Knowing Your Role in the Nexus P3

The two keys to victory in any Heroes of the Storm game are battleground objectives and teamfighting. Combined, these two things are what makes or breaks a team in the late game. While there are many aspects to these two concepts, one can understand them almost entirely through role selection. What is your role on the team? How do you fit into the composition on the map? Controlling map objectives and winning teamfights is much easier for the team where everyone knows their role, and a self-aware team is a winning team.

A Word on Battleground Objectives

Most of this series has emphasized generalizations and avoided specific details, and a large part of that is due to the vast array of battlegrounds and objectives. It’s very difficult to explain rotations or solo laners without the context of the map. What’s the difference between a four-man rotation on a two lane map and a three lane map? Why is the solo lane more important on some maps than on others? Exactly how important is waveclear?

Different battlegrounds emphasize different roles, and certain heroes have higher priority over others depending on the battleground. For example, Towers of Doom is all about teamfighting since sieging is not particularly effective, but you can avoid teamfighting completely on Blackheart’s Bay as long as you have an effective jungler.

Poke is highly prioritized on battlegrounds with channeling objectives like Towers of Doom or Cursed Hollow because one or two heroes can almost indefinitely delay the objective while the rest of the team soaks experience or travels across the map. Objectives which require standing on a point tend to favor zone control heroes like Zarya, ETC, or Jaina. PvE maps like Blackheart’s Bay and Haunted Mines are dominated by good junglers who can take camps quickly and efficiently. Heroes that can sustain well on their own do particularly well on Infernal Shrines and Sky Temple where clearing the objective is a big deal.

Globals are obviously more valuable on larger battlegrounds than smaller ones, but they’re never particularly bad. Certain cheese compositions like Stitches/Medivh or Medivac Core rush even appear from time to time on specific maps.

I could talk for days explaining each of the maps, but suffice it to say that players must adapt to the map. Some heroes might change roles (like sieger to solo laner) depending on the map, the composition your team has, and what your opponent is doing. Knowing what your hero does best and understanding your role on the team will help you to quickly identify how you need to adapt to the situation at hand.

Teamfighting Roles

As mentioned in Part 2, your positioning is based largely on your role, with tankier heroes staying near the front while more fragile heroes stand further away from danger. This is the most important part of setting up a good teamfight, but once the teamfight starts, there are important interactions to consider.

Every hero, regardless of build, plays differently in and against every composition. The interplay between abilities, synergies, anti-synergies, and counters all play a big role in terms of knowing how to approach fights and swing them in your favor. Don’t straightjacket yourself into one role or think there’s only one way to play a hero. You must adapt to each situation as it comes.

Before the game even loads, think about how your composition works together and what potential dangers you have to look out for in the enemy team. You may normally play a very aggressive Greymane, but if your composition doesn’t support it or the enemy team has a lot of disengage, it might be necessary to take a backseat and wait for better opportunities in teamfights rather than immediately jumping in. Similarly, you might be used to playing the passive CC tank, but if you’re playing Muradin in a double tank composition, you have some leeway to be more of a bruiser while your primary tank peels for the team.

Interrupts are huge in teamfights. Channeled abilities like Mosh Pit, Ravenous Spirit, or 1,000 Jugs can be game-changing if they go off for the full duration. If you have an interrupt, think about how and when you’re going to use it and anticipate your enemy’s movements. Similarly, Heroics with small windups like Twilight Dream and Sound Barrier can be interrupted to ruin the enemy team’s engagement.

The same goes for big disengagement tools like Gust or Horrify. Time them well, think about the proper time to use them. If the enemy team has disengages, try to bait them out before actually committing to a full fight.

Another important aspect to teamfighting is knowing who to focus. The mantra “kill Morales or gg” isn’t far from the truth, but it’s not always the right call. If you can reliably get damage into the back line while trading favorably, you should go for it. Otherwise, it’s best to maintain the proper positioning and whittle away the front line.

Think about where your high-impact abilities fit in, and keep track of your opponent’s important abilities. If you can figure out even a simplified version of the complicated jigsaw puzzle that is teamfighting before the fight begins, you have a much higher chance of winning it.


This is the third part of a multi-part series. You can find the other parts here:
Part 1
Part 2


EsportsJohn cuts his sandwiches down the middle like a normal person who grew up into an adult (somewhat). You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Knowing Your Role in the Nexus P2

Now that you know a bit more about hero roles and what each hero can do, it’s important to understand how that role plays into your positioning on both a macro and micro scale. On the macro scale, your role determines where you need to be on the map at any given time. On the micro scale, it’s all about positioning in teamfights and skirmishes.

Macro Positioning

Macro positioning is difficult to explain fully without an extensive guide on lane configurations, but I will do my best to lay out some of the basic ideas. On all maps, side lanes generally belong to solo laners while the other four members inhabit the other lane or lanes. Side lanes are generally “safer” from ganks compared to the mid lane but are also more isolated, especially on large maps where objectives can spawn far away. A few players tend to roam between lanes looking for ganks.

First and foremost, supports should almost always be with at least one other teammate to maximize their healing value—some exceptions can be made for double healer compositions or Rehgar, who also happens to be an excellent jungler. If you are sitting in a lane alone as a Lúcio or some other low impact support, you’re often in the wrong place. It would be more beneficial to join the rest of the team than to soak the lane, even at the cost of experience. This is a very common mistake, especially at low level play. Do not solo lane as your team’s solo support; always be next to the majority of your team.

Heroes with globals like Falstad, Dehaka, and Brightwing get considerably more value from side lanes. While soaking in a side lane they can still quickly travel to the other side of the map and help out with objectives or teamfights. In addition, side lanes build up more minions and push harder due to the extended length of the lane.

Tanks will generally lead rotations and look for ganks on other lanes, but that is not always ideal, especially in weird Quick Match compositions. The main thing you’re looking for in rotations is good CC and damage from heroes like ETC, Tyrande, or stealth heroes. In comparison, Lúcio, Zarya, or Nazeebo are usually not ideal for rotations due to their low burst, poor waveclear, and lack of CC.

Sieging heroes tend to have weaker rotations but excel at pushing an individual lane with their good sustain and/or long-range damage. On two-lane maps without big rotations like Braxis Holdout or Haunted Mines, these heroes gain substantially more value. Ideally, you want three or four heroes in a sieging lane (usually support, siege, and one or two DPS), but this may not always be possible in uncoordinated games.

Don’t forget to respond to your opponent’s composition either. For instance, if you’re playing Alarak into Chen, you know you always want to follow the Chen around so that you can prevent him from pushing. Heroes of the Storm is more dynamic than just choosing a lane and playing against whoever is there; you have to actively change tactics depending on the situation.

Micro Positioning

When it comes to fighting, your positioning is largely determined by role—the tankier you are, the more aggressive your posturing usually is. By extension, tanks should theoretically stand in front with assassins slightly behind them or to the side, and the healer should be standing safely in the back. This setup is never static and constantly changes, but it’s an important concept to keep in mind.

As a healer, your number one goal is to stay out of harm’s way and keep your team alive. When you play too aggressively as a support player, not only are you wasting your healing output on yourself, you are also putting yourself at risk and forcing your team to spend precious resources trying to save you rather than focusing on the proper targets. Certain supports like Kharazim and Rehgar lend themselves to a more aggressive playstyle, but a certain balance must be struck between passive and aggressive posturing.

Tanks have to maintain a distance between the back line and the enemy team. One of the biggest mistakes for newer players is to jump headfirst into a fight as a tank because it’s easy to stay alive. However, when they opt for this YOLO playstyle, they tend to neglect their primary duty as a tank, which is to shield the back line from danger.

Likewise, assassins should avoid a gungho approach. As a rule, the tank should be in front of the rest of the team (with a few notable exceptions), so if you’re an assassin, especially a ranged one, standing in front of the tank during a teamfight is probably a mistake. Ranged assassins should follow the tank during fights and allow them to soak as much damage for them as possible before making any very aggressive plays.

There are some assassins, particularly melee assassins, that excel in getting good flanks and deleting someone in the back line. I won’t go over this too much, but it’s important to constantly weigh the risk vs reward of the situation. Often, the safe play is better than an overly ambitious engagement.


This is the second part of a multi-part series. You can find the other parts here:
Part 1
Part 3


EsportsJohn decided to play Zerg in Brood War and now regrets it. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Knowing Your Role in the Nexus P1

Teamwork is the most important aspect of Heroes of the Storm. With other MOBAs, you can get ahead with pure mechanics and good decision making, but the shared experience in HotS prevents any one person from standing out from the rest of the team. As such, the team must come before the individual.

However, as far as practice goes, it all starts with the individual, and specifically, knowing your role on the team.

I talk about this subject all the time—and I’m certain I’ve written about this before—but there is always room for reiteration. The best way that you can make maximum usage of your team is by improving your own gameplay through understanding your role. Once you understand where you’re supposed to be, what you’re supposed to be doing, and how to do it correctly, you can enable your teammates to do better and win the video game.

