DreamLeague Provides an Interesting Stage Pre-TI7

Eli Sherman


DOTA 2 fans everywhere have been caught up in the TI buzz that comes after qualifiers. The usual ritual looks something like this: pouring money into your compendium, praying to GabeN for a rare-drop, ogling over the now record prize pool, pub, and repeat! Qualifiers really delivered this year in both excitement and quality. TI7 looks to be another slugfest of DOTA 2. Complimented with a meta that feels extremely even. There is one more LAN before it: DreamLeague Season 7.


“There’s No Good DOTA 2 Before TI”

This is a complaint from fans during this perceived “lull” in the competitive action before Seattle. Luckily this statement is no longer true thanks to this weekend’s DreamLeague! Season 7 is no joke either with its 150,000 USD prize pool, including a grand prize of 80,000 USD. We should be seeing some really good DOTA 2 as well as a peek into the competitive meta on the edge of TI7. On the other hand, some would say the quality of games in this DreamLeague final weekend are meaningless and thus will not be taken seriously from teams with The International to worry about. But of the four teams taking place in the double elimination culmination of Season 7 only two are actually going to TI7 (Team Secret and Team Liquid).

Miracle- zoned in during Liquid’s DreamLeague championship run last year (CyBet.com)

Liquid was a direct invite while Secret won the EU Qualifier. We haven’t really seen much from Secret (qualifiers aside) since The Summit 7 a month ago. The same could be said of Team Liquid who last took home the hardware from Epicenter. Both teams looked quite strong in their respective LANs. Again, Secret dominated the EU qualifiers; while Liquid looked elite against a strong EG team at Epicenter. Now we will get to see how they have grown since then, right before the beginning of TI7.

Can Team Liquid Stay Dominant?

Team Liquid has stuck to their guns and continued to run heroes like Lasse “MATUMBAN” Urpalainen’s Lone Druid and Bristleback; Ivan “MinD_ContRoL” Ivanov’s Dark Seer; and obviously Amer “Miracle-“ Al-Barkawi’s impeccable Invoker. They beat Evil Geniuses in four games in the Grand Final as well as Virtus.pro and LGD.FY leading up. Liquid looked in control during these series defeating teams that are all considered contenders for TI7 this year making a strong case for a Team Liquid run at the Aegis. In their match for DreamLeague Season 7 they’ll face off against Vega Squadron who would love nothing more than to take down a TI bound opponent while making some serious money to end their season. So they will definitely be bringing their A-game. With players like Bragen “G” Sergey and Shishkin “Afterlife” Visilii, Vega should not be taken lightly.

Is it Finally Team Secret’s Year?

After some impressive work in the EU Qualifiers a lot of people are also excited for Team Secret’s prospects later this August. Secret only lost one map during the qualifiers and seemed very upset they did not

Team Secret’s Support, YapzOr, doing 18k damage in a match during the TI Qualifiers (Dotabuff)

receive a direct invite. They proved to be very versatile in the current meta flashing their new Support player Yazied “YapzOr” Zaradat who plays some unique heroes like the Bounty Hunter and Zeus. His presence can really be felt in the results Team Secret has had since the addition of YapzOr and Maurice “KheZu” Gutmann in the offlane. During the qualifiers Clement “Puppey” Ivanov was picking all sorts of heroes and strategies. With even an Pyo “MP” No-a Huskar making an appearance. This extremely strong showing from them at this stage in the year is a great sign moving into TI7.

They have shown the ability to play multiple strategies, as well as drafting in a way that allows them to role-swap heroes within the draft to confuse their opponents even more. For some reason Team Secret always finds a way to be relevant in the competitive teams this time of the year. Their opponent from DreamLeague is another team looking to make a statement.

Planet Odd is a team that has surprised many this year. After last year, this very similar roster finished second at TI6. The players then left their former organization who still remains invited to TI this year. Odd had a really strong run at the Galaxy LAN and beat TNC in a very impressive three game series. Though they did fall in the NA Qualifiers much earlier than they had hoped. They will also look to play spoiler at DreamLeague to round out their impressive season.

Overall, DreamLeague Season 7 should provide some top-notch competition. Hopefully we will get a glimpse at some of the favorites for TI7. Who knows what strategies teams might test out before the big tournament.


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Wild shows why we need Standard

We’re coming up on 18 months since the announcement of Standard. It’s taken that long for the first “official” Blizzard-organised Wild tournament to take place. This Open, which finished yesterday with a close-fought final between two skilled players intimately familiar with the format, is well worth watching, so I won’t spoil the victor. But don’t just watch it for the exciting games; watch it because it’s a perfect example of why the controversial and difficult cleaving of Hearthstone’s Constructed format into two separate game-modes was ultimately necessary.

Standard was vital not just to keep players buying new packs; it was needed to keep Hearthstone as we know it intact.

Set Theory

Looking back, standard seems an inevitable consequence of the development of Hearthstone; but it wasn’t always that way. Diverging away from the idea of all cards being eternal and together in a single constructed mode took courage, vision and a fair amount of ruthlessness. This meant radically altering the pool of cards in a way more extreme than had ever been attempted before, with all the inherent balancing issues that could arise. Not only that, but dealing with the fallout of a financially and emotionally invested player-base would prove difficult to navigate.

The reasoning, expressed in the relentlessly upbeat PR-speak that lacks some of the frankness and honesty of the less meticulously scripted balance discussions, was succinctly expressed in the title of the announcement: “A New Way to Play”. The implication, of course, that Standard would be “New” as Wild would be “Old”. Standard, with its ever changing cluster of sets, held together by the glue of Basic and Classic was to be “fresh, exciting, and accessible”.

