Terrorblade nerfs: what needs to be done?

illusions, scaling, and captain’s mode

6.80: Terrorblade’s balance has been a point of contention amongst Dota 2 players since his introduction, with many complaining that his consistent strong performance throughout all stages of the game — particularly in the early-game laning phase — makes him nigh-unstoppable when given free farm or gank gold. His 53% winrate (12th highest out of all 107 heroes currently available in Dota 2) speaks for itself, but begs the question: what’s actually wrong with Terrorblade?

The Laning Phase

The first problem with Terrorblade is that, unlike many heroes, he is extremely strong throughout the entire game, and can even function as a super-late-game carry. His performance in the laning phase, though, is the most problematic, so let’s look at the abilities Terrorblade usually uses in the laning phase:

Reflection, level 1: creates an invulnerable, untargetable illusion of the targeted enemy dealing 40% damage and slowing both attack and movement by 60%. Mana cost: 50.

Conjure Image, level 1: creates a duplicate illusion (32-second duration) of Terrorblade dealing 30% of his damage and taking 200% damage from all sources. Mana cost: 80.

Metamorphosis, level 1: turns Terrorblade into a ranged hero, adding 20 damage to himself and all of his illusions, lasting 40 seconds and adding 0.1 seconds to his Base Attack Time. Mana cost: 50.

In a game I played earlier tonight, (match ID 621931081) I took Terrorblade mid against a Shadow Fiend — who, as any Dota player would know, is a fearsome mid hero when given a couple of levels. Despite this, by level 2, I was able to kill him with no problem at all by comboing Reflection with Metamorphosis, dealing approximately 20 damage per hit with the former and hitting for ~80 with the latter. Shadow Fiend, with his 530 (approximate) health, died extremely fast — or, rather, he died extremely slow, due to Reflection’s 60% attack/move slow.

The problem with Reflection is that its slow is extremely potent and lacks any sort of scaling. For comparison, the Rod of Atos (which costs 3100 gold) has the same slow for the same mana cost without the added damage.

My suggested solution for this is to add scaling to the movement slow, but not the attack slow — perhaps 24%/36%/48%/60%. This reduces Terrorblade’s ability to solo kill at early levels, but doesn’t remove his ability to participate in ganks or use Reflection to escape from attackers.

(note: being able to test these balance changes with mods would be really cool, Valve!)

Even with Reflection receiving scaling, Metamorphosis and Conjure Image still make Terrorblade terrifyingly adept (ha ha ha) at single-handedly melting towers. Illusions spawned with Conjure Image deal 30%/40%/50%/60% damage, which I don’t have a problem with, but (again) other parts of the spell require scaling to punish Terrorblade’s early-game dominance but allow him to thrive for the rest of the game.

Here’s what I suggest for Conjure Image changes (with a small buff):

  • Add scaling to incoming damage on illusions: 350%/300%/250%/200%
  • Add scaling to duration:: 20/24/28/32 seconds
  • Add scaling to cooldown: 22/19/16/13 seconds
  • Add scaling to mana cost: 100/90/80/70 mana per illusion

Something I noticed while playing Terrorblade earlier was my lack of dependency on mana: I only once found myself in need of extra non-passive mana regeneration and that was just after I’d Sundered someone. This change to Conjure Image makes it more expensive to use early-game and also makes early tower pushes more risky (while slightly buffing his late-game pushing power). This brings Terrorblade more in line with the two other illusion pushers, Phantom Lancer and Naga Siren.

Does Metamorphosis need changing?

Only a little. The bonus damage is a fundamental part of how Terrorblade works, and it makes him really scary later on in the match for both pushing and teamfights. With my suggested changes to Conjure Image, the only thing needed to stop an early push would be some autoattacks and perhaps an AoE spell or two (something that all teams should have). That being said, more could be done to differentiate between melee and ranged forms, which is why I suggest these changes to Metamorphosis:

  • Add a 15% move slow to Terrorblade while in ranged form
  • Increase base attack time to 1.7
  • Add scaling to mana cost: 80/70/60/50

The cumulative effect of my suggested changes to Terrorblade’s first three spells should have these effects on the hero, assuming I’ve thought it through correctly:

  • Nerf Terrorblade’s overly-strong early game presence while maintaining his usefulness when combined with allies, making him less viable on mid
  • Delay his tower-melting capabilities until after the laning phase is over
  • Add variability in item choices — items like Drums of Endurance, Ring of Aquila, and even Arcane Boots may become necessary due to increased mana costs
  • Decrease but not eliminate viability of flash-farming

Now, there’s one spell that I’ve not talked about yet: Sunder. It’s Terrorblade’s signature ability, and very powerful early-game when diving under towers. Throughout this article, I’ve made suggestions for nerfing Terrorblade’s early-game capabilities, and this ability is no exception — but, honestly, it’s mostly okay. It really only needs one small change in scaling…

  • Modify “minimum health remaining” scaling from 25%/20%/15% to 35%/25%/15%

This change slightly nerfs Terrorblade’s early tower-diving and teamfight capabilities, but still allows him to gain the upper hand in a fight, provided that he’s got some illusions on his side.

Captain’s Mode

I’ll happily admit that my Dota 2 experience might be lacking, seeing as I’ve only accumulated 700 hours ingame with absolutely zero competitive experience. I’ve got no idea how my changes would fare in competitive games, but I do know that Terrorblade is currently almost unstoppable in the hands of talented players. Hopefully the changes would result in a more balanced Terrorblade without removing the essential elements that make him both unique and fun to play as.

These proposed changes are only suggestions, and I look forward to seeing what Valve does to the hero in the future. Maybe 6.81 will bring some radical changes — who knows?

I have an opinion!

Wonderful! Medium allows anyone to comment on individual portions of an article — just mouse over a paragraph and you’ll see a comment button to the right. I’m really interested in seeing what people have to say in response to this. If anything really interesting pops up I’ll update this post.