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Moonprayer weighs in on Tempo Storm's first loss and the state of the meta

Heroes Feature by Marc “Jackwraith” Reichardt 12:00 AM on 17 Feb 2017

Moonprayer is a regular on Tempo Storm's website as one of their main content creators for Heroes of the Storm. He frequently engenders lengthy discussion on the subreddit with his analysis breaking down the tendencies and patterns of the various pro teams in the North American and European scenes. Lately, of course, he's been covering the HGC in some detail.

So when Fenix's latest rankings emerged after week 4, Moonprayer had a response concerning the assessment of the team his org sponsors:

Intrigued, I sought him out on the Twitters for some more detail on his thoughts about Tempo Storm's HotS team, their recent series with Gale Force eSports, and the current meta:

First, a little background: How did you get your start in esports? Do you have experience in other MOBAs like League? When did you start working with Tempo Storm? How long have you been playing Heroes?

Moonprayer: The first esport that I ever watched was StarCraft 2 back when it was in beta. I would say that I'm a pretty competitive person and obviously I love video games, so it was a perfect match. The concept that players could compete against each other and become pros in the games they played is what really got me into esport. I've tried both Dota 2 and League of Legends before I started playing Heroes of the Storm and especially League of Legends had a big role in my day to day life. But because I'm a huge Blizzard fan I followed especially their games pretty closely.

I thought "Hey, maybe I can become a content creator and give something back to the awesome HotS community".

After the release of Hearthstone, I played the game pretty much all day and while playing I watched streams. That's when I started to follow Reynad, the owner of Tempo Storm. I liked his way of thinking about the game, probably because I'm someone who likes the whole theorycrafting aspect of games, sometimes even more than actually playing the game. After Heroes of the Storm was in beta, I got invited and loved the same. Tempo Storm picked up SMG in early 2015 and because I was a big fan of Tempo Storm I started to follow not only their Hearthstone but also the Heroes of the Storm team. I think it was somewhere around the summer of 2015 when Tempo Storm started to look for content creators for Heroes and because I knew Zoia a little, I thought "Hey, maybe I can become a content creator and give something back to the awesome HotS community".

I joined Tempo Storm as a statistican around November 2015. My first piece of work was gathering data for the HotS tournament at BlizzCon so we could create an infographic with the help of our amazing graphic designer. It pretty much went from there. First I kept doing Infographics for Heroes of the Storm events, but then I figured out that I could also become a writer for Tempo Storm and now I'm am able to do both- infographics and articles - not only for Heroes of the Storm but also other games.

Justin's article is an opinion piece, of course, and you objected to his estimation of the team and how they handled certain strategies in week 4 and the match with GFE, in particular, such as suggesting that dealing with Sgt. Hammer comps are "straightforward". What were your objections, specifically?

The biggest problem I had with the statements in the article was the fact that they seemed somewhat outdated. Although we haven't seen Sgt. Hammer in the first three weeks of HGC Europe and North America, she is picked pretty often in Korea. I'm a person that looks at all different regions before judging about the strength of something. If you compare Sgt. Hammer to other ranged DPS, for example, Valla who is highly contested, you can see that beating Sgt. Hammer isn't actually something straightforward to beat. Valla sits around a 50% win rate in EU & NA and at 37% in Korea. Sgt. Hammer on the other hand has won 58% of her 19 games. It's clearly not fair to say that it's just an old school composition that's easy to beat.

I had noticed that about Hammer in Korea, as well. Part of his argument was that Fan played "Bronze level" when he was on Hammer, staying sieged up even in close quarter fights. Was that a fair estimation of his play? Was his success a measure of Fan's mechanical skill, his team's ability to execute the "Protect the Hammer" strategy, poor play on TS's part? Some combination?

I truly think that Fan is an amazing player. There is a reason that he didn't only win Heroes of the Dorm but also BlizzCon 2015 with Cloud9. He was around in Heroes of the Storm back in the glorious days of Sgt. Hammer and he knows how hard he can commit on staying sieged, even in close quarter fights That's something experience and communication with your team allows you to evaluate.

Their team composition was built around protecting their one main DPS, in this case Sgt. Hammer, and they managed to execute that fairly well. They knew that as long as they could keep Fan alive he'd do the damage needed to win fights and Fan, as Sgt. Hammer, knew how much protection from his team he could expect. I think that's the main reason why we saw this-  as stated in the article-  "Bronze level" Sgt. Hammer play.

The normal go-to on a map like Cursed with Hammer is to push down one of the side lanes while soaking XP in both other lanes

I also think it's fair to say that Tempo Storm didn't play to their full strength in the first two games of the series. Why this was the case isn't on me to decide. The third game on Battlefield of Eternity was pretty even, for the most part. As pointed out during the tournament, BoE isn't the best map for Tempo Storm but seeing that they could have a fairly close game against GFE on it tells a better story than the game on Cursed Hollow.

Overall, I think that GFE prepared really well for this matchup, even bringing out picks like Sgt. Hammer which we haven't seen in North America too often, but also Tempo Storm didn't perform to their full potential in at least the first two games against GFE. We saw what they are capable of doing not only over the entire Fall season but also over the first three weeks of HGC. They are the #1 team for a reason.

TS opened that game 2 on Cursed Hollow very aggressively; bringing the whole team up the mid lane and wiping out the front wall and killing Khroen (ETC). That's not typical of the team's normally measured and cautious play. Do you think they were trying to break tendency there or did they just see an opportunity with GFE in the typical 1-1-3 split and decide to jump on it?

It's usually pretty hard to win the lane with Hammer on it especially with a three warrior composition like we saw out of GFE that game. The normal go-to on a map like Cursed with Hammer is to push down one of the side lanes while soaking XP in both other lanes. So you could expect Sgt. Hammer + 2 either on the top or bottom lane. Because the bottom lane was the boss lane for GFE, they decided to push it and not the top.

