Korea Dominates BlizzCon Opening Week

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

Written by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


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

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

Korea, The Undisputed King

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

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

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

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

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

North America’s Fall From Grace

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

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

Denial eSports onstage during the HGC Opening Week

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

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

The Fall of China

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

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

eStar Gaming at the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

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

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

PBA, The Dark Horse

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

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

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

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

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

The Losers

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

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

Reborn at the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

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

Burning Rage at the 2016 Heroes Global Championship in Anaheim

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

Europe, The Only Chance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Games to Watch

MVP Black vs Denial eSports G2 on Braxis Holdout

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

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

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

Dignitas vs MVP Black G1 on Tomb of the Spider Queen

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

Astral Authority vs Please Buff Arthas G3 on Sky Temple

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

MVP Black vs Please Buff Arthas G2 on Towers of Doom

4/10 NOVA

Fnatic vs Ballistix G2 on Towers of Doom

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

MVP Black vs Burning Rage G1 on Infernal Shrines

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


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

Road to BlizzCon: Fnatic

Fnatic celebrating after a win at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

Written by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


Fnatic ride into BlizzCon with the momentum of a team on their first big break. 2016 has been a year full of hard work and dedication, but it’s not quite over yet. Fnatic will need to play better than ever if they hope to defeat their regional rival Dignitas or the Korean or Chinese powerhouses for a Top 4 finish. When it comes down to it, Fnatic’s inexperience on the world stage will be a huge factor in whether they can put up a good showing or go home early. In any case, Europe’s younger brother has finally grown up and now has a shot at the throne. Will they pull through?

Origins

Fnatic’s roots in the scene go all the way back to the Alpha in late 2014 with a roster headlined by former SC2 players NaNiwa and SaSe. The roster unfortunately disbanded almost immediately following their 2014 BlizzCon showmatches, but the organization decided to stay involved in the scene and a new roster was formed in January of 2015 with AceofSpades, Lowell, Fred, Shinobu, and Kesil.

Nothing of real note happened during this timespan for Fnatic, and they had a long series of transformations to undergo before they would become the championship-quality team we know today. Lukewarm results over the next few months led to changes; Fred, Shinobu, and AceofSpades left and new players Breez and Ménè were brought in. Wubby also originally joined the roster at this time, but his career would take several twists and turns before he ended up back on the team.

Fnatic’s results weren’t impressive during the 2015 Heroes World Championship (HWC) events. They placed rather poorly at the European Championship in Prague due to their relatively poor understanding of the double Warrior metagame that was in vogue and the time and missed their opportunity to go to BlizzCon 2015. Cracks began to form and an end-of-the-year roster change became necessary again.

The Fnatic we’re more familiar with was beginning to form. Kesil, Lowell, and Wubby left and the team was reformed around Breez and Ménè. Two outstanding players who managed to grab the 8th qualifying spot at Prague under the wildcard team Pirates in Pyjamas, Quackniix and Smexystyle, knew Breez from a small Swedish team they had formed together in early in their Heroes of the Storm careers. Based on the players’ surprisingly good performance in Prague, Fnatic knew these two would be good additions to the roster. To fill in the gaps, they also picked up Shad for their next major tournament, DreamHack Winter. To the surprise of everyone, the new Fnatic roster dominated DreamHack and took first place against Team Liquid, then-undisputed the king of Europe.

Fnatic wins their first trophy at DreamHack Winter 2015

Photo Credit: DreamHack

At the end of 2015, Fnatic finished strong and looked like a contender for 2016, but two other giants were also forming: Team Dignitas (formerly Bob?) and mYinsanity. Throughout 2016, these two teams would prove to be a thorn in Fnatic’s side by preventing them from reaching the Global Championship multiple times.

Fnatic’s 2016 Run

On paper, the scene in Europe this year has been characterized by a power struggle between the two regional giants mYinsanity (now Misfits) and Team Dignitas, with a score of underperforming teams in the lower echelons of play competing for a spot in the regional semifinals. There’s no doubt that Fnatic held the definitive third place spot in the region, but most of this year has been spent ping-ponging between the two giants, unable to clench a spot at the Global Championships until now.

It seems crazy to call Fnatic a “dark horse” team since they made it to the playoffs for every regional tournament. They’ve had an exceptional roster all year long and were feared by many but could never quite seize the spot for a Global Championship. In fact, ask almost any team in Europe and they will say it’s a three-way tie for the top spot.

“We consistently improve and have, for a while now. been considered Top 3 EU and at all offline events. We have had fairly good results; even though we haven’t won a regionals yet, we have always finished within Top 4.”

Quackniix

The beginning of 2015 wasn’t great for Fnatic, but Europe as a whole was in ruins. All of the top teams had just undergone Europe’s first rosterpocalypse and were testing the waters for the first time with unsteady legs. Players had been shuffled from every major team to another, and many teams were hardly recognizable after nearly restructuring the entire roster (Team Liquid, for example). It was a period of great experimentation, but it quickly became obvious at IEM Katowice that the rosterpocalypse had negatively affected the region as whole.

Fnatic’s lineup had also undergone a few changes. Ménè left and Shad was let go; flex player scHwimpi and unique tank player Atheroangel took their places. Ménè and Shad were undoubtedly some very talented players, but Fnatic’s new roster looked stronger than ever. They absolutely wrecked the regional qualifiers, in large part due to Quackniix’s new Greymane pick, and secured their spot in the European Championship.

Needless to say, the first regional at IEM Katowice was shaky for all the teams, but Fnatic appeared to have come out ahead with the roster changes. They won their group in convincing fashion but fell to the eventual champions, Dignitas, in their semifinal match. This was the first of many times that Dignitas would present themselves as a brick wall to Fnatic’s tournament progress.

Quackniix is interviewed after their group stage win at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

While Dignitas and mYinsanity went off to the Spring Global Championship, Fnatic stayed behind and trained. The Summer season would prove to be a pivotal point in the shift of power, but it didn’t happen all at once. Their performance at the first European Championship in Leicester was adequate, but once again mYinsanity and Dignitas swatted them down with superior double support compositions that Fnatic was less familiar with.

Shockingly, Dignitas announced the departure of Wubby from their roster following their win at Leicester, and Fnatic was quick to scoop him up and form an all Swedish roster. The result was a huge improvement in communication since the team could shotcall in their native tongue and bond better as a team. All at once, Fnatic seemed to come into their own and pose a real threat to the top teams.

“We have had some roster swaps over the year, and every swap has lead to a better Fnatic, meaning our overall performance has just been going up as we have shown more consistency and proven to ourselves that we are a top tier team in EU.”

Quackniix

The second European Championship at DreamHack Tours resulted in Fnatic with their first finals placement in over six months. Though they fell 3-0 against mYinsanity’s flawless run through the tournament, they KO’d their group and annihilated their semifinals opponent teh89 without any real effort. It’s worth noting that Dignitas had a surprisingly poor showing at Tours by failing to even make it out of the group stage (quite possibly because AlexTheProG was still adjusting to the team), but Fnatic would prove again and again during the Fall Championship that they deserved their spot in the top two.

Valencia. Fnatic beat Dignitas to make it out of their group in first place. They 3-0’d mYinsanity in the semifinals. They then took on Dignitas again and pulled the series all the way to a game 5 in the finals. Unfortunately, they missed the championship trophy by the slimmest of margins, but the slightest of differences could have pushed the tides in their favor. At Gamescom, Fnatic brought Misfits (formerly mYinsanity) to the very brink of elimination and went on to play them again in a qualification tiebreaker (due to ESL rules). In the end, they barely eked out the win and guaranteed their spot on the world stage at BlizzCon—at long last.

Player Profiles

Breez

Breez at the European Fall Championship at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

On the tank role, Pontus “Breez” Sjogren is a energetic fireball of a player. Known for his shouting onstage during games, he brings a ton of energy and enthusiasm during matches and keeps up the team momentum. If you can hear “KAEL’THAS!!” from the opposite end of the venue, you’re probably hearing Breez.

Breez is definitely one of the most aggressive tank players in Europe and never wavers when it comes to engaging in a teamfight. He has a fairly wide Hero pool, but most of the time we tend to see him on the “big three” tanks: E.T.C., Muradin, and Johanna. He’s proven that he can also play some of the nonstandard tanks like Arthas and Diablo like a champion, so nothing is out of the question. Whatever tank he’s on, expect to see him engage without hesitation when he sees an opening in the enemy’s defense and pull the trigger in teamfights.

scHwimpi

scHwimpi onstage at the European Summer Championship in Tours

Photo Credit: DreamHack

Previously on Natus Vincere during the height of their power in late 2015, Simon “scHwimpi” Svensson is Fnatic’s flex player. Generally quiet in demeanor, scHwimpi is still energetic onstage and often lets out a tremendous roar when his team wins a major teamfight. His general enthusiasm and strong morale help to raise up other players and keep them focused.

Like all flex players, scHwimpi’s Hero pool is quite wide, ranging from off-tanks to ranged Assassins to super niche picks. However, he rarely plays bruisers or melee Assassins, leaving the role to Wubby. He’s often on “toxic” Heroes like Medivh or Zagara which can be extremely obnoxious to deal with. He secretly laments playing only the most annoying Heroes and envies the melee role (says inside sources), but he’s content with his role on the team. He brings a huge amount of preparation and skill to whichever Hero he plays. At the present, he is arguably the best Abathur player in the world, rivaled only by Fan or KyoCha.

