The first question you probably want to have answered: Is that even possible? The concerns aren’t without merit. Seasoned Heroes of the Storm players will note that Li Li’s abilities are almost entirely “smart-cast.” Basically that means that, as a player, you’re not able to target who you heal or hit with abilities. This has earned a reputation as a Hero aimed for new support players. This may be true, and in honesty, picking up Li Li and playing some Quick Matches is not a terrible idea. She’s also a great character to learn the basics of healing in a team fight with.
Ranked play however is another type of animal. Li Li’s weaknesses can be glaring; the fact that she can’t pick who her heals or blinds prioritize is crippling. When playing a support, the decision of who you heal and who you debuff is what separates a good player from a sub-par player. Li Li is lacking those capabilities, so instead, Blizzard was kind enough to stack her abilities with raw power and gave her great flexibility alongside a litany of powerful talents.
So why should anyone play Li Li in ranked and competitive play? Her position in the meta is always confusing and fluctuates regularly. As melee characters get better, Li Li also becomes better. Her Blinding Wind nullifies a few seconds of damage from auto-attacks, which can make some heroes entirely pointless. In addition, her healing is quite respectable. Between her ultimate and her brew a Li Li who avoids dying, and positions well during all the team-fights can out heal Malfurions, Uthers and Rhegars alike. She’s a very strong counter to characters like The Butcher and Sonya, whose most powerful builds are reliant upon auto-attacks for survival as well as damage. Li Li also makes a good secondary healer if your team can support it. Having an Area of Effect heal to compliment an Ancestral healing, for example, is quite advantageous in long team-fights.
Escaping Li Li’s shortcomings is not easy. You will want to familiarize yourself with her abilities in a very intimate way, and should learn some basics on positioning as well as “The Blinding Wind Wedge; the backbone of my competitive Li Li strategy.
Li Li’s (Q) Healing Brew is arguably the best single-target heal in the game. Blizzard balanced that by making you unable to target with it. For reference, Uther’s Holy Light (his burst heal) will heal 975 hit points at level 20. Li Li’s healing brew will only heal 448 hit points with each usage. But, Li Li’s brew only has a three second cooldown whereas Uther’s Light has a 12 second one. In the same amount of time, Li Li’s brew heals 84 percent more. It also spreads out among up to four targets, meaning you can occasionally save an entire team rather than a single target.
However, unlike Holy Light, you can’t control who you heal. If you’re too far away from the right target you can end up healing your nearly, full-health tank, or even yourself. When playing at the high levels of the game, or just in ranked games in general, you can’t afford to waste your mana like that when an ally needs a heal.
So how do you combat it? The short answer is positioning. A practice that takes a very long time to master. The best way to learn, is to play a lot. You will naturally learn to avoid enemy Warriors and Assassins by hiding behind your own tanks and Assassins. With Li Li, positioning gets a little more complicated. You’ll need to learn the exact range of your brew. I’d also recommend avoiding the talent that increases healing brew’s range at level 1, Brew Toss. It makes it much more difficult to heal someone intentionally during a fight. Once you know who you want to heal, you just run to the side of the battle, along the back line, and throw the brew when it could only possibly hit one person other than yourself. So long as you avoid taking heavy damage, and your team is able to hold their positions, it’s honestly not that complicated to “pseudo-target.”
Early game, the Cloud Serpent is incredibly powerful. It doesn’t scale that well however and costs a lot of mana. So, to sum it up: you want to cast the Cloud Serpent a lot during the laning phase of your game. On a character like Illidan, whose auto-attacks are powerful — it will add about 40 percent additional damage to his auto attacking for the first six to seven levels. The slope is fairly drastic though. Serpent has a very low amount of damage scaling (only 2.2 damage for each level).
It’s best to look at Cloud Serpent as a damage buff for your allies. Ignoring the actual damage amounts -– which I know look pitiful –- Cloud Serpent will increase an allies auto-attack damage by 40 percent (not precisely, and it varies between all characters) during the early game and in the late game it will add about 15 percent extra damage to their auto-attacks for it’s duration.
The Serpent is particularly strong on assassins with high mobility and tanks that can comfortably walk in and out of team fights. Late game however its mana cost is more prohibitive than the damage is helpful most of the time; you’re spamming your other two abilities so frequently that Serpent can be more of a burden than anything else by level 20.