Expensive Antiques

Artist: Jesper Ejsing. Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

Blizzard doesn’t trust new players to navigate more than nine deckslots – they can’t demand they learn five expansions

When listing the advantages of splitting Standard and Wild, that “accessible” part is worth considering. For every veteran who lost their precious collection of Legendaries to a far less forgiving format, there would likely be a newer player who without Standard would be forced to buy a confusing array of Adventures and packs from multiple expansions simply to compete. If Adventure dependent, class defining powerhouses that dominate Wild like Haunted Creeper, Reno Jackson or Flamewaker were forever locked behind paywalls of thousands of gold or scores of dollars, it would be nigh impossible to build a collection without going through months of grind or shelling out an unreasonable amount of money.

This, of course, does not cover the added cost of having multiple legendaries that would likely be eternal in Wild due to their sheer efficiency in certain types of deck. Standard is necessary for new players to be able to play the game to a tolerable extent.

Synergy-Powered Aggro

Nine health on turn four isn’t normal: but on Wild it is

Aggro used to be relatively straightforward. Efficient early minions and burn were the two ingredients, and the rest wrote itself. Classic examples included old Face Hunter and Aggro Shaman, both of which simply jammed in whatever card was good, cheap or could point face. However, this old philosophy is being supplanted. As the Wild card pool expands, Aggro decks can tightly refine their lists around a bevy of dominating synergies. Pirate Warrior in Wild gains incredible synergistic power that supplements the potent Weapons and Pirates combination simply through the addition of Ship’s Cannon. Tempo Mage can curve lower and more aggressively with the added synergistic burn power of Flamewaker.

Ever traditional sedate Priest with “slow” cards like Zombie Chow and Deathlord can become a deadly aggressive deck with the right synergistic tools, in decks like Control’s recent tournament entry.

The Old Way to Play?

Ironically, Standard’s success is in how little it changes rather than how much. Games of Hearthstone in Standard are still fundamentally similar to games from one, two or even three years ago. There are midrange, aggro and control decks; there are no insane sources of healing or easy overwhelming early-game burst combos. Minions die when you kill them, and there are no huge spikes of power at any given mana cost. Synergies are potent, but not overwhelming.

Wild on the other hand is mutating into something far different. Fun and exciting, with huge room for innovation and skill; but also unforgiving, aggressive and revolving around increasingly interwoven webs of synergistic power. Reynad’s infamous prediction that even the maligned Dr. Boom could be too slow for Wild someday soon is already coming true.

Simply put, Standard’s great success has been rotating old cards in order to keep things the same. Wild will use the same cards forever, but will change Hearthstone beyond recognition. Luckily, both experiences are fun, exciting and well-supported. We should all watch the development of Wild with interest; even if we have to retreat to the sensible safety of Standard.

Artwork courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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OWL Contenders Week 5: Finals preview

The finality of finals finally. We made it. Back to the bracket (no more group stages!), eyes on the prize, $25,000 to first place plus an invitation to Season One of Contenders, $10,000 to second and so on. But we don’t know who’s going to be featured on the weekend streams and there are only three matches to be shown nightly. The catch? They’ll be the best teams in those games so it’ll be a good series regardless. Capping it off, every match is a best of five which gives teams a lot more time to feel each other out.

Who’s ready?!

Europe Predictions

Eight teams are ready to annihilate one another for the top spot. Forged in the fire of groups, these eight are eUnited, Movistar Riders, Singulairty, Laser Kittenz, 123, Rest in Pyjamas (NiP), Misfits and Bazooka Puppiez.

eUnited vs Movistar Riders and 123 vs Rest in Pyjamas would be my two must see matches. eUnited has been a force of nature within the European portion of the tournament but Movistar Riders has been resilient, to say the least. Their records combined are nearly identical in groups with only Movistars sporting a loss. Add in that they supplemented their team with Destro and replaced Finnsi, and this would be a show match for sure. At the same time, eUnited losing seems farfetched but they had a rather easy group stage.

eUnited beats Movistar but it will go the distance. Five matches played out to the tune a jumping Winston slamming carts, points, backlines, jams, hoops. Counting out Logix, Cwoosh and Destro for Movistar is harsh but seeing Vallutaja’s Tracer chew up teams match after match begs to temper such enthusiasm.

As for the 123 vs Rest in Pyjamas match, it may be upset city. Pyjamas have been on the major stage a long time. High-risk games where mistakes cost matches, they’ve shown their composure. Remember they were a pro-team until a week ago. They gutted out their matches and fought through groups despite the possible blow to their confidence. The problem is that 123 makes matches look as easy as their name. They play aggressive but have their hand on the shifter, knowing when to reverse when necessary. In the matches that were streamed they showed incredible poise in group fights, a mastery of good dive mechanics. The match may go in 123’s favor but Pyjamas likely wins out in a best of five. For 123 to win out over Pyjamas it will hinge on if Pyjamas runs out of steam. They went the distance getting into the final bracket but maintaining such a push? That’ll be harder than getting there. Sprinting is difficult but there’s a reason tournaments can be called marathons. Well managed tempo for Pyjamas and stifling 123’s Snillo and Mistakes will be the keys to the match.

Laser Kittenz takes out Singularity in a roll because they want to rematch with Misfits. Destiny and magnets are the two strongest forces in the universe and that will win out eventually. Singularity is an amazing team and their matches deserve a real look into.

Misfits handles Bazooka Puppiez and this one is not going to be close by any means. Puppiez is staring down the barrel of Misfits who only want to fight Laser Kittens to the death. Puppiez tied eUnited but ultimately had to make a tiebreaker to win out over Team expert.