Wubby

Wubby onstage at the Summer European Championship in Tours

Photo Credit: DreamHack

As quite possibly the best mechanical player in Europe, Jonathan “Wubby” Gunnarsson is the perfect flex. He tends to specialize in melee Assassins and off-tanks, but history has shown that he can play any role including tank or support. Known as a relatively quiet person, Wubby tends to be more withdrawn than the rest of the team. Nonetheless, his entrance to the team strongly impacted the communication and camaraderie of the team positively.

Wubby is a beast on high impact melee Assassins like Zeratul or Thrall. He can quite easily carry teamfights with outstanding mechanical plays and often comes out of games as the MVP. On tanky bruisers like Leoric or Anub’arak, he matches Breez’s aggression and often puts a lot of pressure on the back line with his perfectly timed dives. Keep an eye out for this playmaker, as his gameplay will often be the most decisive factor in Fnatic’s teamfights.

Quackniix

Quackniix onstage at the European Summer Championship in Tours

Photo Credit: DreamHack

The unlikely hero of Fnatic is Dob “Quackniix” Engström. This oddball player joined Fnatic after leaving the Swedish underdog team Pirates in Pyjamas and quickly took charge as the team captain and shotcaller. On the role of ranged Assassin, he’s generally on the forefront of the metagame and has often popularized power picks.

Long thought of as a “one-trick pony” type of player (first on Falstad, then on Greymane), Quackniix has been under close scrutiny by the public eye. However, he has proven his aptitude to play any Hero he sees fit. A natural talent for gaming combined with his strong work ethic and practice regimen allow him to perfect his play on any Hero. Along with his brilliant shotcalling and focus on teamwork, Quackniix is undoubtedly one of the best overall players in Europe, maybe even the world.

Smexystyle

Smexystyle at the European Fall Championship at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

The heart of the team is Filip “Smexystyle” Liljeström, often just called “Smexy” (or even just “SmX”). He is one of the most uplifting and supportive players (forgive the pun) in the Heroes scene and keeps Fnatic on track when they’re feeling down—he’s also pretty good at staring contests.

Team coach Careion cites him as very motivated and always hungry to improve. When Smexy first joined Fnatic, he was often looked upon as the weak link on the team but has since shown great improvement and become one of the best support players in Europe. Like most support players, he generally plays the most popular Heroes in the meta, but if you had to choose a signature Hero for him it would be Kharazim. During the past few months, Smexy has cultivated an impressive amount of skill on the Hero and—dare I say?—even rivals Bakery as the best Kharazim player in Europe now.

Playstyle

If there were one word to describe Fnatic’s playstyle, it would be aggressive. They are, by and large, the most aggressive team in the midst of Europe’s relatively safe, macro-heavy meta. Contrary to Misfits’ careful, calculated, long-term plays, Fnatic is never afraid to enter fights and force errors out of their opponents to gain short-term advantages. But they’ve evolved too.

During the Spring Season, this unbridled aggression was more of a weakness than a strength. They often faltered in the late game with overly aggressive plays or Core dives and found themselves in bad positions due to botched fights and poor map control.

“In the beginning, they had a very aggressive playstyle with intense rotations trying to snipe one out, always trying to force the 5v4, and sometimes being a little over-aggressive,” recalls Fnatic’s coach Careion, “like doing too much, especially when [they’re] up…and then throwing the game because [they] weren’t patient and controlled enough to wait out the game.”

Fnatic win a spot to BlizzCon at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

Careion worked hard during the Summer Season to temper the team’s hasty decisions and convert their aggression into a valuable asset instead of a liability. Fnatic began to pull back their aggression and become more disciplined and more adept at controlling the pace of the game. They pulled all the pieces together and managed to develop their macro play alongside their insane mechanics in time, and now they rarely, if ever, make impulsive decisions during the late game.

When it comes to drafting, it’s more about the map than the playstyle for Quackniix. “I try to make sure that playing the map is always the center of attention,” he explained, “meaning I adapt the drafts for the map more than for a specific playstyle to make less room for failure or playstyles backfiring.” By using this top down method of drafting, Fnatic tends to play “predictably”, but they always draft the strongest overall composition.

“We have had some different playstyles over the year since you follow meta. As [the] meta changes, you just have to adapt and find your place—sometimes its aggressive dive, sometimes it’s pickoff, and sometimes it’s the slow comps that work the best.”

Quackniix

A large part of their success in the Fall Season has been the “unbeatable” composition on small maps: double Warrior, a global presence Hero (usually Falstad), solo support Tassadar, and a ranged DPS to round out the composition. With this particular setup, Fnatic took advantage of the minion changes to create an ultra-tanky composition which could brawl forever while large minion waves built up in the side lanes.

The power of this composition not only showed Fnatic’s unique ability to grab hold off the metagame and execute a strategy perfectly but also showcased their incredible improvement in terms of patience and macro play. They used the strategy much less during Gamescom, but it’s a wonderful example of how the team has evolved over the year. With double tank still very much in vogue, we can expect to see Fnatic’s trademark composition at least once during BlizzCon.

Heading Into BlizzCon

Fnatic’s road to BlizzCon began a year ago after their untimely departure in Prague. Since then, steady improvement within the roster, management, and strategy has transformed them into a force to be reckoned with. Heading into BlizzCon this year, they are expected to perform well. However, with a lack of experience on the global stage and basically no exposure to Asian teams, it will be an uphill battle.

“You can never underestimate them [the minor regions], even if it’s a region like Australia/New Zealand or South America. Even if they go out every time in the first group stage, you cannot expect it to happen the same at BlizzCon—that you will just beat them with ease. It’s not like that, you always have to prepare.”

Careion

Team coach Careion comments that the team is wary stepping onto the global stage for the first time, “You can never underestimate them [the minor regions]…that you will just beat them with ease. It’s not like that, you have to prepare.”

Quackniix celebrates after a big win at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

Though Fnatic is looking at all the teams, a large part of their study is centered on their most dangerous foes: the Korean giants MVP Black and Ballistix (formerly L5). If they want to take it all the way, they’ll need to keep pace with the titans and be ready for any curve balls that get thrown at them—a tall task, no doubt.

“I hope and believe that we are working in the right direction, meaning everything we do is helping us improve and will only boost our performance continuing forward.”

Quackniix

“We have finished 2nd more than one time, showing we have what it takes. We have grown and become a lot stronger as a unit and as individuals,” Quackniix stated proudly, aware of the incredible growth that Fnatic has undergone this year. “I believe we have a chance [at BlizzCon] for sure. We just gotta make sure we spend the time well in terms of practice and preparation,” he added. Whatever the case may be, Fnatic has already proven in 2016 that their hard work and dedication pays off. Tackling BlizzCon may be a monumental task, but if any team is up to it, it’s Fnatic.


A huge thanks to Quackniix and Careion for carrying me through some of the team details! Thank you for bearing with me during the delay on this article! It was great meeting and talking to both of you, and I hope Fnatic does great at BlizzCon!


EsportsJohn has no idea what will be unveiled at BlizzCon after the 2017 HGC League was announced. Any ideas? You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

GCWC Interview with Astral Authority

NetEase and Blizzard host global Heroes of the Storm tournament GCWC

Photo Credit: NetEase

Table of Contents


Foreward

Written by: EsportsJohn

Passion is enough. Back-to-back regional champions Murloc Geniuses proved this with their zero-to-hero story during the Fall season in North America. Reforming with the “rejects” of other teams, Murloc Geniuses was just a group of guys who were passionate about playing Heroes of the Storm no matter what. Headlined by former Murlocs CauthonLuck and Fury, the team assembled a group of underdogs with a lot of potential and worked as hard as possible for their first championship together. When they beat GFE during the first regional in Burbank to win the championship crown, everyone thought it was a fluke. But then it happened again at PAX. And then again during the North American Nexus Games.

After such huge success, the unsponsored team found themselves booming at a high market value for potential orgs. After some deliberation, Astral Authority ended up snagging the Murlocs after dropping their underperforming roster. Now under the moniker of AA, the boys find themselves not only heading to BlizzCon this week but also invited to the Chinese Gold Club World Championship tournament. The GCWC is a global tournament aimed at pitting the best teams from other major regions against China’s best in a Beijing showdown. Though the tournament is more than a month away, NetEase decided to sit down and get the team’s initial thoughts about being invited to GCWC and some their goals moving forward.

Interview

Via NetEase

Welcome to GCWC! Can you describe your team for Chinese HotS fans? As the strongest team in NA pro scene, are there any particular pressures for you guys?

Jun: Thank you! It is pleasure to be invited to GCWC and compete with the Chinese and other international teams. Also awesome to have a chance to visit Beijing.
We are Astral Authority, a professional Heroes of the Storm team representing North America. Our teammates are:

  • cattlepillar – Melee/Ranged Flex & Shotcaller
  • Fury – Tank
  • psalm – Melee Flex
  • CauthonLuck – Ranged Flex
  • Jun – Support
The Astral Authority lineup for GCWC

Photo Credit: NetEase

It is true that we are currently considered the best NA team, but there are still a lot of people who question our ability to compete at a very high level which puts the pressure on our shoulders a bit. During the past two regional qualifiers, we have learned that the best thing to do is not to think about it too much and just play our game.

