Ragnaros the Firelord. The first Final Boss in World of Warcraft. An icon for so many people of what it means to be great and terrible. His incarnation in Heroes of the Storm promises to be equally epic, drawing on all that nostalgia.

Ragnaros is going to be the newest melee assassin in the Nexus. An extremely tough front liner with decent self-healing, poke damage, and boatloads of area damage. He lacks any form of crowd control in his normal form, but does gain some when he “takes over” a friendly building or a broken foundation with his trait Molten Core.

I sat down with the lead designer for Rangaros to get some insight into what the driving thoughts behind the development the Firelord in Heroes of the Storm.

CavalierGuest: So would you say you’re familiar with Ragnaros’ development?

Jade Martin: I was the primary designer on Raganros so I think I can answer any questions you have.

CavalierGuest: From playing him on the demo floor and talking to people, everyone seems to think he fairly powerful. Would you agree with that?

Jade Martin: OK, well, I didn’t do the balance for Ragnaros. He is really strong absolutely, we don’t really know what that means in terms of live data. If he comes out strong on live we have a team dedicated to balance, they will look at the data and see what is over-performing or under-performing and tune that as needed. We usually like to have a week or two weeks of data before we make any changes. If he is overpowered we can tune that.

CavalierGuest: What was the impetus to give such a strong melee assassin high damage ranged abilities? His Meteor ability seems to really chunk any squishy hero.

Jade Martin: Yeah, Living Meteor. I really wanted to give him some form of wave clear and sure enough actually all his abilities ended up being decent wave clear. With that said, Blast Wave, his E, is more about utility for the movement speed and isn’t as strong at wave clear as his W unless talented into. But he doesn’t have any hard cc or strong gap closers and so because of that I wanted him to have some way to damage enemies from afar. If you give gap closers to all your melee assassins it makes them all feel the same and I wanted Rag to feel very different and this was the way to go about it. We just got vector targeting and it was really cool. It allows him to target it so people chasing him are taking damage or people fleeing him are taking damage and it is really good in lane as well.

CavalierGuest: Is his having a second health bar in Molten Core form part of that wanting him to be strong in lane?

So he does get a second health, what's important about this though is his health actually decays in that form. It is an 18 second duration baseline and decays down to zero seconds, and when it hits zero he is out. When it is damaged it reduces the duration, but he doesn’t gain health when he goes in, he is very close to it so you know where he is going to come out. There is some counterplay there and I think there is enough counterplay that it won’t feel overpowered. That is the goal.

CavalierGuest: And he has crowd control while he “takes over” a building, something you specifically didn’t give him in his base kit?

Jade Martin: Yeah, he has a couple of forms of CC in that form. He is stationary but his Q becomes a large arc that stuns enemies and his W damages and slows. The reason we gave him CC in that form is we wanted him to be really good at defending those points but also we didn’t want players to just run away. If players just saw Rag go into molten core and he had no way to kind of stop them from fleeing they would just kind of run away, and though his abilities have very long range it didn’t feel as substantial when he didn’t have a way of keeping them there.

Heroes of the Storm Ragnaros

CavalierGuest: That was something you saw in play testing?

Jade Martin: Yeah, absolutely. It was like you took over that building, we’re gonna leave, but now it is we want to leave but we’re getting slowed or stunned and it is harder. Of course the stun is an arc so you can position around a fort so you’re not all getting stunned.

CavalierGuest: Explain to me how taking over enemy buildings works then.

Jade Martin: He can’t take over enemy builds, but he can take over destroyed forts and keeps. It does allow him to use molten core in a more offensive way rather than defensive. Internally, a lot of what we see when we are pushing the core, and fighting with a rag on our team, we’re trying to kill a keep because as soon as that keep goes down we can go into a molten core and wipe them if they are still there. It feels really good to use it both offensively and defensively.

CavalierGuest: And that aggressive pushing style, forcing fights, also ties in with one of his heroics Lave Wave?

Jade Martin: Yes, he is very good at controlling lanes especially with lava wave if you pick that. Lava wave has a longer build up to it because it does start from the core so when you’re pushing in you kind of have to wait for it. Enemies should have awareness that it is coming but they will need to get out of lane because obviously right now it is dealing a lot of damage; if you stay in it, it is going to hurt. We like the lane pressure it gives. It gives him this really cool niche, making him really good on Battlefield of Eternity, Infernal Shrines, and Braxis Holdout. Maps with pushing objectives that give you these bosses that push with you. Almost like a counter Sylvanas because she shuts the buildings down but Ragnaros is good at keeping them alive because he takes them over.

Heroes of the Storm Ragnaros

CavalierGuest: We typically see bruiser style heroes like Ragnaros only played if they have the sustain to be a strong solo laner, can Ragnaros do that?

Jade Martin: The great thing about Ragnaros is he has Meteor for poke and wave clear but his Q, power of sulf, which causes his next attack to instantly hit dealing area damage and heals him for a portion of that damage dealt. Its effectiveness is better against heroes so it won’t heal him for to much against minion waves, but it gives him enough health to be good and if you can get it off against a hero that is really good. A nice fallback for him if he is losing the lane for whatever reason is he can just molten core his fort to kind of reset the lane, get it pushed back out, leave without really missing soak, and come back.

CavalierGuest: What is your personal favorite thing about Ragnaros?

Jade Martin: That you guys get to play him. So excited. Ragnaros was an absolute challenge for us. Bringing this raid boss into the Nexus. How do we do that: make it feel epic and live up to our player’s expectations. From watching people play they really have been enjoying it and this is so awesome to me. From a gameplay perspective, what I’m really excited about is molten core and what that means, how people use it on sky temple or blackheart’s bay, and what that means for the draft implications. I’m always really excited when heroes excel on specific maps because it changes up how you draft on those maps and it's fun because you see a really wide variety of heroes on those maps.