MadCast: Scooba

Hero League 101:

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A very impressive read on what it is to play high end HotS.  This is a wall (a great wall) of text but if you have the want to get better or seek to understand the game at a deeper level I highly encourage you to read the entire thing.

 

 

So you’ve just hit level 30, and you think you’re ready to shoot up to rank 1 of Hero League. Think again! Hero League is a cesspool of toxic behavior, horrific decision-making, and overall gameplay that inspires the classic philosophic question of “WTF?” Hero League is not a nice place. Still, there are things that players can do to maximize their opportunities to climb the ladder, and there are reasons why some people are able to get to, and stay at, Rank 1 while solo-queuing when most can’t.

Fortunately for you, my experience with the horrors of Hero League and playing at Rank 1 has inspired me to write a gigantic guide to explain many of those things. I’m not interested in offering largely useless, clichéd advice such as “Don’t flame your teammates.” I want to provide real, tangible knowledge that explains the nuts and bolts of the game that the vast majority of players simply don’t understand (much to my horror). Obviously, this guide can’t explain every trick of the trade, but reading this guide should provide novice players with the mental framework needed to be good (or at least better) at HotS. Drafting strategy and gameplay tactics will both be discussed in detail. The information in this guide will enable players to push themselves from the ranks of the casual into the ranks of the competitive. The overall goal is to teach the fundamentals of higher level play, which is applicable beyond Hero League to HotS gameplay in general. The most important thing to understand about climbing the hero league ladder is this: consistently sound decision making is the key to success in HotS. Everything else is secondary.

Class is in session.
 

ON THE TOPIC OF GOOD PLAYER MECHANICS

Let me just get this out of the way and state the obvious: you need to be able to control your heroes confidently and precisely to have any hope of being any good at HotS. If a given hero does not feel like an extension of yourself when playing that hero, then you should not play that hero in Hero League. Practice in quickmatch first to develop proper muscle memory. If you can’t pull off Uther’s triple stun combo at will, don’t play him in Hero League. If you can’t land Tyrande’s skillshots, don’t play her in Hero League. If you don’t know when you can safely dive someone to secure a kill with Illidan (and are prone to suiciding when trying to secure kills), don’t play him in Hero League. And for the love of all that is holy, quit picking Stitches when you can’t land a hook to save your life.

This guide is going to focus on the strategic and tactical aspects of HotS. However, properly dealing with these issues in game requires a certain level of mechanical competence. Make sure that you have it.
 

HERO ROSTER

HotS requires that players to have at least 10 heroes on their roster (excluding free-to-play heroes) in order to play Hero League. Beyond that, players are free to have whatever heroes that they want on their roster going into Hero League. Just because you can jump into Hero League with a roster of Valla, Murky, Abathur, Tassadar, Sonya, Azmodan, Nova, Arthas, Zeratul, and Raynor does not mean that it is a good idea.

Though assassins and specialists are all of the rage, do not play Hero League without a balanced roster of heroes, all of whom that you can play competently. At a bare minimum, you need to own three tanks and three supports. Why? Because these are the roles that most often need filling during the Hero League draft. Why three of each? Because the worst thing that can ever happen is for you to be unable to fill a critical role for a team because all of your heroes for that given class were selected. For example, right now, double support compositions are very popular in the meta. If you have only one or two supports, there is an unacceptably high chance that your supports will be unavailable during the draft. Why put yourself in a position where you are all but guaranteeing a loss at team select? Team compositions matter, which leads us to our next topic.
 

HERO SELECTION

Pop quiz time. You are the fifth pick on your team. Your teammates have already picked Tyrael, Jaina, Falstad, and Illidan. You clearly should be picking be a support. Who should you pick?

      1. Rehgar
      2. Tassadar
      3. Brightwing
      4. Uther
      5. Malfurion
      6. Lili
      7. Tyrande
 

heroesleague_support.jpg

Without regard to who is on the enemy team, there is one, clearly optimal pick here. Picking this hero (we’ll discuss who it is below) will not guarantee your team a victory, but it certainly will put your team in the best position to win the game. Again, team compositions matter. All things being equal, the better team composition will generally win. Success in Hero League, therefore, requires sufficient understanding of who each hero is, what each hero can do, and when to pick a given hero based upon your team’s and the enemy team’s compositions.
 

A. What does the team need?

So let’s start with the basics. The three core roles that every team needs to fill are tank, damage dealer, and healer. Tanks soak up damage and protect squishier characters. Damage dealers are responsible for doing damage – predominantly to the enemy heroes. Healers heal friendly heroes. If the team is missing one of these, it probably is fatally flawed. Yes, there are exceptions to this rule, but they all involve highly advanced strategy considerations that are outside of the scope of this guide.

Beyond the three core roles, there are three utility functions that need to be filled: crowd control (otherwise known as “CC”), initiation, and lane presence.

Crowd control, which includes stuns (we’ll include Polymorph here), roots, and slows, allows your team to assert its will in teamfights by neutralizing enemy heroes to one degree or another. Of all crowd control forms, stuns are the most important because 1) they are the most effective at neutral enemy heroes by stopping them cold, and 2) they can interrupt otherwise devastating enemy heroic abilities such Ravenous Spirit and Jug of 1,000 Cups.

Initiation is the ability to and manner in which your team begins teamfights. Good initiation is very important to success. Generally, tanks will all be competent at initiating teamfights to one degree or another. However, having additional heroes who can initiate can be valuable as well, especially given that initiation abilities often have other uses that may be more ideal in certain circumstances. For example, Thrall can use Sundering to initiate teamfights. But if the enemy team has a Nazeebo with Ravenous Spirit, and Thrall’s team has no other means of reliably interrupting Nazeebo, then Sundering would be better used as an interrupt in that circumstance, leaving initiation duties to someone else. In short, redundancy is a good thing.

