Thursday, December 27, 2012

Coming back in the New Year

Hey Guys,

Yes, again it's been a lengthy hiatus since my last post. Ya know, between the Holidays and the consistency of HoN Tour it's been kinda hard to be mad at S2 or any of the players.

I've got a few leads on a story about Tralfamadore supposedly abusing his powers and Limmp and some other people trolling Swindlemelonzz, but frankly none of it has really been that interesting.

I'm sure a lot of you have seen me streaming a lot more often, you can visit me @ www.twitch.tv/s2phil if you want. But you've also seen me trolling a lot of streams as well.

Frankly, when I first started this blog I never thought it would really take off, but the amount of hits it still gets even with no updates is a definite sign that people want to hear not only what I think, but what topics are hot in Heroes of Newerth. So I have decided the following:

I will return hongossip.blogspot.com to what it once was: a place for users to submit content they feel needs to be talked about. I will not censor it, I will only edit it for grammar and post it in my own words. I want to do that because some of you couldn't write your way out of a 5th grade English class and one thing I will not compromise on is correct grammar!

Please, submit any and all gossip/drama/whatever! to hongossip@hotmail.com

Happy Holidays and let's get it HoN!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Real Talkin Episode 2 Feedback

Hey guys,

So it's been awhile since I posted anything at all on this blog, and frankly it's because there is very little worth being passionate about in HoN at the moment. I feel like we're at the point where S2 isn't really doing anything worth being upset about (other than maybe the Australian thing but Aussies need to realize they make up about 7% of the population in HoN Tour, and S2 needs to cater to the vast majority in this instance) and the teams in HoN are pretty stable.

So I figured the best thing to do until we get something worth talking about is to leave a place here for people to post uncensored feedback and comments for the Real Talkin Podcast I am a member of with Swindlemelonzz and mynuts. Similar to how the old Honcast podcast let you post your feedback in the comments section, except here you can be completely anonymous.

The VOD can be found here:

http://www.twitch.tv/melonzz/b/345771494

It's nearly 2 hours long but has some solid discussion from everyone. Special guests this week are Breakycpk from S2/Honcast and DawZ from Trademark eSports' Administration team.

Enjoy!

Friday, November 23, 2012

coL vs ORGE - 1-1 Series knocks out V0TE

No one would be saying anything if it weren't due to the extremely well documented amount of hatred between players on these teams. I didn't watch the games so I won't comment on whether or not I believe coL threw; but I will say that V0TE had every opportunity to not drop games against Complexity, or more importantly in this situation, Orange eSports.

I'm not gonna lie though. After I saw that Complexity was going to be the team that decided who moved on in Group A, I told myself - "Well, that's the end for Gary Johnson."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Team Spotlight and Breakdown: Vitriolic Gaming



Vitriolic Gaming (vtL)

Vitriolic is a team who has been around in some way shape or form for basically the last year. They really started to come together in late January/February and have gone through many many roster changes. Miikeys has always been at the help of the project, but aside from that I think Zaxirok is the longest standing members. Of course most people will remember vtL for two things: their first round loss to Fun in the Sun Gaming (former HoN/DOTA 2 pros like Tarano, PaintitGold and Korok) in the DreamHoN Summer NA Qualifiers, and their more recent success in the DreamHoN Online Summer Championships which landed them a Top 8 finish. Their current starting lineup consists of Miikeys, Zaxirok, Parakletos, Bitchzlapped and FearTheZap. Vitriolic Gaming has attained much success thus far in the tournament having already secured a spot in the Diamond Division of HoN Tour Season One Cycle One. I have been keeping an eye on this team for a few months because of the affiliation of some of their members with the SBT (Super Beta Testers) of Heroes of Newerth, namely Parakletos and Bitchzlapped. The SBT guys are always talking about strategy stuff with S2 employees, namely wza, and run interesting lineups compared to what people are used to seeing.

Key Heroes: Sand Wraith, Chipper, Kinesis, Bubbles, Empath, Tempest, Glacius

I'm not exactly sure what the deal is with Chipper and Sand Wraith and why it's been so successful. I'm not sure if it's a situation of them not really playing vs anyone good or just that there is some secret combination between the heroes. Being the diligent researcher I am, I went into their past few games to try and uncover the secret this team is hiding. I guess it helps that Sand Wraith has always been considered the hardest of hard carries, offering very little in the early game to get to that late game stage. The thing is, with the psuedo-trilane meta, there is always one carry getting nothing but free farm. While many teams choose heroes like Silhouette and The Dark Lady to assist them come late game, Vitriolic has chosen to utilize Sand Wraith. In each game that I watched of theirs with Sand Wraith picked, Parakletos was able to get his Mock of Brilliance at around the 20 minute mark or earlier (depending on his assists and kills after getting his ult.) He maxes Desert's Curse and Deserted first, then maxes out Dissipate after. Pretty standard overall.

I don't know if people really paid attention when the hero was buffed in the past when S2 added the Bonus True Damage to Heroes under the affect of Desert's Curse. The change in this ability means he can be more influential in early team fights and helping to set up ganks with additional damage output. 45 True Damage + Standard Damage means that most Sand Wraith players at Level 9 are putting out about 115-130 Damage per hit. This will shred most supports, and because of the increased assist gold you get, it means your already stellar free farm from the safe lane is getting larger.

Vitriolic runs Chipper mid, this has good parts and bad parts. The bad part is that you're in a 2v1 lane typically, meaning that the other team likely has a ranged hero who is going to try and keep you out of experience range while their mid gets the farm. Most of the time this hero is someone like Pebbles or Magmus looking to get that fast Portal Key. The good part about this is that Chipper can CS pretty well with Rocket Barrage. Level 1 Rockets only cost 40 mana and have 80 damage, allowing you the ability to CS from a safe position while also not pushing the lane like Thunderbringer's Chain Lightning would. His E ability "Focus Buffer" also allows for massive Magic Damage absorption, up to 500 at Level 4. This is typically what vtL will max out along with Rocket Barrage. This actually meshes very well with Sand Wraith's E ability "Dissipate" as he's already getting additional Damage Reduction. The slow affected of Desert's Curse helps Chipper land Rockets as well as keeping enemies on Sawblade Showdown for a bit longer allowing for massive damage at pretty much all stages of the game.

Almost all of this teams strategies are based on AOE teamfight and initiation. FearTheZap plays a lot of Tempest and Keeper and is known to land some decent sized ults when need be. Kinesis is another favored hero of this Vitriolic, typically played by Bitchzlapped and let me say, this guy on Kinesis makes Jeppin's Kinesis look like AMXZaku's Chipper. Again, because this team plays with AOE heroes, Kinesis is able to really show his effectiveness when paired with heroes like Tempest, Keeper of the Forest and Bubbles, all of which Vitriolic can and will use when allowed to.

ZaxiroK wins a majority of his suicide lanes when he plays Bubbles as well, often times getting the Bloodlust kill, even against heroes like Silhouette. He also does the early warding for Vitriolic and typically wards the same two places in every game. One inside the pull camp trees, as mentioned earlier, and the other depends on what faction he's playing. If he's playing Legion, typically he will ward the top Rune near the Hellbourne ramp to the mid lane. A small side note: I noticed that he takes a path through the Observatory then up the ramp nearest the mid lane, then to the left towards the jungle entrance and then up next to the easy camp and will ward from the right of the pull camp instead of beneath it. If he's playing Hellbourne, it will depend on whether or not he is playing vs a jungler. If he is, he will ward the top medium camp to get Rune vision as well as block the spawn, however he places the rune in such a way so as not to have vision of the jungle beneath him. This leaves that side lane open to ganks from jungle heroes as well as roaming supports. Basically early game this is one team you won't be worrying about not being able to buy counters until 1:30 if your goal is to roam and gank.

Vitriolic's warding in mid-game is usually defensive even when their team is doing well. Miikeys tends to ward along the river throughout the mid-game, making sure that their hard carry can see everything that's going on. He also tends to ward spots "in the moment" instead of warding with a future plan. So if they are going to attempt a tower dive on the Legion's bottom tower, even if the goal is to kill people there and immediately take the tower, they will probably ward prior to. It's not always in the lane however, Miikeys will ward in the jungle as well to keep vision on the pull camp as well as possible players waiting for Vitriolic to take the bait. One thing that is very consistent is that they will ward the opposing teams suicide lane to watch for incoming TP's to help take the lane back. Vitriolic has done this upwards into the 20 minute mark in some games. Another thing I've noticed is that Vitriolic doesn't usually upgrade the chicken if they are running a jungle hero. Even when Miikeys gets 200 Gold, there is typically some delay before he will upgrade. A well time jungle gank could lead to an early courier kill. 

The key to Vitriolic is mostly Parakletos, as the drafter and play-caller for the team as well as the hard carry. Bitchzlapped plays carry as well from time to time, but he typically fills the solo mid role on heroes like Chipper and Kinesis. ZaxiroK as already mentioned is just a super solid suicide player and FearTheZap does well on initiation style junglers. The weakest part of the team is actually the "captain" Miikeys, who fills the support role. Teams scheduled to play vs Vitriolic would best be served by looking for opportunities to try and keep Parakletos down and capitalizing on Miikeys often poor positioning and defensive mid-game warding. Play aggressive vs Vitriolic to put them on tilt, as they are the one of the least experienced Top 10 teams and are susceptible to teams who force them to play at a different pace than they are used to.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tt eSPORTS Continues to Depress

No, I'm not talking about Tt eSports being an unimpressive team. I'm talking about this being the 3rd Dreamhack event in a row where the leader of this long standing team are forced to make a last minute substitute. Before getting into the current events, lets have a little history lessson.


