Rumors of Brood War HD Resurface in Korea

Rumors that Blizzard has been hard at work on a remastered version of StarCraft: Brood War, the first major esport, are surfacing in Korea. But don’t get your hopes up—this isn’t the first time these stories have appeared.

According to a post by Waxangel on TeamLiquid.net, an article from Sports Seoul reported Blizzard’s plan to release an updated version of StarCraft: Brood War called StarCraft: Remastered around May or June of this year.

Industry sources say that the remastered version will include upgrades to graphics and the Battle.net service without changing the core gameplay. Further announcements are anticipated as early as next week.

The report cited “industry insiders”, particularly esports broadcasters and sponsors, who were secretly informed during BlizzCon 2016.

However, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard this story. Back in August, a story published via Naver.com sent the StarCraft community on a wild goose chase looking for more information.

The original article also implied that the remastered version would be only a graphical update while maintaining gameplay—a feat which has proven impossible time and time again with games like Counter-Strike: Source and Halo: Anniversary. It was also mentioned that more information would be revealed “in November”, which many took to mean “at BlizzCon”.

BlizzCon came and went, and no further information about a Brood War update was released. The rumor died down in the following months, but now it’s been reignited eight months later for more speculation.

It’s possible that development has actually been taking place throughout this long chain of events—after all, Blizzard is notorious for taking time to perfect their projects. Then again, it could just be another baseless rumor. I guess we’ll find out in June.

A Fond Farewell: An Interview with Kaelaris

Kaelaris

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


I had the unique chance to interview Khaldor last week as he finally sorted out his visa issues and prepared for the move overseas to cast the Heroes Global Championship in Southern California. However, just as one door opens, another one closes; Khaldor is coming to finally claim his spot, but Kaelaris is unfortunately on his way out. The lovable Brit brought us plenty of laughs and epic Core rushes for the first five weeks of HGC, but for now he must part ways with HotS fans until at least the Mid-Season Brawl.

Fascinated by this revolving door, I felt compelled to get both sides of the story and reached out to Kaelaris for an interview. There’s lot of emotions involved in such a fond farewell, and it become quite evident during the interview that, despite his upbeat and optimistic attitude, this was goodbye (for now). Luckily, we also had a chance to chat a bit about the art of commentating and leading the analyst desk as well as his deep love for Ragnaros. All in all, Kaelaris a pretty stand-up guy, and he will be missed.

On Casting HGC

Let’s start off with how you ended up casting HGC. Obviously, you were filling in for Khaldor while he got his visa sorted out. Is there more to that story, or did Blizzard just call you up one day and ask, “Hey, can you come to the US for a few weeks and cast HGC?”

Well, initially it was supposed to be just one or two weeks. Overall, it turned out that Khaldor’s visa would take a little more work and time to figure out, so that turned into five weeks. But yeah, to begin with, they just reached out to my boss [at ESL] and the usual discussions happened from there for an external event. I’ve spent a lot of time in hotels over the now seven years doing this job, but never a full five week stint. It stirred up a lot of negative and positive emotions—from being homesick one day, to never wanting to leave the next haha.

Khaldor and I talked a little bit about how the HGC production has far exceeded a lot of expectations. After being there on a day-to-day basis, what were your impressions?

So being ESL, I’ve been involved in a lot of productions now, be it in front or behind the camera. In usual British fashion, I’m always sceptical going in and wait for results to prove themselves. Needless to say, I too was pleasantly surprised at how the first couple of weeks went. Leagues like this with usually have a one or two major technical hiccups to start, and many small ones. HGC, though, only really had a few small ones, skipping the larger ones. I think we did well to produce something that technically sound, that fast. There’s always room for improvement though. I have a million and one ideas about segments, additions, etc. But I’m not there full time so…maybe one day!

Kaelaris at Gamescom 2016

The skeptical Brit in his natural habitat. Photo Credit: ESL

The crew there are a pleasure to work with. Everyone smiling and you get a real sense of family there. I felt so comfortable with them on Sundays after EU broadcast had finished, I would commandeer the conference room with our video editor Nick, and switch the screen to WWE PPVs haha. When the crew were on break, they’d come and enjoy the wrestling even though they had no clue really and were probably mocking it a little, but I don’t mind that! I’ll miss them dearly.

I believe this is your first time casting with Trikslyr? How was that? A lot of people on Reddit and social media commented about the playful synergy between you two compared to the more “serious” attitude of other casters like Khaldor or Dreadnaught.

