A New Look for Stealth in Heroes of the Storm

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The official blog post with developer insights about the new Stealth update and upcoming Hero changes for Nova, Valeera, Samuro and Zeratul.

At BlizzCon 2017, we learned about upcoming changes to the Stealth shader and now the Live Design team is back with reasoning and explanation behind all the changes that will come to the game as part of the 2018 gameplay update. Don't forget about the 2018 gameplay update Q/A this Wednesday.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

As part of our 2018 Gameplay Updates, we’re making significant changes to how Stealth works in Heroes of the Storm. We’ve outlined those changes below, along with some reasoning and explanations behind the changes from the Live Design team.

What’s Changing and Why:

Making the decision to change the way stealth works in Heroes of the Storm wasn’t an easy decision. While we recognized that stealth Heroes in their previous incarnation did a great job of fitting the fantasy of their characters, we also identified that the stealth shimmer visual gameplay was extremely hard for a significant number of players to see, and was ultimately just an eye test for the opposing team. Previously, if the opposing team could quickly spot the enemy stealthed Hero, they gained a significant advantage while the stealthed Hero was left with very few options for counterplay. On the flip side, against a team that consistently failed to spot the shimmer, stealth Heroes could dominate the match and force players into a very passive and not-entirely-fun playstyle. Due to this, there was also a large disparity in the power level of stealth Heroes at different ranks of play. In uncoordinated Quick Match games, stealth was king. However, in high-level ranked play and esports, stealth Heroes were much weaker and hardly ever seen.

With our upcoming changes to stealth, we want to remove the “eye test” mechanic and give both stealth Heroes, and the opposing teams, a better experience in matches. Here’s how:

  • New Visuals:
    • The stealth shimmer visual effect is now much easier to spot when you’re facing off against stealthed Heroes. With this change, we want to shift this power away from that ‘eye test’ and encourage more strategic use of stealth. Some important things to note are that stealthed Heroes will still be hidden on the minimap, and they still cannot be directly targeted by abilities. You must still hit them with an aimed attack if you want to break their stealth.


  • New “Invisible” state:
    • If a stealthed Hero remains immobile for a short amount of time (currently 1.5 seconds) they will become “Invisible” and will not display any outline or visual effect until they move again or are revealed by dealing or taking damage. Our goal with this addition is to bring back some of the uncertainty when playing vs. stealth Heroes that we’ve lost with the more obvious stealth visual effects. If a stealth Hero maneuvers carefully and plans ahead, they could be hiding anywhere… even right next to you!
    • To avoid some bad gameplay situations, we’ve also implemented a couple of exceptions to this new mechanic:
      • Stealthed Heroes cannot become Invisible on active battleground locations (such as an active Volskaya Foundry capture point) and are removed from invisible if the point becomes active with them present
      • Stealthed Heroes cannot become Invisible on Mercenary capture points once the camp has been defeated.
  • Changes to “Unrevealable”:
    • Before, “Unrevealable” is a state that exists where you cannot be broken out of stealth. While in this state, we hide your stealth shimmer much like the new “Invisible” state. This mechanic exists on several Heroes, namely Valeera and Samuro, when they first enter their stealth states. Now, “Unrevealable” remains unchanged in that the Hero cannot be removed from stealth during the duration, but we do not hide the stealth visual effect. The only way to hide completely during stealth is through the new “Invisible” state. Unrevealable was implemented as a way to give a character like Valeera a chance to use her openers in combat – without it, she could be immediately broken from her stealth and lose her second set of abilities. We wanted to keep that while allowing the opposing team to keep track of her movement.

Updating Stealth Heroes:

With the easier to spot stealth visual, we’re not only hoping to alleviate the oppressive nature of stealth Heroes in Quick Match, but we’re also opening up the ability to enhance these Heroes kits and roles since a significant portion of their power no longer relies on them going unnoticed in combat. With these updates, we didn’t want to just do straight number buffs, but rather wanted to see if we could give these characters some new tools and tricks to play with. You can check out the highlights below or read the full patch notes from the PTR here.

