Basics of the Storm
This is a “short” guide that highlights some of the mistakes that I often witness in Hero League, sometimes even in competitive or even my own play that I think everyone can benefit from. (Well it started off short)
Let’s start with team composition. The most basic form of a team composition should be comprised of the following:
There are a lot of different ways to fulfil this basic composition, as you can or have seen in HGC game play. Some wild variations can be having a Xul tank, an Abauther Healer, or even a murky main range (from the C9 days), however to make these types of compositions you must have a game plan in mind. These variations compositions are drafted with the tools similar to the basic roles have in mind, such as the ability to wave clear, do camps, and have a strong team fight / objective fighting ability.
Ideally, you want to fulfill these roles and there are niche picks that can fulfill these roles as mentioned above, so don’t be too upset or too strict on the idea that each game must have a “specialist, assassin” etc. As long as you can fulfil your composition with heroes that can do the things that these established “roles” can do, then technically any composition can work if you play to the game plan accordingly. Keeping in mind majority of the readers may only apply this to their Quick match, Unranked, or Hero League matches, you will know that you may not always get an ideal comp, so just gotta make do with what you are given.
Anyways, back the the basic forms, the roles have been listed but what are their jobs? The biggest issue that most of the mistakes I have seen is that when people fill in hero league they don't seem to understand what their role is suppose to do, or they just flat out don’t want to.
Key concept: The tank role is a role that creates a lot of opportunities for engagements and picks. Generally the person to start the fight, or look for a fast blow up with their CC abilities. Outside of a fight, the tank should “anchor” in bushes that are the most likely rotational spots for the enemy team to gain vision advantage and understand what the enemy plans. This vision control also provides your team the necessary information for them to know when are they safe to step up to either A) Push out the wave, B) do a camp or C) Push down structures.
What is my job?
As a tank, you are the “wall” for your team mates. The positioning of the tank most often dictates how a team would position and move, if the tank is there it allows your damage dealers to step up and dish out damage because the enemy team is scared or wary of the tank’s ability to either A) Hard engage or B) Peel away their hard engagement onto your teammates. You don’t necessary need to be side by side with your team, but as the tank you always want to hover nearby your “core” so that you can help them whenever they need it.
One of the main responsibilities as a tank is to peel for your team mates. The word peel, is used quite often in Heroes of the storm, however the most basic understanding the word should be that you are creating a wall and disrupting enemy engagements onto your teammates. Peeling can be done by multiple people, such as the tank, the solo-laner, or the healer. However, most people look towards the tank to peel as they generally have the best CC abilities to disrupt enemy engagements.
When you are looking for engages, it is important to keep track of your cooldowns, your teammates cooldowns, and the enemy team’s cooldowns. For example, if you are playing a Muradin Li-Ming Tyrande composition, when you look for stuns you want to make sure your teammates are close enough and have their spells ready to follow up. Also to keep in mind that once you jump in, you no longer have a way to jump out so you are committed for that engage and need to be wary if enemy team have their cooldowns and ability to blow you up as a tank.
Note: It is important for your team to play around your engagements, but it is also important for you to play around your teammates. The tank does not always dictate every fight, if your damage dealer is not with you it is rare that you can make a play and kill the enemy team by yourself, especially if the enemy team’s tank and/or healer is nearby. If your damage dealers see the opportunity to make a play, for example; if a raynor is by himself rotating and ran by your team’s damage dealers and healer. It is wise to turn on the raynor rather than continuing forward to the initial gank in mind. There are two primary reasons for this, A) The enemy team gains vision of your team, so they would become aware of your gank and B) you should punish the enemy team for their mistakes whenever you can.
Where Should I Go? (and why is it important to be with my team?)
Sometimes, the tank I seen in hero league like to split off, or be by themselves, an example would be a Muradin trying to go kill the enemy blaze by themselves. (Your chances are very slim, so generally not worth it)
As a tank, in majority of the situations you are rarely required to soak by yourself, unless you are on certain heroes like Johanna. However, this does not mean that you should leave your team completely, you are rarely ever needed to split away from your team, most of the time you just need to step up with your team to provide space for the backline and clear the waves together.