So in terms of a long time partnership, this is the first time we’ve worked together so closely. However, we actually casted SC2 together five years ago! It was one or two times online for some smaller cups that were set up. So of all the people on that crew, he’s the person I’ve known the longest!

I mentioned this in a tweet at the end of last year, but I’ll say it again for sake of context: I have a lot of faith in Trik’s abilities to blossom. During the interview process, I had brought up his name as one of the better people to work with purely based on his outlook and personality. I’ve worked with a lot of people, and as such, I know what makes a good co-commentator. Attitude and personality make up a lot of that, so knowing Trikslyr has a brilliant perspective and upbeat mentality really confirmed to me that our duo would have great potential before we even stood at the desk for the first time. He may not have the technical brilliance of an international level commentator just yet, but the foundation is certainly there. He’s a fast learner with a splendid ambition to improve.

I’m glad the spectators and fans enjoyed our duo as much as we did. We both loved working together and were very sad when I had to leave. It’s rare you find that kind of chemistry with someone in this business where it all just clicks. Hopefully we get more chance to in the near future.

You also mentioned in a tweet that you and Dreadnaught “complement each other perfectly”. Is that a casting duo we might see in the future?

Ha, Dread and I are very good friends. We share intimate secrets and PIN numbers!—(not a recommended form of security). Unusual really, since we’re both just pretty introverted people in real life, but we meshed well together throughout 2016. I think we understand each other very well, and as such, have a different kind of special chemistry to a conventional casting duo. When looking at it from a critical perspective, I think that our strengths and weaknesses balance out each other perfectly. My hosting and play-by-play are very strong from doing this for years, and his analysis is very strong from being an ex-player/shotcaller. That’s not to say we’re not confident in each others proficiency categories, but we compliment each other greatly.

I don’t know when or where we’ll see this duo in the future, but I think we both would like to.

On HGC Teams

Back to HGC, what’s been your favorite storyline throughout HGC EU so far?

There were definitely tiers that we anticipated going in to the first five weeks of HGC. While it was nice to see “The Big Three” establish themselves convincingly, and while I love my Dignitas boys, one of my most eagerly awaited matches was indeed expert vs Dignitas. Just the idea of “What if?” was really delightful. Admittedly, I’d built it up quite a bit the few weeks before (narrative is our job! imagine that!).

Kaelaris and Khaldor at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

So expert was definitely one of them. I’m certain in a few months’ time they’ll start rivaling those top three spots in an even stronger fashion as long as they continue to have good friendship and synergy within the team. I also really enjoyed watching the progression of Playing Ducks and Tricked eSport. They’re another two teams that can only grow stronger with time. Goes to show how deep the quality is in Europe.

Happy to see Sportbilly playing so well on Falstad and Medivh as well. It can be a treat to watch, considering their position in the league.

Do you think that EU is flat out better than NA at the moment, or do you think that the competition at the Western Clash will be close? What about the matchup between EU and KR?

Half the time, I give a troll answer to this, but I’ll be serious for a moment.

NA was in a really odd spot for a long time. I think ever since the era of Tempo Storm and Cloud9 [in 2015], the skill level of the region fell relative to the rest of the world. I can’t pinpoint what it is exactly, but watching HGC NA, my fears for them are drafting patterns and also synergy within the game. None of the teams really show the same level of coordination that we see out of “The Big Three” in Europe right now. I’m not saying they’re bad, I just don’t know if they can match up, especially against Misfits and Fnatic, whose power levels are very strong right now. NA can upset at the Western Clash, though. Team 8 showed promise like I would have never imagined, and in a month or two, they could easily be number one in America if they continue down that path. Overall though, I’m expecting an EU first, second and third victory unless some upsets happen, which they could. NA isn’t that far behind, just need to tighten the play.

As for EU vs KR? I think right now there is still a clear number one in the world, and that’s L5 (previously Ballistix). I hear a lot of opinion about MVP Black being number two in the world, but honestly, I think that title is currently up for debate. Fnatic proved that they weren’t invincible at BlizzCon (admittedly, I don’t think Black were playing to true potency in that series). We’ll see how the new MVP Black roster stacks up against EU come the Mid-Season Brawl. If Fnatic could cause that upset in 2016, who is to say Misfits couldn’t also play at that scale?

On the Role of Host and Commentator

I’ve always loved your role on the analyst desk throughout 2016, especially as desk host. How does that differ from casting for you? Do you prefer one role over the other?

