Opening Moves: The 4-1 Split, Everything You Need to Know

Dylan Walker, Blizzard Entertainment | January 22, 2018

Winning Level 1 Fights

In the beginning, people don't have the tools to save themselves.

It’s 2018! A new year for esports has inspired us here at Blizzard to create content this week that aims to educate our player base on the variety of different ways to start a competitive match, informed by some of the best players in the scene. Check back every day this week for a new addition to the #OpeningMoves mini-series. Today we will focus on what is known as the “4-1 split”.

The 4-1 split is one of the most popular lane designations in competitive Heroes of the Storm. In a nutshell, it simply means that one team dispatches a solo laner on his own while the rest of the team rotates between the remaining lanes in order to clear waves—typically mid and bottom or mid and top. The strategy is seen most often, and yields the most success, on two-lane Battlegrounds such as Braxis Holdout, Battlefield of Eternity, Haunted Mines, and Hanamura.

Building A Successful Four-Man

4man.jpg

What makes a good four-man?

“It’s constantly evolving,” said Zealots ranged flex Adrian “adrd” Wojcik. “It used to be that the four-man was only ‘deathballing,’ or picking Heroes that out-sustain enemies and brawling four versus four. Oftentimes, though, you would end up in a situation where your four-man would be weaker than the opposing team’s. So, at this point you must work around that.”

Nowadays a good four-man is more oriented towards ganks and kill pressure. “Heroes like Muradin are a perfect example of this,” adrd explained. “He’s not that great for fighting and trading, but if he disappears from the map your solo laner is in danger of dying, and also the four-man needs to be careful so that he doesn’t flank and get a good stun that turns into a kill.”

Understanding the macro game means understanding the amount of pressure on the Battleground at any given point in time. The most obvious pressure is lane pressure, when a wave is about to crash and must be cleared. The less obvious pressure occurs when an enemy Hero (specifically one that has crowd control or high burst damage) goes missing. When this happens, you must assume them to be anywhere and everywhere while playing reserved. When the four-man goes missing, it’s important to make yourself scarce, as you could be the next victim of a savage gank. Consider yourself warned.

Global Heroes and Specialist

H24_Probius_TG_002.jpg

If losing soak is such a cardinal sin, why not employ the likes of a Hero with global abilities to make up for this? While some of the best offlaners are global Heroes, adrd is hesitant to endorse this strategy.

“We've seen in the HGC some teams playing Dehaka and Falstad even on two-lane maps,” adrd said. “Normally, if you are solo laning with a global hero and you use your global ability to gank other lanes you will lose a lot of experience. So, what people are doing on Braxis Holdout is putting Dehaka in top lane and Falstad in bottom lane. Dehaka can gank, and then after the gank Falstad can fly top so you don't lose any experience. Rotating your globals around this way works really well, in the HGC at least.”

In Hero League though, it’s difficult to expect your teammates to be as coordinated. More often than not, the idea of a proper 4-1 split will fall apart in the draft, as the hero in the solo lane will either spell success or failure for your team.

The Role of an Offlaner

Heroes17_Dehaka_Combat_KL_Take_11.jpg

“You can probably hold one versus two.”

Remember this phrase the next time you step into a lane while outnumbered.

Assume your four-man is going well. They are getting kills and winning their rotation handedly. The advantage this brings doesn’t amount to much if the solo laner is struggling. The “1” in the 4-1 split is the most important part of the equation.

“I think most of the normal 1v1 laners are pretty decent at holding 2v1,” adrd said. “On some maps, it is very important that your solo laner doesn't lose too hard. On Braxis, for example, it's important to have a solo laner who can win their lane because it gives an insane advantage. You can hold one of the beacons for free basically after the structure in lane is gone. On most Battlegrounds, you have to consider how well the offlaner does in team fights as well.”

The best solo laners in the current meta would be Sonya, Leoric, Arthas, Greymane, Malthael, and Dehaka. Outside of maybe Greymane and Malthael, these are beefy frontline Heroes that excel at bullying opponents in lane and clearing waves quickly.

“You can run a lot of different setups, and the solo laner you use depends entirely on who they're facing off against usually,” adrd added. “Some Heroes will not be able to hold a lane on their own.”

Depending on the Battleground, you can decide for yourself if it’s more beneficial to take on the role of an offlaner or join in the four-man deathball. If you follow in the footsteps of the Mad Scientist, you’ll likely be winning rotations before you know it. 

Check back with us tomorrow right here at playheroes.com/esports because we’ll be learning how to identify whether or not your team’s composition will emerge victorious from a fight at level 1.