Heroes of the Storm: A Beginner’s Guide

Welcome to this comprehensive Beginner’s Guide for “Heroes of the Storm” – or HOTS in short. This F2P-MOBA-Game has managed to stay afloat for the last years. It’s successfully competing with big players such as “League of Legends” and “DotA 2” by defining its very own niche. At first glance Heroes of the Storm may initially look like a blurry mess of Blizzard franchise characters thrown together. However it has a lot of redeeming qualities and unique mechanics that are worth exploring and explaining. The big advantage of HOTS when compared with similar games is its accessibility. It’s easier to learn that most other MOBAs but still complex enough to master for advanced or pro players. In case you are changing games over from a competitor you might wanna read the next chapter carefully.

Time for the obligatory disclaimer!
This guide is strongly catered towards absolute beginners in the MOBA genre. If you’re a newcomer to the genre or need to inform yourself about this game beforehand (even with some experience on your belt) I highly welcome you all. Depending on your feedback, popularity and personal experience I’ll try to keep this guide up to date as I continue to play the game.

If you however intend to go pro, do all-in professional plays, step up the career ladder and intend to play this game according to the meta, I strongly suggest you look for more in-depth guides and number-crunching elsewhere. As stats and patches change the game frequently I will not provide tons of number crunching in this article, but restrict myself to my own train of thought.

However for the more ‘enthusiastic’ players among you I will mention some useful sources at the end of this article in case you thirst for more in-depth knowledge. 🙂

Most importantly: This guide has been crafted with care and attention to detail. Please enjoy it, and let me know in the comments below if you liked it or what is missing.

Listen up to what Fen has to say!
Change Notes for this guide – Click to unfold
2018-08-11: First version of the guide
2018-08-18: Added useful Youtube sources, improved readability
2018-09-23: Some typos corrected

HOTS compared to other MOBAs

Gathering XP for your team is a big part of playing HOTS correctly. If you get behind in levels it’s hard to make a comeback.

As mentioned earlier, HOTS does quite a few things differently than the competition – and very much to my personal liking I might add. You can consider this chapter as an extension to my HOTS-Beta impressions, and I’ll try to keep it short and concise to highlight the main differences towards longer-existing top dogs such as LoL and DotA 2. Each of the following chapters will highlight one of HOTS specialties, so let’s get started, shall we?

Team Levels

In this game you are gathering shared XP as a team, meaning that all 5 of you will have the same team-level unlock strong and game-impacting talent points at the same time. Experience in HOTS is one of the – if not THE – most important factor in being successful. This cannot be stressed enough, as people often transfer their “need to kill” mindset from similar games, which simply doesn’t apply for HOTS. Especially in early game, people tend to teamfight a lot. This  is OK if you got the quest-talents for that – more on that later. With all that in mind just note that at the early minutes of the game a hero kill is worth less than a wave of minions!

The simplest way to just “soaking” XP is just by standing nearby (distance is approximately half your screen size) when enemy lane minions or neutral mercenary camps are being farmed. No need to last hit anything, no need for gold gathering or racking up kills – just soak as much XP as you can by being near the action. The keyword to winning the experience game (and gaining an advantage in levels) is mainly awareness. Learn to frequently look at the minimap: which lanes are unpushed? Is the enemy soaking? Do you have time to roam and maybe push another lane? Do so! Even make mistakes, but learn from doing so. If you’ve gathered a huge experience wave but died from it it’s still worth it because you’ve given your team an advantage in XP. Which leads me to the next point…

Talent Points

HOTS makes it simple for you upgrade your hero. Once your team gathers enough XP you gain a talent point. Out of a selection of three choices you spent that point and you’re done – the effect is instantaneous! No need to master tons of items, mechanics, shop systems or whatever. Talent points are unlocked at levels 1, 4, 7, 10, 13, 16 and 20, which are also named “Talent Tiers” for that reason. When your team is about to unlock a new tier the XP bar at the top is flashing with a small indicator. You can prepare yourself by holding CTRL to open your talent window and inform yourself ahead of time before picking.

Reaching a talent tier earlier than your opponent can give you a significant strategical advantage as most talents will give your character a good power boost. Being ahead on talent tiers means you can play aggressively, pushing enemies back to increase your lead even further. This goes double for Heroic-Talents picked at level 10 and 20, which is why I’m going dedicate the next chapter to those.