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

Jun: Our team works as a ‘team’. Everyone participates in giving their ideas and opinions in order to achieve the best result in whatever we do—although sometimes people get distracted. Everyone is willing to listen to each other, and we trust that all of our individual players are doing the best they can to bring the team to the next level.

We scrim about six hours per day every week and have one off day. Outside of team practices, we’re free to do whatever we want, but usually we just play more games to improve our own individual mechanics.

The day before tournaments, we make a game plan by going through every map and every possible draft situation that might happen. Also, we go through the general mindset and gameplay we should have for each according opponent.

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

Jun: I think you could say that most of our team was formed by players that were either ‘kicked’ or ‘not wanted’ from other present teams. One story that lot of people know is about Fury, our tank player: we qualified for the BlizzCon by beating Gale Force Esports—the team who kicked Fury. As for me, I wasn’t a known player before I joined Murloc Geniuses (now Astral Authority). After going through a week of tryouts as a support, they trusted my abilities enough to compete professionally with me even though I was inexperienced. I actually attempted to try out for other teams, but I was not able to, probably because I was not a known player.

I think the biggest strengths/advantages are the team’s environment and work ethic rather than the gameplay itself. The reason I say that is that I’ve learned that having a positive environment and being around players who are willing to improve is just as important as individual gaming skills. If a team has those characteristics, regardless if they are doing good or especially bad, they will always work as team to improve. Everyone makes a mistake—there’s no such thing as a perfect player. A great team wins as a team and loses as a team.

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

Fury: Continue to practice as much as possible and during your practice time try hard to make sure whatever composition you’re trying will actually work in a tournament. Make sure to also explore different Heroes on specific maps while keeping up on what you think is meta.

How do you feel about taking part in GCWC in China?

Fury: This feels amazing to represent North America in a different region and, personally for me, I love traveling around the world playing video games professionally. I always enjoy the different cultures and how other regions live day to day compared to how my life is.

Any special or interesting things to share with us about your team or players?

Fury: Within two to three months, our team became the first North American team to win two regionals in a row. Jun, our support player, had never played at a LAN event before until our first championship in Burbank.

Murloc Geniuses after their win at the Heroes of the Storm NA Regional at PAX

Photo Credit: ESL

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

Fury: Asian teams for sure play a much more aggressive, coordinated playstyle where they hide somewhere for a long period of time just to get one kill. The difference between NA and EU is that NA is better haha.

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

Fury: I want to stomp the EU teams just because of the long rivalry between the two regions. I want to show that NA is the stronger of those two regions. Playing versus any Asian team will be fun and a challenge, so I cannot wait until our team finally has a chance to face one in GCWC.

What do you think of the current metagame?

CauthonLuck: Tanks and bruisers are getting stronger and stronger in the meta with every patch. While triple ranged used to be standard [in compositions], soon it will be only one.

Which team would you consider your rival?

CauthonLuck: Not a real enemy, but GFE is the most different from our team. GFE was able to buy the most well-known and skilled players to try and create a “super team” for BlizzCon. Our team had to recruit players who were not well known but that we judged to have undervalued talent. Before every tournament, nobody gave us any chance compared to GFE; we always felt like David to GFE’s Goliath.

Cauthon, you’re a 32 year-old pro player. Can you share some interesting stories about yourself?

CauthonLuck: My age has made a career in Heroes of the Storm very difficult to establish. Though I had played three other esports games at a pro level and played in every pro Heroes tournament while working at a full-time job, no major team or org in North America was willing to give me a tryout due to my age when I was a free agent four months ago.

I had to start a new team in order to stay in the pro scene. With the help of people who had played with me before, we were able to recruit new talent and create the first team in North America to win back-to-back Regional Championships.

Any further thoughts to share with Chinese HOTS fans?
All: Thanks for inviting the team to represent NA in another opportunity to play on the global stage!

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 hyped for BlizzCon, how about you? You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

Road to BlizzCon: A Team Reborn

Reborn lifts the trophy at the ANZ regional final

Written by: EsportsJohn

Table of Contents


Hailing from down under, the Australian boys are back in action. After disbanding and undergoing various roster changes, the majority of former Negative Synergy members have reformed under the new moniker Reborn for their third Global Championship appearance—and this time, they’re looking stronger than ever.

Origins

The story starts in mid 2015 with robadobah, just after Heroes of the Storm was released. Team Immunity was the biggest name in Australia-New Zealand (ANZ) esports and eventually fostered two rosters: White and Black. At the time, robadobah played on White while Daspurtz played opposite of him on Black. White blazed through the 2015 Road to BlizzCon qualifiers but were stopped short at the Americas Championship. Nonetheless, robadobah was not deterred; he had tasted the international stage and was thirsty for more.

During the post-BlizzCon lull, robadobah and current teammate Sashin set out to create the ANZ “Dream Team” by collecting all of the best players under one banner. They first scooped up Daspurtz, who had briefly retired after Immunity Black’s loss in the BlizzCon qualifiers. Then the other big name in the region Exile5 suddenly disbanded and left two of the best flex players, Benjamin94 and Ninja, teamless and ripe for the picking. When the dust settled, robadobah had fulfilled his goal of gathering together the best of the best.

“The very first night that we scrimmed with our team line up, we lived up to our name Negative Synergy and we fought and disagreed with everything ;p. But we stuck it out and managed to make it to both Spring and Summer Championships.”

-Benjamin94

Things didn’t go so smoothly at first—Benjamin comments that the first time they played together they “fought and disagreed with everything”—but the team quickly began to pick up momentum. Half a year later, Negative Synergy had almost effortlessly decimated all other competition in ANZ and landed themselves on the global stage twice.

Negative Synergy’s 2016 Run and Reformation

During the Spring Season, Negative Synergy breezed through the regional qualifiers with an overall record of 15-1. However, their dominance did not translate as well to the global stage. They failed to make it out of the First Group Stage with a record of 2-4 at the Spring Global Championship in Seoul, South Korea. They had a strong showing against Filipino team Renovatio I but got smashed by EDward Gaming and Team Naventic at their primes. This wasn’t an unusual trend—none of the minor regions could take games off of major regions, but it was disappointing nonetheless.

Negative Synergy at the Heroes of the Storm Spring Global Championship

Summer Season went even worse. Despite going completely undefeated in the regional qualifiers, cracks began to form in the Negative Synergy roster. “It was quite obvious…in their Sweden performance—noticeably worse than their results in Korea,” commented Reborn flex player Arcaner. At the Global Championship, they played reckless, sloppy games against X-Team and Renovatio I and got knocked out of the group stage 1-4. After such a poor showing, it was clear that some changes needed to be made.

“Basically, like any esports team, Negative Synergy had been having some internal issues throughout the entire summer season of HotS…so after the team returned from Sweden, everyone sort of parted ways and essentially became free agents. Negative Synergy didn’t exist at that point and forward into the next few weeks.”

-Arcaner

The team split completely after coming back from the Summer Global Championship, creating a little Rosterpocalypse in ANZ. Several new teams developed around the former members of Negative Synergy, including one centered around robadobah, Sashin, and top flex player Arcaner. Nonetheless, nothing seemed to hold firm. Most of the teams had disappointing performances in King of the Hill regional tournaments, and the former Negative Synergy teammates began to gravitate back together.

In the end, everyone except Sashin (robadobah, ninja, Benjamin94, and Daspurtz) ended up back together. The team tried out Arcaner for the flex role, and he proved to be more than capable of filling Sashin’s shoes. Despite playing Assassins on previous teams, Arcaner admitted that he had interest in other roles too: “My main and favourite role whenever I’m a free agent is support…I can cover a lot of Heroes haha.” The team also assumed a new name—The Boys—to commemorate their group camaraderie.

“Brainstorming a team name always presents itself with dead ends haha. It’s not something we are talented at so we just latched on to what we thought represented the team’s atmosphere. We ended up having to change [The Boys] to Reborn so we would suffice as a professional HotS team. ‘The Boys’ was a bit too casual.”

-Arcaner

Over the next few weeks, The Boys took regional tournaments by storm and looked just as strong, if not stronger, than the original Negative Synergy. After the Road the Finals qualifiers were announced, The Boys decided to change their name to Reborn for a more “professional”—and at the same time, very fitting—title. Sashin began rebuilding Negative Synergy with a new roster as well, and soon the two teams would become rivals in the scene.

The Road to Finals qualifier was a fairly straightforward affair for Reborn. They dropped only a single game (to Negative Synergy) before coming face to face with their rivals again in the finals. It was a decent fight, but the sheer mechanical strength of Reborn’s roster overpowered the revamped Negative Synergy and catapulted the two-time world contenders back onto the global stage yet again.

Player Profiles

robadobah

robadobah at DreamHack Summer

On the tank role, Robert “robadobah” Purling is a rock for the team to anchor onto. He’s the soul of the team and often lends the voice of reason to keep his teammate’s aggression in check. If the team begins to falter, it’s robadobah’s words that keep them calm and collected.

He tends toward a more cautious and opportunistic approach to teamfights but isn’t afraid to dive in deep if necessary. Like many of the other players on Reborn, he has a very flexible Hero pool. His choice, from the steadfast presence of Johanna to the engagement potential of Anub’arak, sets the pace for the team to follow.

Benjamin94

Benjamin94 at DreamHack Summer

If robadobah is a rock, then Benjamin “Benjamin94” Vinante-Davies is the glue that holds everything together. He’s the team leader both in and out of the game, guiding them to victory. Though Reborn doesn’t have a designated shotcaller, many of the players point to him as the decision maker for the team.

