Like many competitive games, Heroes of the Storm's professional gaming meta is very different to the play us mere mortals can produce. And like those other competitive games, HOTS still has people watching pro streams and then badgering others for not doing what the elite do, not realising it won't work at their lower rank. This is a guide for what to do precisely when you're at those lower ranks.
For a time, I was in elo hell (shudder). Not only was I playing on an old laptop, but some connection issues meant I lost a bunch of ranks without even playing the games. Just pressing "Ready" would lose me ladder points. After one night I went from enjoyable games to playing with randoms doing random things.
Given HOTS only allows you to team up with one person when doing ranked games, upward mobility is limited. And given the design of the game, it can be impossible to carry teammates who won't show up to objectives at the right times, or who insist on chasing into the tall grass.
So, while the pros have a certain pool of heroes they choose from, you should have a different pool. One that's good specifically for ranking up. I've noted the ones that have been the most useful in dominating the lower levels as I made my way back up. If you have any others, leave them in the comments below.
The pros don't like Li Li because of her non-targetted heals. It's a fair criticism, as it is a bit limiting, but most of the time you'll want to heal whoever is on the lowest health anyway, which Li Li does automatically. Most people play Li Li trying to conserve her mana -- don't. There's a great guide to playing Li Li found here, and it's not a joke. That Q button should be worn through by the end of the game. Don't do the Dragon build, don't go the Blind build (especially if you're solo healer), just put points into your Q and let 'er rip. At the lower levels, it's unlikely anyone will stun your jugs ult. If you want to up your game, learn how to be a frontline Li Li who can be annoying and occasionally body block for teammates. Newer players come to HOTS with a mentality of "kill the healer", but Li Li can be very hard to kill.
Rehgar is neglected at the pro level because anything he does, other healers can technically do better. But ignoring the pro level, stats show that the longer a game goes on with Rehgar in it, the more likely his team is to win. He really comes into his own later on when you direct his talents towards his chain heal. Grab Feral Heart and you can stay on the map forever. Determine which teammate is about to be focused to get that Ancestral Healing off in time, and you're a game winner. Most importantly, at the lower levels your teammates are going to be making a lot of mistakes, and Rehgar lets you minimise those mistakes as much as possible from range, while able to sprint out of combat in wolf form when it all goes south, saving yourself.
Johanna never dies. If you're duo queueing, Joh goes great with an assassin. You can be a frontline bully while someone like Valla just keeps up the damage. Joh is great for maps like Blackheart's Bay or Tomb of the Spider Queen, which involve heroes carrying gems or coins. Because Joh never dies, she naturally ends up carrying lots of them. and is more likely to get away when that ambush from the fog comes. PvE can be the deciding factor on these maps, but of course, Joh is good to have around in teamfights as well.
Muradin is one of the cheaper heroes to get, and is consistently one of the best tanks. He's been quietly one of the best since beta, even recently when everyone was picking only Joh or Leoric. Save his escape for when your teammates screw up, and you're outta there. His stun comes in mighty handy if someone like Nazeebo goes for Ravenous Spirit. With the right talents, Mura can actually get four stuns(!), allowing you to completely shut someone down (like a healer) for the first 4-5 seconds of a fight. Or you might opt for the great sustainability of Avatar and Stoneform. He's probably the best value for gold hero in the game.
Zagara is useful at all levels, but especially useful at the lower levels because no one bothers to clear the creep. Time and time again, I've seen teams just walk over creep, even hiding in tall grass, unaware that the enemy team can see everything they do. Even if they know that fact, they don't want to clear it because it's a waste of their mana. Instead of clearing it up as a team, they just allow the enemy complete vision of half the map and all objective points. Zag is great for that alone, but of course she can put up some big damage numbers as well, and be a huge bully in the laning phase. To add to that, the Maw is basically a poor man's Void Prison that lower rank players don't bother avoiding.
Captain Right-Click, reporting for duty. Raynor is now the "anti-tank", able to bring down massive health pools quickly if left alone on the edges of a fight. He can inspire himself to fire faster and doesn't even need to stutter step, as the right-click is usually enough to tail someone and keep firing. As such, Raynor has a very low skill floor but there's plenty of room to learn with him as well. Calling down the Hyperion is also a very good "everybody out of here, let's go calm down" ability.
There's one combo to master with Kerrigan, and no one in the lower ranks bothers avoiding it, despite that being as simple as "walk sideways". Of course, when they start doing that, there's a mind game you can play where you auto-attack until they run away, and then do the combo. But it usually doesn't come to that. Dive in with Q, hit W and E in their direction, and if your ult is up, you can throw in R for good measure. The good ol' QWER. I've dismantled even high rank teams with Kerrigan, and as an early game hero, she's especially useful on snowball maps like Infernal Shrines. Just make sure your team is committed to the fight when you dive, because it can be hard to escape.
Kael'Thas is great when your team isn't drafting properly and doesn't have enough damage. Kael can put up some big numbers to make up for that, and lower level enemy teams really don't know how to deal with Chain Bomb. They'll just walk right back into their teammates and blow them up. It's fun imagining the rage chat on the other side when that happens. One could just as easily say Jaina in this situation, but I feel like Jaina has a slightly higher skill floor and ceiling. She puts up big numbers too, but Kael's Gravity Lapse makes escaping easier.
In the same vein as Kerrigan and Zagara, I'm putting this one here purely because lower level enemy teams just don't know what to do with Gazlowe's ultimate combo. It is absolutely a game winner, and even after being hit by it once, some opponents just keep getting caught by it. Throw the bomb, then throw your ult, then throw another bomb (if you got the 2nd bomb talent), and let your teammates add on whatever AoE they can. You might only get two enemies in the blast, but that's still good value. Occasionally you can get more, and that alone is worth having a Gaz. The rest of the time you can cheekily steal merc camps and take out forts.