“Burn in the Light!” a guide to playing Johanna in Heroes of the Storm

If you’re only going to learn how to play one tank in Heroes of the Storm, make it Johanna. There’s really never a bad time to pick her, she’s good at everything a tank wants to be good at and she works well with any team composition. She has great displacement, crowd control, peeling, and she’s incredibly hard to kill thanks to her trait, Iron Skin. She’s easily the most effective tank in the game, overall. Other tanks can be more effective in certain situations, but no one fits into every team composition like our girl Jo does.

First, let’s look at her trait.

Trait – Iron Skin (D)

Become unstoppable and gain a shield that absorbs damage for 4 seconds.

Iron Skin’s short cooldown and moderate duration make it frequently available for use. The ‘unstoppable’ effect makes Jo immune to all crowd control effects (stuns, roots, slows, knockbacks, silences, etc.)

Iron Skin is key to Jo’s playstyle, because it lets her play like an idiot. Jo loves getting dirty. She wants to get in the mix and make things happen. While other tanks are skirting the perimeter of a fight and waiting for the right moment, Jo is charging into the fray and disrupting the enemy’s positioning with Condemn (W). Johanna doesn’t wait for the right moment, she makes the right moment.

Iron Skin is both an excellent engage and disengage, but generally you’ll only be able to use it for one or the other due to its 20 second cooldown. A big part of playing Jo correctly is recognizing when you actually need Iron Skin. It’s tempting to activate it as you rush into a fight, but that means you’re opening yourself up to being targeted and bursted down, since the enemy team knows you won’t be able to use it again for 16 seconds after it wears off.

There will definitely be times when you want to activate Iron Skin as soon as you rush in, say, to make a quick setup for a fast kill. Other times, it’s best saved for use mid-fight or at the end of a fight to escape. You’ll want to keep an eye on your opponents and gauge the situation accordingly. For instance, if you’re up against a Jaina, you may want to hold onto Iron Skin until you see Jaina drop a Blizzard or activate her Heroic Ability.

You won’t necessarily always use Iron Skin for its shield, sometimes you purely want the unstoppable effect. For instance, maybe the enemy Malfurion rooted your team and is about to setup a combo. Rather than waiting for the enemy Jaina and Kael’thas to drop all their damage, you might want to activate Iron Skin right away, breaking the root and allowing you to charge directly into the enemy mages and disrupt them with a Condemn or Blessed Shield.

Preemptively using Iron Skin for the unstoppable effect can also be good if you are expecting a stun from an enemy Tyrande, Muradin, Kerrigan, etc. You can’t use Iron Skin if you’re already stunned, but activating it before an enemy uses their ability means they’ll never get the chance to stun you in the first place. If you have quick enough reflexes, you can even activate Iron Skin just as the enemy uses their stun (some stuns are easier to react to than others).

Now let’s go over Johanna’s abilities, which all deal low-to-moderate damage in a wide area. She doesn’t do a lot of damage to a single target, but she’s constantly hitting multiple enemies and that adds up.

Punish (Q)

Step forward dealing damage and slowing enemies by 60% decaying over 2 seconds.

Comboing Punish after Condemn is Jo’s bread and butter.

Punish is a cleave attack that slows enemies. Punish is best used as a followup to Condemn (W), but it’s also quite useful for peeling. When your teammates need to run from the enemy, you can stay behind and use Punish to slow the enemy team and keep them from reaching your friends.

Condemn (W)

After 1 second, you pull nearby enemies toward you, stunning them for 0.25 seconds and dealing damage.

Jo about to smack Arthas with Punish after he gets sucked in by Condemn.

Condemn is Johanna’s go-to ability. Its huge radius, pulling effect, and brief stun are devastating; Jo can potentially disrupt the positioning of an entire enemy team and set them up for disaster. It’s up to Jo’s teammates to follow up Condemns with big damage, and a good Jo will give her friends plenty of opportunities to do so. Not every Condemn needs to setup a huge engagement, though. Sometimes you may want to section off a single target on the edge of a fight.

Always follow up your Condemns with Punish (Q). Condemn is powerful on its own, but if you combo it into Punish, your enemies will be crippled as they attempt to re-position themselves, which gives your team further opportunities to damage them.

