The opening weekend of the Mid-Season Brawl surpassed all possible expectations. We saw crazy upsets, unique drafts, and the return of everyone’s favorite voodoo shaman–Kaelaris.
Obviously, there’s plenty of group stage left and anything can happen. These first few matches represent a major learning opportunity for the teams in Sweden. Unexpected holes are discovered, the tournament meta starts to reveal itself, and teams can begin to make adjustments. In the same way, fans of the HGC learned a great deal from those initial games. Here are the top 5 things we learned from the opening weekend of the MSB.
5. Roll20’s Bright Future
We’ll get into their upset of MVP in a bit. This blog has been 90% about justifying NA roster changes, so let’s do that briefly. In their opening games Roll20 showed immense promise. They made Black look like an Open Division team in that first match, and handled business against their wildcard opponent. However, it’s that second game against MVP Black that shows how much further this team can go.
It may seem odd to some that a team with so much promise as Roll20 is making a roster change. Further, bringing in a predominantly melee player with Glaurung on the team appears odd. However, if we really examine that second MVP game, the decision makes perfect sense. Roll20 had a strong draft that played to their strengths on Battlefield of Eternity. They had their Medivh, they had Greymane to race with the immortal, and they had a strong front line. On paper this is a great and correct draft, but it is not an ideal draft for this iteration of Roll20.
Prismaticism has surprised me with his strong showing on many heroes. However, the only place he’s really struggled is with certain melee-focused heroes. Ragnaros and Greymane are particular concerns. Prismat was a key part of every Roll20 victory this weekend, but his Greymane was also a pivotal part of their loss against MVP. Imagine that same draft with Goku on the Greymane and Prismaticism on the Leoric. Suddenly those few micro-misplays in the first few teamfights become clutch plays. Roll20 was winning the early game before the fighting started, it is entirely reasonable to suggest with some slightly better play from Greymane in those opening fights, Roll20 had a legitimate shot at going 2-0 against the favorites to win the whole thing. I expect Roll20 to make it out of groups and give a great show during the remainder of the MSB. However, I am already itching to see how much further they can go once they get home and start practicing with Goku.
4. The Tyrael Rule Still Applies
During the regular season, some regions tend to lose faith in Tyrael. The warrior meta shifts and evolves, and we move onto solo Leoric, Varian, Diablo, and so on. Side note–as a writer HOTS is uniquely frustrating because you can never end a list with the phrase “etc” because it always looks like you just forgot to capitalize a hero’s name.
Anyway, Tyrael is still really good. Korea quickly reminds us of this at every international event. Fortunately, it appears a few teams remembered this lesson from last time and have developed strategies to deal with it. Whether those strategies hold up in the bracket phase remains to be seen, but regardless it’s high time everyone simply acknowledged that Tyrael is not going anywhere–he’s really good and here to stay.
3. 4th Guy OP
3rd guy was not only a great meme, but a solid analyst during playoffs. That said, I have been blown away by Fan at the analyst….lounge? I can’t call it a desk because they’re in weird, like, bachelor pad chairs. Analyst chill-zone? Bro-down game talk area?
Either way, Fan has been impressive. Obviously he knows the game, that shouldn’t shock anyone. However, his ability to communicate far exceeds elite players in most games. Watch any League of Legends analyst desk from the early years and you will see players give the most cringe-worthy interview answers and clunky analysis. Fan can keep up with veteran casters like Kaelaris and Grubby. The way he flows through replays is exceptional. There’s never a moment of dead air. Frankly, if you’re hoping for a job in Heroes as a caster or analyst, I would consider new career aspirations. When players like Cauthon and Fan retire, they will immediately scoop up all those jobs and do them better than you or I ever could.
2. See Hero, Kill Hero
In a weekend filled with surprises, one of the biggest was the sheer dominance of Estar. China has always shown strength, but often visa issues and over-aggression get the best of them. So far, the agressive Chinese playstyle has been serving Estar well. They’ve blown through both their opponents looking strong while doing it. Tempo Storm tried this style and were upset by another Zeratul making plays. Roll20 used a similar method against MVP but still had to cautiously close out the game. It may often be imitated, but no one can quite duplicate the raw aggression of a top team from China.
The big question for Estar at this point is how long they can sustain this style of play. There will be lots more games played at this event, plenty of time for opponents to study Estar and find holes in their gameplan. Can Estar keep suffocating their opponents, or will someone figure out how to gain some breathing room?
1. Even Gods Can Bleed
Since Blizzcon the conversation on Reddit and elsewhere has been borderline depressing. Every time a team makes a great play, announces a smart roster change, or dominates their region we always see the same comments arise. “That’s all well and good, but it’s irrelevant until they can actually beat Korea.”
The apologists will offer plenty of excuses. MVP wasn’t playing seriously, Dignitas got lucky in that first game, Korea is just hiding strats for the bracket phase. The thing is, it doesn’t matter. Fnatic made the first cut last year, but Roll20 and Dignitas have opened the floodgates. The immortal Koreans are human. They can be cut. If they can bleed, they can be defeated. L5 and MVP Black may ultimately meet in the finals of the MSB. They may turn it on and crush their foes from here on out. However, even that is a win for the West at this point.
Like Goku against Freiza, Roll20 and Dignitas made the Koreans fight with both hands. They will be forced to respect their opponents, to show their strength. Teams now have real, genuine hope. They’ll have better data going into the bracket stage. We now have two separate events where Korea has been wounded by the West. The dream of international parity is not dead. I cannot wait to see what happens next.