Heroes of the Storm guide: builds, roles, and who to pick

Heroes of the Storm beginner's guide

The hot new (alright, not that new any more) kid on the MOBA block, Heroes of the Storm, is a weird one. By taking out many of the staples that date back to the days of Defense of the Ancients, it’s got a lot for you to learn. That’s why we’re here to help ease beginners into Heroes of the Storm with this super-handy guide. 

Is Heroes of the Storm the game for you? Find out in our guide to the best MOBAs

Heroes of the Storm introduction

First of all: the basics. Unlike other MOBA games, HOTS has a lot of different maps with unique objectives. Every map is united by one prevailing theme: a team of five soak experience from multiple lanes, gain control of objectives, and use said objectives to destroy the enemy’s Nexus at the opposite end of the map.

Every hero in the game is plucked from one of Blizzard's games, like Warcraft and Diablo. The most recent inclusion is the Overwatch universe, and we've suggested which Overwatch characters need to be added to Heroes of the Storm.

Unlike other games in the genre, HOTS’ laning isn’t about killing creatures at the perfect time to gain gold: there’s no money or shop here. Everything comes down to experience, which is shared across a whole team. Rather than having the concept of ‘carries’, every member of the team benefits or loses out when experience is gained or missed.

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For a large chunk of games, your goal is to make sure you’re gaining experience by being near enemy minions when they die, while also looking to destroy structures (as they too grant experience) and kill enemy heroes. 

To constantly soak up that experience you’ve got to work as a team and spread out across the map, but also come together to fight over objectives. To be successful you’ll need to put together a good team comprising the right roles.

Heroes of the Storm roles

There are four basic roles in HOTS: Warrior, Assassin, Support, and Specialist.

Warriors are brutes that can stay in a fight for a long time. Often lacking in damage, they make up for it with huge health pools and abilities that control fights; attacks that may stun, slow, or displace opponents. Having at least one of these is crucial for your team, although many teams will take two.

Assassins, on the other hand, are quite the opposite. They lack health, but have huge damage outputs. Some are ranged, like Valla or Kael’thas, while others are melee, and need to get in the centre of a fight to do their work. You’ll often need two Assassins.

Doing exactly what their name suggests, Supports enable allied heroes to work at their best through healing and abilities that keep them safe. One Support is always needed in a good team, and they’ll usually stick with an Assassin to keep their health pool topped up.

The name for heroes that don’t fit into any of the above categories is Specialists. They can be anything, really. These heroes are often strange or unique in some way, and come with abilities focused on one particular niche. If you’re looking to fill that gap, HOTS’ Specialists can do exactly that.

To really get a grip on what each of these roles do, let’s look at some of the best HOTS heroes for beginners.

Best Heroes of the Storm Warrior: Johanna

HOTS Johanna

Hailing from Diablo, Johanna is pretty easy to get to grips with. She’s got a lot of innate tankiness, her talent builds are all pretty strong, and she can do a little bit of everything. With her abilities Punish and Shield Glare she makes it hard for enemies to get away and can deal lots of damage, while Condemn offers a great way to either kill enemy minions or displace a large chunk of the enemy team during fights.

Her trait is a good Get Out Of Jail Free card: Iron Skin makes her unstoppable (immune to stuns, slows, and so on) and gives Johanna a chunky shield to withstand damage coming her way.

Best Heroes of the Storm Assassin: Valla

HOTS Valla

Also coming straight out of Diablo, Valla is a highly mobile ranged Assassin who can weave spells between her attacks. Similarly to Johanna, Valla can do a little bit of everything. She’s got some high area-of-effect damage with Multishot and her two heroic abilities, and can deal huge amounts of single-target damage thanks to a high base attack damage. She also has a good chance to escape from enemies that get too close with the Vault ability. 

Some assassins are rather immobile and so punish players that can’t find the right way to position themselves in a fight. When you’re learning, Valla’s mobility will be an excellent way to try and learn positioning, without the punishing feeling of being unable to escape if you do make a mistake. 

Best Heroes of the Storm Support: Malfurion

HOTS Malfurion

Moving over to a Warcraft character, Malfurion is a great Support to learn Heroes of the Storm with because, simply, it’s hard to get him wrong. His abilities are all very simple: a point-and-click heal, an area-of-effect damaging ability, an area-of-effect root, and two always-effective heroics. 

Like many other Supports, he has no mobility, but that’s fine because he’s got a pretty huge range which can be increased. When playing Support you’ll often be sat on the back lines of your team, pumping out heals and keeping allies alive. Malfurion makes that job easy.

Best Heroes of the Storm Specialist: Sylvanas

HOTS Sylvanas

The Banshee Queen of Warcraft, Sylvanas is one of the simpler specialists to play, and is often effective without needing to have the skills of a professional StarCraft player. Her unique trait is that her attacks and abilities disable enemy structures and minions. That means they’re prevented from firing for a limited time, making her extremely strong at sieging fortified areas with her allies.

This is a good way to get used to the idea of attacking a point as a team: while you can push down structures on your own, it’s best done as a group. Sylvanas should gently nudge you towards the right mindset: work together in HOTS.

Best Heroes of the Storm talent builds

Every hero in Heroes of the Storm gets new talents at levels one, four, seven, 10, 13, 16, and 20. Talents augment existing abilities and offer new ones for heroes to use.

