Boss, Keep, or Core—A Heroes Guide to Late Game

How many times have you played a flawless early game, carried your advantage into the mid game, and then thrown at the last second during a big teamfight to lose the game? There’s literally nothing more frustrating that feeling like you’ve played a near perfect game only to be brought down by one bad decision in the late game. The worst part is: it happens all the time.

However, you’ll find that the best teams will be able to consistently make good decisions in the late game and avoid huge mistakes that might cost them everything. Luckily, through observing what some of the pros do and thinking about the game in a broader sense than just winning and losing, we can find some gems to carry us over the victory line time and time again.

Maintaining Map Control

To be straightforward, map control is undervalued and often neglected in Heroes of the Storm, even at the professional level. The hallmark of high level play in Dota 2 or League of Legends is hugely dependent on how well players control the waves, something that should carry over into Heroes of the Storm as well. You’ll find that the absolute best in each region will religiously clear waves and push at the right times, but mid tier teams often seem slower to rotate or get where they need to be on time. Ironically, this disparity between mediocrity and the best comes down to very small differences that all add up.

The best teams in the world can continually take control of the map, and likewise always translate that map control into free objectives. With proper management, map control can spell a slow, inevitable doom for the enemy team as they get starved out of objectives, continue to take damage, and spend the rest of the game desperately clearing waves.

Controlling the Waves

The baseline skill for map control is simply controlling minion waves. The rule of thumb here is to make sure your waves are pushing at the proper times. Any imbalance—even just a single hit on a minion—will cause the wave to push until it runs into defensive structures. Unattended, large groups of minions can do substantial damage to buildings and force a response from your opponent. The pressure applied from these waves opens up a lot of opportunities for your team to make power plays on the opposite side of the map, which is especially important in the late game when objectives become quite powerful.

When you move from a lane to an objective, it’s always in your best interest to balance the wave in your favor and keep it pushing, particularly in the late game. If you fail to do so, you’re giving the opponent a positional advantage that they can use to punish you with during objectives. In your own games, you may find that there is never enough time for this, especially as a healer or a tank with poor waveclear, but urging your teammates and finding ways to effectively balance these waves will go a long way toward gaining a consistent edge on your opponents.

Always be cognizant of the lane pressure you’re setting up and let it dictate how you take engagements. If a large wave, especially a wave escorted by mercenaries, is pushing, you don’t need to take a fight; you can simply stall out the objective until someone is forced to deal with the lane pressure. Once the enemy team is split, you can force a 4v5 teamfight and take the objective. This strategy is particularly prominent on maps like Blackheart’s Bay, Battlefield of Eternity, and Cursed Hollow where there is a single central objective both teams have to fight over, but can also be applied to boss attempts on any map.

Tomb of the Spider Queen also presents a clear example of how map control wins the game. If one team can get ahead early on and apply continual pressure in all lanes, it becomes nigh impossible for the losing team to ever get out of their base and turn in gems. There are several professional games where this embargo on turnins has become a slow starvation for the losing team until they are left with no other option than to take risky late game engagements and hope for the best.

Playing the Opportunity Game

Map control comes from other sources as well. Takedowns are opportunities, not rewards. They provide no real benefit to winning on their own, a conception most players mistake early on in their MOBA careers. Instead, what they do is open the map up and provide your team with more opportunities to take objectives, destroy fortifications, or even end the game—effectively, they give you more map control.

This effect is especially notable in Heroes of the Storm, where anything other than 5v5 fights are likely to go in favor of the team with the numbers advantage (that is, barring some disastrous misplay). For this reason, picking off even a single member of the opposing team can give you complete control over objectives and allow your team to dictate the pace of the game. Takedowns are not the end goal, they are just a tool to help your team achieve map control and create an opening to win the game.

Apply Pressure Directly to the Keep

Now that you have a grip on map control and understand how to track pushing waves, you’re left with a new query: “What do I do with all of this map control?” There’s freedom to do whatever your heart desires when you have control of the map, but it all basically boils down to two things: take objectives or siege.

