Post-Match Interview with Team expert’s BadBenny

Swedish Heroes of the Storm BadBenny on Team expert
Watch out EU, there’s a new kid on the block. The Heroes of the Storm scene in Europe last year was dominated by three giants: Dignitas, Misfits, and Fnatic. Several other teams rose and fell as the premier league dragged on in 2016, but these three behemoths remained a level above their competition. Not anymore.

The advent of HGC in 2017 has breathed new life into the competitive scene, and new challengers are emerging with the potential to cause an upset; among them is Team expert. The roster is led by the “mad scientist” adrd, who often drafts unusual compositions. Backed by solid execution and team synergy that dates back to July of last year, expert is quickly climbing the leaderboards and becoming a real threat to the status quo.

After their victory over French team beGenius this weekend, I sat down with tank player and shotcaller for the team, BadBenny, to find out more about them as well as his own personal goals as a player.


Team expert has been on fire for the last two weeks and is currently sitting at the top of the standings. When you first qualified for HGC, did you foresee such a strong start?
On fire indeed! For me personally, I have considered us top 4 (at least) ever since Nic joined the squad, so I knew we would be able to do well in HGC. Although, our 3-0 track record is partially because we have not played any of the “big three” yet, but hopefully we can keep our streak going!

A lot of your individual success so far has been on E.T.C. Do you think that’s because he’s a flashy playmaker or is he just really strong right now?
I merely play what is drafted. Personally, I am not doing better on E.T.C. than any other tank hero I am playing, but I can see why it looks like that, because his kit is more “flashy”. He is really strong in the current meta; that is why you often see him picked early.

Are there any particular heroes that you’d like to play more often?
I really liked playing Tyrael, who we drafted a lot before, around Gamescom. At the moment, I just want to play different heroes to be honest. Every hero gets a bit boring if you play them in most of your games.

We have to bring up the absolutely mad play from Week 1 where you went for a Mosh Pit under the death zone on Towers of Doom. Did you make that call? What on earth possessed you to do something so crazy?
Haha, that was a funny moment indeed. So it definitely was not planned to dive their Core (obviously), but when Thrall got caught, and we used the Ley Line to save him, I saw the opportunity to secure the game and took it. We are pretty used to doing crazy plays; we prefer pushing the limit and learning from it when we practice!

Next week is obviously a big week for you guys since you have matches against Fnatic and Dignitas. Are you nervous about those games?
Yea, we are all very nervous, but also excited. This is our chance to prove ourselves as a true top 3 team, which I already think we are. The series versus Dignitas is the important one though, since it will most likely decide who will go to the Western Clash.

Well, one thing’s for sure: they’ll probably give you Ragnaros for free every game.
Then I can say now that it will be an easy 3-0 in our favour ;). A lot will be decided by their drafting, in my opinion. They are all very skilled players, and if they can fight on their terms, it might be hard to beat them—but luckily we have adrd, who is extremely good at [preventing them from fighting on their own terms], giving us the favorable draft.
One thing for readers to note, though: the top teams are very consistent in saying that “they might pull out a cheese” or whatever. It is simply their way of keeping their pride while saying “we got outplayed and out-drafted”, which I find very funny. But I really don’t mind what they call it, as long as we win.

You just started streaming for the first time. How has that been going?
So, the streaming thing is purely for my own enjoyment at the moment. I really enjoy teaching people, and streaming lets me do that while practicing—while also making the game itself more enjoyable for me to play, because instead of tilting, I just explain what we did wrong, and it is really working out for me.
So in short: it has been going great! And hopefully the viewers find it entertaining/educating enough that I can grow a viewer base.

Any plans to sell out and become a full-time streamer at some point?
At this point, it’s a big “no”. I crave the competitive aspects of this game way too much. But who knows, anything can happen.

Do you have any last words or shoutouts?
Only a big thanks to everyone who has been supporting me and my team—we wouldn’t have been as driven to be unique (but also good at what we do) if it weren’t for all the comments and posts about it. And of course, a big shoutout to Team expert esports for taking us under its wings and giving us the chance to show ourselves under your name. And last—a big shoutout to my teammates for everything so far and what’s yet to come!


You can follow Benny on Twitter and watch him play on Twitch. Make sure to watch HGC every weekend starting at 9:00am PST and follow the action as it unfolds!

Disease

Disease

i live with a disease
it’s small and discrete
and hides in dark corners
with furtive glances
through narrow windows

(if you ask me,
i’d say i’m doing fine)

it’s not cancer
i won’t lose my hair
and people won’t come
to the hospital
to leave me candy or flowers

no one will wish me well
or tell me everything
is going to be all right—
who would even know
what to say anyway?

it’s not like i’m dying

i don’t need a wheelchair
i can run just fine
and most races i finish
in first or fifth
or some odd number

i have a disease
with a poker face
that never gives out hints
or divulges secrets freely,
it is quiet

it eats days, weeks, even months
of sunshine; it strips trees bare

_

Warcraft 3 is actually amazing.

A few days ago, I was turned onto the Grand Finals of this tournament by RallyJaffa via Twitter, and I have been obsessive about it ever since. I was aware that WC3 was still alive in China, and I knew names like 120, TH000, and Lyn, but I didn’t really give it much attention until recently. I didn’t realize how godlike 120 was or the extreme skill it took to play this game until I looked at it from a fresh perspective.

Warcraft 3 was my first real Blizzard game, and I played it all the way through middle and high school. I never got much into competitive or paid attention to the pro scene (though I had arbitrarily decided that I admired SK.insomnia and hated SK.Madfrog); at the time, I was pretty vaguely aware of what “good” and “bad” play was. Plateauing at around level 20, I was pretty much a scrub with very poor mechanics. It wasn’t until I started to play StarCraft II that I got much much better at gaming and started to appreciate esports more.

Over the last few years, I’ve watched the occasional WC3 stream, especially Grubby. It’s so fascinating to watch how he seemingly knows everything that’s happening without seeing a single unit; that sort of mastery comes from years and years of experience. Even so, watching this Chinese tournament has lit a fire underneath me. I really want to play and watch some WC3 now.

I reinstalled WC3 and began to play a few games against the AI for practice. My mechanics from SC2/BW have carried over pretty nicely, but I’m still having trouble aligning my builds perfectly and I know basically nothing about the maps. I’m going to be playing a bit over the next few weeks and maybe even stream some of my cringe-worthy play. Really excited to load up this game again. It’s a breath of fresh air after all the frustration I’ve faced while playing Heroes of the Storm recently.

P.S. Watch Game 5 of the Grand Finals between 120 and Lyn on Ancient Isles. You will not be disappointed.

Ragnaros: First Impressions and Pro Opinions

ragnaros-banner-copy

Written by: EsportsJohn


Ragnaros, an elemental as old as the world of Azeroth, has been called to many realms…but rarely one so suited to his destructive nature as the Nexus. As he strives to reduce this new land to ash, Ragnaros hews about with the fiery hammer Sulfuras and takes command of allied and destroyed forts, scourging all who approach him with falling rocks and waves of magma. Though his power is vast, those who summon the Firelord must be prepared to watch the world burn.

At BlizzCon, Blizzard revealed the next two heroes to enter the Nexus with a thrilling cinematic featuring an epic battle between Varian and Ragnaros. The Firelord was available for play at the venue, but it was over a month before he was actually released. Advertised as an assassin that could take over a fort and become a “raid boss”, there was a lot of excitement for the upcoming hero.

Ragnaros lives up to the hype: he’s big, does lots of fire things, and makes the game feel chaotic—but maybe a little too chaotic. Perhaps the most broken hero since Samuro, Ragnaros dominated matches during opening week, peaking at 70% on HotS Logs. He’s since been nerfed a bit, but it still remains to be seen if Molten Core and Lava Wave are too impactful or potentially game-breaking. Let’s take a closer look at this destructive Hero and his devastating abilities!

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Strong solo laner
  • Long range poke
  • Good waveclear
  • Dynamic zoning abilities

Weaknesses

  • Weak escape
  • No CC in base kit
  • Vulnerable to CC chains

Abilities

Ragnaros’s basic abilities are a nice mix of poke, sustain, and utility. For his Heroics, he can utilize either global pressure with Lava Wave or build for teamfights with Sulfuras Smash. The combination of these factors make him a beast at solo laning and useful in a variety of compositions. There are certain battlegrounds like Braxis Holdout and Tomb of the Spider Queen on which he is exceptionally strong, but he isn’t necessarily bad on any.

Even though he’s classified a melee assassin, Ragnaros can put out a lot of long range poke damage with Living Meteor. Using some of the Meteor talents like Molten Power and Meteor Bomb, he can maximize his poke and deal insane damage from afar while still retaining the ability to walk up and smash someone with Empower Sulfuras. The ability to fight from both a distance and in close quarters is one of the factors that makes him one of the most well-rounded characters in the game.

Ragnaros the Firelord

Artwork Credit: Sendolarts

Molten Core and Lava Wave are game-changers. The way the abilities are designed makes him exceptional at pushing and defending forts and can even change the way objectives are played on some maps. For instance, Molten Core can delay tributes on Cursed Hollow or altars on Towers of Doom using the insane range on his second set of abilities. Lava Wave literally melts the Zerg rush on Braxis Holdout and makes him a must-ban Hero on that map.

The one glaring weakness of Ragnaros is his lack of escape. Despite having great sustain with Empower Sulfuras and a small speed boost from Blast Wave, it can be difficult for him to get out of a tough situation. Grabbing talents like Catching Fire and Resilient Flame can help boost his tankiness when he goes in too deep and hopefully him buy enough time to deal good return damage.

Talents

Ragnaros has one of the most adaptable talent trees in the game at the moment, but that might be largely due to his colossal damage numbers; when his numbers get nerfed a bit, we may see a bit more stability in talent choices. As with most assassins, his builds usually empower one ability while taking defensive or utility talents where necessary.

Perhaps the most common build right now is the Living Meteor build, which does insane amounts of poke damage from a safe distance. Talenting into Shifting Meteor allows Ragnaros to keep the ball on someone for the maximum possible damage; it also makes it easier to consistently build stacks of Molten Power. Once he gets Meteor Bomb at level 16, he can wreck the back line and dish out some serious AoE damage.