Condemn is also very useful against minion waves. A nice trick that Jo can use when she’s in lane is to Condemn an enemy minion wave and drag it to a more favorable position. Jo can pull the enemy wave back, forcing the enemy team to fight closer to her own Towers for extra defense, or, she can pull the enemy wave forward, allowing her own wave closer to the enemy’s Towers and adding pressure to the lane. This tactic’s effectiveness is dramatically increased via the “Knight Takes Pawn” talent, more on that later.

Shield Glare (E)

Deal damage to enemies and cause them to miss Basic Attacks for 1.5 seconds.

Shield Glare's range is surprisingly far.
Shield Glare’s range is surprisingly far.

Be sure to frequently use Shield Glare on auto-attack heroes, such as Illidan, Raynor, Valla, Falstad, etc. Don’t just spam it, though. Use it during key moments when the enemy team focuses one of your friends; if the enemy Tyrande lands a stun with her Lunar Flare (E), blind her Raynor and Valla teammates so their followup damage is minimized.

In addition the obvious benefits of blinding foes, on maps like Cursed Hallow or Dragon Shire, Jo can use Shield Glare’s long range to safely interrupt the channeling action of enemies from a distance, preventing their capture/activation of the map objectives.

Even though it doesn’t do much damage, Shield Glare can help score kills on low HP enemies that would otherwise be able to flee to safety. With the “Holy Renewal” talent at 16, Shield Glare doubles as a powerful self-healing ability during team fights, allowing Jo to potentially heal herself for almost 25% of her total hitpoints!

Shield Glare is also great against map-specific hero-controlled units, such as the Dragon Knight and Garden Terrors. You can greatly minimize the damage that they do to your structures by using Shield Glare to blind them when they attack.

Heroic Ability #1 – Falling Sword (R)

I do not recommend that you ever use Falling Sword, as Blessed Shield outclasses it heavily. Falling Sword does have a fun gimmick in that it can be used as an escape (you can “fly” over terrain and escape a fight), but that’s about all it’s good for.

Heroic Ability #2 – Blessed Shield (R)

Deal damage and stun the first enemy hit for 1.5 seconds. Blessed Shield then bounces to 2 nearby enemies, dealing damage and stunning them for 0.75 seconds.

Blessed Shield is a long ranged, short cooldown, multi-target stun. You do have to aim it, though.

This is likely one of the best Heroic Abilities in the game. It synergizes wonderfully with Condemn, which itself already stuns multiple enemies for 0.25 seconds. If you combo three enemies after Condemn pulls them in with Blessed Shield, you’re getting a 1.75 second stun on the primary target and a full 1 second stun on the two bounce targets. And then you still get a Punish followup to slow their escape after that!

If the enemy team is running away, you can reverse the process and initiate with Blessed Shield, stun three of them, then run in and Condemn into Punish combo.

The move’s already short cooldown of 60 seconds can be made even shorter via the “Battle Momentum” talent at level 7, which means Blessed Shield will almost always be available during team fights.

Since it’s available so often, it can also sometimes make sense to use Blessed Shield defensively. If your team is fleeing from a dodgy encounter with the enemy, you might consider using Blessed Shield to aid the escape. You can even stay behind after the Blessed Shield for further distance-making via a Condemn into Punish, then activate Iron Skin to cover your exit.

Image via HeroesNexus talent calculator.

Let’s take a look at Johanna’s talents now. She’s pretty set in stone for levels 1, 7, 10, and 20, but has decent variety at 4, 13, and especially 16.

Talent Choice – Level 1 – Knight Takes Pawn

Knight Takes Pawn – Condemn deals additional damage to Minions and Mercenaries and stuns them for 3 seconds.

Almost 100% of the time, you will want Knight Takes Pawn. With this talent, Jo becomes a beast in lane. Each Condemn will deal huge damage to the enemy wave and stun them for 3 seconds, preventing them from attacking. If need be, she can even follow up with Shield Glare to prevent their next basic attack after the stun. All of this also works on Mercenary Camps and map-specific minions (i.e. the Skeletons on Infernal Shrines).

