With a lead-in of multiple controversial roster changes, the third day of the HGC ANZ Preseason was definitely one people were keeping their eyes on, and it turned out to be the perfect time to do so, with some amazing drafts and startling late-game comebacks that will be instrumental in determining the final order of teams at the conclusion of Week 4.
With No Tilt now confirmed to be out of the running, the list of teams has come down to 14. Additionally, there were multiple of the mid to low-ranked teams in the standings that didn’t show, and were instantly disqualified from the night’s proceedings: Team Celery, Alternative and Salty Dogz Remastered.
Roles Unspecified vs Wolf Pack
Winner: Wolf Pack
The first game broadcast of the night showed two mid-tier teams duking it out in a relatively even matchup on fan-favourite Infernal Shrines. Opening the draft with very meta pickups of Hanzo on Wolf Pack and Uther/Greymane on Roles Unspecified, the game was looking to be standard fare. What ended up happening, though, was rather interesting- Wolf Pack ended up building an incredibly high-sustain, high-survival team focused entirely around that Hanzo, whereas Roles Unspecified built a dive composition comprised with the additions of a Blaze, Anub’arak and Li-Ming. Unfortunately for Roles Unspecified, Wolf Pack’s exact draft turned out to be the counter for their aggressive strategy, surviving far too long within a teamfight for the composition to be effective, thanks to the double-frontline, double-support setup.
Other than some clean ganks and invades on both sides, the early game was relatively unceremonious, with both teams hitting 10 around the same point and very little in the way of structural damage taking place.
It was the second punisher that defined the game, spawning on bottom lane. Here, there was a significant teamfight that led to Wolf Gang turning on the aggression, pushing down both the fort and keep bottom lane, and securing a series of kills. Leaving Wolf Gang at a 3-level advantage, this allowed them to rotate at their own satisfaction and clear out structures in anticipation for the game’s third punisher.
The game concluded with a dual-pronged attack from Wolf Gang against the scrambling RU, securing the punisher while Alg pushed the bottom lane in as Dehaka, leaving catapults bombarding the core. A testament to the experience and thoughtfulness of Tanner’s team, Wolf Gang secured victory comfortably.
Downfall vs QM Warriors
Winner: QM Warriors
An absolute highlight of the preseason, crowd-favorite Downfall faced up against mid-tier team QM Warriors for the second game of the evening. In what seemed at first like an ordinary draft on Volskaya Foundry, Downfall defied all expectations by drafting two-player hero Cho’gall, with Flaze on Cho and SupaFish on Gall. An incredibly strong hero in the right hands, Cho’gall defines both teams strategies with his very existence in a draft, and this game was no different. While Downfall put all their focus behind supporting the Cho’gall, QM Warriors had drafted without the hero in mind for their first half of draft, and so were capable of a little more flexibility, securing two strong counter-picks against the hero in the form of Tychus and Leoric, both heroes known for their significant percentage-based damage, and Leoric known for his dangerous crowd-control against heroes like Cho’gall. This set the game up immediately with QM on defence against the hyper-aggressive playstyle of Cho’gall and his team of Zarya, Greymane and Auriel to provide the hero with some sustain.
After a non-consequential early-game, the first objective established the aggressive tone of the game, with Downfall aggressively taking control of the point and desperately trying to hold it despite QM’s best intentions. Although viewers saw an early example of just how much damage Tychus could do against Cho’gall, it was Downfall who were triumphant, taking three kills and securing the mech. This led to a heavy push in top, rotating heroes skillfully in and out of the mech as necessary, but ultimately the push was well-defended against by QM, and Downfall gained nothing significant out of it, even failing to capitalize on a significant gap between securing their Heroic abilities, and QM hitting level 10. Despite this, Downfall only increased their aggression, leading to a major teamfight that QM defended against successfully, and then a second with no kills on either side, right before the second objective.
