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BlizzCon hands-on first impressions: Lunara

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Lunara is one of the upcoming assassin-class Heroes for Heroes of the Storm. Check out her abilities, talents, and our first impressions from the BlizzCon build.

 

We have already briefly gone over the major reveals from Day One of BlizzCon. In this article, we will take a deeper look at one of the new heroes, Lunara, the First Daughter of Cenarius, including our impressions after some hands-on time with the hero.

 

Abilities and Talents

 

Before we go over our impressions of the hero, we are listing its talents and abilities. They are hidden so that they do not clutter the article, but feel free to expand them if you want to check everything out so as to have a better understanding of the discussion.

 

 

  • Nature’s Toxin (Trait) - Your Basic Attacks and damaging Abilities poison their target, dealing X damage a second for 3 seconds. Every additional application increases the duration by 3 seconds, up to a maximum of 9 seconds.

 

  • Noxious Blossom (Q) - After 0.5 seconds, cause an area to explode with pollen dealing X damage. 60 mana, 8s cooldown.

 

  • Crippling Spores (W) - Enemies currently afflicted by Nature’s Toxin have its duration increased by 3 seconds and are slowed by 40% decaying over 3 seconds. 40 mana, 12s cooldown.

 

  • Wisp (E) - Spawn a Wisp to scout an area. Can be redirected once active. Lasts 45 seconds. 50 mana, 45s cooldown.

 

  • Dryad’s Swiftness (Z) - You move 20% faster by leaping short distances.

 

 

Talents - personal favourite picks are underlined

 

Level 1

  • Blossom Swell – Increases Noxious Blossom’s radius by 20%.
  • Photosynthesis – Crippling Spores returns 5 Mana per enemy hit, up to 30 Mana.
  • Natural Perspective – Nature’s Toxin reveals enemies for its duration.
  • Cruel Spores – Crippling Spores’ cooldown is reduced by 80% and 20 mana is refunded when only Minions or Mercenaries are affected by it.

Level 4

  • Nimble Wisp – Increases Wisp Movement Speed by 100% and vision radius by 50%.
  • Timelost Wisp – Wisp costs no Mana and its cooldown recharges 100% faster while no wisp is active.
  • Skybound Wisp – Wisp can see over obstacles and reveals the area for 4 seconds after dying.
  • Dividing Wisp – The first time you relocate a Wisp it leaves a copy of itself in the previous location. Only one Dividing Wisp can be active at a time.

Level 7

  • Siphoning Toxin – Nature’s Toxin heals you by X per second as long as at least 1 enemy is affected.
  • Wild Vigor – Using Crippling Spores increases the damage of your next 4 Basic Attacks by 40%
  • Splintered Spear – Noxious Blossom causes your next Basic Attack to hit 3 targets.
  • Nature’s Culling – Increases Nature’s Toxin non-Heroic damage by 200%.

Level 10

  • Thornwood Vine – Hurl a spear that deals X damage to all enemies in a line. Can hold 3 charges. 35 mana, 15s cooldown.
  • Leaping Strike – Leap over an enemy, slowing them by 80% for 0.35 seconds and attacking for X damage. Has 2 charges. 50 mana, 30s cooldown.

Level 13

  • Pestering Blossom – Increases Noxious Blossom’s range by 50%
  • Rampant Growth – Increases Nature’s Toxin damage to slowed Heroes by 50%.
  • Giant Killer – Basic Attacks against enemy Heroes deal bonus damage equal to 1.5% of the Hero’s maximum Health.
  • Greater Spell Shield – Upon taking Ability Damage, reduce that damage and further Ability Damage by 75% for 3 seconds. Can only trigger once every 30 seconds.​

Level 16

  • Choking Pollen – Increases Noxious Blossom damage by 50% against enemies afflicted with Nature’s Toxin.
  • Star Wood Spear – Using Crippling Spores increases your Basic Attacks range by 50% for 6 seconds.
  • Invigorating Spores – Using Crippling Spores increases your Attack Speed by 50% for 6 seconds.
  • Let Them Wither – Increases Crippling Spores slow to 60%.

