Heroes of the Storm: Personal Updates, and Storm Spotlight!

Heroes of the Storm

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about Heroes of the Storm, and with many hero weeks coming and going (I believe the last spotlight I drafted was way back for Muradin in his hero week) I’ve struggled to keep up. I’m now in the technical alpha, and I thought “Hooray! I can finally check ingame for specific numbers and current-build changes that haven’t made it to third-party sites for my spotlights!” The trouble is twofold: firstly, whenever I log into Heroes, I end up having too much fun and just start playing games and forget about writing anyway, and secondly because it’s the technical alpha, we’re getting changes brought in and out so quickly it’s hard to keep up half the time.

I was writing an article for why I didn’t like the concept of the artifacts system that was brought in primarily as a gold dump for those who have purchased everything they want hero and skin-wise. Not even a week went by and the entire system was scrapped thanks to the enormous negative feedback the system had. So that article never ended up seeing the light of day, as I didn’t get the chance to finish writing it before it went away again. I then thought about the different heroes that have had major overhauls in the way that they play, such as Murky becoming less menacing with rat tactics and more of a team fighter, Illidan getting several overhauls to get him where he is today, as well as Tyrael getting significant changes since I did his hero spotlight.

I got the feeling that doing these in-depth spotlights for each hero with the limited time I have would be slightly overwhelming, so that idea is going on the backburner for now until at least beta comes out, if not full release itself when we’ll be seeing less massive changes that completely change how a hero plays and flows with the match. Of course I’ll be expecting patches and balances to existing heroes when the game does go live, but hopefully we won’t be seeing changes like where Illidan had his entire kit outside his heroics removed and replaced. I’m sure when the live game goes out, we’ll be having changes like that sticking to the PTR for any new hero that gets announced post-launch.

In the meantime, I’ll likely cover general game mechanics as well as heroes that I’m currently maining at the time – so expect to see content concerning heroes such as Abathur, Rehgar and Valla as updates occur to them over the weeks to come! Unless I find out that Azmodan is my boy or something after PAX Prime finishes up this weekend!

Storm Spotlight

At level 20 in a match, everyone has the opportunity to either upgrade the heroic ability they selected at level 10, or to choose from a set of Storm abilities that is restricted for each hero. At the moment, there are five Storm abilities that heroes might have access to – some only get the option of one Storm ability, some heroes have access to up to three! I know as an Abathur player it’s kind of boring to be at the former end of the scale along with only having the one heroic to choose from, but with the different Storm abilities available, it’s clear why he only gets the limited choice. Unfortunately in most cases upgrading your heroic ability is the better option, so these abilities don’t get much light outside of the first few matches you play a hero, and don’t have access to full talents.

Bolt of the StormBolt of the Storm – Activate to teleport to a nearby location. (40sec cooldown)

Available to 19 heroes: Abathur, Brightwing, Diablo, E.T.C., Falstad, Illidan, Kerrigan, Li Li, Malfurion, Murky, Nazeebo, Nova, Raynor, Stitches, Tychus, Tyrande, Valla, Zagara and Zeratul.

With a fair spread of heroes Bolt is available to, there’s no real niche for who gets this ability like with some of the other Storm abilities. Those who have played Dota will recognise this as a Blink Dagger, and it works in pretty much the same fashion, except it doesn’t deactivate when you take damage and has a longer cooldown. It kind of sucks that this is an ability that you see in the endgame, as I don’t think it necessarily is a gamechanger that will seal the final push and turn the tide or win the game. Nevertheless, it can be a pretty decent pickup for those that need that extra mobility or have good synergy with it. A lot of the heroes above already have great mobility anyway, such as Zeratul or Illidan, so the extra blink could make them that bit more terrifying to be able to blink in and still have that option of chase or escape.

I know I use it as a standard pickup on Abathur, as upgrading his heroic isn’t really that worth it unless you have a lot of allied heroes with strong abilities that you can flick back and forth between, but Bolt has saved my squishy ass so many times in lategame where you’re more likely to be exposed – plus you get to keep the Bolt ability when you do evolve into your team mates!