Ultimate talents at level 10 and 20 are significant upgrades and should be chosen with care. Heroes like Tracer already have the ultimate (Sticky Bomb) from the beginning and may choose to upgrade into different directions.

Multiple heroics (ultimates) to choose from

With a few exceptions each hero may choose one of two available heroics at level 10. Which talent you pick can be a real game changer. It depends on factors such as: does your team lack in offensive or defensive capabilities? What are your strengths or the enemy teams weaknesses and how can you exploit that? Is there a teammate that profits greatly from your ultimate? Try to use Ultimates in a tradeoff for bigger rewards, such as getting an objective, getting multiple kills, saving a teammate from death, etc..

With up to 60-120s of cooldown it’s recommended to synchronize their use with teammates to get “combo” effects much larger than using just one at a time. Notify your teammates of synergies and your play intentions. Try to be aware where the enemy is forced into a choke position and then fire away!

Activatable Traits, Items and extra abilities

Not really an unique element to HOTS, but a lot of heroes have traits (passives) that are activatable or become active and usable so when picking the according talents. In this case the trait is at the “D” key per default. So check if your hero has an active trait that you need to learn and master. In fact, some heroes such as the dragon aspect Alextrasza or Brewmaster Chen are highly reliant on using their trait correctly to be effective, so make sure you pay attention to that extra cooldown as well.

Heroes llike Alextrasza have a trait (D-key, shown red) and Ultimate (R-Key, shown green) on long separate cooldowns. Ultimates (Heroics) of your teammates are also shown as a small icon when ready or on cooldown. Inform yourself and teammates when you are ready to use an ultimate by Alt-Leftclicking on the ability.

Some talents also unlock additional hotbar abilities assigned to the 1, 2, 3 … hotkey  These abilities are auxiliary or supportive with medium 10-30s cooldowns. Practice their use in the game’s “Try” mode (located in the ingame shop at each hero) to get a feeling for their use. Abilities can range from “cleansing” or healing items which can give you the edge in battle if you choose to handle the extra keys.

Inventory Items (default key: “F”) may also be dropped at neutral mob-camps or points of interest in certain maps. These items range from healing kits with an Area of Effect (AoE), Nukes (Starcraft 2 players know the deal), Sentry Turrets or other effects depending on the current map’s theme. Most items are one-time use and drop on death, so make sure not to hold onto them for too long or you might involuntarily hand them to the enemy.

Bonus tip: Learn where the neutral mob camps are pushing the hardest. Each camp always pushes the same lane, so you can use items like the Nuke to amplify the pushing effect greatly. I’ll cover more of these strategies in the chapters below.

Currencies and Progress

The daily quests will give you the most gold for your time invested. Up to 3 quests can store up, but they cannot be discarded.

Gems equal money. You also earn gems by leveling up your account, but only in small amounts. Therefore spend gems for exclusive cosmetics, mounts, announcers or special skins only. Things you REALLY really want and can’t buy with gold. I generally recommend to avoid buying new heroes with gems as they don’t justify the high gem cost. Use your gold for heroes instead.

Gold is the common “free” ingame currency. It’s mostly used to purchase new heroes and some exotic gold-exclusive mounts. You gain gold by completing quests (indicated with the !-icon at the bottom right). Daily first wins and regular games also net you a small amount of gold. Playing a set of 1-3 matches per day will yield the most gold for your time. A new hero is released every 1-2 months, giving you plenty of time to earn gold in the meantime.

Shards are exclusively used for most cosmetic items, announcers, icons, mounts. You get shards from loot boxes, either in pure form or from duplicate items. Due to this RNG shard influx is pretty random, but nice skins already start at 100 shards which can be earned pretty quickly. Eventually your shard earn rate will increase as duplicates from lootboxes automatically convert into shards.

“Planning” your progress

Since the 2.0 Update, HOTS has this new currency system in place. This  introduced dreaded loot boxes which make earning specific things rather hard. However you can still earn gold and even gems at a steady pace. Do so by just leveling up your account profile which is done by gaining hero levels. Bringing a hero to level 5 and 10 nets you 500 gold each, so try to bring each free-rotation hero during to that level – even if you don’t intend on going further.

