Of all the changes brought about by new patches in Heroes of the Storm, the third ban has had the most impact on HGC players. Standard picks in the draft are frequently nixed, forcing teams to explore other options on the fly — often to their detriment. Western Clash 2018 showed us how aggressive and creative drafting is now going to be commonplace in the HGC.
Team Dignitas won it all this year without dropping a map, and their players were quite vocal about how being a flexible team is going to help them down the road. Wilhelm “Poilk” Flennmark is one of the most versatile DPS players in the game, bringing the best out of Li-Ming and other burst damage heroes.
For Poilk, the third ban represents a clean slate for HotS, and an opportunity for players to become more well-rounded.
“I think everyone’s enjoying it a lot,” says Poilk about the extra ban. “Especially for our team, it’s created a lot of opportunities to create new drafts and have new openings. It’s not just the same first two bans anymore and then the same draft patterns with the same first five heroes being picked.”
Even though the meta doesn’t get too stagnant in HotS because of how many maps there are, you could always anticipate certain picks in specific situations. Being able to force a team to reconsider their strategy by going for surprise bans can act as a strong mind game before the match even starts.
“[Method] banned four tanks, and then on the third game, they banned two DPS,” Poilk pointed out about their EU matchup. “There are a lot of new paths you can take. It’s been really amazing, really cool.”
Having the undisputed best roster in the EU region isn’t a fact that’s lost on Team Captain Joshua “Snitch” Bennett. There was never a doubt in his mind that Dignitas would be just fine with a third ban in play, although he did say that, “One problem we had at first was that time was much shorter, so it was hard for us to adapt to a shorter drafting time, but after we adjusted, we liked it a lot.”
Not every team is Dignitas, of course. The fourth seed EU team, Leftovers, made a surprise run to the Grand Finals that included some very interesting picks along the way. Against Team Freedom, they went for two early support picks in Tassadar and Alextrasza, leading some to believe that the third ban had stumped them.
It turned out they had a plan that no one would possibly have been looking for — Cho’Gall. Not only did the two-headed ogre get a rise out of the audience, but with two supports pocketing him, Leftovers were able to snowball to a relatively easy win.
On the other hand, Team Freedom was well aware of what their opposition liked to play and frequently went for bans on comfort picks. Tank player Phillipe “Nazmas” Laberge is well aware of which heroes opposing tanks lean on, and Team Freedom wasn’t afraid to take away those picks in the first round of bans.
“I think the second ban in the first rotation adds a lot of flexibility when you’re facing a team like Leftovers, for example,” Nazmas explained. “Mopsio has a really strong Diablo, so they were going to build their comp around that, and that’s what we targeted a lot throughout that ban. But before, in that two-ban format, you can’t just let all the OP picks go free, so you don’t have the luxury of banning Diablo, but now it’s something that’s more flexible and fun to do.”
As the current meta develops, you can expect the players with the deepest hero pools to become the true stars of the HGC. Flex players like Snitch have already proven their worth in the era of the third ban, leading to some very entertaining fights with seemingly suboptimal hero choices.
Though no other rosters currently touch the efficiency that Team Dignitas and Gen.G are operating with, now is the time for them to focus on mechanics that circumvent aggressive or targeted banning.