Blizzard’s up-and-coming MOBA Heroes of the Storm has finally come out. Better yet, it’s really fun! But like all MOBAs, it can be pretty overwhelming at times. Don’t panic. I’m here to help.
Before I get into it, I should make one quick note. While Heroes of the Storm is a different sort of MOBA game than League of Legends or Dota 2 in many important ways, it’s still a MOBA at heart. Because of this, some of the gameplay tips I’m going to suggest could easily apply to Heroes of the Storm’s genre peers. They might sound repetitive to experienced League or Dota 2 players as a result. Other instincts and habits developed in those games will have to be unlearned for people making the jump to Heroes, however. I wrote this guide with the assumption that many Heroes of the Storm players won’t have previous MOBA experience, but have also identified some key areas where the game differs from its competition.
Alrighty. To quote Azmodan: “SO IT BEGINS!” Imagine I said that with a deep, rumbling voice.
Play a ton of games as a single character.
Heroes of the Storm becomes more and more fun over time as you get better at it. The journey to improving your gameplay technique starts with the character you choose to play as. Stick to a single character for five or ten games at a time. Not only will this help you level them up quickly, it will also give you a better handle on how to play as them—the finer details about their movement speed, damage output, and ability power. Don’t discount a hero if you don’t like them after two or three games—there might be some aspect of the character that you haven’t tapped into yet.
Try leveling a hero a bunch of different ways in games.
Heroes of the Storm doesn’t have an in-game shop like League of Legends or Dota 2. Instead, the primary way you customize characters is by selecting different traits or abilities for them as they level up over the course of an individual match. Don’t stick to the first successful character build you find, even if it seems like the most intuitive one. This is particularly important when it comes to choosing a hero’s ultimate ability, since each character has two to choose from in the game.
Playing around with character builds is the best way to discover new aspect of a particular hero. I didn’t think of LiLi as anything other than a healer, for instance, until I focused on developing her offensive abilities and found that she can actually do some damage as well. Switching things up like this isn’t just a matter of personal preference, it also makes you a more valuable member of any team since you can use a character effectively in a number of different situations.
Look up guides for specific hero builds.
Standard MOBA stuff, but it’s all the more important to keep track of how popular builds are developing in Heroes since the game is so new. Doing a google search for a character’s build guide (something like “LiLi build guide hots”) will pull up a ton of results to give you ideas for how to use them in-game. Heroesfire is a particularly good resource, as it’s becoming a hub for the main builds in the game’s evolving meta.
Keep in mind, though: these are guides. All they contain is a list of suggestions for which traits and abilities to select as you level a character up, and what general techniques to exercise over the course of the game. Do not take anything you read in a guide as some rule that’s been set in stone. Who knows—a guide might even be out of date if the author hasn’t kept it in-line with the latest patch notes. If something doesn’t seem right to you, then, feel free to go with what your gut is telling you instead.
Do all of the daily quests.
The game will regularly pose random prompts like: “play 3 games as a Diablo hero,” “play 2 games as a support hero,” or “win three games.” You should do them. The give you a few hundred extra gold a pop. Plus, they’re a nice excuse to keep trying new things in the game.
Get every hero to level 5.
This will take you a while, but it’s worth it in the long run. Each character in Heroes of the Storm has advanced abilities that you can only start using after you’ve levelled them up a couple times. Aiming for level 5 isn’t just useful as a milestone to know that you’ve unlocked all of a hero’s abilities, you also get 500 gold each time you do so. Much like the daily quests, setting this as a long-term goal for yourself also guarantees that you won’t miss out on anything in the game.
Use practice and co-op games to experiment with new characters and techniques.
There’s some weird stuff in Heroes of the Storm. Stuff that you’ll find strange even if you consider yourself exceedingly well-versed in the MOBA genre. If you’re stepping into a new character’s shoes or whatever it is that the Zerg wear instead of shoes for the first time, don’t jump straight into a Quick Match. People won’t have as much patience there for you messing something up.
