Imperius - A First Impressions Breakdown and Guide
Wed 9th Jan 2019 - 6:30pm
Greetings! k0nduit here, and today it’s time to talk about Imperius. He’s been a long-awaited addition to the Nexus and perhaps one of the most frequently requested heroes for the game. After messing around and playing on the PTR, I've compiled my thoughts into this first impressions article. Let’s jump right into it: first up is a breakdown of Imperius’s kit.
Valorous Brand (Trait)
Each ability applies its own trait mark to the target. Concordantly, each Brand has its own 10 second cooldown. Applying another trait mark via another ability will not refresh the 10 second duration for marks applied beforehand. Finally, each ability's mark is indicated above the enemy hero in a specific order relative to the others: the three marks are Q->W->E, from left to right. So, in the left gameplay image, I've applied the marks from my 'Q' and 'E' abilities. In the right image, I've only applied the 'W' mark.
Celestial Charge (Q)
Celestial Charge has a targeting mechanism similar to Gul’Dan’s Corruption: it's a line AoE skillshot with a starting point that can be disjointed from your hero's position. In Imperius's case, because the ability is a dash of sorts, he will also physically move to the starting point of the actual AoE. In other words, no damage or stun will be applied to enemies Imperius passes through during his movement. In order for the ability to affect an enemy, the spear AoE must make contact.
If you've impaled an enemy hero, remember that the stun is channeled. This means that you can be interrupted out of your stun. Additionally, you can take only a couple limited actions during the channel - neither of which include voluntarily canceling the stun. There are only two actions you can take: you can cast your 'E', Molten Armor, and/or activate the Level 7 Talent Holy Fervor. Otherwise, if you've impaled an enemy hero, you must fully channel or be interrupted before you can make another move.
As mentioned in the Hero spotlight, you can pass through terrain with Celestial Charge. In order to do your best Genji impression, make sure that the base of the spear AoE can be placed beyond the wall you want to hop over - otherwise, you'll just dash into the wall.
Finally, note that trying to hit targets that are very close to you can sometimes be difficult. Keep in mind that the base, not the tip, of the spear is where your cursor is. Don't aim in front of your target, you'll miss the spear AoE! If you're right on top of your opponent, try to release the ability with your cursor on the targeting circle at their feet. Get some reps in with Celestial Charge to get used to it.
Solarion’s Fire (W)
Remember to aim at the circle at your target's feet. The middle line is where the oomph is at for Solarion's Fire and the line is relatively thin. Think about how you want to use the ability (e.g. wait for an allied CC to make it easier to land), because there's a lot of value in it: when evaluating slows in HotS, a 40% slow for 3 seconds is quite formidable. Tyrande's Harsh Moonlight talent grants her Owl a 40% slow for 4 seconds, which is one of the most annoying slows in the game - and Solarion's Fire isn't far off from that.
You can set up your Q (Celestial Charge) with your W slow. Fish for the slow with your W, and if it lands, you can look for the spear impale. Keep in mind that sometimes it's best to save the stun for when the slow is about to expire to get the full value of the 3 second slow (because if the opponent is stunned immediately, you're losing 1 second of slow value). In theory, you should try not to overlap your own CC; naturally, there will often be situational factors encouraging you to go for the stun sooner rather than later. Just keep in mind that sometimes it'll be best to save your Q for the last moments before your opponent regains full movement speed.
Molten Armor (E)
Molten Armor strikes all targets in its AoE evenly: it's not random. Because of this, if you're looking to maximize single-target damage, try to position such that no enemy units are within the AoE other than your desired target.
Molten Armor ticks 12 times over its duration, and the ability's corresponding trait mark (the third in the group of 3 dots above your target) is applied each time. This means that if you’re auto attacking a Hero in your Molten Armor AoE during the duration, a new trait mark is reapplied on each damage tick; you can get multiple passive procs on the same target from one ability. This is a powerful interaction that makes Molten Armor more potent than it seems at first glance. Additionally, you'll probably get off one more trait-empowered auto attack than you think you will; Molten Armor ticks much faster than you can auto attack, so unless your auto attack hits right after the last tick of your E, that last tick will still apply the ability's Valorous Brand mark and you'll get another empowered auto attack off even after the duration of Molten Armor expires.
As mentioned above, you can activate Molten Armor during your Celestial Charge impale channel. However, unless you're looking for immediate damage output, you'll actually get more damage in the near future by waiting until the channel is done before activating your E. By waiting, you'll then be able to auto attack and get more Valorous Brand procs over the full duration of your Molten Armor.
