Valeera: Not So Terrible After All

Forgot to do a post last week, my bad there.  We’re about three weeks into season 4 and I still haven’t done placements, so I guess this weekend/the next post will be all about that.  But for this week, things are going pretty well with Valeera now, though I still can’t figure out how to be successful with the librarian (AKA silence) build from that guide I linked last week.  But, here’s how it went for me.

Level 1: Subtlety, Combat Readiness, Vigor (in descending order of preference)

Combat readiness is the anti auto-attack choice, especially in quick match when you’re unlikely to have a healer.  It’s great at protecting you from auto attacks after you eviscerate someone, setting you up for the next one.

As for vigor, it sounds good, but try getting 20 regen globes as Valeera in less than 15 minutes.  It’s even harder to complete this quest than it is for the Butcher to get 125 meat (and far less tasty).

Oh, and to answer my own question from last week: crippling poison isn’t more popular because it’s easy enough to land a three-point eviscerate without it.  Ambush/cheap shot, (probably) sinister strike, you’re there.  If you got unstealthed before landing one of those, you shouldn’t be chasing anyway.

Level 4: Initiative

This is really the only choice.  Wound poison seems good, but at best, you’re only going to stop one heal with it (or with continuous healing, a few seconds’ worth).  The only hero that really cares about this is a Rehgar who Ancestrals someone after you poison them.  It’s just not worth giving up the extra damage that a free combo point via initiative gives you (and a block charge, if you went combat readiness).

Level 7: Assassinate, Mutilate, Fatal Finesse (distant 3rd)

I’d take mutilate only when I’m facing an auto-attack team, because it combines well with cheap shot/blind.  Assassinate for the other times.

Fatal finesse (quest to hit people with blade flurry) is something I’ve had zero success with, probably because I reread the guide just now and realized I was doing it all wrong.  But, that’s probably because it’s only supposed to be used against double healer teams, and how many of those you see in quick match?

Anyway, for fatal finesse you absolutely must take wound poison, or it’s pointless.  So you open, activate poison, then flurry on everyone you can, inflicting poison on them all.

Level 10: Smoke Bomb, Cloak of Shadows (distant second)

Cloak is only supposed to be used in the anti-healer build, which I haven’t had much luck with for reasons I just mentioned.

With smoke, remember that it doesn’t work if you move out of the cloud.  Get used to escaping death with it, or you’ll have teammates telling you to kill yourself like I did.

Level 13: Death from Above, Blind (distant second)

Blind is just extra protection from auto-attack teams, and great against solo auto attackers.  Cheap shot, which blinds them; then sinister strike, which will get you up to 3 combo points while they’re stunned; when they recover, eviscerate, which will grant you block, but they can’t hit you anyway, because they’re blinded.

Level 16: Expose Armor, Seal Fate (distant second)

Seal Fate is only for the anti-AA build.

Level 20: Nightslayer

Cold blood is more popular, but I forget to use it sometimes.  I’ll have to fix that.  Nightslayer should be only for those times when you’re getting revealed a lot.  For example today I played against a Zagara, Nazeebo, Butcher, Alarak, Abathur team.  It’s really tough to get an ambush off against that.

Now for general guidelines:

Do everything you can to let someone else engage.  You’re far better when you land an assassinate/cheap shot.  I’m not a big fan of garrote.  Maybe I’d use it if I could guarantee that someone died during its effect, but when does that ever happen?

If you’re ambushing, use sinister strike, then eviscerate.  It’s harder to hit with than blade flurry, so you might be tempted to use that instead, but you’ll have a harder time following it up with eviscerate because of flurry’s higher energy cost.  So choose wisely.

If you’re using cheap shot, you have to use sinister strike, because seal fate gives you an extra combo point and damage against stunned targets.  It’d be a total waste to use flurry.  You can then land a 3 point eviscerate before they get away.

Don’t panic when you throw down a smoke bomb.  A lot can happen in its five second duration, such as the opportunity to re-stealth and land an ambush or something.  Just remember to stay in the cloud.

If it’s really hard to stay stealthed, you could always let someone engage, stealth right next to them, then open, because even if they know you’re there you’re unrevealable for a split second.

Play like you don’t have stealth, i.e. don’t chase and don’t fight 1v2 or something just because the enemy’s low on health.

Next week: Butcher guide?  Placement match results?  We’ll see.  Valeera probably won’t make the cut for ranked play though.

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I Hate Valeera and Other Random Thoughts

I wanted to do a Valeera guide for this week, even though I hate her.  Oftentimes I hate a hero at first but end up loving them later, such as with Greymane when he was still good.  But Valeera, I just can’t figure her out.  It’s gotten so bad that teammates tell me to kill myself and I leave a couple of games a day because, honestly, being dead is more fun than playing Valeera.  So I’m going to go through the learning process I’ve had so far and maybe some trend(s) will emerge along the way.

Phase 1: One Size Fits All

The first thing I do when trying to learn a new hero is check the hotslogs.com talent page for the most popular diamond/master talents (as you might have guessed from reading this blog).  This led me to a subtlety, initiative, assassinate, smoke bomb, death from above, expose armor, cold blood build.

So then I thought “okay, I have to use ambush/eviscerate as much as I can.”

Followed by:

“Oh crap, I got revealed.  What the hell do I do now?”

“Wouldn’t cheap shot be better if the team is chasing down one fleeing enemy?”

“Wouldn’t garrote be better against a caster team?”

So right away there are several problems.  In addition to the above I also wind up laning by myself sometimes, which I’m told is bad.  OK, fine.  Some heroes are like that like Diablo or ETC.  What am I gonna do, just leave?  If there are no good soloers mid, who’s gonna switch?

OK, so don’t solo, and figure out what to do if I get revealed.  Got it.

But even before that, I don’t know how to deal maximum damage.  You’d better have your combo worked out before you attack, or you’re screwed.  You don’t want to rack up three combo points and then realize you have no energy to eviscerate somebody, during which time you’re going to die.  Or, they’re simply going to run.

Speaking of running, this is a massive problem.  Why isn’t crippling poison more popular?  It only gets picked 12.5% of the time.  What am I missing?

Just realized this now…maybe in an obvious hit and run situation, I should simply eviscerate with two combo points instead of three, even though I have the energy to ambush/blade flurry/eviscerate immediately.  With Zeratul, I’d blink in, cleave/singularity spike, and blink out.  Maybe I need to try that with Valeera, and then sinister strike away.  We’ll see.

Anyway, I realized that just now, so it’s not what led me to phase two.  All of the above had a hand in it.

Phase Two: The Specialist

I don’t read heroesfire.com hero guides that much anymore, because mostly they’re lazy talent builds and nothing more.  And even when a hero is crying out for an updated guide, I don’t expect to find a good one.  But, it was desperation time, so I read “OCM’s Valeera” where he outlined standard combos, and more specialized anti-melee and silence builds.

