Strategy Theorycrafting 10

UPDATED! Fortified Health Changes in Update 1.14: Incognito Hero Nerfs and Buffs

When Reim grumpily trudged onto the fold, he introduced a new mechanic: Fortified Health. To be honest, I kind of mentally glossed over how this mechanic exactly worked. It was sort of like a barrier, but it wasn’t. A number of changes to heroes regarding barriers are coming in update 1.14, so let’s discuss this mechanic in detail!

What is fortified health?


Your health bar is blue. Fortified health is light blue. Fortified health is converted health that is two times stronger. Your total health bar doesn’t increase as you gain fortified health, the light blue part just gets larger. 

For example, let’s say you have 1000 health. You use an ability that causes 100 of your existing health to become fortified. Fortified health absorbs twice as much damage as normal health. Fortified health isn’t an additional value added on to your health. Instead, it takes a portion of your existing health, and makes it twice as strong. If you take 300 damage, 100 of your fortified health absorbs 200 damage, then it is gone. Then, you take the last 100 damage. You are left with 800 health.

It’s important to note that you cannot fortify more health than you currently have. If you have 100 health, and you gain 200 fortified health, it only fortifies 100 of your health, so your total health is still only 100.

Hero Changes in 1.14

  • Adagio Verse of Judgement fortifies 100-175-250 health for 2.5 seconds instead of 50 armor/shield
  • Skaarf Dragonbreath fortifies 150-225-300 health for 5 seconds instead of 50 armor/shield
  • Rona
    • Into the Fray fortifies 30-35-40-45-55 health per hero hit for 3 seconds instead of 10-15% damage reduction
    • Red Mist fortifies 50-75-100 health per second, for 1 second, instead of 40-80 armor/shield during channeling
    • Also note her barrier has been removed.
  • Blackfeather Rose Offensive fortifies 60-100-140 health during dash instead of 100/200/300 armor/shield
  • Phinn Polite Company fortifies his and ally’s health for 80-100-120-140-180 + 20% Phinn’s bonus Armor/Shield + 6% Phinn’s bonus Max Health for 2 seconds instead of granting barrier + armor + shield.

The reason for these changes is in the patch notes:

Several heroes have kits that invisibly grant damage reduction in the form of bonus defenses. We’re removing the stopgap solution as now we believe Fortified Health (introduced with Reim) is a better way for indicating that heroes are temporarily tougher than normal, but can still deal damage to their health (unlike Barriers).

In summary, SEMC is doing a good thing by trying to make defensive buffs more visible to players so they know when an opponent is stronger than normal. Let’s take a look at how these changes may affect the performance of each hero.

UPDATED: Originally, I had used EHP (effective HP) as a measure to see how effective the temporary fortified health stacked up to armor and shield boosts. This wasn’t the best measurement as it would require a hero to go from 100% to 0% in order to be accurate. Thanks to Badtoro, I’ve done the math on “damage mitigated” for certain abilities against heroes. This is a more accurate measure of these temporary bonuses than EHP! 

We used a hero build of Frostburn and Broken Myth, on popular crystal carries such as Skye, Celeste, and Joule. We then measured the damage against the hero with base stats, Kinetic Shield, and Aegis. For Phinn, I tested Aegis, and Fountain of Renewal and Crucible.

Adagio (Updated)

In 1.13, Adagio used to gain 50 armor and shield while channeling Verse of Judgement. In 1.14, Adagio instead gains 250 fortified health.

Against Celeste’s Solar Storm
Adagio vs Celeste Ult

Against Joule’s Big Red Button
adagio vs Joule ult

Against Skye’s Forward Barrage with Lock On bonus
adagio vs Skye FB

From these numbers, we can see that against large amounts of damage, 1.14 Adagio is almost always better with some shielding. Against less damage, 1.14 Adagio is better even with base numbers!

Overall Assessment: Small buff

Skaarf (Updated)

Skaarf also gained 50 armor and shield during his ultimate, Dragon Breath.  In 1.14, Skaarf gains 300 fortified health at maximum level.

