With the dawn of a new season, comes refinements, upgrades and changes in any tournament format, and ANZ is no different. In an announcement on the official HGC blog, it was revealed that our minor region would be receiving some vast, sweeping changes in format. On top of the previously announced inter-continental clash, it was revealed that a new Premier Division would be forming alongside a wide-spanning Open Division.
It’s easy to compare this to the HGC Leagues in Major Regions in format, however there are some subtle differences.
Premier Division: HGC ANZ
In 2018, HGC ANZ Premier Division will be formed, made up of the top eight teams. Of these teams, we already know three- Nomia, Crimson and NMD will all be locked in to safe spots, as they managed to retain three players for each of their rosters from the previous season, after securing their way to the LAN finals in Sydney. On the other hand, Dark Sided, the reigning champions of ANZ and our representatives at BlizzCon in 2017, will not be guaranteed a space in the new division. This is due to sweeping changes to their roster, with only Hacky and Morton remaining on the new team in Captain and Manager roles respectively.
The remaining five slots in the new Premier League will be decided in the form of an open qualifier, commencing on the 22nd of January. From there, we’ll likely see a few of the older, more reliable smaller teams, and some hot-headed newbloods rise to the challenge and secure their place for the season to come.
The format of the Premier League itself is that of a double round robin, with each series being a best of three.
“I personally love the double round robin format, it gives teams the chance to prove themselves against all levels of opponents,” says Hacky of Viewsonic Darksided, who will be striving to make their way back up to the top via the qualifiers.
“It creates matchups each week for players and fans to be excited for, and it also gives teams a week to prepare for their next opponents.”
He also pointed out the ease of viewing, as viewers could know exactly who was playing when, and schedule around it- something difficult to achieve with knockout brackets and seeding.
As part of the shift to a league format, the prize pool will be redistributed, featuring the same grand total of $80,000 ($40,000 each half-year season), but with more of the prize pool going to the lower teams than previously.
Laharl of Premier team NMD had some more mixed opinions on the changes.
“It’s a great move to get more people involved in competitive play and should lead to more consistent teams; but it comes at the cost of a smaller prize pool and less opportunities for the top teams of the region,” he said.
“I’m hopeful that the short term deficit will have a positive long term impact on the health of the region; more teams getting involved and staying together for a longer time should lead to better practice and incentive to improve for all involved.”
Heroes Open Division
The new counterpart to the Premier Division will be the new Open Division. This will be a ‘developmental’ league available to all players and all teams. While there is no actively confirmed prize pool as of yet, and very little in the way of information, the ultimate prize is quite grand: the opportunity for promotion into the second half of Premier League for two teams. It remains to be seen exactly how hungry the Open Division will be, and how cutthroat it competition gets in trying to secure those two golden tickets.
Ultivian, from team Crimson, is hopeful with regards to the more grounded impacts of the changes.
“I like the idea of the Premier League and Open League. It helps people slowly work their way into pro life, if they want, and streamlines that path.”
He also points at other successful executions of the concept. “We’ve seen it used by Riot and LCS, so it seems to work there.”
The HGC Intercontinental Clash
At the conclusion of the first season, ANZ players from the top two teams in the Premier League will be flying their way over to Latin America to duke it out against the top two teams in the local LATAM league, HGC Copa América. Success here will determine the Latin American and ANZ champions, as well, and will decide which team represents the minor regions in the final event of the season, the 2018 HGC Mid-Season Brawl in June.
Following this, in Phase 2, a second Intercontinental Clash will take place in Sydney. The winner of this event will successfully secure a place in the HGC Finals, at BlizzCon 2018, the ultimate event for Heroes of the Storm.
This event has mixed effects. On one hand, it will promote both camaraderie and also rivalry between LATAM and ANZ’s regions, as they join together and cheer their support for their greatest representatives. The players themselves will be given more opportunity to play against opponents of equal strength, fostering growth in both scenes and developing strong inter-team connections, friendships and, again, rivalries. The potential for narrative growth at the Intercontinental Clash is massive.
On the other hand, though, only one region will now be represented at BlizzCon and the MSB, and only one team will be even given an opportunity to walk away with prize money from that event, and a chance to take home that trophy. While again, good for the narrative of individual teams, players may find themselves wishing they could go back to the standards of old. Hopefully this proves to not be the case, and BlizzCon’s format (which, from popular commentary during the event, was not popular due to its Best-of-1 matchups) improves due to the removal of teams from the schedule.
How Do I Get To Blizzcon?
To get the best understanding of the new setup, it would be easiest to imagine a brand new team, made up of the best talent ANZ has to offer- let’s call them team ‘ANZH’.
To get to BlizzCon, ANZH would have a momentous journey. Assuming they fail to enter via the qualifiers, they find themselves in the Open Division. They train, and they play. They turn up to every game, and win as many matches as they can, climbing the leaderboards.
Finally, the first phase concludes. They’ve made it to the top of the leaderboards, alongside another team of upstarts and veterans, hungry for success.
Meanwhile, two teams in the Premier league have failed to find success against their competitors. Those two teams are rotated down to Open Division, and ANZH find their way up to compete in the big league in Phase 2.
All throughout this next season, they go up against the biggest names, the biggest faces – Nomia, NMD, Crimson… and even their former Open Division sibling. This team of upstarts proves that they had what it takes, that they can be the best their region has to offer, and secure their place to the Intercontinental Clash in Sydney (on top of netting themselves a tidy $16k).
Tensions are high as they know that, should they and their other ANZ siblings fail, there will be no Australian team at BlizzCon. But, ultimately, they triumph over the LATAM teams, and they’re there. BlizzCon awaits, they’ve done it and they’ve made it to the top, to represent their region against the European, Korean, and even North American and Chinese giants.
The point of this story is this: The new format allows for an incredible journey up the ranks for the most passionate, desperate teams, and enables some fantastic narratives.
HGC ANZ will be partnering up with Gamestah in 2018 to stream this exciting year, and will prove to be the platform for a thrilling story.