My first game after reading it, I came up against four auto attackers on dragon shire, so I picked the anti-melee build which involved taking combat readiness.  But it’s hard to get anything done against the dragon, especially when Hyperion is active against your fort.  It might not hit you while stealthed, but it’ll at least separate from you from your teammates.

I think I got to 3/5, a lot better than 1/9 of the game before, and then Tassadar started complaining that we were getting rekt.  Then we went four levels down.  Then, you guessed it, I just left because I don’t want to play with quitters.

All this, and I’m still not level 5.  I guess I’ll get there to recoup 5% of what I paid for her, then play unranked drafts to get ready for season 4 placement matches.  We’ll see.

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Season 4 Strategy

To get to Diamond this season I think I need to get placed in at least mid-Platinum.  Otherwise it’s going to be a long grind, even with a high win rate, and that’s certainly no given.

The key thing that I finally learned the hard way the last time around is that playing support is no good for anyone, so I’m going to avoid it as much as possible, and the best way to do that is to pick a hero as soon as possible.  That way, nobody gets mad at you for saying you don’t want to play support at the last second.

Luckily, with everyone playing double warrior now, every support not named Lucio sucks anyway.

So anyway, onto the draft strategy.

TOP 7 HEROES (i.e., the ones that should be picked pre-ban or banned outright): Anub’arak, Dehaka, Ragnaros, Varian, Nazeebo, Sonya, Thrall

Another effect of double warrior’s popularity is that pretty much every assassin sucks now too, so you should take one of them if you get the chance.  Ragnaros and Thrall.  That’s pretty much it these days.

Sometimes the Butcher can do great things–I’ve heard that he works great with a surging Nazeebo and that’s the main reason for Malfurion being downgraded–but you have to make sure he can’t get countered.  The last person I want to face when playing Butcher is Zarya.  One thing that has worked out in his favor is that the top support doesn’t have cleanse, so lamb to the slaughter rises in effectiveness.

As long as he can get meat quickly, which means laning with as many people as possible, he should be fine, even if he’s forced to go furnace.

Thrall is another guy that might benefit from a warrior-heavy environment.  Wait until someone engages, throw down earthquake in a crowd of people who can’t run away, and have some fun.  Bonus points if you’ve gotten to level 20 and picked earthen shields.

Nazeebo is the biggest surprise.  Until yesterday, I don’t think I’d played him since 2015.  However, now that damage is in such short supply, it’s time to try to learn him again.  The worst mistake I’ve made so far is trying to do too much.  It’s extremely hard to hit someone with zombie wall, and even if you do it can be a double-edged sword and trap one of your teammates.  Even if you lower a wall like that ASAP, that can get a teammate killed.

Spider builds are all the rage, so I think the key with troll-head man is to make sure you don’t miss with them.  If you’re disciplined, it shouldn’t be hard to hit someone with spiders in environment full of lumbering hulks and immobilizing effects.

Second Tier: Diablo, Zarya

Diablo’s pretty good, but he doesn’t reach my first tier of warriors because he’s a terrible soloer.  That’s a real problem in a pug team.

Zarya’s damage is crap unless the other team hits whoever’s under the effect of a shield.  Unless it’s the Butcher, who’s going to do that now?  I think she can also be good against Tychus, as long as she throws down shield during minigun.  If he takes laser drill, you could shield its target.  He’s easily focused, and it’s tough to change the drill target when you’re running for your life…if there’s even another one in range that is.

Third Tier: The Butcher, ETC

I downgraded ETC because he’s also a terrible soloer, but even more than that, rock star doesn’t help as much without powerful auto attackers in the team.  On the other hand, he should be able to catch at least three in every mosh pit, so I might be underestimating him.  Also, he might work well with Sonya.  I just haven’t had very good results with him personally.

And meat man?  The ideal situation for him would be a map with a lot of laning time for meat gathering–which rules out dragon shire, garden of terror, and others–and an enemy who can’t cleanse.  Even then, I think getting meat is far more important.  Even if you go lamb against cleanse, slaughterhouse or using lamb against the cleanser means it can still be effective.  But from now on, I’m not going to chase for any reason until I get my meat.  Let’s see how it goes.

Top 3 things to remember for season 3:

  1. Chasing is very rarely worth it.  Don’t chase.
  2. Don’t let the enemy get between you and your base if at all possible.
  3. Anticipate the enemy’s moves better.  If you don’t see them and they’re not dead, assume they’re coming for you.  This is especially important when chasing, which you shouldn’t do anyway.
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Sonya Guide

At this very moment, I’m waiting for the game I just quit to end, so I can start a new one with teammates who don’t give up after six and a half minutes.  If you don’t think you can win down two levels and zero towers, why even play?

Also, I realized that posts get later and later each week, and now here we are on Saturday of a postless week.  So instead of writing about loser teammates again, it’s a guide for someone who I always hated but now like a little bit: Sonya.

Sonya’s career is a microcosm of Murky’s past few weeks: she was crap, then great, then crap again, and now is making a comeback.  Well, almost: Murky isn’t in the comeback stage yet.

Anyway, onto the talents, and then the general outline of how to play her.

Level 1: Block (20.1% of Master/Diamond players)

This tier might contain the most difficult choice for Sonya players, but it shouldn’t be in my opinion.  I’m going to go against the 67.3% of master/diamond players who choose war paint for several reasons.

For this blog, I do the hard work of crunching the numbers.  Specifically, I took Sonya to try mode to find out the DPS of her basic attacks at level 20: 242.  Granted, I was using a build that didn’t include focused attack or follow through, but judging by the hotslogs numbers, you will only use one of those at most, probably focused attack  (49.8%).

For comparison, Tychus does over 700 DPS with basic attacks, even without minigun.  To simplify things, your choice is basically between healing 30% of 242 DPS (war paint) or blocking 30% of some auto attacker’s DPS.  So I think if the other team has even one auto-attacker*, block is the obvious choice.

We haven’t even gotten to the fact that war paint can’t help you if you’re running or using whirlwind.  So healing 73 health/second is your absolute best case scenario, if you’re playing to maximize your war paint.  Which you would only do if you’re an idiot who never uses whirlwind.

*: Yes, I know Tychus is a bad example for this because he’ll attack roughly 22 times every 5 seconds, of which you can block only two.  However, let’s say he does 700 DPS (which I think is a bit low).  Those two attacks will hit you for about 64 damage.  Block two of them, and that’s reduced to 16, so you prevented 48 damage.  Even if you landed basic attacks continuously on someone who wasn’t running and never used whirlwind, you’d only heal, as I said, 73.  So I still like block here.

Level 4: Focused Attack (49.8%)

I’m a bit torn on this one.  With so many roots and stuns out there right now, you should probably go for hurricane if they have someone like a Malfurion.  And Sonya’s just not at her best when attacking a single target: the more people she’s hitting with whirlwind, the better she is.  So I’d go with focused attack, BUT there will be many times you’d take hurricane instead.

