The Primal Zerg. Ancient beings that lived on Zerus since time immemorial. Surviving. Adapting. Growing stronger… or getting eaten. From this brutal environment arose Dehaka, one of the few remaining Pack Leaders. The Nexus seems like such a small, pathetic place by comparison. But full of new essence, new life force, new adaptations. The hunt for change continues… are you ready to adapt?
Roles that Hero Can Fill:
Off-tank, bruiser, solo laner, split soaker. Dehaka can almost never be the tank. He lacks initiation tools, he lacks peel, lacks an escape, and he can’t be a mobile ward or disrupt enemy rotations. But as a secondary tank and solo laner, especially on bigger maps, he really starts to shine.
- Q; Drag: A high damage skill shot with a 1.75 second stun. It has a built in delay before it goes off, which can make it very difficult to hit. Once you land it you can continue to move and literally drag your target with you, though any stuns, silences, or displacements cast on Dehaka while he is dragging someone cancels it. You can still auto attack while Drag is active. The cooldown is very long so as a rule it is best to use Drag when you are guaranteed to land it, either as a follow-up to a teammate’s CC, because someone is caught in a choke point and it literally can’t miss, or if you’re doing it from a bush.
- W; Dark Swarm: A 3 second aura that deals high damage to heroes and medium damage to non-heroes, and despite the tooltip it actually hits twice per second. It also allows Dehaka to walk through units while it is active. This is a blessing and a curse. It gives you good mobility in team fights and allows you to avoid getting body blocked, but also temporarily removes your ability to body block which is usually one of the most critical things for a frontliner to be doing. Be careful to never use Dark Swarm for damage while body blocking. Note that it can be cast while using either Q or E, which can give you interesting options in terms of adding damage or mobility on your Q. It also gives Dehaka an acceptable wave clear baseline which can be improved through talents.
- E; Burrow: A 2 second self-stasis that is cancelable and has a very long cooldown. Try to use it to dodge skill shots or allow your trait’s healing to do some work. Using it too early is a death sentence.
- D; Trait: Essence Collection: Enemy hero and minion kills give you essence, 10 for hero takedowns and 2 per minion. Your can consume all essence for a heal over time that increases proportionally with the amount of essence used. Having essence is critical to Dehaka’s ability to survive teamfights. You really, really don’t want to come to a major team fight with no essence at all and even showing up with less than full essence is often a bad idea, so understanding the tempo of each map is critical to understanding when you can and can’t use essence for a heal. This can be a handicap to Dehaka as he will have to go farm essence, especially after deaths, which sometimes means his team has to give up objectives for free. It has a built-in 5 second cooldown so you cannot overwrite the current heal.
- Z; Brushstalker: A global ability that is limited to bushes and vents as the destination. It replaces Dehaka’s regular mount ability, so this is his only tool for fast rotations. This is the second ability that makes it critical for Dehaka players to understand the tempo of each map. Knowing when an objective is going to up, knowing where it will be, etc., are vital factors in deciding when and where you opt to go with your Z. Sometimes you’ll back and use it to return to lane instead of tapping because you know you’ll need tap for the fight; sometimes you’ll use it to split soak and show up to a fight at the last second; sometimes you’ll plan to be at the objective then use it to instantly cross the map and push in a lane before the enemy team can be there. It is also an exceptional ganking tool for picking off solo laners who lack a vision mechanic, The Lost Vikings, and Abathur. The major downside is the tunneling noise is audible to any enemy near the bush, giving a lot of warning about your arrival. It also increases your movement speed when in bushes and for 1 second after leaving them, which enhances all of the potential plays Brushstalker can enable. Walking through bushes will help your rotation speed even when you can’t Z, so Dehaka is much stronger on maps with lots of bushes and vents.
Aside from Battlefield of Eternity and Haunted Mines, Dehaka doesn’t have a bad map per se. He is good on big maps like Cursed and Sky Temple because of his Z. He is good on Tomb and Blackheart’s because his Z allows him to hearth and return quickly, which can be used as a nearly infinite sustain mechanic in lane and there are bushes directly adjacent to all turn in points. He is good on rotation or two-lane maps – Dragon Shire, Braxis, Shrines, and Towers – because of his ability to solo lane while threatening a rotation. There is a notable trend here though, which is that Dehaka is usually only good because of his Z. So make sure you arrange the lanes in such a way that the Z will get value, otherwise he is very lackluster.
Dehaka is a melee hero that lacks an escape mechanic so he has to stick close to his team in lanes, which gives him limited pick-off and zoning potential. If there are other heroes on the team who can initiate, like Kerrigan or a tank, then Q becomes the best follow-up stun in the game just due to duration. He likes to hide in bushes a lot of the time, not just for the surprise kill potential but because any time the enemy team doesn’t know where he is, the solo laner is forced to play more carefully. If Dehaka is the solo laner his emphasis should be on clearing the wave quickly against melee heroes, forcing them to come to him and potentially get chunked by Drag or let the wave push onto their towers. Against ranged heroes he should play defensively and keep the wave off his towers. On maps like Dragon Shire and Braxis where you are trying to hold the point, you can absorb poke from the ranged hero for a long time, hearth back, Z back in, and continue holding the point.
