This is a long post, so if you don't feel like reading there's a TL;DR at the end for you.
I'm writing this out of part boredom and part helpfulness. I've seen many posts complaining about being stuck in MMR hell or that it's some massive struggle if you aren't a Master/GM level that's slumming it down in Bronze/Silver. Here's a bit of a counterpoint to that excuse, I'm a Gold level player, bad at AA assassins and I main tank/support (my two highest played characters are Diablo and Malfurion). So in theory if you go by most complaint posts, I am among the least likely to climb in any reasonable amount of time. Despite this unfortunate handicap, I made a smurf with fresh MMR to see where I'd end up after culling the year of bad play off my match history. I jumped into TL (I only Solo Q'd) as soon as I had the requisite amount of heroes and went 9-1 in placements. I got put into Silver 4. Despite this I got dogged by PRA dropping me my first 20ish post-placement games which tilted me a bit.
After 45 games I had a 71% win rate. After 60 games I had a 68.3% win rate. (you can see my HOTSlog here: https://www.hotslogs.com/Player/Profile?PlayerID=12002649) The game does not care and is going to make it a grind even if you're winning substantially higher than the norm. What this also confirmed to me is that placements are basically meaningless and outside of trying to set a high score, you shouldn't give them any extra weight. I went 9-1 in my first and 8-2 in my 2nd set for this season. I'm not spamming DPS or one tricking or anything weird and I'm not significantly outplaying people, I'm just doing things more efficiently.
Regardless, I write this because you too can be a mechanically disinclined chump and still climb if you're legitimately willing to put effort into the other aspects of the game. Though realistically working on your actual mechanics has the highest reward until the very top levels (and if you watch any high level streams you still see people with trash game knowledge).
Were I to summarize what wins games, I'd break it up into 4 categories. There's bleed over but it feels very distinct the lower you go in this game.
4 main aspects of game:
Awareness – Shot calling / mini-map / what to do next
Positioning – How to move through the map / how you take fights
Mechanical – How well you hit da buttons and respond to things happening
Toxic – How shitty are you being to your teammates
Out of these, I think you need to be good at 2, OK at 1 and can be bad at one and still have a reasonable shot of climbing out without a massive grind or lucky win streak. Also remember this is 'good' in the context of your competition. If your opponents play with the equivalent of their mini-map turned off, then just looking at it some percentage of the time is going to already give you a leg up. My mechanics are marginal and so to compensate I spent a lot more time trying to put myself in situations where I'd die less, soak more and position where it'd be easier to hit my abilities.
Also if being bad at one of these categories was going to sink your team overall, toxic is #1 followed by positioning at #2. Why? Because being toxic generally makes you play worse and it demoralizes the team which can lead (at worst) to people outright throwing or wasting time getting into arguments or at a minimum just ignore your pings and comms. Positioning is the next up because that leads to the biggest number of preventable deaths and also can put your team on uneven footing from the very start of a team fight.
For the most part I think the vast majority of players in Silver are absolutely atrocious at positioning and/or awareness. You'll find many more players that can hit buttons and aim skillshots at a passable level than people with good planning or where to stand if they're a tank or mage. They miss kills for sure, but that's generally true of both sides. Same with supports that in TF generally know where to go, but get ganked making trips to lanes for no reason or stepping way too far out to save somebody that's dying. The vast majority also have no idea when it's a good idea to end, when to take boss or when it's unsafe to be in a given area. The number of times someone gets ganked in lane and people continue to do bruisers right up until they get invaded and killed is ridiculous. It is very easy to get free wins by knowing camp timings and picking heroes who can help complete them quickly to minimize the risk to your random teammates.
Since completing the 2nd round of placements I've ended up with games as a mix of all of the above. One easy loss due to absolutely zero awareness of how to play around the comp we drafted and another where things were effectively even (shots 20-24, even levels and towers on TOD), but because we lost one fight due to a few errors, toxicity exploded and we quickly spiraled as people were too busy typing instead of playing and then started feeding with reckless abandon. I'm guilty of clapping back at times or the always classic, "…Why?" when players 1v3/4/5 feed, though I never tell people to kill themselves or uninstall or anything ridiculous like that.
