Heroes of the Storm Blizzcon 2016 Fall Championships Semifinal recap
The Heroes of the Storm Blizzcon 2016 semi-finals started on the second day of the convention with four teams remaining: two from Europe and two from Korea.
Representing Europe, after yesterday’s final group stages, were teams Dignitas and Fnatic. Fnatic advanced after a very close game three late the night before against China’s Please Buff Arthas, whereas Dignitas advanced by easily beating their opponents in 2-0 sweeps.
Korea was represented by Ballistix and MVP Black, who are the favorites to win the championship. Both Korean teams skated past their opponents last week, including a 2-0 victory against Dignitas by MVP Black and a 2-0 Victory against Fnatic by Ballistix.
Both European teams had a lot to prove.
Semifinal 1: MVP Black vs Fnatic
Match 1: Tomb of the Spider Queen
MVP black started the draft by taking Valla, Muradin, Auriel, Chen, and Falstad while banning Malfurion and Li Ming
Fnatic responded by prioritizing ETC for Breez before taking Tychus, Rehgar, Xul and Leoric while banning Alarak and Gul’dan.
Fnatic seemed to handle the draft well, managing to get a series of heroes that can lockdown errant players and getting Tychus and Leoric that would not only give them wave clear but also heavily damage MVP Black’s frontline.
Both teams opened the match with a 4-1 rotation, with Fnatic properly leveraging their Xul to get massive lane pressure. Both teams were content to soak and stack gems with no major fighting happening until after the first Webweaver wave, which went to Fnatic.
That initial wave gave a slight experience lead to Fnatic giving them their heroics about a half level ahead of MVP Black. Upon unlocking their Heroics, the entire might of Fnatic came down on Rich, killing him and forcing MVP Black to drop 34 gems.
MVP Black responded by getting a kill of their own and a Webweaver wave, which evened up the experience deficit though little structural damage was accomplished. Fnatic picked up their second Webweaver phase and began to heavily push, destroying MVP Black’s top fort.
Both teams still appeared reluctant to fight one another and Fnatic began to grind out an experience lead once again. This lethargic method of playing suited Fnatic and they picked of MVP Black’s Muradin and got their third Webweaver wave before long.
This third wave gave Fnatic the level 16 talent tier advantage over their Korean opponents and resulted in the destruction of the middle and bottom forts.
Finally, as MVP Black caught up to level 16 they showed signs of life and tried to pick a fight, but Rich on Chen was focused down by the frontline pressure of Tychus and Leoric from Fnatic. MVP Black completed another turn in for Webweaver waves, but with Rich dead the wave was completely impotent.
Finally, MVP Black caught Leoric out and completed a second Webweaver wave in a row, which began to shift momentum back in their favor. Fnatic’s bottom fort fell, then the middle, and finally the top from unopposed Webweaver pushes. Both teams neared 20 and were evenly matched: one unable to decisively engage the other.
Finally, as Fnatic got level 20, they successfully turned in for their next Webweaver wave and MVP Black Moved in to isolate and get a kill on Leoric, but a quick Ancestral Heal from Rehgar kept Leoric alive. MVP Black found themselves in a fight down a talent tier with no easy method of disengagement. Rich was killed and Fnatic moved on the center keep.
Unable to do any additional damage, Fnatic moved back and began to take the boss in the top lane. MVP Black realized what happened all too late and while they did manage to kill three members of Fnatic, the remaining ETC and Xul defended the core long enough for the rest of Fnatic to resurrect and wipe out MVP Black.
The boss did significant damage to MVP Black’s core but did not finish it. All five members of Team Fnatic moved across the map and ended the match putting them up in the series 1-0.
Analyst Comment: Fnatic’s draft shutdown any playmaking potential by MVP Black’s Chen and Muradin. Their ability to lockdown those heroes made MVP Black visibly hesitant to engage, and the constant pressure from Xul put them on the back foot throughout the game. Finally, the risky decision to go for boss at the end of the game was nearly disastrous for Fnatic, but Auriel as a healer is difficult to assault a core with and they were unable to capitalize on the one major mistake Fnatic made in the match.
Match 2: Sky Temple
Fnatic started the draft by picking up Brightwing, ETC, Falstad, Greymane, and Dehaka while banning Illidan and Chen.
MVP Black countered by drafting Muradin, Li Ming. Zeratul, Karazhim, Abathur and they banned Malfurion and Tychus.
The match started with slight skirmishes and pressure from both teams, though Fnatic’s use of globals allowed them to be where their opponents were not in an effort to chip away at MVP Black’s structural health.
MVP Black countered as best they could by putting the Abathur Symbiote on Rich’s Zeratul, giving him massive damage on the roam. It was reactive though and was more of a stop-gap than a long term counter to the global rotation of Fnatic.