Whichever goal you decide to pursue is largely dependent on levels, talent tiers, and positioning, but it’s always a matter of common sense; if you have an advantage, find a way to leverage it.

Hunting for Objectives

Technically, “objective” can refer to any point on the map open for contest. For this article, the objective refers primarily to the specific map mechanics like Altars, Tributes, Shrines, Seeds, etc. as well as bosses.

Strong map control will naturally free up the map and take pressure off the objectives. Some objectives are very easy to time out and control like the immortal battles on Battlefield of Eternity or the shrine phases on Infernal Shrines. By timing your pressure alongside these phases, you can easily sequester your opponent to their base while they try to deal with clearing minion waves and pushing the lanes out; meanwhile, your team sits on the objective uncontested.

If you manage to pick an enemy Hero off, remember that this an opportunity—not an achievement; it doesn’t translate into winning the objective but rather an opportunity to win the objective. Use the time that you have to push out waves, heal up for the push, etc. if you can. A great example of this is when teams will often delay killing the last Guardian on Infernal Shrines in the late game while the entire team hearths back and refills for the push with the Punisher. Without doing this, the team would be pushing with no mana and half health against a revived and revitalized enemy team. Likewise, you could also use this time to alleviate mercenary pressure another lane and gain full map control.

Machine of War

Objectives are obvious points of interest, but they’re not always there to contest. For some players and especially on certain maps, there can be a lot of confusion about what to do next. But the answer is simple: when ahead, get more ahead. Keep the lanes pushing, maintain map pressure until the next big objective, and look for opportunities to do structural damage.

“As a general rule, if you can deal free damage to a building late game, do it; if you need help, get objective.” -KnowMe

When your team has a talent advantage—say, level 20 Storm talents vs level 18 without—and no useful objective is up, your team should typically be looking to siege. Generally, you want to aim for keeps over forts for your siege, but if a situation presents itself for a free fort, don’t pass up the opportunity. Taking down a keep is vital because it provides continual pressure in that lane for the rest of the game and also presents a weak point for Core rushes that enemy teams must keep a close eye on, providing yet another layer of map pressure.

With a talent advantage in the late game, it’s possible for the team to push in with a minion wave and take a keep or even threaten Core, but it’s always important to remember that sieges are a product of good map control. Threatening a keep while a gigantic minion wave counter-pushes into yours simultaneously is not a good trade, especially if you’re already in the lead. Take the time to clean up waves and maintain your position. If you don’t have any clear advantage, take whatever mercenary camps you can and use them to create points of pressure for the next objective.

Going for the Throat

Say you want to be Tempo Storm and #YOLO rush the Core—Great! Aggressive plays are really fun and awesome if you win, but they will turn on you quickly if you don’t assess your risk properly. One small mistake can turn your “Core rush” might turn into a “Core flop”.

Going for Core is incredibly situational and map dependent. It’s possible to turn almost any situation into a miraculous Core rush if you knock down a keep very early, but there are a few guidelines to follow to prevent your courageous call from turning into a horrible mistake:

  • In general, your team must be level 17 minimum unless you have a full health objective like an immortal pushing Core or your team wipes the enemy team on the Core without taking significant damage.
  • At least three opposing members must be down, particularly the healer and/or heavy damage dealers; trying to finish the game against high impact Heroes like Greymane or Zeratul can result in a team wipe and reverse Core rush.
  • You need at least 20 seconds for Core; don’t go for it if the entire enemy team is going to spawn or hearth on top of you.
  • Do not stack. The Core does splash damage. Do not stack.

If you follow these rules consciously, you will find that Core rush decisions run much more smoothly and predictably, and in time you’ll be able to confidently lead your team to victory.

Conclusion

Everything in the late game revolves around the concept of map control. Master the ideas behind wave management, intelligent pathing, and smart decision making, and you’ll find yourself quickly improving and rising through the ranks. As you learn the limits of how to apply pressure and use it to your advantage for objectives and sieging, you’ll become a more confident player and shotcaller. Just remember to be patient with your allies who may not know any better! You have the knowledge now; pass it on and work as a team!


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