The preparation is very different when it comes to either being a commentator or desk host. I’ll give you an example. So as commentator, a lot of my prep will be figuring out what teams want to play, builds they like, maps they prefer, who is playing what heroes, how they will synergise, etc. Desk host prep is figuring out what questions the panel have a good idea about, how I can weave the narrative of the tournament/teams better, what players and plays we can truly highlight, transitions in speech from break / to graphics / to games. As desk host, I take a lot more time to talk to production pre-show, take a look at all the video segments and graphics so that my lead into them is seamless. Nothing rustles me more than a host saying something like “Let’s take a look at this video”, or “Let’s hear from them now”. There are far more powerful ways to lead into content that can reinforce the message or continue a strong sense of immersion.

Analyst desk at BlizzCon 2016

Kaelaris hosting the analyst desk at BlizzCon 2016

People probably don’t notice it, because I’m paying attention to my preview monitor when I do it, but as a desk host, I’m making a lot of intentional eye contact and hand gestures to the guys at the analysis desk, leading where the conversation is going and checking if others have something to continue a point on.

All too often do I see desk hosts going too deep in to the analysis themselves in an attempt to…I guess “look smart”? I don’t know what the reason is, but that’s not why you’re there! You’re the enabler! I don’t think anyone questions my knowledge of the game when I’m in that role, so I really try to act as the mediator to draw information from the other members of the desk. Gives it a strong structure, and I think people subconsciously appreciate that.

I used to like casting more, but at the moment it’s 50/50. A lot of my casting during StarCraft actually trained me to desk host, but I didn’t realise it until it came time to actually host a desk. Reason being, is most of the time I would just be put alongside either an expert of ex-player, so enabling them in a duo was the same as enabling a desk.

That’s a lot of insight. I think the vast majority of people who watch don’t realize that anything special is going on at the analyst desk at all. It’s so easy from an outsider’s perspective to just think, “Hey, they’re just talking about the game”.

Yeah, it’s actually a fine science that I’ve worked hard at. I won’t say I’m anywhere near perfect, but I suppose my methods stand out more than others because I just have more experience under my belt. That and I live my job—I don’t stop thinking about it 24/7 lol.

You’re also one of the few Heroes of the Storm casters who still covers other esports at the highest levels (StarCraft 2). How do you manage to balance watching, playing, and commentating both games effectively?

Well, I kind of summed that up: I live the job. It’s a little easier for me to do multiple games because technically strong play-by-play is easier to accomplish in more titles than just one at the same time. Analysing multiple games full-time would be the hard part, but I can’t say I’m doing that in SC2. Therefore, most of my time is dedicated to Heroes and being good at understanding how and why the teams are playing as they do…as well as using my play-by-play because I’ve done it for 1,000,000 years now.

How do I balance the watching, playing and commentating? Easy, really; I have no personal life currently haha. Almost all my time is dedicated to this craft. So, be it at home or on the road, I’m either playing, watching or commentating Heroes or SC2. Then even during travel, I’m reading and studying things that can improve my job. For example, I’m reading lots of books right now to up my lore game even more—people seem to enjoy my little tid-bits in casts about that stuff!

eSports has definitely hurt my personal life in the past a lot, it makes it very hard to have proper relationships because most people just don’t understand the job and my passion for it, I guess. I’m probably one of the most secretly introverted people ever because people see me on cam and are like, “dude’s chill!” But I don’t like going outside hahaha.

On Future Plans

Well, it’s unfortunate to watch you leave; we’re definitely sad to see you go. It’s been a wonderful five weeks watching you cast HGC. What are your plans from here?

Thank you, truly. For me, the five weeks doing HGC were a fantastic time. I feel like I’m meant to be there, despite negotiations in 2016 not going the way I wanted them to. Business is business. That being said, I want to be back to doing Heroes ASAP, specifically the HGC. I feel like I can contribute and channel all my energy into that project to make it the great thing we want it to be. I hope I get that opportunity one day, because my mind overflows with ideas for Heroes, as I love this game.

Khaldor and Kaelaris at DreamHack Valencia 2016

The European casting titans Khaldor and Kaelaris at DreamHack Valencia

2017 so far is partially planned out. I know more SC2 stuff for me is on the horizon currently, with who knows what other projects/games that may come along. I’m speaking to a few other devs/publishers about their endeavours into esports with new titles currently. I’m very thankful for my own drive in this space, and especially thankful for how easy it felt to just do any game I wanted to. I think being a gamer who played everything since I was very young left me with a good mindset for adaptation. Thanks Dehaka!

