How Xul the Necromancer might shape the meta
In case you hadn't heard, one of the two new heroes to be revealed is none other than Diablo 2's necromancer. A shadowy priest of Rathma, Xul has dedicated his life to preserving the balance between life and death. With his summoning, poison, and cursing abilities, Xul looks like a force to be reckoned with in the Nexus.
His abilities, in case you missed them, are as follows:
- Raise the Dead (Trait): Raise skeletons from dead minions (max of 4), each skeleton lasts 15 seconds. Effective at pushing lanes and can absorb skill shots.
- Spectral Scythe (Q): Xul creates a Scythe at a target point and the Scythe returns to him, dealing damage to all enemies in its path. Xul can move about, allowing him to curve the trajectory of the scythe.
- Curse Strike (W): Turns Xul's basic attacks into an AoE attack and curses all enemies hit. The curse reduces attack speed of all enemies by 50%.
- Bone Prison (E): A close ranged targeted ability that roots the selected enemy hero for 2 seconds after a short 2 second delay. Not an AoE skill shot like Malfurion's Entangling Root. There will be a visible cue under the enemy hero.
- Poison Nova (R): Poison Nova is an AoE ability released from Xul which spreads and inflicts very high DOT damage.
- Skeleton Mages (R): Xul summons several stationary Skeleton Mages in a line. Skeleton Mages' basic attacks slow enemy heroes. Acts similarly to Tassadar's Force Wall, but does not block movement.
- Bone Armor (1): Grants a shield equal to 25% of Xul's total HP for 3 seconds.
Xul is intended to be an 'in your face' specialist who can split and debuff the enemy team. With his Bone Shield protecting him and skeleton minions blocking skillshots, he has more than enough tools in his kit already to survive going into the fray. Once he's there, watch out, as both of his ults can create confusion and disorder in a team fight, not to mention how slow he'll make your auto attacks with his W.
What exactly can he do?
The most obvious thing Xul counters is melee assassins. You know the ones that try to get right up on you and chew you down with auto attacks. Illidan, Thrall, and Butcher will all be highly hindered by the necro's attack speed slow on his W, his massive close range poison bomb, his wall of slowing skeles, his blocking skele minions, and his self shield to protect him even that much further. And if they try to disengage? Well I hope they enjoy being rooted and having a scythe tear through them.
Although melee assassins are the most egregious example, Xul can punish anyone who gets a little too close. His E, Bone Prison, is your worst nightmare if you're out of position especially if you don't have a movement ability. Flanking Jainas beware, once you see that symbol below your feet, you'd better back up or be rooted. Xul functions almost as a warrior with how much he's able to protect the backline, and at the same time wreck the enemy backline.
In addition to all of this, he has a talent that reduces the amount of healing received by a target when hit by his W. Not only is this a first for HotS, it's also an insanely powerful ability in its own right. If he isn't picked for his team disruption, he will more than likely be picked specifically for that talent.
Ok so then how do I stop him?
Kiting. Kiting the Necromancer will be a #1 priority for a team going against him. Most of his abilities are close range, so if you aren't close to him he won't be an issue at all. This makes heroes like Malfurion, Raynor, Jaina, and Kael'thas especially useful. Malf's long range root will stop him dead in his tracks. Raynor's poke will tear him down, and he can penetrating round if necro gets too close. Jaina has her slows of course, impairing movement heavily. Kael'thas is a little trickier, as you do need to land gravity lapse on Xul, but that combined with Kael's burst should be enough to dissuade him from further pursuit.
All of these heroes, and others with distance and cc are great against him, but you still have to be careful. Step too far forward, or flank from a wrong position and you're going to be trapped in bone and severely regretting your life choices. Pay close attention to where you are in relation to Xul. Tanks, your job is playing keep away. Push Xul away from your backline, that's where he does the most damage.
Healers, if Xul picks up the healing reduction talent, you'll need to find other ways of protecting your team. It isn't known yet whether it also reduces shields, but if not, that could be an excellent counter to it. Try and play carefully and bait out the W so it doesn't affect too many people at once. And remember, even if your healing is reduced on a target, you can't heal anyone if they're dead.
The importance of this character cannot be understated. Not only is he the first specialist to function more like a bruiser, but he sets a precedent for healing reduction capabilities in HotS. With that alone, I believe he will be enough to force supports to be smart about their abilities, and not just spam heals. He should be a strong pick in solo queue due to his self sustain and defensive abilities, not to mention his strength against an unorganized team.
He will be a strong pick against self healing melee assassins such as Thrall and The Butcher, but anyone who gets too close will be just as easy a target.
Stay tuned for speculation on Li-Ming the Wizard!
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