Basic kit strengths and weaknesses
Build Pros and Cons
Zagara is the Specialist hero that is hard to master, but once you do, her gameplay will be a great joy for you. Main difficulty comes from the part of the design that is based around team play. Zagara alone is very strong hero, especially on solo lane; but you need to have a well organized team if you want to succeed with Zagara.
In competitive environment, Zagara has always been a viable hero. Meta-game has changed many times, but each patch you see Zagara on top of the Tier list. Her kit is an excellent addition for many setups. Zagara has a lot of power and options that are combined in one hero.
The Quick Match and Hero League games are a different story. Zagara's benefits are hard to use with a maximum efficiency. Her weaknesses, on the other hand, are very easy to exploit in a game environment that is less coordinated and less skillful. So, she stands as a pocket hero which can lead to great results if you manage to encounter good teammates.
Zagara is one of the major characters from the StarCraft universe. She didn't get much attention throughout the Heart of the Swarm add-on, as campaign revolved more around Kerrigan. However, she managed to do a lot for her Queen, and she stands out as a bit under-highlighted character in my opinion.
In Heroes of the Storm, she is another hero brought to the Nexus universe for unknown reasons and in an unknown way. Her original lore is a hilarious read. Those interested in it may find it here: http://starcraft.wikia.com/wiki/Zagara
In StarCraft, Zagara is one of the greatest Broodmothers. She serves under Kerrigan's command. In Heroes, she is one the best Specialists in the game. Definitely, she is the tier 1 material. Let's dive in her abilities to get the understanding of why she is rated so high.
Usually, I start abilities description with Q abilities and finish it with Traits. However, when we talk about Zagara I have to mention her Trait at first, as it is a very valuable spell that impacts the game a lot. Firstly, the Trait buffs Zagara and her minions: it increases movement speed and hit points regeneration. Secondly, it gives vision around a map. You leave it in key map locations and receive valuable info about enemy position. On some maps, it grants ridiculous amount of vision, especially if you take the talent that buffs AoE. Half of the map will be covered in Tumors, allowing you to see almost any enemy movement.
During lane phase, Tumor is your source of an additional regeneration and movement speed. It allow you to win duels and hit point trades. Lastly, having Tumors around a lane protects you from enemy rotations.
Trait description: lay Creep Tumor that generates Creep. You and your summons move 20% faster on Creep and restore 5 (+3% per level) hit points a second. Tumors last 240 seconds. They have AoE that is twice bigger than the auto-attack range, which is 5.5. Tumor's vision equals to its AoE. Lastly, the Mana cost is 20 and cooldown time is 15 seconds.
All Zagara's abilities are very multifunctional. For example, let's look at Baneling Barrage. During lane phase, this ability is a good way to push a lane or deal some structural damage. On the other hand, the spell has many uses during fights. It can be used to poke enemy heroes. You can use it to interrupt the channeling of map mechanics. Lastly, it is used to damage heroes that are coming out of the Maw.
Ability description: launch 4 Banelings that deal 77 (+3% per level) splash damage each. Baneling's explosion radius is around 3 or 4. Baneling's travel distance is around 12 range (it is a bit bigger than Tumor's AoE). This ability has complex mechanics: Zagara launches units in a selected location. These units have hit points. Upon colliding with any unit or an environment (or traveling a max distance), units(Banelings) will explode; dealing AoE damage. Because Banelings are units you can damage them with the AoE ability. Sometimes, Banelings will round the obstacle on their way (if the obstacle is a part of environment) and travel further. The spell costs 50 Mana and has 10 seconds of cooldown time.
It is Hydralisk from Starcraft! During lane phase, Hydralisk will be your main source of poke damage. Combined with Tumor, Hydralisk is one of the reasons why Zagara is one of the best solo laners in the game. Hydra is a unit that will chase the target of the initial cast, dealing moderate auto-attack damage. Once the target is dead or the vision is lost, the unit will travel to a nearby lane and start attacking lane minions.
In fights, W will also serve as the main source of poking damage. It is also good at canceling the channeling of map objectives, such as Tributes on Cursed Hollow, or in stationary fights over map objectives, such as Temples on Sky Temple.
Ability description: summon Hydralisk to attack a single target dealing 92 (+3% per level) damage per second. Lasts 8 seconds. The unit has movement speed of an unmounted hero and some hit points. It takes time to kill Hydralisk.
Infested Drop is Zagara's main pushing ability during the lane phase. The ability is superb efficient at dealing with the task. Not only it does AoE damage, but it also spawns additional units that have a moderate number of hit points and attack damage. These units will drain ammo from enemy towers and will help you kill enemy lane minions faster. Also, you would like to drop them on the front line minions. This way they will absorb damage from enemy minions, leaving allied minions healthier.
