A Fond Farewell: An Interview with Kaelaris

Kaelaris

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


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

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

On Casting HGC

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

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

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

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

Kaelaris at Gamescom 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On HGC Teams

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

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

Kaelaris and Khaldor at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Role of Host and Commentator

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

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

Analyst desk at BlizzCon 2016

Kaelaris hosting the analyst desk at BlizzCon 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Future Plans

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

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

Khaldor and Kaelaris at DreamHack Valencia 2016

The European casting titans Khaldor and Kaelaris at DreamHack Valencia

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

Any parting words?

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

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


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

Ready for Adventure: An Interview with Khaldor

Khaldor

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


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

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

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


On Moving to the States

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

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

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

Khaldor Casting

Photo Credit: ESL

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

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

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

Analysis desk at BlizzCon 2016

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

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

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

On the Heroes Global Championship

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

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

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

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

Kaelaris and Khaldor at Gamescom

Photo Credit: ESL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grubby and Khaldor at Gamescom 2016

Grubby and Khaldor at Gamescom 2016. Photo Credit: ESL

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

On Personal Projects and Future Plans

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

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

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

Khaldor holiday stream

Ho ho ho! A special holiday stream from Khaldor!

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

Wrap-up

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Post-Match Interview with Team expert’s BadBenny

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

From Player to Coach: An Interview with Sunshine

sunshine2

Interview by: EsportsJohn


Table of Contents


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

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

On Career

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

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

What happened to 2ARC?

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

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

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

On Coaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It sounds like you did a lot of GFE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could very well be wrong about that though.

On Meta and Game Design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heroes master race confirmed?

Crystal Maiden's talent tree in the newest Dota patch

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous/Wrap-up

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

Zero.

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

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

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

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

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

So your plan for 2017 is grinding the Open Division?

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

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

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


This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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

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.

Camino a BlizzCon: un equipo renace [ES]

Reborn lifts the trophy at the ANZ regional final

Artículo original en Inglés: Road to BlizzCon: A Team Reborn

Traducido por: Saghmare

Tabla de contenido


Provenientes desde muy abajo. Los chicos australianos están de vuelta en acción. Después de separarse y someterse a varios cambios en su alineación, la mayoría de los antiguos miembros de Negative Synergy se han vuelto a unir bajo el nuevo nombre de Reborn para su tercera aparición en un Global Championship – y esta vez, se ven más fuertes que nunca.

Orígenes

Su historia inicia a mediados del 2015 con robadobah, justo después de que Heroes of the Storm fuese lanzado. Team Inmunity era el nombre más grande en los e-sports de la región Australia-Nueva Zelanda (ANZ) y eventualmente adoptaron dos alineaciones: White y Black. En ese tiempo robadobah jugaba en White mientras que daspurtz jugaba en la alineación de Black. White arraso a a través de los clasificatorios Road to Blizzcon del 2015 pero se detuvieron en seco en el Americas Championship 2015. Sin embargo, robadobah no se daría por vencido, había probado la escena internacional y estaba sediento de más.

Durante la calma post-BlizzCon, robadobah y su actual compañero de equipo Sashin iniciarían su búsqueda de crear el “Dream Team” de la región ANZ reclutando a los mejores jugadores bajo un solo nombre. Su primer objetivo fue Daspurtz, quien se había retirado brevemente después de la derrota de Inmunity Black durante los clasificatorios de BlizzCon. Enseguida otro gran nombre de la región Exile5 repentinamente se disolvería dejando a dos de los mejores jugadores flex sin equipo y en espera de ser reclutados, Benjamin94 y Ninja. Una vez que las aguas se calmaron, robadobah pudo cumplir su meta de reunir a lo mejor de lo mejor.

“La primera noche que practicamos con la alineación completa, estuvimos a la altura del nombre “Sinergia Negativa” (Negative Synergy) ya que peleamos y estuvimos en desacuerdo en todo. Pero lo resistimos y logramos llegar a los campeonatos de Primavera y Verano.”