A team fight finally broke out as MVP Black’s Muradin got isolated by a gust and nearly died, but a quick Void Prison caught all five members of Fnatic and saved the dwarf. Fnatic also retreated unscathed since there was no follow up from MVP Black.
By the midgame, the globals from Fnatic were giving them a significant advantage in structural health and MVP Black was reduced to their keeps while Fnatic still had two forts up. The Europeans pushed their advantage further by catching Rich out and killing him: the first death of the match.
As the next temple phase began, Fnatic had a talent tier advantage but were content to trade temples. Bottom keep for MVP Black fell, but they caught Fnatic’s Greymane out of position and immediately captured the boss. The ensuing team fight at Fnatic’s bottom keep under the bosses’ feet resulted in a destroyed wall but little else. A furious team fight followed but a combination of Void Prison and well timed Ice blocks kept both team’s members alive, though two members of MVP Black were caught out of position during a rotation to the top temple and quickly killed.
Rather than take the top temple though, Fnatic decided to try to end by going all the way to the bottom lane but were unable to successfully finish the game.
In a series of rapid fire and risky decisions, they threatened the core a second time and got kills against the MVP Black Muradin and Kharazim, which began a series of rotating deaths. Fnatic finally decided to go for boss and successfully leveraged Mighty Gust and Mosh Pit to secure it before killing three members of MVP Black and destroying the enemy’s core. Fnatic moved up 2-0 in the best of 5 series.
Analyst Comment: Fnatic demonstrated just how hungry they were for victory in this match up. By using globals they were not only able to gain a structure lead over their opponent, but they were able to quickly rotate on out of position MVP Black team members or save their own. Their relentless assaults on the enemy core were perilous, but it kept MVP Black’s deaths in constant rotation and eventually gave them the time they needed to end the game with a boss.
Match 3: Towers of Doom
MVP Black drafted Muradin, Abathur, Medivh, Greymane, and Rehgar after banning ETC and Dehaka.
Fnatic took Falstad, Brighwing, Tychus, Tyrael, and Johanna but banned Illidan and Valla.
Fnatic has had mediocre success on Towers of Doom throughout the tournament, but they decided to go here regardless. They prioritized globals once again on a map that is beneficial to do so, though MVP Black drafted a comp around keeping Greymane alive and buffing him to be able to do the most damage possible.
Fnatic was undeterred, though, as they drafted a number of Greymane counters such as the blind from Johanna, the Polymorph from Brightwing, and the Mighty Gust from Falstad.
The match opened with MVP Black attempting to secure the top two Alters but over extended and ended up losing Medivh and Muradin. This gave Fnatic two alters to one and a lead of 32-36.
The aggressive nature of MVP Black really began to show by the second shrine as they began to invade camps and attempted to dive the backline, but the strong frontline of Fnatic allowed them to easily secure the second Alter increasing their lead 28-36.
The third shrine spawned just as both teams got their Heroic abilities and Fnatic used Sanctification to secure it, preventing any interrupt increasing their lead 24-36. MVP Black looked to make an aggressive assault on Fnatic, but a prudent Mighty Gust gave Fnatic the disengage they needed.
The fourth shrines spawned after MVP Black captured the bottom keep and they managed to trade shrines, improving the score 20-31. Tyraels Sanctification and Falstad’s Mighty Gusts continued to keep MVP Black from engaging effectively throughout the midgame even after using Medivh’s Ley Line Seal for initiation.
The fifth shrine phase went two shrines to Fnatic and one to MVP Black to make the score 12-27. The ensuing team fight continued to highlight Greymane’s inability to fight into Tyrael’s Sanctification. However, MVP Black did successfully catch out Tyrael and a boss making the score 23-17.
The sixth shrine phase finally put momentum back into MVP Black’s corner as they captured both Shrines making the score closer at 12-15, after catching Falstad out of position.
As the seventh shrine spawned, MVP Black killed Tychus and Tyrael off of a very successful Ley Line seal. They turned this into a quick six cap and an alter capture, which turned the score into 12-3 before going to the boss to finish the game and give MVP Black their first win in the series.
Analyst Comment: Although Fnatic drafted successfully to counter the Greymane play that MVP Black was counting so heavily on, by the late game the Korean team was able to find seams in Fnatic’s play. Rich’s use of Ley Line Seal on Medivh really allowed MVP Black to split their European opponents and pick them apart. It was in this moment that MVP Black demonstrated why they were considered the strongest team in the tournament.
Match 4: Braxis Holdout
MVP Black drafted Muradin, Guldan, Leoric, Falstad, Auriel, and banned Rexxar and Malfurion.
Fnatic drafted ETC, Jaina, Medivh, Chen, and Tyrande and banned Alarak and Lt. Morales.
The match opened with Fnatic setting the tone by locking down Gul’dan and killing him immediately.
