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As you can see in the image below, the new hero roles are really the old roles except more fragmented. Warriors are now classed as either Tanks or Bruisers, while Assassins are split into their respective Ranged and Melee groups. The Support heroes are now divided into two distinct roles: Healers and Supports.
On the surface, not much about gameplay should change fundamentally after this reclassification. In fact, most heroes have been grouped this way for a while. If you read a hero’s description in the selection screen, you will see them described as their specific role. For example, the description for Ragnaros – who until now was an Assassin – reads “A Bruiser that can nullify enemy pushes against his Forts and Keeps.”
However, this role change should signal an improvement in Heroes of the Storm’s matchmaking algorithm. Over the years that aspect of the game has received more criticisms than arguably anything else about it. The role shake-up announced today should create better and more balanced hero combinations. Hopefully the new classifications will contribute to better automatic team composition in Quick Match.
New names, same jobs
Intuitively, the Tank role features the beefiest heroes. Some of the best crowd control Warriors – like Anub’arak and Arhas – found their way there too. Tyrael is also a Tank, which is perfectly fine although I would personally prefer to see him reworked from the ground up as a Support.
Ex-Assassins Ragnaros, Malthael, and Thrall are now in the Bruiser role. Overall all three heroes fit the description, considering they do lots of sustained area-of-effect damage, rather than the single-target burst expected of a true Assassin. The role change also makes a lot of sense for the first two who have lots of natural durability.
Thrall’s change is a little questionable, since the only way he could be described as “tough” is in the sentence, “Thrall is a tough hero to keep alive.” He does have defensive talents on every tier, but they are not always his best options, especially if you are trying to build him for a specific job.
There are no surprises in the Healer and Support roles, with the exception of Zarya. The Russian strongwoman is now a dedicated Support, rather than a Bruiser as per her description. In retrospect the change makes a lot of sense.
Zarya has many good support talents in her kit, including a mobility buff and a form of Purify. She can bestow both types of armor on her teammates in addition to the durability she brings with her Shield Ally ability. I only hope Blizzard takes her further in this direction and turns Zarya into the FLEXible dedicated Support she has the potential to be.
R.I.P. Specialist and Multi-class
Finally, the strange Multi-class experiment is over. Varian is now a Bruiser, which – let’s face it – he always was. The Specialist class is also no more, with Xul reclassified as a Bruiser too. This role fits his kit well, although I seriously hope they don’t scrap his Skeleton talents to make him even more Bruiser-y.
Medivh is finally a Support in name rather than just in how all of his abilities work. Abathur and the Lost Vikings are now weirdly also Supports. I guess they support their team with vision? The change doesn’t make a lot of sense, but nothing about these heroes ever made much sense so I guess everything’s fine.
The remaining Specialists are now exclusively Assassins, with Gazlowe and Murky in the Melee category. Azmodan, Nazeebo, Probius, Zagara, and Sgt. Hammer are Ranged Assassins, as is Sylvanas. To be fair, Sylvanas became a Ranged Assassin with her rework last November.
The departure of the Specialist class isn’t a big deal in my opinion. The role was intended as Heroes of the Storm’s version of a laner, but execution was inconsistent among the Specialist heroes. Many Specialists could easily specialize in nuking enemy heroes. Similarly, many non-Specialists were quite good at pushing lanes.
Arguably, the game’s treatment of classic MOBA mechanics has been to get rid of them. As turrets and minions became more streamlined – and talents interacting with them disappeared – the Specialist role lost some of its relevance. Given Heroes of the Storm’s current design direction, reassigning Specialists into more focused roles is a logical move.
The game’s competitive scene recently received a boost when ESPN and Tespa announced the creation of the Collegiate Esports Championship. While the new role format won’t majorly impact Draft, it’s still good to see Blizzard work to keep the game’s fundamental mechanics consistent and fair.
The role shuffle will come into full effect with the next HotS patch, slated for March 25. The patch will introduce the game’s new Caldeum Complex event, and bring changes to ranked play, Loot, and Armor. Heroes Lucio, Chromie, and Lunara will also receive balance changes.