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.

Alarak: First Impressions and Pro Opinions

banner5

Written by: EsportsJohn


Not all heroes are born of altruism…some, like Alarak, simply desire vengeance. As the new Highlord of the Tal’darim, Alarak leads his people to a destiny free of the corrupt influence of the fallen Xel’naga, Amon.

It’s hard not to acknowledge the “cool” factor of Alarak. He’s a no-nonsense guy with telekinetic powers similar to Star Wars baddie Kylo Ren. His lore alone as Highlord of the Tal’Darim, a fanatical religious faction of Protoss, is enough to make any StarCraft fan gush with excitement. Even though his lore was not 100% accurate to his iteration in Heroes of the Storm, he still came out pretty cool (and sith-like). It’s hard not to feel like a badass when playing him.

Overall, he seems fairly well balanced, if a little on the weak side. His damage can be downright insane, but he tends to falter without some dedicated support due to no reliable form of sustain or escape. This has led to a pretty low win rate on Hots Logs, but his power level isn’t far from the sweet spot. In fact, similar to Greymane, a few mistargeted buffs could easily push him over the edge and make him OP.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Huge burst damage
  • Tons of utility (silence, battlefield manipulation)
  • Strong laning presence
  • Powerful teamfighting capabilities
  • The most kickass voice acting in the game

Weaknesses

  • Poor sustain
  • Cooldown dependent
  • Vulnerable to CC
  • Terrible PvE

Abilities

Alarak is all about the big moments. He lives and dies for those opportunities to jump in and blow all his cooldowns to delete someone instantly. When he dives, he dives hard. The rest of the time, however, he’s mostly just controlling the flow of fights and poking until he has the chance to dive in and finish someone off. In a lot of ways, Alarak is similar to Greymane in concept. Blizzard went through a lot of iterations with Alarak, but the overall product came out pretty nicely.

The unique ability that defines Alarak is Telekinesis, a vector targeting (click + drag) ability that pushes enemies, as well as himself, around. What makes this ability so powerful is its versatility. For instance, it can pull people out of position for a big stun train combo or drag someone out of range of their healer. It also excels as a disengagement tool to push chasing opponents away or boost Alarak out of harm’s way. It can even be used as an interrupt for channeled spells. Talents like Applied Force and Quick Mind allow Alarak to control the flow of battle even more smoothly—but at the cost of some of his damage.

Machines of War promotional art for Heroes of the Storm

Photo Credit: Blizzard

Telekinesis isn’t Alarak’s only utility, though. Discord Strike also brings a brutal AoE silence on top of a hell of a lot of damage. Discord Strike isn’t always easy to hit because of the short delay, but the effects can be devastating when it does, especially in clumped up teamfights.

The final piece of Alarak’s base kit is Lightning Surge, a fairly straightforward point-and-click ability used mostly for sustain. There are some cute tricks that you can do by lining up shots to hit multiple Heroes (especially if you take Thunderstruck), but most of the time, it’s just a good old-fashioned poke ability.

Blizzard took a fascinating approach to Alarak’s Heroics. Instead of choosing one at 10 and then upgrading it, you can just pick up your second Heroic at 20. Right now, Alarak’s level 10 choice is a no-brainer: Deadly Charge. It offers a long-distance engage, guaranteed damage, and even an escape when used properly. Counter-Strike can be picked up at 20 in rare circumstances where Alarak needs to survive a huge burst of damage, but it is simply subpar to Deadly Charge in its current iteration.

Due to his trait, Sadism, he can dish out some serious hurt to anyone that’s unfortunate enough to get close to him, but the drawback is that his PvE is substantially weaker than other melee Assassins. For this reason, he’s not very useful for capturing merc camps, sieging, or clearing waves.

Talents

Blizzard finally made talents with trade-offs that weren’t terrible. I have always been an outspoken critic of talents like Greymane’s original Unfettered Assault and Artanis’s Triple Strike because they trade functionality for random utility, and often made the ability worse with the talent. But this time Blizzard got it right.