Level 20

  • Forest’s Wrath – Increases Thornwood Vine’s range by 35%, its speed by 20%, and your vision radius by 35%.
  • Boundless Stride – All Leaping Strike charges are returned every 30 seconds. You can also use Leaping Strike on allies.
  • Galloping Gait (Z) – Activate to increase the Movement Speed bonus of Dryad’s Swiftness to 80% for 6 seconds. 30s cooldown.
  • Abolish Magic – Activate to remove all stuns, roots, silences, slows, and damage over time effects from yourself and an ally and reduce the duration of their reapplication by 50% for 2 seconds. 40s cooldown.

 

Hero Design

 

Lunara is one of the 4 upcoming assassins announced at BlizzCon. She specialises in damage-over-time effects and long-range harassment.

 

Her trait, Nature's Toxin, makes all of her damage sources (attacks and abilities alike) apply a potent damage-over-time effect that stacks up to three times in duration. An important point of mention of this aspect is that the stacks do not increase her DPS, but rather, her overall potential damage. This makes focusing on rapidly damaging several targets more beneficial in the very short term than simply attacking the same one over and over for a larger stack. 

 

With little in the way of dealing much burst damage, a best-case scenario is to stack and maintain the toxin effect on as many opponents as possible and to then focus down a key target. Since the majority of her abilities are skillshots (must be aimed or timed manually) that deal damage in an area of effect, positioning is a crucial thing to master with Lunara. Over any extended fight, she can put out a "non-negotiable" amount of pressure on any healer that lacks the means of steadily healing several targets at once. Several of Lunara's talents also focus on either improving the reliability of her damage or outright increase her sustained damage. As a result, she is expected to be an excellent pick for team compositions that want to take slower attrition fights, such as those featuring double healers or a single assassin.

 

Defensively, Lunara relies primarily on vision (notably, through Wisp), the slowing effect provided by Crippling Spores, and her combat mobility. Since she has no obvious escape move beyond her naturally high movement speed and some late-game talents, it could be said that proactivity and map awareness are your best tools for to live.

 

Talent-wise, some elements are worth of mention, notably, the 4th level choices. While certain heroes already feature talent tiers that have two or three choices that focus on improving a single ability (Lt. Morales and Artanis come to mind), we have never seen an entire tier "force" players into improving one single ability. In Lunara's level 4 case, all four choices seek to improve Wisp's usability in one way or another. In fact, this is the only talent tier that allows players to invest into the ability at all! And it makes sense, too: given that Wisp is entirely dedicated to granting vision, on top of having a hefty 45-second cooldown, players would likely never give a second look to the ability's related talents unless they were somehow so grossly overtuned that they became mandatory anyway.

 

Some notable talents include Greater Spell Shield which, as a throwback to the Warcraft III Dryad's magic immunity, is essentially a powered up version of the Spell Shield we know. While on the subject of throwbacks, one of the level 20 choice, Abolish Magic, has some incredible playmaking potential. Just imagine cleansing Kael's Living Bomb right as he is about to trigger Chain Bomb... 

 

 

YVDwQGT.jpg

League of Legend's Twitch: similar ability design, but a broadly different playstyle.

 

Gamplay and Impressions

 

I must admit that I had a lot of fun playing Lunara. Her seemingly simple ability set has one of the higher skill ceiling seen in any other hero in the way of optimisation and maximising your damage output. The main factor in this assessment is the Crippling Spores ability. Although you could simply use the ability whenever one of your target is infected with Nature's Toxin for a slowing effect and a bit more toxin uptime, you could also hold onto the ability's cooldown until you have damaged several opponents, so as to not only cripple several targets, but also greatly increase your damage output. This fact is further acerbated when we take Lunara's level 16 talents into consideration, two of which provide your basic attacks with some sort of excessively strong bonus (+50% attack speed for 6 seconds with Invigorating Spores, or +50% basic attack range (!) with Star Wood Spear).

