Catching Up with
Written by: Midseasons
HGC Bracket and schedules on Liquipedia
BlizzCon, the culmination of everything HGC teams have been working for since January, is mere weeks away. Everything matters in these final weeks, and regional metas are shifting faster than ever.
HGC China reached the halfway point of its Fall season last week. Chinese HotS never even had a Fall season prior to 2017, and now they delve into it for the first time. The Gold Series teams have played against each other in an exhausting 28-series round robin in what would traditionally be an off-month, and they still have another 28 series to go!
With so much happening around the HGC world, the end of the first round robin is a good time to check in on the Chinese standings—who’s beaten who, what teams are slumping, and barring more visa issues, who we can hope to see at BlizzCon.
Here is a summary of team performances along with a selection of eight exciting games showcasing a victory from each team. Every team had plenty of 1-1 series and several wins to choose from. However, these all contain something unique that personifies the special flair of the region as a whole and brings HGC hype to a whole new level.
#1 - SPT (15 points)
We’ve written extensively about SPT at this point, and there isn’t much that can be said without repeating ourselves. Simply put, their dominance of the region is unlikely to end any time soon.
They’ve dropped individual games to the lowest ranked teams in the league, but they never slack off enough to drop a whole series. More importantly, SPT has been merciless against their closest competitors CE and BTG by blocking any hope they have of stealing first place. Unless SPT somehow crash and burn in the second round robin, the GHL Fall trophy is almost certainly theirs.
SPT had a notable roster change at the beginning of the season which has allowed them to become even more flexible and powerful as a team. The team added Jinlong ”Soap” Qu (formerly known as Fz) shortly after the final incarnation of eStar disbanded.
2017 has been quite the rise for Soap. He started Phase 1 on Keep It Simple (by far the worst team in the region this year), was promoted to eStar, and now plays a vital role on the strongest team in the region. It’s been quite the ascension, and Qu should be congratulated for it.
Soap showed some growing pains the first week, but since then he’s found a groove on the team. His presence allows team captain Misaka to utilize a much broader hero pool since both players can flex between melee and main tank positions. In particular, Soap’s warrier play looks very confident, perhaps as a result of the guidance Misaka’s shotcalling offers.
#2A - CE (12 points)
There seems to be a curse for teams who perform well internationally: they slump when they return home. It happened to Dignitas and Roll20, and it almost happened to CE. They went 1-1 the entire first week, dropping games left and right to lower-tier teams like KT and destroying their chances of challenging SPT for first place.
Luckily, CE spent the second week crushing their opponents, but as expected SPT proved to be the one obstacle CE could not overcome. SPT quenched CE’s fire in the final game of the round robin and ended their hot streak on a sour note.
To their credit, CE seems to be learning from their mistakes. Their previous losses against SPT have been defined by questionable, aggressive shotcalling that departs from their usual macro playstyle. This time around, CE played much more cautiously and defensively, and even though the loss was just as definitive, CE is at least trying new things instead of repeating the same behavior.
#2B - BTG (12 points)
Beyond The Game is a newly qualified team this phase. None of the players on the team have prior HGC history or seem to have been on earlier teams in the region prior to HGC, but despite coming out of nowhere, they are one of the best teams in China.
At first it might have seemed like a fluke, a lucky early start similar to the ones SoA or TheOne had, but BTG has remained consistent. They’ve shown they can play on a level with the region’s most respected teams, and they’ve soundly defeated the best of the best.
At this point, it’s up to the other teams to step up to BTG’s level. If the second round robin plays out the same way the first half did, then this never-before-seen group of players has a very real chance of playing on the BlizzCon stage.
BTG plays a smooth, lightning-fast style that looks like a compromise between SPT’s aggression and CE’s macro play, often picking ambitious 4v5 teamfights on one side of the map to buy time for objectives. While they lack the refinement of SPT or CE, they’re well on their way to top using their own style.
#4 - TheOne.SGTY (9 points)
Like BTG, TheOne.SGTY is a newly qualified team of mostly unknown players led by Tianqi ”Meng” Zhang, formerly of Hots Lady. They play at impressive level for a rookie team. They are confident and creative, and Hugo is quite possibly the best melee carry in the region.
TheOne had a lot of momentum from the very start. The prevalence of 1-1 series in the first week benefited the new teams since the region’s usual powerhouse teams stayed low in points early on. However, they hit a wall when they met BTG head on and lost their momentum.