Alarak’s trait Sadism is not fixed at 100%. Various talents like Dissonance and Quick Mind will decrease that number by 10% in exchange for extra utility. Overall, this is a genius system for trading functionality for damage, and it really forces players to think through talent choices on a deeper level. Do I need the extra cooldown reduction on Telekinesis? Is it worth sacrificing damage? These questions will pop up in your mind frequently when playing Alarak and influence the way that you play him.

That said, whenever that choice isn’t present, there is actually very little room for flexibility in Alarak’s talent tree at the moment. Most of the Lightning Surge talents aren’t impactful and are usually heavily outweighed by Q and W talents. On top of that, some talents like Chaos Reigns and Pure Malice are so good that they’re nearly impossible to give up except in rare circumstances.

At levels 4 and 7, Double Cross and Chaos Reigns combo together to greatly increase Alarak’s damage and reliability, making them almost mandatory. Talents at 1 and 16 are flexible, however. Picking both Applied Force and Projected Force gives Alarak the ability to influence teamfights at long range and set up big stun combos but greatly decrease his Sadism damage. Talents like Power Conduit, Without Effort, and Sustaining Power are also options for a poke-oriented style that don’t sacrifice damage.

Alarak’s level 20 talents offer extraordinarily interesting choices. Along with the ability to pick his other Heroic, he also has access to two generic abilities with new, fascinating drawbacks. Last Laugh is a version of Bolt of the Storm that allows you to cleanse all effects at the price of dropping all the way down to 1 HP. In theory, this is a cool talent that Alarak can use to escape in the nick of time, but—at least in my experience—the drawback is simply too punishing. After using Last Laugh, you’re out of the fight for some time anyway, so saving yourself has very little impact on the overall outcome.

Hasty Bargain goes in a different direction and offers more damage via a form of Rewind that permanently reduces the percentage of Sadism; every time you use it, you become weaker overall. The huge risk/reward tradeoff forces you to think critically about how you use Hasty Bargain. However, it’s almost always worth taking despite the drawback because of the potential to double your burst damage, and the Sadism that you lose is also somewhat negligible since the game is unlikely to last much longer after level 20 anyway.

Professional Opinions

On Kit, Design, and Implementation

HongCoNo, Tempo Storm
Design is freaking awesome!

darkmok, Misfits
I would probably be more qualified to say something good after having played with him competitively, but what I can say is that he is a Hero with high skill cap. Basically everything you do depends on your placement of abilities. He has no good wave clear, so he has to shine in brawling and assassinating Heroes since he mostly doesn’t add power to objectives. I do think he’s good and has his place. I think he can surprise enemies with his placement of Telekinesis, and his lvl 20 is insane—the amount of plays you can do with his version of Rewind or taking two ults….

Goku, Dumpster Tier Superstars
His kit and design is very similar to Kerrigan; they both are burst type Heroes that rely on their combo. What separates Alarak from Kerrigan and the rest of the melee Assassins is that his kit provides a 1.5 second silence which can decide teamfights. On top of that, with his ultimate Deadly Charge, he can easily dive the back-line or provide burst damage.

Lockdown, Tempo Storm
Really like the Hero design and abilities. Very mechanically complicated Hero.

Minsc, Caster
When I first heard about his announcement, I said to myself, “Hell yeah! Him!” Then, I realised it will be one more melee Assassin amongst others, and the hype declined. Finally, he got released, and I got him into my very hands—and, oh man, did he deliver.

He’s a mix between a combo-based fragile brawler and a spell damage oriented caster. [He] doesn’t really have his place in a heavy front line like Sonya or Thrall, but definitely has his role to set up fights, create ganks, or force enemies into a fight they might not like. Although this point of view has been debated with some friends, I like to compare him to Kerrigan. He “creates” action with his spells, and [you] need to ponder the choice of whether to use his kit offensively or defensively, which makes him as much of a threat as [a liability because] he can be punished for a lack of patience.

