Greetings! k0nduit here, and today I've got a quick article for you on a practice that I've been doing in Hero League, one which I believe has helped greatly when it comes to making organized plays and achieving victory. Without further ado, let's get into it - read on!
What I've been putting into practice is saying a particular phrase often in Hero League. It's a simple phrase - composed of just three words - but its impact and significance can't be underestimated. What are those words, you ask?:
"I Love You"
Wait uh, I do like you (the reader) a lot, but things might be moving too fast...
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos"
Ok, calm down Raven.
"Seize the Day"
Definitely something you want to be doing, but not exactly what I'm going for in terms of improving your Hero League gameplay...
All kidding aside, you should always be asking:
"What's the Gameplan?"
(Preempting those who want to expand the contraction to "What is the Gameplan", Ok, technically it's four words)
Why Is Having a Gameplan Important?
To play without a gameplan is to play on autopilot; and trust me, playing on autopilot is one of the quickest ways to throw a lead or create an even bigger deficit! Before every move that you make, while contemplating any play, you need to be consciously considering the reasoning behind making that play and thinking in advance about what's going to happen. Taking game actions without a clear purpose is a common mistake; it's critical that you have a well-reasoned goal for each in-game action that you take, whether it be rotating to a lane, taking a mercenary camp, contesting an objective, engaging a teamfight, etc...
Making any of the above plays without thinking them through - or without the cooperation of your team - can result in disadvantageous situations that the enemy team can pounce on and punish.
Shotcalling is essentially determining a gameplan for your team. It's a task that bears a great deal of weight and responsibility, but it's not one that you have to do alone. In Hero League, you should definitely work with your team to find out what play looks the best. Even in competitive (though I haven't listened to team comms, so I can't say for certain), while the Shotcaller has the final say, I'd imagine all team members can voice ideas and start a discourse.
Two Key Points to Remember
Developing a gameplan - or put another way, figuring out what to do at any given decision point - isn't always easy; that's a more complex subject that I won't cover too in-depth today (however, there's a ton of resources out there to help brush up on your macro game, definitely do some research if macro is something you want to study further). For this piece, there are two key points that I want to emphasize:
1. Having a gameplan is important, not just for you acting as an individual agent, but for your whole team. When making any play that involves the coordination and efforts of multiple team members, it is critical that your whole team is operating under one cohesive gameplan.
2. You don't need a 100% correct gameplan to do well - a suboptimal gameplan that everyone is contributing towards is better than an 'ideal' one that only half your team is following.
The second point in particular is one that I really want to drive home: acting suboptimally as a team will more often yield better results than taking an 'optimal' action while divided.
And this is where the phrase we discussed earlier comes in: "What's the gameplan?"
The Power of Coordination
As I'm sure you've experienced or observed in your HotS games, a team that's coordinated is heavily advantaged against a team that's not working together. Rotations are cleaner, teamfights are smoother, and, in general, a coordinated team gives the impression of a well-oiled machine. A team without coordination, i.e. operating under different gameplans, is often prone to taking awkward skirmishes (even initiating them), splitting focus in teamfights, and not effectively capitalizing on advantages when they are obtained, giving the opponents a greater chance to get back into the game.
Asking "What's the gameplan?" is one of the most powerful things you can do in Hero League, as it is the first step to achieving team-wide coordination. Communication is in general is one of the most important and game-changing tools in a team-based strategy game like HotS, and determining a team gameplan for an important macro decision (even if it's not a perfect gameplan) can make all the difference.
Finally, as I mentioned above, you don't need to come up with a gameplan on your own. If you have one, absolutely propose it ("What's the gameplan? I think we should probably give this objective, soak the other lanes, then regroup to defend")! But if you don't, no worries - poll the team! Oftentimes people will have ideas on what to do but aren't speaking up or are unsure about a call they're considering; by asking for everyone's input, initially shaky plans can often be refined with everyone's collective brainpower.
"What's the gameplan?" is such a powerful phrase, not only because it brings together the team, but also because it does so relatively quickly. As you might know, the speed with which a call is made can also impact its success; figuring out a gameplan in advance of a decision point can give you a big edge when it comes to outpacing the enemy team and getting the drop on them. Determine a gameplan early and often!
Some Common Situations Where You Want to Ask, "What's the Gameplan?"
Let's get concrete. Below you'll find several examples of specific contexts where I often find myself asking, "What's the gameplan?"
Additionally, as you'll see, having a cohesive gameplan doesn't mean everyone has to all be doing one thing, or roaming around as a full five-member squad. Rather, it means that everyone is doing their jobs in order to reach a particular goal. For example, people could be doing different things. Maybe you want to have your Dehaka soaking the top lane to reach level 10 (to pick up your Heroics), while the other four members of your team are simultaneously stalling the objective until Dehaka grabs 10, after which he can dig into the teamfight. The gameplan is to get level 10 and then fight, but everyone is contributing to that goal in their own way.
