The HGC Crucible serves as the entry point for up-and-coming Heroes of the Storm players, hungry for a spot among the pros. Over the weekend six of the top Open Division teams from Korea, Europe, and North America challenged the bottom two HGC teams from their respective regions to determine which teams would be competing in Phase 2.

Of the six Open Division teams, only one emerged victorious: Master Theater out of Korea. However, sparks flew in every Crucible match, highlighting differences between the HGC teams and the challengers. 

The Pro Mentality

The No Tomorrow and King’s Gambit match started with a bang, with bold plays from King’s Gambit allowing them to catch up after a shaky early game. The map culminated in a great Core rush, with excellent stalling tools from both Diablo and Falstad.  

However, King’s Gambit was sometimes too bold for their own good. They quickly lost Game 2 on Cursed Hollow in less than 11 minutes after attempting to fight around the Boss. They were two levels behind No Tomorrow and lacked Heroic abilities, a choice that seasoned HGC players would likely avoid.

“Most players that transition from the amateur to pro scene get punished for the smallest mistakes,” said Jared “Kubie” Roberts, No Tomorrow’s coach. “As pro players, we are conditioned to capitalize on small mistakes and push maximum value from those mistakes.”

After Game 4 on Braxis Holdout, King’s Gambit led the series 3-1 and was one win away from becoming the newest member of the HGC. No Tomorrow needed to win the next three games to keep their HGC spot, and to do so, they needed to focus solely on the future.  

“Every game I went in, asking where we were going next, and discussing draft,” Kubie said. “You can't change the past, only shape your future. In that situation, the best thing that I can do as a coach is to keep them focused on winning, not thinking about being behind.”

This mentality worked, as No Tomorrow’s cool demeanor outlasted King’s Gambit. The Open Division team took fewer and fewer risks during the final three games and their coordination on team fights looked to be scattered.

Adapting During a Long Series

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An additional aspect that seemed to separate the Open Division teams from their HGC counterparts was the ability to adapt in their drafting style. This consistently hurt Worst Positioning in EU as they allowed Robert "robadobah" Purling to devastate on Garrosh for the first four games of the series before finally electing to ban the hero in Game 5.

In a similar vein, King’s Gambit had found success with Maiev early on in the series, and No Tomorrow knew their opponents would love to pick The Warden again. This time they had the perfect counterpick in mind: Sonya. Jon "Equinox" Peterson cleaned up with Sonya during the final two games of the series. In both instances, King’s Gambit struggled to defeat the Barbarian.

“Maiev has no kill pressure on Sonya. If she doesn't have a way to constantly reset her Q, she cannot kill Sonya, and has no way to step up to her,” Kubie explained. “If you ban out or pick dps that are good against Sonya when you see a Maiev, it will be extremely difficult for the enemy team to step up to you.”

Had King’s Gambit adapted to the strong Sonya play or chose to deny Shawn “Jin” Boyle’s excellent Garrosh throughout the series, we could be watching them play in Phase 2 instead of No Tomorrow.

Master Theater Joins HGC Korea

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By defeating Team Ace 4-2, Master Theater has become the newest member of HGC Korea. With stronger team fighting coordination and faster rotations, they honed in on Team Ace’s weakness: the macro game. By consistently claiming map objectives, Master Theater showed they were the stronger team on Sunday.

Other Notable Highlights from HGC Crucible

  • Both EU teams defended their spots in the HGC, winning 4-1. Leftovers defeated Granit Gaming while Diamond Skin won against Worst Positioning.
  • Despite internet issues, LFM Esports finished off XD 4-2 in North America. Additionally, Feliz held their place in HGC Korea by  defeating ILLLLL 4-1.