Oxygen

Six Aspects of HotS That Need Improvement (The Aftermath)

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BlizzCon 2017 has been Heroes of the Storm's 4th showing at our favourite yearly event. Those who, like me, were poised for sweeping changes and improvements to the game were left quite surprised by some of the announced changes.

About two months ago, I produced a lengthy article about what I perceived Heroes of the Storm's main weaknesses to be. The article – named Six Aspects of HotS That Need Improvement – was generally met with positive reviews and generated much, much discussion, racking up some 400 reddit comments over a 48-hour period. If you haven't read the piece yet, I suggest you do, as I'll be referring to it quite a bit. Here's a quick recap:

Quote

1 – Heroes of the Storm’s class system puts an inordinate amount of importance on drafting a basic, functional team composition, as individual matches come apart at the seams by design when tanks or healers are not present. The importance of such roles puts a huge amount of pressure on players playing these roles, making them less popular and generally more punishing to experiment with. Quick Match ill-prepares its players for mid- and high-level drafting experiences.

2 – Heroes of the Storm lacks the basic level of transparency other similar games have accustomed players to having. This lack of transparency makes it difficult to assess the quality of the matchmaking system and of balance and design changes. The reliance upon third-party websites for such basic data creates a number of ethical issues.

3 – The reconnection process simply needs to become faster; the dreaded “Reconnection Successful” screen has to go. Players need a way to force the system to put them back into matches if the Rejoin screen fails. AI-controlled heroes need to stop picking talents for you.

4 – Heroes of the Storm’s replay system shares its biggest issue with the reconnection system: Skipping through replays is an awfully slow process. This lengthy initial loading time turns off content producers on top disincentivizes players from reviewing their matches to go over specific events or study certain strategies.

5 – The game’s population is split across six different game modes, which increases queue times significantly. “A player you were matched with has disconnected or left the service” message followed by the need to go through the entire queue again is unacceptable.

6 – Although Heroes of the Storm heavily touts itself as a team-oriented game, I find it rather strange that we still do not have access to a draft hero trading system. Giving AFK players a random hero instead of outright removing them from the game at hand is frustrating.

7 – Bonus issues:

  • I’d like to be able to check out mounts in Try Mode.
  • I wish I could use my Stimpacks whenever I please. As it stands, I don’t open Loot Chests unless I know I’ll be playing for a while, and if I do open a Stimpack by accident, I just ALT+F4 my way out of the game to preserve it.
  • I would love to have an item gifting feature for my teammate’s birthday.
  • I don’t particularly care for the forced MVP cut scene after every single match. I rarely see more than 2 people vote anyway; let’s at least have the option to opt out of it.
  • I’d like to be able to check out anyone’s profile, at any time, if I happen to know their BattleTag.
  • I wish my heroes were available across other regions.
  • Players who opt out of receiving messages from non-friends probably shouldn’t be able to whisper other players.

Although it would be rather pompous for me to assume that my vision of the game lines up perfectly with Blizzard's, I was left rather shocked to see that none of the aforementioned issues were actually publicly announced. I specifically say publicly here because some more upcoming changes were in fact discussed during interviews, but were either judged unimportant or not quite ready in time for BlizzCon. The changes that were instead officially announced are as follows: 

  • Structure ammunition removal.
  • Regeneration globes rework.
  • Map objectives reorganization and standardization.
  • Stealth mechanic and related heroes rework.
  • Performance-based matchmaking.
  • Camera distance improvements.

These changes – most of which seem to be aimed at improving new player gameplay experience – are good for the most part, if not a bit unexpected.

My BlizzCon 2017 experience would then become one of hunting down developers and engineers alike to try and figure out what exactly was going on behind the scenes to ultimately see whether or not something was going to be done about the issues I discussed (or if something could be done at all). 

Without further ado, here's what I learned.

