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Heroes of the StormMar 29, 2015 4:00 pm CT

Heroes of the Storm previews: Sylvanas and Tomb of the Spider Queen

It seems like all we’ve been talking about around the virtual Heroes of the Storm water cooler lately is the hotly anticipated Sylvanas hero. There’s also a new battleground to discuss as well, but we’ve been riveted with Sylvanas. Now that she’s released and I’ve had a chance to play with the Banshee Queen a bit, I can tell you that the anticipation was worth it.

Sylvanas, The Banshee Queen

Ranged Specialist

  • Current Cost: 15000 gold or $9.99 USD; $13.11 USD bundle with the Ranger General skin.
  • Q ability: Withering Fire — Shoot an arrow at the closest enemy. Gains charges when enemies are killed. Holds 5 charges.
  • W ability: Shadow Dagger — Damages an enemy over time and spreads.
  • E ability: Haunting Wave — Deals Damage and allows teleportation.
  • Heroic Ability 1: Wailing Arrow — Fire arrow that damages and silences enemies
  • Heroic Ability 2: Possession — Force an enemy minion to fight for you.
  • Trait: Black Arrows — Attacks and Abilities stun Mercenaries, Minions & Towers.

When I first jumped into game, I was a bit taken aback that Sylvanas was a Specialist instead of an Assassin. My plan was to swap her into my dailies team in Valla’s place as an Assassin, if I liked her enough. After playing her a bit, the Specialist designation is well deserved. Like her Specialist counterparts, if you leave Sylvanas alone in a lane, the next time you see that lane it’s going to be a smoking ruin.

Much of her versatility comes from her Black Arrows trait. It stuns minions and towers with both auto attacks and abilities, so if you position Sylvanas with a damaging Haunting Wave, then auto attack the far target while using her Withering Fire ability every second or so on the closer one (her Withering Fire target is highlighted with a stylized purple square), Sylvanas can completely lock down any 2 targets. While you’re playing her, you can tell that something is stunned if it’s covered in splotchy blue & black like the tower in the screenshot below.

sylvanas vs towers 2 heroes of the storm ab header

This is absolutely brutal on any map because, if left alone, Sylvanas can solo a gate and build a solid backing of minions while she does it. She can then solo a fort and tower combo, still building that huge group of minions for a push on the Core (the one enemy structure she can’t get to stop firing). On Haunted Mines this is particularly deadly because she can support her team’s Grave Golem by shutting down the gates, making it effortless even for a low-skull Golem to burst through and assault the Core. She can solo temples in the Sky Temple battleground without breaking a sweat, and can make solo pushes at extremely low levels on Blackheart’s Bay using the ogre mercenaries.

The trade-off for her Siege capability and ridiculous innate DPS is that Sylvanas is squishy when pressed. Haunting Wave does help her get away, especially across terrain. The level 13 talent Overwhelming Affliction, which allows Black Arrows to slow opposing Heroes, is excellent for kiting, too. The same tier also has Evasive Fire, which buffs your Withering Fire with a movement speed increase for Sylvanas, which may be preferable on certain maps, or against certain opponents.

Also on the lack of survival front, Sylvanas has only 2 heals, and they’re both talents. At level 7, Life Drain alters the Shadow Dagger ability to heal for each enemy hit with the spread. This one is mostly used strategically, when you’ve got a group of creeps or Heroes you’re going against. At level 16 is Blood For Blood, an ability you may be familiar with from playing heroes like Sonya or Tyrael, that deals 15% of an opponent’s health and slows them. Blood for Blood is excellent for both kiting and to complement Sylvanas’ burst DPS offense.

Another very notable trade off are her Heroic Abilities, which are currently lackluster. Wailing Arrow is the better of the two. It’s an aimed arrow that travels a relatively long distance, and then explodes to silence your opponents, minions, etc. It’s useful especially against support classes as an interrupt in a big scrum, but it takes so long to travel that it takes a bit of getting used to. Her other Heroic ability is the abysmal Possession. Unless it’s talented at level 20, the only thing you can Possess is your opponents’ standard lane minions. By level 10, Sylvanas typically mows the entire group down in seconds, and if you took Life Drain at level 7 you’re just removing one heal target for yourself. The level 20 talent that boosts Possession allows you to Possess enemy mercenaries, but only if your opponents have already sent them down your lanes, giving you very little control.

Overall, Sylvanas is a dynamic character with lots of tricks to show off. She’s invaluable in team fights and on offensive siege duty.

Can’t get enough of Sylvanas? The Sylvanas Week blog post on the official Heroes Of The Storm site is jammed full of additional lore and fanart for you to Possess.

Tomb of the Spider Queen

I also got a chance to play a couple of rounds on the new battleground, Tomb of the Spider Queen. The map itself is middling in size, with 3 equidistant lanes. The gimmick here will be familiar to players who’ve fired a cannon or two in Blackheart’s Bay. You kill things to get them to drop gems, which you collect by running over them. You use the gems at your leisure at one of 2 spider nests located in the middle of the map on either side of lane 2. If you get to 50 (with the total increasing by 5 each time you reach the goal), powerful spiders will drop from the ceiling in all lanes to help boost your team to victory. When you die, you drop all your gems for other Heroes to pick up, so you have to turn them in strategically.


The diversion from Blackheart’s Bay is that, rather than coins being tied to secondary objectives in their initial drops, the only way to get gems is by staying in the lanes and killing opposing minions. Specifically, the 3 “archer” mobs at the back each drop one, making it beneficial to wait until a gate drops to kill a creep wave, if possible. Captured mercenary camps do not drop gems, and in general mercs are tough to manage because when the spiders are in the lanes, the camps despawn. Like Blackheart’s Bay, when you kill opposing Heroes holding gems, they drop the gems they are holding — but they’re designated by color for each team, so you can only pick up half the gems dropped by fallen Heroes. The dropped gems also despawn very quickly. They persist just slightly longer than the green healing orbs dropped by the wizard minions. Unless you’ve got a lot of healing or escape mechanisms, laning alone can be a very dangerous proposition, because there’s no way your team can scoop up the gems you’ve collected when you die.

As a relatively casual, mostly PUG player, I found it a lot more fun than Blackheart’s Bay. With 2 spider nests to turn gems into, it’s a lot harder to have your PUG totally locked down from turning in. In Blackheart’s Bay the opposing team can just camp the single ghost pirate to gain board position. However, it’s also far easier to watch from lanes and get to the turn ins in time when you see your opponents making their way there, making for some big fights. Between gem acquisition and spider nests, this map is all about lane control, so it’s very easy for beginners who aren’t sure what to do to contribute just by laning.

If you’d like to see it in high-def action, the Heroes team just released their own preview of this arachnophobic’s worst nightmare.

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