Zagara has become one of the most popular Heroes in Heroes of the Storm. She is either picked or banned in virtually every game at the competitive level, and she is also one of the most played Heroes in Hero League as well.
Some of the reasons that Zagara is such a good pick are obvious. She has amazing push power, she has strong sustained damage, and she can out duel many other Heroes in a one on one fight. What is less obvious is how important her Trait, Creep Tumor, is when used properly. This may be the most useful part of her kit, but not everyone understands the value of Creep.
What makes Creep so powerful is the vision that it provides. There are other perks as well, such as increased movement speed and health regeneration, but the real benefit is in the vision. This subtlety can be lost on less experienced players, in part because the tool tip doesn’t mention anything about vision, and in part because they don’t understand the value of vision in the first place.
In fact, it is quite common to see less experienced Zagara players neglecting to place Creep Tumors entirely. More experienced Zagara players are more likely to place Creep Tumors, but since even veteran players don’t always understand the importance of vision, they may not use them in the most productive manner.
If so many Zagara players don’t understand how important Creep is, we certainly can’t blame their opponents for not grasping the importance of it either. This is why you will often see players who ignore the enemy Creep entirely. This isn’t just limited to new or lesser skilled players. Even average to above average players are guilty of this mistake, which is what inspired this article. I have played quite a bit of Zagara recently, and it is rare that I encounter anyone who makes a conscious effort to combat my Creep spread. Contrast that to the pro game, where players are fully aware of the value of Creep and make a concerted effort to keep it in check, and you have the makings of a great learning opportunity.
The first step is to understand how Creep works. If you don’t have much experience with Zagara, you should go to the Store and experiment with her in try mode. Lay down some Creep Tumors and watch how they spread. You will notice that the Creep slowly grows out in a circular shape around the Tumor. While the Creep Tumors will remain visible to you and your teammates for as long as they are active, they are only visible to the enemy team when they are first placed. After about a second, the Tumor itself will no longer be visible to the enemy, and they will only be able to see the Creep.
The image on the left shows how the Creep Tumors look to Zagara and her team. The image on the right shows how that same area appears to the enemy team. No Tumors, just Creep.
When a Creep Tumor is first placed, it is visible and can be targeted by auto attacks or hit by AOE abilities and splash damage. Once the tumor fades from sight, it can only be damage by AOE or splash damage. This is why it is important to understand how Creep works, because in most cases you are going to have to estimate where the Tumor is located in order to destroy it.
Good Zagara players will be putting down Creep Tumors regularly. Really good Zagara players won’t limit their Creep Tumors to the lane they are working in. They will also place Tumors at key locations around the map so that they can use the vision these Tumors provide to monitor the enemy’s movements. Some examples include the turn in locations on Blackheart’s Bay and Tomb of the Spider Queen, frequently traveled paths between lanes, and mercenary camps (Bosses in particular). It is a tremendous advantage to know when a team is trying to turn in, when they are rotating for a gank, or when they are attempting to take a boss. Good Creep placement can tell all of this and more, which is what makes Zagara’s Creep so powerful. It is also why it must be dealt with when you are playing against a Zagara.
Your goal when facing a Zagara is to reduce the effectiveness of her Creep. Note, I said reduce it’s effectiveness, not eliminate it entirely. Clearing all of the Creep isn’t realistic, nor is it an efficient use of your time and mana. The most effective way to eliminate Creep Tumors is to destroy them while attacking something else. For example, you are about to use Blizzard on an incoming wave of minions. Rather than place it right in the middle of the lane, position it in such a way that it also strikes where the Creep Tumor is likely to be. This is where understanding Creep comes into play. With a little practice, hitting Creep Tumors while attacking other targets will become second nature. The best part is that almost every Hero has some type of AOE ability that can be used this way, and it only takes one hit from most of these abilities to destroy a Creep Tumor.
Dealing with Creep Tumors outside of a lane isn’t quite as easy. Often, your only option is to use an AOE ability for the sole purpose of destroying the Tumor. Since this is going to cost you mana and an ability cool down, you have to be selective about which Creep Tumors warrant this type of treatment. This usually means Tumors that provide vision over turn in points or Bosses. Even if you are not turning in or attempting the boss at that time, it can often be worth destroying these Tumors anyway so that the enemy team has to at least consider the fact that you might be, and react accordingly. You can even use clearing these types of Tumors as bait. Destroying the boss Tumor will often cause the enemy team to rotate down in hopes of catching you in mid boss fight. Rather than engaging the boss, you lay in wait and try to catch the enemy team off guard. Even if you don’t get the whole team, you might get one or two players who stick their nose in to see what you are up to.
Zagara is a going to spread Creep, that is what she does. Your job is to make her work to do it, and to deny her what she wants most: vision. Take advantage of well placed AOE abilities to get collateral damage on Creep Tumors, and specifically target any Tumors that are placed in especially troublesome locations. If you are not willing or able to clear Creep from certain spots, at least be conscious of where it is located and the vision that it provides. This awareness can allow you to mask your movements by going around the infected area instead of thru it, or to at least recognize that the enemy has sight on you if you do pass thru the area.
Good Luck and Good Clearing!