Heroes of the Storm‘s Abathur encapsulates the allure of bizarre and complicated things. He is undoubtedly one of the more unique additions to the MoBA genre and many compare his play-style to playing a game of Starcraft 2. Several new players will gravitate towards him and veteran players have been utilizing his strange methods of team support to great success in amateur and professional matches, alike.
Abathur has two substantial strengths: Feeding experience to a team and aiding teammates in confrontations from absolute (or at least relative) safety. In order to access these strengths you will need to master the mechanics of his play-style and will want to gain above average map-awareness.
For most teams, picking an Abathur is a response to a desire for a heavy, team-fight strategy. Similar to why teams will pick a hero like The Lost Vikings. With Abathur you’re able to assist in team fights while simultaneously gaining experience from lanes, regardless of where the team-fight takes place. Because his location during a team-fight is technically not in the fight itself, Abathur will commonly see play on large maps that require a team to leave their lanes for prolonged amounts of time to grab an objective. He excels on maps such as Cursed Hollow, Sky Temple, Garden of Terror, and Blackheart’s Bay. While he’s less useful on maps such as Tomb of the Spider Queen or Dragonshire, where most of the objective skirmishes will take place inside the lanes themselves, Abathur’s strengths are less dependent on specific maps, and more dependent on specific team members.
Abathur pairs well with any character who has the prefix “Melee.” This is because the most powerful abilities he’ll be using have a fairly short range, and he can’t interact in a fight directly. He requires his “host” to do all the work of getting up close and personal. However, Abathur’s particularly close with any hero that has an “Unstoppable” ability that can be used on command. Abilities like Murky’s Bubble or Johanna’s trait. During the unstoppable ability Abathur can use damaging attacks, as well as shield his host. Abathur has also traditionally been paired with Illidan; their friendship is derived from Illidan’s blood-thirsty play-style. Illidan players excel at jumping into a fray, and with a friendly Abathur on their side Illidan will have additional damage as well as additional health (via shield). Since Illidan teeters on the edge of life and death during several confrontations the additional boost will keep him safe and secure more kills.
As word of caution, Abathur teams do have to be weary of being a virtual four man team. During objectives and team-fights Abathur’s body is not present. This is one less target for you enemies to focus, which can make iffy confrontations turn into disasters.
There are only two heroes that a good Abathur player, who is utilizing his mini-map frequently, have to be weary of: Zeratul and Nova. While in their stealth cloak neither will appear on the mini-map. In addition, while playing Abathur, you will rarely be looking at your own body in game. If you’re being hunted by these two the safest thing you can do is to back up behind the spawn point’s wall. However, If you’re daring enough, and efficient enough, the best thing you can do is move frequently in order to confuse your hunters and make yourself difficult to pin down. Honorary mention to Tyrande: her capability to grant vision is unrivaled. A Tyrande player who wants to hunt you while you’re on Abathur shouldn’t have much trouble, and when the enemy team can see you they can formulate a plan to kill you.
While playing Abathur your focus is to shovel a large amount of experience into your team’s coffers. You have three options for doing this; your body, your Symbiote, and your locust. All three will be active at the same time. So using at least two of them together, at all times, is going to grant you experience much faster and should be your main focus.
Most people who choose Abathur will under-utilize or entirely ignore this method of soaking. Mostly because they are afraid of his fragile body being demolished. This fear is not invalid, but it will be mitigated by learning to use your mini-map to see what’s going on in the match. In short, being behind your towers or forts will not gain you experience unless the enemy minions are attacking those structures. If your body is not in close proximity to minions as they die you will not gain experience from them. For that reason, you have to venture into lanes from time to time. During the majority of these adventures you’ll want to hide in bushes or obscured vision areas, but a smart enemy can locate you by tracking your locusts. Do not be afraid to take risks, even if that means sitting out in the open. Instead you just need to remain mindful of your position on the mini-map and be on the lookout for incoming heroes.
Pro tip: Dying as Abathur is a massive burden on your team. Each Minion wave that you miss because you’re dead is worth the same amount of experience(or more) as a tower. If you’re not comfortable with map-awareness it’s better to stay behind towers and forts and abuse your other methods of experience gain.
Many players are not aware that Abathur’s locust do not “soak” lanes — meaning, they do not gain experience from minions that die nearby them. The only time that your locust can gain your team experience is if they get the last hit on an enemy minion. This is an annoyance and is quite surprising since Heroes of the Storm puts little emphasis on the “last hit” mechanic, but it’s something you will need to keep in mind while expecting your locust to gain experience. The locust is more reliable as a means of pushing a lane. It’s essentially an additional minion in a lane that doesn’t provide the enemy team experience when it dies.