Ragnaros in World of Warcraft

If you’re looking to play more of a melee style, you can go for a Q build. Sulfuras Hungers at level 1 is similar to Azmodan’s Taste for Blood talent because it requires Ragnaros to last hit minions, and in turn, it greatly increases the damage of Empower Sulfuras. The quest doesn’t take that long but requires him to solo a bit so to gain maximum value out of his Qs without teammates accidentally clearing minion waves. Once you tack on Hand of Ragnaros and Giant Scorcher, Ragnaros does some insane burst damage with his Q on an absurdly low cooldown.

His level 20 Storm talents are all very good and situational. Heroic Difficulty makes it easier for Ragnaros to abuse his trait and push/defend far more often. When he’s taking a lot of damage in teamfights, Submerge can help him survive for a bit longer and potentially dodge lethal damage. If he takes Lava Wave at 10, he can significantly increase its efficiency with Lava Surge; not only does it provide a second wave which can be staggered with the first, but it also lowers the cooldown by 10 seconds. More lava equals more winning.

Professional Opinions

On Kit, Design, and Implementation

Wings, Super Perfect Team
The second ult Lava Wave deals so much damage that I feel it’s getting nerfed pretty soon. As for the weaknesses, the model is huge so it’s easy to get body blocked. And since he doesn’t have any escapes, you need to be very careful with positioning. He’s also weak against dive compositions for the same reason.

m, ZeroPanda
I think the hero is pretty interesting. His kit is enjoyable. Some of his talents can provide some self-sustain and damage mitigation. On the other hand, his mobility is mediocre. Sometimes an attempt to engage with Q might cost you your life before the ability even connects. As for his defensive utility, the value you can get from the trait as well as Lava Wave is tremendous.

Baphomet, Please Buff Arthas
I think the overall design is good. The kit is decent and the trait is very unique. Though categorized as a melee assassin, the hero is actually very good at poking. For now, I think a poking playstyle works well and can deal lots of damage. Some might feel the trait is a bit weak as you can’t move while it’s activated. However, when it comes to defending—say like enemies pushing with mercenaries or map objectives—the trait is extremely valuable. And it can also be used offensively. I think the trait is powerful enough to be considered a second ult and might open up a lot of potential strategies around the hero himself.

Sunshine, Coach
I think a great way to look at Ragnaros is to compare him to Thrall. He has self sustain in his Q, great poke potential in his W, and he can either speed himself or an ally with his E, which brings a lot of utility. Both of his ults are very good, and you probably just pick according to comp and map.

His passive seems a little broken to be honest though. Love the concept, but it does so much. Prevents building damage, has massive range, very high damage output, slows, stuns, and just feels way to hard to play around. I feel like they left out a weakness to it, but that might just be me complaining about the OP hero being OP.

Youngbaek, Coach
His kit and especially the last hitting talent is a really interesting change for Heroes of the Storm. If we start seeing more talents like this, we’ll see the meta and team compositions change based on talents like Sulfuras Hunters. It’s similar to stacking Seasoned Marksman, but due to the last-hitting mechanic, it will be forced to play out differently.

sCsC, L5 (Ballistix)
All my teammates agree that Rag is plain OP. He isn’t the best in standard teamfights, but his power near allied/enemy keeps is extremely imbalanced.

On Professional Play and Meta Changes

Baphomet, Please Buff Arthas
Overall, the character is strong and well-rounded. It’s likely we’ll see the hero in competitive play.

Sunshine, Coach
Ragnaros has great solo lane potential, good self sustain, wave clear, and utility. I don’t really know how Ragnaros couldn’t find his way into the meta. I would be shocked if he wasn’t picked, and he might even be ban material even with the nerfs.

Youngbaek, Coach
If he’s strong enough, you’ll see him in every region. I’m not talking about his current state, but after the nerf that should be coming from Blizzard’s side. I can see his playstyle work great in Europe though; regions [like EU] that I consider a bit more careful and calculated will be able to execute the stacking game better than other more aggressive regions if that’s the pro build.

On Map and Composition Viability

Wings, Super Perfect Team
The W ability provides decent poke and even burst damage in teamfights. His trait is extremely strong on maps like Battlefield of Eternity and Haunted Mines, as it can deal with map objectives really well. The trait is much less valuable on huge maps like Blackheart’s Bay/Warhead Junction.

m, ZeroPanda
The second ult Lava Wave is very powerful on small maps or when teamfighting in lanes.

Baphomet, Please Buff Arthas
Maps like Infernal Shrines or Haunted Mines are where his trait shines, as it helps a lot in defending against enemies pushing with the map objectives.

Sunshine, Coach
Any map where the objective is forced to push down a certain lane will be a good map for Ragnaros, since it guarantees value from Lava Wave. I don’t think he will really have a bad map, but Braxis Holdout and Tomb of the Spider Queen seem like maps that he would dominate.

Youngbaek, Coach
It honestly depends on what build the professionals decide on in the future. If he becomes a stacking hero, he should fit perfectly into the smaller maps like Dragon Shire and Tomb of the Spider Queen. But if it becomes another variation of the build, he should be good on larger maps as well. Maybe multiple builds will be viable, and you’ll see him played on all maps.

Final Thoughts

Wings, Super Perfect Team
I think the hero is overpowered. His auto attack damage is quite high. At the moment, he can be one of the best solo laners in the game.

Baphomet, Please Buff Arthas
The Ult Lava Wave is very strong when pushing, as it clears minion waves immediately and can force enemies to dodge it so they can’t defend their structures.

Sunshine, Coach
He’s incredibly fun to play. Simple kit, but he has a lot of skill with how you play him. Knowing how to use your E will probably be what sets apart the good players from the bad.

Youngbaek, Coach
Expect a nerf coming to him. I think his overall kit is difficult to balance, and he’ll likely be in a OP or undertuned stage forever.

sCsC, L5 (Ballistix)
We haven’t scrimmed with him yet, so I’m not too sure about how team compositions will factor in. In Hero League, he’s just a standard melee flex pick.


Huge thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and opinions! You are the true Heroes of the Storm!

Also, props to yaya, DogRay, and RallyJaffa for translations!


EsportsJohn is likes long walks on the beach but hates lava waves. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

The burden of journalism.

This year I’ve probably learned more about writing and journalism than during the whole of my college career. For a few months, I went to the nearby college library and read books upon books about the subject, and I became much more literate in a relatively short span of time. Nonetheless, there’s a big difference between knowing about journalism and doing it.

Journalism ethics are pretty straightforward (for the most part) and work well for most areas of your life. Seek the truth, respect others, be accountable…all very relevant and useful concepts, not only for writers, but for the general population as well. Details like libel are murkier. This is where I started, and I think it’s been an excellent vantage point for everything else I’ve done since—it’s much easier to build something if you can survey the area properly first.

But the rest of it is actually quite hands on. Writing mechanics have never come easily to me even though I’m quite aware of good sentence structure, spelling, grammar, etc. And as for article ideas and implementation, sometimes I struggle there too. But perhaps the biggest hurdle has been getting used to being plugged in at all times. The burden of journalism is the constant state of awareness that a reporter requires in order to catch all the details, connect all of the dots, and write the story sooner than the competitors. Deadlines don’t care about your sleep schedule, and there’s not enough time to go back and find all the details you need. There are no days off.

In esports, this awareness extends to tournament results, roster swaps, game features, esports league formats, potential new esports, game design…and the list goes on. If you’re covering more than one esport, there’s not enough hours in the day to actually feed all that information into your brain and process it; you’re tuned in 24/7 and constantly reading articles, watching VoDs, and reading live tweets just to keep up to date. Any time that you lose to sleep or inattention can’t be easily made up for.

It can get very exhausting.

For that reason, it’s good to take a personal day every now and then. If you don’t take breaks or unplug yourself from the mainframe every now and then, it’s really easy for stress to affect your sleep or your health. I don’t know if my brain tires out more easily than others—Pulitzer, for example, was hyper-vigilant and made it a life mission to examine every fine detail closely and add it to his memory bank—but it does sometimes become cumbersome. I’m not great at letting things go and relaxing either, but I’m trying to go outside and do some walking for at least one hour a day and just rest my brain.

The idea of doing journalism doesn’t seem too difficult. Writing news or feature articles doesn’t take a lot of effort, really. But the constant state of awareness and ravenous hunger for information might just eat you up if you’re not prepared for it.

From Player to Coach: An Interview with Sunshine

sunshine2

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


Now that the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) is settled for next year, the community is looking forward to more stable teams and rosters. However, stable rosters alone may not be the key to raising the overall level of play in regions like NA and EU; for that, we need coaches. Of course, there is a lot of pushback when it comes to the subject of coaches, especially in NA. Players and managers cite lack of experience for many up and coming coaches and often look down on them for their limited knowledge and ability.

Following a series of heated debates in the community about coaching, I reached out to Steven “Sunshine” Morgan. Sunshine was a former player on 2ARC before leaving to coach Gale Force eSports during the summer of 2016. Under his direction, the team had their strongest tournament showing ever at ESL Burbank, where they beat out some of the biggest NA powerhouses like Cloud9, Brain Power, and Naventic to finish with an impressive 9-1 overall score. While they performed rather poorly at the global championship at DreamHack Summer due to unexpected flight delays, many remember summer as Gale Force’s strongest period of dominance last year.

On Career

Tell me about your time on 2ARC. You described them as the “gate keepers of the competitive scene”.

Hahaha yeah. So basically when I was on 2ARC, Blaze was also in the amateur scene, and the two of us completely dominated everyone else. No one even came close to beating us, but Blaze always had the upper hand whenever we played against each other. So it was hard at times for sure, but I learned a lot playing on that team and from all the people who played with me.

What happened to 2ARC?

They are basically just no longer with 2ARC. They go by Nice! Gaming powered by Dark Arts. Same roster.

After 2ARC, you went on to coach GFE. What was it like making the switch from player to coach/analyst?

I’ve always wanted to eventually go into coaching. Was definitely a lot faster than I planned, but I really enjoy coaching. I’m good at identifying people’s strengths and weaknesses, which is critical for coaching, in my opinion.

On Coaching

There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what a coach actually does in the HotS community. How would you define a coach in HotS?

