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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Heroes Global Championship Grand Finals

We’re down to the top 8 for BlizzCon 2017 with two days of intense competition to see who will be crowned the world champion. Two Korean teams, three European teams, and three North American teams will compete for a spot in the Heroes Global Championship Grand Finals. Normally, most people would say the North American teams have no chance of advancing to the top 4 but the quarterfinals are all Best of 3. One successful pocket strategy and they could be only one game away from the semi-finals.

The format for BlizzCon being only two days makes the games feel very rushed, with the semi finals and finals both being best-of-5s and played one right after the other. The Mid-Season Brawl and The Chinese Gold Club World Championship both have much better formats, which feels almost anti-climactic considering BlizzCon is supposed to be the biggest tournament of the year. Hopefully Blizzard thinks long and hard about this issue in the coming year, so BlizzCon can be both the most important tournament of the year and the most competitive.

Heroes Global Championship Grand Finals

Quarterfinals

MVP Black vs Team Freedom

The drafting from Noblesse as coach for MVP Black continues to be impeccable; they have not yet dropped a game in this tournament. Zugrug, even though he is a strong tank for NA, did not know how to deal with the Korean style of heavily pressuring the tank constantly. As a result, Freedom’s structure kept falling apart over and over again in team fights, laning, and rotations. At the highest level of Heroes of the Storm, tank is considered the most important position and there was a stark difference in level of play that MVP simply abused repeatedly. Rich on Zeratul in game two especially just bullied him, constantly denying Zugrug’s control of vision for his team.

Team Dignitas vs Team Expert

In the series that was likely to be the closest of any of the quarterfinals, Expert ended up taking it 2-0. They seem to have some special understanding of how to play against Dignitas specifically. Dignitas tried to win with their superior team fighting mechanics but Expert’s stronger understanding of the draft consistently gave them easier to execute comps. If the teams are close in level, the team with the overall easier composition should win. I have been waiting for Expert to step it up for a while because of how hard they have worked and I think in this series of games we finally got to see a better version of the team.

Fnatic vs Tempo Storm

Tempo Storm took game one with possibly the most hilarious combination ever in Heroes of the Storm: Garrosh’s Warlord Challenge into Medivh’s Poly Bomb over and over again. The moment Fnatic clumps, ever, they are chain sheeped with Poly Bomb because they can’t spread back out with Garrosh taunting them. Fnatic handily took games two and three, as expected, but it goes to show how powerful pocket strategies can be if teams haven’t seen them. With soon to be more than 74 heroes in the game, combinations like this are going to be possible and the burden of knowing all of them for pro teams will increase dramatically.

Ballistix vs Roll20 eSports

The second example of an NA team pulling out a single win with an unexpected pocket pick. Samuro on Battlefield of Eternity is actually extremely underrated, but the primary problem is having a player invest enough time to get good at the mechanical difficulties of the hero. Roll20’s Goku, however, is one of the most accomplished mechanical players in NA and managed a beautiful Samuro game. Game two started out very close with a very powerful combo setup by Roll20 on Tomb: Extended D.Va bomb with both Garrosh’s Into the Fray and Falstad Gust as potential combos. Ballistix managed to adjust their positioning mid game to deny it after it worked on them once. The signature power of Korean teams has always been how fast they adjust to unfamiliar strategies, even mid game, and that was no different here.

Game three is the most talked about game in the quarterfinals in the community. I want to take a moment to thank everyone for their passion for HotS eSports. It is because of your passion that people feel so strongly about this series. Roll20 went into the draft with a strict plan that they had practiced, for better or worse. It ended up getting heavily countered and they still stuck to it with Tracer, Tassadar, and a last pick Vikings. I don’t agree with their draft, but they thought it was their best chance to win.

Semi Finals

MVP Black vs Team Expert

Both semi finals ended up being 3-0s. When the EU teams went to Korea, they discovered they had the worse meta. EU having a superior meta has always been their trump card over the Korean teams with better drafts leveling the playing field versus KR’s superior mechanics. The EU teams that have beat Korean teams despite that have developed some other factor, be it team synergy, macro strategies, or specific multi-hero combos that they practice to death for consistent executions. Expert didn’t have any of that in this series.