Any parting words?

Thanks for doing the interview with me! Always happy to give my thoughts. Thanks to Blizzard for bringing me out to do HGC, I adored my time there. Shoutout to my mum because I know she reads and watches everything I do haha—love you, mum. And shoutouts to Blizzard again for not giving Ragnaros the Heroic Firelands legs, because that was the worst thing that happened to Ragnaros ever, and I would die a little bit inside if I had to play my bae with legs :D.

TL;DR wanna do all things Heroes, give me Heroes, Ragnaros is Bae. All hail the Firelord. Get off Sulfuras, you dirty insect.


EsportsJohn wishes tri-cast was a thing in the West like it is in the East. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Ready for Adventure: An Interview with Khaldor

Khaldor

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


When the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) league was announced in early January, Khaldor was slotted as a permanent member of the casting crew for HGC Europe. Due to some difficulties securing a proper work visa, he has been unable to cast for the first half of Phase 1, but luckily Kaelaris has been there with great commentary—and plenty of Core rushes gone haywire—in his stead.

Khaldor has a deep history with Blizzard games ranging a period of over 10 years, from his earlier days of shoutcasting Warcraft 3, to his big casting debut in GSL Code A for StarCraft II, and now over two years of continuous casting, commentary, and analysis for Heroes of the Storm. As such, there’s no doubt that he’s the perfect fit for the job, and many have been eagerly waiting for his return to casting.

I was incredibly fortunate to catch his attention in early January for an exclusive interview. After he finally acquired the work visa, we chatted about the next chapter of his life and the new adventure that awaits him across the ocean at Blizzard’s production studio. We also talked about his aspirations for HGC, plans for the next phase of his life, and the future of Heroes of the Storm. I’m proud to present his thoughts here, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the game as we head into undoubtedly the most successful year of HotS so far.


On Moving to the States

You’re about to embark on a journey halfway across the world again. How is this different from your move to Korea to cast GSL Code A in 2011?
Well, I guess the first difference is that this time I already know that I’ll be staying for quite some time. When I traveled to Korea to commentate the GSL, I was only supposed to stay there for three months and ended up being there for three years in the end.

With the move to the US, I’m from the start aware that I’ll stay long enough to justify things like renting out an apartment from the get-go, buying a car, and so on. That’s a big difference when it comes to the preparations. And even though the recent politics sure are a roller coaster for the US, it will be much easier for me to adapt to another Western culture compared to the Korean lifestyle I had to adapt to when I moved to Seoul.

How long have you been planning this move? Was it fairly sudden or have you been in talks with Blizzard for a while?
I expected for quite some time that there might be an opportunity in the US. In the second half of 2016, I was already pretty sure that I would not stay in Germany for too much longer. I was thinking about moving to another European country (Spain in particular), and one of the reasons those plans never became concrete was that there was a pretty big chance that Blizzard might want to establish a league system for Heroes of the Storm which would, by default, require the casters to be bound to a specific location. The rumors were around for some time, so it didn’t come as a shock when Blizzard revealed details that confirmed it.

Khaldor Casting

Photo Credit: ESL

For the casting team, those plans became more detailed during BlizzCon when most of us also had interviews set up for the open positions. The decision on who’d be casting the league was made after BlizzCon, [which is when I] also started the planning phase for the move and, of course, the necessary working visa.

It seems like all of the visa issues are finally sorted out now, though.
Yes, the visa process took quite a long time since we had to apply for a proper working visa that would allow me to move and work in the US for an extended period of time. Thankfully though, that’s all sorted out now, and I got my passport including a valid working visa a few days ago.

In my last interview with you, we touched on the difficulty of getting “in” with Blizzard during the early period of HotS…now you’re definitely “in”. How does it feel?
There were definitely moments in 2015 when it wasn’t really easy for me, but I have to say that I was very happy to be so heavily included in 2016. I casted at every major European and Global event throughout the year and the highlight was of course to be part of the casting team at BlizzCon—which was for sure one of my highlights in Heroes of the Storm thus far.

Analysis desk at BlizzCon 2016

The analysis desk at BlizzCon 2016 with SolidJake, Khaldor, Kaelaris, and Dreadnaught.

Coming back to your question though, I have to admit that this is now a completely different level of involvement. It feels absolutely amazing to be chosen as one of the four official casters to commentate Blizzard’s HGC. Even though I haven’t had the chance yet to be part of the live production, the team included me wherever possible, and I can’t wait to be on-site to do my part.