Benjamin didn’t have as much success in 2015 as some of the other players, but his insane flexibility finally came to fruition and was appreciated on Negative Synergy. He typically plays the role of a secondary tank or melee Assassin on Reborn, but his huge Hero pool gives him room to adapt to literally any composition. He plays a terrifying Kerrigan but he’s not afraid to break out more elastic characters like Tassadar or Sylvanas to fill in any gaps.

Daspurtz

Daspurtz at DreamHack Summer

Photo Credit: DreamHack

The back line is held together by Zac “Daspurtz” Peters on the support role. In the ANZ region, he is often lauded as the best support player by far. Though the team plays rather defensively, it’s Daspurtz’s expert positioning and meticulous timing on his abilities that wins teamfights.

Like many support players, it’s hard to nail down a signature Hero for Daspurtz. He’s good on Uther, he’s good on Rehgar, he’s good on Brightwing, even Auriel. There’s nothing he’s particularly bad at—he just plays them all, and he does so with a high level of precision and patience.

Arcaner

Arcaner at the ANZ Fall season regional qualifiers

In lieu of Sashin, Liam “Arcaner” Simpson has been an apt replacement—even an improvement—in terms of team synergy. He doesn’t have the same unbridled aggression, but his quirky playstyle and offbeat attacks set him apart from the more relaxed, laid back attitude of his teammates.

Arcaner’s fingers are quick and his mind is sharp; as such, he can flex a huge variety of roles within the span of a single series. On his previous teams (Fresh and Gust in 5), he typically played the team’s Assassin, but he admits that his preference goes toward supports. He’s comfortable on many impact Heroes including Zagara, Illidan, and Tracer, but he doesn’t mind taking the backseat and allowing Ninja or Benjamin to take the lead either.

Ninja

Ninja at DreamHack Summer

The most peculiar cog in Reborn’s machine is ranged player Shane “Ninja” Ellem. His focus on the macro game and wave management does wonders for nabbing the incremental advantage for his team and makes his playstyle unique. It’s like he plays the same way as every other ranged carry, but with a completely different mindset.

He’s best known for his outstanding Falstad play. Falstad’s global presence plays into his strengths and allows him to control the pace of the game; on top of that, he almost never uses Gust foolishly. Recently, he also unveiled a creative Medivh pick which has turned some heads, so that will be something to look out for.

Playstyle

For the reformed roster, unity is the most important thing. “I think what is special about Reborn is we are based upon friendship,” said Arcaner about the team. “[We’re] [j]ust a team of great mechanical players who all get along and enjoy each other’s company especially outside of scrims and team practice,” he added.

In a conversation with well-known ANZ caster Disconcur, he agreed and noted the long-running bonds that have held the team together for almost two full years. Whatever may happen at BlizzCon, Reborn’s roster is one of the most cohesive in the world and will stay cool under pressure.

Overall, the team’s playstyle can be considered defensive or passive with a focus on small, marginal advantages. They’re unlikely to rush into fights for the sake of fighting, and they’re more than willing to let an objective or a structure go in order to trade for a greater advantage. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have the chops to back up their teamfights.

The team as a whole is quite mechanically proficient. Arcaner boasted that they “have a mechanical advantage over quite a few international teams” including NA teams, many of the small regions, and even EU powerhouse Fnatic. However, mechanics aren’t everything.

“But mechanics only get you so far. Our weaknesses is that we barely practice compared to the other regions. We have extensive real life commitments and are weighed down and limited in terms of scrim options and scrim block times in ANZ. The other teams going to BlizzCon will be spamming practice games so they’ll all have an advantage over us in that aspect.”

-Arcaner

Like in other minor regions, the dream of becoming a full-time progamer is a distant one for ANZ players. Money and exposure are hard to come by via gaming, and good practice options are limited by their remote location in the world. “I think we have a few issues with our scrim options, shot calling, macro, etc. The other teams will be spamming practice games, so they’ll all have an advantage over us in that aspect,” laments Arcaner. Despite having the mechanical advantage, Reborn will be fighting an uphill battle against the well-practiced and well-prepared teams at BlizzCon.

Heading Into BlizzCon

Nevertheless, the team remains optimistic. Out of the minor region teams going to BlizzCon, Reborn feels that they are hands down the best. They feel confident against them and believe they even have a strong chance against some of the major regions as well.

There’s no doubt that Korea is the strongest it’s ever been, but many of the other major regions have fallen from grace. Two of North America’s strongest and most consistent teams throughout the year will not be at BlizzCon—though that’s not to say that Murloc Geniuses and Denial eSports won’t represent NA well—and China’s greatest teams, eStar and EDG, have all but splintered into nothing.

Robadobah at DreamHack Summer

Photo Credit: DreamHack

“I think that we are better players than Denial, Murloc Geniuses, Super Perfect Team, the other small regions, and maybe Fnatic,” Arcaner stated proudly. Benjamin is also confident, stating, “[W]e definitely can get a top 8 position if we play as well as I know we can, but also, the bracket will play a major role in that.” Even Disconcur gave his vote of confidence for the ANZ region making it to the top 8, even the top 4. “We were considered the worst region based on the Summer Championship…teams won’t look into our team and learn what we do,” Benjamin added, hinting at a chance to blindside some of the stronger teams. As a whole, the team and the region are confident in their play, but only results will prove them right.

“No one expects us to do anything, so it would just feel great to beat some really good teams from the more advanced regions and really show that, you know, we’re good players.”

robadobah

There is the drive going all the way back to the Road to BlizzCon 2015 to beat the major regions and prove the ANZ region is a legitimate competitor on the world stage. It was the light that guided robadobah, convinced him to make a “super team”, and held the boys together through a breakup. Now it’s time for Australia to shine.


Huge thanks to Arcaner, Benjamin94, and Disconcur for chatting with me and helping me learn more about the ANZ region. Without them, this article would not be possible!


EsportsJohn is obsessed with The Lizzie Borden Chronicles right now. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

HotS Esports in 2017: Compromises

Tempest win the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship at DreamHack Summer

Photo Credit: DreamHack

Written by Thigan

Blizzard is showing where the esports future of Heroes of the Storm is headed. To analyze those changes, we have to understand first the current state of Heroes of the Storm esports.

An Overview of Last Year’s Progress

It is no secret that viewership in HotS hasn’t grown; it has been dropping since early this year. Regardless the schedule, tournament structure, production value, teams in competition, metas—there are multiple reasons—the viewership is lower.

Skill-wise, Europe has found stability around the level that Dignitas set during the Spring Season early this year, with mYinsanity (now Misfits) peaking during Summer and then regressing during Fall as the biggest variable there. China seems to be at a weaker point; the talent was scarce during HGC Spring, but China still placed two teams in the top 4 of the Global Championship. Afterwards, during the Spring Gold Series, they fought against MVP Black and influenced the style of the Korean powerhouse. However, the departure of talented players during the Summer Gold Series playoffs manifested in shot calling errors, underwhelming drafts, and individual mistakes. North America is the region that has regressed the most: weaker and unstable teams that lack discipline and innovation, talent scattered, and lack of synergy—low level of execution overall. This region gave us the BlizzCon 2015 Champion but lost to a minor region during HGC Summer and became the only major region to miss playoffs. Afterward that, the best teams had roster changes that prevented them from securing a place at BlizzCon 2016.

Korea is a puzzle. Despite low population on the server, a negative reputation for the game, and lots of talent moving to Overwatch, MVP Miracle and L5 still emerged alongside Tempest (now Tempo Storm) and MVP Black—clearly the best region in the world. This region deserves its own place in terms of talent; Without the support they have in SC2 and LoL or the obscene competition of a populated ladder, they still are the best at the game. It is a testament to the culture of the hardcore fans, professional players, and coaches.

In terms of production value, there has been a general improvement in the West. China is stable but perhaps has had more hiccups in production compared to last season. Korea is still the best at production by a large margin—a margin even bigger than in-game skill. However, you can see how they are saving money here and there.

In short: Viewership is dropping, skill is not improving globally, but production is better.

Currently Blizzard pays for everything:

  1. Prize pools
  2. Production
  3. Travel expenses

With the current results, it sounds reasonable to reduce the spending. However, it is important to change these tendencies from negatives to positives. So this is the old question: How do you improve the results with less money?

An Online League and its Compromises

“Most significantly, in North America, Europe, China, and Korea we’ll be shifting to a uniform online league format. As a result, the players on the top eight teams in each region will be contracted and guaranteed both compensation and regular competition.”

Production standards may be lowered

First compromise: players win a salary, but in exchange China and Korea have to give up some of their current advantages.

  • They live in the same city already, so they can LAN with ease
  • Tournament organizers have a place set up for LAN tournaments
  • LAN has more prestige
  • Production elements like interviews, booths, audience will be gone

The biggest losers are the two tournament organizers in China (NetEase) and Korea (OGN). They get paid by Blizzard, but they money has to be cut somewhere if they want to pay to the players and keep tournaments going. Even if many elements of the productions disappear, many expenses still exist that Blizzard has to cover.

The stage for NetEase's Gold Series Heroes League

“You can look forward to more consistency not only in your favorite rosters, but also in the scheduling, casting, and quality of broadcasts all-year round.”