Dreamhack Winter 2011: MSI Beat IT! Tournament

The MSI Beat IT tournament was one of the largest HoN tournaments at the time, with an impressive prize pool of nearly $35,000 and the first time online qualifiers dictated the invitational teams. In Beat IT Qualifier 5, budding Australian powerhouse Frenetic Array was able to snag the final spot to Dreamhack Winter. Here is a VOD from Honcast back when I was a caster (special guest appearance from Sn3yking) and it's worth checking out if you would like to see how far this team really has come. Shortly before they were to attend Dreamhack they were forced to find a substitute player for BoBo, at which point they hit up DirgeSnoopy who was in the middle of transitioning to DOTA 2. They ended up coming in 2nd place at Dreamhack Winter 2011.

Dreamhack Summer 2012: DreamHoN Summer

The DreamHoN Summer tournament was the largest HoN LAN tournament to date. In the DreamHoN Summer Regional Qualifier, Frenetic Array once again showed their dominance as not only a top team in Australia, but one of the best teams in the world. They easily dispatched every team in the Oceanic qualifier and was one of three teams who were a lock to finish in the money. Around this time, many people thought they were the #1 team in the world with Fnatic transitioning to DOTA 2; the only real contest to them were Trademark eSports. Due to the nature of the Regional lock-out, Fray (who became TteS shortly after securing their spot at DHS) was forced to make a choice between LeonBlack` and Riser_ and bring BoBo_ as their 6th man. Already facing stiff competition and now being forced to use a player they hadn't used in quite some time, TteS was still a force to be reckoned with. TteS was then met with a near crippling loss when dabeliuteef was no longer able to travel to Dreamhack, something they found out literally at the airport on his way to Dreamhack. TteS once again found a last minute sub in Mynuts, and aided the team in reaching the Grand Finals once again; and once again finishing in 2nd place.


So that brings us current with Dreamhack Winter 2012 a mere 3 weeks away. And once again, in what seems to be a recurring trend with this team, roster changes are being made. Riser_ who was unable to attend DHS 2012 due to the regional lockout will no longer be attending Dreamhack Winter 2012 and will instead be replaced by Domain of Pain (formerly known as The Returners) utility/suicide player Jeppins. While Jeppins is a great player, TteS is going to have to be extremely active in the scrim scene to ensure their success at Dreamhack Winter. The only tournament still going on at the moment is HoN Tour, in which Jeppins cannot participate with TteS. While many people, including myself, believe that there is a much shorter time to assimilate a top level player to a top tier teams culture, this is Dreamhack Winter; the biggest international HoN LAN event ever conceptualized. I think a lot of people were thinking this was the year for Tt eSPORTS to finally take home the gold, but with the loss of Riser_ is it still possible?

I think not. As much as I love Tt eSPORTS, they face the loss of a key player, the addition of a new player and the inexperience of Moiravus in a LAN setting. The redeeming factor is of course the abilities of SLiCKz and Wyt` on LAN. With this setback, I don't put TteS in the Grand Finals game, falling for the first time in their history at Dreamhack to the 3 spot.

Friday, November 2, 2012

REAL TALK Podcast with Phil Haller, Kyle Freedman and Liv Vesterheim

Hey all! Just a short little post about an upcoming podcast that I will be co-hosting that will take place on Saturday, November 3rd and most likely each Saturday after that. The time hasn't been 100% confirmed yet but I will update this post with it as soon as I know. The podcast will feature topics about Heroes of Newerth, eSports in general as well as some real life discussions.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

HoN Insider Podcast: Why I Didn't Show Up

Edit included at the bottom of the article about how Raawrr feels like he's gotta lie to fly:

Been awhile since I'd written anything, mostly due to real life obligations but also because there hasn't really been anything worth having me write about. Sure there has been stuff going on in HoN like all of these prepubescent competitive players trying to stream snipe Swindlemelonzz, or S2's newest shitty hero, Pearl, who represents the pinnacle of poor hero design. But really, neither of those things got me fired up enough to write about them; although Pearl is getting close. I just watched a guy who has 100 games played with a 0.3 KDR go 12-1 with this hero because, even though her positioning and items were terrible, there was just no way to get to her because all of her skills are fucking retarded.

I've been watching a bit of the forums over the past 3 days, especially as I was getting ready to co-host the new Heroes of Newerth podcast "HoN Insider" with Raawr, FJ and megabever. In case you don't know, I post under the name DiscoInferno now, because I can no longer log in to the forums with The_Thrill for some unexplained reason. I was looking for topics to discuss that I knew the community was looking to hear my opinion on and also had received a good amount of questions via Skype. Along with questions on Skype I also got this message from Raawr in the group chat we were in:

[10/25/2012 12:40:00 PM] alex powell: ok guys
[10/25/2012 12:40:14 PM] alex powell: some news
[10/25/2012 12:40:29 PM] alex powell: The Show will be supported by S2games
[10/25/2012 12:41:20 PM] alex powell: this means that there are some rules
[10/25/2012 12:41:38 PM] alex powell: a) Any insult towards a Member of S2games is not acceptable.

Which I was fine with, I don't really have beef with anyone at S2 aside from one or two people but those people its because of personal issues that would probably destroy their public image, and I'm not really down with that. Apparently the "support" was going to be promotion via their "social media" which turned out to be a Honcast Facebook post (say "wooo" and twirl your finger in the air now for maximum effect) and not a post on the actual S2 Games/Heroes of Newerth Facebook. And don't give me that shit that the "Community Rundown" post was supposed to be the social media support either, because no one actually reads it. There was no in-game messaging (the most powerful of HoN's social media marketing tools) or any other official support from anyone outside of Honcast. Anyway, rewinding back to where I was reading Skype:

[10/25/2012 12:58:45 PM] alex powell: "Also the fact that they referred to the launch of HoN Tour and its failure as being a "Sneak Peek" is just outright laughable, almost to the point of being insulting to anyone who participated in it." - Quote from the post underneath this one.
[10/25/2012 12:58:58 PM] alex powell: that would be a little too much
[10/25/2012 12:59:15 PM] alex powell: i want to keep the show mannered

At this point, I'm starting to realize that Raawrr is talking to people at S2, and they are basically telling him what can and can't be said or they will drop their "support." I don't understand how that quote is bad mannered anyway. When I used to make "announcements of announcements" on the forums for things like DreamHoN Online Summer Championships people would get so made that I was just teasing them or not providing all the information all at once. This is an even worse travesty. Working on a project for nearly two years then when it launches and causes all kinds of system failures you just say "hey dudes, hope you liked this sneak peek!" people are going to get mad. I'm not even playing in HoN Tour and I'm insulted.

Either way, I just let that pass and figured I would just stick to what I do best, which is give an educated opinion using my usual Real Talk style of casting when I podcast. It's what I became known for when I was doing the Honcast Weekly Podcast and a lot of people tune in just to hear what I have to say. Not because I'm some professional player with high level insight, but because I'm an "every man's man" and I break it down Barney style for people to understand issues without the fluff. So Saturday morning comes around and its about an hour before the podcast. I'm in between awake and asleep but figure I'll go hop in the shower and fix my hair so I look somewhat presentable on webcam. Around 9:40AM I come back to the computer and see this on Skype:

[10/27/2012 9:12:24 AM] alex powell: hey, just wanted to let you know before the cast, that please dont talk number of S2's spendings, I dont want ayn trouble over something so irrelevant

To which I respond:

[10/27/2012 9:44:22 AM] Phil "The_Thrill" Haller: something they brought up to you?

And then:

[10/27/2012 9:44:28 AM] alex powell: yes
[10/27/2012 9:45:02 AM] alex powell: i want to have you on
[10/27/2012 9:45:16 AM] alex powell: cause you are probably the person with the most knowledge about comp hon
[10/27/2012 9:45:20 AM] Phil "The_Thrill" Haller: its okay
[10/27/2012 9:45:22 AM] alex powell: and s2 will also promote
[10/27/2012 9:45:24 AM] Phil "The_Thrill" Haller: I think i'll back out

So, what everyone came here to see and to debunk any misinformation:

S2 did NOT remove me from the show or require that someone else remove me from the show. I decided not to participate of my own volition. 

Now the question is: Why?

Basically it was three reasons:

1. I probably would not have said anything about specifics or numbers related to any expenditures anyway, but the fact that S2 is contacting this guy and trying to trade promotion for "control" over me is pretty insulting. It's not like I was getting paid for this podcast, and I'm pretty sure I could start a one man show on my stream and get more viewers than this podcast was going to get anyway (maxed out around 180 I heard? I didn't watch until near the end.)

2. I would have most likely said some things that S2 Games would not have liked. Not because I'd be breaking the NDA but because I know the people at the company. I know what their everyday work load entails and having that kind of information means I can accurately portray why things are the way they are in Heroes of Newerth with little to no research. Ultimately this would have probably ended up with S2 contacting Raawrr to have me removed from the podcast anyway, so I figured I'd save him a step.

3. I know that I'll never work for S2 again, so doing an official S2/Honcast supported project for free no longer appeals to me. And I realized, finally, that it's kind of absurd to promote the company that let me go, not because I did something wrong, but for a mysterious reason that really was never fully explained even when I asked them about it. We're going in a different direction is not an explanation.

So there you have it guys, the full reason as to why I wasn't on the podcast this past Saturday. Now that things are starting to happen with HoN Tour, I would expect to see more posts on this blog. So keep me bookmarked and I'll tell you the real reasons why things are the way they are in this game we all love to play.

¡Viva la RevoluciĆ³n!

