Greymane: Transcendent Assassin

While Melee Assassins are a diverse bunch, they share a few common features. Some of these commonalities are beneficial, such as their shared ability to sustain themselves by being aggressive. Others, like their pesky inability to stick to targets, are more detrimental to the archetype. Their ranged brethren often lack their self-sustenance, but are instead able to do damage from the fringe of a fight.

Greymane is a hybrid of these two sub-classes, able to attack from afar in human form and lunge up close to maul things in Worgen form. As such, he has features from both ranged and melee assassins , but at the same time loses out on some greater benefits. For example, his kit is fairly devoid of the self-sustain that we have come to expect from melee assassins.

Don’t despair, Greymane aficionados – this mercurial hero has something that no other Melee Assassin does. Something that makes The Butcher’s mouth water more than fresh meat ever could. Something that Sonya (who, for the intents and purposes of this article, I consider a Melee Assassin) would pawn her spear for. Before we get into that, though, let’s look at this recently revealed hero’s abilities.

Human Form:

Inner Beast (Passive Trait)

Use certain Abilities to shape-shift between a Human and a Worgen. While Human, your Basic Attack is ranged. While Worgen, your Basic Attack is melee but deals 40% more damage.

Gilnean Cocktail (Q)

Mana: 70

Cooldown: 9 seconds

Hurl a flask that deals 72 damage to the first enemy hit and explodes for 216 damage to enemies in a cone behind them.
Inner Beast (W)
Mana: 60
Cooldown: 16 seconds
Gain 50% Attack Speed for 3 seconds. Basic Attacks refresh this duration.
Darkflight (E)
Mana: 10
Cooldown: 6 seconds
Shapeshift into a Worgen and leap at an enemy, dealing moderate damage.
Go for the Throat (R1)
Mana: 90
Cooldown: 120 seconds
Leap at an enemy hero and shapeshift into a Worgen, slashing 3 times for a massive amount of damage. If it kills the enemy hero, this ability can be used a second time within 10 seconds for free.
Marked for the Kill (R2)
Mana: 75
Cooldown: 60 seconds
Shapeshift into a Human and fire a shot hitting the first enemy hero for moderate damage. For 5 seconds, they are vulnerable, taking 25% more damage, and you can re-activate this to leap at them and shapeshift into a Worgen.

Worgen Form:

Razor Swipe (Q)

Cooldown: 4 seconds

Greymane dashes forward a short distance and performs a cleave attack with his claws.

Inner Beast (W)

Same as Human Form

Disengage (E)

Cooldown: 6 seconds
Roll backwards and shapeshift into Human Form.
Greymane can only use his heroic abilities while in Human Form.
Now, let’s get back to what makes Greymane the envy of Ranged and Melee assassins alike: his adaptability.  He possesses the poking and zoning potential of Ranged Assassins and the heavy-hitting aspect of a pure melee brawler. What this really means is that Greymane can approach each skirmish in a different way, making him a master of…

Smart Engagement

Greymane’s great gift is that he can add pressure to a fight without having to dive into melee range. While this may sound insignificant, consider the following situation: you’re The Butcher on Cursed Hollow, and a fight has broken out over a tribute with all players present. It’s a 5v5 brawl.

If The Butcher were to charge right in, he would be blown up by any team worth their salt. So you wait on the fringe, watching for someone to step out of line, standing idle while the two teams clash. While you can try to apply a few auto-attacks and Hamstrings, it’s risky to immerse himself in the enemy backline. Until you can find an opportunity to engage, you are not dealing anywhere near your potential damage, and it may as well be a 4v5 (assuming there’s not a melee assassin on the other team likewise biding his time).

King_GreymaneSonya and Illidan are much the same – playing them well requires a strong sensibility about when to engage and when to hang back.  Zeratul has a playstyle all of his own, but his impact on a fight is also limited to quick bursts while he’s in melee range. Thrall can poke with Chain Lightning – though mana intensive, this makes him the most comparable hero to Greymane so far. That said, he is most effective once he can safely close to melee range.

Enter Greymane. Let’s consider him in the situation from above. As the fight for the tribute erupts, Greymane’s human form can actively throw Basic Attacks and Gilnean Cocktails into the fray. Once the initial volley of abilities has been traded and health pools softened, Greymane can Darkflight onto a target and do the whole melee assassin thing – you know, murder. After said homicide, he can continue to pursue foes in Worgen form or Disengage out of harms way to resume his ranged assault.

