Tomb of the Spider Queen

Loadscreen

Sylvanas patch has hit the beta on Heroes of the Storm and she’s already down from her initial 15k gold launch cost down to 10k, but as I have yet to buy her and get some decent experience on her, I wanted to talk about the other main addition to the patch: the new battleground Tomb of the Spider Queen! Keep in mind the game is still in beta, so changes to even the battlegrounds may still occur, especially to newer ones such as the Tomb.

It’s honestly so small that I always feel cheated if I get the map when I decide to roll with someone like Falstad or Brightwing, because it feels as though their niche of being able to span large areas quickly is greatly diminished when it doesn’t take much longer for others to join the fight. Anyway, I’ve had a fair few games on it myself as well as watching others play on it, and I wanted to share my thoughts and tips and tricks on how this map plays out.

Map

Objectives

Firstly, what is this map about? What do we have available to us to help push the lanes and destroy the enemy core?

Located beneath the Sky Temple, the Spider Queen lurks. Down 3 lanes, archer creeps are replaced with ranged mechanical spiders, and killing them will provide 1 gem each. If you manage to kill enemy heroes, they drop 3 of these mystical gems, but also drop their own gems they were holding for their own team to pick up. Unlike Blackheart’s Bay, you can’t pick up the enemy team’s gems, but all gems will only last 8-9 seconds before vanishing. Keeping in the area after you kill your enemies is a bonus for this, as you can deny them getting their gems back!

Handing 50 of them in at the orange markers above – between the top and mid, and the mid and bottom lanes – you get to summon Webweavers to push down each lane. They will arrive several seconds later at the point where your creep wave is pushed out to, so make sure that you perform a heavy push to get the maximum use out of the Webweavers. They have two main abilities other than their strong melee attacks: summoning small minions that will simply boost the numbers in the lane, to get tower and fort/keep aggro from them; and creating a wave of purple mist that heavily damages anything caught within it (likely similar to boss’s stomp abilities, only activated when there’s a group in front of them). Each hand in will increase the total you need to hand in by 5 for the next hand-in.

Being such a small map, there’s also very few mercenary camps: a neutral boss above the top lane with similar mechanics to the Sky Temple boss; aggressive and defensive bruiser camps between the mid and bottom lanes; and a single neutral siege camp below the bottom lane. I will admit, it’s hard to remember the siege camp exists but it does provide a nice chunk of wave push to that long bottom lane.

Laning

Laning in this map is very reactionary with how small it is. The gap between the top and mid lanes alongside better vision compared to between mid and bottom means that there is a lot of roaming to be had. One interesting tactic I’ve seen is a 0-4-1 lane setup, starting with a 5man gank around the top turn-in before sending a good solo laner like Sylvanas, Tassadar, Jaina or Valla to bottom lane, with the rest of the team 4man pushing mid and top lanes to the gate before switching back again. This allows for those two lanes to completely zone out any opposition while losing very little exp as you’ll generally wave clear before the other lane has killed any creeps, or more important spiders.

The emphasis on the map is to have vision of or control the turn-in points however, so keeping Zagara tumours or getting Tassadar’s Oracle to save going into a gank on the other side of the smoke – or to set up your own. With the early control, you can get early hand-ins which turn into massive early game pushes for all three lanes that your opponents will have to try and counter.

Pacing

In terms of mercenaries, from what I’ve seen it’s more important to get that first Webweaver wave as soon as possible, over sending a couple of people to do early mercs – you don’t want to turn the map objectives into a 3v5 at any point as the enemy team will capitalise on it and push your lanes back and make their webweavers more effective, or yours less so. However, this map is unique in that even after you complete a map objective, you still have around 10-15 seconds before merc camps disappear, so you can quickly tag a bruiser or siege camp (boss camp might be a bit too obvious for counter-plays) to aid in the push after the Webweavers are in lane. You also don’t risk your opponents handing in at this stage as the shrines are inactive. Turn in often to make sure that you have control over those central points and it gives you a steady advantage without risking losing 15 or more gems

Until you’re level 10, I’d still suggest a 3-lane push with splitting your team up (going 1-3-1 with bruisers down mid lane, for example) to try to get your heroics before the enemy team. As you should know by now, the first team to hit level 10 will likely find a team fight and win it for map domination because of unlocking those heroics, or go for a safe boss cap as they know they’ll win the teamfight should the enemy team try to counter.