 

Edit: I just read on Reddit this little gem from the forums:
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Now, the removal of Phil was last minute, because he was not replying before. If any of you have read Phils blog before, you will notice that it has its spots where you could say it was unnecessary to say things like that.

I would have removed him earlier if would have replied to me earlier. For me this is not a big loss, yes Phil knows a lot when it comes to the competitive scene, but my show will not be a center of drama and flame."
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I don't know why this guy feels the need to lie to people, especially when I can provide all Skype logs he's ever sent to me. He talks about how he would have "removed me" before hand when in fact up until I removed myself, he was still 100% ready to go with me on the show. If you watch FJ's stream from before the podcast started you can hear them talk about it and how worried he sounded about me not being on. Way to make yourself look like a complete toolbag Raawrr.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

HoN Tour First Impressions

After a myriad of problems with the HoN Tour software, HoN Tour has been delayed a full week.

Honestly, I can't say that I'm too surprised. S2 has been working on HoN Tour for nearly 2 years in some capacity, but almost all of it was creating the format, the website and the tournament API. It wasn't until a few months ago when the process of automating the system was even introduced and from what I'd heard the testing process only lasted a couple of weeks in the SBT client, so stress testing it was probably out of the question.

This isn't the first time something like this has happened either. Back when S2 launched the DreamHoN Qualifiers for Dreamhack Summer 2012 as well as the DreamHoN Online Summer Championships there were also issues that had to be addressed. Mostly with the fact that any time more than 5 people wanted to use the website at the same time, it would crash. Of course all of these things ended up being fixed by the time DreamHoN Redemption and Destination Dreamhack arrived, and that portal will likely be used for future Dreamhack tournaments as well. Back to HoN Tour though...

Following the announcement of the delay, a statement was released by the Competitive Commissioner Sam "Milkfat" Braithwaite on the forums and on hontour.com which I will copy and paste here:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
To begin, we would like to sincerely apologize for today's events. Due to the unexpected server errors we experienced today with the HoN Tour tournament platform, we have decided to postpone the HoN Tour Qualifiers for one week. We identified the problem and we are working to have it fixed as soon as possible.


We will re-launch the HoN Tour Qualifiers on Saturday, October 27th, due to the nature of this event and the effects these changes will have on the schedule.

All match results from today, Saturday, October 20th, will not be taken into consideration once the tournament is re-launched, in order to maintain the integrity of the Qualifiers. We are also going to re-open the sign ups for the Qualifiers, giving everyone another chance to sign-up and compete.

The schedule for the HoN Tour Qualifiers will also be changed allowing all matches to take place during the weekends. The new schedule will be posted at hontour.com by tomorrow evening.

All teams who signed up for today's Qualifiers don't have to do anything to re-enter. When sign ups open again tomorrow, anyone who missed the sign ups for this Qualifier (October 20th) and would like to sign-up for the October 27th Qualifiers should click the sign-up button found at the Qualifier's Event page.


We remind you that in order to receive a seed and to be placed in the upper divisions of HoN Tour at launch, a team should compete in the double elimination Qualifiers. However any team may participate in any HoN Tour Event Cycle by signing up and participating in a Bronze Division tournament at first.

We are still extremely excited to see everyone compete in HoN Tour and hope that today's sneak peek of the new and improved Honcast indicates the many great things to come. We will also be adding 300 silver coins to each account that signed-up for today's Qualifiers.


- Sam "Milkfat"
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A couple of big things are mentioned here that are worth talking about; the scheduling change, and the fact that all first round matches are being thrown out. Also the fact that they referred to the launch of HoN Tour and its failure as being a "Sneak Peek" is just outright laughable, almost to the point of being insulting to anyone who participated in it.

First: The scheduling change. The scheduling change makes a lot of sense. Moving everything to weekends. This is a great move by S2 and only happened because of the huge community outcry. There are people at S2 who, just a couple months ago, were completely and adamantly against any kind of rescheduling when I was trying to get a match slider implemented. The match slider was supposed to make it so that if two teams wanted to reschedule, all they had to do was slide their match to the agreed upon time and have their opponents do that same, and that info would relay to the automated HoN Tour platform. Sounded easy enough and when I spoke with the programmers they said it would be possible. I can go on here and make people look bad, but the point is they finally changed it. It just took a swarm of players instead of one competent Director of eSports.

Second: The matches being thrown out. Look, I understand that you want to get more teams signed up for HoN Tour and when that happens you're going to have to redo the brackets and schedule (by the way, I heard they changed the brackets like... a couple hours before the matches were scheduled? Someone confirm in the comments section please.) But it's gonna be pretty crappy for those teams who did play to just be like "oh sorry, you don't get the win." This hasn't had much of an outcry.. YET, but once teams who won during the first day of the "sweet sneak peek" qualifiers end up losing their first round matchups people are going to complain. The smart thing to do would be to advance those teams who won into the next round and schedule any new teams to HoN Tour against one another and inject them into the new bracket. This is assuming that the brackets will change by having additional teams and teams will face new opponents. If teams will face the same opponents then there is no way that removing team wins is acceptable. 

 
Not everything from HoN Tour's launch was bad however. I was really excited to see the new Honcast studio and all of the new production elements that they were going to bring. The Honcast studio has been more or less done for the last 3 months, and since that time I've been patiently awaiting the moment when I could witness the power of a $200,000 studio put into place. I have to say that for a first showing I was impressed. I thought that transitions were smooth and looked nice, I though the studio looked pretty good but needed some work. Both Breaky and Tralf wore button up shirts with jackets and ties which was a nice change from Breaky wearing a Foo Fighters shirt. They also both looked very alert and rested, which is also kind of a change from normal as Tralf usually looks like he just came off a bender at the beginning of each cast.

Anyway, I know a lot of people have been looking forward to HoN Tour for a long time and there are a lot of upset people out there. I would probably be upset too if I were competing or waiting for this to launch. But the truth is, S2 still has the opportunity to fix this and relaunch next week (on Halloween celebration weekend.) They just need to commit to making it right and communicating with the players, which has been pretty fail from my perspective.

Big shoutout to MrOldShadow, Inklin, Chuck64 and Snoopy who had to deal with the shitstorm as the HoN Tour admins. Keep fighting the good fight brothers (and sister.)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

HoN Marketing Event: Zenith to take on Impunity in HoN matchup

There's been a little bit of hype around this on the forums. Apparently iceiceice of Team Zenith (DOTA 2 professional team) will be organizing a match against Impunity from the SEA region. I've read some of the posts on the forums about this and one really sticks out to me as being accurate:

Originally Posted by TheMikey



"Is it just me or does Zenith have a big free roll here. I mean they are "expected" to lose simply because 6 weeks of practice is nothing compared to players on Impunity some of who have been playing for over three years now. At this point, the basics just become second nature to them.

So if Zenith loses, no big deal, everyone will say - "oh they were supposed to lose, but they were close, lets see how impunity would fare at Dota", but if Impunity loses, all hell will break lose, and people from entire Dota scene will think they are superior to HoN players."


Truer words have never been spoken TheMikey! The reason I really don't like this matchup is because there is already a lot of "HoN vs DOTA 2" talk that has died down since The International passed and with HoN Tour coming up, it seems like people from both camps are content.

I think we all understand this is supposed to be a marketing event by Garena SEA to try and cross pollinate between the two games and draw some of the DOTA loyalists in SEA into Heroes of Newerth. But I do have some concerns:

1st. Who is going to watch this? I can't really find information about SEA viewership when it comes to streaming outside of their twitch channel (http://www.twitch.tv/garenahonsea) which has ultra low viewership numbers even for huge matchups.

2nd. What does Zenith and iceiceice have to lose from this matchup? Just like the poster from the forums said, if Impunity loses to Zenith then its going to be "hontresh" all over again. And if Impunity wins, they don't really gain anything as 6 weeks is not really the longest amount of time in the world to practice a game in an attempt to beat a top tier SEA team.

3rd. Marketing goes both ways. Any marketing partnership (in this case between Zenith and Heroes of Newerth) is going to strive to effectively reward both parties. 99% of the time one party comes out ahead further, but still. Zenith vs Impunity will inevitably draw attention to Zenith as well as DOTA 2. Maybe because HoN already has a strong hold in SEA they aren't worried about that?

This reminds me of when TGO (Puppey, Loda, Kebap and others) formed a short lived HoN team back in GameReplays Season 4. During one of the qualifier round, TGO beat EG in a Best of 1 matchup. Now granted this EG was a complete joke (YoDa, DoDo, Bdiz, Riser_ before he was good, and Fujiapples who had just returned from 3 months without internet) they still had the old reputation they had with Chu and Bkid and good Fujiapples and this lead to Puppey being able to talk about how "with 3 weeks of practice we were able to beat the best team in HoN." Of course he never talks about the times he got pooped on by unZ, wahlin and tons of other dumpy teams in the GosuCup Amateur brackets, but why would he? He beat EG! This really is similar. If Zenith wins this, it will be nothing but NEGATIVE attention for Heroes of Newerth and Impunity. So yes, Zenith has nothing to lose and everything to gain from this matchup.

I know this is a Garena event, but Zenith has been a Top 5 team in the WORLD in DOTA for the past two years. Why are they playing Impunity? I know a few of their players and I hate to sound like an asshole, but Impunity wouldn't last 30 minutes against a top 5 HoN team right now.

Here's hoping Garena hasn't completely dicked over Heroes of Newerth in the international scene, regardless of what happens with HoN.SEA.

Monday, October 15, 2012

DreamHoN Grand Finals Matchups

After a couple of weeks of pretty intense gameplay we are finally going to figure out the last three NA/EU teams to make their way to Sweden for Dreamhack Winter 2012's DreamHoN Winter Champsionship (which, unless they changed it, is called DreamHoN II: Champions of Newerth) tournament. As expected, the 6 teams I had predicted would finish Top 3 and move into the final stage of the Destination Dreamhack tournament with three seperate Best of 5 deathmatch games.