Literally everyone has a different definition of what a coach should be. In my opinion, a coach is an unbiased perspective on a game. [As a player], your point of view becomes tainted by playing a certain role, and a coach can remain untainted by not having to focus on mechanics. At the very highest levels of competition, the players don’t need to be babied and told where they made mistakes mechanically or what they need work on, so that shouldn’t be your role; providing a deep knowledge of the game to remind players of the little things during tournaments was an essential role I played in my opinion. The coach is not weighed down by stress like the players, and having a level headed high tier player as a coach presents a lot of value.

So you would say that all coaches have to be very skilled and/or knowledgeable of the game?

Knowledgeable is the most important [aspect]. However, with my past experience, if a coach isn’t super skilled, they miss mechanical things. It can become a problem. I’ve played a lot of games to become knowledgeable about Heroes.

But what about the other side of coaching, which is setting practice schedules and keeping players on task? Do HotS coaches do much of that, or is it primarily just an analyst role?

Setting a schedule was mainly left to the team. GFE had a very good work ethic, so I never had to worry about us not scrimming enough. Had it become a problem, I would have tried to step in. Keeping players on task did happen a lot in scrims and tournaments. Making the team practice certain comps or take scrims seriously, or pointing out something the team missed…all of that is very important for preparation and execution.

Do you see a future where HotS has multiple coaches that have separate roles?

If the scene becomes comparable in size to DotA 2 or LoL, yes. But there isn’t even enough infrastructure for one coach right now. Coaches help, and if there is money, teams will get every advantage they can.

A while back, there was a Tempo Storm article trying to convince more NA teams to invest in a coach, but it was met with a lot of backlash. A lot of people where saying that there are “no good coaches in NA” to start with. Do you agree with that?

No. People say the same thing about no good amateur players, which is just wrong. You have players like Jun, Casanova, and Legend who are all extremely great players. Each one has a different level of success in the scene right now, but if they never get a chance to play on a top tier team, how will you ever know if they are good?

If a coach never gets a chance, how can you know if any are good? I would argue that my results as coach where fantastic, and I haven’t gotten any other chances other than GFE. The first LAN, I wasn’t in comms and the team went 4-4. The second LAN, I was in comms and we went 9-1. Third LAN, I wasn’t in comms and we went 3-5. Obviously, there are other factors that go into these things, but if someone can’t get a second chance with that, I don’t know what someone is realistically supposed to do.

But how do teams know they’re signing on a good coach or a bad one? Especially if they disagree with them or don’t like their coaching style? What’s to prevent the signing of a coach from doing more harm than good?

You have to give coaches a shot. At Dreamhack Austin, GFE and I came to the agreement that I would do all the analytical work and help in between games, but during game and in between games in a set, I wouldn’t say much. Neither side wanted me to throw off the groove that the team had already. We learned a lot, and by the time ESL rolled around, we had a really good mix of player-coach interaction. It falls on the org to keep the balance.

It sounds like you did a lot of GFE.

Yeah I put more time in than the players. I sat in on every scrim, compiled drafts for who we played against, played HL to keep my own skill up, and subbed in when someone was missing.

Not bragging, just saying that it took a lot of time and dedication.

Obviously, you had some issues with Mavnis on GFE. Without getting too personal, what can you say about having a manager that doesn’t support the coach? How do you think the situation could have been improved?

I think the only way a coach can be truly effective is if their “power” or “authority” comes from the organization and not the players. When something happens that the coach needs to overrule the team—which can happen due to things like stress or player conflicts—the coach needs the backing of the org so that the players listen.

This isn’t a problem in Korea because younger players respect older coaches purely based on age, but our culture in NA is much different. A lot of people get up in arms about overruling players, but sometimes it needs to happen. Being a player is extremely stressful and can lead to uncharacteristic mistakes; having a coach to reel someone or even the whole team back in can help avoid disaster. Obviously, if a coach abuses his power/authority, all the players have to do is go to the org and let them deal with it, either through penalty or termination. A good coach would never do anything to harm the team, though, so this should be a very small concern at most, I think.

This is why I brought up the whole Mavnis thing to begin with. When I needed the ability to reel the team back in, a lot of my power/authority was undermined by the manager. Obviously, I have issues with Mavnis, but the only reason I brought it up was because it was very relevant to coaching, in my opinion.

There have been a few successful coaches in EU. Do you think it has to do with orgs backing them up or is it just the general attitudes of the players that allow them to be successful?

I’m not sure. I think EU is quite different from NA, but if I had to guess, I think it would be due to attitudes. EU is much more serious about the game, so I don’t think the orgs need to back the coaches as much for them to be effective.

I could very well be wrong about that though.

On Meta and Game Design

The metagame is kind of confusing right now. How would you describe it?

Oh man, this is a tough one. In all honesty, I think this is more what Blizzard had in mind when they made the game. There are so many heroes who work off of each other that so many different playstyles are viable. You can have one hero with a global to make a gank squad incredibly lethal or a team full of globals to abuse rotations. You can run Tassadar carry-the-Valla comps or Tassadar carry-the-Tracer or Tasssadar carry-the-Illidan; it’s hard to deny anything like that without just banning Tassadar, who isn’t particularly strong by himself. Then you have straight up teamfight all-the-time comps. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that there are so many options that knowing your enemy’s strengths and weaknesses is more important than ever.

Is there anything you dislike about the meta at the moment?

I don’t like how strong Tassadar is based off of what heroes he is with. I love Tassadar as a hero, but if he gets ahead with certain comps, it’s so hard to come back from. I wish he was more independent as a hero. If that makes sense lol.

Healing and damage numbers have slowly risen over time. Do you think there’s anything to be concerned about here?

No, I don’t think so. If you watch DotA, their hero damage is insane. Players [in DotA] get deleted much faster than in Heroes, so I don’t think that will be a problem. Blizzard has been very good at designing heroes with strengths and weaknesses. Take Medic for instance: insane healing numbers, but very she is very weak to dive comps. I believe in Blizzard hero design.

If you could make any change to the core design of the game, what would you change?

This may sound weird, but masteries from LoL. They are a thing you select before game and are just passive minor buffs you get to tune your hero like you want. I actually really enjoyed that, but it’s not huge. Maybe bring back individual leveling, as it allows for more playmaking opportunities.

Dota is getting talents now. What do you think about that?

Heroes master race confirmed?

Crystal Maiden's talent tree in the newest Dota patch

Talents make the game so much easier to balance, and each hero feels more personalized. It’s a win-win, and I think other games are starting to realize that.

What do you think of the new “multi-class” classification with Varian?

Soooooo awesome! I love it. One of the things that drew me to Heroes was the adaptability you can have through ult choice, and Varian just takes that to the next level, in my opinion.

Who’s the next multi-class Hero you want to see?

Priest seems like the next logical choice, but I would love something more off, like a damage or off support like Medivh. Shadow priest seems really fun though!

Miscellaneous/Wrap-up

Statistics (team comps, picks, win rates, etc.) can sometimes be misleading. As an analyst, how much do you trust stats?

Zero.

Haha I actually hate statistics from tournaments. They are cool to look at but valid information [from them] is usually non-existent. If a lower skilled team gets a better comp but doesn’t know how to use it, that doesn’t make the statistics accurate when they lose. Unfortunately, there is no shortcut to analyst work. Stats can lead you in a right direction, but you can never make a highly accurate prediction off of it.

On that note, what do you think of Hots Logs and the community’s heavy reliance on its figures to determine balance?

Hots Logs is infamous for saying Tassadar and Uther were two of the weakest heroes when in reality they were dominating the meta. No competitive player takes that seriously.

Do you think you’ll go back to playing or are you content with coaching?

The scene doesn’t seem ready for coaching. If I could coach a top tier team, I would in a heartbeat, but until then, I’ll probably just play.

So your plan for 2017 is grinding the Open Division?

Maybe, I’m not sure. Need to find a real job to sustain myself, so I may play hardcore or I might not.

Any last words or shoutouts?
I just want to say I wasn’t a perfect coach. I made mistakes and I was still learning how to coach in general. With that being said, I know I brought value to GFE and I enjoyed my time working with them a lot!

I love Heroes, I’ve invested a lot of time into it and made a lot of great friends along the way. My hope is one day Heroes will get the attention it truly deserves.


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

EsportsJohn tried to be a coach once; it didn’t work out. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Varian: First Impressions and Pro Opinions

Varian First Impressions

Written by: EsportsJohn


The gladiator king of Stormwind City, Varian Wrynn, has lived many lives. His anger shook the orcish hordes; his devotion preserved a nation. By wielding the sword Shalamayne two-handed, split into twin blades, or with a shield, Varian shifts his combat tactics: charging into melee with multiple opponents, enduring punishment or dueling one-on-one. Whether King Wrynn or Lo’Gosh the Ghost Wolf stands on the battlefield, the prowess of the man remains the same.

WoW nerd? Alliance fanboy? Professional lore historian? There’s a Hero for that.

Varian Wrynn comes into the Nexus as a new “multi-class” Hero, the first of his kind. While it’s not quite the “stance dance” Hero we were hoping for, being able to pick talents and choose between either a warrior or an assassin is a really cool mechanic that pushes the boundaries of the metagame. As the first of many, Varian is a revolutionary archetype for Heroes to come, and once again, Blizzard proves that they’re ready to defy the norms of the standard MOBA.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Very versatile
  • Tons of crowd control
  • Can solo boss with Twin Blades
  • Great situational talents
  • Potentially huge burst

Weaknesses

  • Poor waveclear
  • Fairly weak before Heroics
  • No reliable escape

Abilities

Varian is somewhat of an enigma. The mere fact that he can change his playstyle drastically at level 10 makes it particularly difficult to make any kind of overarching rules concerning his gameplay. It can be said, however, that his base kit is very bland and underwhelming. To accommodate later power spikes and differing roles, his basic abilities are undertuned and uninspired. It takes talents, particularly at levels 4 and 10, before his abilities start to feel like a natural part of the Hero. As a result, he’s an incomplete Hero pre-10 who tends to slow the team down on fast-paced maps like Dragon Shire or Tomb of the Spider Queen with his clunky movements.

