To preserve balance and harmony. A serious task for an otherwise jovial and carefree Pandarian who likes a good drink or two. Or three. Or a whole magical keg’s worth. Like the drunken boxers of yore, Chen is fast, flexible, and just a little too confident that he can do anything twice as well drunk as he could sober. Care to test your balance?
Roles that Hero Can Fill:
Tank, Bruiser (i.e. Fat Illidan), solo laner.
- Q; Flying Kick: A medium damage point-and-click ranged ability that puts Chen on the far side of the target, allowing for great body blocks, huge chase potential, and a pseudo escape if you have a wall, a structure, an enemy body blocking you, a monster, or a minion to kick over. This is the majority of Chen’s ability to re-position himself in fights. Even though it is has a short cooldown, you need to be careful to always use it with a focus on positioning rather than spamming it for damage.
- W; Keg Smash: A low damage area ability with a decent built-in slow. The primary use of this ability is to actually combo it with E for the extra damage, though often the slow is valuable on its own. Even if you use E on a target, the slow will remain for the full duration.
- E; Breath of Fire: A medium damage cone effect. If the enemy has been hit with W in the last 3 seconds it sets them on fire, burning for damage over time equal to the initial hit, essentially doubling the damage. It should always be used with W for that reason. The combination is all of Chen’s wave clear, a significant portion of his damage, and can have other advantages with talents as well.
- D; Fortifying Brew: The most complicated part of Chen’s kit. All of his basic abilities use Brew instead of mana. Max brew is 100 and drinking gives you 40 Brew per second, meaning it takes 2.5 seconds of drink to completely refill your Brew. To compensate for the essentially self-rooting mechanic you get a shield equal to roughly 8% of your total health every second that caps at 25%, but if you are taking damage it will continue to refresh until it caps. You can drink for the full 5 seconds and chain D forever if needed, and you can cancel it by moving or using an ability. Learning to drink at the right times, for the right duration, is the hardest part about playing Chen at a high level. Managing your Brew is a constant, not always exactly fun, mini-game you have to play while playing the rest of the game. It is critical to keep track of every enemy cooldown that can interrupt drink, think about how long you might need to drink for, how far away that enemy is, what their reaction time might be, how vulnerable you are if you are rooted in your current position, what targets are or will be available to re-position with your Q.
When drafted as an off-tank or bruiser Chen’s best maps are those requiring a strong solo laner who is alone a large portion of the early game. Braxis, Towers of Doom, Blackheart’s, Dragon Shire, and Battlefield. On Cursed he has one of the most reliable boss steal heroics in Wandering Keg (10) and has the early game lane bully presence.
As a pure tank his lack of hard cc and a reliable method of escape limits his gank and disruption potential, but he can contribute surprisingly good wave clear to a strong 4-man rotation on maps like Tomb and Infernal Shrines.
Due to his lack of easy peel, Chen usually excels more at being a disruption in the enemy backline, which is why he is normally paired with a more traditional, peel oriented tank. His objective in both laning and teamfights is to trade favorably for cooldowns and damage. While laning, if he is up against a hero with poor wave clear, he should focus on pushing the wave to put pressure directly on the towers which he should be able to safely drink out of ammo one at a time. Against a hero with strong wave clear you want to try and focus on the W-E combo to slowly wear them down, drinking every time they try to turn and damage you.
In teamfights, presenting yourself as a tempting stationary target with your D can bait all sorts of cooldowns out of the enemy team that will not affect you as much as they would your team. If you’re a bruiser you can happily dive into the back line, particularly with Storm, Earth, Fire (10), and usually put a lot of pressure on the squishier members of the enemy team. As main tank you mostly want to position yourself in such a way that you can effectively use Q and body blocking to interpose yourself when your team gets initiated on. Usually as the tank you’ll also pick up Wandering Keg (10), which allows you to either peel for your team or deliver one target to your team for free.
As a tank his lack of hard CC is a notable weakness and he should ideally be paired with a bruiser who has hard CC, like Kerrigan, The Butcher, or even Xul. When drafted as a bruiser the rest of the team comp almost doesn’t matter so long as it stays true to tank, support, ranged, and flex with either the ranged or flex having burst. Fat Illidan revolves around being a counter to the enemy team more than he does synergizing with his own team. Chen is also a surprisingly strong Abathur hat target, adding extra burst when he dives the back line, more shields, and often getting full value from Spike Burst due to aggressive positioning.
