What We Learned GCWC Day 4: Dignitas Tho?!

Today is mostly a day to discuss the future of this tournament and the ramifications of the new patch. That said, some games did happen this morning, and they were amazing to watch. Huge takeaways for all of our teams, and a lot to learn not just for fans, but for the players as well. No more stalling, let’s do the thing.


Roll20 Esports

We have to start with Roll20 today because there’s a lot that needs to be said. If you’re a fan, it always hurts to see your team lose two games in a row to late game throws. If you’re a memer, you’re thrilled with these results because you get to type “NA LUL” like crazy and feel smug and superior while doing it. However, fans of Roll20 should be thrilled with these games beyond belief. Let me explain:

First, let’s get one thing straight–Roll20 was never going to win this tournament. Fourth place at this tournament is a massive win for NA. Gold Club for Roll20 is about finding the gaps in their play, throwing the new roster into a trial by fire, and gaining a ton of experience in preparation for the 2018 season. Obviously the players and organization traveled to China with the intent to win every match, but as fans and analysts, we need to see the bigger picture.

Once you accept this, today’s matches become amazing for a Roll20 fan. You literally have to watch the games in order to understand why because the 2-0 scoreline tells an entirely different story. Roll20 was in complete control of both games basically from minute one. Teams still don’t have an answer for Goku’s Dehaka, Daneski’s Junkrat put in work, and the team’s mastery of the laning phase on both maps was superb. Both games were ultimately lost due to one bad teamfight in the late game. Throws like this happen to every team at some point. It’s frustrating and feels awful for the players involved, but if you’re a Roll20 fan, the fact that the NA squad was able to dictate the pace of both games against Fnatic is huge.

There are a few other takeaways I want to mention. First, it’s a bit disingenuous to just write off both games as late game throws. There were a few key macro decisions made in both games that put R2e in a position to throw. On Cursed Hollow, they had a curse and a 5v4 situation and could not secure a keep. On Dragon Shire, they secured a late game Dragon Knight and walked it down bottom lane where it promptly died before reaching the core. In both situations a potentially game-ending push was thwarted by overly passive play and Fnatic’s strong defense. Roll20 won their games yesterday by starving out BTG and playing some of the most passive games we’ve ever seen from them. However, that strategy is far riskier against a world class team like Fnatic who can take even the smallest mistake and turn it into a victory.

This is why these games have me so excited as an NA fan. Roll20 did not get outclassed. They weren’t just beaten by a better team. They controlled both games and put themselves in a position to win handily. Without those late game throws, we’re suddenly having a conversation about how Roll20 smashed Fnatic and how weak the new Fnatic rosters looks. Basing all of your analysis purely on results doesn’t actually give you any useful data. With these losses, Roll20 have two incredible VODs to rewatch and learn how to close out these games. Closing out a win against a “better” team is among the hardest skills for a shotcaller to learn. These games will be invaluable to Justing’s growth, and Roll20 will level up from these games far more than if Fnatic had lost that last teamfight and R2e had a 2-0 today.

My last point on Roll20 is entirely my own opinion–I feel like there is too much emphasis on Junkrat. Yesterday’s games revealed a potential weakness in Breez’s hero pool (his Muradin) that Roll20 could have tried to exploit. Instead, they focused on using their bans to keep the Junkrat safe and build their comps around him. I think Junkrat is a strong situational pick–one that should only be taken when the draft allows, not something that you should invest resources into making work. Obviously, I’m not seeing their scrim data, maybe Daneski’s Junkrat is murdering kids all day long. However, I’d like to see Roll20 open up to some other strategies that play more to their strengths and set up better for teamfights. To me, the Genji first ban just gives Fnatic too much of what they want.


Taking one quick look through Fnatic’s twitter posts from this morning will reveal everything there is to say about these games. Fnatic got surprised by Roll20’s macro play. They came away with two wins, but have far more to be worried about after today than their opponents do. I can’t remember the last time I’ve ever seen Quackniix picked off so many times in the early game.

Looking at the drafts, we see two more mage games from Mene with double tank and solo support. Fnatic seems to be committing to try and make their double ranged style work. In a fun twist of fate, the new patch may actually benefit Fnatic more than any other team since they are already trying to move away from double support. The next step for enemy teams will be to try and expose Mene’s hero pool. Where does Fnatic go when his mages are countered or banned out?

While both games were obviously disappointing, if Fnatic fans are looking for positives, we see how much the shotcalling and leadership of this squad has remained intact with the new roster. The Cursed Hollow game in particular was a prime example of excellent late game decision making. Fnatic forced Roll20’s boss–the only objective that would demand a response from the NA team. This created the only scenario where Fnatic could conceivably create enough of an advantage to win the game. If they don’t get that teamfight and immediately take the boss closest to Roll20’s keeps, they likely lose the ensuing core attempt and ultimately lose the game to catapult pressure. Even on an off day, Fnatic remains a veteran crew with plenty of experience and knowledge at their disposal.


Holy crap Dignitas. Remember how yesterday was all about Korea still dominating HOTS? Apparently Snitch and friends had a real issue with that notion. They dominated Ballistix in two one-sided games. If you take away the names, Game 2 looks like those early rounds of open tournaments where Cloud9 would just wade through some amateur team, only without the Gazlowe. Every member of Dig made plays throughout this series. If you haven’t yet, go back and watch the Dragon Shire game and see how Wubby and POILK play the gank on top lane. In that same game we see incredible zone control out of JayPL, and some really nice moves out of Zaelia’s Kharazim.

