Lunara’s Unique Design Space
In a long-ago interview, Blizzard’s HotS developers divulged their method of choosing the next hero. Selecting from a huge list of candidates that spans Blizzard’s franchises, the devs identify a gap in the current hero pool and choose a character who can ostensibly fill it.
Leoric, for example, filled the role of interacting with death. Consequently, his addition precluded the release of Fenix alongside Legacy of the Void; the developers intend to make Fenix’s Dragoon activate upon death and didn’t want to release two death-based mechanics in such a short span. Thus, Artanis was chosen as the companion to the new Starcraft game.
Looking at the heroes revealed at Blizzcon, most of the intended design space is fairly obvious. Cho’Gall is two players in one body – simple as that. Greymane shifts seamlessly from melee to ranged combat. While those were easy to identify, the upcoming Dryad, Lunara, fills a less evident role. That said, I’d like to argue that it’s some of the most unique and exciting design space in HotS yet. Let’s look at her abilities.
Your Basic Attacks and damaging Abilities poison their target, dealing 45 damage a second for 3 seconds. Every additional application increases the duration by 3 seconds, up to a maximum of 9 seconds.
Noxious Blossom (Q)
60 ManaCooldown: 8 secondsAfter 0.5 seconds, cause an area to explode with pollen dealing 166 damage.
Crippling Spores (W)
40 ManaCooldown: 12 secondsEnemies currently afflicted by Nature’s Toxin have its duration increased by 3 seconds and are slowed by 40% decaying over 3 seconds.
50 ManaCooldown: 45 secondsSpawn a Wisp to scout an area. Can be redirected once active. Lasts 45 seconds.
Leaping Strike (R1)
50 ManaCooldown: 30 secondsCharges: 2
Leap over an enemy, slowing them by 80% for 0.35 seconds and attacking for 379 damage. Has 2 charges.
Thornwood Vine (R2)
35 ManaCooldown: 15 secondsCharges: 3
Hurl a spear that deals 243 damage to all enemies in a line. Can hold 3 charges.
Lunara’s Z is unique – instead of being able to mount up, she has a permanent 20% movespeed buff, allowing her to move just a bit slower than a Ghost Wolfed Rehgar at all times.
I feel like transcribing her talents would take up too much space, but they are important to understanding this hero. You can find them here: http://heroesofthestorm.gamepedia.com/Lunara#Talents.
Lunara promises to be an elusive, fleet of foot assassin who relies upon mobility above all else. While being denied a full speed mount is a detriment on large maps, as any Sgt. Hammer player can attest, the permanent 20% movespeed boost makes her incredibly mobile in skirmishes. She has no durability to speak of, so her survivability arises from her ability to stay out of enemy range and sidestep CC.
While micro-mobility is a facet of many heroes, it has yet to make up such a large part of a hero’s core philosophy. The result of this mobile-yet-squishy assassin is a hero with an incredibly high skill cap, possibly higher than any other hero to date. With the versatility and unique playstyle her kit promotes, Lunara looks to be the hardest hero to master yet.
But enough about difficulty; let’s talk about style! Lunara’s kit revolves around three things: vision, slows/DoTs, and her in-fight mobility. She has a low health pool and, barring Greater Spell Shield at 13, is devoid of defensive talents. She also lacks an escape mechanism beyond simply hopping out of reach. These factors mean Lunara will be highly dependent on positioning, reaction time, and map awareness.
Let’s look into the three realms that will define solid Lunara play, and why they make her so exciting as a concept (and so fun to play as a hero).
Lunara’s kit has a huge focus on vision. Wisp, her E ability, is only useful for gaining vision without risk, much like a Scouting Drone. It can be moved and killed, making it the most risk-free vision mechanic since Misha (which, I guess, wasn’t released that long ago).
While some players may be inclined to ignore augmenting this ability in favor of bolstering Lunara’s damage, the devs aren’t quite allowing that. If you look at her talent tree, every single option at level 4 improves Wisp in some way:
The developers are forcing the players hand in this matter. We must acknowledge that granting vision is at the core of Lunara’s design, and not something to be ignored. As a Dryad, shooting out a helpful wisp is fully a part of her character. As a fragile assassin, using Wisp to effectively thwart ganks and scout ambushes will be a large part of playing Lunara well.
Those who designed Lunara took her vision a step further. If you look at the Storm Talents (level 20), you’ll see that Forest’s Wrath, the upgrade to her Thornwood Vine heroic, does more than just improve the ability’s damage and range – it also increases Lunara’s base vision by 35%. This is an awesome passive buff; between it and Wisp, Lunara will be nigh impossible to sneak up on late-game.
Zagara is another hero who has a penchant for granting vision to her team. Like Zagara, it seems likely that Lunara’s vision will be an ancillary part of her kit, something that is always taken into account when she is drafted, but not her primary capability. Also like Zagara, learning how to fully exploit Lunara’s capacity for map vision will be a large part of mastering the hero and playing her to her utmost.
Nature’s Toxin, Damage over Time, and Slows
Nature’s Toxin is another of Lunara’s core facets. Her Basic Attacks, Noxious Blossom, and both Heroics apply this 3 second DoT. It stacks up to 3 times, or 9 seconds, dealing damage for the entirety of its duration. It is this trait (and Lunara’s lack of damaging abilities) that define her as a sustained damage dealer, distinct from the bursty prowess of Jaina or Kael’thas.