The matchups are as follows:

Gary Johnson 2012 vs Pikachu :: October 16, 2012 @ 12:00 EST/18:00 CEST
Tt eSPORTS vs Lions Electronics Sportsclub :: October 17, 2012 @ 12:00 EST/18:00 CEST
Q sQuad vs Bunker Down :: October 18, 2012 @ 12:00 EST/18:00 CEST

Since I like typing, I will break down each matchup individually and highlight what I believe the strengths and weaknesses of each team are.

Gary Johnson 2012 vs Pikachu

You've heard it on Honcast, and if you've been watching the competitive scene for the last couple of months you already know why, but this is probably going to be the best matchup of the entire tournaments. This matchup has everything: great teams, well known individual players, and the fact that Swinde and Zfreek both played for Pika during DreamHoN Redemption a mere three weeks ago. The only downside is that one of these teams will not be going to Dreamhack no matter what happens since there is no BYOC, and I think they're both very close to being in the Top 5 teams in HoN.

Gary Johnson:

GJ 2012 looked pretty much unstoppable in Group A which far and away had the highest competition. While some of their matches came down to all three games being played, they still finished the group stage 7-0. One of the reasons this team is so hard to beat is how quickly they adapt both during the picking stage as well as mid-game. Swindlemelonzz may be critical at times of what his team is doing, but he is also very critical of himself and does not need to watch a replay to notice his mistakes. This is one of the reasons why GJ2012 has a leg up on most of its competitors, he can call effective and accurate audibles on the fly. The other thing that makes this team a nightmare is the amount of utility they have, meaning you never really know who is on what role until the picking stage ends and that makes it hard to plan an effective laning phase against them. Aside from Sender who plays support there isn't much of a case for calling this team "cookie-cutter." Tempest picked? Could be Zfreek in the jungle, or it could be Swindle in the suicide lane. Pebbles? Could be Swindlemelonzz farming safe lane or it could be Skyzoe in a dual mid role. You really just never know what they're going to do, and they all do what they do very well. Key heroes for this team are Pebbles, Tempest, Keeper of the Forest, War Beast, Fayde, Tremble, and Aluna.

Pikachu:

Pika ended up 5-2 with a close 2-1 loss to Lions but just yesterday dropped a series 2-0 vs Black Sheep. I'm not sure if that makes me think more of Black Sheep or less of Pikachu to be quite honest. I have also wondered about the possibility of taking a strategic loss to play Gary Johnson 2012 over Tt eSPORTS, but since Pikachu were not going to move up the 2nd place even with a 2-0 victory (they would have been tied with Lions but lost to them in H2H) I don't think that's the case. I wonder about that in a few cases though and for anything future planned like this. If you know who you're playing ahead of time and you're guaranteed to be in the finals, why wouldn't you try to select your opponent....I dunno, food for thought I guess. ANYWAY, Pikachu has been around for awhile and tried a couple different players here and there. During the past 3 DreamHoN online events they have used 3 different rosters, each time keeping the same core players however, and this is what keeps Pikachu a very strong team. Buch has been in the scene for a really long time and definitely knows how to win. Gordob and Nir have recently been kind of the stand out players for Pikachu however, with Nir often times filling to jungle role and Gordob functioning as the drafter and playing some really impressive Pollywog Priest. The newest members of this tournaments roster are OwnedMe (I think he's new) and Probusk who have both also been playing very well. There isn't really anything to point out that is gonna blow peoples minds. This is just a team with a very very solid understanding of the game and great mechanics. Key heroes for this team  are Bubbles, Pollywog Priest, Silhouette, Pharaoh, and one of the leftover jungle heroes.

The Match:

If both teams are at the top of their game, I can honestly see this one going to 5. Ultimately however, I have Gary Johnson 2012 coming out on top in 4 games. I think Pikachu will take game 3 by utilizing some interesting heroes after getting beaten in a long 1st match and a quick 2nd match. Pikachu has a nasty habit of not banning Fayde, so expect GJ 2012 to take advantage of that for the first game at least. Final score: GJ 2012 > Pikachu - 3:1


Tt eSPORTS vs Lions Electronic Sportsclub

Here we have a matchup between Tt eSPORTS who has a great reputation at Dreamhack with two consecutive 2nd place finishes (yes I know rosters are different) and one of the hardest teams to judge in the scene. I really want to believe that Lions is a top 5 team, but it's just so damn hard to tell.

Tt eSPORTS:

I'm a very harsh critic at times and I feel that maybe I have been feeling a bit harshly about Tt eSPORTS. Without a doubt a lot of my feelings of them dropping off was a result of their loss to The Returners. This isn't meant to say that I think The Returners are a bad team, simply that a team with the pedigree of Tt eSPORTS should not be losing to a group of guys who really had very little experience if any playing together. This is also compounded by the loss they took to Gary Johnson 2012 who also has not been playing together for a long time; although swindle, zfreek and sender have a lot of history playing together back during the early days of Trademark eSports. They finished their group 5-2 however with a 2-0 victory over Q sQuad. Tt eSPORTS likes to run Magmus and LeonBlack` is probably one of the most dominant Magmus players there is in HoN to date (no Swagmus but then again who is) and they have one of the most consistent rosters in competitive Heroes of Newerth. The most recent addition to this team is Moiravus who took the place of dabeliuteef and I think that's where a lot of my trepidation lies when forecasting this teams matches. Moiravus is a great player, but he doesn't have any of "big show" experience and his last team (Clan Milk) completely buckled after an incredible 7-0 start in the Group of Death (Group D) during the DreamHoN Online Summer Championships. SLiCKz is known to play a wide variety of heroes extremely well, making their drafting stage very difficult to predict; which works as an advantage for them. Key heroes for this team are Forsaken Archer, Witch Slayer, Pebbles, Magmus, and Bubbles.

Lions Electronic Sportsclub:

Lions advanced through the tournament with a 6-1 record, however 3 of those wins were forfeit wins and including a match that got rescheduled and forfeit anyway. It's not that these guys don't deserve to be here, it just makes it really hard to tell exactly what level of success they're possible of achieving. Group B was far easier than Group A as far as extraneous competition, and they did play the teams that were going to finish Top 3 in the group. Still, I wish they would have played Black Sheep so I could learn more about both teams. Lions, formerly Druidz, formerly Decerto, formerly 90s, also recently underwent some roster changes, leaving behind former "leader" PhilMcHunt and replacing him with Krebsen who plays seemingly EVERY hero in the game. I've seen him on hard carry, jungle, support and initiator and he seems to be very good. Handsken and Superkge are probably two of the most forgotten/underrated players in the competitive scene. Key heroes for this team or Moraxus, Fayde, Demented Shaman, Silhouette, and occasionally Master of Arms.

The Match:

Tt eSPORTS has an unique advantage over most teams. Since they have two Australian teams they usually get to play on US West servers. The reason this is so beneficial is that despite having two players with 250 ping (they are used to it, so its not really that much of a disadvantage) their three North American players are all West Coast players meaning they have about 50 ping at any given time. Because Lions is an entirely European team, they will most likely be looking at around 180 ping per person. Both of these teams have a good chance to win here, despite the ping advantage Tt eSPORTS have and if Lions is able to put SLiCKz on tilt and take advantage of Moiravus nerves they may come out ahead. I'm going to all 5 games with this one. Final score: TteS > LION - 3:2



Q sQuad vs Bunker Down

This is actually a very interesting match. It's gonna be EU vs EU so server selection won't be an issue here. Both teams have been around for awhile and both teams have players with experience at Dreamhack events prior to this upcoming one.

Q sQuad:

So I think it's pretty well known by know that sQy is NoVa, formerly of Fnatic fame. QsQ started out as a project for him to not only find his own team but also help other high level players reach their top tier. QsQ started off relatively quiet during DreamHoN:OSC but ended with a lot of people looking at them as they finished 2nd behind Pikachu in Group A and beat out teams like Lions, Orange eSports, unZ and SdS. Though they did not meet with much success in the OSC quarter finals stages, they really showed some power in the Redemption tournament where they placed 4th behind Tt eSports. Finishing 5-2 with losses to Tt eSPORTS and Gary Johnson 2012, during Destination Dreamhack they have received quite a bit of attention especially because of players like Malle and NoX; who have had some absolutely stellar performances. In their 1st group stage game vs The Returners they finished AngryTestie and crew off in just two games, which was casted by Honcast and drew much attention to the ricing capabilities of NoX. NoVa has also proven that he is capable drafter and captain utilizing heroes that have not seen much attention in the competitive scene. Key heroes for this team are Voodoo Jester, Parasite, Dark Lady, Forsaken Archer and Pharaoh. 

Bunker Down:

Bunker Down comes into their finals match from the Top of Group B with a 6-1 record, their only loss coming at the hands of Pikachu. Bunker Down (former 15) added Zetpro and Rythme to their roster in between the DreamHoN tournaments and they've been doing a phenomenal job accentuating Bassets already stable roster. Bunker Down finished off all of their opponents off using mostly AOE style lineups. Favoring aggressive midgame strategies seems to have been their key to success in this tournament. This team reminds me a lot of Pikachu actually, which explains why their games were so close. The are very mechanically sounds and don't really run many off the wall heroes. This is a strength and a weakness going up against Q sQuad however, who runs many strategies and adapts very well at the picking stage. Key heroes for this team are Pollywog Priest, Pharaoh, Tempest, Aluna, Nymphora, and Magmus

The Match:

This could get ugly real quick for Bunker Down. sQy does a pretty good job at the picking stage and if Bassets is caught off guard they could get screwed really early and allow QsQ to jump off to a free one game lead. Ultimately I see Bunker Down buckling down however and taking this series all the way to five games and pulling off a surprise upset against the boys of Q sQuad. Except at least one game to go over an hour, maybe even two games. Final Score: BUNK > QsQ - 3:2


Final Breakdown (for lazy people)

These matches look a lot more even than they did when I was doing my predictions mid group stage. Especially seeing weakness in teams like Tt eSPORTS and Q sQuad who came into this tournament as the #1 and #2 favorites, things could get very interesting. Either way, we're only a few days away from knowing at least eight of the ten teams who will be attending Dreamhack Winter 2012.

