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2018 Gameplay Update: A More Meaningful Early Game

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The 2018 gameplay update brings a lot of improvements to the game. This article focuses on updates that make early game and the laning phase more impactful.

It does not contain any information about performance-based matchmaking. For more information about the gameplay update, don't forget to check out the most recent developer Q/A here.

TL;DR

  • Structures
    • Will have infinite ammo.
    • Standalone towers will be removed.
    • True sight will be added to Structures.
      • True sight means that towers will detect stealthed Heroes.
  • Regeneration Globes
    • Will switch from allied to neutral after 3 seconds and remain available for either team to pick up for an additional 3 seconds.
  • Battleground Mechanics
    • Many objective timers have been simplified.
    • Players will receive objective information earlier.
  • Mercenary Camps
    • Knights will have more pushing power.
    • Enemies hit by Hellbats will have their armor slightly reduced for a few seconds.
    • Siege Giants can be captured without taking any damage.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

As mentioned in the BlizzCon 2017 opening ceremony and during our “What’s Next” panel, we will soon be introducing an array of significant changes for Heroes of the Storm’s early game as part of our 2018 Gameplay Update. Read on for an in-depth look at some of the adjustments coming to the Nexus later this month, as well as our reasoning behind them.

What’s Changing and Why

The early game in Heroes of the Storm typically breaks down into two parts: the laning phase and initial battleground objectives. The laning phase offers opportunities for players to have small skirmishes in each lane, show off individual skill by outplaying opponents, and get in some early structure damage. During most games, the laning phase currently ends more quickly than we’d like, and outplaying an opponent in a lane doesn’t have much tangible impact on a match as a result.

With this in mind, we wanted to revisit these experiences to explore ways we could make improvements. We’ve re-evaluated our approach to many aspects of the early game, and made a variety of changes to structures, regeneration globes, mercenary camps, and even our objective spawns, to make laning more meaningful throughout a match. 

Structures

Ammunition Removed

Currently, towers, forts, and keeps have a limited number of shots and regenerate ammo slowly. Often, players will quickly defeat a minion wave, and then play safe while their own minions push enemy towers and drain ammunition. We wanted to revisit this relationship to see if we could find a way to encourage more offensive play in-lane.

After testing a variety of changes internally, we decided to remove structure ammunition, effectively giving towers, forts, and keeps an infinite number of shots. Since ammo can no longer be depleted, we’ve also reduced structure damage to minions, and increased minion damage to help them hit a little harder. These changes should give players a bit more incentive to attack with their minion waves in order to deal more meaningful damage to opposing towers. 

Standalone Towers Removed

We also began re-evaluating individual structures, and found the standalone towers near forts and keeps aren’t coming into play as often as we’d hoped. Once they do, it’s usually too late, and the other structures have already been destroyed. Standalone towers can also block defenders during critical moments, making it easier for enemies to predict their movements and pick them off.

As a result, we’ve decided to remove standalone towers, and have been happy with how this has played out in testing so far. In fact, we’ve already tried out this change in the live game with our newest battleground, Volskaya Foundry, which was released earlier this year without standalone towers. To compensate for the removal of standalone towers, we've rolled some of their stats into surrounding gate towers, forts, and keeps, to beef them up and help maintain the relationships between fortifications and battleground objectives.

True Sight

Characters like Abathur and Murky commonly rely on standalone towers as protection against stealth Heroes like Zeratul, who are looking to hunt them down. Removing those towers makes these Heroes more vulnerable, but we still want players to be able to defend their fortifications effectively. We’ve given True Sight to Forts and Keeps, which already exists on the Core and reveals any enemy stealth Heroes who enter the structure’s attack range. Despite the removal of standalone towers, players should feel a little safer while trying to hold off attacks.

Regeneration Globes

We like what regeneration globes currently do for the game, but also wanted to see if there were any changes we could implement to make them even more impactful. Currently, they encourage players to consider how they approach fights over minion waves in order to maximize sustain and keep up the pressure in a lane. They also disappear if no allies pick them up after a few seconds.

We’ve tweaked regeneration globes so they instead switch from allied to neutral after 3 seconds and remain available for either team to pick up for an additional 3 seconds. This will give players more opportunities to think critically about how to win their lanes, and skilled players will be able to grab up to twice as many globes as before.

