Hero Overview is a series that introduces readers to the Heroes of the Storm. This time, we’re going to be talking about Stukov, a Melee Support from the StarCraft Universe.
Role: Melee Support
Alexei Stukov, the infested Admiral that leads the Zerg Spacefleet, is a warrior feared throughout the entire Koprulu Sector. Stukov was not always the monster he is now, however—in fact, he was once a normal human, and was actually born on the human homeworld of Earth.
When he was a young man, Stukov and his friend (a young man named Gerard DuGalle) joined the United Powers League, a powerful totalitarian organization that ruled the Earth with an iron fist. Constantly pushing to get ahead, Stukov quickly rose in the ranks, and before long, he was in charge of a large research facility, where he looked for ways that the UPL could increase the effectiveness of their troops in the field.
During this time, Stukov also led United Powers League troops to several great military victories, and received many medals for his valor in combat. Before long, Alexei Stukov was one of the best-known heroes on the planet, and it looked like he was destined for a high-ranking role in the UPL government—but then, the Zerg and Protoss appeared and began attacking settlements in the Koprulu Sector.
In order to save the human colonies in this dark hour, the UPL reformed into the United Earth Directorate and prepared to send a fleet to the Koprulu Sector. Thanks to his extensive combat experience and research work, Stukov was promoted to Vice-Admiral and made second-in-command of the expedition, which was led by his friend, Admiral DuGalle. Stocking up on supplies and weaponry, the fleet set out for the edge of the galaxy, where the Koprulu Sector lay.
Arriving at their destination after a long trip, Stukov witnessed the Zerg attack a Terran Dominion base from his command ship, the Battle Cruiser Alexander. Stukov wasn’t overly interested in watching the chaos, as he’d seen hundreds of tapes on the creatures, but DuGalle forced the man to watch the battle, as he believed that if Stukov were to watch the chaos that would occur if they failed, the Vice-Admiral’s resolve would harden, and he’d be a much more formidable force against the Zerg. This strategy worked out, and Stukov resolved to dedicate his life to exterminating the Zerg threat.
Sending his fleet to the planet Braxis, Stukov attempted to blockade the Protoss, who raided the planet for unknown reasons. Stukov was not prepared for the power and craft of the ancient alien race, however, and the Protoss raiders managed to penetrate the blockade and escape into space. Angered by this, and determined to discover why the Protoss had attacked the planet in the first place, Stukov sent an assault force down to conquer the capital city of Boralis.
Unfortunately, the UED forces were unable to complete their goal—because of a lack of vespene gas—but they did meet the Confederate Resistance Forces and their leader, a man named Samir Duran. Duran had been part of the old Terran Confederacy, but the rise of the Terran Dominion, Duran had dedicated himself to stopping Arcturus Mengsk’s regime. Seeing the UED as a potential ally in this effort, Duran offered Stukov the services of his troops, who were small in numbers but had insider knowledge of the Koprulu Sector that the UED lacked.
Seeing these men and their knowledge as valuable assets, Stukov agreed to let them join his forces, and together, they rendezvoused with the main UED expedition and attacked the Dylarian Shipyards, the main hub for the Terran Dominion’s fleet. Under Stukov and DuGalle’s expert leadership, the forces of the UED managed to capture all the battle cruisers stored at the Dylarian Shipyard, an act that severly hampered the UED’s human enemies in the Koprulu Sector.
With this taken care of, Stukov proceeded to Tarsonis—the former capital of the Terran Confederacy—and recovered a Psi Disrupter similar to the one Mengsk had used to conquer the planet. Bringing the device back to the laboratories on Braxis, Stukov began studying it and its potential wartime uses against the Zerg.
With the help of the battle cruisers stolen from the Dylarian Shipyard, DuGalle and Stukov continued their assault—but before long, things started to go drastically downhill. Gaining the help of Raynor’s Raiders (a human rebel group), the Protoss and even some of the Zerg, Mengsk started to strike back against the UED forces.
Horrified by these events, Stukov began to doubt the UED’s chances of success—and then, in the midst of this chaos, Stukov discovered that Samir Duran was allied with the Zerg, and was likely among the Terrans that had been infested by the vile aliens. Retreating back to Braxis, Stukov activated the Psi Disrupter in the hopes of revealing the traitor.
This action backfired when Duran told DuGalle that Stukov had given up the fight, which enraged the Admiral. Abandoning the fight against Mengsk for the time being, the UED forces attacked Braxis. Stukov’s personal forces held out for a while, but eventually, they were overrun, and Stukov was killed by Duran.
As it turned out, Stukov’s death was only temporary, for only a short time after the defeat on Braxis, the former Vice-Admiral was resurrected by a Zerg cerebrate named Kaloth. Together, Stukov and Kaloth gained control of a large Zerg swarm and proceeded to recapture much of the planet with the help of some Terran mercenaries.