I literally can’t say enough about how good this roster looked today. Both drafts show depth and diversity at every position. POILK can play mages and carries with equal proficiency. I genuinely don’t know how you draft against this team right now. Whatever the team did today to help POILK control his nerves, they need to repeat that exact same process every day for the next year. More and more we can comfortably look at the first game against CE and consider it an outlier with no real reflection on the strength of this team.

We actually have a pretty good idea of where the teams stand at this point. The big factors now are seeing how Roll20 fares against Korea, and if Dignitas can stop their hot-cold streak. Time to make some changes to our power rankings!

  1. KSV
  2. Dignitas
  3. Ballistix
  4. Fnatic
  5. Roll20
  6. CE
  7. SPT
  8. BTG

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What We Learned GCWC Day 3: Kure Finally Shoots Things!

What We Learned GCWC Day 2: Europe’s Still Good

What We Learned: Day 1 of GCWC

What We Learned GCWC Day 3: Kure Finally Shoots Things!

Day 3 over and done, and with it even more questions about the European contingent. We saw Roll20 move into their expected formation, Fnatic continue to search for answers, and Dignitas almost get there like 12 times. All in all, the matches today were really interesting and there’s a lot to get to, so let’s dive in!

gold club again


Today was a nice palate cleanser for the North American squad. After a tough series against Dignitas yesterday, they were matched against the third seed from China, BTG. Roll20 took care of business today with two fairly dominant wins.

While some may choose to focus on Justing’s epic 5-man mosh (assisted by Buds) or “NA LUL” at the “failed” core attempt in game two, I see two encouraging takeaways from these matches. First, Roll20’s patient play in both games. After yesterday, as the heavy favorites in this match, there could be a temptation to draft overly aggressive comps, try to force every fight you can, and win both games in under 10 minutes.

Instead, Roll20 took both games slow and methodical. They knew their advantage in both games came from Goku’s mastery of Dehaka’s split push. Both teamfights in Game 1 were created by BTG trying to force pressure against the 4-man because they had no answer to Dehaka. Rather than bring Dehaka in early and force a fight, Roll20 stalled and stalled until BTG stepped out of line, and then pounced.

Looking at Game 2, we see another very methodical affair. Roll20 utilized the strength of their comp to find picks in the early game, and could have tried to snowball a quick game. Instead, they stuck to the Dehaka gameplan. This was a game that was basically impossible for Roll20 to lose unless they forced teamfights that BTG could win. By keeping the map split, threatening the fast rotations with Lucio, and maintaining constant pressure with Dehaka, they just starved BTG of opportunity until the game inevitably ended. Even the “bad core call” fits within this strategy.

Look back at the map at the point when Roll20 loses that core attempt. All the lanes are pushed, there are still guardians in bottom lane, and beacons are a long way off. Even though Roll20 loses nearly every member to the core, there’s nothing on the map that BTG can take to climb back into the game. In essence, the NA teams gets 40% core damage for free, and sets up for a guaranteed win with their next Zerg wave.

Lastly, we actually saw Kure on assassins!  In both games!  He was on a hypercarry Valla in Game 1, and then on Greymane with Daneski’s Junkrat in Game 2. This is the iteration of Roll20 we hoped to see, and hopefully it’s what we will see in their remaining matches. In the end, a good day for NA, but still plenty of work to do, and tough opponents ahead.


I have a feeling Dignitas wanted a different result from today’s matches. These games are the absolute most frustrating to lose against an opponent who is considered stronger than you. Time and again we saw KSV members escape with a sliver of health. Had Dig been able to close out even one of those kills, the whole series could have been different. KSV simply had Dignitas’ number today.

Looking at takeaways for Dig, we saw POILK unveil his Gul’dan and Cassia. The Gul’dan game was a bit rough–we saw a whiffed Horrify and several instances of POILK being uncharacteristically out of position. POILK appears to have a fairly robust hero pool, but today the squad was just unable to bring out their trademark execution.

We really need to see more from his other supports, but I am becoming a fan of Zaelia’s Lucio. His escape at the start of Game 2 showed a deep understanding of what his hero could do. Unfortunately, it was followed up by a bit of overconfidence and getting caught a few times. Outside of that, I think Game 2 was a really rough draft for Dig. If people are interested, I may do another article analyzing the entirety of that draft. However, the short version is that Dig left themselves in an awkward spot with their last pick because they needed a second support, but they had only Wubby’s pick remaining, and needed something that could hold down a solo lane thanks to the early Abathur pick. They took a risk and, thanks to KSV’s refusal to just freaking die, it didn’t work.


So, it turns out that Korea is still pretty good. Sky Temple is a very rough map when you fall behind early, and that’s largely what happened to Fnatic. This was also another game of Mene on Gul’dan in a spot where traditionally the meta would demand a support in that slot. Fnatic had two opportunities with teamfights on objectives that could have turned the game around. In both instances Genji was able to just pour damage into the entirety of the European roster, and Gul’dan’s Horrify was not enough to counteract it. Maybe an Emerald Wind would have worked better? Who can say. The map always makes it a bit more difficult to properly evaluate a draft plan because it can all just go so wrong so fast.

