Power Rankings 2017
Western Clash #2
Bracket and schedules on LiquipediaOnce again we find ourselves in another North America vs Europe showdown in the Western Clash, but this time thing's aren't so clear. Although we have a dichotomy of EU over NA in our rankings, the closeness between the votes has never been so narrow. How well the North American teams will do on the big stage is murky, but if there were ever a time for them to upset a top tier European team, it's at this event.
Meanwhile, the minor region teams come in at more of a deficit than normal. The HGC system has provided a much-needed structure for major regions to practice, improve, and develop quickly—but minor regions have unfortunately suffered in that regard. With the competition in NA and EU racing ahead, LatAm and ANZ have been lagging behind. Still, there is the possibility for an upset or two if the teams play at their best. After all, we all underestimated Nomia at the last Western Clash, and they nearly took a series off Misfits in the first round.
Without a doubt, these rankings could be thrown into chaos by the end of the weekend, but as an educated guess, this is the closest we can get to accurately representing where the teams stand in relation to one another. What do you think?
The competition begins in
|Fnatic won the Mid-Season Brawl. Enough said.|
But seriously, Fnatic has been on top of their game in recent months, and they haven't let up in Phase 2 either. Aside from an unpredictable loss to Playing Ducks in the final week, Fnatic may go down in history as the most consistent Heroes of the Storm team ever. They have the mechanics to beat Korean teams, they obviously know how to handle the metagame, and they're not afraid to try new things. It's possible that a surprise NA draft could catch them off guard, but with all the tools at their disposal and all the offline experience in the world, Fnatic are the favorites to take the Western Clash.
|2. Team Liquid|
|Since being picked up by Liquid, the German boys have experienced the Liquid curse: being one of the best teams in the world and choking every time under pressure. For much of 2017, Team Liquid has been considered one of the best in Europe, able to take games off Fnatic and Dignitas convincingly, but they've never been able to make their mark.|
However, this is Liquid's tournament to win. Dignitas has been Liquid's Achilles' heel forever, and without the British boys to mar their tournament run, there's a good chance for Liquid to overcome Fnatic and finally take their first offline title in over a year. As long as they can overcome themselves in the final rounds, it's looking good for Liquid.
|3. Team expert|
|At the beginning of Phase 1, Team expert rolled out some creative drafts combined with outstanding mechanical skill that surprised everyone. Although they lingered a bit behind the "Big Three" in Europe, they cemented a solid #4 position in the region and cultivated a playstyle all their own.|
In Phase 2, they've pulled back the creativity (a little) and focused more on developing with the metagame and perfecting their gameplay, and the hard work has paid off. With the addition of Atheroangel, expert is looking better than ever. But how will they hold up against the top competition on the big stage? This event will define Team expert. If they succeed here, the future is bright; if they fail, they cement their fate as second rate.
|4. Gale Force eSports|
|What happens when you add two BlizzCon world champions to an already successful team? It shouldn't be hard to guess. Gale Force has succeeded in leaps and bounds during Phase 2 due to their addition of KingCaffeine and k1pro. Though they struggled to find their balance at first, Gale Force eSports is finally looking like the well-oiled machine they've always been dubiously compared to.|
GFE's classic weakness has been severely oscillating performances, from outright domination to pathetically bad, but that's no longer a problem for the North American team. If they play their best, they have a definite shot at taking down a European team (or maybe even taking the whole thing...it wouldn't be the strangest thing we've ever seen). Still, North America remains untested against Europe. Despite a good showing from Roll20 at previous events, the region has never looked quite on par with their competitors across the pond.
|5. Team Freedom|
|Team Freedom is the new kid on the block, and they're looking to make a mark on the international scene. As the first international tournament for every single member, the stakes are high for the young and eager team.|
Team Freedom struggled in the lower echelons of the rankings in Phase 1, but the addition of Heroes of the Dorm superstar Kure has significantly boosted the team's success in recent history. Despite coming in third place below Tempo Storm, Team Freedom seems to have the fire needed to take home the trophy. However, they can't get too far ahead of themselves; this is a new experience for them, and nerves will come into play. If they can overcome those nerves, they could do quite well in this tournament, but likewise, they could go out without a fight. It's all dependent on how they stand up to the pressure of the big stage.
|6. Tempo Storm|
|No one spells consistency like Tempo Storm...at least, not in the North American region. While Tempo Storm still has a few precious moments from time to time, they have remained a top tier team for the better part of a year now. The addition of their coach Kala has also significantly improved their drafting weaknesses and some coordination issues.|
Still, this is a battle of NA vs EU. Being good in North America doesn't necessarily translate to being good on the global stage. Tempo Storm's international record isn't terrible, but it's nothing to ride home about. They've never stood out among their peers, and their solid yet unexciting playstyle is forgettable. Nonetheless, it's consistency that wins tournaments. Tempo Storm probably won't win the tournament, but they'll make it deep and put up a good fight.
