This post is part three of our four part series that takes a look at how competitive Heroes of the Storm in each region has fared in 2017. Part one on Latin America can be found here and part two on Southeast Asia can be found here.
2017 is a year that will be remembered fondly by many ANZ Heroes of the Storm fans. As a previously unknown region, Nomia made history for ANZ during the first Western Clash. In a series that shocked all, the former kings found themselves in position to take a series off Europe’s top team at the time. After winning the first game against Misfits (now Team Liquid) and nearly taking the second, casters and fans alike stood in awe, finally seeing the potential lying dormant in this region for so long. After then taking a map off Team 8, fans now had very high expectations of the team for the upcoming Mid-Season Brawl. Although Nomia continued to impress at the brawl, making it to the play-offs, they ultimately fell to L5 in the losers bracket.
Behind the scenes though, tensions were rising – culminating after the second Western Clash with the loss of two core members. Coupled with announcements of region lock changes, Arcaner, who had become known for his impressive Falstad play, decided to take a bold risk by moving to England in pursuit of HGC Europe. On top of this, robadobah, the unkillable tank player from South Australia, had also decided to part ways with his long time teammates – joining the ranks of up-and-coming stars, Dark Sided. Although wanting to join Arcaner in Europe, robadobah still had unfinished business on his home soil; he wanted to show his new teammates the glory of BlizzCon first hand.
Hacky, Dark Sided’s ranged assassin, believes the season 4 finals showed just how much the skill gap in the region had narrowed. For the first time, “no one truly knew who would win it”. What’s more, the rivalry between Nomia and Dark Sided had been growing since the season 3 finals, where Nomia only narrowly edged out ahead.
After another very tense series in the final event of the year, Dark Sided, facing off against Nomia, earned not only the title of kingslayers, but their ticket to BlizzCon. In the aftermath of such a colossal upset, rivalries came to a head – fans and players targeted the opposing teams with memes and banter on social media. And, although it was all in good fun, in an interview with Skimmy, he revealed it still “had a profound impact on the scene, since many players felt dejected given how dominant Nomia’s reign was”.
In the months following BlizzCon, pressure in the scene had died down and many game changing announcements were made. Robadobah was officially moving to Europe (and has since joined Diamond Skin). Arcaner, already having made the move, was to be picked up by Team Expert. A brand new structure for HGC ANZ was announced and many of Dark Sided’s members parted ways with the team to seek out new opportunities. We also saw a range of new organisations join the scene, such as Downfall Gaming, who recently announced their 2018 team.
Looking to the Future
Hacky believes that the changes to HGC ANZ “will be amazing, making (the region) less top heavy and encouraging teams to stick together longer than a few months”. With international events also being restructured to create the Intercontinental Clash, some are concerned this will end up hurting minor regions as a whole. Skimmy, however, has a more positive perspective on it. “I can see the backlash from the community, as they’re concerned growth will be stunted. But I really have to question how much is truly learnt and then utilized with the current setup. The way I see it, this celebrates minor region teams even further as they can receive praise for winning their region, the clash and then ultimately qualifying as the strongest competitor for the Mid-Season Brawl and BlizzCon. Games should be a lot closer as a result, narratives more relevant and viewer experience improved as a whole. Whether or not this ideology becomes a reality, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Earlier this month we were given a small taste of what’s to come in 2018 through a community tournament run by Evexiam. This event showcased Dark Sided’s new roster, and, amongst a range of top-tier teams, saw Crimson Gaming secure first prize in the grand finals against Outlaws. Backing up their victory is Skimmy who mentioned that his “money’s on Crimson” this year to be the top team. He believes this is due to changes they’ve made in the off-season, their work-ethic, and what he’s seen in games so far. On top of this, he says his “flat-mate, Kva, is on the team and he’s without a doubt the best tank in ANZ”.
Hacky has a different view though and thinks that, with some tricks up their sleeve to help build consistency, Dark Sided will be back on top soon enough. We also can’t forget former kings, Nomia, who’ve likely worked past the negative synergy in their new roster, and, led by long standing Heroes of the Storm veteran, FAT94, these dolphins will be hungry for vengeance.
The official pre-season event begins on 23 January, so make sure to tune in for one of the most explosive years in ANZ Heroes of the Storm history!