In fights, the ability can be used in many ways. It has a long reach, so, you can use it to scout bushes, to poke, and to interrupt enemy channels and turn-ins. Doing so is very effective, as Roachlings (units that drop from a pod) will give you a vision over the area and will be attacking enemy heroes for some time. Lastly, you would like to use this ability on the enemy heroes coming out of your Maw.
Ability description: bombard target area with a Zerg Drop Pod for 171 (+3% per level) damage. The pod spawns 2 Roachlings that deal 30 (+3% per level) damage per second and last for 8 seconds. Infested Drop costs 50 Mana and has 12 seconds of cooldown time.
Basic kit strengths and weaknesses
After studying Zagara, we can definitely say that she is a good Specialist hero. Moreover, her kit is designed in such way that she is also excels at solo laning and poke game. In a lane, she is hard to deal with because of Hydralisk spam and an additional regeneration that is provided by Tumors. In fights, her ability kit is used to grant an additional vision and poke enemy heroes. So, Zagara is strong at pushing, wave-clearing, and poking. She also grants tons of vision with her Trait.
Weak spots of the Broodmother are the absence of any self-sustain options, as well as escape ability. She is also very Mana dependent. Zagara players have to always mind their positioning and watch out for the amount of Mana they have. Vision granted by the Trait can be used to avoid ganks and flanks, but if you are caught there is nothing you can do.
Zagara is the Specialist hero. Her kit is designed around winning a lane and pushing it. Mechanics of the kit is such that you are also extremely good at poke wars and stall map objective, be it channeling objectives (such as shrines on the Towers of Doom map) or stall fights for an active map objective (such as shrines on the Infernal Shrines map).
A standalone topic is Zagara's Trait. It gives tons of vision, making it hard to do ambushes and unexpected moves for enemy team. At the same time, your team has constant understanding where enemy is and can do whatever they want. On maps that feature distinctive solo lane (for example, Blackheart's Bay or Dragon Knight), she is one the first heroes that are picked, and she is one of the heroes that completely change a game for enemy team.
So, as a Specialist hero Zagara has to win a lane and push it. On the other hand, in fights her aim is to do as much poking damage as she can while staying at a safe distance and not losing the positioning.
This is one of the most commonly used and successful Zagara's builds. Mutalisk build revolves around buffs to every strong spot of the hero. At the same time, it also brings in a form of escape ability. The build greatly increases lane pressure and lane sustain. It brings buffs to the Trait and W abilities. Lastly, it grants an incredibly strong Heroic that has a huge impact on fights. Mutalisk build has some talent variations. They will be described after the build.
This talent is one of the reasons why Zagara is so strong on solo lane. Reconstitution triples a regeneration rate that is granted by the Trait. It allows Zagara player to do effective hit-point trades. You just exchange auto-attacks with the enemy; however, you don't suffer as much as he does, because your hit points will be refreshed faster.
Other than on a lane, the effect doesn't have much value. You don't benefit from it much in fights. Sure, you would like to fight on Creep for additional movement speed, but the regeneration rate it grants is not enough to make a valuable impact on team fights.
Talent description: health restoration bonus on Creep increased by 200%.
The talent increases the basic-attack range, making it 6.5 range. Also, it adds a DoT effect to your attacks. These changes are good for laning and team fights. During lane phase, you will have an easy time by poking enemy hero. Attacks will also hit harder, making hit-point trades even more effective. In fights, Zagara will feel herself a bit safer during the poke with the help of auto-attacks. The increased range will put her on an edge of many basic abilities.
Overall, the talent is a 10% buff to your auto-attack DPS, as damage is not instant but is applied over 3 second. The Envenomed Spines talent doesn't work on buildings.
Talent description: basic-attacks have their range increased by 20% and deal an additional 43 (+3% per level) damage over 3 seconds.
This talent is very strong, and on some small maps it is imbalanced! (on maps like Towers of Doom or Tomb of The Spider Queen) You have vision over the entire map! What this talent does? It increases the AoE and doubles hit points of the Trait. Your enemies not only have to guess where the Creep is, but they also have to spend more time killing it! Endless Creep is your ultimate tool when the vision and map control are important!
There is a trick you can pull off with this talent. You can place Tumors in such way that their radius won't be on the edge of each other, but will intersect with an inner part of Tumor's AoE. This way, they will create Tumor field that will be hard for an enemy to read and understand. A player won't have a clue where is the center of Tumor.
