She’s sexy, she’s lethal, she’s invisible, and while everyone wants to play her, no one seems to know how. Let’s discuss some tips for playing Nova in Heroes of the Storm!

Check out the Heroes of TAY Storm intro article for details about the series and a list of all the heroes that we have discussed. Use HeroesFire.com’s fantastic talent calculator to review the talents and builds discussed in this article! This guide was last updated on 7.26.2015.

I fell in love with Nova the first day I started playing HotS during the public alpha. She was my primary hero then, and remains my favorite hero to this day. What better hero to kick off this series?

General Tips

  • At the beginning of a game, make sure you’re never alone in a lane. Nova is not a lane-clearing hero, bit rather a roaming hero. New players may see you alone at the start of a lane and assume you are going to handle it on your own.
  • Unless absolutely necessary, never use Nova to clear lane minions. Nova’s job is to stay invisible until she can help assassinate a hero. When you shoot at lane minions, you reveal your position on the map to the enemy team. To make matters worse, Nova has some of the worst lane-clearing abilities in the game.
  • Don’t stop moving. Nova should constantly rotate between lanes while taking pot-shots at enemy heroes. Nova is most effective when the enemy team can’t keep track of where she is. This ensures your enemies are always nervous about pushing a lane too far past their towers.
  • Don’t solo mercenary camps. Even helping others defeat mercenary camps is questionable. Nova’s power is in her abilities, and her mana is precious. Wasting abilities on mercs is usually not a great idea (unless you’re bursting down a boss), and Nova’s basic attacks do minimal DPS (damage-per-second).
  • Always place your holo decoy before attacking. If you want to master this technique, learn the attack rotation and timing of your decoy (Q, auto-attack, then W with random movements) to make the real Nova harder to identify.
  • Place your decoy in places where the real Nova would be, like bushes. Plopping your decoy in the middle of a lane and then shooting from a bush makes your decoy pretty easy to ignore. Sometimes it’s best to place your decoy directly on top of the real Nova to throw off your opponents who are good at tracking Nova’s cloaked blur.
  • Be patient. If there is one thing that gets Novas killed, it’s engaging without any nearby team members or trying to chase an enemy into unknown territory. Waiting until an enemy is stunned or stops moving is the best way to ensure you land Snipe - Nova’s hardest-hitting ability.
  • Being invisible doesn’t mean you can’t be seen. Most experienced players are really good at picking out your blur as you ride around in the middle of lanes. Play as if you aren’t invisible by waiting in the shadows for the right moment! (Thanks, Evdor!)
  • Always have an escape route when you do choose to attack. Despite your best efforts decoy may not fool them and until level 20 you have no escape. Your options include anywhere that breaks vision and buys you time to recloak or protected by team-mates forcing players to take risky dives to chase you. (Thanks, Evdor!)
  • In team fights, Nova usually has two options: be the first to engage, or be the last to engage. Trying to time and aim her abilities in the middle of a team fight, with ults going off everywhere, is a good way to get her killed. However, a well-placed round of abilities on an over-extended support or assassin can turn a 5v5 into a 5v4 when your team jumps in. Nova is also great at cleaning up after a fight. This, like almost every other aspect of Nova, requires patience. Hide and wait for an enemy with low HP to strike. (Thanks, MadChem!)
  • Don’t try to solo enemy heroes at full HP unless it’s late game and you have full stacks of gathering power and double decoy ready to go. Even then, you probably want to wait until Rewind at level 20 or Triple Tap to be up (if you chose that heroic ability). It’s not that Nova can’t solo enemies with her burst (unless they are a warrior... or Butcher), but you you leave yourself vulnerable if that hero isn’t dead in seconds. If you fire off everything and they survive, get the hell out of there. Nova has no follow-up, and no escape, and you don’t know if another enemy is nearby to chase you down.

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Heroic Abilities

Nova’s heroic abilities are Triple Tap and Precision Strike. I’m going to get crap for saying this, but it must be said: Triple Tap is not a great ability. It is far too easy to counter, and only works well if you get matched up against a team that either has zero warriors, or zero communication and teamwork. Here are my thoughts on both abilites:

Triple Tap

  • It’s very easy to counter by interrupting or killing Nova while she stands there channeling the ability.
  • It’s easy for enemy heroes to get in front of the target to block the laser pulses.
  • Enemy structures block the laser pulses.
  • Long 100s cooldown.
  • If just one laser pulse lands before you are interrupted, you have to wait for the full cooldown.
  • The level 20 Fast Reload ability that resets Triple Tap’s cooldown on a kill is great, but is wasted if you don’t get the kill (which will be most of the time if you’re playing a competent team). This is practically a required talent for Triple Tap, meaning you can’t take advantage of other potentially helpful level 20 talents.
  • Good long-range tracking to take down fleeing heroes with low or mid HP.

Precision Strike

  • High damage to a large area with almost no channel time and a short target indicator.
  • Can be cast anywhere on the map, even without vision. If the Strike is up when you respawn, you can immediately help in a team fight by dropping your Strike from the comfort of your base.
  • Much shorter 60s cooldown.
  • Works well with many “wombo combo” abilities, such as Zeratul’s Void Prison, Diablo’s Apocalypse, Gazlow’s Grav-O-Bomb 3000, and others.
  • Precision Barrage at level 20 gives you two Strikes, each with independent cooldowns. This is an optional talent, as Rewind is often a better choice (see Talents below).
  • Precision Strike can also be used as an effective zoning tool due to it’s high damage and radius. (Thanks, NateDizzy!)

