Heroes of the Storm North America Has an Esports Problem

If you recently tuned into the Heroes of the Storm HGC Western Clash 2018 then it should be pretty apparent that North America wasn’t on the same playing field as Europe. The top two teams from North America were immediately dropped down to the lower bracket and by the second day Team Freedom was the only representative left for the region.

Heroes of the Storm HGC Bracket

HGC Letdown

It could easily be written off as bad luck. Tempo Storm recently lost one of their most veteran players and shot caller. HeroesHearth Esports just moved up from Open Division and maybe they had nerve issues or simply weren’t prepared to compete in front of spectators at this level.

However, the problem with the North American Heroes of the Storm esports scene is likely more systemic. Without one or two teams to dominate the region, and strong enough to compete with the best teams from other regions, the entire North American league is likely to stagnate or even regress.

The issues began when Harrison “psalm” Chang announced via Twitter that he was retiring from Heroes of the Storm, on June 23, 2018. Psalm had a relatively successful career in Heroes of the Storm with multiple first-place finishes on teams such as Panda Global, Astral Authority, and finally Tempo Storm. In his retirement message, he mentioned that he was leaving to pursue a career in Fortnite. When one of your best players on the strongest team in the region leaves to stream Fortnite, there are definitely some concerns.

I had the opportunity to speak with Maksym “Mopsio” Szczypa from Europe’s fourth seed Leftovers before the start of the second day during the HGC Western Clash. He said that there wasn’t a single American team that could compete with the rest of the world right now, especially not the top teams from Europe or South Korea. To be fair, Team Freedom went on to beat Mopsio and the Leftovers 3-1 in the upper bracket later that day, but they reclaimed their honor by sweeping Team Freedom the next day to move on to the finals.

Despite Team Freedom making it to the HGC Western Clash semifinals, it seemed more like a fluke than being the second best team at the tournament. When speaking with Jonathan “Wubby” Gunnarsson and Vilhelm “POILK” Flennmark from Team Dignitas, neither seemed worried about the North American competition. According to Wubby, it might have seemed like Team Freedom was close to winning during a couple of their matches but Dignitas was never worried. Instead, it was Method that gave Dignitas the biggest challenge and they were still only close during one match.

I asked Phillipe “Nazmas” Laberge about his thoughts regarding the rest of the tournament after beating Leftovers. He almost seemed surprised that they had made it that far and said their practice matches against Team Dignitas earlier in the year felt like fighting against gods as mere mortals. He went on to mention their mentality before the tournament, “We kind of joked about it and said if we win the whole thing it’s by accident.”

Heroes of the Storm HGC Team Freedom

Superstar Mentality

What Nazmas said next, could have exposed the true problem in the North American competitive scene:

“I think it starts by EU having a really strong region. They are really great at playing as a team together. In NA we always have a mentality of superstars so sometimes we step on each other.”

Could the problem be with the attitudes of North American players and not necessarily a lack of skill? It’s been a few years since I have personally been involved in the Heroes esports scene, but there was definitely no shortage of charged personalities and a handful of those players are still active today.

Tempo Storm’s Jun “Jun” Jang agrees that this could be one of the problems as well. He said that other regions, especially South Korea, are much more disciplined than North America. He gave an example of Gen.G’s Jae Won “Rich” Lee being one of the best players in the game but said he still listens to his coach and others who might help him improve. In North America, however, Grand Master players might question their coaches who aren’t on the same skill level mechanically in the game.

HGC Western Clash Winner Team Dignitas

Region Stagnation

Jun also offered some other insight into the problem with North America. It could be that the region simply coasted for too long after a string of victories and they’ve been unable to catch up.

“NA is for some reason lower level compared to EU, but I honestly don’t understand why. Maybe it’s players’ mindsets or maybe it’s the way they play. North America won the first BlizzCon, which means C9 at the time should have brought the region’s skill level up but I don’t think they did their job well. I heard they kind of cruised after BlizzCon while other regions tried harder. I think it’s been like that ever since and it’s what has caused the gap.”

Whatever the problem with North America is, they need to figure it out fast if they want a shot at the world championship. The HGC Playoffs are only a month away and BlizzCon is right around the corner after that. We’ve already seen what Team Dignitas can do and that still leaves the South Korean powerhouses of Gen.G, Tempest, and Ballistix.

Does North America have what it takes to turn things around before the Heroes of the Storm HGC Finals? Let us know what you think in the comments below.

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HGC Western Clash 2018 – Finals

It’s all down to this! The Heroes of the Storm HGC Western Clash finals will conclude with either Team Dignitas or Leftovers taking home the trophy. Earlier in the day, Team Freedom was knocked out by Dignitas while Leftovers clawed through the lower bracket. This will now be a best of 7 match, however, Dignitas does get a free win by staying in the upper bracket throughout the tournament.

