New Sequences Spun: Abathur Tactics

abathur__evolution_master_by_mr__jack-d7byehe

“Evolution never over. Perfection goal that always changes. Can pursue. Cannot obtain.”

I won’t make it any secret that I love Abathur – not just in his playstyle but also in character from Heart of the Swarm. It makes sense that someone who debuts in HotS, is also awesome in HotS – am I right? This will be the first in a sequence of posts about Abathur, and I’ll likely be focusing on him during updates especially during the alpha and beta phases. With so many changes coming to heroes as well as maps, it gets kind of overwhelming to keep on track of it all! With the Heroes alpha entering its final phase this week, let’s take a basic look at Abathur as the servers come up for people wanting to try out this interesting hero!

Never seen before in MOBAs, Abathur is a hero that hides behind the safety of the base, or if he’s feeling more daring in the fog of war or in bushes and nooks and crannies. His base damage is the lowest in the game, and his base health is the second lowest after Murky. Essentially, he doesn’t want to be the target of any warrior, let alone assassin. Fortunately he has abilities that have global or near-global presence that allow him to make a difference even while hiding out of sight of the enemy team.

Abilities subtitle

locust-strainTrait – Locust Strain

Every 20 seconds, Abathur will spawn a locust that waddles down the nearest lane to ultimately meet its demise against anything that they meet down the lane. They have similar health to creeps, and can aid in the potential pushing power of whatever lane Abathur chooses to be in. Buildings will prefer to hit creeps and mercs before the locusts, so make sure to take that into account when building your talents. With a little extra tip: spawn your first locust between your fountain and core to make sure the first one doesn’t needlessly suicide himself into towers, and not to mention giving away your lane position to the enemies early on.

Talents that improve Locust Strain:

  • Combat Adaptation [Level 1] – 20% increased attack speed.
  • Survival Instincts [Level 1] – 30% increased health.
  • Assault Strain [Level 13] – They begin to cleave and explode, dealing damage, on death.
  • Bombard Strain [Level 13] – Gain a sieging ranged attack.

deep-tunnel

Z – Deep Tunnel

Not many DNA-altering worms can ride mounts, and as awesome as Abathur is he’s no exception to this rule. On a 30 second cooldown this ability is what Abathur gets instead of a mount, and it’s the ability to travel anywhere he likes on the map as long as he has vision of that area. I’d hate to miss out in this section that his [W] Toxic Nest ability grants a small patch of vision around it, so as long as it’s not in a dangerous location Abathur essentially has the potential for global presence in not just his abilities, but in himself as well! There is a second or two of casting before you tunnel away though, so keep a keen eye out for any threats around yourself should you need the escape. The channel can be stopped by stuns, but not damage.

There are no talents that affect Deep Tunnel.

symbiote

Q – Symbiote

The bread and butter for Abathur, what he will be spending most of his time revolving around in every map, and what makes him unique to anything seen before in the genre. He can Symbiote into a target at global range, give them a snazzy hat, and gain three new abilities that I’ll outline below. For the effects of Symbiote itself, Abathur will cocoon himself and as a result will be vulnerable to enemies as the Abathur playing will have reduced focus on where he’s left his body. Placing yourself in a defensive or aggressive positions before Symbioting will have a massive effect on Abby’s playstyle and the awareness of the player behind the screen.

You can Symbiote heroes, creeps, mercs, towers, forts and the core itself, and any kills or structures destroyed while under Symbiosis will grant Abathur’s team exp. Symbiote lasts 45 seconds, though you can leave the target at any time by hitting R once inside – do note that even when the 45sec timer runs out or if canceled early, Symbiote will be start a 4 second cooldown, the first second of which is a self-stun on Abby, where other abilities will queue up and be cast when that stun is over. I will admit to having repeatedly set Toxic Nests around in bad positions because of this… You will continue to spawn locusts while inside your cocoon.

As for who’s best to Symbiote? I usually take whoever has high DPS anyway, as you can do some devastating work with well-timed stabs and spike bursts, but also be on the lookout for heroes about to lose or flee fights (ally or enemy), helping out with merc camps, or low health heroes near your creep waves. Symbiote also starts afresh with max charges and all abilities ready to use.

