Heroes of the Storm's new character is a game changer

Even among MOBAs, Heroes of the Storm has a reputation for delivering mechanically weird characters. When Blizzard announced Cho’gall at BlizzCon, or The Lost Vikings before him, it was pretty clear that playing them would be different than your average HotS hero. But the newly announced Medivh could be stranger than both. A Magus whose origins stretch back to the original Warcraft, Medivh is a deceptively straightforward-looking addition to the lineup. While he looks like another mage, he’s actually a versatile specialist that has the potential to shift the entire meta around him, simply by being in the game. 

You may think I’m being hyperbolic, but that might actually be a tame opinion compared to some of the things I was hearing from players at a preview event early this week. I got a chance to try out Medivh, and the other upcoming hero Chromie, along with other press, streamers, and a number of pro HotS players, and pretty much everyone was shocked by the amount of utility he provided. If utilized by a coordinated team, his abilities can be so impactful that Medivh’s presence will be felt from the very start of the picks and bans.

Let’s start with his trait, which turns him into a raven instead of mounting up. As a raven, Medivh has reduced vision but can pass over any terrain, and is completely invincible and untargetable. There is no time limit to this raven form, and the enemy team can do literally nothing to stop him. This lets Medivh be a free-roaming scout for a majority of the match, only needing to leave the protection of his bird body to cast abilities. You can follow gankers through the jungle, safely check mercenary camps, and even fly straight to the enemy core if you really wanted to. Sticking close to your team is no longer as important as staying one step ahead of them.  

But the reason Medivh will be so disruptive to the HotS meta is his E ability: Portal, which creates two-linked portals that last for six seconds. Allies can travel back and forth between the two points instantly, and the enemy can’t destroy, disrupt, or use the portals in any way. It’s basically a smaller and significantly faster medivac on a 20-second cooldown. And the crazy thing is it’s really not that small. In fact, the cast range is pretty damn large—especially when coupled with a talent at level 13 that increases the range further, at which point the two portals can essentially be placed a full screen-width apart.

This is an ability you can build a team around. Suddenly warriors like Anub’arak and Diablo are a whole lot scarier because they could appear right next to your assassins. Blizzard even told me it expects Malfurion and his Twilight Dream heroic to start being picked more often, which isn’t popular today but could be devastating if used after portaling to the center of the enemy team—or to counter an enemy team that’s doing the same. Instead of clashing head-on, you can appear right next to the opposing heroes, an effect which makes characters who might lack mobility in favor of damage or crowd-control a lot more viable. 

Portal is supported by Medivh’s W, Force of Will, which prevents all damage an allied hero would take for the next 1.5 seconds. They can still be rooted or stunned, but because Force of Will is only on a five-second cooldown, it’s very useful for blocking ultimates and other high-damage abilities. Pairing it with a quick Portal means you can suddenly send an undamagable Illidan into the center of the enemy team before they even know what happened. The two abilities work wonderfully together, as one puts you far deeper than it would otherwise be safe to go, and the other makes sure you don’t instantly explode when you get there. 

The big caveat to Medivh’s incredible utility is that he has almost no damage. His Q, Arcane Blast, is a short range skillshot with a reduced cooldown if it hits a hero, but it’s not very exciting given his other abilities. His two heroics—Poly bomb, which polymorphs an enemy and can chain to other heroes, and Ley Line Seal, which is a large, slow skillshot that puts opposing heroes into Stasis for four seconds—are powerful and disruptive, but also don’t deal any damage. Medivh isn’t meant to clear waves or capture mercenary camps; he’s meant to provide map awareness, movement, and protection to the rest of his team. 

The key here is coordination. I have serious doubts about whether Medivh is still a good choice in solo queue. There was nothing more frustrating than dropping a portal for my teammates and then watching them run past it, or shielding an assassin only to have them blink away. Portal and Force of Will are best used swiftly and unexpectedly, and that’s hard to do with a bunch of strangers online and a series of frantic pings.

But if Medivh is released on June 14th in the same state I played him this week, he’s going to have a thundering impact on high-level strategies. Team comps will be specifically designed around him, and others will be found to counter those. If he isn’t banned, he’ll be a constant factor on your mind as you and your opponents draft a team. I’m not saying he’ll be OP, or even that Medivh teams will be the strongest option for every single game. I think it’s too early to tell in that regard, but he’ll almost certainly leave a lasting effect on how team’s think about the draft. 

Tom Marks
Tom is PC Gamer’s Associate Editor. He enjoys platformers, puzzles and puzzle-platformers. He also enjoys talking about PC games, which he now no longer does alone. Tune in every Wednesday at 1pm Pacific on Twitch.tv/pcgamer to see Tom host The PC Gamer Show.