Against Celeste’s Solar Storm
skaarf vs celeste

Against Joule’s Big Red Button
skaarf vs joule

Against Skye’s Forward Barrage with Lock On bonus
skaarf vs skye

Again we see the same result, for very large damages, base armor and shield come out ahead for 1.13 SkaarfOnce you add Kinetic Shield or better, 1.14 Skaarf pulls ahead. For smaller damages, 1.14 Skaarf is always better.

Overall Assessment: Small Buff

Rona (Updated)

Rona used to get a flat 15% damage reduction per hero she hit when maxing her A ability, Into The Fray. So the maximum damage reduction was 45%. Red Mist also granted 80 armor and shield while channeling. However, she never actually gained this damage reduction due to a bug.

So to compare this, we look at 1.13 Rona without any damage reduction from her A and 80 armor and shield from her C. In 1.14, instead Rona gains 55 fortified health at max rank per hero hit with Into The Fray, and Red Mist now grants 100 fortified health at max rank.

Some folks were confused about Red Mist in the update notes, because it says she is supposed to gain 100 fortified health per second. However, there is a new Rona bug in 1.14 where she only gains fortified health once. When this is corrected, her mitigation values will sky rocket!

Against Celeste’s Solar Stormrona vs celeste

Against Joule’s Big Red Button
rona vs joule

Against Skye’s Forward Barrage with Lock On bonus
rona vs skye

Because of the bug, 1.14 Rona’s Red Mist suffers a huge drop from mitigation versus 1.13 Rona. It’s not until you add an Aegis, and hit all three heroes with Into The Fray, that 1.14 Rona edges 1.13 ever so slightly. This means that 1.14 Rona is worse than even 1.13 Rona who had zero mitigation with Into The Fray. Ouch.

On top of these changes, Rona also no longer gains a barrier when attaining max rage. They have increased the damage of her Into The Fray, but I fear the loss of tankyness is going to make Rona hard to compete in the 1.14 meta. Her only saving grace may be the Breaking Point changes and how well it works with Red Mist. Fear not, Rona lovers, when Rona’s C ability grants the proper 100 fortified health per second, she will become very tanky.

Overall Assessment: Large Nerf, but will be corrected into a huge buff in the future

Blackfeather (Updated)

Blackfeather used to gain 300 shield and armor when dashing through his ultimate, Rose Offensive. In 1.14, this is changed to 140 fortified health.

Against Celeste’s Solar Storm
bf vs celeste

Against Joule’s Big Red Button
bf vs joule

Against Skye’s Forward Barrage with Lock On bonus
bf vs skye

Every which way you slice this one, it’s a nerf. 300 shield and armor were huge, making Blackfeather practically invincible during his ultimate. So it’s likely that this nerf was intentional.

Overall Assessment: Large Nerf

Phinn (updated)

In 1.13, Phinn’s Polite Company gave many beneficial stats. A base 100 barrier plus 5% of his bonus health, and 50 armor and shield plus 20% of Phinn’s bonus armor and shield. Comparing this to 1.14, Polite Company grants 180 fortified health plus 20% of Phinn’s total bonus armor and shield, plus another 6% of his bonus health.

Against Celeste’s Solar Storm
phinn vs celeste

Against Joule’s Big Red Button
phinn vs joule

Against Skye’s Forward Barrage with Lock On bonus
phinn vs skye

Overall Assessment: Small Nerf

What we’ve now discovered is that fortified health’s effectiveness depends on a few factors.

  1. Your total shield and armor
  2. Amount of damage taken

This change is a welcome one as you can clearly see when a hero is “stronger” temporarily. Many of the changes were very similar in mitigation; Adagio and Skaarf tiny buffs, and Phinn a tiny nerf. Some of these changes, especially for Rona, were significant nerfs because of the bug. Hopefully, when 1.14 is released and players get a chance to try out these changes, we’ll know if actual gameplay supports the numbers and theorycrafting. After all, you can try to predict the outcome of something with numbers, but reality can sometimes be a different story!


  • Reply
    Feb 02, 2016 7:09 pm

    Hi keldegar, have you tested out krul’s dead man rush? do they change it to fortified health or they keep it as barrier? Thanks in advance.