This trait is also what makes Lunara so unique as a Ranged Assassin. While reminiscent of Nazeebo’s Voodoo Ritual, Nature’s Toxin has two things that distinguish it: its ability to stack, and Lunara’s ability to slow and reapply the DoT to anyone already affected. Crippling Spores, her Q ability, is narrow in that in only affects those afflicted by Nature’s Toxin. For the same reason, it makes Lunara completely unique when it comes to Ranged Assassins.
Most Ranged Assassins who rely upon basic attacks (e.g. Valla and Raynor) work well with identifying an out-of-position target and drilling them with attack after attack. Lunara, on the other hand, is encouraged to spread her trait to as many targets as possible, through both attacks and abilities. There are several talents in her kit that make this easier, but there is one especially that I’d like to highlight:
Noxious Blossom causes your next Basic Attack to hit 3 targets.
Available at level 7, this talent showcases what Lunara should strive for – a wide area of impact. Throwing out Noxious Blossom and then launching three spears will allow her to spread Nature’s Toxin quickly and effectively, potentially putting two stacks on multiple targets. It is unique talents like this that define Lunara’s playstyle as something new and challenging.
In addition to re-applying her trait, Crippling Spores also slows all targets affected by Nature’s Toxin. This, coupled with her permanently boosted movespeed, will make kiting a huge part of Lunara’s playstyle. For the uninitiated, “kiting” refers to running away from an enemy while dealing incremental damage to them, stringing them along to their demise. While several heroes in HotS, such as Jaina or Valla, can kite effectively, Lunara is going to re-define the concept. I’ll talk more about this in the next section, though.
Before level 10, Lunara must rely upon Basic Attacks and her Q to spread Nature’s Toxin. Come level 10, she enjoys a huge power spike with access to her Heroics, both of which apply her trait. It is true that every hero is greatly benefited by unlocking their Heroic abilities, but Lunara will experience a higher power spike than many at that level.
Thornwood Vine gives her a way to deal burst damage and apply Nature’s Toxin to multiple enemies, while Leaping Strike will help her focus down a single target while staying mobile and elusive. The fact that both of these Heroics are charge-based is hugely exciting – they essentially negate her lack of damage abilities prior to 10 by giving her access to multiple casts in a row. Thornwood Vine looks like it will make for a great teamfighting ability, while Leaping Strike looks made more for ganks and duels.
I could talk (or, more accurately, write) for hours about this aspect of the upcoming hero. But let’s save us all the headache and move on to the final defining aspect of Lunara…
While the previously mentioned elements are important to Lunara and her skill-cap, her mobility is perhaps paramount. Let me say that, for those who weren’t able to try her at Blizzcon, Lunara’s gait is… funky. Whereas most heroes move smoothly to their destination, Lunara hops. This means that the pace of her movement is broken: stop, hop, stop, hop, etc.
It felt clunky at first. At times it would seem she would land her hop at precisely the wrong time, pausing just long enough to get hit by a Lunar Flare. However, the applications of this somewhat jerky movement are huge, and will be pivotal to outmaneuvering enemies and staying clear of skillshots. Learning how to properly hop with Lunara will be a key part of mastering her.
While her trans-battlefield mobility is hindered by her lack of a mount, Lunara will be just about as mobile as Rehgar in teamfights. What’s more, this Dryad is ranged and can do some mean damage over time. Her squishy stature makes it crucial that she use this mobility to continually position well and to dodge Crowd Control. One pesky stun can spell doom for this speedy assassin, even with Greater Spell Shield at 13.
As mentioned in the previous section, kiting will be a huge part of Lunara’s skillset. With her sustained damage, crippling slows, and high mobility, she will prove adept at luring enemies on long, detrimental chases. If she can land 3 stacks of Nature’s Toxin on an enemy, activating Crippling Toxin within 3 seconds will slow them and apply another stack. This means up to 12 seconds of damage over time, and that’s without Lunara stopping to throw additional attacks or abilities at her pursuer. Because of this, Lunara is going to be a tremendous nuisance for melee heroes, especially Melee Assassins.
At level 20, Lunara is given the option to buff her Z, much like Falstad with Epic Mount. Galloping Gait allows her to activate her mount once a minute to gain an additional 60% movement speed for 6 seconds. At 180% movement speed, this will make Lunara the official fastest hero in the game. This title was previously held by Sgt. Hammer, who can boost herself to 160% movespeed by activating Z. While it may be hard to pass up on her other awesome Storm Talents, this ability will make Lunara damn near uncatchable in the end-game.
Getting Hyped to Hop
In my opinion, Lunara is the most exciting of the heroes revealed at Blizzcon. Her unorthodox playstyle, incredible mobility, and awesome charge-based Heroics had me hyped from the moment they were revealed. I’ve heard sentiments that she looks boring, uninspiring, or unoriginal, but I am forced to disagree with all of that. Lunara looks like she’ll be my bae (especially with that absolutely gorgeous master skin – level 10 can’t come soon enough).
With minimal playtime and a mere outline of her talents and abilities, it is difficult to say how impactful she will be on the HotS scene in general. Especially with the upcoming scaling changes, which portends a shift to a whole new meta, her future is uncertain.
Despite whatever may come for Lunara, I would like to commend the HotS developers for finding this niche in the Ranged Assassin role and filling it out so soundly. I can’t recall a hero announcement that I’ve been so jazzed for in any MOBA I’ve played.
Do you have a different opinion on Lunara’s core philosophy? Think you have her spot in the competitive scene pinned? Do you just want to propagate your own hype about her? Then chime in on the Reddit thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/heroesofthestorm/comments/3sufvu/lunaras_unique_design_and_why_you_should_be_hyped/