Fnatic vs Ballistix

Ballistix strictly got out drafted in all three games. Fnatic simply had a better understanding of their own meta and how it interacted with what Ballistix wanted. Fnatic’s style of breaking open the map with macro is the offensive version of the way Ballistix likes to strangle their opponent off the map. Fnatic’s offense was better than Ballistix’s defense. I guess we know what happens when an Unstoppable Force meets an Immovable Object. Honestly, while I appreciate the sheer level of skill in these games, Fnatic was on another level.

Heroes Global Championship Grand Finals

 

Heroes Global Championship Grand Finals

MVP Black vs Fnatic

The epic rematch from last year, where all Fnatic wanted to do was beat a Korean team and that team was MVP Black in the semi finals. This is the second BlizzCon for MVP Black, who felt cheated out of their spot in 2015, only to lose to Fnatic in 2016. MVP Black, despite being a team that literally did not drop a game for months in early 2016, has never prepared for anything as hard as they prepared for this series. They brought on Noblesse, arguably the best competitive Heroes of the Storm drafter and strategist the scene has ever known, as their coach and put him in charge of all their drafting. He had final say on everything.

Game one was on Cursed Hollow, historically a terrible map for MVP Black. The draft ended up being triple “warrior” for MVP Black, with Abathur and Rehgar. Zarya was the “ranged” hero, while Arthas and Muradin were the front line. A mid game core call by Fnatic allowed them to race MVP Black’s core down to 18%. MVP Black, for the rest of the game, had to keep the pressure on Fnatic to prevent an easy backdoor from the Greymane, Falstad, Anub’arak line up. They couldn’t do it and in fact spent almost fifteen seconds waiting in a bush while the catapult lane was pushed up by Fnatic. Wubby discovered them just as they were backing to defend; it is possible his delay wasn’t even needed but the game was essentially over from that moment. A rare moment not only of misplaying, but passivity from MVP Black.

Game two was a different beast altogether. Fnatic, with double support Ana and Rehgar, on Infernal Shrines drafted a hyper carry Gul’dan, who was the lynch pin of their composition. MVP Black simply decided that Quacknix’s Gul’dan would not be allowed to live. Again and again Tsst’s Muradin jumped onto Quack as Rich’s Falstad was flying in for the flank and Gul’dan was gone. This series formulates a new rule for playing against Korean Muradins that is sadly only applicable to this tournament as Heavy Impact has already been nerfed: If the number of Dwarves in the air is greater than one, Ancestral Healing must immediately be cast on Gul’dan. Quacknix died in less than a second multiple times from the moment the Dwarf Toss landed, waiting until the stun connected was far too late. The highest praise retired support player Merryday ever gave to a team was when he said playing against eStar that he had to “guess” who to cast Ancestral on before the fight even happened or he wouldn’t get it off in time. MVP Black is back at that level of terrifying that we saw at the peak of the team’s competitive performance in world events prior to the official HGC.

Game three was all about Reset and resets. Reset on Li-Ming is something that every team that has ever played him since Li-Ming’s release struggles with. Battlefield of Eternity is a prime map for Li-MIng and Go for the Throat on Rich’s Greymane provides another reset opportunity for MVP Black’s synergistic play. But there is a twist, we got to see Li Ming with an Ana. As if Reset’s damage wasn’t high enough, and if kills automatically resetting his cooldowns didn’t make them short enough, he now had Nana Boost. Fnatic had a Medivh, possibly the ultimate hero at denying burst compositions and reset compositions from securing their win condition. It was not anywhere near enough to stop Reset’s resets.

Heroes Global Championship Grand Finals

Game four showed Fnatic’s desperation. It was Tomb of the Spider Queen, a map that historically is played at a higher level in the EU region than anywhere else. The goaltending of the turn ins, the minion control for gems, the wave clear and lane management, were all on another level. Fnatic forgoes drafting enough wave clear to go all-in with the Milk Carton combo: Stitches and Medivh (Gorge and Portal) with Genji for damage, Dehaka for off-laning, and Ana as the sustained healer to pair with Medivh’s anti-burst. The entire early game was dominated by MVP Black simply clearing and rotating with Rehgar and Johanna, while Tassadar, Chromie, and Greymane were basically in a funhouse of horrors and putting a lot of pressure onto Fnatic due to their wave clears.

