Level 140 Masters rank Johanna main here. My battletag is Serenity for those who've seen me on ladder before.
I think this is the single most controversial talent choice of any hero in the game. If not, it's at least in the top 3. There are very skilled and knowledgable players on both sides of the argument. Some Johanna players will defend Laws of Hope to the death and sing its praise to high heaven. Others will tell you that Hold your ground is clearly superior in every way and it's been overbuffed by quite a bit. And a few players take a middle ground approach and say that they're both good and you take either one depending on the situation (Laws of Hope vs sustain damage, Hold Your Ground vs heavy CC). Yet no matter how much we argue amongst ourselves about this topic (and boy do we argue about it), neither side ever seems to convince the other. The argument just pops up again in a later thread and it's always just as heated and passionate as before. I do have my own opinion on the debate, and I could try to lay out a very detailed argument that systematically defends my side while refuting the arguments of the other. But honestly, no matter how well I write such an argument, I seriously doubt I could convince a significant number of people. The topic is just that controversial. Nonetheless, I do feel obligated to weigh in on my most played hero. So I'm going to take a slightly different approach. I will argue my side at the end, albeit in a roundabout way, but before that there are some metacognizant points about the debate itself that people should understand first. So let's get to it! I present to you Laws of Hope vs Hold Your Ground from a Masters Johanna main.
Oh, and before someone brings it up, yes Reinforce is really good, but it's niche. You should only take it maybe 1 in 10 games. When you do it'll be incredible, but 90% of the time the others are as good or better.
Laws of Hope vs Hold Your Ground is largely an apples to oranges argument. The talents do different things and require different playstyles.
This is a very important point to get across to people, and it's a huge reason why the topic is so controversial. Both talents give you survivability, but they do so in different ways. Laws of Hope gives you sustained healing, not because it's a heal overtime, but because it's a separate cooldown to Iron Skin. You can use Laws of Hope whenever you want and still have your get out of jail free card (Iron Skin) ready and waiting. What this means is you can posture aggressively for longer. You can weather a lot more poke damage, you can step up to clear waves with less fear, and you can stay in the enemy's face for longer. That means more damage, better positioning, and all kinds of benefits. If you take a lot of damage, just pop Laws of Hope. And all without bothering your healer. But you can't go too deep because Iron Skin can break. It has 700 hit points at level 1 which is a lot, but some heroes like Jaina can break in a single ability rotation (even without any talents). Laws of Hope fanatics will tell you that you don't need the extra shield from Hold Your Ground because it's already big enough. But they only say this because of their playstyle. Laws of Hope players commit to using Iron Skin almost exclusively for escapes. Which they should! It has too long of a cooldown and isn't sturdy enough to be used super aggressively. But Hold Your Ground changes the game. Suddenly your 700 point shield is now 1120 hit points which is 40% of your maximum health. Coupled with the significantly shorter cooldown, now you can use Iron Skin aggressively. You can dive as deep as you want for your engages and walk away from all but the burstiest of burst comps. Dive headfirst into all 5 enemies, W-Q the backline, and walk away for free with Iron Skin. The downside is you have no sustain beyond that, so you'll have to play safer for the next 10 seconds while it's on cooldown, and you're much more susceptible to poke damage. But for those 4 seconds when you activate Iron Skin, you're nearly invulnerable and can do anything you want.
In short, Laws of hope gives you far more sustain which allows you to position more aggressively for longer while still having an incredible escape in your back pocket. Hold Your Ground allows for some of the most insane, balls-deep aggression imaginable, but leaves you beholden to its cooldown. You can make way stronger engages with Hold Your Ground, but you can make engages much more often with Laws of Hope. Like I said, apples and oranges. The talents just don't do the same thing and they really don't play the same either. As long as you understand how play to your talent's strengths and avoid its weaknesses, you can find success either way. Which is a great segway into my second major point:
In the end, it doesn't matter that much which talent you take. What matters is Blessed Shield.
Blessed Shield is what makes Johanna actually good, because without it she doesn't have strong enough CC to be as effective as other tanks. All the survivability in the world doesn't mean squat if you can't do anything because your enemies can just ignore you and kill your team. Blessed Shield fixes this and is a contender for top 10 strongest ultimates in the game. It doesn't have the overwhelming raw power of ultimates like Sanctification or Horrify, but what it does have is a short, 60-second cooldown, and immense flexibility. It's probably the single most flexible ultimate in the game. This ultimate does literally everything. Kael'thas stepped a few inches out of position? Blessed Shield. Greymane diving your backline? Blessed Shield. Need to stop a Mosh Pit or Storm, Earth, Fire channel? Blessed Shield. Chasing a hero down after the fight? Blessed Shield. Need a follow-up to an Alarak combo? Blessed Shield. Got yourself in a sticky situation? Blessed Shield. It does literally anything, and on such a short cooldown.