GJ 2012 > Pika - 3:1
TteS > LION - 3:2
BUNK > QsQ - 3:2

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Returners vs Q sQuad: Why the HoN community needs to wake up

I was planning on writing an article based on this subject one way or another but after it got hairy in the servers, I knew there was going to be some drama on the forums. But, before we address that, lets start at the top of the situation at hand.

There were seven possibilities in total regarding the outcome of the matches today.

1. Returners win and Q sQuad loses; Returners advance via record
2. Returners lose and Q sQuad loses; Q sQuad advances via record
3. Both teams lose, Q sQuad loses 2-1, Returners lose 2-0; Q sQuad advances via points
4. Both teams lose, Returners lose 2-1, Q sQuad loses 2-0: Returners advance via points
5. Both teams win, Returners win 2-0, Q sQuad wins 2-1; Returners advance via points
6. Both teams win, Returners win 2-1, Q sQuad wins 2-0; Q sQuad advances via points
7. Both teams win 2-0, Q sQuad advances over Returners due to Head-to-Head matchup

First I need to address the issue I have with record, points, h2h. Let me say that in a two way tie, points should be IRRELEVANT. The only time points should be the deciding factor is in a three way tie and even then where the teams have defeated each other. The reason why record comes first is because you ultimately want to put the importance on winning the series. However, in the case of QsQ vs RET, there is zero reason to go to points because in a two way tie, the two teams have played one another. QsQ should have moved on as long as they beat Team Kierk no matter if they beat them in two games or three. The strength of the win is not important in a tie break scenario. I hope that Milkfat and the other admins who are administrating future tournaments will take this into consideration, as Head to Head always takes precedence. This is consistent with Tennis, NFL, NHL and basically any other professional sport rulings out there.

So on to today's games. Basically everyone knew that both teams were going to win going into it. I would say that probably 90% of people expected a 2-0 win for QsQ over Team Kierk, but with FyKu recently putting on some strong performances, and the lack of AngryTestie on the field, everyone was wondering about the fate of The Returners. First up was supposed to be QsQ vs Team Kierk, but Team Kierk decided that reading the schedule and being on time was not important during a tournament that is going to send one team on an expenses paid trip to Sweden. At this point the admins informed QsQ that they were eligible to take a forfeit win which would have outright guaranteed them a trip to the finals to play against Bunker Down in a Best of 5 matchup later this week. sQy aka NoVa being the ultimate honorable competitor that he is chose instead to give Team Kierk the opportunity to get a squad together to prove that they were the team that truly deserved to move on to the next stage. Meanwhile, the stage was set for The Returners to play their match against FyKu which was going to bring all eyes to Honcast, especially because Kookiez was finally gonna get some play time since AngryTestie was missing (no idea why he was gone but I heard it was something about driving his girlfriend somewhere.)

The match started and during the two played rounds the Returners played aggressively and dominated FyKu. Kookiez showed once again that Monkey King's hero design is extremely flawed as, even after the nerfs that the S2 balance team thought would "severely impact the power of the hero," he was pooping on everyone within a 1000 unit radius. The games ended relatively quickly with Returners taking the 2-0 victory and their fate 100% in the hands of Q sQuad and their ability to beat Team Kierk 2-0. Again, this shouldn't have mattered, but for today's matchup it did.

Team Kierk finally shows up and Q sQuad is ready to go with their normal roster. After one game Q sQuad had achieved a dominating victory. Game two, there were some technical issues throughout portions of the game, but despite them QsQ was able to establish a dominant gold lead and respected experience lead against a team lineup that was not going to be effective at stopping the push. At this point, 3 members of the QsQ roster had been disconnected for 20-30 minutes and the admins of DreamHoN stepped in to make a ruling. They ruled that QsQ had earned enough of an advantage to award them the win, making them 2-0 and allowed them to advance to the finals group over The Returners.

As soon as this happened I had to exit full screen to watch the unlimited tears rain down from the eyes of Returner supporters and AngryTestie fans. This is the kind of drama that the HoN scene had been missing since the Honcast vs Complexity (DWi version) drama during the NASL. I knew the forums and reddit were going to blow up with drama but I wanted to let it ferment a little bit before I checked it out (I don't like hitting F5) so I worked out for 45 minutes, took a shower and got some dinner before coming back to check it all out. Sure enough, the admins are getting all the blame from Returners supporters, HoN conspiracy theorists, and general trolls who don't care about the politics but are looking for a reason to call people retards. My favorite part of these threads is the people who have "seen way bigger comebacks" but have no idea what they're talking about. This isn't a pub matchmaking game, this is a Top 5 team with established members of the competitive community going up against a group of fun seeking players who thought they would give it a shot. They could have renamed this match Yankees vs Sandlot.

Anyway, my second favorite part is where people who have ZERO admin experience start giving their insight as to what "should have happened;" and the guys playing pocket lawyer busting out the rules and breaking it down line by line stating what is clear and what is unclear. Let me tell you something, being an admin is a fucking thankless job. Basically its like signing up to get shit on because you're the one who has to make the hard choices. Do you think it was fun for Breaky and I to have to deal with all the complaining from DWi, their fans, our haters and the ignorant masses when we decided not to allow a remake? It wasn't. Also, the admins of this tournament are some of the most qualified people in HoN and even online gaming to be in their position. I know because I hand selected them from hundreds of interested people. I wanted people who were smart, people I could trust, and people who didn't have direct ties to competitive players, and people who weren't afraid to be disliked.

I even read one guy who called it "one of the worst decisions in pro gaming i have ever seen." LOL. That's really laughable. It's people like this who over dramatize these kinds of situations. How long have you been around pro gaming dude? I'm going to guess either not long, or you were involved in the console gaming scene. Hell, even the NASL decision was a worse decision than this one. Give me a break. The one thing that I do agree with from all these morons arguing semantics is that this does set precedence for future issues. But again, that comes back to having great admins who can determine the issues at hand, realistically read the game and its potential outcomes and make the right decisions when they matter.

In the end, I'm happy with the decision that was made. It's exactly what I would have done in that situation. Then again, the situation never would have occurred if Head-to-Head took priority over points in a two way tie.

My question to you, Dear Reader, is would this have caused as much of a stink had the roles been reversed? Just something to think about.

Competitive HoN: WHO? WHAT? WHERE?

Got another email today which reads:

"I'd be interested in reading a comparison between the HoN scenes of EU and US, maybe even Asia.

Love,

Anon"


Since the beginning of competitive online gaming, cultures have clashed in disputes over which nationality is truly the best in its given game. When I played TFC there were two main regions, North America and Europe. Each year an event called the European Championships of Team Fortress Classic (ECTFC or WCTFC) captivated thousands of gamers from around the globe as people would jump into one of dozens of HLTV servers daisy chained off each other to watch the best players in the world compete. Teams from nations almost all of the European Union, Canada and the United States would form a few months prior as they got ready to battle it out for bragging rights to be called the best country in the world. I am somewhat sad to report that USA never won any of these tournaments but always advanced relatively far, which was commendable because at the time we didn't have net code like we do now, nor internet at the speed we do. I remember playing on a Swedish server with my old Time Warner RoadRunner internet that was 1mb down with 200-250 ping and learning to time concs and nades to be effective on those servers. Always pissed me off that because it was the "European Championships" that Team USA and Team CA never got home field advantage, every match/map had to be played with us on 200+ ping (and that's if you were an East Coast player) and them on 20-50. Anyway, you're not here to read my stories of Team Fortress Classic, you're here because you want to know all about my opinions on HoN. 

I remember a couple years ago, this argument would be really big on the forums. During the days of WHP/5/Fnatic/KD there was a lot of talk about which region was better, but there was really no way to tell because of the lack of offline presence HoN had. We were basically relegated to either online competitions or Dreamhack. Of course, when Dreamhack Winter 2010 rolled around and S2 Games announced its partnership with CPL (lol) everyone was finally going to get their dream matchups. The best teams in the world would finally meet in a LAN setting where no amount of excuses were going to hold up. Then we were all let down as it was announced that these teams would be traveling to Singapore instead of Sweden. Not only would it be at a different location, but it was going to be the same weekend. I wish I could provide insight as to why they happened, but I think everyone at S2 Games has tried to brainwash themselves out of that debacle, so I never got any real answers. So we saw EG, ICE, OK, and TSoG all leave for Singapore, letting Fnatic claim their first Dreamhack Championship in a Best of Three matchup that lasted about 40 minutes total as they took a fat dump on Druidz (this was the Druidz made up of Revyy, Louie, Twista, etc. not the one with Loda, Akke, Ikzu and 2 other guys no one ever cared about (Velociraptor and iSkill btw.)) By the way, for any of you who have followed my journey through Honcast and the old rivalry we had with GameReplays, this is where the infamous Phil quote "The Big Boys are here to cast" came from. Anyhow, most everyone in the competitive scene was extremely disappointed in this occurrence, as Heroes of Newerth was nearing its peak popularity among players, sponsors and NA/EU drama.