Don’t spend real money if you can spend gold instead.
Heroes of the Storm can be a very expensive game—but only if you let it become one. Much like League of Legends, everything in Heroes besides aesthetic upgrades can be unlocked with gold—the in-game currency you accumulate over time by playing the game. If you want to protect your wallet, you should obey the same rule League of Legends players follow: don’t spend money on anything that can be unlocked with gold. Save your money for character skins or special mounts—you’ll grow to want some of these as you play more of the game.
If you do pay for heroes, buy them in bundles.
The game’s store offers a few special packages for purchase. Getting one of these is cheaper than buying individual champions piecemeal.
Hold off on buying brand new heroes.
When new heroes are first introduced, they cost 15,000 gold. That price drops to 10,000 after a week or so—though the dollar price remains the same. So unless you’re absolutely flush with gold, do the smart thing and hold off on purchasing the new characters until their price drops. That’ll also give you some time to learn about the character by observing them from afar—and save you the embarrassment of being one of those players who picks up the latest hero the second they arrive and clearly has no idea how they work yet.
Use the “try” feature before buying any hero.
It’s easy to forget, but Blizzard has a nice “try it before you buy it” feature. This means you can tinker with characters even when they’re not in the free rotation. Use it! You’ll save yourself the grief of spending money and gold on someone you might not actually like.
Consider purchasing a stimpack.
If you’re in it for the long haul, getting a seven-day or 30-day stimpack will end up saving you a lot of time and money (both the virtual and real kind)—especially for that early-game grind when you’re trying to unlock as many characters as possible and get them up to level 5. They give a massive boost to your experience and gold accrual for every game.
Communicate with your teammates about everything in-game.
HOTS can be a very quiet game at times, particularly when you’re just starting out and grouped with other new players in quick match or co-op games. But always remember: this is an online player-vs.-player team-based multiplayer game. Sending messages back and forth is crucial for your enjoyment and success in matches. The quieter team is almost always the losing team in a match.
There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck with a team full of players who say nothing to one another all game and just wander around in silence doing whatever they feel like. So whatever you do, don’t become one of those players. Whether it be via wordless pings (which you can send by pressing “G” on your keyboard) or typing something out in the game’s chat, make sure that you are always keeping your team updated about what you are doing and simultaneously paying attention to the messages they’re sending your way.
Play with friends.
Teaming up with friends always helps make online multiplayer games more fun, and doing so is doubly important in a game like Heroes since it requires so much collaboration between teammates. There’s also the added bonus of getting 50% more experience whenever you play games with Battle.net friends. Team up with real-life compatriots over a voice chat service like Skype or Curse. You might have to get a new headset, but it’ll be worth it.
Double check to make sure you’re in the right game mode.
Speaking of playing with friends, an annoying thing can happen sometimes when you’re in a party with other people: the game will suddenly switch to co-op vs. AI or training mode. You can’t really quit a game once you’ve started, so make sure that you’ve selected Quick Match or Hero League instead.
Pay attention to Blizzard’s patch notes.
MOBAs change constantly. Heroes changes far more dramatically, and far more often, than its peers simply because it’s so new. You don’t want to be surprised to find at the start of a match with your character that he or she suddenly has an entire new set of abilities. Avoid this by keeping track of the game’s updates. Whenever you see Heroes downloading and installing something on Battle.net, visit its website to make sure you understand what Blizzard is doing to the game.
Say “gl hf” at the start of a match.
Or something similar. It’s common courtesy. It also helps start the game on a positive note. That’s never a bad thing.
Unlock the camera by pressing “L.”
You only have to do this once, but believe me: you’ll want to.
Press “G” to send pings.
See that little hand icon just below the tower? That’s a ping I’m sending, signaling to my teammates that one of our outposts in bottom lane is being demolished and I could really use their help. Pings like that are a handy way to highlight a specific target for your allies, tell them where you’re going, or warn someone about an approaching enemy. You should be using pings pretty much nonstop during a game—they’re much more efficient than typing out messages to your team.