Lane presence is what I will generally refer to as a hero’s capacity to control and dominate a lane. Generally speaking, wave clearing and pushing are the two most common and effective ways to establish lane presence. But lane presence can also be established asymmetrically with well-timed ganks and outright out-dueling an opponent.

Lane presence is important in that pushing and destroying towers, forts, and other objectives both gives your team an experience advantage and brings your team closer to ultimate victory. Strong lane presence also forces the other team to react. For example, heroes like Azmodan and Sylvanas cannot be left to their own devices in lane, because they will simply burn down everything in their path, granting their teams an advantage. Ultimately, what a team needs is a means of establishing adequate lane presence in all lanes. There are a lot of ways to skin this particular kitty. But what cannot happen is for multiple lanes to always be in danger of failing. This possibility must be accounted for and avoided during team selection. Make sure that your team can field a lane alignment that can hold its own.

Beyond the core utilities, there are other utilities that can be very important depending upon the map or other circumstances. These include vision, bribe, traditional merc seizure, global movement, burst damage, burst healing, MULE, siege capability, cleanse, and a variety of buffs and debuffs. For example, vision is critical on maps like Blackheart’s Bay and Tomb of the Spider Queen where vision over specific map points needs to be maintained. MULE is tremendously effective on Sky Temple. Haunted Mines is a map where heroes with siege capability can really shine (or just first pick Sylvanas whenever you can….). Debuffs, such as Shrink Ray, are important when your team needs to shut down heroes like Illidan or Thrall. On the other hand, buffs and Cleanse are capabilities that your team probably wants to have to support a friendly Illidan or Thrall.

When one starts thinking about available heroes in the context of which roles they can fill and which utilities that they can provide, one starts to understand why certain heroes are ranked higher on tier lists than others.
 

B. What kind of composition is my team running?

At higher levels of play, some consideration also needs to be given to the type of team composition that your team is running. In particular, players should be aware of the four kinds of team compositions: poke comps, dive comps, wombo combo comps, and siege comps. Each is suited to a very particular kind of gameplay that does not suit all heroes.

Poke comps are those that have a lot of heroes with ranged abilities (and attacks) that can be used for safely harassing and dealing damage to enemy heroes at a distance. Poke comps are more or less the standard team composition. Proper tank selection is typically the most important issue here. The best tanks are the ones that can peel enemy heroes away from the squishy back line. ETC and Diablo are two of the best at this, which, unsurprisingly, is why they are generally considered the two top tanks at the moment. Due to Wandering Keg, Chen is also a sneaky good pick for a tank in poke comps.

Dive comps are those that contain multiple heroes who can initiate teamfights by jumping on and assassinating one enemy hero quickly. Signature dive comp heroes include Tyrael, Illidan, Anub’Arak, Sonya, and ETC. Any hero who has access to Blood for Blood, which is a critically important assassination tool, should be prioritized for dive comps. Likewise, heroes with other heavy-hitting abilities that can help quickly erase dive targets should also be considered for selection. Supports with access to burst healing should be picked to keep alive the diving frontline heroes.

Wombo combo comps are those that are stacked with heroes with big AoE heroic and basic abilities. The general idea is to catch the enemy team in a clump and unload all of you heavy-hitting abilities, thereby killing the enemy team instantly. Notable wombo combo heroes include Zeratul, Zagara, Falstad, Valla, ETC, Jaina, Gazlowe, Kael’Thas, Uther, Sylvanas, Nazeebo, and Nova. Wombo combo comps can be brutally effective, but they require a very high degree of team coordination. Honestly, it is very hard to properly pull off a good wombo combo without the team being on voice communications. Nevertheless, if your team has a lot of heroes with wombo combo potential, then you should pick a hero and talent that hero in a way that accommodates it.

Siege comps are designed to push lanes heavily and aggressively. Ideally, siege comps play very asymmetrically, using their laning strength to create crises at enemy forts and keeps all around the map to establish a level lead that can help make up for the inherent teamfighting deficiencies of the team. Classic siege comps include multiple of the following specialists: Azmodan, Murky, Abathur, Zagara, Gazlowe, Sylvanas, Sgt. Hammer, and Lost Vikings. Complimentary tanks and supports are those that have strong lane presence. As with poke comps, effective peeling is also important. High mobility should also be prioritized – both for evading teamfights and for maintaining aggressive lane presence around the map.

So let’s revisit the pop quiz from above. The best hero to pick for that particular team composition (and without regard to the enemy team’s composition) is Uther. First, having Illidan and Tyrael means that the support will be operating in a dive comp. Burst healing becomes necessary. The rest of the team’s picks are very light on CC in general. The stuns that Uther can provide become invaluable in this circumstance and set Uther apart from the other premier burst healer in the game, Rehgar. Illidan also greatly benefits from Cleanse, which Uther can provide. No other support checks all of these important boxes, which is why Uther is generally considered to be the best overall support hero. Finally, Uther’s plethora of CC also makes him a counterpick to Illidan. Picking Uther deprives the enemy team of the opportunity to take one of Illidan’s counters, which brings us to our next subject….
 

C. Who did the enemy team pick and how can I punish them for it?

Counterpicking is an art unto itself. It is also is far too complicated of a subject to really do justice in the limited space available here. Still, it is a critical element of hero selection, so let’s take a moment to examine some of the basics.