His Trait, Heroic Strike, is basically a cooldown-based crit that you can reduce through auto-attacking. Fresh out of the box, this makes his damage pretty front-loaded. The level 1 talents Overpower and High King’s Quest can also provide more upfront damage. Twin Blades of Fury can convert his Trait into more sustained damage if necessary, but the other two Heroics definitely lend themselves to a bruiser-esque playstyle designed to lock down a target and take them quickly.

Varian on Blackheart's Bay

Screenshot Credit: Blizzard

Lion’s Fang and Charge represent the CC in Varian’s base kit. Perhaps the most important part of his kit, Charge comes baseline with a 75% one-second slow with a high cooldown—quite underwhelming. But with the upgrade of Warbringer at level 4, Charge gains a stun and has a greatly reduced cooldown, making it a terrifying click-stun on a six second cooldown. Lion’s Fang offers much weaker CC, but it’s the only AoE or ranged ability in his kit, making it crucial for wave clear and poke. Against a Varian who is chaining his CC properly, it’s very difficult to get away.

His defensive ability, Parry, works essentially the same as Illidan’s Evasion. The small difference is that Varian has two charges of Parry, allowing players to use it a bit more strategically to block damage or proc effects like Overpower. Parry can even be upgraded to prevent all damage at level 4, but you have to give up Warbringer in return since there are only two choices. It’s important to note, however, that unlike Evasion, Parry does not block the slow from forts and keeps.

At level 10, Varian gains access to one of three Heroics that greatly change his playstyle. This is the turning point for players trying to decide how they want to play him: Taunt equals tank; Colossus Smash equals bruiser; and Twin Blades of Fury equals assassin. Taunt adds another powerful form of CC that allows tank Varian to hold someone more or less in place for nearly four seconds while your allied team wails on them. Twin Blades of Fury greatly increases your attack speed, gives a move speed bonus on attack, and greatly increases the CDR on Heroic Strike so it procs more often. Combined with the CC he already has in his base kit, assassin Varian is very sticky and does a ton of sustained damage. Colossus Smash is essentially the one-shot talent which allows bruiser Varian to instantly delete someone with the aid of his allies.

Varian on Infernal Shrines

Screenshot Credit: Blizzard

All of the Heroics come with passive perks and drawbacks which need to be considered. The result of a slower attack speed, less health, or lower damage needs to be compensated for ahead of time with other talent choices, creating a fairly diverse set of choices for Varian builds. For instance, you might take High King’s Quest at level one to make up for the damage you lose from Twin Blades of Fury or maybe you go for Victory Rush instead of Second Wind for sustain on 7 because of the reduced attack speed from Taunt.

Unlike a similar tank or assassin, he lacks any solid form of disengage; once he’s in, he’s in. Even with Parry, Varian can get into some real trouble if he decides to Charge someone at the wrong time.

Talents

Varian’s talents are obviously the most important part of his kit because they dictate how he will be played. The most influential set of talents are obviously his Heroics, but choices at other tiers can adversely affect his entire playstyle, moreso than any other Hero in the game.

For instance, his first big power spike at level 4 only gives you two choices: Shield Wall or Warbringer. Shield Wall is pure survivability while Warbringer is an incredible boost in CC; ignoring Heroics, this already makes Varian either a tankier dive-in, dive out type of Hero or a hard engage Hero. The same goes for his level 7 talents. Second Wind gets way more healing value than Victory Rush when you pick Twin Blades because of the increased attack speed but pales in comparison with Taunt. In many ways, the talent you pick at 7 justifies the talent you pick at 10.

Varian on Blackheart's Bay

Screenshot Credit: Blizzard

Level 13 is Varian’s utility talent selection. Here can select between three banners which have different effects: speed, damage mitigation, or ability power. Each banner has a large chunk of health and quite a large radius. Currently, the Banner of Ironforge outperforms the others by a great margin. A team-wide 25% reduction in damage is just too powerful to turn down in a teamfight.

Levels 16 and 20 have perhaps the most leeway in usage and can be used with any Heroic. Though some options at 16 lend themselves to certain playstyles like Mortal Strike’s synergy with Twin Blades, any talent is plausible depending on the situation. Shattering Throw is a unique ability that specifically targets shields and is a must have against a Hero like Zarya or Tassadar who rely largely on shields to mitigate damage. The level 20 upgrades for the Heroics are slight but nonetheless make Varian much stronger in his chosen role. If the team needs a bit more overall utility, you can instead opt for Glory to the Alliance to help your team sustain through a long fight or Demoralizing Shout to counter the enemy team’s burst. This is where his talents really start to branch out a bit and give players more opportunities to slightly alter their playstyle rather than define it.

Professional Opinions

On Kit, Design, and Implementation

Blumbi, Misfits
Both [his kit and design] look very promising. This hero will have his place in the meta. Tank Varian feels like an improved Johanna. You are pretty tanky and have one engage tool, one defense tool, and one slow. You trade being a bit less tankier than Johanna for having a click-stun on 6 second cooldown and a lot more utility for the team.

Daihuu, Vox Nihili
Yeah, I think he’s very strong, I haven’t had any chance to play him that much, but a point-and-click stun on a six second cooldown is super omega good. I’ve never felt so troll in my life—just waiting for the Malf silence sound to play, and then I just click him and it goes away.

I tried him as tank, but his other two are OP too. Colossus Smash just one-shots whoever he yells at, and Twin Blades doesn’t die with his Second Wind talent. Blizzard might have been done it too right with Varian.

Disconcur, ANZ Caster
Varian’s kit changes over the course of the game. At first, his kit can feel quite bland, as his primary abilities only really offer him a gap closer, peeling, and minor damage mitigation along with a Trait which seems to offer up only a tiny damage bonus. However, it is the character’s design and how “flexible” a player can be with it that truly sets Varian apart from others.

His flexibility is all tied into his talent selections, as they allow a player to customize Varian to meet their desired playstyle (inside the realm of Warrior/Assassin anyway). You can feel these decisions being made as early as level 4 when players are presented with Varian’s first power spike: Shield Wall and Warbringer. Each provides a buff to one of the primary abilities and suddenly change his playstyle and kit. Warbringer changes the slowing effect of the Charge ability to a stun instead, which in turns gives Varian a nice hard form of CC. This increases his capability for 1v1 fights, engaging, and even peeling for a teammate. With Shield Wall, he can take a lot more damage with Parry. This is a massive front line/damage mitigation tool. [After 4], the “bland” kit I talked about now has a huge spark and flare to it: a hard stun or strong damage mitigation.

I feel the flexibility element is a little flawed, however, as a lot of talents seem to synergize with each other, meaning a lot of players are going to get locked into a path. If you take Shield Wall, you’ve pretty much locked yourself into taking Taunt at 10. If you grab Second Wind at level 7, you are most likely grabbing Twin Blades of Fury as your Heroic. Even looking at the level 13 Banner selection, you are kind of not counterpicking vs the other team or choosing what you would like; you’re taking your team’s comp into consideration and what is best for it. While players can always do what they want at the end of the day, I still feel Blizzard kind of made optional paths for each “type” of Varian and did not provide many “counterplay” talents for Varian.

The multi-class nature of Varian makes him a flexible hero, and I feel it is a good design choice. However, I would have liked a stronger “counterplay” talent [selection]. All in all, the choice of playstyle is nice, and I have enjoyed that feeling going into games.

Gela, Pro player and Streamer
Alright, well, the design is pretty cool, and I was happy Blizzard wanted to do something like this. I really like the idea, the idea of making him super versatile so that he could adjust to almost any setup, BUT—there is always a but :D—first, I looked at him and thought: “Wow, that should be super OP”, but when he came out, sadly, it’s not like that at all. And I, personally, think that he needs some buffs. Not to every build, but his tank and Colossus Heroics definitely need that.

JSchritte, Burning Rage
I can talk about my impressions as a bruiser, [it has] so much potential. He can burst any DPS/healer—80% HP in one combo at level 13. His ultimate (Colossus Smash) is broken. It’s like a Tyrande [trait] with burst damage and a low cooldown. One burst combo plus any skill damage from another DPS, the target will die.

The main disadvantage is his waveclear. If you play him like a bruiser, you probably need to put him in a solo lane, and if it’s a map with an important solo lane, you will lose the lane.

I also played him like a tank, but I don’t know what to say because it isn’t my playstyle. I liked the kite with Taunt, then invulnerable two times, but I don’t know…we have broken Muradin and E.T.C. for global, Mosh Pit, etc. The AA build, I have not tested enough to say anything, but if you need an AA DPS, maybe a better pick is Illidan or Samuro?

KendricSwissh, EU Commentator and Streamer
People might know me as the biggest Alliance fanboy to ever be created. But in all seriousness, I really do think that Varian paves the way for a spectacular design idea. The ability to adapt and switch your role according to the team composition and flow of the game creates a new form of in-game depth that we didn’t have before.

Varian’s kit is strong and versatile. However, some aspects could see future changes, such as Taunt and other defensive talents in his tree. I’ve heard people telling me that his Basic Abilities are rather unexciting, but I only agree to a certain extent. In my opinion, Varian feels dynamic and explosive. He immediately brought back the love and good memories I linked to Warriors in vanilla World of WarCraft.

OPrime, KR Caster and Coach
Varian doesn’t really have the best vanilla skillset, but he gets a huge power spike at level 4 and becomes a “complete” hero at level 10. His presence in teamfights is very respectable. His level 4 stun is something enemy heroes have to watch out for, and all of his ultimates bring an oomph to teamfights.

TBKzord, NA Caster
Varian has a unique kit. In some ways, it very much lives up to the “three heroes in one” mantra. Varian is probably one of the most, if not the most, adaptable hero, not only to your comp, but the enemy comp and even the map choice. From a design perspective, Varian is definitely one of the “easier” heroes that Blizzard has released, at least considering the last few. He is much more “point-and-click” oriented, though he does have some great nuances, such as the effective use of Parry, Taunt, stutter stepping, and body blocking, especially with his Twin Blades ultimate.

On Professional Play and Meta Changes

Blumbi, Misfits
Especially as long as Tassadar and Tracer are in the meta, he will be in the meta. Even without those heroes, he will probably be strong enough to be a meta pick because of his chain CC and utility for the team.

