Math of the Storm
Written by: ChaosOS
BlizzCon 2016 promised “2017 would be the year of Supports.” Alexstrasza is the 12th healer in Heroes of the Storm, and the 4th released this year. In addition to the 50% increase to the number of healers this year, Blizzard has reworked 3 of the 8 healers we had coming into this year (Uther, Lt. Morales, and now Li Li). However, Supports have also become significantly more controversial in 2017 as the double support meta settled in, with over 80% of team compositions at BlizzCon featuring at least two Supports (counting Medivh and Abathur as supports). This number is slightly unfair, as many double support compositions featured Tassadar or Medivh, two heroes who require a double support composition by necessity. But many players still feel there is too much dependency on picking two heroes out of a modest healer pool of 12.
Alexstrasza's spreadsheet can be found here.
Base Stats and Overview
HP: 1787 (2287 in Dragon Form)
HP Regen: 3.7226
Attack damage: 73 (143)
Attack speed: 1 (0.8)
Attack range: 1m (1.25)
Damage point: 0.1875s (0.25s)
Radius: 0.75m (1.25)
Alex is a fairly tanky healer, only behind Uther, Rehgar, Kharazim, and Auriel for base HP. With Dragonqueen active she is the tankiest healer in the game, but also one of the largest and slowest.
For those wondering what the “damage point” is, it’s the time a character must stand still while they are basic attacking. Every hero in the game has a damage point between 0.125s and 0.25s. This value is how “snappy” a hero’s basic attack feels, and when divided by a hero’s attack period and converted to a percentage represents how slowed the hero is by perfect stutter stepping.
Cast time: 1.25s
Dragonqueen transforms Alexstrasza into a gigantic dragon, which makes her significantly tougher but much less mobile. As listed in the base stats above, her base HP, damage, attack period, damage point, and radius all increase. This makes her tankier, more able to and more vulnerable to body blocking, and slows her attacks significantly (Note: The bonus damage and bonus HP both scale at the normal 4% per level). Dragonqueen replaces Alexstrasza’s basic abilities, meaning they no longer benefit from her talents. Furthermore, these separate abilities have separate cooldowns from her normal ones, meaning Dragonqueen also functions as a cooldown reset.
The health buff on Dragonqueen represents a 28% increase to Alexstrasza’s max HP.
Dragonqueen’s autos are a unique, with 9 range (longer than structures) and hitting in a 50° arc. Enemies hit by the arc are dealt 143 damage, and allies are healed for 43 HP. Between the increased damage but decreased attack speed, the Dragon Form’s autos represent a 56.7% DPS increase against a single target.
During the 15 second duration Alexstrasza can squeeze in 12 attacks, which totals up to 1716 damage and 516 healing on a single target each. Furthermore, she can cast Breath of Life up to 5 times, Preservation once, and Wing Buffet up to 4 times.
Q: Gift of Life
Cost: 15% Current HP
Cooldown: 7 seconds
Cast time: None
Alexstrasza sacrifices a portion of her life to heal the target, based on her current HP. As Alexstrasza takes damage her ability to heal diminishes. At max HP Alexstrasza sacrifices 268 HP and heals the target for 402 HP, a net gain of 134 HP to the team as a whole. This exacerbates the natural tendency of healing to be best when ahead and much worse when playing from behind, as an Alexstrasza becomes more pressured by the HP sacrifice while receiving less value for it.
Q (Dragon): Breath of Life
Cooldown: 3 seconds
Cast time: None
Alexstrasza heals the target for 22.5% of her current HP, without having to sacrifice any HP of her own. At max life this is 514.6 life. Between the 57% reduced cooldown and the added bump of 500 HP from Dragon Form, Breath of Life has roughly triple the output of Gift of Life for a full health Alexstrasza, with the percent increase only going up as she loses health.
Cost: 75 mana
Cooldown: 16 seconds
Cast Intro: 0.125s
After 3 seconds, Abundance heals each ally in the area for 20% of the target’s maximum HP. For Alexstrasza in human form, this represents 357.4 HP.