How do I provide vision, deny vision, and why?
The benefits of anchoring was already mentioned earlier, however, besides the stated reasons of gaining vision advantage over the other team, there's another reason why if the tank is not showing the team could benefit from the decision. Reason being that the enemy team would need to be wary of a gank or an engagement, especially if A) the tank is missing for a long time or B) there are additional members of the enemy team missing aside from the tank. This forces the enemy team to play safe, and must be safe on their side of the map, sometimes unable to step up to soak or clear your mercenary camps, because they lack this information.
Sometimes people like to provide deep anchors on the enemy side of the map to gain more vision control, this is okay as long as A) you are able to get back to your team if a team fight breaks out, B) you can get out safely, and C) you actually gain vision control on what you are doing.
Disrupting rotations is a simple and easy concept, however it has a big impact on how big of an advantage your team can gain. Typically, as the tank, you are the safest out of the group, therefore you have the opportunity to “disrupt” or slow down enemy team’s rotations. This allows A) your team to clear first and push in the wave, thus making them miss minions, or B) allow your team to freeze the minion waves, and thus making them miss a minion or two. Generally, you want to do this whenever there is no value being had for performing other task like bush control or no gank opportunities.
Heroes is an ever changing game that requires you to adapt your decisions based on what the enemy team is doing. Just because you have a game plan and stated the game plan 2 minutes ahead of time, does not mean the conditions for your game plan will occur 2 minutes later.
Key concept: The support role is the safety button or the insurance policy that you would purchase for your valuables. In order to protect your most precious possessions (in this case your teammates), you want your insurance policy to be safe and reliable. This is the same for the role itself, in order for your teammates to survive it is “generally” the most important to keep yourself alive. Your positioning, cooldown management, and resources will be crucial to the success of your team and their ability to team fight.
What is my job?
Keep in mind, you are the support and one of the last few heroes that want to go down in a team fight (Unless you are uther) so that you should play to this mentality accordingly. There are more ways for you to make a play than dish damage, especially with the current “meta” support heroes that can help set up kills, for example Deckard, Stukov, Malfurion, Whitemane, Tyrande, etc. Thus, just because you want to have more damage stats on the screen, does not mean as the support you want to run onto the enemy team, such as a rehgar constantly biting a Garrosh just to get flipped and killed over and over again.
You can be a big part of the playmaking abilities of your team. Typically, it is best to let your teammates initiate the engagements, however, there are situations where you can start the set up as well if you feel you are safe to do so, such as Deckard slow → root combo.
Where should I Be?
Generally, the support would primary always be with the main range in most situations as a buddy-buddy situation, they would most often be referred to as the “core” of your team composition. You don’t typically need to be showing in the minion waves if you do not contribute to the wave clear, and the enemy team would then again be wary of the fact that your “save mechanic” is missing, so their gank potential is much lower (or something that they should consider).
Typically, the support is one of the first heroes the enemy team will want to kill, so your positioning on this role is crucial. Especially, based on the fact that most of the supports do not have a mobility tool, if they are caught out, they will need their teammates to peel them out, which is not ideal trading circumstances.
Think of the tank, support, and main range as the trinity. The Tank should be up front with the main range behind, and the support on the side. Positioning in the most basic of senses should be like one of a triangle.
“Your assassins will oftentimes be very bloodthirsty / dumb, expect them to be, and communicate either through ping, voice, or some sort of manner to them your cooldowns. I operate under the assumption they will be dumb, so I always try to help them and play for the best while expecting the worst.” - LFM DarkChimaera
Key concept: It is important to understand, that you are the most likely member to be ganked under regular circumstances, because you are by yourself. The primary focus of your role is to soak the incoming waves, create pressure on your side of the map, and look for opportunities to out-rotate the enemy team and allow your team to start a fight where you would outnumber the enemy team.
