Hello, friends. My name is Kith and I like videogames. I also happen to like Tychus and, while he’s probably my favorite character from the Blizzard universe, I feel like he could provide a lot better gameplay than he currently does.
Now, if you’re a patron of HeroesHearth, you may think you’ve seen this whole “Tychus Review And Rework” business before (and you’d be correct). My original article covered Tychus’s history in HOTS and why certain elements of his design were brought into being, but it didn’t really provide an in-depth look at his loadout or grading of his current status like I prefer to do nowadays. I’ve been itching to retread old ground and dig a little deeper ever since my style changed, so this post will be an expression of that.
The Review will cover Visual Design, Unit Stats, Abilities, Talents, Overall Gameplay Issues, and culminate in a Final Grade. After that, I will present the Rework aimed at solving whatever issues the Review reveals as the second post in the thread.
When I initially started work on this Review and I was using one of my friends as a sounding board for topics to cover, I mused that anyone unfamiliar with the mechanics of Tychus in HOTS probably wouldn’t be able to pick out his kit from a list of others. We argued about it for a while until I remembered that Google Survey existed, so I decided to skip out on the discussion and just put my theory to the test to settle the matter.
I created a survey portraying a silhouette of Tychus and his trademark minigun and then asked respondents to assign one of seven kits to the mystery man. The results of that survey were… telling. As of this time of writing, I have collected 335 responses, visualized here:
Interestingly, the most common cases of mistaken identity are Raynor, Zul’jin, and Sgt. Hammer:
When I questioned the respondents I knew personally on why they made the choices that they did, almost every one stated that the reason for choosing those skillsets in particular was due to their increased Weapon Range seeming appropriate for a minigun user. My best guess as to why is because in most media, miniguns are commonly portrayed as heavy gunner style weapons with medium to long range.
How commonly, you may ask?
Pictured: Team Fotress 2, Monday Night Combat, DOOM, Serious Sam, Warhammer 40k, Metro, Payday 2, Gears of War, Call of Duty, Fortnite, Fallout, Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto
Not Pictured: Many others
Now, this is not to say that Tychus’s visual design is bad - his model, animations, and skill effects are all spot-on, and his kit does suit him in the context of his character and the necessary balance for HOTS. However, it is worth noting that nothing about his design implies that he has reduced range and that most people expect him to have either standard or increased range based on the weapon he uses.
Tychus is incredibly meaty for a Ranged Assassin, managing to out-health a fair portion of the Melee Assassins and completely out-healthing every Ranged Assassin except for Mephisto and Azmodan. And, appropriately for someone who wields a Minigun that’s as big as they are, Tychus’s Basic Attack DPS is one of the highest in the game. However, these benefits come at a pretty significant cost.
For starters, Tychus cannot stutter-step - his Attack Speed is simply too high. This puts him at a massive disadvantage in skilled play where the ability to mount a mobile offense to pursue wounded targets and the opportunity constantly reposition to avoid damaging skillshots are practically mandatory. A good example of what I mean can be found in some of Fan’s recent Raynor videos in Storm League: he’s constantly shifting after each attack for both offense and defense. Tychus, by his very nature, cannot do this.
Tychus’s inability to Stutter Step wouldn’t be so much of an issue if that was the only limitation he had - after all, his DPS is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Unfortunately, he has another drawback: his Basic Attack Range is 4.5, one unit shorter than the standard 5.5. This puts Tychus that much closer to the Crowd control that so many Tanks and Bruisers have, makes him even easier to hit with dangerous skillshots, and renders him unable to openly trade against other characters with Ranged Basic Attacks without practically guaranteeing that he’ll take damage in the process.
Now, I should mention that the limitations of a high Attack Speed or a reduced Basic Attack range are hardly crippling on their own - there are several characters with either (or in a few cases, both) that manage to perform just fine. However, in Tychus’s case, having both limitations while also being expected to provide a significant amount of damage from Basic Attacks (and Basic Attack-adjacent mechanics) is a major hindrance and results in his unit control being very clunky.
