In Heroes of the Storm, Zagara is a ranged specialist that excels in lane pushing, Merc capping and zone control. Her strenght is mostly notable in the early game, where she can be overwhelming to deal with, while her scaling into the late game tends to be mediocre. She provides her team with a unique mechanic: Creep Tumors (more on in later on).
Her damage comes mostly from her summons, but she still has a strong auto attack and can even be specialized to be entirely reliant on it.
When it comes to builds she has diffent paths to take and choices to make, and we are here to explore the possibilities and find out what works and what doesn’t.
*But first of all, let’s take a look at her abilities:*
TRAIT (D) – Creep Tumor
Mana cost: 20
Charge Cooldown: 15 seconds
Max 3 Charges
“Lay a Creep Tumor that generates creep. You and your summons move 20% faster on creep and regenerate 1.8 ( + 0.3 per level) Health a second. Tumor lasts 240 seconds”.
Fun Fact From level 5 to level 6 the increase is 0.4 instead of 0.3. Not really sure why that is.
*Creep is such a unique and important mechanic that I dedicated a chapter to it, more on it later. *
Q – Baneling Barrage
Mana cost: 50
Cooldown: 10 seconds
“Lauch 4 banelings that deal (40 + 5 per level) damage each”.
While spewing out banelings you are forced stationary and are therefore vulnerable. If you can hit them all they deal a good amount of damage, but they move relatively slowly and are somewhat easy to dodge. You can time them after a Devouring Maw to ensure the detonation, or use stuns provided by your teammates to achieve the same effect. Worth noting that the banelings consist of solid bodies that can work as meat (acid?) shields; you can use them to block a Nova’s Snipe or a Stiches hook, among other things.
W – Hunter Killer
Mana cost: 60
Cooldown: 14 seconds
“Summon an Hydralisk to attack a single target, dealing (46 + 6 per level) damage per second. Lasts 8 seconds”.
This is your highest and most reliable source of damage. That hydralisk packs quite a punch, especially early on. Casting it stops you for a second, keep it in mind when kiting. Use it to harrass your opponents with little to no chance for retaliation on yourself. One thing you should be careful of is enemy’s AOE. The hydralisk can be killed rather easily as it doesn’t have much HP, so try to position it far from yourself to ensure that the enemy will have to choose if to attack you or it, without the chance of cleaving it down. Get confident with the way it behaves and where it spawns when you summon it.
E – Infested Drop
Mana cost: 50
Cooldown: 12 seconds
“Bombard target area with a Zerg Drop Pod for (72 + 12 per level) damage. The pod spawns 2 roachlings that deal (15 + 2 per level) damage per second and last 8 seconds.”
The pod itself deals decent area damage on its impact location. Get confident with its timing and you can use it to snipe low health targets with it. Also, this can be used on the move so you should drop them behind yourself while kiting. Roachlings are great to soak structures ammo or to block skillshots, as well as tanking Mercs for you.
Mana cost: 100
Cooldown: 100 seconds
“Summon a Devouring Maw that deals (99 + 24 per level) damage and devours enemies for 4 seconds. Devoured enemies cannot fight and take (40 + 2 per level) damage per second“
Mana cost: 50
Charge cooldown: 60 seconds
Max 2 charges
“Summon a Nydus Worm at target location that you can enter by right-clicking. While inside, you exit by targeting a Nydus Worm with R or right-clicking near the Worm. Maximum 4 Nydus Worms”.
We’ll talk about Heroic abilities in a later Chapter, so let’s skip more info for now.
**Creep Tumors: the importance of vision**
One of Zagara’s most important tools is her trait: Creep Tumor. Laying down a tumor lets creep spread outwards from it, covering a relatively large area, granting Zagara and her summons a bonus in movement speed and health regen, as well as vision. Bear in mind that the vision is granted by the tumor itself, not the creep, so place them accordingly. Creep Tumors act as vision wards in this game, and are so far the only element that behave this way. Different maps have different needs, but vision is never not welcome. Besides the obvious “Creep in the bush”, fundamental to keep sight of your surroundings and to prevent your enemies from LoS (line of sight) jukes, you should always be proactive with your creeping. Be mindful of your enemies and consider their position: if it looks safe enough, you should not refrain yourself from entering their jungle and gain vision of chocke points and camps. Even tho Creep tumors are stealthed, they can still be destroyed by most kinds of AOE (area of effect) damage; one way to help prevent them from being destroyed accidentally during skirmishes is to place them on the sides of the lane, rather then in the middle (where the skirmish will most likely take place) and place them at the edges of bushes instead of the middle (where your enemies will most likely try to snipe them).