Despite being newly-resurrected, Stukov retained much of the tactical knowledge from his prior life, and he led the Zerg to many victories. This success ended up backfiring, however, as Artanis—a powerful leader of the Protoss—discovered Stukov’s actions and united with Raynor’s Raiders to assault Braxis.
Defeating Stukov’s young brood, the Protoss injected the infested Terran with a serum that caused the infestation caused by Kaloth to temporarily disappear. In command of his mind and body once again, Stukov escaped the planet with the strike force moments before the entirety of Braxis was burned from orbit by the Protoss Fleet.
Knowing that the antidote was only temporary, and that Stukov could end up losing control of his brain again, the former Vice-Admiral was sent to Skygeirr Station, where he was experimented on by Emil Narud for many years. Eventually, however, the infested Terran managed to contact Sarah Kerrigan, the leader of the Swarm, and told her about the secret lab and its true purpose: creating powerful Protoss/Zerg hybrids capable of wiping out all life in the universe. Recognizing the threat these creatures presented, Kerrigan attacked the research station, freed Stukov and destroyed the hybrids before they could be utilized.
Destroying the research station and slaying Narud, Kerrigan and Stukov united to attack Korhal, the seat of the Terran Dominion’s power. Joining forces with Raynor’s Raiders, the Zerg destroyed the Dominion forces and Kerrigan killed Arcturus Mengsk, the man who had left her behind to die on Tarsonis.
Several years later, Stukov joined Kerrigan, Artanis and Raynor in an assault on the Void, where he ran into Narud, who had been resurrected in the service of the Dark Lord Amon. Defeating Narud’s forces, Stukov personally slew the man who had tormented him for so long, before assisting Kerrigan and the others in defeating Amon once and for all.
With the Koprulu Sector saved, Stukov has now turned his attention to the Nexus, which he intends to infest and conquer in the name of the Swarm.
Stukov is a durable support hero who spreads powerful heals over time through his allies and damaging, slowing damage over time effects between enemies. The healing aspect of this is accomplished with his first ability, Healing Pathogen, which infects an allied hero with a disease that heals them for a small amount over 4.5 seconds. This disease will spread to a nearby allied hero every 0.75 seconds, and can continue to spread until every member of Stukov’s team has been healed. The healing from Healing Pathogen is relatively small, but it’s great for topping off heroes outside of team fights.
Stukov’s second basic ability, Weighted Pustule, is the damage and crowd-control half of his disease kit. With this ability, Stukov hurls a projectile that deals light damage to all heroes in its path and infects them with a disease that slows their movement speed by 5% immediately and ramping up to 50% after three seconds. This ability doesn’t do a lot of damage on its own, but it is great for securing kills or helping allies get out of harm’s way.
Now, while Healing Pathogen and Weighted Pustule are decent abilities in and of themselves, they draw their true power from Stukov’s trait, Bio-Kill Switch. When Stukov activates his trait, it immediately removes his diseases from all afflicted targets and does either a large burst of healing (to heroes affected by Healing Pathogen) or a small amount of damage and applies a 70% slow (to enemies recently hit by the Weighted Pustule). Bio-Kill Switch grants Stukov a surprisingly large amount of burst healing, in addition to some very powerful crowd control.
Unlike Healing Pathogen and Weighted Pustule, Stukov’s third and final basic ability, Lurking Arm, is unconnected to his trait. Plunging his army through the ground, Stukov creates a large pool of creep that deals a moderate amount of damage per second and silences all enemies in the area. This ability is very good for zoning enemies out of important areas, as it can last indefinitely. Unfortunately, Stukov cannot move while channeling it, so correct positioning is everything.
Both of Stukov’s heroic abilities are centered around creating separation, but in very different ways. For his first heroic, Massive Shove, Stukov shoves his infested arm out in a targeted direction. If this shove makes contact with an enemy hero, Stukov stuns the target and pushes them until they hit an unpathable object such as a wall or fort, at which point they take a heavy amount of damage. While Stukov is shoving the enemy hero, he gains 50 Armor (reducing all damage taken by 50%), but he isn’t Unstoppable, so a simple stun can end the push. Massive Shove has a relatively short cooldown (only 20 seconds) so it’s great for getting rid of pesky dive heroes.
Stukov’s second heroic ability, Flailing Swipe, serves a similar purpose as Massive Shove. With this ability, Stukov swings his arm outwards three times, with each swing going farther than the ones before. Enemies hit by this ultimate take a small amount of damage and are knocked away, so Flailing Swipe is great for pushing back entire teams that attempt to dive onto Stukov during a fight.
Stukov is a hard-hitting Melee Support who uses diseases to heal and damage his enemies and his infested arm for crowd control and disengaging. With Healing Pathogen, Stukov can easily keep his team healthy—as long as they stay together—and if anyone gets too low, he can pop Bio-Kill Switch to put out a burst of healing.
On the damage/crowd control side, Stukov has Weighted Pustule for slows, Lurking Arm for silences and wave clear, and his ultimates (Massive Shove and Flailing Swipe) for protecting himself and teammates from dive heroes such as Illidan or the Butcher.