HGC Western Clash

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Leftovers (EU4) Match 1

Map: Battlefield of Eternity
Dignitas Picks: Hanzo, Greymane, Blaze, Muradin, Uther 
Dignitas Ban: Maiev, Fenix, Tracer
Leftovers Picks: Diablo, Deckard, Genji, Dehaka, Cassia  
Leftovers Bans: Medivh, Yrel, Garrosh

Based on the draft, Dignitas looked to have a monster team with Hanzo, Greymane, and Muradin to race on Battlefield of Eternity. However, Leftovers clearly showed up to play and dominated most of the early game. Hanzo is dropped right after the initial Immortals spawn and Muradin is picked off slightly after.

With the Immortal pushing bottom, Leftovers attempts a risky dive past the tower and it pays off! Genji and Diablo are able to secure kills on Uther, Hanzo and Greymane. After the Immortal is cleared, Leftovers bring a 5-man rotation to top mercs and bodies blocks Blaze who has no chance of escaping. While attempting to defend the push, Uther is grabbed by Cassia’s Valkyrie as Leftovers hits level 10 first.

The teams clash as the second Immortal spawns. Uther gets dropped and Genji gets caught going for another kill. Leftovers manages to secure a second objective and a decent level lead, but it isn’t enough.

Once Dignitas hits level 13, they start a fight bottom lane and it looks like a completely different game. Cassia drops almost instantly and Blaze helps the team negate most of Diablo’s Lightning Breath with Bunker. Dignitas then takes down Dehaka and Deckard while only losing Hanzo.

This puts Dignitas in a great position as the third set of Immortals spawn. They quickly push their Immortal to halftime and are able to hold their ground long enough to finish it. The Immortal shoves top lane and Leftovers attempts to fight behind it, but the teams trade Uther and Deckard while the Immortal keeps pushing.

A small skirmish takes place in bottom lane that ends 2-1 in Dignitas’ favor just as the Immortals spawn. Although Leftovers push the Immortals to halftime, but during the second half Dignitas uses the Immortal’s position to their advantage and burn down Diablo and Genji.

Dignitas pushes with the Immortal and a great engage with Wubby on Blaze causes Diablo to drop quickly. Afterward, Genji and Cassia are picked off. Leftovers does manage to take out Greymane, but Dignitas has too much pressure on the core with the Immortal still alive and pulls out the win.

HGC Western Clash leftovers

 

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Leftovers (EU4) Match 2

Map: Volskaya Foundry
Dignitas Picks: Yrel, Sgt. Hammer, Johanna, Stukov, Junkrat
Dignitas Ban: Maiev, Diablo, Chromie
Leftovers Picks: Muradin, Fenix, Blaze, Deckard, Gazlowe
Leftovers Ban: Garrosh, Medivh, Genji

Leftovers drafts Gazlowe…and it’s just as disappointing as it sounds. Things start out fine until Dignitas hits level 7 first. This allows them to plant on the first objective while Leftovers has to catch up. Leftovers tries to put up a fight but it isn’t enough and Dignitas walks away with the Protector and two kills.

Reaching level 10 first, Dignitas chooses to soak and take camps to extend their lead 12 to 10. By the time the third objective spawns, Dignitas leads 14 to 12. Gazlowe gets to the objective first and sets up turrets but it isn’t enough and Dignitas takes three kills.

After grabbing the Protector, Dignitas pushes top and grabs a kill on Muradin and the keep. They then rotate bottom to catch out Gazlowe but Leftover members continue to fall one by one, which extends the Dignitas lead 20 to 16.

Leftovers regroups and attempts to fight but it isn’t enough to stop Dignitas and two Leftovers players fall. This gives Dignitas the opportunity to pressure the core. Leftovers members continue to fall while Dignitas slowly chips away at the core to win the game.

HGC Western Clash Dignitas winners

 

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Leftovers (EU4) Match 3

Map: Cursed Hollow
Dignitas Picks: Sgt. Hammer, Yrel, Genji, Deckard, Stitches
Dignitas Bans: Diablo, Maiev, Hanzo
Leftovers Picks: Muradin, Dehaka, Fenix, Malfurion, Tracer
Leftovers Bans: Abathur, Medivh, Garrosh

With Team Dignitas up three games to zero, it’s up to Leftovers to make a move or pack up and go home. They come out of the gate aggressive and punish Sgt. Hammer for chipping away at tower top. Leftovers then rotates to bottom to contest the first Tribute while Tracer picks off Genji middle.

Both teams posture around the Tribute for nearly 3 minutes before anything substantial happens. Eventually, Dignitas outplays Leftovers despite fighting a 4vs5 bottom; Muradin and Fenix drop first and Dehaka chooses to stay behind so Tracer and Malfurion can get away. This lets Dignitas grab the Tribute while Hammer cleared top fort.