It’s currently available to 19 of the current 28 heroes, so a large selection already, but I’d love to see Uther with this to replicate some fun Tidehunter action of Blink > Ravage, and turn it into Bolt > Divine Storm. I guess everyone could have a use for blink for one or few of their abilities, it might be fun to see if Blizz have the tech for it to auto-unlock at level 10 or something for all heroes, though that might get confusing with everyone getting it baseline mid-game…

FuryFury of the Storm – Basic Attacks bounce twice to nearby enemies for 50% damage.

Available to 17 heroes: Arthas, E.T.C., Falstad, Illidan, Kerrigan, Muradin, Nova, Raynor, Rehgar, Sgt. Hammer, Sonya, Tassadar, Tyrael, Tyrande, Valla, Zagara and Zeratul.

Available to heroes with strong right click damage, or the ability to boost their right click damage to an extent where this bouncing damage is pretty scary, especially at endgame and you just rip straight through creep waves and merc camps, this talent isn’t taken nearly as often as I think it should be. I’m surprised that the heroes that have become the junglers such as Gazlowe and Nazeebo aren’t in the list of potential heroes, but that would make merc farming that much more easier for them I’m pretty sure they’d end up just twiddling their thumbs waiting for camps to come off of cooldown.

It’s interesting to see heroes like E.T.C., Rehgar, Tassadar and Tyrande that aren’t typically throwing out a ton of damage. E.T.C. is mainly a tanky utility warrior, and although the three supports can be built as damage dealing supports, it seems weird to have this assassin-centric talent as a final tier option for them.

ResurgenceResurgence of the Storm – Upon dying, revive back at your Altar after 5 seconds. This can occur once every 120 seconds.

Available to 11 heroes: Arthas, E.T.C., Gazlowe, Li Li, Muradin, Sgt. Hammer, Sonya, Stitches, Tassadar, Tyrael and Uther.

This is an interesting skill that I barely see used. At the stage in the game where you pick this up, respawns are 60secs or more. The long cooldown is a bit of a setback in its utility, but the Storm ability is available to all very survivable heroes (apart from Diablo, but that’s part of his trait anyway). What’s more annoying than taking a while to kill a hero, only for them to return to the same team fight at late-game, and once again you have to wear them down while they’re disabling your whole team and being a general nuisance? I guess if assassins had this capability it would lead to some much more confident assassin players to know they don’t have to dance around until their escapes come back off of cooldown again to re-enter combat.

ShieldStorm Shield – Activate to give all nearby allied Heroes a Shield for 20% of their max Health for 3 seconds. (45sec cooldown)

Available to 7 heroes: Brightwing, Diablo, Li Li, Malfurion, Rehgar, Tyrande and Uther.

Supports seem to be the pick of the litter for Storm Shield, as is what’s to be expected really. This is a fantastic pickup if you have high health heroes on your team, as that 20% is quite a large chunk. If you have heroes like Abathur, Murky or Falstad… Meeeehhh. I find it interesting for Diablo to be a potential pick for this Storm talent, though as he has no need for Resurgence, it makes sense as a second Storm talent, especially with the biggest health pool in the game once his trait stacks up. I’ve used it on Uther for clutch AoE heals, but with Diablo and Rehgar (the only other heroes I’ve played more than once) I’ve still gone for improving their heroics over Storm talents, or even going for Bolt on Diablo to help with initiation and singling heroes out with a Bolt>Shadow Charge combo, finishing up with both Overpower and Fire Stomp.

SwiftSwift Storm – Your Hero is no longer dismounted from taking damage. Increases mount speed by 20%.

Available to 3 heroes: Gazlowe, Murky and Nazeebo.