Fnatic managed to keep the game relatively even despite all of that, until 10… and then the combo starts working. They secure one kill. Then another. They can’t do anything when Gorge is on cooldown, but they are managing the map better, goaltending turn ins better, doing all those things that make Tomb such a signature map for the EU region. Both teams hit 20, with a small advantage to Fnatic. The combo comes down again and Rich goes down, but Quacknix on Genji misses a hit and lets his Dragonblade expire. MVP Black, despite being a man down, gets a free turn in which is free cleared by Fnatic. This resets the map. Both teams with similar gem counts, all cooldowns available, the last fight feels like it will end the game. A single failed engage by Fnatic results in a kill on Swchimpi but Fnatic managed to get the counter kill onto Reset’s Chromie. The call was made by MVP Black to get bruisers and pressure mid Keep. Fnatic moved up for the aggressive denial. Breez went down to infinite Archon and beautiful body blocking by Tsst. MVP Black called for the core and bacome the Heroes Global Championship World Champions.

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Heroes Global Championship Day 3: Group D

Heroes Global Championship Day 3: Group D

The last day of the group stages for HGC Finals 2017. The best minor region team, Soul Torturers, and the second Korean seed Ballistix are both here and are worth talking about, but my mind is not on them. My mind is on Super Perfect Team, the number one seed from China who is playing with an alternate for their support due to visa issues and Team Expert the third seed from EU. Expert and SPT both have a slightly mad scientist feel to their drafting. Misaka and Adrd are players that, due to their drafting, frequently end up defining parts of the meta for their respective regions. Assuming neither team holds anything back, if they end up going against each other it may well be the most interesting drafts we see in the entirety of the group stages.

Heroes Global Championship Day 3

 

Super Perfect Team vs Soul Torturers

Game one ended up being relatively close with ST taking an early lead in shots on Towers of Doom, but after a slog of a game that ended up 22 vs 22, it all came down to one team fight at bottom shrine. SPT had to channel one altar to win, one alter spawned. SPT had not only Divine Shield but the level 20 upgrade Bulwark of Light, which means that Divine Shield lasts for 5 seconds. The channel time for an altar on Towers of Doom is 6 seconds. If ST allowed SPT to channel for literally even a second, the game was over. They zoned aggressively with E.T.C. but in the end they simply couldn’t trade damage in that scenario with their double spread healing support picks of Brightwing and Lucio and a clutch isolation allowed the pick on E.T.C.

Game two was an SPT special with Ragnaros on Tomb of the Spider Queen. ST almost clutched the come back in the late game even with all their keeps down, but Falstad played distraction for a Greymane backdoor. A few seconds alone with ST’s core was all it took. SPT played well in this series despite their sub, but Scroll in the tank role for ST was nowhere near his usual level and made a surprising number of errors.

 

Ballistix vs Team Expert

I almost feel like this set was a test for Expert’s belief in how the game should be played. Their holistic, whole map style of play where they are always looking for the asymmetrical fights normally serves them very well, but against Ballistix they were getting out valued at every turn. Ballistix may well play the constrictor style of map control oriented play better than any team in the world, even Dignitas, but that also means it was an incredibly valuable learning experience for Expert and the odds of them going out against other teams in the group is not high. By playing their comfort style and seeing how it stacks up, they have taken an important step in preparing for BlizzCon.

Anyone familiar with Ballisitix’s play saw nothing new in this series, though we get a painful reminder that Korean Muradins are always terrifying. The first game on Tomb had a higher waveclear against a pick composition. Expert couldn’t get the picks and Ballistix strangled the map. Game two on Dragon Shire was all about rotations, Ballistix was always where they needed to be. With both teams having double support and one global each they both had basically the same tools, Ballistix just managed to utilize them better. There was a lot of respect for Adrd and in a later interview he said Ballistix had better prep and won every draft. By immediately identifying the specific issue speaks well for their chances at BlizzCon.

