As an individual with a significant interest in competitive gaming and as someone who plays a variety of MOBA’s, I’ve always found meta shifts fascinating. In all the years I’ve been playing them, alongside other competitive multiplayer games, I’ve always felt that the determination of a games current meta is lead by a few and followed by the many. Having now played Heroes of the Storm for several months, with my colleague John Hoskin leading the charge on his incredibly popular Tier List, I’m amazed at player reaction to several of the games heroes. One of my favourites and seemingly the most unpopular is Sonya.
My first few matches in Hero League were met with nothing but abuse when I played Sonya, even as first pick and when told I could choose anything I wanted. I was called everything from a fucking idiot, to scum of the earth. “Delete your life” being a favourite insult that seems to regularly be thrown in MOBA’s. What I find frustrating about this is the fact that the mindset of the players throwing the insults is seemingly borg-like as opposed to one of personal experience. I always ensure that whenever I’m verbally abused for picking her, that I ask if that individual has ever played her. The common answer being “no” followed by “I don’t have to - everyone knows she is shit.”
I’m not in anyway suggesting that Sonya is perfect and much like every Hero in the game, she has a role and excels in certain areas. Although she’s a warrior, she lacks the mitigation of Anub’Arak or Tyrael but she makes up for this in a variety of other ways. I think it’s fair to say that she draws some parallels with Muradin in the sense that they both have a leap, a stun (or a method to guarantee engagement) as well as an elite skill that provides a transform. For Sonya it’s additional damage output and crowd control mitigation and for Muradin increased health and stuns from auto attacks. While there are alternatives (Leap and Haymaker, respectively) I believe both Heroes are filling the same role: initiator and brawler.
Many would argue that Muradin is better (he’s considered Tier 1 material right now) and in some ways, he does certain things very well. His Dwarf Toss is a brilliant initiator and Storm Bolt is also excellent at stunning multiple targets. He also has slightly higher base health than Sonya and Second Wind provides valuable sustain. However, Sonya can remain in lane near permanently thanks to her Fury and health regeneration from Whirlwind, while she too can engage fights easily (Ancient Spear) and exit them should she need (Leap). The immediate drawback to Sonya, certainly until level 10 and 13, is that she is seen as weaker by default because her guaranteed “out” is her elite skill on a lengthy cooldown.
Simple comparisons aside, I think what it actually boils down to is the fact that most players aren’t willing to spend the time understanding Sonya’s specific role in comparison to that of Muradin’s, because it’s much harder: he’s far more accessible. For the build I run, I don’t actually take Leap. I don’t feel I need it because with the correct positioning and a healer (every team needs one) the risk of death is not only reduced, but careful use of your skills can regularly guarantee a clean escape. Escape also gets infinitely easier as you level up (Mystical Spear, No Escape and Ignore Pain). Combined with Wrath of the Berserker which you can keep up almost permanently, your damage takes a huge boost and your mitigation even better.
Having said all the above, she’s still vulnerable to Polymorph and stuns (like most front liners) but it’s down to your team to deal with it, as any other. If you don’t have a support healer and instead have only an off (Tyrande, Rehgar) you’ll struggle. If you have one, you can be an absolute powerhouse.
If I could suggest any improvements to Sonya it would simply be to reduce the cooldown on Leap, add a 1 second stun on Ancient Spear and slightly increase her default damage across the board. She doesn’t hit like a wet noodle but outside of Berserker it’s not great. It certainly shouldn’t be to the level of Illidan and other assassins, but considering how squishy she can be it doesn’t seem quite right that her damage doesn’t make up for it.
What I think is important to remember is that Sonya is just a different type of warrior and players should realise that they aren’t all damage sponges. For initiating, lane clearing and camp farming she’s amazing. Even escaping I’d have to say she has the edge on Muradin late game due to her speed and pull. As much as I don’t want to stand here being the only Heroes of the Storm player championing Sonya, all it will take is for one eSport team to have success with her before an entire playerbase changes their minds. I’ve seen it happen time and again over the last few years and it’s a cycle that’s not about to suddenly stop.
Muradin is still exceptional thanks to his stun and elite utility, but it’s also fair to say that Sonya - in the right hands - is incredibly strong.
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