Quick overview of changes made to Ability kit and Talent kit
Impression of new and reworked Talents
Predictions for new Talent builds
The Live Servers patch, previously the PTR patch, has a big basket that is full of changes. A lot of changes have happened to the Nexus heroes and their abilities or talents. You not only get Li-Ming, as a new, fancy arcane mage, but also a couple of other "new" heroes. They are a result of reworks of old heroes. These heroes have existed for a long time in the game and were in need of some adjustments, to be viable in the current Meta-game. Nova is one of such heroes, so, I want to describe all changes; and I want to see how they affected her future, her talent builds, and her viability.
Quick overview of changes made to Ability kit and Talent kit
Nova's basic abilities have been buffed. The only downside of the buff is damage reduction on Q, Snipe. Snipe's damage was reduced from 335 (+4% per level) to 268 (+4% per level). Mana cost was reduced from 65 to 60 and cooldown time was decreased from 10 seconds to 8 seconds. The only ability that was also changed is Pinning Shot. Range of the ability was increased by approximately 18% in order to match Nova’s auto-attack range.
You might think that this is not enough for a complete overhaul of the hero. That is true, as a major part of the rework lies in talent changes! They have been completely remade. Whole talent tiers were removed and dozens of new talents were added! As for the ability kit, the changes have shifted the style of play in favor of poke game. Damage reduction on Q and removal of many burst-down talents makes such style of play less effective. On the other hand, Mana cost and cooldowns were decreased for Snipe, also, the range of W was increased. These changes make poke style more effective.
Now this is were the fun starts! Talent changes have made Nova a completely new hero. Before we proceed to the list of talent changes based on her abilities, I want to mention generic talents that have been removed. This is a sort of farewell note to old Nova and removed talents that made her effective at burst-down style of play. Conjurer's Pursuit, Gathering Power, Envenom, Headshot, Spell Shield, Overdrive, and Bolt of the Storm were removed!
Okay, now that we have paid our respects to the talents that have gone let's start with talent changes to Snipe. Here we meet removed talents again! The Psi-Op Rangefinder, Ambush Snipe, and Railgun talents were removed! There are two talents that were reworked, Explosive Round and Perfect Shot. The Explosive Round talent was moved from Level 7 to Level 13, and the AoE radius was increased by 75%. As for the Perfect Shot talent, it was redesigned and moved from Level 4 to Level 16. Now if you hit an enemy hero with Snipe, its cooldown time will be reduced by 4 seconds.
Two new Snipe talents were introduced, Snipe Master and Psionic Efficiency. The first talent increases subsequent Snipe damage by 5% if you hit an enemy hero with Snipe. The effect stacks up to 10 times. All stacks are lost if Snipe misses an enemy Hero! The second talent increases Snipe range by 10% and removes its Mana cost.
That is it for Snipe. Let's move on to Pinning Shot changes. The only talent that was removed is Tazer Rounds. The Covert Ops talent was moved from Level 7 to Level 1. Also, it was buffed a bit. A bonus to Pinning Shot’s slow effect was increased from 1% to 2% per second. New talents, Longshot and Double Tap, were added. The Longshot talent increases Pinning Shot's range by 30% and grants a new effect to the ability. Now Pinning Shot also increases a range of the next auto-attack by 30%. The second talent, Double Tap, adds a second charge of Pinning Shot.
The Holo Decoy ability wasn't left without attention. Its talents were reworked and new were added. Also, there is a removed talent, Double Fake. Yeah! You can no longer one-shot enemy hero with your clones. No more valley of the Holo death! Remote Delivery and Lethal Decoy talents were reworked. Remote Delivery doesn't reduce Holo Decoy's cooldown anymore, and in addition to providing a 100% increased cast range it now also grants a 50% vision range bonus to Holo Decoys. The Lethal Decoy talent was moved from level 13 to level 16. Now it deals 40% of damage instead of 25%.
Rapid Projection and Holo Stability are two new talents that have been added. The first talent is situated on level 4 and reduces Holo Decoy's cooldown and Mana cost by 40%. The second talent is also situated on level 4 and increases the duration of Holo Decoys to 12 seconds.
Lastly, there were some changes made to the Trait. Advanced Cloaking was redesigned and moved from Level 13 to Level 1. Now it increases Nova's Movement Speed by 30% while Cloaked. Also, two new talents were added. Tactical Espionage is a new level 1 talent. It regenerates 4 Mana per second while Stealthed. Ghost Protocol is a new level 20 talent. Talent description: activate to gain Stealth for 2 seconds. Taking damage, attacking, or using Abilities will not break Stealth during this time.
