Heroes of the Storm

Hands-on game play review: Alexstrasza is obviously powerful but Hanzo is difficult to master.

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Heroes of the Storm had some huge announcements during BlizzCon 2017. Huge reworks, mechanic changes, MMR adjustments, and of course, two new heroes. Fans have been requesting Alexstrasza for ages and, unlike Chromie who stays a human, she has the powerful ability to transform into her true dragon form. As a support hero who, per lore, is more powerful than the majority of the Heroes roster, Alexstrasza design is a unique mix of seemingly OP utility and tons of healing.

Hanzo, on the other hand, has always been an easy candidate for inclusion thanks to how MOBA friendly his Overwatch abilities are. Clear skill shots, scouting arrows, a big ultimate and a dash of mobility-- seems like the perfect ranged Assassin right?


I'll get into that later...


Here are my first impressions and big takeaways after playing both new Heroes as much as I could during day 1 of BlizzCon 2017.



ALEXSTRAZA

▲Similiar to Ragnaros, Alexstrasza has a powerful trait that temporarily makes her oppressively powerful. Use it during the right moment to get a brief advantage during objectives.

 

Abilities

[D] (Trait) Dragonqueen (150-second cooldown): After 1.25 seconds, transform into a dragon and gain 500 Health. While Dragonqueen is active, Alexstrasza's Abilities are empowered, and her Basic Attacks deal 143 damage and heal allied Heroes for 43 in an arc in front of her. Additionally, the duration of incoming Stuns, Roots, Slows, and Blinds is reduced by 50%. Lasts 15 seconds.


My comments: Players will often die to try to use this ability as a last minute survivability tool. Don't underestimate the 1.25 cast time-- just use it as the fight starts!

That being said, This ability is extremely powerful, especially because it is passively available as her trait. Make no mistake-- this could have easily been her heroic ability. Her displacement potential, AoE damage, and resistance to roots allow Alexstrasza to easily overpower objective based team fights and is especially powerful on maps like Cursed Hallow and Braxis Holdout where objective team fights happen quickly.

[Q] Gift of Life (8-second cooldown): Sacrifice 15% of Alexstrasza's current Health, healing an ally for 150% of that amount. Dragonqueen: Breath of Life Cooldown greatly reduced and does not cost Health.


My comments: With the right talents, Gift of Life starts feeling like Uther level of single target heals. However, the 15% life sacrifice is not negligible and awareness of this will separate good Alexstrasza players from the great ones. 

The life cost of this spell makes it difficult for Alexstrasza to solo deal with lots of poke damage, as the more she becomes damaged, the less she can heal her allies. As much as people won't like to hear it, Alexstrasza seems uniquely equipped to shine in double support compositions, as Brightwing or Lucio can passively keep her topped off while she takes care of single target heals.


[W] Abundance (16-second cooldown):
 Plant a seed of healing that blooms after 3 seconds, healing nearby allied Heroes for 20% of their maximum Health. Dragonqueen: Preservation Heal area and amount greatly increased.


My comments: This is Alexstrasza's primary form of self-heal (she has other options with talents) but it is best used when healing her grouped up allies. The problem, however, is the 3 second wait time that the heal requires in order to take effect.

This becomes problematic for the Alexstrasza team trying to get the most out of their heals, because it becomes very telegraphed for the enemy team to land all their skill shots and AoE abilities. During our playtime, it was common for teams to group up in order to all get healed by Abundance, only to be punished hard by an enemy Mosh Pit or Jaina Ring of Frost. 

Note: There is a talent that makes this ability spawn a regeneration glove. Very interesting synergy with heroes like Diablo or Li-Ming with Power Hungry.



[E] Flame Buffet (2-second cooldown): Launch a fireball, Burning enemies hit for 75 damage over 5.5 seconds. Hitting enemies that are already Burning deals 125 bonus damage upon impact, Slows them by 40% decaying over 2 seconds, and refunds the Mana cost. Dragonqueen: Wing Buffet Damage and Knockback enemies in an arc.


My comments: The best thing about Flame Buffet is the wave clear potential. Many support heroes in Heroes of the Storm live or die competitively due to their ability to clear waves effectively, and Flame Buffet (especially when talented) can clear waves efficiently and without costing Alexstrasza any mana.

