Winter Summer is coming, and with it arrives an absolute truckload of balance changes and new toys to play around with.
Lyra: The favorite of Instalockers for at least a week. Sorry SAW, you’re being benched
A new Mage joins the Fold as a fragile back-line support. She’s able to provide her allies healing, vision and immense utility, but also brings on the pain train when building Crystal. Lyra will be on the standard 7-day early access period of ICE-only unlocks, so save your Glory and wait patiently or dip into your wallet to try to get ahead of the curve. Read Ketzusaka’s guide on everything Lyra here.
NEW MATCH START CHOICES
Roams have always had to start every match with an Ironguard Contract, while Laners and Junglers have had dynamic choices to make meaningful impacts on their early game. But no longer shall this injustice continue! The switch to new Ambient Gold mechanics and new contracts offer Roams some meaningful decisions for their first purchases:
Ironguard: Now 100% less required and 25% cooler
The new Ironguard is great for rotations as we’re used to doing them. Since the healing is split evenly between you and the last-hitter, teams will need to share aggro rather than having the Roam tank 90-100% of the damage. This contract is especially useful in conjunction with Junglers that have quick Level 1 clears. Allow them to tank the last several hits and get a head start on the next camp, speeding up your clear without compromising on health!
Protector: Get off of my
Due to the 20 second charge time, you should use one activation of this contract between 0:25 and 0:35 while your ally is taking monster damage, reducing the damage taken on your first clear without compromising on defensive advantages at the first Jungle Shop. I believe that this contract is the best both in general and in terms of scaling–as defense is offense in the early game. Protector Contract will be a prime choice for many teams in the early and mid game, and will only be sold when its item slot is truly needed. The item is very good early game when combined with the new Ironguard, giving you the ultimate level of damage dampening for your allies at the low cost of 600 gold and two item slots.
Dragonblood: More like “First Blood”
For big plays from match start, this new Contract offers exciting possibilities. Whether you want straight aggression or to give an off-meta pick some minor CC and respectable damage, this Contract is a great choice. The Dragonblood Contract has a very small range (by comparison to other Contracts) and falls off much more than its compatriots, so stealing farm and securing a few early kills are musts in order to make the purchase worth the eventual sell-back cost. Consider pairing this up with an offensive item (maybe Minion’s Foot?) for a nice surprise burst of damage in the early game–your enemies won’t know what hit them!
No Contract: For the hipsters who have been “1.19 Roaming” since before it was cool
Remember that with the changes to experience and gold you don’t necessarily need a contract to start anymore! Oakheart, Boots, Swift Shooter, Light Shield + Scout Traps, there are tons of new options to choose from match start! A first buy Light Shield + Scout Traps may be especially appealing for conservative teams that can clear fast enough to avoid engagements–it puts you closer to Fountain of Renewal and allows you to get a leg up on key vision early. Swift Shooter may be tempting for aggressive teams, but unless your rotation will grant you enough gold to also buy a Dragonblood Contract, the Contract is a better option.
REWORKED UTILITY ITEMS
Stormguard Banner: Come at me with that pointed stick!
Stormguard Banner still deals about the same amount of true damage as before, albeit not as constantly. The item is being reworked to focus more on follow-up for abilities, so don’t buy it in hopes of dealing more DPS all the time to all the things. You’ll need to upgrade the item into a Stormcrown in order to not fall off during the late game, as the passive no longer has any scaling. Build Stormguard Banner on Heroes who want some extra help clearing farm and objective sieging rather than because you are playing the Roam position and it’s that time of game again.
Journey Boots: You can’t catch me!
Less defense, more speed! Journey Boots are less focused on being your final defensive upgrade and more focused on getting around the map fast all the time. Use your active and immediately damage an enemy Hero to achieve the maximum benefit from the new partial reset on the active cooldown! Journey Boots are a great item to pick up on Heroes who rely upon kiting, finish it after completing your core damage item(s).
War Treads: Like a tank. A really fast, really scary tank. With friends.
