TheRumHam wrote:Hey gang! I have noticed Witch is a very hot button topic right now. I have heard feedback ranging from "Witch is the most broken card ever" to "Witch is even worse than before". I want to be transparent with you all, so let's go over WHY we buffed Witch, the GOALS of buffing her, and the STATS since the balance update went into effect.
Why did you buff Witch?
Before the balance change was announced, in Grand Challenges, Witch sat at a 5% use rate (55th out of 85) with a 31% win rate. An 'average' card is 9% use rate and in a healthy band of 45-55% win rate, so by both metrics she was well below where she needed to be. Additionally, she appeared in ZERO of the top 100 most popular decks - so it wasn't like she was finding success in niche usage.
The story was similar in Classic Challenges - 13% use rate was above average (this is attributed to new and F2P players starting with Witch and sticking with her eternally) but the win rate was still unacceptably low at 37%. Despite being the 27th most popular card, the only cards with a lower win rate in CCs were Heal, Mirror, and Barbarian Barrel.
Ladder was another anomaly. Looking at Electro Arena to Ultimate Champion, she was even more popular (17th overall) but still struggled to find success. She had the lowest win rate of the top 20 cards, and her TrophyScore (a metric we use to determine average trophies gained or lost per game by playing that card) was a paltry 0.1. For comparison, the three cards above her in 16-15-14th place were Minions - Bats - Knight with TrophyScores of 0.7 - 0.4 - 0.8, respectively.
So we had a card that people started the game with and tended to stick with deep into their lifespan. She was an iconic character from Clash of Clans, and had some cool mechanics that just weren't clicking when the rubber hit the road. We felt there was a good opportunity for a rework that would add a lot to the meta game. We are especially aware of 'power creep' and don't want beloved original cards to be made obsolete by new releases. Reworking Witch created an opportunity to add a 'new' card to the game that many players would already have leveled up.
Why did you buff her the way you did?
As we stated in our Balance AMA, we try to design cards that are unique and provide a different experience when using them. For our rework, we wanted to focus on what made Witch stand out - her Skeleton spawning. Before the rework, she was an underwhelming splash attacker that sometimes tossed out Skeletons. We felt the game did not need another splash damage ranged attacker but could use more dynamic Troop-to-Troop combat cards and spawners. By regularly flooding the field with Skeletons, it changes the layout of the battlefield post-deployment more than single body troops that run into each other.
The health buff to be outside of Spell range was purposeful for two reasons. First, we felt that 5-cost support characters are hindered by their vulnerability to Spells. As long as a 5-cost support can be killed by any combination of Zap/Log and Fireball/Poison, the meta does not need to adapt at all to deal with them. Lightning has a very low use rate (3%) because there's no situation where you need Lightning over Zap/Fireball. We placed her health so that she would be something you could Lightning but otherwise had to fight with Troops.
Secondly, we felt if she died to Spells, it would yet another swarm/Spell Bait card. By NOT dying to small Spells, she can't be Spell Bait. If she increased the usage of splash damage Troops like Valkyrie, Mega Knight, Wizard, Executioner, Bowler, and Magic Archer that would be an indirect nerf to swarms. If she increased the use of Lightning, that would create more spell diversity from the standard One Small and One Medium that has existed for well over a year in CR.
The goal was to create a support Troop that was distinctly different from a ranged attacker like Wizard or a powerful melee attacker like Prince. Witch is meant to be behind a tank and if ignored, steadily ramps up damage via Skeletons until overwhelming the defenses.
Okay, so is she OP now?
Witch definitely saw the single biggest jump in usage that we can recall. She leapt up 47 spots in Grand Challenges from July 1st to July 2nd, from 59th to 12th. She peaked a day later, but has been dropping since then:
July 2nd: 18% use rate, 12th most popular
July 3rd: 21%, 9th
July 4th: 18%, 13th
July 5th: 17%, 15th
But that doesn't make her OP. Her win rate in GCs looks healthy, indicating the meta is adapting to her presence:
July 2nd: 51%
July 3rd: 49%
July 4th: 48%
July 5th: 46%
She appears in the 6th (Giant - Lumberjack - Witch) and 17th (Valk - Graveyard - Witch) most popular decks, neither deck has an unhealthy win rate. Aside from that first 51%, there has not been a single day in either Grand or Classic Challenges that she has had a 50% win rate. She does not appear to be game breaking strong.
Over on ladder, looking at 4000-4499 range (where most League players are due to the season reset), she is at 15% use rate with a 47% win rate. Her TrophyScore has moved up to a healthy 0.7, indicating she is roughly at a normal power level. This may result is some short-term turmoil as the overleveled Witches on ladder are vaulted up to a more appropriate Trophy level, but that will even out as she does not seem to be breaking the Challenge meta. At 8-12 Win range, she's already back to a 10% use rate - if she was truly OP her stats would be higher at that range (as a larger majority of the 17% use rate would be making it deep into GCs).
It is unclear now where she will settle, but the GOAL is that Witch ends up in the 30th-60th most popular cards with about a 47% win rate. Ideally she is good sometimes in the right decks, but not widely powerful across multiple archetypes. We do not want her to be a Top 10 most popular card because she's a bit niche in her purpose, and should not be a meta-defining card. She can definitely be frustrating if you don't have an answer to her, but that is also true of LavaLoon or Three Musketeers, decks that the metagame has adapted to handle. I believe Witch will also fall into this category over time.
My biggest fear is that if she is too good, the meta will become a mix of Bowler, Executioner, and Witch, all of which are difficult to counter defensive Troops. We are also watching low Arenas to make sure that Witch is not breaking the early game, so far there is nothing indicating she is a problem but it is too soon to make a call. So far the data indicates that Bowler is the counter of choice, going from 1% use rate in GCs to 6%. Lightning has risen from 3% to 5%, and Valkyrie has bumped into the top 10 after being just outside of it. If Witch use continues to drop, I'm sure these other cards will be affected as well.
Does this mean you are completely happy with Witch and she won't receive any changes?
It is too early to say - we usually wait for about 2 weeks to make any judgments on the success or failure of balance changes. If she holds as a top 20 card, there may be a small haircut. But if she ends up identical to Night Witch (37th most popular, 48% win rate, with a spot in a popular archetype) I would consider that a massive success, saving a classic card from being obsolete. Right now she is trending in that direction, if she continues to drop 1% per day she will be an average card in about a week.
We did take some important learnings from this rework - taking a card that is already played and massively changing the win rate can be a shock to the system. Players who voiced concerns about having to suddenly adapt and not having the gold or cards to switch it up - we hear you and those are valid concerns. There are several cards we want to rework, and hopefully this experience can inform future balance changes and how we approach changing already owned cards.
If we do nerf her, I would likely not lower her Health. I think that part of her design has been a big success, opening up other underused cards as deckbuilding options while increasing spell diversity. Her Skeleton spawning may be reduced or reworked, her basic attack could theoretically be weaker or slower, to really emphasize that she relies on Skeletons to deal the damage. But nothing is planned for the August balance changes right now because quite simply there's no indications she is that strong. Happy hunting out there, see you in the Arena!
-Seth, CR Balance Team
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