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March 21, 2018



There are many things to love about this fire breathing monster, and he deserves a post similar to which I did on Nova. I will go through his strengths and aspects I like about his gameplay and design. There are few things that I don't enjoy about Dehaka, and I will look at them afterwards. This is not a guide, but it might help readers understand his strengths better. The gameplay guide will be released on after the Fenix guide. Now, let's look at things that make him such great and unique commander.

Hero unit
  • Strong fantasy
    • In campaigns, Dehaka is small and fast. However, in co-op missions, Blizzard has fully embraced the Godzilla theme. Dehaka is big, slow, breathes fire, takes hits from anti-air weapons, and can devour even the biggest hybrids.
  • Unique hero
    • The leveling system for Dehaka is unique among co-op hero units, and draws inspiration from Warcraft 3. Further similarities to Warcraft 3 can be found in buildings that can uproot and fight, which is a feature of Night Elves. The ability of Primal Zerglings to mine resources resembles Undead Ghouls. However, this ability was removed from the game.
  • Early in the action
    • Dehaka appears on the map earlier than any other hero unit. This presents players with more options and choices. Will they slap rocks or wander onto the map to get that sweet, sweet essence? Finding good places to get essence early encourages players to learn maps in a way they never did before. I find this one of the biggest accomplishments of Dehaka's design. Here is a great example of Dehaka's early game with commentary.
  • Devour 
    • Devour rewards precision, speed and decision-making. Lower cooldown when targeting low health enemies is an elegant solution and makes the ability even more interesting. Casual players will be satisfied with devouring big hybrids, while better players will try to maximize the effectiveness of this ability by devouring targets with low health to keep the cooldown short. Different bonuses for various unit tags further increase the complexity of this ability.
    • Psionic explosion might be the most rewarding effect of any ability in the co-op. It rewards positioning, mouse precision and decision-making. For the maximum effect, Dehaka has to put himself in danger in the center of enemy units. But the reward is very high, often resulting in clearing the whole wave. The fact that various enemy compositions have different amount of psionic units forces Dehaka to engage in different ways. This makes enemy unit compositions feel distinct, and Dehaka can't rely on Psionic explosion completely.
  • Good respawn mechanic
    • Losing Dehaka isn't as punishing as losing other hero units. Players don't have to wait to get back into the action, and instead the cost is more to the economy as a result of devouring Primal Drones. Nova's respawn mechanic is still a bit more forgiving, but Dehaka is also a lot more powerful.

    High skill ceiling
  • Challenging micro and multitasking
    • Dehaka has plenty opportunities for micro-management and multitasking. In the early game, players will quickly gain control of Dehaka, and while they are microing him around the map, they have to manage their economy, expand and build dens for Primal Pack Leaders. 
    • Later in the game, dens are built and economy is set up, but the nature of Dehaka, Primal Pack Leaders and his army often encourages players to split them apart. This is because of their individual strengths, Dehaka's Deep Tunnel and ability to summon Primal Pack Leaders anywhere on the map.
    • Note that even (Greater) Primal Wurms have two active abilities. This is very similar to Nova, who has more abilities than almost any player will be able to use fully.
    • Despite all micro-management and multitasking, Dehaka is accessible to players of any skill level. And all these options for an improvement make Dehaka very rewarding to learn and play.
  • Powerful calldowns
    • Dehaka's calldows enable him to push heavily fortified defenses extremely quickly. This lets him collect essence faster, which again enables him to be even more aggressive.
    • Glevig is the first and the best calldown Dehaka has. His Incendiary Acid lets him demolish enemy defenses and attack waves. Glevig can attack several places on the map when using his Deep Tunnel ability. This opens a lot of potential and makes controlling Glevig very fun.
    • Murvar, the Hollow Mother, isn't nearly as fun to control as Glevig, but deciding where to use her for the maximum effect is rewarding in its own way.
Army and economy
  • Several viable unit compositions
    • Most of his power lies in Dehaka himself and Primal Pack Leaders, and so players are free to support them with various unit compositions that fit their playstyle and current mission.
    • While mass Primal Mutalisk is the most all around composition; Primal Guardians, Impalers and Primal Swarm Hosts are all good in many situations.
  • Combined upgrades
    • Combined upgrades, limited research for specific unit types, and cheap and universal unit production structures make mixing different unit types very easy. Also, switching between unit compositions is a lot more affordable.
  • Simplified economy
    • Dehaka doesn't need to make overlords; doesn't lose drones when building Extractors; has one production structure for all combat units; and upgrades are researched directly from Primal Hives. Even if his macro is not as reduced as for Nova, it lets players focus more on microing Dehaka.
  • Accessible detection on the hero unit
    • As with Nova, this makes playing Dehaka a lot more enjoyable. In comparison, getting detection for commanders like Kerrigan, Zagara or Vorazun can be awkward and at times frustrating.
  • Good ability to recover from losses
    • While Nova can struggle to recover from heavy losses, Dehaka does not have that issue. This comes again to the fact that most of his power lies in Dehaka himself and Primal Pack Leaders. All of them are locked only behind cooldowns, and are powerful enough to win brutal missions without the help of an army.

Now let's look at things I don't like as much. However, I understand design decisions behind some of them, and I can see why they were made. After all, weaknesses define a commander as much as his strengths.

  • Static defenses cost supply.
  • Units evolved through primal combat have lower supply than combined base units. While it's good for balance, it makes it little annoying to reach the maximum supply. You will max out, start primal combat, max out again and so on.
  • Dakrun is neither very exciting nor very powerful calldown.
  • I wish Dehaka had more options for his evolutions than available upgrade points. This way your fully leveled Dehaka would be different from the Dehaka of other players'. You could make your Dehaka unique to fit your playstyle, the map and enemy compositions. I hope this will be explored with a future commander.
  • I don't usually complain about having too many things. But considering how his army plays only a minor role, a lot of attention has been paid to it. This is partly because primal zergs have been a part of campaigns. However, Dehaka has almost double combat units compared to Kerrigan, who is more focused on her army and without any calldowns. Then there is the evolve mechanic and random bonuses added through it. The ideas behind it are good, but I wish these mechanics were fully developed and used with another commander, where they could have a greater gameplay impact. Here is a nice video about design by subtraction.
  • It's shame that the ability of Primal Zerglings to mine resources didn't make it through. They already have very little to do apart from breaking rocks, and as I mentioned, there are a lot of army units already. Then again, perhaps we will see this mechanic with another commander when it's more fleshed out.
Wrap up

As with Nova, Dehaka strikes a great balance between having low skill floor and high skill ceiling. More casual players can lean on Dehaka himself and strong Primal Pack Leaders, while more skilled players will find plenty of opportunities that reward micro and multitasking. The best parts about Dehaka are his theme and how differently he plays and encourages players to learn maps better.

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