If Alexstrasza casts Abundance at max range and walks in a straight line in that direction, Alexstrasza will overshoot the healing zone by 0.45m. This means that in order to heal while fleeing Alex must pause for at least 0.1s. (This can be used for things such as casting Flame Buffet back at the chasers.)
W (Dragon): Preservation
Cooldown: 16 seconds
Cast Intro: 0.125s
After 3 seconds, Preservation heals allies in the area for 20% of the target’s maximum HP. For Alexstrasza in Dragon form, this represents 457.4 HP.
Due to Dragonqueen’s increased hitbox, the increased cast range, and the increased radius, Alexstrasza can flee in dragon form without worrying about not being able to cast Preservation far forward enough.
E: Flame Buffet
Cost: 50 mana
Cooldown: 2 seconds
Speed: 24 m/s
Cast Intro: 0.125s
Alexstrasza applies a DOT that deals 15 damage up front and an additional 15 damage every second for 4 seconds, for a total of 75 damage. After the DOT there is a 1.5s grace period for the next part of the ability. If Alexstrasza hits an enemy already afflicted by Flame Buffet, the mana cost is refunded and she deals an additional 125 damage and slows them by 40%, decaying over 2 seconds. This slow is equivalent to a 42.5% slow for 1 second, and 80% of the slow value is in the first second.
E (Dragon): Wing Buffet
Arc: 50 degrees
Cast Intro: 0.25s
Wing Buffet deals 150 damage and knocks back heroes in the area ~5m over 0.3125s, then slows them by 50% for 3 seconds.
Cost: 100 mana
Cast Outro: 0.1875s
After 2 seconds, Life Binder takes the higher % current HP of Alexstrasza and her allied target and sets them both to this value. This can be used on a low health ally as an “Ancestral” like effect, or it can be used on a high health ally to restore Alexstrasza’s HP. Notably, this ability is significantly weaker to AOE damage as if both Alexstrasza and her target are at half health then no healing is done.
Life-binder has frequently been compared to Rehgar’s Ancestral Healing, so looking at a quick comparison, Ancestral heals the vast majority of the Heroes of the Storm roster for 80% or more of their max HP. The advantages of Life-Binder for healing allies are the shorter cooldown (by 25s) and improved healing on heroes with 2500 or more base HP, where it becomes more reasonable that Alexstrasza can refill more HP than Ancestral Healing would. The other advantage of Life-Binder is its ability to refill Alexstrasza’s HP, unlike Ancestral, however this is balanced by the increased counterplay options beyond “Kill the target before the heal activates.”
R2: Cleansing Flames
Cost: 100 mana
Cast Intro: 1.25s (0.125s in Dragonqueen form)
After channeling, Alexstrasza leaps up into the air. After a brief 0.25s delay (to allow the player to orient themselves), Alexstrasza starts raining down fireballs every 1.2s for 6 seconds, for a total of 5 fireballs. Each fireball deals 150 damage to enemies and heals allies for 300 HP, and must come down within 20m of the previous fireball. Concentrated on a single target, that is 750 damage or 1500 healing. After she drops the fifth fireball, Alexstrasza has 2 seconds to pick a landing point 20m from the location of the last fireball. If used to cross the map, this translates to 120m over 9.5s, which is 12.6m m/s or 287% movespeed that ignores terrain. Note: During the duration of Cleansing Flames, Dragonqueen’s duration is paused.
Cleansing Flames offers two things to Alexstrasza: A long range mobility spell, and a way to remove herself from the fight and avoid focus. If the enemy team is dive heavy and has a Genji that wants to assassinate the healers, Cleansing Flames is an ideal method to prevent Genji from getting value for the duration while still contributing to the fight. Furthermore, the global power of Cleansing Flame cannot be understated, as it allows Alex to swiftly turn the tides on the other side of the map.