Your role is determined by your hero

On a macro level, your “role” can be defined as support, tank, damage, or siege (or Blizzard’s own categories of Support, Warrior, Assassin, or Specialist). When you pick a front liner like Muradin or Johanna, you know that your role is tank; if you pick a hero like Valla or Greymane, you focus on maximizing damage output. The broad categories can be described as following:

  • Support – Your job is to keep everyone alive and enable your allies to make big plays. Do not die. Your team cannot take a fight without you.
  • Tank – The front line is designed to insulate the enemy team’s attacks from hitting the back line and engage the enemy team. Protect your supports and damage dealers first. You become a liability if you play too aggressively or leave your teammates behind, even if you don’t die.
  • Damage – DPS characters generally make the “flashy” plays by pouring out the damage. While it’s never good to die in this game, assassins are more expendable when it comes to making trades.
  • Siege – Some heroes excel specifically at dealing damage to buildings or pushing lanes. This is perhaps the most nebulous category, but this group usually provides lane pressure that forces the enemy team to respond.

Aside from broad roles, each hero has their own subcategories depending on their abilities. For example, the difference between Tyrael and Muradin on the front line is gigantic; one has speed boosts and a huge teamfight Heroic while the other one is a master of disruption with stuns, slows, and debuffs.

It’s difficult to pin down heroes based on their characteristics, but certain traits will shoo them into one category or another. Understanding the minutiae of these traits and how they interact with one another also makes a huge difference in your drafting ability and allows you to compensate for weaknesses or reinforce your team’s composition.

  • Waveclear – Waveclear is one of the most important tools in the game, so it’s important to weigh the costs of pick potential, damage, or tankiness against whether you can clear lanes effectively.
  • Crowd Control – Often referred to as CC, crowd control includes stuns, slows, silences, or any sort of debuff. Stronger CC often results in better picks, harder engage, and better peel.
  • Disengage – Being able to stop or pause a fight is invaluable. Big Heroics like Mighty Gust, Sanctification, and Void Prison are particularly impactful, especially against hard engage compositions.
  • Sustain – Sustain refers to your ability to stay out on the field without having to back for health or mana. Having good sustain is important for long battles, but sacrificing sustain for harder engage can sometimes be effective.
  • Mobility – Some heroes suffer from a lack of mobility which can make it difficult to play with or against certain heroes. The trade off in damage, heals, etc. is sometimes worth the lack of mobility, though.
  • Globals – Global influence is key in the current metagame. Being able to influence multiple areas on the map can net your team some extra experience, structure damage, or even just turn the tides of a fight.
  • Raw DPS – Characters with high damage need the proper setup to deal their damage. When it comes to drafting, you need to have enough damage to deal with the enemy composition or justify a lack of sustain in your own composition.
  • Tankiness – All characters have differing amounts of tankiness which allows them to position more or less aggressively. Tankier heroes can often play more aggressively than others.

This is by no means a definitive list, but it’s a good place to start thinking about the capabilities of your hero and how they fit into the rest of your team’s composition.

Even more specifically, there are roles like “solo laner”, “bruiser”, “jungler”, etc. which combine a lot of these concepts. For instance, a solo laner typically has good sustain, strong poke, and usually some form of global (i.e., Dehaka or Falstad). I will not go into all the particulars here, but just understand that every hero has a bunch of unique traits which define their role on the team, like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.


This is the first part of a multi-part series. You can find the other parts here:
Part 2
Part 3


EsportsJohn does not eat pineapple on pizza. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Rumors of Brood War HD Resurface in Korea

Rumors that Blizzard has been hard at work on a remastered version of StarCraft: Brood War, the first major esport, are surfacing in Korea. But don’t get your hopes up—this isn’t the first time these stories have appeared.

According to a post by Waxangel on TeamLiquid.net, an article from Sports Seoul reported Blizzard’s plan to release an updated version of StarCraft: Brood War called StarCraft: Remastered around May or June of this year.

Industry sources say that the remastered version will include upgrades to graphics and the Battle.net service without changing the core gameplay. Further announcements are anticipated as early as next week.

The report cited “industry insiders”, particularly esports broadcasters and sponsors, who were secretly informed during BlizzCon 2016.

However, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this story. Back in August, a story published via Naver.com sent the StarCraft community on a wild goose chase looking for more information.

The original article also implied that the remastered version would be only a graphical update while maintaining gameplay—a feat which has proven impossible time and time again with games like Counter-Strike: Source and Halo: Anniversary. It was also mentioned that more information would be revealed “in November”, which many took to mean “at BlizzCon”.

BlizzCon came and went, and no further information about a Brood War update was released. The rumor died down in the following months, but now it’s been reignited eight months later for more speculation.

It’s possible that development has actually been taking place throughout this long chain of events—after all, Blizzard is notorious for taking time to perfect their projects. Then again, it could just be another baseless rumor. I guess we’ll find out in June.

A Fond Farewell: An Interview with Kaelaris

Kaelaris

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


I had the unique chance to interview Khaldor last week as he finally sorted out his visa issues and prepared for the move overseas to cast the Heroes Global Championship in Southern California. However, just as one door opens, another one closes; Khaldor is coming to finally claim his spot, but Kaelaris is unfortunately on his way out. The lovable Brit brought us plenty of laughs and epic Core rushes for the first five weeks of HGC, but for now he must part ways with HotS fans until at least the Mid-Season Brawl.

Fascinated by this revolving door, I felt compelled to get both sides of the story and reached out to Kaelaris for an interview. There’s lot of emotions involved in such a fond farewell, and it become quite evident during the interview that, despite his upbeat and optimistic attitude, this was goodbye (for now). Luckily, we also had a chance to chat a bit about the art of commentating and leading the analyst desk as well as his deep love for Ragnaros. All in all, Kaelaris a pretty stand-up guy, and he will be missed.

On Casting HGC

Let’s start off with how you ended up casting HGC. Obviously, you were filling in for Khaldor while he got his visa sorted out. Is there more to that story, or did Blizzard just call you up one day and ask, “Hey, can you come to the US for a few weeks and cast HGC?”

Well, initially it was supposed to be just one or two weeks. Overall, it turned out that Khaldor’s visa would take a little more work and time to figure out, so that turned into five weeks. But yeah, to begin with, they just reached out to my boss [at ESL] and the usual discussions happened from there for an external event. I’ve spent a lot of time in hotels over the now seven years doing this job, but never a full five week stint. It stirred up a lot of negative and positive emotions—from being homesick one day, to never wanting to leave the next haha.

Khaldor and I talked a little bit about how the HGC production has far exceeded a lot of expectations. After being there on a day-to-day basis, what were your impressions?

So being ESL, I’ve been involved in a lot of productions now, be it in front or behind the camera. In usual British fashion, I’m always sceptical going in and wait for results to prove themselves. Needless to say, I too was pleasantly surprised at how the first couple of weeks went. Leagues like this with usually have a one or two major technical hiccups to start, and many small ones. HGC, though, only really had a few small ones, skipping the larger ones. I think we did well to produce something that technically sound, that fast. There’s always room for improvement though. I have a million and one ideas about segments, additions, etc. But I’m not there full time so…maybe one day!

Kaelaris at Gamescom 2016

The skeptical Brit in his natural habitat. Photo Credit: ESL

The crew there are a pleasure to work with. Everyone smiling and you get a real sense of family there. I felt so comfortable with them on Sundays after EU broadcast had finished, I would commandeer the conference room with our video editor Nick, and switch the screen to WWE PPVs haha. When the crew were on break, they’d come and enjoy the wrestling even though they had no clue really and were probably mocking it a little, but I don’t mind that! I’ll miss them dearly.

I believe this is your first time casting with Trikslyr? How was that? A lot of people on Reddit and social media commented about the playful synergy between you two compared to the more “serious” attitude of other casters like Khaldor or Dreadnaught.

So in terms of a long time partnership, this is the first time we’ve worked together so closely. However, we actually casted SC2 together five years ago! It was one or two times online for some smaller cups that were set up. So of all the people on that crew, he’s the person I’ve known the longest!

I mentioned this in a tweet at the end of last year, but I’ll say it again for sake of context: I have a lot of faith in Trik’s abilities to blossom. During the interview process, I had brought up his name as one of the better people to work with purely based on his outlook and personality. I’ve worked with a lot of people, and as such, I know what makes a good co-commentator. Attitude and personality make up a lot of that, so knowing Trikslyr has a brilliant perspective and upbeat mentality really confirmed to me that our duo would have great potential before we even stood at the desk for the first time. He may not have the technical brilliance of an international level commentator just yet, but the foundation is certainly there. He’s a fast learner with a splendid ambition to improve.

I’m glad the spectators and fans enjoyed our duo as much as we did. We both loved working together and were very sad when I had to leave. It’s rare you find that kind of chemistry with someone in this business where it all just clicks. Hopefully we get more chance to in the near future.

You also mentioned in a tweet that you and Dreadnaught “complement each other perfectly”. Is that a casting duo we might see in the future?

