HGC 2017 NA Power Rankings: End of Week 5
Let's see how all the teams stack up going into the Western Clash.
- Team 8
- Gale Force eSports
- Tempo Storm
- B Step
- Team Freedom
- Team Naventic
- No Tomorrow
Regarding Last Week's Controversy with the Rankings
Most of you guys won't care at all for this section, so feel free to skip this section and go straight to the rankings section.
To those who are still reading this section, the controversy centers around the analysis I did of Tempo Storm's Game 2 on Cursed Hollow versus Gale Force eSports. This article summarizes a lot of the objections (it's an interview with Moonprayer of the Tempo Storm organization)
First, I want to address Sgt Hammer. Yes, Sgt Hammer sees lots of play in Korea. But she is not picked as the solo damage dealer in Korea. That's what I meant when I was talking about "Protect the Hammer" compositions - there is tons of support and tons of frontline, but not much damage other than Sgt Hammer. So Korea runs lots of Sgt Hammer, but almost no "Protect the Hammer" Compositions. To clarify, I don't view her as a substandard hero at all.
Let's talk about Gale Force eSports' play in that game next. I didn't mean to imply that Gale Force eSports played poorly in that game, which is unfortunately how it may have come across. Gale Force eSports clearly had a plan, and they executed it extremely well. My point there was that Tempo Storm was destroyed in under 10 minutes more because of their own misplays in team fights rather than because of Gale Force eSports' exceptional execution.
Also, regarding Fan, I didn't mean to imply that he was playing a "bronze level" Sgt Hammer. Given his talent choice and the composition of his team, it made perfect sense for him to play that way. I said it looked like Bronze Sgt Hammer play, because staying in Siege mode when the enemy team engaging on to Hammer is Bronze play in the vast majority of situations. Here, I regret not making what I meant more clear, as it obviously got misinterpreted.
Finally, regarding "Protect the Hammer" compositions viability, clearly I am way off base. We saw a lot more "Protect the Hammer" compositions in North America this week, and it had a very strong winrate. Clearly I overestimated teams' ability to play against it in the mid to late game and counter it.
With all of that heavy stuff out of the way, let's get to the rankings!
My Power Rankings going into the Western Clash
1. Team 8 (6-1) (No Change)
Results this week: Defeated Team Freedom 3-0
Team 8 is not the #1 North American Seed for the Western Clash. That honor goes to Tempo Storm when they beat Team 8 Head to Head 3-2. So why is Team 8 continuing to be my personal #1?
I wish that I had thought of this and explained it last week, but let me clarify the underlying logic here: if Team 8, Tempo Storm, and Gale Force eSports all were tied with the same match record and each were 1-1 against the others, the next criteria I would use to break the tie would be map score. In fact, Gale Force eSports has one additional match loss, but in my opinion the fact that GFE has a better map score than Tempo Storm and defeated them 3-0 is sufficiently convincing evidence for me to conclude that they are absolutely in the same discussion as the other two teams.
Thus, even though Tempo Storm is officially the #1 North American seed because Gale Force eSports is excluded from consideration given their additional loss, I have elected to include them, which results in map score being the tie breaker. Team 8 wins that tie breaker criteria, hence their #1 ranking here.
Team 8 destroyed Team Freedom 3-0 today, which isn't really a surprise given how well Team 8 is playing and that Team Freedom still has things to work on. They showcased some top notch decision making versus Team Freedom, much like they did against Team Naventic on Infernal Shrines.
That is what separates them from the other top teams in North America - that and the purposeful creativity in draft, with picks like Arthas, Anubarak, and Lunara. Even though they enter as the #2 North American Seed at the Western Clash, I suspect that they will be the best performing North American team there.
2. Gale Force eSports (5-2) (No Change)
Results this week: Defeated No Tomorrow 3-0
It would be hard to be as dominant as they were last week against Tempo Storm, and indeed their play took a step back from that level. Nonetheless, it was more than sufficient to beat No Tomorrow without dropping a single map.
As we look to the Western Clash, one of the biggest question marks about Gale Force eSports is their tank play. Sometimes, its Khroen playing the warrior role and other times it is Equinox. Both have been hit or miss to some extent, which is a big contributor to the inconsistency I was talking about last week. While there are few dominant warriors in North America (two of the best are on the fellow North American teams going to the Western Clash), the European powerhouses have some of their best players as warriors.
This weakness means that Gale Force eSports is going to have to maintain the level they demonstrated against Tempo Storm in their first two games against the European powerhouses, something which is an incredibly big ask given their fluctuating level of play so far in HGC North America.
But as the third seed in North America, expectations are somewhat tempered. Perhaps European teams will spend more time preparing against Tempo Storm and Team 8? If so, they may sneak under the radar and become the team to beat. All they need to do is maintain the level they showcased in the first two games against Tempo Storm.
3. Tempo Storm (6-1) (No Change)
Results this week: Defeated Superstars 3-0
Tempo Storm is the #1 North American seed for the Western Clash. Their argument for being the best North American team pretty much comes down to this: Gale Force eSports has an additional loss and should be excluded from discussion as North America's best team on those grounds alone. I opted to look at map score and the head to head result as well, and personally disagree with that assessment (although it works for the official standings). If map score is used as the tie breaker, Tempo Storm winds up in this ranking spot.