And press “V” to send a retreat signal.
If you’re experience with Heroes of the Storm is anything like mine, you’re going to encounter a lot of headstrong or inexperienced players who don’t know when to peel back from the front lines of battle. Surviving a push into the enemy team’s defenses is almost always a smarter outcome than letting yourself die while taking out an opponent’s keep. If one or more of your teammates doesn’t appreciate that fact and keeps pushing themselves further and further into about-to-be-killed territory, you might feel inclined to stick around and try to help keep them alive. Don’t. That just means more of you will be dead. Instead, send the surrender ping and make a quick exit while you still can.
Keep every lane occupied until your team reaches level 10.
Here’s the general rule of thumb you should bear in mind at the start of games: don’t ever leave any of the lanes on a map empty until you get to level 10. Remember: experience is global in Heroes, so each character on a team levels up at the same rate. Killing the minions that routinely run down lanes is a reliable source of experience for an entire team. You’ll get the most experience at the fastest rate if you have every lane occupied at the start of the map. This process is referred to as “soaking” in Heroes—so if someone says something like “we need to soak top,” what they mean is someone needs to go sit in the top lane and, y’know, soak up experience.
But don’t worry about playing in a specific lane.
In other MOBAs, your position on the game’s map is incredibly important. Not so with Heroes of the Storm. Maps in this game work differently than they do in standard games of Dota 2 or League of Legends (more on that later). Don’t fret about whether you’re supposed to go top or middle or bottom or whatever. What’s most important at the outset of a match is that you don’t leave any lane unattended.
Don’t worry about last-hitting, either.
Another Dota 2 and League of Legends staple that isn’t quite so important in Heroes of the Storm: last-hitting. Killing minions in Heroes of the Storm is simple. Just click on a group of them and start attacking.
Do keep farming, however.
Just because there isn’t last-hitting doesn’t mean that you can’t soak up experience by taking out waves and waves of enemy minions. Minions can also still wreck your base’s defenses if you’re not careful. You should be monitoring the ebb and flow of enemy minion waves and continuing to attack them until the final moments of a match.
Prioritize a map’s objectives above everything else.
There are currently seven different maps in Heroes of the Storm. Each one comes with a unique set of challenges. In Tomb Of The Spider Queen, you collect gems and deposit them in special containers:
...containers that, when full, summon big scary spider monsters to fight by your side:
Cursed Hollow, meanwhile, periodically deposits collectible “Tributes” on the map for the two teams to fight over:
These might seem silly and unimportant to you, particularly if you’re coming to Heroes of the Storm from another MOBA. But they’re not.
Completing objectives in Heroes of the Storm is the single most important thing your team can do in a match, because doing so yields powerful rewards. The first team to collect three tributes in Cursed Hollow, for instance, curses their opponent temporarily. A cursed team is at a serious disadvantage: none of their defensive structures attack approaching enemies, and minions’ health is reduced to a single hitpoint.
Since objectives are so crucial to your success in-game, I’m going to break them down on a map-by-map basis:
Tomb Of The Spider Queen: Collect gems and deposit them in the two drop-off locations in the center of the map to summon powerful spider allies that help push each lane.
Sky Temple: Hold the magical circle things in front of the three temples against opponents and NPC monsters whenever they activate. When your team is controlling an active temple, it’ll fire laser beams at the enemy’s defenses.
Garden Of Terror: Collect seeds by killing the jungle monsters that appear at night. Whenever you have 100 seeds, you’re rewarded with a “garden terror,” a powerful player-controlled monster that’s very good at breaking holes in the enemy’s defenses. NOTE: you can have more than 100 seeds at a time, so don’t stop collecting seeds once you get to 100—taking out the rest of the jungle monsters will make it harder for your opponent to get a terror, and speed up summoning your next one.