Symbiote is the most common way of gaining experience for you team. After casting Symbiote on a target you will gain experience as if that Symbiote was your body. Since you can apply the Symbiote globally to any minion or hero, you can gain experience from any lane or place on the map. One unspoken benefit of the Symbiote for use with laning, and specifically when putting it on friendly minions, is that it doesn’t show up on the mini-map. Therefore, your enemy team will not know that you are influencing the lane unless they actively go up and check on it.
Playing Abathur is a thankless job for you team. Though gaining experience is your main focus you will also be required to grant vision with your mines and assist in team fights and duels. Your primary method for helping your team is focused around your Symbiote.
As it is, the Symbiote happens to have two functions when it’s not being used exclusively for experience gain: Defense and Offense.
Symbiote for Offense:
Offensive Symbiote play is straight-forward. You aid an ally during a crucial moment of a fight and increase the damage that they can deal. The main way of doing this is through the standard Abathur “rotation.” Once you jump onto an ally’s head you simply use your Carapace. You’ll follow that up with a Spike Burst and then a Stab. Finally, you wait for the second of cooldown on Stab and then shoot another.
With your Symbiote always looming in the background of engagements, duels should be quite easy for your team. Any one versus one fight now becomes a one versus one-and-a-half. Being able to shield your team from some damage, burst some more damage into the surrounding area, and Stab for additional damage or during a chase will give the enemy team headaches. These are the situations you should always have an eye out for, on the map.
Many players will immediately throw a Symbiote top-hat onto an ally in need. However, it’s advantageous to exercise restraint. When your enemy sees the Symbiote they should know whether or not they can continue to fight the ally that you put it on. When that happens, some kills will slip through your fingers. If instead you wait until the crucial moment where your enemy is to embroiled to escape, and then you aid in the fight it can help to add an element of surprise. Additional note: I suggest you communicate with your teammates that you are there for them during these exchanges. Otherwise it’s not unlikely for them to feel uncomfortable with the exchange and back out, ultimately wasting both of your time.
Symbiote for Defense:
The basics of defense with the Symbiote is to protect a target, normally an Assassin using the shield granted by your Carapace. You can also try and spam the damaging abilities you receive from Symbiote to try and discourage your opponent’s from attacking them, but the main defensive tool is still Carapace. The Carapace will only last for eight seconds, without any talents. After it expires the Symbiote will still have a four second cooldown before it will be able to reapply a Carapace. In addition, the shielding amount is not incredibly large and can be worn down quickly. Use that time to gently persuade your teammate who was in danger to leave the area. Or to ask for assistance from other allies. Abathur won’t be able to do a whole lot of protection but the additional shield can save a character from otherwise, certain death.
Pro Tip: Many people are unaware that every time you recast Symbiote all of it’s cooldowns and charges will also reset. This means you can effectively reduce the cool-downs of Carapace and Spike burst by four and two seconds, respectively. But you will need a very technically proficient rate of play in order to this. There’s also a very slight delay from the time you cast Symbiote to the time you can use abilities. It’s something like a quarter-of-a-second. Keep that in mind when trying to keep your teammates safe.
Abathur’s “W” ability is Toxic Nest. It’s an ability that you can cast within a large area. After being placed they channel for six seconds and then provide you and your team with vision around the immediate area it was placed. Your Toxic Nest will stack up to three charges and each charge will replenish after a twelve second cool down. The mine’s main focus is to act as trip-wire for your opponents to walk over. If you’re quick, and effective with mine placement it can secure kills. But, most times, it’s better at dealing a small amount of damage and granting vision. Whenever you come out of a Symbiote it’s a good idea to place the stacks of mines as fast possible in a strategic location. Abathur players also like to utilize a large array of mines in a single bush so that an unsuspecting enemy can be led through and have a massive amount of their health taken out.
Abathur, the Brave:
Abathur, the Brave is a play-style of Abathur that has been pioneered by popular YouTube personalities. The idea is to use Abathur as a flagship to gather objectives or get into fights. In short, I know it can be difficult to resist burrowing into these situations, but it’s often times too dangerous. Again, you have to be mindful of how much your death can affect your team. They are counting on you to gain experience and assist in team fights. If you die, your team becomes disadvantaged on two fronts.
Now, if you’ve considered the risks I can say there are some situations that will reward risky Abathur moves. Being able to obtain objectives or to provide a quick distraction as bait can both surprise and overwhelm opponents.
One such scenario of a successful Abathur, the Brave play:
You are playing Abathur on Cursed Hollow. The other four members of your team are encroaching on your opponent’s top fort. You can see all five portraits from the enemy team on your mini-map. Your team has taken two tributes already, and your enemies have taken two tributes as well. A tribute spawns in the bottom area of the jungle, on your team’s side of the map. With that information, you can make the decision — it’s a bit of a leap still but if you are confident that your team is going to be able to stay alive long enough without your assistance, and that they can occupy your enemies, you can burrow in. From there you can channel the tribute and slink away to a nearby bush in the bottom lane, as fast as possible. This play is fairly uncommon. And it will possibly work as a surprise tactic, but it’s risks are massive. If, for example, a single member of the enemy team is unaccounted for on your map, or if a member of the enemy team decides to branch off and head for the tribute, you will likely lose your life.
