Written by: Emperor
It has been about a month since Volskaya Foundry entered the Nexus, and it’s already gone missing. Pros have refused to touch the map with a ten foot pole, and Blizzard announced that they were pulling Volskaya out of the ranked map pool. In the Nexus Games, the map was something akin to a unicorn, only being played twice.
So what happened? Where did Volskaya go? To answer these questions, we need to take a deep dive into the map and study its mechanics.
A Weak Protector
The objective on Volskaya Foundry features a “King of the Hill” zone that spawns at regular intervals. Once a team has reached 100% they are awarded the Triglav Protector, a mech requiring two players to pilot it—or at least that’s what Blizzard intended.
However, it was quickly discovered that the mech was not worth sacrificing two bodies for. The relatively long cooldowns on the Protector’s abilities combined with the ability to switch seats allows one player to rotate between seats and juggle the abilities without missing much DPS at all. This strategy sacrifices some mobility in the process, but the Protector’s high HP gives it plenty of durability while sieging.
An example of how to juggle the Protector’s abilities from Cris’s stream
The gunner seat is also much weaker than the pilot seat, meaning that another body outside of the Protector is often more useful than someone in the gunner seat. According to the statistics we collected in our Math of the Storm article last month, the pilot seat at level 20 has roughly 614 DPS compared to only 373 DPS from the gunner seat. The fact that the pilot also has access to the strongest skill on the Protector—a shield ability comparable to Storm Shield on a 16 second cooldown—only exacerbates the problem.
A single player in the Protector at level 20 needs 50 seconds to bring down the Core, going down to 33 seconds with a gunner. However, this is still slower than a single person in the Dragon Knight or the Garden of Terror. The Protector is obviously designed for teamfights and not pushing unlike the other two objectives, but given the fact that the teamfight is over after you win the objective, the Protector’s teamfight ability seems somewhat redundant.
Fixes for the Protector
If the idea is to optimize the Triglav Protector for two people, there are a few changes Blizzard could try.
1. Removing the ability to switch seats
By removing the ability to switch seats, you would force players to commit two players to get the full value out of the Protector. While this seems like a decent fix in terms of making the decision to commit an extra person to the gunner seat more enticing, the current power level of the Protector is still too low to justify it. Instead, players would likely commit one player for the shield ability or ignore the objective completely.
This fix would also make the Protector clunky to use in uncoordinated teams. Instead of simply switching seats by changing the seat before the other player enters the Protector, you would instead to have leave and rejoin the Protector in the correct order and hope your teammates understand what you are doing.
2. Decreasing the cooldowns
on the Protector’s abilities
Decreasing the cooldowns on the Protector’s abilities would make it far harder for a single person to juggle the abilities effectively and maintain a considerable DPS. Naturally, the numbers would have to be tweaked to make sure it is balanced.
The unfortunate side effect of this change might be a hell-level DDR simulation. With so many highly specialized abilities flying around, it might be possible to lose track of what’s going on.
3. Scaling the stats of the Protector depending on whether there are one or two players in it
If the Protector scales based on the number of people piloting it, the gunner seat becomes far more important. You can buff the objective and fix the problem of a single player operating both seats at the same, a nice double whammy for the balance team.
However, making the Protector require two people might limit the amount of strategy by completely eliminating single-person operations of the mech.
And if you do need two people to operate the Protector efficiently, who do you put in it? Do you put your tank and bruiser and leave your back line incredibly exposed? Do you put one of your healers in it? Your hyper carry? The game is designed so efficiently around four man groups that limiting that group to only three might actually make teamfighting with the Protector worse than fighting without.
Long Games and Useless Merc Camps
Due to the inherent weakness of the Protector, situations that would have been game-ending on other maps are not on Volskaya. This issue is further compounded by the mercenary camps featured on the map. With the exception of the top lane camp, both the Fortification camp and the Support camp directly aid in contesting the objective. Neither the health pack or the turret hold any real pushing value on their own, making for rather lackluster sieging opportunities outside of the objective.
The mercs on Volskaya are unique but ultimately useless outside of winning the objective
The top lane troopers are not reliable either, as the lack of splash makes them weak at pushing a lane by themselves. In the earlier stages of the game, they are far too weak to do anything. Later on, they scale decently and have enough DPS that pushing with them might be potentially valuable, but they are far from serious threats.
Adding other camps with more pushing power could open up some alternative strategies and allow a winning team to end the game more quickly. Of course, without a buff to the objective itself, the map would quickly turn into another Infernal Shrines where early game objectives are often forsaken for more soaking and split pushing.
Another problem plaguing the map is the conveyer belts spread across the map. Although it can initially be seen as a cool gimmick, there are some glaring problems. First of all, they have several unexpected interactions that make them unpredictable. Rotating Void Prisons, rooted heroes, Mosh Pits, etc. all add some degree of unpredictability to teamfights and make it far more difficult to maneuver than necessary.
Second, some of the conveyor belts are in the most obtuse positions. The conveyor belts in the center of the map make rotations between the bottom lane and the middle lane awkward and generally dissuade big rotations. The bottom control point is absolutely chaotic and impossible to navigate without a pre-emptive engagement to secure kills.
Conveyor belts also heavily punish heroes without mobility abilities, which pushes the game even further towards mobile characters. Moving backwards on a conveyor belt is almost the same as standing still, so only heroes with mobility skills like Genji or Tracer can move comfortably against the conveyor belt. This detail further narrows the pool of contested heroes and makes drafting stale.
Volskaya Foundry disappeared as quickly as it came. On the surface, Volskaya had several interesting new mechanics that created a unique flavor not found on other maps, but the Protector doesn’t make sense and is simply not strong enough for what it’s supposed to do.
The conveyer belts, despite looking cool, are incredibly frustrating to play around and push the meta even further towards hyper mobile heroes. If there were alternative strategies to fighting at the objective, the map might not have been so frustrating to play, but with no reliable camps for split pushing, the map is completely one dimensional.
Like Hanamura, it's a map that attempted to do too much. Poor execution combined with a rather lackluster map layout makes it uneventful, repetitive, and ultimately a failure. Considering its removal from ranked play, it's likely to go back to the drawing board for redesign—a map gone MIA.
Markus "Emperor" Løtveit is a Heroes of the Storm enthusiast who, outside of writing articles for TL, lives the esports life. A normal day in the life of Markus consists of competing in StarCraft 2 tournaments, running marathons, and teaching esports.
If you want to see more of him, check him out on Twitter.
If you want to see more of him, check him out on Twitter.