After level 10 the map is small enough to commit to 5man pushes, especially after turn-ins and you largely want to be controlling the map as much as you can. You want to try and contest mercs toward the end of your Webweavers’ lives so that you can continue to pressure lanes while you go back to hand in more gems. Do note that Webweavers health degenerates naturally over time as well, so if uncontested they can last up to ~90secs.

Blackrock Foundry: Who are we killing? Part 2

foundry

Fire! Metal! Lava! Rock! Brown! Orange! Reds! There’s a very distinctive theme to Blackrock Foundry that I’ve seen people complaining about recently. I’m confused as to what else they’d think a foundry would include, but the bosses I’m looking at in this second section do very well to see what else Blackhand has up his sleeve when supporting the Iron Horde’s conquest of this and other worlds/timelines. Here we’re looking at boats, trains and a petting zoo before going back to the big boss man of the foundry himself, Warlord Blackhand! It’s not as crazy a palette as you might find from Burning Crusade, but it mixes the pace up a bit from a factory creating fire-based weapons and armour.

Also, there will be spoilers toward the end of the post. You’ve been warned.

Darmac

Beastlord Darmac

After extinguishing the Slagworks and shutting down the Black Forge, we now make our way into where all those weapons and armour were being created for, and step into the Iron Assembly. First stop: the Breaking Grounds where Beastlord Darmac of the Thunderlord clan resides to break, train and outfit the most savage beasts Draenor has to offer. The prime beasts under Darmac’s control are the wolf, rylak, elekk and (in mythic) clefthoof alongside some lesser pack animals such as talbuks, boars, ravagers and birds. Darmac has a unique synergy with the beasts he has under his control, where he will be able to take on their aspect when they fall.

Defeating Darmac will disable a powerful aspect of the Iron Horde and will aid in Thunderlord dissent against the Blackrock clan and the Iron Horde as a whole. Storywise he feels a little more filler where he doesn’t exactly fit the theme of the foundry, with the theme of beasts in a place of metal and fire. It feels as though he’d be more of a fit in the Tanaan raid and at least give Grommash a few more clans to support him against us.

Thogar

Operator Thogar

This fight on a design standpoint is so much fun and quite interesting, I’d have to vote it as my favourite in the instance by far, which is just as well as the next fight is easily the most dragged out and boring fight in Blackrock Foundry. Either way, trains!

You know those dungeons that you did? Iron Docks and Grimrail Depot? Warships and artillery created within the Foundry are sent to Iron Docks while the weaponry for the Grimrail (no doubt the Grimrail train itself was created within Blackrock Foundry) were all sent from the Foundry Terminus, and it seems Thogar is the orc brains behind the trains!

For whatever reason, I don’t know what makes him so special – if he’s the only one that knows how to use the controls in the Terminus or whatever, but the victory here seems very hollow: we don’t shut the Foundry Terminus down; we don’t destroy any trains themselves; we don’t physically stop the transport of any of the creations of Blackrock Foundry. What stops another member of the Iron Horde to step up to the plate? We find out that the trains are behind schedule with the intro to the next boss, but I just feel that we could set off iron stars into the Terminus before jumping into the Dread Grotto to make it a little more epic and meaningful.

Iron Maidens

The Iron Maidens

The core feel of this fight feels very much like Madness of Deathwing, the end encounter of Dragon Soul back in Cataclysm. Firstly, you can choose which mechanics you can deal when the high movement phase of the fight occurs, and secondly because you have a very long easy phase of the fight (can be about 6-8mins of boredom) that leads to a huge ramp up in difficulty to quickly try and kill the bosses before they kill you.

Nevertheless, after making a few deliveries late by causing chaos in the Foundry Terminus, the raid will jump down into the Dread Grotto and face against Admiral Ga’ran of the Blackrock Clan and her trusted lieutenants, Marak the Blooded of the Bleeding Hollow and Enforcer Sorka of the Shattered Hand.