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Talents

While I’ve seen other Nova builds work, there is one build that allows Nova to utterly dominate in the mid and late game. I use this build in 95% of the games I play, and while it starts out slow, you will dominate in the late game.

My favorite: “The Decoy Build”

  • Tier 1: Ambush Snipe
    You may be tempted to pick Conjurer’s Pursuit due to Nova’s low mana issues for the first 10 minutes or so, but it’s not worth it in the long run. Nova should be focused on killing heroes, not collecting orbs. In addition, the extra 20% snipe damage gets better with later talents.
  • Tier 2: Gathering Power
    Generally speaking, when you have the option to get Gather Power, you should go for it on most heroes. It gives you 5% extra ability power immediately, with 2% more for up to 5 kills, for a total 15% bonus. It’s a risk/reward situation since Nova is a squishy assassin with no escape abilities, but if you play carefully, the late-game payoff is huge. If you tend to die a bit too much, Envenom works for some extra burst damage.

    Adam Puckerfist mentioned that Remote Delivery can also be a helpful talent, as it doubles your decoy cast range and reduces the cool down by 3 seconds. This works well with the rest of the talents in this build, since they focus on decoys.
  • Tier 3: Anti-Armor Shells
    Having trouble fighting the temptation to assist with merc camps and lane minions? This will take care of that problem. Sure, you only attack once ever 3 seconds or so, but when you do, you hit with 250% more damage. It makes Nova even worse at doing anything but pew-pewing heroes, but that’s all she should be doing.
  • Tier 4: Precision Strike
    Unless you’re playing against a team that lacks warriors, or basic skills and communication, you should almost always choose this over Triple Tap. Yes, I know that getting a kill with Triple Tap is super satisfying, but so is dropping a strike on a Healing Fountain to kill an escaping hero you can’t even see!
  • Tier 5: Lethal Decoy
    Here’s where things get dirty. That innocent decoy that soaks damage and helps you get away now deals 25% of your damage to targets (they prioritize the nearest hero when possible). This includes 25% of your Ambush Snipe, Gathering Power, and Anti-Armor Shell bonuses! Advanced cloaking is an alternate option if you’re having trouble escaping battles, or if you find yourself constantly out of mana (which means you’re probably not being patient enough).
  • Tier 6: Double Fake
    Dirty just got filthy. Double the decoys means double the damage, which means your decoys deliver 50% of Nova’s total damage. That is some massive burst, and we’re not even done yet! Crippling shot is the other option at this tier, but works best if you chose to extend the Pinning Shot slow to 4 seconds at the beginning of the game.
  • Tier 7: Rewind
    To quote a certain cartoon character, “Oh that’s NASTY!” Rewind instantly resets the cooldown on all three non-heroic abilities. That means you get to use Snipe, Pinning Shot, and you guessed it, double Holo Decoy twice. That is four extra Novas for a combined 100% bonus damage, in addition to your main Nova’s 200% damage from using each ability twice. We’re talking 300% total damage output over the course of 2-3 seconds, without taking Gathering Power or other bonuses into account.

    Since all of Nova’s extra damage modifiers count towards her decoys, the burst damage from this build is absurd. I’m talking about melting lone assassins before they even know what hit them. I’m talking about getting a level 20 tank to 25% health before they can react in time to pop that damn Hardened Shield. All while five Nova’s run around all over the place. This Nova is feared and hated by all who play against her.

    You can choose Bolt of the Storm if you find that your team has trouble defending you in fights and you are dying more than you should. Getting the extra Precision Strike sounds great, but you often use both at once and then still have to wait the full cooldown before you can use them both again. Rewind works the best with this build, but double decoy is still strong without it.

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Battlegrounds

Keep in mind that a hero can be good on any map, but certain maps play better to a hero’s stengths than others. I’m not going to include explanations for why a hero is better/worse on each map because these guides are already long enough!

Great: Tomb of the Spider Queen, Blackheart’s Bay

OK: Sky Temple, Garden of Terror, Dragon Shire, Cursed Hollow

Bad: Battlefield of Eternity, Haunted Mines

Final Thoughts

Nova is similar to heroes like Murky, where you have to master them before you have a chance at using them effectively in high-level games. Nova also relies heavily on her team to keep her out of harms way in team fights, as she is often the primary target. Nova can easily out-damage popular assassins like Jaina and Valla (Kael’thas is tougher to beat) during the late-game, but her slow ramp makes her an unpopular choice in Hero and Team League matches. She requires patience, precision, and a lot of team work to be effective, but when she is, your enemies won’t be able to stop looking over their shoulders in fear!

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Up Next...

The next Heroes of TAY Storm guide will feature Zeratul. Please post your tips and strategies in the comments and I’ll pick some for the next article!

Any thoughts on this guide or this series? Post comments here and I will do my best to update the guide with your great tips while correcting any mistakes I’ve made. Feel free to hit me up directly on Twitter @thesmi1ey.