I really enjoyed today’s games. There were really interesting compositions, different game speeds, and one of the most heartbreaking core attempts I’ve ever seen. There’s a lot to talk about, but before we do, I want to remind you about the ensuing patch changes affecting Gold Club.
This was a huge topic of discussion yesterday, so much so that I made it the subject of the pilot for my new YouTube series, Entry Level Esports. It would mean the world to me if you took a look at it and gave me your feedback. I think it’s a great explanation of the whole patch issue, and I’m really excited for the show in the future. With that plug out of the way, recap!!
So right off the bat, we need to talk about the Sgt. Hammer pick. Anyone who is calling this a troll pick, or Fnatic “cheesing”, carefully read the following several sentences:
First, no. Fnatic wants to win this event, or do as well as humanly possible. They want a higher seed in the bracket stage and are directly competing with Dignitas for seeding. This series could potentially decide who has to fight KSV in the first round, Fnatic is not going to throw a game away with a troll pick. This is a composition they have practice and hidden from teams before today. Likely, they would have continued to hide it until later in the tournament, but with Hammer banned in the bracket stage now, they saw an opening to get one use out of their pocket strategy and they took that chance.
People see Hammer and immediately think it’s a bad pick, but this composition on Tomb makes a ton of sense. More than any other, this map incentivizes wave clear and zone control. Both Hammer and Junkrat excel at defending webweavers, and capitalize exceptionally well on pushing with the map objective. With an even game or a slight lead, Fnatic’s comp is set up to create long siege opportunities, constant pressure, and snowball a structure advantage.
There’s a critical moment that happens at the start of this game. Everything is pretty even up until a small skirmish around the top turn-in. Wubby gets caught, but manages to escape with just a small sliver of health, and Dig turns the fight around into two kills, a turn in, and an overwhelming lead. All of Dig’s advantage in this game comes from the timing of that skirmish, and how well they capitalize on it. However, all of that hinges on Wubby escaping and Fnatic chasing just long enough to extend into Dig’s collapse. BadBenny noted on his Twitter this morning, that Wubby escapes because he made a bad read on the fight. Instead of Feral Lunging Wubby to secure the kill, Benny finished channeling his turn in. Had he canceled tun in to finish the kill, Fnatic either trades kills or gets an advantage and secures their own turn in. With that, their composition comes online, they obliterate the structures with their backline siege power, and the game plays out completely differently. So, rather than focusing on the composition, we instead need to look at Fnatic’s play.
Overall, Dig was in solid control of both games in this series. Game 1 snowballed away from Fnatic off of one bad play, but Game 2 was a much more methodical affair. Dignitas hit 20 first and very nearly had the stall on Fnatic’s game-winning dragon. It was very reminiscient of their match on Cursed Hollow against Roll20–slightly behind all game, but one bad fight allows them to snowball a sudden victory. I personally also don’t love Fnatic’s team comp in Game 2, but that’s just because I don’t like relying on heroics in my blowup comps. They struggled all game to create isolation and get picks. It took Dig overextending in the late game before they could get a good fight. All in all, not a great showing again by Fnatic, but they once again prove that they have that veteran ability to capitalize on a mistake. Even while they are still figuring out this new roster, you have to respect them all the way until the core explodes.
I don’t know that there’s a ton to say about Dignitas that wasn’t covered in the Fnatic section. Games between these two teams are always so hard to use as data for analysis of anything outside of that specific series. They know each other so well, and always play such close series on LAN. Sort of have to take everything with a grain of salt. They capitalized off mistakes, played a strong slow game on Dragon Shire, and were robbed of their 2-0 by one small misplay. I also hated Dig’s team comp in Game 2, again because there wasn’t enough lockdown to control fights. Half the reason this game was so slow and bloodless was because of the inability of either team to force a fight on their terms until everyone had heroics and whatnot.
That aside, I saw more things from Zaelia that I like, dude is going to be a really good support. Also I don’t think there’s a way to overstate POILK’s skill. There was a discussion on Town Hall Heroes questioning whether Dig would have let Mene go if they knew supports were getting nerfed. Having seen POILK the last few days, I think they are still pretty happy with their decision. At this point, we really just need to see Dignitas in the group stage take another crack at Korea to see how they’ve grown throughout the event.
These poor boys. So close to a completely different scenario for the bracket stage of the tournament. Going up against KSV, no one was expecting wins for NA in this series. Still, there are some interesting takeaways to note.
Game 1, KSV just figured out the counter to Roll20’s draft. The NA squad showed this strategy before in the event, and clearly KSV had a conversation and identified how it could be dealt with. The combination of Illidan and Abathur drastically reduce Roll20’s chances of finding early picks, which they need in order to snowball into control over the beacons. Lucio gives you lots of control in a lane gank, but he does nothing to inhibit the mobility of an Illidan. Without that early lead, Roll20 had virtually no chance to win teamfights, and their losses in the early game effectively made this an impossible situation. Still, R2e had a few cool plays around level 7 to get themselves a lead on the beacon and have a chance at maybe turning it around. Ultimately, this game was lost in the draft, and you cannot get outdrafted by the best team in the world and hope to win.
Game 2 is really interesting. Obviously, everyone is going to talk about the core, and sure, that’s how the game ended. It’s a heartbreaker, it sucks that Roll20 couldn’t capitalize, they need to figure out how to close out situations where they’ve won the game. That said, let’s take a deeper look at how the actual game played out.
The early game was completely controlled by KSV. They managed to get more value pushing a fort than Roll20 did with the first punisher. However, we have to take into account Roll20’s team composition. In the early game, they have almost no lockdown. Their damage stinks, they only have Arthas root to actually lock anyone down–they really don’t have any way to create pressure. Their composition doesn’t actually fully come online until around level 13. They give ground and a level lead through some misplays, but they keep finding ways to keep structures relatively even, and set themselves up to be on even talent tiers when a shrine spawns. The level 13 fight was super close, and then Roll20 actually won the fights at 16 and 20. Their composition did what it was supposed to, and put them in position to actually win the game against KSV.
The big question now with Roll20, aside from their late game woes, is how much they’ll continue to play around with their flexible style. One of the reasons I’ve been so high on this roster is the ability for the team to focus their playstyle more with clear strengths and well-defined roles. Having some flexibility does make you stronger, but Roll20 now has players at every position who can dominate their role. I would have really liked to see one of these matches against KSV played with a more standard comp in order for the team to test their raw execution against the best team in the world. That said, it may be that they are using this group stage to focus more on exploring their depth and experimenting to collect data before locking down their preferred pocket strategies.
Roll20 is essentially out of contention at this point for the winner’s side of the bracket phase, but we still have some games to play to resolve the seeding between our top four teams. With that in mind, we see much less shifting in the power ranking today.