Formerly Warhorn, this item has seen some interesting changes. By combining Boots and Warhorn into one item slot, slower Roams like Phinn have seen a massive buff in gold and item slot efficiency. The true damage passive is gone, and these boots offer less passive move speed than their T3 companions, trading the personal speed for the team-wide boost active. Speaking of that active, the speed boost is now much more consistent–its duration is always 2 seconds rather than being dependent upon your allies, but has 20 additional seconds tacked onto the cooldown. One last thing to keep in mind is that Kraken can no longer be affected by allied buffs, including War Treads–don’t blow your 60 second cooldown trying to accelerate Helga into the enemy base!
Contraption: I heard you like to save gold, so now you can save gold when you save gold!
The reworked Contraption no longer deals true damage and doesn’t build from a Stormguard Banner. With drops in T2 component prices, a reduction in the T3 recipe cost, and a brand new T2 vision item, you can save lots of gold before you save even more gold! Contraption could make its way onto the scene as a gold-snowballing item or due to the appearance of War Treads (thus not having to choose Warhorn or Contraption), but will probably be a 3rd or 4th T3 item for many Roams. It’s also notable that the switch from health regen to flat HP makes this item superbly improved for tanking in combat and dives, though it still isn’t as good at such tasks as other items.
NEW UTILITY ITEMS
Stormcrown: The first purchaseable hat in Vainglory. Hopefully we don’t end up at TF2 levels
The newly minted T3 upgrade for Stormguard Banner (and Lyra’s circlet), Stormcrown specializes in ability sustain while pumping out true damage against non-Heroes and Heroes alike–though much less against the latter. The item includes a pinch of HP, which is nice, but not great for improving your tankiness. Build a Stormcrown to assist low-offensive builds with clearing farm and destroying Krakens and Turrets. While certainly effective, I am not quite sure how much priority this item will or should receive in light of other, more beneficial choices.
Halcyon Chargers: COMING IN FROM DOOOOOWN TOOOOWN!!
Great for Heroes who need a very strong engage or disengage (particularly CP, though who would say no to some CDA on a WP build?), the three-second sprint activation on these kicks is immense to say the least. Halcyon Chargers can only get you into or out of trouble once every 50 seconds, so be careful when you choose to go all-in!
Flare Gun: Pew! Fizzle… pop
The new T2 prerequisite for Contraption, this item offers you one free Flare every 18 seconds. There is only one charge, so balance using it strategically with spamming it for maximum benefit. Flare Gun allows you to compound minor savings on vision from early on in the game, and coupled with the reduced price of Contraption this could be a game-changer for some Roams such as Catherine. Don’t build this item if you don’t intend to use it–it will take somewhere around 12-16 Flares to break even in gold (depends on sell-back cost), which is a minimum of 4-5 minutes of Flaring at maximum efficency, longer if you don’t have something to Flare every 18 seconds–as is usually the case.
Other Item Changes
Shiversteel: Dear Ranged Heroes: I love you, please love me back
Now better on a wider variety of Heroes (read: Ranged), but not quite as good for Melees who have been walking on this crutch update after update. Shiversteel is still a great item for Heroes it used to be great on, just not to the same overwhelming extent. Hopefully we’ll see it in new places and perhaps see Krul finish a different item first for once.
Clockwork: “Clocking out” in record time
A 50 gold final price reduction on Clockwork is makes this cheap item…. slightly cheaper. However, the downgrades to Void Battery mean that Clockwork grants almost double the energy regen, making this item feel Simply Amazing on energy-hungry Heroes.
Travel Boots: These treads are plenty worn in, perhaps it’s time for a new pair
Slightly slower and less tanky, carries won’t be able to rely upon this upgrade to temporarily fix their defensive needs anymore. That said, there are now options for your final boot upgrade, potentially making Travel Boots worth picking up earlier in order to get to the T3 of your choosing.
HERO BALANCE CHANGES
Skaarf: Finding new ways to burn your friends to the ground in 1.19
Fan the Flames now deals immensely less base damage over time, but procs its percentage health damage on follow-up autoattacks as bonus CP damage. This means our favorite world-destroyer has less “fire-and-forget” potential on his passive, but with Spitfire clearing minion waves and damaging Heroes just like back in 1.17, Skaarf should still backline rather than dive in hard. To support this playstyle, his Goop brings more CC and significantly more damage late-game. There was also a bug where Skaarf was still gaining 50 armor and shield during his Dragon’s Breath (which was supposed to be replaced by Fortified Health), so with that fixed he may feel a bit more vulnerable during his ultimate, most potently at Level 6. Overall, Skaarf still prefers to hug the backlines and poke, but be aware that if he dives in to use his perk that he will deal some pretty decent damage!