Mudsliide, former GFE manager
I think his kit is really interesting and, at the same time, frustrating. Having to be immobile during Discord Strike is something I dislike personally (it’s a 0.5 second cast time). Standing still on a melee Assassin just feels off to me. His Telekinesis is a strange sort of skillshot to land (I compare it to the League of Legends champion Viktor’s Ray Beam thing) but works well enough as you get used to it. Lightning Surge is your standard point and click ability but feels a bit underwhelming to me. Deadly Charge is my current go-to just for diving the backline and things of that nature. I love that Blizzard continues to give us new toys to play with in the way that abilities work—they just don’t always work well the first try.

On Professional Play and Meta Changes

HongCoNo, Tempo Storm
He’s pretty OP, so most likely going to see competitive play.

Goku, Dumpster Tier Superstars
He’ll pop out in each region, but he won’t have a definite spot. He’s very similar to Kerrigan where you need to build around him for his lack of wave clear.

Lockdown, Tempo Storm
I think Alarak requires a lot of skill, so probably going to take some time before it sees competitive play.

Minsc, Caster
In the future meta, he definitely has his place, but more as a thought choice [special pick] instead of a must-have Hero. I believe his base kit makes him a really strong counter to many Heroes, but he cannot be left on his own. So on an extremely aggressive lineup, his damage and engage potential, combined with the silence, will make him quite interesting to look at.

Mudsliide, former GFE manager
I’m not entirely sure [about the meta]. Korea may run him since they seem open to trying a lot of different styles of play. Between EU and NA though, I don’t think anyone will touch him just yet. He feels slightly underwhelming in raw damage output, and I don’t know why you would grab him over another choice as of the current moment. We have time until Blizzcon though. I see Blizzard giving him a buff or two, so maybe we see him then?

On Map and Composition Viability

HongCoNo, Tempo Storm
Not sure about team comps, but probably gonna be good on Tomb of the Spider Queen and Dragon Shire.

Goku, Dumpster Tier Superstars
I feel like his best maps would have to be rotational maps like Dragon Shire and Tomb of the Spider Queen. But he has the option to play on every map. What he needs most would be a stun tank like E.T.C. or Muradin—that way it becomes very easy for Alarak to use his combo.

Lockdown, Tempo Storm
Can be played on any map, and will most likely be used as a melee DPS.

Minsc, Caster
I think he will work great on teamfight-oriented maps. although his lack of bonus damage towards neutrals/buildings might come as a problem. [But] like I always say: “dead people don’t prevent you from pushing”, meaning that if you kill your opponent, you can easily snowball out of it.

Mudsliide, former GFE manager
I think he works well on smaller maps or maps with good chokes—so for me, Tomb of the Spider Queen, Towers of Doom and Cursed Hollow. I don’t know where he fits into compositions at the moment. I’m not entirely sure if I should be dive heavy and just be in the fight all the time or play a little further back and silence incoming opponents to defend my carry. I think we’ll have to see the players that are clearly miles ahead of me play him in competitive (if and when we see him) to answer that.

Final Thoughts

darkmok, Misfits
His E is like 0 damage to minions. It does provide some laning power and self-sustain though. But apart from that, it’s super underwhelming. They need to buff the numbers of that for sure—or add a slow, I don’t know.

Goku, Dumpster Tier Superstars
I feel like Alarak is underrated in general. He’s a very strong Hero if you play him correctly. His Telekinesis is very strong to disengage a fight or to pull the enemy healer towards your team.

Minsc, Caster
He might be overlooked as a Hero that will not break the game. But in my opinion, a very skilled player within the right team can, as Medivh does, completely turn the tide and overthrow an overconfident opponent.

A point on his talent tree as well: the choice between utility talents that reduce Hero damage or not is insanely well thought out. It offers Alarak the possibility to adapt to many situations within each game, and each talent tier can be a gamebreaker if the opponent doesn’t pay attention.

Mudsliide, former GFE manager
Remember when Artanis came out? Everyone said he was underwhelming. He was not tanky enough to be a full-on Warrior nor did he do enough damage to replace a Hero like Sonya. He was clunky and slow. Alarak reminds me of that. Slow and clunky, unsure where he belongs within the current game. While he has interesting design choices and an aesthetic that I enjoy, I think he needs a little more time in the oven personally.

Huge thanks to Dongmin Jeong for Korean interviews and translations!