Blackheart’s Bay: Collect gold coins from treasure chests and jungle camps and deposit them at the treasure chest at the center of the map. Once you have enough coins (it starts out requiring 10, then goes up by two each time you turn in), the pirate ship will fire cannons at the enemy base.
Dragon Shire: Hold the two shrines located at the top and bottom of the map. When your team has control over both locations simultaneously, one teammate can then activate the statue in the map’s middle lane to summon a dragon. The dragon works like the garden terror—a player has to control it, but it’s very powerful. Also, the dragon can punt enemies across the map with its kick move, which is hilarious and awesome.
Haunted Mines: Whenever the mines are activated, travel underground to kill the skeletons and collect as many as possible as fast as possible. There are only 100 and each team summons a golem, so the relative power of each golem is determined by how many skulls each team has. Whatever you do, don’t isolate yourself in the mines. Staying together as a team is the only way to survive.
Cursed Hollow: Gather the tributes as they appear. The first team to collect three curses the enemy team. One pro-tip: try to capture merc camps right before collecting your third tribute.
Whenever a new objective appears on the map, therefore, you and the rest of your team should immediately drop whatever it is you’re doing and make that objective your top priority. Don’t keep pushing in your lane, don’t try to take out a camp of mercenaries first. Just go. The only exception to this rule is when you’re so close to victory that you’d be better off just closing the game out.
Stop the enemy team from completing objectives whenever possible.
Matches in Heroes of the Storm are often decided by which team did a better job of completing the map’s objectives—who turned in the most gold, gathered the most tributes, etc. Even if your team can’t close out some objective immediately (because, say, a few of your teammates are in the process of respawning), you can still do something equally important: harassing the opposition by making it harder for them to complete an objective.
If your team has a bunch of gold left to collect on Blackheart’s Bay, for instance, one or two players can camp out by the drop-off point to make sure the other team doesn’t get a chance to turn in while you’re still farming. In the “Dragon Shire” map, just controlling one of the two shrines required to summon a dragon is a great way to deny the opposition a game-changing asset. Looking for as many moments like this as possible in a given match is how you start to feel like a real pain in the butt for your enemies.
Take mercenary camps regularly.
Each map in the game is dotted with a few clusters of NPC monsters that you can either kill or bribe to join your side of the battle. They show up on the minimap as little yellow symbols. Once a game gets going, you should start capturing these camps with your teammates as they appear and reappear. You don’t have to obsess over cooldown times or anything like that. But having the extra allies helps your team apply pressure to lanes, which in turn makes it easier for you to step outside of your lane to participate in team fights or pursue objectives.
Except for the boss camps. Be very careful with boss camps.
The one merc camp you should treat differently than the others is the one labeled “Boss.” This contains a giant ogre who can easily kill you if you’re not careful. It takes a lot to fell a boss, so you should only take the time to do so when most (or all) of your team can focus on it.
Also, be aware that attacking a boss often comes at a high risk. Once an enemy team figures out that’s what you’re doing, they’ll try to ambush you once you and the ogre have depleted each other’s health enough. Make sure that you’re in a secure position and that you know where your opposition is before starting a fight with a boss.
When you see the green circle around the boss, RUN!
All the boss characters in Heroes matches, including the golem in the haunted mines and the garden terrors, have a ground-pound attack that deals a bunch of damage and stuns you. The colorful circle that appears on the ground beneath the monster’s feet is the signal that he’s about to execute this attack. Getting out of stunning distance will help keep you alive for longer—which is particularly handy for those moments when the enemy team tries to ambush you.
Attack the caster first when fighting bruiser camps.
I’ll say one more thing about mercs: the so-called “bruiser” camps are made up of three melee soldiers and one caster unit. In most of the maps, the caster is a little dude with a staff and a pointy headpiece (see above). Whenever you’re fighting them—be it in-lane or at their camp location, go for the caster first. This will make taking out the other three easier.
Keep track of both teams’ experience level.