*Fighting Vs. Split Pushing*
Zagara is not the most versatile hero in the game, but that does not mean she doesn’t have her fair share of interesting choises to make. In my experience, there are two main builds for her: one focused on splitpushing, the other one focused on damage dealing for teamfights/duels. Based on this, here is an analysis of her talent choices coded by effectiveness.
☀ – Bad ☀☀ – Situational ☀☀☀- Very good!
☀ Centrifugal Hooks – Double the distance traveled by your banelings just doesn’t cut it; the range is already more then enough, and since they are quite easy to dodge the extra distance won’t make much, if any, difference.
☀ Corpse Feeders – Reduces the damage your roachlings take from minions, mercenaries and structures by 33%; while this might drain one extra shot from towers and forts, Demolitionist is just superior.
☀☀☀ Reconstitution (Fighting) – You should have creep all over the map, and should always fight on top of it. This talent triples your health regen on top of creep, which lets you recover from trades much more effectively, especially in the early game.
☀☀☀ Demolitionist (Split pushing) – Factoring in Zagara’s good attack speed, 10% more damage and ammo drain on structures makes it for a solid pushing choice.
☀☀☀ Envenomed Spines (Fighting) – More range and damage on your auto attacks equals safer positioning in teamfights and easier harrassment. Solid choice.
☀ Medusa Blades (Split Pushing) – Situational at best. On paper this sounds really good: all your basic attacks cleave. Good for pushing lanes, even tho it is not really needed; Zagara pushes like a goddess even without it.
☀ Tumor Clutch – Mana is not really a problem for you, and the cooldown is more then enough to ensure you the vision and the regen you need.
☀ Envenom (Fighting) – Envenom is a really good talent, don’t get me wrong. It just doesn’t fit Zagara’s playstyle very well. You are not a burst assassin, and even if you are amazing at single target damage, this talent doesn’t seem mandatory. I recommend Envenomed Spines over this.
☀☀ Infest (Split Pushing) – This talent makes your lane minions powerhouses for a short while. As I stated above, Zagara already has great pushing capabilities, making this talent sort of redundant. If you end up picking this up, cast it on Archer minions: being the last ones to be focused by towers and forts, they will make the most use of it.
☀☀ Battle Momentum – Zagara does rely on her abilities for everything, and this lets you use them more often. Solid talent, but there are simply stronger choices in this tier.
☀Volatile Acid☀ (split pushing) – Makes your banelings deal a lot of additional damage to minions and structures. Worth noting that the bonus damage also applies to hero summons, like other Zagara’s roaches and hydralisks, Nazeebo’s Gargantuan, Raynor’s Banshees and so on. Not that useful, plus rapid incubation is in this tier.
☀Ventral Sacs☀ (split pushing) – One extra roachling. Just not good enough.
☀Endless Creep☀ – Even with this talent, most AOE will be able to destroy your tumors, and spread distance is not a concern. Skip.
☀☀☀Rapid Incubation – Mandatory for every Zagara build, in my experience. Use it to recover after a trade, use it to restore mana if you run low on it, use it to tank the last bit of DoTs ticking on you. Worth mentioning that it has a lower cooldown then an Healing Fountain, so prioritize Incubation over the Fountain to achieve maximum sustain. Too good to pass up.