I) The Class System

The class system will be expanded to include 7 roles instead of 4. Specifically, warriors will be split into bruisers and tanks, and supports will be split into healers   and "true" supports (Tassadar, Tyrande...). The 7th category was not discussed, but I expect it to split assassins into two more categories which would include ability-based damage dealers and those who tend to rely on basic attacks.

I think the goal of these changes is to give players a better sense of what their role is going to be. However, this information is not going to be particularly useful to anyone if no information about how to play said roles is available. Right now, they're just a label. This just adds more labels.

For Quick Match, the introductory PvP game mode, I'd argue that whether or not players have a better name for their role is irrelevant. Match quality and learning how to play Heroes of the Storm depends on key playmaking pieces such as initiation and healing. These playmaking pieces are often missing from team compositions because tanks and healers being less popular than assassins, and the matchmaker has to deal with whatever it has available or have players wait longer for games. For Draft and Ranked modes, players don't really care about role information because team compositions aren't generally built around the game's class system anyway; they're simply a coincidence because, for the most part, resilient initiators happen to be tanks, and healers are often support heroes.

Other MOBAs have never embraced a hard class system to instead list what individual heroes are capable of, and ultimately simply let players build their compositions from there. If Heroes of the Storm were to ever embrace such a system, heroic abilities would probably have to be changed to no longer dramatically shuffle what individual heroes are capable of. But I digress.

I feel like I need to reiterate here: If Heroes of the Storm is hell bent on having and being designed around a class system, it needs to not throw this system away in its most popular game mode. Words like "tank" and "bruisers" are meaningless without a context.

II) Transparency

In an interview with Travis McGeathy, Lead systems designer, it was stated that Blizzard were afraid of showing player MMR because they feel like like players are going to see it as a thing to chase. I must admit that I'm not too sure how this is a problem; if a player's MMR is going up, it must mean that they're winning... and if they're winning, their MMR needs to go up to account for this. If having one's MMR displayed incentivizes players to play better, I'm all for it. Besides, third party websites already give players something to chase, with the obvious downside of running the risk of being inaccurate. What we currently have is basically the worst of both worlds; we might as well just give players the information and make it clear that it isn't related to their rank.

III) and IV) The reconnection and replay systems

These two systems are artifacts of the Starcraft 2 engine salvaged to build Heroes of the Storm. In a nutshell, this engine keeps track of every action made by players. Upon attempting to reconnect, each of these actions are checked in order to "catch you up" to where you should be. This presents several advantages such as being lightweight and making cheating extremely difficult. The main downside is the loading time experienced by players. In general, and as frustrating it is, the upsides outweigh the downsides. Changing this system would mean rebuilding an entire engine from the ground up, which would be completely unrealistic time- and money-wise. We always need remember that Heroes of the Storm was a passion project turned actual game for Blizzard to ride the MOBA wave. I assume that this came with pretty harsh constraints financially and that reusing the Starcraft 2 engine was just one of many concessions that had to be made to see the project come alive.

Everything else

Most of the other topics I discussed back in October fall under the "quality of life change" and the "on the radar" categories. Things such as shop features or interface options are always in the works but never a priority. Other topics, such as any improvements to drafting (third ban, hero trading, etc.), have their own sets of challenges; how do you clearly communicate these changes, and how do they impact overall game balance are the kind of questions that need be asked. Deeper still, anything that involves microtransactions is kept tightly under control even if it makes little sense to us laymen. Questions such as "why can't I use my Stimpacks whenever I want?" or "why can't I purchase skins directly" all find answers somewhere in the grand Loot Chest scheme which was found to be so successful through Hearthstone and Overwatch that Heroes had to get in on the action.

I wish I had a bit more information to share with everyone, but lips tend to seal up when you mention anything about writing (which, I have to because I generally try and stay out of trouble). And although I did not get to interview anyone this year, fellow Icy Veins writer Kendric did, so I recommend you check that out.