Chen really isn’t weak with most teams as a bruiser. You always need a solo laner, sometimes more than one depending on the size of the map. You should always have a second melee to correctly zone fights, threaten the back line, and counter-initiate against flanks. Chen does all of those things. If you draft him as a tank and pair him with bruiser heroes with little to no hard CC like Sonya he will run into some issues.
He’s extremely strong against heroes who lack stuns and displacements, auto attack heroes, and high ability damage. Xul, Leoric, Tyrael, Greymane, Illidan, Gul’Dan, Li Ming, and so on. If the stuns or displacement have a long enough cooldown or are prioritized for another use, like Johanna primarily wanting to use Condemn for wave clear in the early game, Chen is still extremely good. Either he can drink freely or the enemy burns the cooldown to disrupt him, slowing their team down in the process. Chen is often about forcing unfavorable trades for cooldowns because all of his basic abilities are 5 second cooldowns.
The more heroes who can disrupt D and have high impact skill shots, the worse Chen is. Kerrigan and E.T.C. each have two disruptions in their base kits. Tychus has grenade, can usually farm In the Rhythm stacks off of Chen while he is drinking, so he can easily kill him in the late game even through Elusive Brawler (1). Dehaka’s Drag will never miss a drinking Chen. The Butcher either gets infinite health from Butcher’s Brand or kills Chen. Heroes who have stackable quests from hitting a hero can also easily farm them every time Chen uses D, forcing you to be very careful about where and when you drink. Alarak is his most skill intensive lane matchup and even if played perfectly will result in a draw most of the time with any mistakes costing Chen significant portions of his health.
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.
- Wandering Keg: As a rule of thumb, this is the tanking heroic and SEF is the bruiser heroic. It isn’t a hard and fast rule, however. Keg gives you boss steal potential, incredible peel, the ability to Q into R to bring a free kill to your team, easy interrupts for stationary channels, and overall is one of the strongest playmaking heroics in the entire game. It does have one little bug; all regeneration stops when are in the Keg. Depending on your talents, that can be a huge downside. It is also difficult to maneuver. It might seem like it slows down whenever you run into something, but it is actually kind of bouncing. This is a feature and not a bug because it allows you to consistently lock a target in a corner if possible. The bouncing is accented by a faint ripple animation in the direction of impact and overall makes the Keg much easier to control… but watch out for minion waves or groups of monsters on maps like Infernal Shrines. They’ll slow you down the same way, but for very little benefit.
- Storm, Earth, Fire: After the recent update this can almost be read as “kill unsuspecting squishy hero on the enemy team” but getting to that point can require some execution. There are many not-so-obvious mechanics for SEF. The first is that the spawn locations are fixed, you will always spawn with the Storm spirit on the right, Earth on top, and Fire on the bottom, forming a triangle. Depending on which direction your are engaging from this can be be a good thing or a bad thing. Ideally you always want the Storm spirit in the back. It is actually slightly favorable to spawn on the right side of the map if you’re going SEF. If all the spirits die, you die. As long as one spirit is alive when the channel ends, you will come back at the exact same health you went in with but with maximum Brew. If the Storm spirit is alive, you will spawn where it does. If it is dead, you will spawn where the Earth spirit is. If Earth is dead, you will spawn where the Fire spirit is. You have three abilities while in SEF, and if a spirit associated with the ability named after it dies, you will lose that ability for the remaining duration of SEF. Storm is the only ranged, both Earth and Fire spirits are melee.
- Q; Storm: Increases the movement speed of all spirits by 50% for 5 seconds. You will be able to effectively use this once per transformation, so decide early if you need to use it to chase or escape. Remember the Storm spirit is the primary spawn point so often when the channel is about to end this is the ability to pop to get out while you can.
- W; Earth: Causes both the Earth and Fire spirits to leap to an area, slowing all enemies by 70% for 1.5 seconds. If you click past the focus target this will body block them incredibly well. This can effectively be used twice per transformation if you use it right away, so try and be close enough to immediately jump on your target of choice when you pop SEF.
- E; Fire: Increases the attack speed of all spirits by 100% for 5 seconds. This is going to effectively be used only once per transformation as well. Once you have isolated a target with Earth, use this to focus them down as quickly as possible.
