Hey everyone, welcome back to the HGC Update. It's been a while but now we're back and getting ready for Blizzcon. Here is the preview of the group stage.

World Elo Ratings

Just a couple notes before getting into the rankings:

  • Zealots is now known as Team Wish
  • Ballistix is sponsoring L5 for Blizzcon
  • Diamond Skin left Playing Ducks, alleging denied salaries
  • Even in Death was replaced by Heroes Hearth Esports in NA Crucible
  • The Good Guys were replaced by The Leftovers in EU Crucible
  • Both of the Korean Crucible teams (Raven and Rrr) lost in the Crucible

Teams labeled with [BC] are in Blizzcon while teams labeled [Relegated] have lost their spot in HGC to the Crucible.

BlizzCon Group Stage Preview

With Blizzcon on the horizon, it's time to look at the format. Blizzcon will have a group stage and bracket stage. The group stage features 4 double-loss elimination playoffs, where the top two teams from each group advance to the bracket phase. Every match in the group stage is best-of-three, so there is little margin for error.

Due to visa issues, all three Chinese teams will have substitutes. To account for this in my simulation model, I have adjusted the Elo ratings of each Chinese team to reflect the substitutes. For example, Super Perfect Team is subbing in a player from RPG. This means that rather than an Elo of 1659, they will have 4/5 of that number plus 1/5 the Elo rating of RPG (1428). This lowers than team Elo to 1613. From similar math, CE drops to 1546 and BeyondTheGame drops to 1423. However, keep in mind that these Elo ratings do not factor in things like synergy nor individual performance on a team. As such, these ratings could be less accurate.

Similarly, the Elo ratings of minor divisions is likely underrated. This is because the only teams we see from minor divisions play are top two or three regional teams at international competition. That said, there have only been a few cases in the entire history of HGC where a minor team has defeated a major team in competition.

As always, Elo is a probabilistic model. So if I say a team has a 52.5% chance of making the playoffs, as is the case with CE, that doesn't mean I personally am predicting them to make the playoffs. This is more or less a coin flip chance. I will release a personal predictions and power rankings topic next week on Tuesday.

Group A

Opening Match-ups:

  • MVP Black vs. Deadlykittens
  • Tempo Storm vs. CE

MVP Black is a huge favorite in Division A with a 99.3% chance to move on to the playoff, making them the second most likely team to make the playoffs behind Fnatic.

Tempo Storm looked strong with their 3-0 victory over Gale Force Esports in the HGC Playoffs to secure the #3 seed for North America. Despite being the #3, they are favored to move on to the playoffs due to CE’s visa issues.

Keep your eyes on the Tempo Storm vs. CE game. With CE playing with a sub, this should be a very winnable game for Tempo Storm. However, if Tempo Storm struggles, this should put the other NA teams on notice. CE is still favored to make the playoffs over Tempo Storm by Elo but we'll see if Tempo Storm's synergy can prevail.

Group B

Opening Match-ups:

  • Fnatic vs. Dark Sided
  • Team Freedom vs. Beyond the Game

Fnatic has looked dominant in 2017 and have a very winnable bracket in Group B, as they have a 99.9% chance to make the playoffs.

Team Freedom is the most likely NA team to make the playoffs due to an easier group (discounting, of course, Fnatic). Team Freedom vs. Beyond the Game will be the second NA vs. China opening matchup of the group stage. NA has struggled in international competition lately but Beyond the Game is subbing more than half of their team. If Tempo Storm and Team Freedom can win their opening matches, it will go a long way towards generating respect for the NA Scene.

Meanwhile, don’t overlook Dark Sided. Dark Sided upset Nomia to take the ANZ seed to Blizzcon and the ANZ representative has been able to at least take a game off a major region at every LAN even this season. It will be a very big uphill battle but this is not the minor region team to ignore. Keep your eyes on Match 3, as Dark Sided may not beat Fnatic but won't allow themselves to be eliminated easily. I think this is a team whose Elo is lower than it should be.

