Apparently Fel magic isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, as Heroes of the Storm’s latest hero failed to set the game alight at launch. After a recent patch, however, it looks like Gul’dan has finally found his niche: a spellcasting assassin that deals damage with a constant barrage of abilities rather than nuking enemy carries. Let’s take a look at those abilities.
Passive: Life Tap
Those who know all about World of Warcraft’s warlocks will know exactly what this ability does. Gul’dan doesn’t regenerate mana normally, and instead sacrifices some health in return for mana. Managing these two pools of resources is the trickiest part of playing Gul’dan: knowing when to tap for mana, and when to run your mana dry in order to maintain a high health pool.
Q: Fel Flame
Gul’dan’s bread and butter ability is Fel Flame, and it’s relatively simply. He fires flames in a cone. Where it differs, though, is in its short 1.5 second cooldown. Gul’dan can spam this ability to whittle down opponents or clear minion waves with ease. It’s got some range, too: it can hit turrets without them retaliating, making him a strong pusher early on.
W: Drain Life
To combat the need to constantly sacrifice his health, Gul’dan’s able to top up his pool with a nice glug of his opponent’s life force. He channels on an enemy unit for up to 3 seconds, dealing damage and healing himself. This works on both heroes and minions, but not structures. You’re not going to get much health out of a few bricks, after all.
Reminiscent of Gall’s Dread Orb, Gul’dan causes three zones, one after another, to explode with shadow energy, dealing damage over time to anyone caught in it. This ability can do huge damage if it hits an enemy with all three explosions, and is best used if they’re running away, as this is the easiest way to hit an opponent with each successive blast.
R: Horrify and Rain of Destruction
Gul’dan’s R abilities are both spectacular. Horrify, his more commonly picked ultimate, introduces a new status effect to Heroes of the Storm. All enemies in the target area suffer fear, causing them to run away from the centre of the area while being hit by some burst damage. This can be used to cause chaos or to catch out an enemy. Casting Horrify in front of a fleeing enemy can cause them to run back into your team. Similarly, an exceptional Gul’dan player will be able to single out opponents in a group: causing most of the enemy team to flee, while one is forced to run into your allies.
Rain of Destruction, on the other hand, is an unreliable monster. Over seven seconds, meteors dealing huge damage will rain down on a target area, with Gul’dan channeling throughout the duration. The meteors themselves do huge damage, but land randomly. You might get lucky, and they could fall in your favour, or you might see the meteors miss everyone. It’s all down to luck.
Level 1: There’s a few ways to build Gul’dan, but the first question you’ll be asking is “do I have a healer to sustain me?” This will define your talent choices. If the answer is no, it’s typically best to take the talents that keep Gul’dan’s health pool topped up, whereas if the answer is yes, it’s often preferable to go for the talents that boost his damage output.
When taking talents to keep Gul’dan’s health up, you’ll want Chaotic Energy at level 1. Decreased mana costs and mana refunds are always a good thing, and it means you won’t be burning through his mana pool so quickly. If you’re looking for damage there are two options which both dictate your later talent choices. Pursuit of Flame is useful for those looking to deal damage with constant spellcasting, whereas Echoed Corruption is great if you want to dip in and out of fights: in to cast Corruption, out to wait for it to cool down. In Gul’dan’s current state, Echoed Corruption is usually the best bet, as it creates some fantastic nuking potential later on down his talent tree.
Level 4: This talent tier is all about keeping Gul’dan alive. Every talent choice is viable here, and the primary consideration should be whether you’ll be in lanes for very long. Both Health Funnel and Consume Soul rely on minions for Gul’dan to heal, whereas Improved Life Tap is useful everywhere. I’d typically recommend Consume Soul over Health Funnel, as it doesn’t rely on a lengthy channel. In general, though, unless you’re planning on taking Darkness Within at level 16 (more on that soon), Improved Life Tap’s efficiency increase just makes the talent a little better than the others.
Level 7: Alright, you know how I said you should go for talents that help Gul’dan stay healthy if there’s no healer? That was a little white lie, because at level 7, it’s a great excuse to pick up Hunger for Power. The negative side effect—decreasing allied healing by 25%—doesn’t matter if they’re not healing you anyway. Otherwise it’s a whopping 15% increase to your ability damage.