It would be impossible for us to go through every single HOTS talent build right here, so instead we’re going to help you understand and create your own builds.

First of all, let’s go through a couple of the recurring talents:

Cleanse

Most supports have the opportunity to take Cleanse at level seven. It allows them to make a targeted ally unstoppable, removing all current negative effects on them. This is a good example of where you’ll have to make a decision based on the flow of the game: are your allies often being stunned, slowed, or rooted, and dying as a result? Or are enemy heroic abilities, the ‘ultimates’ gained at level 10, going to focus on locking down your allies with stuns very soon? 

Talent builds will never accommodate all scenarios, and Cleanse is a good example of where you’ll need to think on your feet with HOTS talents. If you’ve got the fear for those negative effects, take Cleanse. 

Bolt of the Storm

One of the talents available at level 20 for some heroes, Bolt of the Storm allows the hero to teleport to a nearby location. It can be a useful escape against enemies that like to jump in your face, a way to engage in a teamfight, or simply reposition around the opponent.

The question is: do you need that mobility? Often the answer is yes; being mobile offers so many more opportunities to survive fights that were otherwise lost, or a way to punish enemies who are out of position. But again, you need to consider your opponent: what will their level 20 choices be? Will you be the focus of teamfights, and will that ability to teleport help you do your job better?

What you may have noticed is that a key part of talent builds in Heroes of the Storm is reacting to what your opponent can and will do. Some heroes make up the primary portion of a team, so if you can deny them from dealing huge damage it’s important to do so. As a basic example, if the enemy have multiple spellcasters and you’re playing Valla, the level 13 talent Gloom will make you just that bit harder to kill.

HOTS Valla Gloom

When you’re not responding to the opponent, there’s a couple of ways to go into creating a talent build. The first is through websites like HOTS logs, a site which collates data from thousands of Heroes of the Storm games. There you can check out what other people are doing, and see how well it performs. 

This is a good way to see what other players are considering the ‘best’ Heroes of the Storm builds to be, but it’s certainly not foolproof: like any hero talent guide, it doesn’t account for all situations. You’ve got to adapt. On top of that, if you don’t understand why a talent is chosen over others, you may not use it to its full potential.

So instead, the first thing to do is experiment. Either on your own in practice games, or in quick matches if you’re feeling confident, experimentation is how you understand. Try out new things, work out how talents can interact, and so on.

If you are looking for safe ways to build your hero, though, a reasonably effective way to do so is by taking talents that augment a key ability. For example, there’s three build paths Valla players typically take: one makes her Hungering Arrow stronger, another makes Multishot better, and a third makes her basic attacks hit harder and faster. Each of these build paths work well, but the key is to take all of the possible talents for that one ability. Put as many eggs as you can into that one basket. This is usually effective because it specialises the hero in one area, so they’re less of a jack of all trades, master of none. 

Perhaps the greatest tip we can give you is this: just try new things out. Heroes of the Storm rewards players who don’t stick to the same build their favourite pro player always uses. Sometimes new things won’t work, but sometimes they will. Keep our tips in mind when learning the game, but remember that it’s great to try something new. You’ll never learn everything from a guide, so be open to experimentation.

What heroes did you learn the game with? Share some of your tips on them below!

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Fraser Brown avatarDog Pants avatarHairy Potato avatarTsunamiWombat avatar[5punk]Anery avatarWan Yao avatar+1
Dog Pants Avatar
1388
2 Years ago

Valla was my first purchase because she clicked straight away. Same goes for several of my friends. She's flexible and her tactics are fairly apparent. My other instant purchase was Rehgar, who clicked immediately with me as a player of Shaman in World of Warcraft.

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It's interesting to hear about the Diablo III characters playing like their counterparts. I've not played it past the demo (sorry, starter edition), but it makes me wonder if it's a good idea to start with a character you're familiar with from other games.

2
cpt.fantastic Avatar
180
1 Year ago

Problem with these guides is that they pop up in google searches but are severely outdated.

2
Fraser Brown Avatar
957
2 Years ago

I am all about Valla. I didn't "get" her until I started playing as a Demon Hunter in Diablo III. When I started playing her again, things just suddenly clicked.

1
Hairy Potato Avatar
10
2 Years ago

I wouldn't put Abathur on the list of chars for beginners. Maybe Azmodan or Zagarra with their easy lane pushing abilities.

1
[5punk]Anery Avatar
31
2 Years ago

I couldn't agree more, I've been playing since December and I still can't wrangle an Abathur effectively. Gazlowe or Sylvanas are easier picks for beginners I think.

I'd also replace Sonya with somebody a bit more of a traditional tank, Sonya can get you into trouble real quick, perhaps a Diablo or ETC?

1
TsunamiWombat Avatar
601
2 Years ago

Having played this game at two periods during beta, I can sincerly say that it is incredibly... mediocre.

Really, builds? Builds for a game with no items to buy? For what purpose?

0
Wan Yao Avatar
2
1 Year ago

Gods forbid it's ***gasp*** it's different. It doesn't have an item shop o r individual, nope. These are elements that make it UNIQUE.

However, people like you would prefer it was just a clone of DOTA or LoL... Making everything identical? How... mediocre.

If you want mechanics like an item shop, last hitting and individual XP, DOTA and League are out there and waiting for you. Stop strive for mediocrity and leave Heroes alone to do its own unique thing.

2