Another big plus for me is the proximity to all the other departments working on Heroes of the Storm. I was always very interested in the game outside of esports, and simply having the option to talk more directly to people that I so far could only contact via email is amazing to me. I’m super happy about the opportunity, and I can’t wait for it all to start.

On the Heroes Global Championship

We talked a bit before about your skepticism of online leagues. What were some of your concerns for HGC? Do you think Blizzard has done a good job addressing those concerns?
I think Blizzard has done an absolute fantastic job with the system they created for HGC. One of my biggest problems with league systems was always that most people have the tendency to try and imitate the established systems in Korea without realizing the big advantages that Korea has.

Korean esports was always very much focused in Seoul. Therefore, it was an easy decision for the Korean Leagues to establish permanent studios in which those games could be played and commentated. Since all of the players live in and around Seoul, there are no real infrastructure challenges to realize such a project.

In the Western scenes of Europe and North America, that poses a much bigger challenge. Especially since, for a lot of players in Western cultures, it’d be huge commitment that they might not be ready for yet. A move might include giving up another job and diving headfirst into a potentially risky career in esports or giving up a place at a university or even jeopardizing a relationship. To justify such a move, the financial benefits would have had to be enormous. I was always very doubtful if such a step would be justifiable at this point.

An online league, on the other hand, also faces a lot of challenges. One of them is the lack of having the players and commentators on site to provide the audience with live shots. The lack of opportunities for the Heroes of the Storm audience to meet the players and enjoy live events can also be problematic. I’m super happy that Blizzard identified all those issues and came up with a system that allows for a fantastic experience for the audience using several offline events throughout the year, a local studio to increase the production quality and including pre-recorded player shots, live interviews, and much more.

Kaelaris and Khaldor at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

I was, by the way, extremely happy about their announcement to pay the players a fixed salary for attending the league. That alone opens up so many opportunities for the players, encourages them and Open Division teams, and allows for a penalty system to ensure that rules are being followed. So even though I was quite skeptical at first, I have to say that they did a great job, and the end result is amazing. The show has been doing very well, and I’m sure it’ll improve even more over the course of the next few months.

We’re only a few weeks in, but do you think the level of play has risen across the board in HGC due to more consistent competition and compensation to allow the players to focus on playing full-time?
Yes, for sure. The level of play has risen already, and I’m sure that trend will continue. It’s also reflected in the amount of time that players currently invest into their practice. I’m watching scrims on a daily basis at the moment to see how players adapt to the patches and changes in the meta. The new system also allowed the teams to prepare in detail for a specific opponent, analyzing drafts and preparing builds.

One still has to remember though that, as you pointed out, we are only observing the first effects of this new system. I’m sure that given time, the effects will be much more distinct, especially since other Open Division teams are eager to push into the league as well, which in turn raises the level of competition and play on the amateur level.

There’s also going to be a lot more international tournaments this year. Do you think that the regional metagames will continue to stay distinct, or will things start to look similar across the globe as regions learn from each other?

I think we will always have regional differences to some extent. There are quite a few differences in the way that Asian and Western teams approach esports, which has not only been very visible in Heroes of the Storm, but in other games as well. I believe there will always be some similarities and points of agreement between regions on which heroes are given priority, but I also believe that especially Western teams are very good at developing cheese strategies that can blindside their opponents and give them an edge.

One of the biggest advantages of Korean and Chinese teams, on the other hand, was always their mechanical superiority and their fantastic team coordination. But I personally believe that the gaps that we’ve witnessed in the past are becoming smaller and smaller in these areas. Fnatic was able to prove that during BlizzCon by taking down MVP Black, and I believe there is an actual chance that a Western team could have a realistic shot at winning BlizzCon at the end of 2017.

Differences in meta are also one of the most fascinating things to observe during international tournaments. Teams have to be able to adjust incredibly fast to challenges that are imposed by facing off against a different playstyle, and it’s super entertaining to watch. It’s one of the reasons why I’m so excited for all these events that we will have this year!

I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but if you had to pick one team in EU to root for, who would it be?

Haha, not a fair question! I think my two favorites at the moment would be Misfits and Fnatic. As a fellow German, I’m obviously always rooting for the “home” team, and I think Misfits has proven in 2016 as well as this year that they are an absolutely amazing team with incredibly strong players.

