Tips for new players, and explanation of hero roles
I gave man-birth to this giant wall of text as a reply in another thread, but I figured I could post it here as well since a lot of new players might find it useful.
I'd say the first thing you need to do is simply just play. Keep the Prodex open in your browser so you can alt-tab and consult it when you know which hero you're playing. Play Single Draft so you don't have to think too much about what to pick, and you don't get tempted to keep playing the same hero over and over. Getting good at one hero can of course be great, but you will NOT be good at any hero until you know what all the others can do to you. Most heroes require 2-5 games to get a decent feel for, though you only need to understand what their skills do to be able to counter and beat them. I'd recommend the Prodex over the ingame guides, the S2 guides are useless. Do not buy a punchdagger as your first item on Arachna, despite that the guide says so. I usually scroll down the list to one of the high rated public guides, though I rarely follow them. I just base my itembuilds on my opposition. You will be able to do this once you get a better feel for the game.Be prepared to spend at least a few months just learning the basics.
What I feel has made me a better player is watching streams. I watch HoN streams almost every single day, I often watch streams more than I actually play. Mostly because I'm lazy. I usually watch AngryTestie, N0tail and Freshpro. You can find all these streams and many more at www.honreplays.org , they're on a list on the right side of the site. The list is automatically updated to show who's live. I study their gameplay, how they farm (using spells to lasthit several creeps at a time, while at the same time making sure you have mana for ganks and other stuff), how they build their heroes (item and skillbuilds), and generally how they play different heroes. You should probably just play a ton of games before you start watching streams though. It'll make it more interesting when you properly understand what's happening and why they make the decisions they make.
I could write 4 pages about this game, but I'll end it here. I think the most important piece of advice anyone could give anyone, is this; Realize that you suck. There are SO many players out there who, every single time they lose, blame their team for it, and every time they win they think that they were the one who won the battle. I'm not going to say that I never do it either. The truth about pretty much everything is that if you don't realize that you have room for improvement, you will not improve. If you lose a game thinking you did everything right and everything was someone else's fault, you don't learn anything from it. Watch your own replays, reflect on what YOU did wrong - screw your teammates. You're supposed to be better than them. You're supposed to win regardless of how bad your team is. It may not always be possible, but is should always be the goal. You can't improve how your teammates play, you can only improve yourself. If you want to win games, you either need to find a team or you need to be able to carry bads. Even if you get a team you'll probably have to carry bads either way. Who would you like to be? The one who carries bads or the bad who gets carried?
Also, do not rage at your team. It has no purpose. If you're going to comment on someone's play, do it constructively. If your teammates never carry TPs with them (this is something you NEED to do, by the way. If you don't have a TP stone in your inventory after the 5-10 minute mark, buy one. Either with the courier or the Outpost.
Anyway, as I was saying - If your teammates don't carry TP's ask them to start doing it. Don't go "OMFG NOOBS DUN CURRY TPS MON!!!", ask them politely. And if they don't do it, screw them. Try to win the game regardless, but don't flame them for it. Flaming someone will NEVER make them play better. It will make them angry, it will make them play worse because they're angry, and it might make them leave you to die instead of saving your ass when you need them. Or steal your kills on purpose. Or whatever else they can think of to sabotage you, there are a lot of kids in this game. Just ignore them, you want to win the game, not argue with some preteen c*nt about his itembuild.
I have repeatedly stated that you shouldn't care about your teammates - this is only partially true. You'll often have to carry bads but despite that you also need to remember that HoN is a team game. If you don't work with your team you will not win. Whether that means using them as cannonfodder while you kill stuff, or sacrificing yourself to save the carry depends on your team, the situation and your role. But if your team is being plain stupid, don't be a lemming and walk into the abyss with them. If you know for sure before a fight even starts that it's most likely a loss, get back. Tell your teammates to get back aswell but if they don't just leave them. If you're 3 people pushing a tower and you see 4 people grouping up to kill you, you run. Tell your team to get back but if they don't notice that's too bad for them. Don't try to help your teammates if you are most likely to die while doing so.
However, you can often turn the tide with sneaky play aswell. For instance, if you're in a sidelane and the two enemy heroes are focusing your low-hp and fleeing lane partner, you can often take advantage of the situation and gain a doubletap. Many noobs will only keep their eye on the low hp target and completely ignore you until it's too late. Especially if it's an early towerdive you can quite reliably score some easy kills due to greed. I've gotten countless kills on people who were mindlessly chasing my lane partner. I also always get REALLY annoyed when I'm getting focus fired by the two enemies in my lane, and my partner just runs away with full health. Unless you're about to die, you fight. Of course it depends on the situation, but in most cases you can safely drive them back or kill them on your own while they're ignoring you.