Unfortunately I haven’t really had the opportunity to have a go with any of the heroes that have this available to them, but for the heroes this is available for I can see it being fairly useful. For Murky, it allows him to escape much easier to nip in and out of combat. For Gazlowe and Nazeebo, it helps in not getting intercepted between merc camps, I guess? With such a limited hero pool available for this Storm talent, I won’t be surprised if we end up seeing the tail end of this talent before the game goes live. Either that or see a significant amount of new heroes with this talent available to them. I’d love to see Blizzard’s statistics on how many people take this though, as getting from A to B quicker is definitely a bonus, but the reasoning behind having so few heroes attached to it is pretty strange, in my opinion.

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Why I preferred my raiders to have PvP experience…

Ashran

… and why I think Ashran will help with this!

Back when I used to recruit for and lead a raid team, I will admit one of my vices was to prefer players that had experienced both PvP and PvE. If that wasn’t the case with new applicants, I’d be more than happy to take them in 2’s or in BGs to get them that kind of experience if they wanted it – it’s partly how I managed to get nearly twice as much guild participation as the person in second place. I felt back at the time that if raiders could get used to unscripted events that often happen in PvP, they’d be much more likely able to react to when things don’t go too smoothly in raids and some people didn’t follow tactics perfectly and having to make up for that mess up.

Since me stepping down from raid/guild leadership and having been in new guilds with different leadership styles since, I’ve seen plenty of cases where I’ve been proven right or wrong. The best Windwalker Monk I’ve ever known, and definitely one of the best raiders I’ve had the pleasure of raiding with in the past 10 years, has barely set foot in PvP whatsoever – he doesn’t even hold 10k HKs to a single character. In my current guild, there are certainly people there that are excellent at following what boss mods tell them to. Some people do however panic once something goes awry and find it difficult to recapture the situation. If it’s just the nature of the later bosses in Siege to be difficult to pull back the slightest of situations, I don’t know, as I haven’t done the later bosses with anyone other than my current guild. But I do still feel like if they had a bit more PvP experience (as far as I know, most of them have pretty limited exp on that front) that there’d be a bit more initiative to survive easier. I have on the other hand seen one or two people who focus primarily on PvP being brought in to raid, and failing either in terms of performance output or just generally not following tactics and causing one-shot wipes. So there are certainly boots for both feet, for sure.

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Regardless, we found out from the Warlords release date event this week that Ashran would have mechanics in place that you collect a currency while fighting or completing objectives – including whenever you kill an enemy, you can loot half of their Ashran currency! I don’t know how that’ll work out for groups of gankers in terms of who gets the loot, but it certainly brings a bit more of a disincentive to die other than being set back up to 30secs and placed in the wrong side of the map to prevent immediate combat re-entry.

You see, one of the main reasons why I tried to push for PvP is to try and get people to use all of their toolkit, bits that they wouldn’t ordinarily use in a raid setting, and I also saw on logs that one of the leading reasons why people died or took too much damage is because they weren’t using their defensives effectively, if at all. I will admit that after missing two seasons of PvP that I’ve gone back into bad habits and forgetting I have abilities such as using Cenarion Ward preemptively to quickly gain health after a big damage nuke comes in, or keeping an eye on healers mana to innervate them early to be able to cast it again later in the fight, or even just using a quick NS+HT on people at low health. Admittedly at this stage our healers have so much regen that it’s mainly GCDs that kill people off if it’s not one-shot mechanics (or silly DPS getting crit streaks on the pull and dying to threat), so the latter example there would likely end up being overhealing for either myself or the healers, and I lose the ability to instant res for a minute, but it’s still areas that I know I’m slacking on from my break in PvP.

Ashran also provides a great outlet to just smack some faces around. With the new faction hubs being on the outskirts of the zone (with stronger guards than what we currently see in Mists’ Shrines) it allows people to not only have easy access to world PvP, but also to have a safe refuge when you’ve had enough or have realised that the opposing faction is dunking you hard. As much as I dislike mixing PvP and PvE content together, I would love to see Ashran as one of the ways you can earn bonus rolls in raids. It’s no secret I have a large dislike for dailies, so I’m glad that won’t be one of the methods of gaining these bonus rolls (other than the weekly quest chains, but seeing as it’s reminiscent of 5.1’s dailies, I’ll let that one pass).