 

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I hope they do something about these most of them are true

I play on EU and QM and ranked queues take about a day :D but AI co-op starts in a sec and brawls also.. they should remove at least co-op and just let players do AI with AI teammates for learning their heroes to stop these people who just want to farm Xp or complete events in short time from coop... this coop just looks like a bug in game which makes pvp queues longer and a system for farming Xp

only thing I disagree is about what some people say..it is that having heroes on all regions... then we should have our skins and also profile levels too so maybe u mean they should remove regions haha 

And the main reason is it means many people will change their regions whenever they want and what's next? Many Chinese people on EU and US so we'll have crap QMs with people who don't understand us lol.. I'm already having problems with Russians since most of them don't understand english and then Chinese people?no thx :)

hots is hots EU US Asia are using same heroes and game so play in your region and have fun n don't ask blizzard for something crap because blizzard put them to put u guys who understand each other better in same place so they could remove regions and let people split everywhere and destroy matches and finally the game..

Edited by MZLICH

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24 minutes ago, MZLICH said:

Many Chinese people on EU and US so we'll have crap QMs with people who don't understand us lol.. I'm already having problems with Russians since most of them don't understand english and then Chinese people?no thx :)

 

I play with game chat turned off so i dont have to hear ^(*^*( from people. I wish i could turn draft chat off too. I dont need to hear your garbage suggestions. 

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Matchmaking (including MMR transparency) and reconnect system have been huge issues for 3 years now.

If they wanted or could fix those, they'd do that already.

So don't get your hopes high, most likely you'll only get another Overwatch hero nobody asked for and more random loot.

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2 hours ago, Oxygen said:

I must admit that I'm not too sure how this is a problem; if a player's MMR is going up, it must mean that they're winning... and if they're winning, their MMR needs to go up to account for this. If having one's MMR displayed incentivizes players to play better, I'm all for it.

He was talking about something everyone could have seen if they played World of Tanks. Community made metric  (game itself didn't have perfomance based MM, don't know about now) was obviously open to everyone to see and what could everyone see is that damage dealt was the biggest component by far. 
So while system itself was fairly correct, system was open to cheesing, don't know other word to express it. Basically, some players would go out of their way to win and stayed as far as they can and farmed free damage that was meaningless in the end (came too late, they didn't share their HP, etc), by the system they were great, while in the reality they were not. 

They just want to prevent people from fooling the system by not letting them know what even precisely makes the system. Is it right move, I don't know.

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I think the bigger problem with transparency is that people would too heavily rely on it to justify their stats or actions. If other people would see that I'm (for example) a gold 1 with a win rate of 1:11 (purely in theory, people), they would justifiably be furious that someone that bad could get to the same rank as them. These are problems that a 10 placement match and a performance based system would entail. If you give people the option to see who is statically the best, there is bound to be some dick measuring.

Edited by Fliits
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Almost 3 years and people still dont understand the main issue are people who deliberatly join games and go afk or rush in to die 1vs5 so that the match gets over sooner.And right after that is the reconnect bug ( stuck in reconecting and needing to close client and wait for aaaaaall the catch up since then). 

Nah who cares about that stuff,the important thing is to split warrior and support classes to sub classes,thats way higher prio.

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46 minutes ago, Kurosu said:

Almost 3 years and people still dont understand the main issue are people who deliberatly join games and go afk or rush in to die 1vs5 so that the match gets over sooner.And right after that is the reconnect bug ( stuck in reconecting and needing to close client and wait for aaaaaall the catch up since then). 

Nah who cares about that stuff,the important thing is to split warrior and support classes to sub classes,thats way higher prio.

I don't actually see that happen very often.

Transparency is good as Oxygen says though because who cares if some try to cheese and pad stats, it only works if you WIN. An extra kill at the end isn't a big deal and probably wouldn't be too huge of a problem.

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I personally don't care that much about the disconnect system.  Yes, it is painful, but I have only been disconnected a few times in the couple years I have played.

My main things I am desiring right now are:

Trolls in ranked. 