Heroes Global Championship Day 3

 

Ballistix vs SPT

The first game in this series, SPT ran a composition that just felt unfinished. We saw Zarya picked up on Cursed Hollow, not for push the way we do in NA or EU, but for tribute delay with the grenade cooldown reduction at one. Then we never saw that happen. Zarya was frequently left completely alone in a lane, something that neuters a third of her kit and at least half her damage if not more. SPT’s team fight synergy, when they team fought, made the game go long, but it felt like SPT was ignoring the map and Ballistix was not. Playing the map has become more and more important as the level of professional play in HotS has increased and we didn’t see that at all from SPT.

Game two was more of the same on Sky Temple. Ballistix played for the objective and structures. SPT managed to catch up in experience at level 16 and take a boss but Ballistix just kept being ahead in structures. In the end SPT lost because of two picks that allowed their opponents to go core, but they were never ahead at any point. Even without letting those picks happen they still would have lost unless Ballistix made an uncharacteristic mistake.

 

Soul Torturers vs Team Expert

In game one on Infernal Shrines, Expert drafted a hyper carry Genji comp: double tank, support, Abathur, Genji. Expert dominated with it from level 1, which is not normal with an Abathur comp. ST may be the best minor region team, but compared to a top 3 team from EU there is no competition whatsoever. The question is whether Expert thinks this was a real composition that they could run against an equal or better team, or is it their equivalent of a pubstomp composition. I don’t think it is likely that we will see this style of composition again from them this tournament.

Game two was more of the same: a Tracer without a Tassadar on Tomb. Malfurion and Brightwing were acceptable stand-ins, but the whole match was so one sided there is very little else to say. Though we did get to see Tychus in pro play for the first time in a while.

 

Team Expert vs Super Perfect Team

Game one of this series was on Braxis Holdout. It’s important to remember SPT brought Zag back into the meta specifically on this map. They were one of the first teams to break the 1-4 dynamic and have rotational compositions that played the whole map. Expert also was one of the first teams to think about the map that way, playing 3-2 splits and 2-2s with a roam. So this should have been a really interesting game. Instead, SPT either didn’t research or didn’t respect the power of Chromie at delaying and controlling in the laning phase and got bodied by Expert’s Chromie pick all game. At one point they clumped on a boss invade and a Chromie Dragon’s Breath hit four of their players, which should not happen at the pro level if you respect the potential area damage. Very disappointing to watch.

Game two almost looked like SPT gave up. Expert played a very standard Tassadar and Tracer composition on Tomb and did the typical EU thing of controlling turn ins and turning picks into turn ins, into buildings, into the game. Nothing new or exciting here either. A very poor performance overall from SPT and it has to be said that their sub didn’t even play that badly by comparison to their regular support, but SPT overall seemed disheartened. Maybe it was jet lag or unhappiness about their visa issues, we can’t really know even though we see something clearly holding them back in their play. Expert on the other hand seemed extremely crisp overall.

 

That secures the top 8 spots for Blizzcon. The bracket has already been published so we know exactly what we have to look forward to next week!

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Heroes Global Championship Finals Day 3: Group C

Heroes Global Championship Finals Day 3: Group C

In any given group stage of a tournament there is a group of death. The group that is, for whatever odd seeding reasons, the group most stacked with talented teams. For 2017 HGC groups, that is group C. Roll20 is the first NA seed and has been bootcamping in Las Vegas. In their own words, they have broken themselves down and built themselves back up into the strongest version of their team they can imagine. Dignitas is the second seed from EU and is hungry for a world championship. For all their accomplishments as one of the longest standing professional rosters, who have five first place wins under their belts, they have not won a world event. Tempest are the world champions of summer 2016 and the third seed from Korea. Considered to be the best team fight team in the world, they have struggled with the largely macro focused or double support metas that have dominated the game for the last year. Red Canids is the Latin America team and they are the decided underdogs in this group, having not won even a single map at an international event.

This is the group that every analyst has hedged their bets on predicting the winners. But it should be noted in a meta that has so far been heavily team fight focused, the favorite based on past success in different metas should be Tempest.

Heroes Global Championship Finals Day 3

 

Roll20 vs Red Canids

There always seems to be a story at every international event of a major region team heavily underestimating a minor region team and gets destroyed due to their own mistakes. Game one was Roll20’s turn on the arrogance chopping block, making a boss call on Sky Temple 19 to 19 with inferior boss control tools and zero bush checking. They lost the boss and Canids pushed to end.