The critical question to ask when counterpicking is “How can the enemy team hurt us, and how can we stop them?” Answering this question requires at least a passable understanding of every hero in the game. Minimally, you should know every hero’s abilities, talents, and likely build paths. You also should know how each particular hero fits within a team during a teamfight. The most important aspects of a hero to understand are the heroic abilities. These are the abilities that determine the outcomes of teamfights depending upon execution. If one team effectively counters or otherwise avoids being hurt too badly by the heroic abilities of the other team while exacting good value from its own heroic abilities, that team probably will win a teamfight.

Armed with the information listed above, weaknesses and other soft points in enemy team compositions start to become clear. Not only does hero selection become easier, but a natural order of battle tactics emerges in game. You will know which abilities to use on whom and when. Just make sure that the rest of your team gets the memo. For example, I usually play Tyrael as my main tank. I like playing him, because he can dive and neutralize one player on the enemy team. This ability is an incredibly powerful asset when applied properly. At the outset of every game, I will determine the soft spot on the enemy team and announce to my team who will be eating my Judgments all game. I then will ping like a madman on my target before engaging to let my team know that I am going in. This promotes proper coordination.

Here are some of the important counterpicks that hero league players should be aware of:

Illidan: The name of the game here is CC, CC, and more CC. The quick and dirty answer is to pick one of the support heroes with hard CC – Uther and Brightwing – who can dedicate their existence to shutting Illidan down long enough for the rest of the team blow him up. The biggest mistake that players make is picking a support with limited CC (such as Malfurion, Rehgar, and Lili) when the rest of the team has limited CC and an Illidan pick from the opposite team is still a possibility. This often results in a loss strictly as a function of bad team comp.

Channeling Heroic Abilities: What do Mosh Pit, Ravenous Spirit, and Jug of 1,000 Cups all have in common? They are heroic abilities that can absolutely murder an enemy team (through healing or damage) if allowed to be used uninterrupted. When you see heroes with big channeling heroics being selected by the enemy team, make sure that your team has a means of stopping them. Otherwise, you’re going to have a bad day. Tyrael and Tyrande are both excellent at disrupting enemy heroic abilities due to the reach of their stuns.

Siege Heroes: The big pushers and merc camp mongers such as Zagara, Gazlowe, and Azmodan all are generally weak to gank-heavy counterplay. Remember: pushing requires exposing oneself. Accordingly, powerful roamers such as Kerrigan, Zeratul, Nova, and Diablo have an opportunity to shine in these situations. The same strategy works against a split-pushing Sylvanas, it just is a little harder to pull off due to Haunting Wave.

The Lost Vikings: Let’s take a moment to discuss how to deal with these little bastards. First, let’s get the obvious out of the way and just state that they are overpowered and need to be nerfed some more (as of the time of this the writing of this Guide). However, the Lost Vikings’ present success in Hero League is also a function of players badly misplaying against them. The mistake that too many players make is letting the Lost Vikings’ split lane farm without consequence. This mistake lets the Lost Vikings’ team amass significant early game experience advantages that snowball into victories. The key is to diligently and deliberately deny the Lost Vikings the ability to split lane (pay attention to how relatively infrequently the Lost Vikings’ are able to split lane in pro games) by 1) never attacking enemy minions (thereby not pushing the lane) when a Viking is present, and 2) actively attacking, harassing, and zoning out the Viking. Heroes with good burst damage and roaming potential like Nova and Zeratul are particularly good at sniping Vikings and making split laning exceedingly difficult.
 

GAMEPLAY

Now that we have covered how to pick heroes, it’s time to discuss playing the game. We will attack this subject from numerous angles.
 

A. On the subject of death

Drawing inspiration from the 44th American president, the number one rule for proper gameplay is “Don’t do stupid shit.” Players who routinely are substantial causes of their teams losing games simply do not reach Rank 1. No matter how good a player’s mechanics are, game-throwing brainfarts will cost them victories over and over again. Nearly complete elimination of your own mistakes is the first step on the road to success in this game.

The single mistake that players make that most often costs their teams victory is dying needlessly. Despite what the least informed among us may say, every death is significant. Even in the early game when respawn timers are low, deaths very quickly result in one team gaining an experience lead over the other. Unless you are sacrificing yourself so that your team can decisively win teamfights, death is always bad. If you have the most deaths on your team, it is likely that you are performing the worst on your team – especially if you account for a high percentage of your team’s deaths.

The proper attitude towards death is the following: “I died, because I did something wrong.” So let’s take a look at some of the most frequent errors that players that result in death:

Engaging enemy heroes shorthanded: This is the big one – the primary cause of needless death. One or more players from one team – but less than the full five – engage multiple players from the opposing team, and end up getting caught in an outnumbered situation, resulting in one or all of them dying. Just don’t do this. Never engage players from the enemy team unless 1) you have your full team with you, or 2) you know where the rest of the enemy team is and do not have to worry about being caught in an outnumbered situation. Two heroes defending a fort against a 4-man push is not going to save the fort. It will only result in the opposing team killing two heroes and a fort instead of just a fort. And for the love of all that is holy, do not challenge the enemy team at an objective before your team has arrived in full. Doing so will just result in bad things happening. Yes, some of your teammates may be stupid for failing to timely arrive at an objective, but you would be the bigger dumbass if you charged in and died anyway.