-Benjamin94

Las cosas no marcharon bien al principio – Benjamin94 comenta que las primeras veces que jugaron juntos “peleaban y estaban en desacuerdo en todo”- pero el equipo rápidamente empezó a tomar impulso. Medio año después, Negative Synergy había diezmado sin esfuerzo toda la competencia en ANZ y aterrizarían dos veces en la escena global.

Ejecución y reformación de Negative Synergy en 2016

Durante la temporada de primavera, Negative Synergy paso fácilmente los clasificatorios regionales con un récord total de 15-1. Sin embargo su dominio no se traducía tan bien en la escena global. Fallaron en pasar la primera fase de grupos con una puntuación 2-4 en el campeonato global de primavera en Seúl, Corea del Sur. Tuvieron una fuerte actuación en contra del equipo filipino Renovatio 1 pero fueron aplastados por EDward Gaming y Team Naventic en sus mejores momentos. Esto no fue algo inusual- ningún equipo de región menor ha podido vencer a las regiones mayores, más sin embargo fue decepcionante.

Negative Synergy at the Heroes of the Storm Spring Global Championship

La temporada de verano fue aun peor. Dejando de lado el hecho de que quedaran invictos durante los clasificatorios regionales, se comenzaron a formar grietas en la alineación de Negative Synergy. “Era bastante obvio… en su actuación en Suecia- se percibieron peores resultados que en Corea”, comentó Arcaner, miembro de Reborn. En el campeonato global, tuvieron unos juegos muy osados en contra de X-Team y Renovatio 1 y fueron sacados en la fase de grupos 1-4. Después de una actuación tan pobre, estaba claro que se necesitaban algunos cambios.

“Básicamente, como cualquier equipo de e-sports , Negative Synergy tuvo problemas internos durante toda la temporada de verano de HotS… así que después de que regresaron de Suecia, todos se separaron y esencialmente se volvieron agentes libres. Negative Synergy ya no existía de este punto en delante.”

-Arcaner

El equipo se separó completamente después de volver del Summer Global Championship, creando un pequeño apocalipsis de alineaciones en ANZ. Se empezaron a construir muchos nuevos equipos alrededor de los antiguos miembros de Negative Synergy, incluyendo uno centrado en robadobah, Sashin y el jugador flex Arcaner. Sin embargo nada parecía mantenerse firme. La mayoría de los equipos tuvieron actuaciones decepcionantes en los torneos regionales King of the Hill y los antiguos compañeros de Negative Synergy empezaron a gravitar hasta estar juntos de nuevo.

Al final, todos excepto por Sashin terminaron reunidos. El equipo probaría a Arcaner para el rol de jugador flex y este demostró ser más que capaz de cubrir el lugar de Sashin. Pese a jugar asesinos en sus equipos anteriores, Arcaner admitió tener interés en otros roles también: “mi rol principal y favorito cuando juego solo es soporte… puedo cubrir un montón de Héroes jaja.” El equipo adopto un nuevo nombre -The Boys- para conmemorar su amistad grupal.

“Un nombre muy elaborado lleva a callejones sin salida jaja. Es algo para lo que no somos muy talentosos por lo que solo nos apegamos a lo que creíamos que representaba la atmósfera del equipo. Terminamos con la oportunidad de cambiarlo a Reborn, que seria suficiente para un equipo profesional de HotS. The Boys era demasiado informal.”

–Arcaner

Durante las siguientes semanas, The Boys tomaron los torneos regionales por sorpresa y se veían tan fuertes, si no es que más, que el original Negative Synergy. Después de que se anunciaron los clasificatorios Road to Finals, The Boyz decidió cambiar su nombre a Reborn para tener un titulo más profesional y al mismo tiempo más acorde a ellos. Sashin empezó a reconstruir Negative Synergy con una nueva alineación y pronto los dos equipos se volverían rivales.

