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.
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.
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
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.
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 became the Heroes Global Championship World Champions.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, eSports, Heroes of the Storm, HGC, MOBA