It’s a question that has been raised on the Gigantic Beta forums and one I wanted to address. I will freely admit that when I see an Imani on my team my heart sinks a little. It’s not because I dislike the Hero but simply because, certainly in my experience, most Imani players are very poor. Of the Imani players I’ve encountered only one, in over ten months, has ventured from the back of the map alongside the rest of his team. The others have all sat as far back from the fight as humanly possible, sniping away to their hearts content. Although they’re well within their rights to do this (it’s their choice) I feel it does Imani, her kit and her team a great disservice.
As it currently stands and with the removal of Roland, Imani and Voden are arguably the only two ranged Hero’s that fulfill a skirmisher/guerilla fighter role. Despite her appearance and use of a scope, I’ve found that she excels if I play her as I do Voden. Constantly changing position, utilising Frost Bolt to slow and act as a long range nuisance makes her formidable. The problem is that the majority don’t play her in this way and when she’s compared directly to Voden, she falls slightly short.
Imani is always going to be vying for a team place against Voden and because of that, it’s inevitable that the playerbase will compare what both offer and if one comes out on top, the other will be pushed aside. At the moment, Voden wins out - by quite a margin - because he’s not only capable of dealing high single target damage, but his use of poison, bleeding, Green Man decoy and Hidden Spring provides a flexible and powerful kit, that also offers survivability and pressure. In contrast, Imani’s kit is somewhat limited. Yes she has some utility from Frost Bolt and can escape rather easily with Smoke Bomb once it’s upgraded. What limits her however is the fact that all of her utility is tied so heavily to upgrades and even once upgraded, it all feels a little...stingy?
At the moment all of Imani’s utility revolves around the use of Cycle Ammo and it’s this skill and upgrade line that should truly define her play style and group role. With two paths - one for each bolt - it’s sensible that Motiga chose to allow people to focus on a specific one. However, both Boom Bolt and Frost Bolt when upgraded don’t go quite far enough in providing Imani and her team with some much needed flexibility. In addition to some suggested changes to Cycle Ammo, I also wanted to raise a few tweaks to her other skills.
By default Imani’s Boom Bolt has two charges and increases the damage of shots. Her first upgrade, Blast Radius, increases the size of the explosion if you hit a target, allowing you to cleave enemy Hero’s who are too close together. The second set of upgrades allows your Boom Bolt to cause 3 seconds of burning (Die in a Fire) or launch enemies on hit (All In) with the latter reducing your Boom Bolt count to just one. The problem with this upgrade line is that its utility is incredible limited and entirely reliant on landing all your attacks, as opposed to strategically firing. There’s no question that you can deal huge damage from Boom Bolt’s (especially with Die in a Fire) but I feel there’s much more room here to boost Imani’s team presence, whilst mirroring the principals of Deep Freeze.
The burst damage potential of Blast Radius is undoubtedly high and I’d propose a tweak to this upgrade path. Part of the reason why Voden and Charnok are so sought after is because they can close down an area with the likes of Hot Hail and Poison Spores. What I’d propose is the following:
1. Die in a Fire should be switched as the first upgrade. Direct hits with Boom Bolts cause burning for 3 seconds.
2. Blast Radius should be switched to a second tier upgrade. Direct hits with Boom Bolts explosion radius is bigger and enemies caught in the blast will be knocked back. Boom Bolts reduced to 1.
3. All In should be renamed Burning Intent. Boom Bolts also leave a flame area for 3 seconds.
The primary reasoning behind this shuffle is not only only give Imani earlier access to burning, but to also build on her strategic use of Bolts. Blast Radius causing a larger explosion on impact, not only allows for a spread of burning but with the knockback has a dual purpose, allowing Imani to peel or interrupt. Condensing both seems to make much more sense. As for Burning Intent, it mirrors Deep Freeze in allowing Imani to provide some area denial. She could then make the choice of purposefully firing at a point on the ground as a method of preventing the enemy advancing. The flame area would be slightly smaller than Uncle Sven’s Acid Flask when alight.
Amended Cycle Ammo upgrade paths
Although my favorite of the two Bolts, Frost Bolt is incredibly limited and at times, underwhelming for all the potential it has. A very short duration slow, a tiny frost field and then more of it when you upgrade is never going to allow it to challenge Boom Bolt upgrading. With that in mind, I only think it needs a few tweaks. What I’d propose is the following:
1. Chilled to the Bone should be switched in as the first upgrade.
2. Ice, Ice, Maybe should be renamed Frost Bite. Frost Bolts also leave a frozen pool for 3 seconds, causing a heavy slow to all those who touch it.