Second compromise: the superior OGN production will be diluted to the level that online production provides and the standard that Blizzard enforces. In exchange, regular schedules and the familiar faces of casters and team names will help to stabilize viewership. Heroes of the Storm viewers will become accustomed to the production. I hope that this brings global statistics for the leagues; in case they don’t provide them themselves (I hope they do), they should at least procure the replays and YouTube VoDs for the four leagues.

The East and West may become disconnected

The next part to be worried about is the possible absence of a Western face in the Eastern scene and vice versa. There may not be English casting for the Korean League, and hope for English casting in the Chinese scene will be gone. This is pure speculation, but if this happens, I ask for a protocol to get clean feeds for translated casting.

“On their journey to the HGC finals, teams playing at the highest level will have opportunities to compete at three international events including a global tournament.”

@BlizzMilkFat on Beyond the Nexus: “There is going to be a clash that involves North America, Europe, Latin America and ANZ, and there are also going to be clashes that involve Korea, China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia. This will give us an opportunity to figure out who is the Best in the West and the Beast in the East. So when going into more of the global kinds of tournaments, we are going to actually have more stories to tell and more of juicy drama.”

Third compromise: the East is gone from the West. There are two possible ways to interpret this. First, that there are going to be more international tournaments in 2017 than in 2016; this could be local leagues that feed into international tournaments that then feed into the global tournament in a cycle that repeats more than once per year (just like right now, there are three seasons). The other possible (and more likely) interpretation is grimmer—that the three international events will be:

  1. East Clash
  2. West Clash
  3. BlizzCon (Global)

This makes sense when Blizzard mentions two waves of relegation per year, which seem to point toward two seasons from the three that we had in 2016.

Assuming the latter pessimistic view, the compromise is big: less people will be traveling to each tournament—less casters, less players, etc. It reduces expenses, but retains three international tournaments. The advantage is that the rivalry of Europe versus North America would have a cherry on top—at the end of the Western tournament, one of them will be Champion. This is good for marketing but bad for competition.

The analyst desk at ESL GamesCom 2016

Photo Credit: ESL

There are two dangerous elements. First, when you narrow the view to West and East only, you reduce the value of the West for Easterners and the other way around. For hardcore fans, this could mean the dismissal of English casts for Eastern leagues and possibly even Eastern regionals. For reference, if Spring or Summer used this format, the Eastern Clash would be the tournament with the highest level of Heroes of the Storm; not having English casters for this event would be a travesty for anybody who cares about high level Heroes of the Storm and happen to be in the West. We would have to wait one year to watch Korean and Chinese teams in English.

The second problem is that it perpetuates the idea that Asia is in their ethereal world of superior video gamers that is unreachable for Westerners. A better approach would be a rotation, with two regionals per round. You then change which teams go to each regional, something similar to what the NFL does with their divisions.

  • Round 1
    1. NA vs EU
    2. CN vs KR
  • Round 2
    1. NA vs CN
    2. EU vs KR
  • Round 3
    1. NA vs KR
    2. EU vs CN
  • Repeat

These three rounds may not happen in a single year—perhaps is a three-year cycle (it depends on economics)—but it is an improvement over a system that always splits the world into “East” and “West”.

The gap between top and bottom ends of competition may widen

@BlizzMilkFat: “So we are trying to level up every aspect of our program for next year, and the reason why we are trying to guarantee this regular compensation is because we are going to ask a lot more from our players. We are going to be tripling the amount of content that we are going to be producing for our fans for Heroes esports.”

“Twice a year, after proving themselves in a series of weekly open tournaments with prize pools, the two best teams from the Open Division will get to pit their skills against those of struggling pro teams, whose spots in the top tier of the HGC are on the line.”

Next compromise, mobility. Top players will have more stability; in exchange, the bottom of the professional end will fight twice a year for survival. It’s like having a six month performance review at your job, but instead of looking for areas of opportunity to grow, those that fail lose their job. This is better than current system—I wouldn’t call it a compromise. What changes are the rules to move between to these teams.

Murloc Geniuses after their win at the Heroes of the Storm NA Regional at PAX

Photo Credit: ESL

The North American scene is known for their constant roster changes, but this cannot continue with a league format; the freedom to move from a team to another team searching for a better opportunities will be reduced. What happens when two teams want to trade players or if any team wants a player from the Open Division? What would the regulations be for players kicked from a professional team that want to play on an amateur team? Players will have to accept those—at the moment unknown—regulations in order to participate in the HGC.

Tying up loose ends

As a last comment, these two quotes have elements that puzzle me:

@BlizzMilkFat: “So we are trying to level up every aspect of our program for next year…”

This probably means that there is going to be the same Global Championship as 2016 plus some International Tournaments. Maybe it’s a political phrase without substance. In any case, this article rejects this idea that Blizzard will just add more—compromises are giving up something to gain more.

@BlizzMilkFat: “We are going to be tripling the amount of content…”

This is another sign that the most optimistic view of international tournaments could be true.

To move forward, Blizzard has to make compromises. When the time passes, we’ll compare the state of the esports scene again, and Blizzard and the fans will make their final conclusions then.


This is a guest article written by Thigan. He is a well-known redditor who often brings up discussion-worthy topics and provides valuable insight into Heroes of the Storm.

Alarak: First Impressions and Pro Opinions

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Written by: EsportsJohn


Not all heroes are born of altruism…some, like Alarak, simply desire vengeance. As the new Highlord of the Tal’darim, Alarak leads his people to a destiny free of the corrupt influence of the fallen Xel’naga, Amon.

It’s hard not to acknowledge the “cool” factor of Alarak. He’s a no-nonsense guy with telekinetic powers similar to Star Wars baddie Kylo Ren. His lore alone as Highlord of the Tal’Darim, a fanatical religious faction of Protoss, is enough to make any StarCraft fan gush with excitement. Even though his lore was not 100% accurate to his iteration in Heroes of the Storm, he still came out pretty cool (and sith-like). It’s hard not to feel like a badass when playing him.

Overall, he seems fairly well balanced, if a little on the weak side. His damage can be downright insane, but he tends to falter without some dedicated support due to no reliable form of sustain or escape. This has led to a pretty low win rate on Hots Logs, but his power level isn’t far from the sweet spot. In fact, similar to Greymane, a few mistargeted buffs could easily push him over the edge and make him OP.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths

  • Huge burst damage
  • Tons of utility (silence, battlefield manipulation)
  • Strong laning presence
  • Powerful teamfighting capabilities
  • The most kickass voice acting in the game

Weaknesses

  • Poor sustain
  • Cooldown dependent
  • Vulnerable to CC
  • Terrible PvE

Abilities

Alarak is all about the big moments. He lives and dies for those opportunities to jump in and blow all his cooldowns to delete someone instantly. When he dives, he dives hard. The rest of the time, however, he’s mostly just controlling the flow of fights and poking until he has the chance to dive in and finish someone off. In a lot of ways, Alarak is similar to Greymane in concept. Blizzard went through a lot of iterations with Alarak, but the overall product came out pretty nicely.

The unique ability that defines Alarak is Telekinesis, a vector targeting (click + drag) ability that pushes enemies, as well as himself, around. What makes this ability so powerful is its versatility. For instance, it can pull people out of position for a big stun train combo or drag someone out of range of their healer. It also excels as a disengagement tool to push chasing opponents away or boost Alarak out of harm’s way. It can even be used as an interrupt for channeled spells. Talents like Applied Force and Quick Mind allow Alarak to control the flow of battle even more smoothly—but at the cost of some of his damage.

Machines of War promotional art for Heroes of the Storm

Photo Credit: Blizzard

Telekinesis isn’t Alarak’s only utility, though. Discord Strike also brings a brutal AoE silence on top of a hell of a lot of damage. Discord Strike isn’t always easy to hit because of the short delay, but the effects can be devastating when it does, especially in clumped up teamfights.

The final piece of Alarak’s base kit is Lightning Surge, a fairly straightforward point-and-click ability used mostly for sustain. There are some cute tricks that you can do by lining up shots to hit multiple Heroes (especially if you take Thunderstruck), but most of the time, it’s just a good old-fashioned poke ability.

Blizzard took a fascinating approach to Alarak’s Heroics. Instead of choosing one at 10 and then upgrading it, you can just pick up your second Heroic at 20. Right now, Alarak’s level 10 choice is a no-brainer: Deadly Charge. It offers a long-distance engage, guaranteed damage, and even an escape when used properly. Counter-Strike can be picked up at 20 in rare circumstances where Alarak needs to survive a huge burst of damage, but it is simply subpar to Deadly Charge in its current iteration.

Due to his trait, Sadism, he can dish out some serious hurt to anyone that’s unfortunate enough to get close to him, but the drawback is that his PvE is substantially weaker than other melee Assassins. For this reason, he’s not very useful for capturing merc camps, sieging, or clearing waves.

Talents

Blizzard finally made talents with trade-offs that weren’t terrible. I have always been an outspoken critic of talents like Greymane’s original Unfettered Assault and Artanis’s Triple Strike because they trade functionality for random utility, and often made the ability worse with the talent. But this time Blizzard got it right.

Alarak’s trait Sadism is not fixed at 100%. Various talents like Dissonance and Quick Mind will decrease that number by 10% in exchange for extra utility. Overall, this is a genius system for trading functionality for damage, and it really forces players to think through talent choices on a deeper level. Do I need the extra cooldown reduction on Telekinesis? Is it worth sacrificing damage? These questions will pop up in your mind frequently when playing Alarak and influence the way that you play him.

