DreamHon Winter: Who will take on the heritage of fnatic?
This edition of the DreamHack HoN tournament is a special one in several aspects. Once again the best teams in the world will gather in Sweden to fight for the World Championship. For the first time, a team from Thailand and two teams from Brazil will join the competition. Also significant is the prize money, a whopping $60,000 USD prize pool offered by S2Games – an unprecedented amount for HoN at the DreamHack or elsewhere. The biggest change, however, will be the absence of the best team in HoN history, fnatic.Raidcall. Those boys have fully and officially made the switch to Dota 2 and will be featured as part of the Corsair Vengeance tournament held at DreamHack. So the question is, who will take on the long and proud heritage of fnatic as World Champion and dominator at DreamHack.
Top of the list
Make no mistake, despite recent loses to Trademark eSports and a shake performance against Arena Online eSports, compLexity Gaming is still the odds-on favorite in the upcoming clash. They not only beat every single opponent in the two DreamHon qualifiers they were allowed to attend, but dominated the scene for the last four months, suffering no meaningful defeat prior to past Saturday. They have crushed opponents in every competition since forming under the compLexity tag.
Of course the defeat against Trademark eSports a few days before an important tournament has raised some concerns and caused some questions for the fans and the players, but compLexity lost to an unusual and bold strategy, executed to perfection. They now have a week to prepare for such a strategy. They still hold a nearly flawless record when going up against a straight up lineup in this metagame and they still have a group of players that are not only functioning within the group, but also have high individual skill.
Moonmeander is arguably one of the strongest solo players in the world right now; Haxxeren can go toe-to-toe with every elite carry player; Franzzii has become a standout in the support role; Chessie is widely considered one of the most efficient junglers in the current state of the game. Last but not least there is bkid, who is not only a very skilled player, often dominating the middle lane, but is also a good drafter and team leader.
The recent results are pointing towards compLexity Gaming: The individual skill is there. They have all played on the big stage and should have their emotions well in check by the time they face the biggest challenge of their brief careers.
If this were professional football or basketball, Vegas would list compLexity as the favorite, but the other competitors are „no scrubs“ as Steven A. Smith would eloquently put it. CompLexity's biggest threats are Gary Johnson 2012 and Trademark eSports.
Gary Johnson 2012 just look sexy heading into the competition after carving a path of destruction these last couple of weeks. They rolled every single opponent in the Destination DreamHon tournament, sweeping their opponents, Pikachu, in the Deathmatch to earn the DreamHack spot. After that they went on to win the It's Gosu Open and the It's Gosu Cup, in addition to their magnificent run through the HonTour Qualifier Bracket in the past month. In some ways they probably have to be considered the best team when you just look at the results past the Redemption tournament. The team headed by drafting genius Swindlemelonzz has installed itself among the absolute top teams and has had to concede few meaningful matches in the two months since the team finalized its roster.
The question for them is the LAN atmosphere. Players like Swindlemelonzz, ZfreeK, KheZu, Skyzoe and Sender have all experienced DreamHack at center stage, but some concerns are still alive. Sender sometimes performs worse offline, Skyzoe and Swindlemelonzz have not played in the main event since the previous Dreamhack Winter. Only KheZu and ZfreeK have played in the last DreamHack Summer, meeting each other in the Bronze Match.
Next on the list is Trademark eSports, no denying why they are here. In the months dictated by compLexity winning pretty much everything, they were the only team able to challenge the American organization. In the DreamHon Online Summer Championship Mynuts's team took a game off of compLexity - same story in the Redemption competition. Those “smaller” victories got bigger when tdM was able to defeat coL in the finals of the Vanguard tournament, with coL using Tralfamadore as a ringer instead of Haxxeren. That win was considered fluky and not a real indicator towards the actual strength of tdM. All doubts should have been silenced this last Friday night, when Trademark eSports, trailing a one-game deficit, came back in great fashion, thinking outside the box. They ended compLexity's winning streak, gaining not only momentum towards the DreamHon festivities but also a huge boost in confidence. Now the question is whether this victory was just a matter of catching your opponent off guard or whether Trademark eSports are on to something here. Can they repeat their success?
In terms of LAN experience, the team possesses a wildcard in their roster. Their carry player, noobG, has never been the center of attention at a huge LAN event like the DreamHack, so one of the storylines going into this tournament is going to be the nerves of this sensational player. The rest of the squad has gathered experience already, with iNsania and zai` competing with Blackfade.org at DreamHack Summer 2012, and Mynuts being a veteran with a third place finish at DreamHack Winter 2011 and a silver medal at DreamHack Summer 2012. The mid player of the team, Limmp, played through the BYOC tournament half a year ago, to wind up in the main event – ultimately forfeiting after an exhausting BYOC portion.
