Since you're reading this on WoW Insider, it's likely you're more familiar with standard MMO keybinds rather than those of a MOBA or RTS. Where in an MMO your skills are bound to number keys, MOBAs rely on Q, W, E, and R. Q tends to be your most commonly used skill with R as your long-cooldown Heroic Ability. Heroics, in other MOBAs, are often called your "Ultimate" ability, or "ult" for short.
Note that you don't learn your Heroic Ability until you reach level 10, at which point it's chosen like a talent. You can have either Aerial Blitzkrieg or
Shock and Awe, not both.
Hammerang's functionality isn't immediately obvious -- Returns after thrown
is something to remember, not to be dismissed as flavor. The Hammerang deals its damage both on its throw and its return trip, hitting everything in its trajectory twice. It also follows you on its return, not simply returning to the point from which it was thrown. That means you have some degree of control over who it hits and where, making constant awareness of your movement important. If you throw it and move the wrong way, you might miss out on its second pass of damage. If you move correctly, you can maximize the damage dealt.
While Hammerang's Slow component makes it seem perfect for catching up to fleeing enemies, the projectile itself isn't exactly speedy. If your opponent already has some distance on you, you might not hit them, even if it appears
they're in range at the time its thrown -- they might have moved out of its max range by the time it reaches that point. You want to anticipate your opponent's decision to flee, slowing them and closing the gap before they can get too much range on you. That means fighting at Falstad's maximum range isn't always the best idea.
Thunderstorm is a strange one. You have no control over who it hits -- if you're fighting an enemy hero amidst numerous minions, Thunderstorm may not hit the enemy hero at all. Though using it against a single target reduces the damage of each strike, it's still a decent source of burst damage. Be careful about spamming it too much, especially in a pack of minions. Mana is a valuable resource and spamming Thunderstorm is a good way to drain yourself of it to little gain. Hammerang and Barrel Roll are far more important.
Speaking of Barrel Roll, never underestimate its value. When I first played as Falstad, I saw it as only an escape maneuver, something to use in a pinch. It is that -- it can save your life. But it's an offensive tool, too. It can close the gap between you and a fleeing opponent, the difference between their
life or death. If your enemy is just beyond your max range, you can Barrel Roll toward them for a burst of speed, letting you get that last shot off. Or if you expect that your opponent will flee, you can Barrel Roll behind them, cutting off their escape.
When it comes to Heroic Abilities, I choose Shock and Awe over Aerial Blitzkrieg every time. Aerial Blitzkrieg can be powerful, but jumping into the center of a fray to use it seems (to me) antithetical to a character like Falstad. Shock and Awe's range is a big hit at long range -- an impressively long range. It doesn't cross the entire map like Tyrande's Sentinel ability, but it's long enough that you can hit an enemy long before they see you. It hits in a line, too -- if your enemies are foolish enough to bunch up on top of each other, you'll cut through like butter.
At levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 20, you'll be able to choose a new talent. Many of these talents are passive, but some are active. Your Heroic Ability at level 10 is your most important talent choice, but every choice determines your unique strengths for that particular match.
- Path of the Assassin: Your hero gains an extra 2 attack damage for every level gained.
- Range: Increase the range of Barrel Roll by 1.5.
- Dog Fight: The shield generated by Barrel Roll lasts 3 seconds longer.
- Bribe: Kill enemy minions to gain stacks of Bribe. At 40 stacks, activate to capture target Mercenary Camp. Does not work on Golems.
My personal favorite choice here is Bribe. Falstad lends himself well to playing the field, skirmishing from place to place, and tackling mercenary camps along the way. Falstad will churn through minions with Hammerang and Thunderstorm, making it easy to acquire stacks of Bribe. Typically you need to battle and defeat mercenaries before they'll work for you. With Bribe, there's no need. You can dip into the camp, pay them, and send them on your way, allowing you to get back to the battlefield that much faster. Fun fact: the undead in the Haunted Mines currently count as enemy minions. While you build up your golem, you're also building toward more mercenaries.
This choice, of course, assumes your team isn't going to leave you to solo a lane. If you aren't queueing with a pre-formed team, it's inevitable you'll get into a game where that happens. You'll kill plenty of minions that way, but you'll be less equipped to handle opposing heroes. In that case, you're better off with any other option -- Path of the Assassin might be a good way to go, letting you put the hurt on your enemies.
- Vampiric Assault: Basic Attacks heal you for 15% of the damage done.
- Stormhammer: Basic attacks deal 50% damage against an additional target.
- Wildhammer: Hammerang deals 150% damage to the first target it hits.
- Zap!: The cooldown for Thunderstorm's passive is reduced by 2 seconds.