Also, here's a brief explanation of a few different roles;
A hero that has scaling skills and that get very powerful with more items. Good examples of carries is Puppet Master, The Madman, Flint Beastwood and many more. Carry heroes are typically Agility heroes, though there are a few strength and intelligence carries aswell. If you look at Madman and Puppet Master, you'll see that their skillsets are oriented towards autoattacking. They have skills that give them crit, attack speed, higher base damage etc. In other words, they scale exponentially with more gear, as opposed to for instance a Witch Slayer, whose autoattack is pretty weak regardless of gear. Of course, any hero CAN carry, but these heroes are more effective at it, and need less gear to deal more damage. Or they have very effective farming abilities, a good example of that is Soulstealer. He can clear entire waves of creeps with two Demonhands and it only costs 150 mana, which means he can farm incredibly fast.
A hero that is strong both in the early and mid game without much gear, but that gets very powerful (especially mid game) with farm and perhaps even more so with levels. Good examples of semi-carries are Wretched Hag, Dr. Repulsor (he might even be considered a real carry), Aluna(Maybe more of a ganker, but definitely has carry potential) Torturer and Defiler.
A semi-carry doesn't necessarily have spells that scale directly with gear, like a crit. For instance Torturer and Defiler are powerful with survivability and a high mana pool aswell as regeneration. A Defiler who can survive a teamfight can deal INSANE amounts of damage with her ultimate, and if she's overleveled aswell she will completely melt squishy heroes. Torturer's ultimate requires him to be close, and it also drains an ungodly amount of mana, which means that he needs a lot of intellect, health and mana regeneration. However a farmed Torturer can, if played well, easily take out several heroes on his own. Wretched Hag and Repulsor both have incredible mobility. Hag has her blink, which makes a well played Hag nearly impossible to catch (or escape from), and Repulsor has his rocket-jet-thing which lets him travel nearly as far as he wants with enough mana and regeneration. A well played Repulsor with some farm and a Regeneration rune can take out several heroes without even allowing them to touch him. Though he don't need Regeneration runes to still be one of the most powerful heroes in the game.
A ganker is a hero that is exceptionally powerful in the early-mid game, but tapers off towards the lategame. Gankers are typically played in the Middle lane, to give them an early level advantage.
Good examples of gankers are Deadwood, Chipper, Pyromancer, Wretched Hag, Pebbles and Fayde.
What defines a ganker is his incredible burst damage. Deadwood has an ultimate that can literally oneshot squishy heroes, the others mentioned here have a combination of spells that can be used to kill or severely damage a hero in less than one second. Gankers are also good heroes if you want to win games - keep killing the enemy heroes from you hit level 6 and they will never get a chance to become powerful. Most gankers typically have this one benchmark item that makes them almost unstoppable. Pebbles and Deadwood gets a Portal Key and there is no way in hell you'll even see them coming until they're standing on your corpse. Fayde gets a Codex early enough and she can kill ANYTHING with her combo. Hell, she can already kill most heroes without a codex, but her spells don't scale too well so the Codex helps her stay powerful when enemies get more health.
Initiators are, as the name indicates, heroes that initiate fights. They don't necessarily have to initiate the fight, but if they catch an entire team off guard, the fight can be over before it even started.
Good examples of initiators are Behemoth, Magmus, Kraken, Tempest and Hellbringer.
All of these heroes have incredibly powerful AOE ultimates, and except for Hellbringer they all need a Portal Key to be able to quickly take advantage when the enemy team is clustered. A Magmus or Behemoth can completely obliterate the enemy team with their ultimates, being the two most powerful AOE damage ultimates in the game. I once got a solo annihilation with Magmus, he's one of my absolure favorite heroes. Magmus and Behemoth are very similar. They both have a stun, and a powerful AOE damage ultimate. Behemoth is slightly harder to play though, because his stun is also a vector block that requires you put a lot of thought into positioning. Tempest and Kraken have somewhat similar ultimates, though I'd say Tempest's is more powerful. In return Kraken is more useful in general while Tempest is pretty much just a walking ultimate. Here is a video that shows the power of Tempest's ultimate coupled with Soulstealer's; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLrd6o5pTFk
Magmus and Behemoth can do almost as much damage, and they don't require the enemy team to be THAT clustered. Well played initiators win games. A lot.
Last but definately not least, there is the support hero. The support hero is there to support. He buys the Courier, places Wards of Sight, helps his carries get kills and farm, and if needed, sacrifices himself to save the carry. And any other supportive task you can think of like stacking the jungle, etc. The support hero typically lets the Carry in his lane get all the lasthits and often don't even get boots until 10 minutes into the game.
Good examples of Support heroes are Nymphora, Demented Shaman, Myrmidon, Voodoo Jester and Witch Slayer.
Support heroes are typically Ranged, and the ones who have stuns/disables are often favored, like Myrmidon, Witch Slayer and Pollywog Priest. Support heroes don't need much gear, they're there to use their spells to hold enemies still while their carries/gankers kill them. Or to use their disables defensively to save their teammates. When playing support, you buy a courier. End of discussion. Unless another support hero buys it, you do. You then upgrade the courier to flying within 5 minutes, preferably with the first 200 gold you get, and you ward rune spots and other positions of strategical importance. The purpose of wards is to help look out for incoming ganks, help the Mid hero see where the rune is, and to look for ganking opporotunities, aswell as simply just providing very valuable information. Wards are the most overpowered item in the game.