I like the idea of Armor and Magic Armor being implemented into the game more as long as it’s in a meaningful way. I dislike that Anub and Arthas have been given specific Armors at the cost of max health and regen. Furthermore; for the casual player base or for newcomers – these changes are unclear. These players are unlikely to read every detail of patch notes or forum posts and there’s no indication in-game that these heroes are taking less damage from specific sources for no reason.
It goes against the design philosophy that Blizzard had for HotS – they wanted the damage that you think you should deal and the health that you see the enemy has to BE the damage that you deal and to BE the health that the enemy has. While effects like “vulnerable” and “resistant” are obvious measures which change this, they’re (now) clearly show in-game with the shield icons next to the health bar – showing even unaware players that “this purple shield means this unit will take more damage than expected.” Their design philosophy for the game to be clear and not have the unnecessary math/confusion that comes with things like critical strike, random auto-attack damage, and ever changing armor/magic resist of other games might be in danger if Blizzard continue to push this baseline “Armor” value.
Newer players will have a higher barrier to entry having to learn which invisible stats each hero has. It’s one thing learning all of their abilities and talents – but that can be done easily in-game just through playing. To learn things such as Armors would require them to study things outside of the game play and I don’t think that’s a good thing for a game that is trying to entice new players.
For high end and competitive these changes make no difference to game play and are strictly an attempt to make these heroes a niche pick in drafting. Anub’Arak is weaker to everything except for ability damage now so if the enemy is high on ability damage but have weak basic attacks and there won’t be much reason for Anub to be soaking minion damage then he’s in a stronger place than previously – he’ll have more effective health in a situation like this but be strictly weaker as a whole.
As for my personal viewpoint on the Armor changes – I think it’s completely boring and the wrong way to go about making these heroes more appealing.
Anub was already THE anti-mage warrior. His base kit provides him with the easiest way to reach the backline of any hero, an on-demand shield which is most effective against obvious incoming damage or damage over time effects (which are common features of “mage” heroes,) and an army of beetles with the purpose of blocking skill shots and dealing damage to stationary targets. His kit is weak against constant damage output such as auto attack heroes and melee assassins. Blizzard had also previously wanted to push him further as “anti-mage” and did so with creative talents. (Which is how they SHOULD be implementing armor changes.) For example: they provided him with a level 1 magic armor talent and a level 7 talent which reduces the cooldown of his shield if he takes ability damage during it. Both of these are ways of providing him with extra ability damage mitigation without just applying a constant, passive magic armor buff.
These talents are elements of design which are much more interesting and better for the game than baseline stats. These talents provide meaningful gameplay decisions, value choices, and most importantly – counterplay. Anub with a passive 25% magic armor makes absolutely no difference to the gameplay of the Anub or any of the enemy team. However if the Anub has a talent which reduces the cooldown of his shield when he takes ability damage while his shield is up – this rewards the Anub for playing well and punishes him if the opponents play well. If the Anub is able to successfully utilize his talent, he gains significant cooldown reduction to his core sustain tool. If the opponent plays well and knows how to counter this talent (by not using abilities during the shield period in this case) then the Anub is punished because the talent gets no value. These are meaningful decisions for every player involved and provides opportunity for a well timed shield to provide added value and opponents who realise the counterplay potential to take advantage of it. Whereas an Anub who has a permanent 25% Magic Armor provides only draft decisions and affects gameplay in no way at all.
Recently in Blizzard’s attempt to make more warriors favourable picks they provided several buffs/changes to heroes like Diablo and Artanis; both of which have multiple talents based on increasing their survivability in various, gameplay altering ways. They also gave Diablo a baseline 25% Armor for 2 seconds after he charges – although this use of Armor isn’t particularly interesting compared to something such as Anub’s aforementioned shield talent, it does provide meaningful gameplay decisions for both the Diablo and the enemy team. Do they attempt to burst him down once he charges in to deal with him as soon as possible or do they wait for the Armor buff to drop off at which time the situation of the fight might be vastly different and everybody’s position in the fight will have changed. There is counterplay and decisions present even in something as simple as this buff.
Personally I think that if they wanted to implement these Armor changes to heroes to make them more appealing they should do so by including them in their base kit in meaningful ways. They have already done so for Diablo and even Greymane in the same patch. Greymane’s static 10% Armor doesn’t seem to be much different to Arthas or Anub, but the fact that it’s only applicable during wolf form already makes it much more engaging.
Just throwing ideas out there but if they intended to give Anub extra Magic Armor they could do something such as “Gain 5% Magic Armor per beetle alive” (balancing numbers withstanding.) This does raise an issue of clarity though in order to co-incide with their design principles, it might be unclear how much extra Armor the Anub is getting, which is important knowledge for the enemy team, but this could be fixed by a simple indicator next to his health bar which changes number or size depending on it’s current bonus. Not only would this change make for more gameplay and counterplay decisions compared to the current flat 25%, but it would also make different talent builds more enticing, maybe you want to take more beetle-themed talents to ramp up your Magic Armor quicker or perhaps you don’t need the Magic Armor desperately so you can focus on other talents and have that as a small increase. It should also be noted a change like this wouldn’t hurt his performance against non-mages as much as he currently did with the latest patch.