The tournament featured a who’s who of competitive Heroes teams in North America, as most of the top teams you’d expect made it through the large open bracket to reach the final stages of the event on sunday.
Cloud9 Maelstrom, Tempo Storm, Cloud9 Vortex, Complexity, and Zeveron all reached the round of 8, joined by a couple more surprising entrants like Team Blaze, Pool Plato Some Tangos, and The PLEYZ. Just one of those eight teams would qualify for a spot at the America Championship, and to no one’s surprise, it was Tempo Storm and Cloud9 Maelstrom, the two most dominant teams in the region, who eventually battled for it.
Tempo Storm took the title after a 2-1 win over Cloud9 Maelstrom in the closest series the two teams have played in a month, sending Tempo Storm, the longest-standing competitive team in Heroes of the Storm, to the American final.
That doesn’t mean it was an easy road to reach the finals, though Tempo Storm managed to make it without dropping a game, first sweeping The PLEYZ and Pool Plato before taking out Maelstrom 2-0 in the upper bracket final. For Maelstrom’s part, they had a tougher road in the bracket, first taking on veterans Zeveron in a 2-1 series before besting Complexity 2-0, and then doing it again the lower bracket to set up the grand finals.
There, Tempo Storm looked like heavy favorites. Since adding Chris “Zuna” Buechter to the lineup on May 21, the former League of Legends pro (who competed in the Season 3 World Finals as a member of Vulcun) has helped Tempo Storm regain their status as best team in America. While Cloud9 Maelstrom had seemingly surpassed them for a time, with Buechter in the lineup Tempo Storm has dominated Maelstrom, sweeping them 3-0 in the finals of the Heroes Major League and World Cyber Arena NA qualifier, the biggest Heroes tournament in America so far.
But in the Grand Finals, Cloud9 Maelstrom threatened to shift the balance once again. They opened the series with a win on Tomb of the Spider Queen, sending Tempo Storm reeling after turning the game around once Kael’Thas hit his level 16 power spike.
That put Tempo Storm in unfamiliar territory heading into Sky Temple, but they pulled out their favorite trump card—Azmodan. Taylor “Arthelon” Eder has pioneered that pick as a competitive staple, especially since the recent buff to Promote mechanics and Azmodan’s signature Bound Minion.
Tempo Storm set up Azmodan with help from the game’s newest hero, Johanna. The crusader from Diablo 3 and her Condemn ability, combined with the Knight Takes Pawn talent, are perfect support for Azmodan and his Globe of Annihilation talent Taste for Blood. Azmodan’s Q gains damage for every minion he kills with it, and Condemn pulls an entire wave into a blood buffet, weak enough for easy collection thanks to the extra damage from Knight Takes Pawn. That allows Azmodan to stack his damage high even from the start of the game, making him a massive destructive force.
Even then, it was a tough match for Tempo Storm. Cloud9 Maelstrom took a lead late into the game, but the combination of Azmodan and Malfurion’s MULE allowed Tempo Storm to drag out the game and pull out the victory.
That set up a final match on Blackheart’s Bay, supposedly Tempo Storm’s weakest map. They opted for one of their trademark compositions, taking Rehgar, Tassadar, Kael’Thas, Zeratul and Muradin. But while they professed weakness, they stomped Cloud9 Maelstrom, scoring a flurry of early kills thanks to Kael’Thas and Zeratul to give them a couple level advantage, allowing them to close out the game with a lead.
The series was a Tempo Storm win, but it certainly wasn’t a comfortable one, as they lost game one and were behind for much of game two. The end result, though, is that Tempo Storm is now a couple miles ahead of the pack on the Road to Blizzcon as the only team qualified for their regional championship. Of course, Cloud9 Maelstrom will likely get in through their next set of chances, with more qualifiers set for July and August.
The Road to Blizzcon has barely begun.
Image via Blizzard