Level 7: Ferocious Healing (42.8%)

Sonya’s at her best when hitting lots of heroes with whirlwind, and since you’re a bruiser rather than a real tank, you’re probably going to need more healing.  You can do this every ten seconds.  I’d use it every chance I got.

Level 10: Wrath of the Berserker (68.4%)

The problem with Leap is that they can run away.  Well, one of the problems.  So let’s say you get to level 20 and get Arreat Crater and now they can’t run away.  You’ve probably targeted the key to the enemy’s team, such as a Hammer or Morales.  That means, even in a pug, their teammates are probably going to swarm you.  And as a bruiser rather than a true tank, that’s not a good position to be in.

With wrath of the berserker, spear, whirlwind, and various shields, you can greatly disrupt their team instead, and better yet, you probably won’t die.

Level 13: Life Funnel (65.5%)

Mystical spear is a distant second at 25%, but I admit I’m intrigued.  It might do well against a team featuring a key target or two.  For example, you spear hammer, she knocks you back, but with mystical spear you can go at her again faster, and no matter how far away she runs.  You know what I think I’m going to try that next time I’m up against Hammer as Sonya, because screw Hammer.

When Hammer’s good it’s like when the left-wing lock was popular in ice-hockey, or ultra-defensive styles reign in soccer.  Sure it might work, but even your own fans hate watching you.

Level 16: Nerves of Steel (77.9%)

Just more effective than imposing presence, and also works against mages.

Level 20: Ignore Pain (79.4%)

I’m a little surprised that nexus blades edges out arreat crater for first loser on this tier.  Even among leap fans, arreat crater was only chosen 13.3% of the time.  That’s just how good ignore pain’s “massive armor” is.

And now for the Sonya general section.  The most important thing is to hit with spear.  If you don’t, it will be 13 seconds until you can try again, and you’ll have to rely entirely on basic attacks to generate fury.  And as we saw in the level 1 talent section, your basic attacks are not your forte.

The best way to ensure you hit with spear is to use it on:

  • Immobilized players
  • Distracted players
  • Fleeing players

This doesn’t include people dancing around though.  Let someone else engage those guys.

An alternative is to play against Samuro.  Then, you can hardly miss!

Yet another option is to build up fury before a fight, because spear hits on minions/mercs still generate fury, and fury lasts until used.  Just make sure you do it before you have to mount up.

With Sonya it’s especially important not to take fights when you’re outnumbered.  If you’ve got your whole team with you, you’re set, but be very wary about chasing anyone.

As for what abilities to use, against heroes, I’d use whirlwind at absolutely every opportunity, unless you’re utterly desperate for fury to use ferocious healing.  Whirlwind is just superior in almost every way.  It does a lot more damage per fury (~11 to ~7) than seismic slam, even against a single hero, and it heals you for 75% of the damage dealt if you’re fighting heroes.  Add 100% to these benefits for each enemy hero hit.

The only reason I could think of to use slam is fighting something you know won’t hit you back, and won’t run.  So in other words, bosses, mercs, or minions that are being tanked by someone else.  Which are probably the only things that will stay in range anyway.

Even against an enemy hero determined to fight to the death, whirlwind’s healing makes it a net winner over slam.

That’s it for this guide then.  I just tried block against a team with Sonya/Samuro/Zul’jin/Murky/Azmodan on it and got MVP, so I’m happy with it (obviously, one game proves everything 😉  I’ll take my 7/4/79k stats against their Sonya’s 5/13/69k any day.  And the teams were basically identical; swap Samuro and Zul’jin for Thrall/Jaina and you get my team.

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Ball Kickers Episode 1

This is completely unrelated to Heroes of the Storm, but I just thought I’d post it here rather than go to the trouble of setting up another wordpress site.  It’s about what would happen if intramural soccer teams were owned by James Bond villains.  Also: one team is cursed, a manager tries to get revenge on his former boss, three fanatical team podcast hosts attempt to break the curse, and so on.

********

SCENE 1

WHAT IF THE GOVERNMENT CRIPPLED PRO SPORTS WITH CRAZY LAWS, AND PEOPLE CARED MORE ABOUT INTRAMURAL TEAMS THAN PRO TEAMS? AND THOSE TEAMS WERE OWNED BY FOREIGN BILLIONAIRES WHO WERE EVEN CRAZIER?

2007

(Interior, Day. The workplace of a FORTUNE TELLER, who’s going for an ‘exotic’ look without overdoing it. In strides an absurdly dressed man. You immediately feel that he must have a huge ego, though after a few seconds’ observation it’s possible he could take a joke after all).

TELLER: (Taking his appearance in stride) What can I do for you?

PINCHBACK: So you can see the future, correct?

TELLER: I go where the cards take me.

PINCHBACK: Vague yet charming. I like you. (TELLER seems a tiny bit nervous). I want to ask you about something I’m already sure of. Just to make sure you’re accurate, you know.

TELLER: Okay. (Gets out the tarot cards and begins shuffling).

PINCHBACK: My question is this: will my team defeat our hated rivals and win the championship today?

TELLER: Please, sit down. (PINCHBACK does so).

(TELLER finishes shuffling and reveals the first card: death).

PINCHBACK: Is that bad?

TELLER: Not necessarily.

(TELLER flips another card: also death).

PINCHBACK: (now slightly agitated) What about that?

(TELLER looks a bit puzzled, but says nothing and flips another card: yet again, death).

PINCHBACK: What kind of sick joke is this? They’re all death cards!

TELLER: I swear they’re not! (She shows cards to PINCHBACK. Indeed, none of the visible cards are death. PINCHBACK seizes the deck and flips six more cards at a quickening pace. All death).

PINCHBACK (close to losing it): You’ve cursed us all you crazy hag! You know what, I’m sure you’re wrong. In fact, I’m gonna double down on that.

SCENE 2

BALL HANDLERS LOCKER ROOM

(A locker room. There’s a MANAGER addressing his players. There’s also a statue of a gnome on the table).

MANAGER: So that’s why it’s so important to stop #9 Murgatroyd. Do that, and we’ll keep the title. And if you ever doubt yourselves, we still have the lucky statue. (Phone rings, it’s PINCHBACK). Sorry guys, it’s the owner. Gotta take this. Maybe he’ll wish us good luck. (To phone): Hello?

PINCHBACK: I’ve just sold your golden boy.

MANAGER: Is that even legal? We’re about to walk onto the field!

PINCHBACK: Look, I needed some quick cash in order bet on us. I had to prove a fortune teller wrong. You understand.

MANAGER: (displaying masterful restraint) I’ve put up with a lot this year. The clown incident. The trust falls. Having you play with us at practice. But none of those affected us on the field.

PINCHBACK: Look, just win, okay? (Hangs up).

SCENE 3

(Soccer field. Day).

