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Heroes of the StormFeb 6, 2018 2:00 pm CT

Heroes of the Storm hero concept: Talonpriest Ishaal, Arakkoa Shadow Priest

If you know anything about me, you know that I really like World of Warcraft’s Shadow Priests. And if you’ve ever heard me answer the question, “Who do you want to see added to Heroes of the Storm?” you probably know my answer: Talonpriest Ishaal. Much to my chagrin, however, Blizzard hasn’t acquiesced to my request.

So I’m just gonna go ahead and make the hero myself. Take that, Blizz! (…No, really, take this idea and run with it, please.) With that in mind, let’s have some fun and imagine just what a Shadow Priest might look like in Heroes of the Storm.


Wait, who?

Maybe I should back up a bit. Talonpriest Ishaal is one of the cursed Arakkoa that you encounter while leveling. He was actually first seen back in Burning Crusade as part of a quest in Terokkar Forest, but back then, he was a bad guy. When you encounter him in alternate-reality Draenor, things are a bit different.

After finishing the story quests in Spires of Arak, Ishaal is ready to “improve this world before [he] fades away from it.” By which he means, he’ll happily become one of your garrison followers. But outside of being a follower, he’ll even serve as your bodyguard if you want him to!

Why Ishaal over everyone else? Because he’s an Arakkoa and a Shadow Priest, and this is my creation so no one can stop me!

Artwork by Kueshka

Baseline ability kit

Figuring out Ishaal’s starting abilities isn’t all that difficult — Shadow’s been around for a while, and despite multiple iterations, a few abilities have been around since the beginning. Being Heroes of the Storm, they’ll have to function a little differently, but it’s certainly workable.

The one thing I will note, though, is that all of these — and the talents later on — don’t really take numbers into account. Outside of that literally being someone else’s job in Blizzard’s design process, it’s also probably for the best here. I’d end up making Ishaal the strongest hero ever.

Below are the abilities I can see him being given as part of his standard ability pool:

  • Shadow Word: Pain (Q) — A word of darkness that causes the target to take Shadow damage every 3 seconds for 12 seconds. Generates 5 Insanity when used on enemy heroes.
  • Mind Blast (W) — Blasts the target’s mind for X amount of Shadow damage. Generates 25 Insanity.
  • Mind Flay (E) — Causes a small amount of damage over time to the target, slows movement speed by 20%. Generates 10 Insanity over the duration.
    • Mind Sear (Quest) — Deal X damage with Mind Flay,
    • Reward: Mind Flay now does 50% of its damage to enemies around the primary target.
  • Dispersion (R) — Reduces all damage taken by 60% and grants Unstoppable for 5 seconds. Pauses Insanity drain if in Voidform.
  • Void Torrent (R) — Channel Shadow energy at the target enemy for 6 seconds, causing a high amount of damage over the duration.
  • Shadowform (Trait) — Enveloped in Shadows, has increased armor. Abilities generate Insanity. At 100 Insanity, this Trait can be used to activate Voidform, which increases attack speed by X% every second. Insanity drains at an increasing rate the longer Ishaal remains in Voidform.

Possible talent choices

Level 1

  • Master of the Shadows (Quest) — Hero takedowns empower Shadowform, granting 3% increased Shadow damage, stacking up to 5 times. This bonus is lost on death.
  • Psychic Link (W) — Mind Blast now deals 30% of its damage to any nearby targets afflicted by Shadow Word: Pain.
  • Void Ray (E) — Consecutive Mind Flay casts on the same enemy hero cause increased damage and slow by more. Stacks up to 4 times.

The idea here is to give Ishaal a choice between straight hero damage, extra AOE before the Mind Sear quest is completed, and a bit of utility against heroes. It was hard to justify a baseline Shadowform that had increased damage, especially given some of the later talents. Making it a quest with a risk feels more reasonable.

Level 4

  • Void Pain (Q) — Your Shadow Word: Pain now deals X% of its damage instantly when cast.
  • Reaper of Souls (W) — Mind Blast deals increased damage to heroes below 35% health.
  • Shadow Orbs (W) — Every Mind Blast cast grants you a Shadow Orb. After gaining three Shadow Orbs, your next Mind Flay is empowered, dealing 100% increased damage.

Here, Ishaal has a choice between modifying all three of his abilities in different ways. The choices here offer an on-demand option, an execute-range option, and an option that allows you to bank damage for a burst window.

