Unranked Draft: The New Quick Match?

Jun 18, 2016

Blizzard introduced some huge changes to Heroes of the Storm this week. Along with a revamped ranking system and the newest Hero addition, Warcraft’s Medivh, Blizzard also rolled out the Unranked Draft Mode. This low-stress, semi-competitive game mode is just what the game needed. Thanks to a lot of suggestions, complaints, and concerns about Quick Match over the past two years, we’ve finally got what we’ve been asking for. Or have we?

What’s Wrong with Quick Match?

So maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “Wait, what was wrong with Quick Match?” The short answer is: a lot of things. Originally, it was designed to be a casual game mode for people to quickly jump into and enjoy a quick game, but the extraordinarily loose ruleset has caused many problems.

Who's familiar with the 5 Specialists vs 5 Specialists matchup? From Reddit user /u/Goonie_GooGoo
Who’s familiar with the 5 Specialists vs 5 Specialists matchup? From Reddit user /u/Goonie_GooGoo

First of all, and probably the most obnoxious of all, Quick Match doesn’t match team comps perfectly. It tries to match the compositions of each team, but that doesn’t mean you’ll always get a healer or tank; sometimes one team will get two healers against one! There are a handful of wide parameters that prevent it from making absolutely terrible compositions, but there is absolutely nothing stopping you from queuing into a 4 Assassin/1 Specialist composition. You can get matched with super niche Heroes that would never go together like Abathur/The Lost Vikings or Murky/Nova/Chromie, etc. It’s more painful because sometimes your opponents’ composition will actually almost make sense.

Quick Match also allows duplicate Heroes, so sometimes you’ll run into some really strange mirrors (I have actually had a perfect mirror matchup before). Stuff like two Butchers or two Abathurs creates weird dynamics that just aren’t present in normal gameplay. It also makes it difficult to differentiate between characters sometimes, much to the frustration of players.

As if all that wasn’t enough, Quick Match also tends to group people with wildly different MMRs and skillsets. This may just be a problem with the matchmaking overall, but it is exponentially exacerbated by the randomness of the game mode. Bad players might be trying out a Hero for the first time. Shotcalling may be impossible without a healer. Your entire team may not know how to play their Heroes in the context of horrible compositions. It’s just too chaotic for any sort of stability, especially for lower MMR players.

The Random is a Little Too Much

Dustin Browder has mentioned before that Quick Match is a little bit like the wild, wild west before where anything can happen. That’s cool, but as the only casual game mode, it can get tiring for people just looking for a good time. There have been several times that I’ve queued up a Quick Match and loaded into a game that I knew I was going to lose based purely on the compositions. And that’s no fun.

Luckily, we have Unranked Draft now! Unranked Draft mode allows up to five players to queue together in a Hero League-esque drafting format. Unlike Hero League, there are no restrictions on player or Hero levels, so basically anyone can play. This (somewhat) removes the randomness of compositions by allowing teams to coordinate their picks and put together a coherent composition. They can also ban out some of the stronger Heroes they don’t want to play against. It’s like Hero League without the pressure of ranking up or down—stress-free, casual, but not random.

In theory, all of this sounds great. Unfortunately, it had a bit of a side effect: it’s becoming the new version of Quick Match.

Unranked Draft is Too Casual

Casual gaming is probably the thing that most gamers will admit they hate the most. It’s not because they don’t enjoy having fun or even gaming casually themselves, it’s because “casual” typically associates itself with “bad”.

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Unranked Draft has pulled audiences from both Quick Match and Hero League in a rather unfortunate way. From Quick Match, it pulled the tryhards who didn’t want to play ranked (or were silenced and couldn’t play)—players that get notoriously toxic when things start to go bad. The lower tier of players who don’t feel confident ranking up and down in Hero League also came flocking to Unranked Draft. Coincidentally, it also attracted all of the trolls, including the people who messed up drafts, were high out of their minds, or simply decided they’re playing Gazlowe no matter what the composition, map, or harsh language of their allies.

Via BlizzardWatch.com.
Via BlizzardWatch.com.

The result of these factors is sometimes a melting pot of misery. If you were looking to play and win a casual game of Heroes, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a team that can coordinate well and draft a non-QM composition. Still, it’s better than the alternative.

Quick Match still has its place for people who want to practice mechanics on particular Heroes, but it can still be a huge headache from time to time. Unranked Draft suffers from being a “casual” game mode, but it still has its moments. All in all, I’d have to say that we’re better off having it—at least we don’t have to play Quick Match.

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Christopher Meek
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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