’ve written that Malthael is largely balanced, and while his base kit is, his win rates are due to the power spike he receives from level 10 onwards. As previously noted, Tormented Souls. Ethereal Existence and Memento Mori are a combination of talents that when added with the completed quest of Black Harvest, catapult his damage and mitigation to stratospheric levels.
If left uninterrupted to dive in amongst the enemy team, while making effective use of Wraith’s Strike to cleverly change positions - all the while receiving health from Soul Rip and his support - he can clean up almost any team fight. Simply put, both Ethereal Existence and Memento Mori are in desperate need of tweaks.
Lowering Ethereal Existence to 10 basic armor per enemy Hero affected, and reducing the damage bonus of Memento Mori to 80% would still allow him to deal a great amount of damage, without quite making those talents mandatory. Alternatively, making Soul Collector more attractive would be a sensible option. Perhaps having his level 16 Soul Rip talent deal 75% more damage to those affected by Reaper’s Mark, while also lowering its cooldown by 1 second (as opposed to 0.5 seconds) might just be enough to invite diversity of choice.
Malthael is undeniably a welcome addition to Heroes of the Storm, at a time where sustain and the prominence of double-warrior compositions has very much become the norm. He might be overtuned in certain areas, but he also has clear strengths and weaknesses with a kit that invites accuracy and strategy. He’s fairly easy to draft against and a skilled ranged player can make light work of him. At the same time, if he’s left to run amongst the enemy team without being focused, he’s quick to punish.
I very much suspect those two talents mentioned will be tweaked quickly by Blizzard, but until then and if you can’t secure Malthael on your own team, I sincerely recommend you ban him. What’s your thoughts on the newest hero?
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