These were all changes that have happened to Nova's talents. We can clearly see that developers have redesigned Nova's gameplay from the one-shot style of play into a new style of play that features scouting, poking, and chasing. There are a lot of talent combinations that are good for poke game. You can have Snipe that costs no Mana; you can have an increased Mana regeneration and so on. Similar to Lunara, developers have made Nova's talent tier on level 4 about E ability, Holo Decoy. Now you have to choose between Decoy's duration increase, (which is good for late game in combination with the Lethal Decoy talent), Decoy's range increase, (which is good for scouting, chases and finishers), and Decoy's Mana cost and cooldown decrease (which is good for poke and prolonged fights).
Lastly, I want to talk about an old style of play. There are talents that will boost your burst damage. You can have a burst build. But, it won't be as effective as it was before because damage output in early and mid-game was reduced. On the other hand, you can play a Burst Down build with the Rewind talent and one-shot people in a late game. However, they will have a form of response and defense, such as Bolt of the Storm or Hardened Shield talents.
Impression of new and reworked Talents
There is a lot to talk about! Nova has received 8 new talents. Dozens of talents were removed, more than 10. Also, there are many reworked talents. With all these changes she is a completely new hero! I'll list talents in correspondence with levels, so, let's start with level 1.
Well, this talent is like an improved version of Conjurer's Pursuit. Instead of gathering your Mana regeneration over time, you will have it instantly. I find this talent to be good at poke wars and prolonged fights. You don't run out of Mana and have the ability to spam your spells. The talent fits very well in a new Nova gameplay.
Depending on your approach, you can take other Mana efficient talents later in the game. For example, you can take a talent that removes Snipe's Mana cost. If you won't get damaged in a fight, there is no real reason to go to fountain or base. You just run around with tons of Mana, poking and annoying your enemies.
Talent description: while Cloaked, Nova gains 4 Mana per second.
I'm very fond of the idea that this talent brings, so, it was the first talent that I tried. This is a cool talent for flanking or chasing. You run around faster than any enemy hero. You become very annoying. Sometimes you can even bait enemy skill-shots and dodge them. Also, chasing someone down is not a problem.
Talent description: increases your movement speed by 30% while Cloaked.
I think this is the best talent on this tier. Pinning Shot is already buffed by the patch, its range was increased and equals to your auto-attack range. With the help of this talent you buff its range even more. You no longer need to be near a target to cast W. Moreover, the range is similar to the range of Snipe. If you use this talent, you feel yourself very comfortable, as you are always on a safe distance towards your target.
The talent also grants the 30% increase of the auto-attack range after each cast of Pinning Shot. This is a great effect. It is usable for any situation. It doesn't matter if you play a poke style or a burst down style the effect will be handy. Also, Longshot enhances your level 7 choices, which do increase the auto-attack damage.
Lastly, I want to say that this talent opens up a possibility of poking not only with damaging spells, but also with disabling spells. Previously, you couldn't allow yourself to do that, as a range was small; and to be near a target is always a risk, especially if you are going to just poke. No one played like that before, because it was inefficient. Now, on the other hand, when poke style seems to be the main style of play for Nova it will be a viable play.
Talent description: increases the cast range of Pinning Shot by 30%. Pinning Shot also increases your next auto-attack range by 30%.
I think that this talent is the weakest on the tier. Pinning Shot cuts away 30% of movement speed. You spent talent point to get additional 20%. However, you don't get them instantly. You have to wait 10 seconds for a buff to stack up, as for each second spent in stealth you will receive 2% bonus. I think the talent could be viable if it was made like this: increases the slow of Pinning Shot to 50%, without the requirement to wait. Maybe it can remain as it is, but the bonus should be higher. Instead a 50% movement speed decrease, it can be up to 70-80%. The talent definitely has a need in some adjustments. Before that, I don't think that Covert Ops is worth picking.
Talent description: increases Pinning Shot's slow by 2% for each second Nova is Cloaked, to a maximum of 50%. The bonus fades when Nova is un-Cloaked for 1 second.
Just like in Lunara's talent tree, this tier for Nova consists of talents that do buff the E ability. Remote Delivery is a great talent for scouting. Also, if you take the Lethal Decoy talent, you will easily finish off, chase, and poke your targets. In combination with Lethal Decoy, this talent is like Hydralisk, but you use it from a safer distance and it doesn't reveal you.
Talent description: increases Holo Decoy range by 100% and its sight range by 50%.