As some additional information, if you’re worried about surviving during risky encounters it may come in handy to know that you take reduced damage on your actual body while you’re in Symbiote form. The drawback is, when you’re in Symbiote, pressure plates such as the mercenary capture circles and the Dragonshrines won’t actually be captured. So, don’t go too crazy if you’re trying to hold an area down.
Using Abathur’s strength for pushing alongside his Symbiote play, I’ve developed a build that focuses on moving the Symbiote frequently, doing the Abathur rotation, and then moving onto another target. This build is incredibly effective at assisting mercenaries and minions alike as they push down walls, towers, forts, and keeps. It also has some strong defensive capabilities, though the popular Offensive talents are generally overlooked.
Talent 1 (Level 1): Regenerative Microbes
The reason I pick this is that I have a long-game strategy in mind. In addition, I’m hoping to assist my teammates in the lanes where a support isn’t present. The healing is very small, and it only works for the eight seconds that you have carapace on. In addition, it only applies while the shield is active. So, if the shield is whittled away, the healing does not continue. But it can make a noticeable difference in a duel and allow your teammates a little more comfort when fighting.
Deviation: Pressurized Glands
I don’t make this decision often. In fact, it’s directly opposed to the build. Regenerative carapace is crucial to your long-term strategy. However, there are situations where team-fighting is going to be as large of a focus for you as obtaining experience for the team. It really comes down to what will help out more. The extra range is great for granting vision(shooting into nearby bushes and sight lines) and chasing, but the cool-down reduction is where the real value is on this talent. While you’re babysitting it gives you the opportunity to add another Spike-Burst into the basic Abathur rotation.
Talent 2 (Level 4): Sustained Carapace
At this tier you are making a large sacrifice. You are losing the go-to, first-pick talent that increases your Symbiote host’s attack speed by twenty-five percent. But what you gain is an underutilized talent that allows your impacts to last for fifty percent longer (From eight seconds to twelve) and it allows your carapace to continue to grant a shield and heal after you move on to a fresh host. This is the backbone of the build. The intention is to put your Symbiote on someone’s head. Immediately blow your three cool-downs, sporadically, and then jump to the next person on the mini map and repeat the process. In addition to providing a marginal advantage it will also put less pressure on you to assist individual teammates. This gives you a little more liberty with focusing on lane-pushing and experience.
Deviation: Adrenal Overload
Similar to picking up Pressurized Glands, sometimes it’s just unavoidable. If you’re already branching towards team-fights or if your team is taking a lot of heat early on you’re probably going to have to break away from the constant upkeep build of jumping onto a target, blowing your cool-downs and moving to the next target. However, if you have deviated this much in the build you are unable to continue down the path of the rest of the build. At this point, I strongly suggest giving up on trying to be a global lane presence, and focus more on always being there for your friendly team.
(Special note: Picking this deviation pretty much means you are going to be giving up on the build as a whole. Sustained Carapace is a must-have for the multi-lane pushing aggression you’re trying to achieve. If you pick pressurized glands over regenerative carapace, you can still proceed with this build, but if you don’t pick up Sustained carapace you’re really incapable of pushing multiple lanes, simultaneously, successfully.)
Talent 3 (Level 7): Network Carapace
With the third talent you’ll see a noticeable strategy. Now you hop onto the caster minion in a wave. Then you use your Symbiote’s carapace and the whole minion wave gets a shield and heals for the next twelve seconds. Plenty of time to get off, jump onto another wave headed out from your core, and repeat the process. Your minions will get you experience in each lane you hop to for the few seconds you’re there, but you’re cycling through the lanes so quickly that rarely miss a noticeable amount of minion experience. In addition, once a wave of minions is given the shield and starts healing they should have no problem overcoming the enemy minion wave in that lane. They will also be able to knock down towers and forts without additional help if your enemies leave them unopposed.
Deviation: Calldown: M.U.L.E
If the lanes are pushing strongly enough, and your team fights are going well I like to pick up Mule. Mule is one of the most powerful generic talents for any character to pick. It forces the enemy team to commit to a push. They can’t do a small amount of chip damage and then return when it’s more advantageous. If they do, the Mule will have healed the structure and replenished it’s ammo. It can also fight against the map objectives.