Overextension in lane: Many players push their lanes hard and continue to push without regard for where the enemy players are. Players who do this are very easy targets for ganks in lane. Pushing a lane hard is fine, but it must be done smartly. Map awareness is the key. If you are unaware of where the rest of the enemy team is, you probably should back off. And just remember the following: it is your fault if you die from a gank when you have pushed your lane, regardless of whether your teammates called “MIA.”

Overextension in teamfights: Otherwise known as “diving” (typically with an expletive preceding it) or “going ham,” this is what happens when players push too hard and go too deep in teamfights. Chasing kills usually is a bad idea. Charging into the rest of the enemy team or fighting under forts and towers to chase kills is just stupid. Be mindful of your positioning. Getting a bad case of tunnel vision chasing a hero is just going to end in bad things happening to you and to your team.

Getting picked off like a newb: Let’s just call this what it is. These are the situations where someone stupidly offers himself up as a fat engagement target, resulting in instant death. Typically these people are playing squishy heroes who wander ahead of their tank or otherwise try to do something cute with their positioning, at which point they stun/snared and blown up. In fact, let me just offer the following: the positioning that most players demonstrate with squishy heroes (especially with glass cannons like Jaina and Kael’Thas) is absolutely atrocious. Generally speaking, the enemy team should never see your team’s squishy characters until a teamfight has started. Otherwise, the enemy team will engage on your team’s squishy characters and bad things will happen. Lastly, please remember the following: just because you’re hiding in a bush does not mean that you are in a safe spot.

The elimination of these types of mistakes from your game will help you improve more than anything else that is discussed in this article.
 

B. Map Awareness

If you were paying attention to my comments on how players routinely die in stupid fashion, you should have noticed a fairly common theme: lack of map awareness. Map awareness is an important concept of which players must have a good grasp if they want to be any good at HotS. So let’s talk about it.

Simply put, map awareness is knowing exactly what is going on in the game at any given time during the game. This includes knowledge of where every player is, which objectives are open, which merc camps are open, and which lanes are being pushed. Critically, players with good map awareness always know where enemy players are likely to be even if they are not visible on the map. The power of this intuition is self-evident: it’s the next best thing to a map hack. Good map awareness allows players both to avoid trouble and to create opportunities to punish the enemy team and create an advantage.

So you might be wondering how one acquires this mystical power. There are three elements to it: mechanics, deduction, and experience.

The most important real estate on your computer screen in game is in the bottom right corner. The mini map is your best source of information at any point during the game. A brief glance at it will show you almost everything that you need to know about the current state of the game, which will then inform your strategic decision-making. The logical conclusion, thus, is that players should be looking at their mini map frequently. How frequently? Every couple of seconds unless you’re engaging in a 5v5 teamfight. You must make this a mechanical habit.

When looking at the minimap, there are several things that must be accounted for:

      1. Which enemy players are visible and where they are located (including which ones are dead);
      2. Which enemy players are not visible (ie, which enemy players are missing) and where these players were last seen;
      3. Where your teammates are;
      4. Which merc camps are open, and which have been taken;
      5. Which lanes are pushed; and
      6. Whether and where any map objectives are active.

The answers to these questions, when combined with game experience, can give you a very accurate idea regarding what enemy players are doing, what they’re likely to do, and, consequently, what opportunities are available for your team. Here are a few of the more general rules to keep in mind when deducing what the enemy team is up to:

Active map objective = High likelihood that multiple enemy heroes are at or will be arriving at the map objective: This is the most axiomatic of the rules and, consequently, fairly self-explanatory. Map objectives are important, and every team will prioritize them. I’m mentioning this one first, because it alters the calculus of the other rules below.

Missing enemy hero(es) + Open merc camps on the enemy team’s side of the map = High likelihood that the missing enemy hero(es) are taking their merc camps: This rule must be adjusted to account for which enemy heroes are missing and the behavioral history of the missing enemy heroes. If the enemy Gazlowe who has been laning all game suddenly goes missing, he’s probably at a merc camp. If the enemy Kerrigan who has gone missing has been repeatedly ganking your team all over the map, she probably is getting ready to gank again instead of taking a merc camp. You also should account for map objective timings. It is very common for good players to time the seizure of merc camps to coincide with pushing a lane when a map objective is active. The most common example of this is seizing bruiser camps right before the second temple phase on Sky Temple (usually at around the 3:50-4:00 mark depending upon when the first temple phase ended).

Missing enemy heroes + Your team just got stomped in a teamfight on your team’s side of the map + Open merc camps on your team’s side of the map = High likelihood that multiple enemy heroes are taking your merc camps: Smart teams aggressively push their advantage after winning a teamfight. Typically they will do one or more of the following four things: 1) push your forts, keeps, or core, 2) take a map objective, 3) take a boss, or 4) take merc camps. Taking merc camps on your team’s side of the map is more common in the early game, particularly when the other options are not available and when the subject teamfight occurred on your team’s side of the map.

Heavily pushing one of your lanes = High likelihood that at least one enemy hero will come to that lane: The effect of lane pushing is one of the more important advanced concepts in HotS. Pushing a lane heavily has two important effects. First, it extends map control by giving your team vision and control over the lane up to the point where the minion lines are fighting. Second, it forces the enemy team to respond and neutralize the push, lest they wish to lose towers, forts, and keeps, thereby ceding an experience advantage to your team. Combined, these two effects give you additional information regarding where enemy heroes are likely to be and what they’re planning. In other words, this makes the enemy team more predictable, providing you an opportunity to exploit that predictability with an aggressive move of your own, whether it be setting up an ambush, taking a map objective, stealing merc camps/bosses, etc. Of course, you should also be wary of getting ganked and picked off when pushing a lane. Make sure that you’re not over-exposed.

