Playing Safe: The Value of Survival

Feb 29, 2016

Say you’ve loaded up Heroes of the Storm a few times, maybe you’ve got a good hang of the talents and map objectives and found a couple of Heroes you like. You understand the basics of how to win the game and you’ve finally got some air under your wings, but you’re still struggling to find an edge. Here’s one simple tip for you: stop dying. It sounds obvious, but it’s perhaps the easiest and quickest way for new players to improve.

Why does survival matter so much? Aside from the plain fact that it gives your opponent a takedown, it also has an impact on soaking experience in lane, getting to objectives on time, or gaining opportunistic advantages. If you die unnecessarily, you could lose an entire wave of experience for your team or open up an opportunity for your opponents to take a free boss. Dying has a lot of repercussions, especially in a team-oriented game like Heroes of the Storm.

When you start thinking about how to survive, you’re going to pay a lot more attention to your positioning. Need to rotate to another lane? It’s probably a good idea to take the safe way around if you don’t know where the rest of the enemy team is. Thinking about moving forward for that juicy kill onto a back line Hero? Think again, and make sure you’re not going to get collapsed on by moving too far forward. There’s a lot of intricacy that goes along with how you position yourself throughout the game, and thinking about survival will help you improve immensely in this area.

Quick tip: if you’re a ranged Assassin, try to always position yourself safely behind a tank.
Quick tip: if you’re a ranged Assassin, try to always position yourself safely behind a tank.

Sometimes you won’t always be able to figure out how to make a certain Hero work or can’t seem to position yourself safely enough. This problem is especially common for squishy ranged Assassins like Valla, Jaina, or Falstad. If you find that you can’t seem to make it work, switch to tankier Heroes! You may find that playing beefy Warriors like Johanna or Muradin suit you better and keep you from dying.

The second thing you’ll start noticing is numbers. Far too often, players will jump into a 2v1 fight thinking they have a numbers advantage only to find out that two opposing players were rotating as well, turning a favorable fight into a unfavorable 2v3. Paying attention to the minimap and keeping in mind where stealthed characters like Zeratul and Nova could be will go a long way toward preventing you and your teammates from overextending. It will also get you thinking about when you want to teamfight. For example, if Zagara is split pushing on the other side of the map and you recognize it’s a 4v5, tell your team to back up and wait for the full group before engaging. Avoiding bad fights with smart decision making will keep your team from throwing leads or digging a hole for themselves.

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Finally, there’s timing. Timing dictates everything in fights. When do you use your Heroic, what time should dive in, when does a fight actually start? For most new players (especially players new to the MOBA genre as a whole), this can be a frustrating brick wall that can lead to a lot of unnecessary deaths. Unfortunately, most of these things can only be learned through experience and iteration, but the most basic way of figuring things out is by thinking about Heroic ability cooldowns.

You can use the “Tab” button to check if your allies have their Heroics up. Don’t engage unless all of your team’s Heroics are up or your opponent wasted all of theirs. You may not be able to count exact cooldowns for enemy Heroics or basic abilities, but the general rule of thumb is: if they just used it, they are vulnerable for a little while until it comes back up. This knowledge comes in handy especially when playing Melee Assassins who need to avoid jumping in too early and getting shredded; instead, they can wait until a few abilities are down and then pounce when their opponents are weak.

Of course, you shouldn’t play overly safe. If you think about aggression as a dial where zero represents completely passive play and ten represents the riskiest choices possible like diving forts, you want to start around a one or two. As you become more comfortable, you can start tuning up the aggression slowly to look for more opportunities. In the end, a balanced approach with safe decision making as well as a bit of aggression is going to be your goal, somewhere around a five or six. This is relatively universal for all games, but placing survival as a priority in Heroes of the Storm in particular will get you quite far and help you improve rapidly on the trail to greatness!

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Chris is an esports aficionado who has followed and written about several different games, including StarCraft II, League of Legends, and Heroes of the Storm. He has served notable time at Team Liquid, among others, in the pursuit of becoming a freelance writer and editor. He’s sometimes been known in the MOBA community as “that feeder” but continues to improve and remains optimistic for the future.
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