The next Tribute spawned top right and the teams skirmished for a while before Fenix gets hooked and stun locked in place. Tracer is the next to drop and Dignitas picks up a second Tribute. This gives Dignitas a decent experience lead and allows them to take the boss before rotating to the third Tribute, which Leftovers simply conceded.

With the top fort already down, Dignitas attempted to take the keep but weren’t quite successful. After the curse wore out, Dignitas attempted to back but Deckard and Stitches were caught out by Leftovers.

While up 17 to 16, Dignitas starts a fight middle and it doesn’t look like much will come from it until Stitches lands another hook on Fenix who is quickly burned down. With the enemy down a hero, Dignitas looks to take boss again but Leftovers attempts to catch them off guard. Dignitas loses Genji and Deckard but secure a kill on Malfurion to force Leftovers to back off.

Knowing Dignitas wants that boss, Muradin gets caught scouting and is interrupted mid Dwarf Toss. Malfurion tries to react but gets snagged by Stitches in the process. Dignitas then takes the opportunity to grab the Grave Golem and push bottom with after. Once the keep falls, Dignitas hits level 20 and Leftovers start a fight as the golem is on its way to the core. Fenix melts right away and the remaining Leftovers pull back to try and save the core but it’s too late. Leftovers simply can’t deal with five heroes and a Grave Golem. Dignitas sweeps the series 4-0.

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HGC Western Clash 2018 – Semifinals

It’s time for the final day of the Heroes of the Storm HGC Western Clash. The first series has the final North American team fighting against Team Dignitas, which has failed to concede a game all tournament. Whoever gets knocked out in the first series will still have a chance to climb back against the winner of Method vs Leftovers.

HGC Western Clash Lutano

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Freedom (NA3) Match 1

Map: Dragon Shire
Dignitas: Fenix, Johanna, Dehaka, Chromie, Uther
Freedom: Garrosh, Deckard, Hanzo, Jaina, Blaze

Team Dignitas clearly did their homework by banning out Medivh after Team Freedom used him to dominate Leftovers the previous day. Early on in the game Freedom grabs their knight camp and ganks Fenix top, which gives them a half level advantage. Dignitas responds by taking the bottom knight camp and shoving bottom lane, and Chromie picks up Temporal Loop which has the potential to set up dangerous plays later on.

As Freedom hits level 10, Dehaka and Fenix attempt to gank Blaze top. However, Hanzo and Deckard respond and Dehaka falls instead. The teams clash once Dignitas reaches level 10, which results in Hanzo and Jaining falling, and Dignitas grabs the Dragon Knight to push top fort.

Dignitas’ Dehaka shows great global presence all game but gets caught top forcing Uther to use Divine Shield to save him. This plays an important factor in the next fight as Uther can’t protect himself and is dropped above middle lane. Even so, Dignitas gets level 16 first and is able to bully Freedom off the beacons and take the Dragon Knight.

While Dignitas marches bottom lane with the Dragon Knight, Freedom goes all-in against Chromie but Blaze gets burned down and Freedom is forced to back off and defend their keep. At 14:30 Freedom postures to invade bottom Knights, but Dignitas claims it just as they invade. Things look bad for Freedom but a key Bunker negates a ton of damage and Hanzo gets a huge stun off that allows Freedom to go 4-0.

Freedom presses their advantage to take the third Dragon Knight and level 20. They pushed bot without the minion wave and the Dragon Knight soaked too many keep hits to take the keep, which gave Dignitas a chance to catch up.

As the fourth objective spawns, Blaze gets picked off bottom and Dignitas secures the Dragon Knight. While attempting to defend the bottom Keep, Freedom’s Hanzo gets taken down early. Despite putting up a valiant effort, Freedom’s core falls after a well-timed Divine Shield saves Dignitas’ Fenix.

 

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Freedom (NA3) Match 2

Map: Tomb of the Spider Queen
Dignitas: Johanna, Deckard, Sgt. Hammer, Dehaka, Raynor
Freedom: Fenix, Diablo, Blaze, Malfurion, Gul’dan

Team Dignitas continues to ban Medivh and builds a solid Sgt. Hammer team that also has global presence with Dehaka. Early on, both teams rotate between middle and top lanes but Dehaka rotates from bottom to catch Malfurion out of position. Shortly after, Dehaka gets another pick on Fenix with some help from Raynor.

At 7-minutes in, Dignitas gets the first turn in and destroys mid and bottom forts before the Webweavers even spawn. Freedom responds well to the Webweavers and prevents much more damage but they’re down two levels at this point.

