Heroes of the Storm

HGC pros speculate on the three hero ban meta: “Weak hero pools get punished pretty hard.”



▲ (Left to right): Team Freedom's KilluZiioN, Team Liquid's Nurok and Zealots' Shad.


In a patch that went live on Tuesday, the Heroes of the Storm development team implemented two re-worked heroes, Raynor and Azmodan, and added an additional hero ban at the beginning of all draft modes.


Initially, the third ban was placed in the middle of the draft during the second banning phase but after community feedback, the ban was moved to the front of the draft to have more of an impact.



According to the Heroes Esports’ team, the professional circuit called the Heroes Global Championship (HGC), is set to play on the patch with the third ban starting July 16. As such a radical change to an integral part of the strategic process of competitive matches took place, professional players decided to speak with InvenGlobal about their thoughts.


Nils "Nurok" Gebhardt from Team Liquid, Daniel “Shad” González from Zealots and Jerome "KilluZiioN" Tanguay from Team Freedom discussed if this change is as big as some believe and which heroes we may start to see as a result of more meta choices being banned.


Target banning is the new meta


Under the current the two-ban format, teams are spent using the initial ban phase removing heroes that will have the biggest impact on the given match based off their natural power level, the map being played or if a team has developed a history providing priority to a certain hero.


Nurok points to the latter as the one that may see more of an emphasis, a term in the competitive scene called “target banning:”


“In Europe, we have some players who do not have the biggest hero pool and those people can get target-banned more than before. I don’t want to say any names but we have about five players that I can think of spontaneously. It will have far more impact than opening up target bans because, although target bans are there, every map has its own priority picks and those picks can be denied much harder now. I also think that now that we have more freedom in the initial ban phase we will see more 'favorite-of-the-month' heroes banned which, right now, are Genji, Tracer, Abathur, Yrel and Deckard Cain.”



Team Freedom’s KilluZiioN echoes Nurok’s sentiment. When asked to specify a few players within the North American region who may be targeted heavier as a result, he had a couple in mind:


“I think we are going to see more and more target banning against certain players, so, if your hero pool is pretty weak, I think you can get punished pretty hard. The first [player] I have in mind is Khroen (HeroesHearth Esports) with his Hanzo and Jaina but, I mean, his hero pool is still decent. He can still play other stuff but those are his two best heroes and I think it’s definitely punishable. Other than that, maybe Glaurung with his Dehaka and Blaze.”


▲ Could HeroesHearth Esports' Khalif "Khroen" Hashim be the victim of target banning?


While some spectators and pro players may be happy to see more Tier 1 heroes be banned to provide a bit of diversity with the draft phase, Shad notes that those heroes are banned for a reason, their power level can provide excitement at times:


“It might make some heroes unplayable in a way in that we will never see them again. It may be Genji or heroes that are currently banned a lot that rise up to a 100% ban rate which would be very sad because those heroes are needed for 'the show,' kinda."


Out with the old, in with the new


With two additional upper-tier heroes being banned from each draft under the new format, heroes who generally do not see as much play will be selected more as a result. If there are only so many top-tier heroes to choose from, heroes who were hard-countered by the previously un-banned ones will see more play. KilluZiioN immediately recognizes one who will pop-up in prominence after a recent change to his kit:


“With Jimmy Ray(nor) getting buffed out of his mind, we’re definitely going to see some Jimmy. Heroes like Cassia and Valla and more mages we might see as well. Any backline heroes that could get punished by Genji, Tracer and Chromie, who will now be banned, can see more play. So, if you don’t have a damage pick already you may have to pick a lower-tiered ranged damage.”



Currently, the game is light on high-impact Support heroes which could bring up the strategy of teams strictly banning the few meta ones to have lesser options available for both. Without having actually played scrims to test this, Nurok, the main Support player for Team Liquid, theorizes this may be an option:


“We might see more Support diversity. There might be teams pulling out a strategy that they just target-ban Supports and we might see Supports on maps which haven’t seen play before. For example, we might see more Alexstraza, Ana or Lucio, I don’t know it’s hard to predict.”


Shad, also a Support player, plays devil’s advocate on that theory strictly due to the self-handicapping that could arise:


“I don’t think so because the best you could do is ban two Supports and first pick a third. Let's say there’s three good Supports and you want two, I can still ban the third one, so we both have no Tier 1 or meta Supports. It won’t matter in my opinion.”


Teams will have approximately one week of practice from the time their Week 3 matches end and their Week 4 matches begin to scrimmage with opponents and experiment with ways to utilize the third ban to the best of the abilities. As teams feel out the best way to approach the removal of another impactful hero from the draft, Week 4 is bound to be unpredictable and intriguing.  


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