That said, whenever that choice isn’t present, there is actually very little room for flexibility in Alarak’s talent tree at the moment. Most of the Lightning Surge talents aren’t impactful and are usually heavily outweighed by Q and W talents. On top of that, some talents like Chaos Reigns and Pure Malice are so good that they’re nearly impossible to give up except in rare circumstances.

At levels 4 and 7, Double Cross and Chaos Reigns combo together to greatly increase Alarak’s damage and reliability, making them almost mandatory. Talents at 1 and 16 are flexible, however. Picking both Applied Force and Projected Force gives Alarak the ability to influence teamfights at long range and set up big stun combos but greatly decrease his Sadism damage. Talents like Power Conduit, Without Effort, and Sustaining Power are also options for a poke-oriented style that don’t sacrifice damage.

Alarak’s level 20 talents offer extraordinarily interesting choices. Along with the ability to pick his other Heroic, he also has access to two generic abilities with new, fascinating drawbacks. Last Laugh is a version of Bolt of the Storm that allows you to cleanse all effects at the price of dropping all the way down to 1 HP. In theory, this is a cool talent that Alarak can use to escape in the nick of time, but—at least in my experience—the drawback is simply too punishing. After using Last Laugh, you’re out of the fight for some time anyway, so saving yourself has very little impact on the overall outcome.

Hasty Bargain goes in a different direction and offers more damage via a form of Rewind that permanently reduces the percentage of Sadism; every time you use it, you become weaker overall. The huge risk/reward tradeoff forces you to think critically about how you use Hasty Bargain. However, it’s almost always worth taking despite the drawback because of the potential to double your burst damage, and the Sadism that you lose is also somewhat negligible since the game is unlikely to last much longer after level 20 anyway.

Professional Opinions

On Kit, Design, and Implementation

HongCoNo, Tempo Storm
Design is freaking awesome!

darkmok, Misfits
I would probably be more qualified to say something good after having played with him competitively, but what I can say is that he is a Hero with high skill cap. Basically everything you do depends on your placement of abilities. He has no good wave clear, so he has to shine in brawling and assassinating Heroes since he mostly doesn’t add power to objectives. I do think he’s good and has his place. I think he can surprise enemies with his placement of Telekinesis, and his lvl 20 is insane—the amount of plays you can do with his version of Rewind or taking two ults….

Goku, Dumpster Tier Superstars
His kit and design is very similar to Kerrigan; they both are burst type Heroes that rely on their combo. What separates Alarak from Kerrigan and the rest of the melee Assassins is that his kit provides a 1.5 second silence which can decide teamfights. On top of that, with his ultimate Deadly Charge, he can easily dive the back-line or provide burst damage.

Lockdown, Tempo Storm
Really like the Hero design and abilities. Very mechanically complicated Hero.

Minsc, Caster
When I first heard about his announcement, I said to myself, “Hell yeah! Him!” Then, I realised it will be one more melee Assassin amongst others, and the hype declined. Finally, he got released, and I got him into my very hands—and, oh man, did he deliver.

He’s a mix between a combo-based fragile brawler and a spell damage oriented caster. [He] doesn’t really have his place in a heavy front line like Sonya or Thrall, but definitely has his role to set up fights, create ganks, or force enemies into a fight they might not like. Although this point of view has been debated with some friends, I like to compare him to Kerrigan. He “creates” action with his spells, and [you] need to ponder the choice of whether to use his kit offensively or defensively, which makes him as much of a threat as [a liability because] he can be punished for a lack of patience.

Mudsliide, former GFE manager
I think his kit is really interesting and, at the same time, frustrating. Having to be immobile during Discord Strike is something I dislike personally (it’s a 0.5 second cast time). Standing still on a melee Assassin just feels off to me. His Telekinesis is a strange sort of skillshot to land (I compare it to the League of Legends champion Viktor’s Ray Beam thing) but works well enough as you get used to it. Lightning Surge is your standard point and click ability but feels a bit underwhelming to me. Deadly Charge is my current go-to just for diving the backline and things of that nature. I love that Blizzard continues to give us new toys to play with in the way that abilities work—they just don’t always work well the first try.

On Professional Play and Meta Changes

HongCoNo, Tempo Storm
He’s pretty OP, so most likely going to see competitive play.

Goku, Dumpster Tier Superstars
He’ll pop out in each region, but he won’t have a definite spot. He’s very similar to Kerrigan where you need to build around him for his lack of wave clear.

Lockdown, Tempo Storm
I think Alarak requires a lot of skill, so probably going to take some time before it sees competitive play.

Minsc, Caster
In the future meta, he definitely has his place, but more as a thought choice [special pick] instead of a must-have Hero. I believe his base kit makes him a really strong counter to many Heroes, but he cannot be left on his own. So on an extremely aggressive lineup, his damage and engage potential, combined with the silence, will make him quite interesting to look at.

Mudsliide, former GFE manager
I’m not entirely sure [about the meta]. Korea may run him since they seem open to trying a lot of different styles of play. Between EU and NA though, I don’t think anyone will touch him just yet. He feels slightly underwhelming in raw damage output, and I don’t know why you would grab him over another choice as of the current moment. We have time until Blizzcon though. I see Blizzard giving him a buff or two, so maybe we see him then?

On Map and Composition Viability

HongCoNo, Tempo Storm
Not sure about team comps, but probably gonna be good on Tomb of the Spider Queen and Dragon Shire.

Goku, Dumpster Tier Superstars
I feel like his best maps would have to be rotational maps like Dragon Shire and Tomb of the Spider Queen. But he has the option to play on every map. What he needs most would be a stun tank like E.T.C. or Muradin—that way it becomes very easy for Alarak to use his combo.

Lockdown, Tempo Storm
Can be played on any map, and will most likely be used as a melee DPS.

Minsc, Caster
I think he will work great on teamfight-oriented maps. although his lack of bonus damage towards neutrals/buildings might come as a problem. [But] like I always say: “dead people don’t prevent you from pushing”, meaning that if you kill your opponent, you can easily snowball out of it.

Mudsliide, former GFE manager
I think he works well on smaller maps or maps with good chokes—so for me, Tomb of the Spider Queen, Towers of Doom and Cursed Hollow. I don’t know where he fits into compositions at the moment. I’m not entirely sure if I should be dive heavy and just be in the fight all the time or play a little further back and silence incoming opponents to defend my carry. I think we’ll have to see the players that are clearly miles ahead of me play him in competitive (if and when we see him) to answer that.

Final Thoughts

darkmok, Misfits
His E is like 0 damage to minions. It does provide some laning power and self-sustain though. But apart from that, it’s super underwhelming. They need to buff the numbers of that for sure—or add a slow, I don’t know.

Goku, Dumpster Tier Superstars
I feel like Alarak is underrated in general. He’s a very strong Hero if you play him correctly. His Telekinesis is very strong to disengage a fight or to pull the enemy healer towards your team.

Minsc, Caster
He might be overlooked as a Hero that will not break the game. But in my opinion, a very skilled player within the right team can, as Medivh does, completely turn the tide and overthrow an overconfident opponent.

A point on his talent tree as well: the choice between utility talents that reduce Hero damage or not is insanely well thought out. It offers Alarak the possibility to adapt to many situations within each game, and each talent tier can be a gamebreaker if the opponent doesn’t pay attention.

Mudsliide, former GFE manager
Remember when Artanis came out? Everyone said he was underwhelming. He was not tanky enough to be a full-on Warrior nor did he do enough damage to replace a Hero like Sonya. He was clunky and slow. Alarak reminds me of that. Slow and clunky, unsure where he belongs within the current game. While he has interesting design choices and an aesthetic that I enjoy, I think he needs a little more time in the oven personally.

Huge thanks to Dongmin Jeong for Korean interviews and translations!


EsportsJohn is also a toxic Protoss who only criticizes his team. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.

How to Win the Video Game: Checklisting

checklist

A while back I did a short video on When to Engage, which featured an idea that I find essential to solid play: Checklisting. Since then, I’ve made a few updates to the checklist to make it clearer, so I wanted to share it in written form.

What is Checklisting?

Checklisting is a common theme in all games. It’s essentially a deductive procedural list that allows you to make good decisions or play optimally because it allows you to organize a logic tree and multitask. In fact, checklisting is a natural way for the human brain to sort out tasks and keep things in order. Many people don’t even realize that they’re doing it in everyday life when they’re working at a drive-thru, skateboarding, or taking notes from a lecture, much less when they’re gaming. Not all games—or all tasks in life, for that matter—are the same, but we still create lists to deal with daily challenges that we face.

Example: an RTS checklist might be something akin to what’s typically referred to as a “macro cycle”. In this cycle, the player reminds his or herself to spend their money, move their units, and make sure they’re not supply blocked. It’s a simple cycle, but it allows the player to automate macro and focus on decision making and micro.

Some games will have wildly different checklists. One for a game like Chess would analyze the current positions, check the points of power on the board, and go over possible moves and strategies from the most dangerous to the least dangerous. Using this method would allow the player to separate good decisions from bad ones in a procedural way.

The Checklist for Heroes of the Storm

MOBAs sacrifice a lot of macro actions for micro and decision making, and Heroes of the Storm is probably one of the most decision-intensive MOBAs out there. On top of that, bad decisions can be punished hard due to the heavy emphasis on teamwork in the game. For these reasons, it’s very important to get some sort of checklist going so that you can constantly gauge whether it’s safe play aggressively or whether you need to pull back and retreat.