3. Direct hits with Frost Bolt when upgraded to Deep Freeze will interrupt and encase an enemy in ice for 2 seconds. During this the individual will be unable to use skills and cannot move. Any damage they receive will shatter the ice block. Frost Bolts reduced to 1 charge.
Deep Freeze and Frost Bite
The primary reason for these changes is to provide a longer slow on Frost Bolts from the beginning, but to also have Imani players make a difficult choice. Do they want to be able to lay down frost fields for slow based area denial, so that the team can capitalize on the reduced movement on the enemy? Alternatively, do they want to be able to incapacitate someone for a very brief period? Both can be used defensively, but both will bolster the value of Imani’s presence in the team. I’ve no doubt the change to Deep Freeze might be contentious based on the fact it incapacitates someone for 2 seconds, but the fact it’s only 2 seconds and that the individual cannot be struck during the time (or the ice block will break) I feel balances the change. In addition, reducing the Frost Bolt to 1 on the upgrade ensures you cannot encase two players at any one time.
By default Smoke Bomb causes weakness when enemies are struck by her smoke and yet I feel that its at odds, thematically, with the flavour of the skill. In a thick cloud of smoke, surely you’d move slowly to find your way out? With that in mind, I’d like to see enemies caught in Smoke Bomb become slowed for 2 seconds. In addition, to make Choking Gas more attractive over the very powerful Acrobatics, I think it should not only stun but also cause Weakness. To build on this, Debilitating Haze should stun for 1 additional second and ramp up the Weakness strength from 20 to 50%. Finally, Smoke Screen is an upgrade no Imani ever takes because the value of the skill is the ability to escape, not using it offensively (doing so leaves yourself so vulnerable). With that in mind but still sort-of-liking the principal, I’d like to see the size of the smoke cloud become significantly bigger if you choose to take Smoke Screen, with it boosting the armor of allies in the cloud by +25%.
The most important change for Smoke Bomb however has to be its cast time. At the moment it takes about 1.5 seconds to launch your bomb, leaving you incredibly vulnerable for this brief period. Making the Smoke Bomb instantly would give you just a little more wriggle room when you want to escape, especially against the likes of Tripp, Tyto and Wu.
Finally and because I like most of the upgrade paths for this skill, the only change I’d make is to Combat Sniper. At the moment a 10% speed boost and a minor amount of armor is absolutely tiny and a terrible choice in comparison to Snapshot. Instead, Imani should gain a 15% speed boost after a scoped shot, with +20 additional armor from the front. By making this small change there’s two distinct lines to the Silent Scope upgrade paths: the left for high damage sniping and the right for quick guerilla style engagement.
Overall I think Imani is generally good and as someone who, for the vast majority of my time with Gigantic, has played Griselma, she’s my go-to alternative when I want a break. Although Imani appears popular (she’s certainly picked often) she isn’t seen to be doing particularly great in the Beta right now. As I mentioned previously, I think much of it is to do with how people play her but also because her kit is lacking in certain areas and needs tightening up. The key to improving her however - I propose - is through Cycle Ammo, whilst making minor refinements to her upgrade paths. At the moment the biggest obstacle for Imani being viable, in comparison to Voden or Charnok, is the fact she cannot deal with Assassins. It’s run or die, there’s no in between.
Yes I’ve successfully killed Tyto, Tripp and Wu 1 on 1 but that was primarily against poor or new players. Against skilled opponents and friends, Imani lacks the tool-set to do anything that can reliably counter an assassin. It generally means that if there is one on the opposing team, you’ll spend much of your time trying to escape as opposed to doing your job. In contrast and certainly when I play Voden or Charnok, I never once worry about assassins because the combination of skills and upgrade paths both these Hero's have allows me to comfortably deal with them. All I and many others end up doing with Imani when I see an assassin coming towards me is using Smoke Bomb and sprinting away. It feels a little odd that you're at such a disadvantage.
By tweaking Cycle Ammo so that it provides more utility, but retaining much of its damage and group support potential, Imani will just a few more tools to work alongside her team in a much better way. I’m not suggesting any of these ideas are right and I fully appreciate that Imani, unlike Voden or Charnok, has incredible ranged potential. However, the playstyle of Gigantic generally dictates that sniping from full range is not only detrimental to your team, but there's also incredibly limited opportunities for it to be effective. That said, these ideas are the direction I’d like to see her go in and I also hope it stirs up some discussion for a Hero that seems to have fallen down the pecking order.
What are your thoughts on Imani and my suggested changes? Let me know.
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