That leaves us with eUnited vs Laser Kittens and 123 vs Misfits. That’ll be a hell of a lot of good matches till the end of the evening for the Euro crowd. Everyone gets to see eUnited (with Boombox playing out of his mind hopefully) going ham against the rest of the bracket. 123 surprising the world with their out of the woodwork storyline. I’m sure deep down a rematch between Misfits vs Laser Kittens would arguably be the best possible outcome for their fanbases.

North America Predictions

(Quietly hopes the matches don’t go late. Yep, WOOO!)

Half the teams are breathing a silent relieving sigh. Immortals aren’t in their bracket. FaZe will likely fall to Immortals in a rout but discounting ShaDowBurn, the best Genji in the tournament, seems cruel. FaZe clutched out wins in a ridiculous stacked group. The thing is that meta feels a bit tilted after the Reaper buff and Sombra has been rearing her head in the matches, especially on defensive holds. If FaZe play smart they may take a match off Immortals but their chances are slim.

In the meantime, LG Evil with (Big) Jake who’s Soldier is the stuff of true fear, is matched against Kungarna. You’ll remember Kungarna for robbing every one of their good night’s rest and flipping the table against Cloud9 in the wee hours of a Monday morning street fight. Are upsets on the horizon for Kungarna? LG Evil is an amazing team and deserves their credit but Kungarna showed they talk smack and back it up, which means they deserve the respect as well.

I’d take FNRGFE over Renegades simply over the fact that they survived a group of death for two weeks. They lost three games in a group with Immortals who were nearly perfect. They beat Arc 6 (Yikes) so handily Twitch might have to submit the VOD to the police for abuse. Renegades post a similar record as Immortals but lack the same fatalistic feeling. This would be the match of the day for sure with upsets as a high serving.

Team Liquid vs Envision may not look like much on paper and to be fair, it may be the best match. These two teams will take it to overtime in a battle but I feel Liquid got a pass. They’re not as great as their record and Envision’s isn’t much better in the scope of things. Their group performances look eerily the same, winning close to the same number of maps. The difference is that Envision dealt with LG Evil and Liquid dealt with FaZe who’s not in the same bracket as far as teams go. Liquid wins but it’ll be a coin flip.

That leaves the winners with Immortals, LG Evil (despite Kungarna putting up a hell of a fight), FNRGFE and Liquid. Immortals for LG Evil becomes a ridiculous topic of discussion which deserves an article better written than this author can produce. FNRGFE may well cruise into the finals and get routed but it falls essentially on their ability to beat Renegades and maintain momentum in the win.


This should make for a great weekend of European and North American Overwatch. The tournament thus far faced criticism for some of the wild things that have occurred but has shown tremendous potential to highlight the non-Korean scene. This may be in part to Alex “Gillfrost” Gill and the Carbon series he ran months prior that featured many of these teams. All the same, it’s about the games and the players more than anything. A tournament is just a marquee hanging over a bunch of people doing their best to be the best

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France’s Rogue Takes First Place at the Overwatch Takeover 2 Tournament Over eUnited

Between June 1 and 4, TakeTV, a German production company, hosted their second annual Overwatch tournament. Eight international teams competed in a round robin bracket to determine this year’s winner. Each match was played as a four-game set with the winning team moving onto the playoffs. The two strongest teams this year were the North American based, Rogue, hosting an all French roster, and the European team, eUnited.

The finals was a rematch between the two teams. Although Rogue had 3-0’d eUnited in the winners bracket semifinals, eUnited came in red hot, sweeping Cloud 9 in their previous match up.

SoOn picks of Vallutaja in a Tracer 1v1
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

On the first map, Nepal, both teams elected to go with the now popular “Dive Comp,” and would do so the rest of the match, featuring a Lucio, Winston, Tracer, Zenyatta, Soldier: 76 and D.Va or Genji. Early into the first round on Nepal: Village, Terrance “SoOn” Tarlier was able to out-duel Hendrik-William “Vallutaja” Kinks in a Tracer 1v1 to give the advantage to Rogue. Snowballing out of that pick, they were able to secure the point first. However, eUnited came back, getting an early pick on Winston and winning the next fight, and the next. They were able to hold the point until 90%, needing only one more fight to secure the first round victory. In the final fight of the round, eUnited’s Andrei “unFixed” Leonov went legendary, getting four straight kills securing the round win.

Boombox’s Zenyatta was on fire this match up, picking off multiple heroes
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

The second round on Nepal: Sanctum featured Isaac “Boombox” Charles’s impressive Zenyatta. His mechanics seemed to be getting picks out of nowhere, as he somehow picked off Dylan “aKm” Bignet’s Soldier: 76 multiple times. In what seemed like a lost round to Rogue after eUnited’s Harrison “Kruise” Pond got a quadruple kill with Dragonblade, SoOn’s Tracer was able to barely touch the point in the nick of time to trigger overtime for his team, allowing Rogue to follow up and clean up eUnited. Perhaps shaken from the teamfight, eUnited was unable to defeat Rogue in the next three team fights, giving the round over to Rogue in a stunning fashion.

On Nepal: Shrine, Rogue seemed to obtain full control. With lack of communication and coherence, eUnited lost precious time as they staggered their deaths, meaning that they had to wait longer to push onto the point. Luckily they were bailed out as no one on Rogue was able to stop uNFixed, who was able to acquire five eliminations and the point for his team. Unluckily, in the ensuing fight where eUnited had no support ultimates, Vallutaja got picked by NiCo, leaving eUnited in a disadvantaged 5v6. However, they were bailed out by Boombox, as he was able to out-duel Nicolas “NiCo” Moret’s Genji Dragonblade and secure the fight for eUnited. However, Rogue was not to be denied as they used their superior ult advantage to secure the round win.

