I'm not one to use terms like overpowered or imbalanced if I can avoid them, but the whispered complaints that begun with the release of 1.22 have grown into screams and shouts in recent times. And now, with that most community-dividing of legends, winning WCG, the question is on everyone’s lips: is Orc too powerful?
The undeniable fact is that 2008 has been the most successful year for Orc players since Warcraft III was released. Lyn is the game's highest earner, we had an Orc ESWC champion in WhO and now Grubby brought the WCG title home to the Netherlands. Even SK Gaming picked up another Orc player, despite having the most successful one in the world.
A look at the race stats adds further fuel to the fire. Because these statistics have only been around for a year or so they are very useful to this debate and Orc is the only race with a 50% or better win ratio against every single race.
However, something even more interesting can be seen by looking over these stats. Undead, amazingly, is the second most successful race when it comes to individual match victories. Yet it was only TeD who made it into the top ten earners of 2008. Less surprisingly, Orc's best match-up is against Undead – a massive 59% win ratio for the green skins.
You can take those two facts in a couple of different ways but the most obvious one is this: if undead are the second best race but orcs are winning more tournaments, are orc statistics being buffed by what is clearly their best match-up? To simplify: are undeads taking out all the pesky human and elf players?
Well, it doubtless is helping their cuase, but as one forum-goer pointed out, Grubby didn’t play a single undead in WCG. In fact, he hasn’t played one in a major tournament for a very long time. He did it the hard way from start to finish.
The real question, then, is not ‘is orc stronger than before?’ – it clearly is – the real question is ‘why?’
Everyone’s favourite hero has a lot to answer for, but can one hero really win the game on its own? I remember when I first came to WC3, people said the same thing about the Demon Hunter, so the idea of a one man army isn’t new. But it seems over simplistic to me. Even a BM or a DH can be killed – no, really, I swear! It’s improbable but not impossible.
Doubtless, the BM is strong, but he always has been. Orc players have just learned to play to his strengths more and more over the years. Ever since Zacard popularised the Warcraft Ninja, it has been a slow and steady rise to the top of the hero food chain. But in these TP-selling, circlet-buying modern times, he doesn’t look set to fall back down any time soon.
Although people talk about 1.22 a lot when telling you how ‘imba’ orc is, the fact remains that nothing directly changed in the orc camp. The BM wasn’t buffed, raiders didn’t get a damage increase, and head-hunters didn’t suddenly become useful overnight.
Isntead, orcs two biggest nemeses got nerfed. Admittedly, Grubby and co were just about getting to grips with elf before the patch, but the dryad nerf helped immensely. No longer can you kill an entire army and only get half a hero level. Gone are the days of mass dryads being remotely plausible – and good riddance! Elf vs orc is one of the most integral matches in WC3 and it is all the more entertaining when neither race can just mass one unit.
But the biggest change in orc fortunes was arguably the tower nerf. Nobody likes towers, but orc liked them less than most people. Tower rushes put pay to many an orc player’s dreams in the past. But 1.22 has been out for months now and I can only recall seeing one successful human vs orc tower rush. Again, I can’t say I’m sad to see the back of it either.
Humans still maintain a 50% ratio against orc, so clearly the change didn’t hurt them too much – everybody wins, especially the spectator.
So, the answer to the original question, in my opinion, is no. Orc has had its most successful year, without a doubt, but Warcraft is a game that swings constantly like a pendulum. In 2007 orc players couldn't buy a tournament win for love or money. Through a mix of creativity, hard work and just a little help from Blizzard, 2008 has been a green year. But 2009 is just round the corner and the elves want their crown back.
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