Los clasificatorios Road to Finals fueron relativamente sencillos para Reborn. Solo perdieron un juego en contra de Negative Synergy antes de reencontrarse cara a cara en la final. Fue una pelea decente, pero la resistente fuerza mecánica de Reborn subyugo al renovado Negative Synergy y catapulto a los dos veces contendientes mundiales a la escena global una vez más.

Perfiles de los jugadores

robadobah

robadobah at DreamHack Summer

En el rol de tanque, Robert Purling “robadobah” es una roca para anclar al equipo. Es el alma, y a menudo es la voz de la razón para mantener la agresión de sus compañeros de equipo a raya. Si el equipo comienza a fallar, las palabras de robadobah son las que los mantienen tranquilos y unidos.

Se inclina a un enfoque más cauteloso y oportunista de las peleas en equipo, pero no tiene miedo de sumergirse en lo profundo si es necesario. Tiene un muy flexible repertorio de héroes. Su elección, desde la presencia constante de Johanna hasta el potencial de enganches de Anub’arak, marca el ritmo para que el equipo lo siga.

Benjamin94

Benjamin94 at DreamHack Summer

Si robadobah es una roca, entonces Benjamin Vinante-Davies “Benjamin94” es el pegamento que mantiene todo unido. El es el líder del equipo tanto dentro como fuera del juego, guiándolos a la victoria. Pese a que Reborn no tiene un shotcaller designado, los jugadores apuntan a que el sea quien tome las decisiones para el equipo.

Benjamin94 no tuvo mucho éxito durante el 2015 como algunos otros jugadores, pero su desorbitante flexibilidad finalmente rindió frutos y fue apreciada en Negative Synergy. Usualmente juega el rol de tanque secundario o asesino melé para Reborn pero su gran repertorio lo lleva a adaptarse a literalmente cualquier composición. Juega una atemorizante Kerrigan, pero no tiene miedo de llegar a los personajes más elásticos como Tassadar o Sylvanas para llenar espacios vacíos.

Daspurtz

Daspurtz at DreamHack Summer

Photo Credit: DreamHack

La linea trasera se mantiene unida por Zac Peters “Daspurtz” en el rol de soporte. En la región ANZ, el ha sido aplaudido como el mejor jugador soporte por mucho. Pese a que el equipo es muy defensivo, es el experto posicionamiento y la meticulosa distribución de habilidades de Daspurtz lo que gana las peleas de equipo.

Como muchos jugadores de soporte, es difícil concretar un héroe principal para Daspurtz. Es bueno con Uther, es bueno con Rehgar, es bueno con Alafeliz, incluso con Auriel. No hay nada en particular en lo que sea malo– el solo los juega todos, y lo hace con un gran nivel de precisión y paciencia.

Arcaner

Arcaner at the ANZ Fall season regional qualifiers

En el lugar de Sachin, Liam Simpson “Arcaner” ha sido un reemplazo -incluso una mejora- en términos de sinergia del equipo. El no tiene la misma agresividad desenfrenada, pero su estilo de juego peculiar y ataques fuera de lo común lo diferencian de la actitud más relajada de sus compañeros de equipo.

Los dedos de Arcaner son rápidos y su mente es aguda; por esto, el puede cubrir una gran variedad de roles en el lapso de una sola serie. En sus equipos anteriores (Fresh y Gust in 5), el típicamente jugaba como asesino del equipo, pero el admite que su preferencia son los soportes. El esta cómodo en muchos héroes de impacto incluyendo a Zagara, Illidan y Tracer, pero no le importa irse atrás y permitir que Ninja o Benjamin94 tomen la iniciativa.

Ninja

Ninja at DreamHack Summer

El engrane más peculiar en la máquina de Reborn es el jugador de rango Shane Ellem “Ninja”. Su enfoque en el macro juego y manejo de oleadas hace maravillas para pescar la ventaja incremental del equipo y hace su estilo de juego único. La manera en que juega es la misma que cualquier otro DPS de rango pero con una mentalidad diferente.

