I play under the handle VirginSlayer on the US servers. I have ~450 games at a competitive level since the wipe and play all heroes. Below, I wanted to share my current meta thoughts in preparation for the upcoming beta release. This guide will be useful to those looking for basics on constructing a well-rounded team composition for ranked play. Please note that the thoughts below represent one current opinion on the meta and are for educational purposes.
Ranked Composition Theorycrafting
I. Tips for the Individual
- All heroes and talents are viable. However, depending on a player’s experience level, some heroes and talent compositions will negatively impact a team’s ability to win. Focus first on your ability to help your team best win and assume your allies are doing the same.
- Consider the team first and yourself second. You will have a greater chance of winning if you play heroes that synergize with your team composition rather than the hero you wanted to play originally. This is not a game for showing off: five poorly skilled team-focused players can beat five highly skilled individually-focused players.
- Stay focused on winning. Heroes is a game of many phases and compositions that play well in certain phases of the game do not always translate well to other phases. This point is deep and is more easily understood with experience but the essential element is to never give up. Those who claim the game is over at any point before the core has gone to 0% are making blind assumptions no matter how compelling the evidence presented by the current state of the game seems.
II. Know the Roles
There are four main classes of characters: Assassin, Warrior, Support, and Specialist. However, it is helpful to consider a finer granularity of classification for purposes of team composition.
Here is an eight-class framework for better understanding hero roles: Tank (T), Off-Tank(OT), Healer (H), Specialist (S), Ranged Assassin (A), Melee Assassin (MA), Healer/Assassin (H/A), and Off-Tank Healer (OT/H). The last two hybrid roles will are helpful for illustrating the added versatility some heroes offer.
Here is a classification of the 32 current heroes and the number of each that fit into the defined roles:
Tank (7): Anub’arak, Arthas, Chen, Diablo, E.T.C., Muradin, Stitches.
Off-Tank (2): Sonya, Tyrael.
Healer (3): Brightwing, Li Li, Malfurion.
Specialist (7): Abathur, Azmodan, Gazlowe, Murky, Nazeebo, Sgt. Hammer, Zagara.
Ranged Assassin (6): Falstad, Jaina, Nova, Raynor, Tychus, Valla.
Melee Assassin (3): Illidan, Kerrigan, Zeratul.
Healer/Assassin (2): Tassadar, Tyrande.
Off-Tank/Healer (2): Rehgar, Uther.
III. Building a Foundation
The first tip can be extrapolated to a team composition. All of the ~200,000 5-hero team compositions are viable but, depending on a team’s experience level, some compositions will negatively impact a team’s ability to win.
To give your team a better chance of winning, strive to first build a well-rounded core of roles and then fill to smooth out the remainder. Here is a well-rounded, three-hero team core based on the roles defined above: Tank/Healer/Ranged Assassin.
As an individual, your first focus should be providing for a team’s foundation. If you are in a queue by yourself, fill one of those three roles first. In a duo, fill two of the three. In a trio, fill all three. In this way, you guarantee a basic level of well-roundedness to your team.
IV. Smooth for Five
Consider the core foundation of Tank/Healer/Ranged Assassin (T/H/A) as a spectrum with tank on one end and ranged assassin on the other. There are two roles to fill and they look like this: T/?/H/?/A.
To best fill these roles, you want a hero similar to the adjacent roles. So, the role between T/?/H may be filled with T, OT, H, or S. The role between H/?/A may be filled with H, S, A, MA.
If you have filled one vacancy with one type of role, let’s say healer, and thus now have two, then the other vacancy should be filled with a different role. This will prevent three heroes operating in one role. With specialists, aim for one at most.
With the two hybrid roles H/A, and OT/H, there is a premium these heroes provide due to their flexibility and additional smoothing properties. OT/H fits well in the first open spot and H/A fits well in the second.
Smoothing your team composition allows for fewer exploitable weaknesses. If you have three healers, then you have a strong ability for drawn-out fights but a weakness to burst heroes and short fights. If you have three tanks, you have a team with a lot of health but little damage. If you have three assassins you have a lot of damage but are squishy.
Use this analysis not only on your team but on the other team as well. Identify your win condition. A great time to do this is during the opening moments of the game when everyone is waiting for the gates to open. Look at both team compositions and think about the strategy that will best leverage your composition over your opponents.
V. Tier List
Now that you have a framework for how to best fill a team, it is time to identify the best hero for the role. Again, re-read point one in the tips above. Do it one more time. Okay.
All heroes are viable but some are more viable than others. There are three tiers for consideration here:
Tier 1: Heroes that are powerful in the current meta.
Tier 2: Heroes that are good in the current meta but may not fill as well as a tier-one hero or could or have a skill set that is weaker than another tier-one hero in the role.
Tier 3: Heroes that either do not fit the meta or require a great amount of experience to implement and use properly above what would be expected from a tier one or tier two hero.
I like three tiers because it provides enough segmentation to assist decision making but not too much to provide overbearing subjectivity. Heroes from all three tiers are viable but picking up a hero from a lesser tier is essentially playing the game on a harder difficulty; one needs more experience or a specified strategy to use a lower tier hero optimally within a team.
Here is a general guide to the heroes above with the tiers allocated next to the name:
Tank (7): [T1] Arthas, Chen, Muradin, Stitches. [T2] E.T.C. [T3] Anub’arak, Diablo.
Off-Tank (2): [T2] Sonya, Tyrael.
Healer (3): [T1] Brightwing. [T2] Li Li, Malfurion.
Specialist (7): [T1] Abathur, Nazeebo, Zagara. [T2] Azmodan, Sgt. Hammer. [T3] Gazlowe, Murky.
Ranged Assassin (6): [T1] Falstad, Tychus, Valla. [T2] Jaina, Nova, Raynor.
Melee Assassin (3): [T1] Zeratul. [T2] Illidan, Kerrigan.
Healer/Assassin (2): [T2] Tassadar, Tyrande.
Off-Tank/Healer (2): [T1] Uther. [T2] Rehgar.
VI. Concluding Thoughts
Be a team player and give your team the best chance to win. If you are new to the game, then play heroes that are generally regarded as top tier and in roles that are needed by your team. As you get better you will find your playstyle and learn your strengths and weaknesses. You will be able to branch out and give less credence to tier lists or hero composition frameworks because you will have the experience to know what works when and that with ~200,000 5-hero team compositions, no simple framework will address every permutation.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to send me a message or drop me a note in-game (VirginSlayer#1557).
All the best out on the Nexus, -Virgin