Understanding the Draft Article 2, The Beginning of Roles and the Standard Draft
There is a basic template for professional drafting in Heroes of the Storm. Not all compositions follow the template, but they tend to deviate from it for highly specific reasons that still fill the same ideas. Alternative compositions will be covered in an upcoming guide, though drafting in Heroes of the Storm is diverse enough that we could never hope to cover all potentially viable compositions.
The basic template is as follows: Tank, Healer, Bruiser, Ranged Damage. The last pick is considered “flex” and is about the map, synergizing with your own composition, countering the enemy composition, or making up for a specific deficiency that your team lacks.
Before we get into more detail, a caveat about all drafting: it doesn’t matter how good a pick is if you can’t play it well. So pay attention to the roles needed in a draft, absolutely, but don’t pick the perfect tank you do not personally know how to play over the fourth or fifth best tank that you have 100+ games on. The difference between those two extremes can be an effective performance level of 2k MMR. Which is massive. The right pick is only good if you’re good at it.
Credit to ghostDunk; you can see his full work here.
What the tank does, in essence, is control space for the team. Your tank manages the enemy team so your team can manage the map and do your jobs unimpeded. This involves a lot of fine points that easily deserve a guide unto itself, but the essence is controlling space, vision, and limiting the possible actions of the enemy team.
Healer is arguably the most essential role in the entire game. The difference in map efficiency alone, even forgetting team fighting, between having a healer versus not is enormous. Healers enable the team to be consistently active on the map, pushing potential advantages, and being present to punish mistakes. Or save their own team from mistakes.
The bruiser’s job is composition dependent but comes down the same basic idea. Your bruiser is either the Flanker or the Anti-Flanker. The Tank must be in the front of the fight, managing the larger space. The bruiser either deals with threats from the sides, flanks, or is the hero that goes in to punish splitting or over extensions by the enemy team. Ever since the scaling changes damage is too high on squishy targets to deal with heavy flanks and a tank cannot be in three places at once, which is often the minimum needed in the absence of a good bruiser to manage the edges of your team’s space. Bruisers make up for that. This is the primary reason so many tanks can also be bruisers and why double bruiser and double tank compositions are so incredibly strong at a high level of play, which is why it is almost always acceptable to draft another tank as your bruiser so long as your team’s damage is otherwise strong enough.
Note the two part classification. The hero must be ranged and must have either very high sustained damage or heavy burst. Ranged damage dealers prevent you from clumping while still being able to focus fire. They offer poke. They allow you to come back from behind by enabling defense from a safe area, like behind your own towers and gates. They give you flexibility in engagement, since an all melee composition would always just need to dive in. Ranged damage allows the rest of your team to dance with the other team, jockeying for better engagements and positions, just by being on the map and providing a threat. There is an important consideration here of Sustained vs Burst damage, which will be addressed in a future guide.
As mentioned, flex heroes can be any hero, but there are certain common compositions where the flex is the essential pick. Tassadar, for instance, is always a flex pick, as is Abathur. It is important make note of heroes who can only flex, because they lack the tools to do any of the above roles. That’s not to say they lack tools to help you win the game, just that you must make sure the other roles are always filled and occasionally build around them. Note this means that once a hero who can only be a flex is picked, as opposed to a more standard hero, your team is in a situation where the overall draft is much less flexible than it was.
There are actually a number of additional roles you can use to further break down the draft by hero, which can be very helpful when deciding what to draft. This list is not exhaustive, there are more potential roles, but it does encompass the most critical in standard drafts. I encourage people to come up with their own subroles and classifications. The more granularity you have in understanding what a hero can do the better your drafting will become. In addition to the above, the heroes you choose must be able to cover other areas, such as those listed below, but potentially among others.
Even on two lane maps where wave clear is the least important it is ever going to be, you always need a certain amount of wave clear. Ideally you will have 1 wave clear hero minimum who is not your solo laner and you won’t allow the difference in wave clear heroes to be greater than 1. Which is to say if the enemy team has 3 wave clear heroes, Xul, Gul’dan, and Johanna say, you will have a minimum of 2 wave clear heroes in your own composition. This is an area that the damage guide will go more into, but for an example of how one sided wave clear can make a game you can see my analysis of Team8 vs Naventic on Infernal Shrines from NA HGC.
Some maps require a hero who can efficiently solo mercenary camps, the top one being Blackheart’s Bay, but nearly every map benefits from having a hero who can quickly solo a mercenary camp right before an objective. Cursed Hollow, Sky Temple, Garden of Terror, Warhead Junction, Battlefield of Eternity, etc. all have timed objectives where split pushing mercenary camps will get a lot of value. This list changes quite a bit when considering talents and levels, for instance The Butcher can solo bosses when fully stacked, but generally soloing camps is an early game consideration more than anything so heroes who can do it late game aren’t a draft consideration. A few were left off because while they are possible, they are difficult or require unusual talent choices, or can do it only in a technical sense and not in a time efficient sense.
Of particular interest on Dragon Shire, Tomb of the Spider Queen, and Braxis Holdout. The solo laner stays in their lane and manages the lane. While nearly every map will have a lane that is being managed by one hero simply due to rotational distance, on some maps this is a 1v1 match that will continue for the entire first half of the game. It isn’t at all unusual to for a Braxis Holdout match for the solo lane to extend all the way to level 13 for instance and on Dragon Shire it frequently goes until the top forts are both gone. Solo laning is a complicated subject that I have a weekly show on, but for now remember to consider it in the draft on maps with split objectives or where the objective is in lane in particular.