With the release of patch 19.0, we saw the introduction of a character class I’ve long looked forward to in Heroes of the Storm, the warlock. We didn’t just get any warlock, though, the Heroes team summoned forth Gul’dan.
While we’ve often seen the introduction of a new hero lead to a whole change in balance due to them being a bit overtuned, that does not seem to be the case with Gul’dan. He’s not hurting, though. I think he might, I dare say, be approaching balanced. That said his Horrify ultimate, is potentially one of the strongest abilities out there. In a game where positioning is key, throwing someone or multiple members of an enemy team out of position can quickly turn the tide of battle.
Gul’dan’s Q, Fel Flame, is a cone-shaped AoE on a very short cool down. This ability is great for wave clears and expect it to make up much of your damage. There are some options for improving Fel Flame, but not as much as the W and E. This ability is difficult to avoid, making it quite different from Gul’dan’s other abilities.
The W is Drain Life, and this ability does exactly what you’d expect it to. This ability can be key to sustaining DPS when other similar heroes might face mana issues when combined with his D ability. It’s also a “please crowd control me now” sign for the other team. Luckily you can spec for giving it additional range and a shorter cool down. A note of interest, you can drain non-living entities in game such as the Tychus ult drill, or Gazlowe turrets, but towers and forts/keeps/core are immune. There are a number of spec options for improving your W. When specializing in such a way that you improve drain life it can actually provide a fair amount of damage, although it is easy to break via moving out of range or doing any type of CC including knock-backs.
The E ability is corruption. You’ll find it similar to Gall’s Dread Orb both in how you can extend or shrink the range and in how it provides damage three times as it travels. As you might expect, you can spec for making it return to you just like Gall’s Dread Orb as well. One key difference is that it provides a dot and is far smaller. Corruption is fairly easy to avoid, especially avoiding multiple stacks. It has a long cooldown, but the damage is very strong. If you are able to save it for a runner it can help secure kills. It also works well with Horrify as you can predict the path someone will take. There are a number of spec options for improving corruption, but personally, I’ve found that the people I’m up against tend to know better than to run in straight lines.
The ultimates to choose from are Horrify and Rain of Destruction. Horrify is a targetable ability which inflicts minor damage then causes enemies caught within to run away from the middle of the targeting circle. This can be positioned in such a way as to make the enemies run away from you, towards you, or whatever direction you wish. This level of control, from decent range in a large AoE circle, can be amazing. It is one of my favorite ults in the game.
Rain of Destruction targets a very large area with RNG damage all while you stand still. Think Nazeebo’s Vengeful Spirit, without the targeting. If you are safely hidden away it can be good, but I’d definitely recommend Horrify instead.
Gul’dan has an active D ability as well which is key to his sustained damage, Life Tap. With Life Tap Gul’dan can turn health into mana. This ability right here is what completes the warlock feel to me. As long as you have targets to drain from, you can keep that damage coming.
I have him at level 8 at this point and have given a fair amount of his spec options a try, with my personal choice being one that favors improving drain life and all abilities via hunger for power at 7 and Darkness Within at 16. While this is my go to build, as with any build different team compositions (both teams) and different maps can make some choices more or less desirable.
Let’s go over the options. At level 1 I’m really underwhelmed with Pursuit of Flame, empowering the range on Fel Flame sounds great, but 10% as the quest reward just doesn’t keep up with the top choices. Glyph of Drain Life, on the other hand, is 25%. Now that’s more like it! Echoed Corruption is your ability if you are going into a Corruption build. Lastly, Chaotic Energy can add a bit of punch and far less reliance on Life Tap.
At level 4 Health Funnel can really increase your sustain and jungling capability. Just secure those kills within a second of casting Drain Life and the cool down will be back up in no time. Improved Life Tap is a moderate increase going from the base 25% to 35%, making it a decent choice. Consume Soul can be great on maps like Tomb of the Spider Queen where minion waves are often close at hand. On the other hand, it can be far less useful on maps like Battlefield of Eternity where so much time is spent out of lanes. Choose accordingly.
Level 7 offers Bound by Shadow, which can really help reduce the cd on Corruption if you are going with a build that focuses on it. Devour the Frail is probably the weakest enhancement to Drain Life as you have a far better ability to kill runners or burn someone at half down. Curse of Exhaustion sounds ok on paper, but in reality, you are telegraphing your slowness to anyone that can read the talent choices and people will not wait around in harms way. Hunger for Power improves everything by 15% for a price of losing 25% healing from your teammates. Unless your composition is full of supports this should be huge for you.
Level 13 options are Fel Armor, a spell shield with decent ability damage stopping power, but a very short duration. It might good if you are poking a lot with Fel Flame. If the level 1 talent ever gets buffed to a greater range, I could see this being better. Harvest Life ensures that you get the most out of draining heroes. Dark Bargain seems like a bad deal to me. Death timers in long games can be a real issue and this makes it worse. Healthstone is a great panic button, 25% heal on a reasonable cd, who wouldn’t want that?
Level 16 has some strong choices as it usually does for many heroes. Rampant Hellfire can really get those Fel Flames hitting hard at top stacks and 5 seconds is a good bit of time to avoid having it drop off. Ruinous Affliction can make those times when you land all three Corruption hits really painful. This right here pulls the corruption builds together. Darkness Within, which can stack with Hunger for Power, makes that next ability after a Life Tap hit like a truck. It’s like a mini Arcane Power.
Level 20 is where you finally gain an escape ability, Demonic Circle. The cd is on par with similar abilities and really helps to round out Gul’dan’s kit. The improvements to the ults are decent, especially the vulnerability addition to Horrify, but giving up Demonic Circle is not something I’d likely chose.
Now to talk about that other Dan, who due to significant changes this patch might find himself in a different place competitively. Azmodan!
While Azmodan isn’t a new character for many people his playstyle changes, new spec options along with changes to minion damage have given me a considerable reason to look back at him again. First off stacking Q on minions via Taste for Blood has been made a little more difficult as you now have 1 second rather than a second and a half to get those kills. Q-dot damage via spec was removed too. Another option opened up for stacking Q via hitting heroes. While it doesn’t promise the same top damage, this allows Azmo to be a threat before late game. At the same time possibilities opened up via E. March of Sin moving to 7 means you’ll have a lot greater options far sooner in the game, and other additions to the build make its damage nothing to laugh at. As with other channeled abilities, it’s a giant “CC me now” sign, but if you can get away with casting it, the rewards are there. Greater self-healing via Gluttony, longer range via Master of Destruction, and higher peak damage via a buffed Infused Power might actually make the E build a real thing. Demonic Invasion got a slight buff too, doing full damage to heroes. The big changes though are what affect many lane dominating heroes, the buff to minion damage to structures and the increase in range/sight/target selection for catapults. These changes combine to make wave clear/dominance more important this patch.
Azmodan’s multiple minion control had always appealed to me as a long time warlock player, but now we see a true to character warlock in Gul’dan. They each play different roles within the meta, but for me, they’ll both have a place on my roster. Their battle for control of the nexus will unleash all the forces of hell, and we’ll get to reap the rewards!
So there we have it, two demonic Dans bringing new (Gul’dan) and extra (Azmodan) flavor to the nexus! Who is your favorite, which playstyle do you prefer?
See you in the Nexus!