Live and Let Live significantly increases the output of Alexstrasza’s healing, but pressures her ability to keep up her own health pool. After the second cast of Gift of Life, Alexstrasza will drop below the 75% health threshold, no longer benefitting from this talent’s CDR even without taking any outside damage. Preservation can extend this by self-healing Alexstrasza, but functionally this talent is only viable in double healer compositions. In circumstances where Alex can stay at full health, this adds a potential of 114.9 HPS output, while increasing her HPS demand by 76.6, for a net gain of 38.3 HPS. A huge caveat to this talent is it does not play well from behind or under pressure, as Alex will have significantly less HP to spare for Q casts.
Circle of Life is a powerful globe quest that increases the healing from Abundance by 25% at 15 globes and by a total of 83.75% at 25 stacks with the globe. The healing globe is worth an additional 11.7% of each player’s maximum HP, in addition to the mana or other benefits the globe provides. Because this is a globe quest, this is best on globe heavy maps like Braxis Holdout and Tomb of the Spider Queen.
Flames of Fury is a fairly easy quest that rewards Alexstrasza with a lower cooldown on her Dragonqueen trait. Flaming a single target can reduce the cooldown to as low as 44 seconds with continual application, but more realistically this drops the cooldown on Dragonqueen somewhere between 60 and 90 seconds based on how active Alextrasza is in poking the enemy team and in teamfights.
The level 1 tier sets the tone for Alextrasza’s pre-10 talents. Live and Let Live and Circle of Life both directly increase Alexstrasza’s healing output. To equal the direct healing on an extra Q cast, a 15-stack Abundance would need to hit 8000 HP worth of allied heroes. To equal the net healing, Abundance would need to hit 2680 HP worth of heroes. For a 25 stack abundance with the globes, this falls to 2407 HP worth of heroes to equal the direct healing and 802.4 HP worth of heroes for the net healing. Flames of Fury is a strong, general pick that can help keep Dragonqueen available for most relevant engagements.
Surge of Vitality gives a 30% speed boost for 3 seconds to each Hero hit by Abundance. This speed boost is worth an additional 3.96m of movement over the duration, helping mitigate the mobility downside of clustering Alexstrasza’s team in the Abundance circle.
Heat Exhaustion increases the slow value on Flame Buffet by 50%, from 42.5% net to 63.75% net. This represents an additional 0.935m denied per E hit.
Exuberance improves Alexstrasza’s MS from 4.4 m/s to 5.06 m/s as long as she remains above 75% HP.
While it may appear that the level 4 talents tie directly into the level 1 talents, the only synergy is the playstyles that encourage the level 1 talents would similarly encourage the level 4 talents. Heat Exhaustion does have some synergy with the level 20 Ancient Flame, but otherwise it’s a decision between Surge of Vitality’s group benefits or Exuberance’s self-buff.
Lifeblossom is a double conditional method of negating the health cost on Alexstrasza’s Q. First, she must be above 75% max HP when she casts Q. Second, she must path to the location of her Q target and pick up the Lifeblossom (which lasts 7 seconds, equal to the base cooldown on Gift of Life). This talent is significantly more effective when playing from ahead than from behind, as it requires Alexstrasza to not only remain out of focus but also for her to be advancing rather than retreating. In an ideal situation, with Alexstrasza staying at full health by use of this talent, this represents 268 HP per cast, which is 38.3 HPS with the base 7 second cooldown or 76.6 HPS with the level 1 Live and Let Live.
Verdant Flourish improves the self heal on Abundance from 20% of her max HP to 26% of her max HP (25% to 32.5% with Circle of Life) and improves the healing from Health Globes from 11.7% to 23.4%. This represents 107.2 additional HP (134 additional HP with Circle of Life) per cast of Abundance, and 209 additional HP per health globe. For a self cast, full Circle of Life quest complete Abundance, this represents a 52% increase to the self healing, a total of 343 additional HP.
Fire Within causes Flame Buffet to restore 10% of Alexstrasza’s max HP every time she procs the bonus damage against a hero, which is 178.7 HP or 89.35 HPS for herself.
