How To Be A Sniper: A Nova Guide



Sun 2nd Jun 2019 - 1:54pm

Nova, the Dominion Ghost, is a ranged Assassin from the Starcraft Universe.

A fragile stealth hero, she ambushes her targets and relies on the art of deception to escape before her target strikes back at her. Nova is a burst mage, whose damage is centered around her Snipe ability. She excels in bringing down squishy and isolated targets.  Some time ago Nova has seen a few changes made to her talents. A baseline active ability called ‘Ghost Protocol’ was added to her kit. This talent can be activated to grant immediate stealth and spawn a holo decoy on Nova’s location. Having this active ability added to her kit gives her a small tool for escaping tricky situations or being able to deceive her enemy even better. The snipe quest “Precision Sniper” became a baseline passive where snipe’s damage is increased by 6% for every hero hit, stacking up until 30%, with an additional damage bonus of 25% at maximum stacks, but all of your Snipe stacks are lost if Snipe fails to hit an enemy. With that, Nova’s Snipe talents were moved around the talent tree and other talents got more flavour and variation to them. This gives you the possibility to take different builds with your favorite Sniper depending on the matchup you find yourself in.



Tier 1:
Longshot: Increases the cast range of Pinning Shot by 30%, also increases the range of Nova’s next basic attack by 2.
Covert Ops: After being stealthed for 4 seconds, Pinning Shot's slow is increased to 55% and costs no mana. This bonus is lost after losing stealth for 1 second.
Advanced Cloaking: After being stealthed for 2 seconds, gain additional 10% movement speed. While in stealth, regen 2 mana per second.

At Level 1, Longshot is overall the best talent as the range increase makes it easier to open on a target while outranging them or catch a target that is running away. Covert Ops is great for maps where you have to fight around an objective, as you can reduce your mana consumption by playing patiently. Advanced Cloaking isn't as mana efficient compared to removing the mana cost of an entire ability that Covert Ops offers. 

Tier 4:
Rapid Projection: Reduce the cooldown and mana cost of Holo Decoy by 50%.
Holo Stability: Increase the cast range of Holo Decoy by 100% and it’s duration by 120%.
Covert Mission: Kill minions or heroes to bribe mercenaries.

Holo Stability is a talent you can take when you’re on a map that doesn’t have a lot of camps, where you take it over Bribe. Another option where Holo Stability really excels is on maps where Nova can solo capture an objective using her Decoy to distract the guardians off the objective, such as Alterac Pass or Garden of Terror. I feel Covert Mission is also quite a busted talent to have, since Nova has easy access to all camps on the map with her stealth. If you know how to toy around with your Decoy ability, Rapid Projection can be very rewarding. On maps like Towers of Doom where Decoys can interfere with players capturing an altar, Rapid Projection is also a good talent. 

Tier 7:
One in the Chamber: After using an ability Nova’s next basic attack has 60% increased damage.
Perfect Shot: Hitting an enemy hero with Snipe reduces the cooldown by 4 seconds and refunds its mana cost.
Anti-Armor Shells: Nova’s basic attack damage is increased by 250% and decreases the physical armor of her target by 15 for 3 seconds. Attack speed is proportionally slowed.

At this tier, you define the rest of your build. We’re going deeper into that in the section below, where we discuss different builds based on your tier 7 choice. Overall, One in the Chamber is the least skillshot dependent choice that will give you reliable damage output. This is the default pick if you haven't picked nova to counter a specific hero on the enemy team. Into the current meta, Perfect Shot is a good choice as it is very good into large health pool targets such as tanks, who are very dominant in this meta. Building further into the Snipe ability with your talent tree also gives a high damage output, but is very skill reliant. As you read ‘Anti Armor Shells’, you might think this is perfect into a tank, but I find this more effective into opponents with small health pools. In terms of raw damage the other builds deal more damage, but this build is very reliable in dealing with the targets that it’s picked for.