Game two and three were more what we’ve come to expect from Roll20. Canids didn’t seem to have any chance, getting picked off again and again in game two to Chromie and Genji, and then being unable to do anything against Glaurung’s Medivh in game three. We did see some clever thinking from Canids, taking Roll20 to their best map: Tomb of the Spider Queen. Canids is essentially guaranteed to lose on this map against Roll20 but it means in game three, when they have first pick and Roll20 has map pick, Roll20 cannot take them to Tomb and Canids will have a more favorable map. Unfortunately, Roll20 has two speciality maps: Tomb and Infernal Shrines.

 

Team Dignitas vs Tempest

Macro wins games. In every game in this series Dignitas was in control of the map. They were so far ahead in game one in map control that they opted to make a gutsy backdoor Medivac play and got the core to 55%. Some major errors prevented them from getting it lower, as expected since it isn’t exactly something you can practice. However, it gave Tempest the experience lead and Dignitas did not commit to the second backdoor to finish core, which was honestly their best chance of closing out the game. Instead they gave Tempest an opportunity to fight on core 19 to 20 with infinite Archon and Tempest’s team fight in that situation proved to be dramatically superior. Game two and three Dignitas did not take any risks and closed out the series by abusing Tempest’s classic weakness: they cannot macro to save their tournament lives.

Heroes Global Championship Finals Day 3

 

Team Dignitas vs Roll20

The most anticipated match up in groups by many, many viewers from NA. Game one was a stomp in Dignitas’s favor. They were winning from the very beginning of the game with an Abathur composition. When you have a power spike at level 10, and were winning before that, you’re far more ahead than it might first appear. The gap between EU and NA continues to be much larger than NA teams understand, impacting their ability to close it.

Game two was essentially a cheese attempt by Roll20. Something I say with respect, as worse team will not beat a better team without unexpected strategies. The key aspect, however, is that you have to practice your strategy enough that you can execute that strategy better than the opponent can respond. D.Va, Hammer, Morales with double global on Cursed is a very workable composition, but Justing mistalented D.Va and there were positional errors into Dignitas’s Garrosh. Despite a clutch boss play right at level 10, Roll20 was unable to overcome the wall that is Dignitas and was closed out 2-0.

 

Red Canids vs Tempest

Heroes of the Storm as a competitive eSport is about mechanical execution first, strategy second. It doesn’t matter how perfect your strategy is if you can’t execute it. In contrast, you can have average or even bad strategies and win because your mechanics are strictly superior. This series demonstrates just that. JSchritte is a thinking player and has very reasonable drafts. He’ll make the right call for his team to get ahead or catch up, but when Sonya has every spear juked and the enemy team hits every skill shot then you can’t win. Tempest simply pushed their buttons better than Canids. There is no dressing up the sheer mechanical skill difference between these two teams.

Heroes Global Championship Finals Day 3

 

Roll20 vs Tempest

Game one was a familiar strategy by Roll20 that they used against GFE on Warhead Junction. It is astonishing to me that Tempest did not realize what was going on the moment the map was selected and that can only be attributed to a lack of research on their opponents. Roll20 was in the driver’s seat of this game the entire time and it casts a long shadow over the entire series. If Tempest doesn’t respect the pocket strategies of Roll20 then the odds of them winning with their general weaknesses as a team in this series go down dramatically.

Game two was a cheese attempt by Tempest, in exchange for game one, with triple warrior and double support on Battlefield of Eternity. They should win the race, the side soak, and the sustain war into Roll20’s composition, which they do for almost the entire game. With both keeps down it looked like we are going to a game three, then Roll20 wins three straight fights. Void Prison into Dragonblade with Haymaker isolation, over and over again. Roll20, for the first time since 2015, took a game off of a Korean team through straight up out team fighting in the late game. We can talk about the mistakes Tempest made – H82 taking a bad trade so he was low health for the Genji reset, the small positional errors that let those big Void Prisons happen – but it’s not as if Korean teams are perfect players that never make mistakes. It’s just that NA hasn’t had the level of synergy and coordination necessary to punish those mistakes. Until now.

