Analyzing Zaelia's Illidan Playstyle
Mon 7th Aug 2017 - 1:22pm
Illidan Stormrage is a popular character from the Warcraft universe that has been a long-standing part of Heroes of the Storm. He’s a melee assassin with the potential for great self-sustain. Illidan has had both high and low popularity in the past in terms of his placement within the meta. In this article, we’ll break down Illidan’s current strengths and look at how Team Dignitas have made him an important part of their playstyle in HGC.
Where Illidan excels, he really excels. He’s a melee assassin who has great self-sustain. This makes him very optimal at filling the solo-laner role. His trait, Betrayer’s Thirst, is a passive that allows him to heal for 30% of damage dealt and also reduces the cooldowns of his abilities by 1 second with his basic attacks. Illidan’s abilities make him very mobile in team fights, as he can Dive at enemies and flip over them, and with Sweeping Strike, he can dash in a straight line through all enemies, damaging them along the way. In a team fight, Illidan bounces around, applying pressure and attacking whoever is struggling. One important feature of Illidan is most enemy heroes cannot outrun him, so once he dives onto an enemy, he can stick to them.
In lane, Illidan can spam auto-attacks and abilities to sustain himself and win most 1v1s in the early game. As well, in the earlier stages of the game, Illidan is great for soloing mercenary camps. As the game progresses, he can complete these camps even faster, as well as quickly taking down the battleground mercenary bosses on his own.
In the past, Team Dignitas have attempted to make Illidan a part of their rotation of compositions, but they couldn’t make it work. They struggled to play him when he was a valuable pick on specific maps. As Illidan’s meta strength grew, it got to the point where the team often had to waste their first ban on Illidan in nearly every game. Once Kenn “Zaelia” Rasmussen was brought onto the team, things changed. Rumours emerged of Zaelia’s prowess on Illidan, from seeing him on the Hero League ladder and results from scrims. It took some time for Team Dignitas to feel like Zaelia meshed well enough with the team to try out Illidan in specific compositions. The Mid-Season Brawl of Phase 1 was where we saw Zaelia’s debut of Illidan. He earned himself a 7-2 win record on Illidan at the Brawl and even forced out 7 Illidan bans from enemy teams unwilling to deal with the pressure.
When Zaelia joined the team, he became the primary solo-laner. This made him a perfect fit for Illidan, as Illidan thrives in the solo-lane early game. Zaelia knows the limits of Illidan very well and can trade with his opponent very effectively. He knows how to push an advantage and to play safe if the enemy team is planning a gank. Illidan is pretty slippery to catch without chain crowd control. As the solo-laner, once Illidan hits level 10, Zaelia normally picks up The Hunt. This heroic allows him to fly across the battleground to an enemy hero, briefly stunning them. This pseudo-global allows Zaelia to keep gaining experience in the solo-lane while also providing a constant team fight threat. All it takes is for the rest of the team to engage on a hero and for Jérôme “JayPL” Trinh to make the call, and Zaelia is there in an instant, following up on any previous stuns to secure a kill. This constant pressure also forces the enemy team to play very carefully in scenarios where they feel they have the advantage with 5v4. If they leave their backline too exposed while trying to engage on the rest of Team Dignitas, Zaelia can use The Hunt to target a weaker backline ranged carry or healer.
Once Zaelia is in the team fight with Illidan, it’s nearly impossible to get away. As he sustains himself throughout the team fight, he draws focus and allows the rest of the team to continue the pressure. Less heals from James “Bakery” Baker need to be focused on Illidan if Zaelia can maintain his sustain, but even if he gets low, he can zip out of fights quickly or pop his E ability, Evasion. Even if the rest of the team falls, or they seem outnumbered in the team fight, Zaelia on Illidan has been able to clean up many low health enemy heroes thanks to his self-healing and amazing chase potential with his abilities and heroic, The Hunt. This solo-lane pseudo-global Illidan playstyle does come with its weaknesses, and after the Mid-Season Brawl, other teams have figured out how to counter Team Dignitas' Illidan strategy.
Auriel can offer great assistance in countering Illidan. She becomes a problem when he dives into the fight with The Hunt, as she can use Crystal Aegis on the target to negate the stun and damage. While Illidan still flies to the target location, the enemy team is more likely prepared at this point. Once Illidan can’t get his stun from The Hunt, he becomes vulnerable to enemy stuns such as Auriel’s Detainment Strike. This strategy also halts Illidan’s solo-soaking, and since the Aegis prevents the kill in many cases, a loss of experience is the result.
Uther has seen a huge rise in popularity since his rework, and it just so turns out that he is great at shutting down Illidan. His heals not only grant his allies armor, but he has a point-and-click stun ability that can combo with crowd-control effects to render Illidan useless. Late game, if Uther takes Benediction, which gives him a reduction to the mana cost of his next basic ability and reduces its cooldown, he can easily solo stun combo an Illidan nearly to death with Benediction into double Hammer of Justice followed by his Divine Storm ultimate.
Illidan has been one of Team Dignitas' go to heroes this season when they really needed to turn up the heat. With the meta still focused on aggression and global mobility, we are sure to see Zaelia fly around the Nexus in the future.