What Makes Hooligan
The Tank Play that Won the Eastern Clash
Written by: Midseasons
HGC Bracket and schedules on Liquipedia
If you watched the Eastern Clash live or followed it on Twitter, you saw how Ballistix Gaming completely dominated the spotlight. Much of the credit for that goes to main tank player, Park “Hooligan” Jong Hoon. Hooligan’s play throughout the Clash was nothing short of heroic, and we had no hesitation in crowning him our MVP pick for the entire tournament.
Our #HGC Eastern Clash MVP has to be @BLXHooligan, tank player for @ballistixgaming!— LiquidHeroes (@LiquidHeroes) March 20, 2018
Hooligan's miracle plays and motivating words kept his team alive and led them to a championship win! pic.twitter.com/CFeluwo2nz
Every member of Ballistix played an astonishing tournament (Kim “Magi” Jin Hwan was another MVP favorite), but Hooligan’s role on the front line made him fundamental to the team’s success. As main tank, it’s Hooligan’s responsibility to keep his teammates protected and alive in the game. But even beyond game mechanics, Hooligan lived up to his role by keeping his team alive in the tournament. Knocked into the lower bracket by KSV Black, Ballistix was forced to play on the brink of elimination, where a single failed teamfight would send them home at any time. In those moments, even when the game seemed hopeless, Hooligan’s tanking was the team’s salvation.
It’s worth looking specifically at Hooligan’s play in those games where a loss would have eliminated Ballistix. These games are the perfect example of how Hooligan's understanding of the tank role could guide the team from the brink of elimination to the championship podium.
Carry heroes are expected to take some time to ramp up, scaling with heroics, later talents, and quest completions. Solo laners require map awareness and macro focus throughout the game but spend much of the game in two distinct phases as they soak their team to higher levels. For a main tank, there are no such late game luxuries—the nature of Heroes of the Storm demands that tank players play their role from the very beginning of the game to the end.
Tank play isn’t always flashy, especially in the early game, but look at this early game moment from Ballistix’s Game 5 against Tempest.
In this clip, Hooligan’s mere existence is enough to drive Tempest behind their wall. Without casting a single ability, Hooligan’s positioning and flowing in and out of vision is instrumental to securing his team the fort wall. This ability to use the threat of power is an essential part of tanking. Without understanding the mental pressure you can apply to the enemy team, it will be more difficult to execute the more obvious duties of engage and disengage. This is especially important on Tomb of the Spider Queen, where it can help secure the vital first turn-in.
But the threat of power is only as good as the will to execute that power. Yes, sometimes the possibility of a Mosh Pit is enough to frighten the enemy team without ever using it, but holding onto cooldowns too long weakens the threat’s credibility. Waiting for the “perfect” moment may mean missing the correct moment. Being willing to capitalize on opportunities and back up your implied threats is the key to good engagement. This is demonstrated by Hooligan’s single-target Mosh Pit that leads directly to victory here:
After spending most of the game behind, this single pick was enough for Ballistix to push for the core. The pressure of playing from behind tends to fall on the tank’s shoulders, and it’s Hooligan’s responsibility to find winnable engagements for Ballistix when they’re at a disadvantage. Even after this game-equalizing play, Tempest could still secure the game if Ballistix faltered in their push. Hooligan’s Mosh visibly secured the series here, but watch his positioning before that too. Without his retreat at the beginning of the clip, Hooligan would have never survived long enough to secure the core. Given how much map control Tempest still had in the other two lanes, this is the moment the game was either won or lost. If Hooligan had made a single different decision at any point in this clip, Ballistix would have been eliminated. Had it gone differently, it might not obviously have been Hooligan’s fault, but focusing on him now that the tournament is over shows how vital this moment really was.
Key engages are only half of the story; disengaging from a fight is just as important for tank players. Highlight reels are naturally going to focus on the five-man stuns and full team wipes, but when analyzing tank play, some of the most impressive teamfights are the ones where no one dies on either team, especially when both tanks are world-class. At this level, the teamfights became a chess match between Hooligan and Ttsst’s feints, relying on engages, disengages, counter-engages and re-engages. When any casualty could be his team’s last, Hooligan’s actions in this next clip are just as mechanically demanding and important to victory as his earlier Mosh Pits.
These necessities of engage and disengage put a lot of responsibility in the tank’s hands, but all of this is done to enable the rest of the team’s success. For a tank player, perfect positioning relies almost entirely on enabling the rest of the team to fulfill their roles. Hooligan’s engages are only as good as his team’s ability to act on them, and as a consequence, that puts the responsibility right back onto Hooligan. A top-class tank isn’t just reading the enemy team to know when to engage, he’s reading his own team as well. In this play against KSV Black, Hooligan’s teammates shine more than him, but everything still begins with Hooligan’s decision making.
In all of these moments, there’s a common thread. The pressure and responsibility that hinges on Hooligan’s decisions is not solely mechanical. In any one of these plays—even the early game ones, even the teamfights with no deaths—a different call by Hooligan could mean total defeat. The pressure on a tank to hold the line is immense in even a single game, and the stakes of this tournament amplified that pressure. Yet none of that stops Hooligan from making these vital, game-saving calls. That pressure was felt by everyone on Ballistix, but the tank’s front line responsibilities are the anchor in these clutch moments. If the tank buckles under pressure, the rest of the team soon follows. When an engagement fails or the peel isn’t there, the rest of the team can’t do their jobs. Hooligan’s ability to endure the tension of the situation without faltering kept his team in the game and allowed them to stay calm as well.
Here’s the final teamfight of the entire tournament, a core defense by Ballistix against a determined KSV Black. In moments like these, everyone on the team contributes to their victory. There were stellar plays from all five members, and no single player is more responsible for the victory than the others, but those plays couldn't have happened without a moment of clarity from Hooligan which enabled everything that followed.
Hooligan’s tank play during the Eastern Clash offers a wealth of information for tank mains of any skill level. These clips are only the tip of an hours-long iceberg, but they are a collection of Hooligan’s most standout moments. All of them go to show how important he was to his team’s success. He didn’t win the tournament single-handed, but he was directly responsible for keeping Ballistix in the running. The Mid-Season Brawl will show if the other tanks of the world are able live up to his example.
Fern “Midseasons” Rojas is a Los Angeles-based writer who loves finding reasons to talk about the tank meta on LiquidHeroes. Fern’s BlizzCon bag is signed by tank players of the HGC, and every tournament that autograph collection grows.
You can find out more about HGC China on Fern’s Twitter.
You can find out more about HGC China on Fern’s Twitter.