Leading 2:1, Rogue needed one more win to secure their first victory over eUnited. Returning to Nepal: Village, Rogue knew they had to do something different as they had lost the first time the two teams met up on this map. Instead of playing defensive when they had gotten the point, Rogue pushed onto eUnited in the final team fight, causing Kruise to waste his D.Va’s Self-Destruct. Without self-destruct available, Rogue focused D.Va down, allowing aKm to clear the field with Solder: 76’s Tactical Visor. With that victory, Rogue looks poised to become victors and takes the lead against eUnited, 1:0.

On Route 66, the next map, Rogue tried to play an aggressive strategy on defense, playing near the cart in boxcars. Unfortunately, their plan was foiled when they were spotted by Hanzo’s Sonic Arrow. Boombox was able to show off his impressive Zenyatta mechanics again, out dueling NiCo’s Dragonblade, again. In a last ditch effort to stop the stampeding eUnited team, Jean-Louis “KnOxXx” Boyer switched to Reinhardt. Almost immediately after, he was able to pin an ulting Genji in midair. However, eUnited quickly responded with their own counter-pick, with uNFixed switching to Sombra. With Sombra’s ultimate, Knox’s shield was no more and Rogue was easily cleaned up, and eUnited was able to push to the end with 41 seconds remaining.

Boombox holds off NiCo’s Dragonblade
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

While eUnited’s attack was impressive, Rogue began on what seemed like a stellar push, never giving a chance for eUnited to fight back. NiCo was able to grab a triple kill with his Dragonblade in the second phase of Route: 66, and they reached the second checkpoint with four and half minutes to go. Rogue’s push slowed down in the third point as they were unable to obtain the picks they needed. But when SoOn was able to pick off Boombox with a Tracer Pulse Bomb, Rogue went all-in. Knox was able stop Kruise’s Dragonblade with a splendid Earthshatter and Rogue wiped eUnited, finishing off Route: 66 three seconds slower than eUnited.

Rogue was given one minute to push the cart against eUnited. With both teams unable to stop the other’s attack on the first point, Rogue seemed to be in very good shape. However, Boombox’s Ana denied Nico’s Genji some very necessary healing with an anti-grenade and died shortly after. Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson’s Zenyatta quickly followed suit, dying to eUnited’s Genji. With only 58.78 meters pushed on the cart, eUnited was in very good shape to take the second map over Rogue. However, their extra three seconds did not help them, as SoOn’s Tracer got an early pick on to eUnited’s Zenyatta. Needing a fast reset, eUnited rushed onto the cart into Overtime, but were unable to kill anyone, giving the second map to Rogue.

Following the second map, Rogue lead 2:0. Was eUnited going to get 3:0’d again? The third map, Hanamura, was Rogue’s first chance to become champions. eUnited was first up to attack. Boombox, who was on-fire the entire series, was able to take down three people and secure the first capturepoint on Hanamura. Quickly going off of their momentum, eUnited fast pushed point B on Hanamura, initiating with Thomas “Morte” Kerbusch’s Sound Barrier and Kruise’s Dragonblade. They were then backed up with Boombox’s Transcendence once Sound Barrier was depleted. However, they were only able to get two picks before NiCo used his Dragonblade to start Rogue’s counter attack. Using their short spawns to their advantage, Rogue only allowed one tick to be captured in that team fight. eUnited’s second push was more successful. eUnited traded one for one, that one pick was crucial to eUnited, as now Michaël “Winz” Bignet was unable to obtain and use Zenyatta’s Transcendence. Without Transcendence, eUnited cleaned up Rogue, taking the round with almost four minutes remaining.

Rogue answered with their own fast push, quickly taking point A. Although Vallutaja was able to land very nice double kill with Tracer’s pulse bomb, eUnited could do nothing but stall for the next two minutes on point B. Eager to defeat eUnited, Rogue quickly ended the second round, taking it with more than five minutes remaining, one minute faster than their opponent.

A nanoboosted Knox fights off two eUnited players
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

It was now eUnited’s turn to attack in round 3. By diverting uNKOE’s attention away from healing NiCo’s Genji, eUnited took their advantage and quickly took point A. On point B, both Knox and Normunds “Sharyk” Faterins zoned off each other’s Soldier 76’s Tactical Visors, rendering those ultimates useless. However, Sharyk was not only able to zone off the opposing Solder 76, but he was able to kill both of Rogue’s DPS, giving the advantage to eUnited, and they were able to capture point B before Rogue was given the chance to stall with one minute and 41 seconds remaining.

In round 4, Rogue had little trouble taking the first point again as SoOn was able to participate in five kills. As Rogue headed toward point B, eUnited needed to hold Rogue off to stay alive in the competition. It did not look good for eUnited when Kruise’s nanoblade was unable to get any kills due to uNKOE’s Transcendence. Shortly after, Rogue’s Winz pushed the fight forward with sound barrier and soon after, NiCo quickly obtained two Dragonblade kills while SoOn took another with a pulse bomb. However, it was not enough as eUnited was somehow able to hold, with Boombox barely killing NiCo before dying. After that teamfight, Rogue seemed lost. When they were able to pick off Sharyk in a later teamfight, Rogue’s Morte tried to preemptively use Transcendence to give them an edge over eUnited. However, they were unable to get any picks while Morte used his ultimate, and that lead to nothing stopping Kruise’s Dragonblade, in which he sliced and diced Rogue. eUnited was then able to hold off Rogue to take map three, handing Rogue their first loss in the entire tournament.