Battleground Mechanics

In addition to making the laning phase in Heroes more meaningful, we want to give players more time to make an impact and show off their skill in the early game before they are pulled away to contest an objective. As a result, we’re going to push back our initial objective timers a bit in order to provide that space. We’re also planning to simplify timers across all battlegrounds, and give earlier objective notifications so that players can make the most of the laning phase in each match.

Objective Timers, Simplified

While having a large number of unique battlegrounds to compete on offers a wide variety of strategies and dynamic gameplay, it also means players have a lot to keep in mind from one game to the next. Thus far, many of our battlegrounds have had differing rulesets and timers that players need to memorize, and we want to simplify this so they are easier to remember across the board.

  • The first objective will now spawn 1 minute and 30 seconds into a match on the following battlegrounds:
    • Blackheart’s Bay
    • Braxis Holdout
    • Dragon Shire
  • The first objective will now spawn 3 minutes into a match on the following battlegrounds:
    • Battlefield of Eternity
    • Cursed Hollow
    • Garden of Terror
    • Haunted Mines
    • Infernal Shrines
    • Sky Temple
    • Towers of Doom
    • Warhead Junction
  • We’ve been happy with Tomb of the Spider Queen and Volskaya Foundry, so we will not be changing the initial timers on these battlegrounds.

Earlier Objective Information

Since we were already making objective timers more uniform, we felt that players would benefit from consistent and earlier warnings about upcoming objective spawns. Going forward, players will receive 30 second objective spawn warnings across all battlegrounds so that teams are able to coordinate, reposition, and change lanes in time.

Additionally, to give players even more information to work with, the minimap will now indicate where the next objective will appear on battlegrounds with a variety of objective spawn locations. These objective icons will appear on the minimap shortly after game start, as well as a few moments after the previous objective or event has come to an end. This will allow players ample time to plan ahead before the next objective, and give them opportunities to think about when they should take a mercenary camp, which lane they should push, and what their strong lane should be well before each objective activates.

Match Length

We believe the sweet spot for match length in Heroes is around 20 minutes, and maintaining that has been a crucial part of our approach to these objective changes. We haven’t seen game times increasing during internal testing or the PTR, and we'll continue to keep a close eye on this once these changes are live.

Mercenary Camps

We revisited many of our mercenary camps to ensure they’re offering diverse strategic options, and having a noticeable impact when they are utilized to their full potential. Below, we’ve highlighted significant changes for Knights, Hellbats, and Siege Giants, but we’re also going to monitor our other mercenary camps to make sure they remain powerful across all stages of a match. 

Knight Camps

We felt the removal of tower ammunition weakened the role of Knight Camps a bit, and we wanted to ensure they maintain a unique identity and purpose. To achieve this, we’re giving Knight Camps more pushing power through the Knight Wizard, who will now emit a spell armor aura to buff all nearby allied units, including Heroes. This should make Knights a more formidable force when they’re barreling down a lane, especially when accompanied by Heroes. 

Hellbat Camps

We’d like Hellbats to offer a more engaging experience during lane combat than they currently do. In addition to a few balance tweaks, enemies hit by their basic attacks will now have their armor slightly reduced for a few seconds. This armor reduction effect can stack, so players will want to be more careful about how they approach enemy Hellbats in a lane—it can be quite punishing to take on the opposing team when Hellbats are near. 

Siege Giant Camps

While we’re happy with Siege Giants for the most part, we found that we could improve on their role further by adjusting their basic attacks. Going forward, players will now be able to dodge defending Siege Giant attacks while fighting them in their camps. By paying close attention and dodging consistently, players will be able to capture Siege Giants without taking damage. Players can already dodge Siege Giant attacks in lanes, but this isn't as clear as it could be, so we’re going to tweak those visual effects so players know exactly when to dive out of the way.

All of these changes amount to significant adjustments to the game as a whole, but we’re still very happy with Heroes of the Storm’s core gameplay. With the 2018 Gameplay Update, we’re primarily looking to improve on areas of the game we think are already fun in order to make them even better, and we appreciate your continued feedback as you playtest in the Public Test Realm.

Until next time, we’ll see you in the Nexus!

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Ok, but what about other types of Mercenaries out there? Will the Diablo themed ones be changed, same for the Overwatch ones.

Not to mention bosses

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The Impaler camp seems weak but that is about it. The ammo removal is a fundamental change of the game or "core" as they say it. MAKE AMMO REPLENISH FASTER INSTEAD OF REMOVING IT.