  • Nova:
    • Nova now starts with a new active (called Ghost Protocol) that she can use to immediately enter Stealth (Default Hotkey: 1) that also spawns a Holo Decoy at her location. Additionally, Nova now gains a significant movement speed boost when stealthed (currently 15%). These changes should allow Nova to position a little more aggressively and have some opportunities for escape if she is caught.
    • The Snipe Master talent is now baseline to reward careful positioning and aim without having to sacrifice a talent tier.
    • Holo Decoys now do a small amount of Nova’s damage baseline, and use a smarter AI system. Since Nova’s position will be much more apparent in the new system, we know that Holo Decoys would be much less effective as a confusion tool. With the new smarter clones and added damage, they might fake people out a bit more, add a bit of confusion, and can also be used to dismount enemy Heroes, prevent objective captures, etc.
  • Samuro:
    • With Samuro’s update, we wanted to play up the “3-card monte” gameplay that we originally intended for this Hero. Samuro should keep his opponents guessing as to which of his images is real, then “reset” using his new Trait once he’s been discovered. To that end:
      • Samuro can now control his positioning when making new Mirror Images with the real Samuro always spawning towards your current mouse location. This allows more aggressive and calculated plays since you have much more direct control over your positioning.
      • Samuro can now swap positions with one of his Mirror Images using his new Trait, Image Transmission. Choosing the Illusion Master talent will now greatly reduce the cooldown of Image Transmission.
      • We’ve shifted a significant portion of the damage dealt by Mirror Images into Samuro himself, since we want to reward players who can successfully utilize his new trait to reposition and confuse the enemy.
  • Zeratul:
    • Before these changes, Zeratul was the most competitive Stealth hero in high-level play, and didn’t require as much tuning to normalize across all levels of play. However, we saw an opportunity to make some tweaks and add a couple of fun new elements to his kit:
      • Zeratul now has the Vorpal Blade talent as a baseline ability, granting some extra mobility and letting player pull off some extra-flashy maneuvers.
      • We’ve added a new Heroic Ability in place of Shadow Assaault, Might of the Nerazim, that was designed with the goal of competing with Void Prison and playing into the technical playstyle that makes high-level Zeratul players shine:
        • Might of the Nerazim Passive: Each time you use an ability, your next basic attack deals bonus damage. With this passive effect, Zeratul  players will want to weave basic attacks in between abilities for maximum effectiveness.
        • Might of the Nerazim Active: Your Heroic Ability button (Default: R) becomes the last active Basic Ability you used. If you Blink in, your R is now Blink. You’ll want to pay extra attention to the order in which your abilities are cast. Another Cleave is a great source of extra damage, but what if you had a second Blink to escape the fight with your life?
        • Might of the Nerazim Storm Talent Upgrade:  Might of the Nerazim resets the cooldown on ALL basic abilities when used. After choosing this, Zeratul players can weave in basic attacks between all of their abilities, press R, and do it again!
  • Valeera:
    • When considering Valeera, we decided that having two sets of abilities, a number of utility openers, as well as an on-command stealth meant that she already had a lot of really cool things going on and didn’t require as much work as some of our other Heroes. However, we did feel that Valeera was likely to be the most impacted by the stealth visual change since she has melee openers and no gap-closing abilities. In order to address this, we implemented the following changes:
      • After remaining in stealth for 3 seconds, Valeera’s openers teleport her to the enemy.
        • With this new gap closer, opposing players are still able to see Valeera coming and react, while Valeera players can use quick maneuvers and careful positioning to still get the jump on enemies.
      • We’ve reworked her openers from stealth to be less about stun-locking an opponent and burning them down, and more about having options to shut down enemy damage dealers.
        • Cheap Shot: We’ve significantly reduced the stun duration, but added a blind to counter Heroes that rely heavily on Basic Attacks.
        • Garrote: To help in shutting down Supports and Assassins that focus on casting spells, we’ve buffed the duration of Garrote’s silence effect.
        • Assassinate: We’ve cut out some of the damage of this ability, but added an armor reducing effect. This should help Valeera take down more durable targets with the help of her team.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this detailed look at the Stealth changes we are making in Heroes of the Storm. As always, please let us know what you think in the comments below and we’ll see you in the Nexus!

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I feel like this destroys Valeera's identity. She has a lot of movements and abilities based around moving around in stealth. When you can see her outline it's basically asking for CC

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I don't hate that they're changing stealth but from the games I've seen and from talking to others, I think the new shimmer is too much of a change. Nubkeks made a video on the changes that I completely agree with. I agree that tweaks needed to be made to stealth as a mechanic but with these changes it doesn't feel like stealth anymore, it feels more like a pseudo-blind applied only to people targeting you. Then again I never really played a lot of the stealth heroes so maybe its just a matter of mastering the changes. Time will tell.

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So in few words: Stealth players will have to think more carefully before committing.

As someone who plays on a very small screen and lags a lot, being easier to see stealthies is a big plus.

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I've a lv 104 Valeera and to me if they make me pratically visible as anything else they shoulda triple my damage because with that outline even a blind can see me and i won't land any damage teleport or not.