On a sidenote: your individual hero and account level has no power-progression tied to it. It’s merely a rating for “playtime experience” you have with that hero. So if you dislike a hero you can stop at level 10 and switch to the next one.

 ► Is HOTS Pay to Win?

It might be worth noting that HOTS is not pay to win. Heroes start as low as 2000 gold and most of them are actually ranked pretty strong in the current meta. Even lootboxes sometimes drop a new hero for you, which is a better standard than most other F2P-games in the genre have to offer. Some recommended starter heroes are mentioned in this guide below.

Purple shards and Gems (actual money) can be used to unlock most cosmetic items. Only a few skins are gem-exclusive. Aside from the dreaded loot boxes the free-2-play system of HOTS is pretty fair.

Your first games

I recommend playing Versus A.I. until you learn the basic mechanics of your hero. Also you can practice maps that way without being stressed by teammates.

So you’ve learned about the basics, currencies and talents and want to start your first game?

Good! 😀

Your first impulse is selecting a hero and going into Quick Match?

Not so good! 🙁

HOTS has some pretty flexible enemy A.I. bots which are perfect for practicing several things that wouldn’t be so easy to practice in a “live” environment. Even if you are experience in MOBAs I highly recommend at least 5-10 “Versus A.I.” matches. They provide a much more lenient environment for errors and you won’t upset teammates as easily.

Benefits when playing VS the A.I. (Bots)

  • Games are usually a lot quicker (the easiest difficulty bots can be beaten in around 4-6 min. if your team acts together)
  • You gain quest progress for A.I matches, which can be good to get the gold from those pesky “Win X matches” quests 😉
  • You get hero levels and thus lootboxes and 500 gold at level 5 and 10 each. At level 5 you should have a decent understanding of the hero to play against other people.
  • Bots in lower levels are predictable, allowing you to focus on learning map objectives, XP gathering and other mechanics first.
  • Higher level bots act and coordinate pretty well, which is a good training for later play against equally coordinated teams

Picking Talents

Talents are HOTS equivalent to items in most other MOBAs, and they are a huge power spike if picked correctly. Once your team unlocks a new Talent, simply mouse over the selection to see what it does. A quick way to see and select talents is by holding down CTRL, followed by a keypress of 1, 2 or 3 for making your selection (seen from top to bottom). Mastering this is essential during important fights as you can quickly react with an appropriate ultimate if the situation demands it.

Some talents are tied to quests which require you to adapt your playstyle. It requires some experience to judge if you’re able to fulfill the quest or better pick a talent with a flat boost.

Talents are usually structured to improve your Q, W or E ability accordingly, so the key placement of 1,2 and 3 fits on the keyboard. Quest talents offer a greater reward later in the game at the cost of early power. Some of them even scale endlessly into late game, making them a powerful choice if you know you are up to the task and survive long enough. Chosing the right talent may require quite some thinking on your part:

  • Is the enemy team set up in a way you can even complete the quest? (e.g. if the enemy plays an elusive Abathur and your quest requires you to kill “every” hero once, then you might have a hard time completing it)
  • Does the talent help you to overcome strengths of the enemy? If they have a lot of mobile assassins you might want to pick mobility yourself. If they have lots of high-HP bruisers you go for damage output or self sustaining
  • Does the map support quick completion of your quest? Many quests require you to collect healing globes, but some maps have lanes wide apart that make roaming and getting the globes very hard.
  • Does the talent build synergize with your team? Some talent builds greatly profit when your team has CC effects
  • Does the talent support your play style? Always blindly picking “meta” talents that are better than other choices can be a bad thing if you don’t handle yourself well enough for their completion. Sure, it’s a matter of practice, but especially as a beginner you might be better off picking just the plain upgrade talents.

As you see there are a lot of variations to go for with your talent choices from 1-20, which is called a “Talent Build” in HOTS. In most cases these talent builds are catered towards optimizing a certain talent (Q,W or E) or play style. Since selecting the wrong talent can have a big impact on your performance I highly suggest using the in-game shop feature called…

“Try” before your Buy

The “Try” mode also has neutral Minion camps and dummies to test your damage output and talent builds. Make use of them, especially on any brand-new hero!