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1 hour ago, XeaKon said:

The Impaler camp seems weak but that is about it. The ammo removal is a fundamental change of the game or "core" as they say it. MAKE AMMO REPLENISH FASTER INSTEAD OF REMOVING IT.

I believe they gave it infinite ammo to make up for the loss of the stand-alone tower... reducing the ammo recharge rate will make them weaker, which Blizzard really doesn't want...

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1 hour ago, XeaKon said:

The Impaler camp seems weak but that is about it. The ammo removal is a fundamental change of the game or "core" as they say it. MAKE AMMO REPLENISH FASTER INSTEAD OF REMOVING IT.

Ammo is redundant mechanic. There is no upside to keeping it in the game, it only adds confusion.

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The devs mentioned during BlizzCon that they we're going to zoom out the in-game camera. I wonder, when is this change coming to the live servers?

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True sight will possibly be the nail in the coffin for the stealthies, though I suppose Zeratul will survive with void prison.

The main feature I'm still waiting on though is in game voice chat.   

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32 minutes ago, Fliits said:

The devs mentioned during BlizzCon that they we're going to zoom out the in-game camera. I wonder, when is this change coming to the live servers?

The patch is available for testing until December 11 and as far as I know, they're aiming for a mid-December release.

4 minutes ago, Migol said:

True sight will possibly be the nail in the coffin for the stealthies, though I suppose Zeratul will survive with void prison.

The main feature I'm still waiting on though is in game voice chat.   

Voice chat will be added at a later point I guess, because it's not available on PTR right now, or mentioned in the patch notes.

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36 minutes ago, Migol said:

True sight will possibly be the nail in the coffin for the stealthies, though I suppose Zeratul will survive with void prison.

They're compensating that by making stealthies more combat oriented. Valeera will have a sick combo that can deal over 2k damage.

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7 hours ago, Migol said:

True sight will possibly be the nail in the coffin for the stealthies, though I suppose Zeratul will survive with void prison

almost certainly not true, as this update is paired with a complete rework of the stealth mechanic and all the heroes that use it;. namely, that a large portion of their power budget is being shifted from stealth to other areas of their kit. (depending on who you ask, nova might be an exception to the rule, as her main buff is ghost protocol baked-in. given that she is the only ranged stealthie, though, true sight is unlikly to do much to her besides make her a bit careful about positioning.)

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11 hours ago, Fliits said:

Ammo is redundant mechanic. There is no upside to keeping it in the game, it only adds confusion.

It looks redundant because it was poorly implemented. This is why I ask for an improvement.

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Am I the only one who thinks the regen globe thing will have lots of implications? Like any good solo laner matched against someone just trying to safely soak is going to get twice the sustain. Diablo's devils due? Mings 1st tier dmg buff? All the globe quests? I think it will make more balance changes necessary 

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56 minutes ago, RoadtoRindokan said:

Am I the only one who thinks the regen globe thing will have lots of implications? Like any good solo laner matched against someone just trying to safely soak is going to get twice the sustain. Diablo's devils due? Mings 1st tier dmg buff? All the globe quests? I think it will make more balance changes necessary 

I agree.  If you are winning your matchup and don't get rotation help, it will snowball.  Especially for heroes with quests.  Like if Jaina bullies her lane she will complete her level 1 quest fast. Though with the quests spawning earlier that will negate somr of the snowballing, unless you have sylv rushing a wall during first obj.  I can see some early sylv team pushes being very significant with the stand alone tower gone.  Take down the wall and the fort will take extra damage during objectives.

 

This could also be a buff for junkrat.  Deny them globes with displacement and you can steal them for your team.

Edited by ArtVandelay

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On 12/6/2017 at 12:58 AM, Valhalen said:

Valeera will have a sick combo that can deal over 2k damage.

Thats most certainly not true, shes same old just more utility like teleports baseline, blind on cheap shot and a ridiculous 2.75 seconds silence on Garrote which will be nerfed back after one week. 

Her dmg is basically nerfed and because Garrote is basically the strongest right now shes basically a stealthed basic attacker. She will probably be bottom tier in Platinum and up.

The funny thing is they wanted to balance the stealthies to make them better at high levels of play but easier to deal with in QM/Unranked but Valeera, well shes gonna be a pain for newbs.