What made these issues even more annoying is the fact that the GosuGamers World Cup (shoutout to Steelseries who provided all the gear prizes and half the cash) was dwindling down to the final few teams which saw Fnatic, EG, SK and DWi battling it out for the largest online prize pool in Heroes of Newerth at the time (DreamHoN Online Summer Championships would surpass this by including a $4,000 travel stipend.) Because this tournament was going on, there was a lot of NA vs EU flaming going on and fanboyism was at its finest which raised up forum shitbirds like Berethorn from being mildly annoying to being the only person to ever reach my forum user ignore list. The most common of arguments ranged mostly from individual skill to team skill to play style. European play style was thought to be more strategic planning for all stages of the game, where the NA styles were widely varied. SK was a team known to utilize turtling to their advantage, while EG was a very aggressive team. Fnatic and Online Kingdom were doing extremely well winning the laning phase a majority of their games and using that advantage to propel them into the midgame while amassing a ton of gold to take advantage of the unlimited buyback system during the late game stages. Fnatic had recently kicked out Rexi, Duqi and Kay in favor of picking up the iLx trio of Nova, Bot, and n0tail who would join Freshpro and Trixi and become the best team in Heroes of Newerth for nearly a year and a half.

Now that we are done with this history lesson, let's fast forward to 2012 as we get ready to enter Dreamhack Winter 2012. What has changed in the scene? Is there still a case for EU vs NA drama? What about the other regions like AUS, SEA, CIS, and the newest regions Korea and Latin America? Let's break it down region by region, looking primarily at the participants.

North America

Truth be told there aren't really any hopeful 100% North American teams out there right now. The Returners is pretty close to being 100% NA, and Fittske ate enough Denny's at NASL to probably classify him as American. Clan Milk was almost there but decided that trying to win is hard and thus stopped both winning and trying, in that order. Vitriolic was around in early to mid 2012 but never amounted to much of anything worthwhile.

Europe

Trademark eSports is the dominant team here at the moment, however there are many strong contenders as well in teams like Q sQuad, Bunker Down, Pikachu, THUGSAUCE (which might be the worst clan name of all time) and the possibility of 2 or 3 other teams popping up at any given point. I think FyKu could join these teams if they continue to compete.

Australia

WILL SMITH BEST RAPPER 2012 SWAG is currently getting ready to be eliminated from Destination Dreamhack, and Australia continues to be extremely under developed. There was a time not even a year ago when people thought about Australia and the possibility of it becoming an competitive powerhouse continent able to put out at least one other team besides Frenetic Array, instead all we got was babyfingaz.

Southeast Asia

The SEA scene is freaking huge right now. Whenever you log into the HoN client and you start seeing numbers like 120,000 users online, you can guarantee that 70-80% of them are from the SEA client. Garena has been doing an awesome job over there with their marketing and presence at local cyber cafe's as well as hosting sweet tournaments with buku bucks on the line. There are too many teams to name from over there but the main ones are Impunity, Orange eSports, and Let Your Money Talk. There is also a huge group of teams in Thailand, of which one will be attending Dreamhack Winter 2012. While this scene is thriving as far as player base and teams are concerned, they will get smashed by most Top 5 international teams. These guys need to be watching replays and shoutcasts of S2 events if they want to be able to keep up with the current trends and be effective during the big show. Dabeliuteef recently joining Orange may help them in this regard.

CIS

The CIS scene has shown some small growth but since the days of Empire/PhB we really haven't had a reason to get excited about any team from that region. Team GA came to Dreamhack Summer 2012 and lost EVERY. SINGLE. GAME. except vs Team It's Gosu because they forfeit. This year we will see team Cats travel to Dreamhack, but I do not have high hopes for them as they got completely crushed during DreamHoN:OSC while in the extremely weak Group C. These guys are still running Chipper mid.

Korea

When you have a community of 500 concurrent users you can't really get any better. League of Legends already has a huge hold on the MOBA market there and it's unlikely the Heroes of Newerth will make much of an impact. Doubtful that we'll ever see a team from Korea either able or willing to compete internationally.

Latin America

Everyone's favorite punching bag is functioning seemingly well. Well enough that my queue times in the 1550 bracket went from about 2 minutes to 8 minutes. About once every 8-9 months a team comes out of Brazil and does something crazy then fades back into obscurity. Team Royalty (TmRy) was probably the "successful" of these teams with a couple Top 3 finishes in small online tournaments and a Top 8 finish in the TwitchTV tournament. They are scheduled to compete at the Brazil Game Show shortly under the new team name paiN Gaming in an effort to get to Dreamhack Winter 2012. I'm not sure how they will fair there, but I assume they will have at least one win over Cats. Also of note is a team called Vti, which is the old Team Dynasty who has to compete in the BYOC at the BGS.

International

Most people consider Complexity to be a North American team despite the fact that Haxxeren is Danish and Chessie Swedish. The "original" complexity was comprised of all North American's but I have a hard time calling this team North American and instead opt for calling them an "International" team. They are currently the best team in the world in HoN and show very little weakness as each member of their team is cream of the crop in their respective roles.

Tt eSPORTS is almost considered an Australian team very often, but now having removed dabeliuteef and adding in Moiravus, this team is more NA than AUS. This gives them a huge advantage in online tournaments as they always get to play on USW servers no matter who they play, adding in the fact that this roster has had the same 4 guys on it for nearly 8 months makes losses to teams like The Returners borderline embarrassing.

Gary Johnson 2012 is the most recent International team to make some noise in Heroes of Newerth with 3 NA players and 2 Euros. This team is comprised of the Super Freedman Bros, Sender, Khezu and Skyzoe. As long as Swindle can keep his temper and attitude in check, or as long as his teammates can put up with his NPD, this team is built to succeed. Swindle is one of the best drafters in HoN, and he has surrounded himself with one of the best support players in Sender and 3 of the best utility players in the game.


So really, is there are case for NA vs EU drama anymore? Not really. The meta shifts in HoN favor only one or two viable strategies at any given time so everyone is running the same strategies. During the early stages of HoN everyone was figuring out what was best until Fnatic started crapping out wins with trilane strategies. Since then, every shift, intended or perceived, favors basically one style of game play. The team that masters this first is typically the team who wins the most and is called "the best."

USA #1 by the way.

Stay Free.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fnatic RaidCall: Did they make the right decision?

So I got my first request email a couple hours after opening the blog and it reads:

"Dear Phil,

Please talk about Fnatic and the struggles that they've encountered in DotA2, whether you think we'll see them back in HoN, what problems they're facing in DotA2, whether you think they'd make the change again if they had to redo it, etc.  

Thanks,
Anonymous"
 
Post Edit: I added a "Bottom Line" if you don't want to read this whole wall of text...
 
To be quite honest, after Fnatic left HoN I really stopped keeping track of their performance. My knowledge of the subject was basically relegated to hate posts on the forums talking about how bad they were doing. After DreamHoN Online Summer Championships where they were unable to place Top 2 in Group D, they made it clear that they were not going to be focusing on HoN at all. H4nn1 himself had stated in an interview that no one on the team wanted to play two games, and from what I'd heard from the other players they pretty much had all agreed that they did not want to play HoN in any capacity. Even Era had moved past his fame in HoN and decided that DOTA was where the greener pastures lie. 

Since I knew they weren't going to be in The International 2, I basically put them any non TI2 team on the back burner during the month of September. Now that we're in October and gearing up for Dreamhack Winter 2012 however, I've started to watch a bit more of them and other teams, but frankly I don't have the knowledge to criticize what they're doing right and wrong in DOTA, it's not my game of choice. I will say that I don't feel like it's the same team playing when I watch them. I notice that Fly seems to get outdrafted at least 50% of the time, which never happened in HoN. Fly was never one of the strongest players individually in my opinion, not compared to the rest of the team at least; but he was a mastermind of Heroes of Newerth strategies. Granted it's still only been what.. 6 months since they started playing DOTA and there are always updates happening. It must be rough trying to compete with all these expectations on you in a game that you're only half comfortable with.

What I will talk about is whether or not we'll see them back in HoN and whether I think they'd make the same choice to move to DOTA if they had to do it all over again.

Well?! Will we see them back in HoN? I want to say "I don't know" but how anti-climactic would that be? Truth be told, I don't think we will. Part of the reason is definitely due to the Fnatic organization still sponsoring and believing in this group of 5 guys while they continue to provide less than stellar results. The other part is probably that they just don't want to play HoN competitively if they actually have to work at it to be #1 again, which they would. I can't really speak to how they feel personally about Heroes of Newerth, aside from Fly who on Swindlemelonzz stream prior to Dreamhack Summer 2012 had plenty of negative things to say about S2 Games and Heroes of Newerth. The entire team views the S2 design and balance team as "complete frauds." But I do believe that a couple of the players might still be interested in playing a game of HoN every now and then, maybe even competitively. So my answer to this question is No. No I do not think we will see the current Fnatic RaidCall roster playing in HoN Tour or other Heroes of Newerth tournaments. As long as Fnatic let's them play DOTA at a sub-par level, I don't think they have a reason to swtich.

Second, I 100% think they would make the same choice if it were to happen again. Fnatic was probably more in the know about HoN Tour and upcoming HoN events than any other team out there. I had meetings with Anne Matthews and Danijel (StreeTT) and traded emails with Carn pretty regularly and still the team chose to make their way out of Heroes of Newerth to DOTA 2. I don't think it's a bad thing by the way. I think they are true competitors in the fact that they don't necessarily just care about which game is going to make them the most money. If that was the case they would have stuck it out with HoN until there were no more tournaments for them to win. 
 
