Most of us will probably agree that the current state of Xul is undesirable. However, given what we've seen this year so far, we might be stuck with this iteration of Xul for the coming weeks. As such, I thought it'd be at least a little productive to try to come up with strong forms of counterplay to the hero so we go in properly equipped to make the best of it.
Xul as a hero currently has 5 unique features that make him so powerful.
- Bone Armor and Shade.
- Bone Prison.
- Cursed Strikes and Harvest Vitality.
- Decrepify and Weaken on 16.
- Dominant Waveclear.
The combination of these aspects makes Xul to basically a high CC, tankier version of a melee assassin that lacks any form of mobility that's also very dangerous out. I personally consider the W build by far the strongest, but even for other builds 4/5 of these main points still hold.
I'll discuss all of these in order and hopefully we can come together to at least mitigate some of the death and carnage caused by
the corona virus Xul.
Bone Armor and Shade.
25% HP and Evasion. This 40 second cooldown is actually very important to Xul because it's the only thing that allows him to survive the initial burst and start ramping up/leeching off his W to survive. If we can somehow deny this button from being pressed (Stuns and Silences), or deny it from being useful (disengage), that is going to leave Xul very vulnerable to blowup. Do note that the shield and Evasion essentially doubles his effective HP, that's how powerful this ability is. The solution is to draft spell damage for the blowup or disengage tools.
Very projecten point-and-click root. Very easy for the opposing team to follow up on, and it guarantees a target for Xul's attacks. When a target gets Bone Prisoned, peel for them, block skillshots, and make them live. This sounds obvious, but nowadays there's a lot of CC and burst in the meta so it's crucial that tanks and bruisers peel for the Bone Prison target, lest they get massacred.
Cursed Strikes and Harvest Vitality.
Here we get into the meat of Xul's insanely strong teamfight, and is also going to be the most elaborate part of this discussion-starter. Leeching 70% of the hero damage he does in a fairly wide AOE, coupled with attack speed on 13 makes Xul easily regenerate hundreds of HP per second. However, the key counterplay to this ability is that it's tied to a low range Auto-attack, and that is what we will look to exploit. Like most melee assassins, Xul has a feedback loop between his damage and healing that he relies on to sustain through a teamfight, and they key is denying that healing.
- Stuns, Roots, Slows, Blinds, AS slows, Damage Redux, Transforms all deny Xul from utilizing Cursed Strikes. Compare it to The Butcher, where often it best to just walk away from his Brand. if Xul doesn't get to leech (and even 20% slow is sufficient here!) his damage output and healing drops to near-zero.
- Try to engage Xul in a location where there are no PVE targets for him to hit. Compare this to Kerrigan who builds massive shields when combo'ing in a creep wave. His level 4 and 13 W talents both activate when damaging anything, not just heroes. As such, a Xul getting to use W in a creep wave instantly resets his cooldown and ramps up his attack speed and ramps up the aforementioned feedback loop to the max. This also denies many of his skeletons from being summoned.
- Xul's short range and reliance on Cursed Strikes often leaves him dead-center in the teamfight. Compare this to a hero like Qhira that sometimes ends up just dieing because they go too deep with a flimsy healthbar. Quite often does he appear very scary but is in instant blow-up range if he overcommits.
- Because Xul is healing off everybody, Healers and Ranged Heroes should stand outside his W range. Compare this to Whirlwinding Sonya literally gaining health from a healer AA'ing them. If you can't outdamage the W healing by a significant margin, you have no business being in Xul's range, because you're quite literally healing him up.
Decrepify and Weaken on 16.
Whereas for most of the game it is fine to ignore the Skeletons and just don't get exploded on, after level 16 you should be killing them actively. Both Decrepify (50% 2.5s slow) and Weaken (-40% damage) are very strong CC effects that are not particularly apparent. Xul Q and W repectively spread them, but also his skeletons (created by creeps, Q and E). From this moment on, kill skeletons when you can. The damage sucks, but the CC sucks more. Heroes with incidental AOE are nice here.
Xul is literally the best waveclear hero in Heroes of the Storm. As such, it is absolutely crucial that you have at least 2 good waveclear heroes in your team, one preferably being your offlaner. Leoric, Malthael and Ragnaros are good examples of such heroes. Do not get distracted by Xul's team too long and keep an eye on the waves, because it snowballs very fast.
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