Group stage analysis and bracket predictions
Written by: Rozai
Table of Contents
The group stage of the Mid-Season Brawl has reached its conclusion, with eight teams moving on to DreamHack Summer for the final bracket stage on June 16-18. In the group stage fans saw some upsets, some interesting drafts, and even a Valeera. Let us take a look back on the four days of group play as we prepare for the end of one of the biggest Heroes of the Storm tournaments of the year.
Garrosh is the most popular tank by far and is almost unbeatable when paired with Malfurion, but sits around a 46% win rate overall. Diablo has been largely ignored throughout the tournament so far and has been replaced by Johanna, Muradin, and ETC as popular managers of Garrosh’s daunting frontline control; however, Muradin is currently sitting at a 37% winrate. Notably the top two teams of each group (Gen.G, Tempo Storm, Tempest, and Dignitas) have shown an understanding of Johanna, contributing nine of her twelve wins across the week and no losses. Anub’arak has been fairly successful with six wins and one loss, with four of those wins coming from Team Dignitas and Gen.G. Meanwhile, Blaze, Sonya, and Dehaka have seen most of the off-tank action while Leoric and Tyrael have been largely absent. The rotational control offered by Blaze’s waveclear is exploited by the most successful teams in the tournament.
It's the Malfurion show at the Mid-Season Brawl, with a 96% popularity and a 64% win rate. This comes as no surprise, as Malfurion has remained a top-tier support throughout Phase 1. Deckard has been generally unsuccessful so far, with a 37% win rate and only picked in sixteen games. He has also been completely ignored by the top two teams of each group. Tassadar and Auriel have both made surprise comebacks, with Tassadar sporting a 64% win rate across fourteen games. Tassadar combined with Valla has proven to be a nice counter to Tracer and Genji, and Gen.G remarked that the double support composition with Tassadar was “safe” in the current meta. Auriel hasn’t been as successful as Tassadar, with a 33% win rate, and has generally been combined with Valla. She has also been widely ignored by the top teams. Kharazim has been generally ignored by the underperforming teams, primarily being used by Gen.G. Rehgar’s win rate sits at an abysmal 18% with two wins and nine losses. To my recollection, only one true double healer composition has been played during the tournament in the form of an Auriel + Kharazim by Gen.G. to support Hanzo on Battlefield of Eternity.
With a total of thirty-two games played and twenty-six bans, Genji continues to be the most popular assassin in the meta; however, he is one of the most underperforming assassins with a 37% winrate. Of his twelve wins and twenty losses, seven wins and five losses have been contributed by the top two teams of each group. It is worth questioning at this point whether Genji is worth the trouble as his performance continues to drop, or whether he isn’t being drafted or played properly by the lower level teams.
Maiev (66% WR), Tracer (61% WR), Hanzo (73% WR), Li-Ming (69% WR), and Thrall (50% WR) are the next most popular assassins, with at least twenty games each. They are all widely successful across all levels of the competition.
Not a whole lot of specialist action at the Mid-Season Brawl. Abathur has one win, five losses, and five bans, so he has not been a prevalent force outside of Method’s Abathur solo support plus Valeera win on Sky Temple. Dignitas and Tempo Storm are the only two teams to play Medivh in the tournament so far, and he is sitting at one win and two losses. Gen.G rocked out two victories with Sgt. Hammer, while Probius and Xul each lost the one game they were each respectively picked in.
Taiwan - Luna Meow (0-10)
Luna Meow had a rough time in the group stage, failing to take a game against any of their opponents. It felt as if they were never able to get a solid start to the tournament, as poor early game decisions and weak team fighting had them playing from behind in every series. Most games ended in a two or three level deficit, with Luna Meow only achieving a total of 24 takedowns and 2 destroyed forts throughout the weekend, with 124 deaths collectively. While the team had an impressive showing at the Horizon Clash, they failed to achieve tangible results at the Mid-Season Brawl.
ANZ - Mindfreak (2-8)
Mindfreak had a similar experience at the Mid-Season Brawl to Luna Meow, with their matches ending in three to five level deficits and only taking down two forts leading into the final day of the group stages. While their drafting was satisfactory, Mindfreak lacked the macro focus and team fight control to compete with the North American, European, and Korean teams. After playing their match against Gen.G in which Mindfreak role swapped and went with a few troll drafts and strats, the team turned up the heat for their final match against TheOne. Mindfreak was able to achieve a 2-0 victory in dominant fashion which, though not enough to qualify them for Stage 3, at least ended the ANZ team’s tournament run on a high note.