I want to break it down for everyone:
 
DOTA 2:

In DOTA Fnatic has made a little bit over $6,000 of which a large majority of it was from Dreamhack Valencia. 
 
Heroes of Newerth:
 
The Fnatic organization has made an estimated $93,425 from Heroes of Newerth since Dreamhack Summer 2010 and of that amount, $75,135 of it was from Dreamhack Events, $10,000 was from the GosuGamers World Cup and $4,400 was from Assembly LAN. They placed in a cash winning position in 29 cash prize tournaments, and those 7 events I just listed (5 Dreamhack events, 1 Assembly LAN and 1 GGWC) accounted for $89,535 of their winnings. That's fucking crazy.

Going back to what I was just talking about, if it were just about the money Fnatic would still be here pumping away and helping to kill off the competitive HoN scene one team at a time. In the last 4 months Heroes of Newerth has had nearly $125,000 in events (of which Fnatic snagged $32,000 on basically 3 days practice prior to Dreamhack Summer 2012) and we haven't even touched the HoN Tour money yet!

So here's my bottom line on Fnatic RaidCall:
As long as the Fnatic organization continues to sponsor these guys as a team, they have no reason to switch back to HoN. Even if Fnatic dropped them TODAY, I don't know if any of the current roster would even return, but I also do not think any other sponsor on the same level of Fnatic would pick them up considering their unreliable performance. I could possibly see Fnatic picking up a new Heroes of Newerth squad with HoN Tour about to take place, but only if there is a team out there who can consistently compete to be the #1 team in HoN which, as I posted a couple days ago, isn't the case as long as Complexity keeps playing the way they are. Fnatic has a reputation as being the best in Heroes of Newerth and it would be a terrible idea to tarnish it with a team that can't win. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Spreading The Love Around

You know, before I went to work for S2 as the Director of eSports I was the second part of the Honcast casting team. During my time working with Breaky as the official co-caster for Honcast we spent a lot of time trying to deliberate on which matches to cast and whether it was important to cast the matchups everyone wanted to see, or give some limelight to the little guys out there. No... this post is not about Honcast casting that waste of a match today between Team Kierk and Gary Johnson 2012 over Tt eSports vs Q sQuad (which, as I predicted was two extremely quick games which could have and should have ended even earlier than they did.) I'm talking about spreading the casting responsibilities out amongst would be casters and competitive players with down time.

You're probably not wondering why I'm covering this topic since a lot of dramalama occurred on the forums after AngryTestie squashed MoonMeander's hopes and dreams of shoutcasting a Returners match (see post below if you need a reference.) But it's one that has come up many many times in the past, especially in regards to the so-called "Honcast Monopoly" and why S2 Games won't endorse streams via ingame messaging or other marketing venues (and let's face it, the only marketing S2 Games uses for HoN is social networking.) Contrary to popular belief, S2 Games does not wish to have a "monopoly" on the product. Honcast doesn't run ads aside from when you have to watch one upon starting the stream. The YouTube channel was set up to be ad free, and the website was set up to be ad free. It's pretty much the worst financial monopoly of all time. So it's not like S2 is trying to drive all the users to Honcast for ad revenue to make major bucks. Honcast is provided as a free community and marketing service.

So since there is no monopoly; why doesn't S2 promote other casts? Basically it comes down to one factor: the ability to control the stream and streamers. S2 Games isn't going to take a chance promoting Bob's Sweet HoN Stream or Mike's Cool Dude Casting Crew when the most they can do is ban your IP after you've already dicked up. One would think that the threat of not being able to play the game you love is enough, but alas, it is not. All it takes is for S2 to do an ingame message promoting some persons stream and have thousands of gamers tune in to a horse cock going into some poor girls nethers and well, there you have it. An experience S2 can't undo and something they are directly responsible for. It's much safer for them to have people like Breaky and Tralf be the only team covering matches because if one of them steps outta line its back to making sure video tapes get rewound at Blockbuster.

Now what about people who are community figureheads or what I would called "trusted" streamers. This includes people like MoonMeander, Testie, Swindlemelonzz, Zetpro, Megabever, so and and so forth. Why won't S2 allow them the ability to have their stream promoted? It's actually the same exact reason. Swindlemelonzz is a perfect example and I'm going to pick on him because I know he can handle it without writing his local congressman to have my blog taken offline. Swindle is one of the most hardcore HoN players there is, and he really supports the game by partaking in not only the competitive scene, but behind the scenes as well. I would say he is one of HoN's greatest supporters. However, Kyle is also one of HoN's biggest critics and the way he phrases things would not look good for S2's marketing. Look, everyone knows Monkey King was an overpowered hero since his inception (Nome hero, nuff said) and it took months upon months for him to be addressed. But instead of doing what Breaky  or myself would do and say something like "Monkey King doing Monkey King things" aka OP as shit things; Kyle takes it to the next level "Here comes S2's most broken hero which they haven't fixed because they are lazy and Dogkaiser is useless and Buro is creatively bankrupt." S2 isn't gonna promote something like that. Regardless of the fact that Swindle may be correct in his analysis of Monkey King, he also takes it a step further and demeans S2 Games employees by name and the company by extension. This is actually a quite common occurrence among professional level players, maybe not to that extent (I made a lot of that Swindle part up by the way, just as an example) but professional players often think they know better than the people at S2 Games about balancing or whatever, and aren't afraid to tell their stream. Do you really think S2 wants to send viewers to a stream that is going to have negative criticism? The answer is no, in case you were wondering.

One of the biggest things S2 was focusing on while I was at the company was changing the community's perception about S2 Games and Heroes of Newerth. Saying things like "He got S2'd" or talking about "S2 Heroes" are negative stigmas that S2 Games combats every day in an effort to restore and earn favor with the community. And until S2 finds a casting team of people they feel are either as trustworthy as Breaky and Tralf or one which they can control as well; don't expect any changes in the future of shoutcasting official Heroes of Newerth matches from big named S2 tournaments like DreamHoN and HoN Tour.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

AngryTestie vs MoonMeander: The Right to Cast Games

Really?

I've gotten a few requests already to talk about this situation. To make things a little easier to understand, though if you're here you probably already know the situation, I am gonna steal some posts from the forums.

Here is the Original Post by author TheMikey:

"Testie objected to Moon casting The Returners vs Gary Johnson 2012 matchup tonight for destination dreamhack. Is it just me or does everyone think the players should have little to no say in it. If the tournament admins deem it fit, any player should be allowed to cast. The majority of the viewers want to see this matchup and HonCast is covering a different match today, which is understandable. But why does testie have the right to veto someone else casting their match. Esports should be targeted more towards the viewers and less to whims of little punks like Testie."

This is followed by a mish-mash of posts either support, defending or questioning the situation.

Here is an except from the DreamHoN: Destination Dreamhack Official Rules:

3.1. Restrictions
a) Observer/Spectator Restrictions
If a person that is not a Player of either Team that competes in a Match, or is not part of a broadcasting organization, such person is required to ask permission of an Admin to spectate a Match. During matches spectators are expected to conduct themselves professionally, and use ALL chat only if it's needed.


5.4. Streaming
Players may only stream their matches from a first person perspective if a six minute delay is put into place. Covering the minimap or other workarounds are not an acceptable substitute for delay software.
  


So really, there isn't a whole lot to support organizations or casters who aren't Honcast via the rules. 

Personally, I can understand why Testie didn't want to let Moon cast his games. Historically the guy has had nothing nice to say about him and has been borderline confrontational with him. I can probably count the number of times I watch Moon try to snipe out Testie while in the lower brackets just because that's the kind of guy Moon is. I don't have a problem with it, and find it all very entertaining, but I can understand why Testie might.

What people seem to be misunderstanding here is that it's not a "right or wrong" decision by Testie, it's simply preferential. Moon has no right to stream any matches, and via the Rules, technically Testie doesn't really have the right to allow him to anyway. All that is mentioned in the rules is that non-broadcasting organizations, which by the way is a direct reference to Honcast, persons who are in the game must have an Administrators permission; and that players may streaming their matches from a first person perspective. 

So basically what we have here is the public opinion on whether or not Testie is an asshole for refusing to let Moon stream his game. This is where the best posts on the forums come from, because they will do whatever it takes and use whatever "facts" they have to support their argument. Like this gem:

"you are totally mistaken. out of the 5k viewers Honcast gets on a regular Dreamhack Destination, Im pretty sure more than 50% people want to watch this match casted from a spectator point. They dont care if its Moon, Zyori, etc. moon trashtalks, yes, but he also casts, and his casts are more or less relevant. i just find is absurd that testie blocks this cast. does he block it if it was someone else and not moon.

why does testie care about what moon says. why do viewers have to suffer because of testie's insecurity. noone cares about the trashtalking, all the viewers want is to watch the match, and now they cannot."


Is there any empirical proof that 50% of the viewers on Honcast wanted to watch The Returners vs Gary Johnson 2012? Frankly, I knew the match was gonna be a 2-0 sweep in favor of GJ 2012 for reasons stated below, and thus had extremely little interest in watching the matches. The series between Bunker Down and Pikachu has a much better history behind it and ended up providing literally HOURS of entertainment. The poster then goes on to question whether or not Testie would have blocked another caster from casting the match. Does it really matter? No. If you want to watch the match, wait till it's over and download the replay. It's that simple.

The rest of the post devolves into people calling each other fanboys. If you support Testie's decision, then you are a Testie fanboy. If you disagree, then you are a Moon fanboy. In nearly 100 posts, absolutely nothing was said. And of course, people are expecting Testie to come on the forums and "explain himself"

Here's the bottom line on this one:

WHO CARES?