It's pretty hard to outrace Sgt. Hammer if it comes to killing a fort, but the front wall does provide a decent amount of experience. After they took the mid wall they rotated top to do the same there. This way they could keep up in experience with GFE. Tempo Storm got a kill and both front walls, GFE got the fort on the bot lane. Both teams hit level 4 at pretty much the same time.

That was one of my takeaways, as well. They both executed their plans and both ended up in the same spot, XP-wise. It was only later during the teamfights that GFE really took the game away. So, it seems like you're suggesting that the loss was based more on GFE's superlative play than TS's substandard play (as suggested by Justin.) But given that they both executed properly in the early game until those fights, was this a draft loss?

GFEs triple front line gave them awesome durability. TS banned Brightwing, which would have made it even worse, but GFE picked up Rehgar who's better on fast rotations, which is not atypical of GFE's style. Was their comp just more than TS's high damage comp (Zera, Rag, Falstad) could handle? Why first pick Falstad there? The global, obviously, but just Gust, otherwise?

We saw over the last four weeks that both Tempo Storm and GFE focus on heroes with global abilities on maps like Cursed Hollow or Towers of Doom. Brightwing, Dehaka and Falstad all offer these global abilities. Being first picks allows Tempo Storm to pick up at least one of these heroes guaranteed, no matter what GFE would ban. Banning Brightwing meant that TS could prevent giving GFE the abilty to pick up two globals while Tempo Storm only could get one.

Up until the second ban phase the draft of GFE looked pretty standard but then they moved into triple tank + Sgt. Hammer, which we haven't seen too often in North America and especially not from GFE. They got known over the past few weeks as "one support and four flex"; seeing triple tank from them really surprised me. Personally, I'd say that's the part were you could see that GFE prepared really well for this matchup. They knew it was important and they brought something surprising and it worked really well.

Take me through the game 1 draft: TS bans Malf and GFE responds with Zarya. TS first picks Valla and GFE responds with Tass and Morales, which is unusual and could signal a number of comps. They ban Li Ming and TS bans Zul'jin. TS's angle is apparently to take away the awesome teamfight ability of Zul'jin with shields and Healing Beam, but GFE tacks right into a comp that basically neuters the Zerg wave and still gives them solid team fighting ability with Gul'Dan.

Was that a mistake by TS or do you think they were kind of hemmed in by the possibilities? Do you think TS overvalued Zul'jin there, given that he's largely neglected by the rest of the field? Is this scenario an argument for the third ban that a lot of pros are now suggesting is necessary with the larger hero and map pools?

I think it was a good decision to ban out Zul'jin. The few times we saw him so far were on Braxis with a composition like GFE was about to build. If I remember correctly, two of the GFE players- I think Khroen and Fan -talked to Dreadnaught about how they like Zul'jin on this map and their setup for him in the draft was pretty obvious.

The Gul'dan build we saw in the game as well as the reworked Tassadar were big factors for GFEs success on Braxis. The build was used quite a bit by some of the best Korean players in their HGC games and it's extremely strong on that map. I wouldn't directly say that a scenario like this is an argument for a third ban, but I'd love to have it in HGC soon.

Maybe actually changing something about Uther would be helpful, as 10 armor doesn't seem to help him that much.

The biggest problem that people bring up when speaking about a third ban is the "Support choke".I haven't done the math on how possible it would be to choke a team out of Supports now that Lucio is added to the game but I think we need maybe one Support more to make it a reality. Maybe actually changing something about Uther would be helpful, as 10 armor doesn't seem to help him that much.

Agreed on Uther. He's one of my favorites and I liked the Holy Fire/melee build they tried to add with his last patch, but he's just so behind the times in terms of the current meta that it's frustrating. Which brings me to my last batch of questions: What's your perspective on the current meta? Is it healthy? Is hero diversity at a good level? Are shields too prominent?

Let me start my answer by saying that my opinions are based on the Valeera patch that HGC is using, not the new Lucio patch. I think the meta isn't as healthy as it could be. That's mainly because of shields. Although I like the idea behind shields and what they bring to the general game design I don't think they are at a point at which we should be totally happy about them.

I think HGC so far has been the tournament with the biggest hero diversity overall. Although we haven't seen a few heroes yet and some others rarely see play, I like the diversity we have seen. Of course, we see a few key heroes more often than others, but I think that's something that will never really change. Most obviously in the Warrior and Support role, you will always have one or two heroes that are simply above the rest of the field. Right now that's ETC and Malfurion. Muradin and Rehgar were the top picks for their role for almost all of 2016. Something that I really enjoy is the diversity in the battleground pool.

Although Blizzard reduced it for HGC, we don't see the same 3 battlegrounds over and over. You can even see what region prefers which battleground. One of the most played maps in NA is the second least played map in EU (Battlefield of Eternity) and the converse is also true (Most played in NA: Dragon Shire; second least played in EU.) That's something really interesting and we are going to see how it will effect the international play at the Western Clash. It's similar with team compositions. From solo tank Varian to three tanks, from 3 Assassins to 3 Specialists, it's pretty diverse right now.

I'd like to say that HGC so far has been really amazing to watch. I think that's the biggest fact we should consider after the first few weeks. Blizzard has done an amazing job so far and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the year.

Agreed. Thanks for your time.

You can find Moonprayer on Twitter @Moonprayerrr and find his regular work on Tempo Storm's HotS section.

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Marc “Jackwraith” Reichardt

I've been gaming since Asteroids in the 1970s(!) and have been into HotS since the Alpha. Along the way, I've owned a comic studio, built a political party, and even written a thing or two. You can find me @Jackwraith.

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