Fire Within blows this talent tier out of the water in both ease of use and raw HPS. Even in ideal scenarios for Lifeblossom and Verdant Flourish, Fire Within can easily outpace their self healing simply by hitting a single hero with each cast which seems like a generously easy scenario. Sometimes Flame Buffet will hit 3 burning targets and selfheal Alexstrasza for over 500 HP, making her much tougher to dive and kill.
Dragon Scales gives Alexstrasza 30 armor for 2s when she is hard CC’d, with a 10s internal CD. This increases her EHP by 43%. For a full health human form Alexstrasza, this boosts her EHP from 1787 to 2552.8, and for a dragon form Alexstrasza this boosts her EHP from 2287 to 3267.1 HP.
Pacify is a Shrink Ray that has a 25% shorter duration of 3 seconds rather than 4, but has the option to shorten its cooldown by 30s every time Alex heals a hard CC’d Hero. Healing two heroes that are Hard CC’d completely refreshes the cooldown, meaning that against certain team compositions Alexstrasza can easily get 2 or even 3 casts of Pacify off, as the Dragon’s breath weapon heal counts as a heal and can proc the CD reduction
Life Unbound is a powerful 15% max HP heal that deals 200 damage to each enemy within 3.5m of the allied target. Similar to Pacify, Life Unbound’s cooldown is reduced by healing Hard CC’d targets. Because the cooldown is 90 seconds, Alexstrasza needs to heal 3 targets to full reset the cooldown on Life Unbound. One thing to note here, however, is that Life Unbound can trigger its own cooldown reduction, meaning that healing a CC’d ally with Life Unbound immediately reduces the CD to 60s
All three talents here on this tier have strong reasons to pick them. Dragon Scales is the simplest of the three talents, not requiring managing an additional cooldown. Furthermore, it helps protect Alex from CC and focusing by the enemy team, which can be important when she gets aggressive in Dragon form. Pacify is a powerful defensive CD that can cripple diving damage dealers like Genji and Greymane, slowing them and cutting their damage in half, leaving them totally open to counterattack. Finally, Life Unbound is a powerful healing cooldown with a small amount of damage attached that can save a hero that is caught in a CC chain, and can get 2 or even 3 casts off in a fight through well timed heals.
Tough Love adds 20 armor to Gift of Life’s target for 2s, which represents a 25% EHP boost. Because this only triggers while Alexstrasza is at 75% HP or above, this turns a 301.6 to 402.1 HP heal into 376.9 to 502.6 EHP, plus the 25% boost to whatever EHP the target already had.
Overprotective causes Abundance to also shield the targets. Because this shield is based on real value healed, this cannot be used at the start of a fight to “prime” Alexstrasza’s team with a shield before they dive in. This talent does have synergy with both Circle of Life and Verdant Flourish, as both boost the amount healed by Abundance. For a base Abundance that does not overheal the target, Overprotective will shield the target for 12% of their max HP. With circle of healing, this goes up to 15% of the target’s max HP. With Circle of Healing plus Verdant Flourish this goes up to 19.5% of Alexstrasza’s max HP, which is 348.5 HP.
Draconic Discipline increases the duration of Dragonqueen from 15s to 24s, a 60% increase. This allows for a second cast of Preservation, 3 more casts of Breath of Life, and 2 more casts of Wing Buffet, and 4 to 5 additional AAs (The 5th bonus AA requires really tight timing of the AA cooldown). This talent moves Dragonqueen from being available for most of a teamfight to being active the entire teamfight. One side effect of this talent is it devalues the level 1 and 7 Q talents, as Alex will barely be casting Gift of Life during teamfights. The W talents at 1,4,7 can still benefit because Alexstrasza can cast Abundance then swap to Dragonform and utilize the effective cooldown reset.
Draconic Discipline steals the show at level 16 by extending the duration of Dragonqueen. Dragonqueen is an outsized contributor to Alexstrasza’s healing output, and the extra duration i ensures that even in an extended teamfight Alexstrasza will still be in her “Overpowered Healing” form. Both Tough Love and Overprotective make sense if Alexstrasza’s team cannot regularly time teamfights around her dragon form cooldown, but Alexstrasza’s whole design works against this idea because of how much power is in her Dragon form.