Dignitas attempts the boss at the 10-minute mark. Blaze attempts to stop them but his team is slow to show up. By the time the rest of Freedom gets there, Dignitas has the boss and takes down both Blaze and Diablo.

This gives Dignitas a massive 16 to 13 level lead and they’re able to turn in gems once again. Freedom attempts to hold them off but Fenix and Diablo fall. Already having a massive advantage, Dignitas doesn’t have much trouble ending the game at this point.

HGC Western Clash Dignitas

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Freedom (NA3) Match 3

Map: Towers of Doom
Dignitas: Yrel, Raynor, Zeratul, Deckard, Garrosh
Freedom: Abathur, Muradin, Kharazim, Tracer, Leoric

Once again, Dignitas denies Freedom both Medivh and Sgt. Hammer on the chokepoint-heavy Towers of Doom. Early on, both teams push aggressively with Freedom top and Dignitas bottom lane. Freedom gets a slight objective lead after they take two altars and both teams take a fort.

Controlling the bottom fort gives Dignitas a slight advantage as they’re able to march in a set of mercenaries for added core damage. As the middle altar spawns, Muradin takes heavy damage and is chased away but Yrel pursues and finishes the job. Dignitas grabs the middle altar to take the lead, and the teams split the next set of altars that spawn middle and bottom.

Freedom then takes boss to even things up, but Dignitas then claims the bottom altar uncontested. The teams clash in the middle and Leoric falls. This sets up Dignitas to take 2 out of 3 altars during the next spawn and solidifies their lead 20 to 11.

Despite being down in score, Freedom is able to control most of the battleground at this point. As the sixth set of altars spawn, Zeratul gets picked off. Freedom fights at the Dignitas altar while Abathur captures theirs, but Dignitas pushes back for the two core shots.

Once again, Freedom grabs the boss to cut Dignitas’ lead to a single point. The seventh set of altars spawn top and the teams trade points. Dignitas attempts to invade Freedom’s bottom mercenaries but Freedom counters and forces a Void Prism.

While Freedom is busy top, Dignitas pushes in more mercenaries bottom to bring the score 6 to 2. Only needing two more shots, Dignitas sets up as the solitary altar spawns bottom. Freedom dances around the altar looking for a perfect engagement but Wubby on Yrel sneaks in the channel to win the game.

HGC Western Clash

This leaves Team Freedom knocked down to the lower bracket and Team Dignitas moves on to the final bracket. We’ll see if Team Freedom is strong enough to claw its way back or if the finals will feature two European teams.

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HGC Western Clash 2018 Round 2 – Lower Bracket

The lower bracket is the last chance for teams in the Heroes of the Storm HGC Western Clash. Despite being knocked out early North America still has two more opportunities to advance with HeroesHearth and Octalysis, but they’ll have to fight through EU’s Leftovers and Method.

HGC Western Clash Method

Method (EU3) vs HeroesHearth (NA1) Match 1

Map: Volskaya Foundry
Method: Yrel, Malfurion, Abathur, Garrosh, Maiev
HeroesHearth: Deckard, Genji, Diablo, Leoric, Fenix

Method is able to take control early and hold on. By the 12-minute mark, Method has already cleared all HeroesHearth forts and has a decent 17 to 15 level lead. HeroesHearth tries to regain momentum with a team fight on the bottom objective but Leoric falls early and Genji, Fenix and Diablo are cleaned up for a 4-0 fight in favor of Method.

The Protector gives method a chance to easily clear the bottom keep towers and obtain level 20 Storm talents. Aggressively looking for a fight, Maiev drops early but Method picks up three kills in return. With the Protector and two more heroes alive, Method ends the game.

 

Method (EU3) vs HeroesHearth (NA1) Match 2

Map: Infernal Shrines
Draft Method: Alex, Zarya, Muradin, Malthael, Maiev
Draft HeroesHearth: Diablo, Fenix, Uther, Thrall, Dehaka

This match was significantly more even during the early game than the previous. After 10 minutes, both teams are still relatively even in experience, but Method is able to secure the top Shrine and burn HeroesHearth’s top fort. HeroesHearth responds by picking off Muradin and then Malthael gets caught.

The teams clash again once the Shrine spawns middle lane. An excellent engagement by Maiev allows Method to bring down Uther and Diablo then take the middle fort. Around 15 minutes, Muradin is assassinated after a tricky grab and Isolation by Dehaka. HeroesHearth then attempts to dive Zarya behind top tower, but Method responds quickly picking up 3 kills in the process.

Method picks up an Arcane Punisher and bruiser camp top to push in the keep. Trying to end the game, Method gets wiped while HeroesHearth has 6 percent core left. HeroesHearth responds by taking bottom keep and look to end the game but are forced to retreat due to catapults threatening their core.

