Fernando Rojas, Blizzard Entertainment
HGC China’s playoffs are fast approaching. Super Perfect Team and ChallEnge have already qualified for the Eastern Clash, but the playoffs will decide their seeding and which team will earn the coveted third spot.
The playoffs are a strong mix of established rosters and new faces, but even the brand-new teams already have fierce histories with each other.
#8 Rocket Propelled Grenade vs. #7 TimeFlow
The first match of the week pits the once-bright stars of 2017 against their modern-day counterparts. In one corner we have TimeFlow, a handful of HGC hopefuls lead by Hero League legend Xin Peng “Timeless” Liu. In the other corner, a team that’s been part of HGC since the beginning, but fallen from glory in 2018.
There was a time when RPG was the hottest team in China, making the powerful debut that all new teams hope for. Between BlizzCon veteran Jing “loktar” Yang and frontline legend Junyi “chicken” Lin, RPG excels from any range—but the new year has left them struggling. They’ve shown that they can beat any team on this list, but their inconsistency makes it a daunting prospect.
Coming into the playoffs after a five-series losing streak, TimeFlow doesn’t have the history of highlights and upsets that RPG does. History isn’t as important as how they perform in the moment, and they’ve shown they can beat RPG before.
There are question marks all over this series, but one thing is certain: Whoever loses this match has a sudden and tragic conclusion to their story.
#6 Beyond The Game
BTG made their competitive debut in HGC China only two months before qualifying for BlizzCon. That’s a blindingly fast success story, but it’s come at a cost—pitting relative rookies against global giants like Fnatic and Ballistix. Since their losses at BlizzCon and the Gold Club World Championship (GCWC), the team has restructured.
The melee core of Huajian “619” Zhang and Jinze “Zjz” Zhou remains, but the new roster has yet to hit the same stride they did last phase. They earned a breather in the playoffs, but BTG has struggled against both TimeFlow and RPG this year. In their short history, BTG has been a bright spark in the region, but this series will determine whether they are an enduring fire or a flash in the pan.
#5 Sunny Lion
The new team to watch in China, Sunny Lion has shown they are aggressive and opportunistic. They have a knack for identifying an enemy’s weakness, and that strength has helped them eclipse their more established competition. While other teams have struggled to adapt to the current meta, Sunny Lion is thriving, thanks in large part to Yi Nong “jaina” Fu—one of the most exciting players to watch this season, and one who helped put Jaina and Gul’dan back on the global map.
Sunny Lion is the true wall in this playoff bracket; they present a real challenge, and a team that can overcome Sunny Lion has a better chance of rising higher in the playoffs.
#4 Start Over Again
Among all the challengers, SoA is a team that has endured the long game. They’ve faced new struggles every season since their formation in 2016, and every season they’ve prevailed. Qiang “uncleG” Chen and Shun “FelyE” Yuan have always been a stable heart for the team, and new star tank Tian Long “LCLONG” Gao opens up a new world for them.
The higher end of the playoff bracket is stacked with teams that have been dominant for years, but SoA looks better every week. They have a very real chance to make it to the Eastern Clash.
TheOne.SGTY (TH1) has proven the most stable of 2017’s rookie teams. They’ve kept their explosive DPS core intact, anchored by Tianqi “Meng” Zhang, China’s foremost Greymane specialist. Throughout last year, TH1 was locked in a rivalry with BTG and SoA, with all three teams tied for third place.
Now that BTG has fallen, the match-up with SoA remains a close contest. SoA has endurance, but TH1 hit a sudden hot-streak. Despite losing their most recent encounter with SoA, TH1 holds the position of strength in the playoffs. If they can lock in the Eastern Clash, TH1 has a chance to prove they can succeed where their rivals failed.
Whatever happens in playoffs, CE have already qualified for the Eastern Clash. The retirement of Wu “Paradise” Chengwei is a loss for the team’s fans, but Haiyu “365” Ling is one of the most experienced figures in Chinese Heroes, allowing CE to confidently experiment and reinvigorate.
CE is the most internationally impressive of any current Chinese team, but their domestic rivalries have always been the team’s blind spot. They’ve shown marked improvement in their weaknesses lately, so a strong playoff performance will be a good sign for the coming clash.
#1 Super Perfect Team
SPT has faltered in international competitions, making them easy to underestimate for fans from other regions—but in China, SPT is unquestionably dominant. They’re in the heads of the other Chinese teams. Zhou “Misaka” Lizhong is a general that understands the strengths of his own team and the strengths of his opponents. SPT plays the regular season with supreme confidence, and very little in these playoffs can shake that.
The best-of-five format in the playoffs is a long fight, but it’s ideal for both sides. SPT will hit hard in the first two games and try to break their opponent’s spirit. If the other team can endure that, they can endure anything.
Playoffs will be broadcast live starting Febuary 26, 2018. Make sure to tune in when the games begin!