Monday, June 13, 2011

5 Easy Ways to Lose a Game of HoN

If you notice any constellation between this post and my previous one, it may be because I've been spending a lot of time playing HoN with groups of people who are new to the game. In many days of teaching HoN to people, I've found that while it can be productive for new players to observe higher tier players, it's equally important for the teacher to observe the student. Simply put, many veteran HoN players seem to forget that there isn't some magical school that teaches new HoN players important rules that, when ignored, can cost you a game faster than you would believe. To these neglected new players, I present to you my Top 5 ways to lose a game of HoN:

5. Run a Double Melee Lane

For a rule that many people seem is a given, the infamous double melee lane is a phenomenon that is anything but extinct in lower level play. To a veteran player, the implications are clear: not having at least one ranged hero in the lane is a one way ticket to not getting any last hits, any denies, and in many cases, any experience. When sitting in the hero selection screen, it helps to count all melee heroes picked or prepicked. If the number is three, then you must make sure that one of them is headed for the middle lane. If the number is larger than three, something needs to be changed.

4. Play Passively in the Laning Phase

The Laning Phase's importance to the game depends how long the game goes on. In most cases, however, games rarely exceed 60 minutes, making the laning phase extremely important. The error that many players make is that they rely too much on the hero in the middle lane to assist them in ganking. While it is true that the middle hero should collect runes and gank the lanes whenever possible, many heroes that run the middle lane are simply not able to find the time to gank all the time. Often players won't take this into account and expect the player in the middle lane to solve all their problems. In reality, however, much of the blame can be put in the lane that failed. Players who are new to the game will find it difficult to harass and initiate local ganks in the lane. Harassing, pulling, initiating and 'AI-pulling' (right clicking an enemy hero and then running back to pull the creepwave back towards you) are all extremely important things to learn and apply in the laning phase. Learning when to initiate within the lane requires communication and timing, which, while I wish I could sum up in a few sentences, requires practice more than anything to master.

3. Dick Around

Although the term might seem crude, dicking around is a very serious issue which plagues lower level play. It helps to think of every creep in the lane as potential experience and money. When nobody occupies a lane, this experience and money is essentially being thrown into the trash. More times than I can count have I seen lower level players perplexed at how the enemy heroes have accumulated so much experience and so many items. Simply put: they spend more time in the lane and less time between lanes. Of course, depending on what kind of hero you are playing, being between the lanes might work to your advantage. Running between the lanes when it doesn't benefit you, however, is something else. As the famous saying goes, "time is money" and every second you spend treading between lanes is money lost.

2. Have a nonsensical Hero Lineup

Tying into point number 5, the correct hero composition is the key to any game's success. Contrary to popular belief, a good hero composition can make a large difference in any tier of play. When I started playing DotA a long time ago, my friends would often make some sweeping generalizations when trying to define roles and compositions, and I would often hear stuff like "we need more stuns". As time went on, however, I realized that although it's important to get a diverse group of hero roles on your team, "Stuns" are somewhat of a miracle mechanic. Any ability that stuns you also immobilizes, silences, disarms and perplexes you, a mixture of disable which often goes under-appreciated. The point I'm trying to make here is that in addition to getting a diverse mixture of roles (friendly reminder that "Tank" is not a role) and a lineup that doesn't have a double melee lane, one should always count the amount of easy to land/area of effect stuns your team has. Additionally, you should also think about what two heroes will lane together, but that's a story for another time.

1. Don't buy a Courier and Wards at Level 1

The easiest way to lose any HoN game, of course, is to not buy a courier and wards at level one. For any higher level game, this goes without saying, but for lower level play, it remains an issue forever unsolved. Wards and a Courier at level one are, in fact, the most crucial building blocks to winning any game. The chain reaction which ensues when this criteria is not met often goes unnoticed. Without a courier, the middle lane cannot send a Bottle (friendly reminder that you should never buy a Bottle at level one), without Wards the middle lane cannot compete for runes. Without runes, the middle lane cannot fill his bottle, and without a filled bottle the middle lane cannot gank the sidelanes. Without ganks to the sidelanes, the sidelanes are susceptible to failure (not to mention the middle lane which is basically guaranteed to fail). Like the Keel of a boat, without Wards and a Courier straight out of the gate, your ship is destined to sink. The tragic aspect of this is, as already stated, that the connection between the cause and effect often go unnoticed and the hero in mid is often given the blame.

You may notice that most of the things I have listed all stem from decisions made at the beginning of the game. The hard truth about Heroes of Newerth is that you can often (and very easily) dig your own grave before you even kill your first creep. Without the right hero composition, you will lack proper lanes and proper Support. Without proper Support, you will have players who feel no obligation to buy Wards of a Courier and lanes that are destined to fail. Without these things, games simply cannot be won in a game of equally matched skill.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Top 5 Worst Pub Heroes (That you need to stop Picking)

These days, it seems like the only mode you can get away with in Matchmaking is Single Draft, which although I have advocated in the past as a good map for people learning the game, isn't very versatile. In lieu of not being able to see what Heroes your enemies are picking, as well as having a relatively restricted choice of Heroes yourself, playing Solo Matchmaking in Single Draft can always be a chore of trying to persuade your teammates to pick Heroes that actually fit into your team's makeup. For many players, such as myself, this exercise can be tiring to say the least, as players will often be hesitant to abandon their premeditated desires to play Heroes that won't help your team at all (or just ignore you completely).