☀☀☀Devouring Maw – The utility of this Heroic outclasses the other choice. It is what makes you such a good controller in teamfights; it is what lets you escape safely when split pushing. Use it on a clump of enemies to help your team easily set up wombo comboes, most notably with E.T.C.’s Mosh Pit, Nova’s Orbital Strike, Uther’s Divine Storm and the such. You can use it to take some annoying characters temporarily out of the picture in teamfights: suck in a healer to cut the sustain of the enemy team, suck in a crowd controller to cut their disruption. It is worth noting that the maw itself creates unpassable terrain: you can use this to your advantage to block off choke points and isolate enemy heroes.
☀Nydus Network – I’m not that big a fan of Nydus. It lets you have some semblance of global presence, which can be useful when split pushing, and that’s about it. The nydus itself generates creep from its location: while this lets you benefit from the movement speed and health regen, it gives out its location to your enemies. I very rarely, if ever, recommend picking this up.
☀☀Mutalisk – I’m not fond of Mutalisk. The only thing this talent does is give you extra chasing capabilities, which is not something you should look for anyway. The mutalisk bounce attack won’t be that noticeable in teamfights, and is not useful for split pushing either: your aoe is good enough as is for minion waves.
☀☀☀Grooved Spines (Fighting) – Hunter Killer is your main source of damage. 35% more range means the Hydralisk can reach its target easier and stay out of potential aoe, and 20% more damage is just realy good. Best choice in this tier.
☀Bile Drop (Split Pushing) – Only doubles the damage of the impact of your Infested Drop, not your roachlings. Mediocre at best.
☀Giant Killer – Only applies to your autos. While you should always auto your enemies, your basic attack is not your main source of damage. Skip.
☀☀Spell Shield – Personally I would only take this if the enemy team has a Nova, and even then you can get stoneskin next tier. If you find yourself being focused a lot by their casters pick it up, if not Grooved Spines is just superior.
Level 16 This tier has a lot of good choices, all of which depend on the enemy team composition.
☀Baneling Massacre (Split Pushing) – Double the banelings double the damage, but we are not going for a baneling build. While spewing out banelings you are stationary, therefore vulnerable; this talent increases that “window of immobility”. I don’t recommend it.
☀☀☀Brood Expansion (Fighting) – Hunter Killer is your main source of damage, and having 2 charges means your damage will skyrocket. You can pick two different targets, or you can focus down a single one much more quickly. Solid choice.
☀☀Metabolic Boost – Solid choice if you need to kite around dangerous targets, especially those without gap closers (ex. Thrall). Bear in mind that to gain the benefit of this talent you must be on creep, so don’t slack on those tumors.
☀☀Stoneskin – Solid choice if you find yourself focused by enemies with burst potential or sticking power (ex. Zeratul, Nova, Illidan). Their ability to stick on you means you can’t kite them, and the shield can save your life from being 100%-0% from their combo.
☀Tyrant Maw – A single good Maw is all you need, and you don’t need it for the damage it does. Skip.
☀Broodling Nest (Split Pushing) – Broodlings add some damage and can push lanes effectively, but Nydus is already a mediocre Heroic, and this is a sub-par upgrade.
☀Fury of the storm – It helps your autos, which are not your main tool of damage. It lets you surprise your opponent with some burst they do not expect and helps you take camps faster, both of which are not things you really need. Plus Bolt is in this tier.
☀☀☀Bolt of the storm – No matter what build you go for, Zagara’s main weakness is her low mobility. Bolt fixes that. Such high utility cannot be passed up. Mandatory.
**The Early Game LVL 1-10**
The early game is where your damage outclasses most other heroes. At level one, there’s barely anyone that can win a 1v1 duel against you if you play your cards right.
Given such a strong early game, you should be taking charge of a solo lane, which differs from map to map. Your priority heading into lane should be planting tumors in bushes to spot the enemy, as well as onto any path an enemy ganker might take to come to you. Don’t be afraid to dip into the enemy jungle to lay down some tumors: unless you are playing against a premade enemy team, you will hardly face someone that’s grouped up to check for you.
In lane, you have one keyword: Harrass. One of your strenght is that 2 of your 3 spells work on their own, and you can cast them on the move. You can zone your opponent pretty hard thanks to Hunter Killer, and you can start draining tower ammo with Infested Drop. If you picked up Reconstitution, your early sustain will be more then enough to keep your health high. One little trick I use, to gain as much as an xp lead as possible, is not to push the lane brainlessly.