Edited by xevex

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10 hours ago, RoadtoRindokan said:

Am I the only one who thinks the regen globe thing will have lots of implications? Like any good solo laner matched against someone just trying to safely soak is going to get twice the sustain. Diablo's devils due? Mings 1st tier dmg buff? All the globe quests? I think it will make more balance changes necessary 

In theory, strong duelists will be able to more easily bully their lane.

My concern is certain heroes like Aba are basically useless now.  Much of hit kit was based around pushing passively and eating turret shots.  I can't see any circumstance where Aba is even remotely good now. 

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On 12/6/2017 at 12:51 AM, Fliits said:

Ammo is redundant mechanic. There is no upside to keeping it in the game, it only adds confusion.

spoken like a true lol player.Ammo prevented turtling.It gave value to specialists. Just like all the changes since alpha,their only true reason is that people cant handle a game that isnt simple like league.They even added earlier warnings for obj because people still dont undestand what this even is.

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22 minutes ago, Kurosu said:

spoken like a true lol player.Ammo prevented turtling.It gave value to specialists. Just like all the changes since alpha,their only true reason is that people cant handle a game that isnt simple like league.They even added earlier warnings for obj because people still dont undestand what this even is.

That may be true, but Blizzard's argument is very solid about this. Ammo diminishes the value of laning because you just wait for the minions to soak all the ammo instead of pushing with them, like Blizzard originally intended.

I understand the concern regarding Abathur becoming completely irrelevant because one of his main functions was to split push and soaking ammo, but maybe Blizzard could do some minor tweaks to his abilities. Maybe make his Locusts take reduced damage from structures, or maybe even make the Locusts naturally apply a debuff similar to Imposing PresenceImposing Presence which would only affects structures; that way they would have some weight to sieging to compensate the ammo removal.

Edited by Valhalen
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9 hours ago, Valhalen said:

That may be true, but Blizzard's argument is very solid about this. Ammo diminishes the value of laning because you just wait for the minions to soak all the ammo instead of pushing with them, like Blizzard originally intended.

I understand the concern regarding Abathur becoming completely irrelevant because one of his main functions was to split push and soaking ammo, but maybe Blizzard could do some minor tweaks to his abilities. Maybe make his Locusts take reduced damage from structures, or maybe even make the Locusts naturally apply a debuff similar to Imposing PresenceImposing Presence which would only affects structures; that way they would have some weight to sieging to compensate the ammo removal.

Yes please tell me more about how constantly turtling and hiding under  2 turrets  is NOT diminishing laning.

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On 08/12/2017 at 10:55 PM, Kurosu said:

Yes please tell me more about how constantly turtling and hiding under  2 turrets  is NOT diminishing laning.

It doesn't. If that happens then the hero turtling is clearly losing the power struggle in the lane, never getting any purchase on the enemy towers while theirs' take damage or they take damage and eventually have to hearth back leaving the lane open; all the while the objective happens and whatever else is going on. I don't see any diminishing here; please explain your point

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On 12/10/2017 at 6:02 PM, MurkyFelix said:

It doesn't. If that happens then the hero turtling is clearly losing the power struggle in the lane, never getting any purchase on the enemy towers while theirs' take damage or they take damage and eventually have to hearth back leaving the lane open; all the while the objective happens and whatever else is going on. I don't see any diminishing here; please explain your point

If you are not smart enough to realise the problem with this change and the benefits of turret ammo,there is no point tryint to explain it or  argue with you. Hopefully you will see it when the change goes live though.

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10 hours ago, Kurosu said:

If you are not smart enough to realise the problem with this change and the benefits of turret ammo,there is no point tryint to explain it or  argue with you. Hopefully you will see it when the change goes live though.

Simply sounds like a cop-out from someone who doesn't have a point to explain. How can I understand your point if all you're gonna do is insult people? Anyway; there is no way to know about any so called diminishing until the game is played so all discussions are poo until it analysed properly.

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11 hours ago, MurkyFelix said:

Simply sounds like a cop-out from someone who doesn't have a point to explain. How can I understand your point if all you're gonna do is insult people? Anyway; there is no way to know about any so called diminishing until the game is played so all discussions are poo until it analysed properly.

Oh  my sweet summer child :)

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      Current ranked mode map rotation
       
      Prime Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Arthas Genji - - E.T.C. Greymane     Sonya Hanzo       Maiev (new)     Prime tier heroes are considered to be extremely strong in all situations, and show no obvious weakness. They are very often banned or picked right away, as they generally dictate the pace of most matches.
       