So without further ado, here is my (not entirely serious) top 5 list of Heroes that you need to stop picking because it's making me sad (excluding Scout, which, honestly, I have not seen a lot of lately). Note that this list has nothing to do with Balance, but is really just Heroes that typical 1500-1600 players can't seem to get to grips with. Here we go!

#5 Pandamonium

Ever since Pandamonium has sprung into existance, a lot of people have been confused to his role. At first glance he almost seems like some sort of Melee-Physical based ganker, similar to Fayde. His small Mana pool and two scaling abilities, however, tell a much different story: that of some sort of carry/disabler hybrid. What's safe to say about Pandamonium is this: You probably don't know what you're doing. For real.

Pandamonium demands an extremely aggressive laning phase, during which he will need to rush Ghost Marchers and synergize with his ranged counterpart. Because it is the nature of most pub players to play passively in the lane and not communicate with their partner, this (ever so important) aggression is often non existent. Pandamonium also requires a (very) good farm, meaning it wouldn't hurt to last hit every single creep in the lane, something most players aren't capable of due to his low base damage. Mix this in with Canonball, a skill that is seemingly impossible to land (based on my observations) and you have a recipe for disaster.

#4 Electrician

Another Strength Hero with a difficult to define role for many people, Electrician's appeal to pub players remains a mystery to me. After all, most pub players thrive on heroes that have high damage nukes and long range spells which allow them to score last hits. It seems, however, that somewhere at the other end of the spectrum, these melee strength heroes with extremely obscure roles are somehow appealing. In any case, Electrician is, at least to me, known as being a hero that is extremely easy to screw up.

First and foremost, playing Electrician in the middle lane requires extensive practice and knowledge of what you are doing. When playing against ranged heroes with high base auto attack damage, it's easy to get shut down quickly. In the side lanes, Electrician must often play aggressively, gripping players at key opportune moments in which they over extend themselves. Since you can often bet your life that an inexperienced player will not be doing these things, Electrician will often come with a one way ticket to being useless later in the game.

#3 Gladiator

Another Melee-strength hero, Gladiator is known as being a difficult hero to play. This, however, does not seem to stop people from wanting to play him. Probably due to videos like this one, Gladiator remains a hot topic in lower level games and will often be picked over that Support character your team actually needs.

Gladiator's Achilles' heel is, of course, the fact that Pitfall, his main source of damage and crowd control, is a skillshot. Despite the fact that Gladiator has a skill (Showdown) which actually remedies this skill into a guaranteed-stun is little comfort to people who believe that this only makes it even harder to land because you have to press more buttons. Mix these faults together with an ultimate that is possibly even easier to miss, and it's not difficult to see why most 1600 games with Gladiator are loosely defined as a 4v5.

#2 Magebane

Second place, of course, has to be awarded to Magebane, or SDBane as I like to call him, for it seems his irresistibility knows no bounds. Magebane is a hero that sees little use in competitive play as is often regarded as an underpowered hero as is. Regardless of what you think of Magebane however, what can be established is that in the hands of incompetent player he is better suited as a paperweight.

What draws players to Magebane is relatively clear: his escape mechanism is almost unparalleled. The only thing more appealing to pub players than huge long range nukes is an easy to use escape mechanism which ensures longevity. This longevity, however, is often cut short when players realize that any competent disabler hero will easily shut them down without a Shrunken Head. Magebane also comes with an inherent inability to farm, automatically crippling any chances a typical pub player will have for accumulating core items.

#1 Flint Beastwood

The winner of this contest, however, has to go to our good pal Flint Beastwood. Since the dawn of Scout, people have been wishing and praying for a hero that could provide the same kill stealing potency coupled with a longer range. Their prayers were answered, unfortunately, in the form of a hero almost designed for overcompensating novice players. Flint is basically a pub player's dream- long range (the longest range in the game, to be exact), only two activated abilities (both of which require little to no aiming skills) and, of course, the ability to steal kills. Flint Beastwood deserves a pat on the back for not only replacing Scout, but officially making him obsolete.

Looking at the hero statistics page, it seems like it would take a lot to dethrone Flint. Of course, there's nothing wrong with Flint, and he's actually one of the most handy and all purpose ranged semi-carries in the game. So how to pubs manage to fail so hard? Well, with Flint, there aren't as many striking faults as there are subtle ones. Firstly, players will always pick Flint and demand mid, regardless of their team's proposed lineup. Secondly, most Flint Beastwood players that arrive fresh into the 1600-1700 bracket will have unrealistic expectations of how their lane will work. Somewhere deep down in MMR hell, Flint Beastwood players must be allowed to farm mid undisturbed for the better portion of 50 minutes, because the Flint Beastwood players I have encountered in my solo Matchmaking games seem to be completely overwhelmed with the idea of an enemy hero who will actually attack them in the lane (a special thank you and pat on the back to all Devourer players out there). Indeed, Flint has become the new staple of low MMR games everywhere, and I don't see this changing in the near future, unless S2 creates a hero with 2000 range and free level 5 Codex.