It’s interesting that Blizzard have allowed Blackhand to promote a female of his clan to such a prestigious position when back in the days of Warcraft I and Rise of the Horde, he even shuns his own daughter for just being female by forbidding her to drink the blood of Mannoroth and eventually ordering her death when she ran away with an ogre. It’s good to see that Blizzard have separated from their own stigma of sexism within their game, but at the sacrifice of the very core of Blackhand’s personality where he was ultimately a powerful yet not very bright orc clan leader that didn’t regard tactics and was more a figurehead for the real brains behind the operation: Gul’dan.

Killing Ga’ran and her lieutenants will halt the Iron Horde’s naval capabilities, not to mention with how many times we blow up the Dreadnaught we likely end up sinking one of the Iron Horde’s secret super-weapons. Given the remoteness of Tanaan Jungle to the rest of Draenor, cutting off any potential reinforcements from the sea will only help in our attempts to stop the Iron Horde.

We’re also here to recapture the Draenic Thaumiturgical Orb that was taken from a Draenei vessel to aid Khadgar in his fight against Gul’dan. It’s not entirely explained what it does, and the orcs don’t appear to be using it for anything either. We just know that it’s got a lot of power and it’s better in Khadgar’s hands than anyone else’s from our viewpoint.

Blackhand

Blackhand

Finally, Warlord Blackhand himself. Leader of the Blackrock clan, one of the strongest clans within the Iron Horde is a fierce and ruthless warrior. He oversees the operations of the Blackrock Foundry and assists in creating the most powerful of weapons for use in the conquest of Draenor. When I first fought against Blackhand, I thought that Blizzard did a fantastic job to represent the orc in what we know of him in the previous games, while also adding the touch of flair when it comes to being the overseer of a massive, sweltering foundry.

He’s no caster nor a divine being, he has no Titan, Old God or Legion influence to augment his ability. He is simply an orc with a hammer, some machinery and an army, and wastes no time in showing what he can do with it. It certainly feels like a short fight for how end-tier bosses go, but the tuning is so tight even in heroic – let alone mythic – that he’s certainly going to be a fight to remember.

Defeating him spells a huge blow to the Iron Horde, and removing his arm and returning it to Khadgar makes him realise that the orcs are willing to sacrifice body parts to augment themselves within the fiery primal magics. Blackhand is regarded as second in power to only Grommash himself within the Iron Horde. In addition, the Blackrock clan was likely the strongest clan not only in terms of numbers but as the providers for the creation of armour, weapons and machinery.

artwork-guldan4-full

We’ve significantly weakened the Iron Horde from this, and as we soon find out from the legendary ring questline, we have actually spent this entire first tier playing right into Gul’dan’s hands. We’ve systematically torn the Iron Horde apart. We freed Gul’dan and his lieutenants Cho’gall and Teron’gor when we first entered Draenor. We helped Thrall kill Garrosh, Gul’dan’s prime enemy within the Iron Horde. We dismantled the Shadowmoon clan by killing Ner’zhul, We assaulted Highmaul at the same time as Cho’gall and ended up killing the leader of the Shattered Hand, Kargath Bladefist. We’ve stormed through Blackrock Foundry and killed Blackhand. Azuka Bladefury was introduced as an excellent potential villain, but was eventually killed near the border of Tanaan Jungle, with her plans of controlling the magnaron for the Iron Horde dying with her.

The Iron Horde has all but collapsed around Grommash, and I’m surprised that he still doesn’t take the pit lord blood knowing what he was like in the main universe (drinking Mannoroth’s blood a second time when confronted by Cenarius and the night elves, knowing full well what the blood curse does). However, Gul’dan is now at the head of the Iron Horde, similar to how events occurred in the main timeline, just with Kilrogg Deadeye as his puppet instead of Blackhand. I’m interested to see what happens in the next patch or two, to see what happens between Gul’dan and Khadgar, and what ultimately happens to the Iron Horde.