The final Shrine spawns middle and HeroesHearth has control. Method tries to fight but notices catapults on their core and are forced to back. Instead of finishing the Shrine, Dehaka and Thrall attempt to backdoor the Method core but Thrall gets caught. Method is then able to finish the Shrine and march with the Punisher to victory.

 

Method (EU3) vs HeroesHearth (NA1) Match 3

Map: Dragon Shire
Draft Method: Muradin, Fenix, Rehgar, Cassia, Blaze
Draft HeroesHearth: Yrel, Abathur, Tracer, Johanna, Li-Ming 

In a last-ditch effort, HeroesHearth puts together a risky Abathur solo support team. Their team has a lot of self-sustain but will have difficulty with burst damage and Method drafts Cassia to deal with Tracer.

Sticking with their aggressive strategy, HeroesHearth invades Method’s giant camp early but Johanna pays for it. Knowing that HeroesHearth has a disadvantage early, Method aggressively pushes bottom while Abathur is top. Li-Ming is caught out of position taking the shrine bottom and then Johanna falls while trying to defend.

HGC Western Clash Method

Method hits level 10 first and tries to press the advantage with the knight camp bottom. However, HeroesHearth soaks to 10 and deletes Muradin, which forces Method to retreat. Things continue to look up for HeroesHearth when they take out Fenix and Muradin middle lane then grab the Dragon Knight at level 13. This gives HeroesHearth a level advantage and allows them to unlock the 16-talent tier first.

HeroesHearth looks to start a fight, and both teams exchange Heroics, but no one falls. This gives them a chance to grab another Dragon Knight, though. As the Dragon Knight ends, Yrel gets put in an awkward position and Method capitalizes. Tracer falls bottom lane, but HeroesHearth is able to soak to level 20 first. However, Li-Ming is caught out of position again and HeroesHearth can’t fight back with Tracer still dead.

With Li-Ming dead, Method grabs giants and knights to push through bottom keep to the core. The teams exchange kills and Abathur tries his best to keep the core alive, but it isn’t enough. Method takes the victory and the series.

 

Leftovers (EU4) vs Team Octalysis (NA4) Match 1

Map: Volskaya Foundry
Leftovers: Deckard, Fenix, Thrall, Johanna, Genji
Octalysis: Blaze, Medivh, Garrosh, Raynor, Malfurion

 

In this battle of the 4th Seeds, Leftovers and Team Octalysis are fighting for survival. There are interesting hero picks on both sides with Leftovers securing Genji and Octalysis picking up Medivh, who was incredibly strong for Team Freedom earlier in the day.

With an early level 4 talent advantage, Leftovers start a fight at the support camp while Blaze is showing bottom. However, Octalysis doesn’t back off and they’re able to pick off Deckard once backup arrives.

Shortly after the first objective spawns and Octalysis is able to body their opponents off the point. Leftovers comes back strong to force overtime on the objective and pick up two kills. Refusing to concede, Octalysis reengages when both teams have 99 percent control, but they’re forced to retreat and Leftovers claim the Protector.

Leftovers destroy top fort with the Protector and put some damage on middle fort. This gives them an experience lead and allows them to hit level 10 first. Octalysis tries a risky play invading Leftover’s turret camp; they’re able to steal the camp and kill Fenix.

The second objective spawns top and even though Octalysis has caught up in experience they don’t have a top fort to retreat to. After the initial clash, Leftovers are able to heal at their well while Octalysis must retreat back to base. Octalysis returns then Johanna and Genji fall attempting to kill Malfurion. Thrall finally secures the kill with a Chain Lightning bounce and Octalysis has to back with their healer down.

After claiming the Protector, Leftovers push bottom but go too aggressive chasing Malfurion. Fenix and Genji initially drop and Deckard is forced to sacrifice himself. This gives Octalysis a chance to catch up and both teams sit relatively even 16-minutes in and level 18.

Looking for a chance to close out the game, Leftovers engage Octalysis at their own turret camp but Blaze reacts with a well-placed Bunker to negate Salvo and X-Strike. At 17:30 the third objective spawns and Octalysis sets up, however, they back off to soak 20. Octalysis attempts to reengage but miss times the situation and Leftovers pick up the Protector along with a kill on Garrosh. Down a hero, Octalysis is unable to defend their core from the Protector. Leftovers secure the game.

 

Leftovers (EU4) vs Team Octalysis (NA4) Match 2

Map: Braxis Holdout
Leftovers:  Diablo, Deckard, Fenix, Ragnaros, Greymane
Octalysis: Dehaka, Muradin, Blaze, Kharazim, Raynor 

HGC Western Clash Octalysis

With the interesting map choice of Braxis Holdout, Leftovers drafts Ragnaros for his insane lane presence. Octalysis tries an early level 2 invade but Leftovers is ready for them and they’re forced to back out. Lots of skirmishing takes place between the two teams and Blaze eventually gives first blood.