HOTS features a small practice map that allows you to test every hero prior to purchase. This mode offers many comfort features such as setting levels instantly, chosing your lane opponent (and ally) and instantly resetting cooldowns. This is perfect to test heroics and talents without repercussions. Dummies and neutral minion camps are conveniently placed in the map to test your damage and healing output.

Especially on newer and pricier heroes I highly recommend testing them before buying blindly . If heroes are on free rotation it’s even better to do some practice runs (VS A.I. first, please think of your teammates!) in addition to the Try-Mode to test various talent builds in a live environment. It’s not a full replacement for matches against real opponents, but it surely helps to make your initial experience a much better one if you know the ins and outs of your preferred hero.

HOTS generously allows you to try every Hero and even Skins for free. The practice mode is very good at testing talent builds and combos.

Beginner Hero recommendations

The following list is just a recommendation of heroes I consider easy to play and powerful in the current “meta” . I also factor in cheap gold-cost in the 2000-4000 range as the currency is rather hard to earn in the beginning. By explaining my choice and try to provide something for every play-style and role in the game. The following list is also very handy when planning your next purchase.

Tank / Warrior / Offtank

These kind of heroes excel at trading blows in longer fights, “peeling” for your teammates or keeping the enemy team in check. Playing a tank is quite challenging for beginners. Not only do you need to watch out for yourself but also your teammates. The majority of players distinguishes by “main tank” and “off tank”. A main tank can bind enemies with interrupts and hard engages, enabling the team to great plays. An offtank however has more damage potential but lacks in staying power. HOTS classifies both types as “Warrior”.

Solo-laning is also an important aspect of a warrior, as you can stay in lane longer than most other, squishier classes. Warriors mostly excel in longer teamfight situations where they can tank the damage for their weaker teammates by acting as a “meat shield”. Another advanced technique you can use as a tank is to “body-block” opponents with your larger than normal hitbox.

Beginner: E.T.C – Elite Tauren Chieftain.  Easy to learn, mobile, self-sustaining and a great heroic ability. This Tauren is very useful in a lot of team compositions and his talents are easy enough to understand and master to be impactful in almost any teamfight.

Intermediate: Johanna. Also easy to understand and very sturdy against Melee damage characters, Johanna is an excellent choice that also introduces more talent variety to her build and heroics, including a very useful trait that makes her simply ignore CC effects.

Intermediate: Sonya. More of an offensive brawler than a tank. Sonya introduces you to resource management (Fury instead of Mana). She’s a fan-favorite, straightforward to play, but also ineffective when played incorrectly.

Advanced: Diablo. A lot more challenging to play than E.T.C, but also more rewarding. Diablo can nail enemies against walls or even throw them within turret-range of your base. However his talents need to be used with timing as you may quickly find yourself in an unfavorable position or use your talents in the wrong order.

Assassin / Damage Dealer

These heroes have high damage output at the cost of survivability. Some are highly mobile or even invisible, but also very fragile glass cannons which are ineffective when played incorrectly. Assassins shine most with protection from supports or a preferrable 1:1 situation where they can catch an isolated opponent and play their strengths.

Beginner: Raynor. Just recently reworked, Raynor is a damage powerhouse with built-in self-sustain, good talent variety and heroics that are easy to understand and useful. If you are coming from other MOBAs or real time strategy games you’ll instantly know how to play Raynor, with enough room for later improvement.

Intermediate: Jaina. A frost mage with a ton of CC and burst damage but barely any sustainability and no mobility. Pick Jaina when you have a strong frontline that can hold off assassins from you. Jaina also has some powerful quests that are good for getting into the advanced talent vibe.

Intermediate: Valla. More CC and mobility than Raynor, but also barely any sustain and thus more catered to people who already know how to evade and use skill shots, position themselves and actively engage targets in the enemy backline.

Advanced: Illidan. No resource cost, elusive, but also challenging to play as he excels with team support. Pick this hero when you are used to fast-paced combat and know when to (dis)engage. Because if you aren’t this hero won’t be very useful for your team.

