Back in January, Blizzard revealed details on two unexpected Diablo series characters who would be making their way to their MOBA, Heroes of the Storm: Li-Ming the Wizard, and Xul the Necromancer. Li-Ming has since been enjoying a large degree of success in the Nexus (perhaps too much, as recent nerfs suggest). Next Tuesday, the highly anticipated Xul will be arriving in Heroes of the Storm to complement Li-Ming’s arcane prowess with his knowledge of the undead.
Necromancers in the Diablo universe are followers of an ancient demigod named Rathma. Though their devotion to death unsettles both their fellow sorcerers and laymen alike, Necromancers are actually wise individuals who seek to uphold the balance between life and death that underlies their world. Curious experimenters by nature, Necromancers are typically not fierce combatants. But with the arrival of Diablo and his demonic legions, the priests of Rathma will use any means necessary to maintain this primal symmetry. Their methods of balancing the world include curses that debilitate their opponents’ vitality, constructs of bone that impede enemy movement, golems woven from the pulse of life itself, poisons that reduce their foes to dust, and armies of re-animated skeletons. Lots and lots of skeletons.
Diablo II veterans will be relieved to hear, though, that Xul’s skeleton army will not include screen-filling hordes of lag-inducing osseous companions, as could be seen (and suffered) in earlier versions of Diablo II.
As one of the heroes who defeated the Prime Evils in Diablo II, Xul brings the aforementioned repertoire to Heroes of the Storm (sans the golems, which, according to a developer interview, were excluded due to screen clutter). You can check them out in action below:
Befitting his necromancer theme, Xul’s toolkit allows him to puncture the sacred spaces of his opponent’s formations. Xul players will look to entrench themselves among enemy ranks and then unleash mayhem, like a plague consuming its victims from the inside out.
Though he may not look like it, Xul is actually a rather durable hero (for an assassin-specialist archetype, at least), thanks to his special Bone Armor skill. Bone Armor occupies the “1” slot on the hotbar above the player’s main skills, where skills obtained through talents usually go. Activating Bone Armor gives Xul a shield equal to 25% of his maximum health for 3 seconds. This ability allows Xul to fulfill his role of wading into enemy lines, softening them up for his teammates, scoring kills when need be, and generally being a nuisance.
Xul’s passive trait, Raise Skeleton, grants Xul the ability to perform his second role: lane pushing. Upon killing any enemy (non-boss) minion, Xul will automatically raise a Skeletal Warrior in its place. Xul can raise up to four skeletons at a time, thereby increasing his sieging capabilities and his overall presence in a lane. With talents, Xul can raise up to 8 skeletons (the maximum number of skeletons that were able to be raised by Diablo II Necromancers, amusingly enough). Skeletons raised outside of a lane will prioritize any nearby enemies, then head to the nearest lane and continue fighting.
His Q ability – Spectral Scythe – acts as a reverse skillshot. He places his scythe at a location on the battlefield, which returns to him like a boomerang. Skilled players can use the scythe’s return trip to catch players between him and the scythe. Since the scythe follows Xul’s location, he can also run in specific directions to curve the scythe’s flight path and create befuddling spatial control traps, augmented by any skeletons on the battlefield that can act as roadblocks. It is also used to clear waves of enemy creeps. Talents can increase the range of Spectral Scythe, grant it life leeching properties or even inflict a debuff dreaded by many a World of Warcraft player: Mortal Strike, which severely decreases the amount of healing an enemy target receives.
Xul’s W ability, Cursed Strike, turns his basic attacks into area-of-effect strikes that curse any enemy caught within the blast. This curse reduces the afflicted player’s attack speed by a whopping 50%, which spells doom for heroes that rely on their auto attacks like Illidan and Thrall. Cursed Strike allows Xul to greatly support his frontline teammates, like Warriors, who can then wade in and clean up Xul’s cursed mess. Similar to Kharazim’s Deadly Reach ability, Cursed Strikes lasts for four seconds and augments any auto attacks performed during this time. Certain talents can augment the effectiveness of the curse.