Es mejor conocido por su sobresaliente juego con Falstad. La presencia global de Falstad es una de sus fortalezas y le permite controlar el ritmo del juego; además de eso, casi nunca desperdicia el uso de las ráfagas imponentes. Recientemente, se dio a conocer como un muy creativo Medivh lo que le ha dado atención y que sera algo para tener en cuenta.

Estilo de juego

Para la reformada alineación, unidad es lo mas importante. “Pienso que lo que hace especial a Reborn es que sentamos bases en la amistad,” dijo Arcaner respecto al equipo “somos un equipo de, mecánicamente buenos jugadores que disfrutamos de la compañía de todos especialmente fuera de la practica del equipo,” añadió ademas.

En una conversación con el conocido caster de ANZ Disconcur, estuvo en acuerdo e hizo notar que los lazos de mucho tiempo son lo que ha mantenido al equipo unido durante casi dos años. Lo que sea que pase en BlizzCon, la alineación de Reborn es una de las mas cohesivas en el mundo y se mantendrán tranquilos bajo la presión.

En general, el estilo de juego del equipo puede considerarse defensivo o pasivo con un enfoque en las pequeñas ventajas marginales. Ellos rara vez se precipitan en las peleas por el bien de la lucha y están mas que dispuestos a permitir que un objetivo o una estructura se vaya con el fin de intercambiar una ventaja mas grande, pero eso no quiere decir que no tengan lo necesario para respaldar sus peleas en equipo.

El equipo en su conjunto tiene bastante conocimiento mecánico. Arcaner alardeo que “tienen una ventaja mecánica sobre varios equipos internacionales”, incluyendo equipos de NA, muchas de las regiones pequeñas e incluso, la potencia de EU Fnatic. Sin embargo las mecánicas no lo son todo.

“Pero las mecánicas te llevan lejos. Nuestra debilidad es que apenas practicamos en comparación con las otras regiones. Tenemos extensos compromisos de la vida real y nos limitan en términos de opciones y bloques de practicas en ANZ. Los demás equipos que irán a BlizzCon harán muchos juegos de practica por lo que tendrán una ventaja sobre nosotros en ese aspecto.”

-Arcaner

Como en otras regiones menores, el sueño de ser un jugador profesional de tiempo completo es distante para los jugadores de ANZ. El dinero y la exposición son difíciles de conseguir a través de videojugar, y las buenas opciones de practicas están limitadas para su remota ubicación en el mundo. “Creo que tenemos algunos problemas con nuestras opciones de practica, shotcalling, macro, etc. Los otros equipos podrán bisar juegos de practica, así que ellos tienen una ventaja sobre nosotros en ese aspecto”, lamento Arcaner. Pese a tener la ventaja mecánica, Reborn tendrá una dura batalla contra los equipos bien preparados en BlizzCon.

Dirigiéndose a BlizzCon

Sin embargo, el equipo permanece optimista. Dentro de los equipos de regiones menores que irán a la BlizzCon, Reborn sienten que son sin duda el mejor. Se sienten seguros y que tienen una fuerte posibilidad contra algunas de las principales regiones del mundo.

No hay duda en que Corea es mas fuerte de lo que nunca ha sido, pero muchas de las otras grandes regiones han decaído un poco. Dos de los equipos mas fuertes y mas consistentes de NA durante todo el año, no irán a BlizzCon -aunque eso no quiere decir que Murloc Geniuses y Denial eSports no sean suficientes para representar NA- y los grandes equipos de China, eStar y EDG, se fragmentaron en prácticamente nada.