Things continued to be ferocious afterword as aggressive use of portals led to a kill on Falstad, which allowed Fnatic to rotate top to kill Leoric who had been solo laning against the Chen. These deaths gave Fnatic a slight experience lead, though neither had a significant advantage over the other, but MVP Black was slowly able to secure both beacons for a short time.
True progress didn’t happen until after Fnatic used a combination of Ley Line Seal and Ring of Frost to kill MVP Black’s Gul’dan and Auriel. A feeble attempt by MVP Black to contest was struck down and Fnatic secured the first Zerg wave, which gave them the bottom fort, the keep wall, and a two level lead.
Fnatic remained extremely confident going for invasions and grabbing the boss without hesitation. This let Fnatic get the top fort and an additional double kill against the Korean team. The momentum and space that this offensive gave them allowed Fnatic to take a completely unopposed beacon straight down the top lane, and pillage top keep. The subsequent team fight resulted in the death of two more MVP Black team members and Fnatic swiftly rotated to take the bottom keep.
Sitting three levels up, all their structures intact, and 10-0 on kills Fnatic came down on their enemies and caught Leoric out of position as minion waves and catapults began to pressure the Korean core.
The third beacon phase prompted MVP Black to attempt to go for the team fight while a talent tier down, but they were swiftly dispatched by the lockdown combination of ETC’s Power Slide and Tyrande’s Lunar Flare. The team fight swiftly snowballed and Fnatic moved on to the Korean core ending the game and the series 3-1.
Analyst Comment: Braxis Holdout is a map that snowballs very quickly. Though MVP Black was able to hold their own until level 10, the wombo combo between Ley Line Seal and Ring of Frost gave Fnatic the key kills they needed to put this game and series away.
Semifinal 2: Team Dignitas vs Ballistix
Going into this match Ballistix was favored to win, but the sting of the Fnatic victory over MVP Black in the previous series had emboldened their European opponents. To make things worse, Dignitas had spent time recently in Korea practicing against the most difficult scene on the planet.
The first one match was on Dragon Shire, Ballistix’s favorite.
Match 1: Dragon Shire
Ballistix drafted ETC, Falstad, Brightwing, Dehaka, and Sgt. Hammer while banning Malfurion and Rehgar.
Team Dignitas chose Tychus, Muradin, Chen, Auriel, and Gul’dan after banning Valla and Zeratul.
Ballistix started by prioritizing lockdown and globals to work in concert together. Most surprising was the Sgt. Hammer draft at the end, which gave Ballistix the zone of control that is so crucial for holding shrines. Team Dignitas focused on a heavy front line, thought they failed to draft a cleanse to counter the lockdown from Ballistix’s warriors.
Both teams spent the early game rotating mostly between mid and bottom lanes with occasional forays into the top lane to attempt an attack on whoever was present, though neither side was able to do so until a five man group of Ballistix finally caught out the European Tychus and Chen.
This gave Ballistix a level lead into their heroics, which let them secure the first Dragon Knight, though the damage was negligible.
The Korean team used their global advantage to move as a group: engaging the Europeans only when they outnumbered them heavily. These small victories made by Ballistix let them grind out a lead that they used to get a second Dragon Knight, two forts, and several other kills.
Before long, Ballistix had a three level lead and a talent tier advantage, and threatened a keep. Unable to contest or fight, Ballastix grabbed the third Dragon Knight and destroyed the bottom keep. They secured one more kill on Chen before they quickly moved in to finish off the enemy core.
Ballistix moved up 1-0.
Analyst Comment: Ballistix spent the majority of the map moving as a team in either a four or five stack: a strategy that they are well known for. This gave them the ability to robustly soak lanes and easily pick fights against their more spread out opponents. This eventual advantage slowly snowballed until Dignitas was unable to easily contest them at any time.
Match 2: Battlefield of Eternity
Team Dignitas drafted a heavy damage comp with Li Ming, Brightwing, Thrall, Sylvannas, and Stitches.
Ballistix drafted Malfurion, Johanna, Alarak, Valla, and Lunara.
The match started with Dignitas bullying Ballistix in the bottom lane 4v4, though neither team suffered a loss before the Immortal phase began. Hooks from the Stitches were able to secure the first kill for Dignitas and kept pulling Korean players out of position throughout the encounter.
Rather than give up the Immortal after initial losses, Ballistix turned and managed to secure it instead. Significant damage was done by the Ballistix Immortal on the bottom fort, but again Stitches’ hook was wreaking havoc on the Ballistix team.
As the second Immortal spawned, Ballistix invaded the European bruiser camp and successfully got a triple kill, the camp, and a complete immortal. This momentum gave them their heroic abilities and a whole level ahead of Team Dignitas. The immortal and talent advantage were so strong for Ballistix that they easily destroyed the top fort and keep.