Game 2 was a very strange draft by Fnatic. On Day 1 we saw them relegate BadBenny to a secondary support in order to give Mene his Junkrat. In this game we saw a similar setup with double support, Greymane and Junkrat. However, Benny was put on the Junkrat, with Mene on the Kharazim. These sorts of drafts, having now twice been unsuccessful, create a potential concern for Fnatic moving forward in this event. Ballistix appears to have made a read that Mene and BadBenny both are limited in their hero pools at this stage in the team’s development. By focusing their bans on Breez, they still manage to create an awkward draft for Fnatic while restricting one of the best tank players in the world.

On the bright side, this is something Fnatic is entirely aware of and will be working to solve throughout the tournament. They have experimented with a wide range of styles, strategies, and compositions so far through just three games. We know Benny has a reasonable stable of bruisers having seen his Arthas and Sonya, now the team appears to be focusing on exploring ways to create comfort for Mene. Ultimately, in order for Fnatic to win this event they will likely need to put Mene on Brightwing and have him perform well. However, they are collecting a ton of data that will be useful going into the 2018 season, particularly with the support nerfs incoming. Ultimately, fans who were critical of the Mene pickup have more fuel for the fire, but Fnatic has more data that will better equip them to perform in the long run.

In the first game of the day, we saw SPT take a game off of CE, which further distorts all of our understanding of the relative strength of these teams. It is entirely unfair and ridiculous to try and rank them with any authority at this point, but once again we’re going to do it anyway!

  1. KSV
  2. Ballistix
  3. Fnatic
  4. Dignitas
  5. Roll20 
  6. CE
  7. SPT
  8. BTG

Yesterday I had Roll20 below CE, but I have moved them up for a few reasons. First, I think their win against Dig had more to do with POILK’s nerves and poor performance than it had to do with CE’s strength. Second, they lost a map to SPT, a team which Roll20 handled confidently. Finally, we saw Kure on ranged for the first time in the roster and it looked good. Whether that remains the case will have to wait until tomorrow, but I am encouraged by today’s results enough to give them the boost over CE prior to that matchup.


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What We Learned GCWC Day 2: Europe’s Still Good

What We Learned: Day 1 of GCWC

What We Learned GCWC Day 2: Europe’s Still Good

Another day, another set of Gold Club games in the books. For the most part, today was a series of stomps. That said, there were several interesting things to take away from those one-sided affairs, particularly the final game of the day. In similar fashion to yesterday, let’s take a look at how each Western team performed today.

gold club


Remember when Fnatic was one of the best teams in the world? Yea, that’s still a thing. KSV took the stage first today and dismantled SPT in short order. When Fnatic took their turn at one of China’s candidates, the results were largely the same. Europe’s best team has a control of the macro game that is unsurpassed by any except the very best Korean teams.

What’s particularly interesting about Fnatic thus far is that we’ve had four games, and only one instance of Mene on a support. I’m certain we’ll see plenty of it going forward, but the team clearly values Mene’s strength on his comfort picks, and they’ve shown through the first three games of the tournament that they are willing to experiment with unique drafts in order to put their new flex player in a position of strength. I’m very curious to see how the draft shakes out when Fnatic goes up against Ballistix and Dignitas.

Outside of that, there weren’t many takeaways from Fnatic’s short time on stage today. We saw BadBenny on Tyrael and Sonya, giving us a taste of his bruiser pool, but still showing a preference for tanks over more damage-focused offlaners. Hopefully as the tournament progesses we’ll get to see more options such as Malthael and Dehaka added to Fnatic’s solo lane pool. Everything else was relatively standard from this roster. They’re still really good at playing the video game.


Now, let’s get this out of the way before we go any further. In the battle between EU and NA, there was no contest today. Europe won in convincing fashion with a 2-0. Both games had very rough endings for Roll20, so it is very easy for the casual fan to throw some NA LUL memes around and move on with their day. Additionally, I will naturally have a bit of NA bias in all of my analysis due to the fact that it’s my home region and my favorite region to follow.

Above all else, this series is about learning. I’m not really that interested in just writing “Dignitas beat Roll20 and here’s how it happened.” I want to go a bit deeper. So, obviously today was a success for Dignitas. That said, there are some takeaways that need to be discussed.

Game 1 against Roll20 was an even affair right until the very end. The teams were even in XP and structures throughout most of the game. In fact, right up until the pick on Kure, Roll20 was very much in a position to win the game. What allowed Dignitas to win so suddenly was a superb macro read on Roll20’s decision making. Roll20 had pressured the top lane hard with double bruiser camps. Logic would dictate that you commit a few resources to the top lane for a moment to clean up both camps and preserve as much of your keep defenses as possible, particularly on a map where structure health is so valuable. However, Jaypl and crew recognized immediately that Roll20 would be making a boss play and moved in. Not only did they contest, they went in hard, before Brightwing had time to revive. It was a phenomenal call that shows the leadership of this team is still very much intact with Bakery gone.

Further, POILK executed the final minutes of the game well. It seems that he’s been able to shake off the nerves from his first game yesterday and arrive in China as the deadly ranged threat we know him to be.

