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The late Deckard Cain lives on in the Nexus—What he brings to HOTS

Deckard Cain, the quintessential wise old man from the Diablo series, is now live on Heroes of the Storm and represents one of the most intriguing character releases in quite some time, both in terms of backstory and gameplay. Let’s go through them.

Backstory

Deckard’s arrival into HOTS is both surprising and not surprising at the same time. As the ultimate NPC character in the Blizzard world, it’s strange to see him taking the step into playability.

For those that don’t know, Deckard Cain was the story arbiter in Diablo I and II and started out as the same in Diablo III before his death early in the game. It was he that pushed the plot and lore along with his famous “Stay awhile…. and listen” catchphrase. Essentially he gives you in game knowledge and info so you could go off and do all the fighting while he sat back and watched.

This is the reason it’s so interesting to see him go from telling stories and giving advice to jumping into the Nexus and fighting alongside everyone. It’s contrary to his fundamental character. But as true as that is it’s also not surprising to see his emergence because he is one of the oldest and most iconic Blizzard characters. It only makes sense to give him due credit in Heroes of the Storm because, despite his lack of actual fighting, he is a longtime Blizzard hero.

Gameplay

So, what about his gameplay then? From the description above it should come as no surprise that Deckard is a support character. And the first thing I realized after looking over his abilities and strengths is that Deckard is not the easiest to play! This is because virtually all of his abilities require some level of advanced skill shots and strict area awareness. Let’s go over them one by one and I’ll explain why I think this.

  • Healing Potion
    • So here Deckard throws out healing potions on the ground and when an ally walks over them it heals them by 230 points. Now there are plenty of strengths here. There’s only a 3 second cooldown, you can have up to five on the ground at a time, and the healing increases by +4% per level. But what I think is somewhat difficult with this ability is the need for your ally to take the time to walk over the potions themselves. This is in contrast to other supports who can do all the healing themselves and allow their teammates to focus on the fights instead of needing to worry about walking over an item to get healed.
    • Now some might say this isn’t a problem if you toss the potions directly onto your allies, but that’s the point – it’s a skill shot. And we all know healing skill shots are a nuisance because you never know what direction your teammates might suddenly go. Just ask anyone who plays Ana. So this considered, Deckard is not the easiest support to heal with.
  • Horadric Cube and Scroll of Sealing
    • I’m combining these two abilities because they are very similar. Both give Deckard a surprisingly large amount of area denial by slowing and rooting enemies. Both these abilities will be invaluable during team fights. Now because of the large area that both of these abilities cover, the skill in the shots aren’t as necessary, but can still be a little tricky. Not only do both abilities take a little bit of time to develop after the cast, but their areas of effect are both a square and triangle respectively, instead of the usual circle we see in most area abilities. Therefore we can see by this that any player can easily miscalculate the area and miss crucial hits. And with 14 and 16 second cooldowns, you definitely don’t want any casts to go to waste.
  • Heroic: Stay Awhile and Listen
    • Now I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw the name and ability of Stay Awhile and Listen. It makes sense because that’s his catchphrase of sorts, but what it actually does is put enemy heroes to sleep. I think this is a tongue-in-cheek move by the developers because back in the Diablo games whenever someone, often Deckard himself, would start to recount tales or stories most players would skip the dialogue and go right on playing. I did the same thing and mainly because they were, well, boring. Now to see all the heroes from HOTS agree with me is quite laughable.
    • But anyway, this ability is proving a little underwhelming for me. It’s great for more area denial, but just like any sleep effect the hero will wake up after taking any damage. Now putting multiple enemy heroes to sleep sounds great in theory, but if you’re around minions or you don’t have good coordination with your teammates then it’s likely your ult will be short lived. It can be very effective if played correctly, but has a greater chance of being left void than most heroic abilities.
  • Heroic: Lorenado
    • Honestly, I don’t have much to say about this ability. I’m underwhelmed again. It’s a small-radius tornado that travels in one direction knocking away enemies. No damage, no control, nothing. It’s remedied as easily as side stepping a bit. Yes, it can be useful in tighter areas off of the lanes, but not that useful. So the issues between both heroic abilities forces players to put more emphasis on Deckard’s other, seemingly, more helpful abilities because they can’t rely on any ult casts to sway a battle too much. I’m honestly baffled as to why the developers didn’t include a healing heroic ability here instead.

There’s obviously more that can be said about gameplay with gems, potion variations, and his passive Fortitude of the Faithful ability. But when it’s all said and done Deckard Cain is exactly what Blizzard describes him as; a set-up support hero. Between walking over potions to get healed to not immediately attacking enemies once they’re put to sleep, Deckard relies on good, solid coordination from his teammates in order to be as effective as he can. He can’t do it himself and that leaves a whole lot of healing and opportunities to be missed.

In the end Deckard is not an easy support to play and I predict he will eventually share the same fate as Ana did – getting most of his play time during his release and sparingly there afterward.