Disconcur, ANZ Caster
I think most regions will welcome him into their rosters, as he is a flexible character and thus will find his way into a variety of comps a lot easier. With a hard engage playstyle being one of his options, I feel Korea, ANZ, and SEA will be definitely see him in the their drafts.

He offers an interesting position during drafting because selecting Varian doesn’t provide information on how he will be playing.

Gela, Pro player and Streamer
He is a cool guy, so I hope [he’ll be played] whenever Blizzard gives him a small buff. But right now, I’m really not sure about it. There are a lot of other good heroes.

JSchritte, Burning Rage
I don’t know [about Varian in Asia/EU] because Zeratul now is so strong, and Korea and China prioritize this Hero a lot—and with changes to Illidan too. I really don’t know if this is the type of Asian/EU [Hero]. EU, I think not because EU plays more strategically, and I believe Varian is for being more aggressive with pick offs, etc.

KendricSwissh, EU Commentator and Streamer
If certain issues with his kit get addressed (i.e. his tank talents being a bit underwhelming and his general weak early game pre-10), I think Varian has what it takes to become a very relevant factor. Even in his current state, I expect the Fury build to be utilized in competitive play fairly soon, especially on larger maps that feature multiple mercenary and boss camps. My personal favorite, the burst-heavy Colossus Smash build, certainly does have situational value, too. Similar to Tyrande’s Hunter’s Mark, the Vulnerable effect it applies can greatly boost your team’s performance on Battlefield of Eternity, for instance.

OPrime, KR Caster and Coach
To avoid [drafting] problems, some Korean teams are actually experimenting with using Varian as a replacement for the ranged flex position. All in all, I think Varian is a very solid hero, but I’m not sure whether he will be immediately used in competitive play.

TBKzord, NA Caster
I think the variability of his talent tree/ultimate choice and the potential for some element of surprise in draft will almost guarantee that he will show up in some shape or form in the Heroes meta as a whole. Just judging from some of the tweets I have seen, I would expect Korea to be one of the first to really experiment with him. Though, we might get some surprises in the final HGC qualifier, as he will be allowed at that time.

On Map and Composition Viability

Blumbi, Misfits
Every map. BoE might be especially good for him, as he can easily CC chain by timing the E on a boss-stun when you defend your immortal, so its really dangerous for the enemy team to walk up.

Disconcur, ANZ Caster
I think Varian will always do well alongside another warrior with some form of lockdown or displacement ability (Johanna, Muradin, ETC, Diablo) or burst damage characters (Kerrigan, Li-Ming, Butcher, Greymane).

Waveclear isn’t one of Varian’s strong points, so maps like Dragon Shire and Battlefield of Eternity should play out well for him. However, I don’t think any map will be bad for him. Maps with a lot of mercenaries will work in his favor, as he is quite a capable headhunter.

Gela, Pro player and Streamer
As I said, he can fit into almost anything. It’s really hard to say right now looking at Hotslogs stats what would be the coolest setup for him, as his tank build is almost never used and Twin Blades is being used almost everywhere. So I guess people want him to be like a melee assassin or maybe a bruiser. Anyways, he fits in any setup, but right now maybe not on any map. I think his damage before level 10 is pretty weak. He also has no waveclear and is a pretty bad solo laner, in my opinion. I haven’t had any problems [laning] against Varian. It makes him hard to play on early game maps such as Tomb, Dragon Shire, BoE, Braxis, Blackheart’s (yes, this is not an early game map, but he is doing nothing here early, which is important to note). But at the same time, he is doing well on Warhead, Cursed, and Garden, so you can see how his power grows by being in a game longer and not losing early.

JSchritte, Burning Rage
I’m not going to talk about Varian’s tanky Taunt build since I think there are numerous other Heroes such as Muradin, E.T.C., Johanna, Arthas, or Chen who all fulfill this role much more efficiently.

Thus, let’s talk about his other two playstyles, namely “Arms” (featuring Colossus Smash at Level 10) and “Fury”. Arms can see a lot of play if two requirements are met. Firstly, the map should have an objective that needs to taken down as fast as possible. Battlefield of Eternity, Garden of Terror, Dragon Shire, or Infernal Shrines would be examples of those kinds of maps. Secondly, your team needs to have decent burst damage (e.g. Li-Ming or Jaina) to follow up on Varian’s Colossus Smash—otherwise his engagement would go to waste.

Fury is less situational. It has a larger tolerance in terms of team composition and maps. Generally speaking, a Fury Varian can oftentimes be compared to Illidan in the way the team composition around him should be built, which means drafting a strong Support or even 1.5 Supports featuring Tassadar. Fury Varian becomes particularly powerful on maps that feature mercenary and boss camps that he can easily solo at or after Level 10. I do, however, want to highlight that it is still wiser to clear those camps together. Please don’t rush to clearing boss camps without carefully thinking about it and, most importantly, informing your allies in time.

KendricSwissh, EU Commentator and Streamer
If certain issues with his kit get addressed (i.e. his tank talents being a bit underwhelming and his general weak early game pre-10), I think Varian has what it takes to become a very relevant factor. Even in his current state, I expect the Fury build to be utilized in competitive play fairly soon, especially on larger maps that feature multiple mercenary and boss camps. My personal favorite, the burst-heavy Colossus Smash build, certainly does have situational value, too. Similar to Tyrande’s Hunter’s Mark, the Vulnerable effect it applies can greatly boost your team’s performance on Battlefield of Eternity, for instance.

OPrime, KR Caster and Coach
His chief weakness is the fact that he doesn’t really have anything to offer during the early game laning phase. He can’t really solo the lane well because he’s a melee with no self heal, and his waveclear is bad. So he’s not too useful on two-lane maps.

He becomes a decent ganker when he gets his stun at level 4, but before then he can’t really do anything, which means he’s not suited to being the main tank/source of CC. If he’s drafted as the off-tank, it usually leaves the team composition without a good solo laner.

TBKzord, NA Caster
Due to the nature of Varian’s kit, you can really find a place for him in most compositions or maps. I think in this case, the question is more like “How will you run him?”

His tank build really has all the tools you need for a solo/main tank. With a taunt on a low cooldown, damage reduction or complete negation from Parry, and the potential of a gap-closing point-and-click slow/stun, plus extra health, you should be able to be a good front line for your team and peel where needed.

Colossus Smash is probably the most team-oriented ult. In my experience, you can really maximize the use of this build with a full team as a dive comp or one that can focus the target of Colossus Smash and get the full value of the vulnerability—as well as a dead enemy hero.

Twin Blades of Fury fills out Varian’s kit with a fantastic assassin build. Not only does Varian do a significant amount of sustained damage with this build, but with his Second Wind talent at level 7, it also enables him to solo mercenary camps with ease—as well as Golem bosses as early as level 10! This ultimate also allows him to be incredibly “sticky” to his intended target [since he gains] movement speed every time his basic attacks are used.

Final Thoughts

Blumbi, Misfits
My prediction: Tank-Varian (I tested the tank spec only) will be picked in this meta, which means Arthas and Leoric might show up more again. The permanent slow from Arthas and Entomb from Leoric are really annoying to deal with as a tank who has no escape. You realize it when you play Johanna, and Varian is actually really similar to her. You are really tanky, but you have no escape like Muradin, ETC, or Tyrael, which makes you vulnerable once you engage.

Daihuu, Vox Nihili
Broken. Quote me on that lmao.

darkmok, Misfits
I’m afraid I haven’t played him enough to give useful info, but I can just tell you that I like him! 😀

Disconcur, ANZ Caster
I think Varian’s design is a good direction, and I would like to see Blizzard attempt this with a few more heroes. But I think they do need to look at improving the talent tree a bit more to allow for some more match-based choices and not “build direction and synergy” choices.

I think he is good xD. Like a good strong hero, all his builds are good. However, I feel his tanking is his weakest. His DPS builds are much stronger and more impactfull. I am very much looking forward to seeing Varian in Competitive play.

Gela, Pro player and Streamer
Well…I thought about it, and I like the idea but, at the very least, I think Blizzard shouldn’t have added such a small talent pool. This hero, literally, has three builds, but only like two talents on level 4. Maybe this is the problem with him not being such a good hero too: not enough damage as well as not enough talents to fit in every build.

JSchritte, Burning Rage
[As a bruiser], he is viable on maps without an important solo lane, has burst damage with a low CD, maybe [good in] one tank + two bruisers meta (idk), has good talents [that let] you choose in different games (levels 13 and 16), and has good sustain on maps where you fight in waves (level 7 talent).

KendricSwissh, EU Commentator and Streamer
Personally, I’m quite happy with the way Varian turned out. While there is still room for improvement—especially his weak early game pre-10 and some of his tank talents—his model and his voice files look and sound amazing and really deliver 100% Alliance goodness.

Something I would have loved to see with Varian is the so-called “stance dance” which allows World of Warcraft warriors to quickly hop between stances depending on which situation they find themselves in. Yet, I do understand that this concept would probably be too hard to balance in a MOBA environment. Still, I imagine such a mechanic to be extremely interesting.

TBKzord, NA Caster
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the unique and even completely new mechanics that Varian’s talents have. First, his Banners at level 13 are extremely cool, as they give you yet another way to augment your team. Have a team with low mobility? Grab the Banner of Stormwind to speed your team along. Having trouble with squishies getting bursted down too fast? Grab the Banner of Ironforge for a chunk of damage resistance. Want to make that Li-Ming or Kael’thas even crazier? Grab the Banner of Dalaran for some more ability damage.

Second, his level 16 talents are extremely unique. Mortal Strike adds a second heal reduction [talent] to the game, and at an even earlier level than Xul’s—though, albeit, it’s single-target. And lastly, Shattering Throw brings a completely new mechanic to the game. Up until this point, the only thing that could counter shielding was direct damage. This gives you an ability that will practically delete any shield, plus gives you extra passive damage against them! Niche, yes. Another awesome tool in your toolkit? You bet.


Huge thanks to everyone who contributed their thoughts and opinions! You are the true Heroes of the Storm!

Also, props to RallyJaffa for Korean translations!