Support / Healer

These heroes enable others with great amounts of CC, sustain (heals) or shields. They are fairly mediocre in all other departments, but also versatile enough to temporarily fit the gap of an assassin or specialist. Playing a support is challenging, but also fun, because it makes or breaks a game very much like playing a tank. You need good knowledge about positioning yourself just right to provide help to the team without giving the enemy a free kill.

Beginner: Li Li. The small panda is incredibly easy to heal with. Just stand nearby allies and she will target them automatically. The same functionality works against enemies, blinding them at the press of a button. LiLi is also quite tanky and elusive, making her very forgiving for beginners to play.

Intermediate: Malfurion. The druid is very flexible, healing allies by dealing damage to enemies, with some added CC on top. Malfurion requires you to manage cooldowns and place yourself carefully due to his “mixed” play-style. He also lacks in defensive measures, so make sure that you don’t overly commit in teamfights.

Advanced: Tassadar. Very niché pick that supports teammates with shields instead of heals. This makes Tassadar more of a hybrid between specialist (pushing lanes) and supporting teammates in addition to a secondary healer. Messing up his talent builds and shielding will greatly affect your performance, so I only recommend him for special interest reasons or in conjunction with another healer.

Specialist / Pusher

These heroes exceed in pushing lanes and killing minions faster than most other heroes. By contributing a lot of XP for the team they can work by themselves in a solo-lane most of the time, but require protection against assassins as they are mostly immobile and squishy. Playing a specialist requires you to know the maps, mercs and minion spawns, and also when to switch lanes (rotate) to help with an objective. I therefore only recommend picking a “specialist” when you are a bit more experienced with the game.

Beginner: Nazeebo. The witch doctor is a very forgiving specialist to play, mostly because his abilities are based around “aim in general direction” and damage will follow. He has a lot of lategame-snowballing potential for advanced players and impactful heroic talents as well as a diverse talent build with many valid options. He’s easy to learn but his abilities are also quite telegraphed and thus require you to think ahead.

Intermediate: Zagara. The Zerg queen requires careful management of your creep spawn (Trait ability) and can siege enemy bases with ease. Her abilities seem susceptively easy to use, but roaming and lane rotation are essential for her to get the most out of her kit. As she has wildly different and useful heroic abilities, knowing when to pick what build is essential in mastering Zagara.

Advanced: Azmodan. He’s still a long-range artillery, but his rework opened a lot more talent builds and made building his “Globe of Annihilation” damage not a must-have in all situations anymore. With that said Azmodan requires a lot of player attention as you can influence and support and push almost every lane at the same time. However, if you do things incorrectly, you end up with a low-damage assassin that also doesn’t contribute XP to your team.

Learning Maps and XP mechanics

Regardless of the map you play there’s the one important main rule: gathering Team-XP should always be your top consideration. The most basic and universal thing in this regard which you need to know is your XP soaking distance. Since measurements in HOTS are always hard to explain, so I made this little animation to showcase the difference. Notice the little XP numbers not showing in the red distance, while XP gain is showed when enemies get closer. This rule also applies for neutral Merc Camps, Bosses or any other element in the game that gives you XP.  Always keep in mind: Being nearby is enough, and it helps to keep your team level equal even if you are not “winning” lanes or actively pushing against your opponent.

Learn to get a feeling for the XP “soaking” distance (indicated by green arrows in this animation). If you are outnumbered or outclassed by your enemy you can still soak your lane in relative safety without “losing” the lane. This works well from within your own tower / fort range and even against 2 opponents.

Keep your hopes up!

HOTS team level system has rubber-banding mechanics in place, which means that even when a team is ahead in levels they are also worth more XP. This leads to the 2nd-most important rule: Never give up! Even 2-3 levels behind you can still catch up to the same talent tier and then fight back. Focus on catching up by gathering XP from all lanes and mercenary camps, but do not take risks. Once you are on equal talent level, fight back! One good teamfight, engage – or a fatal mistake by your enemy – may lead to an unforeseen turn of events.

Please don’t be that guy!
Competitive MOBAs tend to be a salty place. The worst thing you can do after losing one battle is to discourage your teammates by saying ‘gg’ or similar inflammatory things in chat, even when 2-3 levels behind. It appears cyncial, show bad sportsmanship, and discourages teammates by knowing that you’ve given up early.
Feeling tilted or angry is normal, but try to remain calm (at least in chat!), focus on passive play and wait for your enemy to make mistakes. HOTS is way better at comebacks than most other MOBAs, so never give up!
Listen up to what Fen has to say!