They need to get rid of them.  It is hard to define "troll", which is why they probably do nothing about it.  But when I see a teammate that just puts down a hero, everyone else says "is there something else you can play, we need 'X' for our team" or someone puts nothing down and just picks something in 2 seconds that we certainly don't need...that is trolling.  I have had triple spec teams in HL because people refuse to team draft.  As you said, QM does not prepare you for this, so everyone in HL suffers.

Additionally, I think at a bare minimum they need to UP the ranked requirements.  People should not be allowed to play level 6 heroes in ranked.  There needs to be a higher baseline on experience with a hero to use it.  If they want to play it in Unranked, sure.

I am sick of trolls in general.  People that pick solo tank and then solo lane the entire game without helping on objectives.  I don't know how to fix this, but it is very toxic and new people won't invest money in a game that fosters toxic behavior.  If someone is just not as good as me (still talking about ranked), then I can live with that.  I can't live with people who troll games on a ladder system.

 

Global skill usage

I wish they would allow you to target the players Icon on the top bar.  So if I am brightwing, I want to be able to Z to the person without trying to get them on mini map (which sometimes works and sometimes not), and also I really don't like scrolling the map there and not seeing what is around ME for a few seconds.  Same goes for Illidan hunt, ETC stage dive, and probably some others.  I would also like to be able to cast Azmodon trait without scrolling to the lane. I don't care about the precise unit I cast it on, I'd like to be able to cast it on the mini map and it just pick the closest unit to my pick coordinates.

 

Team compositions

I agree %100, the labels don't really translate into drafting system.  They need to show the role as an icon next to your team, so you can see what roles you have and don't have and what the other team has.  I would also love to see some sort of team stats shown, based on the heroes selected.  I don't know how that would work, but like an aggregation of DPS, health, attack dps, spell dps (of course at level 1 with no talents selected).  That way you can sort of see a team's dps vs soaking potential so far, spell vs auto attack dps, etc.

 

 

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2 minutes ago, ArtVandelay said:

I am sick of trolls in general.  People that pick solo tank and then solo lane the entire game without helping on objectives.

I wouldn't really say that is trolling. I have been "forced" to solo lane as a Main Tank many times because the rest of the team simply gives no fucks to waveclear. When the Tank is forced to waveclear because the Specialists are not paying attention, we have a serious problem.

I also have a few suggestions of what I wanna see:

Mouse-over glow in low resolution settings: that green/red highlight is something I've always found very handy, as it makes targetting a lot easier. The problem is, it is disabled if you run on low settings, which is my case (I play on a shitty 7 year old Macbook).

Show health percentage on the character's healthbar: another thing that would be very handy.

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I wish they'd add some kind of signal option for quickplay so it'd stop giving you teams without tanks and healers when you are facing such because the varians never go tank and the kharazims never go healer

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12 hours ago, Banard said:

I play with game chat turned off so i dont have to hear ^(*^*( from people. I wish i could turn draft chat off too. I dont need to hear your garbage suggestions. 

go play other mobas then.. hots is just about teamwork and teammates should be in harmony and hear each other ... if it wasn't necessary blizzard wouldn't add chatbox to game... but these days people even use voice chat on a just simple QM... your text just looks like a joke mate:)

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2 hours ago, Kurosu said:

Almost 3 years and people still dont understand the main issue are people who deliberatly join games and go afk or rush in to die 1vs5 so that the match gets over sooner.And right after that is the reconnect bug ( stuck in reconecting and needing to close client and wait for aaaaaall the catch up since then). 

Nah who cares about that stuff,the important thing is to split warrior and support classes to sub classes,thats way higher prio.

One of the reasons newer (and less knowledgeable) players continue to make mistakes when trying to fight in a team environment is not knowing the role of characters they're not familiar with. 

"AFK Abathur reported."   "D.Va why you not tanking?"  "Brightwing, mount and get to us!"

 

One of the things the labels help to do is let others know what a character is capable of doing and what they're not. A warrior isn't necessarily a tank. Assassins don't all have burst damage. Supports don't mainly heal. Specialists likely don't do what they think they do.  New and less knowledgeable players think that because they get outplayed that a character has better damage. Or that all characters should or DO have equal damage/surviability/lanin/seige potential.