Entire enemy team missing + Open boss + Lanes either neutral or in enemy team’s favor = High likelihood that the enemy team is at or near the boss: Notice how the right side of the equation is worded. It does not say that the enemy team is taking the boss. Why not? Because it is fairly common for enemy teams to bait the boss or other significant map objectives. Accordingly, always approach the boss with caution if you suspect that the enemy team is there. Otherwise you’ll be a candidate to be posterized in a “IT’S A TRAP!” meme.

You being visible to the enemy team + Enemy heroes not visible = You are not safe: Far too many players carelessly clear minion waves without regard to where enemy players are, which often results in them getting ganked and killed. This is particularly true in the late game where proximity to your base is no defense to an enemy attack. The same is true of face checking bushes when the enemy team is not visible. Always exercise caution when moving about the map.

I cannot stress enough how important map awareness is. I got to Rank 1 largely playing a very roam-heavy style of Zeratul, which is entirely predicated upon good map awareness. Rotation-heavy maps like Dragon Shire, Blackheart’s Bay, and Tomb of the Spider Queen will always be dominated by the teams and players with superior map awareness. Likewise, map awareness, more than anything else, will help you avoid costing your team the game by making a game-throwing error. Take time to develop this skill.
 

C. PvP Initiation

Every engagement with the enemy team (PvP) entails significant risk. Losing a fight and dying will minimally give the enemy team an advantage, and in the late game, can result in instant defeat. For this reason, deciding when to fight is a critically important decision that must be made with care. Here are some of the most important considerations:

Who has the numerical advantage? For the reasons discussed above, engaging in any fight where you potentially could be shorthanded is just a bad idea. Make sure that you are aware of where your teammates are where the rest of the enemy team is before engaging.

What level is each team? Level advantages matter. The extra stats alone make a significant difference, but talent advantages are the real difference makers. The team with an extra tier of talents is far more likely to win a straight up teamfight. Because of this, players need to be mindful not only of what level everyone is before engaging in a teamfight, but players also need to consider whether they should delay a teamfight to hit a new talent tier before engaging. Likewise, they should consider whether the opposing team will hit a critical talent tier (such as hitting level 10 and getting access to their heroic abilities) in the middle of the teamfight.

How healthy is each team? This is simple enough: avoid teamfights if teammate are low on health and mana. Just go back to base and live to fight another day.

Whose heroic abilities are up? Here’s another simple concept: not having access to your heroic abilities is a big disadvantage in a fight. Earlier, we discussed the importance of the minimap. The talents screen on the score tab is also a nice piece of screen real estate. This screen shows which of your team’s heroic abilities are up and how long is remaining on the cooldown for any heroic ability that has been used. Likewise, players should take mental note of when enemy player use their heroic abilities, and call it out so that everyone on the team is aware.

Is there something more important that we should be doing? Even if your team is likely to win, sometimes it is better to forego teamfights for larger strategic considerations. For example, Sky Temple and Blackheart’s Bay are maps with powerful map mechanics that can level the enemy base for you, negating the need to push keeps and the core. There is no need to risk a big fight when your team can patiently wait for the map to win the game for you. Similarly, your team should be mindful of engaging in a teamfight when your forts and keeps are being heavily pushed. The better move may be to back off and clear the lane first.

Must the battle be fought to save the game? Even if it’s a suicide mission, some battles must be fought as a last ditch effort to save the game. Typically these situations occur when the enemy team has a level advantage and is about to secure a victory by either seizing a boss or a map objective. If this is the case, then you really don’t have much to lose.
 

D. PvP Tactics

Actor and Senator Fred Thomson’s character noted in the movie The Hunt for Red October that “the Russians never take a dump without a plan.” When it comes to PvP combat in HotS, good players always have plans. For teamfights specifically, good players know their roles, communicate their intentions to their teammates, and then stick to the plan with laser-like focus.

This begs the question of what should a given player do in a teamfight. The answer is one of our favorites: “It depends.” Look to detailed hero guides and pro play to see how certain heroes fit within team compositions, what their strengths are in teamfights, and how they can be used to hurt the enemy team. Still, there are a few basic rules that apply generally:

Do not dump damage on enemy tanks unless the enemy tank is completely isolated or there are no other available targets. Tanks generally have a ton of hit points, damage mitigation, and self-healing. They do not die easily. They also tend to do minimal damage and pose relatively minor threats to your team. If you are dumping damage on them in a teamfight when the enemy team is dumping damage on your backline (healers and damage dealers), you probably are going to lose. Good players save their heavy hitting abilities for squishier targets such as high damage dealers and healers. That said, there will be times when you don’t have a choice but to hit the tank, because the tank will be the only target that can be reached. In these cases, it will be okay use basic abilities and auto-attacks on the tank. Save the heroics for the backline, however.

The first enemy heroes to die should always be their biggest damage dealers. These are the heroes that will hurt your team if they aren’t killed first. Have a plan to deal with them.

Avoid excessive clumping when there’s a risk of being hit by a big AoE ability. Nothing will end a teamfight before it really starts faster than multiple players on a team getting caught by a big heroic ability such as Mosh Pit, Rain of Vengeance, or Devouring Maw. Be mindful of this and maintain disciplined spacing to as to minimize the impact of these devastating abilities.

Do not chase wounded enemy heroes when the teamfight is not over. Little is more embarrassing than a player who chases a wounded hero, while the rest of his team gets slaughtered in the still-raging teamfight. Make sure that your team will control the field at the end of a teamfight before chasing wounded heroes.

