Winners Final - KSV Black vs. Ballistix
KSV Black have the ability to lock-in and absolutely dominate teams and that’s essentially what happened here. They grabbed early leads, sometimes as small as a quarter-level, and turned them into consistent map pressure. The drafts were particularly interesting in that KSV Black used early Garrosh picks with repeated first-bans on Uther to keep Ballistix from running the dreaded Genji-Uther combo. It worked flawlessly. By the time Game 3 rolled around and Ballistix banned Garrosh and first-picked Malfurion, KSV took the Genji for themselves and Rich chose X-Strike to avoid the guaranteed Twilight Dream defense. It was the small things that mattered. KSV would inch forward and then never look back. The silver lining for Ballistix is they looked very good in their team fight synergy, often chaining abilities with precision. Unfortunately, Ballistix couldn’t counter KSV Black’s strategies, leading to a match-up with the number one seed (entering the tournament), Tempest, in the Loser’s Final.
Losers Final - Ballistix vs. Tempest
The set did not start well for Ballistix as Tempest used the tried and true strategy of Hanzo to burn the Immortal on Battlefield of Eternity and you couldn’t help but wonder if Ballistix had reached the end of the line. However, in the next match on Infernal Shrines, Ballistix showed they were not ready to go quietly as they quickly took a lead and pressed every advantage available. In game three on Sky Temple it was a repeat of game two - early lead that eventually turned into a massive snowball. However, Tempest took a tense match on Dragon Shire to force a game 5 and showed that they were capable of putting the previous two maps behind them.
If there is one match I recommend you watch from this set, it’s this one: Game 5 - Tomb of the Spider Queen - I could probably write an entire article about just this game. Tempest was able to turn in gems three times before Ballistix had one. Tempest secured the first Keep of the game (bottom lane). Tempest had the experience advantage throughout the entirety of the early/mid-game. But when the game was in dire straights, it was Ballistix who found the picks and produced three Web Weaver phases of their own. They managed to find a couple picks during their second Web Weaver phase which resulted in yet another turn-in, this time with the boss in top lane:
Grand Final - KSV Black vs. Ballistix
It’s hard to ignore the fact that Ballistix had to endure a whooping from KSV Black in the Finals only to scratch out a tough fought set versus Tempest. I had a feeling coming into the Grand Finals that it would be much closer than the previous stomping they endured. Boy oh boy, was I right!
In case you’re unfamiliar with the rules for this tournament, KSV Black begins the set a game up due to their previous series victory against Ballistix. Also known as a "weighted best of 7". Therefore, Ballistix needed to win 4 games while KSV Black needed only 3 wins to claim the Championship.
In game 1, Ballistix showed incredible team cohesion by repeatedly punishing Rich on Genji every time he attempted to dive their back-line. They secured the first objective which they snowballed into two more Punishers and never gave KSV Black a chance to comeback. KSV Black tipped the series back in their favor with a dominant game 2 performance in which they brought back an old favorite with their pick of Falstad. A team fight with both teams at Level 13 talent tiers resulted in a 3 for 0:
The fight gave KSV Black everything they needed to end the game as they pushed bottom lane with a Boss for the win.
KSV Black whipped out an interesting composition for game 3, drafting both Zarya and Auriel - two heroes that did not see much (if any) play in either Clashes. It seemed to be working great as they claimed the first two Immortals; however, Ballistix turned the tide with an amazing team fight on the third objective:
Ballistix won the next team fight on the fourth Immortal and pushed the Core to even the series once again.
Game 4 took us to Towers of Doom where KSV Black was able to out-macro Ballistix, constantly keeping them on the back foot. Ballistix managed to stay relatively close in experience, but KSV continually pressed their advantage. Ballistix’s Core was within checkmate range as a double alter phase spawned which produced one of the more memorable and long-lasting team fights of the series:
The Tug-of-War continues… Game 5 and Ballistix's tournament life was on the line. This is another match that could be dissected and is very much worth one’s time to watch the VOD. KSV Black took control of the early game and kept Ballistix fighting on their back foot the entire game. Ballistix, to their credit, expertly maneuvered the consistent disadvantage and - despite KSV Black managing three consecutive turn-ins - Ballistix stood their ground:
Ballisitx with the improbable defense then looked for an opening to win the game. They found a pick on Tyrael and marched through the mid-lane:
Game 6 - The equalizer. In reviewing these matches, you could especially feel the pressure on KSV Black. Coming off a game they should have won, they appeared to play the early game passively; where Ballistix would send all five heroes into a skirmish, KSV Black opted to keep Blaze side soaking, giving Ballistix the man-advantage and resulting in several picks and a pair of Dragon Knights in favor of Ballistix. It was Ballistix who claimed the first Keep of the game in the bottom lane, but KSV Black’s defense held and they spent the next several minutes pressuring Ballistix’s bottom Keep, ultimately destroying it. KSV Black made the call to push towards Core:
Amazing series. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Ballistix played this game perfectly. Despite giving KSV Black a glimmer of hope, when it was time to throw-down, Ballistix made the plays necessary to finish off their opponent.
China is in trouble...
There is no sugar coating it. China as a region does not look healthy right now. Their showing at this Clash was reminiscent of NA’s performance in last year’s Western Clash. The picture will focus more during the Mid-Season Brawl, but right now it does not seem unreasonable to put China as the worst of the major regions.
Korea is king...
Ballistix and KSV Black are the two best teams in the world (with all due respect to Team Dignitas in Europe). I know this isn’t hard hitting journalism. The meta in Korea is tighter, more refined. They know who the powerful heroes are and they prioritize them in every draft. Their execution is nearly flawless. With KSV Black winning BlizzCon and the Gold Club World Championship last year and now Ballistix claiming the Phase 1 Eastern Clash. These teams are neck and neck as the best teams in the world. With the Mid-Season Brawl a couple months away, we won't have to wait very long to find out if that statement is true.