While there are talents that affect the abilities inside Symbiote, the ability itself doesn’t have any talents that affects it.

toxic-nest

W – Toxic Nest

Land mines with massive range (or talented for unlimited range), you start off with 3 mines in the beginning of the game and charges replenish every 12 seconds. Because of Symbiote, it can be fairly challenging to keep track of and maintain maximum uptime on the Nests, as it only takes 36secs to refill all charges of mines and Symbiote lasts another 9 seconds on top of that – once you’ve played Abathur enough, it gets into a fair simple routine of breaking Symbiote, planting 3 nests, and finding a new target to Symbiote, all in that 4 second gap. Do be aware that it takes a few seconds for the nest to activate, during which it can be attacked and destroyed. Once it does activate however, it becomes invisible to enemies! It doesn’t do game-breaking damage, but the utility it can provide can separate a good and bad Abathur in matches.

As mentioned earlier, Toxic Nest has great utility, and you can use it for three main uses: To help nuke a lane of creeps; to place them in strategic positions to deal damage to roaming heroes and dismount/unstealth them, or even uncover nearby bushes for your allies; or to scout out specific points on the map such as merc camps or objectives, to help find out where the enemy is when you can’t see them.

Talents that improve Toxic Nest:

  • Envenomed Nest [Level 1] – Detonated nests deal an extra 30% damage over 3 secs.
  • Ballistospores [Level 4] – Turns the impressive range on Toxic Nest into global range.
  • Vile Nest [Level 7] – Detonated nests leave a 50% snare on the target for 2 secs.
  • Prolific Dispersal [Level 13] – Increases maximum charges to 5.

ultimate-evolution

R – Ultimate Evolution

Not only does Abathur have to be unique in the MOBA genre for being the only hero to take part in team fights by hiding, he also is unique in Heroes itself in that he’s currently the only hero that has the option of a single heroic talent at level 10, and also misses out on having an E ability – not even anything passive like what Raynor has! Nevertheless, the heroic ability he does have access to only deepens his depth and complexity. At a 120 second cooldown, and for 45 seconds, you can copy a hero on your team, appear next to them, and be able to take part in team fights as that hero until either you die or the timer ticks out. You don’t get the talents the ally has picked up unfortunately (other than their heroic they’ve chosen), so Evolving into a Sgt. Hammer for example who relies on her talents to do well would not be a good idea. However someone like Tychus would be brilliant if he’s taken Odin, as the abilities inside it aren’t affected by talents, so you’ll perform to near-maximum effect. This is where Abathur gets his mark as being one of the hardest heroes to play, as you have to have a good idea if you need high damage for a situation or lots of CC and support, as well as having a general idea about the strengths and weaknesses of every hero without the strength of their talents! Not being comfortable in that regard can severely handicap your team – I’ll likely do a breakdown of different heroes and how useful they are to Evolve into at a later date.

When you evolve into another hero, the heroic ability is on cooldown for 15 seconds to balance out clutch heroics. If you want to set up something such as staggered Void Prisons, make sure to evolve with time to spare before initiating a team fight (though you do lose out on a third of the buff if you’re not going straight in). As a bonus, Abathur’s body itself vanishes from the map during this time so you can use your heroic as a clutch escape if you find yourself in a bad position. It has saved my wormy bacon in the past when I go for aggressive positioning, so never underestimate holding off using it whenever it’s up. When the time’s up or you die in the evolved form, you return back to where you left your squishy body, so make sure you’re not bringing enemies to a dangerous position for yourself when the effect ends. Also, when you’re Evolved, you will cease to spawn any locusts until you return to your wormy self.

At level 20, as with other heroes, you can improve Ultimate Evolution with:

  • Evolution Master [Level 20] – Increases duration to 60secs, and lowers cooldown to 90secs.

Inside Symbiote

Abathur gets access to three new abilities whenever he’s inside an ally: Stab, Spike Burst and Carapace, as well as the option to leave the Symbiote prematurely by pressing R.

stab

Q – Stab

Beginning the game at two charges, and on a 5 second cooldown, this becomes Abathur’s largest damage dealer in the game. It’s a medium-range skillshot that deals fairly mediocre damage from the start, however with talents you can easily make it a much more deadly ability that has often led me to hero damage of 100k+ in many matches, while still maintaining high siege damage. The damage of Stab doesn’t correlate to who you Symbiote, so your own locusts can become a death trap to unsuspecting heroes!

