Patch 22.4 Mercenaries Analysis: Five MORE New Mercs!
Mercenaries is getting its very first event: the August Celestials are joining the party.
Just like that, not even a month after Balinda and the Mystery Gang showed up, and the Patch 22.4 Mercenaries are already threatening us with a good time. The Alterac Valley Patch in January came hard-packed with ice, a brutally sinister Dragon and some anti-Valeera technology, but here comes the icing for the snow cone:
An event is going to be running from February 15th to March 10th, where you'll be able to do brand new Bounties, a new multi-day Questline, and acquire a bunch of new Mercenaries.
The new Mercs are composed of the "August Celestials", and boy are they neat. Did I hear Arcane Dragons? A Spectral Tiger? Zippy Fire Birds and Appa from The Last Airbender? Let's talk about some initial analysis of these newcomers and what they might offer to the current meta.
Holy moly, Long'xin is cool. We got so much support jammed into one Merc here: Arcane spells, a Caster Dragon, anti-Nature resistances, and even some unparalleled defensive maneuvers.
Celestial Breath does a nice Rolling Fireball impersonation and sets up some really great double-kills. It's tough that Millhouse and Blink Fox are some of the best Arcane Mercs and overlap with your Arcane Caster position, but that's okay. Dragons are the ones that really wanted the Caster, and they certainly got a good one.
The most exciting ability here is easily Among the Stars. Swapping places with a Mercenary is going to lead to some unparalleled shenanigans, where Long'xin gets to "jump in the way" and block-- but anything that was sent at Long'xin gets sent to your swap-pal. Technically your opponent could blow you out and reverse their targets in expectation of you going among the stars... but then what happens if you don't?!
I love this design and can't wait to see it in action. For what it's worth, the best Equipment is probably Bottle of Infinite Stars-- but tell that to the Arcane Beast comp.
Xuen is my personal favorite from the Patch 22.4 Mercenaries. I've been begging for another Nature effect to fill out some gaps, despite Malfurion and Bru'kan seeing a ton of play. On February 15th, we'll get one!
Pounce is the first ability to really give us a "downside turned upside" effect. "Steal 5 Attack from all friendly characters for two turns" sure looks like a punishment-- until you build around it. And when you start thinking about how to build Xuen into a list, some funky things jump to mind. Malfurion sure doesn't mind if he loses Attack, and Summons just give you extra Attack to steal... is King Mukla back on the table? Mukla can pump Xuen with Primal Power too...
Pounce into Tiger Lightning with the Celestial Chestplate Equipment looks really strong-- I just hope you hit your Random targets well! This gives us a kitty cat that punches on Turn 1 for 29! With Primal Power on Turn 2 from a Mukla you basically build your own King-Krush-Ragnaros. Random effects definitely hurt the viability of all three of these Mercs in mention, but Xuen looks to be a real contender in a lot of cool comps.
Protectors are probably the definite "weakest" characters in Mercenaries, despite Lokholar's best efforts. Because of this we were really looking out for some sick new Red Guys to usurp Cairne, and Niuzao at least gets us furrowing our brow.
Another Beast is great-- these Patch 22.4 Mercenaries were very explicitly All Dragons and Beasts, so you definitely can't complain as semi-supported tribes get fleshed out. But Niuzao is a very bizarre Merc. Headbutt is quite strong and potentially quite underrated, but Turn 1 Fighters that are Visible are at an all-time low right now. In many cases this ability is just 7 Speed, Deal 16. That's... okay? It's exactly Okay.
The real parts of this beast's kit are the defensive options. Bullish Fortitude, in conjunction with the Bullish Belt equipment, basically tanks up your other Mercs into a Cornelius (Cornelia?) for two turns, reducing their damage taken by 10(!). The problem, however, is the Cooldown-- all the way up at 2 thanks to the debuff from the Belt. Is this good enough to counter enough late-game stuff? Sinestra might say no.
The Divine Shield support on rest of the kit really doesn't have enough working parts yet, but gives us a cool glance into the future. We have yet to see a new archetype "set up" like this, so just don't forget about the Bubble Cow in a couple months.
I can't figure out Yu'lon yet. What they really seem to scream is "Tribal Dragons", but he could go into so much. With Nature, Fire, and Arcane lurking in their kit, they could certainly play Role Filler, but I'm afraid that each spell tag is almost meaningless here. Nature doesn't care about Attackers, Fire doesn't care about Taunts or Stealth, and Yu'lon's Arcane spell literally gives Nature damage.
The "strongest" part of Yu'lon is the ability to turn off Taunt and Stealth, but let's look how fast it is: 1 Speed. Woah, pretty good! Surely that's faster th- nope, Valeera is still faster, and can literally often get her whole team to act even before Yu'lon can wipe her stealth. This screams to me like another piece of evidence to tweak Valeera, but we basically can't nerf Mercenaries without a pay-back system or a very bold play.
Still, Yu'lon has a ton of great Full Dragon Comp synergies that likely involve Pearl of Yu'lon to protect your other five space lizards. You wanted Dragons, you got Dragons!
The bird that spoiled it all, Chi-Ji is the cornerstone of the Lunar Event that is going to coincide with the release of the Mini-set. You will only be able to get Chi-Ji after completing a "10 Task" chain, which can be done as early as February 20th, with two Tasks released per day. After the event is over Chi-Ji will drop into packs like a regular Merc. But are their buttons worth clicking?
When you first glance at the Bird's abilities, they don't seem very inspiring. In fact, they even start to echo Vanessa's low power level, seemingly tied to the "free Merc" job description. But then you notice a new phrase:+3 Healing Power.
This is the first time we've seen "Bonus Damage" make its way into the game for healing, and your gears should instantly turn to Malfurion. Imagine if Malf's Liferoot Staff triggers now healed for 9, 12... but let's not stop there.
Chi-Ji is honestly completely overloaded with Healing: every ability, every equipment, concerns More Health. We have yet to run into a Merc completely dedicated to this, really, and the fact that you'd have to swing and miss six times at the same goal gives me hope that some part of Chi-Ji is great. Inspiring Song is an AoE heal with no Cooldown and trigger's Fire Combo... anything? Flameheart Crystal turns all of your Beasts into mini-Anduins, and those can be triggered with Liferoot Staff... okay, okay!
The Patch 22.4 Mercenaries continue the trend of Mercenaries from 2022 being sweet, interesting, and complicated. My expectations for the power rankings for these new Celestials? From Most to Least Powerful:
What this patch announcement didn't have was any other communication. Nothing for the rumored "PvE Endgame," QOL updates, or a response to the Excess Coins issue. I suppose these new toys will have to satisfy us for now!
Stay tuned to esports.gg for more information and a Guide on these new Mercs before long!