With the score 2:1, eUnited was hanging onto a thread heading into the fourth map, Numbani. They were, however, holding the momentum and they took the first point swiftly over Rogue in the first round. Following some missteps on the Rogue side, eUnited was able to also take the second point when aKm accidentally killed himself with a rocket when Sharyk jumped into him. Right when it seemed that eUnited couldn’t be stopped, Rogue regained their composure and won the next fight after SoOn picked off Boombox with a pulse bomb. Rogue needed to hold of eUnited for over five minutes to stop them from completing the map. Even for Rogue, it was no easy task. However, that one teamfight that they won was crucial, was eUnited was unable to regroup, getting picked one after the other. At one point, eUnited had to retreat to their spawn as Rogue just kept building their ultimates killing them one after the other. Even with such good defense from Rogue, five minutes seemed too long, as eUnited was finally able to get a good push in as uNFixed was able to finish off three. Nearly wiped, Rogue was again in a tight spot. uNKOE was forced to burn Transcendence to stall for his team as eUnited was only one meter away from the finish line. The last-ditch effort somehow worked, as the Zenyatta ultimate stalled long enough for aKm to get Soldier 76’s ultimate and force eUnited to back off. Rogue was then able to stop their opponent the following fight, somehow holding eUnited from full pushing Numbani.

Rogue and eUnited fight near mid by the buses on Numbani
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

Following the exciting round 1, eUnited was again in a make it or break it situation, needing to stop Rogue from getting to the finish line. Unlike Rogue, they were able to hold point A very nicely following a very aggressive defense strategy, surprising Rogue by the bus at mid. eUnited then backed off and played on site, again wiping Rogue with impressive play all around. eUnited continued their defense winning every single fight decisively. Rogue somehow found themselves with only one push remaining, hoping to finish eUnited right here. eUnited, trying to full hold Rogue and keep their hopes alive by forcing the match to go to a fifth and final game. With such high stakes on the line, eUnited attempted a pre emptive attack onto Rogue, much like their first fight of the round. However, this time Rogue was prepared and the quickly took care of Kruise. With no more Genji, eUnited had no hope of defending the first point anymore, and Rogue finally took point A with less than a minute remaining. With the notoriously hard defense on point 2, Rogue demolished eUnited with aKm’s tactical visor, taking a quintuple kill in the process. eUnited now had to hold Rogue for two and a half minutes to stay alive in this match. uNFixed pulled through in the next team fight, flanking from behind enemy lines and picking off two Rogue members and a team wipe with one minute remaining in the game. After a short reset, eUnited planted themselves on the high ground, trying an ambush on Rogue. However, uNKOE pulled off an amazing Zenyatta right click to kill Boombox, who had been doing such things all match long. Trying to salvage the situation, Kruise dragonblades, killing Morte. aKm responds with his own ultimate, shutting down Kruise’s Genji and Valujallah’s Tracer. After that fight, Rogue had victory in their sights. In the final stretch, Knox was itching for a good Earthshatter.

Knox lands a perfectly timed Earthshatter onto eUnited
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

Once he saw Sharyk place bubble, he know that no one could stop his ultimate. Timing his ultimate beautifully, he is able to land Earthshatter on both Morte and Kruise, killing them. However, it was not over yet as Vallujalah quickly responds with his own double kill, with a perfect pulse bomb onto SoOn and aKm. What happens next is a cluster of ultimates and chaos. But, unfortunately for eUnited, no one on their team was able to contest the point as Rogue took the fourth and final map, declaring themselves as victors of the Overwatch TakeOver 2 tournament, winning themselves a $25,000 first place grand prize.

Rogue proves to the world why they are considered one of the top teams currently in Overwatch, as they only lose one map in the entire playoffs. But eUnited too, shows that they are not to be messed with, as they were the clear second place team after sweeping Cloud 9, and earning themselves a nice $12,500 for their performance. The finals was an exciting and well fought match from both teams and lived up to what viewers could hope for.


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Is Taunt Warrior Too Frustrating for Tournaments?

On the 28th of September, 2016, Blizzard announced it was changing a number of cards. Normally, the few but impactful balance changes Hearthstone receives are based on a card’s power level, ubiquity, or limitation to design space. However, the change to the Old God Yogg-Saron, Hopes End, took a unique rationale. Team 5 stated that “We felt like seeing Yogg in tournaments was not where we originally hoped it would end up.” They explained that while the card was not necessarily overpowered, they wanted to reduce the amount it was then seen in tournaments. Implicit was the idea that too much RNG in a competitive tournament setting leads to frustrated pros, fewer recognisable faces, and a worse competitive scene.

Now, a similar row seems to be emerging over the new Tournament dominance of a new archetype; Taunt Warrior. Are the levels of RNG too high for competitive?

8 Damage Rage

Powerful, but frustratingly unreliable

The most obvious element of randomness is the Quest reward itself; Sulfuras’ 8 damage Hero Power. Targeting a random enemy, it has driven pros like Frank “Fr0zen” Zhang to tweet their frustration at “winning coin flips” being the seemingly deciding element of many matches. While only relevant in certain matchups, the RNG of whether or not the Ragnaros shot hits face or that crucial minion decides games. This is especially prevalent in the mirror (as we’ll cover later).

However, the randomness looks worse than it is. Because the Rag shot typically is the method of lethal, it is often erroneously attributed to be the crucial moment that decided the outcome. However, less obvious plays and misplays on the preceding turns can often be far more important. The spectacle of a flashy 8 damage lethal can often be distracting to the real ebb and flow of a match. The randomness is often far more egregious and impactful in the few turns after Sulfuras is played, where killing that crucial minion for “free” has a far more lasting and game-swinging impact.

