Today is mostly a day to discuss the future of this tournament and the ramifications of the new patch. That said, some games did happen this morning, and they were amazing to watch. Huge takeaways for all of our teams, and a lot to learn not just for fans, but for the players as well. No more stalling, let’s do the thing.
We have to start with Roll20 today because there’s a lot that needs to be said. If you’re a fan, it always hurts to see your team lose two games in a row to late game throws. If you’re a memer, you’re thrilled with these results because you get to type “NA LUL” like crazy and feel smug and superior while doing it. However, fans of Roll20 should be thrilled with these games beyond belief. Let me explain:
First, let’s get one thing straight–Roll20 was never going to win this tournament. Fourth place at this tournament is a massive win for NA. Gold Club for Roll20 is about finding the gaps in their play, throwing the new roster into a trial by fire, and gaining a ton of experience in preparation for the 2018 season. Obviously the players and organization traveled to China with the intent to win every match, but as fans and analysts, we need to see the bigger picture.
Once you accept this, today’s matches become amazing for a Roll20 fan. You literally have to watch the games in order to understand why because the 2-0 scoreline tells an entirely different story. Roll20 was in complete control of both games basically from minute one. Teams still don’t have an answer for Goku’s Dehaka, Daneski’s Junkrat put in work, and the team’s mastery of the laning phase on both maps was superb. Both games were ultimately lost due to one bad teamfight in the late game. Throws like this happen to every team at some point. It’s frustrating and feels awful for the players involved, but if you’re a Roll20 fan, the fact that the NA squad was able to dictate the pace of both games against Fnatic is huge.
There are a few other takeaways I want to mention. First, it’s a bit disingenuous to just write off both games as late game throws. There were a few key macro decisions made in both games that put R2e in a position to throw. On Cursed Hollow, they had a curse and a 5v4 situation and could not secure a keep. On Dragon Shire, they secured a late game Dragon Knight and walked it down bottom lane where it promptly died before reaching the core. In both situations a potentially game-ending push was thwarted by overly passive play and Fnatic’s strong defense. Roll20 won their games yesterday by starving out BTG and playing some of the most passive games we’ve ever seen from them. However, that strategy is far riskier against a world class team like Fnatic who can take even the smallest mistake and turn it into a victory.
This is why these games have me so excited as an NA fan. Roll20 did not get outclassed. They weren’t just beaten by a better team. They controlled both games and put themselves in a position to win handily. Without those late game throws, we’re suddenly having a conversation about how Roll20 smashed Fnatic and how weak the new Fnatic rosters looks. Basing all of your analysis purely on results doesn’t actually give you any useful data. With these losses, Roll20 have two incredible VODs to rewatch and learn how to close out these games. Closing out a win against a “better” team is among the hardest skills for a shotcaller to learn. These games will be invaluable to Justing’s growth, and Roll20 will level up from these games far more than if Fnatic had lost that last teamfight and R2e had a 2-0 today.
My last point on Roll20 is entirely my own opinion–I feel like there is too much emphasis on Junkrat. Yesterday’s games revealed a potential weakness in Breez’s hero pool (his Muradin) that Roll20 could have tried to exploit. Instead, they focused on using their bans to keep the Junkrat safe and build their comps around him. I think Junkrat is a strong situational pick–one that should only be taken when the draft allows, not something that you should invest resources into making work. Obviously, I’m not seeing their scrim data, maybe Daneski’s Junkrat is murdering kids all day long. However, I’d like to see Roll20 open up to some other strategies that play more to their strengths and set up better for teamfights. To me, the Genji first ban just gives Fnatic too much of what they want.
Taking one quick look through Fnatic’s twitter posts from this morning will reveal everything there is to say about these games. Fnatic got surprised by Roll20’s macro play. They came away with two wins, but have far more to be worried about after today than their opponents do. I can’t remember the last time I’ve ever seen Quackniix picked off so many times in the early game.
Looking at the drafts, we see two more mage games from Mene with double tank and solo support. Fnatic seems to be committing to try and make their double ranged style work. In a fun twist of fate, the new patch may actually benefit Fnatic more than any other team since they are already trying to move away from double support. The next step for enemy teams will be to try and expose Mene’s hero pool. Where does Fnatic go when his mages are countered or banned out?
While both games were obviously disappointing, if Fnatic fans are looking for positives, we see how much the shotcalling and leadership of this squad has remained intact with the new roster. The Cursed Hollow game in particular was a prime example of excellent late game decision making. Fnatic forced Roll20’s boss–the only objective that would demand a response from the NA team. This created the only scenario where Fnatic could conceivably create enough of an advantage to win the game. If they don’t get that teamfight and immediately take the boss closest to Roll20’s keeps, they likely lose the ensuing core attempt and ultimately lose the game to catapult pressure. Even on an off day, Fnatic remains a veteran crew with plenty of experience and knowledge at their disposal.
Holy crap Dignitas. Remember how yesterday was all about Korea still dominating HOTS? Apparently Snitch and friends had a real issue with that notion. They dominated Ballistix in two one-sided games. If you take away the names, Game 2 looks like those early rounds of open tournaments where Cloud9 would just wade through some amateur team, only without the Gazlowe. Every member of Dig made plays throughout this series. If you haven’t yet, go back and watch the Dragon Shire game and see how Wubby and POILK play the gank on top lane. In that same game we see incredible zone control out of JayPL, and some really nice moves out of Zaelia’s Kharazim.
I literally can’t say enough about how good this roster looked today. Both drafts show depth and diversity at every position. POILK can play mages and carries with equal proficiency. I genuinely don’t know how you draft against this team right now. Whatever the team did today to help POILK control his nerves, they need to repeat that exact same process every day for the next year. More and more we can comfortably look at the first game against CE and consider it an outlier with no real reflection on the strength of this team.
We actually have a pretty good idea of where the teams stand at this point. The big factors now are seeing how Roll20 fares against Korea, and if Dignitas can stop their hot-cold streak. Time to make some changes to our power rankings!