    • Reply
      Feb 05, 2016 2:44 am

      No it’s still a barrier!
      Which is a relief for krul user! Fortified Health to the same amount would be annoying!


  • Reply
    Feb 02, 2016 9:10 am

    Good idea, but Rona’s fortified health is not per second. It is a one time thing, and it lasts for one second after she finishes channeling. She doesn’t gain 100 per second. It’s a significant downgrade.

    Also your calculations only account for one type of damage, whereas EHP that I used, I took an average of both CP and WP EHP. This is not insignificant, as many heroes have multiple damage types and most comps have both WP and CP.

    • Reply
      Feb 02, 2016 9:53 am

      I saw it in patch notes: “Red Mist fortifies 50-75-100 health per second, for 1 second”

      As for different types of damage, I thought it will be accurate to say that on big sampe the hero has equal amount of armor and shield in average (I assumed 150). So the case can be simplified to some generalized type of damage =500 overall, that countered by generalized defense =150.

      • Reply
        Feb 02, 2016 11:10 am

        I’ve tested it on the beta server and it’s only one time, and lasts one second, not 100 per second. Confirmed that for 1.14, this is the case. It was intended to be 100 per second but it’s not 🙁

        Your idea is valid and I want to run some numbers with realistic values to see how it stacks up.

    • Reply
      Feb 02, 2016 10:03 am

      My main reasoning against EHP you use (4759 for Rona’s Red Mist) is that it works only under the condition the enemy is able to bring the hero down from 100% to 0 during the ult casting time, that is highly unusual. But the big damage is the only case when bonus defense works better than FH.

      • Reply
        Feb 02, 2016 1:53 pm

        You’re absolutely right! EHP isn’t the best way to measure FHP’s effectiveness. I’m working on some numbers and will update the article accordingly. Thank you for your insights!

  • Reply
    Feb 02, 2016 9:01 am

    Imho, it is a mistake to compare armor/shield bonus vs fortified health bonus using a base hero health and base hero defences.
    1. In real combat hero barely has the full health
    2. Hero has some health & defensive items as a rule
    3. The damage infilcted to the hero during the ult is usually limited by the channeling time, not hero’s health pool

    More correct is to compare the damage inflicted to the hero under the some average assumptions.

    Example: Rona’s ult
    Assumptions: Armor/shield 150, Incoming damage 500 per sec, Channeling time 3 sec

    Old (+80 armor/shield while ulting):
    Damage = 500×3 / (1 + (150+80)/100) = 455 hp

    New (+100 fortified health per second while ulting):
    Damage = 500×3 / (1 + 150/100) – 300 = 300 hp

    Overall assesment: Substantial buff. Even better if more defence built. Worse if incoming damage is bigger than assumed.

    • Reply
      Feb 02, 2016 7:41 pm

      Your reply is awesome. What isn’t factored in is two sources of damage from two heroes. Using your example:

      1.13 Rona
      WP and CP Damage = 1000 x 3 / (1+(150+80)/100) = 909 hp

      1.14 Rona (accounting only for RM fortified health)
      WP Damage = 500 x 3 / (1+(150/100) – 300 = 300 hp
      CP Damage = 500 x 3 / (1+ (105/100) – 0 = 732 hp
      Total = 1032 hp

      The WP carry is pumping out damage fast enough to deplete your fortified health on their own. The CP carry is facing a much weaker hero than 1.13 Rona.

      Your example basically assumes a T2 armor or shield. Red mist granted equal amounts of each. The second damage source will have less armor or shield.

      You now have to have a T2 def and a T1 def (different) to reach similar numbers vs. this two damage source senario. The new total would be 889 hp but at the cost of 250 gold and an item slot. This appears to be a nerf to me.

      • Reply
        Feb 02, 2016 8:07 pm

        I should have split the damage types in my 1.13 Rona formula. The total would be 455 damage from one source and 526 from the second source using 105 def plus 80 from RM. Total = 981

        It is still less than the 1.14 Rona total of 1032 damage.

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