EsportsJohn is a freelance esports journalist who loves collaborating with other people and sharing opinions. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Out of the Ashes: Interview with Arcaner

Australian Heroes of the Storm player Arcaner

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


On October 26th, Australian team Reborn prepared for their first match in the BlizzCon group stages. Having flown across the globe, the boys were settling down and trying to get in the zone after a week of practice and travel. Four members of the team had already gone through this rigorous feat of endurance and disorientation in previous global championships, but for young flex player Liam “Arcaner” Simpson, this was the first time on the global stage.

Their first game was rough and ended in defeat. Stubbornly, Reborn rallied around an all-in Illidan composition for the second game, but were defeated again, this time in draft before the game even began. Subsequent losses caused them fall out of the tournament with a dismal 0-4 record. In retrospect, there were many valuable—albeit harsh—lessons learned that day for the Australian team, but now the future of ANZ rests on how the players move forward from their loss.

A few weeks after BlizzCon, Arcaner reached out to me and asked to do an interview. “I was looking for a platform to voice my large concerns about the future of minor regions, and ANZ in particular,” he told me. As the interview process continued, we began to talk more broadly about his personal performance and plans for 2017. What emerged was not only his concerns for the HGC format and the future of the ANZ region but also a small glimpse into the mind of an improving player. It’s difficult to define what it takes to “make it out” and meet success in a minor region, but one can easily admire the ambition of a player who is only spurred on by defeat. Arcaner is that sort of player.

On BlizzCon

Let’s be honest, your performance at BlizzCon was subpar compared to what you’ve shown in ANZ. Was there any particular reason for the team’s disarray?

Our performance was definitely a shock to the team. Going into the event, we had confidence in making it out of groups [based on] our scrim results at BlizzCon. I think the first mistake we made was that we had expectations which distracted us from being objective about our games, and we didn’t commit enough resources and energy into the drafts and our preparation in general.

During our games, our drafting was terrible—we weren’t building strong or easily executable comps, and we weren’t target banning specific heroes that we should’ve been banning. On Tomb specifically, it showed that we had no prioritisation on wave clear, and even when Denial first-banned Johanna, it didn’t occur to us that we were going to get squeezed out of it.

In-game, the team atmosphere was entirely off, and it felt like there was no energy, belief, or desire to win the games.

Did the Expulsion Zone ban on Zarya affect the team’s drafting strategy?

We understood that Denial weighed priority on Zarya in their drafting, but with the Expulsion Zone ban, we concluded that it was a hero that could be dealt with and wouldn’t be popular during the tournament. Nevertheless, I revise that mindset as a mistake—we should have respected that specific comfort of theirs by banning it in the second phase or adapting our drafts to deal with it, which we didn’t.

How did you personally deal with the loss at BlizzCon? You came to literally the other side of the world and only got to spend a few minutes on stage. Did that bother you?

After the loss, I was extremely depressed and went straight back to our team’s practice room and started queueing Hero League to practice my role swap to support, which is my main role whenever I’m a free agent. I think I played about 100 games in a week and a half, so my response to the loss was one of deep desire to improve and never let a bad performance happen again.

ANZ team Reborn at the HGC Fall Championship at BlizzCon

Photo Credit: Blizzard

Playing Bo3s was pretty sad, as we only got to play four games for the entire tournament. But there was plenty of other stuff to do to make the most out of the trip, so I was still very happy.

What was it like to scrim with the other teams at the Global Championship? Did you learn any valuable lessons from the top Korean or European teams?

It was challenging, efficient, and fun. We got to scrim eStar, Dignitas, PBA, Imperium Pro Team, and Fnatic. We learnt a lot from the scrims, and especially against Dignitas, we began to understand what it takes to be a tier above the Western teams. They played with a lot of control and seemed to play more Korean than they did Western.

You stated pretty explicitly that “NA looks quite weak” during the team intro video. Even though you lost, did you still feel that was the case when you played Denial at BlizzCon?

What I’ve grasped from the event and our result is the importance of context when assessing teams, players, and metas. Retrospectively, the assessment I developed of North American teams was founded upon the analytical comparison of their strength in relation to Europe and Korea. Specifically speaking, Denial’s performance at both of their American regionals when they had an early or mid game lead was precarious. Astral Authority consistently gave me the impression that they understood how to maintain a lead on their American opponents with their engagement and macro decisions—they were always in control. My reasoning for stating NA is weak was due to the comparison of mechanical play of Astral’s players versus the European, Chinese and Koreans—and for Denial it was the more apparent existence of macro and shotcalling mistakes.

Learning from BlizzCon, I’ve altered my previous mindset, and I now look to start comparing the strength of teams to my own—and with that stated, no, NA wasn’t weak. I have a wealth of respect for the region, and what I admire about Astral and Denial is their drive and passion to learn from each international showing and improve. I’m looking forward to watching them during the first split of HGC 2017.

Aside from participating in the tournament, what else did you do at BlizzCon? Did you get a chance to get out and see the city or eat some American food? Disneyland?

We went to Disneyland as a team, but aside from that, we weren’t doing much tourism. I enjoyed the American burgers.

At BlizzCon, we attended the opening ceremony and mostly stayed around the player lounge to watch the HotS games.

Be honest, how bad is the jet lag coming from Australia?

Actually, I didn’t have any jet lag when I arrived in the US. I don’t think my team did either. For me, it was pretty horrendous when I returned to Australia. I remember the first day back at home, I had a 3pm nap and woke up at 3am, and since then my sleep schedule has been ruined with lots of early mornings—I’ve never been so confused haha.

On the HGC Circuit

Minor region issues aside, what do you think was the biggest problem with HGC in 2016? Do you think the 2017 format will fix that issue?

The most substantial complication with HGC in 2016 was the disparity in skill between the East, the West, and Wildcards that developed as a consequence of dissimilar HGC structures. The East received league systems that nurtured teams and reinforced team stability and competitiveness. The West dealt with one-day qualifiers and regional finals that hindered the existence of long term rosters and limited player’s tournament experience. As a result, their mechanics and overall team strength [was hindered].

HGC 2017 bandages the wounds in the West and enables more teams to thrive with financial support and competitive opportunity but does not immediately bridge the gap in team strength. The idea of equal opportunity is what I am passionate about, and I’m sincerely happy for North America and Europe to be rewarded with a league system.

A relatively less significant problem is the international tournament format. We’ve encountered the identical two-phase group stage into single elimination playoffs repeatedly—and it’s getting stale. It’s not ideal to be having Bo3’s in a Swiss format group stage; if it were a round robin, it’d seem warranted. I’d push to witness Bo5’s become baseline in international tournaments and for more experimentation to be done with engaging formats that mix first and second seeds differently. Group stages could become intricate, and playoffs could start at quarterfinals.

Blizzard changed the residency requirements back to six months. Do you think this strict region lock is good or bad for Heroes as a whole?

I think it reinforces the notion that Blizzard wants each region to be explicit in the players that represent it. It’s clear they want to stray away from some form of international player transfer system—or maybe their reason is they don’t want Korean players dominating within any region besides Korea.

The system is understandable. The six month residency lock is strict and does its job of keeping players isolated. I disagree with the idea, but it isn’t like we would see many international transfers occurring if there were no region lock. Players would probably have to fund it themselves, as not many sponsors would want to invest so much money during an early period of Heroes esports.

It seems the people most affected in a bad way would be the minor regions and the teams who don’t make the cut in major regions that have the most competitive relegations (Korea or EU).

Let’s try a thought experiment. If a team like Burning Rage had enough money to move to North America and participate in the league after six months of practice, how well do you think they’d do?

I believe that Burning Rage would make great use of the opportunity to play in NA, and I know that JSchritte and his teammates would be impassioned by the thought of moving. I feel like they are strong and unified in their goals, and I would expect them to place high enough that they’d make it to the Clashes and Brawls.

There will be a distinctive lack of offline events next year (down from 19 in 2016 to just 6 in 2017). Given that it won’t affect the ANZ region much next year, do you have an opinion on that?

I think the more offline events, the better. But with the introduction of salaries and the league systems, there must be some form of compromise from another avenue. Maybe we will see more offline events later down the track once the league settles in and Blizzard makes some better returns for Heroes Esports.

Blizzard mentioned that minor regions can look forward to “local competitions” that feed into international tournaments. Do you think that means there will be more events during the year? Or does that pretty much mean exactly the same thing for minor regions?

To me, it means exactly the same as what 2016 has been—except for the information we received about our prize pool for the year being converted into AUD from USD, which is a loss of about 30% in the prize money.

What is your opinion on the East and West Clashes? Do you like this format better than a full-scale global event?

For ANZ, we are a part of the West, so we will be facing three NA teams, three EU teams, and the LatAm team.

I like the idea of East and West clashes, but I would like to see the second clash be West vs East instead of NA vs EU again. It’s a bit depressing that we will only get to see the Eastern teams twice next year, as we have a great relationship with them. I’m excited to see if the East and West develop their own metas; it’d be cool to see which one is stronger going into the Mid Season Brawl.

On ANZ Region

We’ve talked a bit before about how it’s impossible to make a living as a gamer in Australia because of the lack of money currently available. Do you feel this is mostly the fault of the game developers? Or does the country need to develop esports more?

In regards to the county’s development, a problem is Australia’s culture and stance on gaming. Growing up, kids are told to go outside and play sports and do outdoor activities over other hobbies. There’s an emphasis on physical activity, which creates a pessimistic response to staying indoors and gaming. Because of this, we don’t have as big of a proportion of gamers, and those that are [gamers] refrain from being competitive and stay casual. Another problem is our infrastructure and internet. Not being able to stream because of my internet speed is depressing and a limitation to our potential careers in this industry.

What is the biggest issue plaguing the ANZ region in terms of competitive play? What solutions could you offer to solve this problem?

The biggest issues at the moment are population, sponsor investment, and viewership. The ANZ region is in a chaotic place at the moment, and part of me thinks that a lot of the players in the region do not deserve the amount of investment and rewards Blizzard gives out. When I sit down and try to brainstorm the players who care about the game as much as I do—who care about international results and want to become a great teammate for a great team—I can’t think of more than a few.

Reborn lifts the trophy at the ANZ regional final

It’s depressing to be a part of ANZ. We’ve had multiple organizations and people come to help and organize events, to build the scene back up and inspire us, and it’s met with a lot of disrespect, negativity and trolling.