Robadobah at DreamHack Summer

Photo Credit: DreamHack

”Pienso que tenemos mejores jugadores que Denial, Murloc Geniuses, Super Perfect Team, los demás en las regiones menores y tal vez Fnatic,” afirmo orgullosamente Arcaner. Benjamin94 también esta confiado asegurando ”definitivamente podemos llegar a una posición en los mejores 8 si jugamos tan bien como sabemos hacerlo, pero también los cuadros tendrán un gran rol en ello”. Incluso Disconcur dio su voto de confianza a que la región ANZ llegara a los mejores 8, o incluso los mejores 4. “Somos considerados la peor región después del Summer Championship… los equipos no nos verán ni aprenderán de lo que hacemos,” añadió Benjamin94, haciendo alusión a la posibilidad de sorprender a los equipos mas fuertes. En conjunto, tanto el equipo como la región confían en su juego, pero solo los resultados van a darles la razón.

“Nadie espera nada de nosotros, por lo que se sentirá muy bien vencer a algunos equipos muy buenos de las regiones mas avanzadas y mostrarles, ya sabes, que somos buenos jugadores”

robadobah

Esa es la voluntad que llevo desde Road to BlizzCon 2015 para vencer a las regiones mayores y probar que ANZ es un legitimo competidor en la escena mundial. Esa fue la luz que guio a robadobah, lo convenció de formar un “súper equipo”, y que mantiene a los chicos juntos pese a una ruptura. Ahora es el momento para que Australia brille.


Gracias enormemente a Arcaner, Benjamin94 y Disconcur por permitirme hablar con ellos y ayudarme a aprender mas acerca de la región ANZ. Sin ellos, este articulo no habría sido posible.

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.

Heroes on My Mind: An Interview with darkmok

DreamHack Summer clip of Darkmok

Photo Credit: DreamHack

This week has been full of ups and downs for darkmok and the crew on Misfits. They finished Gamescom with a second place prize, but unfortunately were not able to secure a spot to BlizzCon and the final Heroes of the Storm championship this year—a crushing defeat for any team. In the aftermath of the event, I got a chance to sit down and interview darkmok about how his past, how he ended up on Misfits, and where the team is headed in lieu of BlizzCon.

On Getting Into Heroes

Let’s jump right in. Can you tell me a little bit about how you ended up playing Heroes professionally? What drew you specifically to this game? How did you end up playing competitively?

Of course. So while still going to school, I was already playing a lot of computer games such as single player RPGs like Gothic 1-3, but also strategy games like Battle of Middle Earth 1-2 and Warcraft 3. I then discovered League of Legends around 2010, played it so much that I, at some point, wanted to give it my everything. And in 2013, I got very close to qualifying for the LCS with the team AVA Prime, but fell short, left my team due to internal issues with our manager and us five players. I still tried to get into the pro scene, but you know, it was really hard, because teams would pick more known players over me just because I was not that famous, so it’d be a risk for them.

Then, at the end of season 4 [and] the beginning of season 5 of league, my friend Blumbi introduced me to Heroes of the Storm.

He wanted me to play the game, because he knew I was gonna be good at it, so I played more and more with him. He’s also the reason I got into the scene so fast, because he was already known. He basically insisted that teams would have to play with him AND me. 😀

So you’ve actually been doing this progaming thing for a while. Do you think that your experience (mechanical, strategic, mindset, w/e) in LoL has prepared you for Heroes of the Storm?

Yes, for sure. I have played League for ~5 years, and of course there are differences between those games, but Heroes was not hard—I didn’t need to last hit, didn’t need to worry about what to buy. And I was an aggressive AD carry in League, playing a lot of Draven and Lucian, so I started of playing aggressive Heroes like the melee assassins and Valla.

I think I was always too reckless, so that’s maybe one of my weaknesses, but I think by now, I’ve improved a lot at that.

But you know, I did invest all my time and energy into LoL, but I never got anything out of it—apart from then succeeding in Heroes haha.

In Heroes, you’re well known for playing bruisers, particularly Thrall and Sonya. How did you end up in that role?

