You’ve been grinding Hero League for a week, to no avail. Game after game crawls by, blurring together in a slideshow of disappointment and regret: if only your teammates knew how to lane, if only that shmuck hadn’t first-picked Nova (replete with Triple Tap)—if only you had done better on your placement games nine months ago when you’d first started this gloriously frustrating endeavor.
We’ve all been there.
Reaching rank 5 only to have a bad month and find yourself back at rank 33, with nothing to show for it, can be incredibly demoralizing. Then the desperation sets in: what’s to be done? You spend your free time frantically gathering hero guides and hoarding min/maxed builds—you watch professional recaps on your phone while cooking dinner, and create elaborate spreadsheets that adorn the walls of your room. You’re a pro with multiple heroes, can fulfill any role comfortably, and yet cannot seem to catch a break.
Enter some age-old wisdom. We’re all familiar with the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none”. Indeed, this fits gaming quite nicely. We all know that one person in our MMO’s guild who’s constantly leveling alts, yet struggles to keep up on raid night. In Hearthstone, it’s easy to fill your deck roster with sub-optimal—yet fun—thrills, and never make it past rank 17. In Heroes of the Storm, however, it begets us to finish the sentence: “Jack of all trades, master of none; yet better still than a master of one”.
Simply put: branch out from your comfort zone. This is one of the easiest ways to become a better player. Other than working on your mechanical skills (unlocking the camera and disabling point-and-click casting being great places to start), increasing your familiarity with heroes you don’t normally play will give you an advantage that is essential to climbing the ladder. “But Noah” I hear you ask, “If you play enough games, surely you’ll learn all you need to know about the other heroes in the game.” To that I say, “Not really”. Yes, you’ll eventually figure out what their kits are, and you might even pick up on some of their weaknesses, but nothing compares to getting inside a heroes head and seeing what makes them tick. If Assassins are your go-to role and you struggle with taking down the enemy team’s Lt. Morales (pro-tip: don’t “focus medic”, that’s a great way to get yourself stun-locked and melted faster than a forgotten Hot Pocket)
Play a couple games as the consummate healer and keep an open mind. What situations are you most comfortable with? What do you find frustrating? Once you know these two things you can take your gameplay to the next level. Getting inside your opponents head is a vitally important skill in competitive gaming, from chess to Age of Mythology and everything in between. If you know that, as Lt. Morales, AoE damage keeps you on your toes, maybe try applying more pressure before big teamfights. If you know how difficult her skillshot is to land, you’ll be better at avoiding it when you’re on the other side of that grenade blast.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to go out and buy every hero in the game. Merely capitalize on a system that’s already there: the weekly free hero rotation. At the minimum, try and get a couple levels on heroes you don’t own. Be aware. By diversifying your hero portfolio, you become a better-rounded player, and better equipped to deal with whatever the draft might throw at you. Even if your teammate first-picks Nova, at least you’ll be able to appreciate just how terrible Triple Tap truly is.