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1 hour ago, Tarvesh said:

One of the reasons newer (and less knowledgeable) players continue to make mistakes when trying to fight in a team environment is not knowing the role of characters they're not familiar with. 

"AFK Abathur reported."   "D.Va why you not tanking?"  "Brightwing, mount and get to us!"

 

 

That is not what i descibed.What I did mean are the kind of people that literally run and engage to die.Oh and I forgot to mention the people that join to play pve and never engage in any pvp situations ( no i do not mean exp soaking )

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The reconnection and replay issues and system are still by far the most hindering things this game experiences, especially when Blizzard wants to be taken seriously on the esport circuit. You can't have outdated engines or playing on newest patches with known issues (?????) and then expect sponsors and professional teams to devote time and money to your game when there isn't even an outline or a timeframe to at least make attempts at improving the infrastructure. 

On top of the other little things, most recently I would like to see 'bundle only' things either a) offer far more for your money or b) be scrapped and let us choose which skins we want to buy that are gem only rather than have to buy a bundle to gain one specific variant. 

More loudout slots as well might be nice. 

Edit: More options to find groups. I'd love to be able to log on and not rely on broadcast to 40+ people, 10 of which are on HotS, that I am a tank/support up for QM stacks or TL and what bracket of general skill level rather than what it is currently where it's literally just quite random... it might even help QM games be better overall and rounded experiences as well. 

Edited by Plergoth

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I agree with every thing from the list and bonus list except for getting rid of the mvp screen. They should give like 10 or 20 gold for every vote you give. Also ranked bots need to be better.

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6 hours ago, ArtVandelay said:

Additionally, I think at a bare minimum they need to UP the ranked requirements.  People should not be allowed to play level 6 heroes in ranked.  There needs to be a higher baseline on experience with a hero to use it.  If they want to play it in Unranked, sure.

Man, most of what you said I wouldn't care too much, but this I wholeheartedly disagree! Like, it takes already WAY too long to be able to play Ranked, especially since QM as almost nothing to do with ranked. I play some really mean Johanna, Li Li, Alex, Abathur and Leoric in Ranked, none of those I'm even close to being as good with in QM because of all the random elements like Team comp being usually garbage for the map, the map being the worst map for the character or just not having anything that synergizes well enough with the character you picked... I played Alex and Hanzo right out the door(as soon as I could) and found great success(I still do but need to be more careful since they've been figured out by fairly everyone now, see all the Hanzo bans).

I just think that if you suck, you should be filtered with others that suck, then again I wonder how that doesn't just doom the person to forever be someone that sucks because they get used to poor tactics, little to no coordination and just overall terrible teammates...

The only thing I think we can agree is that the system needs A LOT of improvement.

Edited by EDL666
Just cleaning the post.

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The biggest cancer right now is the performance-based matchmaking in QM. I have no idea if its turned off right now as in HL/TL but before this i never got people who just completly dont have a clue on whats going on. QM is unplayable right now because, these noobs never lane/soak. They never take camps. On top of that they just go teamfight someone and suicide. Im not the best player in the world but i know when im supposed to be laning,when is a good time to take mercenarries and when is a good time to initiate a teamfight. Right now it probably put me in complete bottom with people that have no map awareness what so ever. Im thinking im gonna play HL/TL because of this.

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That Imperius pic lol.

Sums it up my feelings perfectly. This game needs more Imperiusness in it. Brazenly!

"SILENCE!!!!"

 

On topic though, I believe Quick Match mode should not be put so much attention upon. It's like both the player community AND the developers are using it as a source of statistics for hero balance/tuning purposes. Frankly, they should remove it from the game; it makes other modes, namely Unranked Mode completely unused, almost redundant. (I don't wanna say "fully redundant" because they're completely different since one of them has a drafting phase and the other doesn't, but it's a fact that QM displaces Unranked as the most played mode other than the Leagues). QM fails to teach players basic aspects of the game such as the importance of ALL roles (there are other roles besides assassin & warrior) and how to draft.