Play the objective – or don’t

Each map has a specific theme to it: capturing towers, holding an area, killing minions or collecting items. Objectives are always important to winning the game in the long run. In rare cases ignoring them can yield benefits  – like allowing you to soak or get an important mercenary camp. However in most cases a lost objective will give your enemy an advantage in the long run.

Here are a few easy rules to consider when an objective is up:

  • Is it a staged objective (e.g. 1 out of 3 curses on “Cursed Hollow” map?) then you may ignore it once as long as your enemy does not gain 3/3 from capturing it.
  • Do you have a realistic chance to win the objective? Are you too far away or spread apart? You might be better off staying in your lane.
  • Is the enemy gaining a significant advantage? Early objectives are usually weaker and you could get something in return when ignoring it.
  • Are there multiple objectives at the same time? Maybe focus on giving up a riskier one and “play it safe”, especially when you don’t see all enemies on the minimap or are at a number disadvantage.
  • Does your team setup favor long fights over an objective? Maybe you have strong specialists and “pushers” and may be better off shoving down a lane.

The ping-wheel is the most important tool at your disposal. Learn it early and make good use of it!

Indicate your intentions

Especialy in random groups it is essential to master the “Ping-Wheel” which can be opened by holding the ALT-Key and left click+drag in a direction. Practice using it, maybe even in practice map mode until you know the 4 directions by heart. A quick signal only take miliseconds to use and will tell your team a lot of things: enemies hiding in wait, an objective being nearly ready to use or simply your intention to move somewhere specific on the map. It’s way faster than typing and also easier to process than voice communication!

Take control of “vehicles”

After winning an objective you might be able to control a creature, robot or other kind of controllable unit called a “vehicle”. This entity cannot be stopped by the enemy unless killed or by timed life expiry. Do not miss out on the opportunity to jump into one of those “vehicles”. Not only can your hero regenerate HP while being “inside”, but you also have a huge advantage over your enemy. Most “vehicles” deal a huge chunk of siege damage, so try to avoid getting focused and instead use your wits and cunning to destroy buildings in other lanes.

When teammates act together, a “vehicle” can also be a powerful killing tool that kills enemy heroes with only a few blows. Just be aware that your life is in jeopardy once the vehicle is destroyed, so don’t get caught in midst of the enemy team once outside. For this reason, highly mobile heroes such as assassins are best for controlling a vehicle as they can get away more easily afterwards. This also leaves your tank and healer role available for teamfights and supporting the other teammembers.

Advanced Techniques

Think logically!
While a lot of things in HOTS may only be learned from experience, you can still refer to this chapter as a quick decision-making guideline. I’ll separate the techniques into several topics I consider both easy to keep in mind and follow. I’m using these techniques / rules on a daily basis myself and keep them simple in order to not overthink things.

Mastering those techniques can give you the edge over your enemy, as many players don’t care enough to dive into the finer mechanics of the game. These techniques are by now means ‘pro-level’ but they will significantly improve your personal success in the game.

Listen up to what Fen has to say!

Learn Stutterstepping

An important first technique you need to master is “stutter stepping”, which basically just means: move in between your hero’s normal attacks. While in theory it sounds simple it also means that you need to learn how to position yourself in between each attack to remain both effective while not opening yourself up to counters or minion AOE attacks (siege minions, bosses and mercs telegraph their attacks). In a recent effort the official HOTS Youtube channel is finally starting to educate players quite nicely on these matters. Here’s the official video for your convenience:

Regeneration globes and you

Regeneration globes are often underestimated and ignored, but are actually quite significant in HOTS

Each minion wave in HOTS has one special ranged (caster) minon which drops a regeneration globe. Picked-up globes fill up mana and health slightly, an effect also granted to players nearby. While picking them up seems like a no-brainer, most people undervalue getting the globes, or don’t even try stealing the ones from enemies once the globe turns neutral. Don’t forget: The globe mechanic is also an essential part of many quest talents, allowing heroes to gain power spikes quickly if they know how to get the globes fast.