      Core Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Anub'arak Falstad Alexstrasza Abathur↑ Dehaka Jaina↑ Brightwing Azmodan Diablo+ Junkrat Lúcio+ Nazeebo Muradin Li-Ming Malfurion↑ Sylvanas Stitches Malthael (reworked)+ Stukov  Zagara Varian (Taunt) Valla Uther   Core tier heroes are strong in a wide variety of situations and have few counter-picking possibility. They should form the core of your team, and be picked after Prime Tier heroes have been distributed.
       
      Viable Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Artanis Alarak Ana Murky Blaze+ Cassia Auriel   D.Va Chromie Kharazim Xul Garrosh Gul'dan+ Li Li+   Johanna Illidan Lt. Morales   Leoric Kael'thas+ Rehgar   Tyrael  Kel'Thuzad Tyrande    Zarya Kerrigan↓       Lunara       Nova↓       Ragnaros+       Samuro       The Butcher       Thrall       Tracer+       Tychus↑       Varian (Colossus Smash)       Zeratul       Zul'jin↓     Viable tier heroes are generally well-rounded that have either fallen out of favour, or, inversely, are on the rise in popularity, due to the current Prime tier contenders.
       
      Niche Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Chen Cho'gall Tassadar Gazlowe Cho'gall Raynor   Medivh Rexxar Valeera↓   Probius↓   Varian (Twin Blades of Fury)   Sgt. Hammer↓ Niche tier heroes have niche application on certain maps or for certain team compositions. They may also picked to "round out" your team composition when your team composition is missing out on key components, such as a "jungler" (mercenary camps), a solo laner, or solid waveclear.
       
      Lost Vikings Tier
      The Lost Vikings Bottom tier Heroes are deemed to be either considerably weaker than the majority of other Heroes, or much more challenging to play properly. Although they may situationally shine, these Heroes are generally avoided by most players.
       
      Metagame assessment
      Maiev: Where do I even begin? Despite heavy-handed nerfs delivered less than a week after her release, Maiev continues to dominate popularity (read: is banned about 5 times more than she is played at all levels) and top win rates. The fact that I'm not sure what exactly contributes to her success is probably a good indicator of what actually contributes to her success: everything. High survivability, high mobility, high damage potential through Fan of Knives's ability to reset, the ability to both set up and follow up for and on crowd control through Spirit of Vengeance + Umbral Bind, serviceable waveclear, and Vault of the Wardens on a ridiculously short cooldown for good measure to make her an unviable target for heroic ability chains. Warden's Cage ended up the favoured heroic ability choice for Maiev, and it's rather easy to see why; it just works well with the rest of her kit on top of being quite easy for anyone to use, though Containment Disc is not to be underestimated either. She's at the top of the food chain, so Prime tier it is. Expect further nerfs.
      Jaina: Jaina was last month's surprise for me, which is why I had her marked for promotion. I slightly feared Genji players, but after witnessing some more competent Jaina play (including my own not-so-competent experimentation), it's safe to say that Summon Water Elemental is absolutely key to dealing with him (along pretty much every other assassin in the game). For games with little melee assassin pressure, Ring of Frost remains a powerful win condition. Jaina also sports what is arguably the game's best waveclear potential, and can deal with mercenary camps extremely well with Frost Shards and Ice Lance. 
      Malthael: I can certainly see how Malthael's rework may have seemed rather grim to anyone underestimating the power of cleaving attacks. This change, though accompanied by slight nerfs to his damage and survivability, allowed his already powerful laning  to improve, just as with his ability to deal with mercenary camps. One should never underestimate the power of PvE, particularly in less organised play. Furthermore, his reliance upon Tormented Souls was reduced, allowing for Last Rites to actually get some playtime. I've been impressed with it, and I'm probably going to update his builds to reflect this newfound power.
      Abathur: Abathur is the kind of hero that comes and goes with the metagame state and who generally thrives in assassin-oriented states. As with Genji, I wouldn't be fooled by his limited winrates; he just simply tends to do better at higher level, more organised play, and particularly in longer matches. To avoid on Haunted Mines and Braxis Holdout. Please pick your Ultimate Evolution target responsibly, and go for an assassin, with Maiev, Genji, Hanzo, and Jaina making incredible targets. Incidentally, avoid Evolve Monstrosity; it has been tested and rejected a long time ago.
      Tychus: Not a big leap in tier, but a leap nonetheless. He went from seeing pretty much no play for quite a while to seeing some, including tournament play. As expected, he does well against Blaze and a few other bruisers, on top of being on the more resilient side of ranged assassins. Commandeer Odin is excellent, but the real sleeper here is Neosteel Coating, which can do funny things with Relentless Soldier.
      Probius: Nearly as unpopular as The Lost Vikings. Though I don't think he's bad, I certainly think he does not have a place in the current meta. All of the top picks do extremely well against him, as does diving in general. I really wish I had more insights here, but the very few times I did see him in the last month, it was rather sad to witness. 
      Sgt. Hammer: I initially had her as viable, but upon reading user comments, I had to agree: she does extremely well against team compositions that cannot deal with her, and poorly otherwise. This is basically what the Niche tier should be defined by. We could discuss at length why this design is rather unhealthy for the game, but I think Blizzard has recognized this by not releasing a single specialist in over a year.
    • By Stan

