I've Got My Eye on You - A Look at Ana
Old soldiers are hard to kill.
Ana’s career since she returned to Overwatch has been busy. Thanks to the strength of both her Biotic Grenade and Nano Boost, she became the driving force behind the powerful tank meta that dominated the pro scene in late 2016 and early 2017. Over a series of patches, the grenade’s effectiveness was reduced, Nano Boosted targets lost their speed increase, and her “must pick” status was gone.
Then months later and out of the blue, Ana’s damage was reduced from 80 to 60.
Blizzard’s reasoning is that they felt she was doing too much damage: “Ana’s kit has several strong components, which makes her difficult to replace. Reducing her damage output will make her less threatening on attack and reduce her dueling capabilities.” In other words, her ability to 3-shot 200HP enemy heroes, particularly those who were trying to flank her, was deemed as too powerful and needed to be reduced.
With these changes combined, Ana has become the healing support hero with the lowest pick rate and win rate.
It’ll take more than that to keep me out of the fight.
So what’s the problem? Being we’re Overbuff, we have a ton of data from all levels of play, so let’s take a quick look at how she compares to the other healing supports, and then use that data to throw out a suggestion or two.
Deaths and Mobility
One suggestion from a small crowd is to improve Ana’s mobility, arguing that she needs to be able to escape from flankers by being able to reach ledges like Hanzo and Widowmaker. We’re unable to track “number of times a hero fails to run away from a flanker,” but we can measure deaths, and while Ana does show more deaths per game compared to other supports, it’s not drastically different. She also has an escape mechanism: Sleep Dart.
The amount of healing Ana does is rarely a complaint, and here we can see why since it’s comparative to Lucio and Zenyatta. No one says she feels like a weak healer and I know some pros would disagree with me, but her Biotic Grenade seems to be in the sweet spot. In fact, the most common thing talked about with regard to her healing is a teammate walking across her line of fire and stealing a heal from the intended target. All of that said, because her healing is rarely talked about doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem, so maybe it warrants a closer look.
Damage and Eliminations
At about ⅓ the damage that Zenyatta dishes out per game, our former sniper is no longer the threat she used to be. Being that Zenyatta is typically attacking targets he has an Orb of Discord on, we can reasonably infer that we could remove a percentage of his damage, up to 30% as that’s how much Discord provides, and get a more accurate measure of his actual damage. If we were to remove the full 30%, he still does more damage than Ana, but not by much.
To recap, Ana doesn’t tend to die more than any other healer, her healing output is average, and her damage is on the low end.
Notice that Mercy has dramatically higher healing than any other hero, but she makes up for that in how little direct damage she provides. Is this a clue to finding our balance? Perhaps there is a healing/damage relationship we can work with.
Get in there, I’ll keep you patched up.
Only Blizzard knows how they balance the heroes, but for the sake of argument, let’s say they do try to have a relationship between the damage vs. healing a hero provides. Additionally, we’re not going to rebuild her kit by removing or adding new abilities, and we want to keep Ana as hero who requires proper aim and positioning to be most effective.
A common suggestion is to increase the damage of Ana’s rifle to 70. This gives Ana the ability to 3-shot heroes again, but that is something Blizzard doesn’t appear to want. If boosting her rifle’s damage is the route to go, 65 gives her a small boost, and still requires a 4th shot to get a kill. If it’s a flanker that’s causing the trouble, it changes nothing because at 60 or 65 rifle damage, she can still punch or grenade to kill them if all three shots land.
A tiny damage increase seems plausible, but that’s not interesting. I think we can do better.
Ana recently joined Heroes of the Storm, and with it came some modifications to her kit that are both fun and useful. With the right talents, her healing darts are actually able to shoot through her teammate and hit a second ally in its path. In Overwatch this would be neat and stop the half-complaints of players running in the way of the person you’re healing, but it would be far too strong as a normal ability. Perhaps there is a place for it though.
Another talent Ana can choose from in Heroes of the Storm is Eye of Horus, which replaces her Nano Boost ultimate, but grants her the ability to shoot anyone on the map for 8 shots, healing or hurting the first person it hits. It’s neat and situationally useful, but translating it directly into Overwatch seems like an overpowered Infra-Sight since it goes through walls. Maybe we can take a part of it and make it work.
Finally, almost all ultimates in Overwatch make the caster feel like they’re doing something incredibly powerful and directly benefitting themselves, but with Ana, she boosts another hero and she’s done. Sure it feels really good when your Nano Boosted Reinhardt is smashing his way through enemy lines, but it’s not YOU going on that rampage.
I propose that if we take a bit out of Ana’s Heroes of the Storm kit and add something to her Overwatch ultimate, we’ll have a small change that will give her the small boost that she needs.
While Nano Boost is active, for those 8 seconds allow her shots to go in a straight line, healing or damaging every ally/enemy they hit, only being stopped by walls, barriers, Defensive Matrix, etc. For these 8 seconds, also give her something every other sniper has to some degree and grant her the ability to see enemies through walls/allies so she’ll know if there is an enemy coming around a corner, or is about to get hit when her shots go through her ally.
With these changes we:
don’t add or remove existing abilities to her kit,
gives Ana players the sense that their ultimate is directly benefitting them, and
provide a potential, marginal and temporary healing and damage boost that still requires skill to be most effective as some proper positioning is required.
Are these changes enough to make an impact on her pick rate and win rate? With Mercy in her current state, probably not, but changes for our winged angel are around the corner and that means more opportunities for other supports such as Ana to shine again, especially if she has a few new tricks up her sleeve.