Talent description: Creep Tumors spread Creep 50% farther and have 100% increased health.
This is one of the best Heroics in the game. It is not an exaggeration! Not only you disable enemies caught in Maw for 5 seconds, but they also receive instant damage, are damaged over time, and they come out of Maw near each other - this opens up an insane combo potential! The Heroic has many uses and is a fight changing ultimate. It greatly boosts your fighting capabilities.
First of all, Devouring Maw has great combo potential. Even if you didn't hit 5 enemies with it, it is very easy to throw all spells in those few heroes that you caught. There are a lot of combos with the ultimate. From the top of my head, I can name Zagara-Diablo (Maw + Apocalypse) and Zagara-Valla (Maw + Rain of Vengeance). Secondly, the Heroic can be used to split an enemy team apart. If you fight in a narrow map location, you can use it to seal the passage and split one half of a team from another. Even if you don't swallow anyone, everything is fine, as you will be fighting few enemy heroes for 5 seconds; which is a slaughter. Lastly, you can use it to disable a key enemy hero in the right moment.
The Heroic description: summon a Devouring Maw that deal 316 (+3% per level) damage and devours enemies for 4 seconds. Devoured enemies cannot fight and take 44 (+3% per level) damage per second. Maw costs 100 Mana and has 100 seconds of cooldown time. Lastly, it is usable on Unstoppable enemies.
Mutalisk is one of the strongest Zagara's talents. It increases your power during pushes and fights. The talent changes the unit that is spawned by your W skill. Now, instead of Hydralisk it is named as Mutalisk. Apart from name change, the talent also buffs the unit and the skill: the duration of the skill is increased, and unit has a bouncing attack that does 50% splash damage. It sounds cool when you read, but when you try to play it, it is even better! Splash damage destroys minion waves with ease, and after the wave is dead Mutalisk flies to a nearby lane, to push it together with allied minions.
In team fights, Mutalisk is your ultimate poking weapon. It is good at stopping channeling and turn-ins, it is also good at scoring crazy damage numbers if left uncontested. Usually, it is used on a squishy target, or target that has inefficient auto-attacks. This way the unit will land many attacks and they do hurt! On level 13, Mutalisk does 132 points of damage with each hit, and hits also bounce to nearby target for 50% of damage! Total damage dealt to a single unit will be around two thousand!
Talent description: your Hunter Killer spawns Mutalisk with a bounce attack and 50% increased duration. Mutalisk has a vision and a collision of a flying unit, meaning it flies through environmental obstacles and structures.
Well, there is not much to talk about here. You just get two Mutalisks instead of one! The ability can be used for the second time after a 1 second cooldown. So, you get more siege damage, poke damage, and so on. Also, now you can use the ability for a focus on a target. It won't be a classical focus, as you will deal damage over time, but the damage is huge compared to usual poke ability. Also, two Mutalisks are harder to kill quickly, unless they are focused by the enemy team.
Talent description: can hold up to 2 charges of Hunter Killer.
Bolt of the Storm
Bolt gives Zagara player a lot. First of all, it is long awaited escape ability. Now, you can escape if you made positional mistake, or if you was initiated on by an enemy. Also, Bolt allows playing more aggressively. You can always blink out of danger. Secondly, you can use it to bait or dodge an enemy Heroic. Lastly, you can use it to bait enemy overextension, as if you are out of position.
Talent's value doesn't stop there. You can use it not only defensively, but also aggressively. With the help of Bolt, you can hunt for the right time and spot for your Maw while being at a safe distance.
Talent description: activate to teleport to a nearby location. The talent costs no Mana and has 70 seconds cooldown.
Build Pros and Cons
There are a lot of strong spots in this build! This build makes a solo lane destroyer from Zagara. You have a better health regeneration. It allows you to do favorable hit-point trades. You also have additional range of auto-attacks, as well as a DoT effect, which are added by a talent. This makes you even stronger hero at solo lane!
The pushing potential Zagara has with her basic kit alone is a fearsome power. In this build, it is greatly increased by Mutalisk talents. They are good not only at destruction of minions and structures, but also at tremendous poke damage that they deal to enemy heroes. This makes Zagara exceptionally good at poke wars and prolonged fights. If it wasn't enough already, you also have Devouring Maw. This incredible Heroic is like a combination of Void Prism and Phoenix. It has a marvelous zoning and combo potential, and is a strong ultimate on its own!
Wait, wait! We haven't finished listing Zagara's Pros! Apart from everything that is mentioned above, she also has an incredible vision and map control. The vision and map control are granted by Trait and the Endless Creep talent.