      After Lunar Rocket Racing, it's time for Lost Cavern! Lay waste to the enemy Core on the single-lane map with no talent or level restriction. Complete three matches to get a Lunar Loot Chest.
      Blizzard (Source)
      This week’s brawl is Lost Cavern! It’s all-out mayhem on our single-lane battleground – Lost Cavern. Queue up, choose your Hero, and try to best to bring down the enemy Core!

      Rules:
      Shuffle pick - Choose from one of three Heroes before entering the battle. Standard play - no talent or level restrictions. The first team to destroy the enemy Core wins! Rewards:
      Complete three matches of Lost Cavern to earn a Loot Chest! Find out more about the Heroes Brawl game mode on our Heroes Brawl site; and as always, you can find more information on this week’s Brawl by clicking the Brawl Info button at the bottom of the play screen when preparing to queue for the Brawl game mode.
    • By Stan

      Blizzard just rolled out a patch with various bug fixes. Check out the full patch notes! 
      Blizzard (Source)
      Bug Fixes
      Heroes, Talents, & Abilities
      Genji: Fixed an issue preventing certain cleave attacks, such as Malthael’s Basic Attacks and Xul’s Cursed Strikes, from removing stacks of Genji’s Dodge. Ice Block: Fixed an issue allowing certain Abilities to be cast during Ice Block, including Jaina’s Ice Blink, Brightwing’s Storm Shield, and Malfurion’s Astral Communion. Jaina: The Wintermute Talent now correctly causes Jaina’s Water Elemental to mimic her Basic Abilities. Lunara: The Galloping Gait Talent no longer permanently grants a permanent Movement Speed bonus. Tyrael: The Stalwart Angel Talent’s tooltip now displays the correct values for its duration and Armor bonus. Maiev: Casting Spirit of Vengeance just as a Core is destroyed will no longer cause the Spirit to cease animating. Maiev: Activating Naisha’s Memento will now correctly display an icon indicating its duration in the buff bar. Nova: Fixed an issue causing Holo Decoys to deal slightly more damage than intended after learning Lethal Decoy. Rehgar: The Rising Storm Talent will no longer increase Lightning Shield’s damage versus non-Heroic enemies.
    • By Oxygen
         
      Our fifteenth Heroes of the Storm Meta Tier list for the Blaze patch of January is here!
      We present our fifteenth Heroes of the Storm Meta Tier List for the Blaze patch of January 2018.
      Note: This list also takes the January 16 balance patch into account.
      Welcome to Icy Veins's Meta Tier List for the Blaze patch. The goal if of this list is to try and detail game's current metagame state. The prime goal of such lists is to inform players regarding popular and trending team composition drafting strategies (i.e. the drafting metagame). Although tier listings are generally the product of balance, many factors come into play when discussing the relative perceived strengths of heroes, including player regions, maps, play style, skill level, and, of course, personal perception. As such, any tier list—including this very one—should never be interpreted as gospel, but rather, as a guide to better grasp what to expect with regards to typical drafting experiences. One useful application of such lists is to allow you know which heroes to look out for in terms of practice and counterplay, ultimately improving your knowledge of the game.
      Using the list
      As stated above, tier lists are easy to mistake for gospel. As new strategies are discovered and experimented with, so changes the perception of the relative strengths of each hero. Tier lists still prove to be useful as a snapshot of player expectations in terms of drafting. Although it is generally considered preferable to focus on high tier heroes (Prime and Core tiers), it is important to note that Heroes of the Storm's wild character and map designs make it so that any given hero's tier position is prone to fluctuate depending on the situation at hand.
      One classic example of such is that of Kerrigan on the Infernal Shrines map. Although we currently judge her to be a low-to-mid-tier hero, her drafting priority shoots up to first-pick or first-ban material on this specific map due to the nature of its objective. Certain heroes also synergise so well with each other that the sole fact of having the opportunity of drafting them together is generally enough to increase their potential. Tassadar and Tracer, for instance, are generally nightmarish to deal with for many. There are too many examples of these interactions to reasonably produce here, but we invite you to consult our guides to know exactly where and when each hero shines. The guides have been linked in the lists below for your convenience - just click any of the hero names to access them.
      A ↑ next to a hero's name means its tier list position has increased since the previous month whereas a ↓ means just the opposite. Additionally, a + or - sign indicates short-to-medium term predictions (which is to say, about a month) for tier increase(s) or decrease(s), respectively. These are often updated after significant balance patches and/or when clear trends are emerging.
      If you're newer to the game, also consider visiting our glossary for a comprehensive list of discrete Heroes of the Storm terms.
      Current map rotation
       