Angelic Armaments (R1)
Angelic Armaments is a powerful Heroic with both defensive and offensive components. Angelic Armaments has the potential to do tons of damage; it’s on the level of a weaker Pyroblast if you get all the swords to land. Don't get tunneled on the shield - remember that you can use the Heroic just for damage if you want. If you do so, pop it somewhat early so the 3 second delay while you wait for the shield to expire doesn’t disrupt your plan.
Regarding aiming the ability, there's a travel time on the swords you launch, so consider aiming in front of your target a little bit if you're going for the Pyroblast level of damage at the confluence of all the swords. If you're just looking to get finishing damage in, you can aim beyond your opponent so the swords have more area coverage; toy around with the Armaments projectiles in try mode to get a feel for how the targeting mechanism works. The swords launched will hit minions/structures/etc., not just Heroes, so take care when aiming. However, if you don’t reactivate the ability to launch the swords within the time limit, the swords won't fire at all. Don’t take too long lining it up!
Some food for thought: the dream scenario with Angelic Armaments is taking a ton of damage, but not enough to break the shield; in other words, you get almost absolute maximum value from the defensive component while also still getting access to the offensive component.
Wrath of the Angiris (R2)
Wrath of the Angiris is your CC/Utility Heroic. The ability has a .75 second wind-up/cast time (not a channel); if you get interrupted during this time, the ability gets put onto a 10 second cooldown. This windup/cast time is functionally the same as ETC's windup before Mosh Pit. After the wind-up finishes, you are Unstoppable during the dash.
You CAN pass through walls with the initial dash portion of the ability, allowing you to surprise your opponents with creative engagement angles. But keep in mind that you can use Wrath of the Angiris as another Genji Swift Strike-esque escape. Combining this with Celestial Charge's mobility, Imperius can be very elusive if he needs to be.
Regarding the actual movement itself when you have your passenger and are doing your Johanna Falling Sword impression, you can pass through any walls you would normally be able to go over (i.e. your own team's gate) but you cannot pass through any other kind of terrain or structure - your movement options are exactly the same as if you were walking on the ground, you just have a passenger along for the ride.
Your positioning when you land is dependent on your last directional input/right-click. Your opponent will always land in the last direction you clicked towards, and you will fall a little behind them, still in that same vector. So, note that the position icons (with your and your passenger's portraits) the game shows you won't always reflect your landing position. But, why is your specific landing position important?
Knowing the positioning when you come down matters because the target is stunned for 1 second upon landing, and you should be prepared to follow up with your own CC. If you're playing with an allied or even against an enemy Imperius, knowing the exact landing orientation will sometimes be useful as well: you can land abilities on your desired target the moment he or she lands. In any case, as Imperius when you land with your passenger, you have 1 second to follow up on yourself. I generally like to auto attack, cast a guaranteed slowing W, and then get the guaranteed Q impale for another 1 second of stun. This adds up to about 2~ seconds of stun + 2~ seconds of a 40% slow - which is great CC, all coming from your own kit. As with any CC ability though, make sure to coordinate with your allies' CC options and damage to maximize your lethality. A final note on the landing orientation topic: with this knowledge, you can do interesting things like move your passenger in a certain direction, and then swap your position at the last second. For example, this can be useful if you’re in the enemy’s ranks and you need to get out; so, you pick someone up, but you don’t want your kidnapped target to body block you upon landing. From this position, you can lead yourself and your passenger away from the enemy team but swap places at the last possible moment by clicking in the opposite direction of your retreat path.
As you might have realized from that last example, Wrath of the Angiris provides not only offensive CC, but also the capability for Imperius to disengage from focus fire and/or reposition and escape in the middle of a fight.
Impaling Light is my favored talent on this tier. The increased damage is nice, and just getting the first part of the quest is excellent value - you don't really need to complete the three person spear (it's kind of like Johanna's Subdue talent - you don't need to complete the quest in order to actively want to take the talent). Remember that Celestial Charge doubles as both an offensive AND a defensive skill, so getting its cooldown lowered bolsters your teamfight options, mobility, and elusiveness.
Impaling Light is a good default choice. You’ll be able to find a double spear at some point in the game on most maps. It's particularly reliable to secure if you have some kind of enabler: Malganis's Sleep, Deckard's root combo, Blaze's Jet Propulsion, etc. The only issue is that oftentimes you’re going to be solo laning with Imperius, so you won’t necessarily get an opportunity to work on the quest unless you're teamfighting. It's still more than fine on maps like Volskaya and Tomb of the Spider Queen, for example. Level 1 fights are also good opportunities.