Tier 10:
Precision Strike: After 1,5 second delay deal 435 damage in an area. This ability has unlimited range.
Triple Tap: Locks on an enemy hero, then fires 3 shots that hit any hero or structure they first come in contact with for 372 damage each.

At level 10, Precision Strike is mostly the go-to Heroic Ability as you can combo it with crowd control on your team and it can come in handy to assist in a kill across the map or finish of a structure from a safe distance. You hear a lot of people say that Triple Tap is a bad heroic ability, but Triple Tap does a lot of damage and forces a team to move in a certain way to try and block the shots from hitting the initial target. Your team can take advantage of that by engaging. Also Triple Tap can control diving heroes for your team, since you fire 3 shots on them and the shots are hard to dodge since the target is diving your team. 

Tier 13:
Double tap: Pinning Shot now has 2 charges, but it’s cooldown is increased by 2 seconds.
Psionic Efficiency: Snipe’s range is increased by 15% and hitting a hero grants an additional stack of Precision Sniper.
Ionic Force Field: Gain 25 armor for 3 seconds after losing stealth.  

At tier 13, Double Tap is the strongest talent as you gain an extra charge of Pinning Shot, so you practically get an extra basic ability. Psionic Efficiency increases the range of your Snipe, which sometimes comes in handy if you want to completely outrange an enemy hero that is also easy to kite, such as Arthas or Garrosh. Having the extra stack is good, because, let’s face it, at some point in the game you will miss a Snipe and this makes it easier to get back to five stacks on Precision Sniper. Ionic Force Field doesn’t give you the value that the other two talents can provide, which is why it’s the weakest talent at this tier. 

Tier 16:
Crippling Shot: Pinning Shot lowers the target's armor by 20 for the duration of the slow, causing them to take 20% increased damage.
Explosive Rounds: Snipe also deals 90% of the damage to enemies near the impact.
Lethal Decoy: Increase the damage Holo Decoy deals to 30% of Nova’s damage.

If you find that you’re not playing around with the Decoy when you engage on an enemy consider taking Crippling Shot on level 16 as it gives value for the entire team, reducing the targets armor. In the Snipe build Explosive Rounds is a nice talent, as you can do a lot of damage with a stacked Precision Sniper quest and it even gives Nova more waveclear.

Tier 20:
Precision Barrage: Gain an extra charge of Precision Strike.
Fast Reload: The cooldown of Triple Tap resets if it kills a hero.
Apollo Suit: Reduce the cooldown of Permanent Cloak by 2 seconds.
Rewind: Activate to reset the cooldowns of your basic abilities.

Your go-to talent on tier 20 when you have Precision Strike is Precision Barrage. You will always get value out of having two charges of your heroic ability for having more damage or being able to finish off structures. Rewind is also a great talent to have. You activate it to reset all the cooldowns of your basic abilities, which means you can blow multiple targets up with Nova’s late game damage. Keep in mind that rewind also resets Ghost Protocol, which can be a life saver. Fast Reload is a fun talent as you can keep channeling Triple Tap as you keep getting kills. Take this talent if there is a lot of open space on the map so you get guaranteed kills, but you also have the space to position yourself safely. Apollo Suit is in my opinion the least powerful pick here, unless you find yourself needing a lot of escapes and realise the cooldown on Ghost Protocol is too long for that.

Builds: We’re going to dive a little deeper into Nova's talents, discussing three different builds and when to take them for optimal value.

Default Build: One in the Chamber

The talent choices you are looking at here are the most commonly picked talents for Nova. This is a build that is overall strong and will get you value when you’re not sure what is best to take into a certain match up. Longshot synergises greatly with One in the Chamber at level 7. This means that after using Pinning Shot, your next basic attack will do extra damage and having the extra range can be useful in finishing off an enemy that is running away. The longer duration on Decoy enables that and so does Rapid Projection. Being able to use the Decoy more often means you can get the proc on your auto attack more often as well. It also synergises with the level 16 talent Lethal Decoy. I did want to shed some light on Lethal Decoy as it’s a talent that fits this build well.