O Brawling Love, O Loving Hate

Without Shield Slam, Taunt Warrior often can’t clear up after a Brawl – making the outcome vital

Brawl is a controversial card. While some love its capacity to give late-game Warriors access to some of the most efficient mass-removal in the game, others despise its high-variance outcome. The fact that Brawl leaves exactly one minion alive is both a genius piece of game design and a maddening flaw. In Taunt Warrior, which typically cuts single target removal in the form of Shield Slam, this randomness can have a massive impact on the game. If a big card survives a Brawl, then the Warrior may not have the resources to deal with it.

Dirty Rat adds to the problem, as many of those on the receiving end of Dirty Rat into Brawl can attest. The Rat wins the Brawl with maddening, if not statistical regularity. This leads to a massive board swing, value lost from board and hand, as well as potentially scuppering any future plans. Worse, both the Rat and the Brawl are both highly random and high-variance, leading to outcomes that vary from scuppering a gameplan to flat-out losing on the spot.

Polarised Performances

Warrior’s abundance of boardclears makes some matchups massively favoured

The randomness in Taunt Warrior can also come before the game even starts. The archetype is extreme in its strengths and weaknesses, leading to a number of matchups that are complete walkovers, and others that are nigh-impossible. Due to the deck’s huge amounts of clears, the deck is nearly an auto-win against the most popular “flood” decks in Aggro Druid and Token Shaman. Short of severe resource mismanagement or Innervate Vicious Fledgling shenanigans, the deck is almost guaranteed to win as clearing and permanently stabilising behind a huge taunt is incredibly easy. Meanwhile, the deck falters hard against Jade Druids and Quest Rogues, as beating the huge value and mid/late game power of both is simply too much for the deck to handle.

As a result, the deck becomes both vital in tournaments to counter specific lineups, and an inherently risky inclusion due to Jade and Quest Rogue’s popularity at the tournament scene. This can be jarring for both pros and viewers; both want relatively even matchups where skills are vital and the result is rarely a foregone conclusion.

A Miserable Mirror

The Taunt Warrior mirror is tactical, skill-intensive, and tricky to navigate. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most frustrating experiences in Hearthstone, not least due to how the outcome is often decided by random outcome after random outcome. Every RNG aspect to Taunt Warrior is effectively doubled. To make matters worse, games are often decided purely on draw order and who had the highest deck-Taunt density. The player that manages to draw their Stonehills in particular will gain a huge advantage due to being able to complete the Quest far faster. The over-representation of high-health sticky minions makes both players run out of removal quickly, resulting in Brawl outcomes being far more game-changing.

To top it off, the game invariably comes down to Ragnaros Hero Powers, and the inevitable slew of games won and lost on 50/50s. With both players relying on it to win the game, the potential for frustration is apparent even without a high stakes tournament.

Warrior’s Future

It’s unlikely that Blizzard will change the Warrior Quest. The deck is popular, not overpowered, and occupies a vital role in keeping flood decks in check. However, there are definitely lessons to be learned from the Taunt Warrior experience. For starters, a positive lesson is that giving Warriors good late-game options won’t break the game. On the other hand, the combined degrees of randomness can lead people to immense frustration, especially in a tournament setting. Perhaps cards like Brawl could be rotated out next expansion in favour of less variable clear options. Or maybe simply give Warriors a late-game win-condition that isn’t quite so RNG-reliant. Whatever the outcome, it’s clear we are going to see a lot of frustrating, if exciting, tournament games; at least until the next expansion.


Title art courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com. Artist: James Ryman

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Why MSI should transition to a gauntlet tournament

The 2017 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is a League of Legends tournament attended by 13 teams from 13 various regions. This year’s MSI consisted of three stages ultimately ending in a grand final between the best two teams. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, this event took seeding based upon the past two years of Worlds and MSI performances to have a few teams automatically place into group stage (South Korea, China, and Europe) while the rest of the 10 teams battled it out through the play-in stage.

Group stage consists of a double round robin via best of one matches. The top four teams from this double round robin move on to the knockout stage which consists of best of five games with single elimination. It is this knockout stage that does not make the most sense for this international tournament.

The Gauntlet

SKT T1 Huni leaves the stage with team. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

The LCK currently runs a gauntlet-styled tournament that MSI should adopt. The first place team does not play until the final round, receiving a bye for their performance throughout the normal split. The playoffs consist of the third place team playing against the fourth place team, then the winner of that team plays the second place team, ultimately leaving one team to play against the first place team. This style of competition puts much more weight upon the group stages of the tournament, making each and every group stage game bring with it more impactful consequences.

Skating By Groups

Examining the current four teams in groups can lead one to believe that some teams have just “skated by” while other teams have just had a poor performance in the group stage.

After the Flash Wolves controlled performance in play-ins, most fans and even Faker, believed that they were going to be the biggest threat to SKT T1’s empire. The Flash Wolves then managed to beat SKT in a decisive manner during the group stages, further showing their skill and prowess. However, the Flash Wolves later received a few too many losses in groups, ultimately leaving what should be the second best team in the tournament in fourth place during the knockout stages. This being said, expect the most heated competition and the highest skill caliber League of Legends has ever known not in the grand finals, but instead in the first match of the knockout stage.

With the second best team playing against SKT on Friday, May 19th, what should be a game for third and fourth place will be between G2 Esports and Team WE. Potentially, any of the teams that made it into groups has what it takes to make the match that will occur this Saturday, May 20th, a fiercely close competition. That being said, the match between G2 Esports and Team WE will still be one of close competition. However, it is unlikely that either of these two teams will stand a chance against the winner of SKT versus Flash Wolves.