Because of his identity as both a ranged and melee hero, Greymane can be an active component of the fight regardless of the circumstances. If it’s a contest for an area of the map that favors ranged assault, then he can stand in the backline and complement his team’s ranged assault. Conversely, he’s able to devastate in close-ranged encounters as well, tearing the throats out of his enemies in an onslaught of claws and fur.

The developers at Blizzard HQ are well aware of this dynamic identity (after all, they came up with it), and accentuate this strength through talents. For example, his level 7 talent Quicksilver Bullets, while simple, compliments this adaptable playstyle:

Quicksilver Bullets

Increase Greymane’s Human Basic Attack range by 20%.

Sure, it’s been done before, but talents like these are definitive of Greymane’s playstyle. Since he is bereft of self-healing, he must rely on poking, positioning, and quick engage/disengage to secure takedowns. In a meta that is so punishing to melee heroes, Worgen form must be used intelligently, even though its damage output is far greater than his human form’s.

Just Keep Killing, Just Keep Killing…

Greymane’s hero design rewards forward momentum. By the same token, looks like it will punish teams who are on the back foot. His full damage potential cannot be unlocked without attacking in Worgen form, which is not something that is always advisable. Let’s look at some of the factors that will potentially make Greymane an aggressive winner and a helpless loser.

Firstly, Inner Beast is a basic ability that rewards consecutive attacks. Available in both Human and Worgen form, this ability speeds up Greymane’s basic attacks by 50% for 3 seconds. With a 16-second cooldown, this seems subpar, but there’s a catch – each basic attack made with Inner Beast active resets the 3-second duration.

As such, Greymane’s damage output is greatly increased as long as he can hold his ground and attack. However, in 198px-GennLordofHisPacksituations where he is forced to retreat, this long cooldown can be wasted. From what was playable at Blizzcon, it appears that the cooldown for this ability begins after its duration has ended, unlike some other pesky abilities (looking at you, Wrath of the Berserker).

This ‘kill or be killed’ playtyle is very reminiscent of a recent Hero release – The Legendary Purifier, Artanis. His passive ability, Shield Overload, requires the very same mindset; making it more beneficial for you to stay in extended combat, trading instead of retreating. While it’s not identical, because Greymane actually has a feasible means of escaping combat, it certainly lends to a similar mentality.

Secondly, contrary to what may have been expected, Greymane shifts between forms with his abilities, not by activating his trait with D. Using Darkflight on an enemy transforms him to a Worgen, as does using either of his heroic abilities. Using Disengage or mounting (as of Blizzcon) will transform him back into human form.

You may notice that in order to become a Worgen, Greymane must have a target to leap upon. This is fine when his team is the aggressor; he gets to close the gap and start mauling in the same stroke! In losing games or against compositions that punish diving, however, this may prove to be a massive detriment to the hero.

This becomes especially true with Greymane’s heroic abilities. Both Go for the Throat and Marked for the Kill involve Greymane jumping to a single target and transforming. While they give Greymane some incredible pick-off potential against single targets, he will find engaging against groups a risky proposition. In Quick Match games where there is, for example, an enemy Zagara pushed to his keep, Greymane will enjoy quite a few kills. In more organized settings, however, things will be more difficult for him.

Selecting Greymane’s talents dynamically and changing his playstyle depending on the enemy team’s composition is going to be a huge boon to the hero. Sometimes it may be worth it to search for lone prey, decimating them in a duel and turning the odds in your team’s favor, rather than forcing an all-out teamfight. Unlike a hero like Nova, Greymane will have the choice whether or not to build this way.

What this all comes back to is highlighted in the above section: intelligent engagement. Unlike other Melee Assassins, Greymane has the option to stay out of melee range while still dealing consistent damage. When the skirmish has already worn down, or an enemy backliner breaks from the fight to beeline for their base – that is when Greymane’s aggressive engagement will prove the most effective.

Summing Up

Blizzard unveiled a slew of exciting heroes at Blizzcon. Patrons of the Nexus have already been able to enjoy the innovative action of Cho’Gall over the past week, and Lunara’s design has sparked hype throughout the playerbase. With Greymane tagging along, Blizzard is breaking new ground left and right.

Though Greymane looks like he may face some issues on paper, the real test of his merit will come down to individual execution. With his adaptable nature, he can approach a fight in multiple ways – quick decision-making will be an important part of playing him well.

Excited about Greymane, or have some light to shed on where he’ll fit in? Chime in on Reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/heroesofthestorm/comments/3tn4g7/greymane_king_of_adaptability_victim_of/