With the exception of the original Defense of the Ancients mod for Warcraft III, Heroes of the Storm is probably my most-played MOBA to date. That being said, the game’s ranked modes (Hero League and Team League) have always been a little rough around the edges. They’ve suffered from proper matchmaking mechanics, a lack of incentive, and have never truly showcased player skill. However, the ranked modes in Heroes of the Storm are receiving a huge makeover in the coming months.
Heroes of the Storm Ranked Rework
Scheduled to be introduced with the Medivh patch on June 14 in North America, Hero League and Team League will be completely revamped. One of the biggest problems with ranked modes in Heroes of the Storm is that ranks are essentially meaningless. Sure, there is clearly a big skill gap between rank 50 and rank 1 players, but there’s a huge disparity even among those in the highest tier. Using HOTS Logs as a rough example, players from 3000-4500 MMR are probably somewhere around Rank 1. That means that skilled casual players are technically in the same bracket as the best professionals in the game.
This flawed system is coming to an end, however, and what’s replacing it will be very familiar to most players. Heroes of the Storm will now be adopting a Grand Master system, which will be divided into Tiers and Divisions. This is similar to pretty much every other eSports out there from StarCraft 2 to League of Legends. Players will start with 10 placement matches and end up somewhere between Bronze 5 and Grand Master. As players win, or lose, games they will progress to the next division and ultimately the next tier. Once players are eligible for an upgrade, they will only have to win one game to move on. Furthermore, players are also given one last chance before dropping a division.
With this new system in place, only the best of the best Heroes of the Storm players will be allowed into the Grand Master tier. Unlike the other tiers, Master and Grand Master will track total rank points instead of being broken down into divisions. Moreover, the Grand Master league will be comprised of the top 500 players from each region. These ranks will be updated on a daily basis.
Playing With Friends
In addition to skill disparity, attempting to play Hero League with friends is one of the more frustrating aspects of Heroes of the Storm. A high-ranked player with low-ranked friends usually causes some sort of conflict. I’ve personally experienced quite a few problems with this, as I’m rank 1 and have friends that range all over the place. Inviting low-ranked friends into Hero League causes MMR to dip significantly during loses and reduces gains to the minimum. This creates a high risk, low reward scenario, which is highly frustrating.
Currently, the only alternative is to play Quick Match, which also doesn’t have the greatest reputation. Quick Match is not a good place to practice for Hero League and really only serves as a battleground to test out new heroes or quickly complete daily quests. Thankfully, there has been discussion of a non-ranked draft mode to find a nice middle ground. This would allow friends with a large MMR disparity to play together while not having to put their rank at risk. There were also talks of increasing Hero League party size to three players maximum, but that idea was quickly shot down after significant negative feedback.
However, players with a high rank disparity that do like playing Hero League together will probably not be too happy with the upcoming changes. A skill-level queue restriction is going to be implemented with the update. This means that only players within one tier of each other will be able to party up. For example, a Gold tier players can queue with a Silver 5 or Platinum 1 friend, but not a bronze or diamond player. Furthermore, players still requiring placement matches will only be able to party with other players also doing placement matches. At this time, there is a plan to change the number of placement matches from 20 to 10 and give each match more placement weight.
Finally, silenced players will no longer be able to play Hero League. This is meant to be a highly competitive game mode and communication is key to winning in many circumstances. Players who are silenced only hurt their team and will have to wait until their penalty expires before being able to queue into Hero League. It will be more than a month before these changes take place, which should be plenty of time for any silenced players to finish out their penalty.
Not only is this update going to rework Hero League but it’s also going to introduce the first Heroes of the Storm Ranked Season. Although the first season might end up to be slightly longer than the rest, ranked seasons are expected to last a couple of months each. With the introduction of seasons also comes rewards.
Players who participate in Hero League and Team League will receive exclusive rewards at the end of each season. The preseason rewards have already been laid out and include a stockpile of gold, the Elemental and Epic Elemental Wolf mounts, and a special Preseason League Portrait. The portraits will also be unique depending on what tier players have achieved throughout the season. Future rewards and tier structures are subject to change, but currently every 5 to 10 ranks is a new tier. Rank 20 will be the lowest tier to receive the Elemental Wolf Mount and Rank 10 will be the lowest to receive the epic version.
Although these changes to ranked mode aren’t the perfect fix for everyone, they’re definitely a step in the right direction. Currently ranked mode is stagnant for a number of reasons, but mostly because there’s no incentive to play after achieving rank 1 and previously there were no end-of-season rewards. This new ranking structure will provide a much broader playing field that makes both ranking up and receiving rewards feel worthwhile. If you’re interested in learning more about the upcoming changes to Heroes of the Storm, we’ve taken an in-depth look at the next two new heroes: Chromie and Medivh.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, eSports, F2P, Heroes of the Storm, MOBA