The most important part of learning is failing. You cannot go through life and expect to get better at something without failing; it’s simply the trial and error process that’s part of our genetic makeup. Of course, it’s only “learning” if we actually take the data we got from our failures and apply it toward improvement. In theory, if we found and corrected all of our mistakes immediately—if we only ever messed up once—we would learn at an unbelievable pace.
Unfortunately, we’re not perfect. Humans are prone to error by execution or forgetfulness. That’s why practice is incredibly repetitive: the more we repeat our mistakes, the stronger that trigger that says, “Hey, remember to ____!” becomes. Heroes of the Storm is no different. Whether or not we’re playing super serious tryhard mode or just casually gaming on a Saturday morning, we’re still practicing in a loose sense. We’re still learning from our mistakes and improving at the game.
Getting Into the Right Mindset
I’m sure this is probably the billionth time you’ve heard this phrase, but it’s an important concept. Starting off with the proper mindset will increase your performance in anything you do. A runner visualizes the finish line, imagining the circumstances in which he pushes himself harder than ever to break away from the pack and cross the line first—all before he ever takes the first step of the race. A musician sits down to practice with a plan already in mind and knows that when he stands back up, he will be a better musician than before. In a strange way, believing is the first step to achieving.
You need to understand that there is no actual limit to your improvement. Does that mean you’ll become rich with enough practice? Probably not. If you’re an adult playing on weekends when you have free time, you’re certainly not going to be the greatest player on earth. Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you’ve reached your own individual cap—the absolute best that you can achieve. There are always little optimizations and small things that you can work on. Those little things, though they may seem inconsequential, will add up to a definite improvement.
This understanding is both empowering and humbling at the same time. It means that, while you can plateau at times, you always have the potential to get better. Likewise, for players who think they know it all and are very confident in their skill, it forces them to stand back and take a sober look at things they could improve on. Knowing that you will make mistakes means that there are still more opportunities to learn. There is no end to what you can achieve, and there is no end point to your progress. You can pass one finish line, but you’ll just have another one waiting for you down the road.
Mentally Preparing For the Match
For Heroes of the Storm, preparation lies primarily in understanding how the map works and your role on the team. Before the game even begins, think about where you fit into the team’s compositions, what you should be doing in team fights, whether you should be getting mercenary camps, etc. Without reference to your team or the map, you are basically playing a 1-player game, and your results will feel random.
For instance, say you’re playing Illidan. In a team composition with double Support and tons of backup peel from your tank, you are 100% fine to just dive the back line of the enemy team and go to town, especially if they don’t have a lot of CC. On the other hand, if you have Illidan in a double tank composition with only one healer, you need to think a bit more carefully about how you want to engage. You may even go for a flank during teamfights instead of engaging directly. Even thinking about small stuff like, “When the enemy team engages on our tank in a teamfight, I will dive the back line immediately to cause disruption,” will help your team win fights and increase your chances of success.
The map also has a lot to do with how you play. If you’re on a map like Blackheart’s Bay—and you know Illidan is great at doing camps—you should be looking to split off from your team and just merc in the early to mid game in order to collect coins and create map pressure. Thinking about this before the match even starts will get you in the right mode so that the decision is automatic when the time comes.
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When you don’t mentally prepare for the match or evaluate your win conditions, it’s much harder to pinpoint problems in your gameplay as well as the gameplay of others. Results of the match will seem a lot more random. You think, “Well, I was diving their back line constantly as Illidan and getting some kills, so I was doing my job correctly.” Therefore, since you can’t find any problems with the way that you played, the blame must logically rest on your allies or the composition. On the other hand, if you can identify that diving the back line recklessly with a solo Support is dangerous and not part of your win condition, it’s much easier to unravel the pieces and understand why you weren’t getting enough support and why the team ultimately lost.
Thinking about your role and where you fit into the team not only guarantees a higher chance of winning, it also expands your opportunities to learn and improves your chances of winning future games even more.
Properly Identifying and Correcting Your Mistakes
The next step is being able to look clearly at a situation and figure out what’s actually going on. A large portion of this is understanding your role and being brutally honest with yourself about your performance. To be honest, none of that will come quickly. I spent over a decade as a musician honing my self-honesty to a razor point; it might take some even longer to reach a level where they can accurately identify where they messed up without trying to cover it with ego or optimism. Granted, there is a danger of becoming too focused on mistakes, but that’s worthy of its own article. The point here is that you learn to examine problems in your own play as well as others so that you can brainstorm ways to fix them.
You may not know the solution to problems, and that’s okay. Sometimes the Internet gives you easy-win guides, sometimes you have to learn things on your own. The first step in trial and error is to just figure out where you faltered. Sometimes it could be playing the early game badly, sometimes it could be playing out teamfights improperly. It could even be before the game during draft or while you were getting mentally prepared.
This is where it’s vitally important to approach each problem individually. By looking at the state of the game in small chunks, it’s becomes much easier to digest the information present. Once you’ve identified a mistake, think critically about a way to fix it. I encourage you to come up with at least two solutions to every problem so that you don’t get fixed in a one-directional train of thought. From there, it’s just more trial and error. If your solution doesn’t work, try thinking of another. Just like everything else, it’s a process of failing over and over so that you can eventually figure out how to handle things confidently without mistakes or missteps. Eventually, that failure will turn into success.