To those recently converted, those who are on the fence, and the “Never HotS” crowd:
Hello all, and welcome to my first guide. I’m going to be talking to you about what brought me to HotS as a former LoL player and why I’ve stuck with this game after a year of playing in spite of my experience with a few other MOBAs. I’m currently ranked Platinum in Hero League.
I have over 2500 games played and a 67% winrate in Hero League this season. I can’t give you advice at the highest level of play (For that I recommend my unofficial mentors Srey, Grubby, MFPallytime, McIntyre, and CavalierGuest) but I do want to touch on a lot of the basic concepts that may seem “Duh” at first but which some of us still struggle with due to bad habits and misconceptions about how the game works.
So briefly, why HotS? What’s the appeal of this game if it’s a “dumbed down” version of Dota 2 or League of Legends, as some have criticized. First of all, if you tried this game when it first started but you didn’t care for it, you were not alone. But rest assured Heroes of the Storm has come a long way in a short time.
Thanks to bans, Unranked Draft, consistent hero reworks and Blizzard’s support of the e-sports scene, HotS is stronger than ever. On its surface – speaking as someone who played League of Legends for years since Season 1 – this game appears simple: If the objective starts you go to the objective, you win the objective, you win the game. Easy right? However, thanks to a rotating hero meta which rarely has the opportunity to become stale, the inclusion of mercenary camps, the timing and variety of objectives, the 11 maps currently in rotation, and the fact that just about every hero is considered viable — There’s plenty to learn and master in Heroes of the Storm. Like a wise man once told me: Its simple but its not easy.
If you played League of Legends or you have experience with similar MOBAs, chances are you’re going to crush your competition when you start your placements. Having strong micro play is huge in this game and will get you far. But it will only get you so far. Simply put: If you enjoyed ADC or Mid in League of Legends and you consistently carried your team, you will likely rank into Platinum or Diamond and you’ll think “ggez!” — and then hit a wall. And you may fall to Gold or worse without a clue as to why.
The reason being: This game is fast paced and it’s centered on your team and small individual contributions. There’s little time to breathe. One of the most important things I can tell you is always be moving. Don’t waste any time in lane if there is a camp to grab, a minion wave to clear or the opportunity to gank another lane. Every second between objectives is about maximizing your gains and attempting to gain a level advantage over your opponent. Many will tell you this is a game of soak. It’s very important you gain not only a level lead but a tier advantage.
As an example, if you are level 10 and the enemy is level 9, this is your opportunity to force a fight on your terms. Bully an objective, take the camp on the enemy team’s side, push the enemy team’s gate or keep. Another big level advantage comes at 16 and at 20. If you can fight with a lead at 10, 16 or 20 you’re almost guaranteed to win that fight. If you are below their tier level, its important that in almost all cases you swallow your pride, cut your losses and attempt to close the level gap by soaking lanes.
However, if you’re in the lower ranks, from Bronze up to Platinum, one thing you’ll find is that you can make the right choice but still be wrong. At these ranks it’s more important that you play your best hero and you work with your team even if they’re making a dumb decisions, because you will absolutely lose this game as a one man army. You can only carry so hard in HotS and you should go along with the crowd until the crowd understands enough about the game to be trusted.
If you keep these few tips in mind you’ll have an easier time climbing to a higher level of play:
1. Every loss is an opportunity to learn. Never blame your team. Especially if you can’t rank up. There isn’t a single troll pick, potato player or toxic maniac that can hold you back from winning 60% of games played. Every game you play will be somewhat of a roulette for a while for who gets the worst player. They may be on your team.
However, you can consistently be the best player that game if you understand when to fight, when not to fight, and you always work towards decreasing the amount of XP the enemy team gains and maximize the amount your team gains. This is why Xul – as someone on Reddit once said – can quietly carry you to Diamond. He clears waves like a beast and he controls fights through a point and click root which basically states “Kill this hero” to your team. But more on him in my next guide.
2. Always focus on yourself and what you did. Nobody else matters. You know that player you’ll occasionally see who says, “Oh my god. I always get trolls on my team. GG.” at 3 minutes after the first blood? What he doesn’t understand is that he has hit a wall. With his understanding of the game, he has gotten as far as he can go. I once felt this way too. “Why do I always get stuck with these people?” Those are the players the matchmaking feels confident you should be paired with. I once read an article that said, “dress like your boss” — If you’re ranked Gold and you want to be Platinum, you can’t play like you’re Gold. Don’t overestimate your skill. Ever. Push your limits and be critical of your play.
