Catch up on Heroes of the Storm's competitive scene ahead of BlizzCon

Underdogs are challenging the game's ruling powers.

Photo credit: Blizzard Entertainment

On top of being a weekend for all news coming out of Blizzard, Blizzcon is also playing host to a finale for Heroes of the Storm’s year of esports. It’s all come down to this: the tournament players and fans have been waiting for. Insert all your other similarly hype-building proclamations here.

The tournament, the Heroes of the Storm Fall Global Championship, has already begun. Group stages took place last week, and half of the teams who qualified, including some who were expected to go far in the tournament, have already been knocked out. So, here’s your guide for what’s been going on, and what to expect, at the Heroes of the Storm Fall Global Championship.

The tournament started in Phase 1: two groups of four teams, the first containing Burning Rage (previously known as and qualified as Big Gods), Denial eSports, MVP Black, and Reborn, the second containing eStar Gaming, Fnatic, Imperium Pro Team, and Please Buff Arthas. Two teams would go through, two teams would be knocked out.

Tournament setup

Everything except the final is a best of three, win two series in the group and you move on, lose two and you’re out. 

In group A, there was no surprise who came out on top: MVP Black, one of the tournament favourites, winning one game in just over seven minutes. They dominated both games, and proved exactly why they deserve to be regarded as one of the top dogs. Coming in second was Denial eSports: despite some shaky play at times, they won easily in their games against Reborn and Burning Rage.

The first shakeup of the tournament came in group B, which was already tougher to call. Fnatic and eStar Gaming have often placed well in tournaments, and so were expected to do well, but this group contains a dark horse: Please Buff Arthas, a Taiwanese team that only formed five months ago but who’ve stormed to the top of Taiwan with ease. Imperium Pro Team, while being the top Southeast Asian team, came in with low expectations from most.

They shook Fnatic in a first game, but ultimately lost to the European veterans with Fnatic even showing off a little bit later on, as you can see above. Wubby as E.T.C used Stage Dive, one of E.T.C.’s heroic abilities that has risen in popularity, to get away from the entire Please Buff Arthas team at the last possible second with nothing but a scratch.

It wasn’t the only major moment of that game either, as it culminated in a last-ditch effort from Please Buff Arthas to destroy the enemy core, which could have placed them in first place in the group later on had they been successful and won subsequent games.

To make it out the groups, they had to beat both Imperium Pro Gaming and eStar Gaming. They did so with the sort of skill MVP Black had shown the day before, bringing them, and Fnatic, into Phase 2 of the group stage. 

eStar Gaming’s elimination was disappointing for many Chinese fans, but not entirely unexpected. Visa issues have shaken the team up, with part of them being made of players from Super Perfect Team. It’s a shame, but has given Please Buff Arthas a real platform to show what they can do.

That meant that out of the groups, four teams went through to Phase 2.  MVP Black and Please Buff Arthas moved on to group A, joined by Astral Authority (previously known as Murloc Geniuses) and Team Dignitas who had already qualified for Phase 2, while Fnatic and Denial eSports moved on to group B, which held Ballistix (previously known as L5) and ZeroPanda who had, again, already qualified. 

These group stages haven’t finished yet, but first place in each has already been decided. For group A, MVP Black dominated in both games, against Dignitas and Please Buff Arthas, securing a semifinal place. Their matches against Please Buff Arthas can be easily summarised in the start to their first game, and a terrifying counteraction to enemy aggression.

In group B, there’s a similar story, as the other South Korean team Ballistix have already secured their semifinal place at the top of the group without dropping a single game. 

Between MVP Black and Ballistix, South Korea has truly been the dominant force in this tournament, and is expected to produce the finalists. They Korean teams are certainly beatable, though: despite both teams having a perfect winning streak in this tournament, they’ve both made mistakes. MVP Black have recently found themselves at the mercy of Tempest in two recent tournaments, and Ballistix have yet to show that they can adapt outside of the current Heroes of the Storm metagame. 

The tournament’s underdogs, Please Buff Arthas, have a strong shot at tackling these South Korean powerhouses. They’ve shown they can defeat Astral Authority already, and have the skill to outmatch a strong Illidan composition in their third match against the North American team after a close attempt at taking Please Buff Arthas’ core.

On Friday, the two groups will decide their final rankings. First up, the group A elimination, a best of three to decide which of Dignitas and Astral Authority will be knocked out, followed by the group B elimination, which decides whether ZeroPanda or Denial eSports will be sent packing. The winners will face the teams that currently sit in second place for a shot at the semifinals: against Please Buff Arthas in group A, and against Fnatic in group B. 

The semifinals and finals will then take place on Saturday, the winner of the $300,000 grand prize being crowned that evening. With last year’s winners Cloud9 not in the Heroes of the Storm professional scene any more, there’s no-one to defend a title, but with their victory last year, the two North American teams in groups A and B, Astral Authority and Denial eSports have a legacy to live up to. 

With Please Buff Arthas representing the only non-major region left in the tournament, Taiwan, a lot of people are rooting for the underdogs to come through and show the other teams how it’s done. The only teams remaining from Europe and China, though, are battling over that second place spot in group B, and surely won’t give it up without a tough fight. We’ll find out on Saturday whether Heroes of the Storm will see an all-South Korean final just like League of Legends—or if they’re not as unstoppable as first thought.

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