(A lot of times you don’t actually need to push out waves and can just passively soak and freeze the wave by your towers because there is no advantage to be had pushing out unless you can either 1.) Get the kill cause the other solo is playing bad 2.) push the structures down because the enemy team is playing bad 3.) rotate out faster to help your team. **Note, the first two conditions are based on the fact if your enemy team is actually playing bad which is an inconsistent variable)
What is my job?
Identify what your composition does, and what you should do accordingly. For example, if the map is braxis, and you team drafted a Sgt. Hammer composition that slow pushes, you do not need to contest the point if your team is slowly winning. The enemy team’s look will be on the solo laner if they aren't able to win the four man, the solo laner just need to play safe as your team is winning elsewhere on the map.
It is also important to “hover” closer to your team whenever you can. What this means is that if you have the opportunity to clear your lane, you can rotate closer to your teammates, but not fully commit to that rotation, and just stay out of vision in bushes so by. This allows your team to A) Look for opportunities to start an outnumber fight, B) Invade enemy mercenaries, C) Push down enemy structures together, or D) rotate you back up to your lane before the next minion waves crash again.
Note: When you are hovering, you need be wary of the mini-map, as the enemy team tank could be anchoring in nearby pushes to punish you. Hover safely, when you can, especially if the enemy team isn't showing. If you are not confident to hover nearby, it is most likely better just to stay in your lane and stay by your towers.
How to play my lane?
I think the biggest misconception to the solo laning or offlaning role is that people believe that since it is a 1 vs 1, you are looking to brawl to your heart’s content with the enemy team member.
There are a lot of different ways to play this lane, but the biggest thing you should always be looking to do in this role is “how can I make the enemy team solo laner miss soak”. Some people do it by, “Fast clearing the waves and out-double soaking”, “Freezing the minion waves near your gate”, “Killing the enemy team solo laner or forcing him to back, either by yourself or ganking”
Note: It is extremely rare to kill the enemy team solo laner by yourself in a straight up 1 vs 1 unless the enemy straight up misplayed. You may slowly lose the lane and get pushed in based on laning mismatches, but your job is to not miss minions, and create opportunities for outnumber fights. Therefore, you can also do this by freezing the wave near your side of the map, or “baiting” the enemy solo laner to brawl against you, when you have teammates nearby “hovering” to gank them. *** If the enemy team solo laner is trying to brawl you, MOST LIKELY THE ENEMY TEAM IS COMING TO GANK YOU, unless the enemy solo laner is straight up bored.
The following is a good video guide on freezing the waves made by JHOW, Caster for North America HGC:
How do I position?
When you rotate to your teammates to join them in a team fight, generally either you or your tank should look for a “flanking position”. You would need to make sure at least one front line is available with your team to provide the ability of being a “wall” for them, while the other can cut off the enemy team. When you start a flank, it is good to engage the fight with a CC ability and using the surprise factor.
When you are on the flank, you would need to be a little bit careful, because again, you are by yourself and cut off from your team.If the enemy team was able to sniff out your flank, there is a high chance of them turning around and engaging onto you instead.
Key concept: You are the damage dealer with the highest potential to dish out the most damage in the team composition. Majority of the time, your healer should be always with you as mentioned earlier to protect you, and you have the ability to look for out trades against the enemy team. You are the follow up as well as the “playmaker” in a team fight, in a sense that you should be the one that is slowly “chunking” out the enemy team so that they feel pressured to step up, or “Bursting” them to death.
What is my job?
The most important thing to note in this role is to watch out for cooldowns, and understand how to cooldown trade. Understand when you use your cooldowns, you are a vulnerable target, for example if you are a Li-Ming against a raynor, if you use your cooldowns + blink against the raynor, and it doesn't kill him, the raynor if he has health with a support can just run you down slowly auto attacking you to death.