Not keen to rest on their laurels, Ballistix sought out their opponents and killed three of them before the Immortal spawned giving them the position and the talent to get a quad kill on Dignitas and a second full Immortal.
With all of the momentum of a full Immortal behind them, they crushed Dignitas’ remaining keep and pushed through to the core. Ballistix moved up in the series 2-0.
Analyst Comment: Once again, the power of Ballistix’s ability to roam as a team allowed them to strike at their opponents when they were least expecting. These early kills gave them a lead that Dignitas was never able to recover from.
Match 3: Infernal Shrines
Ballistix started out with a confident Tassadar, Illidan combination before stealing away Brightwing and Muradin and rounded it out with Kael’thas for wave clear.
Team Dignitas drafted Valla, Sonya, Malfurion, Johanna, and Lili to counter the Illidan draft.
Ballistix did not waste any time, as Illidan and Tassadar split to top lane and began pushing in the Dignitas wall and fountain. This turned out to be beneficial since the first Shrine was the top one, but that did not stop Dignitas from contesting and securing the Punisher due to their double sustain comp.
Ballistix went into the second shrine with a slight exp advantage, but it was quickly negated as once again the sustain and mitigation of Dignitas gave them another Punisher, which they used for experience to get their Heroics and bottom keep. Ballistix responded by splitting Illidan to the top lane to destroy one of Dignitas’ forts, evening up the structure count.
Third shrine spawned in the top lane again and rather than fight on the Shrine, Ballistix tried to assault Dignitas in rotation. A properly timed Jug of a 1000 cups by Lili prevented Ballistix from getting a kill and Dignitas turned on Ballistix, killing their Muradin and capturing the Punisher.
Ballistix tried to respond by trading for forts, but the Dignitas Punisher took the top lane keep, which opened up Dignitas’ win condition.
As the fourth shrine spawned, Dignitas grabbed their Fallen Shaman camp in the top lane which was able to pressure the Core. On the shrine, Dignitas killed Brightwing and Illidan and they left to see if they could end the game. It was not quite possible and they left the Ballistix core only to get the next punisher.
Every time Ballistix looked to attack or chase, Dignitas would turn on them and inflict at least one kill. Using this momentum, they destroyed the center keep and kept up pressure on the Ballistix lanes by grabbing all of the mercenary camps.
Realizing they were unable to win as they continued, all five members of Ballistix moved into the bottom lane and got the Dignitas Keep while looking for a way to end. It was a long shot, and Dignitas came down on them like a ton of bricks killing every member of the Korean team.
Dignitas put themselves on the board 1-2.
Analyst Comment: Ballistix became way too confident during the draft as evidenced by instantly locking in Illidan and Tassadar without a moment’s hesitation as first and second pick. This not only gave Dignitas time to respond in the draft, but to build a draft that countered them soundly by picking up Lili as a second healer for blinds. Realizing their mistake midway through the round, they attempted to switch tactics by inflicting damage via split pushing and not contesting the objective at all but that was ultimately unsuccessful.
Match 4: Tomb of the Spider Queen
Ballistix started the draft by taking Valla, Tassadar, Auriel, ETC, and Greymane. The Korean team banned Malfurion and Falstad.
Dignitas countered by drafting Muradin, wave clear with Gul’dan and Leoric, Rehgar, and Lunara but banned Tychus and Alarak.
Ballistix wasted no time in trying to reassert their dominance by locking down and destroying the Dignitas Leoric. The Europeans were not going to take that lightly though, and they responded by rotating on top of the Korean Greymane and killing him. They leveraged this momentum to get the first web weaver wave, which gave them a pretty significant experience lead.
This was extremely beneficial as Dignitas gained their heroic abilities just in time for Ballistix’s first web weaver phase, and were shut down by the stronger European team.
As the Ballistix web weavers died, Ballistix began to retreat back toward their towers. Dignitas pursued and found themselves in the middle of a Mosh Pit from ETC. This gave Ballistix another web weaver wave, which allowed them to get the momentum and a talent tier advantage.
Dignitas attempted to sneak a boss in response, but were detected and lost two members. A horrify from Gul’dan did let Dignitas secure the boss, though the loss of life did not make it worthwhile.
A team fight after 13 resulted in the death of three more members of Dignitas and that experience gave the Korean team the talent tier advantage and a third consecutive web weaver wave. The web weavers took Dignitas’ middle and top keeps. The ensuing team fight resulted in four dead team members for team Dignitas and Ballistix moved onto the core, winning the game and the series 3-1.
Analyst Comment: After the loss on Infernal Shrines, it became clear that Ballistix straightened up and went for a more traditional draft. Strong rotations and team fighting gave them this victory.
Related: BlizzCon 2016, Dignitas, eSports, Fnatic, Heroes of the Storm, MVP Black