Opinion: Fenrir’s passive is heading for a rework

Patch notes reveals are always an enlightening experience. It’s the time for dedicated SMITE players to see which gods are on the up and up, which gods are due for a smackdown with the nerf hammer… and which gods are probably headed for a rework.

Wreck the Halls Fenrir SMITE
Don’t be fooled by Fenrir casually sipping tea; he hates what he has become.

Most notable from SMITE’s 5.15: Royal Champion patch notes is Fenrir, one of the oldest assassins. As a five-year SMITE player, I’ve seen this god go through the paces. Fenrir’s shtick has always been his somewhat troublesome passive, Unbound Runes. In short, Fenrir must land basic attacks or get kills to stack runes. At five runes, his abilities gain additional effects, and fully stacked runes are consumed when Fenrir use an ability. Much of his strength comes from these additional effects, and they are key to Fenrir’s kit.

Problems arose from stacking and consuming runes. One of the biggest buffs — although it is debatable among Fenrir players if this was a buff — was in 2017 when Seething Howl, Fenrir’s steroid, was changed to no longer consume runes. However, since Seething Howl no longer consumes runes, it also doesn’t benefit from them, and Fenrir lost his insane lifesteal and boxing power from the Unbound Runes effect on Seething Howl.

Then we come back to what was always Fenrir’s “thing”: his runes modified his abilities. Now Fenrir has one ability runes don’t affect. Even if the balance decision was overall beneficial to the strength of the character, to have runes only affect three out of four abilities seems like a desperate attempt to keep both Fenrir’s steroid and passive even if they don’t fit in SMITE anymore.

SMITE Fenrir Odyssey
Fenrir clearly has fully stacked runes here.

Building up runes is — or was — another problem. Basic attacking five times is a simple concept but not as simple to execute; in the heat of a fight, it’s not easy to get the attacks off before you need to use the modified ability, for example, the stun provided by the modified Unchained. In patch 5.15, players will now gain three runes from an assist (previously zero). So, that’s one for a basic attack, three for an assist and five (or full runes) from a kill. With that change, Hi-Rez is practically gifting Fenrir the runes when he needs them most. But if we’re going to give Fenrir the runes regardless, why does his passive need to exist anymore?

Let’s look at the rest of the modified effects. Unchained becomes an area-of-effect stun upon landing; this is an amazing ability and the one runes are most frequently expended upon. Brutalize becomes AoE instead of single-target; does this ever come into play outside of clearing a wave or jungle camps? Will it matter that Fenrir will be able to use this affect in teamfights more thanks to the 5.15 buff? For Ragnarok, Fenrir’s ultimate ability, his protections double. It’s good, but so what? Is a brief moment of double protections on a god who was probably as built full damage anyway that big of a difference? And you may say, “But Fenrir is best built tanky.” But if that’s the case, then why does Fenrir have this steroid, Seething Howl, this physical power and lifesteal steroid? A lifesteal steroid on an ability-based god, I might add, that is no longer affected by the passive that was originally designed to affect all Fenrir’s abilities.

Inu Gami Fenrir SMITE
Zenrir.

Fenrir has become a hodgepodge. A stacking passive that is too hard to stack, so we keep creating ways to guarantee his stacks. A jumble of modified ability effects that range wildly in usefulness. A power and lifesteal steroid on an abilty-based god which conflicts with his 2018 preferred play style as a tank. A steroid that is no longer modified by Fenrir’s signature ability-changing passive, no less. Hi-Rez keeps trying to make Unbound Runes work, but maybe it’s time to accept that they don’t.

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