A New Players’ Guide to Heroes of the Storm

heroes-of-the-storm-bannerSo while I should be spending a lot more time writing, I’ve spent way too much time playing Heroes of the Storm. According to Raptr, I’ve put in some 50 hours since closed beta started and have played near 400 games logged on my in-game profile. Suffice to say, I’ve seen a lot in my time playing HOTS.

Now, I’m not a very good gamer. HOTSlogs says that I’m a gold level player which allegedly means that I’m in the upper half of gamers. However, I have learned a bunch of things that new players should be mindful of before they get too far into the latest entry into the MOBA genre.

Economics of HOTS

The first thing you should learn is the gold and cents of Heroes of the Storm. Like most MOBAs, HOTS has its own in-game currency that allows you to buy new heroes. You could, instead, make purchases using real money for heroes and will have to for cosmetic upgrades.

So you can earn gold through playing games with 10 gold for a win Versus AI (against bots), 20 for a quick match loss and 30 for a quick match win. The same about of gold is available for Hero League and Team League games but this is a guide for new players so let’s stick to basics.

heroes-of-the-storm-screenshot-01-account-levelsThe real gold games come from the various bonuses available for levelling up heroes and your account. In your accounts first ten levels, you’ll be racking up the gold quite quickly. Then it’s every five levels from 20 to give you bonuses. For heroes, reaching levels 5, 15 and 20 give you a gold bonus.

While those levelling bonuses won’t come very often and will run out after a while, it’s the Daily Quests that is really going to boost your gold account. There are nine different Daily Quests that will earn you from 200 to 800 gold per day for completing them. You can store up to three quests to complete so you don’t have 24 hours to do a test.

So what are the best ways to earn gold? The first thing you should do is focus on the Daily Quests. At worst, you’ll only get 200 gold for playing two games under the quest guidelines but that’s still 200 bonus gold you wouldn’t have otherwise. Given that everyone will likely end up with a 50% win rate in QM, you’ll probably end up with 250 gold from two games at the low-end.

The other trick is to play the free rotation heroes. The rotation is five for everyone with a 6th slot opened up at account Level 12 and 7th at Level 15. If you play each hero up to level five, that’s 18,000 gold before factoring in any other gold that you pick up.

Also, do your tutorials. Even if you’ve been playing League for five years or been playing since DOTA as a Warcraft III mod, you’re best to do the tutorials. If nothing else, they’re worth doing for the 1,000 gold you get for completing them.

Learning Heroes

Before you jump into a match, it’s worth noting that HOTS has talents rather than items to buff characters and differentiate them. The thing is that talents are gated until you reach Level 4 with a hero or Level 25 with your account. So that means grabbing a hero for the first time may not give you access to the best talents for your playstyle or a particular situation.

heroes-of-the-storm-beta-screenshot-07-hero-selectIf you’re learning a hero, don’t play Practice mode until you run it up Level 4 or 5 and then get into live fire exercises against real players. That’s probably going to end very badly. You should get some experience playing in the Versus AI mode.

There is a Practice mode but the Versus AI mode has a few advantages. Versus AI allows you to complete daily quests and earn gold. The AI is a little harder in Versus AI mode which, while not representative of the challenge from real players, can give you a challenge if your team isn’t up to the challenge.

One thing that I find is that the HOTS community is pretty helpful. Even if they can’t give you a build or real-time coaching, if you’re a new player and tell your teammates “this is my second game with Stitches,” chances are that they’ll help. As a support player, if someone is trying out a hero, I’ll make an extra effort to stick close by to keep them safe.

heroes-of-the-storm-beta-screenshot-08-talentsOnce you get into the same, feel free to try out different abilities to see how they work. Chances are that you read up on your abilities before the match but reading doesn’t compare to live action use. Sure, you might screw up the first few times or the first few games but that’s what practice is for. As long as you don’t intentionally throw a game, people are pretty cool. Sure, some people rage but if you’re going to rage, shout at your computer screen and not in chat. One is therapeutic and hurts no one else. The other hurts the people it’s aimed at.

It’s also worth noting that many players use Quick Match as the game mode to try out new builds on heroes. As you get more experienced, you should do that. At the start, I think Versus AI is a good place to get the basics of learning heroes, maps, objectives and how the game works in general. Like I said, this is a new player guide so I’m trying to gear it to your early days in HOTS.

Now, some people are really interested in learning the “best” builds or ways to play a hero. Some top players and even pro players have been posting builds on Heroes Fire. The good builds explain what the talents at each level do and why you would pick each one. Some YouTube guides also provide that level of detail. One thing that separates the good players from the great is the ability to know how to adapt your build to your team, the opposing team, the map’s objectives and the flow of the game. You can’t learn that in Practice Mode.

