After Diablo was reworked around a month before Heroes of the Storm’s official release, he apparently vanished from play; complaints about the hero being massively nerfed and concerns about his viability rose, and the Lord of Terror was dethroned by the Traitor King.
To me, this feels unwarranted. From my point of view, stemming from countless games played with Diablo after his rework, he has remained very viable from a competitive standpoint, and, what’s more, he’s extremely fun to play – and I’m writing this to show just how powerful a good Diablo can be. There are many great Diablo guides on HeroesFire that are probably better than this one, and you should absolutely read them if you intend to give him a try; but seeing that many redditors here are still convinced that Diablo has become a useless hero, I’m hoping to give the Lord of Terror a bit more visibility and show that he’s still one of the better warriors in Heroes of the Storm.
Life pool and sustainability
First of all, Diablo is tanky. Very tanky. With a full soulstone, Diablo has considerably more HP than any other hero in the game, excluding Muradin’s Avatar. This means he is more than capable of soaking up enemy damage, though he’s designed to do so differently than other warriors. Talent-wise, Soul Steal offers a substantial HP bonus, and Soul Feast’s scaling health regen gives Diablo some very decent sustain. And by the time you reach level 20, you have access to Lord of Terror, which is an incredible life steal skill that’s arguably several times more effective than Blood for Blood. It’s worth noting that the soulstone now relies on percentages of maximum health, meaning that its HP gain is low early-game but becomes massive by the time end-game kicks in.
Before moving on, I still wanted to address many complaints about Diablo having lost “most of his tankiness” after his rework. Talent-wise, the average Diablo used to take Soul Feast and Endless Death: at level 20, that means Diablo would have 1060 + 260*20 + 5*150 = 7010 HP with a full 150-count soulstone, with a 300% health regen bonus. The average Diablo now takes Soul Feast and Soul Steal, meaning Diablo at level 20 would get a (1050 + 250*20)*1.25 = 7562 HP with a full 100-count soulstone, with a 300% health regen bonus, which is more HP than he used to have. Of course, the scaling means that Diablo is now far less tanky early on. But he becomes just as tanky, if not even more so, as the game progresses.
On to his basic abilities, which are at the center of Diablo’s appeal. Shadow Charge allows Diablo to quickly close the gap between him and an enemy, while knocking back and briefly stunning the enemy in the process. Overpower allows Diablo to throw an enemy behind him while proccing a brief stun.
These two abilities allow for some the game’s best CC combos. If a weaker enemy hero in range, move up to him, overpower him, then shadow charge him back into your team while body blocking his escape. Is an enemy running away? Charge into him, slam him behind you, and let your team pick him off while you continue to block him.
Both of these combos make Diablo amazing at securing kills. Not only can he punish poor positioning, but he also creates it: he excels at peeling flimsier heroes away from their teams and pushing them back towards your teammates – and their rapid demise – while his tankiness prevents him from getting significantly weakened while doing so. This means Diablo is exceedingly dangerous in close-quarters team fights, where he can not only incapacitate a hero for a good 3 seconds while he pushes him around, but also move the enemy so far away from the action that he’s either incapable of making an impact or vulnerable to your teammates’ attacks. A good Diablo is almost always there when an enemy gets killed, and usually ends up with the most takedowns on your team.
As a result, Diablo almost works like a tank with an assassin playstyle – when played correctly, he’ll be your kill enabler, serving you weak heroes on a silver platter for you to pick off. Diablo is actually able to roam in the early stages of the game, peeling for easy targets in all lanes before charging into them and securing an easy kill.
Next up is Fire Stomp, which sends fire waves in all directions, damaging enemies. It allows Diablo to have that much needed ranged AoE attack, and also serves Diablo’s most effective wave-clearing ability, allowing him to take down minions and even merc camps extremely quickly when specced into. With the right talents, Fire Stomp can actually become a very useful offensive tool. Finally, it’s worth noting that Fire Stomp can also double as a reveal, allowing you to scout at a safe range without exposing yourself to enemy fire.
Engagements and initiation
There are, however, many things Diablo cannot do, and players you don’t understand this often turn him into an easy target. First of all, Diablo can’t charge into an enemy team. He doesn’t have the sustain options, he doesn’t have the mobility, and he doesn’t have the escapes to make him an in-your-face, soak-all-damage tank. Diablo can’t burrow in to the middle of a fight, sustaining like a boss with his beetles like Anub’arak can; Diablo can’t slide into a fight and knock everyone back like E.T.C.; and he certainly can’t jump in and take the enemy’s focused fire like Johanna can. If you use shadow charge just because you can and because a random enemy is in range, you’ll most likely die.
Diablo is a different kind of tank. When Diablo initiates, he doesn’t do so by recklessly running into the fray; what I often do is find a good target to grab, combo him into my team, allowing them to severely damage or downright kill the hero before the fight even begins, leaving my enemies at a huge disadvantage. As such, Diablo should avoid finding himself surrounded by enemies during a team fight; he should take the front line, but never stray too far from his teammates.
Finally, Diablo is useless on his own. Unless he’s soaking XP or chasing an enemy that’s very low on health, he should always have at least one teammate with him in order to exploit his displacement abilities. Without that help, Diablo can push heroes around a bit, but has no way to follow up on his abilities. Past the laning phase, unless you’re trying to take a camp, you should avoid soloing when possible with Diablo.
First of all, let’s look at Apocalypse. It’s Diablo’s only multitarget CC ability, as well as one of the most effective CC heroics in the game when used correctly. When the entire enemy team is hit, apocalypse can easily secure or even turn a fight, thanks to its global range and its long stun. To ensure this, apocalypse is best used when you know the enemy team doesn’t have much mobility – usually in the middle of a cramped teamfight or when the enemy team is grouped in a small area. Apocalypse should not be used when pursuing or getting pursued, or, as a general rule, in situation that isn’t a teamfight; apocalypse is only as good as the number of enemies it hits, so you’ll want to maximize its efficiency, especially with its long cooldown. Finally, it’s worth noting that apocalypse is a poor way to initiate a teamfight, since many of its stuns will be wasted on unreachable enemy heroes behind the front lines (unless you have the enemy team surrounded).
Lightning Breath is not, like most people think, a massive damage-dealing heroic. You don’t use lightning breath by disregarding your health pool and charging in to deal as much damage as possible. You’re unstoppable, but not invulnerable, and you’re stuck in place while you’re using the ult. Best case scenario, you’ll have wasted your heroic; worst case scenario, you’ll get picked off by the enemy team. Lightning Breath is very easy to dodge, and because of this, it’s often far more effective as a disengage. You should use it when you can trap an enemy hero where he’s not supposed to be, or prevent enemy heroes from moving where you don’t want them to move. As such, it’s a very positional skill, and it can be very effective when used with that in mind.
Diablo is one of the most unique warriors in the game, packing an arsenal of displacement abilities rivaled only by Stitches’ hook; when used correctly, he’s devastatingly effective at chasing down enemies and isolating heroes from the opposing team. Any good Diablo will need appropriate follow up from his team to maximize his effectiveness, and is therefore most valuable in teams with high ganking potential. Diablo fares relatively poorly as a pure damage soak, however, and has to watch his own positioning lest he be caught alone and without an escape. As such, Diablo is a deceptively difficult hero to play – but when in good hands, he can be unstoppable. Here’s hoping we’ll see more Diablo play in the future.
Of course, if anyone disagrees with any part of this post, or has some new insight on Diablo play, let me know. I’m still learning, after all. We all are.