Now we can move over to weak spots. The Mana problems are still there. You will have to visit a fountain and a base a lot. The same can be said about a positional weakness. However, as you have a half of the map covered in your Creep, it is not that easy to be out of position and get caught. Also, Creep does increase your movement speed. So, Mana problems are still there, and positional weakness is still there. However, you do compensate the second with Bolt of the Storm later in the game.
There are few situational talents. They depend on the map and the approach that you chose in your games. Mostly, I will talk about the level 7 talents, plus some defensive options that Zagara has.
Usually, this talent is played on small maps. Here you know that the break between team fights is smaller than usual. You want your Heroic to be ready for each fight, so, you chose Battle Momentum as a solution. For example, If you play on Tomb of the Spider Queen, you want to have this talent, as map does feature many chaotic fights and favors an aggressive style of play.
Keep in mind that if you chose this talent, your Mana expenses will be higher. You will have to visit more often the fountain and the base. As a result of the choice, you will do more damage over time, because your basic abilities will go off cooldowns faster.
Talent description: basic attacks reduce ability cooldowns by 0.5 second.
The talent is great if you anticipate poke wars and prolonged fights. The talent is Zagara's version of a common First Aid talent. Apart from refilling your hit-points, Rapid Incubation also refills Mana. The talent allows you to stay in fights longer and lessens the load on your healer. In some specific scenarios, Rapid Incubation will be good for a constant push of enemy structures.
Talent description: channel to regenerate up to 25% of your Mana and hit-points over 3 seconds.
Spell Shield and Stoneskin
Usually, you don't have to do this, however, Quick Match can feature weird picks and stupid setups. You can have almost no counter to burst damage on your team and tons of burst damage on the side of enemy team. In such cases, mentioned talents will be handy. The idea is to survive burst damage, or if you see that you will go down anyway, to trade your life efficiently.
Talent descriptions: Spell Shield is a passive ability that can trigger once every 30 seconds. It grants you a shield that reduces all ability damage by 50% and lasts for 3 seconds. Spell Shield triggers once you are damaged by an enemy ability and it does reduce the damage of the ability that triggered it.
Stoneskin is an active ability that grants you a shield equal to 30% of your maximum hit-points. The talent has 60 seconds of cooldown time and lasts for 5 seconds.
Hard to master, but very rewarding - this is about Zagara. Heroes designed with such approach do work best in competitive environment when played by professional players, as they have enough knowledge and experience; plus they have a good team synergy, to do wonders with the help of such heroes. I think this is the main reason why we, consistently, see so much Zagara in the professional scene. Her kit is just amazing! You have too much power in one hero: strong laning capabilities, incredible poking capabilities, and one of the best Heroics in the game! Her downsides do repel majority of the players, but professional players, they don't care about skill cap as long as results are good. In case of Zagara, this is true not only about in-game results, but also about achievements in major tournaments!
Because of the reasons listed above, Zagara is less played in more casual environment. The amount of work and communication, both for you and random teammates, that needs to be done is too big; especially if you don't play as a team of five members. What are the reasons to play Zagara? You can play a hero that takes less effort and performs in a similar way. This is the path that is chosen by majority of the player base.
Personally, I love heroes like Zagara. I like the approach when the gameplay is hard but rewarding. I'm very happy that Li-Ming will be added to Heroes of the Storm. Also, I think that similar heroes are needed for the HotS to become even more attractive for professional players and the viewers!
Meta - conditions of the game that make some heroes to be more popular than the others, due to a nature of game environment. For example, Meta game in professional games and casual environment is different. In the first case, people have voice communication and spend a lot of time in the game. They can play various heroes on extreme level, and do organized moves as a team. At the same time, casual environment consists of players of different skill and understanding of the game, so, heroes that are easier to play are more valued there.
AoE - Area of Effect.
Poking – dealing small amounts of damage while maintaining safe position.
Wombo-Combo – a setup of spells or Heroics that brings overwhelming results. For example, utter destruction of enemy team. Usually, it involves spells with tricky mechanics.
Bursting down - using high damage spells and abilities in a quick succession.
DPS - damage per second.
DoT - damage over time.
Stutter-stepping – an action that uses cooldowns between auto-attacks to move a bit towards a target. As a result, a player is able to dish out more right-click damage.
Peeling – use of disruptive abilities, as well as body-blocks, to protect your allies. Usually, it is done by Warriors.
Gap closer - an ability that is used to shorten a distance between you and a target.
Ganking - roaming between the lanes to kill enemy heroes.