Talents that improve Stab:

  • Barbed Spines [Level 4] – Increases damage by 20%.
  • Grooved Spines [Level 7] – Increase skillshot range by 33%.
  • Spatial Efficiency [Level 13] – Increase charges of Stab to 3.

spike-burstW – Spike Burst

Spike Burst is a point blank AoE on the target you have used Symbiote on, at a 6 second cooldown. Very useful in maps like Garden of Terror or Haunted Mines, as killing small groups of mobs are a part of the main objective of the map. It’s also useful if you team up with someone to clear out the jungle, especially the knight camps. In addition, when using Symbiote on the core, the damage of Spike Burst is increased, and has a much larger area of effect that can be useful as a last-chance effort to fight back multiple lanes of creeps.

Talents that improve Spike Burst:

  • Eradicate Minions [Level 1] – Spike Burst deals 50% bonus damage to non-heroic targets
  • Pressurized Glands [Level 4] – Doubles range of Spike Burst
  • Envenomed Spikes [Level 16] – Spike Burst slows enemies by 40% for 2 seconds

carapaceE – Carapace

Carapace plants a shield on your host for up to 8 seconds, while Carapace itself is on a 12 second cooldown. You usually use Carapace immediately after Symbioting a target, as it’s on such a long cooldown, however in some cases it might be better to hold off on it until your host is ready to dive in and use the shield, especially as the green globe effect over the hero is far easier to notice that Abathur’s in a target than the hat, so you can punish sloppy play by your foes with a couple of extra Stabs or a Spike Burst before they realise an extra damage source is in play. With talents this ability can include a shield, a heal over time and movement speed increase – an excellent compliment to play a more defensive game instead. However, leaving the host before the shield lasts its 8 seconds will cancel the shield and any additional benefits you may have talented into.

Talents that improve Carapace:

  • Regenerative Microbes [Level 7] – Carapace gains a small heal per second effect
  • Adrenaline Boost [Level 16] – Carapace increases the move-speed of host by 40% for 3 seconds

Overall, when you play Abathur more and more and become more efficient on him, you get into a good routine that involves leaving when all abilities are on a cooldown greater than 4 seconds, and re-Symbioting a target will grant fresh cooldowns to release even more of a burst of damage. Bridging the gap between a good and great Abathur player will be able to do the Symbiote dance while weaving in the Toxic Nests between Symbiote casts. If anything, the heroic is a refreshing break from the constant button-mashing that’s involved with Abathur’s standard play.

Extra Abilities Through Talents

  • Promote [Level 4] – Gives a lane minion +300% health and +100% damage permanently. I don’t think I’ve ever even tested this out as every other option in that tier is more useful for Abathur in any situation. There was a time where it was bugged and you could cast it on the Dragon Knight and Grave Golem, but other than that I can’t really comment too much on it. Has 2 charges and a recharge of 60 seconds.
  • Calldown: MULE [Level 7] – Useful against teams that are pecking away slowly at your base, you can just slowly rebuild your lanes back up (assuming they haven’t already been destroyed) and just help reinforce the defense. At no downtime for how much it rebuilds, just be aware that the MULE can be attacked and killed before it finishes repairing – it also restores ammo! Lasts for 60 seconds, cooldown of 60 seconds.
  • Locust Brood [Level 16] – Spawns three locusts at a target location near Abathur. These locusts gain all the talented upgrades received earlier in the game, so can be used for devastating split pushes.
  • Bolt of the Storm [Level 20] – Short-range teleport that persists through Ultimate Evolution. Gives you a bit more utility for certain abilities when you do use your heroic on someone. Largely upgrading the heroic will be more beneficial, however the escape potential or the aggressive blinks could win specific team fights as opposed to just being able to 5v5 more often.

Strand dangerous.

