The day has finally come! The long awaited firebat hero, Corporal Miles "Blaze" Lewis, has entered the Nexus. As usual, we have asked a professional player to review the newest addition with us. This time we talked to Zugrug, the warrior player for Team Freedom, quarterfinalist of Blizzcon 2017 and the second place finisher in NA HGC 2017.
Blaze is a ranged Warrior who excels at dealing sustained area-of-effect damage and controlling the battlefield. His kit fits him well and definitely brings the Terran firebat feeling into the game. The inability to slow enemies, deal damage and heal himself at the same time, unless talented into, forces the player to choose between control and damage/healing which further increases his skill cap. Zugrug likes the kit too, but he also thinks that the Starcraft hero might disappoint some of his fans. "Blaze has a good kit and it feels like he has good sustained healing and damage, but his stun is hard to land unless you are following up on another CC. I don't think his kit allows him to be a good main tank. To me he seems like a good secondary tank or a followup CC hero." He also explains why he thinks so, besides the difficulty in hitting a good stun. "He's reliant on his long trait cooldown to be tanky. His trait feels really powerful, but with it on CD he feels easy to kill."
Blaze is the new counter to melee heroes
Blaze, similar to Xul, can select an on-use ability at level one. Zugrug prefers the cooldown reduction and mana provided in the Neural Stimpack, but if the enemy team has enough hard CC, he doesn't mind picking New Habits either. He also shares what his thoughts about the other choices on that tier are. "I don't think the increased movement speed is as needed because if you land a stun and follow up with your oil, you should be able to bodyblock them since they are slowed. The shield at level one is ok but I think you get more value out of the lower cooldowns and ability to spam your spells. The cdr to get your E up faster after you engage is pretty big," he said. "If you end up as main tank Blaze, maybe you will need the shield for more survivability, but I don't think Blaze will be main tank very often so the added CC will make him more useful."
Unlike many other players, Zugrug doesn't like the Oil Spill (W) build that seems to be prevalent all around. He prefers to pick the Q talents Feeding the Flame at 4 and Crossfire at 7 which allow him for higher Oil Spill (and healing) uptime and more single target damage. But it's not like he picks these all the time. "I like Meltdown if they have a lot of melee. If I'm reliably hitting 2-3 heroes with my trait, then it reduces a lot of enemy damage." He also agrees that the often picked Fuel Leak talent at 13 is kind of a trap: "I feel like you get a lot more value from the magic damage reduction or attack speed reduction. The trail of oil left behind doesn't get that much value usually and once you stun a hero, your W will be up to put oil under them anyway so that talent doesn't seem necessary."
Level 16 offers a huge power spike for Blaze as it is his main defensive tier which among other things offers a unique version of spell shield that heals Blaze for a percentage of damage prevented. While the Warrior player doesn't mind its occasional pick, he has a different favourite in this tier. "I've picked the spell armor vs burst mages like Li-Ming, but I think the Heat Treatment is the pick at 16. It is similar to level 4 where the more heroes get hit by your trait, the more value that lvl 16 gets."
You get a debuff, you get a debuff, everyone gets a debuff!
While the bunker is an iconic building from Starcraft that can be used to hide from incoming damage or to remove any debuffs from likes of Lunara and Gul’dan, Zugrug admits he can't get to see its value. "I haven't been able to get much value out of the bunker. I would just go in and out of to have the +25 armor from it which didn't seem as useful," which is why he prefers the second heroic choice. "Combustion is the go to heroic, the slow is really strong and it does pretty good damage too. I've been using it early on in fights and I'm usually channeling it like 1-1.5s early on to try to hit more heroes with it unless I'm in a really good spot where I can just channel the full duration and still hit a bunch of enemies." Its level 20 upgrade, Flash Fire, is a no-brainer too. "The level 20 upgrade is too powerful to pass up on. Once you get it you can channel longer since it slows the enemies instead of you. They are slowed while you are channeling the ability + basically full channel so 5s slow after and a lot of damage."
So how to utilize it best? "Post level 10 I like to engage with E -> W -> Combustion -> D or if they have a lot of burst and I could take a lot of damage after engaging, I'll pop the trait before Combustion. If they have a lot of CC and you took the unstoppable globe talent at 1 then you always D -> R so that the channel doesn't get interrupted." The last is a great tip as it allows for an almost guaranteed full channel which then deals 1050 damage over 5 seconds to every single hero hit at level 20, which is insane for a warrior, not even counting for the long 60 % slow.
Hard to fit into team comps and the meta
While Blaze might be strong, there are certain heroes who give him trouble. "Arthas is really annoying to play against due to your lack of mobility. If you get stuck in a bad spot, you can't E out to live, usually." Long range mages can cause Blaze a lot of trouble too as he can’t safely connect to them. "Hanzo is really difficult to deal with and Li Ming especially because even if you are able to get a flank to charge her, she should be able to just blink and avoid it. Blaze is definitely better vs heavy melee teams," he adds.
Blaze is still a new hero and it is difficult to say where will he fit into the meta and how to utilize his kit the best. He will be globally banned in the first week of HGC so we have to wait a bit longer to see him potentialy played in the HGC. However Zugrug still thinks that if he gets to be played, it will be in a very specific role. "His waveclear and followup CC should make him good in rotations so I think he will be picked on a map like Dragonshire and you’ll have him in a 4-man rotation with a stun tank and burst damage like E.T.C. and Li-Ming." He also adds why he doesn’t like Blaze in the solo lane. "He has good enough waveclear to hold lanes but I don't think he can win lanes vs any traditional solo laners. Maybe on a map like infernal shrines where you group early, you can pick him as a solo laner because the solo lane is not as important on that map and he is a strong shriner but I think we will mostly see him as a rotation hero."
And what is his final verdict on the firebat? Will he be viable despite his clear weaknesses? "Blaze has good control with his AoE stun and slows and is a hero that could be good in HL and competitive, but it seems like he will be hard to fit into team comps. People will need to experiment a lot to see where he fits in and what he is good against."
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