I find it difficult to convey my thoughts on Minigun because I keep being afraid that I’m going to understate just how good it is. In essence, Minigun allows Tychus to engage on basically any target and the only way to prevent terrible, terrible damage is by doing anything in your power to stop him for as long as you can - even if it’s just for a half-second. For how much damage Minigun is capable of letting Tychus do, it’s basically a free Heroic.
Minigun’s Health Shred was added as a replacement for Tychus’s original wind-up Attack Speed mechanics, under the justification that they wanted to make Tychus into a Tank Buster (specifically, “targets that have a lot of Health”). However, as the developers later realized, Health Shred is effective against all targets because all targets have health. While the change to his range was successful in making it more difficult for Tychus to trade against other Ranged enemies, his damage output steadily increasing over time created a completely different problem: if Tychus gets the drop on you, you’re probably going to die - regardless of if you’re the intended “high Health” target that Minigun was designed for.
Overkill’s only genuine problem is that it cannot be canceled without mechanical abuse. If that was added (say, a Cancel ability that overwrites the Trait slot while Overkill is active), Overkill would be a solid B and perfectly fine in my book.
As an aside, not every negative I list is a problem that needs solving. For example, while Overkill being unaffected by Minigun is undeniably a drawback of Overkill, Tychus absolutely does not need the ability to circumvent the only limitations keeping Minigun’s insane strength in check.
Like Overkill, Frag Grenade is in a pretty good position - not too strong, not too weak, has skill potential thanks to the knockback. Unlike Overkill, I wouldn’t want many changes made to it because it’s more or less fine as it is.
Run and Gun isn’t necessarily bad, but it bothers me that it has lost functionality twice over the years (losing the ability to spin up Tychus’s Attack Speed, both from his original trait and the first trait rework) and it still hasn’t gotten anything to compensate. By comparison, Vault was double-buffed with a lowered Mana Cost and a damage boosting component in the same patch. I can live with it not moving Tychus very far, but the fact that it’s maintained its cost without getting a buff to compensate is frustrating.
Commandeer Odin is good, but it’s interesting to stop and think about just how much it does. A friend of mine once said that the Odin turns Tychus inside out, and they’re not too far off of the mark. For comparison:
- Tychus has short range, cannot stutter-step to save his life, is primarily focused on burning down single targets, and (surprisingly) has a higher damage output at the cost of being riskier.
- The Odin has (literally) twice as much Basic Attack and Ability range as Tychus does, can stutter-step easily, has massive amounts of AOE coverage, and can apply its damage from safe distances.
It’s not necessarily a problem with just how radically different the two are, but it’s a very stark difference. Odin is practically everything that Tychus is not, save for their relative durability (which Odin builds upon) and both having a short-range dash as a mobility option.
What is a problem, however, is how inconsistently Odin interacts with some Talents. Being that it completely replaces Tychus’s abilities while active, it naturally doesn’t benefit from any of the Talents that upgrade them. However, some Talents get exceptions:
- Master Assassin functions normally, increasing the Odin’s Basic Attack DPS significantly when completed.
- Relentless Soldier “works”, but due to the Armor Patch that changed Armor effects to no longer stack outside of specific circumstances, it merely overwrites the 25 Armor that the Odin grants with… 25 Armor, accomplishing nothing.
- Neosteel Coating can be activated normally.
- In the Rhythm and That’s The Stuff! have a strange synergy with the Odin. Because That’s The Stuff! was changed to give healing on expiration instead of on damage and because Odin disables Minigun while active (and therefore forcing it to expire), the Odin is the only way to cancel Minigun to access the stored healing. For the standard 3-second duration of Minigun that’s not so useful, but when In the Rhythm has extended Minigun’s duration to several seconds per cast, that can be the difference between living or dying.
- Sizzlin’ Attacks notably does not work on the Odin, despite a similar Talent/Ability interaction (Tassadar’s Focused Beam and Archon) functioning properly.
- Bob and Weave inconsistently interacts within itself. It applies the additional charges to Thrusters just fine, but Odin doesn’t take the passive 1.5 Basic Attack Range into account when transforming, leaving the Odin’s Basic Attack Range at 9 instead of 12.
Finally, and this is a pretty significant art mishap: Commandeer Odin doesn’t actually call down an Odin.
On the left is the actual Odin and on the right is a Blackhammer (also known as the Collector’s Edition skin for the Thor (a miniaturized version of the Odin design)).