Ritual of Life allows Life-Binder to proc an additional two times, at 4 and 6 seconds after the initial cast. This can make a tanky hero effectively immortal for 6 seconds if a full health Alexstrasza life binds them, or make Alexstrasza herself significantly harder to kill if cast on a full health ally.
On Ruby Wings allows Alexstrasza to land in Dragon Form after casting Cleansing Flames if she averages 1.66 heroes hit per fireball. In other words, if she gets 3 double hit fireballs and two single hit fireballs, she will land in Dragon Form. Notably, if Alex took to the air in Dragon Form, this talent will extend the duration of Dragonqueen by 15 seconds.
Ancient Flame reduces Alexstrasza’s attack speed in Dragon Form from 0.8 to 0.6 (increasing the attack period from 1.25 to 1.66) but causes it to apply Flame Buffet. Baseline, this decreases the healing throughput of her flame breath from 34.4 HPS to 25.8 HPS, but increases her continuous DPS from 114.4 to 178.8, a 56% increase. For a target she breaths on only once, her damage improves from 143 to 218, a 52% increase. Furthermore, this causes Alexstrasza’s attack to apply the 40% decaying slow. This refreshes the slow faster than it expires, but due to the decaying nature she still gets 97% of the value of the slow. What’s more important about this talent is the way it synergizes with her level 1, 4, and 7 E talents, allowing Alexstrasza to drop the cooldown of Dragonqueen, apply an even stronger slow, and heal herself for 228.7 HP per enemy hit. The cooldown reduction here is somewhat less relevant, as getting a reset on Dragonqueen with Draconic Discipline would require 25 procs of the bonus damage against heroes. That represents at least 7450 (base level 0) damage, not counting the initial application or the residual burn damage. Any teamfight Alexstrasza alone does that much damage is a won teamfight. Even approaching this number is fairly unlikely, as it requires catching two people in the majority of most basic attacks. Regardless, this can realistically help drop Dragonqueen from a 150s CD to a 60 to 90s CD, which makes it significantly more available for late game skirmishes.
Blessing of the Red applies a flat, 500 HP increase to the maximum health of an allied hero. This value does not scale with level. At level 20, this represents an ~8% health boost for the tankiest of heroes (such as stitches), and an 18% health boost for the squishiest heroes like Valla. For a standard team with 5 bodies including Alexstrasza, Blessing of the Red takes 120s to apply to the entire team. In addition to the flat health boost, this talent increases the effectiveness of Alexstrasza’s percent healing. For example, Abundance will heal an additional 100 HP to any ally buffed by Blessing of the Red.
Alexstrasza’s level 20 talents are difficult to evaluate without serious playtesting. Blessing of the Red is generically good and is more powerful for more fragile line ups, but these are not the compositions that compliment the rest of Alexstrasza’s kit. Ancient Flame and On Ruby Wings both enhance and promote her trait, which is strong given her teamfight is heavily based around her being in Dragon form. The question is whether On Ruby Wings is overkill with the level 1 E talent when it comes to Dragon form access. Finally, Ritual of Life is a powerful upgrade to what several other initial impressions are calling the weaker ultimate. Ultimately, each of these talents is so diverse in function it is difficult to compare, and the “best” choice will be a question of feel and serious experimentation.
Alexstrasza is a high output healer who features percentage based healing and has much of her healing tied to a major cooldown. Furthermore, in human form her Q drains her own health, suggesting another healer to help mitigate this health loss. In exchange for these downsides Alexstrasza has stronger dueling and wave clear capabilities compared to most healers. This suggests Alexstrasza will be ideal in the currently popular double support/double warrior compositions featuring a strong damage dealer who can use the extra support. However, due to the nature of her Q, Alexstrasza does not pair well with Tassadar or Medivh, as they do not actually restore the HP she loses by casting Q. Furthermore, due to her heavy reliance on Dragonqueen to output competitive healing, Alexstrasza’s ability to decisively win skirmishes is extremely limited.