Heroes of the Storm: Tips and tricks for beginners at Blizzard's MOBA

Admittedly, the other players in Heroes of the Storm may not be as newbie-friendly as this tip guide, but we'll cover them later. For now, rest assured that the learning curve on Blizzard's new MOBA game isn't as steep as it is for League of Legends or DotA. I'm not a pro or anything, but I've been puzzling through entry-level play; here's what you need to know to get in on the ground floor. After you've installed the game (it's free!) and completed the tutorial, turn to these tips for guidance regarding character selection, talent trees, and online etiquette.

Calm your road rage

Although the causes of bad behavior in faceless spaces like online gaming (and traffic navigation) are a multi-factorial problem, you probably won't have time to consider the nuances of the situation when your teammates mid-brawl. Most HotS guides will stress that you should play only with your friends in order to avoid bad behavior, but if you're like me, you play at odd hours that your friends' schedules may not accommodate. HotS allows you to turn off chat functionality entirely if you'd prefer not to be pressured by strangers' instructions; the body language of your teammates will make it clear which part of the map you should attend to. Plus, pressing "G" will create a ping at your location on their mini-map, and pressing "V" will ping your allies to retreat. No mic? No problem.

Choose your character

After completing the tutorial in full, you'll have earned enough gold to "buy" one of a few available characters; you can also spend real money if you'd like to try out more than one hero. You may want to continue playing as Jim Raynor, the drawling space marine that the tutorial foists upon you. If you'd rather a slight change of pace, I found demon-hunter Valla from Diablo 3 to be a worthy choice for my first forays into online skirmishes; she's relatively easy to learn, and she's still powerful enough to find her way onto many a Tier 1 list. Both Raynor and Valla are "Assassin" types, and since you've just beaten the tutorial in the play-style, I'd recommend you stick with that class at the outset.

Diversify your portfolio

Just like in fighting games, the massive roster in Heroes of the Storm and other MOBA games may feel intimidating — but it's important that you try out as many different types of characters and classes as you can. Once you've mastered the Assassin class, try playing as a tank or a healer. Leave the "Specialist" class for last, since that's where Blizzard put all the quirkiest and trickiest folks whose abilities didn't quite fit into the other three categories.

Chase objectives, not kills

Killing the heroes on the other team seems like the big sparkly target that you should run up against, but it's not, especially at a match's start. For the first half of the game, keep your eyes on the mini-map and queue up alongside your teammates to destroy the other team's walls, towers, and structures. Each set of structures falls on a pathway referred to as a "lane," and in the early game, you won't need your entire team beside you in order to take down each of these lanes. This is an online multiplayer game, so people will want to play the solo hero and go it alone against the other team's heroes, but they can't win that way — they'll need your help, and destroying smaller structures side-by-side in the early game is the best way to rack up experience points.

Climb up that the talent tree

Once you find a character you truly love, you can start the process of googling to find out which of the skills on the talent tree are considered to be the "best" build according to that character's stats. Allow me to be the only person who will tell you: don't listen to any of that, at least not while you're still in the "beginner" phase. Many of the talents on the tree will vary in effectiveness according to your play style, which means there often is no perfect way to select skills. Just as with characters, you might have more luck trying these out on your own.

Hip-checking

Navigating battles in Heroes of the Storm relies as much on spacial awareness and clever retreating strategies as it does on pressing the right attack buttons at the right time. Some pathways on the battlefield lead down dead ends and tricky corners, and your enemies will take advantage of that, especially big tanks characters who can block you in, beat you up, and make sure you don't have the chance to write home about it. I call this "hip-checking." To avoid it, get to know your surroundings as you play each of the few available maps, and use your dash moves to get out of tight squeezes.

Turn around and arrow 'em

When you're in the midst of a retreat towards a health fountain (press "Z" to hop on your mount and go faster), or even zipping back to home-base (press "B"), take a quick glance at your health bar. As you play, you'll learn when you have enough juice left that you can afford to turn around and fire a few final shots, especially if your oncoming opponent turns out to be just as low on health as you are. If you're playing as a ranged character, it's always worth firing an arrow or two over your shoulder on your way out the door; you might get lucky and bring down the final blow that earns you an unexpected experience burst.

Other advice for newbies?

Which tricks did you wish you'd learned about when you were first starting out in Heroes of the Storm? What was your starting character and class?