There are currently four heroes that make Abathur’s day one hell of a bad one. If you see them, make sure to adapt your playstyle in the map accordingly, and make use of your split pushing potential by forever switching lanes and going around the map. Even picking up Bolt of the Storm regardless of who’s on your team may be an option depending on the amount of harassment you get by the time you hit 20. From least to most dangerous, in my opinion, these are:

  • Zeratul – With being able to stealth in and blink out and deal a significant amount of burst damage, a roaming Zeratul doesn’t have to sacrifice too much to be able to take you out.
  • Nova – Similar to Zeratul in the she has her stealth to make roaming very simple for her, but she also has the bonus of range, and a holo-decoy to take some tower or fort fire before taking you out.
  • Illidan – I still have nightmares about his heroic… Not to mention evasion and the ability to hop over walls and have insane burst.
  • Tyrande – What? A support is dangerous to us? Admittedly she’s a damage-focused support, but how is she more dangerous than the three assassins above? Shadowstalk will uncover your position very easily for the enemy team, and as she’s support they’re likely going to have at least one of the three heroes above, and in Illidan’s case he’ll also be invisible while he gets into position to take you out. Make sure to pay attention to your own health, as her Sentinel when upgraded does have the chance of two-shotting you while you think you’re comfortable inside your egg.

Next article I will be focusing on specific maps and what builds I go for in them. As the Evolution Master, Abathur’s role within the game certainly evolves over time as he picks up more and more talents, and he’s extremely versatile depending on what your team needs or what the map has to offer his toolkit.

Weekly Roundup: Shortfused on Blackfuse

blackfuseIt’s been a relatively quiet week for gaming, and between coming home from work last night and raiding, I didn’t really know what to write about as to what I’ve done this week. So the reason why this post is a little on the late side this week, is because I spent most of the evening last night progressing on Siegecrafter Blackfuse heroic. I know he’s been nerfed in 10man but he’s still a powerhouse to content with. The new mechanics, while small and don’t change the encounter TOO much, coupled with increased health and increased damage, still make him a brutal fight. As I’m just casually raiding now, I’m not going to be spending my time digging into logs to see what went wrong per se, but from the few observations that I did have on the wipes themselves, it mainly comes down to individual mistakes screwing over the raid group as a whole. Well, that and making sure that our Hunters can stay alive on the belt and can go back onto it without dying again.

Overall however, it’s quite an enjoyable fight. One that I don’t mind wiping on (I probably won’t be saying this at 80+ wipes) as it’s a legitimate challenge, but it’s also a methodical fight as it’s very fixed pace. You know exactly how long you’ve got to deal with a certain mechanic before the next one comes along, and all I dislike about the encounter are the crawler mines. I don’t know if people panic, don’t switch in time, stack CCs or flat out don’t CC, but you know you’re hitting problems when the big bombs are reaching people, let alone the small ones afterwards. Also, please don’t let me raid without a Rogue again. I love Cloak of Shadows. It’s my new favourite cooldown.

romeiiA new game that I sunk my teeth into this week was Total War: Rome II. It’s a game I picked up while it was on sale at Christmas, and never really looked at too much since really. I’ve taken an interest in the game series largely thanks to the TV show Time Commanders that ran in the mid 00’s on BBC2. I believe that Creative Assembly, the creators of the game’s engine, were mentioned in the credits for the show, and then they just added a few extra camera controls that could be used for televised purposes. Still, I got tutored through a few matches from a friend: one just plain on land; one city assault; and a couple of ocean-based fights.

I mainly found out that I sucked at the game, and would probably need to play through the campaign to learn a few tricks of the trade, but going straight into a fight with all the troops available to you and you have no idea what they do was quite overwhelming and daunting. Even my tactic of just using the most expensive of each category didn’t work out well, because you actually had to use the effectively in the fight itself, and apparently even some of the less expensive troops are better used in some situations! I’ll probably pick it up again at some point single-player, but for now I’ll likely just play it multiplayer occasionally and just have a laugh as entire ships blow up when you ram into the side of ships.

civilization-v-brave-new-world-2013325113630_4

After losing my cultural attempt with Gandhi, thanks to Ethiopia’s apparent amazing ability to keep city states happy and win a diplomatic victory, I picked up a few more achievements in Civ5 the following game, rounding out my victory types with a conquest victory as Assyria. Turns out that they’re pretty fun to focus on that type of victory on, though I did go for British Isles map, so focusing on getting a strong siege to begin with, hiding up in Scotland at the start of the game, then progressing to Battleships later on worked out pretty well. Any city-states that were in good positions I just took, and picked up a few easy techs to catch up on in other ways there, and having the ever-expansionist and scientific Iroquois as neighbours certainly helped in our on-and-off war of around 4000 years.

