The playoff races in Thailand, Southeast Asia, and the international regions are in full swing, but CIS has already determined their representative for the upcoming World Finals in Bangkok. After a grueling season of five cycles and three different teams to win the gold, the old juggernaut of Cats Gaming will make their return to the the big event in Thailand.
For Cats it was a season full of swings, twists and turns, starting with utter humiliation and ending in one of their biggest triumphs. Throughout the season and the individual cycles, the Russian-Kazakhstani mix was on the hunt to to the throne as the undisputed best team of the region. The first real big season on CIS soil last year was already dominated by the flagship team around ‘Shyla, GuessWho and legendary carry player FF - leaving little room for actual improvement in terms of raw data. They crushed the inaugural season, winning all cycles and dominating the offline portion in the Ukraine as well. This season a lot was different and the utter dominance vanished, opening the gate for a much more thrilling and exciting event in the big HoN region.
Not only did SWAG and Meka actually pull off the upsets and claimed their own Cycle Championships, but also the dominating performance and grand-sweeping games were mostly gone. The way the CIS region plays the game was still “Go big or go home”; the top teams still put up tough fights, thrilling games and exciting series after series.
Even up to the actual playoff event, the dominance of Cats Gaming was in question, a state rarely seen since the CIS region’s split from the international server. Ever since it has been Cats dominating, with eventual blunders and upset losses costing them two trips to DreamHack. Whenever Thailand was the destination though, the team delivered and left no doubt in anyones mind - they are the best in the entire region. They won the qualifier for the first trip to the Garena Star League back in 2013, they dominated their competition last year to return to Thailand, now the third trip will hopefully spark up better results.
So far the track record of any Russian team on LAN is lackluster to say the very least. Back at the first DreamHack a Russian team ever attended, GA.ru took home the last place. The same fate was shared by iTS in Jönköping, Sweden, being the only team of that event to not bring home a map win - despite the presence of hyped Nova. Their trips east were not too promising either, despite some notable victories back at their Thailand debut in 2013. The first time the Garena Star League opened up their doors for international teams, the CIS team brought home some wins in the Group Stage and the massive playoff stage that ensued. At that event the most attention was received by ousting PixieBaby’s Invasion eSports, ending the dreams of the Malaysian team. Following that win was one of the most memorable games of the entire tournament, a 60 minute slugfest against Neolution eSports.MRR - with both teams giving up about 50 kills and Akamai giving up his voice. In the end it was Neolution eSports.MRR getting the better of the big teamfights and massive engagements, ending the run of Cats just short of the Top 8. That was the best result any CIS representative ever recorded in an international tournament, brushing over the lackluster performance they had in last year’s Worlds.
Cats Gaming at the 2014 HoN Tour World Finals
Now a new day has dawned and the next opportunity is on the horizon for Shyla and his squad. The interesting and aggressive style of the CIS region in general is something to respect, but not to be afraid off. Still, they’ve made improvements everywhere, have assembled the strongest players the entire region has to offer and are battle-tested like never before. Cats now know what it means to be defeated, they know what it means to fight back and they have experience in playing from behind - the seasons and tournaments before, they got spoiled by the weakness of their own region, making them unable to respond to getting punched. Now teams like Meka and QaM push them to their limits in domestic tournaments already, giving Cats much better practice than they’ve ever had.
This might be the year for the CIS region to finally make a splash - who knows. Before big predictions and forecasts can be made, the entire tournament has to be filled with contenders first. Only three teams are locked in, the three regional champs in Acer.Dogg, Sync eSports and Cats Gaming. In a few days another team set of two teams from either Thailand, Indonesia or both will be determined through the Wildcard tournament, followed closely by the NA/EU region naming their second contender to accompany Sync.
Final Standings of CIS HoN Tour Season 3:
1 - Cats Gaming
2 - Meka
3 - QaM
4 - NMG
5 - GMG
6 - Jk
Fantasy is a journalist with four years of experience working in various eSports. He is currently the HoN Tour correspondent for the CIS and SEA regions, as well as an editor for both ESL Gaming and compLexity Gaming. In addition to his online endeavors, he studies Publicity and Communication, plays American football, and loves movies.