|Nomia shocked the world in the previous Western Clash by nearly taking down Misfits in some amazingly close games and then later on by 2-0ing China's #2 seed SPT at the Mid-Season Brawl. How could this minor region team compete with the absolute best of the best like that? Unfortunately, when we look at their record, it's dismal compared to their actual performance. Simply put: do not underestimate this team.|
However, it is important to note their recent slump. Despite performing admirably in the first half of the season, their play has never looked quite as cohesive. Just before the Mid-Season Brawl, they lost their first series in ANZ since last year against Morton's List (later Dark Sided). In the qualifiers for this tournament, they only barely scrapped by with a 3-2 victory. Considering that they have been kings in ANZ for literally years, dropping that ball that hard is jaw-dropping. In addition, Arcaner announced via Twitter that he was planning on leaving the region and heading to one of the major regions to compete; suffice it to say, that's good enough to suggest that Nomia might be having internal struggles as well. Still, don't count them out. On a good day, Nomia can 100% pull an upset.
|8. RED Canids|
|JSchritte and his boys are back! The Canids didn't have the best performance ever at the Mid-Season Brawl, but they were also a relatively new and untested team. This time around, though, the Canids destroyed their qualifier and look far more decisive in their play.|
Although JSchritte has also announced his future departure to a major region, the Canids seem to be clicking with each other and enjoying the game still. While we don't expect anything major out of the Latin American team, we're excited to see what they bring to the table and how they'll deal with the new meta.
It’s safe to say that competition in both North America and Europe has significantly increased between the HGC Phases. Before the Mid Season Brawl, Europe had the “Big Three”—Fnatic, Dignitas and Liquid—vying for the top spots with Team expert just behind and the rest struggling to keep up. North America was primarily dominated by Tempo Storm, challenged in part by Roll20, Gale Force, and B Step, but the rest of the teams lagged far behind.
After the Mid Season Brawl, everything changed. The weakest EU teams were soundly beaten by their challengers and EU no longer had “easy” teams for the Big Three to score points on. Liquid came out with all guns blazing but, either due to their own faults or the strength of the competition, were unable to maintain form. Dignitas had an opposite trend, starting off with a minor slump after a drafter/shotcaller change and beginning to regain form near the end. Out of the Big Three, only Fnatic remained steady as they casually dominated except for a single surprise loss to Playing Ducks in the final week.
Team expert was the real winner of Phase 2, though. With Atheroangel on the team, expert demonstrated their capabilities and finished in second over both Team Liquid and Dignitas. Their solid drafting, unique pocket strategies, and overall game sense made them into a formidable opponent.
Dignitas won't be there to defend their title
The final score nearly left EU with a three-way tie for third, but Dignitas and Tricked both missed the Clash by just a single map. The closeness between the teams indicates that Europe is no longer just a case of the Big Three, but closer to the Big Five. With the competition in Europe the hottest it’s ever been, it will take a lot to keep them from taking all the places on the podium at the Western Clash.
It’s hard to say if NA will be better internationally, though. With no pesky Korean or Chinese teams there to befuddle them, Tempo Storm’s Abathur obsession will prove interesting on the big stage. Though they definitely slumped after the Mid Season Brawl, they still managed to qualify with a map score equal to the new Gale Force eSports who more or less dominated the first half of the season.
Gale Force eSports had some new life breathed into the team with the addition of experienced duo KingCaffeine and k1pro. With more defined roles on the team, the new roster has really started to show some promise despite a rocky start. Just prior to this event, they were beaten in the finals of Bloodlust by Roll20, but don’t expect that to represent their full potential; there’s no doubt they hid some strategies away for the Clash. With the enormous benefit of having KingCaffeine and k1pro’s LAN experience on the team, they can definitely contest the top three at the clash.
Can Tempo finally translate consistency into a major win?
Many thought the addition of Equinox on No Tomorrow would allow them to qualify, and at first it looked like it. The team started the season off with a bang, taking out Superstars, Team Freedom, and Tempo Storm in their first three series, but after a narrow loss to Gale Force eSports, they were never able to achieve the same level of success.
The wildcard for North America is Team Freedom. They came out and smashed Even in Death 3-0, narrowly lost to No Tomorrow, but then proceeded to destroy Naventic, Superstars and even Gale Force, going 9-1 in maps. They secured their status as a genuine top NA team when they beat Roll20 3-2 to secure their place at the Clash. They decided to head to EU early to acclimatize and get some more practice in, so they are a dark horse to watch out for.
Both NA and EU have stepped it up a notch over the past 5 weeks; now is the time to determine who can prove to the rest of the world that they are more than just a regional big shot and can actually hang with the best of the West.