Heroes of the Storm
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Heroes of the Storm guide for newbies

If you’ve never played a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) like League of Legends, Dota 2 or Smite, but are interested in trying Heroes of the Storm, this guide is for you. I’m going to cover the basics of gameplay so you’ll have an idea of what to expect and what is expected of you. The good news is, like many Blizzard games, Heroes is easy to grasp, but hard to master.

If you have had some experience with this type of game before, check out our Heroes of the Storm primer for League of Legends players. Or if you’re the type to just jump in, there’s an in-game tutorial for new players. For the rest of you, here’s the big picture.

Basic gameplay

Heroes gameplay is 5v5 PvP played on a three-lane battleground map (with the exception of one two-lane map in the mix) against either other players or AI-controlled bots. The teams start on opposite sides and fight to the other end where they try destroy the enemy’s core before their own is taken down. Easy, right? Well, not only is the other team trying to kill you, but each side spawns waves of minions that must be dealt with, plus walls to be breached, turrets to be destroyed while they fire on you, neutral mercenaries that can be recruited and, on top off all that, each one of the seven battleground maps in the game has its own unique mechanic.

The unique map mechanics are designed to give one team a temporary advantage if they can claim it before the enemy team does. For example, on the Sky Temple map, temples will periodically activate. If a team can defeat its guardians, the temple will fire on the defenses of that team’s enemies for a short time. As you can imagine, these temples become the site of big battles among the players, but the winning team can get a big jump on getting closer to their enemy’s core or even destroy the core itself by succeeding at holding control of the temple during its attack phase. Our own Anna Bell has written a basic guide to all seven currently available maps in the game. It’s a quick read to understand the mechanics of each.

The TL;DR here is: stay alive and destroy the enemy’s core in front of their base. Some players like to focus on kill count, which is fun for bragging rights, but not the objective to win the game.

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Types of matches

Tutorial: The hero of your choice plus four AI-controlled team mates against five AI-controlled enemies on the Haunted Mines map. On-screen windows will help you with the UI and voice help will guide you through match progression.

Versus A.I. (previously known as Cooperative): You and four others vs an AI-controlled enemy team. You can go in with a premade party of friends (for an experience bonus), be randomly matched with other players, or choose to have the rest of your team filled with AI-controlled bots. No matter what you choose, there are decent exp and gold rewards.

Quick Match: You and four other players against a team of five other players. Teams can be premade (partially or fully) or randomly assembled by the game. You’ll get much better exp and gold rewards, but no rank advancement.

Hero League: This is basic ranked play that you can join without a team behind you. You will need to be able at least level 30 and own 10 heroes. You can play blind pre-pick mode or draft mode.

Team League: When you reach level 40, you can form a persistent team with 10 players on the roster to compete with other persistent teams in ranked play.

Custom Game: Here you can pick the map and which 10 players fill the slots on both teams. Used primarily for tournament play.

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Match progression

When you log in, click on the Play tab and you can pick a hero to play among those you have bought or are free for the week by clicking on the hero portrait. If you are new to that hero, you can click on the Abilities button in the lower left corner to see what powers the hero possesses. You will start the game with the first three abilities active with the fourth becoming available when you hit level 10 in the match. You can also choose a custom skin or mount on this screen as well as the what type of match you want to play.

Don’t worry about picking a “needed” class. Just go with the character you want to play and if you are not already in a premade group, you will be matched with others based on what role your hero fills (i.e. the Matchmaker AI tries not to match support classes with only other support classes to fill out the team). The game will then load you into the home base on a randomly chosen map. The loading screen will spell out what objectives are unique to that map.

In between you and your objective of destroying your enemy’s core are defenses you must take down. Each lane has two sets of big turrets each with a mini turret by their side. And to make it more interesting, each one of those is protected by a gate flanked by mini turrets that must be destroyed to progress. Once those are cleared down any of the lanes, you have a path to attack the core along with your minion waves and any other NPCs you’ve managed to recruit.

You have 10 seconds before the match begins. This is the time to say hello to your teammates in chat and let them know which lane you want to start with. For three lane maps against the AI, two enemies will head to the top lane, two to the middle lane and one to the bottom. For the two lane map (Hidden Mines), three enemies will head to the top and two to the bottom. You want to make sure you aren’t outnumbered in your lane against your opponent. If you are new to the game, it’s good to mention it at this time in chat as well. Other players will help point out objectives and goals during the match up.

Another thing that happens at the beginning of the game is you’ll get to pick from your first set of talents. There are four to pick from, though the last two won’t be available to you until you’ve played that particular hero more. You really can’t go wrong here when you’re a beginner. The available options for beginners are solid so feel free to experiment.

