Best of the Best:
Top 3 Series of All Time
Heroes of the Storm is a fast paced hero brawler developed by Blizzard that features non-stop action, robust strategy, and a global esports scene with a few years under its belt. Since 2014, there have been numerous tournaments for players to prove themselves in, from the ESL Major League to OGN Super League to the Heroes Global Championship (HGC) circuit in 2016. With the Blizzard's revamped HGC format on the horizon, 2017 looks to be a really exciting year in the Nexus.
There have been some great HotS matches over the last two years, but HGC 2016 takes the cake for providing fans with the most exciting matches to date. Blizzard's efforts to strengthen the global scene and encourage international competition was what made HotS esports in 2016 so captivating. While the matches included here all come from 2016 and all feature MVP Black—sorry, not sorry—each match was important for the landscape of the game and created some of the best play and storylines from all of these teams.
I remember watching all three of these series and literally being on the edge of my seat as each series developed. If you are on college break or just getting into HotS over the holidays, you can’t go wrong with watching any of these VoDs. Not only will you learn a lot about the game, you will be sufficiently entertained—I promise.
#3 - Fnatic vs MVP Black, BlizzCon 2016 semifinals
Throughout Heroes of the Storm, Korea—namely MVP Black—has been dominant. History was made during DreamHack Summer when mYinsanity became the first Western team to take a map off of MVP Black during the Rich era. Until that point, eStar had been the only other team to take a map off of Black during a major tournament in 2016.
As such, Fnatic was considered the underdog going into their BlizzCon semifinal match against MVP Black. They had already shown incredible promise in both group stages by beating Chinese teams of the likes of eStar and ZeroPanda as well as the Taiwanese team Please Buff Arthas (PBA). Fnatic would find their toughest challenge against the latest Super League champ, Ballistix, during the second group stage.
Fnatic lost 2-0 in the winner's match, but their play was generating hype. It looked like Westerners finally had a team strong enough to challenge the Koreans. Still, beating China was one thing, Korea another; analysts still sided with MVP Black as the favorite after the quick 2-0 thrashing Fnatic received from Ballistix.
The pressure wasn't just on Fnatic, though. MVP Black was considered by many at the time to be the best Korean team but still had to prove their dominance earlier this year was no fluke. Throughout 2016, MVP Black had managed time and time again to make it to the grand finals of major tournaments before suddenly faltering. Since the beginning of 2016, MVP Black has made it to the finals of six tournaments but only won three. The last tournament MVP Black won was in May.
The team who had looked indestructible after winning the Spring Global Championship seemingly lost their mojo. Black had been embarrassed by Tempest in Season 2 of Super League after losing 4-0 in the finals. Ballistix had beaten them 4-2 the following season. Games during the Summer and Fall Championships showcased MVP Black operating at 80% of their full potential, dropping games left and right—the days of long winning streaks were over, and they looked vulnerable.
However, it would be a considerable feat for Fnatic to emerge from the BlizzCon semifinals victorious. They would not only have to beat one of the best teams in the world, they'd have to be the first non-Korean team to beat MVP Black’s newest incarnation in a series. The colossal pressure on both Fnatic and MVP Black in this series makes the BlizzCon 2016 semifinals one for the ages. The first two maps are sure to get your blood pumping.
#2 - eStar vs MVP Black, Gold League Spring Grand Finals
- VoD: https://www.twitch.tv/gillyweedsc2/v/66605760
Casters:Gillyweed and Zoia
Must-watch Game: Game 6, Tomb of the Spider Queen
Before there was Korea, there was China. In China, eStar were the counterparts to MVP Black. They dominated the Chinese scene throughout 2015 while only struggling against EDward Gaming (EDG), the second best Chinese team, on occasion. Team No Limit (TNL) got their start alongside a few other Korean players in China's leagues and actually went on to beat MVP Black during the Lockdown era in Super League 2015, no doubt as a result of the time they spent playing against the Chinese powerhouses.
The Chinese scene has always been a departure from Korea, EU, and NA. China had its own meta and prioritized hero and map picks much differently. For instance, the Chinese would pick Haunted Mines for the second map by default while every other region refused to play on it at all. But the most impressive thing about China was their relentless aggression. It was clear that NA struggled against this style when Cloud9 and Astral Authority went to compete in China this year. Europe struggled to a lesser extent, but still found difficulties approaching the Chinese metagame.
Despite their regional dominance, eStar had never met a team of MVP Black’s caliber until the finals of WCA. Black was still relatively fresh in the professional scene and had not yet risen to the dominant form we'd see in the beginning of 2016. It was a clash of two titans relatively unknown to western audiences. Black won 3-1 in the end, but an epic rematch was destined to happen.