Ha, Dread and I are very good friends. We share intimate secrets and PIN numbers!—(not a recommended form of security). Unusual really, since we’re both just pretty introverted people in real life, but we meshed well together throughout 2016. I think we understand each other very well, and as such, have a different kind of special chemistry to a conventional casting duo. When looking at it from a critical perspective, I think that our strengths and weaknesses balance out each other perfectly. My hosting and play-by-play are very strong from doing this for years, and his analysis is very strong from being an ex-player/shotcaller. That’s not to say we’re not confident in each others proficiency categories, but we compliment each other greatly.

I don’t know when or where we’ll see this duo in the future, but I think we both would like to.

On HGC Teams

Back to HGC, what’s been your favorite storyline throughout HGC EU so far?

There were definitely tiers that we anticipated going in to the first five weeks of HGC. While it was nice to see “The Big Three” establish themselves convincingly, and while I love my Dignitas boys, one of my most eagerly awaited matches was indeed expert vs Dignitas. Just the idea of “What if?” was really delightful. Admittedly, I’d built it up quite a bit the few weeks before (narrative is our job! imagine that!).

Kaelaris and Khaldor at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

So expert was definitely one of them. I’m certain in a few months’ time they’ll start rivaling those top three spots in an even stronger fashion as long as they continue to have good friendship and synergy within the team. I also really enjoyed watching the progression of Playing Ducks and Tricked eSport. They’re another two teams that can only grow stronger with time. Goes to show how deep the quality is in Europe.

Happy to see Sportbilly playing so well on Falstad and Medivh as well. It can be a treat to watch, considering their position in the league.

Do you think that EU is flat out better than NA at the moment, or do you think that the competition at the Western Clash will be close? What about the matchup between EU and KR?

Half the time, I give a troll answer to this, but I’ll be serious for a moment.

NA was in a really odd spot for a long time. I think ever since the era of Tempo Storm and Cloud9 [in 2015], the skill level of the region fell relative to the rest of the world. I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly, but watching HGC NA, my fears for them are drafting patterns and also synergy within the game. None of the teams really show the same level of coordination that we see out of “The Big Three” in Europe right now. I’m not saying they’re bad, I just don’t know if they can match up, especially against Misfits and Fnatic, whose power levels are very strong right now. NA can upset at the Western Clash, though. Team 8 showed promise like I would have never imagined, and in a month or two, they could easily be number one in America if they continue down that path. Overall though, I’m expecting an EU first, second and third victory unless some upsets happen, which they could. NA isn’t that far behind, just need to tighten the play.

As for EU vs KR? I think right now there is still a clear number one in the world, and that’s L5 (previously Ballistix). I hear a lot of opinion about MVP Black being number two in the world, but honestly, I think that title is currently up for debate. Fnatic proved that they weren’t invincible at BlizzCon (admittedly, I don’t think Black were playing to true potency in that series). We’ll see how the new MVP Black roster stacks up against EU come the Mid-Season Brawl. If Fnatic could cause that upset in 2016, who is to say Misfits couldn’t also play at that scale?

On the Role of Host and Commentator

I’ve always loved your role on the analyst desk throughout 2016, especially as desk host. How does that differ from casting for you? Do you prefer one role over the other?

The preparation is very different when it comes to either being a commentator or desk host. I’ll give you an example. So as commentator, a lot of my prep will be figuring out what teams want to play, builds they like, maps they prefer, who is playing what heroes, how they will synergise, etc. Desk host prep is figuring out what questions the panel have a good idea about, how I can weave the narrative of the tournament/teams better, what players and plays we can truly highlight, transitions in speech from break / to graphics / to games. As desk host, I take a lot more time to talk to production pre-show, take a look at all the video segments and graphics so that my lead into them is seamless. Nothing rustles me more than a host saying something like “Let’s take a look at this video”, or “Let’s hear from them now”. There are far more powerful ways to lead into content that can reinforce the message or continue a strong sense of immersion.

Analyst desk at BlizzCon 2016

Kaelaris hosting the analyst desk at BlizzCon 2016

People probably don’t notice it, because I’m paying attention to my preview monitor when I do it, but as a desk host, I’m making a lot of intentional eye contact and hand gestures to the guys at the analysis desk, leading where the conversation is going and checking if others have something to continue a point on.

All too often do I see desk hosts going too deep in to the analysis themselves in an attempt to…I guess “look smart”? I don’t know what the reason is, but that’s not why you’re there! You’re the enabler! I don’t think anyone questions my knowledge of the game when I’m in that role, so I really try to act as the mediator to draw information from the other members of the desk. Gives it a strong structure, and I think people subconsciously appreciate that.

I used to like casting more, but at the moment it’s 50/50. A lot of my casting during StarCraft actually trained me to desk host, but I didn’t realise it until it came time to actually host a desk. Reason being, is most of the time I would just be put alongside either an expert of ex-player, so enabling them in a duo was the same as enabling a desk.

That’s a lot of insight. I think the vast majority of people who watch don’t realize that anything special is going on at the analyst desk at all. It’s so easy from an outsider’s perspective to just think, “Hey, they’re just talking about the game”.

Yeah, it’s actually a fine science that I’ve worked hard at. I won’t say I’m anywhere near perfect, but I suppose my methods stand out more than others because I just have more experience under my belt. That and I live my job—I don’t stop thinking about it 24/7 lol.

You’re also one of the few Heroes of the Storm casters who still covers other esports at the highest levels (StarCraft 2). How do you manage to balance watching, playing, and commentating both games effectively?

Well, I kind of summed that up: I live the job. It’s a little easier for me to do multiple games because technically strong play-by-play is easier to accomplish in more titles than just one at the same time. Analysing multiple games full-time would be the hard part, but I can’t say I’m doing that in SC2. Therefore, most of my time is dedicated to Heroes and being good at understanding how and why the teams are playing as they do…as well as using my play-by-play because I’ve done it for 1,000,000 years now.

How do I balance the watching, playing and commentating? Easy, really; I have no personal life currently haha. Almost all my time is dedicated to this craft. So, be it at home or on the road, I’m either playing, watching or commentating Heroes or SC2. Then even during travel, I’m reading and studying things that can improve my job. For example, I’m reading lots of books right now to up my lore game even more—people seem to enjoy my little tid-bits in casts about that stuff!

eSports has definitely hurt my personal life in the past a lot, it makes it very hard to have proper relationships because most people just don’t understand the job and my passion for it, I guess. I’m probably one of the most secretly introverted people ever because people see me on cam and are like, “dude’s chill!” But I don’t like going outside hahaha.

On Future Plans

Well, it’s unfortunate to watch you leave; we’re definitely sad to see you go. It’s been a wonderful five weeks watching you cast HGC. What are your plans from here?

Thank you, truly. For me, the five weeks doing HGC were a fantastic time. I feel like I’m meant to be there, despite negotiations in 2016 not going the way I wanted them to. Business is business. That being said, I want to be back to doing Heroes ASAP, specifically the HGC. I feel like I can contribute and channel all my energy into that project to make it the great thing we want it to be. I hope I get that opportunity one day, because my mind overflows with ideas for Heroes, as I love this game.

Khaldor and Kaelaris at DreamHack Valencia 2016

The European casting titans Khaldor and Kaelaris at DreamHack Valencia

2017 so far is partially planned out. I know more SC2 stuff for me is on the horizon currently, with who knows what other projects/games that may come along. I’m speaking to a few other devs/publishers about their endeavours into esports with new titles currently. I’m very thankful for my own drive in this space, and especially thankful for how easy it felt to just do any game I wanted to. I think being a gamer who played everything since I was very young left me with a good mindset for adaptation. Thanks Dehaka!

Any parting words?

Thanks for doing the interview with me! Always happy to give my thoughts. Thanks to Blizzard for bringing me out to do HGC, I adored my time there. Shoutout to my mum because I know she reads and watches everything I do haha—love you, mum. And shoutouts to Blizzard again for not giving Ragnaros the Heroic Firelands legs, because that was the worst thing that happened to Ragnaros ever, and I would die a little bit inside if I had to play my bae with legs :D.

TL;DR wanna do all things Heroes, give me Heroes, Ragnaros is Bae. All hail the Firelord. Get off Sulfuras, you dirty insect.


EsportsJohn wishes tri-cast was a thing in the West like it is in the East. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Ready for Adventure: An Interview with Khaldor

Khaldor

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


When the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) league was announced in early January, Khaldor was slotted as a permanent member of the casting crew for HGC Europe. Due to some difficulties securing a proper work visa, he has been unable to cast for the first half of Phase 1, but luckily Kaelaris has been there with great commentary—and plenty of Core rushes gone haywire—in his stead.

Khaldor has a deep history with Blizzard games ranging a period of over 10 years, from his earlier days of shoutcasting Warcraft 3, to his big casting debut in GSL Code A for StarCraft II, and now over two years of continuous casting, commentary, and analysis for Heroes of the Storm. As such, there’s no doubt that he’s the perfect fit for the job, and many have been eagerly waiting for his return to casting.

