Lessons from the Western Clash
With 46 Battlegrounds played at the Western Clash, there are a lot of statistics and trends to discuss courtesy of our North American and European matches in Katowice. The stats don’t tell the tale of Team Dignitas’ rally from the lower bracket or Team 8’s triumph over Tempo Storm, though. Let’s look at the outcomes from the Western Clash:
Team Dignitas is back
Heading into the Western Clash, the only thing expected from Team Dignitas was to beat every team that wasn’t European. Outside of maybe taking a few maps, no one expected them to take the trophy home — especially after barely qualifying for the event in the first place.
Something changed within them during the second game against Misfits in the loser’s finals. Joshua ‘Snitch’ Bennett and company went for a failed Core rush that seemed to be the exact test of their limits that Dignitas needed to unleash their final form. This was the Dignitas we saw last year at Katowice — the same team we saw become the runner up at BlizzCon 2015. Team Dignitas completed the reverse sweep and eliminated Misfits, who were the #1 seed going into the tournament.
It was incredible watching them team transform on Sunday. They nearly dropped two maps to Team 8 in the morning, but by midnight, Dignitas was an unstoppable force of nature. In the grand finals they looked like they were just having fun.
Team 8 are true contenders
Managing to do what no other North American team has done in almost a year, Team 8 won a map against a European team. The game they won facing Team Dignitas wasn’t exactly clean, but it was a statement that North America is finally back on the path of improvement.
While they were shut out by Team Dignitas when they had their lower bracket rematch on Sunday, they were the only North American team to make the top four, beating Tempo Storm in Game 5 on Saturday night. This is the team everyone expected to be in 7th/8th place after being the last roster to qualify for HGC and losing one member before the regular season even began.
Nomia, an admirable underdog
Posting the best result Australia & New Zealand has ever had, Nomia are officially the biggest wildcard at any event they attend from this point forward. The very first match of the event Nomia took a game off Misfits, the tournament favorites, and managed the same in the lower bracket against Team 8.
There is no way around it, Nomia is a good team. These are scene veterans who spent more time at Katowice practicing than any other team in attendance. You can expect this roster of five to stick together — you don’t change a thing with results like that. Hopefully Nomia will qualify for the Mid-Season Brawl, and we will see then if their performance at the Western Clash was a fluke or a true indication of skill.
Misfits have a rough Sunday
The only team with an undefeated record in the regular season so far, Misfits was a little out of sorts at IEM from the outset. They dropped their first Battleground to Nomia, but managed to make it through to championship Sunday after that stumble with no problem.
Going up against Fnatic and Team Dignitas was a tall order, but these are two teams that Misfits defeated in the regular season. What happened in Poland that prevented them from making a repeat performance?
It seems more likely than not that they let their guard down. In terms of draft Misfits didn’t seem to consider Chromie’s place, while regional rivals Fnatic and Team Dignitas showed her viability time and time again. They also failed to capitalize on the few opportunities they had when gifted Tassadar in team compositions.
A few fumbled executions and oversights can't take away from Misfits immaculate HGC season thus far. Expect to see them grow from this loss.
Gale Force eSports had it rough off the bat
With arguably the toughest road in the bracket, Gale Force was put to the test right away with their match against Fnatic. Their loss was not surprising, it’s how they lost that has many scratching their heads.
In their second match against Fnatic, the Americans drafted Medic, Tassadar, Zarya, Dehaka, and Sgt. Hammer on Braxis Holdout. The idea was to get ahead early — the idea for most of Gale Force’s cheese compositions — and while the Assassin-less composition worked in theory (and maybe in scrims) it certainly did not work in practice. Fnatic won the game in under 13 minutes with the kill score reading 13-3. It was the only Battleground in which Sgt. Hammer was played the entire tournament.
On a stage like this, it’s best to stick with what you know, but even in the series where their drafts weren’t as funky, their opponents won handily. This team still needs work before they can contend with the rest of the world.
Tempo Storm did not perform
Tempo Storm met a similar fate against Fnatic in the semifinals, losing 3-0. Afterwards, they were eliminated by Team 8 in a tense five game series. Tempo was the only team to defeat Team 8 in the regular season. Losing to them on stage when they themselves are the North American team with the most experience on LAN is worrisome.
After all, Tempo Storm is the team that won both the Fall Regionals, and represented North America at both BlizzCon and the Gold Club World Championship last year. You would think they could maintain some consistency against Team 8’s roster, who haven’t had nearly as much time to mesh.
While there is no doubt that they are leagues ahead of many other teams in the North America HGC, a little more was expected when facing off against international opponents.
Overall, it was close
While some teams headed to Katowice were given a little edge, it was much safer to assume that Europe would shut out North America, and that ANZ and LatAm would go home without winning a map. The HGC format clearly raised the skill ceiling of every region and thus, the matches at Katowice were much closer than anticipated. It’s safe to say the Western Clash delivered. Maybe the Chinese or Taiwanese teams will show up on stage at the Eastern Clash the same way that North America and ANZ showed up in Katowice?
Team Dignitas’ win in Katowice is the small beacon of hope for the West now. They managed to overcome their underdog status and remind everyone that Team Dignitas on LAN is a force to be reckoned with. This is a team whose cohesion can fluctuate wildly. They are now the best hope for the West looking ahead to the Mid-Season Brawl.
It’s entirely possible they don’t even qualify. Fnatic, Misfits, and Team expert will use this opportunity to prove that Team Dignitas is a team that can only perform miracles in the offline environment. James ‘Bakery’ Baker and crew must remain diligent and keep their fingers on the pulse of the competitive meta if they wish to make an appearance on the world stage in June.