There is also a talent that allows Alexstrasza to heal for 10% health every time she hits a Burning hero with another Flame Buffet. In our games, skill Alexstrasza players could be more aggressive than most other support heroes because of this talent and the healing it provided.

[R1] Life-Binder (80-second cooldown): Bind Alexstrasa's life force with an allied Hero. After 2 seconds, the Hero with a lower percentage of Health is set to the same Health percentage as the other Hero.


My comments: This heroic is very similar to Ancestral Healing and Divine Palm. However, unlike both of these heroics, Life-Binder creates a powerful win-win for the Alexstrasza team. It effectively saves two allied heroes from death and, most importantly, allows Alexstrasza to save her self even if her warrior fails to peel effectively for her.

This will be the most preferred heroic without a doubt. In our play sessions, this heroic allowed for deep dives and aggressive play and, unlike Divine Palm, will always get value. There were times this ability did nothing because of poor target choices or Alexstrasza took more damage than expected, but those were in the minority. 

[R2] Cleansing Flame (80-second cooldown): After 1.25 seconds, take to the sky and drop 5 fireballs over 6 seconds at the position of the mouse cursor. Fireballs deal 150 damage to enemies and heal allied Heroes for 300 Health. 2 seconds after dropping all fireballs, Alexstrasza lands at the position of the mouse cursor.


My comments: Why is there always a "fun" Heroic that is insanely cool, but hard to pick compared to the more competitive choice? I'm looking at you Bloodlust...

Cleansing Flame is another bullet point on the list of support heroes that have been given some sort of global presence on the battlefield. However, unlike Ana's Eye of Horus, Cleansing Flame also allows Alexstrasza to fly directly to a fight or objective whenever she wants. On large battlegrounds combined with her impressive wave clear, I think that Cleansing Flame will be a viable choice of Heroic.

It is similar to the Mosh Pit vs. Stage Dive problem every E.T.C player faces. Sure, Mosh Pit is the stronger heroic, but sometimes Stage Dive opens up an entire dimension of split pushing and lane soaking potential. It’s going to be difficult passing up Life-Binder on most battlegrounds. 

There is still a lot more testing and experimentation I’d like to try with this heroic.

THE VERDICT

Alexstrasza is just so obviously powerful. Her trait alone makes her an incredible threat to team fight oriented objectives and, if the current double support meta persists through the other hosts of changes, I suspect Alexstrasza will be a very strong hero on release. Life-Binder has surely caught the eye of every competitive support player, as the playmaking potential with this skill is very real.



HANZO

Abilities

[D] (Trait) Natural Agility (30-second cooldown): Target unpathable terrain or a Structure to jump to the other side of it.


My comments: 
Make no mistake, this ability is not nearly as strong as Genji's mobility trait. You must target an unpathable terrain or Structure to jump over it, meaning a lot of times Hanzo is running for his life with no smart escape readily available.

While technically, he is able to leap farther in some situations, it requires a nuanced understanding of unpathable terrain and the "safe spots" on any one particular battleground. This is a skill-testing ability that the best Hanzo's will get the most out of
.

[Q] Storm Bow (4-second cooldown): Activate to charge an arrow that deals 270 damage to the first enemy hit. Storm Bow's range increases the longer it is Channeled. Reactivate to fire.


My comments: Storm Bow often feels like a worse version of Nova's Snipe, but that is not entirely fair. Hanzo can move while channeling it and its range length isn't negligible. In addition, with proper talents Storm Bow can do a fair bit of AoE damage and be very effective at wave clear.

But it often felt like this ability was too telegraphed and hard to hit for it's worth. Compared to a hero like Valla or Cassia, poking with Storm Bow felt dangerous due to the heroes fragility and unreliable escape tool.



[W] Scatter Arrow (8-second cooldown):
 Fire an arrow that deals 85 to the first enemy Hero hit. Scatter Arrow can collide with terrain and Structures, splitting into 5 arrows that travel extra distance, ricochet up to 4 additional times, and deal 85 damage each to the first enemy hit.


My comments: There is a really fun build with Hanzo that allows you to have Scatter Arrows on essentially a 2-second cooldown. You can spam these arrows to your heart's content, but the insane burst damage that this skill provides in Overwatch is rarely seen in a MOBA setting.

