Dylan Walker, Blizzard Entertainment
the Western Clash will pit the four best teams from North America and Europe against each other in the first round. Each of these best-of-five series has a $2,500 prize bump attached to it (in addition to the $5,000 awarded for qualifying). $100,000 total is up for grabs as the bracket unfolds. Here’s everything you need to know about the first four series taking place at IEM Katowice.
Team Dignitas vs. HeroesHearth—Friday, March 2 at 2:00 a.m. PST / 11:00 a.m. CET
HeroesHearth Esports, the underdogs from North America, have had a spectacular go of things in the first five weeks of HGC play—but they’re up against the scariest team in Europe right off the bat. Are the North Americans a threat in this matchup? They may not have the same international experience Team Dignitas has, but it would be unwise to underestimate HeroesHearth. Forgetting for a moment that this is HeroesHearth’s first ever LAN, it’s likely they’ve prepared something special for this series.
On the other hand, much is expected of Team Dignitas. They’ve walked away from the past two IEM Katowice tournaments victories. After their run to the grand final of the Gold Club World Championship (GCWC) with their new roster in December, they are the favorite to take home the trophy again. Kenn Øster “Zaelia” Rasmussen, who made his LAN debut with Team Dignitas last year at IEM, will be returning with his team to the tournament—this time as a dedicated Support player in place of James “Bakery” Baker, who retired after the HGC Finals. This roster change signals a shift in the team dynamic and playstyle—opponents preparing for the Team Dignitas of years past will be sorely disappointed.
Team Twelve vs. Method—Friday, March 2 at 3:50 a.m. PST / 12:50 a.m. CET
Team Twelve is the only North American roster at this event that has played as a five-man unit on LAN, placing sixth at GCWC. They will take on Method, a team that managed a third-place finish in Europe with a 16-8 Battleground record.
This match could get interesting. The core of Team Twelve spent the entirety of last year at the top of the North American standings, bar for a dip in their results after the Mid-Season Brawl. Considering their results and the caliber of players they’ve added to their team since the HGC Finals (Yusuf “Kure” Sunka and Dane “daneski” Coleman), it’s very likely that Team Twelve could break through to the semifinals.
Method is more of a wild card at this tournament. The core of the Team expert roster that placed third at BlizzCon—Niklas “Cursen” Skogheim, Lawrence “Atheroangel” Harper, and Dominic “Nic” Asal—are joined by Simon “scHwimpi” Svensson (one of the most respected and experienced flex players in the world). Rounding out the team is Liam “Arcaner” Simpson, who joins Method from ANZ, having competed with Nomia last year. The raw talent exists for Method, but what kind of energy they bring to the stage remains to be seen.
Tempo Storm vs. Zealots—Friday, March 2 at 5:40 a.m. PST / 2:40 p.m. CET
This is the best chance of an upset that North America has in the first round. Tempo Storm is North America’s elite team, boasting a 20-8 Battleground record—with only a single series dropped to Team Freedom. They were the first team qualified for the Clash, and appear to be North America’s greatest hope of taking home the trophy.
Zealots are the opposite story. They faltered in Phase 1, squeaking through to qualification in Week 5 by defeating Team Dignitas 3-1. While they may be the weakest of the four European teams in attendance, Zealots have a considerable amount of firepower under their belt with one of the biggest Hero pools in the HGC.
Team Freedom vs. Fnatic—Friday, March 2 at 7:30 a.m. PST / 4:30 p.m. CET
Always quietly honing their craft, Team Freedom have been steadily on the rise since the HGC began. They attended last year’s Western Clash, and then took a respectable top eight finish at the HGC Finals—where they faced off against Fnatic last, stealing a game on Towers of Doom before falling 2-1.
Fnatic played last with their new roster at GCWC, taking fourth before falling to Team Dignitas 0-3. If you haven’t noticed a trend here, nearly everyone except for MVP Black was working with a new roster at GCWC—so results from that event should be taken with a grain of salt. Anything less than top two would have been considered a letdown for Fnatic then; now that these players have had time to mesh, the new Fnatic will show its teeth for the first time at Western Clash.
For more information on the Western Clash at IEM Katowice, check out our survival guide—then make sure to check back at 2:00 a.m. PST / 11:00 a.m. CET on March 2 when the broadcast goes live right here at playheroes.com/esports.