That said, both this game and the second one on Infernal Shrines should concern Dignitas fans a bit. The Sky Temple game was very even, and could have been lost had Kure not gotten caught. Game two was an absolute stomp for the first 15 levels, but with a bad call and a messy fight at Roll20’s shaman camp, they allowed NA’s heroes to crawl all the way back to a nearly even contest. By the end, only a heads up play from Snitch kept Roll20 from fully coming back and potentially taking the lead. However, most of the takeaways from today are positive. Snitch is an absolute monster on every hero in the game, his Stukov in Game 2 was a sight to behold. POILK fits into the roster far better than Mene did in the current meta. By the end of this tournament, we may well see the best Dignitas roster in the organization’s history.

Roll20 Esports

Both games today were very tough losses for the NA squad. Game 1 looked extremely promising right up until the end. Roll20 made a calculated risk that unfortunately Dig knew how to answer perfectly. Game 2 is where things seemed to fall apart a bit. Roll20 had no answer for Snitch’s superb Stukov, and just really struggled to deal with the abrupt change of pace between games. That said, the team showed its trademark resiliency and very nearly completed their comeback. If NA fans are looking for positive takeaways from today, I would submit the following:

Dig look to be a solid contender in this event, and Roll20 put themselves in a position where they had an opportunity to win both of these games. More than any other team, this is a roster with the most potential for growth during the event, and as such today has every chance to be a great learning opportunity. Further, no team is undefeated through 2 days, so Roll20 are still very much in contention to make it out of the group stage on the winners side.

One final takeaway from R2e thus far, we still have yet to see Kure on a ranged assassin. Daneski is certainly a capable ranged player, but fans expect Kure to be in the backline making plays for this roster, not relegated to Brightwing and Malfurion. Whether Roll20 are hiding strategies for their later opponents, or experimenting based on data they’ve gathered in scrims, we’ll simply have to keep watching to find out. However, this remains one of the key points to observe as Roll20 progresses through the event.

Before signing off, we should briefly discuss CE. Their Game 2 upset over Ballistix has consequences for our evaluation of every team going forward. Suddenly, Dig’s 1-1 record against them looks far better, forcing us to evaluate Dig higher due to their strong finish in that series. Today, CE showed that if they can create an opportunity and execute, they can contend with the best teams in the world. All of their success in that game stemmed from a single pick on Ballistix’s Falstad, and snowballed from there. Teams will have to respect their aggression going forward and know that if they give CE any opening, they can absolutely run with it all the way to your core.

We now have two data points on each team in the tournament, and know far more than we did yesterday about the relative strength of these rosters. Obviously, this is still nowhere near enough data to properly rank these teams, but let’s do it anyway! To close out today’s recap, here is my GCWC power ranking through two days:

  1. KSV Black
  2. Fnatic
  3. Ballistix
  4. Dignitas
  5. CE
  6. Roll20
  7. BTG
  8. SPT

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What We Learned: Day 1 of GCWC

What We Learned: Day 1 of GCWC

While most were sound asleep, the final tournament of the 2017 Heroes of the Storm esports season began. NA and EU entered this even with questions surrounding every team. Had Roll20 truly upgraded their roster? How would Fnatic address the hero pool concerns with Quack and Mene? Could Zaelia really fill the shoes of Dignitas’ former support, Bakery? Obviously, none of those questions were fully answered this morning. In fact, we won’t really know the answer to any questions about these teams for several months.

gold club

However, the games this morning gave us a sense of where these teams are headed, and how they stack up against global competition in their current state. With Day 1 of the Gold Club World Championship in the books, let’s take a look at what we learned today, and what to keep an eye on moving into the rest of the round robin phase.

Roll20 Esports

In the interest of full disclosure, I have not yet been able to watch the R2e matches from this morning. However, I’ve received several reports of how the games went, and took a look at the drafts for both games, so I’ll be focusing on that in this article.

We still don’t really know how to fully evaluate the relative strength of China. The teams we saw at Blizzcon were not a fair representation of the region, and one game certainly can’t tell us how SPT stacks up against the other teams in the tournament. However, by all accounts Roll20 took care of their business in solid fashion against a team many expect to finish near the bottom of the standings.

What’s especially interesting and encouraging about these matches for NA’s strongest team is the drafting. In Game 1, Goku was on Ragnaros with Kure on Dehaka. This is a composition that was locked away from Roll20 in the incarnation with Glaurung and Prismaticism. Glau doesn’t have a Ragnaros, and his Dehaka always left much to be desired when compared to Goku. Drafting this composition with the old roster would have left all three flex players in suboptimal positions.  With the new roster, the team clearly has a remarkable degree of flexibility which opens up more mind games during the drafting phase. Locking in Dehaka early reveals nothing about the gameplan of the composition for the remainder of this tournament now that the team has two players who can handle the hero confidently. Even if they never show this sort of composition again, every team has to account for it in their preparation. That alone is useful to Roll20.

