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.