ANNOUNCER: (voiceover) Hello and welcome to the final and title-deciding game of the 2007 season between Ball Handlers and Playground Legends. Let’s not beat around the bush here: Ball Handlers are the overwhelming favorites, having won eight straight titles and in the process earned 1-200 odds from Vegas. Only a year of devastating injures has allowed Playground Legends to get this close. As for Legends, they’ll hope for a moment of genius from star midfielder Tony Murgatroyd, and if they can’t get that they’ll have to rely on lucky bounces, long balls, and set pieces like less-skilled teams throughout history.

HALFTIME: PLAYGROUND LEGENDS 0, BALL HANDLERS 0

(PINCHBACK makes a beeline to his car as the teams adjourn for halftime, and starts drinking immediately).

90’ + 2’

(A LEGENDS PLAYER kicks the ball into a crowd near the Ball Handlers goal and a few BALL HANDLERS PLAYERS get a foot to it, but it soon winds up in the Ball Handlers’ net).

ANNOUNCER: And Murgatroyd scores one of the flukiest goals of all time! Playground Legends are champions!

(PINCHBACK staggers toward the lucky statue dragging a sledgehammer, intending to destroy it. MANAGER is appalled).

MANAGER: What are you doing? And where’d you get a sledgehammer?

PINCHBACK: What’s it look like? Its luck has run out.

MANAGER: Nobody wins every year and half the players are superstitious. What are they gonna do if they find out you smashed their good luck charm?

PINCHBACK: So what? I just lost like eleventy billion dollars.

MANAGER: Give me the sledgehammer and let’s go to the car. Then we’ll figure out what to do to take your mind off it. Whatever you’re into.

PINCHBACK: Really? Anything?

MANAGER: Just don’t make any rash decisions. I’ll help you down to the car.

(MANAGER glances back at the statue as he takes the sledgehammer in one hand and supports PINCHBACK with the other. When they reach it he puts the sledgehammer in the trunk, closes it, and the silhouette of PINCHBACK is visible in the passenger seat. He walks over to PINCHBACK).

MANAGER: I’m going to let the players know what’s going on OK?
PINCHBACK: Sure. Whatever.

(MANAGER hurries back and reaches the spot formerly occupied by the statue, but it’s not there anymore and he looks dejected).

SCENE 4

PLAYGROUND LEGENDS OFFICE, 2014

(Day. Office of GORDON GUFFMAN, who carries himself like the dangerous oligarch he was in his former country as he paces around the room).

GUFFMAN: (on the phone, clearly eager to interrupt) Look, Lorenzo, I don’t care how much you think you need him. The man was trying to find the next great player by examining their testicles. Do you have any idea what kind of roasting we’re going to get on social media? Leave that to the Ball Handlers (Pause). Well we could replace him with anyone we want, and at least 80% of players and scouts are average. You know this (Pause). Okay, but since he’s displeased me he’s still getting the usual treatment. (GUFFMAN hangs up).

GUFFMAN: (shouting) Manservant!

(MANSERVANT speed-walks into the room, places a drink on GUFFMAN’s desk, and swiftly departs).

(GUFFMAN takes a swig, then writes ‘Major Polkinghorne’ on the corner of a legal notepad. Tearing the name off, he then places it into a fishbowl filled with many such pieces, presumably other names. An alarm goes off).

GUFFMAN: Oh yes, of course. (GUFFMAN vigorously shakes the fishbowl, and is careful to avoid dropping it or letting papers fly out. Placing it on the desk, he walks to the other side of the room, rubs a trophy for good luck, returns to the fishbowl, and dramatically plucks out a name. Pausing a second, he looks at the paper. A wry smile appears).

(Cut to a scene of LORENZO addressing his players).

LORENZO: Congratulations on your tenth straight win, everyone. Our lead over Ashley is 12 points with only 21 left to play for, but don’t let up. I don’t just want to win, I want to humiliate them next week. Make sure you pick up the game plan before you go. You’ll know what they’re thinking before they do.

(Cut to an empty locker room; LORENZO is just about to leave when two SECURITY GUARDS enter).

SECURITY GUARD: Lorenzo Markovik?

LORENZO: (suspecting all sorts of things) Who?

SECURITY GUARD: (checks his phone) We’re here to escort you off the premises.

LORENZO: What the hell for?

SECURITY GUARD: Your number was up.

LORENZO: How did I even get in there though? I’ve won ten straight games and three straight titles! I never ask for more money for players! Hell, I even take care of Guffman’s fish!

SECURITY GUARD: That’s none of our concern.

LORENZO: Yeah, well screw this job anyway.

SCENE 5

(Bedroom, night. LORENZO is worriedly pacing around the room. He tries to make a call, but gives up after a half-dozen rings. The he texts someone named Annie: ‘When are you and the kids getting home? Tough day at work today’).

(Bedroom, day. LORENZO is sleeping, and nothing is out of place here. The doorbell rings; he quickly wakes up and checks the time, expressing dismay that he’s gotten up later than usual. Cut to LORENZO at the door in a bathrobe to see two police officers).

OFFICER 1: Lorenzo Markovik?

LORENZO: Why does everyone keep saying that?

OFFICER 1 (handing LORENZO a manila envelope): This is a summons to appear in court tomorrow at 8 AM on charges of child molestation, spousal abuse, and creation and distribution of child pornography. Have a nice day. (OFFICERS begin walking back to their car).

LORENZO: Wait, this can’t be real. There’s no way you’d let a guy who really did all this stuff walk the streets.

OFFICER 1: (who has now reached his car) Save it for the judge, you sick bastard.

OFFICER 2: I’m just glad your family got away before you could do any more damage.

(OFFICERS drive away).

(LORENZO just stands at his doorstep, dumbfounded. After a few seconds he opens the envelope and removes the contents. There is a lone sheet of paper saying: “Screw this job anyway. -Guffman.” LORENZO gets back into bed. Fade out).

(Fade in again to LORENZO receiving a message on his phone, waking him up. His room has become the tiniest bit disorganized; maybe there’s a sock on the floor or something. The message is an amber alert, and it says: “ATTENTION: local sick bastard Lorenzo Markovik is now living at 111 Anywhere St. He has been convicted of multiple sex crimes against women and children from his own family. You know what to do. Check our website for more information.” LORENZO goes to the website and sees that he is now listed as a sex offender).

LORENZO: (seeing that there’s a mug shot) When did they take that? (He notices a car driving by, and ducks his head down. A few seconds’ pause for thought, and he heads to the closet and locates a duffel bag labeled ‘Break in Case of Apocalypse’).

LORENZO: (upon seeing the bag) Might as well be the apocalypse.

(He’s about to walk out the back door when he stops himself to grab a picture of his family. Next, we hear loud knocking at the door. LORENZO instinctively ducks down, but once he realizes nobody can see him from outside, he looks out the back door and sees a fence off in the distance. In the next cut LORENZO is running towards the fence as fast as the duffel bag will permit him. Once he reaches it, he throws the bag over and vaults the fence after it).

SCENE 6

2017

(Late morning. A messy bedroom. The sole occupant, JONAS, has not left the house for several days, judging by the crutches, empty pizza boxes, and clothes flung about the room. He has also fallen asleep with his headphones in).

