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Heroes of the Storm: Abathur

If Falstad is one of the easier characters to master in Heroes of the Storm, Abathur is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Playing Abathur well is quite difficult and he's unlike any other hero in the game. He relies on knowledge of the maps themselves as well as every other hero in the game. Abathur's personal presence on the battlefield is minimal. He stays as far away from the fight as possible. He fights through your allies, empowering them and protecting them with his Symbiote ability and maintaining control of the map through laying Toxic Nests (landmines) from a distance.

Abathur falls into the category of "Specialist." The Specialist designation is given to those characters that aren't easily categorized. They aren't nimble, deadly Assassins. They aren't beefy, tanky warriors. Support is closer to what Abathur does, but support characters tend to have a physical battlefield presence. In short, Specialists are weird.
Skills
Symbiote (Q)
Cooldown: 4 seconds
Assists the target allied unit or structure allowing Abathur to shield them and use new abilities from the host. Lasts for 45 seconds.

Cannot be used on self, the Palace, Grave Golems, or summoned units.
Toxic Nest (W)
Cooldown: Charge gained every 12 seconds to a maximum of 3
Spawns a mine-like nest at a location that becomes active after a short arming time. Deals (52 + 12 per level) damage to enemies that contact it, and reveals the enemy for 4 seconds. Nests last for 90 seconds.
Ultimate Evolution (R)
Heroic Ability
Cooldown: 120 seconds
Abathur creates a copy of the target ally Hero and takes control of it. The Evolution's attributes are based on Abathur's current level and talents. Lasts for 45 seconds.
Locust Strain (Passive)
Abathur spawns a Locust to attack down the nearest lane every 20 seconds.
Deep Tunnel (Z)
Replaces Mount
After channeling for 3 seconds, Abathur quickly tunnels to the target visible location.
Symbiote Skills
Stab (Q)
Skillshot
Cooldown: 3 seconds
Shoots a spike towards target area that deals (50 + 10 per level) damage to the first enemy it contacts.
Spike Burst (W)
Cooldown: 6 seconds
Deals (32 + 8 per level) damage to enemies near the ally Abathur is assisting.
Carapace (E)
Cooldown: 12 seconds
Shields the assisted ally for (160 + 14 per level). Lasts for 8 seconds.

Notice there are two sets of skills for Abathur. This hero does most of his combat via Symbiote. Essentially, you slap a facehugger on your friend from range and you are in control of the facehugger. Your ally continues to control their own movement, and thus your movement. As the symbiote, Stab is your single target damage, Spike Burst is your AOE, and you protect your ally with Carapace. Symbiote is often best used on a melee hero due to Spike Burst's limited range. Ranged heroes tend to stand far enough away that Spike Burst won't hit anything and they can be squirrely enough to make targeting a Stab difficult. If you're able to communicate with your team, let your ranged heroes know that when they have the Symbiote, they can (and should) stand a little closer to the battle. Carapace will give them a little extra protection to make that possible.

While it's often tempting to keep your symbiote on one particular hero at all times, and it's easy to tunnel-vision and forget to see to your other duties as Abathur, that's not a great idea. Your symbiote is not as strong as having another hero on the field. If you stay on one ally at all times and never do anything else, it's like your team is missing half of a teammate. You want to observe the field and anticipate which of your allies will need support, while remembering to place your Toxic Nests.

It's worth noting, too, that Symbiote can be used on towers and minions. If the opposing team is pounding on a tower and none of your teammates are in a position to do anything about it, you can symbiote a tower to give it slightly more defense and firepower. It's unlikely you'll save the tower that way, but it'll make your opponents pay a higher price for it.
Toxic Nests are landmines that can be placed within a limited range, expanded to a global range after choosing a specific talent. Global meaning you can place them anywhere regardless of your personal position. You cannot use Toxic Nests while in Symbiote, so you'll want to plan every use of your Toxic Nests so you can lay them when they're ready, then get back to supporting whoever needs your help. Toxic Nests can be seen and attacked by your opponent after you lay them, so try not to put them right in the line of fire. Place them in a way that your opponent will be lured into running over them, forced into dealing with them, or to create a safe harbor for an ally that needs to flee. A fleeing ally can run past your Toxic Nests, and the opponents chasing them will trigger the mine.

Keep map objectives in mind when placing your nests, too. If you're in the Haunted Mines map, for example, anticipate which entrance your opponent will use when the mines open. You can place a cluster of Toxic Nests right inside the doorway, and when your opponents enter, they'll set them all off. Even if you don't kill them outright, they'll be terribly weakened and (hopefully) be easy pickings for your allies. You can also hide your Toxic Nests in the long grass of the map -- long grass blocks a player from seeing what lays within it. Your Nests will be hidden inside, and when an enemy tries to pass through, they'll get gooped.

