It can be argued that the core of any lane-defense or MOBA game is the “teamfight,” where two titanic waves of human-controlled heroes crash together, leaving only the strong, the skilled, and the prepared standing. Almost every map, whether based around two or three lanes, will see an active and strong engagement right off the bat, with everyone really tipping the scales with their hero level of one. Today I’m discussing the pros and cons of contributing all-out to the initial skirmish, and what it can do for your team’s chances of victory.
One of the most important mechanics in these games, particularly Heroes of the Storm, is the idea of “soak,” or passive XP generation. As heroes earn experience from the death of minions, enemy players, and strategic resources, they level up, unlocking new and ever-more powerful abilities. The difference in battle ability between a level 4 team and a level 6 team may not be overwhelming, but the difference between a level 18 team and a level 20 team can be all but game-ending.
The reason I bring up soak in an article primarily centered around the initial map teamfight is that heroes only obtain XP from minion deaths if a friendly player is in the vicinity. If two waves of minions wipe each other out in a lane, but no player is there to witness it, both teams have effectively given up the potential XP, or soak, from that conflict. With two or three lanes on each map, it is imperative that a hero be at or near each minion clash, to ensure their team maintains a constant and reliable XP growth curve – letting the other team get too far ahead in the early game makes a late-game recovery a very uphill battle.
At first level, killing an enemy player yields 300 XP, while soaking an entire wave of minions grants nearly 500. On a three-lane map, if one team devotes all of their heroes to a start-of-game brawl and the other team splits to the lanes (1-3-1 for instance), even if the first team manages to kill two people in the middle, they have still come out behind, everything else being equal. Let’s look at it from Team 2’s perspective:
Top Minion Wave: 500 XP
Bottom Minion Wave: 500 XP
XP Denied to Team 1 Top: 500 XP
XP Denied to Team 1 Bottom: 500 XP
Team 1 XP for Killing 2 Heroes: (600 XP)
Total Difference: +1400 XP for Team 2
Unquestionably worth the trade. That’s a difference of nearly one full level, all completed within the first 45 seconds of a match. Team 1 may feel like they’re winning because they got some kills on the board, but woah nelly are they going to be feeling that lack of XP when Team 2 starts unlocking traits and abilities earlier. Repeat for a few minion waves and I can tell you that Team 2 should, by all accounts, mop the floor with Team 1.
Secondly, support characters are often exceptionally weak before level four or six, as the player of our healer will often scream into the microphone, making early all-out conflicts a losing proposition. Ironically some of the worst late-game healers (such as Lucio or Brightwing) are the best early-game healers, their constant and reliable low-level healing providing a great deal of staying power to heroes with unbonused health totals.
Third, and this is perhaps the most contentious one, the outcome of a fight in the first minute of a match doesn’t matter. Respawn timers are low enough that both teams will be at full strength by the time the first map objective spawns (almost always at the 1:30 or 3:00 marks), and over the course of a match a single death here or there won’t be significant when it comes to point totals. Sure, it may be a pride thing to get the first hit, or the first kill, or to stomp on an opponent right out of the gate, but ultimately there’s no actual benefit to the team in the long run – games aren’t won in the first two minutes, nor arguably can they be lost in that time, either.
Well, if squishing enemy heroes makes you feel strong, throwing the full force of your team against a depleted opponent should do the trick. Maybe you’ll be able to deny them soak in the mid lane for one wave, but other than that – just don’t.