At level 20, Rewind is a good option with this build, since you will have enough mana to use an entire set of abilities and hit Rewind to do it again, which enables you to take more enemies down.

Blow-Up build: Anti-Armor Shells

This build synergises well with other auto-attackers on your team. Because of the slower attack speed that Nova gets because of this talent, it takes her quite a while to deal with a target that has a larger health pool, which gives the target more time to run away from her. If her basic attacks hit and reduce the physical armor of a ‘squishy’ target, her entire team can benefit from this. It's also a good build into heroes with a lot of mobility since it's hard hitting skillshots on targets like that and you can still unload all your damage on the target.

With that being said, with this build you just want to blow a squishy target up in one go and run before anyone gets on to you. This is a very specific build that is taken to counter certain enemies such as Kel’thuzad, Ana, Raynor or Orphea. These are heroes that lack the escape tools to get out of Nova’s range and have to be dealt with quickly before they start can put alot of damage on your team. At level 1, you take Covert Ops. You take this because you’re playing Nova to counter a specific hero or heroes on the enemy team.

You want to slow the target and blow it up before it can escape. This talent can also be swapped for Longshot. As you’re going to be roaming over the map a lot with this build, Bribe might fit the map you’re playing, but otherwise Rapid Projection is a good choice. As Nova is not the most mana efficient mage and often requires using all her abilities at once, any talents that reduce mana cost are a good choice but also a reduced cooldown on Decoy can be useful to confuse your enemy while you initiate your attack. Anti-Armor Shells slows your attack speed by a large percentage, which will be shown above your health bar in game and also adds an animation to your gun barrel. After picking Double tap on level 13 you will have an easier time taking a huge portion of health from a target in a very short period of time, since you have 2 Pinning shots now. Pinning Shot not only slows but immediately launches a basic attack after it is cast. Rotating your abilities around in the correct order is key to making this build work.

Ideally, you want to hit your target with the Covert Ops empowered Pinning Shot, launch Precision strike which will 100% hit because of the slow you’ve just put on your target. After that you ideally want to hit a Snipe and another Pinning Shot while you weave in your auto attacks to keep the negative physical armor up.

The Gun Show: Sniper Extraordinaire.

The Sniper build is a mana efficient build, which means you don’t have to talent the reduced mana consumption on decoy on lvl 4 but can go for longer lasting and range on copy instead. Keep in mind copy can be handy to interrupt heroes trying to channel an objective. It's good on Alterac Pass where the longer lasting Decoy gives possibility for nova to channel the objective. It’s also good on Cursed Hollow and Towers of Doom where you can interrupt people channeling an objective from a safe distance with the increased cast range.

We’ve discussed why Longshot and Holo Stability are good talents to pick, still if the map allows it Bribe is a viable option too on level 4. The cooldown reduction from Perfect Shot gives you the possibility to do a lot of damage and deal with big healthpools in a short period of time. The range and extra stacks at 13 give Nova an even easier time to pump out a lot of damage on a frontliner, while outranging them. And gives you the possibility to get your stacks back quickly if you ever miss a Snipe. At level 16, you can go for Explosive Round if your enemies clump up a lot or if you want a bit more waveclear on your side. Otherwise Crippling shot is also a great choice as you will land Pinning shot before you land a Snipe and with lowered armor those Snipes hurt even more. Because this is a very mana efficient build you can take rewind at level 20 and have enough mana for a full set of abilities, since Snipe will refund it’s mana.

Gameplay Tips

Stealth grants Nova a cloak that makes her almost invisible while she is out of combat and grants her 15% movement speed. Stealth is very effective against autoattackers when they have nothing to uncloak Nova from her stealth. Varian for example can only uncloak Nova with his ability Lion's Maw, if he misses that ability he has no way of uncloaking her which means he can’t attack her. If an enemy does hit a skillshot to uncloak Nova, there is always the emergency button ‘Ghost Protocol’.