Whatever small advantage you might gain in team fights from ‘Regeneration Master’ or ‘Reinforce’ is greatly outclassed by the supreme map control that Knight Takes Pawn brings. Regeneration Master can be nice, but Jo generally gets more than enough healing from the Level 4 talent “Laws of Hope”. Even if she skips out on Laws of Hope though, there’s still little reason to take Regeneration Master. Knight Takes Pawn is just too good.

Talent Choices – Level 4 – Laws of Hope (or) Eternal Retaliation

Laws of Hope – Regenerate Health every second. Activate to heal 20% of your max Health over 4 seconds.

Eternal Retaliation – Condemn’s cooldown is lowered by 0.75 seconds for each enemy affected. Maximum of 10 targets.

Activating Laws of Hope heals 20% of your health over 4 seconds on a 60 second cooldown, which is a very good option to have. It also gives Jo more base Health regeneration, which is nice. Usually, you’ll want to activate this ability during a fight in order to offset some of the damage you are taking and make your healer’s life easier.

Eternal Retaliation is also a very good pick. It can potentially make Condemn’s cooldown be only 2.5 seconds, which is pretty crazy when paired with Knight Takes Pawn. It turns Jo into a skeleton-collecting machine on the Infernal Shrines map, which makes her extremely strong there.

Eternal Retaliation is also useful against enemy team compositions that require even more disruption than Jo already provides. Usually, Battle Momentum will be enough to keep your Condemns rolling, but if you just absolutely need to keep disrupting the enemy line, Eternal Retaliation comes in handy.

Talent Choice – Level 7 – Battle Momentum

Battle Momentum – Basic Attacks reduce Ability cooldowns by 0.5 seconds.

Battle Momentum means you can more frequently use your Abilities and Heroic Ability simply by attacking things. Jo’s abilities are already fairly low on cooldown time, and Battle Momentum makes the cooldowns even lower. You’ll almost always want Battle Momentum here, but keep The Crusade Marches On in mind for those niche times when you just really need more Iron Skin usage.

The Crusade Marches On – Basic and Heroic Abilities lower the cooldown of Iron Skin by 1.5 seconds.

I think a lot of players undervalue The Crusade. Battle Momentum is usually better, but it doesn’t affect Iron Skin. If you’re up against an unusually high damage team, The Crusade Marches On means you’ll be able to use Iron Skin more frequently, which is very useful. Combining The Crusade Marches On at level 7 with ‘Hold Your Ground’ at Level 13 turns Jo into a super-tank who’s nearly impossible to kill. The main problem with taking The Crusade is that it reduces Jo’s damage and control compared to the more standard pick of Battle Momentum.

Talent Choices – Level 13 – Burning Rage (or) Hold Your Ground

Burning Rage – Deal damage each second to nearby enemies.

Hold Your Ground – Increases Iron Skin’s Shield by 20%, and if the Shield is destroyed by damage the cooldown is reduced by 4 seconds.

More often than not, you will want Burning Rage. Jo spends a lot of time in the middle of the enemy team, and the constant area of effect burning damage really adds up over time. Don’t underestimate how much damage this talent will get you.

Sometimes though, you just need more tankiness, and that’s when you pick Hold Your Ground. Iron Skin already has a large shield, and this talent increases it by 20%. Furthermore, the cooldown is reduced by 4 seconds if Iron Skin breaks, which means you’ll be able to use it much more frequently.

Talent Choices – Level 16 – PICK ALL THE THINGS!

Holy Renewal – Each enemy Hero hit by Shield Glare heals you for a small amount.

Blessed Hammer – Condemn also creates a hammer that spirals around you, dealing damage to enemies it hits.

Fanaticism – While Iron Skin is active, gain 8% movement speed each time you take damage. Stacks up to 40%.

Imposing Presence – Enemies that attack you have their Attack Speed slowed by 40%.

What you pick at level 16 will vary from game to game, as this talent tier really depends on your team’s composition versus the enemy’s.

There was a time that Blessed Hammer was a no-brainer, but a patch widened the hammer’s flying arc and it no longer hits as consistently as it used to. Blessed Hammer is still a good talent if you want extra damage, but it’s not a must-pick.