Now working on winning as other Civ’s in other map types, I will eventually hit… Maybe halfway into Civ5’s 287 achievements by the time I have grandchildren. Oh Civ, why do individual games have to take up so much time? I swear, you blink and it’s suddenly 2am. Don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’ve lost hours. Time goes by fast. Faster than you can believe. Turn your back, look away, but DON’T blink. I guess Civ is a little better than weeping angels from Doctor Who (for those that didn’t get the reference), but it’s still pretty terrifying.

lion_vertRounding out my week, and I’ve gone back into All-Pick on Dota (I might even return to my A-Z challenge at some point… But Chen) and I played around a little with the Truepicker site I mentioned in last week’s roundup, scumbagging counter-picking to higher chance at wins. As it turns out, when people insta-pick Meepo and they see me pick Lion at 20secs, they end up re-picking! Regardless, I still played as Lion that game and ended up participating a huge amount to a win. On other games, I saw him pop up as a good counter for other carries too, so I’m being led to believe that Lion’s just the best counter-carry support out there for most cases. It’s a good job I’m competent at him as well, from what I’ve found out in the games I played him in, and he may be joining my top heroes alongside Keeper of the Light, Ogre Magi and Jakiro before long.

For YouTube, I’ve mainly been watching Day[9]’s day off in Heroes of the Storm (yes, had to get this game somewhere in this post) where he’s learning how to play Raynor, Tyrael, Zeratul and Uther, and as always with most big YouTubers, goes less for the support role and more for just wrecking the enemy team apart. Though I have to say, the Hyperion does need a nerf when it comes to destroying buildings. Hell, whenever it kills enemies it also reduces the cooldown of it, so I’m looking forward to abusing it as Abathur for major push potential. I still want in before too many people know what they’re doing though, because I can guarantee I will noob it up big style – from seeing Day[9]’s gameplay videos, it seems that barely anyone knows what to do with Abathur though, so I’ve still got opportunities to get ahead of the curve.

Heroes of the Storm

heroes-of-the-storm-logo

Formerly known as Blizzard All-Stars, and before that Blizzard DotA, the latest game franchise for Blizzard to publish is Heroes of the Storm! It was originally going to be a Starcraft II mod, though since the original inception, it will now be a standalone game, believed to be free-to-play and released digitally. With strong competition among similar games such as League of Legends, Dota 2 and SMITE, Blizzard are entering a tough market in the MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) genre.

Now personally, my only experience of MOBAs is with Dota 2 – I’ve dabbled in League of Legends and SMITE, but neither took my fancy as much as Valve’s Dota 2. I do definitely recommend playing both of those games: League is obviously the more popular MOBA for a reason; and SMITE is a great game for those looking to get into the genre – with recent polishing it’s certainly a solid game in of itself. Blizzard is likely aiming Heroes at the kind of gamer that SMITE has attracted in those that are looking to get into the MOBA genre but have been too cautious of the community that games like Dota and League have produced. That’s not to say that Heroes won’t have these kind of players, but I’m expecting at worst Barrens chat to begin with… Having said that, I hope Blizz introduces Mankrik at some point!

Heroes070314

Heroes

At the moment, we know that 22 heroes are in HotS: 10 from Warcraft, 7 from Starcraft and 5 from Diablo. It’s not surprising that Warcraft has the highest representation, and I’m sure we’ll continue to see more heroes from Warcraft than we will the other Blizzard franchises. According to rumours and certain game files, we might even see the Lost Vikings turn up, for those of you who have followed Blizzard for many, many years! Although I have to say, characters from Blackthorne and Rock n Roll Racing are likely to make people wonder who they are and why they are supposed Heroes in this game – I’d have to say I’d draw the line at Lost Vikings myself anyway.

Oddly enough from the characters I’ve seen in videos and what I’ve read about them, I really enjoy the playstyle of a lot of the Starcraft Heroes. Abathur, Nova and Tassadar are all Heroes that I’m likely going to be maining on their rotation, though I’ll try to unlock Abathur as soon as possible so I can be all pro and stuff on him. Totally. For those that don’t know how he plays, he can tunnel across the map to anywhere out of the fog of war and create nests that will blow up on enemies running over them – great for split pushing in itself, but his real strength is in his first ability, Symbiote and his heroic ability, Ultimate Evolution.