As befitting a support of his complexity, Stukov has a pretty complex talent tree, with two unique builds: a build that deals damage and slows with Weighted Pustule and Bio-Kill Switch and a build that uses the power of the Lurking Arm to control the battlefield and execute vulnerable heroes.
For the Weighted Pustule build, Stukov takes either Fetid Touch (a quest that decreases the cooldown of Weighted Pustule after hitting enough heroes) or Poppin’ Pustules (a quest which causes Weighted Pustule to do area damage upon detonation, as long as Stukov can detonate 10 of them without dying) at level one. Fetid Touch is the safer option, but if he’s not being targeted by enemy dive heroes—and if his team isn’t having trouble in the healing department—Poppin’ Pustules has a higher payoff.
At level 4, Stukov can take any talent, and at level 7, Stukov takes either The Long Pitch (which doubles the range of Weighted Pustule) or Targeted Excision (which reduces the cooldown of Bio-Kill Switch to 5 seconds if Stukov detonates exactly one Weighted Pustule). While Targeted Excision has the bigger payoff, it can be very difficult to get usage out of, so The Long Pitch is generally better.
At level 10, both heroic abilities are usable, and at level 13, Stukov has Virulent Reaction, which roots enemy heroes if Bio-Kill Switch detonates a Weighted Pustule on them while they’re standing inside Lurking Arm. Now, this may sound really complicated to pull off, but it actually isn’t too bad, and can lead to some quick takedowns against dive-oriented heroes.
At level 16, this build can take Eye Infection (which increases the damage of Weighted Pustule and causes it to blind the target when detonated) but in many cases, Stukov will just take one of the other three talents, which greatly increase his healing capabilities.
Finally, at level 20, Stukov can either take one of the heroic ability upgrades, or he can take Bio-Explosion Switch, which causes Bio-Kill Switch to also detonate Lurking Arm, which applies a Weighted Pustule to all enemy heroes inside and silencing them for 2 seconds. This is a very powerful talent, and will be the go-to talent for this build in nearly every case.
The Weighted Pustule build is great on maps with large, open spaces (such as Battlefield of Eternity or Blackheart’s Bay) as it allows Stukov to poke at enemies from long range. It’s also good at dealing with dive compositions, as Stukov can slow enemy dive heroes down long enough for them to be destroyed by his teammates. On the other hand, however, if Stukov is fighting on a smaller, tight map with lots of corridors (like Cursed Hollow or Haunted Mines), the Lurking Arm build is often a bit better.
At level 1, the Lurking Arm build takes Growing Infestation, which increases the size of Lurking Arm by 50% over 2.5 seconds. This allows Stukov to control a much larger area with this ability, and is essential to the success of the build.
At level 4, Stukov can take whatever he wants, but at level 7, he has two distinct choices: Within My Reach (which increases the range of Lurking Arm by 50%) and It Hungers (which restores mana and decreases Lurking Arm’s cooldown ever time it hits an enemy hero). Generally speaking, Within My Reach is the best talent to take at this level, but if Stukov is using Lurking Arm a lot—as in, every couple seconds—then It Hungers can work out.
Like with the Weighted Pustule build, Stukov can take whatever he wants at level 10, but at level 13, he gets another choice between Low Blow (which massively increases the damage of Lurking Arm against low-health heroes) and Lingering Spines (which causes Lurking Arm to persist for a couple seconds after Stukov stops channeling). Low Blow can allow Stukov to finish off low-health enemies, but Lingering Spines is good in more situations. As a result, deciding which one to take will be on a game-to-game basis.
At level 16, Stukov takes any of the healing talents (depending on the situation he’s been facing), and at level 20, he either takes one of the heroic ability modifiers or Bio-Explosion Switch. All of these are equally good for the build, so deciding which to take is purely a matter of personal preference.
Stukov is a great healer for slow, methodical teams that stick together at all times after level 10, as his Healing Pathogen allows him to keep his teammates topped up as long as they stay relatively close together. On the other hand, Stukov is a very poor healer for dive-oriented teams, as he has trouble keeping up with their natural tendency to spread out.
In combat, Stukov is strong against most enemy dive heroes, as he can slow them down with Weighted Pustule before finishing them off with his auto-attacks—which do the most damage of any hero in the entire game. In addition, Stukov can use Massive Shove to throw characters such as Illidan or Malthael back into Stukov’s forts, where they are quickly melted by Stukov’s defensive structures.
On the other hand, Stukov is weak against ranged dps such as Jaina or Li-Ming, as they can outrange most of his abilities (unless he took The Long Pitch at level 7). He is also pretty weak against stun-oriented compositions, as the only way to escape a coordinated team effort to bring him down is with Flailing Swipe, which can only be used once every 80 seconds.
As long as Stukov stays out of trouble, however, he can output some of the highest healing amounts in the game, which means that he’s a great healer to take in most situations, and I highly recommend him.
Hope you enjoyed the article, and I’ll see you in the Nexus!