Here are a few quick tips on winning the globe game against your opponents:

  • Preferrably pick globe-oriented talents on maps that allow for efficient gathering. Maps with only 2 lanes or heavy objective focus outside the lanes will yield less benefit for you, while maps with 3 lanes close to each other are very beneficial.
  • Globes turn neutral after a while, which goes both ways. Try to steal enemy globes if the risk allows it, or punish an enemy hero for getting yours.
  • Try to deny enemies of their globes by intentionally getting your minion wave killed near your towers. If they still want the globe you can punish them more easily for it or pick it up yourself.
  • Learn to rotate lanes efficiently to grab multiple minion waves and their globes.
  • Remember that globe-quest progress for your teammates also counts for “passively” grabbed globes, so wait for them to be nearby before picking one up.
  • A well-timed globe-pickup can save a teammates live. Try to combine it with stutterstepping to give your team a slight healing boost in long teamfights.
  • Many merc camps and bigger bosses will spawn a healing globe when defeated. So if you need globes, try being nearby when one of those side-objectives is being done.

How to prioritize and engage

Each map usually can be divided in 3 zones. Especially in early game it is very dangerous to venture into the red zone as Sonya is doing in this example.

This is a large question, hard to answer in simple terms. A good start is to keep attention to the minimap. Over the course of playing some games it should become 2nd nature to, as the map in HOTS provides a ton of useful information:

  • The objective status, future spawn locations and objectives (purple)
  • Each teams progress towards the objective (counters, coins, minion kills, gathered items, etc.)
  • Merc camp status (neutral as well as active mercs signified with a moving skull icon)
  • Signals (pings) by teammates or just-taken camps which are about to push down a lane

I’ve added a “danger” zone overlay to the screenshot at the right to better explain a “risk VS reward” decision scenario:

  • Green areas are usually save for you to roam in, merc camps and objectives are easy to get as the enemy will usually not extend into this area unless the match progressed way into lategame or when your team is down by a few members. If a lane already is pushed into your area, you should prioritize on removing that threat first without exposing yourself too much to counterattacks.
  • Yellow areas are points of conflict which shouldn’t be engaged on your own. Ideally you catch enemies in a number advantage scenario or fight over objectives and lane XP.  This area shifts to the left or right as the match progresses, depending on which team gets more fortresses and turrets down. If you are sneaky you can try and capture points of interest on your own, but it requires map awareness and knowledge of your hero’s capabilities. In the yellow area you will experience the most movements and you need to be flexible in your “lane rotation” as this is an important part of the XP game I mentioned earlier.
  • Red areas are high risk zones. Stealing enemy objectives or merc camps can be useful, but also exposes you to “ganks” as the enemy will get suspicious of your absence. Getting caught usually means that your team will be a few members short, in addition to a half-completed merc camp that the enemy just needs to finish. Venturing into the red zone should only be done when the enemy has taken several casualties or when you are absolutely sure to get your task done quickly. Chasing enemies into the red territory is usually not worth it unless you can ““stagger”” their deaths.

Merc camps – when and how

Neutral mercenary camps (Mercs) are powerful tools when used properly. They can push lanes on their own, provide buffs for your team or put the enemy on a timer with siege damage on their buildings. However, most mercs are most useful when accompanied and protected with your team. Doing camps for the sake of “doing them” can even negatively impact your game: You always need to expend some time and health to beat a merc camp – valuable resources which might better spent on objectives, teamfights or other goals. Getting a merc camp right before an objective can be very valuable as it puts further pressure on the enemy team while you fight around the objective.

Did you realize something? Yes, it’s not always black and white or easy to decide.

Here’s an example below shows one of these decisions and how the UI helps you in that matter: The information you can quickly gather at a glance is as follows:

  • You are in enemy territory, so the camp would quickly push their lane and steal their opportunity to get it
  • Your hero has a nuke (bottom right) which helps to push the top lane further
  • The enemy merc camp is nearby and up for the taking, 4 enemies are currently busy in other lanes
  • Your hero (Samuro) is very capable in getting camps quickly due to his mirror images and damage output.