The talent is good at absorbing enemy skill-shots. You can do this with the help of any version of the Holo Decoy ability, but this talent allows you to do it most efficiently. Other than that, it will be a great poke tool if you take Lethal Decoy on level 16. Decoy can be created each 7 seconds and it will last for 5 seconds, and will deal 40% of your damage. Moreover, the cost of the ability is cheap. This is another version of Hydralisk! This one is about a constant poke. The ability is great during prolonged fights for objectives on maps such as Dragon Knight, Sky Temple and so on.
Talent description: reduces Holo Decoy's Mana cost and cooldown by 40%.
The talent increases duration of your Holo Decoy to 12 seconds. Again, this is a great talent for scouting. You receive a constant vision over a critical area. Combine it with Letal Decoy talent, and you get really annoying Hydralisk. In such scenario you exchange 50 Mana for a lot of hero damage and spells that are used to kill the decoy. The enemy team will definitely have to pay attention to your Decoy.
Talent description: Increases the duration of Holo Decoy by 120%
This talent is like a replacement for Gathering Power and Ambush Snipe. However, the talent doesn't seem to be viable at all. There are few problems. First of all, this talent is on the wrong tier. You don't want to swap One in the Chamber or Anti-Armor Shells, two talents that do buff your auto-attack, with damage buff to your Q that gives unstable damage compared to mentioned talents. The reason is that the talent has a high skill-cap, and all stacks that have been gathered are lost if you miss one Snipe! Just ONE! I really like the idea of the talent, but I think it needs to be tuned up a bit to be viable.
Talent description: hitting an enemy hero with Snipe permanently increases the damage of Snipe by 5%. Stacks up to 10 times. All stacks are lost if Snipe misses an enemy Hero. For those interested in math, Snipe will do 550 damage on level 10 if you have maximum amount of stacks. At the same time, Anti-Armor Shells do 390 auto-attack damage on level 10!
If you don't like Triple Tap pick Double Tap! The talent is good for the idea that I described earlier – to poke an enemy hero with crowd control abilities. Combined with the level 1 talent, Longshot, this is a viable stuff. Double Tap also boosts your burst-down potential a bit, but it is mainly used for poke game and the game of disables. You can also add the level 16 talent, Crippling Shot, to the mix. The talent will be a great addition for a coordinated focus, as Nova will be able to provide 4.5 seconds of the Vulnerability de-buff.
Talent description: Pinning Shot now has 2 charges.
This is another new talent in Nova's kit. The talent improves your poke game by making Snipe to have no Mana cost. This is a great talent for poking setups. You just spam your Q all day! It also has a great synergy with the level 16 talent, Perfect Shot. You will be able to land even more Snipes, as the ability will have 4 seconds of cooldown time!
Talent description: removes Snipe Mana cost and increases its range by 10%.
You might not agree, but i think this is the best talent on this tier. Its AoE range was increased by 75%. Now it's very easy to hit enemy heroes with Snipe. Also, Explosive Round adds a wave-clear potential to Nova, which she doesn't have at all! Lastly, i want to say that this is a good poking talent!
Talent description: Snipe also deals 50% damage to enemies near the impact.
Overall, the level 16 tier is incredible. You have different options for different styles of play. Perfect Shot will be a great addition for poking game and situations that I've described earlier. (The synergy with Psionic Efficiency, Explosive round, and so on)
Talent description: hitting an enemy hero with Snipe reduces a cooldown by 4 seconds.
This is a great talent for a well-coordinated team and for the burst-down approach. The burst-down build is viable, but the bigger portion of the damage is moved to the late game. Crippling Shot can be used as a part of the one-shot build. Lastly, the talent will be useful for play based around poking or W talents.
Talent description: enemies hit by Pinning Shot become Vulnerable, taking 25% more damage for the duration of the slow.
I think this is the best talent on this tier. No matter which talent you chose on level 4, you really want to have this talent, as it opens up different options and possibilities. You can use Holo Decoys in different way, but any Decoy will do moderate damage. Definitely, Lethal Decoy is a great talent for poking wars. Its other effectiveness highly depends on the talent that you have chosen on level 4.
Talent description: Holo Decoy deals 40% of Nova's damage.
This is a very interesting talent. Nova got rid of Bolt of the Storm after the rework. Ghost Protocol is like a replacement. It offers interesting possibilities. However, I think that talent effectiveness will highly depend on the enemy level of play. While the talent does grant 2 seconds of Invisibility that can't be canceled by any means, you will still receive damage if you are hit by the AoE ability. Ghost Protocol will be very effective against a team that has almost no AoE abilities. But If it has, then effectiveness of the talent will drop. Lastly, I want to say that this talent has great synergy with the level 1 talent, Advanced Cloaking. You have a guaranteed 30% buff for movement speed.