EsportsJohn is also a toxic Protoss who only criticizes his team. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

How to Win the Video Game: Checklisting

checklist

A while back I did a short video on When to Engage, which featured an idea that I find essential to solid play: Checklisting. Since then, I’ve made a few updates to the checklist to make it clearer, so I wanted to share it in written form.

What is Checklisting?

Checklisting is a common theme in all games. It’s essentially a deductive procedural list that allows you to make good decisions or play optimally because it allows you to organize a logic tree and multitask. In fact, checklisting is a natural way for the human brain to sort out tasks and keep things in order. Many people don’t even realize that they’re doing it in everyday life when they’re working at a drive-thru, skateboarding, or taking notes from a lecture, much less when they’re gaming. Not all games—or all tasks in life, for that matter—are the same, but we still create lists to deal with daily challenges that we face.

Example: an RTS checklist might be something akin to what’s typically referred to as a “macro cycle”. In this cycle, the player reminds his or herself to spend their money, move their units, and make sure they’re not supply blocked. It’s a simple cycle, but it allows the player to automate macro and focus on decision making and micro.

Some games will have wildly different checklists. One for a game like Chess would analyze the current positions, check the points of power on the board, and go over possible moves and strategies from the most dangerous to the least dangerous. Using this method would allow the player to separate good decisions from bad ones in a procedural way.

The Checklist for Heroes of the Storm

MOBAs sacrifice a lot of macro actions for micro and decision making, and Heroes of the Storm is probably one of the most decision-intensive MOBAs out there. On top of that, bad decisions can be punished hard due to the heavy emphasis on teamwork in the game. For these reasons, it’s very important to get some sort of checklist going so that you can constantly gauge whether it’s safe play aggressively or whether you need to pull back and retreat.

The rules I have laid out here can be used in both a macro and micro sense. Macro decisions are questions like: When does our team engage into a fight? Should we try to turn on the enemy team? Is fighting right now a good idea? Micro decisions typically involve knowing when to attack an enemy, take an objective, and when to retreat.


Levels

  • Check the team levels.
  • Are we a talent tier up? Look for a fight. Are we behind? Avoid a fight.
  • Think about power spikes. Some compositions will be much stronger at 13 than 12, some won’t.

    Objectives

  • Do we have the objective advantage? Do we need to play aggressively or defensively?
  • Should we contest the objective? Can we ignore the objective? Can we delay the objective?
  • Is it better to force a fight or take the objective?

    Numbers

  • Check the minimap.
  • How many of my teammates are here?
  • How many opponents am I fighting? Are any enemies missing on the minimap?

    Health/Mana

  • Is our team low on health?
  • Is our team, particularly the healer and/or spellcaster, low on mana?
  • What is the other team’s status?

    Cooldowns

  • Does our team have Heroics up? Are there any particularly important ones like Mosh Pit or Sanctification that we need to wait on?
  • Does the enemy team have Heroics up? If we have Heroics and they don’t, we can engage and vice versa.
  • Did the enemy blow any significant cooldowns (i.e. Kerrigan combo or Valla Vault)? If so, we can engage immediately.

    Positioning

  • Are my teammates together and in range of the fight?
  • Am I out of position? Are my teammates out of position?
  • Are any of my opponents out of position, particularly squishy back line Heroes? If so, we can punish hard.

    This may seem like a daunting amount of information to process if you’ve never thought about it before. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it as you internalize it. Like I said, people don’t even realize they’re doing these things; you might have a small checklist in your head that you follow already. Not everyone processes information the same way, but I highly recommend working your way through the checklist in the order presented here, as it will allow you to work from the largest, most important factors to the most minute details.

    If any red flags pop up while doing this checklist, you probably need to reconsider your aggression and pull back. Of course, there are still complicated situations where taking a fight a talent down or with low health/mana isn’t necessarily a bad decision, but they are definitely risks. Risks are important to take in gaming, and only lots of practice and experience will allow you to accurately make those decisions. If you’re new to the game or unsure of your decisions, always take the safe route until you’re comfortable enough to start testing the limits and playing more aggressively.