But I’m also very close with Fnatic and still admire the way they have been able to grow during the last year. Their journey from being a talented but over-aggressive team at the start of 2016 to the disciplined powerhouse that we all witnessed during BlizzCon was amazing. But at the same time, they are now of course in a very different position. They have to prove that they did not get complacent and BlizzCon was not a fluke. With the level of competition continuously rising, they have to make sure that they don’t start to slack off or other teams will be able to leave them behind.

Grubby and Khaldor at Gamescom 2016

Grubby and Khaldor at Gamescom 2016. Photo Credit: ESL

Then entire scene in Europe is absolutely fascinating at the moment, to be honest, especially with the big three (Misfits, Fnatic and Dignitas) being under constant attack by challengers like Team expert or Dignitas themselves once again having to find their rhythm with a new player (Zaelia) joining the team at the start of the season. The dynamic within the scene is extremely fun to watch right now.

On Personal Projects and Future Plans

Do you plan on casting minor tournaments in 2017 or are you going to focus on HGC full-time?
I will still continue to commentate smaller tournaments. HGC will obviously be my main priority, but I’m very serious about continuing to commentate on my private channels as well. I still have several META Madness ideas that I want to realize once my transition to NA is complete, and I still want to cover online tournaments and also the occasional amateur league match.

One of my goals was always to help out the grassroots scene, and that has not changed. It’s important to me that smaller leagues and tournaments get more attention, and especially Heroes Lounge and Chair League have made fantastic progress in the last few months. There’s a lot of up and coming players out there that have potential, and those leagues and tournaments are a first step for them to receive some exposure and transition into more competitive teams.

On the topic of your personal projects, consistent quality is something that many people often lack in esports (in general). How do you manage to maintain excellent quality for all of your casting, VoDs, etc.? Do you ever find yourself struggling with the notion of cutting corners?
I feel it’s always a bit of a balancing act. When it comes to my livestreams and the VoDs, I do everything by myself. So during a broadcast, I talk to admins and players about upcoming games, make sure I get invited to the lobbies and look for upcoming games that might be of interest for the audience. Production, observing and of course the commentating itself are also all done by me including the post production, which entails the video editing of the games that I upload to YouTube.

Khaldor holiday stream

Ho ho ho! A special holiday stream from Khaldor!

Since it’s quite a lot to handle as a single person, I usually try to find a good middle ground when it comes to “cutting corners”. There are a few things that I would love to provide and technically could but where I simply lack the manpower to make it happen. A good example would be instant replays. I’d love to use those, but it’s not possible without a second person to help me with the production, and I’m simply not in a position where I can pay someone to do that. So there’s always a bit of a trade off when it comes to production quality. I try to provide the best show that I can to my audience, but there’s certain aspects where I will always have to make compromises.

Wrap-up

I just have one more big question. You stated in an interview in 2015 that you expected Heroes of the Storm to beat Dota 2 and maybe even League of Legends in terms of viewers and players. Do you think the game still has that potential?

I just recently thought back to that interview. I think I also recorded a video back then talking about my hopes for the game. I honestly believe that Heroes of the Storm is the most entertaining MOBA game to watch. If I didn’t, I would not be casting it anymore. The game eliminates all the criticism that I have toward other MOBA titles, and things like the map diversity and short game length give it a big advantage in my opinion.

At the same time, things have obviously not developed that way in the past. I personally think Blizzard made a lot of mistakes in the past that made it difficult for the game and the esports scene to develop as quickly as I was hoping for at the time of the interview. I believe the game could be much bigger than it already is, but I still think that it will grow a lot more in the future. Blizzard has been working hard to improve the esports infrastructure for Heroes of the Storm and the game itself, and setting up HGC was a major accomplishment. A lot of the initial momentum has been lost though, and we will have to work hard to regain that momentum and continuously improve the game and the esports aspect of it. That’s also something where I see an obligation for myself. Quite often, I come across as overly critical. One of the reasons for that is that I believe in this game and its potential. I’m very passionate about Heroes of the Storm and I want to improve the status quo and raise awareness to aspects that I think should be improved upon, and I will do everything that I can to personally help Heroes of the Storm keep growing.

I don’t think the goal has to be to beat League of Legends or Dota 2, but it certainly should be our goal to do everything we can to show other players how much fun and how amazing Heroes of the Storm can be, especially on a competitive level.

That said, when do we get to see you cast again?

The next time I’ll be casting will be in Katowice for the Western Clash! Shortly after the event, I’ll be moving to the US and will start to commentate the HGC Europe matches together with Trikslyr once the second half of Phase 1 starts in April.