The stealth role is usaully go deep in backline and attack vulnerable targets but what happens if i go in the backline with an outline that even a blind can see...

I think they need to at least double the damage of all those heroes to balance how hard will be play being completely visible heroes that are made to target backline , because if the stealth is like this you can only target tanks at best or melee heroes no more squishy heroes that have tons of aoe and will kill you before even be in range to hit them

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It also is a nerf to all those "detect" counterpicks, namely Tassadar.

I would much more prefer a ghost protocol on D, but then I can change that myself...

Edited by Koxsos
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Yes,we saw big changes in heroes since hots2.0 but this one looks like removing 4heroes and stealth system from game and add new ones.. I hope they know what they're doing because it will change many things and i can't wait to see people's reaction and also see will people use them on ranked like past or no..

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Stealth was always problematic, hard to balance and a constant source for hate, disappointments and bad mood.

I'm not sure this change will make it much better but I hope so.

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a bunch ob BS.  I'm a pretty new player and none of my friends is at any high rank, most are bronze or like me, haven't even finished or started the 10 games to get ranked first, and NO one has any trouble locating stealthed heroes, IF we are actively paying attention and looking for them.  this change feels like they make stealthed heroes pointless and dumb down the game. sorry.

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Valeera seems she got a buff despite the invisibility rework because teleporting nullifies stealth visibility AND now she has a blind as well not to mention armor reduction that allows her to take on every hero. She literally has an ability for every type of hero.

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12 hours ago, Caldyrvan said:

Stealth was always problematic, hard to balance and a constant source for hate, disappointments and bad mood.

I'm not sure this change will make it much better but I hope so.

I think it will definitely make it less frustrating for new players, yet more rewarding to the stealthies that really know how to position themselves and gank properly; now they will have to think twice before commiting to any action instead of just diving on the backline and shredding everything. Let's see how the reworks work out.

From playing around with Valeera on PTR you actually pull insane 2k damage combos, and I'm not gonna even start with Zeratul with his new Heroic and baseline Shadow Assault... SO MUCH BURST.

Edited by Valhalen
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      Jaina: Jaina was last month's surprise for me, which is why I had her marked for promotion. I slightly feared Genji players, but after witnessing some more competent Jaina play (including my own not-so-competent experimentation), it's safe to say that Summon Water Elemental is absolutely key to dealing with him (along pretty much every other assassin in the game). For games with little melee assassin pressure, Ring of Frost remains a powerful win condition. Jaina also sports what is arguably the game's best waveclear potential, and can deal with mercenary camps extremely well with Frost Shards and Ice Lance. 
      Malthael: I can certainly see how Malthael's rework may have seemed rather grim to anyone underestimating the power of cleaving attacks. This change, though accompanied by slight nerfs to his damage and survivability, allowed his already powerful laning  to improve, just as with his ability to deal with mercenary camps. One should never underestimate the power of PvE, particularly in less organised play. Furthermore, his reliance upon Tormented Souls was reduced, allowing for Last Rites to actually get some playtime. I've been impressed with it, and I'm probably going to update his builds to reflect this newfound power.
      Abathur: Abathur is the kind of hero that comes and goes with the metagame state and who generally thrives in assassin-oriented states. As with Genji, I wouldn't be fooled by his limited winrates; he just simply tends to do better at higher level, more organised play, and particularly in longer matches. To avoid on Haunted Mines and Braxis Holdout. Please pick your Ultimate Evolution target responsibly, and go for an assassin, with Maiev, Genji, Hanzo, and Jaina making incredible targets. Incidentally, avoid Evolve Monstrosity; it has been tested and rejected a long time ago.
      Tychus: Not a big leap in tier, but a leap nonetheless. He went from seeing pretty much no play for quite a while to seeing some, including tournament play. As expected, he does well against Blaze and a few other bruisers, on top of being on the more resilient side of ranged assassins. Commandeer Odin is excellent, but the real sleeper here is Neosteel Coating, which can do funny things with Relentless Soldier.
      Probius: Nearly as unpopular as The Lost Vikings. Though I don't think he's bad, I certainly think he does not have a place in the current meta. All of the top picks do extremely well against him, as does diving in general. I really wish I had more insights here, but the very few times I did see him in the last month, it was rather sad to witness. 
      Sgt. Hammer: I initially had her as viable, but upon reading user comments, I had to agree: she does extremely well against team compositions that cannot deal with her, and poorly otherwise. This is basically what the Niche tier should be defined by. We could discuss at length why this design is rather unhealthy for the game, but I think Blizzard has recognized this by not releasing a single specialist in over a year.