Thoughts on Nova ‘The Bane of the Wounded’

I’ve been playing in the closed beta of Blizzard’s new MOBA called Heroes of the Storm for a while now and want to share a few thoughts on one of the heroes – Nova. Consider it a guide to your bright frag filled future.

April Fool’s Nova (with big head ūüôā

So, Nova is a stealthy girl that really likes to stick it to you when you least expect it. However, many people don’t seem to get the whole idea of burst stealth assassin and play their Novas as they would play any other ranged DPSer,¬†which is really sad and¬†they also take all sorts of bad talents. I don’t pretend to be an expert or a “pro”, but I do play decently ūüėČ

I had a discussion with one guy recently and he was protecting his choice of wrong talents for Nova with such passion that I decided to do some math. From now on, for convenience, let’s look at the stats of level 16 Nova, because at that level it she gets one of the most crucial talents – the damage buff on her Pinning Shot – 25% damage increase from all sources on the target for 2.25 sec. Of course she’s also good before this talent, I just want to show the real potential of this hero.

Currently (as Blizzard likes to change things around) good Nova talents up to lvl 16 look like this:

Level Talent to take
¬†1 Ambush Snipe (+20% to your Snipe when you’re cloaked and for 1 second after decloaking)
4 Gathering Power (you get +5% on ability damage all the time, plus 2% after every enemy hero takedown, up to a max of 15%)
7 Anti-Armor Shells (whooping 250% dmg increase on your basic attacks, but their speed drops to 0.40)
10 Precision Strike (massive AOE dmg after a short delay, what’s important – can be used anywhere on the map)
13 Lethal Decoy (your decoy starts to do real damage, just a 25% of your own, but that’s not all – see below)
16 Crippling Shot (as I said before – this is the one talents that will secure your kills with 25% damage increase on the target from all sources)

Now, let’s have a closer look.

Ambush Snipe¬†is pretty self explanatory. Real trick here is when used with Pinning Shot as an opener¬†– you need¬†to be able to toss in the Snipe right on target within the same second since you’ve already decloaked in order to get both 25% damage increase on the target plus 20% damage increase from this talent.

Gathering Power (GP) is also a must have for big burst numbers. However, some people take Envenom as 4th lvl talent and try to justify their choice by saying that only Envenom helps them secure like half of their kills on Nova. Let me explain you why it’s wrong. First of all, to cast Envenom you need to get very close, almost melee range, to the target – you don’t wanna do that on a squishy hero like Nova, while it may be okay when you’re facing someone 1v1, but in team fights against any decent team you’ll get focused and die in a second. Other cons are: Envenom has 60 second cooldown, 5 second duration, can be healed through, absorbed by shield, etc and it’s very likely to happen, cause no good team in Hero League goes without a support. On top of that, if you take Envenom, you obviously don’t get any damage buff on your abilities (up to 15% with GP) so you can’t burst effectively.

Anti-Armor Shells is another talent that is misunderstood by some players.¬†What it does is just the essence of ‘burst’ – instead of doing a number of basic attacks one after another it does their damage in one big punch, which is also crucial, because when you open with Pinning Shot, you have 2.25 seconds to apply damage that will get 25% increase buff, so you need to have all your basic attacks packed into that time frame and that’s exactly what AA Shells do.
Some guys take One in the Chamber talent as the alternative, but it’s not as good. For more info see the math section of this guide.

Lethal Decoy is a tricky one. First of all if anything helped me secure kills of guys running away on low HP – it’s this talent, mostly because of it’s range and some mobility, but what’s really important is that¬†it also casts your Pinning Shot WITH the increased damage buff! So you can have more uptime of the 25% damage vulnerability on your targets, perfect for 1 on 1 situations, less perfect in team battles because you can’t control who will get shot by the decoy, but it’s still a decent buff for your team.

Crippling Shot is a no-brainer. 25% incoming damage on target, nuff said.


Now some math. Even post-nerf Nova is a big threat to half of the heroes and I didn’t call her “The Bane of the Wounded” for nothing. Even lightly damaged enemy for Nova can be an insta kill.

Nova 16 level ability damage – NO Gathering power stacks
 Ability  DMG w/o Crippling Shot  Crippling Shot applied
 Ambush Snipe  764  955
¬†Pinning Shot ¬†210 ¬†210 (same, because it’s the applicator ability)
 Snipe  642  802
Basic Attack (with AA Shells taken) 475 594

numbers come from field testing in “Sylvanas patch” HotS BETA version

So as you can see, Nova’s burst damage done with this talent build on lvl 16 in 1-1.5 sec will be 210+955+594=1759 and that’s without any Gathering Power stacks. Add in the Lethal Decoy, the next 25% vulnerability going off it, next basic attack going off for another 594 dmg and that’s over 2k dmg under 2.5-3 seconds. That’s a kill for half of the hero list, for example, Falstad on level 16 has 2510 HP. If you consider also dropping your nuke and it hits the target, then we’re talking about taking out almost anyone really, except the tanks.

But only very bad Novas that die a lot run with zero Gathering Power stacks, if you have even a few or better – all of them, then the Nuke may not¬†be required (and BTW – it’s getting buffed by them too!)

About One in the Chamber talent. In fact, what you get with it is the loss of damage, because even though you may¬†get a 50% damage increase on one next basic attack which you’ll toss in between your Pinning Shot+Ambush Snipe – which have to go as a 1 second combo and then another +50% on next basic attack, but then you’re looking at 210+356+955+356=1877 which looks better, but the timeframe to deal the damage is longer and by the time your third¬†basic attack goes off the vulnerability buff is gone. Chance to mess up the rotation is also higher, because often you’ll have to take the Snipe shot right after the Pinning Shot if the target is trying to escape or there’s something that will get in the way of your shot between you and your target in the next moment so you don’t have the time to delay milliseconds and then you lose one basic attack between Pinning and Snipe, it can also be the case if your fingers are just too fast ūüôā Additionally, it messes with your Decoy decision making because of the obvious gain on the damage that you’ll want to get after the ability cast. And the last thing to consider here is this:¬†one basic attack with AA Shells does 475 dmg at 0.40 speed (594 with the Pinning Shot buff), with One in the Chamber talent one basic attack after ability usage does 285 damage (356 with buff), followed up by the regular basic attack (190 dmg) it makes a total of 475 damage – same as one with AA Shells talent. Then the speed of regular basic attack on Nova is 1 per second, which means that for those two basic attacks in takes 2 seconds to do 475 damage, while with AA Shells the speed is decreased to 0.40 per second meaning the pause between attacks is ~2.5¬†seconds. So when you do the initial shot of 475 dmg, Nova without AA Shells catches up on dmg at 2 seconds and then only after 0.5¬†sec you do another 475 dmg, while she can only do 190 or 285 if she uses an ability, so looking at a timeframe of 3 seconds to burst down a foe, AA Shells Nova will do 210+955+594+475=2234 dmg, and with One in the Chamber 210+356+955+356+285=2162 which is worse and remember – that’s in the perfect world where you can get all basic attacks in between your ability shots, plus you’re forced to use the Decoy or the damage will be even lower. So it makes AA Shells much more reliable talent – it does more damage when bursting, it’s easier to use, it doesn’t make Decoy decisions for you. TL;DR: AA Shells are better,¬†end of discussion.

So there you have it. In the right hands Nova is the real “Lord of Terror” on the battlefield. If you find any mistakes or have something to add – leave it in the comments section below.

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