    Working as a Team

    Checklisting is not just an individual thing. If everyone is doing it, the team will function better as a unit because everyone will be on the same page. Imagine a team where everyone is running through the same checklist and coming to the same conclusions. Even if a player is slower than the others at arriving to a conclusion, the team is more or less on the same page. You wouldn’t have that Illidan who jumps straight into the fight two levels down and starts yelling at the team for not supporting him. You wouldn’t have that one guy who’s sitting there doing the objective while the rest of the team is engaging and trying to force a teamfight. Everyone would think together, move together, and act together.

    Of course, that’s an idealistic goal. Everyone thinks a little bit differently, but if we can all focus on our checklist a little harder and pay attention to our decision making, I’m certain that Hero League might clean itself up a bit. Just a bit.

  • A Short Guide to Layering CC

    LayeringCC Banner

    I’ll be honest, nothing in the world triggers me harder than when someone says in chat, “Lost in draft…we don’t have enough damage.” Sometimes this is true, but most of the time it’s the interplay of inexperience and lack of communication in Hero League games that’s the source of the issue, not the Heroes (or the draft) themselves.

    There are several examples of professional games with double warrior or triple warrior compositions that can delete people from the game. There are plenty of double Support compositions that can also do quite a lot in terms of bursting down enemy Heroes. Before you comment and say, “yeah, but those are pros,” hear me out.

    I’m certain that a simple understanding of how to layer crowd control and damage will greatly improve anyone’s game. I’ve seen it in my own experiences and the experiences of others after I explained. This is not a guide for pro play, it’s for the plebs like you and me—the people from Bronze to Diamond who still have lots of learning to do.

    Simply put: you have the damage, you just need to practice your coordination!

    Using Stuns/Roots with an Ally

    Remember when Tyrande/Diablo was so strong at the beginning of 2016? It’s because Diablo’s combo made it very easy to predict where the person would end up, giving Tyrande an easy follow-up with her Lunar Flare (and also because they did ludicrous amounts of damage). The effect was that these two Heroes could single-handedly drop an enemy Hero during a gank in less than a second.

    Muradin and Tyrande layer their CC

    Followup stuns can lead to big momentum swings. Had Nova and Rehgar been paying attention, this would have been an easy double kill. Gif credit: Heroesfire

    The concept applies toward any two stuns or roots, though. If your team has both a Muradin and an Arthas, you have TONS of lockdown. Figure out which player should take the initiative and just follow up on their CC. If you time it perfectly, you can immobilize someone for a full 2.5 seconds, which is plenty of time to drop damage on them, especially if they’re out of position. Often times the damage from the CC itself is brutal enough to drop someone low; you only really need a little bit of bodyblocking and follow-up to get the most out of your ganks.

    You don’t need voice communication to do this. Just watch other players carefully for how and when they use their stun. Hover your mouse cursor constantly on potential targets and prepare to make calculated dives. It’s really that simple.

    What If I Don’t Have a Stun?

    When you don’t have CC, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to layering. In fact, you should be paying MORE attention to targets that are locked down and using your DPS to eliminate them.

    One of the best examples for this is Li-Ming. Her skillshots are very dependent on your opponents taking a predictable path so that you can unload the full combo on them and dish out an ungodly amount of damage. That said, there’s nothing more predictable than a CC combo. Follow around that Muradin on your team and save Arcane Orb for the moment that he lands a good Storm Bolt. More often than not, you’ll reliably delete people and look like a god.

    Li-Ming uses her combo on a stunned Hero

    Mene looks for the stun onto Arthas before committing to his full combo—an effective way to play Li-Ming.

    Again, this isn’t hard. Just keep your eyes peeled for the tanks engaging and prepare to use the stuns and roots to your advantage. The same thing can be said for several other bursty Heroes like Kael’thas, Zeratul, or Chromie.

    Use the Map Objective!

    If you’re anything like me, you’ll somehow get a team that’s so clueless that they never land any good stun or get any good engagement. Luckily, you don’t have to rely completely on allied Heroes all the time. Several map objectives like the Punisher on Infernal Shrines or the Immortal on Battlefield of Eternity provide some sort of a stun or CC effect. Just like a teammate, you can use these stuns as reliable ways lock down enemy Heroes and burst them down.