It was the second objective where the odds began to swing in the favor of Downfall, as they rotated top and successfully wiped the entire enemy team and destroyed a fort without even capturing the objective. This led to a major push down the mid-lane by DF, which at first seemed effective. However, madhax on Tychus managed to burn down Cho’gall rapidly and following a resurrect from DF’s ShrekIsLove, Cho’gall subsequently charged in and died a second time. This forced DF onto the back foot once more as the keep still stood, with QM Warriors upping their aggression. Taking advantage, they rotated into multiple ganks, picking off DF and pulling momentum in their own favor, only for a failed gank on Cho’gall to lead to another teamfight, which resulted in Downfall securing yet another team wipe against QM and desperately trying to push their advantage. They downed a keep, before they were met in yet another huge teamfight. After the dust had settled, the core was on 25%, and QM had successfully team-wiped Downfall with just two heroes remaining.
Finally, the third objective was ready and available, and both teams rushed towards it as quickly as they could. Downfall was scattered, and QM was not, and this led to yet another teamfight in the bottom lane. Downfall’s supports and backline were in a vulnerable situation, and then Cho’gall swung around for a flank into the QM backline. This was a poor decision, as QM collapsed on Cho’gall with all of their damage while keeping Downfall’s supports away with Laika on the Arthas. Cho’gall fell, and soon afterwards so did the rest of team Downfall. QM pushed down the half-dead fort in the bottom lane, burned down the keep and took the core, all before Downfall ever had a chance to respawn and respond. This game wasn’t too hard a blow for Downfall, but was a huge victory for mid-tier team QM, who were kept competitive in their opportunity to secure that fifth available spot in the Premier League.
Wolf Pack vs GG Go Next
Winner: GG Go Next
Round 3 saw Wolf Gang return to the stream again to face up against the undefeated GG Go Next- formerly known as Dark Sided. Moving into the night, GG was the team worst hit by roster changes, with their former captain Hacky, and former manager Morton leaving and joining the team Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – a decision that was ruled an illegal move on MMC’s behalf and penalized with a -2 to their final score at the end of Preseason. Regardless of punishment towards MMC, though, GG was left in a critical situation- five players are needed to play Heroes of the Storm, and they had four. A critical part of their team’s synergy had abandoned them, and to rub salt in the wound, their organization, Dark Sided, followed shortly after. Thankfully, Blizzard allowed GG Go Next to take on a sub for the rest of the preseason and, should they keep up their streak of success, GG Go Next will be given an opportunity to trial new members leading into the Premier League.
This evening, GG Go Next faced off against Wolf Gang on Towers of Doom with a new face on their roster, due to these changes: BouncyKnight, in the ranged/mage position. This draft, unlike round 2, was fairly straightforward. GG drafted a fairly well-rounded team, with meta picks such as Hanzo, Uther and Arthas, and popular mainstays Dehaka and Gul’dan. Wolf Gang, on the other hand, build an Abathur-based composition, with the slug accompanied by Sonya, Greymane, ETC and Kharazim, giving them a very burst-focused, melee-heavy 4-man rotation.
The game opened fairly typically, with both teams converging on the middle lane for a teamfight. GG Go Next had a specific goal here, as every member of their team had a questing talent to open the game, and were gaining quick benefit from the early skirmish. This was a game where, from the very beginning, GG were actively pushing momentum in their favour, even despite the anti-momentum nature of Towers of Doom.
From then on, GG dominated every teamfight cleanly, taking complete control (with the exception of a failed boss attempt mid-game) all the way until the Core Life was a massive 36-2. From there, they successfully eliminated four members of Wolf Gang in a teamfight and won neatly on a three-shrine objective.
This leaves GG Go Next still undefeated, despite their roster changes, and sets them up for success leading into the final week.
NekoMimi vs Rich Gang
Winner: Rich Gang
By Round 4 of Day 3, viewers had truly seen the skills on display from the top teams and the star mid-tier teams Nekomimi and QM Warriors. So there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the matchup between Nekomimi and Rich Gang was to be a close match. That said, Nekomimi was coming into Day 3 with some roster complications. Having lost players Mitsy and Hashtag, they had been forced to pick up two new members, Emmure and ADS, who will be taking new, permanent roles on the team. Whether these new players will have better or worse synergy with the team’s three existing players will be something to hold out and see. Meanwhile, Rich Gang was still undefeated, a challenging force within the scene and demanding attention. The two teams faced off against each-other on Battlefield of Eternity in a game with a truly jaw-dropping swing.