Edited by Leadblast

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3 hours ago, Leadblast said:

That Imperius pic lol.

Sums it up my feelings perfectly. This game needs more Imperiusness in it. Brazenly!

"SILENCE!!!!"

That's exactly why I picked it. You'll notice that my article about performance-based matchmaking uses Tyrael, who represents justice...

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18 hours ago, MZLICH said:

go play other mobas then.. hots is just about teamwork and teammates should be in harmony and hear each other ... if it wasn't necessary blizzard wouldn't add chatbox to game... but these days people even use voice chat on a just simple QM... your text just looks like a joke mate:)

There is no communication in chat. There is attempted communication. All you need in this game is pings. Simple as that. Anything else is some moron thinking he knows better then the rest of the team. 

And did I say anything about not using voice chat? 

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7 hours ago, Oxygen said:

That's exactly why I picked it. You'll notice that my article about performance-based matchmaking uses Tyrael, who represents justice...

lmao, I didn't get it at first... Tyrael embodies justice, which you may see fitting in that article as in "the matchmaking system needs to have justice in it" but Imperius embodies valor? Maybe "the valor to go ahead and make changes to this game you are afraid of, in order to improve it"? rofl

 

Oh, and thinking further about the hero classes (or roles, whatever). There are a lot of assassins that feel like specialists in one way or another (Ragnaros, Junkrat, etc). There are specialists that feel like supports (Abathur, Medivh) and one that feels like an assassin (Sylvanas). I think just "expanding the classes and make existing heroes with a dubious classification fit better into it" is not gonna do in the long run.

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8 hours ago, Oxygen said:

That's exactly why I picked it. You'll notice that my article about performance-based matchmaking uses Tyrael, who represents justice...

So if things work out you'll put a picture of Auriel? Because "There is always hope"?

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4 hours ago, Valhalen said:

So if things work out you'll put a picture of Auriel? Because "There is always hope"?

Or if things turn out bad and this game dies... there will be a Malthael picture lol. "In the end, only death remains".

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16 hours ago, Leadblast said:

That Imperius pic lol.

Sums it up my feelings perfectly. This game needs more Imperiusness in it. Brazenly!

"SILENCE!!!!"

 

On topic though, I believe Quick Match mode should not be put so much attention upon. It's like both the player community AND the developers are using it as a source of statistics for hero balance/tuning purposes. Frankly, they should remove it from the game; it makes other modes, namely Unranked Mode completely unused, almost redundant. (I don't wanna say "fully redundant" because they're completely different since one of them has a drafting phase and the other doesn't, but it's a fact that QM displaces Unranked as the most played mode other than the Leagues). QM fails to teach players basic aspects of the game such as the importance of ALL roles (there are other roles besides assassin & warrior) and how to draft.

I disagree with how you feel about QM. As someone who plays almost exclusively QM (and maybe half a dozen unranked and 0 ranked despite playing for over a year) I think it is absolutely a mode worth keeping and should at least partially be factored into balance changes. 

The types of quests the game gives is a major reason for keeping QM around. If I have quests to play let's say 3 games as a support and 2 games as a starcraft hero I would be best served playing as either Stukov, Morales, or Tassadar but then if one of them gets banned, another picked by someone else that could leave me either playing a character I am not good with or a character that does nothing to help me progress my quests but does help the team comp so I have to try my luck in another game to see if I can get a character that helps me complete my quests efficiently. Quick Match lets a player hop into a match with whatever hero they want and get the quests done quickly. There is matches against the AI but that does even less to prepare for the modes with drafts. The quests would need to be more play X games or win Y games and less forcing specific franchises or roles and/or the AI matches would need to give the same experience as playing with humans for this game to work without quick match 