Be very wary about using escape abilities for offensive purposes. As you have likely gathered by now, dying is very bad and inconsistent with good play. Movement abilities such as Zeratul’s Blink or Bolt of the Storm are incredibly valuable, because they can be used to help a hero escape from a situation that will result in death. In teamfight, there is always a risk that a given hero will be exposed to such a deadly situation. Having a way out helps keep your team on even footing with the enemy team. Therefore, these escape abilities should generally be preserved as the life savers that they are. Be very hesitant to use them for offensive purposes such as securing kills or initiating fights – especially if you are playing a squishy hero.
 

E. Merc Camps

Merc camps are probably the most misunderstood mechanics in HotS. The average player sees that a merc camp is open and typically decides to take it without regard to anything else. This is bad. At best, haphazardly taking merc camps results in the waste of an asset. At worst, haphazardly taking merc camps results in a catastrophe for the team, such as getting picked off or ceding a map objective to the enemy team. As with everything else in HotS, the decision of when and whether to take a merc camp should be made with care.

That decision starts with an understanding of the function of merc camps: a merc camps is a resource that pushes a lane. As was discussed earlier, pushing a lane creates a threat that the enemy team must respond to. What’s important is understanding when to use the finite resource that is the merc camp to force enemy team to respond to a lane push. If merc camps are triggered at a time when the enemy team does not have any other threat (or opportunity) to attend to, then the enemy team will simply kill your mercs before they have had an opportunity to do any work for you. On the other hand, if you take a merc camp right before (or sometimes during) a map objective phase, then you’ll have created a dilemma for the opposing team: defeat your mercs, or potentially give up the map objective. This dilemma becomes far more acute the later the game goes, because at stake won’t just be forts, but keeps.

The general rule for taking merc camps is to only take them when you will be creating such a dilemma for the enemy team. Take merc camps so that their push coincides with a spawning map objective, an attempt at seizing a boss, or a concerted team push in another lane.

There are a couple of exceptions to this rule. If your team has established map control over the enemy team’s merc camps (ie your team just won a teamfight or enemy team’s lanes are heavily pushed into their main base), go ahead and take those merc camps while you can. Even if the timing of the seizure isn’t ideal, you still will be denying your opponents an important map resource. Second, make sure that you use your siege giants on Haunted Mines to kill the enemy golem. This means capping the siege giants just as the enemy golem passes the gate of the enemy team’s outer fort (as a side note, it is amazing to me how many people still screw this up).

And whatever you do, do not take merc camps while a map objective is present. For example, you should always prioritize gathering seeds on Garden of Terror over seizing merc camps. For a map like Dragon Shire, you can take merc camps and use their push to help secure the dragon knight, but only do so if taking the merc camps will not result in the opening of a window during which the enemy team can secure the dragon knight. Again, the key here is to have a planned purpose for seizing the merc camps before you do it.

Lastly, no discussion of merc camps would be complete without offering a few words on taking the boss:

AS A GENERAL RULE, DO NOT TRY TO TAKE THE BOSS UNLESS MULTIPLE ENEMY HEROES ARE DEAD.
 

F. Split Pushing and Doing Your Own Thing

Split pushing (or otherwise leaving the rest of your teammates to pursue a separate objective) can be a powerful tool in that it allows your team to accomplish multiple things at once. It is also a highly-leveraged tool, meaning that it carries a risk whenever it is used. This risk comes from the fact that the team is split up and vulnerable to being caught in an outnumbered situation. Indeed, one of the reasons that players hate having the classic split pushing heroes on their team (Gazlowe, Azmodan, etc.) is that the players playing those heroes often contribute very little to teamfights due to their constant split pushing, which ultimately results in a loss as the opposing team wins the decisive teamfights and controls the critical map objectives.

So here’s the critical concept to understand when it comes to split pushing: after the laning phase has ended, it is never a bad decision to stay with the group and forego chasing another objective by yourself. Staying with the team is always safe and won’t, by itself, put your team in danger.

So when is splitting off from the team to pursue a separate objective appropriate? It depends. If a teamfight is imminent, then you must stay with the team. If your team has just won a teamfight, but not killed off all of the opposing heroes, then you probably should stay with your team if they try to capture map objectives or bosses. Unfortunately, you simply won’t be able to split push in games where you have teammates who are not smart enough to avoid committing to outnumbered teamfights while you are split pushing. Some players need babysitting. As you develop map awareness and game sense, you’ll get a better feel for when taking the risk to split from the team is a good move.

But here’s the bottom line: think long and hard about whether it is a good idea to be separated from the rest of your team before wandering off to do your own thing.
 

G. Bad Team Decisions

Unfortunately, most of the players that you will be playing with will not have had the benefit of reading this guide, and that fact will often be reflected in their horrible decision-making throughout a game. So what should the intelligent player do in the face of horrific decision-making by the rest of the team? In most circumstances, the intelligent player has to join in the folly. If your team has decided to try to seize a boss in an obviously dangerous situation, and the team refuses to back off, your only hope of salvaging the situation is to help them kill the boss quickly. Standing on the sidelines and pointing out that the rest of your team is a bunch of newbs isn’t going to help when your teammates are slaughtered like the newbs that they are.

Remember: HotS is a team game. Do your best to encourage your team to make good decisions. But when bad decisions are made, see that your newb teammates’ will be done. You sometimes will be pleasantly surprised at how things turn out.
 