Right now, the team is fighting to keep their fourth place spot as lower tier teams come after them. They need to look for another set of upsets in the second half of Phase 2 to keep them in the game, and if they keep their wins up, they’ll be well established for a new team moving into 2018. The competition is tense, though. At this point, even a single series loss could swing points out of their favor and knock them down several places to the Crucible.
#5 - SoA (8 points)
At the start of this year, SoA was an established team that only barely managed to secure their first (and only) victory in Phase 1. True to their name, the team started over again during the summer and showed a marked improvement.
Now they’ve started over again, again. For a brief time this season, SoA claimed the number one rank in the region. Even as other teams started winning their own series, SPT and BTG were only climbing to SoA’s level, and for a day they were all in a three-way tie for first place. However, SoA’s early lead quickly faded. They proved they can still compete strongly against SPT and BTG, but the 1-1 stalemates on SoA’s record caused them to stagnate in the standings as other teams passed them by.
SoA may not be top-three material after all. But that it’s even a question shows the remarkable amount of growth the team has made in a relatively short time.
The second round robin gives SoA a chance to reach higher. If they can keep playing equal to SPT and BTG and score an upset against CE or a more definitive victory against lower ranked teams like RPG, SoA’s goal of going to BlizzCon is attainable. SoA may not be top 3 material, but the remarkable growth they’ve made in a relatively short amount of time proves they still have potential to grow. The team is no longer a meme at this point, and some victories in the next round will help their reputation in the coming year.
#6 - KT (6 points)
When we introduced KT previously, we marked them as a team with a lot of potential, but the team has yet to live up to it.
This theme can be demonstrated with the team’s new, distinctive support player Genshuo. Previously a caster, Genshuo is stylish and individual. His first week on Uther was an impressive start for the team, and from then on, Genshuo continued to play Uther...and only Uther. He is by no means a poor Uther player, but it looks like he’s become a one-trick that could become a liability for the team.
The entire team has mechanical talent, and they certainly deserve their spot in HGC, but no one in China sees them as a threat. It could be that their playstyle doesn’t mesh with the metagame or that they lack experience, but KT has not given the other teams in the region cause to fear them.
That makes their win over Hots Lady crucial. The phase has been riddled with 1-1 series, and KT having a 2-0 over any team gives them vital breathing room in the standings. With another victory or two, they can still catapult forward into fourth or fifth place and prove themselves to the region’s established teams. They have a lot of room to grow—now they need to find the energy to do so.
#7A - RPG (4 points)
Looking back to April and the very start of HGC, RPG was a brand new team. They worked their way up through the qualifiers and immediately impressed in their HGC debut. They were instrumental in setting the bar for competitive play in China during China’s reformation, but RPG is starting to have trouble clearing the bar as it rises.
RPG hasn’t grown much from their initial starting point, leaving them deep in the standings as the new bottom tier team. They have the dubious honor of being the only team that lost a map to Wukong Gaming and have had consistent issues with drafting.
They do, however, ride well on momentum. Unfortunately the Bo2 format introduced to the league is causing them some trouble. They have upset potential, but there are no teams in China right now that RPG can confidently expect to beat 2-0. RPG can still try and shine during their last 14 games this year, but when even a 1-1 is an optimistic hope, it’s a rough season for their fans.
#7B - Hots Lady (4 points)
In a lot of ways, Hots Lady looks better than they have all year. Founding members KID and 365 have returned to the roster, Carlo and lius are playing at the top of their form, and new support Again is making big plays. So then why are they at the bottom?
For as long as they’ve existed, Hots Lady has been a gatekeeper team. They’ve sent weak teams like Keep It Simple or Wukong Gaming to the Crucible while keeping even with strong opponents like SPT, but they’ve always struggled to close out the series. Their spree of ties has kept their ranking dangerously low, even though they’ve played well.
At this point, there are no more weak teams to bully...except arguably KT, and HotS Lady lost that series 0-2. Depending on how the second round robin goes, that single series may be the one that haunts the team more than any other. Hots Lady has talent, but they simply cannot play the next set the way they did the first. They need to find multiple 2-0 victories over other mid-tier teams like TheOne or RPG if they want a chance to stay in the league.
You can catch the second round of HGC China every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday at 11:00 am CEST with [https://twitter.com/kendricswissh]KendricSwissh[/url] and Tetcher. Make sure to cheer for your favorite Chinese teams along with everyone else on the HGC cheer page too!
Fern “Midseasons” Rojas is having a blast covering HGC China for LiquidHeroes. Fern hails from Los Angeles, and has been up, down, and all around the city for the past month. Catch live reactions to HGC China, Overwatch Premier Series, and other things on Twitter.