- Accumulating Flame: This increases Chen’s wave clear during the laning phase quite a bit. The problem is, unless you’re against a very heavy melee team, the resistant won’t be consistently valuable. You have to use the full W-E combo to activate it, and you can’t dodge damage the same way Elusive Brawler and Grounding Brew allow you to, which makes it substantially worse than those two talents. However, you can increase the uptime by taking both Keg Toss (4) and Another Round (16). Even Withering Flames (13) can add to the combo. It usually requires a team that groups heavily, with multiple melee, to be good even with all that synergy, but that synergy it mandatory to even make this close to good enough. For a long time this talent was bugged to only provide 1 second of armor no matter how many heroes hit, that bug has been fixed and it is much better now.
- Elusive Brawler: Can be activating while drinking, denies all auto attack damage, and each of your auto attacks reduces the cooldown by 3 seconds. Assuming constant auto attacks the cooldown is roughly 6 seconds. It applies to tower shots as well, giving Chen obvious advantages in his normal role of lane bully. Correct use of this talent is mandatory for winning the lane early game against heroes like Thrall.
- Grounding Brew: Drinking always leaves you vulnerable to free damage, especially from heroes like Li Ming and Chromie. The combination of reducing the ability damage plus the shield you get from drinking can negate that damage entirely. Against heavy ability damage teams this talent is mandatory just to live through drinking. Even if the enemy is smart and simply doesn’t use abilities on you while drinking, that is still a win because you always get to drink for free.
- Freshest Ingredients: The problem with this talent is, despite the synergies with Chen’s kit, the regeneration doesn’t provide as much health as the mitigation from either Grounding Brew or Elusive Brawler will until it is finished. Chen already struggles in the early game, so taking a talent that is only good in the very late game and denies your strongest early game talent picks is a huge deal. Even then, whether this is actually better than either of those talents when it is finished is highly dependent on the enemy team comp. So only take this on maps where you can finish the quest easily, will get to the late game, and the value of Elusive Brawler or Grounding Brew isn’t obviously high. It does have some synergy with Deadly Strike (4) once the quest is finished but that is a long time to wait.
- Deadly Strike: Removing the Brew cost from Q makes Brew much easier to manage as your remaining two abilities should almost always be used together and cost exactly 50 brew, which makes a full Brew bar equal two rotations. The extra damage is all but guaranteed with the standard combo of D into Q to reposition, or even Q into body block into W-E-D, then Q again to continue chasing and blocking. This makes Chen much, much easier to play especially if you take Brewmaster’s Balance (7).
- Keg Toss: It’s very easy to get stacks for the quest and the range increase is actually quite large. You can easily W to catch up to a fleeting target, Q them, then E. It provides poke to interrupt channels on Towers of Doom, Cursed Hollow, and Tomb of the Spider Queen or even just safely checking bushes. The second charge synergizes incredibly well with Another Round (16). In a real sense the only reason this isn’t the standard talent is because of how hard it is to get value out of it consistently. This is partially because of how difficult it makes Brew management and partially because of the narrow timing windows you’re working with to have a max range W into Q into E and still getting E to ignite. It also essentially allows you to perma-slow a target, adding value to Executioner style talents or Lunara’s Unfair Advantage.
- Ring of Fire: This gives Chen incredible wave clear, ability to take merc camps, and adds damage against melee heroes while Chen is drinking or against ranged heroes while chasing and body blocking. It’s arguably the best talent at this tier for straight up winning a lane against any melee hero, which is a role Chen often finds himself in.
- Brewmaster’s Balance: More regeneration over 50 brew, more move speed under 50 brew, BOTH benefits at exactly 50 brew. It is incredibly easy to maintain exactly 50 brew if you took Deadly Strike (4) and more complicated if you did not. The regeneration is pretty comparable in many ways to Bolder Flavor’s extra shield in fights, but the movement speed is the huge highlight here. Whether chasing, re-positioning, or running, the combination of low cooldown slow on W and the extra movement speed means Chen can nearly always take fights on terms favorable to him. This has the most playmaking potential of any of the talents on this tier, but it is also the most difficult to use.
