Contrary to popular belief, TLV have multiple viable playstyles and builds. Factors that determine how to play and build them include your familiarity with the hero(es), team composition, map (number of lanes, type of objective, camps), preference for micro vs. macro, and, of course, your proficiency.

Who Should Learn to Play as TLV?

You! Here are some good reasons:

  • You have or want to develop a strong sense of the macro game
  • You want to improve your minimap awareness
  • You want to climb with a hero that is rarely contested (ie: banned; your teammates’ preferences are a different issue)
  • You have or want to develop excellent multi-tasking skills
  • You want a challenge

Basics

Olaf

  • Tanky
  • Can regen HP when out of combat
  • Right-click target to slow (8 second cooldown). This can be talented into a stun.

Baelog

  • AOE damage (splashes behind target)
  • Good for split pushing

Erik

  • Fast; can be used to chase or kite
  • Ranged attack
  • Relatively high single-target DPS

Trait

Gathering a Regeneration Globe with a Viking permanently increases all their Health Regeneration by 0.5 per second

Mount

“Go Go Go!” – 30% movement speed for 4 seconds

Abilities

The Lost Vikings Guide - HotS 1

Unlike other heroes, TLV have no abilities at baseline. You must acquire them through talents. Using an ability affects all Vikings (except bribe).

Spin to Win!

  • AOE burst damage [101 (+4% per level)]
  • 10 second cooldown

Jump!

  • Invulnerability for 1.5 seconds
  • 30 second cooldown

Bribe

  • Instantly defeat a merc unit (40 stacks)
  • Gain 1 stack per nearby enemy minion/merc killed
  • If an entire camp is defeated with bribe, it will spawn 50% faster

Norse Force!

  • Gain a shield 110 (+4% per level) to 220 (+4% per level) depending on how many Vikings are alive
  • 30 second cooldown

Nordic Attack Squad

  • Basic attacks deal 1% of a Hero’s maximum health for 5 seconds
  • 30 second cooldown

Heroics

Longboat Raid!

  • Become unstoppable
  • 112 (+4% per level) damage per second and can fire a mortar that deals 205 (+4% per level) damage in an area
  • Health depends on number of Vikings alive
  • Stunned when destroyed
  • Lasts 15 seconds
  • 90 second cooldown

Play it Again!

  • 1 Viking can channel for 2 seconds
  • All Vikings are warped revived and healed to the area
  • 80 second cooldown

When to Draft

Maps

Excellent on any 3-lane map except Tomb of the Spider Queen. They are viable on 2-lane maps, but only if you are extremely skilled technically. That being said, there are usually better picks for 2-lane maps.

If you are still in the process of learning or mastering TLV, stick to playing them on large 3-lane maps to minimize ganks, such as Cursed Hollow and Warhead Junction.

Pick Position

If you are confident in your abilities, and your team is on board, then first-picking them is fine. If you need to improve your minimap awareness (to avoid dying) or plan on doing a lot of team fighting, draft them later to avoid counter picks.

Team Composition

Best with one true solo tank. Rest is variable and can depend on map. Ideally, burst damage and CC is best for ganking. Another option is for a pushing comp. Lastly, there is a poke comp for channeling objectives. The important thing is allowing TLV to do their job.

Counters

TLV’s #1 counter is teammates who die. TLV’s #2 counter is teammates who die. TLV’s #3 counter is an enemy hero who can push without being punished (ie: teammates who do not rotate, and are themselves not pushing fast enough to make up for it). I realize that I am putting a lot of responsibility on my teammates. When I get 9 MVP votes at the end of a match, I am the first to say that TLV only works if the team plays together. Sometimes it is possible to carry as TLV, but more often than not, poor teamwork will lose the game.

How to Play Along with TLV – AKA “What to tell your teammates”

Mandatory

  1. Don’t die
  2. Avoid 4v5

Ideal

  1. Stay as 4
  2. Gank their pusher(s)
  3. Don’t kill minions (easier for TLV to soak)
  4. Do whatever the tank says
  5. The longer an objective lasts, the better.

How to Learn and Master TLV

Here are some objectives you can try to accomplish. Think of these as missions you need to accomplish to progress.

Beginner

  1. Start in vs. AI.
    1. Learn how to control each Viking individually, as pairs, and all together.
    2. Try out each ability and heroic
    3. See how far you can be to safely soak
  2. Continuing in quickmatch
    1. Get ready to lose many games
    2. Let teammates know you are new to TLV
    3. Use my Beginner’s Build
    4. Hide Erik somewhere in bottom lane where he can soak
    5. Keep Olaf and Baelog in the same lane. Use Olaf as a tank/ward

Novice

  1. Camps
    1. Try to solo with Baelog
    2. If you did not go Baelog-build, practice camping with all 3 Vikings.
  2. Soaking
    1. Split Vikings to cover all lanes
    2. Soak safely and get in the habit of collecting regen globes
  3. Objectives
    1. Try sending 1 Viking at a time
      1. Olaf to tank shots
      2. Baelog for damage
      3. Erik for damage and harassment
    2. Be aggressive with the split push with your other Vikings, if all enemy heroes are accounted for
  4. Map awareness
    1. Get in the habit of looking at your minimap
    2. Try to account for all enemy heroes