The second draft further shows a new interesting development with this roster. Looking at the draft in a vaccuum, you would assume that Kure was on Valla with Daneski on Malfurion. However, for this game those roles were reversed. Now, it’s entirely possible that Roll20 was confident they could defeat SPT 2-0 with unorthodox compositions that didn’t reveal any of their plans to stronger teams. However, the flexibility shown here represents a promising start to this team’s synergy. Goku is willing to give away his trademark Dehaka to a new teammate. Kure can take a back seat on the second support and let Daneski play the hyper carry in the team’s debut set. We literally didn’t see Kure play a single ranged assassin in his first series as a member of Roll20. This leads me to feel a sense of humility from this team. They just want to win, and build whatever composition allows them to reach that goal.

Naturally, this is all speculation, but for me what I saw today confirms my feeling that this team made huge upgrades in the offseason.


We know POILK is really good at shooting things. We know that Wubby is very good at soaking things. The big question mark for Dignitas was how quickly Zaelia could adapt to the support role. Throwing the poor boy on Medic in his debut match was tough, and I think Dig got a bit caught off guard by how well CE played in that game. However, they recovered well for the second game. It’s that Game 2 where I think we saw several instances of Zaelia’s potential in the role.

Simply put, he knew how to play Lucio in a competitive match on Tomb of the Spider Queen. His rotations with Genji were on point, he kept himself in position to land impactful knockbacks, and did not overextend into the opponent’s heavy frontline. In particular, the knockback to interrupt Sanctification was a heads up, veteran play that displayed Zaelia’s understanding of his role in the teamfight as well as his in-game awareness as a player. We still need to see what Zaelia can do on more traditional supports (your Rehgars and Uthers) but I no longer have any concerns about his Lucio.

Oh also, POILK’s Chromie was really fun to watch. It was like that Carbot animation where she drops sand all over the place, only in POILK’s case the sand all landed on top of CE’s heads and made them not be alive.


With such a dominant 2017 behind them, it’s difficult for the average fan to see the new Fnatic roster as anything but a downgrade. There are still huge question marks surrounding the new roster, and I don’t know that we really answered them in these games.

We saw BadBenny’s Arthas, which acquitted itself well, but every tank player should have a reasonably good Arthas in their back pocket for emergencies. In Game 2, we saw his Rehgar which, while solid, does not really give us any indication of the depth of BadBenny’s offlane hero pool.

That said, in the first game on Cursed Hollow we did see that this new roster knows how to execute a team composition. The synergy between Mene and Quackniix was excellent. In a meta without double support, that game showed that this roster can challenge the best team in the world and come out on top.

However, that second game on Tomb only served to reignite the fears regarding Mene’s hero pool. Fnatic opted for a double support strategy, but instead of throwing Mene on the Auriel, they put BadBenny on Rehgar in order to keep Mene on his mage. Yes, for the purposes of this analysis we’re calling Junkrat a mage, leave me alone about it. Dreadnaught said it first, go yell at him. Anyway, where was I?

Right, Badbenny on Rehgar. Going back and looking at this game, the team composition is actually really interesting. They have gobs and gobs of wave clear, and a ton of zone control for the turn ins. In a more passive early game, there’s a real chance that this team composition works out and Fnatic has a 2-0 victory in their first match of GCWC.

Unfortunately, they walked right into a KSV composition that was expressly built to blow nerds up in the early game. Between the silences, Arthas roots, Chromie bombs, and Greymane doing Greymane things, Fnatic were overrun in the early game. Johanna team compositions don’t play well from behind, especially with no other reliable lockdown on the team. The loss had little to do with any sort of hero pool disparities, and far more to do with Fnatic simply trying out an experimental composition that didn’t work out. Ultimately, I think the takeaway from this match is that we re-affirmed that these five European gentlemen are each individually very good at playing the video game Heroes of the Storm. How they come together to perform over the full course of a tournament remains to be seen.

The best news about all of this is that we get to learn even more stuff tomorrow!  The production level at this event is stellar, the casters are having fun, and the games are super interesting. Set your alarm, program your coffee maker, and get up to watch these matches!

The Bakery Ripple Effect


I just wanted to throw out a quick thought in my continued effort to properly equip the community for the impending Rosterpocalypse. Bakery’s retirement throws a massive wrench into the works that will have resonating impact for literally every team in EU.

One thing that’s important to understand is how risk-averse most teams will always be in a format like the HGC. If your team struggles in a single split, you could literally end your professional career. Through the Crucible your organization could be relegated from the league, and your time as a player could be over. This makes it very difficult for teams to gamble on unproven players from the Open Division. Teams have to win right now just to keep their jobs.

With that said, let’s run through a hypothetical scenario. Take note, most roster decisions (if not all) were locked in before this announcement. In this specific instance, Bakery’s retirement announcement likely changed very little about the actual roster moves happening. However, I think it serves as a solid example of just how many small factors can have enormous consequences in an offseason. Let’s say that no teams planned to make any roster moves whatsoever. Everyone loves each other, all the teams just want to focus on improving their synergy and skip through fields of daisies while looking fondly into one another’s eyes. Suddenly, Bakery is all “nah, I’m out.” Dignitas now is forced to find a new support player. This is a team and an organization that expects to not only attend every international event, but aims to win them. They cannot grab some young rookie support and train him up for a season–they need a veteran. So, they have to go attract a player from another HGC team.

Since the rumors are all leaning this way, let’s say they grab Granpkt. Again, everything else is intending to stay the same. Now Zealots have to get a new support. They’re in an even more tenuous situation than Dignitas, they cannot afford to take a risk either–they need a proven player to earn them wins not only to secure their spot, but to attract a sponsor. The process would, in theory, continue until every team has just traded their support player.