The rules I have laid out here can be used in both a macro and micro sense. Macro decisions are questions like: When does our team engage into a fight? Should we try to turn on the enemy team? Is fighting right now a good idea? Micro decisions typically involve knowing when to attack an enemy, take an objective, and when to retreat.


Levels

  • Check the team levels.
  • Are we a talent tier up? Look for a fight. Are we behind? Avoid a fight.
  • Think about power spikes. Some compositions will be much stronger at 13 than 12, some won’t.

    Objectives

  • Do we have the objective advantage? Do we need to play aggressively or defensively?
  • Should we contest the objective? Can we ignore the objective? Can we delay the objective?
  • Is it better to force a fight or take the objective?

    Numbers

  • Check the minimap.
  • How many of my teammates are here?
  • How many opponents am I fighting? Are any enemies missing on the minimap?

    Health/Mana

  • Is our team low on health?
  • Is our team, particularly the healer and/or spellcaster, low on mana?
  • What is the other team’s status?

    Cooldowns

  • Does our team have Heroics up? Are there any particularly important ones like Mosh Pit or Sanctification that we need to wait on?
  • Does the enemy team have Heroics up? If we have Heroics and they don’t, we can engage and vice versa.
  • Did the enemy blow any significant cooldowns (i.e. Kerrigan combo or Valla Vault)? If so, we can engage immediately.

    Positioning

  • Are my teammates together and in range of the fight?
  • Am I out of position? Are my teammates out of position?
  • Are any of my opponents out of position, particularly squishy back line Heroes? If so, we can punish hard.

    This may seem like a daunting amount of information to process if you’ve never thought about it before. Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it as you internalize it. Like I said, people don’t even realize they’re doing these things; you might have a small checklist in your head that you follow already. Not everyone processes information the same way, but I highly recommend working your way through the checklist in the order presented here, as it will allow you to work from the largest, most important factors to the most minute details.

    If any red flags pop up while doing this checklist, you probably need to reconsider your aggression and pull back. Of course, there are still complicated situations where taking a fight a talent down or with low health/mana isn’t necessarily a bad decision, but they are definitely risks. Risks are important to take in gaming, and only lots of practice and experience will allow you to accurately make those decisions. If you’re new to the game or unsure of your decisions, always take the safe route until you’re comfortable enough to start testing the limits and playing more aggressively.

    Working as a Team

    Checklisting is not just an individual thing. If everyone is doing it, the team will function better as a unit because everyone will be on the same page. Imagine a team where everyone is running through the same checklist and coming to the same conclusions. Even if a player is slower than the others at arriving to a conclusion, the team is more or less on the same page. You wouldn’t have that Illidan who jumps straight into the fight two levels down and starts yelling at the team for not supporting him. You wouldn’t have that one guy who’s sitting there doing the objective while the rest of the team is engaging and trying to force a teamfight. Everyone would think together, move together, and act together.

    Of course, that’s an idealistic goal. Everyone thinks a little bit differently, but if we can all focus on our checklist a little harder and pay attention to our decision making, I’m certain that Hero League might clean itself up a bit. Just a bit.

  • A Short Guide to Layering CC

    LayeringCC Banner

    I’ll be honest, nothing in the world triggers me harder than when someone says in chat, “Lost in draft…we don’t have enough damage.” Sometimes this is true, but most of the time it’s the interplay of inexperience and lack of communication in Hero League games that’s the source of the issue, not the Heroes (or the draft) themselves.

    There are several examples of professional games with double warrior or triple warrior compositions that can delete people from the game. There are plenty of double Support compositions that can also do quite a lot in terms of bursting down enemy Heroes. Before you comment and say, “yeah, but those are pros,” hear me out.

    I’m certain that a simple understanding of how to layer crowd control and damage will greatly improve anyone’s game. I’ve seen it in my own experiences and the experiences of others after I explained. This is not a guide for pro play, it’s for the plebs like you and me—the people from Bronze to Diamond who still have lots of learning to do.

    Simply put: you have the damage, you just need to practice your coordination!

    Using Stuns/Roots with an Ally

    Remember when Tyrande/Diablo was so strong at the beginning of 2016? It’s because Diablo’s combo made it very easy to predict where the person would end up, giving Tyrande an easy follow-up with her Lunar Flare (and also because they did ludicrous amounts of damage). The effect was that these two Heroes could single-handedly drop an enemy Hero during a gank in less than a second.

    Muradin and Tyrande layer their CC

    Followup stuns can lead to big momentum swings. Had Nova and Rehgar been paying attention, this would have been an easy double kill. Gif credit: Heroesfire

    The concept applies toward any two stuns or roots, though. If your team has both a Muradin and an Arthas, you have TONS of lockdown. Figure out which player should take the initiative and just follow up on their CC. If you time it perfectly, you can immobilize someone for a full 2.5 seconds, which is plenty of time to drop damage on them, especially if they’re out of position. Often times the damage from the CC itself is brutal enough to drop someone low; you only really need a little bit of bodyblocking and follow-up to get the most out of your ganks.

    You don’t need voice communication to do this. Just watch other players carefully for how and when they use their stun. Hover your mouse cursor constantly on potential targets and prepare to make calculated dives. It’s really that simple.

    What If I Don’t Have a Stun?

    When you don’t have CC, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to layering. In fact, you should be paying MORE attention to targets that are locked down and using your DPS to eliminate them.

    One of the best examples for this is Li-Ming. Her skillshots are very dependent on your opponents taking a predictable path so that you can unload the full combo on them and dish out an ungodly amount of damage. That said, there’s nothing more predictable than a CC combo. Follow around that Muradin on your team and save Arcane Orb for the moment that he lands a good Storm Bolt. More often than not, you’ll reliably delete people and look like a god.

    Li-Ming uses her combo on a stunned Hero

    Mene looks for the stun onto Arthas before committing to his full combo—an effective way to play Li-Ming.

    Again, this isn’t hard. Just keep your eyes peeled for the tanks engaging and prepare to use the stuns and roots to your advantage. The same thing can be said for several other bursty Heroes like Kael’thas, Zeratul, or Chromie.

    Use the Map Objective!

    If you’re anything like me, you’ll somehow get a team that’s so clueless that they never land any good stun or get any good engagement. Luckily, you don’t have to rely completely on allied Heroes all the time. Several map objectives like the Punisher on Infernal Shrines or the Immortal on Battlefield of Eternity provide some sort of a stun or CC effect. Just like a teammate, you can use these stuns as reliable ways lock down enemy Heroes and burst them down.

    For instance, you know that the Punisher will jump on top of someone and stun them every few seconds, so prepare to line up a stun of your own if possible. Get a feel for how often the Punisher jumps and anticipate it so that you can get free kills. If you do it correctly, you can sometimes even get a takedown on an enemy BEHIND their wall—it doesn’t get much better than that.

    Kerrigan using her combo with the Punisher on Infernal Shrines

    JayPL waits until the Punisher jumps over the wall and stuns someone before following up with the Kerrigan combo.

    For less reliable, non-targeted stuns like the Immortal’s AoE stun or the Boss camp slams, use them in the opposite fashion. When you expect a stun to come up, go ahead and lock down your opponent early. If you time it right, you’ll often either get a free kill or weaken the enemy team so much that you can take an objective for free.

    In the end, it only comes down to you. This is a team game, but vigilance and awareness on an individual level are paramount to your team’s success. Look for opportunities to layer CC, practice your timing, and try to help others learn too!

    How to Go to College

    UGA Arch

    Photo Credit: athensbusiness.org

    Let’s start with the meat of this topic. If you’re a good learner and a self-starter, you don’t need to go to college. In fact, it can be more beneficial for you to avoid college altogether. However, it’s important to recognize the resources that colleges can provide for you and learn how to take advantage of it for your own benefit.

    My advice: Pay for one semester at a large college or university, and then reap the benefits of being a student forever.

    There are a lot of perks to living next to a university. Learn how to utilize them and jumpstart your own education without having to rely on a strict programme of material or a punitive system of reward/punishment.

    How I Failed at College

    First of all, I’ll be honest: I never finished college. I originally entered college as a music major (piano primary). I wasn’t bad. I auditioned at a few different schools, was accepted at all of them, but ended up going to the University of Georgia.

    Suffice it say that school has never been a strong suit of mine. I strongly dislike being told what to learn, and I get easily frustrated when I’m required to learn material I have no interest for. I went through a plethora of music-related majors trying to find what worked best for me—composition, music therapy, and performance—but in the end, I found myself more and more estranged from the path I was seeking: to imagine and write beautiful music that could change lives.

    After that, I took a two year break to recoup some of my financial losses and get a fresh head. When I finally went back to school, I decided on English, which felt like a step in the right direction. That’s when I learned how much I hated writing. Ironic, right?

    Park Hall Steps

    The steps leading up to Park Hall, where I spent most of my time as an English major. Photo credit: AJC.

    The long story short: I decided I didn’t like college. It’s just not for me. It’s been nothing but a money sink that’s caused me nothing but perturbation and stress over the years. I’ve had long bouts of depression linked to my schoolwork, and I’ve discovered that I just can’t do it anymore.