JONAS: Damn! (His phone alarm has gone off right in his ears, and he jolts awake as though shot out of a cannon. He notes the time and struggles to reach a nearby container of cookies without getting out of bed. Suddenly there is a knock at the door).

JONAS: (Under his breath) What the…? (Shouting) Just a second!

(JONAS makes his way to the door on crutches but there is no cast. He looks through the peephole to see the suit-clad ASSISTANT waiting patiently. JONAS is puzzled by this but opens the door anyway).

ASSISTANT: Message for you, sir. (He hands JONAS an envelope and then briskly turns and walks away. The envelope reads: “Ball Handlers.” JONAS considers shouting to discover the subject of this letter, but he soon realizes what it might be about, and in any case ASSISTANT strides out of sight too quickly).

(JONAS settles back down on the bed, this time granting himself easier access to the cookies but also Mountain Dew, savoring them. He opens the letter and begins reading).

VOICEOVER: Congratulations on being selected for the Ball Handlers intramural soccer team for this season. We know about your injury, but our sources tell us that you will soon recover fully, so we took a chance on you. We hope you will meet your new manager and teammates even if you do not feel 100% by the first practice. In the box you will find a charm from our owner’s homeland in the Austrian foothills (shot of JONAS opening the box). It can either grant you a minor wish that only benefits you, or it can hurt your enemies if you have something of theirs, like a hair or a personal item. Will it work? Is it a test? That’s up to you to find out. Meriwether Pinchback, owner of Ball Handlers.

SCENE 7

FAN PODCAST HEADQUARTERS

(Interior. Day. A dimly-lit room, one that has not been used in months. PHIL, the self-described overlord of the Ball Handlers’ fan podcast “Balls to the Wall” enters and sets up the microphone again. He then dusts off a photo of the 2006 championship team, which is marked as such. And finally, he dramatically stabs a voodoo doll with GUFFMAN’S name on it).

(Cut to PHIL seated behind the mic. The lights are now on, and DAVE and SCOTT have joined him).

PHIL: Hello everyone, and welcome to Balls to the Wall, the Ball Handlers Podcast. As always, I’m your host PHIL, and this week I’m joined by DAVE and SCOTT. Well everyone, let’s get right down to it. Is this the year?

DAVE: No.

SCOTT: So optimistic!

PHIL: Goodnight everyone, don’t bother following along this season.

DAVE: Why would you think we’d win? Our first-round pick Jonas is still injured. The owner hasn’t been seen since inheriting the team in ‘07 and is probably on crazy pills, and we still need a new manager, the most likely candidate for which might be banned for being a convicted criminal, even if he was framed.

PHIL: OK, slow down, and let me give you the counterpoint, AKA how things really are because I’m the podcast overlord. We haven’t been losing out recently because of bad decisions, right?

DAVE: Right.

PHIL: You can’t blame anyone but Jenkins for his getting poked in the eye by his Japanese fighting beetle five games before the end. Now, as for our new player, maybe management looked into it and the injury’s not that bad. Maybe, instead of ‘crazy pills,’ Pinchback is completely obsessed with winning the title because that’s all he’s got. And for all we know, Markovik, if he is in fact the new manager, has a poster of Guffman in his bedroom just to remind himself just how badly he wants revenge.

DAVE: That doesn’t matter if we’re cursed.

PHIL and SCOTT: Come on!

(In mid-cry, cut to PHIL speaking).

FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER

PHIL: And now it’s time for everyone’s favorite segment, the triggering, where we look at who made a complete ass of himself this week, and will probably go to Twitter or Congress of the UN to try to get us to stop ‘harassing’ him. So SCOTT, what do you have for us this week?

SCOTT: This week, we’re starting in a familiar place: Playground Legends.

PHIL: I’ve tried to avoid doing the same old thing on this show, but let’s face it: they’re our only rivals.

SCOTT: It’s all started when Playground Legends player Cletus Cowling was driving a 4×4 through Denali National Park. Then he encountered a bear.

PHIL: As you’re wont to do.

SCOTT: He must’ve gotten some advice on how to deal with bears. Whether it’s lions, bears, killer bees, or dinosaurs, you stay in the vehicle.

PHIL: But let me guess, he failed to heed this advice.

SCOTT: Yes, Phil. Not only that, he decided to approach the bear. Maybe he wanted to reach an agreement by which the bear would leave the road? I don’t know. Anyway, after a few steps the bear rears up and roars and Cletus takes off running, and he doesn’t stop until he’s out of sight of the vehicle.

PHIL: And did the bear chase him?

SCOTT: It did not. But when Cletus realized he had nowhere else to go, he went back, and the bear was in the driver’s seat.

PHIL: So he got carjacked by a bear?

SCOTT: He got carjacked by a bear. They found him two days later, naked, on top of a police car.

DAVE: The bear, or Cletus?

PHIL: This is going to be a great season.

SCENE 8

(Exterior, day. Heavily wooded area. Shot of ASSISTANT getting out of his car in the parking lot and checking the dossier he has on LORENZO. While moving through the forest at a deliberate pace to check the tracks, look for signs of movement, and so on, he even finds a tripwire. Soon afterward though, he locates LORENZO, who is hiding face down under some leaves. ASSISTANT pulls him up by his shirt and LORENZO plops back on the ground).

ASSISTANT: Lorenzo Markovik?

LORENZO: The last time someone asked me that, it didn’t go so well.

ASSISTANT: What were you doing down there, trying to join the Viet Cong?

LORENZO: That would be pretty cool. I’d get an AK, some pungi sticks, and nobody would lie about me.

ASSISTANT: So what then?

LORENZO: (Goes over to a nearby log and sits down). As part of my sentence I’m not allowed to go near any places where children congregate. And this is almost the only place around that fits the bill.

ASSISTANT: So what do you plan on doing long-term?

LORENZO: What choice do I have?

ASSISTANT: You’ve never thought about getting back into the managerial game?

LORENZO: Of course I’ve thought about it, but nobody’s going to employ a convicted child molester.

ASSISTANT: But you were framed.

LORENZO: Yeah. I know.

ASSISTANT: So what are you gonna do instead?
LORENZO: I was gonna learn how to fight my case, but some days I can’t move past wanting to slice Guffman into a fine red mist, and nothing gets done.

ASSISTANT: So why don’t you come back to management then?
LORENZO: Who are you working with?

ASSISTANT: Ball Handlers.

LORENZO: Ball Handlers? No way. Those guys are cursed. The last thing I need is to give Guffman the satisfaction of beating me yet again.

ASSISTANT: So you believe in the curse? I thought you were the ultra-scientific, leave-nothing-to-chance, 200-page-gameplan sort of manager.

LORENZO: Doesn’t really matter. It only matters that the team thinks they’re cursed.

ASSISTANT: But that’s exactly the reason you should come back. If you lose, it’s the curse, the nocebo effect, whatever. But if you win, you’re basically a wizard, the savior of a franchise. Besides, we’re prepared to offer you something you’ve never had: total control, and an owner who hates Guffman just as much as you do.