I was incredibly fortunate to catch his attention in early January for an exclusive interview. After he finally acquired the work visa, we chatted about the next chapter of his life and the new adventure that awaits him across the ocean at Blizzard’s production studio. We also talked about his aspirations for HGC, plans for the next phase of his life, and the future of Heroes of the Storm. I’m proud to present his thoughts here, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the game as we head into undoubtedly the most successful year of HotS so far.


On Moving to the States

You’re about to embark on a journey halfway across the world again. How is this different from your move to Korea to cast GSL Code A in 2011?
Well, I guess the first difference is that this time I already know that I’ll be staying for quite some time. When I traveled to Korea to commentate the GSL, I was only supposed to stay there for three months and ended up being there for three years in the end.

With the move to the US, I’m from the start aware that I’ll stay long enough to justify things like renting out an apartment from the get-go, buying a car, and so on. That’s a big difference when it comes to the preparations. And even though the recent politics sure are a roller coaster for the US, it will be much easier for me to adapt to another Western culture compared to the Korean lifestyle I had to adapt to when I moved to Seoul.

How long have you been planning this move? Was it fairly sudden or have you been in talks with Blizzard for a while?
I expected for quite some time that there might be an opportunity in the US. In the second half of 2016, I was already pretty sure that I would not stay in Germany for too much longer. I was thinking about moving to another European country (Spain in particular), and one of the reasons those plans never became concrete was that there was a pretty big chance that Blizzard might want to establish a league system for Heroes of the Storm which would, by default, require the casters to be bound to a specific location. The rumors were around for some time, so it didn’t come as a shock when Blizzard revealed details that confirmed it.

Khaldor Casting

Photo Credit: ESL

For the casting team, those plans became more detailed during BlizzCon when most of us also had interviews set up for the open positions. The decision on who’d be casting the league was made after BlizzCon, [which is when I] also started the planning phase for the move and, of course, the necessary working visa.

It seems like all of the visa issues are finally sorted out now, though.
Yes, the visa process took quite a long time since we had to apply for a proper working visa that would allow me to move and work in the US for an extended period of time. Thankfully though, that’s all sorted out now, and I got my passport including a valid working visa a few days ago.

In my last interview with you, we touched on the difficulty of getting “in” with Blizzard during the early period of HotS…now you’re definitely “in”. How does it feel?
There were definitely moments in 2015 when it wasn’t really easy for me, but I have to say that I was very happy to be so heavily included in 2016. I casted at every major European and Global event throughout the year and the highlight was of course to be part of the casting team at BlizzCon—which was for sure one of my highlights in Heroes of the Storm thus far.

Analysis desk at BlizzCon 2016

The analysis desk at BlizzCon 2016 with SolidJake, Khaldor, Kaelaris, and Dreadnaught.

Coming back to your question though, I have to admit that this is now a completely different level of involvement. It feels absolutely amazing to be chosen as one of the four official casters to commentate Blizzard’s HGC. Even though I haven’t had the chance yet to be part of the live production, the team included me wherever possible, and I can’t wait to be on-site to do my part.

Another big plus for me is the proximity to all the other departments working on Heroes of the Storm. I was always very interested in the game outside of esports, and simply having the option to talk more directly to people that I so far could only contact via email is amazing to me. I’m super happy about the opportunity, and I can’t wait for it all to start.

On the Heroes Global Championship

We talked a bit before about your skepticism of online leagues. What were some of your concerns for HGC? Do you think Blizzard has done a good job addressing those concerns?
I think Blizzard has done an absolute fantastic job with the system they created for HGC. One of my biggest problems with league systems was always that most people have the tendency to try and imitate the established systems in Korea without realizing the big advantages that Korea has.

Korean esports was always very much focused in Seoul. Therefore, it was an easy decision for the Korean Leagues to establish permanent studios in which those games could be played and commentated. Since all of the players live in and around Seoul, there are no real infrastructure challenges to realize such a project.

In the Western scenes of Europe and North America, that poses a much bigger challenge. Especially since, for a lot of players in Western cultures, it’d be huge commitment that they might not be ready for yet. A move might include giving up another job and diving headfirst into a potentially risky career in esports or giving up a place at a university or even jeopardizing a relationship. To justify such a move, the financial benefits would have had to be enormous. I was always very doubtful if such a step would be justifiable at this point.

An online league, on the other hand, also faces a lot of challenges. One of them is the lack of having the players and commentators on site to provide the audience with live shots. The lack of opportunities for the Heroes of the Storm audience to meet the players and enjoy live events can also be problematic. I’m super happy that Blizzard identified all those issues and came up with a system that allows for a fantastic experience for the audience using several offline events throughout the year, a local studio to increase the production quality and including pre-recorded player shots, live interviews, and much more.

Kaelaris and Khaldor at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

I was, by the way, extremely happy about their announcement to pay the players a fixed salary for attending the league. That alone opens up so many opportunities for the players, encourages them and Open Division teams, and allows for a penalty system to ensure that rules are being followed. So even though I was quite skeptical at first, I have to say that they did a great job, and the end result is amazing. The show has been doing very well, and I’m sure it’ll improve even more over the course of the next few months.

We’re only a few weeks in, but do you think the level of play has risen across the board in HGC due to more consistent competition and compensation to allow the players to focus on playing full-time?
Yes, for sure. The level of play has risen already, and I’m sure that trend will continue. It’s also reflected in the amount of time that players currently invest into their practice. I’m watching scrims on a daily basis at the moment to see how players adapt to the patches and changes in the meta. The new system also allowed the teams to prepare in detail for a specific opponent, analyzing drafts and preparing builds.

One still has to remember though that, as you pointed out, we are only observing the first effects of this new system. I’m sure that given time, the effects will be much more distinct, especially since other Open Division teams are eager to push into the league as well, which in turn raises the level of competition and play on the amateur level.

There’s also going to be a lot more international tournaments this year. Do you think that the regional metagames will continue to stay distinct, or will things start to look similar across the globe as regions learn from each other?

I think we will always have regional differences to some extent. There are quite a few differences in the way that Asian and Western teams approach esports, which has not only been very visible in Heroes of the Storm, but in other games as well. I believe there will always be some similarities and points of agreement between regions on which heroes are given priority, but I also believe that especially Western teams are very good at developing cheese strategies that can blindside their opponents and give them an edge.

One of the biggest advantages of Korean and Chinese teams, on the other hand, was always their mechanical superiority and their fantastic team coordination. But I personally believe that the gaps that we’ve witnessed in the past are becoming smaller and smaller in these areas. Fnatic was able to prove that during BlizzCon by taking down MVP Black, and I believe there is an actual chance that a Western team could have a realistic shot at winning BlizzCon at the end of 2017.

Differences in meta are also one of the most fascinating things to observe during international tournaments. Teams have to be able to adjust incredibly fast to challenges that are imposed by facing off against a different playstyle, and it’s super entertaining to watch. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited for all these events that we will have this year!

I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but if you had to pick one team in EU to root for, who would it be?

Haha, not a fair question! I think my two favorites at the moment would be Misfits and Fnatic. As a fellow German, I’m obviously always rooting for the “home” team, and I think Misfits has proven in 2016 as well as this year that they are an absolutely amazing team with incredibly strong players.

But I’m also very close with Fnatic and still admire the way they have been able to grow during the last year. Their journey from being a talented but over-aggressive team at the start of 2016 to the disciplined powerhouse that we all witnessed during BlizzCon was amazing. But at the same time, they are now of course in a very different position. They have to prove that they did not get complacent and BlizzCon was not a fluke. With the level of competition continuously rising, they have to make sure that they don’t start to slack off or other teams will be able to leave them behind.

Grubby and Khaldor at Gamescom 2016

Grubby and Khaldor at Gamescom 2016. Photo Credit: ESL

Then entire scene in Europe is absolutely fascinating at the moment, to be honest, especially with the big three (Misfits, Fnatic and Dignitas) being under constant attack by challengers like Team expert or Dignitas themselves once again having to find their rhythm with a new player (Zaelia) joining the team at the start of the season. The dynamic within the scene is extremely fun to watch right now.

On Personal Projects and Future Plans

Do you plan on casting minor tournaments in 2017 or are you going to focus on HGC full-time?
I will still continue to commentate smaller tournaments. HGC will obviously be my main priority, but I’m very serious about continuing to commentate on my private channels as well. I still have several META Madness ideas that I want to realize once my transition to NA is complete, and I still want to cover online tournaments and also the occasional amateur league match.

One of my goals was always to help out the grassroots scene, and that has not changed. It’s important to me that smaller leagues and tournaments get more attention, and especially Heroes Lounge and Chair League have made fantastic progress in the last few months. There’s a lot of up and coming players out there that have potential, and those leagues and tournaments are a first step for them to receive some exposure and transition into more competitive teams.