China - TheOne (1-9)
While neither Chinese team was able to secure a spot in the bracket stage, the region displayed incredible team fighting and innovative drafting throughout the week. TheOne’s healer, ZJZ, showed expert usage of Alexstrasza in their win over Fnatic on Infernal Shrines. Meng also proved to be a potent Tracer and Maiev player. TheOne is certainly a talented team, but they arguably were up against the most challenging group in the tournament. In the end they showed a weakness in macro play, particularly on Volskaya Foundry, that would fail to hold up against the pedigree of the stronger teams.
China - CE (3-7)
CE only achieved victories against Luna Meow and HeroesHearth, who were the other two teams in the bottom three of Group B. On the final day of group play, CE needed to achieve a 2-0 victory against HHE in order to make the top 4 and move on to the bracket stage, but only managed to secure a 1-1. AloofFool broke from the tournament meta slightly with a Hungering Arrow build on Valla in Game 1 against HeroesHearth that proved to be very potent, while Wind executed some brilliant Stage Dives on ETC. Their victory on Sky Temple seemed more due to HHE error than their own doing, HHE failing to rotate Arthelon to the top lane to respect the knight camp push. The game proceeded to snowball in CE’s favor. CE displayed competent execution and macro play, but failed to sufficiently challenge the top teams of Dignitas, Method, and Tempest.
North America - Tempo Storm (7-4)
Tempo Storm had a great showing in the group stage, representing the growth of the North American region since last year’s Mid-Season Brawl. The team could not have asked for a better start to the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Ballistix. While no one could blame Tempo Storm for losing to Gen.G 2-0, the series was incredibly well played and could easily have resulted in a 1-1 if not for some small decisions and nerves. The early game in Game 2 on Volskaya Foundry was heavily in favor of Tempo Storm, until a severe over-commitment by Cattlepillar in the Triglav Protector opened up a comeback opportunity for Gen.G -- a team known for capitalizing on enemy mistakes. In a tie-breaker game, Tempo Storm managed to beat Ballistix once again, squashing any thoughts that their day one victory was a fluke.
Throughout the week, Tempo Storm has shown incredible macro control and mechanical skills to compete with the top dogs of the tournament. Jun continues to demonstrate top-tier game knowledge in the support role, as arguably one of the best in the tournament, while Psalm’s execution on Maiev is precise and truly terrifying. The team shows great energy and enthusiasm -- particularly Psalm and Glaurung -- but they maintain a cool head thanks to the leadership of Cattle. If they are to push through to the finals, they will need to overcome their nerve issues and be able to secure their leads while minimizing mental errors. There will be little room for error if they hope to take down Gen.G or Tempest, the two favorites for the Grand Final.
North America - HeroesHearth
HeroesHearth garnered widespread acclaim after tearing through the NA HGC during Phase 1, coming all the way from Open Division to not losing a single match in the second half of the phase. Their innovative drafts and unbreakable team chemistry has proved to be one of the dominant forces of North America. Coming into the Mid-Season Brawl, HHE swapped the roles of Arthelon and McIntyre -- roles which had defined their success in Phase 1. The swap achieved minimal success, with HHE only managing to gain a clean 2-0 against Luna Meow. The rest of their series were 1-1, with the exception of the 0-2 to Team Dignitas, so it is difficult to say the adjustment was worth the experimentation. LAN event nerves still seem to be an issue for Ishboo, who made a handful of uncharacteristic misplays that put his team in some tough spots. They managed to deliver Tempest their only loss in the group stage by showcasing their expert knowledge of Volskaya Foundry.
On the final day of group play, HHE needed to win at least one game against CE, otherwise they would be eliminated from the tournament. After a poor response to the early knight camp push from CE on Sky Temple, HHE failed to gain a foothold in Game 1. With their tournament hopes on the line, McIntyre swapped back to off-lane on Blaze for Game 2, which more than made the difference in their victory. McIntyre’s top-tier rotations and bunker timings were the x-factor that the team needed to overpower CE’s considerable Malthael play. Not to mention BBJ’s Kharazim...just wow.
Europe - Method Gaming (6-4)
Method, much like HeroesHearth, shows the most draft innovation and flexibility in the European region. They, like their NA counterpart, are the pioneers of the solo support Abathur compositions that have evolved the meta in such a unique way. Method surprised everyone in Game 2 of their opening series against CE with a solo support Abathur composition, bolstered by Athero’s Valeera -- a hero almost never seen in competitive play. With all their innovation however, Method seems to have a rigid attachment to Deckard Cain, a dependency which proved fatal in their series against Tempest. If Method is to succeed in the bracket stage, they will need to prove they have the mechanical competence to challenge Gen.G and Tempest without relying on gimmicks or wombo combos.