A Better Tournament Style Means Better Games

A gauntlet-style competition not only makes each game of groups much more intense, as each team mus

TSM and Flash Wolves shake hands after their game. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

t compete for standings during the gauntlet-style knockout stages, but it also provides a more accurate way for each team to garner the appropriate rewards from the prize pool. With third and fourth place getting significantly less money than second place, a gauntlet-style competition would more accurately reassign this prize pool based upon how close one can get to taking down SKT T1, a team that has proven to be well and above the rest of the competition. Until then, variables such as TSM taking down Flash Wolves will prevent the most accurate portrayal of skill and will doom each team that enters the knockout stages in fourth place, regardless of their skill, relative to the second and third place teams.


Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

Pokesports II competitive Pokemon logo

Pokésports II: Not Quite There, Not Farfetch’d

Segue, I Choose You

Last time we established the impressive growth of eSports along with the power of the Pokémon brand. This time we will cover what competitive Pokémon entails and how that translates into a successful eSports brand. Or does it?

Pokemon "Psyduck" holds heads in hands and shrugs.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Pikachu, Team Rocket, and Ash’s inability to win anything of significance are common Pokémon themes. These themes however, have little in common with the world of Competitive Pokémon Battling. Trainers in the real world spend hours developing tricks and strategies using the hundreds of available Pokémon. Forming teams of six to compete in varying levels of Tournaments. From local Premier Challenges, to massive International Championships, Trainers battle each other for a chance to compete at the annual World Championship.

A Wild Pokémon Appears

Before a Trainer can even think about battling, they must decide which six Pokémon will be on their team. Teambuilding involves deciding stat spreads, natures, and abilities for each Pokémon along with the four attacks to be used in battle. This process is crucial to success as a Trainer. Once a match begins, the choices made during Teambuilding will effect the Trainers options in battle and can have a major impact on matchups.

Pokemon and Construction Workers gather together and grimace.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

While a critical part of competitive play, Teambuilding can also be long and tedious, involving countless in-game hours breeding Pokémon and practicing with different strategies. The tedious time investment Teambuilding requires is often cited as a major reason aspiring Trainers abandon Competitive Pokémon. Worst yet, Teambuilding provides no actual benefit to spectators since it all happens behind the scenes. In the end, many Trainers come away feeling the many hours spent breeding and leveling Pokémon is a needless time sink that prevents access to high level competitive play.

In all fairness, TPCI has slowly worked to make it easier to train competitive teams; slowly is the key word. Streamlining Teambuilding, or creating an independent system for tournament play is truly needed to help grow the competitive scene.


Double, What’s Doubles!?

Zebstrika smashes head into wall.

Image courtesy of Tumblr

While playing the games or watching the anime, you might think Pokémon battles were one on one matches. You would be wrong. All officially sanctioned Pokémon matches are in the Doubles format. A Trainer brings a team of six Pokémon and picks four at the start of each match. Each Trainer then sends two Pokémon at a time on to the field. For many fans this is a major shock compared to what they know and love from the series.

While this disconnect from the traditional series can be startling, it is not without it’s benefits. Double Battles provide a fast-paced style of gameplay compared to Singles matches. Many new strategies also become viable when there are two Pokémon on the field together. These factors help keep matches fresh and moving swiftly. Working to build awareness of just what Doubles is could help build fan acceptance through further ingraining them into the soul of the brand.

Another interesting change that could take place in competitive Doubles is the introduction of two Trainer teams. As it stands now, one Trainer controls both Pokémon on their side of the field. If, however, TPCI incorporated teams of two Trainers, each controlling their own Pokémon, we could see some new and interesting dynamics appear.


See You at VGC

Play Pokemon banner

Image courtesy of Play Pokemon

TPCI sanctioned Pokémon tournaments are referred to collectively as VGC. Given Pokémon’s place as a global brand, it is a surprise how few people are actually aware VGC exists. During the VGC season, Trainers collect points at Premier Challenges, Midseason Showdowns, Regional Championships, and International Championships. Collect 400 of these points by the end of the season and you will be invited to compete at the World Championship. The tournament structure is rather straightforward, but not without its flaws.

Tournaments can be plagued with poor organization and rule enforcement. Matches involve two Trainers sitting on either side of a table in front of their respective 3DS’s with a judge off to one side. Gameplay is then streamed from one of the Trainers so that spectators can join in on the action. As you can imagine, many of these things do not make for exciting television. Revamping how Pokémon tournaments work and what they have to offer is an absolute must. Especially considering the most successful sport in the world, the NFL, makes the majority of its revenue through TV and TV related contracts.

Team Rocket's James being showered in Gold Coins

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Worst yet is what is at stake for each Trainer. The prize money awarded at the end of each tournament is a sad fraction of what it should be. In an effort to grow the competitive side of the Pokémon franchise, wealth needs to be shared with Professional Trainers. If TPCI showed the willingness to invest into its own competitive scene, sponsors would react in kind. Regardless, $5,000 and $10,000 first place prizes for major international tournaments is really a shame. You can do better TPCI.


What You See is What You Get

Viewership, it all boils down to viewership. Sports and eSports live and die by the viewership numbers they bring in. This is a place where Pokémon has a built in advantage. Its exposure around the world and ability to resonate with all age ranges is a huge boon as an aspiring eSport. Combine that with Pokémon’s ability to merchandise means some serious revenue potential.