The game’s draft was fairly straightforward, with both teams drafting balanced compositions with multiple playmaking ultimates on either side, and a decent ability to burn down the Immortal. The early game mostly followed suit, with some light brawling leading up to the first Immortal phase. It was during the first Immortal phase that viewers began to see something quite interesting- while Nekomimi and Rich Gang had relatively equal ability to burn down the Immortal, Nekomimi could do it from further away, leading to scrappy teamfights in the middle of the objective while Nekomimi’s TouchMe on Valla poked away at the enemy Immortal from afar. The first three Immortal phases followed the same pattern, of Nekomimi edging out a win in the teamfight, while Valla took the objective. It looked, for all purposes, like Nekomimi was going to win, until they were pushing with the third Immortal of the game.
At this stage of the game, there was only one keep left for Rich Gang, the bottom lane keep having been destroyed by Valla while their attention was on a teamfight around the objective. However, as the Immortal floated towards the keep, Rich Gang circled around it, ignoring it to engage Nekomimi head-on. Though the Immortal took the keep, Rich Gang caught Nekomimi by surprise and stole 3 kills, giving them an opportunity to stay in the game. From here, the swing began. A second teamfight broke out around the middle of the map, a huge affair that led to the deaths of every hero on the map aside from one- Rich Gang’s Faerie on Uther. This led to a total reset moving into the final Immortal phase of the game.
The Immortals spawned, the teamfight began, but there was a timer. Catapults were pushing down the lanes, headed for Rich Gang’s core. If they didn’t win here, they were in serious trouble. The end result of this fight was kills on both sides, with Rich Gang forced to retreat to defend their core as it hit 50%. With half the team down, though, Nekomimi could do little to burn down the Immortal. By the time their teammates were up, so was Rich Gang’s again. Yet another teamfight broke out, and yet again Nekomimi claimed victory- or so they thought. With Nekomimi claiming two kills, Rich Gang was on the retreat, until team captain Fesh, playing Greymane, swung around and dived straight into the middle of the opposing team, initiating into a 3v5. From there, his team turned and supported him, doing their best to single down individual players and keep eachother alive. What was a 3v5 turned into a 3v4, and then a 3v3. As their two dead teammates spawned, they then pushed forward and claimed those last three kills in a full team-wipe, before also claiming the Immortal. From there, they pushed, they took one more teamfight which led to kills on both sides, but due to the deaths on Nekomimi’s end, Rich Gang claimed victory as they could not be killed in time. A colossal swing, the victory would not have been made possible if not for Rich Gang’s Fesh making a single bold, dangerous and desperate move.
Following the dramatic events of the day, the standings are as follows:
|1. Rich Gang||11-0|
|1. GG Go Next||11-0|
|3. Downfall Gaming||10-2|
|4. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse||10-1|
|6. QM Warriors||7-4|
|7. Wolf Pack||6-5|
|10. uA Eggplant||3-9|
|11. Roles Unspecified||3-8|
|12. Salty dogz remastered||3-8|
|14. Team Celery||0-9|
|15. Team No Tilt||0-10 (Disqualified)|
Additionally to the current score and Day 4’s standings, it has been confirmed that Mickey Mouse Clubhouse will be receiving a -2 from their final score, which will potentially dramatically affect their standings if they fail to win their games in Day 4.
With Downfall Gaming, GG Go Next and Rich Gang all but guaranteed places within the new HGC ANZ Premier League now, it all boils down to the 4th and 5th place in the HGC ANZ Preseason. Who will claim those final spots, enabling them to compete competitively against the best ANZ has to offer for the next 6 months? Tune in on the 13th of February for Day 4, the decider.