With this Tuesday evening, the HGC ANZ Pre-Season began, throwing 15 teams of players into a round-robin gauntlet of Best-of-1 games, to determine which five teams will join Nomia, Crimson and Outlaws in the brand new HGC ANZ Premier League. This series of articles will be focusing on the results of each night on a round-by-round basis, with a slightly greater focus on matchups that were streamed to the Blizzard_ANZ Twitch channel.
Round 1 of the night brought us our very first matchup of the event to be broadcast, between Downfall Gaming and Saboteur. Downfall being one of the teams to be picked up by an organisation between seasons, much was expected of them, especially with a well-regarded team of players like Conya, MagicalGnom, Flaze, SupaFish and ShrekIsLove. As such, Saboteur was on the back foot, even with their roster of skillful players. While they put up a fight, Downfall truly proved that they had been putting in some serious practice now since being picked up. Playing masterfully (with special mention to the excellent positioning by Flaze on E.T.C) the team managed to take down their opposition with a 3 level lead and a 17 kills to a singular one.
Our other matchups of the round saw little in the way of upsets. Some highlights include:
Dark Sided vs Team No Tilt
Winner: Dark Sided
Determined to start off on the right foot, Dark Sided brought home the victory against No Tilt. Unfortunately for No Tilt, such a difficult matchup likely caused them to fail to live up to their title, as we would later see.
Mickey Mouse Clubhouse vs Alternative
Winner: MM Clubhouse
A team to watch, MM Clubhouse started off against relative unknowns Alternative, seizing the victory. MMC is a team comprised of former members of multiple top teams last year, including ANZ champions Moops and DeMiSe, of 2017’s Dark Sided roster. Only time will tell if the team manage to take down Hacky’s new 2018 Dark Sided roster, and cement their place in the top eight.
The second round of the night brought out two teams considered relatively close: NekoMimi and Wolf Pack, the team formerly known as Mad Because Bad. A team comprised mostly of new players to competitive play, NekoMimi is mainly significant due to the mechanical skill of its individual players. This was shown at its best through Koality’s play on Lucio, successfully interrupting multiple Mosh Pits with his ‘boop’s throughout the game and turning the tide of battle. Mitsy also represented their team excellently- an absolute newbie to competitive HotS, they had a sterling performance on Tracer.
Other significant games from round two include:
Roles Unspecified vs Onyx
Winner: Roles Unspecified
Two Onyx Guild teams duking it out, each led by well-respected players throughout the community, this matchup was likely a close one. However, Roles Unspecified took their first victory of the tournament against the more experienced team, a promising first step for the players hungry to play competitively.
Rich Gang vs Team No Tilt
Winner: Rich Gang
Tragically, Team No Tilt had to face two of the top-tier teams of the event in a row, a huge potential blow to morale. This was unlikely to have been a particularly pretty game, but set Rich Gang up correctly for reasonable success in the future of the tournament.
A well-anticipated matchup, fans of Dark Sided got to see their new lineup in action for the first time (excluding the Preseason Pretrainer event). All eyes were on them, as people were eager to see how they would perform under such high stakes as this event. Perhaps, then, it was even more surprising to see such strength on the side of their opponents, the charmingly named ‘QM Warriors’, as they took to the lanes of the Tomb of the Spider Queen against the team. Things were looking dire for Dark Sided, a poor start to the preseason – especially following a placing of 5th in the Pretrainer. However, an excellent Sulfuras Smash from Deceptive was the trigger that allowed Dark Sided to switch on again, moving into a strong position and displaying excellent synergy to win the game in a reverse sweep from a three-structure loss. Special mention must also go to Hacky, bringing out his classic Chromie and making a statement that he was strong as ever on his favorite hero, even after the controversial Temporal Loop debacle of BlizzCon 2017.
Other significant games of Round 3 included:
Downfall Gaming vs Wolf Pack
Winner: Downfall Gaming
Two of the guaranteed teams-to-watch of the event, both teams predicted to secure places in the HGC 2018. Downfall turned out the stronger team, taking out the old wolves and continuing their streak of success.
uA Eggplant vs Roles Unspecified
Winner: uA Eggplant
Another matchup between two lower-tier teams, this was an tenuous matchup, with uncertain results. The Unreal Aussies ended up taking home the victory against the Onyx Guild this time, however, setting a hierarchy of lower teams amongst the preseason. Eggplant will be a team to watch in coming weeks.
The final broadcast round of the night was possibly the most painful to watch. Some of the most experienced players in the scene, the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, faced off against beloved casual team uA Eggplant. As many expected, it was a slaughter from the beginning, even with some off-meta talent choices from MMC. uA Eggplant managed to secure a single kill the entire match, against DeMiSe, though there was never any opportunity to capitalize upon this. A tragic but predictable end to a night of entertaining games, but Twitch chat came out in droves to support the less competitive team following the crushing defeat.
Other highlight games of the night’s final round include:
Saboteur vs Team Celery
Two relatively unknown teams, this was another more difficult matchup. In the end, Saboteur took home the victory, establishing the team as a mid-tier team for this week’s matchups, and relegating Celery to the bottom tier of teams.
QM Warriors vs Team No Tilt
This was the fourth and final loss of the night for the Onyx Guild’s No Tilt, but an important game for QM Warriors, establishing their place as a strong mid-tier team within the tournament.
At the end of Day One, results were as follows:
|1. Dark Sided||4-0|
|1. Downfall Gaming||4-0|
|1. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse||4-0|
|5. Rich Gang||3-0|
|6. Salty Dogz Remastered||2-2|
|6. QM Warriors||2-2|
|8. uA Eggplant||1-3|
|9 Roles Unspecified||1-3|
|11. Wolf Pack||1-2|
|13. Team No Tilt||0-4|
|15. Team Celery||0-3|
At the summary of these results, we see three significant distinctions in teams. The first division (DS, Downfall, MMC, Rich Gang and the surprisingly impressive NekoMimi) proved that they all have what it takes to participate in the HGC ANZ, should they fail to be knocked out by any hungry lower teams. Speaking of which, the second division (Salty Dogz Remastered, QM Warriors, uA Eggplant, Roles Unspecified, Alternative) is made up of teams who, provided they put in the work by the next round of games, could easily take up a spot among those top teams, albeit not necessarily the best. Finally, the bottom five teams (Wolf Pack, Saboteur, Onyx, No Tilt, Celery) certainly aren’t out of the running, but will have to absolutely step up their game and put in some hard hours if they are truly determined enough to secure a position in the HGC ANZ Premier League for 2018.
Ultimately, time will tell as a the Bo1 Round-Robin format is a deadly one, and can take unsuspecting teams by surprise if they let down their guard. I’ll see you again for next week’s end-of-night analysis!