Some things to keep in mind when you’re playing Nova are that you are very dependent on your positioning. A Snipe can’t land on a hero if minions are in the way and once you choose to reveal yourself you don’t have a lot of escape tools. Nova lacks mobility which makes her positioning all the more important. The right way of using Decoy can prove to be very useful to distract your enemy while engaging or running away. The true art to confusing your enemy while engaging is acting like you are a Decoy. Look how your Decoy attacks and takes a few steps, it’s easy to copy that to confuse players and make them think you are not ‘the real Nova’. Holo Decoy can also be used to disrupt rotations and dismount enemies. They can also be used to block skillshots such as Stitches’ Hook. Holo Decoy classifies as a ‘pet’ which makes them immediately tank towers as well if Nova finds herself tanking a tower or fort.

Using your abilities in the right order can be mandatory for some of the builds mentioned above. In order to make the Anti-Armor Shells build work, you need to work out the order of using Pinning shot, then Precision Strike, Snipe, Pinning Shot and get some auto attacks in in between to keep the negative armor up. For the other two builds the order is a bit less dependant to execute it. However, to make it easier to land your Snipe you usually open with Pinning Shot. The only time you want to open with snipe if you have Mal’ganis or Ana sleep to set it up, because this is a very long crowd control effect they will remain stationary for a long enough time to hit Snipe.  

Maps where Nova excels are Alterac Pass, Towers of Doom, Garden of Terror. Maps like this give her opportunities to get kills and that way win the map. On Alterac Pass and Garden of Terror Nova also gets the chance to solo capture an objective while her Decoys distract its’ guardians. Dragon Shire and Cursed Hollow are decent maps for her too, if she is drafted alongside a hero that provides enough waveclear on it’s own. On maps like this Nova can easily bribe camps, because of the easy access to them and rotate around the map to get pick offs. When playing Nova it’s important to be patient and wait for the initial round of cooldowns to be dispensed before you uncloak yourself. At this point your opponents will also be lower on health and you will find it easier to get a few kills in a row.

Synergies and Counters

Nova requires an ally that sets up an opportunity for her to take someone out. She provides burst damage, but lacks waveclear. Which is why she should preferably have another assassin on her team that can take care of the waveclear at least. This balances out the team composition and gives Nova opportunity to roam around the map, without losing XP for the team. Also a tank that is able to set up for her and is able to peel targets off of her is required to play Nova to her maximum potential. Tanks like Muradin and Arthas are great at setting up the opportunity to kill a target with their kit of crowd control, but lack some in the peel department. You can pair this with a Nova if her positioning is done carefully, else I think Diablo or Anub’arak are good choices to pair Nova with.  

She lacks mobility, which means that heroes that can give a good chase such as Genji and Tracer are good counters to her. Interaction with ghost protocol is important to try and play around Tracer and Illidan, because they have limited options to uncloak you. Also heroes that can deny the blow up possibility with big safety buttons such as Tyrael’s Sanctification are good counters to her. As this makes Nova use all her abilities without the success of getting the kill that she was looking for. Now she’s revealed herself and you can focus her and kill her instead. Out mobilising and uncloaking Nova are the ultimate key to countering her.


Nova can use Ghost Protocol to block skillshots that come her way, this clip is an example of it. Volume warning for headphones users!!


Nova is a mage that provides great burst damage and has a range advantage to outrange most of her opponents, but on all other sides lacks a lot of things.

She lacks wave and camp clearing abilities, so needs a team around her that makes up for that. This makes her a very niche assassin that you can pick to counter specific heroes on the enemy team. She should be paired with waveclear heroes and a tank that can setup the opportunity to kill a target in an instant.

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