Talent description: activate to gain Stealth for 2 seconds. Taking damage, attacking, or using Abilities will not break Stealth during this time.
Predictions for new Talent builds
I think that the old style of play is viable, but is a pocket strategy. Nova's burst damage has been heavily shifted to the late game. So, you either choose the burst-damage build (and shine in the late game), or you choose a variant of the poking build. Personally, I liked the poking style a lot. I think that builds that I've come up with can be a viable choice in different situations.
Something like this will be a good build if you want to finish off your targets and be really annoying from a safe distance. You have an increased range on Pinning Shot for an easy chase. An increased range of Decoys is good for poking game and serves as a good finisher when a target thinks it is safe, during the retreat. In this build, the range of Decoys is incredible. Lastly, the ultimate and Pinning Shot both have 2 charges. They are good for some combos and team actions or just for an additional finishing power across the map.
I think that this kind of build will be great for classical, long term fights and poke wars. You can really annoy enemy team with constant Decoys. Also, they are a great way of eating an enemy skill-shot. You also have the AoE effect on the Snipe ability, which can be used rapidly because of the level 16 talent, Perfect Shot. In this and next builds you will see that I'm a fan of Precision Strike. That doesn't mean you can't play with Triple Tap. It's just my personal preference. If you are used to Triple Tap, you can still play it; it wasn't changed.
This is one of my favorite builds. I really enjoy flanking in Heroes of the Storm, and this build is good at flanking. You have an increased movement speed for flanks and chases. You aren't really afraid to flank as you can easily dismount enemy hero and retreat with an increased movement speed. This can be easily done, as Decoys doesn't reveal you. So, you either find a good spot to flank, or you retreat without any casualties.
Lastly, this is what I came up with when I was trying to replicate some kind of burst-oriented build. It is a very stressful and heavy play style in terms of mechanics. After the use of each spell, you want to use auto-attacks; and you don't want to mess up their order. Just like in the old times you can finish off an isolated hero by yourself. The only difference is that the major portion of damage is postponed to the late game, to level 16 and 20. You are like Artanis, but Artanis can clear minion waves before he gets to his effective point while you can't.
During the whole article you see how happy I'm with recent Nova changes. I'm really happy with them. I like developer ideas that are standing behind the changes, and I like the shift in gameplay. I really enjoy playing Nova with such approach. However, there is a problem. I would say the major problem. While the ideas behind changes are great, the actual implementation needs to be finished. Personally, I think that current changes are not final and cannot remain untouched.
Previously, Nova did tremendous amounts of damage. She was good at killing isolated targets. She was a pocket pick, as she didn't have wave-clear and she was bad at anything other than killing single hero. But she was played a lot, because of the insane damage she did. That damage compensated her weaknesses.
What have game developers done? They have removed Nova's single-target damage and gave her a poking kit. The idea of this style is cool. Great are the feelings when you play the approach. The only problem is that Nova's weaknesses are still there. They haven't gone anywhere. Nova has no wave-clear. And now she is also bad at eliminating isolated targets, before the late game. So, she is bad at everything!
Sure, you do scouting for your team.However, maps in Heroes of the Storm are not so big as they are in other MOBAs, so, scouting is less valuable. But even then, there are many heroes that do better than Nova in any part of her gameplay. If you want to have a decent map control you can pick Tassadar, Tyrande, Zagara and so on. If you need to occasionally check where an enemy is, you have the Clairvoyance talent and talents similar to it. Unlike Nova, you don't have to be around an area to reveal it, as cast range of such skills is global.
What is next, poking damage? Well, Heroes of the Storm has tons of heroes that are much better at poking game; and not only they are better at poking game, but they also they have decent wave-clear options, which are non-existent for Nova. Even if you take the level 16 talent, the one that gives Snipe some kind of AoE, you will still be bad at wave-clear!
What else is left, burst-damage? Compared to old Nova, the current damage is weak, and again, there are heroes that surpass Nova on this path. For example, take a look at Zeratul. He has different burst-down builds and a decent wave clear, plus he is effective right from the start of the game.
Nova has a very weak early game. In her current state, she is like Artanis. She doesn't do much until the late game, post level 16. Before that, almost everything she does is countered by actions of an average healer. Artanis, at least, has a decent wave-clear before he hits his power-spike. And what do you do as Nova, a massage?
Don't get me wrong! I really like the style and the approach of recent changes. However, damage numbers and some mechanics, coupled with some talents; have to be a subject of improvements. Right now, even Gazlowe is more effective than Nova, before she hits level 16!