Sonya had an amazing showing in the 2016 North American Spring Regionals over the weekend. Fighting for a spot in the upcoming tournament in Korea, the North American teams took a page from that region’s metagame. Sonya has seen some fringe play in North America over the last few months, but in Korea she’s a popular pick. There she has seen a win rate of upward of 75% in the tournament games she’s been picked in and is usually first pick or ban! So what has changed to make the Wandering Barbarian so powerful?
You got your Jungler in my HotS!
Unlike League of Legends and Dota 2, a ‘jungler” isn’t an integral role in Heroes of the Storm. In those games the role exists because Xp is granted based on a player’s proximity to a kill, so if there are two people in a lane the XP is shared between both, with the player who landed the last hit receiving the most XP. A jungler can gain XP and gold in by killing the NPCs in the jungle, allowing another player to stay in lane and get more XP as well. Because teams share all the XP in Heroes of the Storm and there is no gold, there is no pressure for one person to stay out of lane and farm camps.
Sonya challenges this mentality, her incredibly high damage, sustain, and mercenary clearing speed allows her to “jungle” without losing momentum. With a steady stream of mercenary camps you force your opponent back into lane to respond to the constant push. Because of this opponents will have to make hard decisions when map objectives appear. They may lose some towers or a keep to mercenaries if they want to have the whole team available for a team fight. While you don’t receive a large experience bonus for clearing the camps, you may end up getting a massive bonus from the structures they destroy.
The Immovable Object
We’re going to use this build, most commonly used by Naventic’s Zuna. War Paint at level 1 and Ferocious Healing at level 7 are critical to Sonya’s high sustain while “jungling”. While most heroes including specialists lose a fair amount of health and lane momentum while clearing camps Sonya clears them incredibly fast without needing to heal from a fountain or head back to base. When Sonya hits level 10, Wrath of the Berserker gives her a permanent 40% damage increase in jungle. She can maintain 100% uptime on the buff while clearing mercenary camps. Although Mercenary lord is available at level 4 Sonya doesn’t need the damage reduction from mercenaries, and both Focused attack and Shattered Ground provide a much stronger team fight. This build is balanced around having a strong jungle presence, strong utility, and high damage in team fights.
With this build, Sonya has incredible sustain in lane as well. Staying in lane and soaking experience is so important to Heroes. Sonya is an immovable object. If you watch games in the Korean metagame, you’ll notice a trend were Sonya will always solo a lane or protect a map objectives on her own. Sonya is one of the strongest duelists in the game and can force any other hero out of lane. Try claiming a shrine protected by Sonya on Dragon Shire. Sonya started to rise in popularity when Leoric became a common Warrior pick. Sonya is able to put out more damage than Leoric can sustain, winning the matchup almost every time.
Not all maps are created equal
Sonya excels on larger maps with objectives that require team fighting. She can take the mercenary camp while the opposite team isn’t looking and make it to the team objective with high health. Maps like Battlefield of Eternity, Infernal Shrine, Garden of Terror, Sky Temple, and Blackheart’s Bay are all favorable for Sonya. While the teams have a back and forth fight at the map objective the mercenaries will put a lot of pressure on enemy keeps. Sonya’s style for this build doesn’t match well with Tomb of the Spider queen due to it’s small size and map objectives that counter mercenary camps. Keep that in mind when you pick this powerhouse
Oh, Sonya. Your iconic battlecry is a thing of beauty. No longer a fringe pick, during this double tank meta she plays the role of a powerful off tank bruiser. Her “jungling” skills are unmatched except perhaps by Rexxar, but we know who’s better! Even when clearing mercenary camps isn’t part of your game plan she can be a versatile choice, choosing all her Seismic Slam talents allow you to deal a ton of damage. The scaling changes made in the balance patch were kind to Sonya, and the buffs to Rehgar were buffs to a team that drafts her, and most importantly the shift to a stun heavy lineup is good for her. Sonya has seen an incredible amount of play in the Korean metagame, and had an amazing showing in the 2016 North American Spring Regionals. Don’t be surprised if you see her in your next few Quick Match or Hero League games.