Abathur's Heroic Ability, Ultimate Evolution, is where some knowledge of every hero in the game is essential. You become a clone of one of your allies, with all of your ally's abilities and access to their Heroic Ability. For example, if you clone an ally Falstad, you get his Hammerang, Thunderstorm, Barrel Roll, and depending on which Heroic he chose at level 10, Aerial Blitzkrieg or Shock and Awe. You only have 45 seconds as the copy -- you don't want to spend 30 seconds figuring out what his spells are. You should know how to use both Aerial Blitzkrieg and Shock and Awe to get the most out of your copy. You don't want to expect hitting R to use Shock and Awe and end up using Aerial Blitzkrieg against nothing but thin air.

Your opponents might believe they have one of your allies outnumbered. Then your clone spawns and suddenly the tide has turned, your opponents unprepared for it, and your team begins to steamroll down the lane.

Abathur's Locus Strain is interesting, but often difficult to gauge how effective it is. Being wholly passive, it requires no input from you whatsoever. The locust that is spawned isn't particularly powerful, though more powerful than standard minions. On its own, it won't accomplish anything, but considering it does all of the work without your input, all you need to do is make sure Abathur is near the lane you want them to take.
Like Falstad, Abathur is another character that doesn't use a mount. He can burrow to any location on the map without any range restrictions as long as your team has vision of your destination. Abathur's Toxic Nests provide vision. If you want to move Abathur forward on the map, perhaps to contribute to gaining a map objective for your team while they're preoccupied, the smart idea is to lay down a round of Toxic Nests as a defensive measure, then use the vision they provide to tunnel forward.

As Abathur, you'll spend very little time looking at your own character. You'll need to be aware of the map, your allies, and your own spell timers at all times, clicking around the minimap like a madman. A good Abathur player is an aware player, someone who observes everything and can react accordingly, while also being proactive about making objectives easier for your team to capture.
Talents
At levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 20, you'll be able to choose a new talent. Many of these talents are passive, but some are active. Your Heroic Ability at level 10 is your most important talent choice, but every choice determines your unique strengths for that particular match.

Level 1
  • Combat Adaptation: Locusts gain 20% increased attack speed.
  • Survival Instincts: Locusts gain 30% increased health.
  • Envenomed Nest: Toxic Nests deal an additional 30% damage over 3 seconds.
  • Bribe: Kill enemy minions to gain stacks of Bribe. At 40 stacks, activate to capture target Mercenary Camp. Does not work on Golems.
Personally, I see no reason to take anything but Envenomed Nest. Toxic Nests are awesome. Making them more awesome seems obvious. Bribe doesn't make sense as a choice to me, but I could see someone making it work. Your Toxic Nests and your Symbiote's Spike Burst will rack up minion kills as a matter of course. Abathur's ability to burrow makes reaching mercenary camps a trivial task. Since Abathur doesn't have a lane presence, that Bribe might be the best way for your team to acquire mercenaries at all.

Really, though, Envenomed Nests still seems to be the obvious choice in my eyes.

Level 4
  • Pressurized Glands: Increases the radius of your Symbiote's Spike Burst by 100%.
  • Ballistospheres: Toxic Nests can now be placed from unlimited range.
  • Promote: Give target allied lane minion +200% permanent health and +100% permanent damage.
Much like Envenomed Nest at level 1, Ballistosphere is where I always go. In this case, that may not be the best choice, but it does make playing Abathur easier. Being able to lay down nests anywhere on the map from anywhere on the map is wonderful. A more seasoned player, however, might forego that choice, putting more faith in their ability to move Abathur forward on a regular basis. While you're in Symbiote, your character remains rooted in place where you left them. That's easy pickings if your opponent finds you while you're busy elsewhere. Ballistosphere minimizes that threat. If you're a good enough player to not be concerned with that, Pressurized Glands ensures your Spike Burst is more effective -- and actually useful on a player at range.

Promote might be interesting, but not interesting enough to me to surpass the other two.

Level 7
  • Grooved Spines: Increases the range of your Symbiote's Stab by 33%.
  • Vile Nest: Toxic Nests slow enemies by 50% for 2 seconds.
  • Regenerative Microbes: Your Symbiote's Carapace also heals the target for 7 health (scales with level) a second.
  • Calldown: MULE: Repairs the target structure, granting it health and ammo over 30 seconds.
Level 7 is where I find Abathur's talent choices most difficult. Grooved Spines is useful, because Stab, by default, doesn't have the most impressive range ever. Giving your Toxic Nests a slow makes them even more useful. Regenerative Microbes gives Abathur the ability to heal allies, though if your ally is mid-battle, the Carapace shield is likely to be broken before it does much healing. Calldown: MULE gives Abathur more defensive might, rebuilding and reloading damaged towers. The MULE, however, has a bad habit of spawning outside of a gate rather than inside of one, placing itself in reach of your enemies to be destroyed, rather than in complete safety. This is an alpha, though, so that issue might be resolved before long.