 

Lunara's other basic abilities did not have quite as much depth, but they did their job and still had a certain skill cap to them. Noxious Blossom is a delayed area of effect blast with a small radius that is strangely satisfying to hit with, and serves as a long-ranged catalyst for triggering Crippling Spores without endangering yourself. It is particularly useful for waveclearing before Thornwood Vine, one of the heroic abilities (discussed below), becomes available.

 

Wisp, is mostly interesting for the fact that it is the first time we see an ability that is purely dedicated to granting vision on an assassin. Such abilities (Scouting Drone, Oracle, Clairvoyance, Scouting Owl, Creep Tumors, Flare, etc.) were usually reserved to support heroes with a few exceptions. Proper use of the ability makes Lunara extremely difficult to gank, especially when combined with her permanent movement speed increase. Knowing how to use the Wisp offensively, however, is also very important in order to maximise your basic attack uptime (against opponents that are hiding in bushes) and, of course, avoiding ambushes.

 

Both of Lunara's heroic abilities have charges on a very short cooldown. My guess is that this is done so to keep a fast-paced, "jumpy" hero. And it works! Thornwood Vine is your go-to damage dealing choice. It allows you to fill a much-needed gap in Lunara's skillset, and that is, that of reliable area of effect damage. Not to harp on Noxious Blossom, but Thornwood Vine goes out of control when hitting several targets due to its very reasonable base damage, short cooldown, and ability to trigger Nature's Toxin. This ability alone makes me confidently say that we shall see Lunara players reach Kael-like levels of damage.

 

Leaping Strike is your kiting/pseudo-escape ability. Its double charge system essentially makes clever Lunara players impossible to close up on for most if not all melee heroes, and allows you to reliably avoid skillshots and area of effect abilities alike. Although it deals vastly less damage than Thornwood Vine, it will be an incredible choice against melee-heavy team compositions. One of my best BlizzCon moments was using the ability to completely avoid a Greymane player's heroic ability to then proceed to kite them to death (thanks to Crippling Spores and Dryad's Swiftness) without taking one bit of damage.

 

A Place in the Meta?

 

Lunara suffers from a lack of hard crowd control and burst damage, two valuable elements in today's metagame state. She does, however, make up for these weaknesses by being able to deal a crushing amount of area of effect sustained damage, being rather hard to focus down, and having some very interesting niche talents. I suspect that daring teams may fiddle with team compositions that would be all about stretching fights so as to capitalise on Lunara's unavoidable Heat Death-like damage levels. She, as with most assassins, definitely benefits from teaming up with heroes that offer control. I suspect that she will be an excellent hero to match up with Malfurion.

 

It should be noted that her lack of having a mount (traded off for a permanent 20% movement speed increase) may be somewhat of a turn off for some players, and rightly so. The Towers of Doom map felt small enough that it did not feel like a huge downside, however, I could see it being problematic on the larger maps that require players to rotate often.

 

Conclusion

 

Lunara fills a much-needed niche for ranged assasins; one that is not just about burst and single-target damage. Thematically, "nature" was only really represented by Malfurion, and so there again, she is filling in a rather important gap. All of her abilities have a certain level of depth, so I would probably not recommend the hero for newer players; in fact, I fully expect her win rates to increase over time, as players begin to understand how to play her, and to directly correlate with player ranks.

 

Overall, I have really enjoyed Lunara, from a gameplay, design, and thematic standpoint. After reaching level 10, her gameplay becomes much faster paced and I can say with relative confidence that she will be one of my personal favourites.

 

Lunara is expected to be released on December 8th.

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Oxygen, my friend. That build is very questionable. Have you been listening to Zath again?

Having played her at least two times more than you in the completely competitive BlizzCon environment with hours of ahead preparation to theorycraft everything for the new no-healer-Cho'gall-Greymane meta on a new map, I am 100% qualified to make completely official and serious talent recommendations for Lunara.

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