I'm a Nova one-trick (currently level 120) and I'd like to share some of what I've learned playing nova.
Snipe: Deals 230 damage to the first enemy hit, 6 second CD.Passive: Hitting an enemy Hero with Snipe permanently increases the damage of Snipe by 6%, stacking up to 30%. Gain an additional 25% damage bonus at maximum stacks. All stacks are lost if snipe fails to hit an enemy hero, minion, or structure.
Pinning Shot: Deal 100 damage to an enemy and Slow it by 40% for 2.25 seconds. 12 second cooldown.
Holo Decoy: Create a Decoy for 5 seconds with 100% of Nova's current Health that attacks enemies, dealing 10% of Nova's base damage. Whenever a Decoy takes damage it deals that amount to itself, effectively doubling the damage it takes. Using this ability does not break stealth. 15 second cooldown.
Ghost Protocol: Activate to instantly grant Stealth to Nova and spawn a Holo Decoy at her location. Nova is unrevealable for the first 0.5 seconds, when Stealthed by Ghost Protocol. 60 second cooldown.
Triple Tap: Locks in on the target Hero, then fires 3 shots that hit the first Hero or Structure they come in contact with for 372 damage each (Scales at 4%). 100 second CD. Resets to 10s CD if interrupted before the first shot fires.
Precision Strike: After a 1.5 second delya, deals 435 damage to enemies within an area. Unlimited range. 60 second cooldown.
Level 1: Longshot – Increases the cost range of Pinning Shot by 30%. Pinning Shot also increases the range of Nova's next Basic Attack by 2.
Explanation: The extra range on pinning shot and the subsequent extra range on your next basic attack, in conjunction with our level 7 talent pick allows us to secure kills at greater range, making us less vulnerable to enemy CC/attacks.
I don't take Covert Ops because I feel like the increased slow is inconsequential and the mana reduction is overshadowed by the amount of time (4 seconds) you need to remain stealthed to incur the benefit.
Advanced Cloaking's additional movement speed takes 2 seconds of being stealthed to trigger, and the mana regeneration isn't significant enough to outweigh the benefit of Longshot. Nova can move while mounted + stealthed.
Level 4: Covert Mission – Enemy minions killed near Nova grant a stack of Bribe. Hero Takedowns grant 10 stacks of Bribe. Use 25 stacks to bribe a Mercenary, instantly defefating them. If a camp is defeated entirely with bribe, the camp respawns 50% faster.
Explanation: With this talent, Nova can passively get stacks of Bribe by rotating between the lanes, she doesn't need to kill the enemy minions, just be present when they die. Late game, you get stacks of bribe very quickly with minimal effort.
Always bribe your camps with the full bribe (2 for siege, 4 for bruiser) to benefit from the 50% cooldown reduction for camp respawns. Your team gets more XP and more camps (thus more map pressure) by capitalizing on this.
If you bribe an enemy camp, only use partial bribe (1 for siege, 3 for bruiser) so they don't benefit from the 50% cooldown reduction.
Rapid Projection is a good talent in that it helps Nova with her mana starvation issues and the reduced CDR can be useful. I've never found Holo Stability to be a worthwhile pick. Covert Mission ends up winning out because it provides a greater benefit to your team.
Level 7: Anti-Armor Shells – Nova's Basic Attacks deal 250% damage and decrease the Physical Armor of Heroic targets by 15 for 3 seconds, but her attack speed is proportionally slower. (2.5 seconds per attack).
Explanation: Anti-Armor shells greatly outshines the other two choices in that your allies can also benefit from the armor reduction, and the increase to Nova's Base Attack damage causes the damage bonus to stack multiplicatively with offensive damage modifiers, and the armor reduction is applied before it's damage is dealt, increasing the damage of the attack that applied it.
One in the Chamber does not stack with itself, and the damage bonus stacks additively (not multiplicatively) with other offensive damage modifiers. While I've yielded decent damage from Perfect Shot (and the mana refund is nice), I feel like the playstyle necessary to make it viable puts Nova in a vulnerable position too long, requiring her to stand around to capitalize on the benefits. Anti-armor shells is best suited for guerrilla burst and escape.
Level 10: Triple Tap
Explanation: Triple Tap deals scaled damage against single-target heroes at exceptional range. It's great for driving enemy heroes off of a point or chunking health from a high value target. With the increased range from Pinning Shot and the armor reduction from your level 16 talent, you can capitalize on this by opening with your W and immediately casting Triple Tap. By applying your armor reduction before using Triple Tap, you're able to take tremendous amounts of health from even the beefiest of targets (or completely annihilate squishier targets).
Never triple tap a hero with an invulnerable ability unless you've seen them recently use the cooldown. Don't triple tap around multiple heroes unless you're trying to drive them back or away from an objective.
Precision Strike can be viable in certain circumstances, if your team has good CC or lacks waveclear. To date, the only time I take PS is on Warhead Junction.
