When will we get a another non-assassin?
While Blizzard was initially well-tempered in its ability to release multiple roles, they’ve been in a routine as of late with Heroes of the Storm. The last four characters have not only been from the Warcraft universe, but they’ve also been assassins to boot. While I’m generally okay with this, as Varian was partially a warrior and Ragnaros is one of the most fun heroes to date, they’ve going a bit overboard with Valeera — the fifth Warcraft assassin in a row.
She’s well-crafted in general MOBA terms, but the stealth/melee combo archetype is already covered well enough by Zeratul.
As you might have divined, yes, Valeera is another stealth character and the fourth overall after Nova, Zeratul, and Samuro. She’s a mite different though, as her vanish can be activated manually like Samuro’s Windwalk (with a cooldown of eight seconds and an inability to mount while sneaking), and alters her abilities. While out in the open she can use a dash strike, an area-of-effect flurry, and a burst attack. If Valeera is cloaked, those abilities respectively morph into another burst, a stun, and a silence — in a way, you could say she has seven basic abilities in all from the start, which is enticing enough on its own.
Obviously she has some utility here, coming off of the backline and “turning off” characters with ultimates that can be crowd controlled, like Lili with her silence and stun (oh, and a blind if you talent into it at level 13). That right there adds some utility to her kit beyond being a nuisance. Her heroics are equally stealthy, as Smoke Bomb creates an unrevealable area around her and grants her armor, and Cloak of Shadows makes her unstoppable and breaks damage over time (like Nazeebo’s poison). A key takeaway from her ultimates? She can respectively choose between a flat 25% armor, or 75% ability damage each, to counter specific enemy teams.
It’s a cool concept and she’s really swift and fun to play, but she doesn’t feel particularly unique for a number of reasons. For one, her playstyle befits an old-school World of Warcraft Rogue that feels out of sorts with all of the recent class changes in Legion. As a Vanilla player that’s fine with me, but part of me thinks that throwing in some Outlaw perks would have been cool too (maybe with another hero?), or maybe some more Hearthstone references. Then there’s the question of why she got in before any number of other fan-requested characters. I get that she’s linked with Varian, who was just added recently, but a multi-class Holy/Shadow Support/Assassin Anduin, for example, or a hero from any other franchise would have been appreciated. The master skin homage to the WoW Tier 2 armor set is a nice nod, but the team could have done a little more beyond that and a premium $10 Demon Hunter skin.
But it’s the stealth style in general that kind of falls flat for me. I’m a big fan of Zeratul — he was one of my first Master Skins, and I really like his hit-and-run kit. Valeera feels a little too close to that, and although Blizzard tried to differentiate her, the combination of her timeliness so close to Samuro and all of the other assassins leaves her entry feeling more stale than it should. I need more time with her, but for now I doubt I’ll be playing her as much as some other recent heroes. Her [in theory] high skill cap ensures that I’ll be at least doing some testing to see what she can do, combo-wise.
There is one silver lining now though with the recent PTR patch — we’re going to be seeing a lot more Tassadar play now, as his long-rumored rework has been implemented. For those of you who aren’t aware or maybe haven’t played the long-dormant Templar, a big part of his kit involves constant vision, including de-cloaking stealth. While he’s the only major update besides some Rexxar tweaks (a hero who also has a reveal), seeing him back in action as a solo or duo support will make for some interesting ranked matches.