Europe - Fnatic (5-5)
Fnatic’s 2018 Phase 1 roster continues to be an emotional roller coaster for long time fans of the team. The level of mechanical skill in each player has proven to be enough to defeat middle of the pack teams, but the gaps which prevent them from competing with Team Dignitas, Gen.G, and Ballistix become more apparent with each match. The late-game shotcalling experience of Quacknix continues to make him one of the best in the world, bailing the team out of a loss with a decisive core call against Tempo Storm. Even so, the look of disdain on the faces of each Fnatic player afterwards said it all: they shouldn’t HAVE to do that. It is unclear if the team can overcome their flaws to make a competitive run in the bracket stage. Hopefully Quacknix can muster one final burst of glory with his long time team before leaving for Zealots in Phase 2.
Europe - Team Dignitas (7-3)
Dignitas had a rough start to the tournament, with a 0-2 loss to Tempest. While Tempest was their strongest competition in the group, Dignitas seemed out of sync and unprepared for the execution needed for such a tough opponent. In Game 1 on Infernal Shrines we saw Snitch in rare form, overlapping JayPL’s Lightning Breath with a Ley Line Seal that completely nullified the ability. The team would not achieve their first win until Game 2 against Method, where they started to show the composure and execution of which we have become accustomed. Dignitas would then continue to achieve a clean 2-0 over their next three opponents: CE, HeroesHearth, and Luna Meow. I’m willing to bet that the start of the bracket stage will be much better for Dignitas than the start of the group stage. Though they will be facing Gen.G, the favored to win the tournament, Dignitas seems sufficiently warmed up and prepared to tackle the Korean giants.
Korea - Ballistix (6-5)
Ballistix was considered by many to be one of the top contenders to be in the grand final against GenG. While that is still a possibility, the team has yet to show the execution needed to tackle that challenge. Ballistix started off the tournament with a devastating 0-2 loss to Tempo Storm. While it is easy to dismiss this loss as a Day 1 fluke, Tempo Storm defeated the Korean team again in a tie-breaker game. They also failed to put up much contest in their match against Gen.G, suffering another 0-2 loss with a questionable Zarya pick in Game 2. Ballistix managed to defeat Fnatic, Mindfreak, and TheOne, all of which have shown mixed or subpar performances throughout the tournament. In their current state, it would be dubious to expect Ballistix to be competitive with Gen.G, Tempest, or Dignitas in the bracket stage.
Korea - Tempest (9-1)
Aggression defines Tempest: they love to team fight and they are good at it. Tempest is one of the few teams who will continue to push through a 4v5 situation, as they are able to recognize if the enemy team is low enough to tip the scales in their favor. This trait alone has earned them victories against teams who were otherwise out macroing them or getting early advantages. From the start of the tournament, Tempest has been firing on all cylinders and they don’t show any signs of stopping. They are very likely to make it to the grand final.
Korea - Gen.G (10-0)
In every match of the tournament so far, Gen.G has shown nothing but calm, comfort, and style. With the exception of Tempo Storm and to a lesser extent Ballistix, no team in Group A has proven much of a challenge for the BlizzCon champions. KyoCha’s aggression on Sonya is unbelievable, as he almost single handedly took down TheOne on the first day. Rich continues to prove why he is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, players in the world, existing as a deadly threat on any hero he plays. Gen.G is flexible enough to swap roles as necessary and confident enough to execute Alarak or Sgt. Hammer comps at the highest level. At this point, it seems like Tempest and possibly Team Dignitas are the only ones who stand a chance of competing with Gen.G.
Bracket Stage Predictions
To make things simple, it seems like a safe bet to assume Gen.G will be in the grand final. Tempest has shown the greatest level of consistency and enough overall team fight capability to be able to compete with Gen.G, so they may play each other more than once in the bracket stage (once in the upper bracket and once in the grand final). Beyond that, Dignitas has finally found their stride in this tournament, so EU fans are hoping their loss to Tempest on the first day was only a fluke. Tempo Storm has the mechanical skill and macro gameplay to compete with the aforementioned top three, so it is a matter of nerves and execution that will decide their fate. In the lower bracket, Method has shown the most consistency and innovation. The remaining teams certainly have potential to push through to the finals, but the jury is out on which versions of those teams will show up on the 16th.
Rozai is a brand new writer for LiquidHeroes. You can check out his debut article on the Diablo rework here