Skye: Not as enthusiastic about pushing turrets as SAW
Forward Barrage duration no longer scales with CP and is now always 3 seconds (up from base 2), which was formerly her maximum duration with 100+ CP. The ability’s damage to everything (especially objectives) has been slightly lowered, so perhaps she’ll actually have to scale into her late-game power2. The same damage to objective penalty was applied to Death From Above, meaning that her late game sieging power has also decreased. Skye should still be extremely viable, but perhaps not as dominant as in the past. These changes point towards equalizing Skye’s separate WP and CP paths while hopefully neither making her OP or completely absent on the scene.
Adagio: It’s about time. Embrace the change. It feels good
Agent of Wrath now buffs a maximum number of autoattacks within its set duration. This shouldn’t adversely affect Adagio when self-buffing (as he doesn’t tend to get too many autoattacks off with most CP builds), but absolutely removes the ridiculous damage Adagio was able to output by buffing Heroes like SAW and Vox. Roam Adagio has been handed some further aid with higher base damage on Verse of Judgement while Crystal Adagio will feel a bit more of his Half-Elder-Dragon age from the less-than-ass-kicking drop in his Crystal ratio on Verse of Judgment.
Krul: Because Bikinis look better in Blue…. to match his eyes, you know?
With double-infusions no longer being a thing, Krul has been granted a few more CP ratios on Spectral Smite’s damage, heal, and an increased ratio on From Hell’s Heart. While I’m not sure if this will be enough to make CP Krul a thing or not (he still has zero ratios over 100%, a trait all CP-viable Heroes have), it’s certainly an interesting set of changes that offer much more viability than in the past. CP Krul can be expected to regen a lot more health than usual when Smiting, particularly late game, and to deal respectably more damage on his Smites too. It’s something interesting to experiment with, especially as Summer Party Krul washes ashore this summer.
Ardan: Sad Dad’s belt now stops children in their tracks
Gauntlet now Snares enemies using movement abilities, meaning that you can stop pesky Heroes from zipping away with a well-timed Gauntlet. The Gauntlet wall stun is a pinch shorter to compensate for this new retreat-halting potential. Interestingly, the CP ratio on Gauntlet was increased by 100%, so expect late-game CP Infusions to pack a bigger punch on the World’s Best Dad (Happy Belated Father’s Day!). Ardan has been somewhat nerfed by Utility item changes and had his base WP reduced–so expect his mid-to-late game damage to fall off more than usual in Roam builds. To compensate for this drop, Ardan can build a Stormguard Banner or Stormcrown, both of which synergize very well with Blood for Blood, or may look to other offensive items (such as Tension Bow or Aftershock) to ensure he always packs a punch.
Blackfeather: Nerf this! Oh wait, wrong game
Changes to Feint of Heart allow for better counterbuilding against CP Blackfeather (who uses that outside of Battle Royale?). Blackfeather’s execute has more power early on and a bit less power late. To get back to his old levels of power, he’ll need to build at least 200 WP, meaning that the Serpent’s Mask + Bonesaw build (105 WP) will not cut quite as deeply as before during the late game.
Catherine: Pursuing the front lines, Mercilessly
1.19 makes Catherine feel much better than she has for ages. Merciless Pursuit costs less energy when upgraded, relieving a fair amount of energy-managment stress from the first Storm Queen’s Shield, especially when coupled with some of the new energy-regen Utility items. Stormguard’s bubble damage and Blast Tremor’s base damage have also been improved, but Catherine’s largest buffs may come in the form of item changes to Contracts, Contraption, and War Treads. She’s been out of the spotlight for a decent amount of time now, but may begin to roar back to life this summer.
Petal: This time it isn’t a joke, right?
Despite not receiving any direct changes to her stats or kit, expect Petal to feel better in 1.19. The move away from true damage (and complete removal of AoE true damage) means that her munions stand a chance to see the light of day. Gabevizzle showed off an impressive performance as Petal in the VGL Spring Finals using an Alternating Current + Broken Myth as core items. Additionally, Lyra will probably be very popular, and Petal is great both with and against Lyra!
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