Personally, if I'm taking Bribe, I also take Stormhammer. Churning through minions means more mercenaries -- mercenaries left unattended can deal your opponent's fortifications serious damage. The opposing team will be forced to deal with them. Hiring as many mercs as possible is a good thing. If you're stuck soloing a lane, Vampiric Assault is a good way to keep the relatively squishy Falstad in the fight.
- Battle Momentum: Basic Attacks reduce your Ability cooldowns by 0.5 seconds.
- Fly Away!: The cooldown for Flight is reduced by 20 seconds.
- BOOMerang: Can reactivate to deal 25 additional damage around the Hammerang.
- First Aid: Activate to heal 20% of your max Health over 4 seconds.
The choices at level 7 are, for me, the most difficult. Fly Away! reduces the cooldown on Flight to 25 seconds. Possessing the ability to hop to hotspots on the map more quickly is a great tool for Falstad. First Aid holds allure in how much it helps survivability -- if you haven't taken Vampiric Assault, First Aid would be your only method of healing on the field. Otherwise, you'd need to backtrack to a healing well or your spawn altar. Battle Momentum reducing cooldowns is wonderful, allowing you to throw out more pain. Falstad should
be laying down the pain, but having fewer defenses could mean fewer opportunities to do any pain-laying.
Fly Away! could, in theory, allow you to run to a healing well and jump back into battle with decent efficiency, but I tend to lean First Aid.
This is where you choose your Heroic Ability. See the Skills section above for my opinion on them.
- Giant Killer: Basic Attacks against enemy Heroes deal an additional 1.5% of the target's max Health in damage.
- Crippling Hammer: Hammerang slows enemies by 50% instead of 25%.
- Lightning Storm: Thunderstorm can passively hit up to two targets at once.
- Overdrive: Activate to raise Ability Power by 25% and Mana costs by 50% for 5 seconds.
I'm not sure there's a wrong answer here except that I find Giant Killer dull. That doesn't mean it's bad -- it could be very powerful against high-health heroes. It's just not an exciting talent. Overdrive could make Shock and Awe even more shocking and awe-inspiring, but mana issues are a real concern in a hard fight. Crippling Hammer prevents an escaping enemy and I could easily see a build where Lightning Storm is an interesting choice. If you choose every talent that buffs Thunderstorm, you won't have much control over your damage, but you'll make Falstad a guy that brings the pain simply by being nearby.
- Gust of Wind: Reduce activation time for Tailwind to 3 seconds.
- Afterburner: After using Barrel Roll, gain 100% Movement Speed for 3 seconds.
- Rewind: Activate to reduce the cooldown of your Basic Abilities by 10 seconds.
- Stoneskin: Activate to gain 30% of your max health in Shields for 5 seconds.
When I first began playing Falstad, I always went with Stoneskin. That seemed like the best way to help myself stay alive. Eventually, I got a better grip on the game and moved on to Afterburner. Afterburner can get me out of trouble, rendering Stoneskin irrelevant. Afterburner also provides more options, much like Barrel Roll itself. I can use it offensively, catching up to fleeing opponents much more easily.
There are likely people who feel Rewind is the best choice. They might be right, but if there's a method to having enough mana to justify using Rewind on a regular basis, I'd love to know! That's not sarcasm. Mana concerns take me out of a fight far more often than health concerns.
- Fury of the Storm: Basic Attacks bounce twice to nearby enemies for 50% damage.
- Bolt of the Storm: Activate to teleport to the target location.
- Preparation: Aerial Blitzkrieg casts 50% faster and grants a shield equal to 50% of Falstad's maximum health. Shield lasts up to 4 seconds.
- Blast of Awe: Shock and Awe has double the range and deals 25% more damage.
For me, I often flip-flop between Fury of the Storm and Blast of Awe. Shock and Awe is amazing, but with its cooldown time, does it get enough use to justify picking up the talent? Fury of the Storm would see more use, but does it make a difference? The bounce plays well with Bribe, but at this stage in the game, you're more than capable of taking out minions already. Maybe frequency of use doesn't matter. Blast of Awe makes every use of Shock and Awe count
and that's what matters.
If you haven't picked Shock and Awe, Preparation makes some interesting things possible -- Preparation-powered Aerial Blitzkrieg combined with all of the Thunderstorm talents, First Aid, and Stoneskin could make you a seriously dangerous person. Barrel Roll into the middle of a fight, Thunderstorm, Aerial Blitzkrieg, and flee from danger while your opponents are stunned. Sounds like a good time to me.
In the end, the Assassin role relies on hit-and-run tactics. At level 25, Diablo in the warrior role exceeds 7,000 Health with talents that can push that even higher, along with a respectable amount of passive health regeneration bonuses. Falstad caps out at around half of that. Diablo is a tough nut to crack in melee range. Falstad, not so much. Utilizing talent choices to enhance his strengths is likely to be a better move than attempting to shore up his weaknesses. Still, if you're a new player, shoring up those weaknesses might make your life easier until you get a better grip on the character -- and the game.