Playing the Game

I suppose that you should have some actual tips to help you when you step into the Nexus and do battle with other heroes or whatever jumped up marketing jargon is used instead of playing an actual match.

So the most important thing to know about Heroes is that your whole team gathers experience into the team pool so no one player is being fed like you would a carry in a different MOBA. There’s also no worrying about kill stealing, creep score, gold, items or any of the other traditional MOBA mechanics. Instead, the idea is to work as a team to gain XP, gather map objectives and destroy the opposing team’s core.

So with that in mind, here are a few important pointers that will help you win in the Nexus. A lot of these might seem like common sense but I don’t know how many times I’ve seen players go YOLO and put the rest of the team on the back foot.

In the early game, focus on XP

The biggest power spikes in the game are at levels 10 and 20. At Level 10, your team unlocks heroics. At Level 20, your team unlocks another set of abilities that I believe are called Storm abilities. Your heroics are powerful abilities that are alternatively called Ultimates. Storm abilities can either give boosts to your Heroic ability, your attack damage and speed, your defence or your abilities. They’re also pretty tide-turning abilities if you get them first.

heroes-of-the-storm-promo-02So, the important thing to do until Level 10 is focus on farming XP. You gain XP by killing enemy heroes, destroying enemy structures and killing enemy minions. You don’t have to last-hit the minions but you do need to be nearby. That’s why every lane should have at least one hero in it to keep gaining XP. If you’re outmanned, don’t push the fight. Poke (damage from range) but stick close to farm XP without putting yourself at risk. If you’re dead, you aren’t farming XP which is worse than giving the other team XP from killing you.

The important thing to do is to watch the minimap so you can keep an eye on where everyone is. If there is a lane empty and someone else is in yours, ping that you’re moving to the empty lane and head on over. If there are two empty lanes (on Blackheart’s Bay, it’s annoyingly common for people to forget lanes for the objective and get snowballed out quickly), use chat to remind people to soak lanes before you get too far behind. An easy way to lose a game is to forget about lanes, chase the kills, camps and objectives and watch the other team massacre you in a team fight because they’re a higher level or a talent up on you.

Mid and Late-Game should switch focus to teamfights and objectives

Unless you’re behind, you shouldn’t worry too much about straight laning. If you’re behind, laning when given an opportunity is an option to get back into the game. For the most part, you should be focusing on teamfights, objectives and mercenary camps. This is especially true when you have a level or talent advantage because you can take the fight to the enemy and should come out on top unless mistakes are made.

You will seldom win fights with a man disadvantage

At every level, you will play with Leeroy Jenkins. That’s just a fact of life in this game. When it comes to objectives or a team that’s looking to make a comeback, you’re likely to see the other team group up with three-plus heroes. If you run head-first into that, regardless of your level advantage, you are very likely to end up dead. I often find that when objectives are on the line, people will focus on the objective rather than sense and go 1v5 against the opposition which leads to a very hasty death.

heroes-of-the-storm-screenshot-02-teamfightThere is a simple rule of thumb that I have for this game. If you’re at a two-man disadvantage, you better retreat. Nine times out of ten, if you’re in a 2v4 or 3v5, you’ll lose that fight unless the opposition makes a series of massive blunders. So it usually pays to back away, avoid being stunned or trapped by the enemy and poke at them from range behind your structures. There’s also a way to get into these fights if you aren’t already in them but I’ll cover that below.

Just because I say that two-man disadvantages are instant retreats doesn’t mean that a one-man disadvantage should be an automatic engage. Unless you have a Heroic (Level 10) or Storm (Level 20) talent or something like three levels on the other team, even a one-man disadvantage can prove deadly quickly.

If you’re by yourself, chances are that you don’t want to force any situation when you are outnumbered. I am very shy about taking 1v2s because even being perfect is likely to get you lit up by the enemy heroes. I find that I can harass one of the two back but someone’s done enough damage that I can’t pursue either without getting killed. But if someone gets pushed out of the fight, they aren’t gathering XP so that’s a victory. That’s why you don’t have to constantly go for the kill. Forcing them out of lane is a victory enough.

Keeping with this, never chase. When you chase the enemy, you’re often alone and have no prayer when you run into your intended victim’s help.