Level 7

  • Power Word: Shield (Active) — Grant a shield to the target ally for 5 seconds, absorbing X damage.
  • Psyfiend (Active) — Place a Psyfiend at the target location. Psyfiend lasts for 20 seconds and casts Mind Flay on nearby targets, prioritizing enemy heroes. This damage does not toward Mind Sear.
  • Vampiric Embrace (Passive) — You heal yourself for 10% of damage dealt to enemy heroes and 1% of damage dealt to all other targets.

While it’s hard to justify a full-on hybrid kit in Heroes of the Storm without turning Ishaal into something other than an Assassin, having at least a couple utility options felt necessary for the Priest. While Psyfiend is a little debatable since it causes damage, not counting its damage toward Mind Sear feels reasonable. That said, it could always function simply as an extra way to slow enemies without causing damage.

The other two options are signature Priest spells, one benefiting Ishaal’s team, the other giving him solo survivability. I wanted to make Vampiric Embrace baseline, but again, it was hard to justify given the way Heroes is balanced.

Level 10

  • Dispersion (R) — Reduces all damage taken by 60% and grants Unstoppable for 5 seconds. Pauses Insanity drain if in Voidform.
  • Void Torrent (R) — Channel Shadow energy at the target enemy for 6 seconds, causing a high amount of damage over the duration.

I debated giving Ishaal Last Rites — one of his WoW abilities as a Bodyguard — but it’s not really something most Shadow Priests would recognize. That and Malthael has a Heroic ability with the same name. With Dispersion and Void Torrent, Ishaal has defensive and offensive options. Removing the Insanity pause on Void Torrent also gives the choice a little more meaning.

Level 13

  • Auspicious Spirits (Q) — Shadow Word: Pain period damage causes a ghostly version of Ishaal to float toward the enemy hero, causing X damage.
  • Shadowy Insight (Q) — Shadow Word: Pain damage on enemy heroes has a chance to reset the cooldown on Mind Blast and make it instant.
  • Mind Trauma (E) — Mind Flay casts reset the duration of Shadow Word: Pain. This does not interrupt period damage.

This tier is intended to give Shadow Word: Pain some extra functionality, depending on the player’s preferred playstyle. Having Mind Trauma gives Ishaal a method of dealing more consistent damage against heroes and mercenaries without worrying about refreshing the DOT.

Level 16

  • Void Eruption (Trait) — Voidform is now instant cast and when you activate it, all enemy heroes with Shadow Word: Pain on them take X Shadow damage.
  • Vampiric Touch (Active) — The enemy hero takes X damage over time. Ishaal is healed for X% of the damage dealt. Generates 5 Insanity. 1.5 second cast.
  • Shadow Crash (Active) — Send a shadowy bolt at the target location, dealing X amount of damage to all targets in the area. Generates 15 Insanity.

As with most level-16 talent tiers, this one is meant to give Ishaal a significant power spike. Void Eruption’s damage is intended to be very high, hence only affecting heroes. Shadow Crash, meanwhile, does strong AOE against all types of targets, but won’t be as effective in team fights as Void Eruption might. And Vampiric Touch? Well, I couldn’t not include it — it’s a great, consistent single-target option with some added healing.

Level 20

  • Void Dispersion (R) — Damage taken reduced by 90% and causes Ishaal to heal for 30% of his health over the duration.
  • Torrential Void (R) — Void Torrent now deals 50% of its damage to all targets within 8 yards of the primary target.
  • Power Infusion (Active) — Increases casting speed by 25% for 15 seconds.
  • Twist of Fate (Active) — Damaging enemy heroes and mercenaries below 35% health increases all damage done by 20% for 5 seconds.

Power Infusion and Twist of Fate seemed like natural options, given their strength in WoW. Twist of Fate may need some tuning so it’s not the de facto choice, but having it not activate on minion waves should help keep it from being overpowered. Meanwhile, the two Heroic Ability upgrades are meant as just that — Heroic upgrades. I’m open to suggestions on the Void Torrent upgrade, however.

Overall, I… well, I honestly have no idea if this would make for a viable hero in HotS. At first, I didn’t have Voidform part of the kit because I wasn’t sure it would work with HotS’s gameplay. But including it seemed like a good way to make Ishaal more unique while justifying keeping his base spell coefficients lower.

So what do you think? What do you like about this? What could use more work? I’m curious to hear from you — this was a blast to come up with, but not easy by any means.

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