So in the first team I was in—it was with Blumbi, Devizz, Happythermia and RQSux/Cowtard—I was not supposed to be the melee bruiser/assassin since Devizz played a lot of Illidan, etc., but I think I was just better at it by default, so that’s why we swapped. And at some point, I picked up Thrall because Happy suggested it and kept playing the Hero, because I thought he was fun.

I think he’s super clunky for a melee Assassin, especially when you put him side by side with Illidan or Zeratul.

He was! His Windfury made you cancel like almost all of your autos, but I think I managed to not always [mess] up. And then he got buffed and now he feels smooth to play.

Darkmok at DreamHack Summer

Photo Credit: DreamHack

I’m a bit salty, because people called Lowell ‘Green Jesus’ even though I was the only one playing him for months.

That’s true. I know you were playing him long before he was “cool”.

And I was also better at playing him!! People always asked me for talent builds because they had no idea about Thrall.

On Practice

What does a typical practice regimen look like for you? What do you think is the most important thing to spend time practicing? Is it different for pro players versus aspiring players on ladder?

For me personally, it changes depending on if there’s a big tournament coming up or not. But usually, I play Hero League in the morning, then we would start scrimming other teams at like 12 or 13, play until 16, have a break, play again at 17-19, another break, and then finish the day with games with a third team from 20-22.

After that I often played more Hero League. That’s the schedule we had for most of our time this year in mYi/Misfits. Nurok and me probably played the most games since we always went for Hero League. Sometimes we would talk about strategies as well and watch replays, but that’s a lot less now.

I am kind of lazy when it comes down to analyzing my own replays and mistakes. But often I know what I did wrong, so I don’t really need to do that.

Mmm hmm, that’s what they all say.

Haha, I mean you’re right, I should probably look at it, but I sometimes just can’t be bothered with it and would prefer playing another Hero League game over it. But the rest of my team does that, especially HasuObs used to watch a lot of replays and see what went wrong—unfortunately, sometimes immediately after frustrating games, so not the way I wanted it to be. 😛

On Joining Misfits

For those that don’t know, the Misfits organization started as the sister team of League of Legends organization Renegades owned 100% by Chris Mykles (MonteCristo). After the main team was banned from LCS, the sister team broke off and formed its own organization under the moniker of Misfits.

How did you end up finding a new home there? What are some of the perks with being affiliated with a team that has rich roots in MOBAs?

So it was the team’s decision to not sign with mYinsanity again. I personally didn’t need to make a change, since I felt like mYi had done a great job, but at the same time going for something new should never be a bad thing, so we started looking for new sponsors. We did talk with Tempo Storm and Mousesports, but TS picked up the Tempest roster, and then Nurok got in contact with Ben Spoont, the owner of Misfits, who was looking to expand into other games like Heroes of the Storm and Overwatch. So we talked to him and the rest of the org and they were super nice and really—like really—wanted to sign us.

Misfits Heroes of the Storm team with their coach Jowe

Photo Credit: ESL

So that’s what we did, and it’s quite nice because they have a bigger reach than mYi and are growing really fast because they have upcoming teams like the freshly qualified LCS team and the Overwatch team that’s also doing fairly well…and us, of course haha.

With a lot of larger organizations pulling out of Heroes, it’s surprising to see an org like Misfits invest into the scene. Do you agree? Is this something noteworthy?

I mean, I don’t really get why all the organizations are pulling out. Because if you ask me, Heroes has a bigger shot at being a sustainable e-sport than League in the future. And that’s just because LoL has been around for over 6 years and people want changes, the game gets boring. It got boring for me, that’s why I stopped playing in the first place.

I do understand though that the game does not have a large audience, but for teams to pull out of the game, it is not helpful.

So you don’t think the novelty of Heroes will wear off after 3+ years or something like that?

I don’t know, and I don’t have time to think about that if I wanna be the best at what I’m doing. The players that already retired, because they got bored of the game or don’t think it’s worth trying anymore are a bit weak in my eyes. The game is still kind of new and, if Blizzard keeps supporting the game and sells it better, it will continue to run.

