Think you’re ready for Hero League?
In Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard requires all players to reach level 30 and own at least ten heroes before entering ranked mode, AKA Hero League. When first starting the game, players will play in Quick Match mode, which allows players in groups of 1-5 to choose their hero from the week’s available Free to Play heroes or owned heroes, and will randomly match each group with teammates and enemies that are of equal skill and team composition.
While this does force players to have some experience with the mechanics of game play, heroes, and maps, it doesn’t do nearly enough for a new player to enter straight into Hero League on their own. Hero League differs from Quick Match because there is a drafting system, in which each team rotates choosing heroes, and there is more importance placed on choosing the right heroes for team composition as well as choosing “good” heroes overall.
Due to the vast differences between Quick Match and Hero League, there are numerous reasons why new players to Heroes of the Storm should not begin Hero League as soon as they meet Blizzard’s minimum requirements.
1. Lack of Experience
This can be explained with some very simple math. To reach level 30 in the game, you need a cumulative total of 20,875,000 experience points. In order to reach this you simply have to play games, but there are a number of factors involved in experience gained as well. Stim packs purchased in the in-game shop provide 100% extra experience per game, and playing with friends provides 50% extra experience per game. You gain more experience for winning games, for longer games, and for a number of other in-game factors. With these many factors in mind, you might receive anywhere from 100,000-300,000 experience points per Quick Match. That means that on the low end you might qualify for Hero League in around 70 games, or it might take you upwards of two-thousand.
Given the ease of gaining extra experience, it’s likely that someone enthusiastic and with a reasonable amount of skill will qualify very early. Someone with 150 games, perhaps, might be able to qualify for Hero League. In 150 games, it’s very unlikely that you will be prepared due to lack of experience in general.
2. Not Enough Heroes
It’s important to note that you can’t play Free to Play Heroes in Hero League, and owning the minimum of ten characters simply doesn’t cut it. When entering into Hero League, players should be comfortable with at least 3-4 characters in each role: warrior, assassin, specialist, and support. Depending on the current meta, you will need to be versatile when entering a draft, and be prepared to fill any role that the team comp requires. This means you should be fully comfortable, if not outright confident, with at the very least 12-16 heroes.
Just for suggestions, to fill the warrior role you might want to pick up Johanna, Muradin, and Diablo. For the assassin role you might purchase Raynor, Valla, and Jaina. For the specialist role I’d recommend Zagara, Nazeebo, and Sylvanas. Lastly for the support role you could pick up Lili, Malfurion, and Uther. All of these are viable heroes at the moment in a hero league draft, as well as varying in price from 2,000 to 10,000 gold per hero.
These are simply a few suggestions, but having a large selection of heroes to choose from is crucial to playing in Hero League. Be sure to try out as many heroes as you can to see which you prefer and which are the strongest. In addition, it could be helpful to watch a Heroes of the Storm streamer or competition to see which heroes are consistently chosen and how they are played by professionals.
In the beginning, drafting doesn’t appear to be very difficult. However, the draft process used in Hero League can be complicated and requires more than simply picking your favorite hero. It’s important to pay attention to the synergies between the heroes already chosen on your team as well as the enemy team. For example, if you are last pick and you need to fill a support role, it’s unwise to choose Li Li if the enemy team has numerous stuns that render your heroic ability completely useless. Or, if you pick Li Li first a counter-pick would be Anub’arak, who has the ability to stun through both his Impale and Burrow Charge abilities. That is a simple example, but it speaks to the nature of understanding picks and counter-picks in a way that you don’t get to experience by playing even 150 quick matches.
When drafting, it is advisable to choose the best or most crucial heroes early: Kael’thas and Jaina are two powerful mages who are never a bad first or second pick. Choosing a good warrior such as Johanna or Muradin is also worth a first pick. Other inessential roles such as a specialist or a ranged assassin like Raynor and Valla can wait until later in the draft due to their flexibility. It’s worth watching a stream or competition simply for the draft process, because it shows which heroes are prioritized and which are left in a more “flex” position.
4. Map Strategies
Currently, there are nine maps in the Heroes of the Storm rotation. If you’ve played each map fifteen times, that simply isn’t enough to completely understand each map’s strategies and techniques. It is unlikely that in your 150 quick matches you’ve completely learned the strategies for each map, or the heroes that excel on certain maps. Unless you’ve thought intensely about each map and implemented the strategies that you know will work best, it is likely that your Hero League games will be disastrous because of the lack of knowledge about how best to approach any certain map.
Every map has a very specific objective, and it’s important to understand the map objectives in great detail. One map that could be a struggle is Infernal Shrines, the newest map in the rotation. This map forces teams to fight over a very powerful objective, and knowing when to engage, disengage, or reengage in that team fight can make the difference between losing the objective or winning it. In addition, it’s also important to note that you don’t need to win every objective, and that sometimes giving up the objective and soaking lanes for experience or grabbing a mercenary camp will be more beneficial than sending the team in to a losing battle again and again.
5. Lack of Diversity in Heroes
It cannot be stressed enough that in Hero League, players need to be willing and able to diversify their roles. I cannot count how many times I’ve entered a draft where individuals were unwilling to fill a certain role. Whether this is due to lack of experience with the role or simply niche picking, it is unfair to the team if one individual insists on a role or character that simply doesn’t fit with the composition. This is especially true if you are last pick; oftentimes in lower ranked Hero League drafts the support role will be left for last pick, and it would be an injustice to your team to refuse to choose a viable support character, or if you choose a support character you haven’t played much simply because you prefer not to support. This game requires an incredible amount of teamwork, and any individual who is unwilling to work with their team through communication and proper drafting will be unlikely to get very far.
So when should I enter Hero League?
Each player is different, and there is no defining moment when someone is simply ready for Hero League. Some players may need to work on mechanical skill, while others have played MOBAs for years and understand the mechanics perfectly. Other players may need to spend time diversifying their roles, even if they strongly prefer one role over all others.
Entering Hero League is an individual choice, and as long as you meet Blizzard’s qualifications you can do so if you wish, but please take the time to do some research and expand your knowledge further than what your 150 or so games has provided. Look into the competitive scene at who the best heroes are at the moment, be willing to diversify your characters and your role rather than niche picking, and get to know all facets of the maps and the gameplay before you take that step over to Hero League. If you do this, you will make the Hero League experience better for everyone involved.