Day 3 over and done, and with it even more questions about the European contingent. We saw Roll20 move into their expected formation, Fnatic continue to search for answers, and Dignitas almost get there like 12 times. All in all, the matches today were really interesting and there’s a lot to get to, so let’s dive in!
Today was a nice palate cleanser for the North American squad. After a tough series against Dignitas yesterday, they were matched against the third seed from China, BTG. Roll20 took care of business today with two fairly dominant wins.
While some may choose to focus on Justing’s epic 5-man mosh (assisted by Buds) or “NA LUL” at the “failed” core attempt in game two, I see two encouraging takeaways from these matches. First, Roll20’s patient play in both games. After yesterday, as the heavy favorites in this match, there could be a temptation to draft overly aggressive comps, try to force every fight you can, and win both games in under 10 minutes.
Instead, Roll20 took both games slow and methodical. They knew their advantage in both games came from Goku’s mastery of Dehaka’s split push. Both teamfights in Game 1 were created by BTG trying to force pressure against the 4-man because they had no answer to Dehaka. Rather than bring Dehaka in early and force a fight, Roll20 stalled and stalled until BTG stepped out of line, and then pounced.
Looking at Game 2, we see another very methodical affair. Roll20 utilized the strength of their comp to find picks in the early game, and could have tried to snowball a quick game. Instead, they stuck to the Dehaka gameplan. This was a game that was basically impossible for Roll20 to lose unless they forced teamfights that BTG could win. By keeping the map split, threatening the fast rotations with Lucio, and maintaining constant pressure with Dehaka, they just starved BTG of opportunity until the game inevitably ended. Even the “bad core call” fits within this strategy.
Look back at the map at the point when Roll20 loses that core attempt. All the lanes are pushed, there are still guardians in bottom lane, and beacons are a long way off. Even though Roll20 loses nearly every member to the core, there’s nothing on the map that BTG can take to climb back into the game. In essence, the NA teams gets 40% core damage for free, and sets up for a guaranteed win with their next Zerg wave.
Lastly, we actually saw Kure on assassins! In both games! He was on a hypercarry Valla in Game 1, and then on Greymane with Daneski’s Junkrat in Game 2. This is the iteration of Roll20 we hoped to see, and hopefully it’s what we will see in their remaining matches. In the end, a good day for NA, but still plenty of work to do, and tough opponents ahead.
I have a feeling Dignitas wanted a different result from today’s matches. These games are the absolute most frustrating to lose against an opponent who is considered stronger than you. Time and again we saw KSV members escape with a sliver of health. Had Dig been able to close out even one of those kills, the whole series could have been different. KSV simply had Dignitas’ number today.
Looking at takeaways for Dig, we saw POILK unveil his Gul’dan and Cassia. The Gul’dan game was a bit rough–we saw a whiffed Horrify and several instances of POILK being uncharacteristically out of position. POILK appears to have a fairly robust hero pool, but today the squad was just unable to bring out their trademark execution.
We really need to see more from his other supports, but I am becoming a fan of Zaelia’s Lucio. His escape at the start of Game 2 showed a deep understanding of what his hero could do. Unfortunately, it was followed up by a bit of overconfidence and getting caught a few times. Outside of that, I think Game 2 was a really rough draft for Dig. If people are interested, I may do another article analyzing the entirety of that draft. However, the short version is that Dig left themselves in an awkward spot with their last pick because they needed a second support, but they had only Wubby’s pick remaining, and needed something that could hold down a solo lane thanks to the early Abathur pick. They took a risk and, thanks to KSV’s refusal to just freaking die, it didn’t work.
So, it turns out that Korea is still pretty good. Sky Temple is a very rough map when you fall behind early, and that’s largely what happened to Fnatic. This was also another game of Mene on Gul’dan in a spot where traditionally the meta would demand a support in that slot. Fnatic had two opportunities with teamfights on objectives that could have turned the game around. In both instances Genji was able to just pour damage into the entirety of the European roster, and Gul’dan’s Horrify was not enough to counteract it. Maybe an Emerald Wind would have worked better? Who can say. The map always makes it a bit more difficult to properly evaluate a draft plan because it can all just go so wrong so fast.
Game 2 was a very strange draft by Fnatic. On Day 1 we saw them relegate BadBenny to a secondary support in order to give Mene his Junkrat. In this game we saw a similar setup with double support, Greymane and Junkrat. However, Benny was put on the Junkrat, with Mene on the Kharazim. These sorts of drafts, having now twice been unsuccessful, create a potential concern for Fnatic moving forward in this event. Ballistix appears to have made a read that Mene and BadBenny both are limited in their hero pools at this stage in the team’s development. By focusing their bans on Breez, they still manage to create an awkward draft for Fnatic while restricting one of the best tank players in the world.
On the bright side, this is something Fnatic is entirely aware of and will be working to solve throughout the tournament. They have experimented with a wide range of styles, strategies, and compositions so far through just three games. We know Benny has a reasonable stable of bruisers having seen his Arthas and Sonya, now the team appears to be focusing on exploring ways to create comfort for Mene. Ultimately, in order for Fnatic to win this event they will likely need to put Mene on Brightwing and have him perform well. However, they are collecting a ton of data that will be useful going into the 2018 season, particularly with the support nerfs incoming. Ultimately, fans who were critical of the Mene pickup have more fuel for the fire, but Fnatic has more data that will better equip them to perform in the long run.
In the first game of the day, we saw SPT take a game off of CE, which further distorts all of our understanding of the relative strength of these teams. It is entirely unfair and ridiculous to try and rank them with any authority at this point, but once again we’re going to do it anyway!
Yesterday I had Roll20 below CE, but I have moved them up for a few reasons. First, I think their win against Dig had more to do with POILK’s nerves and poor performance than it had to do with CE’s strength. Second, they lost a map to SPT, a team which Roll20 handled confidently. Finally, we saw Kure on ranged for the first time in the roster and it looked good. Whether that remains the case will have to wait until tomorrow, but I am encouraged by today’s results enough to give them the boost over CE prior to that matchup.