A final tip on getting the two person spear: sometimes it can be best to look for the spear at an angle, rather than facing your targets head on. Come in from the side of where they're facing your team in a skirmish (perpendicular to the line that is their chase/retreat path), and you might catch them off guard and get a multi-person spear. Again, the first quest part is all you really need for this talent to be great.
Consuming Flame is a fine talent, and can be okay if you have an ally with reliable CC to setup up your targeting in teamfights, but in general I think Impaling Light will give you more value; hitting the middle of Solarion's Fire already has some good rewards baseline, and this talent's offerings aren't enough to further invest in it in my opinion. Additionally, hitting the enemy with the middle of Solarion's Fire is non-trivial (if you don't have setup, or are in the solo lane), and if you aren't hitting the middle line then the talent has no effect. One point in favor of Consuming Flame is that it can up your waveclear potential a bit, but there's a talent at level 7 that will great help your waveclear problems and is probably a must-pick, so the waveclear point has less value.
Burn the Impure provides the most consistent value on the tier, though it's a bit unexciting. I actually like this talent a decent amount on maps like Braxis Holdout and Dragon Shire if you're solo laning. As an off-laner on these maps, it's going to be difficult to get the Impaling Light quest done until later in the game, and Consuming Flame is going to be unreliable to stack and get value from because you won't have setup. The % damage from Burn the Impure from simply landing Solarion's Fire will always give you good value throughout the game, so I'd pick it in such situations.
Bulwark of Flame is a great option if you're up against a couple dedicated auto-attackers like Greymane, Raynor, etc. Make sure that the enemy team has enough compelling reasons for you to take this over Battle Hunger, however!
Unshakable Faith can be situationally okay, but you want to be very careful not only when picking this talent but also when using it. The other sustain options on this tier will give you reliable, consistent value, while Unshakable Faith is trickier to use. You really only want it in specific matchups where you're concerned about particular CC from the opponents which are both high impact and have low frequency of application. In general, I would go with Battle Hunger.
Battle Hunger is a reliable in-combat sustain talent, and it provides the best overall prolonged teamfighting sustain. You might compare this talent with Yrel's Maraad's Insight and say that Imperius's cooldowns are too long to take good advantage of the same effect; however, remember that Imperius's abilities are all AoE, so you can potentially apply several trait marks with a single ability. Additionally, remember that Molten Armor can apply your trait to a given target multiple times, which you can continually proc. Multiple Valorous Brand stacks (from different abilities) on the same target also yield multiple Battle Hunger procs - you don’t have to worry about spacing them out. Finally, Holy Fervor at 7 synergizes with all of these points and ties together the package well.
Flash of Anger provides some nice burst damage upon landing your combo. However, landing the combo itself isn’t easy, and the talent also forces you into the play pattern of immediately Qing after your W. While this can sometimes be inconsequential, other times you'll want to land a few auto attacks on your target - particularly if you're in close range and you've landed the W slow. Flash of Anger offers only a marginally higher increase in raw single-target PvP damage, and the other options on the tier offer better waveclear potential, and in the case of Holy Fervor, powerful synergies with the rest of Imperius's Kit.
Blaze of Glory provides both single target and AoE waveclear damage, and you can help land the delayed strike by hitting your combo. However, you’ll usually end up picking Holy Fervor for its reliability in both these areas.
Holy Fervor is a fantastic talent that mitigates one of Imperius's biggest weaknesses: waveclear. Upon activation, you'll perform an AoE cleave for your next 4 attacks. Do note that the cooldown of the ability starts after your four empowered attacks have been used, so make sure to expend all the charges relatively quickly in a given activation (you can see your remaining Holy Fervor charges on an icon below your mana bar): you don't want to be stuck on 1 charge (with the ability not yet cooling down) when you need Holy Fervor available.
What's not apparent from just looking at the tooltip is that these 4 attacks have boosted damage output compared to your normal attack damage. At Level 7 when you acquire Holy Fervor, Imperius's auto attack damage is 160. Holy Fervor increases the damage of each attack to 207 (this value will scale up by level)!
Additionally, Holy Fervor-empowered cleaving auto attacks will proc your trait marks on targets that are not the primary auto attack target. Imagine walking into 2-3 members of the enemy team, popping Molten Armor and Holy Fervor and just swinging - you'll get tons of trait procs, which means more Battle Hunger healing procs! This synergy between Molten Armor, Battle Hunger, and Holy Fervor allows for strong sustain possibilities in teamfights.
What Heroic Should You Take, and When?
My initial impression is that Angelic Armaments should be your default choice: it's very versatile and useful in every context.