LORENZO: But isn’t Pinchback crazy? Nobody’s seen him since his dad went crazy and he inherited the team in ‘07. Besides, where could I live while managing you?

ASSISTANT: Pinchback’s not crazy, he just has certain needs that can only be met by getting away from it all. Sound familiar? At least let me take you to the house and you can decide for yourself.

SCENE 9

(Day. ASSISTANT is driving a car in which LORENZO is the passenger. They soon come to a stop in what looks like a rural residential area).

LORENZO: Why is parking so far from the house?

ASSISTANT: Because what does Pinchback care? He never leaves the house anyway.

LORENZO: So this is his place then?

ASSISTANT: Yeah. But help me unload his stuff first.
(ASSISTANT pops the trunk and they both get out. The first thing that comes out is a wheelbarrow).

LORENZO: Why do you need a wheelbarrow? Are you doing your Eagle Scout service project?

ASSISTANT: Look, it’s not that heavy, just hard to carry. (ASSISTANT takes a suit of armor out of the car and puts it in the wheelbarrow. LORENZO looks puzzled but starts unloading as well. Among the items are a sword, a shield, a helmet, an old gun, and a crate labeled ‘PILLS.’)

(LORENZO is now pushing the wheelbarrow along as ASSISTANT walks with him).

LORENZO: So when Pinchback liberates the holy land, do we automatically win the title?

ASSISTANT: Maybe it’s good that you got fired.

LORENZO: What’s wrong with jokes?

ASSISTANT: Making fun of the disabled is very problematic.

LORENZO: Sorry. I didn’t know.

ASSISTANT: The truth is, I don’t know what he’s gonna do with this stuff. Maybe Pinchback bumps into things and needs the armor to protect him. Maybe sometimes he believes he’s made out of glass.

LORENZO: And the pills?

ASSISTANT: I admit I looked once, but I can’t even guess after googling the medications. I did find blood in there, though.

LORENZO: So he’s a vampire?
ASSISTANT: See, there you go again, you ableist.

LORENZO: Sorry.

(They enter the house. ASSISTANT produces some papers).

ASSISTANT: Now I just need you to sign at the bottom before you can live here.

LORENZO: (After looking at the paper for a few seconds) Well, I guess I have nothing to lose. (He signs it).

ASSISTANT: Congratulations, you’ve just replaced me. You’ll be handling all of Pinchback’s requests as a condition of your residence here. Good day to you, sir. (ASSISTANT leaves).

SCENE 10

HALF AN HOUR BEFORE GAME TIME

(Interior, day. A locker room. LORENZO has shown up well before his players and is diligently setting out chairs and putting reports into three-ring binders for them. Closeup of the title page, which reads ‘HOW TO DEFEAT PLAYGROUND LEGENDS by LORENZO MARKOVIK”).

(PLAYERS start filing in).

LORENZO (greeting the first PLAYER, handing him a binder): Hi, I’m Lorenzo, read this.

(PLAYERS start arriving more quickly. LORENZO hands a few more of them binders).

(JONAS, who’s now seated with his binder and the other PLAYERS, overhears):

BALL HANDLERS PLAYER 1: Isn’t this the child molester guy?

BALL HANDLERS PLAYER 2: Yeah. That’s pretty messed up.

BALL HANDLERS PLAYER 1: I’m not sure if he really did it though. You can get on the list just for looking at a kid wrong these days.

BALL HANDLERS PLAYER 2: At least this field isn’t near any kids. I hate kids.

LORENZO: (addressing everyone) Alright, listen up everyone. We have ten minutes before we have to get out there so I’ll keep this short. I’m the manager Lorenzo Markovik. You’ve probably heard rumors about me, especially if you’ve played in the league before. Does this guy touch kids? Does he write 100-page reports for even the easiest games? (Smiles). Why did Guffman fire him? Well, no I don’t touch kids, Guffman framed me. That means I might never see mine again. So what’s left to do? Write about every last tendency the Playground Legends have. Obviously we don’t have much time so just read the part most relevant to you. If you’re taking penalties and their goalie dives to his left 51.2% of the time, that’ll be in there. If their left back has pins in his foot and had a slightly disappointing experience at a restaurant last night, you’ll know. So let’s get out there, kick some people around, and get after it.

SCENE 11

REFEREE’S HOUSE

HALF AN HOUR BEFORE GAME TIME

(Exterior. Day. Two LEGENDS ASSISTANTS are sitting in a car outside a house. One of them, LEGENDS ASSISTANT 2 is searching the surrounding area for any signs of surveillance).

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 1: Will you stop doing that?

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 2: No. We can’t be seen here.

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 1: Or what? Everyone’s doing what we’re doing.

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 2: Guffman would fire us for anything. I don’t want to take any chances.

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 1: (seeing REFEREE walk into the house) Well, there he is. You satisfied? And bring the suitcase.

(LEGENDS ASSISTANTS go to the door and knock. REFEREE answers).

REFEREE: (cautiously, from behind partially opened door) Are you here for the thing?

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 2: (puzzled)…Yes?

REFEREE: Well get in here before anyone sees you.

(The three of them hustle in. There is another ASSISTANT packing up his things and he leaves almost as soon as they’ve entered).

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 2: Wait, what was that guy doing here?

REFEREE: Probably the same thing you guys are.

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 2: So you’re just rigging games like wrestling matches? How could you let that guy see us?

REFEREE: What’s he gonna do? (Mimics a phone call) Hello, FBI? I’d like to report a referee bribery scandal in an intramural soccer league. How do I know about it? I just tried to bribe him too. Oh wait, I shouldn’t have said that. Goodbye.

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 1: Be gentle with him. It’s his first time. Can we sit down?

(REFEREE gestures toward a table and they all sit down).

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 1: There are a thousand reasons we think you should be a Playgrounds Legends fan today.

REFEREE (scoffs): A thousand? I don’t even get out of bed for that.

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 1: Oh yeah? Who’s gonna give you more? We both know Pinchback’s too cheap to pay up.

(Pause for REFEREE reaction. He knows he’s beaten).

LEGENDS ASSISTANT 1: Just for that, it’s $500 now. Unless you think Pinchback will offer more in the next hour.

REFEREE (sighs): Throw in a pizza and you’ve got a deal.

SCENE 12

(Exterior. Day. A soccer field with players preparing for a game. Playground Legends is in red and Ball Handlers is in white).

PHIL (voiceover): Hello and welcome to the season opener, and it’s a big one against Playground Legends and their filthy red rags. I’m Phil from the Balls to the Wall podcast and with me is my co-commentator Scott. Dave is currently banished due to the disgusting lack of faith he showed last podcast. So Scott, tell us about the lineups.