In general, before every map objective spawn, it's always a good idea to pop the question. There are many factors to consider when deciding whether to contest an objective: talent tiers, positioning, power spikes, etc. Don't assume that you always want to go to the objective right when it spawns - coordinate with your team and figure out a gameplan. There's a ton more map-specific stuff to consider though, which I'll cover below...
Before every altar phase on Towers of Doom, check with your team to figure out what you want to do. Which altars should you go for? Even on the initial altar phase (which is always a tri-altar phase) where it's quite common to trade the top altars and then contest the one in the middle, don't just assume that's the gameplan - there are many variables which could change what your team wants to do.
On Sky Temple, multi-temple phases can be a bit difficult to manage - splitting up and attempting to capture both temples can lead to losing a teamfight that the enemy team hard-commits for on one temple - map awareness is key in this regard. Trading is often a good idea, but always keep an eye out for situations where getting some shots on both is possible. In any situation though, poll your team to determine a gameplan. Sometimes this can be more nuanced, like having your solo laner grab shots on a temple until you see the enemy team moving towards it.
Tribute spawns on Cursed Hollow are common situations where I ask my team what the plan is. Map rotations, the positioning of the tribute, and talent tiers all play big roles in determining whether you want to fight over a tribute or allow the other team to capture it uncontested. It's always a good idea to confirm with your team whether you want to contest a tribute.
Deciding whether to invade merc camps is something you want to bounce off your team - invading as a group (or at the very least, allowing for the possibility of having an ally ready to back you up if needed) greatly increases your chances of success.
Oftentimes in the lategame (particularly post level 20), both teams will be posturing around the map. In these situations where the map objective isn't up and there's nothing obvious to do on the map, it's a good time to poll your team to figure out what's the right play to make. Is your team favored in teamfights - should you be the ones actively looking to teamfight? If so, where do you want to teamfight, and how can the team force an engagement?
When you win a teamfight, the first question that occurs to me is "What can we get off of this?" Figuring out where to go, what to push, whether you should take the map's boss, etc. are all important questions to answer after you win a big teamfight. Formulate a gameplan and press your advantage.
Do You Need Voice Chat to Coordinate a Gameplan?
I will admit that voice chat is the best tool for this kind of coordination, particularly when it comes to crafting more nuanced gameplans, e.g. "Let's have Falstad soak top until we get level 13, while the other 4 members poke out/stall the tribute cap while avoiding a teamfight, rotating long-range stall abilities between Junkrat, Stukov, and Blaze." Voice chat has been one of the best additions to the game for me, I've enjoyed it quite a bit - detailed gameplans like this one are much easier to craft through comms.
But even before voice chat, I was typing out "What's the gameplan?" in text chat. Voice chat is great, but if you don't want to or can't use voice comms, communicating with your team through text chat is still very effective. Use whatever communication medium is best for you but do try to coordinate with your team!
On Dynamic Gameplans, Hero League Coordination Problems, and Wrapping Up
So there you have it - remember to ask your team what the gameplan is before each decision point. Also keep in mind that gameplans can change on the fly; sometimes the battlefiend context will change, and you need to adjust your gameplan. Once you commit to a line of play, it's only locked in for as long as the team wants it to be. Don't be afraid to raise a different line of play and explore other options if you think of something new.
One of the most common complaints I hear and read about Hero League is that sometimes team members don't cooperate or make the incorrect play. Proposing a gameplan (or polling for one) can go a long way towards getting the team on the same page. However, sometimes even when you propose a gameplan or ask what your teammates' thoughts are, things don't go well - for any number of potential reasons. But those reasons aren't that important. What's important is that you're making an effort to determine the right line of play as a team. Your job is try your best - don't worry if it's not recieved well, or if you don't get a response. Keep playing and putting your best foot forward, making your best effort in order to win each game.
Regarding determining whether to ask "What's the gameplan", don't assume a play is "obvious", no matter how clear it may seem to you. Every player has their own perspective and understanding of the current game state - your view on what to do may be wildly different from a teammate's point of view. Consistent (as in, frequent) and clear communication is the best tool to eliminate macro mistakes. It is always better to ask about and confirm an "obvious" line of play rather than expect things to go as you've imagined in your head without saying anything!
Now, get out there in Hero League and ask your team: "What's the gameplan?"
That's all for today, I hope you enjoyed the article. If you'd like to discuss anything HotS, have comments/feedback on this article, or just want to say hi, feel free to tweet me @k0nduit and I'll get back to you.
Until next time!
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