On the topic of your personal projects, consistent quality is something that many people often lack in esports (in general). How do you manage to maintain excellent quality for all of your casting, VoDs, etc.? Do you ever find yourself struggling with the notion of cutting corners?
I feel it’s always a bit of a balancing act. When it comes to my livestreams and the VoDs, I do everything by myself. So during a broadcast, I talk to admins and players about upcoming games, make sure I get invited to the lobbies and look for upcoming games that might be of interest for the audience. Production, observing and of course the commentating itself are also all done by me including the post production, which entails the video editing of the games that I upload to YouTube.

Khaldor holiday stream

Ho ho ho! A special holiday stream from Khaldor!

Since it’s quite a lot to handle as a single person, I usually try to find a good middle ground when it comes to “cutting corners”. There are a few things that I would love to provide and technically could but where I simply lack the manpower to make it happen. A good example would be instant replays. I’d love to use those, but it’s not possible without a second person to help me with the production, and I’m simply not in a position where I can pay someone to do that. So there’s always a bit of a trade off when it comes to production quality. I try to provide the best show that I can to my audience, but there’s certain aspects where I will always have to make compromises.

Wrap-up

I just have one more big question. You stated in an interview in 2015 that you expected Heroes of the Storm to beat Dota 2 and maybe even League of Legends in terms of viewers and players. Do you think the game still has that potential?

I just recently thought back to that interview. I think I also recorded a video back then talking about my hopes for the game. I honestly believe that Heroes of the Storm is the most entertaining MOBA game to watch. If I didn’t, I would not be casting it anymore. The game eliminates all the criticism that I have toward other MOBA titles, and things like the map diversity and short game length give it a big advantage in my opinion.

At the same time, things have obviously not developed that way in the past. I personally think Blizzard made a lot of mistakes in the past that made it difficult for the game and the esports scene to develop as quickly as I was hoping for at the time of the interview. I believe the game could be much bigger than it already is, but I still think that it will grow a lot more in the future. Blizzard has been working hard to improve the esports infrastructure for Heroes of the Storm and the game itself, and setting up HGC was a major accomplishment. A lot of the initial momentum has been lost though, and we will have to work hard to regain that momentum and continuously improve the game and the esports aspect of it. That’s also something where I see an obligation for myself. Quite often, I come across as overly critical. One of the reasons for that is that I believe in this game and its potential. I’m very passionate about Heroes of the Storm and I want to improve the status quo and raise awareness to aspects that I think should be improved upon, and I will do everything that I can to personally help Heroes of the Storm keep growing.

I don’t think the goal has to be to beat League of Legends or Dota 2, but it certainly should be our goal to do everything we can to show other players how much fun and how amazing Heroes of the Storm can be, especially on a competitive level.

That said, when do we get to see you cast again?

The next time I’ll be casting will be in Katowice for the Western Clash! Shortly after the event, I’ll be moving to the US and will start to commentate the HGC Europe matches together with Trikslyr once the second half of Phase 1 starts in April.


EsportsJohn still believes Brood War will make a huge comeback and beat all esports forever. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Valeera: First Impressions and Pro Opinions

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Written by: EsportsJohn


For a time, the gladiator Valeera Sanguinar served dutifully as one of Varian Wrynn’s personal bodyguards. Now, her shadowy skills find her a natural fit within the secretive rogue order, the Uncrowned, in their fight against the Legion.

Outcast—no word better describes Valeera’s dark and muddled history. Left an orphan after her parents were killed by bandits, Valeera made a living off stealing from others and was soon imprisoned and sold as a gladiator. She formed a tight bond with her fellow gladiators Broll Bearmantle and Varian Wrynn and eventually escaped to find her own destiny. Now a member of The Uncrowned, a secretive order of rogues, she fights to take back what’s been taken from her.

To me, Valeera’s storyline is perhaps one of the most compelling in WoW history and one of the reasons why I’m excited for her entrance into the Nexus. Her cloak and dagger playstyle resonates strongly with her roguish lore and makes her an exciting hero to play. As a high skill cap hero, well-seasoned players with good positioning and proper timing make her look broken while players in the lower echelons have trouble maximizing her kit. This polarizing effect can be seen in her relatively low win rate in the first week, but like Medivh, she appears well-balanced in coordinated play. Let’s take a closer look at kit and abilities to find out why she has such mixed results!

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Powerful CC on a relatively short cooldown
  • Huge burst damage
  • Elusive abilities to dodge damage

Weaknesses

  • Poor initiation
  • Relies heavily on getting picks
  • Weak PvE and waveclear

Abilities

If you’re familiar with WoW Rogues, you’ll probably be familiar with Valeera’s kit. Designed as a stealthy combatant who uses smoke and misdirection to confuse her opponents, Valeera can whittle away her enemies and prepare them for the killing blow. And, of course, she excels at quickly dispatching isolated enemy heroes.

Compared to similar stealthy assassins, Valeera’s base kit is perhaps the most devastating. Between hard CC with Cheap Shot or Garrote and the insane amount of burst she brings to the table, she’s incredibly dangerous during the laning phase, and can straight up one-shot someone in the late game. Unfortunately, her power falls off dramatically in teamfights where stealth-revealing AoE and burst damage is prevalent.

Her Trait Vanish is the defining characteristic of her playstyle. Using her stealthy tactics, she can gain vision on the map or wrap around an enemy for a flank while gaining a new set of game-changing abilities (Ambush, Cheap Shot, and Garrote). Keep in mind, she’s not actually invisible; Valeera will still show up as a shimmer on the screen, so wary opponents can anticipate her movements and knock her out of stealth before she combos.

Cheap Shot is by far her most powerful ability. With a 1.5 second stun on an 8 second cooldown, she is very dangerous in gank squads and CC chains. If you’re looking to shut someone down in a 1v1 though, the 2 second silence and raw DPS of Garrote tends to be the better choice.

Valeera Hearthstone portrait

Valeera’s Hearthstone portrait

Blade Flurry deals decent damage and provides minor waveclear, and Sinister Strike gives Valeera a small dash to dodge abilities or use as a gap closer. All of her abilities (including stealth) grant Combo Points when used against enemy heroes up to a maximum of three; those Combo Points can then be consumed for massive damage using Eviscerate. The most common combo is stealth ability into Blade Flurry and Sinister Strike before finishing the enemy off with Eviscerate, but various talents allow for several permutations of her basic combo.

Her Heroics are purely defensive and boost her survivability a great deal. Smoke Bomb creates a cloud of smoke that gives Valeera extra Armor and makes her Unrevealable for a short time, allowing her to escape danger and continue throwing out damage. Cloak of Shadows is usually used against heavy mage or burst comps, as it removes all damage over time effects, allows her to become Unstoppable, and greatly boosts her Spell Armor for a second. Smoke Bomb has usually been the favored Heroic, but it usually depends on the situation. If you’re against auto attackers who rely on right-clicking you, take Smoke Bomb; if you’re against lots of spell damage, Cloak of Shadows is the way to go.

Talents

Due to a strong base kit, Valeera’s build paths are quite flexible. The most common builds focus on empowering either Ambush for flat out deletion combos or Garrote for extra utility and damage. Either way, there’s still a lot of room for variation depending on the map and composition.

Valeera’s Ambush build is boosted significantly with talents like Assassinate and Death From Above which allow her to quickly close the gap and dispatch her enemies with extreme prejudice. Initiative and Cold Blood can be added to the mix for a huge boost in burst damage. If the opposing hero is a bit meatier, she can also use Thistle Tea sort of like Rewind to reset her energy costs and get two full combos off in a short time span.

Valeera fan art by Zeronis

Valeera fan art by Zeronis

The Garrote build focuses more on dealing sustained damage and effectively zoning out opponents from their team. Hemorrhage and Rupture are the bread and butter of this build and allow Valeera to deal massive damage if left uncontested. She can also pick up Fatal Finesse to power up Blade Flurry for even more damage over time. This build pairs well with Smoke Bomb because of its synergy with Rupture and the focus on damage over time.

The one downside to Valeera is that she is limited by energy costs for her abilities, but luckily there are talents to mitigate her energy consumption issues. Vigor at level 1 is a globe talent that helps her build up additional energy regeneration as well as a larger energy pool that allows her to stay in the fight a bit longer. Subtlety and Relentless Strikes are also good energy-efficient options.

Professional Opinions

On Kit, Design, and Implementation

Chu8, streamer
Valeera seems to me like she stands somewhere between Nova and Zeratul—really good at player killing but not so much PvE like Nova, lots of potential maneuvers like Zeratul. In the hands of highly skilled mechanical player, Valeera will be really annoying to play against. But at the same time, she seems to be easily countered by stealth detection, which the game has plenty of.

KendricSwissh, Streamer and Commentator
Valeera is probably one of, if not the most accurate, class transfers from World of Warcraft to Heroes of the Storm. She looks, sounds, and feels exactly like if you were playing a Rogue in WoW. When I first played her, I was surprised by how resilient she can be, especially after unlocking one of her Heroic abilities.