Talent 4 Heroic(Level 10): Evolve Monstrosity
Abathur’s Heroics are both phenomenal. Picking either can be acceptable. Monstrosity isn’t as situational as Ultimate Evolution, though. The main focus for picking your Monstrosity is to provide a large distraction for the enemy team. Several Heroes can be taken down by a Monstrosity in a duel, after the Monstrosity has accumulated it’s thirty stacks from killing minions. Alternatively, if your enemies do not respond quickly the monstrosity can solo a fort or a keep with the assistance of a minion wave. Having a monstrosity in a lane farthest from the action of team fights will force them to react to what you’re doing. It is important to note that if you’re not babysitting the monstrosity it will act similar to your locust and that you will only gain experience if it gets a last hit.
Deviation: Ultimate Evolution
While ultimate Evolution is quite powerful it does make Abathur himself into a clone. That means you’re unable to focus on using your Symbiote for experience gain and assisting your team. That being said, Ultimate Evolution can easily turn the tide of a battle. It can make your opponent’s quite frustrated and provide a much-needed boost to damage output during team fights. It also allows you to jump into a fight as an additional body. Ultimate Evolution is best when you’re cloning high damage assassins on your team. But, you need to remember that you don’t aquire any talents that the assassin might have picked. It’s best to copy Heroes who have naturally high damage output. Such as Jaina, Valla, and Illidan.
Talent 5 (Level 13): Bombard Strain
When your passive ability spawns a locust it’s not incredibly powerful. It helps to push whatever lane is closest to you, but remember, it only gains experience if it gets the last hit. So, the additional damage allows your locust to take down minions more often, and the range allows them to do it from safety. This will increase the experience from the lane you occupy if your body is unable to be nearby the minion waves. In addition, Bombard strain allows your locust to siege towers without taking any damage. This can cause a large amount of inevitability. Bombard strain also has a powerful synergy with the level sixteen talent that you should plan on taking
Deviation: Soma Transference
So, as usual, if you need help in team-fights and your top hat is making a noticeable difference, it’s worth picking another ability to assist that. The healing can be very rapid. Additionally, it does have some synergy with the rest of your talents since you can use it on catapults, or mercenaries to give them a large amount of additional hit points. You can also take Spatial Efficiency here for similar reasons if your team seems to have enough healing already. The extra Stab charge can help mow throw enemy minions.
Talent 6 (Level 16): Locust Brood
At level sixteen you’re able to massively boost your pushing potential once every forty-five seconds. You get to summon a trio of locust, in addition to the locust you summon naturally every fifteen seconds from your passive ability. That means you’re going to be sending a total of seven locust down a lane (Three every forty-five seconds from your locust brood, and one every fifteen seconds from your trait) every minute! Towers, forts, and keeps beware! For those who like to take risks with Abathur it also gives you a strong activated ability to duel with. Four locust can easily take down squishy heroes. The hardest part of this talent is remembering to use it every time it’s off cool-down. No matter what. But it’s worth it since you’re increasing your output of locust by seventy-five percent per minute.
Though you can make an argument for the other three talent options, none of them will provide the power of Locust Brood. Envenomed spikes can make the cut if you’ve already had to deviate from the build for team-fighting, but even still popping a Locust brood can cause large troubles for your opponents in any lane you’re sitting in.
Talent 7 (Level 20): Hivemind
Since you’re already casting Symbiote as frequently as possible it’s smart to pick up the final talent that allows you to double your outputs in damage and shielding. So long as your team sticks together your Stabs and Spike-bursts should take down your enemies. Similar to Locust Brood, the power level of this talent is so high that it’s hard to pick up. Hivemind doesn’t directly assist the build, since it only casts a second Symbiote on an allied Hero, but if you target a minion you will grant a Symbiote to a nearby hero as well. Same thing, if you happen to target a tower originally. All around it’s the best level twenty talent for Abathur.
Deviation: Locust Nest
Locust Nest can be a fun option to pick up if your team doesn’t need a lot of assistance with team fights, or if your team is behind on structures. It will mimic your natural out-put of locust after you lay it down. Every fifteen seconds it will spawn a locust that carries the traits of the locust that your Locust Strain and Locust brood spawn. When it’s placed remotely, it can cause confusion among the enemy team as they try to search for the source of the stream of locusts laying siege to their base.
Taking this build will allow you to become a global threat in lanes. But, don’t forget your responsibility to your team. Sometimes it’s more important to be available during a team-fight than it is to be pushing down a fort. One of the hardest things to avoid with Abathur is tunnel vision.
When playing Abathur, so long as you stick to your responsibilities to the team, you’ll be able to provide massive experience numbers — in casual games reaching 35,000 easily. You’ll also keep your teammates as safe as possible during team-fights and duels. There are several games where a lone Abathur, working overtime, was able to carry the remainder of the team. Just remember that when your team is groaning about you playing Abathur and prepare yourself to be on everyone’s mind.