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Heroes Global Championship Finals Day Two: Group B

Stepping out onto the Heroes Global Championship stage today we have Fnatic, the number one EU seed, Team Freedom, the number two NA seed, Beyond the Game, the Franken-team that is made up of only two of the actual players from China’s third seed and three subs from from other Chinese teams, and Dark Sided the dark horse team from the ANZ region. Most people expect all of these series to run on rails, with Fnatic coming out top, Freedom coming second, and Dark Sided and BtG being relegated. However, there are two things you can never count out in professional Heroes of the Storm: cheese and superior team fighting. Dark Sided will try to cheese their way out of groups and no Chinese team can ever be discounted on the team fighting front. After all, Frankenstein’s monster caused a lot of havoc.

Heroes Global Championship

 

Fnatic vs Dark Sided

Fnatic has a long term problem with overconfidence. They went from winning 90% of their scrims to 50% because they weren’t trying as hard. They dropped a full set in late phase HGC to Playing Ducks/Diamond Skin out of nowhere. When they are the underdogs, they focus more. As a team they lack the structure and discipline to give consistent results when they are on top until they get a wake up call in the form of a loss. This series demonstrates both their mastery of macro and how strong their mechanics are even when they aren’t showing their mastery of drafting, sticking purely to macro based comfort picks. Given the difference in the level of teams we’d expect a multiple level lead and multiple kills to zero. Dark Sided did lose by four levels in game one and actually fell further behind during their own curse, something that is nearly unprecedented in pro HotS, but they did manage to secure kills and drag the game out when Fnatic tried to pressure for the end. Game two was much closer in terms of both kills and levels, but Dark Sided got consistently out-rotated.

Fnatic is the team to beat at this BlizzCon event, as the current world champions. Realistically, no matter how sloppy they may have played in this series, the odds they don’t take first in this group are minimal.

 

Team Freedom vs Beyond the Game

It is easy to underestimate a Franken-team. Despite a strong performance by Team Freedom in game one, they completely dropped the ball in game two and allowed BtG to go from a losing position to ending the game on a boss push. Freedom opted to be aggressive and look for a flank into the backline to save their keep, rather than playing conservatively. A single Muradin Storm Bolt interrupting Emerald Wind turned the fight sideways. Kure’s Zeratul play almost saved core, but it wasn’t enough. This is always the risk of playing against Chinese teams – they will make the all-in call to end no matter how slim the odds are, and adapting to different styles of play and changing the shot calling accordingly is a critical thing for teams to learn at international events. To date, no NA team has managed to consistently adjust between the heavy constrictor style play of EU teams and the aggression of KR and CN teams. Until that happens, NA teams will continue to underperform at international events.

Game three ended up being an attempt at cheese by BtG, the first triple support composition we have seen in pro play since Team Expert tried – and won – with one on Battlefield of Eternity in the regular HGC season. Unfortunately, BtG did not understand what makes triple support work and ended up getting out-macroed, out-rotated, and as a result out-fought. Their Muradin and Kharazim picks did nothing to contribute to the long, drawn out fights that triple support looks for. Heroes that want fast fights do not excel when your win condition is to trade damage efficiently over a long period of time. After very close games for the first two, it was a disappointment to see such poor execution by BtG.

 

Fnatic vs Team Freedom

For the first two games, Fnatic stuck to their strategy of drafting global heroes with Muradin, revealing nothing about what they think is genuinely strong in the meta. They dominated game one handily, but game two we saw signs of life from Freedom. Zugrug’s playmaking on E.T.C. was game winning on Towers of Doom. Zugrug was not always a tank player and he has struggled to become a top tier tank in the pro scene since forming Team Freedom. But to go up against Fnatic and out play them, on E.T.C. of all heroes, is a stunning result, especially considering Breez is the best E.T.C. in the world and Fnatic is keenly aware of the limits of the hero. To beat Fnatic, the macro team, on a macro map on their comfort heroes is remarkable.

Game three was in many ways the best game so far of the group stages. Having dropped game two to being straight up outplayed, Fnatic leaves behind their generic comfort composition and shows us the first real, clearly practiced composition they have prepared for BlizzCon. While triple global is not unusual for them, the addition of Stitches and Kael’Thas on Infernal Shrines, which is typically a Dignitas pocket comp, is a huge divergence to round out the composition. Freedom acquitted themselves well with their own special pocket pick of Nazmas on D.Va, arguably the most accomplished pro D.Va player in the world right now, but Freedom felt forced into a 19 vs 20 fight in the end. The power of the 20 talents on Fnatic gave entirely too much control and Freedom get deleted, leaving Fnatic to walk to core and end the game and series. It shows the desperation Freedom felt that they took a 19 vs 20 fight rather than defending at core 20 vs 20. Hopefully that wasn’t the pressure getting to them.