Except, Bakery isn’t moving to another team, he’s left the pool of support candidates. What do you do? If your team doesn’t want to take a risk on a rookie, suddenly you now have to roleswap one of your existing players to support to fill that hole. However, now you have a hole at flex, and you still don’t want to take a risk on a rookie, so the process begins anew. Eventually someone has to take an Open Division player to stop the cycle, but until someone does, this process of shuffling and swapping would continue in perpetuity.

Now add that in to all the planned roster changes teams already intended to make before Bakery threw this boulder into the stream. As you can see, every single move within an off-season creates its own hurricane of changes. The shakeup this season is going to be intense, and I cannot wait to see the next change to add more ripples to the pond.

If Locals are Dying, How Do We Save Them?


During my morning bathroom Twitter-scroll, I came across an exchange that I wanted to expand on. While Twitter’s new character limit allows for more conversation than ever before, I feel like this topic deserves a little bit more discussion.  I’ve mentioned this topic in the past, but it appears that the conversation should be had again.

During this exchange, one party posited that attendance at Smash locals has seen a significant down-turn of late. The suggestion was that, because things like For Glory and Melee netplay have risen in popularity, players no longer need to attend locals to get good practice. Because people don’t have to attend an in-person local, they simply choose not to go.

Now, the implications here are concerning for every local tournament organizer, Smash or otherwise. As online play continues to improve, and as new games join the genre that offer even more satisfying online experiences, we could see the entire ecosystem of local, weekly tournaments die out! If people are only attending locals for decent practice, and they can now get that practice at home, there’s nothing local TOs can do to compete, and they’ll just see their attendance slowly wither to nothingness. Personally, I find this idea very silly, and I want to explain why.

No Substitute for Live Play

As some of you are likely already typing, the notion that players can practice just as well at home as they can at a local is just laughable. If you want to play in major Smash tournaments, there’s no way to prepare for that environment while sitting at home in your bedroom. Ignoring issues of lag and matchmaking, the mental preparation alone is worthwhile at a local. You get the experience of actually sitting next to your opponent, of having spectators huddled right over your shoulder. The whole tournament experience is replicated on a smaller scale, allowing you to enter a larger event with some idea of what’s going on. Even for veteran tournament attendees, keeping your mental game sharp is critical and cannot be accomplished sitting alone at home.

If you’re having issues attracting players to your local because they would rather practice at home, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that your local event sucks. Maybe the venue smells, maybe there aren’t any other good players, maybe you or one of your volunteers is kind of a jerk, and being around you makes the event less fun. If you’re losing active players because they say they’d rather play online at home, don’t just throw up your hands and curse modern technology–look inward.

Movie theater chains have had to do some very similar soul searching of late. It used to be that the only way to see a movie on a decent screen was to go to a theater. Now, everyone has a massive TV in their living room with a high quality picture. Further, you can watch tons of movies just a short time after they come out in theaters through On Demand services and Redbox. Not only that, but going to the movies sucks! The food is way too expensive, the floor is gross, and there’s some old lady sitting behind you warning the hot blonde not to go in the basement. Lady, if she doesn’t go in the basement, we don’t get to see the monster!  That’s the whole point of coming to this movie!  I don’t want leave my house, sit in traffic, find a place to park, stand in line, and pay way too much money to watch “Hot Blonde Avoids Monster and Does the Crossword!”

Anyway, the point is, because the experience of going to the movies was worse than the experience of staying at home, movie theaters had to adapt. They introduced more food options, and many added alcohol to the menu. The old seats were replaced with high quality leather chairs that recline. You can pick your seat when you order the tickets so you don’t have to get there super early to save one of the four decent seats in the whole theater. Now, going to the movies is an experience on par with staying at home, and you get to see movies sooner. There’s an advantage to leaving your house on a Friday night to see a movie, because you cannot replicate a better experience at home.

Are Card Games Better than Smash?

“Listen jerkface,” you type furiously, “you don’t know anything about running Smash tournaments. Going to the movies means you get to see a movie before you could ever see it at home. With Smash, everyone already has the game. If they have a friend or an internet connection, they can do the exact same thing at home that they can do at my local.”

First, name-calling isn’t very nice. Second, I guess I’ll repeat myself. If someone can get an equal or better experience at home, then that means your local event is not a unique, enjoyable experience. That’s not the fault of the game, the internet, or the modern era–its an issue of not keeping up with the times.

Smash locals are like card game shops. In the 90s and early 2000s, the only way to play card games like Magic: The Gathering was to find a group of people to play with in person. Now, Magic Online has literally every card in history in its database. There are games like Hearthstone and Shadowverse that exist entirely online with modern aesthetics and mechanics. You can have an incredible card-game experience just sitting at home with your laptop and a beer.

And yet, card game shops across the world are thriving. Magic is as big as its ever been. Why? Because playing Magic at a local game store is an experience that cannot be replicated at home. The game is more fun when you’re sitting across from your opponent in person. Playing in a draft means you get to keep the cards, and possibly earn some prizes. There are formats like Commander, Canadian Highlander, and Conspiracy that cannot be played properly online. You get to see your friends and discuss your matches, or get together for a draft after you all get knocked out of the tournament. Playing at a local Magic event, being part of your local Magic community–it provides an experience that Magic Online simply cannot replicate.