Wrath of the Angiris is sometimes going to be less of a pick tool in teamfights and more of a powerful CC attached to an escape tool. It's great in the playstyle where you're shifting focus in the teamfight from peeling for your team to pressuring the enemy team, and vice versa. It'll allow you to reposition, disengage from enemy focus fire, and potentially create a kill opportunity. The .75 second windup is non-trivial, and enemies can see it coming - it can be tough to land without setup. But, if your team has ways to make landing the ability more reliable, or if the match-up calls for more CC, Wrath of the Angiris is definitely a strong Heroic.
Pathetic Mortals is good for peel and dueling. Note that the actual damage reduction is the whole 4 seconds - the DR duration only starts after the stun expires. However, the talent falls short when it comes to usage when you're being aggressive in teamfights: a good portion of the time with Pathetic Mortals, the enemy you impale is going to immediately retreat from the fight. This means that they won't be dealing damage anyway, so you're not getting value from the damage reduction. However, if the matchup shakes out in a way where you want to be peeling off a persistent diver in teamfights, engaging decisively onto a damage dealing target in a 1v1, or will be frequently dueling in lane, Pathetic Mortals can be a strong talent.
Divine Rage requires a little bit of math to evaluate, but each 12-tick cast of Molten Armor reduces the cooldown of the ability by 3 seconds if you hit Heroes the whole time - a goal which should be readily obtainable in teamfights. This takes the CD of your E from an effective 9 seconds to an effective 6 seconds. This will very comfortably allow you to get two, perhaps even three Molten Armors off in a given fight. It's not the flashiest talent, but casting Molten Armor multiple times in a teamfight will drastically aid your survivability. I'd pick this talent much more often than not.
Heat of Battle is for when you need absolute maximum survivability in the shortest amount of time; however, these situations are going to be a little uncommon, particularly since both of Imperius's Heroics have powerful defensive applications.
Celestial Swiftness is the strongest personally aggressive option. Worth noting is that a greater attack speed will give you more trait procs off of Molten Armor ticks.
While certainly useful, Celestial Swiftness is tough to utilize fully. Imperius doesn't usually have enough damage on his own to threaten an enemy backliner who's receiving any sort of help, and Celestial Swiftness still doesn't put his threat potential over the top. The other two talents on this tier will often provide more value.
Melting Touch provides 7 seconds of armor reduction - an absurd reduction duration, by the way - if you’re consistently auto attacking your target from the initial E activation. The interaction works as such: if you immediately auto attack your target soon after the initial ticks of Molten Armor are applied, you proc the armor debuff for 4 seconds. You can keep auto attacking however, refreshing the debuff on the target. The last tick of Molten armor will as usual apply another trait mark, and consuming that mark will refresh the debuff duration once more! Melting Touch makes Imperius potent at pressuring the enemy frontline - they can't stay in the fight long if they're constantly taking 25% extra damage. Finally, if you've taken Divine Rage at 13, you'll be able to activate Molten Armor more often, which synergizes with Melting Touch. In a teamfight, you'll have just a 2-second functional cooldown on your armor debuff!
Sovereign Armor is a strong defensive option (synergizing with Divine Rage as well), should you require it for the match-up. This will make you a tough proposition to take down. In general though, Melting Touch will provide more teamfight impact.
Heavenly Host provides Imperius with the ability to Sound Barrier your team; make no mistake, this talent can be game changing and can protect you and your team from pesky engages like Zeratul's Void Prison. The actual shield value is not as much as the personal shield you get from the Heroic (the allied shields are around 50% of that amount), but the shield number is still quite high and it'll do a great job at preventing burst.
Remember that you can use Angelic Armaments aggressively - if you shield your whole team, you get 4 instances of reliable damage on a nearby enemy hero in addition to your own reactivation of the Heroic.
When deciding if you want Heavenly Host, think about how teamfights have played out. Is the enemy team pouring AoE damage onto your team, or are they CC'ing and locking an ally down? If you find that disrupting the enemy's kill pressure is a high priority, Heavenly Host will put in work. Don't worry too much about using your Heroic just to save an ally: if your shield expires, you’ll get value from the damage component.
Unrelenting Descent can be a fun talent. If you hit all of your abilities and are consistent in proccing your trait marks, it's actually feasible to get two Heroics off in one team fight: You can use Wrath, fire off a basic ability rotation, wait a few seconds, fire off another basic ability rotation, and then use Wrath again shortly afterwards. The issue is that in order to get good value from the talent, you’re incentivized to use your heroic early in a teamfight, rather than save it for the right moment.
