Dylan Walker, Blizzard Entertainment
This past weekend was chock full of upset wins, with teams in nearly every region taking Battlegrounds and series off veteran teams who have held onto their spots at the top of the standings for the better half of a year now. With the tides turning, here is what you should look out for as we head into our third week of play.
Fnatic on the Rebound, Team Liquid Show Promise
After a rough weekend—a loss to Zealots, a close series with Method—Fnatic will be tested yet again, this time against Tricked esport. Tricked have had a decent start to the season, losing to the dominant Team Dignitas but winning out over Zealots and Leftovers. Fnatic is still favored in this matchup thanks to the results the core roster achieved in 2017, but the series will likely be closer than last year’s results would make you think.
Team Liquid will also take on Method this weekend, who may be a bit wounded and likely looking for redemption after their high-profile losses to Team Dignitas and Fnatic last weekend. Team Liquid’s new roster has been tuned up, with the addition of Aleksandar “ethernal” Milanov and Ivan “SportBilly” Koturic, who spent most of last year on Diamond Skin (formerly Playing Ducks). So far this season, the new frontline duo has worked well for Team Liquid, buying ample time for Dennis “HasuObs” Schneider and Nils “Nurok” Gebhardt to wreak havoc with the high-damage Heroes that Liquid has prioritized on a number of occasions thus far.
Gale Force Look to Bounce Back in North America
Gale Force Esports have struggled to post results in the first two weeks of the season, losing to Team Freedom and LFM Esports, and barely clenching their series against Simplicity in a fifth and final battleground. This weekend, they’re matched up against SpaceStation Gaming, who have also had a tough go of things so far, having dropped series to both Simplicity and HeroesHearth. This series will be the make-or-break for both rosters, with the loser likely missing out on qualification to the Western Clash barring a swift turnaround.
The ceiling will again be tested for HeroesHearth this weekend when they take on Team Twelve. HeroesHearth have so far done well in the HGC—especially, for a team who entered the league through the Crucible—taking Battlegrounds off Tempo Storm and Team Freedom. While they may not be favored to win, the question is this: how much damage can HeroesHearth inflict on Team Twelve’s game record before it’s all over?
The Main Event
Tempest and Ballistix, the only Korean teams that remain undefeated, will collide in Week 3. Both teams have yet to drop a Battleground, which is especially impressive for Tempest considering they’ve already played KSV Black and Miracle.
In terms of the draft, Ballisitix have a love for Anub’arak and Tychus, having taken both heroes in six out of the nine Battlegrounds they’ve played so far. They also have a prioritization on Uther, who has made an appearance in every single team composition Ballistix has run so far this year.
Tempest drafting has been a little more varied, and tends to favor burst damage over balance. They’ve run Sonya in seven out nine Battlegrounds now, and will happily take a Jaina, Cassia, or Falstad if the occasion calls for it. This match will take place on Feb. 4 at 3:00 a.m. PST / 12:00 p.m. CET—you don’t want to miss it!
China’s Calm Before the Storm
With their accelerated schedule, we already know much of the story for the Chinese region as they head into the Eastern Clash. The standings are currently reflecting what many expected, with Super Perfect Team (SPT) at the top and CE close behind.
Beyond the Game, who made an appearance at the HGC Finals with a mixed roster, have not fared as well, dropping series to Start Over Again, TheOne, TimeFlow, Sunny Lion, CE, and SPT so far. However, because of the format, Beyond the Game and every other team in the region still have chances to qualify. This is thanks to the seven-round stepladder bracket that will be played when the region return from break in order to determine which three teams will make it to the event.