My best guess as to why the Blackhammer model was used instead of the Odin was that, because it was already covered in various doodads and lights, it required the least amount of work to match HOTS’s aesthetic. However, it’s still wrong, and it still bothers me every time I see it. Even more frustrating is that the original Odin model recently got an update with the release of Tychus as a Co-Op Commander for Starcraft II, sporting a new paintjob with extra blue and the Heaven’s Devils logo in fun places (like the arm cannons):
I know it’s not a gameplay thing and I know that the Art Team is very different from the Balance Team, but I can still dream that one day it will be fixed.
Once upon a time when Tychus wasn’t so awkward and focusing your build on raw sustained damage was reliable, the Drakken Laser Drill was the go-to Heroic because it didn’t keep you from using Minigun like Commandeer Odin did. Unfortunately, the patch that cut down Tychus’s range and sustain made that playstyle severely suboptimal and several miscellaneous adjustments to the Laser Drill’s placement requirements has made it harder to use than ever before.
There’s very little reason to take the Laser Drill these days - it’s just too clunky. Turning all of Tychus’s weaknesses into strengths with Commandeer Odin is much more reliable and valuable.
At first glance, Press the Advantage seems like an excellent Talent: increasing Tychus’s Basic Attack Range to slightly more than the standard 5.5 would allow him to trade a bit better against other Ranged characters. However, there are several glaring drawbacks:
- The increased Basic Attack Range only lasts for 3 seconds.
- The increased Basic Attack Range is tied to Tychus’s movement ability, meaning that using it offensively leaves Tychus vulnerable to getting bogged down and unable to quickly dodge for 10 seconds.
- It doesn’t fit into Tychus’s typical tactics of Minigun > Overkill > Run and Gun > Frag Grenade.
Press the Advantage looks good, but it’s basically a trap talent. Its benefit doesn’t fit naturally into Tychus’s playstyle and trying to make use of it offensively puts the player at a distinct disadvantage. The only thing that saves Press the Advantage from a grade of D is the synergy it has in the extremely sub-optimal build that uses In the Rhythm and Bob and Weave.
I’m going to be honest with you here: I hate Regen Globe quests that don’t involve some kind of sustain as a reward, especially when they take so long to complete. However, I always take Dash for several reasons:
- Dash’s completed Quest actually makes Run and Gun worth its Mana Cost.
- Dash is the only Talent at Level 1 that provides Defensive value, something Tychus sorely needs.
- Dash’s increased mobility can be used both Offensively and Defensively, making it much more flexible than the other options’ reliance on Offense.
- Dash’s direct improvement to Run and Gun causes it to synergize with Overkill and Frag Grenade.
Dash is more flexible and effective than the other options at the tier, even when only partially completed. There is no reason to not take Dash.
In theory, the ability to quickly refresh the cooldown of Run and Gun and stay on a target for a mobile offense is useful. However, Tychus already has Overkill, so picking up Combat Tactician is pretty pointless. Even if you were getting significant value out of Combat Tactician and casting Run and Gun regularly, it costs so much for what it does that you’d run out of Mana in short order.
Back in the day, In the Rhythm was my go-to pick and nobody on this green Earth could hope to pry me away from it. Nowadays, I wouldn’t get caught dead using it - Tychus just doesn’t have the range to sit and shoot like he used to, and the most excellent synergy with That’s the Stuff! was inverted into a counter-synergy. Anything at Level 4 is a better option for one reason or another, so there’s no reason to pick it.
The Bigger They Are… is probably the most powerful Talent in Heroes of the Storm. It’s also the most misguided, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We’ll start with how Tychus fares without it. Minigun’s normal effect adds 2.5% Health Shred to Tychus’s basic attacks for 3 seconds, up to 30% of a target’s Maximum Health plus the 600 damage from Tychus’s Basic Attacks. For most targets, this is a pretty substantial amount of damage:
- The Average Warrior Health Pool is 2,562. 30% of that is 768 and adding 600 DPS gives us 1368 damage over 3 seconds, roughly 53% of their Health Pool.
- The Average Assassin Health Pool is 1515. 30% of that is 454 and adding 600 DPS gives us 1054 damage over 3 seconds, roughly 69.5% of their Health Pool.