Sounds tempting, right? So should you get the camp? The answer here is not easy, because there are other factors to consider:

  • Your team is down on forts and deaths are staggered, so you are currently on the defense and will most likely lose the next enemy push
  • You currently see most of the enemy team (4 out of 5) on the minimap, but one enemy could still try and get you
  • Your health is low enough that you could easily lose to the camp or an enemy counter-gank, further staggering deaths on your team
  • You might lose your nuke in the process of getting that camp, delivering the enemy one more win condition
  • You are behind a level, which could allow the enemy to snowball into a talent lead

These reasons outweight the advantage of getting a push, so I’d usually choose to play defensively in this scenario: get rid of the nuke on the enemy fort and teleport home.

Deciding when to engage on merc camps can be a tough nut. The game gives you plenty of information: where is the enemy? Is your team in danger or even down a few members? Does your hero have the health and damage output to master a camp? Be aware of these things before making your decision. A good merc push can put pressure on the enemy, but also set you back significantly if you fail.

Tips and Tricks to progress

Sooo there’s most of the guide. While it’s still largely incomplete I believe it’s still a lot to take in all at once. At the beginning the feeling of progress might be a rare occurrence to you. The following list are just a few things for you to take on the road to improve your game even further:

  • Step out of your comfort zone – There’s nothing wrong with learning and mastering a favorite hero, but you should be capable to play each role and at least one hero therein. Understanding how healing, pushing or tanking works does not only improve your own understanding of the game but also improves your decisionmaking and judgement of enemy capabilities. Make use of the hero rotation and play heroes, at least to level 4-5 to get that gold and understand how each hero works.
  • Do not stick to one-trick talent builds – While some talents feel most suited for your playstyle or stronger, keep your and the enemy team composition in mind. Team talent synergies (for example heroes that profit from slowing effects) or counter-picks against the enemy team or talent choice may come to mind.
  • Learn from mistakes – No one likes to fail. A natural reaction would be to look for blame in others. But try to take a step back, maybe watch replays of games and see if you positioned and decided correctly
  • Make use of the statistics – The stats screen (TAB) shows important numbers which are
  • Learn the maps and their deciding factors. Some maps have more important objectives, others have powerful merc camps. It takes time to practice and get known to the maps and learn their finer intricacies.
  • Before starting with “Unranked” mode, try to get a wider hero roster fitting for the map you play on – Maps with objectives and lanes wide apart such as Blackheart’s Bay or Dragon Shire give clear advantages to mobile heroes with global movement abilities (such as Falstad, Dehaka, Brightwing, Zagara). Other maps however focus on objective damage against bosses, so heroes with high damage output (Valla, Hanzo, Raynor) may be a good choice.

There are many maps with different mechanics and objectives to learn. You can use custom games to pick the map you want, or play any other mode to experience them randomly.

Useful sources

Last but not least, here are some useful sources to inform yourself about the game and it’s finer details:

  • The Heroes Wiki – good source to learn more about heroes, mechanics and get “unbiased” information
  • The HOTS official Reddit – a nice source for balancing discussion, humor, or getting info on the newest upcoming events and changes
  • NexusNewbies on Reddit – a good place to ask beginner questions or discuss mechanics
  • HOTSLogs – Are you uncertain on which talents to pick? Wanna see which heroes are popular? Do you dislike thinking for your own? Then this site has you covered 😉
  • Heroes on Twitch (official) – mostly professional plays and commentary, which can be a great source for learning the game. If you link your Twitch account you can even earn loot boxes for the game just by watching.

Youtubers and Streamers

These people are interesting to watch for various reasons explained below, listed in no particular order.:

  • MFPallytime is a variety streamer and Youtuber with a strong focus on HOTS, humor and humilating gameplay. He’s not the best gamer out there but very enjoying to watch and a kind soul. His A-Z series of all heroes is very recommended to watch as you can get a good overview of the heroes with ability explanations on top.
  • NotParadox is the go-to Youtuber for professional and in-depth analysis of all things HOTS. He clearly explains maps, heroes and their talent builds in full detail. Especially noteworthy is his “Common mistakes made on X” series where he clears up common misconceptions about popular Heroes and how to play the game in general.
  • Grubby is a long-time RTS-Legend and high-ranking pro player with a very positive attitude. While streaming HOTS and Warcraft 3 almost daily on Twitch he oftentimes explains user questions live and sheds light on new topics in WOW.

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Got further questions to get started?

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