Intermediate

  1. Camps
    1. Work on proper timing to maximize value
    2. Try to steal enemy camps
  2. Objectives / Team Fights
    1. Make meaningful contributions without dying
    2. Use Olaf to stun/slow an enemy hero (right-click)

Advanced

  1. Camps
    1. Solo boss
    2. Steal enemy camp without bribing all units
  2. Shift-queue movement commands
  3. Objectives / Team Fights
    1. Stall a channeled objective by yourself without dying
    2. Secure a kill with Olaf’s stun
    3. Chase down a kill with Erik

Master

  1. Solo boss without:
    1. Healing talents
    2. Using Jump
    3. Play it Again!
  2. While actively microing one Viking in combat (distraction away from your teammate), have another Viking use Play it Again! to escape before he dies
  3. Solo kill an enemy hero (with or without Play it Again!)
  4. Team Fights
    1. Bring all Vikings
    2. Keep them separated
    3. Flank the enemy from at least 2 sides

Builds

Default Build

Viable in almost all scenarios. Provides TLV with both split push and combat potential.

LevelTalentVikingReason
1BribeAllQuickly take camps
4Mercenary LordAllEmpower mercenaries; stronger split push. If you steal an enemy camp, such as their siege on Cursed Hollow, you can get quick and easy damage before they can rotate. You can solo bosses.

Erik the SwiftErikOnly on maps with weak camping, or channeled objectives. I always take this on Towers of Doom – it allows Erik to harass the altar and stall it until backup arrives.
7Spin to WinAllIncrease waveclear. Burst damage.
10Play it Again!AllGlobal presence, escape, and additional sustain in fights
13JumpAllIncreased survivability, escape.
16Large and in ChargeOlafPoint and click stun (right click with Olaf, 8 second cool down). Enemy team never suspects it.

ExecutionerAllIf your team already has strong CC, this will tremendously increase your damage output.
20Fury of the StormAllExtremely strong split push. De-pushing lanes when behind. Quickly able to take camps even without bribe.

Beginner’s Build

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For those just starting out with TLV, this build allows for safe playing, while minimizing the punishment for your mistakes.

LevelTalentVikingReason
1Spy GamesErikLets you forget about Erik while you get used to micromanaging Baelog and/or Olaf.
4Pain Don’t HurtBaelogSustain.
7Baelog the FierceBaelogImproved pushing and sustain with Pain Don’t Hurt.

Spin to WinAllUsually better, albeit more difficult to use. If you get used to this ability early on, you will be better off in the long run.
10Play it Again!AllGlobal presence, escape.
13JumpAllIncreased survivability, escape.
16Impatience is a VirtueAllMore frequent ability use.
20Fury of the StormAllFewer minions to take damage from.

The Sequel!AllDeaths are less punishing.

Split Push Build

Only use when you are not planning on joining team fights.

LevelTalentVikingReason
1Explosive AttacksBaelogIncrease waveclear.
4Pain Don’t HurtBaelogSustain.

Erik the SwiftErikSustain.
7Baelog the FierceBaelogImproved pushing and waveclear.

Spin to WinAllIncrease waveclear.
10Play it Again!AllGlobal presence, escape.
13JumpAllIncreased survivability, escape.
16Hunka’ Burning OlafAllIncrease waveclear.
20Fury of the StormAllExtremely strong split push. De-pushing lanes when behind. Quickly able to take camps even without bribe.

Combat Build

This is, in my opinion, rarely the best build to use. Ues this if you are going to solo lane as TLV and plan on joining team fights from early on. You must have exceptional mechanical skills in order to use this playstyle.

LevelTalentVikingReason
1Olaf the StoutOlafIncreased tanking ability. Take damage, then run away to regenerate.
4Pain Don’t HurtBaelogSustain.

Erik the SwiftErikChase down kills, dodging skill shots, causing distractions.
7Baelog the FierceBaelogImproved damage output.

Spin to WinAllBurst damage.
10Play it Again!AllSustain in fights. Sacrifice a Viking to absorb a skill shot (care with resets for Genji or Li Ming), then suddenly appear again behind enemy lines!

Longboat RaidAllImproved damage output.
13JumpAllIncreased survivability, escape.

Nordic Attack SquadAllBurst damage.
16Large and in ChargeOlafPoint and click stun (right click with Olaf, 8 second cool down). Enemy team never suspects it.

ExecutionerAllIf your team already has strong CC, this will tremendously increase your damage output.

Impatience is a VirtueAllMore frequent ability use.
20Checkpoint ReachedAllSustain in fights. Enemy just wasted all their mana on you!

Ragnarok ‘n’ RollAllImproved damage output.

Soaking

If you see the golden XP text appear when a minion dies, you are close enough! You do not have to kill the minions to get experience. It is safest to “freeze” the lane and stay near your towers.

Triple-soaking is TLV’s main advantage. If a Viking dies, not only does the enemy team get experience from the kill, but soak is potentially lost. Do not be afraid to hearthstone for health – just time it for right after you soak a wave. You will generally make it back in reasonable time without much experience lost.