    For instance, you know that the Punisher will jump on top of someone and stun them every few seconds, so prepare to line up a stun of your own if possible. Get a feel for how often the Punisher jumps and anticipate it so that you can get free kills. If you do it correctly, you can sometimes even get a takedown on an enemy BEHIND their wall—it doesn’t get much better than that.

    Kerrigan using her combo with the Punisher on Infernal Shrines

    JayPL waits until the Punisher jumps over the wall and stuns someone before following up with the Kerrigan combo.

    For less reliable, non-targeted stuns like the Immortal’s AoE stun or the Boss camp slams, use them in the opposite fashion. When you expect a stun to come up, go ahead and lock down your opponent early. If you time it right, you’ll often either get a free kill or weaken the enemy team so much that you can take an objective for free.

    In the end, it only comes down to you. This is a team game, but vigilance and awareness on an individual level are paramount to your team’s success. Look for opportunities to layer CC, practice your timing, and try to help others learn too!

    On words. And becoming an esports writer.

    After discovering the literal holy grail of articles on working in esports, I’ve decided to offer up my own thoughts and fill in some of the holes in them with my own experience.

    I think it’s important to note that I’m not really anyone significant. I’m not the guy who has 100K Twitter followers. I’m not really widely known or respected. I’m not making that much money as an esports writer. And to be truthful, I’m not even that good at writing.

    Nonetheless, I do have a decent amount of experience in this field, and I’ve helped a lot of friends significantly improve their writing and find paid work in esports. Yes, paid work.

    Learn How to Format Your Stuff

    For the love of god, learn how to format articles correctly. Formatting is like 90% of an editor’s job. As such, organizations look specifically for people who can present a fully fleshed-out article. Even if the content isn’t top-notch, a good-looking submission is enough to convince orgs that your work is worth paying for.

    • Break your paragraphs up with images, videos, or lists. No one wants to read a wall of text.
    • Always write cleanly and concisely. Avoid excessive punctuation, overly wordy descriptions, and long sentences.
    • Use key words in your headings and paragraphs.
    • The standard article length is 800-1200 words.
    • Resize your images to a standard size (varies depending on the publishing client)
    • Learn basic HTML/BB code (headers, italics, bold, hyperlinks, images, blockquotes, etc.)

    The typical format for an online article is very similar to a high school paper. Pick a topic, provide at least three main points, and tie it all together with a conclusive sentence or optional conclusion section.

      Header 1
      Introduction (no heading)
      Header 2
      Body Paragraph
      Header 2
      Body Paragraph
      Header 2
      Body paragraph
      Conclusion (optional)

    Elements of Style

    Elements of Style is one of my favorite books of all time. Anyways.

    Brevity is paramount in the industry of online publishing. Though you may enjoy the flowery descriptions of classical writing from Dickens or Tolkien, it simply doesn’t have a place here. People are scanning through your paragraphs for key information. Multiple headings with short paragraphs using short sentences with lots of periods—that’s the way to go.

    The golden rule is generally 3-5 of everything. 3-5 headings, 3-5 paragraphs per heading, and 3-5 sentences per paragraph. This also loosely applies to images/line breaks and bullet point lists too. Longer articles can play with this formatting a bit, but a standard online article typically sticks to this rule.

    You need to be (sometimes overly) clear in your wording. Explain everything as if your reader “is dumb”, especially for analytical articles. This is both for the reader’s sake and your own. It’s easy to connect points A to C in your head as you’re writing, but sometimes you may skip over certain points of logic entirely in the article.

    Outgrowing “Volunteer” Hell

    You’re going to have to volunteer for things at first. That’s just how it is. Traditional careers have “internships”; esports writing has “volunteer work”. I worked for TeamLiquid.net for several years as a volunteer before I was ever actually taken seriously, and that time was invaluable to me in terms of refining my writing and getting a feel for online publishing.

    You need skills and experience before you’re ready to publish biweekly articles for money. You have to learn how to format the articles correctly, connect with your audience, and create storylines.

