Know Your Heroes: ‘Heroes of the Storm’ Primer

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Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment
Photo courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

With Blizzard’s second annual Heroes of the Dorm tournament getting started, it is time to brush up on your Heroes of the Storm knowledge. When Tassadar throws up a force wall or a team drafts Murky (of all the characters), you will understand why the commentators are going crazy. Doesn’t make sense? No worries, I’ve got you covered.

Heroes of the Storm is Blizzard’s immensely popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game. Released in June of 2015, it became an overnight sensation, combining the action packed MOBA gaming style with heroes and villains from Blizzard’s three main titles: StarCraft, Diablo, and World of Warcraft. Even the maps the games are played on are based on aspects of those three games.

Each game lasts around twenty minutes and starts with the two teams doing a draft of their characters. The teams that play this competitively have strategies for each map and each selection of characters the opposing team makes. A difference between competitive and casual gaming is the banning of certain characters. A team can choose to ban a character they think would be dangerous to them or they know is a strong point for their opponent. Each team gets two bans during the draft.

There are four types of characters that can be drafted. Each plays a specific role and a successful team knows how to balance these for each game.

Assassins: As the name suggests, these characters do heavy amounts of damage around the board. They tend to be more susceptible to attack, though, so they can be killed off quite easily. The assassins in Heroes of the Storm include Li-Ming, Illidan, Greymane, Nova, Jaina, Lunara, Kael’thas, and Zeratul.

Warriors: These characters are strong and tough, able to withstand far more damage than an assassin. They can protect their allies by stunning or blocking the enemy and take the attacks that could kill others. The warriors are Arthas, Johanna, Diablo, Epic Tauren Chieftain (ETC), Leoric, Stitches, and Sonya.

Support: The support characters are tasked with keeping their team alive. These can be healers or characters with shields and buffs. Among the support are Tassadar, Tyrande, Brightwing, and Lt. Morales.

Specialists: These characters have varied roles that do not fit into the other three categories. The right choice can shift the flow of a game entirely. These characters can be seen as wild cards that typically play into very specific strategies. Some of the specialists include Murky, Azmodan, Sgt. Hammer, and the Lost Vikings.

And to just throw one more twist in, there is a character called Cho’Gall that is both a warrior and an assassin. While he is one character (with two heads), he is controlled by two separate players. It’s one less body on the map but can be a game changer depending on the way the team uses him.

As the game goes along, the teams level up in experience together. At certain levels, new abilities unlock. The choice of ability for each character can change the way the player uses them on the map. Last year when runners-up Arizona State University played Tassadar as their support character, they shocked the game’s meta by choosing his ability Force Wall instead of Archon. It had rarely been seen in competitive Heroes before then and now is considered standard, at least in North American play.

While watching the tournament, certain characters show up again and again in the draft. It isn’t surprising to see Jaina or Lunara or Brightwing. But the moment a character like Murky is picked, expect shock from the commentators. It is always exciting to see something new and different, and Heroes of the Dorm promises to deliver. With college students behind the characters instead of professional gamers, they are more likely to try things that are unheard-of in other tournaments.

This year, Heroes of the Dorm is getting far more coverage than it did last. All rounds will be available to watch on Twitch, YouTube, and ESPN streaming. Most importantly, with the success of last year’s finals broadcast, ESPN is expanding its coverage. Both the Heroic 4 round, as well as the Finals (held this year in Seattle, WA), will be live on ESPN2 this year. New characters, new maps, and new teams promise that this year will be even more exciting for the players and the spectators alike.

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