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      Even if the four-man is performing well, your team's advantage noticeable if you're solo laner is struggling. Most of the time, a decent offlaner is decent at holding 2v1. On Braxis Holdout it's extremely advantageous to have a solo laner who can win their lane, because they're able to hold one of the beacons after the structure in lane is gone. Best solo laners according to adrd in the current meta are Sonya, Leoric, Arthas, Greymane, Malthael, and Dehaka. Except Greymane & Malthael, they are all beefy frontline Heroes that excel at bullying opponents in lane and clearing waves quickly. Blizzard (Source)
      It’s 2018! A new year for esports has inspired us here at Blizzard to create content this week that aims to educate our player base on the variety of different ways to start a competitive match, informed by some of the best players in the scene. Check back every day this week for a new addition to the#OpeningMoves mini-series. Today we will focus on what is known as the “4-1 split”.
      The 4-1 split is one of the most popular lane designations in competitive Heroes of the Storm. In a nutshell, it simply means that one team dispatches a solo laner on his own while the rest of the team rotates between two lanes in order to clear waves—typically mid and bottom or mid and top. The strategy is seen most often, and yields the most success, on two-lane maps such as Braxis Holdout, Battlefield of Eternity, Haunted Mines, and Hanamura.
      Building A Successful Four-Man

      What makes a good four-man?
      “It’s constantly evolving,” said Zealots ranged flex Adrian “adrd” Wojcik. “It used to be that the four-man was only ‘deathballing,’ or picking Heroes that out-sustain enemies and brawling four versus four. Oftentimes, though, you would end up in a situation where your four-man would be weaker than the opposing team’s. So, at this point you must work around that.”
      Nowadays a good four-man is more oriented towards ganks and kill pressure. “Heroes like Muradin are a perfect example of this,” adrd explained. “He’s not that great for fighting and trading, but if he disappears from the map your solo laner is in danger of dying, and also the four-man needs to be careful so that he doesn’t flank and get a good stun that turns into a kill.”
      Understanding the macro game means understanding the amount of pressure on the map at any given point in time. The most obvious pressure is lane pressure, when a wave is about to crash and must be cleared. The less obvious pressure occurs when an enemy Hero (specifically one that has crowd control or high burst damage) goes missing. When this happens, you must assume them to be anywhere and everywhere while playing reserved. When the four-man goes missing, it’s important to make yourself scarce, as you could be the next victim of a savage gank. Consider yourself warned.
      Global Heroes and Specialist

      If losing soak is such a cardinal sin, why not employ the likes of a Hero with global abilities to make up for this? While some of the best offlaners are global Heroes, adrd is hesitant to endorse this strategy.
      “We've seen in the HGC some teams playing Dehaka and Falstad even on two-lane maps,” adrd said. “Normally, if you are solo laning with a global hero and you use your global ability to gank other lanes you will lose a lot of experience. So, what people are doing on Braxis Holdout is putting Dehaka in top lane and Falstad in bottom lane. Dehaka can gank, and then after the gank Falstad can fly top so you don't lose any experience. Rotating your globals around this way works really well, in the HGC at least.”
      In Hero League though, it’s difficult to expect your teammates to be as coordinated. More often than not, the idea of a proper 4-1 split will fall apart in the draft, as the hero in the solo lane will either spell success or failure for your team.
      The Role of an Offlaner