McIntyre, B-Step
The only firm opinion I have is that she’s a stealthed hero that has a 1.5 stun on an 8 second cooldown, and Evelynn got nerfed in League of Legends when she did the same thing on a much weaker level.

Jowe, Coach
Her kit is amazing. She has everything: CC, good damage, high HP, a gap closer, an escape, and on top of that, the cooldowns are really short, plus she can restealth instantly. She can definitely snowball games right from the start, and her power continues to grow. Her talents are well designed. Seems like everything is optimal, but I think that’s due to the basic kit being so awesome.

melodyC, ZeroPanda
Valeera is a special hero with two sets of skills. She’s hard to master and requires a lot of practice. She consumes energy very quickly, so it’s very important to control her energy consumption and deal as much damage as possible. Her Cheap Shot with a 1.5 stun is so imba that not only the back line is under pressure—when the front line is not with the team, they are also in danger when caught by Cheap Shot. I think Cheap Shot will be nerfed.

Wings, Super Perfect Team
Valeera has the strongest solo stun and highest burst damage with short cooldowns. For the Heroic ability, personally I prefer Smoke Bomb. With 5 seconds Unrevealable, she can keep attacking and wait for her trait, and the cooldown is only 60 seconds.

On Professional Play and Meta Changes

KendricSwissh, Streamer and Commentator
I am almost certain that Valeera is going to make an appearance in HGC very soon, as her kit designed to be most efficient if used by mechanically strong players.

Jowe, Coach
As for competitive, she will have to fight for the spot with Zeratul who already needs to be respected in drafts, and I found out that the Protoss assassin has a really good matchup against her.

melodyC, ZeroPanda
Her strength is insane solo hero control, burst damage, and great gank potential in the field, which can put a lot of pressure on the enemy team. Her weaknesses are slow wave clear and difficulty engaging in teamfights.

On Map and Composition Viability

Chu8, streamer
I don’t see her having crazy winrates, but she will be played as a niche pick like Nova and sometimes get really good value, sometimes be completely useless and flamed for being first-picked.

Wings, Super Perfect Team
A big flaw of Valeera is she relies on her trait to engage with her combo. If she’s revealed, nearly 70% of her kit functionality is lost. So Tassadar, Valla, Diablo and other heroes with AoE damage are a great counter for Valeera.

Final Thoughts

melodyC, ZeroPanda
Both of Valeera’s Heroic abilities are very strong. When facing a team comp focused on basic attacks, Smoke Bomb would confuse the enemy (she is Unrevealable); if there are mages in the enemy team, Cloak of Shadows could ensure her survivability. Above all, using her trait to engage at the right time is the key.


Huge thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and opinions! You are the true Heroes of the Storm!

Also, props to yaya for Chinese translations!


EsportsJohn finally found his waifu. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Post-Match Interview with Team expert’s BadBenny

Swedish Heroes of the Storm BadBenny on Team expert
Watch out EU, there’s a new kid on the block. The Heroes of the Storm scene in Europe last year was dominated by three giants: Dignitas, Misfits, and Fnatic. Several other teams rose and fell as the premier league dragged on in 2016, but these three behemoths remained a level above their competition. Not anymore.

The advent of HGC in 2017 has breathed new life into the competitive scene, and new challengers are emerging with the potential to cause an upset; among them is Team expert. The roster is led by the “mad scientist” adrd, who often drafts unusual compositions. Backed by solid execution and team synergy that dates back to July of last year, expert is quickly climbing the leaderboards and becoming a real threat to the status quo.

After their victory over French team beGenius this weekend, I sat down with tank player and shotcaller for the team, BadBenny, to find out more about them as well as his own personal goals as a player.


Team expert has been on fire for the last two weeks and is currently sitting at the top of the standings. When you first qualified for HGC, did you foresee such a strong start?
On fire indeed! For me personally, I have considered us top 4 (at least) ever since Nic joined the squad, so I knew we would be able to do well in HGC. Although, our 3-0 track record is partially because we have not played any of the “big three” yet, but hopefully we can keep our streak going!

A lot of your individual success so far has been on E.T.C. Do you think that’s because he’s a flashy playmaker or is he just really strong right now?
I merely play what is drafted. Personally, I am not doing better on E.T.C. than any other tank hero I am playing, but I can see why it looks like that, because his kit is more “flashy”. He is really strong in the current meta; that is why you often see him picked early.

Are there any particular heroes that you’d like to play more often?
I really liked playing Tyrael, who we drafted a lot before, around Gamescom. At the moment, I just want to play different heroes to be honest. Every hero gets a bit boring if you play them in most of your games.

We have to bring up the absolutely mad play from Week 1 where you went for a Mosh Pit under the death zone on Towers of Doom. Did you make that call? What on earth possessed you to do something so crazy?
Haha, that was a funny moment indeed. So it definitely was not planned to dive their Core (obviously), but when Thrall got caught, and we used the Ley Line to save him, I saw the opportunity to secure the game and took it. We are pretty used to doing crazy plays; we prefer pushing the limit and learning from it when we practice!

Next week is obviously a big week for you guys since you have matches against Fnatic and Dignitas. Are you nervous about those games?
Yea, we are all very nervous, but also excited. This is our chance to prove ourselves as a true top 3 team, which I already think we are. The series versus Dignitas is the important one though, since it will most likely decide who will go to the Western Clash.

Well, one thing’s for sure: they’ll probably give you Ragnaros for free every game.
Then I can say now that it will be an easy 3-0 in our favour ;). A lot will be decided by their drafting, in my opinion. They are all very skilled players, and if they can fight on their terms, it might be hard to beat them—but luckily we have adrd, who is extremely good at [preventing them from fighting on their own terms], giving us the favorable draft.
One thing for readers to note, though: the top teams are very consistent in saying that “they might pull out a cheese” or whatever. It is simply their way of keeping their pride while saying “we got outplayed and out-drafted”, which I find very funny. But I really don’t mind what they call it, as long as we win.

You just started streaming for the first time. How has that been going?
So, the streaming thing is purely for my own enjoyment at the moment. I really enjoy teaching people, and streaming lets me do that while practicing—while also making the game itself more enjoyable for me to play, because instead of tilting, I just explain what we did wrong, and it is really working out for me.
So in short: it has been going great! And hopefully the viewers find it entertaining/educating enough that I can grow a viewer base.

Any plans to sell out and become a full-time streamer at some point?
At this point, it’s a big “no”. I crave the competitive aspects of this game way too much. But who knows, anything can happen.

Do you have any last words or shoutouts?
Only a big thanks to everyone who has been supporting me and my team—we wouldn’t have been as driven to be unique (but also good at what we do) if it weren’t for all the comments and posts about it. And of course, a big shoutout to Team expert esports for taking us under its wings and giving us the chance to show ourselves under your name. And last—a big shoutout to my teammates for everything so far and what’s yet to come!


You can follow Benny on Twitter and watch him play on Twitch. Make sure to watch HGC every weekend starting at 9:00am PST and follow the action as it unfolds!

Ragnaros: First Impressions and Pro Opinions

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Written by: EsportsJohn


Ragnaros, an elemental as old as the world of Azeroth, has been called to many realms…but rarely one so suited to his destructive nature as the Nexus. As he strives to reduce this new land to ash, Ragnaros hews about with the fiery hammer Sulfuras and takes command of allied and destroyed forts, scourging all who approach him with falling rocks and waves of magma. Though his power is vast, those who summon the Firelord must be prepared to watch the world burn.

At BlizzCon, Blizzard revealed the next two heroes to enter the Nexus with a thrilling cinematic featuring an epic battle between Varian and Ragnaros. The Firelord was available for play at the venue, but it was over a month before he was actually released. Advertised as an assassin that could take over a fort and become a “raid boss”, there was a lot of excitement for the upcoming hero.

Ragnaros lives up to the hype: he’s big, does lots of fire things, and makes the game feel chaotic—but maybe a little too chaotic. Perhaps the most broken hero since Samuro, Ragnaros dominated matches during opening week, peaking at 70% on HotS Logs. He’s since been nerfed a bit, but it still remains to be seen if Molten Core and Lava Wave are too impactful or potentially game-breaking. Let’s take a closer look at this destructive Hero and his devastating abilities!

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Strong solo laner
  • Long range poke
  • Good waveclear
  • Dynamic zoning abilities

Weaknesses

  • Weak escape
  • No CC in base kit
  • Vulnerable to CC chains

Abilities

Ragnaros’s basic abilities are a nice mix of poke, sustain, and utility. For his Heroics, he can utilize either global pressure with Lava Wave or build for teamfights with Sulfuras Smash. The combination of these factors make him a beast at solo laning and useful in a variety of compositions. There are certain battlegrounds like Braxis Holdout and Tomb of the Spider Queen on which he is exceptionally strong, but he isn’t necessarily bad on any.