EsportsJohn still believes Brood War will make a huge comeback and beat all esports forever. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

Valeera: First Impressions and Pro Opinions

valeera-wordpress-banner

Written by: EsportsJohn


For a time, the gladiator Valeera Sanguinar served dutifully as one of Varian Wrynn’s personal bodyguards. Now, her shadowy skills find her a natural fit within the secretive rogue order, the Uncrowned, in their fight against the Legion.

Outcast—no word better describes Valeera’s dark and muddled history. Left an orphan after her parents were killed by bandits, Valeera made a living off stealing from others and was soon imprisoned and sold as a gladiator. She formed a tight bond with her fellow gladiators Broll Bearmantle and Varian Wrynn and eventually escaped to find her own destiny. Now a member of The Uncrowned, a secretive order of rogues, she fights to take back what’s been taken from her.

To me, Valeera’s storyline is perhaps one of the most compelling in WoW history and one of the reasons why I’m excited for her entrance into the Nexus. Her cloak and dagger playstyle resonates strongly with her roguish lore and makes her an exciting hero to play. As a high skill cap hero, well-seasoned players with good positioning and proper timing make her look broken while players in the lower echelons have trouble maximizing her kit. This polarizing effect can be seen in her relatively low win rate in the first week, but like Medivh, she appears well-balanced in coordinated play. Let’s take a closer look at kit and abilities to find out why she has such mixed results!

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Powerful CC on a relatively short cooldown
  • Huge burst damage
  • Elusive abilities to dodge damage

Weaknesses

  • Poor initiation
  • Relies heavily on getting picks
  • Weak PvE and waveclear

Abilities

If you’re familiar with WoW Rogues, you’ll probably be familiar with Valeera’s kit. Designed as a stealthy combatant who uses smoke and misdirection to confuse her opponents, Valeera can whittle away her enemies and prepare them for the killing blow. And, of course, she excels at quickly dispatching isolated enemy heroes.

Compared to similar stealthy assassins, Valeera’s base kit is perhaps the most devastating. Between hard CC with Cheap Shot or Garrote and the insane amount of burst she brings to the table, she’s incredibly dangerous during the laning phase, and can straight up one-shot someone in the late game. Unfortunately, her power falls off dramatically in teamfights where stealth-revealing AoE and burst damage is prevalent.

Her Trait Vanish is the defining characteristic of her playstyle. Using her stealthy tactics, she can gain vision on the map or wrap around an enemy for a flank while gaining a new set of game-changing abilities (Ambush, Cheap Shot, and Garrote). Keep in mind, she’s not actually invisible; Valeera will still show up as a shimmer on the screen, so wary opponents can anticipate her movements and knock her out of stealth before she combos.

Cheap Shot is by far her most powerful ability. With a 1.5 second stun on an 8 second cooldown, she is very dangerous in gank squads and CC chains. If you’re looking to shut someone down in a 1v1 though, the 2 second silence and raw DPS of Garrote tends to be the better choice.

Valeera Hearthstone portrait

Valeera’s Hearthstone portrait

Blade Flurry deals decent damage and provides minor waveclear, and Sinister Strike gives Valeera a small dash to dodge abilities or use as a gap closer. All of her abilities (including stealth) grant Combo Points when used against enemy heroes up to a maximum of three; those Combo Points can then be consumed for massive damage using Eviscerate. The most common combo is stealth ability into Blade Flurry and Sinister Strike before finishing the enemy off with Eviscerate, but various talents allow for several permutations of her basic combo.

Her Heroics are purely defensive and boost her survivability a great deal. Smoke Bomb creates a cloud of smoke that gives Valeera extra Armor and makes her Unrevealable for a short time, allowing her to escape danger and continue throwing out damage. Cloak of Shadows is usually used against heavy mage or burst comps, as it removes all damage over time effects, allows her to become Unstoppable, and greatly boosts her Spell Armor for a second. Smoke Bomb has usually been the favored Heroic, but it usually depends on the situation. If you’re against auto attackers who rely on right-clicking you, take Smoke Bomb; if you’re against lots of spell damage, Cloak of Shadows is the way to go.

Talents

Due to a strong base kit, Valeera’s build paths are quite flexible. The most common builds focus on empowering either Ambush for flat out deletion combos or Garrote for extra utility and damage. Either way, there’s still a lot of room for variation depending on the map and composition.

Valeera’s Ambush build is boosted significantly with talents like Assassinate and Death From Above which allow her to quickly close the gap and dispatch her enemies with extreme prejudice. Initiative and Cold Blood can be added to the mix for a huge boost in burst damage. If the opposing hero is a bit meatier, she can also use Thistle Tea sort of like Rewind to reset her energy costs and get two full combos off in a short time span.

