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Heroes of the Storm: Illidan

Illidan came up to bat in the free hero rotation for April 1 through April 8 and some of you voiced an interest in seeing more about him. That's exactly what we're going to do today. Illidan is a member of the Assassin class of heroes, meaning he can dish out plenty of damage, but isn't built to take much of it himself.

Illidan is currently at a disadvantage when compared to some of the other assassins in the game such as Falstad, Zeratul, or Nova. Falstad's ability to fly gives him substantial map control while Zeratul and Nova's ability to stealth make their task as assassins much easier. Illidan has neither of those things, but when played well (and built properly) he can still be a formidable opponent.
Skills
Betrayer's Strike (Q)
Cooldown: 9 seconds

Illidan's next Basic Attack does (Base Attack Power + 50%) damage and applies Mark of Azzinoth to the target.
Crescent Sweep (W)
Cone
Cooldown: 10 seconds

Deals (66 base + 10 per level) damage to enemies in target area.

Enemies with the Mark of Azzinoth take an extra 125% damage and are silenced for 1.5 seconds.
Lunge (E)
Skillshot
Cooldown: 8 seconds

Lunges towards the target location, dealing (118 base + 18 per level) damage to the first enemy Hero in his path.

Lunging into an enemy with the Mark of Azzinoth reduces its cooldown by 50% and roots them as Illidan flips behind them.
Mark of Azzinoth (Passive)
Combat Trait

Basic Attacks against targets with Mark of Azzinoth reduce Illidan's ability cooldowns by 0.5 seconds. Using Betrayer's Strike and Heroic Abilities will apply Mark of Azzinoth to the target for 8 seconds.
The Hunt (R)
Heroic Ability
Cooldown: 60 seconds

Illidan launches himself at the target enemy. Deals (85 base + 10 per level) damage, stuns target for 1 second, and applies Mark of Azzinoth. Has a very long range.
Metamorphosis (R)
Area of Effect
Cooldown: 100 seconds

Transforms into demon form at the target location. Upon impact, deals (210 base + 10 per level) damage in a small area and applies Mark of Azzinoth to targets in a larger area. For each Hero struck, gain 150 temporary max health. Also grants 30% increased attack speed. Lasts for 18 seconds.
Illidan's combat style is all about applying Mark of Azzinoth to your opponent and focusing on that person. If you don't have the Mark on your target, your performance will be subpar. Mark of Azzinoth is applied primarily through Betrayer's Strike, but once you get to choose your Heroic Ability, The Hunt and Metamorphosis can both apply it as well. Betrayer's Mark, for mechanical purposes, is effectively just an on-demand critical strike auto attack -- it deals your base auto-attack damage and 50% more on top.

Crescent Sweep is a straightforward cone attack, though the need to select its area of effect can be awkward when you're in a melee brawl. When in that position, directing your cone doesn't come naturally, but you get the hang of it after awhile. Its damage isn't anything to write home about unless your Mark of Azzinoth target is in the cone -- at which point its damage still isn't incredible, but its Silence component is a pretty big deal. There aren't many of those in the game.
Lunge is a skillshot -- that is, a projectile you need to aim manually. In this case, the projectile is you. You hurl Illidan toward your enemy, and if they have the Mark, you temporarily root them and Illidan flips behind them. No matter your direction of approach to the enemy, you can get between them and their path of escape. Be cautious: many players end up Lunging themselves into range of enemy fortifications and get themselves blasted to pieces in a very embarrassing fashion.

While Lunge can be used to prevent an opponent's escape, it can also aid Illidan's escape, should he need it. As an assassin, Illidan is pretty squishy and can't stand up to punishment. If things get too hot, Lunge out of the line of fire and keep running.

When it comes to the choice of Heroic abilities, The Hunt or Metamorphosis, the latter of the two options is the most tempting. You turn into a big, badass demon. Awesome, right? Well, yeah. It is awesome and it's a viable choice. However, given Illidan's issues with long-range mobility (the lack of Falstad's flight, inability to stealth), seriously consider giving The Hunt a try. Its tooltip says it has a very long range -- that isn't an exaggeration. With The Hunt, Illidan can easily charge from one lane to the next and deal an unsuspecting enemy a nasty surprise. Have fun ganking those healers!
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
  • Regeneration Master: Gather 3 Regeneration Globes to permanently grant you +3 health per second. Stacks.
  • Path of the Assassin: Your Hero gains an extra 2 attack damage for every level gained.
  • Betrayer's Mark: Increases Mark of Azzinoth's cooldown reduction per attack to 1 second.
  • Lethal Thrust: Lunge deals 30% more damage.
The only talent here that I wouldn't recommend highly is Regeneration Master -- it won't help Illidan survive hot battles, he'll still be a glass cannon. The other three options make him a better cannon, though. I've seen Lethal Thrust chosen frequently to aid in Illidan's ability to finish off fleeing opponents. Betrayer's Mark makes Illidan's ability to reduce cooldowns crazy, letting him effectively spam some of his skills. Illidan has no mana concerns to worry about. Path of the Assassin is useful, but probably the least game-changing option available. At the max level, level 25, it amounts to 50 total attack power.