      “You can probably hold one versus two.”
      Remember this phrase the next time you step into a lane while outnumbered.
      Assume your four-man is going well. They are getting kills and winning their rotation handedly. The advantage this brings doesn’t amount to much if the solo laner is struggling. The “1” in the 4-1 split is the most important part of the equation.
      “I think most of the normal 1v1 laners are pretty decent at holding 2v1,” adrd said. “On some maps, it is very important that your solo laner doesn't lose too hard. On Braxis, for example, it's important to have a solo laner who can win their lane because it gives an insane advantage. You can hold one of the beacons for free basically after the structure in lane is gone. On most Battlegrounds, you have to consider how well the offlaner does in team fights as well.”
      The best solo laners in the current meta would be Sonya, Leoric, Arthas, Greymane, Malthael, and Dehaka. Outside of maybe Greymane and Malthael, these are beefy frontline Heroes that excel at bullying opponents in lane and clearing waves quickly.
      “You can run a lot of different setups, and the solo laner you use depends entirely on who they're facing off against usually,” adrd added. “Some Heroes will not be able to hold a lane on their own.”
      Depending on the map, you can decide for yourself if it’s more beneficial to take on the role of an offlaner or join in the four-man deathball. If you follow in the footsteps of the Mad Scientist, you’ll likely be winning rotations before you know it. 
      Check back with us tomorrow right here at playheroes.com/esports because we’ll be learning how to identify whether or not your team’s composition will emerge victorious from a fight at level 1.   
    • By Stan

      The Heroes of the Storm collegiate tournament, Heroes of the Dorm, is back in 2018! Competitors will play for more than $500,000 in scholarships and prizes as they battle their way through their respective regions. Signups are now open on HeroesoftheDorm.com.
      Announcement Video
      Blizzard (Source)
      Now in its fourth year, Heroes of the Dorm is introducing regional play. More than $500,000 in scholarships and prizes are up for grabs in this premier collegiate esports competition. Regional winners and other top teams on the national leaderboard will be seeded into the 64-team National Championship bracket. The battle for the Heroes of the Dorm National Championship—and for the scholarship money each player receives for the remainder of their college careers—will be fierce. Fans can watch all the action on both www.twitch.tv/blizzheroes and www.mlg.com.
      Each college will field their strongest Heroes team to battle to the top of their regional division for a chance to play in the National Championship tournament. This year, we’re also partnering with Raycom Sports on a weekly broadcast for matches in Heroes of the Dorm’s Atlantic Coast Region for a one-of-a-kind sports network viewing experience.
       “With intense student competition and an epic tournament bracket featuring schools across the United States and Canada, Heroes of the Dorm showcases the kind of excitement that can only come from college esports,” said Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “We look forward to cheering on all of the talented players who will be competing in Heroes of the Storm, as well as Hearthstone and StarCraft II, for their share of Tespa’s biggest scholarship prize pool ever.”
      Starting today, eligible college gamers in the United States and Canada can sign up to compete in Heroes of the Dorm at www.heroesofthedorm.com.
      LEARN MORE
      For information about Tespa's other Spring Leagues and $1M scholarship prize pool, head to tespa.org/university/compete.
    • By Stan

      Free Hero rotation has been updated with a new set of Heroes available for gameplay starting January 23.
      Free-to-Play Hero Rotation: January 23, 2018
      Li Li ETC Zagara Butcher Kael'thas Artanis Li-Ming Zarya Brightwing Malthael Sylvanas (Slot unlocked at Player Level 5) Alexstrasza (Slot unlocked at Player Level 10) Chen (Slot unlocked at Player Level 15) Chromie (Slot unlocked at Player Level 20) (Source)
    • 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. 
    • By Stan

      This week's brawl is the Temple Arena. Harness the power of the temples to destroy the enemy Core. Choose one from three randomly selected Heroes and pick your Heroic ability. No other talents are available. Complete three matches to earn a Loot Chest.
      Blizzard (Source)
      This week’s brawl is the Temple Arena! Harness the power of the Alligator, Cobra, and Jackal Temples to destroy the enemy Core!

      Rules:
      Choose from one of three randomly selected Heroes before entering the Arena. Be quick about it though, you only have 30 seconds to choose! Everyone will begin the round at level 10 and will be asked to choose a Heroic Ability. No other talents will be available. During each round, slay the enemy team’s Heroes and capture the Temple Shrines to take shots at their Core! The Core for each team will have set amounts of health based on the number of active Shrines. Each round can have 1-3 active Shrines. The first team whose Core reaches 0 health will lose the round. Be the first team to win 2 rounds and claim victory! Rewards:
      Complete three matches of the Temple Arena 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.