3. If there’s a game where you crush the other team or you get crushed, save and watch that replay later. Find out why. Don’t be satisfied with the win and don’t be discouraged by the loss. When you see that replay with a clear head you will notice mistakes the enemy team made or mistakes that you made and your skill will improve as a result. The better you get, the more you’ll start to see bad positioning, and you’ll be able to punish it.
4. Positioning is key. At low levels of play you’ll consistently see a back line hero extending past the tank into danger to try to get a kill and they’ll get away with it. And you’ll often see a tank abandon his back line for the same reason. This is greedy. Simply put. And will often lose you fights. Just about the only hero who benefits from the domino effect of overextending for a kill is Li Ming. Hence her appeal to the pro crowd. Once she starts a kill chain, she can turn the entire fight. But if you chase an enemy out of an objective and they get away and your team loses the 4v4, you just threw the fight. Let them go and win the 5v4. Win the objective. Win the game.
5. Know when to push your advantage. One of the cardinal sins of lower tier play is not knowing what to do with your level advantage and squandering it. The classic example of this is if the game has extended past 20 minutes and you win a team fight but you don’t push for the enemy’s core, then you’ve likely played into the enemy team’s hands… If at least 3 heroes are alive push for the core.That boss you want might be the reason you lose the game. At least try to get lane pressure going by taking a second keep in lane.
6. Objectives are “noob traps”. Blizzard may as well use a neon flashing sign, right? You have an announcer telling you the objective is starting, a “go here” indicator and a countdown timer. But if you try to fight for a Tribute and the enemy team is 10 and you are 9 and you lose you just gave them a +1. And you’re just digging yourself deeper. Sometimes it’s better to fight the Dragon Knight from behind your gate than it is to die denying the enemy team for another short channel. Don’t waste your life. Don’t make your team fight a Dragon Knight in a 4v5. If you can safely delay then delay. If not, “Let it go, Indiana.”
7. It’s not over until it’s over. Ironically a reviewer once said (those of you who know your meme) “this is a game with no comeback mechanics.” My experience has shown me its quite the opposite. Until the enemy team’s core is destroyed you haven’t won. Don’t play dumb. I can’t tell you how many games I’ve seen lost because the winning team was greedy and refused to give up on taking the enemy team’s boss. Or pushed so far with so little resources left they got wiped. Stay focused and try to increase your level lead until you seal the deal.
8. The meta simultaneously means a lot and means absolutely nothing. What I mean by that is this: If Gazlowe (who outside of select maps is considered by many easily punished and “not in the meta”) is your best play your best. However, if you practice enough Unranked Draft or QM to where you feel strong with E.T.C. (Who is generally considered Tier 2 or above, and a high priority pick for pro players) then you stand an even better chance of winning. This is because not only are you playing a strong meta pick but you’re also denying the enemy team a meta pick. This is an important drafting concept I’ll talk about in an upcoming guide. Finally, if you hover Gazlowe for instance (not to pick on the poor Goblin) and someone on your team loses their mind with anger — Its not worth the pick. Once that one person tilts they will spend the game looking for mistakes in your play. They may tilt you or they may tilt your entire team, and eventually its a pitchfork mob against you. Mute them and play your second best.
9. Do not play more than 2 Hero League losses in a row. You will likely continue to lose. Take a break and play QM. Play someone you’ve never played before. Laugh and have fun. Remind yourself it’s just a game and go back to playing Hero League later. This will create a good habit for you instead of internalizing a bad one. Once you gain enough confidence you’ll be able to play through losses or toxic players without tilting because you’ll know it’s just a game. And the point is to improve.
10. (Bonus Tip) Feel free to ignore this last tip because it is 100% my superstitious belief. If matchmaking exceeds the “estimated wait” I cancel search and try again. I do not want matchmaking to “reach” for a good match for me. I don’t want random Golds thrown in so that a game can start. I would rather wait longer for an even match than get lumped in to somebody’s Diamond 1 promotion game. But that’s just me!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this short guide. Next week I will be talking about hero roles and why you may not be playing the role that suits you best. Until then!