To sum up though, you shouldn't be doing this, though defending your teammates isn't a bad thing in my mind. Salty guy is either already in a negative mindset and either going to grit and bare with it and still try to win or go AFK in lane anyway. Typically they've already made up their mind. The best defuse chat option I've seen is simply to state basic facts about the game, especially if it's winnable, and what the new plan is. Giving people a goal to focus on is a good way to get them off the soapbox and back on the game itself.
Oh and two secondary things that can help:
Draft – Hero Pool / Being able to play outside a single role
You can know nothing about either of these concepts and climb, but it definitely benefits you to know them.
Heroes I think are great to climb for people with marginal mechanics:
Guldan – I like Guldan over Jaina and KT for lower ranks for the simple reason that he's completely self sufficient, rarely gets banned out and can siege buildings later in the game incredibly quickly. You can basically do whatever you want with Guldan, solo lane, play in the 4 man, double soak, aggro push or whatever. Meanwhile he almost never runs out of mana if you play carefully and his W is shockingly good sustain in the early game and free life the rest of the time. Throw in Consume Souls and Healthstone and you don't need a healer at all. Horrify is also a game changing ultimate that doesn't require a lot of setup to get value from.
Completing his quest before the 16 power spike is easily doable and in the late-game his E damage is ridiculous between the quest and Ruinous Affliction. Plus people are terrible about clumping which means you can often chunk out entire teams at once. Even better is that many players go to the Prometheus school of running away, meaning you get many kills you shouldn't from people getting clipped by multiple hits on the E. Expect many dings early game, and death notifications from players off screen late.
Guldan can be played at a somewhat safe range and really only requires you to hit people with your purple nonsense (that also has a huge hit radius) and spam Q to be effective in term fight. What drags down his winrate are people not taking advantage of the amount of sustain (including not realizing what heroes he can or can't stand up too at levels 1-7), misuse of Horrify and bad talents being taken (AKA: anything besides Hunger for Power).
Johanna – Always go wave clear build, take Blessed Shield and get a good feel for when to pop Iron Skin and you'll be fine. Teams often lack the focus to take down a competent Jo and if her blinds are good then you create so much space for your team to operate in. She can also do a surprising amount of beatdown later between E bonus damage, hammers and just popping your abilities in between autos. She's basically just Diablo minus the kill potential and the requirement to grind for souls. Which is fine for silver, because half the time nobody follows up on your engages with Diablo and you end up dead. Meanwhile Jo can take unsafe engages and often just walk out regardless.
Basically since sustained fights are much more common down here and people tend to use their CC's very aggressively, Jo is one of the best ways to keep your team (and yourself) alive while people heal or reposition.
Li Li – A bit of a sad answer, but let's be real, most people don't want to support (as even the good ones are too scared their teammates will let them down) and she's hard to screw up. The only time you feel useless as Li Li is when your team keeps getting popped by a Kel'thuzad or something and there's not much healers can do about that anyway. Meanwhile unless you position like garbage, you can get out of your own bad situations and live far more often than you should. Jugs is also just a free hero's worth of sustain most of the time.
She's the most commonly seen support down here for a reason and even eats bans because of it. You should always be able to switch to a support for those sad times where nobody else will bite the bullet, but she's also a great way to keep stubborn and dumb teammates alive a lot longer than they should. Blinds, decent healing output and sometimes just killing people with surprise DPS from dragon spam. She embodies the common trope of, "The best thing you can do for your team is stay alive."
FYI- You lose your right to call anyone else out for mistakes and misplays if you are constantly dying with this character.
Raynor – Stutter Step, don't aggressively push lane and get ganked for no reason and position behind your tanks so you get some support now and then. As long as you can stay alive and pop in and out of range you'll basically dominate at this level of play.
Fenix – See Raynor, but trading DPS for an actual escape.
Zagara – Most teams don't know how to respond to a sustained push from Zag and she can bully most heroes in lane. She also does a decent amount of damage on her own and can basically be off doing her own thing even if the team is getting demolished. Yes, she's one of 'those' heroes where AFK split push will sometimes farm an opposing team on it's own. Even if it doesn't just having a hero which is strong at solo lane and the flexibility to be anywhere quickly w/ Nydus makes a big difference. Even with her nerfs she's a super safe option if you ever glance at your minimap, don't over aggro into your lane opp and spam creep everywhere.
FWIW, Malthael is just the better hero choice the majority of the time but down here it's far easier to take advantage of Zag's strengths and stay alive in the process.