SCOTT: No surprises for either team, except maybe Jonas, who we didn’t think could make it back from injury in time for today. On the Legends side, odds are that Giovanni Jukes is either high, itching for a fix, or recovering from crashing one of his cars yet again last night. In goal is probably the only guy crazier than he is, Lothar Frings, who always looks like he’s about to bite the head off a squirrel.

PHIL: (Kickoff) And the season’s underway. Duggleby passes back to PLAYER…over to McKnight…It’s taken away by Tribe…But Bebo steals it right back for Legends.

SCOTT: Good take there by Trickle. Seemed like he knew what Bebo was going to do before he did. Maybe that’s one of Lorenzo’s infamous game plans paying off.

HALFTIME: PLAYGROUND LEGENDS 0, BALL HANDLERS 0

(90’ + 2’)

PHIL: We didn’t think Ball Handlers would have a chance in this one after their offseason turmoil, but all they have to do is survive this Legends corner and they’ll get a point.

(Shot of a corner kick being scored; nothing particularly flashy about it. Ball Handlers player ERASMUS goes down and starts writhing on the ground as though he has just been shot, rolling until he’s almost stuck in the net. He glances over to the REFEREE as he does so in the hope of a foul, but the REFEREE isn’t buying it).

PHIL: And Legends have scored in second-half extra time! This puts a serious dent in our title hopes already. And wastes a great performance too.

SCOTT: To add insult to injury, Erasmus has gone down injured, and nearly rolled into the net.

PHIL: That’s what I hate about players today. You’re not injured. You don’t have to roll halfway across the field. And don’t look at the referee, just do better next time. I don’t care if he’s one of ours.

SCOTT: Well, maybe he really is hurt this time.

PHIL: We’ll see.

(Cut to a shot of ERASMUS lying on his back in an empty room, open-mouthed, and still).

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Murky Guide

Murky.  The fishman.  (Formerly) worst hero in the game.  Nobody aroused stronger emotions in Heroes players than Murky, and I doubt anything’s changed.  When I was doing my placement matches for this season, a teammate picking Murky first had everyone else, except me, threatening to quit before the game even started.  I tried to rally the troops, but in the end we could only reduce the enemy to two keeps before the inevitable.  Little did that forgotten Murky fan know that he was a mere two months early.

(Random thought: I wish ZP has chosen Murky instead of Gazlowe for his solo-queue-to-rank-1 challenge.  Yes, rank 1.  It was that long ago.  He climbed to within one game of the promised land, and his team had Sylvanas on the old school Haunted Mines, but then someone left at the draft screen and a deluge of losses ensued.  Never trust a goblin.)

There’s a general consensus on the best Murky build now, so even though I’ll go through that, this guide will include the finer points of Murky too.

Level 1: A Fishy Deal (Picked 71.7% of the time among Diamond/Master players)

This is probably the main reason Murky is so dominant right now.  Almost every map has a camp or two consisting of two mercs, so sometimes you can bribe both yours and the enemy’s at about the same time.  But, as a general rule, I never take the enemy’s camps unless I can bribe the whole camp and I haven’t been seen en route.  There’s just too high a chance of getting jacked.

You need to get everything you can out of this talent to live up to Murky’s potential.  Unfortunately, this means last hitting with pufferfish.  (At least it’s far less tedious than DOTA-style last hitting).

To kill a minion wave with pufferfish at level 1, you need to slime the entire wave twice, and then immediately lay down pufferfish.  It’s much better if you limit the slime radius to the back four minions the second time you slime, otherwise you’re going to prematurely kill the minions in the front, which will be taking damage from your own minions during this time.

The main threat to this is of course the other hero.  If it’s someone who can effectively poke you, just get in there, slime, get out, slime again, pufferfish.  There’s no need to hit the minions or the enemy hero more than this in order to get fishy deal stacks.

Try to preserve your health the first time you slime.  If they are attacking your pufferfish right when you throw it down, you can try to prevent this by bubbling near the pufferfish so they can’t target it effectively.

Some heroes, like Valeera, might try to gank you at this point in the game.  Actually, I guess it’s just her and Zeratul; you’ll see everyone else coming except for Nova, who can be thwarted by hiding among your own minions so they absorb snipes.  I’m not too sure what you can do against Valeera aside from being extra careful.  At least she’s ganking you and not somebody else.

Later on in the game, pufferfish will be able to kill the whole wave after one or even zero slimes.  I think this is around level 13 or so, but try it for yourself.  There are no pufferfish talents in this build though.

Level 4: Slime Time (84.0%)

This is mainly to improve Murky in team fights.  Pufferfish builds are too easily countered by avoiding it in team fights.  If you just want to kill minions with it, tufferfish is unnecessary.  Living the dream is a great name for a talent, but if someone wants you dead, they can force you to run at the very least.  There’s a reason that don’t-die-or-you-lose-your-stacks are generally unpopular.

Level 7: Black Lagoon (59.3%)

Black lagoon just fits in better with your slime build.  A time to krill (34.0%) will stop people from running away, but if your talent requires that the other team just ignore you, especially as Murky, that should be a red flag in my opinion.

Level 10: March of the Murlocs (89.2%)

The other big buff Murky just got; the cooldown was reduced from 100 to 80 seconds and the tiny Murlocs are now 30% faster and 30% more annoying.

To get the best use out of this, just remember that if the enemy can run, they will.  Sounds obvious, but we’ve all used an ult during a team fight that’s far from any objective, and voila, wasted ult.  To keep from becoming a sad Murky, only use it near an objective, or maybe a tower.

I still get people demanding I take Octograb in some of my games and there might be a place for it.  Obviously, cleanse gets rid of Octo, and you’ll know when the other team gets level 7 whether they took it (though Kharazim can also get rid of Octo with level 16 talent cleansing touch, so beware).

But even if they don’t have cleanse, is it ever better than march?  I think the only time would be on a map with multiple objectives spawning at once, like Towers of Doom or maybe Warhead Junction.  I don’t think Braxis Holdout counts because you can’t just fulfill the map objective in a couple seconds like you can on those other two maps; the points have to be held for a long time.  But most of the time, the map and the presence of cleanse will make the choice for you.

Level 13: Rejuvenating Bubble (75.1%)

The problem with fish tank, like a time to krill, is that you can’t expect the enemy to ignore you that long.  Taking fish tank is just trying to solve Murky’s worst problem (durability) by forcing you onto the front lines, hitting enemy heroes: the last place Murky wants to be.  Bubble does the same job, and better.

Level 16: Toxic Buildup (66.2%)

The only non-pufferfish option at this tier.  Wrath of cod (2.7%) would in theory be good against octograbbed tanks.  That’s a very niche role.  And as for fish oil, there are much easier ways of sliming people…like toxic buildup!

Level 20: Big Tuna Kahuna (44.0%)

Finally, some real disagreement.  There’s just nothing else you can do to survive stuns other than taking this.  If you’re confident the other team will ignore you, take making inky.  I’ve already mentioned why I think that’s a bad idea.  But if you think you can get away with it, knock yourself out.