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The early game

There are three phases of the match: early game, mid game, and late game. In the early game, everyone’s characters are fairly weak. You start off with three base abilities and gain one more (your heroic ability) plus a handful of talents as you level in the match. But until you do, it’s good to play it safe early on. Your goal in the early game isn’t to rack up the enemy kills, but to make sure the enemy doesn’t push your lane. That means make sure they don’t kill your minions and attack your first set of gates and turrets. Kill their minions, damage the enemy enough to get them to back off (this is called poke) and attack their gates and turrets when you can. It’s unlikely you’re going to be killing the enemy at this point and if you don’t do anything risky, you won’t get killed either.

You’ll be mounted at the beginning of the game for faster travel speed as you head to the middle of your chosen lane to begin your lane pushing. As soon as you attack or are attacked, you will be autodismounted. If you need to get somewhere quickly, you can remount using the Z key which may be necessary to get to an objective quickly or to join a team fight.

Every wave of minions will have a spellcaster in the middle. When that minion is killed, he drops a regen globe. Grab that every time for not only a quick health boost, but to feed into certain talents that need them to increase mana and health regeneration rates for your character. Also, if you are low on health, click on the fountain behind your defensive gates next to your large turret. It will give you a nice heal over time and a mana refresh. If you a super low on health or mana, hearthstone back to your base (B key) for a full regen in just seconds. If you need to escape quickly from the enemy, look for bushes or mist. Standing in it will make you invisible to the enemy (you’ll see an eyeball icon above your character.) Attacking from this position will reveal you, but is a good way to ambush an unsuspecting enemy.

A few minutes into the game you’ll hit level four and get more talents to choose from. The mechanic unique to the battleground map will probably kick in around this time (kill this, collect that, etc). Just keep pushing your lane, working the map mechanic and try not get caught far away from your teammates. Map mechanics are crucial to winning the game. You won’t get to your enemy’s core first by pushing your lane and killing your enemy. The mechanics give you enormous advantages in your game progression and they’re built in a way that if you don’t use them, your enemy will. Even playing against bots, the AI is smart enough to defeat your team by working those mechanics mercilessly.

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The mid game

When you hit level 10 in the match you get to choose your heroic ability from two options and the mid game kicks in. Everyone’s heroes are now powered up and big team fights can be attempted, but be smart about it. Make sure you have a numbers advantage, all your abilities are off cooldown and you have a quick escape route if the fight turns against you.

You can also all gang up in one large group to push one lane hard towards the enemy core. It’s also a good time to start taking out the mercenary camps scattered around the map. Defeat these neutral NPCs and they will fight for you. They come in various strengths and sizes. Some can be soloed and others require 2-3 players to defeat. It’s important to get them on your side not only for their extra firepower in taking down enemy defenses, but to keep the other team from claiming these powerful NPCs for themselves. The camps will respawn after a short time so be on the look out for them to pop again.

If you find that the other team has the upper hand at this point in the game, recruiting mercenaries is a good way to turn the odds back in your favor. Also banding together to take out enemy champions and making sure you are succeeding at the map mechanics will put you back ahead. If your team is spread out, the enemy team is likely grouped together and picking you off one at a time. All of this requires some amount of communication and teamwork so make sure to use the chat channel, but also the ping button.

Next to your mini map is a crosshairs button. Click on it, then click on the mini map where you are headed or need help. It will ping that area on your teammates’ maps and draw their attention to it. If you hold down the mouse button when you are dropping the ping on the mini map it will give you options for customized ping messages such as NEED HELP or DEFEND HERE. Not everyone pays attention to chat, so use this to coordinate your team.

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The late game

By level 20 you’ve picked your last set of talents and team brawls are more important than ever. Why? Because the respawn timer for defeated players to get back into the game gets longer the later in the game they are killed. If you can take down the entire enemy team in a fight near the end of the game, it can be a full minute before they respawn, which could be all the time you need to make a final push to destroy their core and there is nothing they can do about it but weep bitter, delicious tears.

If you’re losing at this point my advice is the same as in the mid game: band together, work the map mechanics, recruit the mercenaries. If your team is spread out and getting picked off, use the ping button to pick a spot to group up.

When the game is over, you’ll be sent to a screen that shows you how much experience and gold you earned from the match. If you click on the Stats tab, you can see kills, healing, damage, experience and other results from the match for both your team and the enemy team. This screen can also be seen during the match by hitting the tab key.


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The experience you gain applies to both your hero and your account. So your account will get experience for every match you play and the hero you play with will get experience as well. Your account and your hero will unlock rewards as they level up. Stim packs can be purchased for cash from the in-game Store to increase your exp reward.

Congratulations, you’ve finished your first match! Now get back in there and rack up that experience and gold. After all, there is much to buy with enough gold in your pocket.

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