In Heroes of the Storm, most characters are differentiated not only by the role they play—assassin, bruiser, support, and so forth—but also in how they specifically accomplish their role. Tanks, those heroes with generally high health pools and the ability to displace foes, are often the vanguard of any team-fight as well as provide much-needed zoning and area denial when it comes to map objectives. In an effort to bolster my own gameplay I’ve been watching players from the Master and Grand Master leagues work their way up through the competitive ranks, taking note of the commentary they give on map strategy, individual tactics, and how best to adapt to changing situations.

I lead from the front.

Garrosh Hellscream, (Late) Horde Warlord

One such streamer I’ve been following is Jokksy, who plays a lot of the same characters I enjoy, including Nazeebo, Diablo, and Gul’dan, to name a few. He’s not only vocal about heroes, traits, and maps he does like, but also about those he doesn’t, and usually gives the reasons for his soured opinion. One character he hates to see on his team—particularly in the lower leagues of ranked play—is the tank Stitches, a character defined by his powerful long-range hook ability, which can yank enemy heroes far out of position. Being someone who often plays the undead monstrosity, I asked him why he would prefer a different tank.

He pointed out that most people who play Stitches rely almost solely on his hook to benefit their team, and almost universally do so while far out of position. In previous articles I’ve discussed tanking in HOTS and how positioning is almost more important than anything, and I was quick to watch as—time after time—Stitches players would often stand behind their team, looking for the perfect opportunity to leash an enemy hero and drag them hopefully to their deaths.

The problem with playing Stitches, or really any tank, in such a manner is that it almost completely removes the tank’s value from the fight. Standing in the back their large health pool can’t soak damage intended for the softer assassin and support characters, they can’t use their short-range slows and other crowd-control abilities, and they can’t properly cut off lines of escape or attack for the enemy team. With a 16-second cooldown, the hook is a useful ability, but only 1) if someone can hit consistently and 2) when it isn’t used at the expense of Stitches’ other abilities.

In a recent HOTS article where I discuss how abilities which initiate fights should often instead be saved for escaping them, I address the idea that catching the enemy unawares and without access to most of their abilities is a sure-fire way to succeed. Even if Stitches is at the front of their team and uses their hook to snag an opponent, that foe likely has all of their own abilities available, including whatever escapes or evasions they want. If they get hooked, they’ll merely flit away, and their escape ability will be available again long before the hook comes back around. In effect, unless the entire team dives atop the hook target, there’s been nothing gained, and opportunity lost.

Instead, think about the end of a team fight. Minion waves have been scattered or killed by area-of-effect damage, most abilities are on cooldown, and the idea of tactics has fallen by the wayside in favor of survival. Players usually run their heroes in a straight line, which makes an escaping hero a perfect target for the hook. It’s easy to see the benefits here.

  1. There aren’t minions or other heroes in the way to interrupt the hook
  2. The target’s primary abilities are likely unavailable
  3. Often they’ll be low on health already
  4. Their team is scattered and won’t be able to rally to their defense

By saving your hook for the end of the battle rather than using it at the beginning—for truly rare are the teamfights which last more than ten to fifteen seconds—you are much more likely to score a kill out of it, further putting the enemy team on their back foot.

If you enjoy playing tanks in general or Stitches in specific, try thinking about when and how you can use your abilities to their greatest benefit, which may not be the same as you have played previously. By thinking creatively, tactically, there’s a lot that can be done to cripple the opposition.

Header image taken from Heroes of the Storm, copyright Blizzard Entertainment