      Prime Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Arthas Genji - - E.T.C. Greymane     Sonya↑ Hanzo↑↑↑     Prime tier heroes are considered to be extremely strong in all situations, and show no obvious weakness. They are very often banned or picked right away, as they generally dictate the pace of most matches.
       
      Core Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Anub'arak Falstad Alexstrasza↑ Azmodan Dehaka Junkrat↑↑ Brightwing Nazeebo Diablo Kerrigan Lúcio Zagara Muradin Li-Ming Stukov↑ Sylvanas↑  Stitches Malthael↓ Uther   Varian (Tank) Nova↓-       Valla       Zul'jin     Core tier heroes are strong in a wide variety of situations and have few counter-picking possibility. They should form the core of your team, and be picked after Prime Tier heroes have been distributed.
       
      Viable Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Artanis Alarak Ana Abathur D.Va Cassia Auriel Murky Garrosh Chromie Kharazim Probius Johanna Gul'dan Li Li+ Sgt. Hammer↑ Leoric Illidan Lt. Morales Xul Zarya Jaina Malfurion (reworked)+   Blaze (new) Kael'thas Rehgar   Tyrael (reworked)↑ Kel'Thuzad Tyrande     Lunara       Ragnaros       Samuro       The Butcher       Thrall↑       Tracer       Valeera↓↓-       Zeratul+     Viable tier heroes are generally well-rounded that have either fallen out of favour, or, inversely, are on the rise in popularity, due to the current Prime tier contenders.
       
      Niche Tier
      Warrior Assassin Support Specialist Chen Cho'gall Tassadar Gazlowe Cho'gall Raynor   Medivh Rexxar Tychus       Varian (Damage)     Niche tier heroes have niche application on certain maps or for certain team compositions. They are generally picked to "round out" your team composition when your team composition is missing out on key components, such as a "jungler" (mercenary camps), a solo laner, or solid waveclear.
       
      Bottom Tier
      The Lost Vikings Bottom tier Heroes are deemed to be either considerably weaker than the majority of other Heroes, or much more challenging to play properly. Although they may situationally shine, these Heroes are generally avoided by most players.
       