Valeera fan art by Zeronis

Valeera fan art by Zeronis

The Garrote build focuses more on dealing sustained damage and effectively zoning out opponents from their team. Hemorrhage and Rupture are the bread and butter of this build and allow Valeera to deal massive damage if left uncontested. She can also pick up Fatal Finesse to power up Blade Flurry for even more damage over time. This build pairs well with Smoke Bomb because of its synergy with Rupture and the focus on damage over time.

The one downside to Valeera is that she is limited by energy costs for her abilities, but luckily there are talents to mitigate her energy consumption issues. Vigor at level 1 is a globe talent that helps her build up additional energy regeneration as well as a larger energy pool that allows her to stay in the fight a bit longer. Subtlety and Relentless Strikes are also good energy-efficient options.

Professional Opinions

On Kit, Design, and Implementation

Chu8, streamer
Valeera seems to me like she stands somewhere between Nova and Zeratul—really good at player killing but not so much PvE like Nova, lots of potential maneuvers like Zeratul. In the hands of highly skilled mechanical player, Valeera will be really annoying to play against. But at the same time, she seems to be easily countered by stealth detection, which the game has plenty of.

KendricSwissh, Streamer and Commentator
Valeera is probably one of, if not the most accurate, class transfers from World of Warcraft to Heroes of the Storm. She looks, sounds, and feels exactly like if you were playing a Rogue in WoW. When I first played her, I was surprised by how resilient she can be, especially after unlocking one of her Heroic abilities.

McIntyre, B-Step
The only firm opinion I have is that she’s a stealthed hero that has a 1.5 stun on an 8 second cooldown, and Evelynn got nerfed in League of Legends when she did the same thing on a much weaker level.

Jowe, Coach
Her kit is amazing. She has everything: CC, good damage, high HP, a gap closer, an escape, and on top of that, the cooldowns are really short, plus she can restealth instantly. She can definitely snowball games right from the start, and her power continues to grow. Her talents are well designed. Seems like everything is optimal, but I think that’s due to the basic kit being so awesome.

melodyC, ZeroPanda
Valeera is a special hero with two sets of skills. She’s hard to master and requires a lot of practice. She consumes energy very quickly, so it’s very important to control her energy consumption and deal as much damage as possible. Her Cheap Shot with a 1.5 stun is so imba that not only the back line is under pressure—when the front line is not with the team, they are also in danger when caught by Cheap Shot. I think Cheap Shot will be nerfed.

Wings, Super Perfect Team
Valeera has the strongest solo stun and highest burst damage with short cooldowns. For the Heroic ability, personally I prefer Smoke Bomb. With 5 seconds Unrevealable, she can keep attacking and wait for her trait, and the cooldown is only 60 seconds.

On Professional Play and Meta Changes

KendricSwissh, Streamer and Commentator
I am almost certain that Valeera is going to make an appearance in HGC very soon, as her kit designed to be most efficient if used by mechanically strong players.

Jowe, Coach
As for competitive, she will have to fight for the spot with Zeratul who already needs to be respected in drafts, and I found out that the Protoss assassin has a really good matchup against her.

melodyC, ZeroPanda
Her strength is insane solo hero control, burst damage, and great gank potential in the field, which can put a lot of pressure on the enemy team. Her weaknesses are slow wave clear and difficulty engaging in teamfights.

On Map and Composition Viability

Chu8, streamer
I don’t see her having crazy winrates, but she will be played as a niche pick like Nova and sometimes get really good value, sometimes be completely useless and flamed for being first-picked.

Wings, Super Perfect Team
A big flaw of Valeera is she relies on her trait to engage with her combo. If she’s revealed, nearly 70% of her kit functionality is lost. So Tassadar, Valla, Diablo and other heroes with AoE damage are a great counter for Valeera.

Final Thoughts

melodyC, ZeroPanda
Both of Valeera’s Heroic abilities are very strong. When facing a team comp focused on basic attacks, Smoke Bomb would confuse the enemy (she is Unrevealable); if there are mages in the enemy team, Cloak of Shadows could ensure her survivability. Above all, using her trait to engage at the right time is the key.


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

Also, props to yaya for Chinese translations!


EsportsJohn finally found his waifu. You can follow him on Twitter or help support him on Patreon.

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!

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.

From Player to Coach: An Interview with Sunshine

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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

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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.

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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.