Heroes of the Storm

Why Hero roles are confusing (what makes a tank a tank)

HeroesoftheStorm 9 - Why Hero roles are confusing (what makes a tank a tank)

Edit: did my best to make this wordbarf digestible… any formatting tips? lmao

I'll preface this by saying I'm of the opinion that the Ranged Damage role makes more sense being clumped together than separated as "Mages" and "Marksmen" as a lot of people (myself included) would like it to be. I get it, we like things to be neatly put into boxes, but Heroes of the Storm made sure that's hard-to-impossible to do. Raynor and Kael'thas are easy to split, but what happens with Junkrat, or Genji, or Zagara, or Nova?

Hell even Valla and Jaina have similar range, wave/campclear and burst spell damage. The only difference is that Valla also likes to AA a bunch (oversimplified but pretty accurate). So in my eyes, splitting Ranged damage dealers into “More spell damage” and “More AA damage” makes as much sense as “Short range” and “Long range” or “Single Target” and “AoE”.

With that in mind, it’s concerning that I never saw the same issue when it comes to melee heroes. What I mean to say is, it makes sense that Garrosh is a tank (he sucks at anything else) and that Sonya is a bruiser and that Zeratul is a melee assassin. They are the archetypes of their respective roles. But what happens when the lines get blurred?

Let’s look at Arthas and Imperius – what makes one a Tank and the other a Bruiser? They have …mediocre waveclear. Imperius does more damage while Arthas is okay-er at doing camps. That doesn’t tell us much. What about HP and CC, the two big words we think of when we think “Tank”.

Well, with the right build, Imperius (2450 base HP) can stun every 10 or fewer seconds, has a 40% slow for 3 seconds on an 8s cd (almost 40% of the time), has either permanent 10 armor and health/mana regen from Press Forward (2722 effective HP) or almost-permanent 25 armor from Sovereign Armor (3267 effective HP), gets a 300 point shield every time he stuns (and basic attacks afterwards which sometimes proves difficult…) and a big boy 1000 point shield from his Heroic.

Arthas (2850 base HP) on the other hand can root about as often as Imperius can stun (and about the same area), he permanently slows enemies around him by 40% and through talents he gets Block charges, 25 armor and 75% CC resistance (Icebound Fortitude) and Ghouls to eat for HP.


My point here isn’t to argue that Arthas is better at dealing with melee heroes while Imperius is more of a generalist, that is obvious to everyone. My point is to show that they can fulfil the same purpose in a team comp. And for anyone watching any type of competitive play, this comes as no surprise. Most Arthas’ and Imperius’ we see are solo laners, but having them in main tank positions isn’t unheard of.

What also isn’t unheard of is having Xul as a main tank… or a Kerrigan… granted, both of those with double support. But Tracer and Valla being played mostly with double support doesn’t make them any less of a Ranged damage dealer, so why would that apply to tanks?

That said, what IS unheard of is Illidan main tank, or Sonya, or Ragnaros. You’d say, obviously that’s because they have little to no CC. Well… neither does Tyrael. Granted, not a popular pick these days but in the off chance you spot him in a game, there’s chances he’s played as a main tank for a dive team. What he provides is shielding and movement speed, as well as having high mobility himself. But then again Zarya also provides shielding and movement speed so why isn’t Tyrael a Support hero instead? And is Taunt Varian a Bruiser who can Tank or simply a Tank that fits a dive/pick team?

To move away from the mess that is “Tanks” for a second, I’d like to expand this chaos by introducing melee assassins. Similar to Arthas v Imperius earlier, let’s (quickly) have a look at Thrall and… Qhira. They both have some CC built in, mostly affecting one target and a good amount of sustain. Qhira also comes with mobility and gets access to Armor, Evade and Slows early in her talent tiers, but is more difficult to play due to all her abilities being skillshots. They’re both okay at wave and campclear and excellent duellists. So… why is Thrall a bruiser and Qhira a melee assassin? Their unit radii are similar too, so it’s not their capacity to body block.

Frankly… I don’t have an answer. For any of this. Most of it seems to be on a hero-by-hero basis and a lot of it is perception and preconceptions rather than logic or any quantifiable data and setting team comps in stone as “Tank-Healer-Ranged-Solo-Flex” is rather limiting when Xul Tyrande Valla Uther Zarya is perfectly viable. I’ll end this with asking… any thoughts? Or am I the only crazy person overthinking this?

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