Personally, I tend to flip between Regenerative Microbes and the MULE, even if they may not prove to be the best options. I figure my role is to keep my allies in a fight as long as possible. Giving Regenerative Microbes a healing component means it's still useful even when they aren't in direct line of fire. For example, if my allied Falstad is down at half health but isn't immediately in danger, giving him healing means he can get back into the thick of things more quickly, or prepares him for a surprise attack.

Level 10
  • Ultimate Evolution: Abathur builds a copy of target ally Hero and can control it for a limited amount of time.
See the Skills section for my thoughts on this. Abathur does not have an alternative Heroic Ability option.
Level 13
  • Assault Strain: Abathur's Locusts gain a cleave attack and explode on death for 60 damage.
  • Bombard Strain: Abathur's Locusts gain a long-range siege attack.
  • Spatial Efficiency: Your Symbiote's Stab gains 1 charge, to a max of 3.
  • Prolific Dispersal: Toxic Nest gains 2 charges, to a max of 5.
Again, I tend to lean away from the Locust-based talents. Prolific Dispersal is another of those talents that makes playing Abathur slightly easier. When you have a maximum of three charges, you have 36 seconds after laying your last Toxic Nest before you have all three again. If you wait longer than 36 seconds before laying your Nests, you waste potential charges. At a maximum of 5, that becomes 60 seconds before you waste potential charges. That gives you more time to remain in Symbiote, more time to breathe between actions. Abathur is all about multitasking, however, so a player who is truly good at the character might see Prolific Dispersal as a crutch.

Spatial Efficiency is likely the best option here for your DPS. Prior to choosing this talent, Stab does not have a Charge mechanic -- it simply refreshes every 3 seconds. After Spatial Efficiency, it builds a charge every 3 seconds. That means, if it's been at least 9 seconds since you last used Stab, you'll be able to use it 3 times back-to-back before waiting for a cooldown, resulting in decent burst damage. Charges appear to build while you aren't in Symbiote form. With this talent, you'll build charges of Stab while you expend charges of Toxic Nest, and by the time you return to Symbiote form for one of your allies, you'll be able to burst out 2-3 Stabs back to back.

Level 16
  • Envenomed Spikes: Your Symbiote's Spike Burst also slows enemies by 40% for 2 seconds.
  • Adrenaline Boost: Your Symbiote's Carapace also increases the movement speed of the target by 40% for 3 seconds.
  • Swarm Nest: Gain the ability to spawn a Nest near Abathur that hatches 3 Locusts.
I admit -- despite not caring too much for what my Locusts do, I often take Swarm Nest because it's pretty fun to spawn those guys on demand. It isn't the best choice, and it isn't one I'd take when playing competitively, but it's fun. It's possible you could get some truly beefy Locusts if you choose a Locust talent in every tier where one is available, but I wouldn't expect that to be effective. You would be giving up power on your Toxic Mines and other team-based benefits. That's too much investment for glorified minions.

Envenomed Spikes or Adrenaline Boost is going to come down to personal preference, I feel, and how you play with your team. Envenomed Spikes can prevent an enemy hero from fleeing. Adrenaline Boost can make it easier for your teammate to catch up with a fleeing opponent. Adrenaline Boost can help your ally flee if need be, but Envenomed Spikes could also stop your opponents from pursuing your ally. On the whole, I feel Envenomed Spikes is a little more offensive, Adrenaline Boost is a little more defensive. Either of them can be used in either way, however. Adrenaline Boost might be more useful when you Symbiote a ranged character while Envenomed Spikes might be more useful when you Symbiote a melee.

Take your pick, really.

Level 20
  • Bolt of the Storm: Activate to teleport to the target location.
  • Evolution Master: Lowers the cooldown of Ultimate Evolution to 90 seconds and increases the duration to 60 seconds.
With Abathur's ability to burrow, choosing Bolt of the Storm seems redundant. Then considering how powerful Abathur's Heroic Ability already is, choosing a talent that allows him to use it longer and more frequently seems obvious.

On Heroes of the Storm's character select screen, Abathur is labeled with a Very Hard difficulty. While I agree that the designation is true, I also say you shouldn't be intimidated by him. If you have the chance to take Abathur for a spin, I recommend learning how he works. He asks you to look at the game in a whole new way, and through playing him, you grow more accustomed with the game's little details -- chokepoints on the map, other heroes' strengths and weaknesses, and you improve on your own ability to act and react in the game.

Filed under: Heroes of the Storm

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