Granted, I’m fudging a lot of this - this isn’t taking into account things like Armor and averaging together all of the Warriors and Assassins leaves a lot of room for outliers - but the important part to take note of is how much damage is being dealt in context. While the Average Warrior takes more actual damage, the Average Assassin takes more proportional damage, being left at a noticeably lower amount of Health after the calculations are done.
The Bigger They Are… makes this disparity much, much worse.
The Bigger They Are… increases Minigun’s Health Shred per shot from 2.5% to 4%, a 60% increase in Health Shred per hit. With this increase, you can deal the same amount of Health Shred damage in a much shorter amount of time: you would only need 8 attacks to deal 32% Health Shred to the target rather than Minigun’s native 12 for 30%. It also caps itself, no longer applying Health Shred to targets below 35% of their Maximum Health, meaning that Minigun can no longer directly aid in finishing off a target.
At first glance, this seems reasonable: given that The Bigger They Are…'s 4% Health Shred per hit could only deal 48% of the target’s health, it seems unlikely that a target would lose 75% of their health from a single activation. However, what most folks forget is that this damage is riding on the back of Tychus’s Basic Attacks. Going back to our Average Heroes, we get the following:
- The Average Warrior Health Pool is 2,562. 48% of that is 1229 and adding 600 DPS gives us 1829 damage over 3 seconds, roughly 71% of their Health Pool.
- The Average Assassin Health Pool is 1515. 48% of that is 727 and adding 600 DPS gives us 1327 damage over 3 seconds, roughly 87.5% of their Health Pool.
While The Bigger They Are… is technically true to phrase it’s named after because it definitely increases the amount of damage Minigun does to high-health targets, it also just so happens to make Minigun into one of the better tools in HOTS for deleting Assassins. While the cap ensures that Minigun cannot do the job alone, Overkill and Frag Grenade all but guarantee a kill.
Minigun is basically a Heroic and The Bigger They Are… is basically a Level 20 Talent. You get Minigun for free and The Bigger They Are… at Level 4.
Also it lowers Minigun’s cooldown by 2 seconds as if it wasn’t already one of the most significant power spikes in the game.
Master Assassin is, in a word, okay. On one hand, increasing the Attack Speed of a character that has substantial DPS and heavily relies on a powerful On-Hit effect is pretty good. On the other hand, it doesn’t really make a notable difference until you get 15 Takedowns, all of which have to come after you pick it up.
Unless you’re specifically seeking to empower Odin as much as possible because there are too many counters to Tychus’s standard form, The Bigger They Are… is a better choice.
Quarterback solves one of Tychus’s main issues: his distinct lack of range. With it, he can poke the enemy backline from a very safe distance and and finish off wounded targets more reliably.
Concussion Grenade is… alright. The increased knockback certainly has a lot of uses, from knocking enemies further back into your range to defending yourself better against dives by shoving away attackers. However, being a knockback effect also means that it’s possible to save enemies, so your mileage may vary.
Relentless Soldier is only useful when you get stuck, and if you’re getting stuck you’re probably getting dogpiled and 25 Armor is unlikely to save you. Additionally, it’s not very versatile - it doesn’t provide any benefit for things like Slows, Knockbacks, Pulls, or even Stasis Damage effects like Gorge or Tyrant Maw. I could see it getting value against a very stun-heavy team, but at that point you’re better off just not getting hit.
Commandeer Odin is good for when you don’t need to be Tychus and remains useful even when you do.
The Drakken Laser Drill was good when sustained damage a viable build. Nowadays Tychus’s burst build is objectively better, and unfortunately Drakken Laser Drill just doesn’t compare as a result.
What was once the only choice at Level 13 is now merely an option. In its original form, That’s the Stuff! healed for Minigun’s damage as it was dealt, providing much-needed sustain from the Minigun-centric playstyle provided by In the Rhythm and Drakken Laser Drill. However, since it was changed to healing on expiration, That’s the Stuff! is now counter-synergistic with In the Rhythm’s extended Minigun duration, leaving it only a viable option if you take The Bigger They Are… or Master Assassin (or using Odin’s Minigun disable to force the expiration and trigger the healing).
