What does taking four seconds off a cooldown mean?

I like Smite. This much I have said. And one of the playstyles in Smite that I have wound up being drawn to is playing gods from the typically very defensive Guardian class and building them more as bruisers. No longer purely tanky, but with enough damage to be a threat on my own to squishy targets and enough health and defense to last in a fight or at least force enemies to focus me.

One of the gods who is really good at this is Cabrakan, the Mayan destroyer of mountains. He’s a big burly dude with alligator skin and giant arms and even more giant stone shields that he smashes people with. Cabrakan’s strengths come from his strong burst damage. His first and second abilities lend themselves to a powerful one-two punch. And his kit may be very short-ranged, but it forces enemies to either reposition themselves and blow their escapes or continue being close to Cabrakan, the worst possible location. The latest patch (10/6/2015) gave him a buff. What does this buff mean for Cabrakan going forward?

In order to understand the buff you need to know how Cabrakan’s kit works. The specifics are on the wiki here. In rough detail:

  1. Seismic Crush: When you activate this ability, for the next five seconds Cabrakan moves faster, is immune to Root and Slow effects, may make basic attacks without the 50% speed penalty, and his next basic attack deals bonus damage and stuns the target.
  2. Refraction Shield: Passively, taking ticks of damage gives Cabrakan stacks of Protections, up to five stacks. At any time, Cabrakan can activate the ability to slam his shields together to make a damaging shockwave. If he has five stacks of Protections, this ability stuns enemies it hits.
  3. Tremors: Cabrakan starts punching the ground to make earth tremors near him. Enemies in the tremors are pulled in towards Cabrakan while their movement is jerked around and they take damage.
  4. Tectonic Shift: Cabrakan creates a shockwave that causes the ground to leap up and form walls in a box shape in front of him. Enemies in the area of the ability take damage and can’t walk through the walls that are summoned.

In an ideal scenario, as Cabrakan I start a fight for my team by activating Seismic Crush and chasing someone down. My basic attack stuns them, and then I follow up with Refraction Shield to burst them down. When they come out of the stun I start using Tremors for several seconds to disrupt their movement and allow my team to set up their abilities. And if they try to escape, I wait for them to use their leap or dash and then trap them with Tectonic Shift.

In Smite you may put a point into upgrading an ability with each level, and the level cap is 20. Each ability can be upgraded five times. Every gods 4th ability, their Ultimate, can only be upgraded at certain points (Levels 5, 9, 13, 17, 20). Before this patch, upgrading Cabrakan’s Refraction Shield lowered the cooldown of the ability: 14/13/12/11/10 seconds respectively. Now, at all ranks, the ability has a cooldown of 10 seconds. So what does this do for Cabrakan?

  1. Improves his early game. Cabrakan is now more dangerous and more capable of fighting between levels 1 and 9 (9 being the level where I max out Refraction Shield). Being 10 seconds at all ranks means that even in an engagement at level 3, where I still only have 1 point in Refraction Shield, I might be able to use it again in a fight after using it to deal burst damage at the start. Four seconds can be that big a deal when all it can take to leave a teamfight is using a dash that only takes one second to move you out of the range of anyone’s abilities.
  2. Encourages a choice in levelling order. I always max out Refraction Shield first. The Protections you gain increase with each level, so after five ticks of damage suddenly I am above the curve in tankiness. Previously, maxing out the ability lowered the cooldown. Now I can more consider maxing out Seismic Crush and making more use out of the increased movement speed that gives you to position myself better in fights or catch up to opponents before they’ve finished their movement speed items. Tremors was never a consideration to max first.
  3. Encourages a choice in boots purchase. This is more a combination thing with other changes in the patch. Guardians have four options for what movement speed item they buy: Two offensive, two defensive. Of the offensive pair, Shoes of the Magi provide a lot of early game power and Penetration (means you ignore X amount of enemy defenses, so you deal more damage). Shoes of Focus provide a lesser amount of power, 15% cooldown reduction, and now a good boost to total mana. Previously that mana was on Shoes of the Magi but that made them too good. So now I can buy Shoes of Focus to let me use abilities more often and give me more mana (Cabrakan is a mana-thirsty god). They take the 10 second cooldown on Refraction Shield to an 8.5 second cooldown and I have already mentioned how vital one second can be.

In the grand scheme of things this is a minor buff. I always maxed out the levels of Refraction Shield first, so I spent most of my Cabrakan time with 10 second cooldowns already. But for that reason it’s a strange buff that I wanted to puzzle out the ramifications of. And they are that I can fight better earlier. I can now choose between which ability I max. I can now actually choose between Shoes of the Magi or Shoes of Focus. I now have to consider and make choices, which is usually a good thing to add where choice did not exist previously.

Bonus: Why Tremors Sucks

Tremors is a trap. When you start using it you’re rooted in place. You can cancel the ability at any time, but cancelling has always felt sticky and unreliable. If I had to guess it’s that I can’t cancel during certain parts of the animation. Being rooted in one place is incredibly dangerous because Smite is a game of skillshots and you just dramatically lowered the skill requirement for your opponents.

In addition Tremors isn’t very mana-efficient for the damage. If you hit someone with literally every tick the summed damage would look impressive, but you would probably be dead several times over and long since out of mana. The mana cost of the ability is low, but that’s because you can keep doing it for up to eight seconds, and every .5 seconds you spend mana again. So you end up draining your mana for mediocre damage. The ability to slow and disrupt enemies that it provides is nice, but doesn’t make up for how dangerous the ability is to use.

Because the slow doesn’t increase with levels, I always max Tremors last. I also attempt not to spend longer than 2 or 3 seconds doing the ability. Tremors has a few strictly defined uses:

  • Keep enemies near you in combat while your one-two punch comes off cooldown.
  • Soften up a minion wave to be cleared with Refraction Shield.
  • Disrupt enemies in a teamfight.
  • Finish off enemies with let’s say >200 health.

None of these should take longer than 2 to 3 seconds to do. If even that long. Normally I start Tremors and then stop it after three ticks (1.5 seconds) because enemies have noticed that I’m sitting still and are focusing me.

Tremors is a dangerous ability to use and staying in the animation for too long is inviting death.

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