HGC Update August 24, 2017 - Phase 2 Preview
Following Fnatic and L5 being crowned champions of their respective clashes, teams now turn their attention to qualifying for Blizzcon. In total, 16 teams will qualify for Blizzcon -- The majors regions will each have 3 teams and each minor region will have 1 team.
Standings from the first half of Phase 2 carry over to the second half for each region except China, which means we already have a good idea which teams are competing for Blizzcon as well as which will head to the Crucible.
World Elo Ratings
In the rankings this week, we bid fairwell to E-Star Gaming (1601) and Wukong Gaming (1256) who will no longer be part of HGC China. E-Star disbanded while Wukong Gaming was relegated. Two new teams, “TheOne” and “Beyond the Game”, will both represent China and start at 1500. Also, Team Naventic dropped sponsorship for their HotS Team. The team will now be known as Team Lag Force. Finally, No Tomorrow has gained sponsorship with Spacestation Gaming.
For teams in major regions, there are two paths to Blizzcon. The first path is to finish top 2 in their respective region. All teams in the Top 2 receive an automatic bid to Blizzcon. Team placing 3rd through 6th will play in a stepladder elimination playoff at the end of the season with the team winning the final match going to Blizzcon. Seeding matters as the third place team only needs to win 1 match to make it to Blizzcon while 5th and 6th place need to win 3 matches.
As in Phase 1, Teams finishing 7th and 8th place will face the Crucible. In the Crucible, the top two teams in the Open Division of each region get to challenge the bottom two teams in the pro division. Whichever team wins get a spot in HGC in 2018. The losers are removed from HGC and lose their salary with it.
North America once against struggled in international play as they were unable to defeat any European team at the Western Clash. However, North America did find a few map wins and looked better than they did in the Phase 1 Western Clash. Gale Force Esports enters as a favorite to take the Blizzcon autobid following their 4th place finish at the Western Clash and 1st place North America finish in Phase 1. Gale Force Esports narrowly edged out Tempo Storm 3-2 in Kiev and their only loss on the season was to Team Freedom.
Gale Force Esports, Tempo Storm, and Team Freedom will look to fight over the top 2 seeds, as finishing in the Top 2 secures an automatic bid to Blizzcon (3rd place will have to win 1 playoff match to get to Blizzcon). Roll 20, who hopes to play spoiler, sits on the outside at 4-3 but looked much improved at the end of Phase 1, winning the community-funded Bloodlust Tournament. Despite their strong start in Phase 1, Spacestation Gaming (then No Tomorrow) struggled down the stretch culminating in losses to Even in Death and Roll20.
The gap between the top 5 of North America and the bottom 3 seemed to be massive in Phase 1. Superstars will look to change that and try to grab some upsets. They want to stay well above Even in Death and Team Lag Force (formally Naventic) to avoid the Crucible.
Fnatic continues to dominate in Europe. Despite a completely head scratching loss to Playing Ducks in the final week of Phase 1, Fnatic is simply running away from the rest of EU. They are a full 175 points better than the 2nd best team in EU, Team Dignitas. This correlates with roughly a 73% expected win percentage in a single map and a ~87.5% chance to win a best of 5. On top of this, Phase 1 spotted them a 2 game lead over the rest of the field. So Fnatic should have little trouble making Blizzcon.
This means the next 4 teams, Expert, Dignitas, Liquid, and Tricked, will all be fighting over 1 auto-bid spot and playoff seeding. Dignitas, on paper, is the best of this group. They struggled early in Phase 1 after making some changes but definitely have the talent to take 2nd place. Dignitas missed their first international competition with the Western Clash and wants to make sure they get back to Blizzcon.
Top to bottom, Europe is the strongest region in competitive HotS right now. Even teams towards the bottom, Zealots, Good Guys, and Playing Ducks, are all threats to pull upsets as we saw in Phase 1. These landmines could have huge impacts on the Blizzcon auto bids. That said, it is almost certain that 2 of these 3 teams will face the Crucible.
Despite roster upheaval at the start of Phase 2, Korea continues to be dominated by the same three names we've grown used to: MVP Black, L5, and Tempest. While MVP Black dominated the regular season, L5 showed up strong at the Eastern Clash to win the tournament.
If any team can break into this top 3, it is Mighty. Mighty has been hanging around the Korean HotS scene for a while but has yet to get into that top 3 they need to reach international play.
MVP Miracle had a dismal start to Phase 2, reminscent of their poor start in Phase 1. In Phase 1, however, MVP Miracle had a great run through the playoffs to be only one match away from the Mid-Season Brawl. That said, that iteration of MVP Miracle didn't lose to Team BlossoM. Team BlossoM had a strong showing in Part 1 of Phase 2. While they are unlikely to pull any big upsets, they could have a good season finishing in the middle of the pack after facing the Crucible in Phase 1.
RRR and Raven are almost certainly bound for the Crucible. Raven face the Crucible in Phase 1 but managed to hold onto their spot in HGC Korea. RRR, a new team added in Phase 2, has yet to find its footing in a top heavy Korean region. Both will have to pull some serious upsets to have any hope of making the playoffs and getting out of the Crucible.
Unlike the other regions, standings from before the Eastern Clash do not carry over for China. They do not use a round robin Best of 5 system. Instead, they use a double round robin 2 game series system. Similar to the Mid-Season Brawl, two wins are worth 3 points, 1 win is worth 1 point, and 0 wins are worth 0 points.
Because China has two new teams that I know nothing about (other than Meng from Hots Lady last season is on The One), I cannot make any useful prediction about them. As such, I do not have simulation results at this time. However, CE and SPT are still the favorites in the region. RPG seems the most likely team to step up into that third place gap created by X-Team's disbanding.
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