75 Spell Armor is no joke, so Neosteel Coating is an excellent choice. If you happen to be facing heavy Ability Damage (especially if you’re in a situation where you can’t get reliable Minigun value to heal from That’s the Stuff!), then Neosteel Coating is the way to go.
Spray ‘n’ Pray is a Level 1 Talent in the wrong neighborhood.
Frag Grenade is Tychus’s primary tool for finishing off wounded enemies and securing kills, so adding a little extra oomph to the that is a pretty solid choice. However, I tend to not take it because I feel like 5% isn’t very useful when compared to Armor Piercing Rounds.
For example, Stitches has the largest base Health Pool in the game, clocking in at 3183. Titan Grenade’s 5% Health Shred tacks on 159 damage when used against Stitches, a 62% increase in effective damage. While substantially effective against meaty targets like Stitches, it falls off quickly against lighter enemies - anything smaller than Azmodan’s 2563 Health pool is going to see less than a 50% increase in effective damage, and the majority of the characters in HOTS have less than 2000 Health (lowering the effective damage increase to 40% or less).
It’s still good, certainly has its uses, and hits in an area, but I feel that Armor Piercing Rounds is the more reliable choice.
Lead Rain isn’t bad in theory, but it’s definitely not a Level 16 talent and it’s definitely not comparable to Titan Grenade or Armor Piercing Rounds.
Overkill is Tychus’s bread and butter when things aren’t going perfectly: maybe he got blinded and his Minigun is useless, maybe he needs to run away and discourage pursuit, maybe the initial ambush wasn’t enough and he needs to follow up to secure the kill. Armor Piercing Rounds empowers Overkill in such a way that it becomes better at pretty much all of these things and, unlike the Health Shred from Minigun or Titan Grenade, actually applies to non-Heroic targets. Additionally, the damage bonus doesn’t fall off in effectiveness against low-health targets like Titan Grenade does, so it’s substantially better for killing off fragile but dangerous enemies.
Big Red Button just gives you more of what makes the Odin good and is practically the default choice as a result.
The increased range is handy, but the placement range means that an immediate cast is likely going to be within the enemy’s reach and the damage ramp-up generally doesn’t happen fast enough to get any real value before the Laser Drill gets destroyed. The Laser Drill does have its uses and Focusing Diodes happens to make it better at those niche applications, but it’s not nearly enough to put it on the same level as Commandeer Odin and Big Red Button.
Sizzlin’ Attacks has a very hard time competing with Big Red Button’s increased duration and Nuke, so it’s pretty much what you take when you don’t have the Odin available. It certainly gets lots of points for making Tychus’s DPS even more terrifying, but the reliably safe damage of Odin is more valuable pound for pound.
All told, Bob and Weave offers nothing better than the other options at this tier. Teamfights at Level 20 are over in seconds, so you want either the increased range and burst from Big Red Button or the increased DPS from Sizzlin’ Attacks to lower your exposure time to the absolute minimum. A fully completed Dash bumps up the grade (and you should really have Dash completed by this point), but that reliance on a Level 1 Quest isn’t a great look.
- Feels clunky and awkward compared to other Ranged Assassins, even ones with similarly reduced ranges.
- While Minigun plays to Tychus’s strengths and Odin helps to overcome his weaknesses, overall effectiveness plummets without either (or both).
- Talent selection has degraded over time due to patches and left clear winners at every tier except for 13 and 16, drastically reducing build variety.
- The Bigger They Are… is seriously such a big deal that it deserves its own bullet point, just for how amazingly good it is at killing squishy targets.
- THAT’S A BLACKHAMMER, NOT AN ODIN
Tychus suffers from what I like to call “Overbalance”: the state of a design being balanced in practice, but by virtue of having just as many massive disadvantages as it does massive advantages. The problem with Overbalance is that it often leads to polarizing experiences - sometimes the design performs admirably, being nearly unstoppable. Sometimes the design falls apart because a single leg gets kicked out from under it.
The core ideas of Tychus’s design aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination - once upon a time, Tychus’s gameplay felt fine. However, the details appended to the design over time have caused a lot of issues that could be solved with a more measured approach instead of such an extreme one.