It’s time for Smash locals to evolve and join the modern gaming era. If you were just providing a place to play Melee, and your patrons no longer need that service, you can simply retire knowing you did a great service for your game. However, if you are passionate about cultivating a local scene–if you want to run a business–you have to evolve to remain competitive. If you’re losing attendees, find out why. What about your local experience no longer appeals to those people? Once you figure out what that is, fix it and get them back.

That said, there will be some people you cannot get back. Melee is a very old game at this point. Many of the most active, passionate players are reaching an age where going to a regular local event is no longer viable for their lifestyle. Over the next five years you will see the old guard slowly fade out of local scenes simply due to their time in Melee having run its course. That’s not a bad thing, its just a part of life. Priorities change, responsibilities force you to adjust your life, and sometimes you just lose interest in something you’ve loved since you were a child.

As a local TO, you have to prepare yourself for inevitably losing your most active and passionate players. Most people are eventually going to leave the scene. However, that doesn’t mean the scene is dying. It only dies if people leave and we don’t replace them. Start cultivating the next generation. Build a relationship with local schools and afterschool programs. Introduce the game to kids, encourage the kids who already attend to bring their friends. Always keep your customer pipeline full so you can replace attendees as they leave. If you’re trying to make money from running a local, or at least break even, you have to treat it like a business.


To me, there should never be a reason that the local Smash scene dies outside of the entire community just getting bored of the game. Based on major tournament attendance and view numbers, I’d say there are still plenty of people out there who are passionate about Smash. There are probably scores of gamers in your local community who would love to become passionate about Smash, you just haven’t told them about it yet. Go let them know. Do some marketing. Clean your venue. Smile at people. Offer some food and drinks. Make your local not just “the place we go to practice Smash.”  Make it an experience they can’t find anywhere else.

Roster Change Predictions: EU Edition

Since the NA version is doing well, lets fan this fire and make some even wilder speculations about Europe! I know far less concrete information about EU, so this will be more based off instinct rather than super cool secret sources and announced changes. Let the speculation begin!!

Fnatic–No Changes

Fnatic is in a weird spot where roster changes are dramatically harder. Making a roster change means using English in their comms, something they have not done for all of 2017 to my knowledge. Oh yea, they also took second at Blizzcon, so unless someone retires or gets a crazy offer from another team, I don’t see them making any changes.

Dignitas–1 Change

This was a disappointing year for Dignitas. Not in any way that a normal human would consider “disappointment”, mind you, but this team expects to contend for championships. They had the easiest path to the semifinals and were upset by a team in their own region. I’m not sure how Dig would go about upgrading from their current roster, but based on what I know about esports as a whole, a team like this ending their season as they did absolutely makes a change.


Note: so the whole bit about “the easiest path to the next round vs expert” thing is just wrong. For some reason I had my rounds mixed up and thought that was the next round where everyone had to fight Korea or fnatic. It’s incorrect and just a mixup in my brain while writing, but I didn’t catch it until several people commented on Reddit, so removing it feels gross.  Disregard that point, the rest stands

Team Expert–2 Changes

This is based on the ripple effect of other changes I have above and below. Expert showed a ton of promise at Blizzcon. They have a great core. However, other teams will be very interested in trying to acquire the players who performed best at Blizzcon. Even if the team intends to stay together, what if Dignitas drops Mene or Zaelia? Expert will be forced to at least examine options from the available pool of free agents, and I expect two players will either accept offers from other teams, or get replaced as better options become available.

Tricked esport–1 Change

I don’t really have any insight to provide here save for the fact that other big teams will be making moves, and that will require a team with promising pieces like Tricked to evaluate the existing roster, or potentially lose a piece to another team.

Team Liquid–2 Changes

Similar to Tempo Storm, this roster has been together forever. However, they have not been able to pierce the top of the international level, and even missed Blizzcon this year. I love this roster, but in its current form, Team Liquid appears to have plateaued. To make a bold prediction, I expect Dignitas, Expert, and Liquid to shuffle a few players between them. Early in League of Legends there was a 3-way trade that completely transformed North America, we could potentially see something similar with the EU HGC this season.

Zealots–No Changes

This is probably my boldest call, but I’m going to stand by it until someone shows me, like, a tweet from three days ago of one of these guys announcing their free agency. Team Wish made a crazy run through the “playoffs”. POILK shows a ton of promise as a carry, but I think there will be enough other options available to keep the top teams from trying to take him away from Zealots. Other than that, I just don’t see Zealots getting a chance to grab any of the other high profile free agents–especially without a sponsor.

Diamond Skin–2 Changes

You don’t go to the Crucible and keep your roster together. You just don’t. Similar to Zealots, it will be tough for Diamond Skin to make upgrades from higher profile teams, but the EU Open Division is far stronger than the one in NA by all accounts. I could see Diamond Skin using Phase 1 to rebuild and groom a few rookies with potential, or some veteran like BKB who got relegated in the Crucible.

Leftovers–No Changes

Again, I don’t think they’re allowed to.