This is important because Blessed Shield doesn't care if you take Laws of Hope or Hold Your Ground at all. The ability casts instantly and has a very long range. You can do everything I described above just as effectively no matter which talent you took. And if you watch high level Johanna play closely and really pay attention to what she's doing, the vast majority of impactful plays she makes are with Blessed Shield. Seriously, go find a game on Khaldor's channel (or whatever) with Johanna in it and watch her plays. Count how many kills she sets up with Blessed Shield and how many without. Watch the difference in her peeling abilities when her ultimate is on or off cooldown. It turns out that the level 1 talent isn't that important in the grand scheme of things. This is the other reason the debate is so hard to definitively settle. Not only is it an apples to oranges debate, but it also doesn't have that big of an impact on her performance.
But that's not to say that her talent choices are completely irrelevant. And I did say that I had an opinion in this debate. Hopefully I've been unbiased enough up to this point that you can't tell which side I'm on. I still think that I can't convince the other side by directly arguing the merits of my talent for the reasons explained above. But there is a very important factor that I almost never see discussed whenever this debate comes up, and I think I might just get to some people by mentioning it. See, everyone bickers about the level 1 talents themselves, but no one ever talks about the rest of her talents. And it's the level 16 talents that truly settle this debate in my heart.
Even if you think Laws of Hope is equal to or better than Hold Your Ground, the combo of Hold Your Ground + Fanaticism is vastly superior to Laws of Hope + Holy Renewal.
I talked about how Hold Your Ground allows for stupidly aggressive plays. Well Fanaticism takes even that to a completely new level. You thought Johanna was unkillable before? If you look up "unkillable" in the dictionary it's just a picture of Johanna with these 2 talents. Nothing in the game compares. You CAN'T kill Johanna if she takes these 2 talents, assuming the Johanna plays well. She can consistently survive coordinated 5-man ganks. She can outrun Tracers and Illidans and Zeratuls. If Johanna dies with these 2 talents, it's because she messed up, period. The synergies are just so insane. The 60% larger shield means it can survive multiple hits without breaking so you can get up to maximum move speed very easily (which makes it even harder to break). The 2 second extra duration gives you even more value out of the race-car move speed bonus as well as more value from the Unstoppable. And the extra duration combined with the 5 second reduced cooldown gives Iron Skin a 40% uptime.
Don't get me wrong, Holy Renewal is a really good talent, but it just doesn't compare. Fanaticism isn't very good if you didn't take Hold Your Ground because the shield isn't strong enough to survive lots of hits and it still has too long of a cooldown. But with Hold Your Ground, it's nearly unbreakable and has 40% uptime. I could tout the numbers all day but the best way to convince you Laws of Hope fans that this is the superior choice is to encourage you to try it yourself. Trust me, if you haven't practiced with these talents, you're missing out! It's a hell of a lot of fun racing around the battlefield with 140% move speed. You can make plays that would be guaranteed suicide on any other hero, even other tanks, and escape with a full health bar. You can dive on any hero at any time as long as you have Iron Skin. You can't be peeled because you're unstoppable, and attacking the shield literally makes it stronger. You do need to be weary of heroes that can do HUGE amounts of burst damage like Jaina or Colossus Smash Varian (also shattering throw, fk that talent), but otherwise the whole battlefield is up for grabs to you.
Why do you take Holy Renewal? For the huge amounts of healing both in and out of team fights. And with more health, you have more leverage to make plays. But why go through the trouble when instead you could be literally unkillable? The cooldown isn't even long anymore because, again, you have 40% uptime on Iron Skin with Hold Your Ground + Fanaticism. And of course, if you're not taking damage (like if your allies are getting focused), then you don't have to use Iron Skin, you can just walk around normally. But I just can't stress enough how insane the survivability you get from these 2 talents is and how free you are to move around wherever you please. And I do mean wherever. You can walk up to Ana sitting 3 miles behind her team, W-Q her, and race-car out for free (if you do it right). You can do literally anything you want. And any attempt on your life will be completely futile no matter how many resources are burned for it. Like I said before, you can consistently survive coordinated 5-man ganks with these 2 talents.
The debate of Laws of Hope vs Hold Your Ground has been raging on for months with no clear end in sight. The problem with the debate is twofold: First, it's an apples to oranges argument. In the most general terms, Laws of Hope gives sustained healing and Hold Your Ground gives burst healing. The two talents necessitate different playstyles: Laws of Hope players don't position and posture the same way that Hold Your Ground players do, nor should they. This makes the 2 talents difficult to compare and argue about. The second problem is that your choice of level 1 talent is only a very small part of your impact in a game. By far the largest contributor to success on Johanna is how well you can use Blessed Shield. This one ability is so powerful and flexible that its impact dwarfs that of any of your other abilities or talents (except level 20 which not every game goes to). As long as you have good positioning and good Blessed Shield use, you can be successful no matter what talents you take. This adds fuel to the fire because both sides receive confirmation that they're right. But something that does get missed in this debate is how ridiculously powerful Fanaticism is when paired with Hold Your Ground. Laws of Hope + Holy Renewal is good, but Hold Your Ground + Fanaticism brings Johanna to a whole new level of Unkillable, and the former just doesn't compare. It's still not a huge deal because Blessed Shield is still far more important, but these talents together allow for unbelievable aggression, and the sustain of Laws of Hope and Holy Renewal just isn't as good. If you argue otherwise, you probably haven't practiced very much or at all with Fanaticism and I highly encourage you to do so. It's a lot of fun 🙂
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