Group C

Opening Match-ups:

  • Roll20 Esports vs. Red Canids
  • Team Dignitas vs. Tempest

Roll20 dominate the NA scene in Phase 2, going 21-1 on maps, and looking unbeatable. Their reward? The toughest path for a #1 seed at Blizzcon. While they are the standard bearer for North America, they are actually less likely to make the playoffs than Team Freedom due to a much tougher group.

Roll20 opens against Red Canids. Red Canids represents Latin America, a region that hasn’t won a single map since Blizzcon last year when they played ANZ representative Reborn. The last time the region won a map over a major region team? You have to go all the way back to June 2016 when Big Gods beat a flight delayed GFE team that made it to the venue literally two hours before their match.

The first EU vs. Korea matchup will be Tempest vs. Team Dignitas and this is the biggest opening match game of the tournament. It wouldn't shock many to see either of these teams in the Top 4 come the end of the tournament. Dignitas has looked much improved after limping a bit in the first half of Phase 2. Tempest needed an absolutely insane final fight with Mighty that ended with a boss vs. team base race to make it to Blizzcon.

Group D

Opening Match-ups:

  • Ballistix (L5) vs. Team Expert
  • Super Perfect Team vs. Soul Torturers

While Group C is being dubbed the Group of Death, Group D is no slouch. The group is led by L5 who are looking for their first international title since last summer’s amazing 5 game series against MVP Black. Team Expert and Super Perfect Team are very able challengers, however. Unfortunately, Super Perfect Team will once again be playing with a sub. At the last international tournament they played with a sub, they managed to only win 1 map in 10 games. They will hope to improve this time around.

However, when looking at Group D, do not forget about Soul Torturers. This Taiwanese team defeated Super Perfect Team at the Eastern Clash. Taiwan has looked like the best of the minor regions for a while now. Let’s see if the Taiwanese can once again reach top 8 at Blizzcon.

Bracket Stage Odds

Here are the summary odds of every team makes the bracket stage of the playoffs.

What to Watch for

  • Europe vs. Korea - Part 2 - In the midseason brawl, champion Fnatic lost 0-2 to MVP Black in group stage, their only Korean match-up of the tournament. Meanwhile, Dignitas made a statement by going a combined 8-3 against MVP Black and L5, including a 3-2 win over L5 to head to Grand Finals. My Elo measures say that Europe is not just the best but also the deepest region in HGC. But let's not forget that Korea won all three world championships in 2016. Keep your eyes on the two opening matches. Ballistix and Team Expert on paper seems like matchs L5 should win but Team Expert has been known to pull big upsets at big times. Dignitas vs. Tempest is the game of the group stages, and is must see Twitch tv.
  • North America vs. China - North America's struggles in international play are well documented. No North American team has finished Top 4 since Cloud 9 won Blizzcon in 2015. However, due to visa issues, this is a chance to get multiple North American teams into the playoff stage. Roll20 has been carrying the banner for America but faces the toughest path of all three NA teams to reach the playoffs, needing at minimum a win over either Dignitas or Tempest in the group stage. Tempo Storm will play CE and Team Freedom will play Beyond the Game. If these matches go poorly for NA, it doesn't bode well for their tournament future.
  • Fnatic Coronation? - Fnatic has looked like a machine since their already impressive showing at the Mid Season Brawl. In the world rankings, they are substantially above even top challengers like Dignitas, L5, and MVP Black. But Fnatic also feels that the only world championship that matters is Blizzcon, denying themselves the title of world champion after the Mid Season Brawl. They have the skill and they have the determination. It comes down to this: can they execute?
  • Group C - Group of Death - Division C features Roll20, Dignitas, and Tempest - half of the top 6 teams in the world by Elo rating. Roll20 and Dignitas looked even better from their MSB performances in the second half of Phase 2 and Tempest proved they are still a top Korean team with a win over L5 late in the season. But only two of these teams can make the playoff. Saturday is going to be a big day, likely to feature 3 maps between these teams.