Other Stuff (e.g. egg placement)

I don’t like to be too aggressive with egg placement because it doesn’t make that much of a difference.  If you’re the only one trying to take an objective, and you die, it doesn’t matter how close your egg is.  You’re going to lose that objective without help.

Another reason is that even with help, you don’t get back into the fight that much faster.  Take Battlefield of Eternity.  It will take you about 20 seconds to ride from the fountain to the nearest immortal.  If you spawned at a fort, probably less than ten.  How much would you gain if you put it in the nearest possible steam vent?  Five seconds tops?  It’s the quintessential high-risk low-reward scenario to me.

Other than that, just be aggressive with Murky.  Get all the stacks you can every chance you get; don’t be sloppy.  Try to get your slime quest done ASAP.  Only take enemy camps if you haven’t been seen and you can bribe the entire camp (or, obviously, you’re sure nobody can stop you in time).

Thanks for reading.   It’s time for me to go back in with Murky atop his golden cock and take revenge for years of insults.

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Anub’arak Guide

I haven’t played any Hero League lately, but I might make a late push to get back into Platinum with one month left in the season.

Also: I literally just read the updated Tier List, and…wow.  I’m going to have to buy and play Murky.  It’s like the whole world is upside down.  What’s next, Gazlowe overtaking Murky as the new King of Heroes?  Stitches actually good again?  Or dare I dream, people seeing that the boss is overrated?

Sorry, I got carried away there.  Back to Anub’arak, who I’ve been playing almost exclusively lately, for some reason (along with Ragnaros).

Anub’arak is in a bizarre place right now: he’s supposed to be an anti-mage warrior, but mages are trash these days now that double warrior/sustain is so popular.  And yet he had the highest win rate in the game until they made Murky great.  (Not great again; like /b/, Murky was never great).  So let’s go into the talent section and see if we can’t discover why he’s so good along the way.

(All talent percentages are for Master/Diamond players on Hotslogs).

Level 1: Dampen Magic (78.0%)

This protects you, periodically, from all abilities, even if they don’t seem magic-based.  It’s good, but its competitors are also weak: Regen Master, even in a sustain meta, takes too long to complete.  Extended Spikes just don’t have the impact that Dampen Magic does, and how much difference is there between extended and regular spikes?  Also, even if your beetles live, they often do the unexpected.  You can’t rely on them for damage.

Level 4: Underking (42.8%)

The consensus seems to be against me here, as Legion of Beetles clocks in at 51.2%, but hear me out.  Underking is a playmaker.  The extra range can get you out of a tough spot, especially if you’re tunneling through barriers.  Or it can get you between an enemy and his base, getting a kill for your team.

On the other hand, Legion has all the drawbacks of beetles generally: they’re unpredictable.  They’re stupid.  And they get themselves killed on maps like Heroes of Eternity, Dragon Shire, or Garden of Terror with frequent AOE damage map events.

The only reasons I can think of to pick Legion are to waste more tower ammo (doesn’t justify giving up Underking) or getting in the way of skill shots from the likes of Muradin, Li Ming, or Nova…but how many of them are relevant right now?

Level 7: Chitinous Plating (31.7%)

Once again, I’m going against the grain of the more mainstream Leeching Scarabs 45.1%).  Maybe if I were playing more Hero League and therefore facing double warrior all the time, I could justify Scarabs.  But then again, with almost every popular tank right now having low-level AOE that will kill them fairly quick, I worry about their survivability.  Chitinous Plating, as long as you have mana, always works.  And hey, faster plating equals more beetles.  Everyone wins.

Fun random fact: beetles, in terms of the number of named species (with over 400,000 named) are the most numerous order (Coleoptera) of life in the world.  This is now an educational blog.

Level 10: Locust Swarm (69.7%)

I was very surprised to see such a clear consensus on this one.  On Heroes websites I always read about how great Cocoon is.  Maybe the people finally know that Cocoon is very much a double-edged sword, especially in pug teams with no coordination.  Have you ever cocooned someone, but it helped the other team more than your own?  I have.  I just don’t see a strategy of ‘Cocoon the healer and then blow up X’ succeeding on a team of strangers.

Level 13: Burning Rage (56.5%)

Urticating Spines is in a distant second at 27.8%.  I just don’t know why you’d want area damage only when using Hardened Carapace as opposed to Burning Rage’s constant AOE.  True, they probably do about the same DPS, but I want to save Carapace for when I’m in trouble, not mindlessly trigger it while clearing minion waves.

Level 16: Epicenter (56.1%)

Poor Blood for Blood.  I’ve been playing this game long enough to remember when 5-man Blood for Blood teams were all the rage, and Anub was at the center of it.  I thought maybe it would make a comeback in the double warrior scene, but to keep yourself alive, getting away trumps life steal every time.  Epicenter is also the talent of choice for Underking fans like me.

Level 20: Hive Master (47.8%)

Hardened Shield is second at 30.8%.  It’s a decent choice, but I like that Hive Master can never be wasted.

Now for how to play Anub’arak generally.

I used to hate Anub, but now I realize that’s only because he’s weak early game.  His poke has a long cooldown and is very often dodged is a laning phase.  Therefore I resort to using Harden Carapace, hitting someone, and then moving back, with Burrow Charge if necessary.  It’s also easier to spike people if they’re running from you, and they will have less time to react since you’ve just charged them.

In team fights you’ll probably be at the front since you are obviously a warrior, though not the toughest around.  So, just open up with Hardened Carapace and try to get the most out of your abilities.  If they’re already on your healer (which could mean you’re in the middle of a crowd) you can unleash Locust Swarm and spike the most dangerous offender.  Just make sure you don’t miss because you won’t get another chance for over 10 seconds.  In a peeling situation, though, there are several factors in favor of a hit: close range, the enemy paying attention to someone else, the fact that they are probably going in a straight line to catch your fleeing healer, and so on.

If it gets really bad, you can interpose yourself between the friendly healer and the enemy, then spike their whole team as they pursue.  Chase scenarios are always the best time to land skill shots, whether you’re the hunter or the hunted.

If your team is the aggressor, try to spike someone and then put yourself between the enemy and his base right after the stun wears off for maximum effect.  Spiking first has the added benefit of reserving Burrow Charge for escaping bad situations…or not putting you into them to begin with.

And don’t forget to use the terrain to your advantage.  An aggressive Burrow Charge is great for when the enemy is A) going through a choke point or B) going around a corner; cutting across terrain, even if it’s seemingly impassable like water, can put you in front of them so they can be sacrificed to the Underking.

Anub’s probably at his weakest when it’s a cagey 5v5 standoff.  Just don’t use spikes unless you’re absolutely sure you’re going to hit, and go from there.  There should be a teammate who’s better at poking than you are, so let them do their thing.  Just don’t engage until there’s an obvious reason to do so, e.g. your team pops Bloodlust, you stun multiple enemies with spikes, and so on.

Anyway that’s been my Anub guide.  Have fun and remember, the boss isn’t as good as you think he is.

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