    Blogging is also a legitimate way to learn skills. There are several great writers in the Heroes community alone who have started with outstanding posts on Reddit or the TeamLiquid.net forums and bloomed into successful writers. Volunteering for an organization allows you to get more exposure, but it’s not the only route for gaining experience.

    The point I want to make is that “volunteering” is not a dirty word, it’s a chance for you to build competency in a low-pressure environment. Once you’re at a decent level, you can start to look for paid jobs.

    How to Look for a Big Boy/Girl Job

    So you’ve grown out of your volunteer days, and now it’s time to find a “real” job. Spoiler alert: paid writing jobs are hard to come by in any industry, but especially in esports. Nonetheless, there are paid jobs out there, you just have to look.

    eSports Career is probably the easiest resource for finding a paid writing job in esports. I have found and applied for multiple jobs through the site, and some of them (like Esports Edition) have turned out to be real treasures.

    Another method for a job search is campaigning. Think of every sponsored esports organization you can think of (Dignitas, Tempo Storm, Red Bull, SK Gaming, Coke, etc.) and just email them with your credentials and an inquiry about joining their editorial team. It’s not the best way to find a job, but you’d be surprised at how many people will actually respond to you with mild interest.

    The third major way of landing a writing job is networking. I spent a good amount of time earlier this year just lurking in streamers’ channels, following community members and pro players on Twitter, and looking for every possible opportunity to interact with them. It’s much easier to get a job with an organization if you have a friend who can give you a heads up or vouch for you.

    A word of caution to this tale: make sure you research all organizations you’re thinking about joining. Look for past history of management problems, failure to pay, or legal issues; these are all red flags. Look up who’s in charge and find out more about them. Make sure the size/prestige of the organization matches the size/prestige of your goals.

    Understanding Base Rates for Writing

    Another super important consideration for a job is the payout. Before becoming a freelance writer, I had no idea what I should get paid. I had to do a lot of digging and research before I was able to figure out what the “standard” rate was.

    I’ll make it easy for you: don’t take a writing job for less than $0.05/word.

    Just don’t do it. Unless you are an ungodly prolific writer who can spit out 10k words of quality articles per day, it’s just not worth your time to write for any amount that low. That said, your base rate as a noob esports writer should start at $0.05.

      Min rate: $0.05/word
      Max rate: $0.25/word
      Target: $0.10-$0.15/word

    A really sweet gig will net you up to approximately $0.25/word, but those types of jobs are few and far between in the esports world. Shoot for the median $0.10 to $0.15, and you’ll make a reasonable income.

    For flat rates per article (i.e. $50 per article), compare them to the average article length (800-1200) to get the rate per word. Then try not to go overboard; the longer your article gets, the less your time is worth.

    Always sign a contract.

    Seriously, always sign a contract. (Beware of non-competes).

    Discovering Your Worth

    Your worth is how valuable you are to an employer. Brand new writers with little experience in online publication and writing for an esports audience aren’t worth much. Competent writers who have been around for a few years are going to be worth much more.

    When you discover your worth, you can determine the proper payment for your work. Do not be afraid to negotiate with organizations.

    As a general rule, undervalue your worth but negotiate higher. For instance, if I know I’m a noob who still has a lot to learn, I will value myself at $0.05/word, but I will negotiate for $0.10/word. If I can convince my employer to bump up my pay by even one cent, I’ve succeeded in raising my worth for future jobs.

    Your worth is a big part of your identity as a writer, and it’s important to soberly recognize where you stand in the grand scheme of things. Practice self-awareness.

    Your Future in Esports

    You can do it. You may need to work another job to keep afloat while your esports career takes off, but it’s not impossible. All you need is a lot of hard work, dedication, and a support group of community members who can encourage you.

    Esports is a rapidly growing industry. News sites and small orgs are springing up everywhere looking to cash in on the money train. As we move into the future and esports becomes more integrated into our daily lives, there will be an increasing demand for skilled writers. Right now is your chance to get in on the ground floor (maybe second floor) and make a name for yourself before competition becomes too fierce.

    If you ever need any help, I’m always free to help review/edit articles and recommend jobs. Just hit me up on Twitter and I’ll be happy to help out :).