- Bolder Flavor: Often the enemy team sees Chen using D as an invitation to interrupt him and then try and kill him. The instant bonus shield shuts down this idea with a vengeance. The shield is equal to 12.5% of Chen’s maximum health pool and the extra second makes a surprisingly large difference. It enables easy drinking of multiple tower shots to continue lane bullying and gives you consistent cooldown trades against all heroes who can interrupt your drinking. The extra second you can do neat combos with Another Round (16) where you W-Q-Q to get the bonus damage from Deadly Strike (4) twice in rapid succession. You really can’t go wrong with either of the two dominant talents at this tier.
- Refreshing Elixir: Mostly excels against teams who make the mistake of focusing Chen while his support spams him with heals. If the enemy team is doing that, by all means, make the trade as inefficient for them as possible, but a talent that is best when your opponent is bad is usually not a good talent. Also currently bugged to only give +20% to external healing when not drinking.
- Pressure Point: While it isn’t that common to use Q after W, it does happen. But using Q then using W a second later gives you a substantial amount of two different slows. So even if you never got the second benefit, the first benefit would often be enough to justify this talent, particularly with no Brew cost because of Deadly Strike (4). If you can arrange things so you consistently hit the 3 second window to Q after W to get the 75% slow as a follow up to the 25% slow, so much the better. This is notably much easier with Keg Toss (4).
- A Touch of Honey: A 40% slow for 3 seconds on a 5 second cooldown as an area effect is very substantial. Against heavier melee teams, particularly if they are dive heroes, this greatly increases your ability to peel for your team assuming they are willing to back up and take advantage of the slow. It also increases chase potential in general and particularly with Keg Toss (4).
- Withering Flames: On paper this seems like a very good talent. In practice it never quite seems to work, either due to applying the W-E combo at the wrong time, people learning to hold their abilities for a couple of seconds, or not being able to get to the important heroes who do the ability damage at the right time. In theory, the up time should be quite high with Keg Toss (4) and Another Round (16), but it never seems to work out. That said, if you are up against some of the “melee mages” like Kerrigan and Alarak this can cut into their damage significantly when used at the right time and you are less likely to need the slow from the other talents at this tier. Also it is easy to forget that “ability power” applies to healing, as well. If you put this on the enemy support you can cut their healing by 25%.
- Flying Leap: This fixes any issues Chen may have made in regards to chasing. The increased range is enough to get an extra second of D in and still continue to chase. It makes escapes easier by increasing the number of potential targets you can jump to. With so much of everything Chen does wrapped up in his Q, this just makes it all so much easier.
- Another Round: Using this with Keg Toss (4) allows you to consistently keep up the W-E combo basically forever or W-W-W-W as often as you like to poke, check bushes, slow down pushes, and so on. When used with Deadly Strike (4) and Bolder Flavor (7), you can actually use this to W-Q-Q to get the bonus damage from Deadly Strike twice in rapid succession, which is the best single target burst damage Chen has outside of SEF. As you can see all the good uses of this talent require certain synergies, so make sure you take those talents and then use the synergies if you take this.
- Enough to Share: This talent on its own merits is only really good if your team is rather heavy on melee and the enemy team doesn’t have heroes that force you to spread out. It works against damage over time like Lunara’s poison or even Nazeebo’s level 20 Vile Infection, but even for that it is kind of questionable.
- Untapped Potential: The speed is nice, the reduced damage is amazing. The most dangerous part of Keg, especially since it is bugged to turn off regeneration, is getting focused and dying. This makes Keg safe to engage with in the late game and can act as a safe disengage for your entire team. Normally, however, teams are bad at focusing a fast moving target like Keg, so this is only worthwhile if you’ve been dying while using it.
- Elemental Conduit: If you went SEF, there is very little reason not to take the upgrade because it makes everything about SEF so much better. More health, Unstoppable when you need it, the chase mechanic cooldown is reduced, and the damage is increased substantially.
- Purifying Brew: Assuming you are consistently getting interrupted while using D by stuns or silences, this will help but in general it is better to learn to outplay the interrupts or take them as favorable trades in terms of cooldowns. That said, the reduction against certain compositions can be the make-or-break between a late game death or managing to live. That comes down to a game by game decision but you do have 19 levels to figure it out.
- Stormstout Secret Recipe: With two area abilities and all of his abilities on no more than a 5 second cooldown, this is pretty intense sustain in the late game considering Chen is a difficult hero to burst out and incremental sustain is very valuable on him. It’s especially useful if you take Keg Toss (4) for the second charge and Another Round (16) for the increased size on W and the reduced cooldown effect on your next ability.