If you took Pursuit of Flame at level 1, Bound by Shadow should be your choice here, and if you took Echoed Corruption, take Curse of Exhaustion. Both simply enhance the abilities you’ve already put a talent into, with Bound by Shadow giving Fel Flame the ability to really be spammed by decreasing its cooldown (which also helps with completing Pursuit of Flame’s quest).
Level 10: Rain of Destruction is wonderful to look at and feels it should be accompanied by the , but Horrify is always the best choice at level 10. It gives Gul’dan a chance to save himself, lets him make plays by catching on enemy out, and so on. The random nature of Rain of Destruction means that, while it’s great at holding down an area (and there’s certainly a case to be made for choosing it on Infernal Shrines), it’s just unreliable. Add in the channeling period, and it’s too easy for enemies to take advantage of your immobility.
Level 13: If you’re going down the route of talents that improve Fel Flame, Fel Armor is the choice here. With a little skill, it can give Gul’dan a permanent spell shield or thereabouts. That’s a huge boost to his survivability, and helps give him a few seconds to react to any burst. If you’ve not been taking those talents, though, the best choice is Healthstone. With the prevalence of heroes that can punish anyone who is immobile, it’s best not to rely on a channeled ability. Dark Bargain’s weakness is that everyone makes mistakes, and Dark Bargain means those mistakes cost a lot more. Healthstone is also, like Consume Soul, a good way to bait out an enemy before providing yourself with a huge heal.
Level 16: You can probably guess where the advice for this talent is going: if you’ve been upgrading Fel Flame, take Rampant Hellfire, if you’ve been upgrading Corruption, take Ruinous Affliction. If not, you’ve got a tough choice to make. Rampant Hellfire is at its best if you took Bound by Shadow at level 7, and Darkness Within is far worse if you took Improved Life Tap earlier, as you’ll be using Life Tap less often.
Because of this, Ruinous Affliction is the most reliable choice. On top of giving a little burst, Ruinous Affliction’s bonus damage works on structures, that’s a lot of easy damage if you just hit three times. Position the first explosion on the edge of a fort and watch its health drop.
Level 20: You’ll usually be pretty deep into the game when you hit level 20 and for that reason it’s almost always best to pick up Demonic Circle. At this point, assassins typically have a way to reliably get on top of you and as Gul’dan has no ways to dash out of danger, Demonic Circle provides a free extra life. Place it down wherever you like, and you’ve got an instant teleport escape. Stuck in Entomb? Teleport out. Got a Kerrigan slapping you? Teleport out. Thrall’s charging to smack Doomhammer right up your chops? You know what to do.
While Haunt and Deep Impact are great, Haunt is often overkill, and if you’ve taken Rain of Destruction, the ability to teleport out is too useful after a 7 second channel than the possibility of 90% slows, as devastating as that can be.
It’s important to know how much mana your abilities and combos will drain. It partly depends on your talent choices—as Improved Life Tap and Chaotic Energy mix things up—and levels, but a typical rule is that roughly two abilities will cost a similar amount to the mana Life Tap restores for most of the game. Get a feeling for it, though, and start working out the right sort of combos for your playstyle.
A typical combo you might use if you’re in a safe spot would be Q, E, Life Tap, Q, W, Q, Life Tap. This lets you put out damage, give Gul’dan’s health a quick top up, and finish off with a full mana pool to pump out some Fel Flames until Corruption and Drain Life are back off cooldown. There’s no one best combo, though: being able to string abilities together on the fly is a necessity.
The final tip is to orbwalk with Gul’dan: a term originating in DotA, it originally referred to walking in between basic attacks when playing as a ranged carry. With Gul’dan, it refers to walking in between each cast of Fel Flame. Never just stand still while waiting for cooldowns, always reposition. Fel Flame has a large range, so do your best to hit enemies with the tip.
Getting this constant movement down, as well as weaving combos of abilities together on the fly, is why Gul’dan is so challenging. There’s a lot to keep in mind, and the best advice is to practice. Knowing when to Life Tap should be second nature, and when it is, you’ll be able to use the Fel to conquer the Nexus.
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