It would be a refreshing concept to have a clean slate of players come into the competitive scene to replace the current population—or for the current players to have a drastic change in attitude and behaviour. However, I want to emphasise the importance of increasing our region’s [gaming] population as a good solution to all of its issues.

You said yourself that there are very few gamers in ANZ. Perhaps a league system starting with only 4-6 teams and maybe ramping up over time if participation increases?

There are only two other competitive teams in the region, and one of them is pretty unstable right now. I don’t think investing in a league system will be worth it, and it’d be a miracle to get six serious teams signing up for it.

Blizzard has been doing a lot of marketing and advertising in a bid to re-sell this game, so I really hope that we get some new players coming into the scene. One we get a higher number of competitive and serious teams then we can think about implementing a league system and discussing the idea of salaries for players.

Are there any third party weekly/monthly tournaments in ANZ similar to Go4Heroes or ZOTAC?

Not at the moment, but there is a rumour that there will be some next year. Disconcur from ANZ Heroes organizes a lot of the events, and we have another organization called Gamestah who did a lot of work for the scene this year.

Despite some of the other minor regions suffering, Taiwan seems to be doing well. Perhaps it has to do with their ability to play on Chinese or Korean servers?

I attribute PBA’s success to three things. Firstly, I think that keeping a stable roster has been key to their improvement in international results; they really understood how to take advantage their situation. As long as they stay together, regardless of whether or not they had a bad international showing, they can still dominate their region and have a guaranteed place at Sweden and BlizzCon. They can keep their mechanics fresh and begin preparing a specific meta for the international stage and doing research and a lot of observation into NA/EU/CN opponents.

Which leads to the second reason for their success: their own powerful meta. An advantage to being in a minor region is that [major region] teams are less inclined to critique or even pay attention to the meta a minor region team like PBA develops. Call it ego, laziness, or overconfidence—Astral Authority disrespected PBA’s meta. [PBA’s] Auriel and Zeratul comps did well, and a lot of teams butchered their drafts against them.

Lastly, I think PBA’s ability to scrim and play on Korean servers is really beneficial and leads to their players being mechanically superior to other minor regions. I’d go as far to say that ZoLa had the best performance out of all the supports during BlizzCon.

This might be an impossible question to answer. If an ANZ team could reach the level of a Korean team like MVP Black or Ballistix, how would they do it? What would need to change?

It’s clear that there would have to be great mechanical improvement and a drastic change in attitude and mindset in order to beat Koreans. We’d have to move to Korea and play in Super League with a long term goal in mind during scrims and after bad results. It’d begin with a few seasons of low placings in Korean tournaments before eventually climbing to the top; and it’s almost impossible. But if there were a way to do it, it lies in Korea.

If Blizzard still can’t get together an organized schedule and stream next year, where can we go to keep up with events in ANZ?

Next year, I’ll be posting on Twitter regularly about dates of our tournaments so people can tune in and watch my team and me play, if I end up having one in time.

@ANZ_Heroes is a good place to follow events too.

On Future Plans

A few days ago, Benjamin announced that Reborn was breaking up and going their separate ways. What happened? Can you give us any details on the future of the players?

This is very complicated, and I cannot provide the correct answers at this moment regarding the future of the team’s players. When you come out of a tournament with a performance completely opposite to what you expect, it makes you more critical and analytical of every aspect of the team. We have to ask ourselves the difficult questions, and we need to ensure that moving forward into 2017, we have a unified team in regard to friendship, competitive mindset and goals, and performance.

It’s all very uncertain at the moment, but there may be a few players taking a season’s break from competitive HotS.

Not to bring back any bad memories, but how do you stay motivated to keep playing after an 0-4 defeat on the global stage? What makes you want to come back next year?

I think the motivation comes from the same goal that I brought coming into BlizzCon. My personal goal was to prove my skill internationally. It was something that I was very nervous about coming into BlizzCon because ranged flex wasn’t my best suit. But I was confident in my Illidan play and therefore really unhappy and disappointed in myself after the Cursed Hollow game vs Denial.

ANZ player Arcaner

Photo Credit: Blizzard

What makes me want to come back next year is to prove my skill on support and develop myself as a great pro player.

Since you don’t have regular scrims in ANZ, what does a normal practice schedule look like for you?

It’s usually about three hours per day [in total] waiting in queue for Hero League, and another two hours of playing it. And then two to three hours of replay analysis or draft practice. Every other day, I might have a two to three hour scrim block.

Do you have any specific practice goals you want to work on before next season? Any particular performance goals for 2017?

At the moment, I’m working on getting my support mechanics back to normal and putting a large amount of time into practicing drafting, which I do for one to two hours a day outside of scrims. For 2017, my goal is to be regarded as one of the best supports internationally—hopefully I can do it.

Any last words? Any shoutouts?

Shoutout to all of my in-game friends from other regions who have given me advice and helped me grow—you know who you are. I want to thank the team at Blizzard for a great trip to BlizzCon—I will never forget it. Also, a sincere thank you to all the casters and international players who cared about my team and me, whether it be casters putting in the effort to study us and get to know us or the pros who approached and talked with us during BlizzCon. It means a lot when people put in this effort, so thank you.

And lastly, thank you to those who support my team and our region, whether you are fans in Australia or around the world. We appreciate everything. I want to apologize to those I let down at BlizzCon. I’m sorry for underwhelming plays, but I will do everything I can to improve and be the best ♥.


EsportsJohn is a freelance journalist on a mission to give minor regions exposure and make esports a worldwide community. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

GCWC Interview with Team Dignitas

%e6%96%b0%e9%97%bb%e5%9b%be-dignitas

Reprinted with permission from NetEase
Edited by: EsportsJohn

Welcome to the GCWC! Can you describe your team to Chinese HotS fans? As the strongest team in EU pro scene, is there any pressure for you guys?

Bakery: We’ve never felt too much pressure from being the best team in Europe. It’s only when we aren’t the best that we really feel the need to get our reputation back. Nevertheless, we always want to represent Europe the best that we can and show how strong a region Europe really is.

How does the team cooperate? How do you train daily? How do you prepare for tournaments?

Athero: Me and JayPL normally make the decisions when it comes to drafting and shotcalling. However, we draft as a team mostly to get a well rounded comp, so everyone knows what their job is in-game.

What was the original intention for your team? What’s your biggest advantage?

Bakery: When I started the team over a year ago, our sole goal was to dethrone Team Liquid and claim the title of the best team in Europe. After the Global Championship in Seoul, we moved past that goal and set our sights on becoming a true contender for winning an international tournament. Our biggest advantage is that we work together to achieve these goals.

%e5%9b%be1

What’s the secret to keeping the top rank on the HotS pro stage?

Mene: I play the game a lot because I want to be the best in my role and able to make plays for my team when we need it. As a team, you have to think about drafts/combos and not be scared of losing a lot of games in practice when you try them.

JayPL: My personal advice is to keep your feet on the ground. There will always be someone better than you or people trying to catch you, so you need to keep practicing no matter what. Otherwise, you’ll end up losing your spot. You won’t be able to perform at your best every time. Obviously, you will mess up some actions, games, or even series by yourself. You have to keep your cool and focus on the next matches. As soon as you have a strong mentality, you have the core to be a top-rank player.

What’s your opinion of Asian HotS teams? What’s difference between NA and EU?

Mene: The big difference is the meta. I think Asian teams are really good, but if they adapt their meta more, they can stay the best in the world for a long time.

Bakery: I’m a huge fan of the Asian HotS scene—especially Korea. Surprisingly, NA and EU have huge differences in both their meta and approach to practice, and are not very similar at all!

Are there any rivals you want to defeat or any goals you want to achieve at GCWC?

Mene: My goal is to win it! Playing it just after BlizzCon can help us a lot to achieve this.

JayPL: My goal is obviously to win an international tournament. There’s nothing more than that, except keeping your title. If I reach the title of the best team in the World one day, I’ll have the feeling that there’s no goal anymore… I’m actually scared to win and lose my motivation, but I’ll be the happiest guy on earth.

Dignitas holding the first place trophy at DreamHack Valencia

Photo Credit: DreamHack

Bakery: I would really love to beat MVP Black. I’m quite friendly with Sake, and they are the team that I have the most respect for in the whole scene. To convincingly beat them would be a huge deal for me.

What do you think of the current meta/Hero selection? Which Hero do you want to join the Nexus?

Mene: I don’t like like the meta at the moment, there is no Kael’thas! I hope an elemental Shaman will join the Nexus soon!

Athero: I like the meta because there are a lot of things that are viable. However, it makes for a tricky drafting phase, as you have to account for multiple comps when you are picking and banning.

Which team is your old enemy?

Bakery: We’ve been battling for the top spot in Europe with Misfits all year long, but this year has been so busy that it doesn’t feel like they’re old rivals—rather, very recent rivals.

So many pro teams have lineup changed recently. What’s the best way to keep a stable lineup?

Mene: When you have an issue on the team, you have to talk about it to try to fix it, and then you go over it and focus on practice again.

JayPL: As in every relationship, the key is discussion. If you have an issue, you have to talk and fix it. There’s no magic, it’s all about discussion.

It said that many of your team members are a big fans of JayPL, can you tell us the full story?

Mene: For me it’s very simple: his hairstyle is very unique, and when I look at him I’m impressed by how his hair can end up being so beautiful.

Athero: For me, it’s his flip flops. Whenever he comes to LANs, he will wear them whenever possible. They are stylish and neat.

Have you guys ever been to China before? What are you looking forward to doing most in China?

Mene: It will be my first time in China. I’m looking to try real Chinese food and see how the lifestyle is in China.

Athero: I have never been to China. It will be a great experience no matter the outcome of the tournament, and I’m looking forward to it!

Any further thoughts to share with Chinese HotS fans?

Mene: I enjoyed playing vs X-Team at the previous Global Championship. I’m sure it’s going to be great games again, but we are coming to win, so be ready!

Bakery: Elegant is one of the kindest pro players I have met, and I really hope that I can get to spend some more time with him at GCWC!

GCWC Venue - Beijing's Water Cube

Photo Credit: NetEase


This is an interview conducted and translated by NetEase. It is primarily intended for Chinese viewers to get a better sense of Western teams, but NetEase has given the publisher the right to publish for Western audiences as well. The publisher assumes no responsibility for inaccurate information or misrepresentation.