Experience is global in Heroes of the Storm, which means that your entire team levels up in unison. You should keep an eye on your and your enemy’s experience level throughout a game. They’re the two numbers dead center at the top of the in-game screen:
Early in a match, make sure to monitor both teams’ progress to level 10—that’s when all the characters on a team unlock their ultimate abilities. The game changes dramatically the moment one team crosses that threshold, and you don’t want to be caught at a disadvantage when they do.
Look at the minimap every few seconds.
Map awareness is key in Heroes of the Storm. The only way to start developing it is to get yourself in the habit of checking the minimap at the bottom left corner of the screen incessantly. Use the minimap to keep track of pretty much everything: where your teammates and opponents are, what defenses both teams have left, which merc camps are currently available, and where specific objectives are.
Try to die as little as possible, especially late in a game.
Two very bad things happen whenever you die in Heroes of the Storm. First, the enemy team gets a big chunk of experience every time you’re killed. Second, you have to sit through a cooldown period before your character respawns. It’s best to avoid dying as much as you possibly can as a result.
Retreat often. Very, very often.
I know what you’re thinking after that last tip: Does this guy seriously expect me to not die?
Of course not. Obviously death is sort of inevitable in a competitive multiplayer game like Heroes, so what I mean by, “don’t die” is: don’t behave recklessly. Don’t isolate yourself from your teammates, because doing so places you at greater risk for being ambushed. Don’t press an attack so hard that you plunge headfirst into the enemy base at low health—it’s almost always a better idea to temporarily retreat and heal yourself. And definitely don’t chase opponents farther than a couple feet. Even if an enemy hero seems like they’re at precariously low health, it’s not worth sticking your neck out. You could easily end up sitting through a minute-plus cooldown just when your team needs you the most.
Use the healing fountains—sparingly.
It can be easy to forget in the heat of battle, but each of your base’s defensive lines comes with its very own healing fountain. Drinking from one returns a small portion of your hitpoints immediately and helps you regenerate additional health much more quickly than you normally do. Remember to keep using the fountains throughout a match, but be mindful about when you do. The fountains have a long cooldown period, so it’s not worth using up one if you’re almost at full health already.
Take out the opponent’s healing fountains first when sieging.
Everything I just said about healing fountains being super useful for your team also applies to the enemy team. So whenever you’re attacking a portion of the enemy’s base, focus on the fountains first. You can usually take one out with a few hits, and you don’t even have to step into the range of the surrounding keeps or turrets. Doing this is a great way to chip away at the enemy’s defenses even when you can’t take out an entire chunk of their base in a single push.
Focus on support characters in team fights whenever you can.
The support characters in Heroes have some insanely powerful healing and shielding abilities. If you want your attacks to mean anything during a team battle, you should aim for these characters as a priority. If you don’t, an experienced Rhegar or LiLi player can easily keep all four of their teammates alive no matter how much damage you’re dealing to them.
That being said, determining the best way to engage in team fights is an endlessly complicated process which makes it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to many any prescription stick in all situations. A smart team will keep its healers at the back of a team fight to prevent you and your allies from doing what I just suggested. And if a Rhegar or LiLi is perched behind three or four beefy allies, diving in to kill him or her will just land you in the epicenter of a pain maelstrom. In cases like that, do not—I repeat—do not suicide your way into the team fight in a vain attempt to kill the healer.
If you’re fighting against Murky, look for his egg.
Murky dies a lot. That’s sort of his thing. If you keep killing him, don’t pat yourself on the back and start telling yourself: “Man, I’m really killing it this round!” You’re not actually earning that much experience for those kills. Nor are you really stopping Murky.
The unique aspect of Murky’s character is his egg:
It functions as respawn location for him and him alone. And when an egg is active, it cuts his death cooldowns down to two or three seconds a pop. The way you counter Murky, then, is by destroying his egg, then killing him before he can lay a new one. Smart Murky players will hide the egg, so you have to scrounge around for it. The best way to start your search is by identifying where he keeps showing up again after you kill him. Does he keep popping into your lane from the same corner? Then his egg is probably hidden in a bush somewhere nearby.