It’s also important to watch your distance to the enemy tank or engagement heroes, such as Maiev, Zeratual, Thrall, Yrel, etc, and their CC abilities. If you are within an E.T.C slide range, and does not have an escape ability or something that can stop his slide animation mid slide, then you are vulnerable to the enemy team’s engagement and you best hope your team save you if you get caught.
“Main range as a whole has the theory that focusing tanks are bad, however, as you climb the ladder, you will start to notice majority of the fights the only person you can hit is the tank. Typically, range mains want to dance on a knife's edge when it comes to pressuring tanks. You want to be doing as much damage as possible without putting yourself in a position to die to a tanks engage.“ - OCT Drated
One thing to note is that in highly competitive games, if you are to chunk out the enemy tank, they will be put in a position where they no longer have a frontline pressure to step up and really hard for them to contest your team. Ideally, as the main range you want to find a fine line between hitting tanks and enemy primary targets, every situation will be different, so damaging enemy tanks isn’t ALWAYS the wrong thing to do.
Key concept: This role generally is very broad, and encompass a lot of different style into this role. However, the basis I want to cover is that generally in almost all situations where you want to split someone off to soak, this is the person to do it. (Aside from the solo laner) What this means is that whenever you need to split someone away from the core 4 man. Generally, the first person to split away from the team as a 5 would be the solo laner, but this is the second person to split if needed be.
What is my role?
The hero required to be in the flex role generally has good wave clear, or lane holding potential with an ability to get away in case of a gank. Good example of such a hero would be Tassadar, Zeratual, Junkrat, Genji, or Fenix. These heroes have the potential to split soak the secondary side lanes, and still offer a lot of play making potential to the core group in a team fight, they are also less likely to be caught out in a gank because of their potential to get away.
This also opens up the opportunities to play in manners such as a 1-1-3 split, where if you establish a strong 3 man, especially with the potential to push, can establish dominance in their lane creating pressure, while you other side lanes are being held by your solo laner and flex player ensuring no soak is missed and that the enemy team isn’t gaining more value in the structure race.
When split in situations either by yourself, or with the tank if the team is running a 1-2-2 situation, the primary focus would be the same objective as the primary duty of a solo laner, to split push, create pressure and trap at minimum one enemy team member to soak the waves that are pushing in, thus forcing faster rotations and creating fights where your team would outnumber theirs at the start of the engagement. Example of such would be if it is towers of doom, and your team is able to push in mid and top lane, allowing your team members to rotate faster to bottom and forcing a fight or ability to invade enemy camp.
Note: It's good habit to establish who is the “flex” and “main range” in compositions, so you understand who will need to split off, or hold the lanes when needed. If the flex does not have wave clear, you are likely to be pushed in if you have no wave clear and the enemy team decides to punish this if your team does not rotate.
In this role, you are also able to hover, and look for solo gank opportunities, or duo gank opportunities with your tank, either in the solo lane, or the other primary lane.
“When you are on heroes like Genji/Medivh as the “flex spot” - your primary focus is not the clear the waves (typically) but also to provide scouting information for your team and disrupt enemy teams rotations” - OCT Drated
This is something that I personally like to keep in mind that allows your composition to shine in a well-rounded situation is that both backline damages (Main-range and Flex) have one fast damage and one slow damage.
What this means is that one will generally be able to provide the fast burst damage, and one is able to play slow and poke them out over time. There will be some variations of this and not all compositions can fulfill this requirements but it is pretty close when you think about it. For example, compositions like Tassadar & Valla. At first glance they both feel like slow damage, but I think tassadar can be considered the slower damage in the scenario where it allows the fights to be played slow. In comparison to Valla, as the hyper carry in the composition she can provide the faster upfront damage and potentially burst someone within a stun duration if all spells are chained correctly.
Certain heroes can obviously be grouped in a hybrid category, as they can fit in both a slow or fast situation. This is just a small basic idea that I personally like to keep in mind, it is also why double mages typically don't workout because mages are generally fast burst styles with low mobility and unable to fight sustain once their spells are thrown.