Octalysis manages to bait out Fenix’s Warp and then reengage on him for their first kill of the game. This gives them an opportunity to take the bottom control point. Leftovers tries to push them off but Deckard pays the price. Despite taking command of the objective, Ragnaros easily dispatches the Zerg wave top.

During the lull between objectives, Octalysis takes bottom fort while Leftovers destroy top fort. After the next objective spawns, a 1 for 1 trade happens top and Diablo loses his souls. Octalysis is able to reach level 16 first and commands a huge Zerg wave. Leftovers again easily deal with the Zerg but this gives Octalysis a chance to clean up top fort.

Trying to even the score, Leftovers push bottom. Fenix and Ragnaros fall in the ensuing team fight, but Greymane is able to turn on the low health team and create a 4-2 advantage. The teams regroup as the next objective starts. A clash happens around the top beacon. Leftovers combine an amazing Stay Awhile and Listen with Purification Salvo to erase Octalysis. Without anyone to contest them, Leftovers walk to the enemy core and destroy it.

 

Leftovers (EU4) vs Team Octalysis (NA4) Match 3

Map: Battlefield of Eternity
Leftovers: Fenix, Muradin, Blaze, Malf, Li-Ming
Octalysis: Hanzo, Deckard, Hammer, Johanna, Dehaka

In this third match, Leftovers is looking to close out the series while Octalysis just wants to stay alive. Both teams soak and rotate mercenary camps until the first Immortals spawn. A few skirmishes take place in the middle but Leftovers keep the poke consistent on their Immortal and win the objective.

Leftovers push with their Immortal but it doesn’t quite take bottom fort. The teams go back to soaking and taking mercenary camps until the next Immortals spawn. They start the race but Leftovers hits level 10 first and secures the objective. While the Immortal pushes top, Octalysis attempts to counter but a well-placed Bunker saves Fenix after being Isolated by Dehaka; Leftovers manage to clean up four kills afterward and take a 13 to 11 level lead.

The third objective spawns around the 12-minute mark and Leftovers has a commanding lead. Octalysis attempts to defend their Immortal but Deckard is picked off. This allows Leftovers to finish the Immortal, which takes bottom keep.

Afterward, Octalysis starts the top merc camp when Leftovers invade, however, Octalysis is able to turn the fight around and kill Li-Ming. The next Immortal spawns and Octalysis is able to quickly take it to halftime. This gives them a chance to back off and secure level 16.

This still isn’t enough to beat Leftovers in an even team fight as a clash happens between the Immortals. First Deckard falls and then Hammer and Johanna. This allows Leftovers easy access to the enemy core and the series victory.

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HGC Western Clash 2018 Round 2 – Upper Bracket

Round 2 of the Heroes of the Storm HGC Western Clash began today with a very lackluster showing by North America. HeroesHearth Esports, the NA top seed, was relegated to the lower bracket the previous day by Europe’s fourth seed and fan-favorite Tempo Storm was completely knocked out the first day. This left third seed Team Freedom as the last chance for North America in the upper bracket where they would have to face off against Leftovers in the quarterfinals and either Team Dignitas or Method if they managed to advance to the Semifinals.

The first round of the day featured the tournament favorite, and EU top seed, Team Dignitas against third-seed Method, who knocked out Tempo Storm the day prior.

HGC Western Clash

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Method (EU3) Match 1

Map: Volskaya Foundry
Dignitas: Yrel, Maiev, Johanna, Malfurion,
Method: Muradin, Fenix, Deckard, Sgt. Hammer, Blaze   

Method clearly drafting a strong frontline to protect their combo of Deckard and Sgt. Hammer. Early on, Method tried to focus pushing bottom while Dignitas rotated taking, but they get punished by a great rotation and lose both Blaze and Deckard.

Things continue to go poorly for Method as they setup Hammer on the first objective only to get forced off and lose two heroes in the process. After grabbing the early level 10 lead, Dignitas easily pushes down Method’s top fort with the protector and extends their lead.

After the protector falls, Dignitas rotates to the mercenary camps while Method takes the bottom fort. Seeing the opportunity, Dignitas pushes top and nearly finishes the Keep. Already in control, Dignitas claims the second objective and uses the protector to finish top and pressure mid keep.

With completely control of the map, and a level lead of 17 to 13, Dignitas pressures bottom but Maiev is caught out of position. However, Dignitas manages to turn the fight and finish off Muradin. This allows them to take the final objective and march to the core.