Blinding Wind is the best reason to play Li Li if you are a well-versed support player. In addition to dealing a relative amount of damage, it also chases targets from a long distance, and will also mitigate the bulk of any melee assassin’s damage.
This is Li Li’s only alternative to have crowd control. So you’ll want to use it as aggressively as possible to help acquire kills. The trick, if there is one, is to allow your melee enemies get close to a friendly assassin and then rush in with a blind and heals.
Blinding Wind also solidifies that Li Li makes a very robust second healer also known as an “off-healer.” If the pressure of healing during full team fights is off of your shoulders it gives you a chance to buddy up with one friendly team member and apply pressure to enemies during team fights.
The only pitfall to be aware of when using Blinding Wind is similar to using Vala’s Hungering Arrow. If you’re too close to minions, the attack will hit them before hitting an enemy hero. Blinding wind is supposed to prioritize enemy heroes – and it normally does – but, if you telegraph the attack, the enemy hero can retreat just out of range, and minions will soak up the damage.
The Blinding-Wind Wedge
The Blinding-Wind Wedge is the name I attribute to my most commonly used tactic with Li Li. Essentially, you want to be orbiting a single friendly hero and wedging yourself in between them and their target once every few seconds.
When you are behind your friend use your Healing Brew and cast your Cloud Serpent on them. Once you’re in between your friend and enemy use your Blinding Wind. This sequence utilizes positioning, all of your abilities and your Fast Feet trait. While doing The Wedge you will be soaking up insignificant amounts of damage for your teammates — but activating Fast Feet repeatedly, which makes the entire process easier to do.
The Blinding-Wind Wedge also helps to push enemies off of team mates. It will be much less appealing for a Butcher, for example, to go into a fight if he knows a Li Li is hanging around with a blind for him and heals for her teammates.
Water Dragon or Jug of 1,000 Cups?
The most obvious answer is to pick up Jug whenever you’re the only healer. If your team composition has a second healer you can communicate with your team and decide which one of you wants to be the dedicated healer and which one is going to pick up the damage/crowd control ultimate.
Water Dragon is best when your team is not able to chase effectively. The slow is massive and can entirely devastate escaping enemies. Even when you’re the only healer for your team, if you pick Dragon and your team can consistently turn the slows into kills, it will be worthwhile. With only 45 seconds for each usage you should be able to use it to pick one person off per fight. You’ll want to use the same logic of positioning as you did with your Healing Brew except you’re aiming to target an enemy.
Jug is a good ultimate even when you have another dedicated healer if they don’t have an AoE heal or your team has a large amount of squishy targets. Overlapping Jug of 1,000 Cups with Tranquility, for example, can keep a team out of everything an enemy team can throw out at you. However, Jug is easy to interrupt (unlike Water Dragon). A single stun for any duration cancels the ultimate, and while you’re using Jug you are unable to do anything else for its six-second duration.
Hybrid Support Li Li build
This is my most played Li Li build with all of it’s glorious talents and deviations.
Talent 1: Conjurer’s Pursuit
When staying in fights for a long time you’re going to run out of mana pretty quickly. Li Li’s short cooldown on Healing Brew and the frequency that you’ll be using it mean that it’s going to deplete your mana quickly. Factor in that you’re throwing around blinds, and giving damage buffs with the dragon and your thirst for mana is overwhelming.
Deviation: Gale Force
I pick up the extra damage on maps that I won’t be able to collect orbs effectively. Anything where I assume that I’ll spend less time in lanes and more time at objectives or team-fighting. The extra damage helps secure more kills. It’s simple, and effective.
Talent 2: Lingering Blind
Since the pivot of playing Li Li in a competitive metagame is really focused on blinding, the additional second of a blind makes it even harder for auto attacks to harm you or your allies.
Deviation: Mass Vortex
I still avoid Healing Ward for most games and go with Blinds on more targets. However, I pick up Vortex over Lingering whenever my opponents are primarily melee. If they are two melee and three ranged, it’s much more effective to have the Lingering Blind.
Talent 3: The Good Stuff
Additional healing on Li Li’s Q with no drawback is nothing to scoff about. The fact that it doesn’t add additional mana cost or an additional cooldown is really nice. The amount that it heals isn’t going to change your teams’ outlook, but since it’s being stacked once every three seconds it will add up very quickly. It’s only about ten percent as effective as Malfurion’s Regrowth is over time but the burst healing is much higher.