CONCLUSION

Much of succeeding at HotS boils down to making intelligent decisions, whether it’s making the right hero pick or avoiding needless death in game. These decisions must be informed with experience and an understanding of the game. Though this guide cannot explain everything, hopefully it will provide a good starting place for all of those who wish to clean up their game and climb the ladder to Rank 1.

And for those wondering, your reward for getting to Rank 1 is the privilege of being forced by Blizzard’s matchmaker to carry Rank 40s in game after game after game. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

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I specifically would highlight this section:

 

Though assassins and specialists are all of the rage, do not play Hero League without a balanced roster of heroes, all of whom that you can play competently. At a bare minimum, you need to own three tanks and three supports. Why? Because these are the roles that most often need filling during the Hero League draft. Why three of each? Because the worst thing that can ever happen is for you to be unable to fill a critical role for a team because all of your heroes for that given class were selected. For example, right now, double support compositions are very popular in the meta. If you have only one or two supports, there is an unacceptably high chance that your supports will be unavailable during the draft. Why put yourself in a position where you are all but guaranteeing a loss at team select? Team compositions matter, which leads us to our next topic.

You absolutely need to be able to fill out 3/4 positions.  One of the benefits of playing together is that we can counter each other's deficiencies.  I tend to shy away from specialists and the combo mage variety of assassins.  Thankfully, I've got fellow MadCasters who can wreak havoc in those roles.

As an additional note on team composition, make sure you have some form of consistent damage.  Jaina, Kael'Thas, and the entire specialist roster offer some powerful abilities, but they do not possess the persistent auto-attack threat of assassins like Valla, Raynor, Tychus (Illidan, Thrall, and arguably Tassadar deserve honorable mention here).  It is not necessary that one of these characters is present in a team composition.  The team, however, needs to respond to the deficiency with correct positioning, coordination, and plans for taking down merc camps efficiently.

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I agree with Munsa.

 

 

 

 

 

Don't know what else to say :P.

 

 

PS: be able to play at least 3 characters from each role so you cant get denied by the other team grabbing the 1 support or tank you can play. 

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It took me most of the day to read, because I was busy with other things, but it's a very good guide.  There is another that I saw on reddit not too long ago.  I'll look it up and edit it's link and material in here.  Thanks for finding this for us!

 

Edit:  I couldn't find it any more :(

Edited by Sts04

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For me, what stands out is this: "The single mistake that players make that most often costs their teams victory is dying needlessly." I'm a little too used to being able to go ham in other games, and I need to kick that habit.

Also, the bit about constantly looking at the mini-map.

Edited by MadCast: Lucemiya

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My biggest weakness is wanting to make the play.  Every game I've dedicated time to I've been upper crust.  I'm use to top fragging and making a play that wasn't suppose to happen, happen.  This is not that game.  Sure you can master your own play and dueling but the true talent will show how you can read a map and how to team fight.  Every move you make is just as important as the next. 

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I'll admittedly say that I've never really gone as hardcore into a MOBA as I have with HOTS, and just thinking that I've played over 600 games already is just mind boggling.  I was happy to see that with the little quiz built into the article I nailed the right answer.  But I'd say I rate my play like I do in League with regards to roles, and they're as follows:

 

Support

Specialist

Tank

Melee Assassin

Ranged Assassin

 

I approach more of my solo games like that, and it's nice that we can pre-pick and show our team who we're thinking of taking.  It enables a lot of time to be dedicated to building a team comp, whether strong or weak, that so long as you don't have someone trying to instalock Lili or Gazlowe in your super hard dive comp that you needed a tank for, you're pretty even walking into a game.

 

Like Munsa said, we tend to have a better time playing with each other over TS and other means because we can better coalesce our composition and there's a little less risk taken in how our picks play out.  Sure, the enemy team might slam picks on Jaina and Sylvanas, but then we can counter with picks that are a little more intuitive than "I ONLY PLAY NOVA! HURR DURR".

 

But what also has to be understood is that there's a mentality involved with Hero League, especially at higher levels of play, and even moreso in Team League.  I've heard and see quite a few people approach in a whimsical or capricious manner, which really can't be done.  If you're going to play Hero League, especially with higher level players, not even those in this community but in general, you have to be accepting that you have to be on top of your game.  If you mess up and I mean REALLY mess up, you're going to get chewed out for it.  While we are a community, while we're generally cordial and friendly with one another, quickmatch is a place for friendship and hugs and laughs, and Hero League is where you go to step up your game, learn the meta and really improve upon yourself as a player.

 

Also, as with every other MOBA, calling out lanes, pings, MIAs and objectives are keys to winning probably moreso than composition, probably moreso than individual player skill.

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It is very likely that most of you have seen some amalgam of Juno, Sleiph, Eliath, YordleBob, my buddy Alame, Scooba, et al. playing hero league.  The above might sound a bit pretentious, but if you had audio from a choice selection of our games you would hear some heated conversation.
 

HotS puts coordination as a premium.  Whether you are splitting your team to accomplish objectives in quick succession or seeking to execute a flawless teamfight, knowing what YOUR role is in accomplishing the goal of the TEAM is paramount.  You cannot bank a ton of creepfarm.  You cannot get that one item.  HotS is as raw as it gets.  I find Hero League very rewarding, but it can be very punishing at times.

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For me, what stands out is this: "The single mistake that players make that most often costs their teams victory is dying needlessly." I'm a little too used to being able to go ham in other games, and I need to kick that habit.

Also, the bit about constantly looking at the mini-map.

Sometimes, 1, or even 2 deaths early game can cost it, let alone deaths in the late game.

And Sleiphner. You know my Gazlowe is god-like.