 

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Method (EU3) Match 2

Map: Infernal Shrines
Dignitas: SGT Hammer, Yrel, Maiev, Stukov, Johanna
Method: Diablo, Alexstrasza, Fenix, Zarya, Sonya

HGC Western Clash

Try to mix things up this match, Method drafted a very interesting triple-warrior composition with Zarya. This gives their team a lot of survivability to hold objectives at the cost of burst damage. Early on it pays off as Sonya, Zarya, and Diablo easily bully Dignitas while Sgt. Hammer and Fenix fight bottom. Despite winning the objective, the Punisher doesn’t deal a whole lot of damage to Dignitas’ top fort and Hammer traded some damage on Method’s bottom fort.

Both teams hit level 10 around the 6-minute mark as Fenix is silenced and caught out for the first kill of the game. Soon after, the second objective spawns bottom and Fenix dies again, however, Method takes out Maiev and secures the objective. This time they destroy the bottom fort and then rotate top to clean up that one as well.

Despite taking two objectives back to back, Method only had a slight experience lead due to Dignitas playing a consistent macro game. Dignitas then concedes a third objective top to push lanes and clear mercenary camps. Method’s Punisher threatens top keep but a perfectly placed Massive Shove by Stukov sends Sonya halfway across the map and Dignitas is able to hold back the push.

Shortly after, the fourth objective spawns bottom. A great initiation by Maiev leads to a Fenix death and Method can’t answer. Dignitas marches through bottom lane with the Punisher to take out bottom keep, but minions finish of Dignitas’ top keep.

Relatively even at this point, Dignitas manages to pick off Zarya and manages to secure the fifth shrine, which destroys the top keep. Another shrine spawns bottom and both teams clash once again. Method forces Dignitas off the points and pushes bottom lane with the Punisher and attempt to take the core. However, catapults manage to outrace Method’s push bottom and Dignitas takes the win. Zaelia on Stukov played a major role in this match with multiple well-placed Shoves that turned around key team fights.

 

Team Dignitas (EU1) vs Method (EU3) Match 3

Map: Cursed Hollow
Dignitas: Raynor, Diablo, Uther, Dehaka, Zeratul
Method: Yrel, Maiev, Kharazim, Tyrael, Illidan

In a last-ditch effort, Method drafts a full dive melee comp thinking they wouldn’t have to worry about a backline. However, Dignitas counters by picking up Uther and Zeratul who have great tools for countering the dive.

Similar to the first game, Dignitas takes control and never lets go. Raynor picks off Yrel in top lane just before the Tribute spawns and secures the objective without contest. Dignitas then delays capturing their knight camp until the second Tribute spawns. This forces Method to clean up mid lane while Dignitas gets another free objective. Then Illidan gets picked off giving Dignitas level 10; Method concedes the third Tribute for a huge Curse only 7 minutes in.

The rest of the match plays out in similar fashion. Method players get picked off multiple times in a row before key objectives and Dignitas grabs their boss, which pushes in the bottom keep. Dignitas then rotates to the fourth Tribute and onto Method’s boss, however, Method catches them out of position and take out both Raynor and Zeratul.

It looked like Method might finally getting its act together. Dignitas was allowed to grab their fifth Tribute in a row and rotated to Method’s boss camp just as they finished taking it. Despite having the Grave Golem on their side, Method still loses Yrel, Illidan, and Maiev. Due to still having their top fort, Dignitas basically ignores Method’s boss and takes their own. Method goes all in one last time in bottom lane but gets wiped allowing Dignitas to end the game.

Despite the series seeming quite one-sided, Dignitas ranged player Vilhelm “POILK” Flennmark said they never stopped respecting their opponents. Method’s draft second game clearly gave them some trouble, but Dignitas stuck to playing their style and managed to pull out a close win.

 

Leftovers (EU4) vs Team Freedom (NA3) Match 1

Map: Dragon Shire
Leftovers: Greymane, Blaze, Deckard, Maiev, Muradin
Team Freedom: Kharazim, Garrosh, Fenix, Dehaka, Medivh

 

As the last North American team in the upper bracket, Team Freedom was expected to have a rough time with EU’s Leftovers. In the first match, both teams came out aggressive at level one and traded a death mid lane. Freedom’s Dehaka dies early in top lane and Leftovers capitalizes with a big knight push to quickly clear the fort.

The rest of the early game is relatively back and forth until a fight ensues below mid lane where Greymane and Maiev fall to give Freedom the level 10 Heroic advantage and the first Dragon Knight. Freedom pushes with the Dragon Knight and Greymane falls again just after the timer ends. Both teams decided to soak and rotate mercenary camps until Freedom hits 16.

Still a tier talent behind, Leftovers decided to start a fight just below middle lane and pay the price with Blaze and Muradin. This gives Freedom the opportunity to grab the second Dragon and extend their lead to two levels. While pushing bottom with the DK, Medivh and Garrosh get caught out of position but Freedom still manages to pick up four kills despite losing two players early.