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I guess my view back in the day was largely jaded because of the ease that the top guilds on our server also happened to have the best of the PVPers too, and even when there was a PVP focused guild that managed to snatch many multi-glads as well as gain Grand Marshal ranks they managed to clear the hardest raiding content in a matter of a scant few weeks of first setting foot in the raid altogether. There are certainly exceptions to the rule as I outlined above, and I certainly won’t hearken that I’m an excellent player in either PvP or PvE, but I will certainly argue the fact that in order to play better with people, it’s good to play against them to really see how people react in different ways to different situations, or to certainly find out better ways to increase their own life expectancy. With Ashran and arena skirmishes being very easy ways to get into PvP next expansion, it’ll be a much better time than any to dip your foot into it… As long as class balance isn’t as terrible as it has been at the end of Mists.

I’ve certainly learned that the best way for me to increase my life expectancy in raids these days is to constantly yell out for MD’s, Tricks and Hand of Salvs so that I don’t pull threat mid-cooldowns.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Release Date!

Wait, what? Long break of posting and then two articles in the same day?! I’m just like a bus…

Anyway, we finally have our release date for the next expansion! I have to admit, from BlizzCon last year and Blizzard stating that they’re a lot further along with the expansion than we thought, many people were hoping for alpha or beta soon after BlizzCon 2013, and a release as early as April or June. With Blizzard being so quiet for so long, many fans became disgruntled and suspicious, and we eventually saw Blizz announce alpha in April, and we only got the beta in June. So much for those initial release thoughts…

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I’ll have to admit, I thought even once the beta came out that testing was a little too focused and taking a long time, which spelled even darker thoughts about a quick release date. First Frostfire Ridge only being open, then only Shadowmoon Valley… But Blizzard soon picked up the pace and released both Gorgrond and Talador, and before I even got the chance to finish Gorgrond, let alone Talador, we saw the rest of the leveling zones released of the Spires of Arak and Nagrand. I haven’t had the chance to explore those two final zones yet, as Blizzard decided to wipe people’s toons, and I didn’t really want to burn myself out by playing the starting zones over and over again before the game even comes out. Especially when the zones were fairly solid to begin with and had little to no bugs to report in any case.

With the final of the heroic mode bosses tested and fleshed out earlier this week, all we have to do now is test any new mechanics that arrive in mythic, and then work through the number crunch stages for LFR and normal modes! Not to mention the first numbers pass to classes will be coming along soon, too. It strikes me as a little odd that suddenly many things are being presented to us all at once at the end – does the ground work really take that long?

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Blizzard must have underestimated how long Warlords would take them post-5.4, especially with their patch release cycle being so quick at the start of Mists. While I’m not going to dig for the actual quotes, I do believe I remember reading somewhere the pace patches came out in Mists were the pace that Blizzard were planning on releasing content to us… And then here we are with our biggest content drought the game has ever seen. Assuming the theory that dev teams work on every other expansion, I think they could have spaced out the launches of each patch by at least a month extra so that this dry spell wasn’t so painfully long. Unless Blizzard wanted the Mists team to be finished ASAP so they can work on 7.0 to be released shortly after the final patch of Warlords. Only time will tell.

With regards to the cinematic though, Blizzard have really outdone themselves again with this trailer. I really don’t know why they went with the option of making the Warcraft movie live-action with lots of CGI, when their own cinematic team makes these truly epic scenes and clips. Admittedly a few minutes is a lot easier to make than two and a half ours of this stuff, and with the tools to create these being improved all the time, that it won’t look up to date when the movie did come out, but even then Blizzard are still lightyears ahead of the game when it comes to these! Don’t forget to check out Lords of War too if you enjoyed the Burdens of Shaohao miniseries. Admittedly the start between Varian and Maraad was a little bit bad, but finding about the history of Kargath was so beautifully done.

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All aboard the hype train! Warlords is going to be available to play from November 13th! I hope we’ll get Garrosh heroic down by then…

UPDATE: Added video links to the cinematic trailer itself as well as to the Lords of War mini series, episode one.