While Pokémon is not lacking fans, viewership is one of the weaker aspects of the competitive Pokémon scene. There is only one thing responsible for the lack of competitive viewership, get ready for it. Competitive Pokémon is boring to watch. That’s right, I love you TPCI but this is the major hurdle that stands between the niche that competitive Pokémon maintains, and the runaway success it could be. That is not to say boring matches can’t be fixed.

Changes to the way matches work, such as two Trainer teams and shorter turn timers, could serve to alter match dynamics. Ultimately though, new approaches to broadcasting the matches are needed most. Being a Turn-based Strategy Game at its core, creative methods for animating action between turns and capturing that with exciting camera angles and transitions would serve to keep momentum building throughout matches. Add on exciting commentary to complete the package.

Pokemon battle in an arena between Bisharp and Emboar.

Image courtesy of Bulbagarden

Ultimately TPCI should work to make watching a Pokémon match more like sitting in an arena and watching powerful monsters battle, and less like watching two Trainers take turns picking what to do from one trainers perspective. If a dynamic, and exciting broadcast of exciting Pokémon matches can be achieved, fans will watch. The rest will be history.


Wrap It Up Will You

A massive fanbase and established competitive scene puts Pokémon in a great position as a potential eSport. The ability to attract young new fans, as well as merchandise, invites lucrative sponsorship potential. With these things in mind, TPCI must make some changes.

Making these changes could lead to a formula of success only seen in the traditional sports world though. Capitalize on this, TPCI, and you could redefine sports for generations.

Until next time Trainers.


Missed the first issue? Check it out! Pokesports: Power of a Brand and One Fans Plea


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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Gary Oak driving away.

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Na’Vi, CompLexity, SK Gaming & More Clash in Hearthstone Tournament

Event Taking Place September 5 – 9, to be Broadcast Live on Stream.Me

AUSTIN, TX – AUGUST 31, 2016 – Esports heavyweights Natus Vincere (Na’Vi), compLexity, SK Gaming, Team Virtus.pro and ANOX will vie for dominance in Deck Gauntlet 3, a Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft competition, battling it out for a share of the $5,000 prize pool.

The online tournament kicks off Monday, Sept. 5 and will conclude Friday, Sept. 9. All the action will be broadcast live via Stream.Me, a streaming platform that allows viewers to watch multiple players and casters simultaneously on one channel in up to 4K HD video at 60 frames-per-second. Users can also opt to hear audio from a single source or multiple channels and use a similar multi-chat feature that can combine several channels’ chatrooms into one.

The champion will take home a $2,000 grand prize. Other awards include $1,000 for the runner-up and $500 for both the third- and fourth-place finishers. Each team will also receive $200 for completing the group stage.


Teams and Players

  • Na’Vi – Xixo, Hoej
  • CompLexity – MrYagut, Crane, SuperJJ
  • SK Gaming – Powder, AKAWonder, Spo
  • pro – BunnyHoppor, DrHippi, Carry
  • ANOX – NickChipper, ShtanUdachi, Pawel


Tournament Schedule

  • Group Stage Day 1 – Monday, Sept. 5 at 18:00 CEST
  • Group Stage Day 2 – Tuesday, Sept. 6 at 18:00 CEST
  • Group Stage Day 2 – Wednesday, Sept. 7 at 18:00 CEST
  • Playoffs Day 1 – Thursday, Sept, 8 at 18:00 CEST
  • Playoffs Day 2 – Friday, Sept. 9 at 18:00 CEST

“With Hearthstone usually 1 vs. 1, you don’t get the chance to see who is essentially the best team in the world,” said SK’s Powder. “This time around, there is no shortage of amazing teams and players from around the world and we cannot wait to see how this event is going to be with the new and exciting format.”


About Stream.Me

Currently in beta, Stream.Me is a broadcasting platform based in Austin, TX that empowers viewers and streamers alike with the most advanced broadcasting technology. With up to 4K HD video running at 60 FPS and highly-customizable built-in features, like multi-stream and multi-chat, Stream.Me is bringing a new look to the traditional streaming experience.

For more information on Stream.Me, please visit: https://www.stream.me/


Hope you will join The Game Haus Hearthstone team in viewing this tournament, see you then!


The Game Haus Play Of The Week – 4/11/16

The NCAA Championship is the holy grail of college basketball. Athletes of college teams dream of the opportunity to join their team in the final game of the season. After all, it takes more than just a single person to guide their team there and a teams’ rank before the NCAA Tournament means absolutely nothing before that big game. Hence, the true meaning behind March Madness.
As teams start to advance within the tournament and fight for a spot in the final playoff game, it puts immense pressure on these talented athletes. It is here that the true and talented men of the NCAA shine through that edge their team to the next round. Those that get intimidated by such pressure, fall short and have to wait till next year. Nevertheless, it is surely a challenge to stay on top as teams’ communication will be tested and vital to their success.
The Villanova Wildcats are a pure example of that. I don’t have to tell you how close the game between Villanova and North Carolina was. In fact, with just seconds left, North Carolina was tied with Villanova 73-73. Expecting this championship game to go into overtime, Villanova got the ball back. As forward Kris Jenkins gets possession of the ball with the clock winding down, he gets a great look at the basket and shoots. He nails a three point buzzer beater to boost Villanova over North Carolina 77-73.
If you missed Kris Jenkins’ incredible shot, here it is in all of its glory:

If you would like to talk more about this incredible shot, come meet me and others in the forum.To nominate a play of the week, please post your entries on our FacebookTwitter or Instagram pages. Perhaps your selection will get chosen for next week’s “Play of the Week.”

Congrats to Total Sports Live for choosing this week’s play of the week.

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