The first international Heroes of the Storm tournament begins today
This weekend the hottest new esport will get its first taste of international competition as the best teams worldwide collide.
Heroes of the Storm esports has come a long way since last year's Blizzcon exhibition. The new multiplayer online battle arena game is quickly becoming a hotbed for competition, with major esports franchises across the globe hosting teams playing in tournaments every weekend across the world. This year’s BlizzCon and its qualifying events will total over $1.2 million in prizes.
Now Heroes of the Storm is preparing for their next milestone. For the first time, teams from different regions across the globe—America, Europe, China, Korea, and more—will compete against each other on a major stage. Against the backdrop of PAX Prime in Seattle, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world, eight teams from around the world will meet in the Masters Gaming Arena 2015 tournament.
That isn't the only thing remarkable about the tournament. Not only are the teams from every region in attendance, the ones considered the very best in each of Europe, North America, China and Korea will all be in attendance.
Will Europe Prevail? Can America win on their home turf? Or will a beast from the East show that China and Korea are the kings of esports in even Heroes of the Storm?
Ahead of the event, let us catch you up on the teams vying for the $50,000 prize pool and why you should be watching.
Tempo Storm, the oldest team in Heroes
America’s favorites, Tempo Storm has sat near or atop the scene since Heroes competition consisted of timing your match queue with another team and praying you got into a game against each other.
The team has 10 tournament wins to their name, including all three qualifiers for the Americas Regional Championship. They have never finished worse than fourth in anything they've entered. Since recruiting former League of Legends pro Christopher “Zuna” Buechter, who attended the Riot World Championships with Vulcun in 2013, Tempo Storm has won every tournament with a $1,000 top prize in which they’ve played, including the $19,000 World Cyber Arena qualifier just one week after he joined the team on May 21.
Last year the team, then called Symbiote Gaming, was snubbed by BlizzCon’s team selection process, so this is the perfect chance for them to show the world what they can do.
Team Liquid, DreamHack’s regular champions
Europe's leading light Team Liquid have had a more difficult time of things than the leaders in other regions, with teams like Natus Vincere owning a number of victories over the team. Does this increased competition, coupled with more regular events, give the Europeans a potential advantage? With three DreamHack titles to their name, Liquid has shown their strengths time and again.
The team is spearheaded by a pair of Spanish pro gaming brothers, Pedro “LucifroN” Moreno Durán and Juan “VortiX” Moreno Durán. As a star WarCraft 3 player, LucifroN placed second at BlizzCon in 2008 before continuing his career in StarCraft 2 alongside VortiX.
But the real standout for Team Liquid is often Cristofer “Blackscorp” Embareck, whose Zeratul play allows Liquid to control the pace of the game. He likely won’t get the most banned champion in the current metagame in hand very often, but he’s still a force on other bruisers. In the recent multi warrior meta he’s found himself on Leoric and Johanna with great effect.
Team Liquid opens the tourney with a game against Singapore's myRevenge.VS, a potentially easier game to ease them into the event.
eStar Gaming, the Chinese powerhouse
China's sole representative in the tournament, eStar Gaming have won more prize money than any other team in Heroes so far at almost $150,000 in winnings. Watching the Chinese scene is more difficult than for any of the other three regions, but this lack of tape for teams to study could prove to be a positive for them should they choose to break out any surprise picks.
Like Team Liquid, eStar is headlined by a former WarCraft 3 pro as their captain—Sun “xiaOt” Li Wei, the winningest player in Heroes of the Storm with $31,000 to his name. A regular top finisher in WarCraft competition in 2007 and 2008, he’s another pro gaming lifer who has resurrected his career in Heroes of the Storm.
In the final of the Chinese MGA qualifier, Kang "XingC" Lunhan pulled out a Falstad, and Wu "Tumi" Zhiha has shown himself to be a very flexible player. Picking up a mixture of assassins and specialists as the situation dictates, Zhiha has even played a second support role on a few occasions. They have also shown themselves willing to go off script with the bans, locking out characters like Azmodan and The Lost Vikings to disrupt the strategy of opposing teams rather than simply locking out the very strong heroes.
MVP Black, Korea’s shining stars
Thanks to Tastosis and some awesome beach-based LAN events, the Korean scene is getting some attention right now. The team taking most of the plaudits is MVP Black, the champions of the first ever Intel Extreme Masters Heroes tournament in Shenzhen last month. There they beat European MGA attendees Virtus.pro in the finals, the only real East vs. West matchup so far in Heroes, proving they're a contender in Seattle. But they’ve come up short in some of their bouts with Chinese squads, like against eStar Gaming in June.
The Korean teams sometimes play a different game than their Western counterparts, favoring a meta that feature double and even triple tanks. MVP Black were one of the first teams to reintroduce Arthas in the run up to the most recent patch, where he's become a staple pick, with both "KyoCha" and "Sign" having logged some games with him.
Outside of these top four region leaders, four other teams will be in Seattle vying for the title.
The final region representative is myRevenge.VS, a team hailing from Singapore and representing the South East Asia region. Though Relics advanced to the Americas Championship from the SEA region and have beaten myRevenge on two occasions, myRevenge managed to avoid Relics in the MGA qualifier.
The two other American representatives are Cloud9 and Cognitive Gaming, marked out pretty clearly as the second and third best teams in the region. Both have lost out to Tempo Storm at pretty much every turn, but Cloud9 is 4-0 in meetings against Cognitive Gaming, who only received an invite to MGA after Chinese second seed EDward Gaming dropped out due to visa issues.
This presents an interesting problem for both teams, as they seem incapable of challenging Tempo Storm but have limited competition coming from other teams. To try and close the gap, the two teams have bootcamped together in the run up to both last weekend's NA HWC qualifier and the MGA event. Cognitive have said that they excel when melee assassins are strong, and this new patch should give melee assassins a better position in the meta. But they'll be up against Tempo Storm in round one.
For Cloud9, MGA is a chance to erase the memories of a long list of second place finishes to Tempo Storm. Picking up Heroes of the Dorm winner Fan Yang as carry and shot caller at the end of June was supposed to change their fortunes, but the team's made little progress towards toppling their rivals. At MGA, they open with a tough foe: Chinas' top team, eStar Gaming.
Rounding out the eight teams is Virtus.pro. The team formerly known as ArthasStroitHram have had strong showings online, and they'll have extra motivation to win their opening round game: It's against MVP Black, who beat them at IEM Shenzhen in July.
Matches begin at 11AM PST, so don't miss what promises to be one of the biggest Heroes events this year.
Image via Blizzard