Initiators: Gotta be startin’ something
League of Legends: In LoL, tanks usually start the fights and keep everyone else alive long enough to finish them. They don’t do it through healing — rather, they control fights by running in, using spells to stun enemies, and letting everyone else whale on the enemy. They tend to have lots of health in order to survive the initial counterattack.
Dota 2: Initiators in Dota 2 aren’t necessarily beefy — they’re just a little better at starting fights in their favor. Most initiators have spells that can disable multiple enemies at a time, with some disables lasting as long as 5 seconds. But if they screw up their opening gambit, they can lose their team the fight.
Heroes of the Storm: Disables in HotS don’t last as long as they do in other games, so it’s up to teams to pick their fights a little better. It does have heroes who can close the gap between them and the enemy without alerting anyone and deal serious damage, but that alone won’t win you a fight. HotS usually classifies heroes with the health and capability to start fights as Warriors.
Junglers: Not all who wander are dead
League of Legends: Junglers don’t go in any of the map’s usual lanes. Instead, they run around the “jungle” parts of the map, taking on the idle neutral creeps that hang out in camps there. In LoL, jungling is fairly standard — along with supports, carries, and mid-laners, most teams have a single jungler, effectively making the areas with wild creeps the fourth “lane.” Junglers can fight the enemies in the middle of the map early on without dying and can assist with early skirmishes in other lanes if they really need to.
Dota 2: Jungling isn’t a set-in-stone role as it is in LoL, but you’ll still see plenty of jungling in professional play since it provides the team with more experience than placing two heroes in a single lane. Additionally, you’ll see some heroes in Dota 2 eschew lanes altogether in favor of looking for enemy heroes to kill from the get-go; this is known as “roaming.”
Heroes of the Storm: HotS doesn’t have dedicated junglers yet (though The Lost Vikings can fight jungle creeps by themselves with the right skill build). Instead, jungling in HotS is a group effort. Because you can recruit the enemies in camps around the map to push lanes for you after killing them, good teams should venture into the jungle, recruit some neutral creep camps whenever they spot a lull in the action, and have a buddy help them.
Pushers: Enemy at the gates
League of Legends: Pushers are the kinds of champions that excel at “pushing” the lanes by clearing them of enemy creeps quickly or dealing damage to towers at a higher rate. In LoL, they tend to fall into the former camp more often. You’ll usually want to push lanes between fights with heroes that kill creeps quickly and can boost attack speed and damage to melt them down.
Dota 2: Pushing is so popular in Dota that players have coined a colloquial phrase for when one hero pushes a lane by themselves while everyone else is either fighting or farming creeps elsewhere: Rat Dota, a term evoking the imagery of a swarm of rats gnawing at your food and fleeing when you try to swat them away. With the number of abilities and items that let people move around the map unhindered, it’s harder to get caught out while pushing this way than it is in other games.
Heroes of the Storm: Matches of HotS are fast enough that you could dub every hero a “pusher.” However, those that it classifies as Specialists can summon units or siege towers quickly in order to gain fast experience and out-level the enemy. Zagara makes great use of this, summoning all sorts of Zerg units to push towers before the enemy can react.
Play your way
Should you decide to dive deep into any of MOBA, you’ll likely find that these roles become a bit more loose as you learn the ins-and-outs of your game of choice. This guide is more as a general primer for someone looking to get into these sometimes-baffling multiplayer games or for longtime League of Legend/Dota 2 veterans looking to get started with Heroes of the Storm.
Find characters you like, get in a comfort zone, and don’t be afraid to experiment. But most important: Destroy that core. Or nexus. Or ancient.
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