The Rise of Auto Attack Warriors
Wed 14th Jun 2017 - 12:07pm
Smite has been dominated by ability based warriors since Bellona received her major nerfs back in Season 3. The only auto attack based characters having any success afterwards were the early game bruisers Ravana and Erlang Shen. Despite that, they were widely used for their easy to hit ability damage in the early game rather than their actual auto attacks.
This paradigm has shifted in Season 4 to allow for AA based warriors dominate the meta. There are several causes for their new-found success. It can be attributed to two items in particular, the starter item Death’s Toll and the relic Sundering Spear. There is also a subset of hybrid tank items that have also been rising in popularity and are being purchased by these warriors.
Death’s Toll has a unique passive that heals a small portion of HP and Mana for every auto attack that is landed on an enemy. This passive stacks infinitely and procs on AoE cleave auto attacks, so characters like Bellona, Osiris and Erlang Shen can easily make use of the passive. The item has been relatively inconsequential in terms of starter items in the solo lane for the past few seasons, with items like Mark of the Vanguard and Bluestone Pendant being more viable. In Season 4 however, Death’s Toll received a minor buff to its passive heal that is relatively insignificant except when used alongside Mark of the Vanguard and AOE cleaves. The starting combo makes AA based warriors nigh unkillable in the early game, allowing them to snowball their early game leads into their mid game power spikes.
Patch 4.10 hopes to remedy the dominance of Death's Toll by halving the heal on cleaves. The change allows cleave based characters to still make use of the passive without gutting their viability while also significantly reducing their early game potency by preventing cleave characters from effectively gaining health while boxing their enemy solo laner in a minion wave.
The relic Sundering Spear, better known as Sunder, is the other item that allows AA based warriors to dominate the current meta. The relic both allows tanks to deal damage akin to carries and shred other tanks to prevent them from being unkillable. Alongside Sunder, new hybrid items have begun to rise to prominence such as Shifter’s Shield, Mystical Mail and Runeforged Hammer. Due to these, warriors can now output more damage while still being tanky enough to survive burst damage. Sunder also has a lower cooldown than its counter Aegis, so auto attack warriors who have many different lockdown tools can now kill squishy damage dealers consistently.
Sunder was also nerfed in Patch 4.10. There were two nerfs. One was to the burst damage from the tier one Sunder, while the other was a cooldown nerf to the tier two. The former nerf is fairly insignificant since the damage is only relevant in scenarios where a low health character is attempting to get away and gets killed by the already low damage Sunder has. The real nerf is to the cooldown of the tier two. The cooldown was changed from 100 seconds to 120. Many complaints about Sunder were that the cooldown was lower than any other relic and couldn't be countered. The change now allows for relics to come off of cooldown around the same time Sunder does, allowing for more counterplay.
The Runeforged Hammer passive requires you to hit an enemy with any crowd control outside of Knock-Up, Grab, and Blind. This in turn causes the enemy to take more damage from the wielder. This may seem less useful on characters that focus on front line tanking rather than dealing damage, but due to Sunder and the large amount of CC that AA warriors possess, even tanks can kill the enemy with a few abilities and auto attacks. This is even more so when combined with Frostbound Hammer which slows enemies hit by auto attacks, perpetually proccing Runeforged Hammer's passive.
Patch 4.10 also nerfed Runeforged Hammer by increasing its cost. This is due to a previous cost decrease which allowed Runeforged Hammer to be cheaper than most other defensive options. None of the stats for the hammer have been changed, however. As such, the item is still viable to build in the current meta since it is already being built after a god's core items are complete.
Mystical Mail’s AoE damage passive made it one of the strongest items in the early Season 2 tank meta. It was nerfed heavily by increasing its cost and nerfing its protections to balance its potent passive. Due to the rise of the Death’s Toll and Mark of the Vanguard start, AA based warriors don’t need to worry about the low physical defense and can instead look to snowball with their damage output. The passive also scales alongside Sunder and Runeforged to allow for AA warriors to have even more damage in the mid to late game teamfights.
The last item completing the hybrid item trifecta is the Shifter’s Shield. It recently received a buff to its passive, increasing the base damage and protections the item provides and buffing the health based passive boosting either of the former stats. This item allows for warriors to build more offensively without sacrificing all of their tankiness.
Which AA warriors are the strongest?
Bellona has had major success as a solo laner in recent years. However, in the last year she has mostly fallen to the side as more powerful bruisers and tanks have taken precedence. One of her strongest features as a character is her second ability Bludgeon. It has two forms, the initial burst damage, and the AoE cleave until she either uses a different ability or exits combat. Due to this, Bellona can make full use out of the Death’s Toll start and effectively become unkillable in the early game. Every one of her other abilities has CC, allowing her to make use of each item mentioned before. On the auto attack side of things, each of her forms changes the attack speed and passive allowing her to switch between tank and damage dealer throughout a fight.
Osiris's auto attack chain has two AoE cleaves at the end. This means that he has the chance to use the AA start and dominate the early game. Unlike other AA based warriors, Osiris makes much more use of weaving AA’s between his abilities. This is due to his two auto attack cancels, one of which is on a 4 second cooldown with meaningful damage in the early game boxing matches. These two factors allow Osiris to be the best character for both facets of the new build as every one of his abilities has CC so he can always make use of Runeforged to enhance his damage. Osiris also can stick to targets without the use of Frostbound due to the nature of his passive and numerous slows he has in his kit.
What does this mean for Ability Based warriors?
Ability Based warriors have very similar pros to AA based warriors in that they can effectively use Sunder to kill their enemies quickly. The one issue that ability warriors have is that they have much weaker early games than the AA based start and can be bullied more easily and fall behind. This can be averted through early ganks and invading so that the AA warrior doesn’t snowball an early game lead. Ravana is the strongest of the ability based warriors with the newly buffed items for the same reason as Osiris, sans the fact that he builds more power in the new meta rather than tank and is being played more as a jungler due to his early game damage.
With the changes in Patch 4.10, ability based warriors can now effectively box their cleave based enemies before they manage to get Mark of the Vanguard online and prevent the snowball from occurring, hopefully forcing the enemy to build more traditionally and not have as great an impact on the game. I hope that this analysis explains why AA warriors have become more popular and wish you happy hunting.
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