      Metagame assessment
      Happy new year to everyone. This list is a tad late, as was the last one, but I was, once again, waiting for one of those odd rework patches that come out a week after featured hero releases and go untested on the PTR for some reason. HGC matches also began just yesterday, meaning that new trends  are likely to emerge shortly; today saw unexpected Cassia, Tychus, and Leoric make an appearance, which was certainly exciting. As per usual, I'll be updating the list as I see fit throughout the next few weeks. The last few lists have generated quite a bit of discussion, which is great to see. Although I cannot reasonably respond to every comment, I do read everything posted. Keep it up!
      Blaze. My initial PTR assessment of the hero, which was quite positive, was followed by a sudden realization: he does a lot of things well, but nothing exceptionally well. Blaze is the quintessential jack of all trades, master of none type hero. Generally, that's not a particularly desirable trait, because heroes are generally picked for their niches to either counter opponents or synergise with allies. For a warrior, he can't really solo tank, meaning he often ends up in that strange spot where you need a pretty well fleshed out team composition to make him work. But when he works, he does work well. He can hold his own in a solo lane, but his waveclear isn't quite good enough to deal with mercenary camps pushing before Grill and Kill, which can be frustrating. Certain heroes, such as Leoric and Malthael, completely shut him down as well. This leads me to believe that he won't see much tournament play if at all, unless teams are messing around. Viable as a late pick when you don't really know what else to pick because your team composition is already fine.
      Sonya. She's currently the most popular pick in the game. You can't go wrong with a bulky solo laner that can duel nearly anyone, output as much damage as an assassin, and clear mercenary camps with ease. Leap lets her setup really well if your team composition lends itself to that. Still, I don't think she deserves bans.
      Hanzo. This important Overwatch figurehead could just not be allowed to remain seen as underpowered for over a month. After unsuccessfully giving him a blanket 10% damage buff across the board following poor PTR feedback, Blizzard adopted the bolder strategy of making his basic attacks deal ability levels of damage thanks to the Sharpened Arrowheads changes. What was initially supposed to be a difficult to master skillshot-based hero now  has access to what is arguably the most powerful basic attack in the game, though the Serrated Arrows + Never Outmatched combo I discussed last patch remains useful for trivializing map objectives on Battlefield of Eternity and Infernal Shrines while allowing Hanzo to solo any mercenary camp from level 7 and on. With the help of another hero, bosses also become possible at this level. Losing map control or suffering one or two early deaths against Hanzo is devastating. Explosive Arrows lets him waveclear relatively well too, though particularly with Piercing Arrows for double hits on minions. The Natural Agility range increase made it much more usable, to where Hanzo can now reliably escape most if not all heroes with proper positioning. It is interesting to note that these buffs coincided with Hanzo's first free week.
      Junkrat. The proverbial death of the double healer meta means it's time for sustained poke to shine. Junkrat's popularity exploded recently as players discovered that a mix of reliable ranged waveclear, playmaking (through Concussion Mine) and potentially fight winning RIP-Tire hits made the hero a force to be reckoned with. Just be sure to pick up Endless Nades; that's your late-game damage.
      Malthael. Hanzo does really well against him, so I'm not surprised by the dip in popularity. Malthael is still very powerful, though unlikely to draw bans before second round, if at all. Always a solid pick against double tank as well as a solo laner.
      Nova. She (along with Valeera) were allowed to remain oppressive for quite a while, benefiting from the turmoil generated by the stealth rework and Blizzard employees taking a couple weeks off for the holidays. Nova is now in a good spot, with clear counters and niches, though I'm still disliking how easy Lethal Decoy makes her to play. I feel like she'll keep a potential caster meta in check for quite some time now that she's back on the radar.
      Alexstrasza. She's doing rather well. Dragonqueen is now being appropriately treated (though not quite respected by opponents) as a heroic ability by players to fight over objectives and while sieging.
      Stukov. His high healing output makes him rather strong in a poke-heavy meta. I think players are going to experiment with the Growing Infestation + Virulent Reaction (+ Bio-Explosion Switch) combo to make Stukov a lot more aggressive than we're used to seeing him be. Flailing Swipe continues to be great as a pseudo-Mighty Gust in terms of disengaging. Stukov is probably one of the best solo "all purpose" hero leaguing healer at the moment.
      Sylvanas. Any change to minion or structure damage end up being indirect buffs or nerfs to Sylvanas. Since structures were recently buffed again and Sylvanas's direct counters were nerfed quite heavily, I think she's back to being relatively high priority. Possession is really strong now, as is Mercenary Queen, though only if there's nothing for Barbed Shot to work on.
      Tyrael. Though he's not notably more powerful than he was before, I think his rework opened up a viable bruiser build for him, increasing his versatility. He's sitting at a healthy 50% win rate at the time of writing. HGC already saw him picked rather often - though, that's pre-Tyrael patch, where he is arguably weaker - , and I'm certainly looking forward to see what kind of builds players are going to gravitate towards. Holy Ground is still great, and comes online 3 levels earlier than it did before.
      Valeera. She suffered the same fate as Nova, though her overly simplistic ability set makes small nerfs very impactful. At the end of the day, she's probably going to require a broad rework, because as of right now, she either bursts her target down and feels "unfair", or doesn't and feel "worthless". Right now, she's erring on the side of the latter.
      Malfurion. Possibly one of the best rework ever done, though his vastly increased skill cap may make him less popular. His sustained healing output is excellent, but his lack of burst management still makes him difficult to play.