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.
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.
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.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, eSports, Heroes of the Storm, HGC, MOBA