After the Dragon Knight ends, Freedom regroups, grabs the bottom knight camp, and pushes down the keep.  With their hefty experience and structure lead, Freedom starts playing even more aggressive and Greymane is picked off mid lane. This gives Freedom a third Dragon Knight, which they use to march to the core and end the game.

 

Leftovers (EU4) vs Team Freedom (NA3) Match 2

Map: Battlefield of Eternity
Leftovers: Deckard, Fenix, Garrosh, Blaze, Thrall   
Freedom: Yrel, SGT Hammer, Medivh, Muradin, Rehgar

HGC Western Clash

This time around, Freedom drafted around Sgt. Hammer with a tanky frontline and Medivh to provide an excellent source of vision during Immortal clashes while Leftovers grabbed a fairly standard comp. Early on, eight heroes fight top while Blaze and Yrel duel bottom. Both teams rotate on their Shaman camp before the first Immortals spawn. Medivh gets caught out of position before Yrel rotates up, but spawn timers are so short he gets back in the fight in time to help Freedom secure the first objective.

Both teams hit level 10 shortly after the second set of Immortals spawn and throw a ton of heroics at each other but no one drops. Leftovers engages on Freedom’s Immortal and trade Garrosh for Yrel. After a bit of posturing, Medivh is picked off and Leftovers take the Immortal, which pushes top fort.

Afterward, Leftovers attempts to take top mercs, but Freedom pins them between a wall for a 4-0 skirmish. This gives Freedom the level 16 advantage as the third set of Immortals spawn, but Leftovers are able to stall until they catch up. There’s a bit of dancing around the Immortals until Garrosh falls and Leftovers is forced to retreat. Freedom takes the Immortal and pushes down bottom keep with it.

Freedom hits level 20 just as the fourth objective spawns and nearly clear it while Leftovers soak to catch up. Leftovers manage to hold off Freedom for a bit, but their early damage allowed them to eventually claim the objective. While Leftovers battled the Immortal top, Freedom rotated bottom and pushed down the core.

 

Leftovers (EU4) vs Team Freedom (NA3) Match 3

Map: Volskaya Foundry
Leftovers: Muradin, Fenix, Maiev, Malfurion, Thrall    
Freedom: Blaze, Alexstrasza, Sgt. Hammer, Garrosh, Li-Ming

 

This time around, Leftovers decided to shut down the Medivh with an early ban, but Freedom still drafts a Hammer composition. As the teams rotate through the mercenary camps, Leftovers gank Blaze bottom lane and grab the big support camp top. Freedom tries to setup on the first objective, but Leftovers hit level 7 first and take down Garrosh to control the point. Freedom tries to reengage once Garrosh gets back, but a clutch play from Maiev allows Leftovers to burn down Garrosh and Li-Ming. Leftovers easily take top fort, and the level 10 advantage, with the protector, which forces Freedom to soak experience to catch up.

The second objective spawns just after 9 minutes when both teams hit level 13. The teams trade a few Heroic abilities, and Freedom is forced to retreat and heal. Freedom reengages but get split and Garrosh and Blaze fall. With a commanding lead, Leftovers clean up Freedom in a 5-0 team fight and take the win.

 

Leftovers (EU4) vs Team Freedom (NA3) Match 4

Map: Tomb of the Spider Queen
Leftovers: Yrel, Jaina, Muradin, Stukov, Greymane
Freedom: Fenix, Deckard, Garrosh, Genji, Leoric

 

A few early skirmishes result in deaths on both sides, but rotations remain relatively even on both sides as they hit level 7. Freedom gets the initial Webweaver turn in and a slight lead. Leftovers gets their turn in while down Heroic talents. Freedom gets a pick on Greymane that allows them to easily clear the Webweavers and get two more kills on Stukov and Jaina.

Leftovers try to start a fight as Freedom gets their second turn in, but Jaina misses Ring of Frost and they’re forced to disengage. Freedom pushes top with their Webweavers and get picks on greymane and Muradin, which allows them to fall back and claim an easy boss. Choosing to soak instead of push, Freedom gains a level 16 to 13 advantage.

Freedom presses their advantage with a third turn in and pushing in top keep. As Freedom attempts to back out, Leftovers starts a fight but Freedom goes 3-0. With the hero and level advantage, Freedom easily destroys the core to win the match and series.

HGC Western Clash

The upper bracket for the HGC quarterfinals has come to a conclusion with Team Dignitas and Team Freedom as the victors. Despite North America being the underdogs, Freedom has still managed to hang on and is taking things one match at a time. We’ll have to see whether they can keep the momentum as they face the tournament favorite Dignitas.

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