Even though he’s classified a melee assassin, Ragnaros can put out a lot of long range poke damage with Living Meteor. Using some of the Meteor talents like Molten Power and Meteor Bomb, he can maximize his poke and deal insane damage from afar while still retaining the ability to walk up and smash someone with Empower Sulfuras. The ability to fight from both a distance and in close quarters is one of the factors that makes him one of the most well-rounded characters in the game.

Ragnaros the Firelord

Artwork Credit: Sendolarts

Molten Core and Lava Wave are game-changers. The way the abilities are designed makes him exceptional at pushing and defending forts and can even change the way objectives are played on some maps. For instance, Molten Core can delay tributes on Cursed Hollow or altars on Towers of Doom using the insane range on his second set of abilities. Lava Wave literally melts the Zerg rush on Braxis Holdout and makes him a must-ban Hero on that map.

The one glaring weakness of Ragnaros is his lack of escape. Despite having great sustain with Empower Sulfuras and a small speed boost from Blast Wave, it can be difficult for him to get out of a tough situation. Grabbing talents like Catching Fire and Resilient Flame can help boost his tankiness when he goes in too deep and hopefully him buy enough time to deal good return damage.

Talents

Ragnaros has one of the most adaptable talent trees in the game at the moment, but that might be largely due to his colossal damage numbers; when his numbers get nerfed a bit, we may see a bit more stability in talent choices. As with most assassins, his builds usually empower one ability while taking defensive or utility talents where necessary.

Perhaps the most common build right now is the Living Meteor build, which does insane amounts of poke damage from a safe distance. Talenting into Shifting Meteor allows Ragnaros to keep the ball on someone for the maximum possible damage; it also makes it easier to consistently build stacks of Molten Power. Once he gets Meteor Bomb at level 16, he can wreck the back line and dish out some serious AoE damage.

Ragnaros in World of Warcraft

If you’re looking to play more of a melee style, you can go for a Q build. Sulfuras Hungers at level 1 is similar to Azmodan’s Taste for Blood talent because it requires Ragnaros to last hit minions, and in turn, it greatly increases the damage of Empower Sulfuras. The quest doesn’t take that long but requires him to solo a bit so to gain maximum value out of his Qs without teammates accidentally clearing minion waves. Once you tack on Hand of Ragnaros and Giant Scorcher, Ragnaros does some insane burst damage with his Q on an absurdly low cooldown.

His level 20 Storm talents are all very good and situational. Heroic Difficulty makes it easier for Ragnaros to abuse his trait and push/defend far more often. When he’s taking a lot of damage in teamfights, Submerge can help him survive for a bit longer and potentially dodge lethal damage. If he takes Lava Wave at 10, he can significantly increase its efficiency with Lava Surge; not only does it provide a second wave which can be staggered with the first, but it also lowers the cooldown by 10 seconds. More lava equals more winning.

Professional Opinions

On Kit, Design, and Implementation

Wings, Super Perfect Team
The second ult Lava Wave deals so much damage that I feel it’s getting nerfed pretty soon. As for the weaknesses, the model is huge so it’s easy to get body blocked. And since he doesn’t have any escapes, you need to be very careful with positioning. He’s also weak against dive compositions for the same reason.

m, ZeroPanda
I think the hero is pretty interesting. His kit is enjoyable. Some of his talents can provide some self-sustain and damage mitigation. On the other hand, his mobility is mediocre. Sometimes an attempt to engage with Q might cost you your life before the ability even connects. As for his defensive utility, the value you can get from the trait as well as Lava Wave is tremendous.

Baphomet, Please Buff Arthas
I think the overall design is good. The kit is decent and the trait is very unique. Though categorized as a melee assassin, the hero is actually very good at poking. For now, I think a poking playstyle works well and can deal lots of damage. Some might feel the trait is a bit weak as you can’t move while it’s activated. However, when it comes to defending—say like enemies pushing with mercenaries or map objectives—the trait is extremely valuable. And it can also be used offensively. I think the trait is powerful enough to be considered a second ult and might open up a lot of potential strategies around the hero himself.

Sunshine, Coach
I think a great way to look at Ragnaros is to compare him to Thrall. He has self sustain in his Q, great poke potential in his W, and he can either speed himself or an ally with his E, which brings a lot of utility. Both of his ults are very good, and you probably just pick according to comp and map.

His passive seems a little broken to be honest though. Love the concept, but it does so much. Prevents building damage, has massive range, very high damage output, slows, stuns, and just feels way to hard to play around. I feel like they left out a weakness to it, but that might just be me complaining about the OP hero being OP.

Youngbaek, Coach
His kit and especially the last hitting talent is a really interesting change for Heroes of the Storm. If we start seeing more talents like this, we’ll see the meta and team compositions change based on talents like Sulfuras Hunters. It’s similar to stacking Seasoned Marksman, but due to the last-hitting mechanic, it will be forced to play out differently.

sCsC, L5 (Ballistix)
All my teammates agree that Rag is plain OP. He isn’t the best in standard teamfights, but his power near allied/enemy keeps is extremely imbalanced.

On Professional Play and Meta Changes

Baphomet, Please Buff Arthas
Overall, the character is strong and well-rounded. It’s likely we’ll see the hero in competitive play.

Sunshine, Coach
Ragnaros has great solo lane potential, good self sustain, wave clear, and utility. I don’t really know how Ragnaros couldn’t find his way into the meta. I would be shocked if he wasn’t picked, and he might even be ban material even with the nerfs.

Youngbaek, Coach
If he’s strong enough, you’ll see him in every region. I’m not talking about his current state, but after the nerf that should be coming from Blizzard’s side. I can see his playstyle work great in Europe though; regions [like EU] that I consider a bit more careful and calculated will be able to execute the stacking game better than other more aggressive regions if that’s the pro build.

On Map and Composition Viability

Wings, Super Perfect Team
The W ability provides decent poke and even burst damage in teamfights. His trait is extremely strong on maps like Battlefield of Eternity and Haunted Mines, as it can deal with map objectives really well. The trait is much less valuable on huge maps like Blackheart’s Bay/Warhead Junction.

m, ZeroPanda
The second ult Lava Wave is very powerful on small maps or when teamfighting in lanes.

Baphomet, Please Buff Arthas
Maps like Infernal Shrines or Haunted Mines are where his trait shines, as it helps a lot in defending against enemies pushing with the map objectives.

Sunshine, Coach
Any map where the objective is forced to push down a certain lane will be a good map for Ragnaros, since it guarantees value from Lava Wave. I don’t think he will really have a bad map, but Braxis Holdout and Tomb of the Spider Queen seem like maps that he would dominate.

Youngbaek, Coach
It honestly depends on what build the professionals decide on in the future. If he becomes a stacking hero, he should fit perfectly into the smaller maps like Dragon Shire and Tomb of the Spider Queen. But if it becomes another variation of the build, he should be good on larger maps as well. Maybe multiple builds will be viable, and you’ll see him played on all maps.

Final Thoughts

Wings, Super Perfect Team
I think the hero is overpowered. His auto attack damage is quite high. At the moment, he can be one of the best solo laners in the game.

Baphomet, Please Buff Arthas
The Ult Lava Wave is very strong when pushing, as it clears minion waves immediately and can force enemies to dodge it so they can’t defend their structures.

Sunshine, Coach
He’s incredibly fun to play. Simple kit, but he has a lot of skill with how you play him. Knowing how to use your E will probably be what sets apart the good players from the bad.

Youngbaek, Coach
Expect a nerf coming to him. I think his overall kit is difficult to balance, and he’ll likely be in a OP or undertuned stage forever.

sCsC, L5 (Ballistix)
We haven’t scrimmed with him yet, so I’m not too sure about how team compositions will factor in. In Hero League, he’s just a standard melee flex pick.


Huge thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and opinions! You are the true Heroes of the Storm!

Also, props to yaya, DogRay, and RallyJaffa for translations!


EsportsJohn is likes long walks on the beach but hates lava waves. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

From Player to Coach: An Interview with Sunshine

sunshine2

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


Now that the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) is settled for next year, the community is looking forward to more stable teams and rosters. However, stable rosters alone may not be the key to raising the overall level of play in regions like NA and EU; for that, we need coaches. Of course, there is a lot of pushback when it comes to the subject of coaches, especially in NA. Players and managers cite lack of experience for many up and coming coaches and often look down on them for their limited knowledge and ability.

Following a series of heated debates in the community about coaching, I reached out to Steven “Sunshine” Morgan. Sunshine was a former player on 2ARC before leaving to coach Gale Force eSports during the summer of 2016. Under his direction, the team had their strongest tournament showing ever at ESL Burbank, where they beat out some of the biggest NA powerhouses like Cloud9, Brain Power, and Naventic to finish with an impressive 9-1 overall score. While they performed rather poorly at the global championship at DreamHack Summer due to unexpected flight delays, many remember summer as Gale Force’s strongest period of dominance last year.

On Career

Tell me about your time on 2ARC. You described them as the “gate keepers of the competitive scene”.