Level 13: Double Tap – Pinning Shot now has 2 charges, but it's cooldown is increased by 2 seconds.
Explanation: This has synergy with our level 1 talent (now we can capitalize on the benefit of our level 1 an additional time) and it'll have greater synergy with our level 16, allowing us to keep up armor reduction for longer periods of time. Armor reduction doesn't stack, so you want to be conscientious of your timing, utilize your burst to secure kills on squishy targets, but in prolonged team fights, you want to spread your attacks to keep your armor reduction up on a target. (So W, Q, basic attack, W, Q, basic attack, stutter stepping between).
Psionic efficiency increased range doesn't make up for the additional damage you're gaining from Double Tap, and if you're guarding your snipe stacks, you shouldn't be losing your stacks or needing the faster re-stacks granted by this talent. Same with Ionic Force Field, if you're in a position where you need armor to stay alive, you need to adjust your playstyle and engage less aggressively, pay closer attention to the mini-map, and only engage when you have clear escapes or the value of securing a high-value kill exceeds the risk.
Level 16: Crippling Shot – Pinning Shot lowers a Hero's Armor by 20 for the duration of the slow, causing them to take 20% increased damage.
Explanation: This provides us with two potential applications of armor reduction (because of our level 13). All of your teammates benefit from armor reduction, even if it doesn't directly reflect in your stats, if it's allowing your teammates to secure kills, it makes it the better talent pick.
I only take Explosive Round on Warhead Junction because the map's massive size often leaves lanes unattended and nova suffers from a profound lack of AOE. Lethal Decoy is lackluster.
Level 20: Rewind – Activate to reset the cooldowns of your basic abilities. (60s)
Explanation: This talent effectively doubles your burst potential and damage output. You need to be at full mana before entering a late-game engagement to capitalize on it, but the burst potential here allows you to 100-0 nearly any single-target hero unless they've got a truly massive health pool.
Fast Reload requires that your target dies to reset. Late game, too many heroes have too many escapes/saves and there's too many things that can cause you to lose the reset. Rewind is guaranteed value, whereas Fast Reload is hoping that you're going to secure triple tap kills.
Even on the rare occasion that I take Precision Strike, I still go Rewind because the second charge of PS simply doesn't outperform the damage increase/value of Rewind.
Apollo Suit is terrible.
With any build, Nova gets her first power increase by stacking her snipe stacks early in the game. You want to head mid with everyone else to get your snipe stacks and secure a kill or two if possible. Your next power spike comes at level 7. Pre-level 7, without good follow-up and communication with another damage, you'll only secure kills on heroes that are out of position, camping, or low health.
If a lane isn't covered, you're better off soaking the lane than running around trying to gank heroes. I also regularly cover lanes for my allies so they can back for mana. Don't waste your Q or W while soaking a lane, Nova suffers greatly from mana starvation.
Don't hard engage while soaking/die over it. Use Nova's stealth, gather experience globes, and if you can't do so safely with your body, use your clone to soak.
Don't try to take camps solo without bribe, especially not with anti-armor shells, it takes forever and you could either be rotating and looking for easy picks, helping teammates, or soaking.
The three most important things with Nova are positioning, map awareness, and maintaining your snipe stacks. If you lose your snipe stacks, you're playing poorly and need to adjust. This means being conscientious of your allies abilities, say, playing with a Garrosh/Diablo/Yrel/Lucio, you need to watch for things that are going to move/shove/throw or otherwise relocate your target and cause you to miss a snipe. When possible, always angle your snipes so even if the enemy moves, you hit either a structure or an enemy minion or mercenary instead.
This build pairs best with allies who can compensate for Nova's overall lack of XP contribution and lack of AOE/wave clear, but also pairs well with heavy burst damage heroes that can capitalize on her armor reduction. If I'm playing with randoms, I try to ping my targets to make it clear which one I'm going for, or call out in voice. Simply dealing damage to random heroes isn't enough, you need to work with your teammates to secure kills (or adjust your engagements and watch your teammates behavior to secure kills when they engage).
Your clones can "eat" a lot of enemy abilities, always try to capitalize on this by placing them between you and things that would do you a great deal of harm. You don't want to randomly drop your clones during an engagement, rather, you should be using them to disrupt and distract the enemy team, or take value out of enemy abilities.
I regularly use my clones to save myself from Artanis cube throws, Li Ming orbs, Stitches Hooks, and other abilities that would typically result in death.
Similarly, always be conscientious of how your clones are impacting enemy hero quests. Don't spawn your clones on an enemy hero that's using them to gain quest stacks, unless it's necessary to do so to save yourself.
My last suggestion would be to use Quick Casting. I have mine set to 'on', as it allows for the greatest output of damage, though, this requires an intimate knowledge of Snipe's range.
Hopefully this guide helps people gain a better understanding of Nova and her kit. I tried to include as much detail here as possible, but I'm happy to answer any additional questions anyone may have in the comments.
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