Holy Renewal is an excellent choice if you are frequently engaging in team fights and need extra healing. It might seem difficult to hit more than a few enemies at once with Shield Glare, but the move’s long range and wide spread make that pretty easy. You shouldn’t have any difficulty hitting 3+ enemies each time you Shield Glare, which provides a great deal of self healing for Jo.

Fanaticism is the least useful talent in this tier, but if you’re planning around frequently engaging and then disengaging, it can be a good pick. Think about this talent when paired with characters like Kerrigan who want to use frequent attempts at ganks, disengaging if a target doesn’t get taken down quickly. The extra run speed can help you bob in and out of fights.

Imposing Presence is an ever-solid choice for any tank. Just keep in mind which enemies you are fighting when you go to pick it, as its usefulness wanes against non-auto-attack heroes. If you’re fighting Raynor or Illidan, definitely consider Imposing Presence heavily.

Talent Choice – Level 20 – Indestructible

Indestructible – Upon taking fatal damage, gain a Shield equal to your maximum health for 5 seconds. This effect has a 120 second cooldown.

You will pretty much always want Indestructible here. Jo is already extremely hard to kill, and this basically lets her cheat death once every 2 minutes. Having a second life means more opportunities to jump into the fray and make plays, which is what Jo does best. Just be sure your healer notices when you proc Indestructible, as they will need to heal you up during those 5 seconds or else you’ll be a breath away from dying when the effect wears off.

Johanna also has the option of picking Storm Shield at this level, but generally in any instance that you would want it, your team’s healer would be better off taking it. Stick with Indestructible at level 20.

Notable Hero Synergies

Jaina — Kael’Thas — Malfurion — LiLi — Azmodan — Abathur — Valla — Tychus — Raynor

"The Holy Trifecta"
In my group of friends, we refer to “Jaina, Jo, Malf” as “The Holy Trifecta” 🙂

Jo works well with everyone, but mages such as Jaina or Kael’thas are particularly devastating with her. Their huge area-of-effect burst damage spells play wonderfully off of Johanna’s Condemn > Blessed Shield > Punish combo. Throwing a Malfurion into the mix as the support character makes this composition extremely potent, as Malfurion’s ‘Entangling Roots (E)’ can combo Condemned enemies, locking them in-place for followup damage.

Though he’s technically a Specialist, Azmodan can also combo quite well with Jo due to his dunk build. His high damage AoE ability, Globe of Annihilation (Q), is a great followup to Condemn.

Another great specialist pairing is Abathur, whose “hat” further increases Jo’s already ridiculous survivability and adds constant damage and poke during engagements.

While Jo definitely plays best with mages, that’s not to say she doesn’t do well with auto-attack heroes. Valla, Tychus, and Raynor do particularly well with her if they pickup the “Executioner” talent at 16; the slowing effect on Jo’s Punish makes enemies take 40% more damage for 2 seconds from Executioner-empowered auto-attacks.

And speaking of auto-attacks, LiLi is another great support pairing for Johanna. Since they both have excellent Blinding attacks, together they can make an enemy auto-attack Assassin’s life miserable.

Map Advantages

Johanna does extremely well on the Infernal Shrines map. With the Knight Takes Pawn talent, she crushes skeleton minions with huge damage, stunning them and grouping them up so her teammates can burst them down. The level 4 talent Eternal Retaliation is also a go-to here, as the huge waves of skeletons will ensure that your Condemn’s cooldown is a mere 2.5 seconds long.

“Burn in the light!”

Hero Counters and Map Disadvantages

None. Johanna brushes away adversity, “like chaff before the wind!” Jo is not countered by any character and she does perfectly well on every single map in the game. She has no major weaknesses. 

I think the only thing to take note of here is that, when laning against Leoric, Jo is slightly outclassed in terms of wave-clear. Leo kills minions just a bit faster than Jo does, but he can’t stun them like Jo, so use that to your advantage by disabling his minions while facing him in lane.

jocloseupJohanna is an extremely effective and versatile character with a relatively low skill cap. She works with every team composition, she does well on every map, and she has no hero counters. What more could you ask for? This is a character that every Heroes of the Storm player should have in their pocket.

“The Crusade calls!”