Harrass the enemy to the point where he will be afraid of getting close to minions, and position yourself aggressively (you have creep to spot for incoming ganks, so you should be completely safe doing so); keep the enemy hero far from the wave and let minions kill each other as much as possible. Each friendly minion that dies far from your opponent is a little bit of experience they are missing: in the long run this really adds up.
If you can force your opponent out of lane, push hard. Let your minions hit the enemy towers and then look to secure a Merc camp (if the map allows it). Thanks to your summons, you should have no problem soloing Siege Camps. Bruisers can screw you up pretty badly early on, so don’t try them unless you have some help: best case scenario you will use most of your mana and most of your health, and might lose the advantage you had in lane. If camps are not available for whatever reason, take part in some aggressive creeping or focus down the towers. Any advantage you can get is invaluable in the early stages.
**The Mid Game LVL 11-16**
This is the part of the game where both roaming and teamfighting become much more important. Ideally you never stopped creeping up the map, giving your team vision and yourself movement speed to zoom between lanes and objectives. If you went for a split pushing build you should always look for undefended lanes and push them in, taking Merc camps along the way. Your priority is to drain structures of their ammo and to deal as much damage on them as possible. Note that you WILL be on the enemy team’s sights while doing this, since you are on your own and all alone. Creep on every possible ganking route they might take and be ready to escape. Always have a fall back plan. All the experience lead you might’ve granted your team by split pushing would be nullified if the enemies manage to kill you.
If you went for the damage build, this is the time of the game where you want to teamfight. Placement of your Devouring Maw can make or break a fight, so you should be extra careful with that. If your team comp benefits from Wombo Comboes, try to suck in as many enemies as possible to align AOE for your team. If this is not the case, try to aim for important targets and lock them out temporarily: a sieged up Sgt. Hammer, a Lili or a Malfurion during their healing heroics, a spinning Valla, etc.
If no fights are in sight, focus your attention on Merc camps and pushing: Zagara is a goddess in both aspects.
**The Late Game LVL 17+**
Zagara’s damage doesn’t scale as well as other heroes (especially assassins), so this is the part of the game where you are most fragile. Hopefully, your early game strenght led you to have an advantage in experience or objectives by this point. If not, don’t fret: you still have deadly tools at your disposal.
Vision should be your priority here, no matter what build you went for. If you can spot an isolated target thanks to your tumors, you might be able to get a pick; with such long death timers, this will most likely mean a 5v4 teamfight for an objective an a subsequent advantage. Follow the same general rules as the mid game for both styles, but be mindful that by this point the enemy team will most likely be roaming all over prioritizing Merc camps and objectives, so getting out of position to creep up will be extra dangerous.
If you are split pushing, be mindful of your team’s situation: if they are stuggling and losing teamfights, keeping on splitting might not be a good idea. Push lanes only if you feel safe doing so, and only if you feel like your team can stall the enemy. If your friends get forced into a 4v5 engagement things might go sour really fast.
**A note on effective Merc capping**
Zagara is considered one of the best junglers, and for a good reason. She can take Mercenaries camps quickly and with little to no risk, thanks to her summons. To best exploit this ability, you should always open on a camp with your Infested Drop, in orded to have your roachlings tank most of the damage.
Your Hunter Killer is what will kill the camp fast, and it can also tank a couple shot for you. You should swap aggro between yourself and your Hydralisk so that it doesn’t die before its full duration, but will still soak damage in your place. Banelings provide good AOE clearing and creep can give you some of the sustain you need to recover eventual injuries suffered from the camp itself. If need be, don’t be afraid of using Rapid Incubation after a camp, to ensure that you go back in lane with a safe amount of health and mana.
Zagara is one of my personal favourite heroes, for the reasons explained in the guide. Her ability to push, secure camps and zone control make her a good addition to most team comps.
I hope you found this guide useful and now have a better understanding of the Brood Mother!
Have fun in the Nexus, and remember: The Swarm endures! (which I keep hearing as “The swarm indoors”, which makes me giggle)