He really lacks the tools to initiate, peel, be a mobile ward, or interrupt enemy rotations, which are usually considered critical roles for the tank, but as a second warrior he offers incredible follow-up control with Q and decent wave clear. So normally he sticks close to the tank or keeps an eye on someone on his team who has initiation that he can follow up on.
Dehaka’s team fighting isn’t that different: barring flanking from bushes with Z, he is still looking to be a strong follow-up to someone else’s initiation. Sometimes you can bait the enemy team into focusing you and get a huge essence heal-off, essentially forcing them to waste cooldowns. Dehaka thrives on being in the center of an entire enemy team, and with the correct use of cooldowns he can usually survive it; it’s just getting there that’s typically the problem.
Heroes with strong initiation that Dehaka can follow-up on: Anub’Arak, E.T.C., Muradin, Kerrigan, even Chen to a degree. Also heroes who don’t require a lot of peel, because Dehaka has very little, like Li Ming, Zeratul, Tracer, etc. Because he should be the off-tank, he needs to be paired with strong damage dealers. There is a brutal Brightwing synergy where Brightwing Phase Shifts onto Dehaka as he uses Z, Polymorphs the gank target, and Dehaka’s Q follow-up is sure to land; the strongest map for this combo is Dragon Shire but it will work on any map where the solo lane has bushes or vents directly adjacent to the lane.
The Lost Vikings and Abathur. You want a mobile peel tank so you can delay and let those heroes soak. Dehaka is neither of those. If he doesn’t have any heroes with an initiation mechanic, Dehaka is usually dead weight at a high level of play. No one will make the mistake of getting close enough to him to allow him to land a Q, so try and draft with that in mind.
Very strong against The Lost Vikings and Abathur, because of his ability to hunt them. Anyone who depends on stasis effects, like Cho’Gall’s Molten Block, allows Dehaka to much more reliably land his Q. Murky becomes an essence farm. He is a decent anti-dive hero because most dive heroes have only one or two mobility mechanics and it makes their movements predictable. If an Illidan Dives Dehaka, he can Q behind himself and it will always land on Illidan. Same thing for Greymane and Razor Swipe, his end position is predictable.
Long range heroes. Outside of flanking with Z, he can do nothing against Azmodan, Chromie, Sgt. Hammer, Raynor and the like. For a similar reason any ranged hero with increased mobility usually destroys him, Lunara in particular. He also has no good response to being Hooked, so Stitches or any other forced engage mechanic is just a free kill. Diablo gives him a similar problem. Alarak having both a displacement and a silence in his base kit can completely negate Q, which is a huge deal, though Dehaka lanes well against Alarak if they are the solo lane match up.
The Default: This talent is usually the default pick just because of how strong it is and at best other talents at this tier are only situationally better.
Niche/Situational: One of the most common questions I get asked is when do you take certain less picked talents. They often have uses but the uses are specific to either comps or maps. These are those talents.
Must be Paired with Other talents: Often there are certain talents that, by themselves, are not very impressive but synergize so well with other talents that if you plan on taking the other talent, you should take the talents that pair well with it.
Trap: Trap Talents are either actively bad or, more usually, simply so much worse than competing talents at the same tier it doesn’t make sense to ever take them.
Fun: This can be a little bit of a personal thing, but I’m going to label the talents I personally consider fun even if they are not actually worth taking in real games.
- Isolation: Another skill shot with a built-in delay, similar to your Q but slightly longer. The silence and slow are good but the vision isolation can actually be devastating for some heroes, as it means they cannot know when to juke things or even how to get around body blocks. A strong hit from this Heroic should always result in a kill if you can land it but it suffers from the same problem your Q does. Outside of ambushes or follow-up to someone else’s initiation, it can be wasted, which is very bad on a heroic ability, so be very careful.
- Adaptation: Adaptation is essentially a support heroic that can only apply to you. If you have a support who doesn’t have a burst heal, or the burst heal should always be going to a different target, this helps you not die, which is a good thing. As a low mobility secondary frontliner you will often be the focus target if you play aggressively, so this helps in that regard as well.
- Enduring Swarm: Lacking Spell Shield or any other ability burst negation, this can be a pretty strong talent for Dehaka, especially due to uptime when combined with Symbiosis (7). Sometimes you need it, but it isn’t ever something you want to pick because it doesn’t facilitate Dehaka’s strengths as a global hero.
- Primal Aggression: This is the talent that single handedly allows Dehaka to shine as an off-tank. It gives him good enough wave clear that one use of W will clear a wave, allowing him to split push very aggressively using his global to show up at the last minute to fights. It also allows him to just barely be able to solo mercenary camps, hearth back for full, then Z back to lane. He plays almost like a specialist, but one who can always join a fight when he is needed. As the main tank this wouldn’t work because you need to be there first to zone for your team, but as an off-tank you can afford to be late. The increased duration also gives you an extra tick of damage and synergizes with Symbiosis (7).