Also in the top class are Tt eSports and QsQ, who are considered Top Five teams in the latest Honcast Community Rankings. Tt eSports can look back at a fabulous track record in Jönköping, Sweden, with two consecutive Finals appearances. During the last two editions they played great Heroes of Newerth, with sLiCKz shining in an environment without lag and ping issues.
Unfortunately another streak continued for Tt eSports in relation to the trip to Sweden, as they can't compete with their main roster for the third straight time. Last Winter Bobo_ had to cancel the trip prior to the event, leaving them with DirgeSnoopy as a replacement. The following event their suicide player dabeliuteef had to cancel the trip literally days before the flights were set to take off, leaving them with Mynuts to fill the void. This event they have to replace Riser_, using Domain of Pain standout Jeppins to fill in. That streak already continued, will the Runner Up streak stay alive as well?
Speaking of streaks, another very unique streak could end or continue atDreamHack. With fnatic.Raidcall out of the race for the fifth consecutive DreamHack title, only their longtime support player NoVa can reach that mark now. He will travel to Elmia with his “brainchild” QsQ taking it to the next level after being forged out of the community. In the past month NoVa not only gathered several talented players from smaller teams like Jonassomfan, NoX and Malle, but also discovered new promising players like Style and Slate. He will return to the place of this biggest success and try to take his project and his team to the next stage – the first main title for the young squad.
The biggest concern will be the LAN environment for a relatively unproven and inexperienced roster. Sure you have the biggest veteran in the game with NoVa, but the rest of the squad has never stood on the main stage, has never sat in the HoN Arena with several hundred visitors walking by, standing behind them and probably criticizing their plays in loud fashion. It will be a completely different experience and they will have to overcome some nervous jitters to play up to their potential.
Without being disrespectful to anyone, the other five teams competing for the World Championship are clear underdogs. Although teams like vTi.Dynasty or Orange eSports have proven that they can hang with international teams, a huge success is yet to arrive.
Orange eSports went head-to-head with compLexity and QsQ in the Redemption Playoffs, pushing coL to the max in two games. Still in “crunch time” they always got exposed and ended up short. It happened in the OSC tournament, where they were one map shy of advancing, it happened in the Redemption Playoffs, when they threw away two maps against compLexity and it happened last DreamHack, when they had a victory over fnatic, but still ended up one spot short from reaching the Top Four. They now have to regain some trust in order to be even in the discussion to make a serious push towards the playoffs. That history and the fact that they have to either overcome Gary Johnson 2012 and compLexity on their way to the playoffs makes it very unlikely that we will see the Malaysian flag represented in the brackets after Day Two.
The same story goes for pretty much every other team. Cats Gaming has reached the playoffs as the best CIS team, but the OSC tournament clearly showed the skill discrepancy between the international client and the CIS region, as both CIS teams went to a combined score of 1-13 – Cats only victory over fellow Russian team GA.
The Brazilian teams paiN Gaming and vTi.Dynasty possess a great skill level, and guys like Tale and Vestius have proven that in the OSC competition, where they were the upset team of the first week in Group B, but things have been quiet for them for a while. PaiN has well known players like Pride` and YoYoBallz in their midst, players that have the respect and admiration of their peers on the international client, but ultimately it might be just one event too early for the Brazilians. The stage will get a lot bigger at Elmia, nerves will play a role, so their game might show some mistakes that they could avoid in the secured environment of the Internet. Since those teams only can defeat teams like Gary Johnson 2012, compLexity Gaming, Trademark eSports, QsQ and Tt eSports if they get a nearly flawless match and draft, this should be a problem.
The last and final team in the DreamHon competition is the wildcard in Team MRR. Literally no one has any intel on them, so the surprise factor could work in their favor the first day. After that teams should be able to adjust and counter strategies appropriately, leveling the plain field, leaving the game back to tactics, skills and coordination. The question here is, if Team MRR can step up to the challenge once teams have figured out their playstyle, do they have the individual skill, do they have the right tactics in place, do they possess the coordination and spirit in clutch situations?
Only time can tell, and that time is Thursday when Elmia opens its doors and lets all the players compete for the ultimate prize in HoN – the World Championship.