Deviation: Shake it Off
I don’t recommend picking up Shake It Off over The Good Stuff very often. Mostly because the talent seems to pale in comparison to the powerful number of talents that Li Li has access to. But if you’re taking a lot of flack in the early game from stuns and roots the ability to get out of them will be a large boost during early game team-fights.
Talent 4 (Heroic): Water Dragon
I like being able to support in a dynamic way. Healing is most support’s main focus but once you’re comfortable with relying on your Healing Brew and your team is good enough at making decisions to know when to flee and when to fight — it’s a great addition to have the slow and damage every forty-five seconds from the Dragon. Your team may not be happy seeing the Dragon at first but if you secure more kills with it then your team takes then skipping the healing Heroic is still justifiable.
Deviation: Jug of 1,000 Cups
The premier Area of Effect healing ability. It heals a lot of damage quite rapidly. The biggest drawbacks are that it doesn’t heal everyone simultaneously and it’s easy to knock you out during it’s casting/channeling. But when your team needs heals and you know how to position away from stuns, it’s a welcome sight for your allies.
Talent 5: Shrink Ray
A cornerstone to any support character. A large slow and a damage reduction from the target gives your team a good buffer of comfort from Assassins and allows for chase-down scenarios that will result in more kills. It’s best to use Shrink Ray on the highest DPS characters you’re facing such as Vala or Jaina.
Deviation: Hindering Wind
Great in conjunction with Mass Vortex, since it can slow four targets at once. So if you already picked up Mass Vortex as your second talent this can be a great addition. Alternatively, if your team has showed prowess using a large variety of Area of Effect abilities, you’ll be able to keep your opponents inside of those effects for longer.
Talent 6: Herbal Cleanse
It’s almost staggering how powerful this talent is. In comparison, Cleanse, the talent Herbal Cleanse mimics has a thirty second cool-down. The Herbal upgrade for Brew is still on a three second cool down, still costs 30 mana and still heals for a heavy amount. In addition, it increases the movement speed of whoever you throw it on by 20 percent. Now Cleanse still allows you to target much more effectively but once your positioning skills are suitable it shouldn’t be hard for you to prioritize an optimum hero to receive the cleanse, and if you can’t — you can just try again in three seconds.
It’s also important to note, that the two-for-one talent which is also at this level can be very detrimental to your supporting. Though it can literally double your healing, in ideal situations most time your positioning — assuming you’re being aggressive and doing a good job — will leave you healing one ally and yourself. This has its applications but the 50 percent additional cool-down has never really appealed to me on a spam-heal character.
Deviation: Serpent Sidekick
I look at Herbal Cleanse as being the second best reason to play Li Li in competitive play. It’s a cleanse that is debatably two powerful. Heroics and entire team strategies can be entirely ignored with it. However, if you already have an ally with cleanse, or if your team has multiple “unstoppable” abilities, it may not be too bad of a decisions to pick up some additional damage. Remember, by this time in the match the Serpent will only be dealing enough damage to add about 10 percent additional damage to your allies auto-attacks, but it will also give you that buff as Li Li, which can attack for you while you’re spamming abilities and running around.
Talent 7: Kung Fu Hustle
This is without a doubt Li Li’s best talent. It’s also arguably the best reason to play Li Li at a competitive level. Whenever Fast Feet activates (which should happen fairly often) your cooldowns refresh 2.5 times faster. That’s fast. It also makes your three second cooldown for Brew into a non-factor at about 1 second cooldown per usage. While doing the Blinding Wind Wedge you can maximize the cooldown reduction. It also refreshes your Heroic abilities, essentially allowing you to use Jug of 1,000 Cups once every 45 seconds or Water Dragon once every 20 seconds.
Deviation: Storm Shield
Whenever you’re playing a support, the immediate shielding of Storm Shield is always something worth considering. It’s most effective when you’re facing a burst-damage heavy enemy team. It operates on Li Li similar to all of the other supports. The only benefit in picking it on Li Li is that storm shield will affect your team in an area around you. So, her positioning will get the shields to more allies, more often.
Li Li may not seem like seem like an appealing pick in Hero League but she’s not without her benefits and she has a low gold cost. She’s easy to pick up and play casually and with some practice becomes very powerful. When playing Li Li you must stay vigilant and be confident in all of your positioning. The common desire to blow your cooldowns as rapidly as possible can also be a trap with her low mana pool. But with overwhelming powerful talents and heavily weighted abilities, if you’re willing to take the little panda seriously — you won’t regret it.