Hahaha yeah. So basically when I was on 2ARC, Blaze was also in the amateur scene, and the two of us completely dominated everyone else. No one even came close to beating us, but Blaze always had the upper hand whenever we played against each other. So it was hard at times for sure, but I learned a lot playing on that team and from all the people who played with me.

What happened to 2ARC?

They are basically just no longer with 2ARC. They go by Nice! Gaming powered by Dark Arts. Same roster.

After 2ARC, you went on to coach GFE. What was it like making the switch from player to coach/analyst?

I’ve always wanted to eventually go into coaching. Was definitely a lot faster than I planned, but I really enjoy coaching. I’m good at identifying people’s strengths and weaknesses, which is critical for coaching, in my opinion.

On Coaching

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what a coach actually does in the HotS community. How would you define a coach in HotS?

Literally everyone has a different definition of what a coach should be. In my opinion, a coach is an unbiased perspective on a game. [As a player], your point of view becomes tainted by playing a certain role, and a coach can remain untainted by not having to focus on mechanics. At the very highest levels of competition, the players don’t need to be babied and told where they made mistakes mechanically or what they need work on, so that shouldn’t be your role; providing a deep knowledge of the game to remind players of the little things during tournaments was an essential role I played in my opinion. The coach is not weighed down by stress like the players, and having a level headed high tier player as a coach presents a lot of value.

So you would say that all coaches have to be very skilled and/or knowledgeable of the game?

Knowledgeable is the most important [aspect]. However, with my past experience, if a coach isn’t super skilled, they miss mechanical things. It can become a problem. I’ve played a lot of games to become knowledgeable about Heroes.

But what about the other side of coaching, which is setting practice schedules and keeping players on task? Do HotS coaches do much of that, or is it primarily just an analyst role?

Setting a schedule was mainly left to the team. GFE had a very good work ethic, so I never had to worry about us not scrimming enough. Had it become a problem, I would have tried to step in. Keeping players on task did happen a lot in scrims and tournaments. Making the team practice certain comps or take scrims seriously, or pointing out something the team missed…all of that is very important for preparation and execution.

Do you see a future where HotS has multiple coaches that have separate roles?

If the scene becomes comparable in size to DotA 2 or LoL, yes. But there isn’t even enough infrastructure for one coach right now. Coaches help, and if there is money, teams will get every advantage they can.

A while back, there was a Tempo Storm article trying to convince more NA teams to invest in a coach, but it was met with a lot of backlash. A lot of people where saying that there are “no good coaches in NA” to start with. Do you agree with that?

No. People say the same thing about no good amateur players, which is just wrong. You have players like Jun, Casanova, and Legend who are all extremely great players. Each one has a different level of success in the scene right now, but if they never get a chance to play on a top tier team, how will you ever know if they are good?

If a coach never gets a chance, how can you know if any are good? I would argue that my results as coach where fantastic, and I haven’t gotten any other chances other than GFE. The first LAN, I wasn’t in comms and the team went 4-4. The second LAN, I was in comms and we went 9-1. Third LAN, I wasn’t in comms and we went 3-5. Obviously, there are other factors that go into these things, but if someone can’t get a second chance with that, I don’t know what someone is realistically supposed to do.

But how do teams know they’re signing on a good coach or a bad one? Especially if they disagree with them or don’t like their coaching style? What’s to prevent the signing of a coach from doing more harm than good?

You have to give coaches a shot. At Dreamhack Austin, GFE and I came to the agreement that I would do all the analytical work and help in between games, but during game and in between games in a set, I wouldn’t say much. Neither side wanted me to throw off the groove that the team had already. We learned a lot, and by the time ESL rolled around, we had a really good mix of player-coach interaction. It falls on the org to keep the balance.

It sounds like you did a lot of GFE.

Yeah I put more time in than the players. I sat in on every scrim, compiled drafts for who we played against, played HL to keep my own skill up, and subbed in when someone was missing.

Not bragging, just saying that it took a lot of time and dedication.

Obviously, you had some issues with Mavnis on GFE. Without getting too personal, what can you say about having a manager that doesn’t support the coach? How do you think the situation could have been improved?

I think the only way a coach can be truly effective is if their “power” or “authority” comes from the organization and not the players. When something happens that the coach needs to overrule the team—which can happen due to things like stress or player conflicts—the coach needs the backing of the org so that the players listen.

This isn’t a problem in Korea because younger players respect older coaches purely based on age, but our culture in NA is much different. A lot of people get up in arms about overruling players, but sometimes it needs to happen. Being a player is extremely stressful and can lead to uncharacteristic mistakes; having a coach to reel someone or even the whole team back in can help avoid disaster. Obviously, if a coach abuses his power/authority, all the players have to do is go to the org and let them deal with it, either through penalty or termination. A good coach would never do anything to harm the team, though, so this should be a very small concern at most, I think.

This is why I brought up the whole Mavnis thing to begin with. When I needed the ability to reel the team back in, a lot of my power/authority was undermined by the manager. Obviously, I have issues with Mavnis, but the only reason I brought it up was because it was very relevant to coaching, in my opinion.

There have been a few successful coaches in EU. Do you think it has to do with orgs backing them up or is it just the general attitudes of the players that allow them to be successful?

I’m not sure. I think EU is quite different from NA, but if I had to guess, I think it would be due to attitudes. EU is much more serious about the game, so I don’t think the orgs need to back the coaches as much for them to be effective.

I could very well be wrong about that though.

On Meta and Game Design

The metagame is kind of confusing right now. How would you describe it?

Oh man, this is a tough one. In all honesty, I think this is more what Blizzard had in mind when they made the game. There are so many heroes who work off of each other that so many different playstyles are viable. You can have one hero with a global to make a gank squad incredibly lethal or a team full of globals to abuse rotations. You can run Tassadar carry-the-Valla comps or Tassadar carry-the-Tracer or Tasssadar carry-the-Illidan; it’s hard to deny anything like that without just banning Tassadar, who isn’t particularly strong by himself. Then you have straight up teamfight all-the-time comps. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that there are so many options that knowing your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses is more important than ever.

Is there anything you dislike about the meta at the moment?

I don’t like how strong Tassadar is based off of what heroes he is with. I love Tassadar as a hero, but if he gets ahead with certain comps, it’s so hard to come back from. I wish he was more independent as a hero. If that makes sense lol.

Healing and damage numbers have slowly risen over time. Do you think there’s anything to be concerned about here?

No, I don’t think so. If you watch DotA, their hero damage is insane. Players [in DotA] get deleted much faster than in Heroes, so I don’t think that will be a problem. Blizzard has been very good at designing heroes with strengths and weaknesses. Take Medic for instance: insane healing numbers, but very she is very weak to dive comps. I believe in Blizzard hero design.

If you could make any change to the core design of the game, what would you change?

This may sound weird, but masteries from LoL. They are a thing you select before game and are just passive minor buffs you get to tune your hero like you want. I actually really enjoyed that, but it’s not huge. Maybe bring back individual leveling, as it allows for more playmaking opportunities.

Dota is getting talents now. What do you think about that?

Heroes master race confirmed?

Crystal Maiden's talent tree in the newest Dota patch

Talents make the game so much easier to balance, and each hero feels more personalized. It’s a win-win, and I think other games are starting to realize that.

What do you think of the new “multi-class” classification with Varian?

Soooooo awesome! I love it. One of the things that drew me to Heroes was the adaptability you can have through ult choice, and Varian just takes that to the next level, in my opinion.

Who’s the next multi-class Hero you want to see?

Priest seems like the next logical choice, but I would love something more off, like a damage or off support like Medivh. Shadow priest seems really fun though!

Miscellaneous/Wrap-up

Statistics (team comps, picks, win rates, etc.) can sometimes be misleading. As an analyst, how much do you trust stats?

Zero.

Haha I actually hate statistics from tournaments. They are cool to look at but valid information [from them] is usually non-existent. If a lower skilled team gets a better comp but doesn’t know how to use it, that doesn’t make the statistics accurate when they lose. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to analyst work. Stats can lead you in a right direction, but you can never make a highly accurate prediction off of it.

On that note, what do you think of Hots Logs and the community’s heavy reliance on its figures to determine balance?

Hots Logs is infamous for saying Tassadar and Uther were two of the weakest heroes when in reality they were dominating the meta. No competitive player takes that seriously.

Do you think you’ll go back to playing or are you content with coaching?

The scene doesn’t seem ready for coaching. If I could coach a top tier team, I would in a heartbeat, but until then, I’ll probably just play.

So your plan for 2017 is grinding the Open Division?

Maybe, I’m not sure. Need to find a real job to sustain myself, so I may play hardcore or I might not.

Any last words or shoutouts?
I just want to say I wasn’t a perfect coach. I made mistakes and I was still learning how to coach in general. With that being said, I know I brought value to GFE and I enjoyed my time working with them a lot!

I love Heroes, I’ve invested a lot of time into it and made a lot of great friends along the way. My hope is one day Heroes will get the attention it truly deserves.


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

EsportsJohn tried to be a coach once; it didn’t work out. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.