His E ability, Bone Prison, should ring a bell for Diablo II players. Bone Prison is a close-range, targeted ability that entraps an opponent in a cage made of bones. Like Nazeebo the Witch Doctor’s Wall of Zombies ability, Bone Prison places a warning graphic on the ground that alerts players to the impending prison. If an enemy is caught within the prison, they will be unable to move for a few seconds. Unlike Wall of Zombies, though, Bone Prison requires a target and is not a skillshot ability. Enemies can move outside of Xul’s range to cancel the impending trap. It is unknown at this time whether this ability can impede the movement of allied and enemy players outside the trap like Wall of Zombies can.
Xul’s first Heroic ability should also be familiar to Diablo II fans: Poison Nova. Posion Nova is a point blank area of effect nuke that sends a wave of noxious poison balls outward, which deal heavy damage and apply a damage over time effect to anyone hit. As in Diablo II, the ability radiates off of Xul in a 360 degree circle, meaning Xul players will have to use their abilities and wit to infiltrate enemy lines and unleash noxious destruction on their foes. Used smartly, a well-placed Poison Nova can swing the momentum of a teamfight in Xul’s favor. It is especially effective against team compositions who prefer to dive your teammates, and can make a dive-happy hero like Sonya or Zeratul think twice before pouncing on your healer.
Xul’s second Heroic ability, Skeletal Mages, summons a line of lich-like mages in a location in front of Xul. It is similar to Tassadar’s Force Wall, except that the skeletons do not block player pathing. Instead, the ghostly spells flung by these mages slow and damage enemies on hit, which can provide Xul and his team with outstanding spatial control in a lane. This Heroic is suited for a more patient playstyle, and when placed behind an opponent, can be a hinderance to heroes who prefer to assault from the backline, like Kael’thas. A Level 20 talent allows Xul to raise a single Skeleton Mage when an enemy hero is killed, further increasing his spatial control in endgame teamfights.
A list of Xul’s talents can be found below. Diablo II fans may be delighted to see the return of several other Necromancer staples, such as Bone Spear, Amplify Damage, and the ever-amusing Corpse Explosion.
[Active] Backlash: When Bone Armor expires, nearby enemies take 15% of their maximum Health as damage.
[Active] Shackler: While Bone Armor is active, nearby enemies are slowed by 30% for 1 second.
[Active] Shade: While Bone Armor is active, you evade all Basic Attacks, but its cooldown is increased by 10 seconds.
[Q] Death’s Reach: Increase Spectral Scythe range by 20%.
[E] Jailors: Bone Prison summons 2 Skeletal Warriors that fixate on the target for 15 seconds. These Skeletal Warriors do not count toward your maximum Raise Skeleton count.
[Trait] Trag’Oul’s Essence: Raise Skeleton restores Mana.
[W] Harvest Vitality: Cursed Strikes Heal you for each enemy Hero hit.
[W] Weaken: Increases Cursed Strikes attack speed slow to 75%.
[Trait] Rathma’s Blessing: Gain health whenever a skeleton is summoned.
[R1] Poison Nova: Poison enemies around you.
[R2] Skeletal Mages: Summon Frost Mages to damage and slow enemies.
[Q] Decrepify: Spectral Scythe slows enemies by 40% for 3 seconds.
[W] Giant’s Curse: Cursed Strikes deal an additional 2% of an enemy hero’s maximum Health as damage.
[Trait] Corpse Explosion: Skeletal Warriors explode on death, dealing damage in a small area. Damage is doubled vs. non-heroic enemies.
Executioner: Basic attacks deal 40% more damage against slowed, rooted, or stunned targets.
[Q] Flowing Wounds: Reduces Spectral Scythe’s cooldown by 4 seconds if it hits an enemy Hero.
[E] Amplify Damage: Enemies rooted by Bone Prison become Vulnerable for 2 seconds, taking 25% increased damage.
[Trait] Skeleton Mastery: Increases maximum Skeletal Warrior count to 6 and increases their damage by 100%.
[R1] Call of the Grave: Enemies hit by Poison Nova now also take an additional 1% of their maximum Health as damage every second.
[R2] Raised Mage: When a nearby enemy Hero dies, a Frost Mage will rise from the corpse to fight for you. Also increases Frost Mage slow amount to 50%.
[Q] Mortal Wound: Enemies hit by Spectral Scythe receive 75% reduced healing for 4 seconds.
[Active] Bone Spear: Deal damage to enemies in a line.
The amount of damage and utility Xul brings to a team is clearly not to be trifled with.
Do you have what it takes to command legions of the undead?
Xul will be arriving in Heroes of the Storm this upcoming Tuesday.