What Scatter Arrow provides in Heroes is annoying poke damage that is hard to avoid. The "simple geometry" required to land a lot of Scatter Arrows can become awkward during in some battlegrounds and it's important to note that as buildings are destroyed, it becomes harder to use them to bounce Scatter Arrows in the direction of your opponents.


This is a fun ability, but again, doesn't seem very powerful. When the stars align with this ability, it gives notable burst, but Hanzo really doesn't fair well when close to enemy heroes and that is usually when you hit all your arrows.



[E] Sonic Arrow (20-second cooldown): Fire an arrow that grants vision in a large area for 8 seconds. Enemies inside are revealed for 1 second. If Sonic Arrow lands directly on an enemy, it deals 150 damage to them and follows them as they move.


My comments: While you will rarely hit a hero with his ability direction, the scouting is very useful. I found that sieging with Hanzo is effective when paired alongside other heroes, as the ability to see past the enemies towers for 8 seconds makes it difficult for them to defend against siege spells like Blizzard or Flame Strike.

This ability is useful and it's important not to underestimate how coordinated even the messiest of quick match games can become when you are consistently granting vision to your team. It’s important to note that this ability is actually stronger against stealth heroes thanks to the stealth rework. It’s much easier to see stealthed heroes and, as a result, easier to reveal them with Sonic Arrow..


[R1] Dragonstrike (100-second cooldown):
 After 1.5 seconds, summon a pair of Spirit Dragons which travel forward, dealing 52 damage every 0.25 seconds to enemy Heroes in its area. Enemies in the center take 150 damage.


My comments: This is arguably the reason why you would pick Hanzo. It is a powerful Ultimate ability and with the proper set-up, deals tons of damage. Think Raynor's Hyperion Heroic, but much faster and deals more damage.

Because of the nature of Dragonstrike, you can use this ability similar to how you use it in Overwatch-- control tons of space and push enemies off of an objective. The cooldown is lengthy, but extremely potent when paired with CC ultimates like Sindragosa. During our sessions, this heroic almost always whiffed when used in obvious situations or when the enemy has vision of Hanzo— it’s too iconic of a sound and ability to not see coming!

[R2] Dragon's Arrow (100-second cooldown): Fire a missile that travels across the battleground. Explodes upon hitting an enemy Hero, dealing 100 damage to all nearby enemies and Stunning them for 0.5 seconds. After traveling a medium distance, the damage is increased to 200 and the Stun duration to 1.25 seconds. After traveling a long distance, the damage is increased to 350 and the Stun duration to 2 seconds.


My comments: If you have ever played Priestess of the Moon in Dota, then you understand what this skill does. However, on a lengthy cooldown and in a game like Heroes where individual pickoffs are only important during the late stages of the game, this becomes a very underwhelming heroic.

Simply put, this heroic is very hard to land and the payoff isn't worth it when you are missing out on Dragonstrike. This ability deserves to be on a 45-second cooldown because it will likely miss and, when it does hit, your teammates are usually too far away to capitalize on the 2-second stun.

That being said, late game Muradin or E.T.C can get some surprising pick offs when Hanzo is looking ahead and quick to follow up after a stub. The global range means that, as long as Hanzo predicts well, he can help confirm a kill. Hard to do, but plausible in competitive play.


THE VERDICT

Compared to the obvious power level fo Alexstrasza, Hanzo feels underwhelming. Admittedly, he is a high skill hero that can't truly be tested in a day. This doesn't stop his abilities from feeling under tuned and his damage seeming too low for the fragility and strange angles of attack a Hanzo player is forced to seek due to Scatter Arrow being the primary form of kill potential.

Hanzo's auto attack is also oppressively slow, which can be negated with the right talents, but without much benefit. Trying to turn Hanzo into an auto-attack style assassin is very difficult, as his escape ability is unreliable and, when used in combat, often leaves him too far away from the fight. 

All Hanzo needs is either more damage or lower cooldowns on his escape and utility abilities. I think his overall design has a very cool Tyrande-esque feel and some players will immediately be drawn to the nuanced gameplay that rewards skill over anything else.

 

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