Level 4
  • Focused Attack: Every 5 seconds, your next Basic Attack deals 50% additional damage.
  • Vampiric Assault: Basic Attacks heal you for 15% of the damage done.
  • Thrill of the Chase: Each nearby enemy with Mark of Azzinoth gives Illidan 10% Movement Speed. This effect stacks up to 3 times.
  • Both Blades: Lowers the cooldown of Betrayer's Strike to 6 seconds.
Like Regeneration Master, Vampiric Assault is tempting to take on such a squishy character, but I don't feel it provides enough healing to make a real difference in survivability. I'd suggest experimenting with it, though.

Thrill of the Chase is a tempting one. Since Illidan is a melee character, he can be easy to kite -- keeping him just out of melee range while you flee from the battle. It relies on Mark of Azzinoth being active, however. In most cases, Illidan needs to be in melee range to apply it anyway. Unless you're in Metamorphosis, you'll have one target Marked at a time at most. Is this talent worth taking for 10% movement speed you may or may not be able to apply when you need it? When you have Lunge available to you, probably not.

I'd recommend going with Focused Attack or Both Blades here, leaning heavily on Both Blades. Focused Attacks gives you a crit every 5 seconds. Betrayer's Strike, which can be used every 6 seconds with Both Blades, both makes your attack a crit and applies Mark of Azzinoth. More, the cooldown reduction from the Mark of Azzinoth will let you use Betrayer's Strike more frequently ... see where Both Blades pulls ahead here?

Level 7
  • Betrayer's Fury: Betrayer's Strike also increases Illidan's Attack Speed by 30% for 4 seconds.
  • Evading Lunge: After lunging, dodge up to 2 Basic Attacks in the next 3 seconds.
  • First Aid: Activate to heal 8% of your max Health over 4 seconds.
In my opinion, this is the tier of talents where it's reasonable to be concerned about Illidan's survivability. Betrayer's Fury might be the obvious choice at this tier, but Illidan can use Lunge so frequently that the dodge from Evading Lunge might make a real difference in life or death. Remember, though -- it only allows Illidan to dodge basic attacks, not a hero's spells or abilities.

First Aid is nice because it lets you perform a little on-demand healing when you go from one battle to the next, which I find preferable to small, passive regeneration.

Still, if you want Illidan to deal out the most damage he can, Betrayer's Fury is pretty amazing. Especially considering its synergy with Mark of Azzinoth. Every time you hit a marked target, you reduce the cooldown on Betrayer's Strike. Every time you use Betrayer's Strike, you get the attack speed bonus, which means more attacks more cooldown reductions. It's entirely possible to keep that attack speed bonus active at all times.

The question you need to ask is whether you're able to stay in combat long enough to make the most of that attack speed bonus. If you can, take it. If you can't, attack speed won't help a dead man.
Level 10
  • The Hunt
  • Metamorphosis
See Skills section for my commentary on these abilities.

Level 13
  • Spell Shield: Periodically reduces the damage received from Hero Abilities by 50%. Stores up to 2 charges.
  • Giant Killer: Basic Attacks against enemy Heroes deal an additional 1.5% of the target's max Health in damage.
  • Cursed Strike: Increases the damage bonus from hitting a marked target to 50%. Increases the silence to 2 seconds.
  • Immolation: Crescent Sweep spouts flames, dealing damage all around Illidan. Its cooldown is also reduced by 2 seconds.
Cursed Strike and Immolation both modify Crescent Sweep. While Cursed Strike simply increases its damage and silence, Immolation changes the ability almost completely. Immolation not only allows you to use it more frequently, but the spell is no longer a cone and no longer needs to be targeted at all. It becomes a PBAOE -- a Point Blank Area of Effect. That is, it hits in a circle around you. While that makes the ability much easier to use, you're no longer able to hit targets just out of melee range. No using it to get that last shot off on a fleeing opponent.

Spell Shield is the survivability option if you feel you need it and Giant Killer is a decent straight-up damage increase if you don't want to mess with Crescent Sweep. Giant Killer won't make a big difference against other assassins, but it does make it much easier for Illidan to put a dent in enemy tanks.

Level 16
  • Blood for Blood: Activate to steal 15% of target enemy's max Health and slow its Movement Speed by 30% for 3 seconds.
  • Stoneskin: Activate to gain 30% of your max Health in Shields for 5 seconds.
  • Berserk: Activate to increase your Attack Speed by 50% and Movement Speed by 10% for 4 seconds.
This is all preference, I feel. All three of these are abilities that require activation. Blood for Blood is quite strong, but Berserk has good synergy with Illidan's other abilities. Stoneskin is okay but since it scales with Illidan's health, of which he does not have much, it isn't a particularly impressive shield.

Level 20
  • Fury of the Storm: Basic Attacks bounce twice to nearby enemies for 50% damage.
  • Resurgence of the Storm: Upon dying, revive back at your Altar after 5 seconds. This can occur once every 120 seconds.
  • Bolt of the Storm: Activate to teleport to the target location.
Interestingly, Illidan has no level 20 talents that modify his Heroic Abilities. Not a problem -- Fury of the Storm is incredible if you've built Illidan up with all of the attack speed talent choices. Illidan is heavily based around Betrayer's Strike and auto-attacks. Fury of the Storm makes every single attack a limited AOE. It's amazing to see.

I'm always skeptical of Resurgence of the Storm because ideally, you won't be dying. You will die, of course. It's unavoidable in a tough match. Planning for it is always odd to me, though, and you should choose the options that make it less likely rather than the ones that might make it less painful.

Bolt of the Storm is neat simply due to the added mobility it grants, but seriously. Fury of the Storm on Illidan is badass.

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