Honestly, who gives a single shit about whether Testie let Moon cast one series on one day of one tournament? If this post wasn't on the forums right now, this would have all been forgotten by 3pm today when Honcast is casting Gary Johnson 2012 beat Team Kierk 2-0 in two 15 minute concedes.

It's sad that the post could have ended at post #10 when Fairlight posted the following: 

"In other words, the world should revolve around what you want. No.

If players do not want to have their matches broadcasted by an individual, they have every right in the world to tell that individual to gtfo; that does not change just because you want to see the match. Go download the replay if it means that much to you."




The Returners

During my last post I briefly mentioned The Returners. What actually ended up happening was I started writing an essay on the team instead of concentrating on the actual article at hand so I had to cut out a large portion of writing. Nevertheless, I figure the team themselves deserves a topic of their own because they are the most talked about team during DreamHoN: Destination Dreamhack with the inactivity of Complexity and Trademark eSports in this tournament.

Let me start out by saying that I have no problem with any members of The Returners. A couple people on the team I would consider to be influential HoN players and upstanding members of the community, but I also want to be completely candid about them.

I know there are a lot of people who look at The Returners as a powerhouse team, but in all realness, this team has little to no hope of going through the group stages and even less hope if they were to somehow make it to Dreamhack. Why? It's my opinion that they don't have enough of the two things that matter: Experience and Passion.

The most experienced competitive player on this team is Fittske, who has been active in the Heroes of Newerth and DOTA 2 competitive scene for basically the last year; after that it's a pretty close tie between Kookiez (who has yet to play in the group stages) and Emperor (aka Brized.) Then you have Ensoe, Jeppins, and AngryTestie who have been more or less inactive in the competitive scene for at least the last year.

Mechanically, these guys all still have what it takes. Testie still knows how to maximize farm and be effective during the stages of the game when he's expected to be effective, but the rest of his team simply isn't helping him get there. I'm not 100% convinced his high level game sense is back yet, and regardless of what anyone wants to believe, playing 1500-1700 level games with less than skilled teammates (or customers if you're Testie) doesn't do you any favors in keeping your skills razor sharp, which they need to be since the level of play in 2012 is exponentially higher than it was even in 2011.

A lot of people give Emperor praise for running unique hero lineups and being "effective" with lesser used heroes, specifically War Beast and Cthuluphant. The problem with this is that it is easily countered by either blind banning War Beast, or picking him yourself. He's not the hardest hero to work with and since his recent buffs, hitting 400+ gpm on him in the jungle is really no special feat unless you're constantly getting harassed. Cthuluphant is just a sub-par hero with little to no role in the current meta, an easy to dodge stun that still gets caught up on small parts of the map, a jungling ability that allows him to keep his GPM above 100 all game and an awesome but relatively ineffective passive because it requires a hero with relatively low innate damage output to kill things to get the maximum efficacy out of it. I find that his drafting in general is extremely predictable, which wont work against most Top 10 teams.

The player who I am actually most excited to see is Jeppins, who played for tSm way back in the day and made me long for the likes of KiWiKiD, Chemizt and Therg to play HoN once more. Jeppins can be found pubbing it up with Bkid most nights that he streams and is very entertaining as he is effective at heroes that are not only underplayed, but also fun to watch and effective (Bombadier and Kinesis are two of his signature heroes.)

Fittske is Fittske and one of the most stable support players in the game. There isn't anything negative to be said about him skillwise as he's been the most active and it shows by his heads up gameplay in every game they've played thus far. On the other hand, you have to question his passion for playing Heroes of Newerth. He's been playing a lot of DOTA 2 and even though I always knew he would return for HoN Tour, where is his head at as far as Destination Dreamhack is concerened?
 
The missing element from The Returners is, and will remain to be, Tarano. When this team formed, a lot of people were excited to see the return of Testie, which is fair; but I was most excited to see Tarano. Unfortunately, Tarano being Tarano came back for a couple days and scrimmed and then publicly announced he doesn't like HoN or want to play it and exited in standard DWi fashion.
 
I don't really know what the roles are as far as the team is concerned and I'm not sure this team has any real leadership. Sure they have a drafter and have set roles for gameplay and maybe someone calls out strategies in games, but leadership and the other roles are much more than that. If Brized says jump do they ask why? Or do they just do it? What about the levels of passion, not just from Fittske as I mentioned earlier, but from the rest of the team? I have no doubt that Emperor really wants to do something amazing in the competitive scene, but I don't really get much emotion from the other players on the roster. If you don't have five players on your competitive team who are all in on competing in Heroes of Newerth, can you really expect to do well? I don't think so, as Fnatic showed during the DreamHoN Online Summer Championships. If you're heart's not in it, you can't expect to win against those who are.

I think The Returners have an excellent opportunity to be a Top 10 team once HoN Tour starts if they decide to stick it out, but after they realize they have no chance to place in the Top 3 of Destination Dreamhack will they actually do that? Only time will tell.

Destination Dreamhack. DreamHoN series continues...

Hey all,

First little blog here and I'm going to weigh in here on my thoughts on the DreamHoN: Destination Dreamhack tournament that is currently underway and in the group stages.

A couple of days ago I was watching the group stage selection show with both Breaky and Tralf drawing names out of the HoN Tour Trophy (a long running joke) and commenting primarily on Group A and its strength compared to Group B; Tralf even called it this tournament Group of Death. I have to say I really disagree with there really being a Group of Death during this tournament series. I think there has been too much shuffling going on amongst a lot of the mid tier teams for there to really be more than 3-4 teams worthy of competing at Dreamhack; and let's face it, of those 3-4 teams only one or two have any real hope to be crowned DreamHoN Champions this winter.

Let's go over the two groups and get to know the teams that are competing in DH:DD

Group A

Pienet Pelit
Q Squad - sQy, NoX, Slate, Jonassomfan, Malle, Insomnia, Style
Tt eSports - Slickz, wyt`, Moiravus, Riser_, LeonBlack
Gary Johnson 2012 - swindlemelonzz, zfreek, skyzoe, khezu, sender

Fack You Kurdi - Pewe
Team Kierk - Lalond
The Returners - Emperor, Ensoe, Fittske, AngryTestie, Kookiez, Jeppins
Call It Karma

Group B

Lions Esports (THUGSAUCE) - Playride, Superkge, Aellgi, philmchunt, Hoggi`
Druidz - Pew, ArchiTiger, FearTheZap, fuzi, Jagged_
Bunkerdown - bassets, zetpro, rythme, dmfromrus, fedexftw, flensmeister
Pikachu - Nir, Probusk, Buch, TPSpriceless, widecoast, BigOwnedMe

Zhit
WILL SMITH - JABBAWABBA
Denmark Owns Sweden
Black Sheep

If you're wondering why I didn't write all the names out for all the teams, it's because they aren't very well known players and have little to no chance of advancing into the next round, let alone win anything at Dreamhack Winter 2012. I'm rude, get over it.

Looking at the differences between groups A and B, I will agree with Tralf (and anyone else with a brain) that Group A does have the stronger teams in it. However, for a group to be considered the "Group of Death" that means there is typically at least one team who will get shafted that would potentially be able to move forward into the next group, and honestly I don't see that being the case.

I don't think The Returners have any shot of making it through the group stages, and they've already lost to two of the three teams who will most likely move on to the next round. In fact, it wouldn't surprise me to see all three teams from Group A move on to Dreamhack Winter 2012. GJ2012, QsQ and TteS are three of the best four teams in the entire tournament, the fourth (not necessarily #4 mind you) is Pikachu who is over in Group B.

Top 3 Teams from Group A:

1. Tt eSPORTS
2. Gary Johnson 2012
3. Q sQuad

Group B consists of an equal amount of known players/teams as Group A, they just aren't on par with them. Pikachu being the only real exception, we could possibly see a strong turnout from Lions (THUGSAUCE). I would love to see Bunker Down do some work and make it into Dreamhack, but frankly I doubt it. The team that is most likely to surprise and move into the next stage in Group B is probably WILLSMITHBESTRAPPER2012SWAG and that isn't necessarily due to them being the best team out there, but the fact that EU teams are forced to play against them on US West servers which is kind of like having home field advantage every game for the Australian team. They might be able to sneak a win by a couple teams; although having already lost games to Lions (THUGSAUCE) and Bunker Down, it's not very likely that they will move on since Pikachu is the most prepared of all teams in Group B to play on US West (as they are the best/most seasoned team in the group.)

Top 3 Teams from Group A:

1. Pikachu
2. Bunker Down
3. Lions eSports (THUGSAUCE)


So for the finals stage I think we'll be looking at the following match ups:

Tt eSPORTS vs Lions (THUGSAUCE) - Tt eSPORTS crushes Lions most any day of the week anyway, add in US West server advantage while having 3 US West players and well, should be an easy win. My Prediction: TteS > Lion - 3:0

Gary Johnson 2012 vs Bunker Down - This could end up being close, but I think GJ2012 has an advantage of more experience, better drafting and the fact that swindle and co. REALLY want this. I am also assuming at least 2 of the games will be on US East giving them that much more of an advantage. My Prediction: GJ2012 > Bunker Down - 3:1

Q sQuad vs Pikachu - This could be the best series in the entire tournament. Both teams are playing extremely well right now and a lot of people (myself included) feel like QsQ is a Top 5 team right now. This series will honestly come down to drafting and Jonassomfan keeping his cool and not feeding. Buch, Nir and the rest are excellent players and will not give this up easily, and gordob is doing an excellent job drafting recently, adapting to other teams very well. My Prediction: Pikachu > Q sQuad - 3:2 but it could easily go the other way.