So, there you have it. If I’m right, this will be one of the most volatile offseasons we’ve seen from EU, which would be just the best for bloggers such as myself. Granted, I could be wildly wrong as well. That’s why this time of year is so much fun!!

Roster Change Predictions: How Many from Each Team?

Voice of the Pros: Khroen

Roster Change Predictions: How Many from Each Team?

Whattup nerds!  This is going to be a quick article since I’ve got like 30 minutes free and hadn’t written anything in a little while. Essentially what I’m going to do today is predict some roster changes. I’m going to do a little tirade later, maybe just in a reddit post or something, about the importance of roster changes, and why I love this season so much. For a portion of those thoughts, here’s something I did last free agency season. Enjoy.

Again, since my time is short, I’m not going to do a super hardcore prediction analysis. Plus, I actually know some of the roster changes that haven’t happened yet, so I could either betray the trust of a friend, or make fake guesses to not reveal my source, both of which feel kinda gross. So, rather than analyze specifically which players will go where, I’m going to just predict how many moves each team will make, and discuss why. It’s entirely possible this will not be interesting or valuable, but I’m bored and want to do it, so there!

North America

See my previous tweets and whatnot about how everyone in NA has giant egos and hates each other. Anyone who actually thinks that…..you’re just wrong. I’m tired of spending time on it, but someone will probably trigger me in the Reddit comments and we’ll rant about it again. However, the following is based on pure analysis of results, team synergy, and what I would do if I were managing/coaching each team. We’ll start from the top since that will have the biggest impact.

Roll20 Esports –2 Changes

We’ve already seen Prismaticism announce his free agency, so this is a bit of a hedge on my part. This team got too good too quickly to stay together. Every person on this roster is a top 3 player in their position within the region. Glaurung is one of the genuine stars of the league, Justing is easily the best tank in NA, Buds is an elite support, and Goku may actually be the best player we’ve got, or certainly has the potential to reach that status. Every one of these players will get offers, and it is highly likely that one of those players will take it.

Team Freedom–3 Changes

Similar to Roll20, this is a small organization that suddenly has a team of playmakers. Every player showed up at Blizzcon and proved themselves valuable. As high profile teams lose players, this will be one of the first places they look for replacements. That said, I don’t think this roster is actually particularly elite, when compared to the top 4-5 potential rosters going into 2018. It will be in the best interest of any member of this team to trade themselves up to a Tempo, Roll20, or Gale Force roster if they can. I expect TF has at least one change they’d like to make, and two others who will accept offers from other, higher profile squads.

Gale Force Esports–4 changes

I should quickly mention that most of this hinges on my belief that Blizzard has changed their roster restriction rules based on the new ownership changes. In 2017, four players leaving the roster would have meant that GFE lost their spot in the league just like B-Step did. However, now that the spot in the league is actually owned by GFE, and not a majority share of their roster, I expect teams will be allowed more leniency. It would be a bad look for Blizzard to have grandfathered GFE into the league, and then have them need to make three roster moves due to MichaelUdall retiring. If they can make three, why not blow up the whole thing? I expect we will see the team rebuilt around one remaining player, with pieces drawn from several teams to fill out the squad.

Tempo Storm–1 Change

It’s possible this team needs to make more than a single change, but I also think Tempo likes how long they’ve kept the same roster. They also have several spots that would be difficult to upgrade, particularly at warrior and support–you aren’t going to find much better than Fury and Jun. That said, it’s basically been proven at this point that the current roster cannot compete with the elite teams of the world. They’ve tried everything at this point, including some really stupid role swaps, and none of it worked to elevate the team past their plateau. It’s far past time for a change, and this will be the time to make it happen.

Spacestation Gaming–2 Changes

We already know about these two changes–TigerJK and TalkingTrees announced their free agency. Unless Spacestation empties their wallets for Justing, I don’t see them making any other moves. Equinox is really good and I think Jason still hasn’t reached his final form. With 2 changes, SSG will remain good enough to avoid the cruicible in Phase 1 of 2018, and will have time to evaluate this new roster to possibly make other moves leading into Phase 2.

Superstars–1 Change

This team had a disappointing season. You don’t have a disappointing season and not make some changes, it’s just not practical. That said, I just don’t think this team can attract many upgrades. They still don’t have a sponsor, so all the big free agents are going to get better offers. It’s possible there’s more interpersonal issues here and we see the team fracture, leading to two or three changes, but ultimately I just don’t think they’re going to get the opportunity to make many upgrades.

Lag Force–2 Changes

Similar to Superstars, it will be tough for Lag Force to attract big names to upgrade the roster. However, this team absolutely has to make moves. If I were in charge, I would get rid of three players, and build around the remaining Zuna and Tomster (moving Tomster back to Melee where he belongs). However, the squad has proven really bad at making organizational decisions that I think are really smart, so I doubt that will happen. However, with all the changes happening above, there will be a few options available from other squads that may trickle down to Lag Force.

Heroes Hearth–I don’t think they’re allowed to.

Even if they were, I doubt we’d see any. However, in Phase 2 I predict this team will be picked apart by other squads with more resources.

So, there you go. Do with these predictions what you will. If people want, I’ll do an EU version as well, but I wanted to try and at least get this out before more changes were announced.  Hope you enjoyed, and have a great offseasn!  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!!


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