The Road to Blizzcon

The Competitors have Risen


The long and skirmish-ridden road to Blizzcon 2015 has finally ended. Eight teams have risen to the top of the global barrel, earning themselves regional repute and some sizable hauls of prize money. The real event is still on the horizon, however, and with so many balance changes upcoming in Heroes of the Storm, the speculations regarding HotS’s biggest tournament to date are… murky.

A Shifting Scape


Recent happenings in the HotS meta would have been unthinkable only a few months past. From the emerging dominance of Sonya to NaVi’s expert leverage of post-nerf Brightwing, one thing has become clear – we have yet to figure this game out. While many teams are sticking to the tried-and-true strategies, the teams enjoying the most success are those who are willing to try risky pocket strategies.

With two heroes to be released before Blizzcon and a long list of tweaks and updates slated for next week’s patch, there is going to be a lot of learning and re-learning to do in the competitive HotS scene. Will Chen, Diablo, and ETC’s changes be enough to bring them into the pool of accepted Warriors? Will Leoric and Johanna’s nerfs push them out completely, or will they remain viable/fringe picks? Are the continued improvements to Rexxar enough to bring him into the limelight? Will Stitches become the anti-mage Warrior we deserve?

And that’s just considering the Warriors. The entire support scene may be thrown into flux with the addition of Lt. Morales and the miniature reworks of Tyrande and Tassadar. Nazeebo’s decreased reliance on his spiders may further give way to a devastating Plague of Toads build. The reduced wave clear capabilities on Johanna and Leoric may usher in a new era of specialists and assassins who can make quick work of minion waves, a la Sylvanas.

There have been a many upsets on the road to Blizzcon, and things are only getting rockier from here. The teams invited to the event are no doubt practicing away and doing their best to find the key to the unfolding meta. For those who enjoy watching competitive Heroes of the Storm, November is going to be a month to remember.

The Teams


How the times have changed. Where Tempo Storm and TeamLiquid seemed to dominate the scene only a few months back, new teams have risen to supplant them, or at least give them a run for their money. Let’s check out what’s happened across the qualifying regions.

North America – Cloud9 and Tempo Storm

As determined at the Heroes Americas Championship, both Cloud9 and Tempo Storm will be representing North America at Blizzcon 2015. These two teams have been at the head of the American scene for so long that this should come as no real surprise. Though both will be in attendance, it was underdog Cloud9 who won out the Heroes Americas Championship.

The gap between these premier NA teams and the rest has slimmed considerably in the past months. COGnitive, compLexity, and even the likes of Murloc Geniuses and Relic Gaming all made a valiant showing on the big stage. Though Tempo Storm and Cloud9 have secured their dominance for the end of 2015, the future of NA’s HotS scene is anything but certain.

If you missed any of the great games that secured these teams their spots, you can find them here.

Europe – Natus Vincere and Team Dignitas

This weekend’s tournament sealed the two European invites: Natus Vincere (NaVi) and Team Dignitas. The European scene has been far more volatile than NA’s as far as top teams go, but after this weekend’s performance it is pretty safe to say that NaVi is currently the team to beat.

NaVi’s trouncing of Team Dignitas in game 3 with a zero-warrior lineup (Abathur, Uther, Kerrigan, The Butcher, Falstad), coupled with their effective use of Brightwing, shows their ability to innovate and expand the meta. The coming weeks are shaping up to be a tumultuous time in HotS, and this adaptability will prove to be a desirable trait.  The imposing Korean team MVP Black is reputed for a similarly open mind, while NA has played more of a reactionary role.

If you missed the games between the two finalists, you can find them here.

Korea – Team DK KR

Despite the incredible skill of the Korean teams, there is only one slot open to them in this year’s Blizzcon. MVP Black devastated all opponents in the first global HotS tournament held at PAX Prime, a performance that earned them the title of the world’s #1 HotS team in many an observer’s mind. They brought innovative and aggressive strategies to the table at every turn, making them a joy to watch as well as a force to be reckoned with.

Their incredible momentum will not be able to carry them to Blizzcon this year. In the OGN Superleague finals against Team DK, some questionable drafting strategies and gameplay led the previously indomitable team to defeat. Though they are known for breaking and redefining the meta, they took their defiance too far and forfeited their Blizzcon spot to Team DK KR. That’s not to take any credit away from DK, though – they played some amazing games and earned their ticket to Blizzcon 2015.

While there has been speculation that MVP Black may receive one of China’s Blizzcon spots if their visa issues continue, this is only a rumor.

You can check out the final series between these two powerhouses here.

China – eStar Gaming and Team YL

eStar gaming was denied visa entry to the United States for the MSA MGI tournament at PAX Prime this year, disallowing us to compare them to the global scene. That said, they have proved incredibly strong in their own country and have earned tickets to Blizzcon alongside Team YL. eStar has been dominant all year long – it will be interesting to see if they can carry their streak overseas.

Assuming they can earn visas for Blizzcon (which will hopefully not be a problem – Blizzard has a long history of expertly arranging their LAN eSports events), these two teams will vie for the top title alongside the rest of the world’s teams.

Though the language barrier may be a deterrent to some, the final games between these two teams can be found here.

Taiwan

Not much hype surrounds G.I.A., the team that was victorious in the Taiwanese championship. It will be intriguing to see how well-developed their meta is compared to the rest of the world. From the games they played to get to Blizzcon, they seem to be on par with the rest of the world, but it is how they deal with the upcoming meta that will define their success. There is no doubt that they are studying the opposition rigorously – we’ll see how much it pays off come November.

You can find some gameplay from their Road to Blizzcon series here, although it isn’t the finals match.