Draft strategy can be a complicated subject, but at its core, it is all about building a better team than your opponent. While much of the conversation around drafting centers around tier lists and meta Heroes, the first step in being able to draft well is understanding what a solid team comp actually consists of. It isn’t enough to know which Heroes are ranked the highest; you also have to understand when it is correct to pick them. Games are often lost because of fundamental flaws in the draft that teams are simply not able to overcome.
To help prevent this problem let’s talk about basic team building. Rather than focus on specific Heroes, or even specific Roles, we are going to discuss the overarching themes that go into building a solid team comp.
The Front Line
A solid front line consists of two things; a tank and an off tank.
Sometimes referred to as a meat shield or a space eater, it is the job of the tank to absorb damage. While this usually means a sturdy Warrior like Johanna or Muradin, there are situations where Heroes such as Illidan, Raynor, or even Azmodan are the tanks. There are several different types of tanks. Some are more offensive and decide when and where engagements take place. Others are more defensive and focus on protecting the back line. Some Heroes tank by mitigating the amount of damage they take, others do it by avoiding damage entirely, and still others tank by having massive health pools. Different situations call for different types of tanks, but every team needs someone whose job it is to soak damage.
The off tank is an often overlooked part of a team comp. Without another Hero up front, even the best tank can quickly be burst down if the enemy team is able to focus all of their damage on them. Having a second person on the front line helps to distract the enemy team and spread out the damage. Since their role is to beef up the front line and provide extra damage, off tanks are usually melee characters. You will often hear the term Bruiser associated with off tanks, but that doesn’t mean that only Warriors can be off tanks. Heroes from any Role are more than capable of serving as off tanks. Thrall, Xul, and Uther are just a few examples of non-Warriors who might end up being the off tank depending on your comp.
Damage dealers can be divided up into two types: sustain and burst.
Sustain damage is consistent damage, which in Heroes of the Storm usually means auto attacks. Sustain is all about wearing down the other team by applying steady damage. Heroes like Valla, Lunara, and Nazeebo are all examples of sustain damage Heroes.
Burst damage is sudden, hard-hitting damage. Since burst damage is usually the result of abilities, there is usually a drop off in damage after the initial burst while the Hero waits for their cooldowns to reset. Examples of burst damage Heroes include Li-Ming, Chromie, and Jaina.
The key to good team building is to have a mix of both damage types. If your team has too much sustained damage and not enough burst you won’t be able to finish anyone off and you will continually lose team fights with the entire enemy team at 25% health. If your team has too much burst damage and not enough sustain they won’t have the necessary damage for longer fights if their initial set of abilities fail to secure a kill. Keep this balance in mind when you are drafting, especially late in the draft. No matter how good Valla is, she may not be the right pick if your team already has two other sustain damage Heroes.
Supports and Double Supports
With all of that damage being thrown around, someone has to heal and that is where Supports come in.
While everyone understands that a team needs a healer, they don’t always give a lot of thought to which healer is right for the situation at hand. We talked about the difference between sustain damage and burst damage and you can look at healing in much the same way. Heroes like Li Li or Malfurion are more sustain healers, with smaller heals and shorter cooldowns. Others like Uther or Rehgar are more burst healers, with larger heals and longer cooldowns. As you would expect, sustain healers do better against sustain damage comps, and burst healers do better against burst damage teams.
Things get more complicated when you start talking about Double Support, because Support doesn’t necessarily mean healing. In fact, the second Hero in a Double Support comp may not even be a Support at all. Traditional Double Support comps feature Heroes such as Tassadar and Tyrande, but Heroes like Zarya, Tyrael, and Medivh can also be considered as Double Supports because of how they help their team mitigate incoming damage. Just keep in mind that if someone says we need another Support they may not necessarily mean healer.
Another important consideration when drafting is wave clear. Having Heroes who are capable of quickly and efficiently clearing a lane is a great benefit. While people often think about Specialists when they think wave clear, there are plenty of other Heroes such as Gul’dan, Johanna, and Auriel who also have excellent wave clear. While you may not draft for wave clear specifically, it can often serve as a good tiebreaker when deciding between two Heroes. Imagine you have a double wave of mercenaries pushing towards your top Keep. Would you rather have Raynor or Kael’thas clean that up?
Much like wave clear, crowd control isn’t something that you need to draft for specifically, but it is something that you probably want to have on your team. Crowd control is an all-encompassing term that includes things like stuns, slows, and roots. Whether you need to pick a tank, healer, or damage dealer, there are plenty of Heroes of each that are capable of provided crowd control if you find yourself on a team lacking it.
Part of what makes drafting so complicated is all of the variables involved. It isn’t as simple as just picking the five best Heroes. There is no magic formula that says you need one tank, one melee DPS, one sustain damage, one burst damage, and a burst healer. While that might be perfect in some situations, it could be all wrong in others. Drafting is much easier if you focus on the strengths and weaknesses of a team as opposed to having a preconceived notion of which Hero you are going to pick.
It isn’t enough to know that you need to pick a damage dealer, you also need to consider whether you need sustain or burst, melee or ranged, or single target or AOE. Just because you are the last pick and your team needs a healer doesn’t mean there isn’t anything for you to consider. Is the enemy team all burst damage? If so, Brightwing probably isn’t the right pick. Does your team lack crowd control? Then you might want to consider a healer that can bring some.
Obviously, we are all limited by which Heroes we can actually play. There isn’t much you can do about Brightwing not being the best choice if she is the only healer you have, but it is still good to understand what makes certain picks better than others. It can also help you decide which Heroes to learn next if you continually find yourself in a situation where you wish you had a different option.
Good luck and good drafting!