Laning

This can make the difference between a Diamond-level player and a Gold-level player.

Soaking might be the most important thing, but if your team is “4v5 all game”, then you want to give them every advantage you can. As you get more comfortable with individually controlling Vikings, be more aggressive with collecting regen globes and even pushing.

Kill the wizard first! This will generate a regen globe. If you can safely grab it, then great! If not, just hang tight and soak up the experience. The next step is to decide whether or not you should push or freeze the lane. This has to be a dynamic decision. Early game, I tend to freeze. After I grab the globe from the enemy minion, I sit back and let their wave kill my wizard minion. In doing so, the experience to be soaked is more safely positioned by my towers, and I can potentially steal the globe for myself. If you decide to push by killing enemy minions, then your allied globe may spawn very close to their towers, leaving you open to ganking while you soak or try to grab it.

Later in the game, when you have more waveclear (eg: Spin to Win!, Baelog talents, etc.), it may be better to push. You will get better tower damage as more of your minions are present. Just make sure enemy heroes are accounted for. The best way to do this is to kill the archer minions (after the wizard of course). This is because they have lower HP, but higher damage. Therefore, your minions will have more HP for their assault. With Baelog, I try to meet the enemy wave while they are in a line. I will then kite them by stutter-stepping.

Learn to attack-move and shift-queue. These are best used when a Viking is spawning or you need to focus elsewhere, such as during an objective. When respawning, consider attack-moving to some point in your target lane. To maximize efficiency, I will often set a Viking to stand adjacent to the enemy wizard minion, kill it, collect the globe (since he is already in position), and then do whatever it is I want him to do next (hide, push, etc.). 

Camps

Many ways to do them. Siege camps can be solo’d by any Viking. Bruiser/Shaman/Hard camps will require at least 2. The easiest way is to have Olaf tank, back off to regen, and return.

Position Baelog so his splash hits as many targets as possible. Position the others such that Spin to Win hits as many targets as possible.

Bosses can be solo’d. Have Olaf tank, back off to regen, and return. The difficult part comes in avoiding the Boss’ AOE attacks. If you get hit, you may end up having to use Play it Again to heal up.

TLV’s bribe can reduce the respawn time for a camp if all units are captured with it. This has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of this is that you can potentially have multiple camps pushing down a single lane. The disadvantage is that if you steal an enemy camp with bribe, they may clear it and shortly after capture it again for themselves. Ideally, when stealing an enemy camp, you save at least 1 mercenary unit to be killed without bribe. If you do this right before an objective, you both force them to respond to clear it, and you deny them from getting a camp of their own. For bruiser camps, bribe the knights and kill the wizard yourself. For shaman camps, bribe the shaman.

Timing is important. You want to maximize the value of a camp, so ideally have one pushing during an objective; however, you also do not want to miss soak. Therefore, I will argue that there are no hard and fast rules for when to get a camp. TLV must be dynamic.

Vision

Vision provides an enormous advantage.

Try to capture watchtowers/vision when safe. Just be sure you are not sacrificing large amounts of soak. When capturing a watchtower, you inevitably reveal your position to the enemy. This is important to note if you are trying to steal a camp, as they can rotate, kill you, and capture that freshly-bribed mercenary. In higher levels, assume that they notice you took vision and will anticipate that you are going for their camp. As a next-level TLV player, however, you can anticipate their anticipation. Time the vision capture such that someone will rotate and be late for an objective, thereby giving your team yet another advantage. They may take the time to capture the camp or vision since they are already there, but that just means they will be even more late for the objective. If they leave immediately for the objective, then you know the camp is safe for you to steal.

Walls are often neglected. As long as your team does not have someone who relies on a wall for an escape or stun, then you should pretty much kill walls when you can. Vikings are great for this because they can take the time to do so and still fulfill their primary role.

Fights

TLV actually have high damage output. This is obviously magnified with certain talents such as Executioner. Note that Olaf’s right-click charge slows by default and will trigger this. Spin to Win provides high burst damage, and is maximized when all Vikings are together.

Flanking allows you to:

  1. Get damage onto the backline
  2. Potentially make an enemy chase you; drawing them away from more important targets

With Play it Again, you can warp to the backline, burst the healer or mage, then Go Go Go! to freedom.

In 1v1 situations, you can kite the enemy with either Baelog or Erik. Once the enemy’s HP is low enough, Play it Again, stun with Olaf, triple Spin to Win, then b-step or spray.

Using Heroics

Play it Again!

Here are some uses:

  • Warp all Vikings to lane opposite from objective to split push
  • Save a Viking from a gank
  • Surprise burst damage and potential solo kill
  • “Get out of jail” card

Longboat Raid!

  • To be honest, I’ve tried it three or four times and have only had regret.

Key Points

  • Deaths negate soak
  • Grab regen globes
  • Look at the minimap more than the regular map
  • In lower levels, you can outsmart opponents
  • In higher levels, opponents will anticipate your decisions, so outsmart them by anticipating their anticipation
  • When learning TLV, be prepared to die. A lot.