- Enhanced Agility: There is literally no reason to take this talent as it stands. Compared to what you are giving up, an occasional speed increase on top of a speed increase that is already decent is pointless.
- Tissue Regeneration: Regen is better the worse focus fire is. Focus fire in Hero League, by and large, is pretty awful. This talent has some synergy with your E as well. Realistically I don’t think this is ever better than Primal Aggression but if you get stuck with being the solo tank, this can help you live through trying to waddle your way to the enemy team… except the new Enduring Swarm does that better, especially when considering talent synergy, and does it all game long.
- Lurker Strain: The only talent that gives Dehaka anything approaching peel, both for himself and others. Having it linked to a long cooldown like your E is pretty rough, but the playmaking potential of a knockback, slow, and stealth outweighs that consideration.
- One-Who-Collects: Synergizes so well with the style of play that Primal Aggression (1) enables. You spend so much time aggressively clearing waves that this ensures you show up to every fight at full essence consistently. Note you should only take this over Lurker Strain, even with Primal Aggression, if you are trying to out-sustain a consistent solo lane match up. On maps where you are constantly rotating to objectives and are more team fight oriented, Lurker Strain has more value.
- Hero Stalker: If you’re up against heroes like The Lost Vikings or Murky you get full essence credit for each kill. This can allow you to snowball fights with the constant essence collection, but it usually makes it much harder to show up to a fight with full essence which is often more important.
- Feeding Frenzy: Q is really everything that is good about Dehaka in team fights. Having it up more often is very good, especially since the base cooldown is quite long. If you have a hero like Kerrigan or Muradin whose cooldown is usually much lower than yours, lowering Q’s cooldown so you can more consistently follow up can be very important, but it is only if you want to hit that timing window that this talent has a lot of value.
- Constriction: Assuming you are reliably landing your Qs, this makes it much more likely that any given Q will secure a kill, which matters quite a bit. This is an all-in talent to some degree; it must reliably secure damage or kills for your team to be good.
- Symbiosis: Dehaka really does thrive in the middle of the enemy team. With an uptime of 3 seconds and an 8 second cooldown, plus the fact that W hits twice per second instead of the once listed on the tooltip, you only need two heroes in the W for the full duration to get 4.8 seconds off the cooldown, giving you essentially 100% uptime. That is very realistic against many team compositions and with the 0.5 second increase from Primal Aggression (1) you get an extra tick of duration and potentially another tick of CD reduction, giving you consistency in case of people dodging out of W. The amount of damage it adds over the course of a team fight is substantial and it synergizes with Primal Swarm (13) as well.
- Essence Devourer: With the wave clear strategy, this technically enables you to take a different talent over One-Who-Collects (4) and gives you potentially bigger heals in team fights, as well. It isn’t bad exactly, it is just that in the majority of cases more damage is more valuable than more sustain.
- Swift Pursuit: Two extra seconds of increased movement speed on exiting bushes. That is a narrow window when talking about using Z, but since you can just walk through a bush for the benefit it is useful on some bush and vent heavy maps like Shrines.
- Ferocious Stalker: Not worth taking when compared to Primal Swarm.
- Primal Swarm Combined with Symbiosis (7) gives you near permanent uptime on a 15% vulnerable on the focus target. That is insanely powerful, especially considering in the mid-late game Dehaka is often drafted in stun+burst compositions.
- Paralyzing Enzymes: If a hero is actually living through the initiation plus your Q follow up, you have big problems. This might help patch them and it may actually be the better talent in lower level or less coordinated environments where focus fire is poor… but Dehaka isn’t a hero you want to draft in that case.
- Elongated Tongue: Since Dehaka struggles with engaging, more range helps you engage better and ensures you are in position to follow up even more consistently.
- Tunneling Claws: Kind of gimmicky, but with the knock back from Lurker Strain (4) it can function as something Dehaka otherwise simply does not have; an escape. Has possibly the highest playmaking potential of any talent at this tier, but is also the easiest to misuse and get yourself in trouble. Proceed with caution.
- Contagion: Unless you’re up against a team that is all melee or just enjoys clumping, this is very unlikely to be good. But heavy melee compositions that are strong exist, Auriel and other heroes who are better when their team clumps exist, and this gives you a tool to potentially punish that behavior. But pay attention and make sure they are clumping all game before you pick this up.
- Change is Survival: With the removal of Hardened Shield and the buff to both Adaptation and its upgrade, this has edged its way into viability. Timing, as always, is the issue with Adaptation and getting maximum value out of the upgrade is no easy feat.
- Apex Predator: Using your Z literally on cooldown to escape, scout the map, cap objectives, or generally be a nuisance, is by far the most annoying and effective way to play Dehaka. Combined with Primal Aggression you can even push all three lanes near-simultaneously on most maps. Sometimes you have to take another talent at this tier, but you never want to.
- Essence Claws: The slow is decent, especially considering Dehaka lacks a consistent way to CC the enemy team. The essence collection is questionably useful, if you can actually hit an enemy hero enough times for it to be useful, that fight is likely over, but it is a decent perk.