Impervious has a bit less value than talents with similar functionality on other heroes because Imperius already has good defensive options in his kit, so Impervious can be a bit unnecessary: both of his heroics provide defensive options, he has good baseline mobility with Celestial Charge, and if you really foresee wanting to protect yourself from damage, Sovereign Armor at 16 can fulfill that role.
I wouldn't count out this talent by any means; just make sure you're using it for something truly exceptional that the matchup calls for, rather than as a general Unstoppable activation/Spell damage defense - it's no Seraphim (Yrel's level 20).
Valorous Pursuit is the default option on the 20 tier if you've taken Wrath of Angiris, and the primary competitor with Heavenly Host if you went Angelic Armaments. This Vorpal Blade-esque effect puts you in front of the target, has no channel, and can be done from unlimited range as long as you have vision of your marked target. Remember that your trait mark lasts practically forever (10 seconds), so you can hold Valorous Mark as a deceptive repositioning option for a while. It's got a short cooldown too, you can probably Valorous Pursuit twice in a fight.
K0nduit's Standard Build
Assorted Notes, Observations, and First Impressions
Imperius has the tools to hold his own in the solo lane. His weakest attribute is his waveclear, but that's significantly bolstered after Level 7. If you're double soaking, Holy Fervor won't be up for both waves unfortunately, but otherwise Imperius has the tools to be an off-laner and a frontliner in teamfights. Imperius is often going to be hard to gank or kill. He’s got great mobility and defensive options - all of his basic abilities (and both of his Heroics) have applications if an opponent is chasing you. In teamfights, if Imperius has his Heroic ready he’s VERY survivable.
You want to be deliberate with Solarion's Fire and Celestial Charge. What I mean by this is that you should target them accurately, and ideally with a high expectation that you'll get good value from the ability usage. This goes doubly for Celestial Charge to be honest, as the ability can put you in a sketchy position if you whiff it. One good practice to keep in mind is to look to follow up, when applicable, on allies who have more reliable/guaranteed CC abilities. If an opponent is stunned by a Muradin Stormbolt, take that opportunity to follow up with a guaranteed Solarion's Fire slow (which, remember, is very potent at 40% for 3 seconds).
Other Thoughts on Imperius
You are stronger when fighting outside of the minion wave; fighting in the minion wave makes Molten Armor much less effective. Regardless of the presence of minions though, you can harass your opponents a bit by fishing for a Solarion's Fire slow, following up on yourself with Celestial Charge, and then auto attacking to proc your Valorous Brands. 10 seconds on your trait mark duration is a long time, however; after applying Valorous Brand with an ability, you have plenty of time to trigger the mark, which can give you a lot of play in lane.
Committing your Celestial Charge in lane makes you much more susceptible to ganks; play safe when it's cooling down, and try to avoid using it if an enemy ganker is missing from the map.
You provide solid CC and respectable damage. Follow up on your teammates' CC and/or fish for opportunities with the slow on Solarion's Fire. Save your Molten Armor for when you've taken a bit of damage so you get value from the healing component, as well as the healing from your trait procs if you've taken Battle Hunger.
Remember to pop Holy Fervor to proc the marks in an AoE - keep in mind that with the synergy between Battle Hunger, Holy Fervor, and Molten Armor, you have pretty good teamfight sustain against clumped up enemies.
I think it'll be difficult for Imperius to walk in and solo the backline like Sonya - he's not as sticky and doesn't have as much damage. However, you can certainly do a bit of zoning, and you have the survivability to do so with Molten Armor and your Heroic. Your role will often be to provide a moderate threat, a solid frontline, and good CC potential. While evaluating the progress of the teamfight, look for impactful, meaningful opportunities to Celestial Charge. Celestial Charge has big threat potential, and opponents have to respect you a lot when it's up and can pressure you significantly when it's down. Make sure to use it impactfully; sometimes it can be good to save it as an escape if your current task is to simply zone the enemy's backline a bit.
So there you have it, a full Imperius kit and talent breakdown with some general thoughts on his playstyle. At first blush, Imperius seems like a durable bruiser that brings potent CC to the table as well as some surprising damage with Angelic Armaments. As people play more and more, his play patterns and role in the metagame will become clearer - there's definitely a lot more exploration to be had with Imperius! As I like to say, use others' opinions not as words of law, but as additional perspectives to help form your own opinions. Test things out and see what talents and builds you like on Imperius!
That's all for today, I hope you enjoyed the article. If you'd like to discuss anything HotS, have comments/feedback on this article, or just want to say hi, feel free to tweet me @k0nduit and I'll get back to you.
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