I think a big problem is just there are a lot of players who play casually and don’t really care about the pro scene.

Do you think there’s a way to incorporate them into the scene and somehow get them involved in some way?

First of all, Blizzard needed to implement a watch feature right away, and make it visible for everyone that starts the game like they recently started doing. They need to make announcements for tournaments more visible—they need to hype it up more.

On Gamescom

I’m sorry, but we’ve got to talk about Gamescom a little bit. You guys started the year as “underdogs” and become the team to beat. Now everyone expects you to make it to the finals every tournament. What’s it like having been on both ends of the spectrum?

Being the underdog is generally a little easier. You have much less weight on your shoulders because you are not expected to make a big run. You have not as much pressure, and for some, not having pressure is just better for performance. But it was kind of funny because we were still called underdogs when we were winning things, so Blumbi enjoyed that a lot I think.

But in the end, if you are a good team and have the will to win, it should not matter how people see you and how much pressure is on you.

Obviously the end results of the tournament were brutal for you guys, especially after playing so hard and so long that day. Can you walk me through some of your post-tournament thoughts?

Looking back at Gamescom and the games, and then seeing the result that we did not win the tournament feels so bad. I believe we were and currently still are the best European team. I’m not taking anything away from Dignitas and Fnatic, because both of them are super good and worthy opponents, but in my opinion, we lost to ourselves at the last tournament. I watched some of the games we lost and…oh my…did we [mess] up. It was harder to lose those games than to not lose them. Some of the losses are my fault I would say, because in that last game on Cursed Hollow against Fnatic, I called to go for core through mid. My team followed and the call was fine, up until the enemies recalled and I didn’t call my team back. Instead I think I encouraged them to go all in, which is—just looking at the game where not a single kill happened—such a sad ending.

We probably have the best Hero pool out of all the teams, so I think we would also do best against in the international competition—also because we already played the big teams twice in the last two globals.

Misfits advances to the finals

Misfits after their win against Fnatic in the semifinals

Of course you can say we had a long day with almost no breaks and [bad], cold food, but that’s not why we lost.

I mean look at what we did in game 5 against DIG. We decided to go for an all in comp with Butcher on BHB, the map where you can almost always win by just playing the map. And we willingly gave the enemy team Zagara even though we were first pick.

It’s sick that we go crazy in the qualifying game for BlizzCon…like throwing away all the hard work on an impulse.

On The Future

Now that the team isn’t headed for BlizzCon, do you have any off-season plans? Is it just like a short vacation for you guys, or are you using it to train even harder and get an edge going into next year?

We definitely needed to take a vacation after this last tournament. We didn’t have any big breaks this year in between the regionals and the globals, so yeah. Most of us are trying to avoid the game for a bit, so we can start off fresh.

e.g., I spent some time with my girlfriend and funnily enough also played Heroes with her instead of just unplugging from the PC haha—but the rest of my team is not playing at all, I believe.

Do you know if you’ll be participating in the big secret tournament at the end of the year that Blizzard hinted at? If you can’t tell me, just blink twice.

If that tournament turns out to be real and even half as big as they made it sound like, then yes, I believe we will definitely participate. We’re all very competitive players and we don’t want big breaks, we want to keep playing and be the very best!

Wrap-up

I have a totally random question for you. I’m crazy about space right now. What do you think about astrophysics, astronomy, and the future of mankind among the stars?

I think that if I wasn’t playing the game so much and having my brain being focused so much on it, I would worry a lot more about the future of mankind on Earth.

Enigmatic, foreboding. I like it :p. Any last words or shoutouts?

Sorry for being a bit salty about the last tournament. I wish all the best to Fnatic and Dignitas, make Europe proud. And thanks to everyone for cheering for my team and being a fan, because for the first time, I feel like people really, really support me and my team!


EsportsJohn a wood tier scrub who can’t get out of D3. You can follow him on Twitter or support him on Patreon.