Heroes Global Championship

 

Dark Sided vs Beyond the Game

The ANZ region has a rough time at every international event. Nomia, the highly wombo based team we usually see at these international events, lost two critical players. Arcaner went to EU to attempt to make it into the HGC in a major region and robadobah started his own team, Dark Sided, to push to the top of the ANZ region. Dark Sided’s judgement in game is fairly strong, but their drafting is very one dimensional. Unfortunately, their mechanics are a huge step below those of the random collection of players from Beyond the Game’s Franken-team, to the point where on Braxis a level 10 vs level 9 team fight was decisively won by Beyond the Game. A triple warrior with Zarya cheese composition, even though executed poorly, was the only reason for their one win. Mechanics are probably best practiced in Hero League and ANZ as a region constantly complains about their lower player pool leading to long queues. One game an hour while chain queuing is not unheard of.

Beyond the Game did manage to take the series, but it is unfortunate that it was purely because of mechanics in such a strategy focused game. The aggressive strategies we see from China are not just running it down, as many viewers constantly praise them for. The art of rotating for picks and giving up the minimum amount of experience while denying the enemy team’s experience is one highly specific approach to manipulating the map. Every team does it. Some do it without missing any soak and looking for only the best trades or most likely kills, Chinese teams will go on anything, under, around, or over towers in some cases with multiple man rotations that are guaranteed to miss soak. Beyond the Game is no exception to this; their execution is lacking against the better teams they faced in groups but they can out mechanic Dark Sided consistently.

 

Team Freedom vs Beyond the Game

Beyond the Game comes into this set visibly disheartened after their struggle with Dark Sided. Team Freedom, down at heart after dropping a game in their first series against Beyond the Game, are on top of the world after taking a game off of Fnatic. Their confidence and focus is on another level. After a dominant game one, game two on Towers of Doom becomes the biggest comeback game of the tournament so far. With their tournament lives on the line, Beyond the Game dominates the early game in terms of core shots, abusing the early weakness of Abathur on Team Freedom’s side. But Team Freedom, renowned at one point for always playing Nazeebo, is in many ways the team for understanding how to grind out the game to their power spikes. The team fights and awareness of Team Freedom barely allow them to eke out a win over Beyond the Game. Zugrug, KilluZiion, and Kure carrying the game even when Daneski gets focused at the start of every fight.

Heroes Global Championship

 

It must come as a relief to Team Freedom to now be in the top 8 for Blizzcon. Zugrug switched to tank when he formed this roster and has struggled with that role for months. I can confidently say he is now one of the top three tanks in the NA HGC. Kure was uncertain if he should pursue a career in pro HotS after he won dorms and making it to Blizzcon, the largest event for HotS, must have reaffirmed that decision for him. For many people, Team Freedom carries the highest hopes for NA as a region at this event and this is the first step to fulfilling those hopes for their fans and themselves.

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Heroes Global Championship Finals Day One: Group A

The first group stage of the Heroes Global Championship Finals happened yesterday. The top Korean seed, the second Chinese seed, the bottom North American seed, and the South East Asian seed faced off in a double elimination bracket to see which two would advance into the grand finals at BlizzCon 2017. This group was largely called as an easy win for MVP Black, with some uncertainty about the match ups between CE and Tempo Storm. DeadlyKittens, as is always true for the minor region teams, was a bit of a wildcard.

In the end it was a worthy opening to the final HGC event of the year, giving us a sneak peek of teams’ individual metas and bringing in some new heroes and ideas that we will no doubt see more of going forward in this competition.

Heroes Global Championship

 

MVP Black vs DeadlyKittens

With the pre-interview of this series we have the biggest news drop of this entire tournament: Noblesse, former captain of L5 and widely considered to be the single best drafter in the world, is the coach and drafter for MVP Black (at least for the duration of Blizzcon). To have the team considered by many to be the best mechanically have the world’s best drafter put in charge is a terrifying combination.

