Since he rose from the grave and into the nexus back in March of 2016, Xul’s standing within the competitive Heroes Global Championship scene has been...pretty deceased. That was until this past weekend when Justin “Justing” Gapp from Team Octalysis dusted him off against No Tomorrow not once but twice in the main Tank role. That’s correct. A “Specialist” hero was used as the primary Tank alongside Medivh to bully the opposition into submission, securing two victories in the process.
Octalysis is known to play by their own rules when it comes to the team compositions and meta they choose to work with. I sat down with Justing to discuss how on earth they landed on Xul and what the future holds for the necromancer.
An Undead Combo
With a robust hero pool to choose from in Heroes of the Storm, each hero, when correctly paired alongside another or others, has the chance to shine and take advantage of what makes their kit unique in the first place. Xul is no exception. The ability to click on a target and instantly root them, is an immensely valuable tool, especially in competitive play now that Cleanse is all but gone. A potential pick at any given moment can swing a game in an instant and put the opposition on their heels, turning the tide of a series.
Justing knows that and whether it is viable in the long run or not, he wants to give it an honest try before writing it off, like before.
"We've tried a lot of stuff and we've done a lot of experimenting in the past but most of it we just kind of gotten rid of over time. Like, it has worked for a couple weeks and then we tossed it to the side. Xul was one of those things where, maybe three months ago when Medivh started popping up in the meta again, we were experimenting with a lot of stuff with him. I don't know, I just have a lot of weird ideas of stuff I want to try and if we start losing with it we would throw it away."
"If the other team is willing to leave us Medivh and Xul, I think we're fairly willing to pick it. I don't think it's a cheesy strategy. The Tank role is underwhelming right now in terms of just how much of a threat they provide. Muradin is just waiting on his cooldowns to Stun and that's pretty much his threat level. Basically, what I've argued is that "If Xul had more HP, he'd be one of the best Tanks." He has his Bone Shield at level 1 and his point and click lockdown on his E, his AOE attacks Slow and has one of the best engages in the game. If you have a Medivh with him, he's very tough to kill.
Justing’s favored talent build for Xul is below, in addition to some insight into why each talent is preferred in each tier.
Backlash -- When Bone Armor expires, nearby enemy Heroes take damage equal to 12% of their maximum Health.
“I pretty much go this build every single time. I'm only playing this as the main Tank when I'm with the Medivh so keep that in mind. Backlash at level 1 is really good with Xul's playstyle because, usually, what you want to do with Xul is: use his point and click E to focus the enemy Tank and Backlash is really helpful. If you take Shade it makes the cooldown on Bone Armor too long so it's not worth it I think. The 12% damage is just really good for what he does which is to root and focus the Tank.”
Grim Scythe (W) -- Each enemy hit by Cursed Strikes reduces its cooldown by 1 second, up to 12 seconds.
“In the early game, if you use your W on a minion wave, you get it back right away so your W is the main ability to deal and mitigate damage. Once you scale into the late game, people really underestimate how tanky you are when you get into their team and you start hitting their whole team with their W, it actually heals for an insane amount.”
Harvest Vitality (W) -- Cursed Strikes heals for 70% of the damage dealt to Heroes.
“Basically you can get into their team and if you hit enough people you just don't die. You're healing the whole time while gaining Attack speed with 75% lifesteal and a massive AOE. If a Tank had that it would just be the most broken thing in the game, so if you put a Medivh with it, it's gross.”
Skeletal Mages (R2) (Cooldown: 90 seconds) -- Summon 4 Frost Mages in a line that attack nearby enemies for 47 damage a second and Slow them by 30% for 2 seconds. Last up to 15 seconds.
“Poison Nova when Xul was first released I think was the go-to but I think, with the meta right now, the sustain Supports tend to be what everyone is playing in all of the games and you have they can heal a lot. Poison Nova doesn't really get that much value because it's over 10 seconds and, also, because my role as the Xul is the Tank, Skeletal Mages is one of the best engages in the game. It's certainly better than all of the engage abilities any of the Tanks in the game have. Pretty much, it's a no-brainer. It Slows, you can block off chokes with it and it's vector-targeting which means you can put it wherever you want.”
Rapid Harvest (W) -- Gain 5% Attack Speed for 3 seconds each time Cursed Strikes hit an enemy, up to 75%.
“If you notice the 4, 7 and 13 (talents), they're all the W-talents and I think it's the only viable build path for him. You can try going Q-build but I don't think it's really worth it. Once he gets level 13, he's just beyond strong. I'm not really sure why other teams don't play him or why people think he's bad. I think he's one of the best heroes in the game.”
Amplify Damage (E) -- Enemies Rooted by Bone Prison lose 25 Armor for 1.75 seconds.
“The 16 has a few situational talents. Up until this point his build is pretty much always the same. You can potentially go Bone Spear as I have taken it in some games when I can't use my E on cooldown. I think in general, the E just fits this playstyle and the one we're going for better because we're mostly playing off my Bone Prisons and killing people off of that so, yeah, the Armor reduction is really strong.”
Mortal Wound (Q) -- Enemy Heroes hit by Spectral Scythe receive 75% less healing for 4 seconds.
“Since the whole point of the strategy is to isolate one target with your Bone Prison and trying to one-shot them, pretty much the one thing stopping it is them being healed so at level 20 you just don't lose the game anymore.”
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