When you see bugs in your lane, that means Abathur is nearby.
The other major oddball character in Heroes of the Storm is Abathur:
He doesn’t engage in combat directly. Rather, he manipulates the battlefield in a number of ways—primarily by summoning a little Zerg ally to support allies:
...and by spawning his own special creeps. Since Abathur doesn’t engage, it’s hard to find him and take him out. The best way to pick up on his location is keeping and eye out for a trail of beetles. As you start to get closer to him, you’ll notice more and more.
Clever Abathur players will always stay just far enough behind their base’s defenses that they can drop creeps rapidly while also keeping themselves relatively safe. You should only try to take out Abathur if you think you can make it around the enemy’s defenses in one piece—or if he fucks up and put himself out in the open. Nova and Zeratul are the best characters for hunting Abathur because they can both become invisible. For everyone else, it’s better to team up or take out the surrounding structures first.
Use your mount whenever you can.
Riding on a mount is faster than walking. It’s as simple as that. Unless you’re actively engaged in battle, you should be using your mount to travel around the map. Doing this is even useful as a means to chase down retreating opponents—or run away yourself, of course. You activate your character’s mount by pressing “Z.”
Ride the magic carpet.
It’s the best mount in the game, as far as I’m concerned.
Don’t kill yourself over vision points.
Some of the maps in Heroes has one or more strategic points that, when captured, allow your team to see more of the area surrounding the point (see above). This extra visibility is a nice boost, but it’s not something to die fighting for. Oftentimes people will start matches by rushing to these vision points, turning the very beginning of the game into an all-out team battle. Don’t be like these people. Exercise caution instead. A key thing to learn in Heroes is what situations are worth sacrificing your hero’s life over versus ones that aren’t. Vision points do not make the cut.
Remember: structures can run out of ammo.
Keeps and turrets can’t just keep attacking minions or heroes indefinitely. Eventually, they’ll run out of ammo and have to wait for their supply to replenish itself. Whether you’re the one attacking or defending, make note of how much ammo the structures in your immediate vicinity have. Once one runs out, an empty sign will pop up above it:
When a turret or keep is out of ammo, it can’t do anything to defend itself. If you’re attacking, this grants you a valuable window to dive in and deal as much damage to the structure as you can. If you’re defending, it means that you have to work harder to keep opponents at a safe distance from your base’s vulnerable structures.
Triple-check every piece of advice you get.
I already suggested this in my tips for playing League of Legends, but it’s such an important piece of advice that’s just as applicable to Heroes of the Storm, so I’m going to say it again here.
When you first start playing Heroes of the Storm, it’ll feel like you know absolutely nothing and everyone else is an expert at the game. You knowing nothing might even be true. But I’m going to let you in on a little secret: a lot of people you will come across in Heroes have no idea what they’re talking about. So don’t just accept other people’s advice blindly. If a teammate starts yelling that you should be hunting down Abathur instead of helping with team objectives, he or she might be totally wrong. You can listen to them in the moment if you feel like it. But once the game is done, make sure to cross-check the teammate’s advice to make sure it actually makes sense.
This rule applies to every bit of guidance you receive about Heroes of the Storm. Yes, it even includes the list of gameplay tips you’re reading this very moment. There’s an exception, or an added layer of nuance, or something else to consider for almost every single tip I included in this article. At the end of the day, the confidence with which you comport yourself in the game could very well mean more for your performance than your sheer level of knowledge of all its details ever will.
Say “gg” at the end of the game.
It doesn’t matter if you won or lost, or if you felt the game went well or terribly. Just like “gl hf,” ending matches with “gg” is a common courtesy.
That’s all the tips I’ve got...for now. If Heroes of the Storm is anything like the MOBAs that preceded it, it’ll end up changing a lot of the coming months and years as the developers at Blizzard update it and players discover more about the game. I plan to update this post accordingly, and follow up with more advanced gameplay tips, as well as specific ones for individual maps and heroes, in the future.