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Sometimes, 1, or even 2 deaths early game can cost it, let alone deaths in the late game.

And Sleiphner. You know my Gazlowe is god-like.

 

Yeah, but you sit on TS and go for a while and "DOES THIS FIT THE COMP?"  You don't just insta-pick and then we cry.

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Great read. I've been able to graduate to Hero League for a couple weeks now, but still do too much dumb stuff that I haven't tried it yet. Diving too deep, being late to teamfights, running out of mana as a healer, not protecting teammates as a tank, dying too much as an assassin. 

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Hey guys, love the conversation that followed the original post! All of these are great points, yet I would like to emphasize great importance about using your mini map. As said above, this is something any good player does a lot. It helps you formulate predictions and anticipate what the other team is doing. To that, anticipation is the most important skill in any competitive play (games or sports). To sum it all up, I firmly believe in spending more time watching my mini map compared to any other information on the screen (as a blanket statement).

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Wow, this was a great read. I just recently jumped into HL solo que and wish i had read this earlier. Most of the points here are spot on.

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Hey, this is a great thread! Thanks so much for taking the time to make this post, I will be jumping into hero league a bit later and hope to be ranking up, I feel this would help me :)

 

Honestly I had difficulty figuring this one out:

 

"Pop quiz time. You are the fifth pick on your team. Your teammates have already picked Tyrael, Jaina, Falstad, and Illidan. You clearly should be picking be a support. Who should you pick?"

      1. Rehgar
      2. Tassadar
      3. Brightwing
      4. Uther
      5. Malfurion
      6. Lili
      7. Tyrande

 

This was before the rehgar buffs , but how would you feel about him in HL now?

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Hey, this is a great thread! Thanks so much for taking the time to make this post, I will be jumping into hero league a bit later and hope to be ranking up, I feel this would help me :)

 

Honestly I had difficulty figuring this one out:

 

"Pop quiz time. You are the fifth pick on your team. Your teammates have already picked Tyrael, Jaina, Falstad, and Illidan. You clearly should be picking be a support. Who should you pick?"

      1. Rehgar

      2. Tassadar

      3. Brightwing

      4. Uther

      5. Malfurion

      6. Lili

      7. Tyrande

 

This was before the rehgar buffs , but how would you feel about him in HL now?

Honestly you should be going with Rehgar now.  The original choice here was Uther, but because of a series of nerfs to his ulti, passive, and the cool downs on shield he's not as strong any more.  Also, Because of the buff of Cleanse, everybody has a mini DS.  It won't block damage, and you can't cast it on yourself, but it's 60 seconds rather than 90.  Lastly, Uther requires a lot of coordination.  He's played on dive teams, or team fight oriented teams.  Rehgar (right now) does all of that better.  He has a better burst heal that costs less mana, he's got an ultimate that requires timing, but that's not so bad.  And he has the same 60 second shield Uther has except it's on an 8 second CD.  Not to mention he can wave clear better, solo lane better, roam better, and be better.  The Uther stun is the only thing you have that's better at this point.

 

Now with both of those out of the way, an alternative pick could be Tass.  The rest don't provide enough burst healing right now to merit them to be in a dive comp.  And Tass's force wall with the Jaina's ring of frost, and Falstad's mighty gust are powerful wombos waiting to happen.

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Number one thing you can do is strive to widen your hero pool.

Hell, easiest way?  Play ARAMs.  You can easily get a feel for heroes out of your zone.  You will still have a small adjustment period to traditional play, but ARAMs are a way to get hands-on with heroes without any real pressure. 

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Rehgar puts everything to shame now. Has a high win rate compared to other support and from first hand experience I can see why. Go Rehgar or don't go anything.

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Rehgar puts everything to shame now. Has a high win rate compared to other support and from first hand experience I can see why. Go Rehgar or don't go anything.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I would say that is a very negative outlook on the current situation.

No hero comes without their faults, and that will become apparent as people explore new counters and unorthodox talents/combinations. That's what our team is going through right now.

When faced with situations like this, try to stay from reasoning that reads: "Better only play X right now, because everyone else is stomping with him. May as well not play Y or Z at all. X is just OP. ".

It eventually turns into: "Well fuck. They picked X. We literally can't win now. I hate this game."

It's a stretch, but it treads into some dangerous DL;DP territory.

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I still wuvs my medic. Two good/interesting ults and fantastic sustained heals (assuming sustained includes trips back to base on a regular basis pre 20 lol).

The medivac is actually a great way to stay full mana and still maintain map presence if you lack a good stim target.

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I would say that is a very negative outlook on the current situation.

No hero comes without their faults, and that will become apparent as people explore new counters and unorthodox talents/combinations. That's what our team is going through right now.

When faced with situations like this, try to stay from reasoning that reads: "Better only play X right now, because everyone else is stomping with him. May as well not play Y or Z at all. X is just OP. ".

It eventually turns into: "Well fuck. They picked X. We literally can't win now. I hate this game."

It's a stretch, but it treads into some dangerous DL;DP territory.

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You make a good point... I can't disagree with you.

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Johanna + Uther. 

Condemn, Blind, Divine Storm, Blessed Shield.  Unless you've got a Maw or VP to break up that CC wall, even the most coordinated Bloodlust dive is going to be broken.

Artanis.   Drop that AoE Blind, layering in a follow up storm shield from another teammate late game.

In general, Raynor/Valla.  Rehgar doesn't like sustained damage, and he especially doesn't like people who can efficiently clear totems.  Raynor edges out here because a knockback/stun further mitigates the cray powerful lightning shield.

 

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