The first series was as one sided as you’d expect from a combination of a minor region and the best mechanical team in the world. The instant locks from MVP Black for all their picks shows that classic Noblesse confidence going into a well planned draft. In game 2 we got to see a Butcher pick up as a lane counter to Sonya since Malthael was banned. There was no hesitation: the awareness of all laning matchups is a hallmark of Noblesse’s drafting and this was no exception. Both games ended up decent length because of conservative play by MVP Black, but DK simply could not win either lanes or team fights.

 

Tempo Storm vs CE

CE shows up in their original form in this series. They are forced to play with a sub because of their visa issues, substituting Loktar for their main ranged flex Xuyu. They forgo all the progress they have made in their macro play and decide to focus on the brawl, bringing the fight to Tempo Storm over and over again. CE is considered the best team-fight team in China, much like Tempest in Korea, and historically Tempo Storm has not fared well at the international level when it comes to team fighting even when they excel in their macro play. Sadly, this series was no exception. Tempo Storm was unable to break through despite some execution errors on CE’s part such as consistently overlapping Sound Barrier and Sanctification in game one and several over extensions in game two.

This series also cements Lava Wave as part of the Chinese team fight meta, which is something a lot of the international audience has yet to see. Why do you ever need to back off from a fight and soak when you can hit R and it will soak a whole lane for you? It washed Tempo Storm’s hopes of moving on to the winner’s match away.

 

MVP Black vs CE

In two relatively close games, MVP Black demonstrates that their team fighting is about on par with that of CE, but MVP Black is capable of picking up small advantages and has a hyper awareness of cooldowns that allows them to turn close team fights on a dime better than CE was managing. This is also a series of firsts: our first Ana and our first Zul’jinni. Ana’s healing and the power of Mind Numbing Poison put a lot of pressure on CE to have fast fights, which they just couldn’t do. Also Kyocha’s accuracy with Ana’s Healing Dart was inspiring.

We have to ask if this would have gone differently without a sub, particularly when the back half of the draft had nearly all hyper carries taken or banned in game one and CE ended up underperforming with Zul’jin. The level difference mechanically was simply too large and while CE’s drafts were not inherently bad, they were picked into multiple counters.

Heroes Global Championship

 

Tempo Storm vs DeadlyKittens

If an entire circus had been at the HGC Finals, it would not have compared to the amount of clowning that happened in this series. Tempo Storm, after a rough game one, pulled out two incredibly snowbally compositions that DeadlyKittens was completely unequipped to handle. It almost seemed as if they forgot how not to get picked off and just play the map. Tempo Storm played well but it felt like DeadlyKittens lost more than Tempo Storm won. DeadlyKittens also ruined the 100% win rate of Lava Wave in competitive play.

Psalm absolutely carried on Kel’Thuzad in game three and it is easily the best pro example we have seen to date of this new hero. Mechanically, Psalm has recently stepped it up considerably on many heroes he has been grinding in Hero League and Tempo’s performance in this series is largely attributable to his consistent play.

 

Tempo Storm vs CE

Do or die time for both teams. This is the set where, if you’re confident you play straight up, and if you aren’t then you pull out every cheese, map trick, and abusive strategy you have in the trunk. No one wants to go home before BlizzCon really starts. Tempo Storm did a beautiful execution on Warhead Junction, completely Tempo’ing out the map. CE clearly doesn’t have enough experience on the map to understand exactly what happened to them. In game two Tempo brought out the Kerrigan again and something happened to Wind. His Tyrael play, crisp and clean in the previous set against Tempo Storm, became bizarre: misplaced Sanctifications, positional issues, poor mana management. It isn’t exactly clear if he is simply unfamiliar with playing against all-in melee compositions and that made him misunderstand where the fight was going to happen or if he was perhaps tired, but the one Sanctification he nailed CE won that fight. They lost all the others.

 

Full credit again to Psalm for his stellar play during this series and a shout out to Nex Eternii, the GM Kerrigan one-trick Psalm got the build from and was inspired to play Kerrigan as a result. I’m sure everyone who got to see what Kerrigan is capable of is even more excited knowing Tempo Storm has made the top 8 for BlizzCon.

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