Western Clash First Round Predictions
The first international of the HGC 2018 season starts this Friday March 2nd. The four best European (EU) and four best North American (NA) teams will compete in a double elimination bracket for a share of the $100,000 prize pool. A three-day tournament in Katowice will provide our first answer as to whether NA has closed the gap, and whether Team Dignitas truly are the best in the West.
All first-round matchups are best of 3, which increases the chance of an upset. Here I cover the first-round match ups and assess the likely result and examine how a team might defy the odds. All times are in CET (Central European time).
(6 – 1)
(4 – 3)
On one side we have many people’s pick to win Western Clash, Team Dignitas (and some would argue the best team in the world) and the other Heroes Hearth, the fourth place NA team. Whilst Heroes Hearth showed promise, they have just come from the Open Division. Whilst I don’t think that Team Dignitas is the number one team in the world (hello Tempest) they are very good. This will be a rough start to international competition for Heroes Hearth.
Anything other than a 2-0 Team Dignitas win would be a major shock. Team Dignitas have smashed some of the most favoured European teams, have some incredibly individually skilled players and are a simply awesome macro team. They will be far too much for Heroes Hearth I predict.
If Heroes Hearth are to take a game, or even two, they need to change it up and prioritise map pick rather than first pick and take Team Dignitas to maps that they may be less comfortable on. Essentially no three lane macro maps like Cursed Hollow, Infernal Shrines or Towers of Doom. Khroen on his Hanzo on Battlefield of Eternity or Braxis Holdout offers a chance, albeit a small one.
(5 – 2)
(5 – 2)
Two teams with a lot of promise and an equal 5-2 record are the second match of the day and I think it will be a very interesting one.
Team Twelve were a lot of people's pick for the NA no 1 seed, acquiring two of Team Freedom’s players, and have a great tank in Justing. A close series with both Tempo Storm and Team Freedom showed that they are very close to NA’s best, though a loss to Heroes Hearth and scrappy series versus both Singularity and Gale Force Esports is perhaps a little worrying.
Method also has lost two series but there the similarities end; Method lost to an in-form Team Dignitas and lost a 3-1 series versus Fnatic which had two core calls that might have been prevented. Method have looked very good against everyone else and I think if they could replay that series versus Fnatic, they would win.
I think Method will win this series but I will disagree with most other commentators who think it will be a 2-0, I think Team Twelve will take a game. I think Method are the second strongest team in EU and they have a very good ranged flex in the form of Nic and an extremely great flex in Schwimpi that will terrorise Team Twelve. But Team Twelve also have some very good players and have shown determination to keep fighting, particularly in the Team Freedom reverse sweep.
You’ve probably heard this before but an upset depends a lot on draft. Justing on Blaze looks very formidable, and getting a pick or ban on Schwimpi’s Tracer could force Schiwmpi onto a melee such as Kerrigan, that he has had success with recently. Build a composition that can cope with a melee carry and as Team Twelve you stand a chance.
(6 – 1)
(4 – 3)
Tempo Storm aka the NA Super team are the no 1 seed in NA only losing one series, a close 5 game series infamous for the Cho’Gall pick by Tempo Storm in a game they lost. They were a team that had not made changes since 2016, but come November 2017 decided they needed to shake things up, picking up Glaurung and Fan, two well regarded flex players. With a top support in Jun and an all-round great roster picking up some of the best of NA, they are a NA ‘super team’ which I think are a serious contender for the Western Clash.
Their opponents Zealots are somewhat of a surprise addition to the Western Clash. After losing to their mid-table rivals Team Liquid and Tricked they needed to beat Team Dignitas and hope neither Tricked nor Team Liquid could win their last match. Surprisingly this turn of events happened, and Zealots are at Katowice. They are no strangers to international events, with four of them having a top 4 finish; adrd, their ranged flex, had a third place at BlizzCon. Individually they have some solid players though it remains to be seen how Zealots do at their first tournament together.
I have Tempo Storm to win 2-1. I think Tempo Storm are very individually skilled and with their coach Kaia (who I rate highly) I think they will gel enough to be the first NA team in some time to take a victory over an EU team. Zealots will get a game but Tempo Storm will win the series.
Where there’s adrd’s drafts, Mopsio’s incredibly brave tanking and Cris on a carry there is always a chance of a win. I can only dream of what ADRD will cook up and if Shad can keep Mopsio alive and the team can follow up his aggressive tanking, they can pull off a win.
(5 – 2)
(5 – 2)
Fnatic have a bit of a mixed season losing to Zealots, being soundly beat by Team Dignitas and looking shaky versus Method. On the flip side they have looked extremely dominant against mid-table teams like Team Liquid and Tricked. Against Team Liquid they adopted blow up compositions enabled by Master Mage Mene (say that five times quickly) and despite some spirited opposition, they took a 3-0 victory. This might be their final form.
Team Freedom had a great start to the season with their two new acquisitions Yoda and Lutano fitting in well as they climbed to a 4-0 record; a win against Tempo Storm the highlight. And then week four NA HGC happened, with Team Freedom throwing a 2-0 lead against Team Twelve, and being beaten by the unfancied Space Station Gaming. A team that looked certain for the no 1 spot eventually qualified as no 3.
This is seen by many as the second match most likely to produce a NA win; with Team Freedom showing promising offline results against EU in the past and Fnatic looking to have vulnerabilities. Yet I disagree. I think there’s a clue in what happened against Space Station Gaming and what Fnatic did to Team Liquid to what will happen in this series.
Fnatic will know that Team Freedom are a very good macro team, and Fnatic can do aggressive pick compositions and they will blow up team Freedom again and again. Look at how despite Team Liquid’s Splendour’s godly Kharazim palms they still got kills and despite Hasuobs soaking experience they still got the win. Observe how Space Station Gaming took the fight to Freedom and Team Freedom struggled. I predict a 2-0 Fnatic win.
I believe Team Freedom are a better macro team than Fntic and can beat them on long lasting bigger macro maps. They have to draft and play in a way to fend off the Fnatic blow up compositions. Pick survivable characters, skirmish and be very careful on the rotations and I think Team Freedom can beat them. Force Fnatic to be desperate, watch their rotations and profit.
Day One Losers
The four first round losers play later in the day, meaning that for two teams they will go out of the Western Clash on the very first day. Losing two best of 3’s being enough to drop out on the very first day seems harsh to me.
Regardless the first loser bracket game is at 6.20 pm and the second is at 8.10pm. Likely we will see Heroes Hearth versus Team Twelve and Zealots versus Team Freedom if my predictions come true and I’ve read the bracket right. Should be two cracking series to round off a great day one!