My Life for Aiu… I mean Abathur

iconabathurSymbiote allows Abathur to jump inside allied heroes, minions or towers, shielding them and gaining new abilities to use while inside someone… On a 4sec cooldown. I can totally see him jumping from hero to hero, depending on who’s getting focused, to shield them, while also keeping an eye on where Abathur was to make sure he doesn’t get focused. While inside someone else, he also has access to a line-nuke and a point blank AoE nuke. His main weakness as a result is that Abathur is very dependent on his team to be positioned well – he doesn’t have much combat presence outside of Symbiote, and he is vulnerable if his allies don’t capitalise and play more aggressively as a result of having an Abathur on their team. Communication is also key as well, random initiations won’t work out well if the rest of the team aren’t with you!

Creep Tumours are his second ability, placing up to three tumours on the map, providing vision and exploding on enemy contact. Excellent for scouting out ganks for the former, and great for team fights to be able to push aggressively, as the enemy will fear stepping on these mines when every point of health can matter. Deep Tunnel, as already mentioned is a global teleport – some maps have positional requirements like Dragon Shire where Abathur could have a Tumour at the Shrine, then as soon as the Obelisk of the Moon and Obelisk of the Sun are captured, he can teleport instantly to the Dragon Altar to get his team a huge advantage. It’s also a useful escape mechanic if things do get hairy, or if he finds himself in a bad position after a team fight, he can quickly Deep Tunnel behind a tower and continue being a nuisance. He uses Deep Tunnel instead of a mount, so unfortunately I won’t be able to see my worm on a pwnie. Sad times.

SC2-Abathur-Shot

While Abathur only has one heroic ability to choose from, the impact it has will change on a game to game basis regardless. He creates a copy of an allied hero and takes control of it, with its attributes based on Abathur’s level/talents. Think about it, you could have two Raynors calling down Hyperions on the battlefield, or maybe you need to be a bit more defensive in the next team fight, so Evolve Uther and stack/stagger Divine Shields or spam heals on your team. The possibilities are endless, and as a result Abathur is going to be one of the higher skill cap Heroes in the game. He’ll need a working knowledge of all his team mates, and how best to use what Ultimate Evolution when or to simply Symbiote for smaller skirmishes.

His heroic trait is passively spawning minions that will push the nearest lane, and this is where I feel that Abathur’s biggest downfall is. His minions will be pushing the lane way too early, and as such his split push potential may harm his team in the early game. While Abathur doesn’t have much combat presence in himself, his strength is in assisting his team mates. I don’t know what his heroic trait should be, but this forces Abathur to split lanes whenever his lane appears to be pushed too far, especially in the early game when you don’t want to be underneath the enemy towers. Maybe with secondary objectives this might work out in his favour, but in classic MOBA strategies, this isn’t a good one. In mid-late game however, I more than welcome his capabilities of split pushing and keeping the enemy team pinned in their own base. I wonder if his babies will give free farm however…

Abathur-Concept-ArtHis other main weakness is that he’s overall… Well, as squishy as a worm. His HP and HP Regen are the lowest of all Heroes we know about so far. His attack damage and speed are also in a similar boat. If he’s the sole survivor of a team fight and the rest of the team are pushing down on his base, he’s done something wrong, and there’s not a lot he can do in that situation other than hide in a tower or creep wave. Similarly, if he’s the first to die, he’s done something wrong and he needs to watch his positioning. Silly deaths are silly, but the overall role of the support is not to run away from his own team, unless his survival can change the match.

Words can’t describe how excited I am to try out Abathur: despite me not enjoying the multiplayer aspect of Starcraft, he has to be my favourite character in the campaign, if not the entire Blizzard universe. The fact that although he’s listed as a specialist, he is very much a support – a role that I am more than comfortable with in MOBAs (though with shared gold and no item shop in HotS, I might give Warriors and Assassins a good shot here). I have no idea if I’ll do another hero spotlight before I get my teeth into HotS, as I’m sure even most of the things here will change by the time beta comes out, let alone live, but if another hero takes my fancy, I might do another… Here’s looking at you, Tassadar (and totally not checking out more than just Nova’s skills, ahem).

aabbbba