The teams would meet infrequently in 2016 due to occasional upsets from EDG, but the stage was set for a showdown. During the Spring Season of Gold League, China invited MVP Black with the intention of usurping Korea from the throne. eStar finally looked poised to give MVP Black a real fight and had in fact ended MVP Black’s 41-map win streak only a few weeks earlier. The Chinese team wanted redemption for dropping out of HGC Spring and their crushing defeat at WCA; they were out to prove that they alone could deal with the indomitable Korean team.
This series is basically the beginning of a transformation within the HotS landscape. In an exciting best of seven series, eStar made MVP Black look beatable and represented a turning point in Black’s 2016 domination. Finally, someone had given the world a glimpse of how to beat MVP Black.
#1 - MVP Black vs Tempest, DreamHack Summer Grand Finals
Here it is, what you've all been waiting for: the best series in Heroes esports to date. In fact, this series is so good that it could end up being the best series years from now. The Summer Global Championship had everything: narrative, mechanical skill, and hype. The playmaking ability from both teams in this historical moment was unparalleled too. This series features the famous mind-blowing pre-Cleanse from merryday, as well as several other memorable plays—but that's only part of the reason this series is so praiseworthy.
Tempest has quite possibly the best story of 2016. A ragtag group of players from lower tier teams, some of whom dabbled in the early developments of the Chinese scene with little success, were looking to prove themselves. The team formed when Lockdown left the security of MVP Black to form a team with his brother Hide along with some former players from MRR, but no one even had the young team on their radar.
At the beginning of OGN Superleague Season 2, Tempest looked unimpressive. For most of us following the Asian scene, Tempest was an afterthought, a team who would never make it like RoMg or Young Boss. They got ravaged in their inaugural match against TNL. Nobody would've predicted them to finish in the top four after that series, let alone win the entire tournament.
The season developed with little change to the status quo. TNL and MVP Black had a stranglehold on the competition, and it looked like Season 2 would play out exactly like Season 1 with MVP Black taking on TNL in the finals. Thankfully for the fans—and for history—this is not how it happened. After the group stages concluded, Tempest made a calculated role swap, moving HongCoNo to tank and duckdeok to flex. As the team settled into their new roles, their performance picked up dramatically. Hide also revolutionized Kharazim play at the time with his trademark hyper-aggro play and a preference for Seven-Sided Strike.
Tempest would actually make it to the loser's finals in a rematch against TNL. Tempest was prioritizing Sonya picks and demolishing their weaker opponents, so TNL countered by denying their comfort picks. But Tempest was having none of it. Tempest's teamfighting prowess was put on full display in this series, as they outfought TNL to take a decisive 3-1 victory. It was becoming increasingly apparent MVP Black had their work cut out for them if they wanted to win Season 2. Having come out of nowhere, and still somewhat dependent on meta picks, Tempest wasn't seriously considered a threat to MVP.
Going into the finals, MVP Black didn't look like the same team. If you watch the Super League finals, you can see how MVP's play was lackadaisical, indifferent. They were playing as though they had already won or simply didn't care anymore. Tempest would take an easy 4-0.
Questions started to surround the MVP Black squad. Was the greatest team in the world actually human? Were they in a slump? Did they not prepare seriously enough for Tempest? Was it the end of this MVP roster? Black released interviews discussing being burnt out from over a year of constant travel, practice, and domination. Black had a luxury so few of us ever experience: being so great at something that your competition isn't competition at all.
On top of that, Overwatch had been out for about a month and there was already talk of HotS dying and organizations dumping it for Blizzard’s newest title. Several rumors circulated that teams in Asia were switching to Overwatch as well. The future of MVP Black and HotS were both incredibly murky.
Finally, a new challenger emerged. After embarrassing Black in front of a largely Korean audience, Tempest was looking to repeat the thrashing on the world stage. At this point, there was no question that Tempest was at least the second best team coming into the Summer Championship. They had dethroned TNL, and their individual players like Dami and Lockdown were really starting to shine. For the first time, a team could finally match up player-to-player against MVP Black’s new and improved roster.
Tempest's superior teamfighting ability coupled with MVP Black's existential crisis would set up the most electrifying series in HotS history. The best single game to ever be played was Game 4 on Dragon Shire, which was an example of mechanical perfection.
Tempest was notoriously weak at rotations, and they would need a miracle to take this map off of MVP. What we got was the most explosive and pristine teamfighting we have ever seen. Watching the fights is like watching a mechanism made up of purposeful gears operating one after the other in perfect succession. Both teams were firing on all cylinders for the entirety of Dragon Shire. It's very possible we may never see a game like this again.
The series went to a full five games and will undoubtedly be in the running when future "best series" lists pop up. Tempest and MVP Black gave us a level of skill and execution none of us thought was possible. I urge everyone to check it out.
I also want to personally thank MVP Black and Tempest. When I think of Heroes esports and what it has the potential to be, this series is the first thing that comes to mind.