With the October II update, the PVP meta is more balanced and fluid than it has been in months. Unfortunately, HHG has been extremely stubborn or misguided about the state of a few heroes and as a result we continue to see the game suffer.
Problem #1: Nightingale
Remember Panzer in July? Panzer was utterly broken, remember how she was so much stronger than any other DPS that it was futile to even try to beat them without using one yourself?
Since Role Warfare Update #1, Nightingale has been the Panzer of supports. While other healers like Keel, Heimlock, Gammond, Caine, and Moss saw their healing reduced… HHG inexplicably gave a buff to Nightingale’s Plat. In update designed to make damage “stickier” by reducing passive healing, HHG gave a buff to an ability that is basically the antithesis of sticky damage.
It’s hard to even know where to start with discussing why Nightingale is glaringly OP, I could write pages on the topic but I’ll try to just sum it up in a few bullet points.
Fastest (and best) instant heal in the game
By far the best damage buff in the game, thousands of DPS, +15% crit, AND a mark on a skill with a 15s cooldown and 10s duration… giving it a 66% UPTIME.
Passive stun that averages out to 4s of stun every 14s, making her one of the strongest stunners in the game (she doesn’t even have to hit an enemy to trigger the stun buff, but if she misses she gets to keep the buff too, as if she needs more crutches).
Disgusting Plat that would have absolutely ruined the game except for the fact that the strongest counter to her Plat is… you guessed it… Nightingale’s silver!
For no apparent reason her “power” is significantly lower than what it should be. A 9* Plat+1 Nightingale has less power than a 7* Plat Beck, and yet her stats are very, very good. This alone gives her a huge advantage in PVP.
As of the last Role Warfare update she basically ignores armor now. Her weapon will even shoot tanks for 100% damage, giving her the ability to drop life-threatening DPS on any bio in the game. This isn’t as important as the other points but it just reinforces how Nightingale is basically a “does everything” hero with no weakness.
Properly nerfing Nightingale will require a lot more thought than HHG has shown in the past. Nightingale is probably the only hero in the game where you could remove anyone one of her skills and replace it with “do nothing for 2 seconds” and no matter which skill you picked, she would still be the best support in the game. I don’t want Nightingale nerfed into uselessness, she’s a starter hero and I totally want her to remain a top pick, but there are two huge issues with her current state:
A) Even when she doesn’t shoot, she contributes more than any other support. Anyone who has played enough PVP can attest to the frustration of a piloted Nightingale rolling around endlessly in the backline and yet still pumping out immense amounts of healing and firing off her game-deciding mark while only stopping for brief pauses. Her skills fire off incredibly fast, reload progress is “saved” between rolls, and her Platinum can passively heal an entire team by itself. Combined with her crazy power stats its often futile to pressure Nightingale without a Nightingale of your own to mark her.
B) Her mark completely defines the metagame. With the buff to crit damage her mark is even stronger than ever, providing thousands of DPS and 15% to the entire team with a possible 66% uptime, it allows her to focus AND buff the entire teams damage in a way that no other support could dream of. Even if someone on your team survives the first mark, its only 5 more seconds before she can mark again, eventually the relentless buffed focus fire will land a kill, and another, and another… unfortunately the current balance also requires a powerful mark due to Point A (her crazy healing even when she is just rolling around) and the next hero on the list.
Problem #2: Mandrake’s Gold -
Everyone knows this skill is broken, but like a massive wound in balance, the metagame has simply had to form like scar tissue around it. The most obvious problem with this skill is that it basically makes all bot DPS borderline useless. When combined with Problem #1, it means that a team without a mark will be virtually guaranteed defeat against Drake Gold + Nightingale Plat… the moment the invis kicks in, all bots lose interest, even channeled skills like Incinerate or Taser will abruptly cancel, and a second later if a human player isn’t continually maintaining pressure (which is not simple given the tendency of autoaim to shoot cover and the difficulty of manually tracking a moving invisible player on a phone screen) - then Nightingale’s plat will begin to pour tens of thousands of health onto the invisible hero.
This skill is the single largest culprit behind the 1DPS+4Support meta that has made PVP so stagnant. Bringing another DPS becomes a huge liability when that DPS can’t finish off targets on their own.
So while this skill is crazy when combined with the constant healing from Nightingale’s bronze and plat, its best counter comes from a consistent, powerful, high uptime mark like… Nightingale’s silver. Problem #1 and #2 are practically siblings but each has to be fixed individually before they can both be considered solved.
There are so many ways this ability could be at least made more reasonable. The invis effect could silence heros so that (like Mandrake himself when he uses his invis) they can’t continue to heal/nuke/charge/etc. with their skills while they’re also invisible and healing from Mandrake’s gold. The effect could simply lose its potent heal over time and instead provide additional armor for its duration. The invis could have a shorter duration, it could be limited to one allied hero at a time, it could have a lower health % threshold for removing the invis effect, it could have a cooldown or limited number of times that it can re-apply on the same hero. There are SO MANY ways to make this skill reasonably strong without it being oppressive to so many team comps, its mind-boggling that it continues to remain in this state.
Problem #3: Panzer’s Shotgun -
With the latest Panzer nerf. Panzer is actually balanced in many ways. Her sustain DPS remains high, but within a reasonable range relative to her power level. Unfortunately, HHG chose to achieve this balance by ignoring what keeps Panzer problematic - her ability to dump unsurvivable damage on a huge number of frontline and midline heroes.
If HHG ever does address Problems #1 and #2, then Problem #3 will be even worse since Drake’s gold and Nightingale’s Bronze/Plat remain one of the only ways that many energy/mech heroes can ever survive Panzer’s opening burst. However even with Invis and strong healing, surviving Panzer’s burst is a losing proposition for most energy heroes. Panzer remains a huge force upon the meta simply by making a large percent of energy heroes non-competitive in PVP due to strong chance that they will be annihilated in seconds. HHG’s nerfs have made it easier to keep backline energy heroes like Nightingale, Flatline, and Min alive (due to significantly wider spread, now even letting spread reset doesnt guarantee a hit) but these heroes were already among the strongest energy heroes and could already survive with a combination of Drake invis + Roll spam… but Panzer can still tear up anyone in the front or midline regardless of cover state. Panzer remains an oppressive force in the meta that greatly limits viable heroes in the first 2 rows. I would much rather have seen Panzer’s total ammo capacity reduced a long time ago instead of another spread nerf. This could even be a buff to her sustained DPS on longer-distance shooting, but without the oppressive ability to shutdown most of the energy lineup by dumping half a million damage on them in the first 10 seconds.
Edit: I posted below but I believe that Flatline and Mauler are must-nerfs. Nerfing Flatline gold’s heal over time and the stun duration of Mauler’s plat are both necessary for the long term health of the meta.