When they qualified for the $100,000 Americas Championship back in July, COGnitive Gaming‘s Heroes of the Storm roster solidified themselves as one of the best teams in North America. Now this weekend in Vegas, they have a chance to establish themselves among the world’s elite.
After qualifying for the Heroes Americas Championship and the Masters Gaming Arena—the first major international tournament in Heroes—the team posted a number of disappointing performances. At MGA, they lost in the first round to Tempo Storm, and in the August NA Blizzcon Open they only managed to finish in the top six.
They pivoted, making a big roster change—bringing back former captain Aaron “IVSlime” Prentice in place of Austin “Shot” Lonsert. The team have been hard at work practicing the new line up, and scrimming extensively with other top teams. Now the players feel they feel stronger than ever. This weekend is their chance to prove it, as they attempt to win the $100,000 Americas Championship in Las Vegas and qualify for the inaugural Heroes World Championship.
Ahead of that event, we spoke to manager Dylan “Dylux” Walker, players Aaron “IVSlime” Prentice and Jeffrey “Iakona” Dolan, and captain Joey “Hospital” Gavlas.
The Daily Dot: What was MGA like for you guys?
Hospital: MGA was our first LAN experience. We knew it was going to be a hard run for us, but we had a good chance against Tempo Storm. We knew we had some internal issues, so it was going to be a hard event. Personally I’ve never been to PAX so that was awesome, but we ran into a lot of issues that we can fix at future LANs and be way more prepared.
You didn’t get to face any international teams, but what did you make of them? How do you think you would have measured up?
Iakona: I think we would have been slightly ahead of Virtus.pro, and I’m not sure really sure how to take Team Liquid just because they played really well in one set and in another didn’t play so well. Maybe slightly behind Liquid? I think we would have had a good chance against them.
Do you think MVP Black are the best team in the world right now?
Dylux: Everyone was just terrified of MVP Black which we did not see coming. They do things differently, and I think that the way they prioritise Heroes will be probably reflected at our regionals.
What makes you say that Cloud9 are the next best team, given their record against Tempo Storm?
Hospital: Honestly I think a lot of that just comes to them tilting. If they get past their Tempo Storm block, which I think they did in the ESL playoffs, I think that they are mechanically very strong players. When you play against Cloud9, you can really feel their mechanics and how powerful each player is. I also think their drafting is the best in NA, and potentially most of the world.
The August Open didn’t go to plan for you guys either, what happened?
Iakona: Like you said we’d already qualified, and that was one of the major problems reflecting back. We just didn’t have the same energy or put the same effort into it. It was treated like a different tournament, like it was just for fun—and we got punished for that.
Coming out of the Open you guys made the roster change, replacing Shot with ivSlime. What were the problems you were trying to address, and do you think the change addresses those issues?
Dylux: Aaron was our team captain when we first moved to California, I thought he was a great player. I don’t blame him [for leaving], he had a great internship opportunity, and we were left in a situation where we had to figure out what we were doing because at the same time one of other players [Ryan “protoges” Griswold] was removed as well. With our most recent roster change, I knew that what happened at MGA was going to be the deciding factor.
We took some time and sat down as a unit to talk about what our weaknesses were, and we had some glaring issues which meant we weren’t able to focus. We made a decision as a group to bring Slime in for regionals and Blizzcon if that’s on the cards, and we’re happy about it. It’s been a good choice. Practices have been going really well.
For Slime, how has the scene changed in the time you’ve been away?
Slime: To be completely honest it seems the only thing that has really changed is the order of the top six or so teams. I don’t feel like any teams have come out of the woodwork and destroyed the scene. It’s basically the same as it was, with the exception of us having moved up to third in NA and other small movements.
The top eight teams are still the top eight teams. I don’t know if that’s a sign of NA just not being a super competitive scene, or if it’s some teams being so far ahead of others.I think players are more refined than they were three months ago, but I don’t think teams are really playing any differently.
How important is the Heroes World Championship to you guys?
Dylux: Blizzcon is everything. It’s the only thing that matters.
Hospital: We’re really confident that we have what it takes. If we show up and play our game, I think it trumps most of the NA teams.
How are you preparing for the Heroes Americas Championship in Vegas?
Dylux: We’ve been grinding practice for the past week, an extreme amount of practice. I finally gave them a day off to get packed, but I think we’ve played more games this week than we’ve played ever before. I think we’ve scrimmed for 44 hours this week.
Hospital: That’s probably around 80-90 games.
Slime: Given that I just came back, we really needed to throw games in. So we obviously wanted to scrim the best teams we could but when it came down to it we were willing to scrim teams that weren’t up to regionals calibre just to get the games in. I don’t have inherent synergy with Iakona or Glaurong like I do with Scylol or Hospital so just trying to build that takes a lot of games. We fast-tracked it by putting in more games than we would normally play in two or three weeks. I think it was pretty effective, identifying our strengths and weaknesses with this new unit.
Dylux: We’ve been mainly scrimming with Murloc Geniuses and Cloud9, since they’re both in the other group.
How do you feel about your group in Vegas, especially with it now being a three team group?
Dylux: We feel confident about our group. I’m going to be a little salty if CompLexity gets a bye, but what can you do.
Hospital: I’m excited for the scene to grow so [visa issues] can stop happening. At MGA with eStar not being able to come and our bracket being all U.S. teams it was a little disappointing to be honest.
In Vegas you will likely have to play Tempo Storm or Cloud9 in order to qualify. Who would you rather face?
Hospital: Tempo Storm by far. Bit of a grudge match for us, but I also think we have a better match up against them.
Iakona: I think it’s shown, we’ve only played them them two or three times since Glaurung and I joined the roster and each time the games are closer and closer. I feel like the next time we play them could be the turning point. The next time we meet them we could beat them, and then the next time will be a complete stomp. We don’t scrim them and we haven’t really played against them.
Slime: I think there’s also a rivalry with us. This isn’t any disrespect to them, but their manager Zoia has straight up come out and said that our roster changes are going to make us weaker so they probably aren’t going to respect us with me back on the roster. That’s really going to bite them on the ass, if nothing else our performances in practice have improved since the change.
What were the things you learned from MGA and how are you applying those to Vegas?
Hospital: Telling Glaurung to make sure he has the right keyboard! Preparing. Before we went there, we didn’t find a place to practice and we ended up in a space that we weren’t really happy with. Taking care of that would really help. Just really having an understanding of what a stage is like, it didn’t bug me much but it’s helpful to have that experience.