HGC Phase 2–The 5 Big Questions Facing North America

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It’s a bit crazy to think, but the next phase of the Heroes Global Championship is already upon us. Tomorrow teams around the world will return to their regional leagues to begin clawing their way to the top. This time they’re fighting for everything, this time around we’re aiming for Blizzcon.

In North America, we saw a major roster shakeup once again. Teams made strategic moves to try and get better in preparation for this new phase. As we watch Phase 2 of the NA HGC, there are five major questions to be asked. They are as follows.

Is Goku an Upgrade?

On the opening day of the Mid-Season Brawl, Roll20 Esports announced that they would be making a trade with Superstars–Yoda for Goku. The reaction from most analysts was that this would be a strong upgrade for Roll20. Goku is a phenomenal player, and his hero pool would lend some clarity to the murky draft strategy Roll20 had with Glaurung, Yoda, and Prismaticism all playing flexible roles.

However, Yoda showed up at MSB. Many games were won off the back of his stellar Li-Ming. The team had a strong synergy, they took a map from MVP Black in the opening day, and went further than anyone expected. Now returning home from Sweden, the question has to be asked–did Roll20 make a mistake? Is replacing their Li-Ming player with a melee carry the best choice for this team’s playstyle? Who’s going to play Zeratul now?

Talent-wise, Goku seems like a clear improvement for the team. However, will the tradeoff in synergy be worth it? Will we see a repeat of GFE’s issues when Fan was brought in to take over the melee role?

Will Even In Death Win a Game?

In case you missed it, there was a last-minute shakeup in the NA HGC for this phase. B-step, the team helmed by Blizzcon Champions Kingcaffeine, K1pro, and iDream, has disbanded and abdicated their place in the league. To replace them, the team with the best playoff performance in the open division, Even In Death, was elevated to the pro level. EiD did not impress in their cruicible match, and were by no means a dominant amateur team in the regular season. Even open division caster SolidJake spoke passionately on his show Town Hall Heroes about his concerns with EiD’s worthiness for the spot.

The bottom tier teams have all made moves to improve this season, and have plenty of experience over their new colleagues on EiD. The newcomers were not even allowed to make any roster changes after they disbanded and then reformed to secure their trip to the HGC. Can this team hold together? More importantly, can they compete with the pros?

Is Naventic Back?

It’s been a long trip down for the once-dominant Bob Ross Fan Club. As Team Naventic, Zuna and crew seemed unbeatable in the early iterations of their team. Since the departure of Erho we’ve seen a slow downward spiral as the team struggled to find it’s identity without a warrior player. With Bkid at the helm many hoped for a revival, but Naventic’s first phase in the HGC was an unmitigated disappointment to fans and players alike.

Now, the team has made some brilliant roster moves. They moved Kenma, a smart player with awful mechanics, to the coaching role where he can still help the team but not get caught face-checking bushes. They’ve resolved their ranged disputes by moving Bigempct to support. Finally, iDream has come in to shore up the team’s melee position, giving them more flexibility at that role than ever before.

This is the best version of Naventic we’ve seen since the original, but can it hold up? Will the cries of “Zuna Feed” and “lagf” be louder than the team’s performance in the nexus? I expect it will take a few weeks for this roster to fully come together, but the potential is there. It will be up to Team Naventic to fight their way back to their former glory.

Is K1pro a Ranged Assassin Anymore?

If you’re new to the Heroes esports scene, you may not know the k1pro that we all love. There was a version of this player that was the undisputed best ranged assassin in the game. His Tyrande was devastating, his Tassadar revolutionary, and his Jaina unstoppable (even without cleanse). It has been a hot minute since we’ve seen that version.

Of late the version of k1 that’s been on display has been whiffing stuns as Anub’arak and struggling to find any clear identity. Now, k1 has a chance to return to his old ways with Gale Force Esports. The team has already had their identity crisis and has solidified their roles. There’s no room for k1 to play off-tanks and other nonsense. He is replacing Khroen as their ranged assassin. This move is a tall order for the former World Champion. We’ve never seen a truly impressive Li-Ming from him, and his old comfort picks are all out of the meta. In a world full of Vallas, Greymanes, and Tychusis (Tychuses? Tychi?) where does the former best in the world stack up? He’s not had a strong organization and skilled leadership guiding his way since the days of Cloud9, perhaps the leadership of Fan and Udall under the GFE banner will be enough to bring back the k1 of old.

Can Tempo Still Download Everyone?

North America is super weird. On the international level, Tempo Storm is not an especially impressive team. They struggle at every event and their weaknesses are quickly exposed. However, they continue to dominate back in North America. They were the unquestioned kings of NA during Phase 1.

The prevalent theory is that, between their coach and smart drafters, Tempo can just read all of their NA opponents. They know what they like to draft and how to counter it. Heroes is such a draft-focused game, by consistently winning the draft, Tempo essentially goes into every match with an advantage over the enemy. They also happen to be one of the only teams with a genuinely great warrior/support combo.

This season is a little different. For the full break, Tempo’s focus has been on their international opponents at the MSB. They have not been scrimming the new rosters of North America, or studying any footage of them. They have also not been scrimming or practicing on the newest patch. It is virtually impossible for Tempo to have a strong read on the NA meta going into the early weeks of Phase 2.

So, will we finally see a Tempo Storm that has to play without first downloading their opponents? Are Khala and Cattlepillar so smart that they can read the meta with only a week to prepare? Is their duo of Fury and Jun so much better than most teams that they can carry the team through the early weeks?

Or, will we finally see new teams rise up to the top of North America? Will a newly revived Naventic come knocking? Reunited with Fan, can KingCaffeine and k1pro recapture their former glory? With Goku alongside are Roll20 the new team to beat? Is there a new team who finally put the pieces together to challenge the elite? The answers to all the questions and so much more will be revealed on the next episode of Dragonball Z! By which I mean watch the HGC this weekend, it’ll be really cool.
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