    The Perks of Having a Student ID

    This is where it gets good. Despite my eventual departure from university courses, the campus is still a big part of my life. I still drive through campus every day; it’s an important place in Athens.

    That said, there’s a lot of resources at your disposal once you get a student ID and/or familiarize yourself with campus. Perhaps the biggest perk is that I have access to every single educational resource within UGA’s four campus libraries (plus lent books to other colleges/universities from all over the state) as well as its online system of books, journals, and newspapers. There is literally more information on one floor of the Main Library than any one person could ever read or learn.

    Student IDs are rarely discontinued, especially at large universities, so you can often use yours long after you’ve graduated/left the university. If I want to read a book on journalism, I can go check it out with my student ID; even if my student ID is outdated, I can still make daily trips to the library to read and study.

    UGA Main Library

    The UGA Main Library holds one of the largest collections of books in the country.

    There are also unexpected surprises—access to tools and software you wouldn’t be able to use at home. The public computers on campus have Matlab loaded on all of them. The music school has MIDI controllers and all sorts of composition software. Even if you’re not a student anymore, you can still go in and make music. All it requires is a student ID number + password, which can potentially be maintained indefinitely by resetting your password every six months.

    The second biggest perk is private study areas, free wi-fi, and access to other people’s opinions and thoughts. There are tons of extracurricular groups to keep your mind sharp and pique your interests, even if you’re not a student.

    Sometimes dorms are off-limits without special access, but in any case, it’s easy to find quiet nooks where no one will bother you.

    Oh, did I mention the Health Center and world class Athletic Center that are open to the public? (BTW, former UGA students scored 8 Olympic medals in Rio).

    An Ideal Education

    For me, nothing in the world beats this sort of education. It’s a chance for me to work on my own topics at my own pace with nearly limitless resources. I’m sure I still haven’t even found everything available to me, but it’s already more than I think I could ever use.

    UGA Miller Learning Center

    Walking alongside others, but on your own path. That’s the dream. Photo credit: onlineathens.com

    This is something I wish I had done years ago before I had accrued thousands of dollars in debt and put myself through a grueling gauntlet of success and failure in the scholastic world.

    I think the main thing to draw from my story is that a traditional education is not for everyone. Having a Bachelor’s Degree that officially states that you know things is nice for credentials, but often it means very little compared to relevant experience and depth of knowledge, especially in the realm of esports and content creation.

    On words. And becoming an esports writer.

    After discovering the literal holy grail of articles on working in esports, I’ve decided to offer up my own thoughts and fill in some of the holes in them with my own experience.

    I think it’s important to note that I’m not really anyone significant. I’m not the guy who has 100K Twitter followers. I’m not really widely known or respected. I’m not making that much money as an esports writer. And to be truthful, I’m not even that good at writing.

    Nonetheless, I do have a decent amount of experience in this field, and I’ve helped a lot of friends significantly improve their writing and find paid work in esports. Yes, paid work.

    Learn How to Format Your Stuff

    For the love of god, learn how to format articles correctly. Formatting is like 90% of an editor’s job. As such, organizations look specifically for people who can present a fully fleshed-out article. Even if the content isn’t top-notch, a good-looking submission is enough to convince orgs that your work is worth paying for.

    • Break your paragraphs up with images, videos, or lists. No one wants to read a wall of text.
    • Always write cleanly and concisely. Avoid excessive punctuation, overly wordy descriptions, and long sentences.
    • Use key words in your headings and paragraphs.
    • The standard article length is 800-1200 words.
    • Resize your images to a standard size (varies depending on the publishing client)
    • Learn basic HTML/BB code (headers, italics, bold, hyperlinks, images, blockquotes, etc.)

    The typical format for an online article is very similar to a high school paper. Pick a topic, provide at least three main points, and tie it all together with a conclusive sentence or optional conclusion section.

      Header 1
      Introduction (no heading)
      Header 2
      Body Paragraph
      Header 2
      Body Paragraph
      Header 2
      Body paragraph
      Conclusion (optional)

    Elements of Style

    Elements of Style is one of my favorite books of all time. Anyways.

    Brevity is paramount in the industry of online publishing. Though you may enjoy the flowery descriptions of classical writing from Dickens or Tolkien, it simply doesn’t have a place here. People are scanning through your paragraphs for key information. Multiple headings with short paragraphs using short sentences with lots of periods—that’s the way to go.

    The golden rule is generally 3-5 of everything. 3-5 headings, 3-5 paragraphs per heading, and 3-5 sentences per paragraph. This also loosely applies to images/line breaks and bullet point lists too. Longer articles can play with this formatting a bit, but a standard online article typically sticks to this rule.

    You need to be (sometimes overly) clear in your wording. Explain everything as if your reader “is dumb”, especially for analytical articles. This is both for the reader’s sake and your own. It’s easy to connect points A to C in your head as you’re writing, but sometimes you may skip over certain points of logic entirely in the article.

    Outgrowing “Volunteer” Hell

    You’re going to have to volunteer for things at first. That’s just how it is. Traditional careers have “internships”; esports writing has “volunteer work”. I worked for TeamLiquid.net for several years as a volunteer before I was ever actually taken seriously, and that time was invaluable to me in terms of refining my writing and getting a feel for online publishing.

    You need skills and experience before you’re ready to publish biweekly articles for money. You have to learn how to format the articles correctly, connect with your audience, and create storylines.

    Blogging is also a legitimate way to learn skills. There are several great writers in the Heroes community alone who have started with outstanding posts on Reddit or the TeamLiquid.net forums and bloomed into successful writers. Volunteering for an organization allows you to get more exposure, but it’s not the only route for gaining experience.

    The point I want to make is that “volunteering” is not a dirty word, it’s a chance for you to build competency in a low-pressure environment. Once you’re at a decent level, you can start to look for paid jobs.

    How to Look for a Big Boy/Girl Job

    So you’ve grown out of your volunteer days, and now it’s time to find a “real” job. Spoiler alert: paid writing jobs are hard to come by in any industry, but especially in esports. Nonetheless, there are paid jobs out there, you just have to look.

    eSports Career is probably the easiest resource for finding a paid writing job in esports. I have found and applied for multiple jobs through the site, and some of them (like Esports Edition) have turned out to be real treasures.

    Another method for a job search is campaigning. Think of every sponsored esports organization you can think of (Dignitas, Tempo Storm, Red Bull, SK Gaming, Coke, etc.) and just email them with your credentials and an inquiry about joining their editorial team. It’s not the best way to find a job, but you’d be surprised at how many people will actually respond to you with mild interest.

    The third major way of landing a writing job is networking. I spent a good amount of time earlier this year just lurking in streamers’ channels, following community members and pro players on Twitter, and looking for every possible opportunity to interact with them. It’s much easier to get a job with an organization if you have a friend who can give you a heads up or vouch for you.

    A word of caution to this tale: make sure you research all organizations you’re thinking about joining. Look for past history of management problems, failure to pay, or legal issues; these are all red flags. Look up who’s in charge and find out more about them. Make sure the size/prestige of the organization matches the size/prestige of your goals.

    Understanding Base Rates for Writing

    Another super important consideration for a job is the payout. Before becoming a freelance writer, I had no idea what I should get paid. I had to do a lot of digging and research before I was able to figure out what the “standard” rate was.

    I’ll make it easy for you: don’t take a writing job for less than $0.05/word.

    Just don’t do it. Unless you are an ungodly prolific writer who can spit out 10k words of quality articles per day, it’s just not worth your time to write for any amount that low. That said, your base rate as a noob esports writer should start at $0.05.

      Min rate: $0.05/word
      Max rate: $0.25/word
      Target: $0.10-$0.15/word

    A really sweet gig will net you up to approximately $0.25/word, but those types of jobs are few and far between in the esports world. Shoot for the median $0.10 to $0.15, and you’ll make a reasonable income.

    For flat rates per article (i.e. $50 per article), compare them to the average article length (800-1200) to get the rate per word. Then try not to go overboard; the longer your article gets, the less your time is worth.

    Always sign a contract.

    Seriously, always sign a contract. (Beware of non-competes).

    Discovering Your Worth

    Your worth is how valuable you are to an employer. Brand new writers with little experience in online publication and writing for an esports audience aren’t worth much. Competent writers who have been around for a few years are going to be worth much more.

    When you discover your worth, you can determine the proper payment for your work. Do not be afraid to negotiate with organizations.

    As a general rule, undervalue your worth but negotiate higher. For instance, if I know I’m a noob who still has a lot to learn, I will value myself at $0.05/word, but I will negotiate for $0.10/word. If I can convince my employer to bump up my pay by even one cent, I’ve succeeded in raising my worth for future jobs.

    Your worth is a big part of your identity as a writer, and it’s important to soberly recognize where you stand in the grand scheme of things. Practice self-awareness.

    Your Future in Esports

    You can do it. You may need to work another job to keep afloat while your esports career takes off, but it’s not impossible. All you need is a lot of hard work, dedication, and a support group of community members who can encourage you.

    Esports is a rapidly growing industry. News sites and small orgs are springing up everywhere looking to cash in on the money train. As we move into the future and esports becomes more integrated into our daily lives, there will be an increasing demand for skilled writers. Right now is your chance to get in on the ground floor (maybe second floor) and make a name for yourself before competition becomes too fierce.

    If you ever need any help, I’m always free to help review/edit articles and recommend jobs. Just hit me up on Twitter and I’ll be happy to help out :).