Knowing when and how to do and retreat from objectives is critical

Right now, there are seven maps in the map pool but each is built around their own objectives. While the maps have their own unique objectives, the basic principles of how to approach the objectives remains the same across each.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the rules for engagement are the same as above. Just because you could be fighting over a game-changing objective doesn’t mean that your team would be in a better spot with you dead. In fact, you’re only really helping if you’re alive so discretion is the better part of valour.

heroes-of-the-storm-beta-screenshot-09-haunted-minesSo more often than not, you are best to do objectives in groups, especially if you don’t have eyes on the other team. If you’re playing on Garden of Terror or Haunted Mines, all the little camps to kill often result in teams splitting up to cover as much ground as possible. The team that sticks together will win together in those circumstances. If you split up and the other team runs in pairs, you’re dead. That’s actually pretty much the case everywhere but it’s especially true in the Garden, Mines and Blackheart’s Bay.

Some maps have some pretty specific strategies about controlling objectives. For example, in Cursed Hallow, everyone wants to win every tribute but there’s no need to until a team is about secure the third tribute. If the enemy has all five heroes at the first tribute of the game, soak XP and get a level advantage when they get back to lane. Dragon Shire requires you to control two shrines which is difficult at the best of times, if you’re in trouble, focus on controlling one shrine just to deny the opposition until you get a numbers advantage and can easily take the other shrine.

That’s not to say that sometimes you have to force a bit harder on objectives. If you’re behind in levels and in lanes, objectives are a good way to swing momentum back in your favour. While objectives aren’t the sole deciding factor in a game, they can either seal a game or save you in a game.

Another thing to note is that you can use mercenary camps to help you with objectives. Right before an objective comes up is the best time to secure a mercenary camp. In maps where you’re corralled to a central location (which is everything but Tomb of the Spider Queen), mercs can distract the other team from the objective as they would be forced to stop the push and forego the objective. Unless they decide to let the mercs push which will just help you when everyone gets back to lane.

Positioning is everything

Even if you’re contesting a fight that’s 5v5 or where your team has the man advantage, it doesn’t mean that you’re safe. The single most important skill in Heroes of the Storm is positioning. You have to know where you are at all times, where everyone else is at all times and know where to put yourself at all times.

heroes-of-the-storm-promo-03The first thing you have to watch out for is that you don’t get too far forward in team fights. The hero that gets separated from the group will be the first one to get picked off. That’s why conventional MOBA wisdom is to pick-off the hero that is furthest forward rather than pushing into the back line to take out the damage dealers and supports.

Now, if you’re a tank, you’re expected to be the most forward one in the group but don’t get too far out of position. You want to be forward to absorb damage for the rest of your team and dish out crowd control. If you get too far forward, you’ll be easy pickings for the other team while not being in range for your healer(s) to keep you alive for longer.

Your melee DPS should be next into battle after the tank but they shouldn’t get too deep because they’re too squishy to last very long in the middle of the other team. Ranged DPS and support should be last in line so they stay safe while getting their job done. They should be close enough to heal or deal damage without being so close that they’re easy pickings for the other team. These classes are the “squishiest” which means they’re prone to being quickly burst down by enemies.

Now, one mistake I often see is that people get the bright idea to try a pincer move. This often happens at an objective or a structure. You’re fighting on one side and one or two of your allies comes in from behind. All that happens is that they’re caught out on their own and quickly become cannon fodder while out of position. Always default to joining a fight from a position of strength. If that means going the long way to come through your own back line to the front as a tank, then that’s what you have to do.

The other frequent mistake is not knowing the enemy’s position. That’s true at all times, especially when you’re in lane. Just when you think you’re safe to push, the gank (at attack from the side or behind that you never see coming) kills you because you aren’t aware of your surroundings. If that happens a lot, stick with a friend or take a hero with some vision abilities. Alternatively, don’t put yourself in a position where ganking is made easy, especially on the enemy’s side of the map.

Play Nice With Others

The last thing I want to mention is that this is just a game. Unless you’re in the upper echelon of Hero or Team League and playing with or against players looking to stream or play competitively for a living, people just want to have fun when playing Heroes of the Storm.

What I tend to do is give my monitor a stern talking to or yelling if people are being stupid. Maybe I’ll try to type a polite reminder into chat if it’s needed (I often play the role of leader in Versus AI games and most games are won with a shot-caller directing traffic as best they can). But calling people names or raging in chat does no one any good. It just turns the whole game toxic and no one has fun by the time the game ends.

So those are my tips for getting started in Heroes Of The Storm. Chances are you’ll probably have your own tips and tricks. Feel free to drop them in the comments. One thing I love about the vast majority of the HOTS community is how positive and helpful they are.

One of my favourite HOTS stories was actually in a loss. I played a Quick Match with a random team and we just got trounced. We had no tanks or damage and paid quite quickly. Nobody pointed fingers or flamed anyone. We just blamed Blizzard for a bad draw, laughed about it and said our GGs as the end came. That sums up what I think of the HOTS community.


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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on June 12, 2015, in Games and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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