GCWC Opening Week
Top 5 Games
Editor's note: This articles contains spoilers. If you do not want to know the outcome of the games, just check out the games and ignore the text!
BlizzCon is an ephemeral dream. Everything in the year leads directly to it, and for two brief days the hype flares up into a giant spark. Then it’s over as quickly as it began, leaving us all busy and dizzy as we prepare for the coming year.
The Gold Club World Championship is an important part of that reset. The two week event runs through so many games that at times it feels more like its own seasonal league than a single tournament. Similar to HGC China’s format, the invited teams each play a Bo2 series every day, facing off in a week-long round robin. After seven days, the competitors have had a combined total of 56 matches to evaluate and evolve as they prepare for the playoff stage.
GCWC also has a special significance this year of testing out new and unproven rosters before the coming year. Mainstays in the western scene such as Fnatic and Dignitas will have to find sure footing with their new players, and GCWC represents their first steps as newborns.
Understandably, 56 matches is a lot to sift through. Western audiences have likely missed a dozen or so games, even without time zone differences. You can see the daily results and playoff bracket on Liquipedia, but if you want a more exciting recap, we’ve picked the top five games from this week, sorted chronologically.
Dignitas vs Ballistix G2
This series was more one-sided than some of the others on this list, but there’s a lot of context here that makes it significant. Europe and South Korea had a regional rivalry throughout 2017 culminating in two distinctive victories for Dignitas over the Koreans during the Mid-Season Brawl. Dignitas and Ballistix have always vied for first place in their respective regions but always fallen short of Fnatic and KSV (then MVP Black).
Both teams have had a roller coaster year and want this tournament to prove that they’re on the rise again. Throw in the fact that most people expected to see Dignitas and Ballistix face each other at BlizzCon, and you can see why this series was much anticipated.
The level of play from Dignitas in this series was much, much higher than anything they had shown in their earlier series. The difference between Wednesday’s Dignitas and Thursday’s Dignitas was stunning, and Ballistix just wasn’t ready for it. The tough loss ended up providing some motivation for Ballistix, though. After this game, the Korean team improved just as dramatically as Dignitas, but not before being cut down by their European rivals.
Ballistix and Dignitas will face each other again early in the playoffs, but even with this recent match, the transformation of both teams since makes it impossible to call.
Dignitas vs Fnatic G2
The rivalry between these two EU powerhouses is older and deeper than the HGC. Dating back to late 2015, Dignitas and Fnatic have been struggling for control of Europe and the title of "Best in the West", and it's no surprise that the rivalry has followed them to the Far East.
The teams brought new rosters to the tournament, including a direct trade between the two: Mene for Wubby. Nonetheless, Fnatic and Dignitas have managed to preserve their identity and iconic playstyle. As the first meeting of these new rosters, GCWC is a chance for the teams to test out their “new and improved” rosters.
Picking just one of the games in this series seems arbitrary since both were excellent. We’re listing the second game here, but we suggest watching both if you’ve got time. The series was probably the closest in the entire tournament so far, and it ensures that we’ll still be questioning which team is superior well into 2018.
KSV Black vs Roll20 G2
KSV (then MVP Black) won BlizzCon last month and are far and away the favorites to win GCWC too. And yet, there are surprisingly few KSV games that are candidates for this list. KSV’s run through the group stage has been so overwhelmingly dominant that not many of their matches were not even competitive. However, this one really sticks out.
This is probably not the game NA fans want to remember, but for all the heartbreak of this loss, it shows just how competitive Roll20 can be. The two teams had surprising run-ins with each other ever since the Mid-Season Brawl, and while the history isn’t deep enough yet to be a true international rivalry, there are definitely recurring themes in this story. Simply put, Roll20’s performance has been rocky throughout this tournament, but there’s a lot to be admired even in their losses.
Besides, who doesn’t love a good Core throw?
Fnatic vs SPT G2
Despite being incredibly dominant in HGC China, SPT has failed to show similar results against international opponents. Visa issues have plagued the team all year, but even that excuse doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. Their performance at BlizzCon was lackluster despite having all their key players, and now with their full roster playing on home turf, SPT is still struggling to adapt to the meta of other regions.
They were unsurprisingly able to take some wins against the other Chinese teams, but they continued to struggle against the foreign teams—until this game on the final day of group stage, and against Fnatic, of all opponents!
It’s wasn’t enough to pull SPT out of 7th place, unfortunately, but for the first time in an international tournament, the rest of the world got to see SPT the way HGC China fans do: aggressive, fast-paced, and confident.
KSV vs Ballistix G1
This is another series where both games were equally good. KSV have rarely been involved in a close series at this tournament due to their perfect play, but it’s those fleeting moments of imperfection that stand out and make for exciting games to watch.
KSV’s play throughout the tournament has been nothing less than sublime, but it’s been consistently at this level for months now. Following their loss to Dignitas, Ballistix pushed themselves until they were able to face KSV on equal footing. The teams demonstrated their best in these two games, but the first game shows off a new and exciting height for Ballistix. If Ballistix can stay at this level during the playoffs, they have a shot at being Gold Club World Champions for two consecutive years.
Fernando "Midseasons" Rojas happened to run into the CEO of KSV at the Overwatch Cup preseason. He is now esports famous among Koreans now too. You can follow him on Twitter to see what the life of esports looks like.