Varian – Just Twin Blades and slaughter people. I'm not trolling. I've seen the light on this, as long as you don't 1v5 people are just god awful at dealing with you and the longer fights unfairly benefit Varian between second wind and parry. Just choose your engages with more care than the average QM or UR Varian and let your team know in advance what you plan on doing. Taunt is downright awful without comms and nobody follows up. Meanwhile Smash can be better in some situations, but again, people are bad at following up. Plus you can actually go do camps off on your own within a reasonable time frame.
This is like AA Diablo or Illidan for dummies, but it works too often to just dismiss (as much as I'd like too).
Heroes to avoid if you want to climb:
Genji – For every one Genji that's legit good, there are at least four that are borderline throw picks. Either they over aggro and feed because they have poor target selection or they brag as they get 3-4 kills with no deaths early (wow so impressive with double escape option and deflect) and barely do anything else when the other team can blow him up immediately. The kicker is for the good ones most of the time they're smurfing or very toxic which is the only reason they're even in silver to begin with. You need to either be roaming and ganking constantly or taking advantage of your AA's to justify yourself and most people simply aren't doing that. Here's the common experience- They'll jump into the backline, not secure a kill and then get out (sometimes) after dealing maybe half a health bar and be useless for the remainder of the fight.
Let me repeat that for the champios in the back of the room: You are not consistent enough with Genji to carry, because if you were, you wouldn't be in silver. I've seen a Diamond smurf dominate, go 16-1 and be a complete nightmare. Genji requires you to be great at the three primaries to actually get a lot of value out of Greninja, let alone accomplish more than any decent AA you could've drafted instead. After this last nerf I would honestly consider him a troll pick at this level. I would much rather see a Nova or Valeera than a Genji. His WR in low leagues supports that thought.
Li-Ming – Much like playing Genji is often just playing an AA DPS or Illidan on Hard Mode, Li-Ming is saying 'I'm going to hit a ton of skillshots, position very aggressively with a tiny health pool and cash in my resets constantly.' Basically if you're good enough to be rocking with Li-Ming, you shouldn't be at this skill level. You should also be playing any other halfway reasonable mage instead. You'd likely jump your winrate by 10% by simply picking Orphea instead if you wanted to do the above.
After the hitbox tweaks she's basically the worst of all worlds and you're unlikely to get the consistent hits or CC chains required to get maximum value out of her abilities. She should not be anywhere near as popular as she is, just play a normal mage and enjoy the extra freedom you have.
Stitches – There are so many more Stitches picks since the rework and it's really odd to see. You absolutely need to know if your comp is going to work with Hook or not, because much like an over enthusiastic Garrosh, you can easily screw your backline over if you get too trigger happy. I have both been on the giving and receiving end of a wall slam from Dibs that only happened because he was pulled a few spaces away from the backline squishies. It's the same for people blindly slamming Gorge and assuming a kidnap play is always a good idea. The most recent reminder of this was when a player did so when our DPS was Azmodan and KT*, but decided to just say screw it and steal random opponents anyway. This, shockingly, rarely ended well.
It isn't that Stitches cannot work as a tank, it's that he gets a lot better when everyone is on the same page. You can never guarantee that, let alone also ensure people have the proper timing down, which means a lot of his value as a pick machine is wasted. Due to the increased sustain it could just be that some builds are dragging down others, but I think we just have a way higher pick rate of a narrow tank that is easily countered.
Garrosh – Read the above, apply it to Garrosh as well. Much like Mal'Ganis eats a lot of bans and people fear him because he requires everyone to pass a positioning check at intervals throughout the game and too many people fail that. Despite that, bad Garrosh players can often menace their own team just as often and kill themselves when people bother to focus on him running into the fray.
Tl;DR: You can be bad at aspects of the game and still climb, including not so great mechanics, but you can't climb if you stubbornly refuse to acknowledge your weaknesses and it's always your teammates fault. Don't shit on teammates, be aware of surroundings, have a clue about what to do in a game and don't position in places where bad things can happen (in swap / hook range, wall bang against Dibs, trying to save OOP heroes, etc.)
If you want to do it quickly and have good mechanics, pick a good AA hero or Zeratul and then learn to look at your minimap. If you don't have good mechanics, take a lane bully or a hero that can safely soak and stomp later in the game. Don't assume everyone is somehow worse than you are on DPS so you just have to take one for the team and play DPS yourself.
© Post "Tips for getting out of Bronze / Silver" for game Heroes of the Storm.
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