EsportsJohn is a freelance journalist and copyeditor. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Korea Dominates BlizzCon Opening Week

The analyst desk at the Heroes of the 2016 Storm Global Championship in Anaheim

Written by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


The opening week of BlizzCon has been full of ups and downs for players and fans alike, but one thing is certain: Korea is king. Some teams are performing better than expected, some are performing far worse, but the Korean teams MVP Black and Ballistix look invincible.

Once again, the world finds itself in an arms race against Korea. In StarCraft, we bred foreigners designed to beat Koreans, many of which failed miserably. In League of Legends, we cheered “TSM” with all of our hearts only to come face to face with yet another all-Korean finals. And now we find ourselves in a similar position with Heroes of the Storm. Who can beat Korea?

Korea, The Undisputed King

Let’s be real here. Korea dominated Opening Week.

MVP Black bullied their way through the first group stage by bludgeoning Burning Rage to death and swatting Denial away like an insect. Then they went on a rampage against Dignitas and Please Buff Arthas (PBA) in the second group stage and advanced to the playoffs with an undefeated 8-0 record. Overall, they have over four times more takedowns than deaths with a record of 122-28 and have ended several games before Level 20.

MVP Black's KyoCha onstage at the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

The road for Ballistix has been shorter but just as bloody. Like MVP Black, they dispatched Denial seemingly without effort before moving on to extinguish Fnatic’s flame 2-0. Their numbers are equally as intimidating with a 37-8 record and a flawless 4-0 record.

We are unbelievably lucky that the Korean teams were seeded into different groups and couldn’t eliminate each other, and now they sit on opposite ends of the playoffs bracket. Truth be told, an all-Korean finals is pretty likely.

North America’s Fall From Grace

With Cloud9’s massive victory over Team DK at BlizzCon 2015 still fresh in our minds, it’s easy for North American fans to feel confident heading into the Global Championship. It has been a roller coaster year, but the core players from C9 are back at BlizzCon under the name of Denial; what could possibly go wrong?

Well, opening week has made it pretty obvious that NA is weaker than we ever imagined. Denial was able to take out Reborn, the weakest team at BlizzCon, with ease but struggled a lot against Brazilian team Burning Rage (BR). Though they managed to come out of the ordeal 2-0, it was a hard-earned victory against a team without their primary shotcaller and playmaker. Had Typhex been able to attend BlizzCon and play with BR, it’s doubtful Denial would have even made it out of the first group stage. For a team that boasts three former BlizzCon champions, they haven’t played anywhere near their full potential.

Denial eSports onstage during the HGC Opening Week

Astral Authority (formerly Murloc Geniuses) hasn’t quite found their stride either. Despite being more or less dominant in North America over the past few months as Gale Force eSports and Naventic declined, Astral wasn’t very impressive in their one series against PBA. PBA’s rather aggressive, skirmishing style unmasked the mechanical failings of Astral and quickly unraveled their usually carefully studied strategies. The series could have gone either way, but if Astral Authority couldn’t beat PBA, they have no chance against Korean teams.

Astral faces elimination against Dignitas at BlizzCon, but based on their previous games, it’s unlikely that they will have the chops to take on the best non-Korean team at BlizzCon. Both teams will need to play out of their minds if they want a shot at the semifinals; a finals appearance is entirely out of the question.

The Fall of China

North America might be very weak compared to their 2015 counterparts, but no region has fallen further than China in the past few months. Once considered the second best region in the world, China is no longer the powerhouse it used to be. The Fall season of Gold League was depressingly mediocre due to a massive wave of retirements and team dissolutions. In particular, the second best team in China (EDG) disbanded, and eStar’s key member xia0t retired from gaming (though he still runs the team).

ZeroPanda looked fairly decent through Gold League and was likely to do well at the Global Championship, but so far they haven’t really delivered. Their series against Fnatic was disappointing; they just looked completely disarrayed and unprepared for the European team.

eStar Gaming at the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

Due to visa issues, three members from eStar joined up with two members from Super Perfect Team to create a makeshift team to represent China.

On the other hand, eStar shouldn’t have even been at this tournament. Instead, perhaps one of the worst Chinese teams pre-Fall season, Super Perfect Team (SPT), qualified through Gold League following an incredibly sloppy performance against eStar in the loser’s finals. Visa problems again plagued the Chinese teams, and three members of eStar were mashed together with two players from SPT (similar to the BraveHeart team we saw last year). As expected, the impromptu team did not do well and dropped out in the first group stage after losing to PBA.

PBA, The Dark Horse

Please Buff Arthas has been all over the standings this week. They surprised everyone at the Summer finals by becoming the first minor region team to ever make it out of the first group stage. Many people attributed it to Gale Force eSports being jetlagged and exhausted, but the team has continued to prove that they are no joke.

PBA at the 2016 Heroes of the Storm Global Championship in Anaheim

ZoLa brought his stuffed penguin to the event, which some claim contains the power to beat NA.

They had a fantastic, close series against Fnatic and absolutely wrecked their Eastern counterparts, IPT and eStar. In the second group stage, they also went toe to toe with Astral Authority and brought the American team down with a 2-1 score. It hasn’t been a perfect road for them, but they’re giving it all they’ve got and it shows. They have a decider match left against either Astral Authority or Dignitas; either way, their chances of making it to playoffs are looking better than originally expected.

PBA is quickly becoming a crowd favorite. They may not be the Hero we want right now, but they’re the Hero we deserve.

The Losers

Unlike PBA, the other minor regions have not been very successful. Burning Rage put up a good fight, but without Typhex, they simply couldn’t make a dent in MVP Black or Denial. Meanwhile, Reborn and IPT were eliminated first with dismal 0-4 records.

When it comes to the Australian team Reborn, it’s clear that they were not prepared for this tournament. Mistakes in rotations, map control, and even basic mechanics showed up in their series against Reborn and Burning Rage. Their coordination was also substantially lacking in several major teamfights. One of the biggest problems with ANZ is that they have very little quality practice, but at least Reborn has a big chance this week to tune up their skills with other regional teams before next season.

Reborn at the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

As for Imperium Pro Team (IPT), there’s not much to say. On paper, they are a SEA region super-team. Zeys and Mirr, best known for their performance on Relics and often holding some of the top spots on the North American ladder, joined up with the best of SEA’s Summer representative Renovatio I. However, their performance was far from dominating. PBA was far superior, and even the crippled eStar still managed to walk over IPT without too much effort.

Burning Rage at the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

We analysts never expect minor regions to do well at global competitions, but there were some obvious disconnects at BlizzCon that made even the most dominant teams in their respective regions look pathetic on the global stage. One can only hope Blizzard has plans to revitalize the minor regions that struggle so much and bring them back into the forefront of the global scene next season (without utilizing a region lock).

Europe, The Only Chance

Who can beat Korea? The only hope lies with Europe. To date, only Team Liquid (Duran brothers era) and mYinsanity (Misfits) have been able to take a game off of MVP Black, but there’s still a small hope that Europe can light the torch for an upset. Both Fnatic and Dignitas haven’t had the best year, but they have proven some level of dominance in their region and looked fairly decent during Opening Week.

Fnatic’s performance so far at BlizzCon has been nothing short of spectacular. They struggled a bit with the upstart Taiwanese team PBA but managed to finish off both Chinese teams 2-0 without breaking a sweat. Ballistix destroyed them in Game 1, but Fnatic was on the brink of tying up the series in Game 2 on Towers of Doom before a disastrous teamfight.

Fnatic beats eStar Gaming at the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

Dignitas also put up a decent fight against MVP Black but fell a bit short. There’s no doubt that the last-minute retirement of AlexTheProG threw a wrench in their practice regimen, but at least the team is familiar with Atheroangel’s playstyle and can adapt to his role quickly. The roster change may prove disastrous for Dignitas in the end, but they are likely to stride out over the NA team Astral Authority on the opening day of BlizzCon.

An over-the-shoulder view of Snitch during the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

Black showed no respect at all for Dignitas—an attribute which may be their eventual downfall—and made several risky plays that paid off only through pure mechanical skill; Ballistix was only slightly less cocky. With another week to scrim and learn the Korean teams’ secrets, Europe may have an actual shot at a 3-2 victory in the semifinals, especially if Korea is underestimating them. There’s even a chance, albeit a very small one, that they could win the whole thing. But probably not.

Games to Watch

MVP Black vs Denial eSports G2 on Braxis Holdout

7/10 In true Cloud9 fashion, Denial brought out the unorthodox picks to try and throw MVP Black off. Denial picked up Solo support Tyrande to aid in the team’s cheesy stun train combo and Dehaka for the global presence. Denial held onto the beacons during the first phase splendidly and looked like they were going to put up a good showing against the Korean powerhouse.

Denial eSports vs Burning Rage G2 on Tomb of the Spider Queen

7/10 Burning Rage took complete control of the early and mid game with fantastic rotations and CC layering. Teamfights in general were top notch with each team baiting out Heroics/combos and each team adapting from the previous fight.

Dignitas vs MVP Black G1 on Tomb of the Spider Queen

6/10 Dignitas drafted a questionable composition into MVP Black’s double tank/Gul’Dan/Auriel composition. Nonetheless, control of the early webweavers went over to Dignitas, and they were able to knock down a few buildings before MVP Black’s insane teamfighting went into effect.

Astral Authority vs Please Buff Arthas G3 on Sky Temple

9/10 Two incredibly well matched opponents going at it. This series wasn’t without some mistakes on either side, but the finale was tense.

MVP Black vs Please Buff Arthas G2 on Towers of Doom

4/10 NOVA

Fnatic vs Ballistix G2 on Towers of Doom

9/10 Two fantastic teams went toe to toe on Towers of Doom. This was the first time we’ve seen Korea bleed at the Global Championship. If not for a disastrous final fight, Fnatic might have taken this game.

MVP Black vs Burning Rage G1 on Infernal Shrines

6.5/10 If you enjoy pure and utter destruction, this game is for you. MVP Black dominated from start to finish, winning the game at a near-record time of 7:16.


EsportsJohn is awaiting the day when minor regions won’t get shafted in every major esport. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.