Their match against Superstars was definitely an opportunity to bounce back from the crushing loss to Gale Force eSports last week. Game 1 didn't start well, but Psalm's Zeratul was brilliant, routinely securing multiple man void prisons that left an isolated enemy team member outside of the void prison ripe for the picking. It's true that Superstars definitely made some questionable decisions, but lesser teams might not have been able to punish that hard. Tempo Storm was able to and Psalm's Void Prisons were the reason why.
Their Illidan pick in Game 2 was also a masterful counter to the composition Superstars was trying to build - the double support / double warrior composition with Valla had zero answers for him. Game 3 once again showcased Psalm's Valeera, a hero that only sees play in North America. Will Tempo Storm be able to use Valeera to humble the European powerhouses at the Western Clash, particularly given the buffs Valeera received in the Lucio Patch?
4. B Step (4-3) (No Change)
Results this week: Defeated Team Naventic 3-2
I definitely think there are still some draft issues that B Step needs to improve on if they want to improve their standing in HGC North America going into the second half of Phase 1. In Game 2, they wound up with a double support composition with Lt Morales (and no, not with Tassadar or Lili) that Naventic punished with an Illidan pick. Game 4 on Infernal Shrines saw a zero shrine control composition into a Naventic Kerrigan, and while their ability to prolong the game was masterful, it speaks to a lost opportunity to have won the game with a better draft.
It's been an impressive turn around for the team from its 0-3 start. The bad news is that there's a lot more work to do if they want to catch the three teams ahead of them, as there is currently a big gap between B Step and the top three teams in North America both in the standings and in the overall level of play.
5. Superstars (3-4) (No Change)
Results this week: Lost 0-3 to Tempo Storm
They performed better last week against B Step with a sub. No, that's not meant to be a slam towards Faye, although the Jaina positioning in Game 3 on Dragon Shire was cringe worthy.
The bigger problem was that the entire team seemed to play worse. They got out to a substantial lead in Game 1, but made some questionable decisions and got heavily punished by Psalm's Void Prisons. It didn't help that Srey on ETC had a really poor game.
Game 2 on Braxis Holdout saw them draft a weird double support composition that was heavily punished by an Illidan pick. This is a draft issue that I'm sure Superstars will fix.
Game 3 was also a bit of a disaster. They drafted the Void Prison / Ring of Frost combo... only to not ever manage to get one off. Part of it was Jaina's positioning, but I think they definitely need to work on that combo before drafting it again. Luckily, there's lots of time to fix these holes in their game before weekly HGC play resumes, and this team has definitely shown a lot of promise so far in HGC North America.
6. Team Freedom (2-5) (No Change)
Results this week: Lost to Team 8 0-3
Yep, the incredible synergy and game sense they seemed to have during the Zul'jin patch just doesn't seem to be there so far in the Valeera patch. Once again, they suffered a decisive defeat - this time to Team 8 with a lopsided 0-3 score. There does appear to be some improvement, as they were competitive in Games 1 and 3 until the wheels came off and Team 8 was able to go for the throat. Many were excited about Team Freedom after their incredible performance in Week 3, and maybe they'll be able to regain that magic after they study the Western Clash and their own mistakes.
One of the big reasons for this team's fall off is the decline of Artanis in North America. Team Freedom definitely has one of the better Artanis players, and when he was big in the North American meta Team Freedom was a lot scarier of a team to face.
With Artanis declining in value, Team Freedom needs to find other heroes they can get similar value from that will bring the pain to their opponents in the Nexus.
7. Team Naventic (1-6) (No Change)
Results this week: Lost to B Step 2-3
A 2-3 loss to B Step wouldn't be scrutinized at all... if this was still 2016. But with both teams not playing at the same level as they were in 2016, every loss counts. This drops them to a 1-6 record, and that's not a good thing for a team that wants to be the best in North America.
Nonetheless, it does represent improvement from what we saw in prior weeks. The Kerrigan and Sgt Hammer picks are also a good sign in the sense that it indicates that the team is willing to experiment to find out what works best for them. The worst thing a 1-6 team can do is be happy with or resigned to the status quo. Has Naventic resigned to their fate?
The only problem is they only have 7 more matches before the end of the the first phase of HGC North America, and they are going to need quite a few more wins if they want to avoid facing relegation in the Crucible.
8. No Tomorrow (1-6) (No Change)
Results this week: Lost to Gale Force eSports 0-3
It's not a big surprise that they lost 0-3, given their opponent. It's just that with 6 losses already in HGC, they have a huge task ahead of them if they want to avoid relegation. That means they need to show massive improvement, and an 0-3 loss to Gale Force eSports doesn't help them in that quest.
The only bright spot is that they do have a win over Team Freedom, the sixth place team. If they can beat them again, and finish with at least the same number of match wins and more than 7th place Team Naventic, they could miraculously avoid relegation. The reality is that scenario is pretty much a pipe dream.
They might want to study up on UTA HOTD, the best team in the North American Open Division. They pretty much declared that they will choose to play No Tomorrow in the Crucible if they get the chance.
The Western Clash begins on March 3 at 3 am PST / 12 CET and ends on March 5.
Eight teams (3 from Europe, 3 from North America, 1 from Latin America and 1 from Australia & New Zealand) will be playing in a Double Elimination Bracket to reveal which team and region is the best in the West.
Matches will be played on the Lucio Patch.
HGC weekly play resumes on Friday, April 14 @ 18:00 CET / 9:00 am PST.
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