In Heroes of the Storm, different characters have different roles and play-styles. I don’t just mean the difference between characters who soak damage and those who deal it – any two characters, even those who fall into the same general category, need to emphasize their unique strengths in order to win.

Take for example my first HOTS character, Murky. This little semi-cognizant fish has fewer than one quarter of most other character’s hit points, his ultimate attack does one single damage per second (at a time when most have many thousands), and he can die easily to waves of NPC minions. Surely such a character should have some innate qualities to offset these penalties, right?

Not really. Murky is honestly a very balanced character, but unless someone specializes in playing the little aquarian they aren’t likely to see much success – he deals too little damage, can’t contribute enough in fights, and is functionally useless when trying to capture map objectives. What good is he then?

Murky has the least amount of hit points, but also the unique ability to respawn from almost anywhere on the map, and only seconds after dying – even at points in the game where death takes other characters out for a minute or more. That means a defeated Murky will hop back into the fray at a moment’s notice. If I can get someone to use an ability on me that doesn’t refresh for 80 seconds, even if I die I, and thus my team, comes out ahead.

Additionally Murky is an easy character for players to overlook. They may see him off by his lonesome, attacking some NPCs, and think “we could kill him any time, no need to worry,” before dismissing him altogether for the next few minutes – by which time he has helped his side’s NPCs do real structural damage to hostile defenses. How often do people ignore the little annoyances and issues in life that we would put energy into fixing if they were just that much more annoying? Murky is like that squeak every time your car turns left – you’re reminded of it while driving but forget as soon as you park and do something else.

I am very, very far from being a great HOTS competitive player, and with the regular changes to game mechanics, I don’t feel it’s my place to speak authoritatively on specific level-up talents or abilities for people to take, but I like to think that I’ve enjoyed playing Murky – and have found success therein – to where I can give some playstyle advice, to help others who are thinking of taking the plunge and getting dirty with this little guy.

    Be Where the Fight Isn’t. Though Murky has two potent area-denial abilities (Pufferfish and March of the Murlocks), generally he’s only good for one blast at the start of a team fight before he has to retreat or die. Instead use that time for soaking XP in other lanes or bribing mercenaries – if you can’t help the team directly at an objective, punish the other team instead for ignoring you. Fully expect less experienced players to get mad at you for doing this however.
    Death is a Great Teleport. If your respawn egg is near the bottom of the map and your team needs you to go to the top for just a minute, feel free to not redeploy your egg – when you need to return to the bottom, often a suicidal run into enemy tower shots is faster, and thus more beneficial to your team, than running the whole way. Nobody else cares how much Murky dies on a map – you shouldn’t either, so long as each life is put to good use.
    Murky can Initiate a Fight. Almost the opposite of my first piece of advice, if presented with a fairly-even team fight situation, don’t be afraid to dive in there. Between the invincibility bubble and the fact that no-one will tell their team to “target the Murky,” you can get in, slime everyone – slowing their escape – and throw a puffer fish to help control area. If you die, no big deal. If not, you just turned the tide of battle.
    Tilting People for Fun and Profit. It’s easy for me to say that Murky is a troll-like character, in that a lot of the successful plays he can make are incredibly annoying and frustrating to the other team, particularly when executed well. Use this to your advantage: taunt other on-screen players by spraying an obnoxious or flashy logo, ride the stupidest and most garish mount possible, and happily kill their minions while dancing just outside of tower defense range. If you can make someone chase you halfway across the map, trying to put a knife in your scaly hide, that means you’ve successfully taken that character out of the fight for the duration of their frustration.

Now a few words about one specific ability: Octo-Grab. Doing one damage per second for three seconds doesn’t seem powerful on its own, and it isn’t, but think about the repercussions of being able to root an enemy hero in place for three seconds – how many direct damage or area of effect skills can your team drop on the helpless player? Whether it’s slowing a fleeing hero or catching someone out in the open, this ability really has some punch if used correctly. Think about dropping a pufferfish on someone (which slimes them if you took that talent), octo-grabbing them so they’re stuck in it’s area of effect, and then sliming them again (for increased damage) right before the fish explodes. A very good little combo, that, and one that can net some juicy kills, particularly after level 20.

Over the past year I’ve learned a lot about setting expectations in HOTS. Players with particular play-styles tend to gravitate toward particular characters, and that’s the illusion I love to foster. If someone plays against me and sees me choose Murky multiple times, they’ll have no clue how to handle me once I join a game as a main tank or heavy damage dealer – I’ve disrupted the preconceived ideas they had, which can only help me.

Murky is a unique character, as most specialist-class heroes are, but I think he has far more utility than most people give him credit for. Whether by single-handedly winning the game with an endless March of the Murdock’s (did that), stealing a mercenary camp from right under the enemy’s noses, or getting an unexpected kill in their back-line damage dealers, Murky is well-positioned to be a fantastic addition to teams that are ready for the play style he benefits from most.