By Sören "Fantasy"

The Champs are Here

As most of you out there probably know, I like to predict stuff—look into my little crystal ball and go out on a limb for something I truly believe in. That desire to put my opinions out their bit me in the backside a couple of times with [DoP]Domain of Pain not living up to my expectations and [aL]Absolute Legends falling down in a hurry. This time, I was spot on.

A couple of weeks ago I predicted that [sG]Stay Green would be one of the main forces in the HoN Tour cycles. Week after week I monitored their success and their improvement and saw them picking up tactics, coordination and the little things that add up to success. Their improvement led me to believe they would win at least one Diamond Division cycle, and even a member of [tdM]Trademark eSports told me they have respect for the force that is emerging in Stay Green. Of course I would have put my money down on a Grand Final between Trademark eSports and Stay Green, but this works as well I guess.

The bottom line is the result, which clearly states that Stay Green is the new champion, the winner of the third cycle of HoN Tour's Premier League, the Diamond Division. To give credit where credit is due you have to basically mention every single member of Stay Green, as they all did a fantastic job in this cycle and in the transition period after sLiCKz joined the team. Skyzoe and KheZu had to adjust their play and settle for a completely new role with Skyzoe taking over the dreaded hard support role and Khezu going on the suicide position. Both players have made the change almost seamlessly with Skyzoe figuring out the support role in a hurry and Khezu learning how to survive—and sometimes dominate—the suicide.

Zfreek is not even in the discussion here really, as he has been a standout jungler for a long time and he was basically unaffected by the pickup of sLiCKz. He has continued his dominance of the jungle and his marvelous play in teamfight situations when leaving the security of his jungle. In a metagame that is putting a lot of the emphasis on the jungler, he is the silent but shining star of Stay Green.

Last but not least the two big personalities on Stay Green. swindlemelonzz has been looked at as one of the premier drafters in the game of HoN to date and he was able to use that edge for the new team as well. He needed to factor the ping issues of sLiCKz and the inexperience of Khezu and Skyzoe in their new positions into the equation and he still was able to draft winning lineup after winning lineup. swindlemelonzz was also able to see necessary adjustments in his team after the initial restructure of Stay Green failed. He saw the need to switch back to his old role, away from supporting, and found a team that was willing to alternate positions as the situation changed.

sLiCKz is the last team member to get a mention here and he has actually not undergone a huge transition since his departure from [TteS]Tt eSPORTS. He has given away the drafting and captain duties and therefore can focus solely on his in-game performance. Besides that, he is still one of the best players in the world. He interprets the carry role in a very aggressive style and is able to overcome even massive ping disadvantages and still look like the rock star that he is. Everyone was declaring Stay Green to be the next great thing just because of him. I believe everyone was right—he is just that good.

Bob Dylan Knows

Bob Dylan once wrote “The Times They Are A-Changin'”—and we’ve found the theme song for this Diamond Division cycle. The complete structure of the Diamond Division was shaken up by the miraculous rise of Tt eSports and [357]QsQ. Both teams suffered through some hard times since DreamHack with underwhelming plays and roster changes. Now it seems like they have recovered and are looking stronger than ever.

The first big news came last weekend, when Tt eSports crushed the Trademark eSports winning streak with a clear and decisive 2-0 victory in the semis of the Winners Bracket. It looked to be the upset of the cycle. Then QsQ went on a rampage against the top teams [coL]compLexityGaming and Trademark eSports in the Losers Bracket. Clean 2-0 victories against the giants and suddenly the whole world of HoN was turned upside down. After months of domination from compLexity and Trademark, they were demoted to the supporting cast of the current cycle. The shining main attractions were QsQ, Tt eSports and of course the new champions in Stay Green.

What effect this has on the next cycle is very hard to determine. QsQ and Tt eSports have strong players on their roster that can continue their great play to compete with the big teams. For instance Jonassomfan and Style played out of their minds in their winning stretch this weekend, primarily on Bubbles and Bombardier. That individual greatness paired with a strong and veteran support player in NoVa, a fantastic hard carry like NoX and an emerging jungler in Malle are keys to this success. Factor in the better drafting that swindlemelonzz had some very kind words for, and they are built for the top tier—a rematch against Stay Green somewhere down the line is very likely.

In the case of Tt eSports I am not 100% sold on their sustainability in the high altitude of HoN. I have a very lofty opinion about all five of their members, especially wyt` and Riser_ have been impressing me for a long time. One major concern for me is the lack of practice that wyt` talked about in his recent interview with me. I believe that you can hide a lack of practice with great individual power and desire, but at some point the deficit will sneak up on you. If Tt eSports goes back to a regular scrimming habit against the best teams in the world I can see them staying on top for more than just this cycle. Otherwise they might drop down to top six territory or worse.

Giants Tumbling

A rarity in Heroes of Newerth occurred on this weekend with compLexity Gaming and Trademark eSports coming up short in clutch situations. The result of that is a fourth place for the dominators Trademark and only a 5th/6th place finish for compLexity Gaming. Both teams have recorded their worst HoN Tour Diamond finish—what will happen to the teams now?

From what I know about Trademark eSports, they will be back at some point. Right after their initial lost against Tt eSports they realized some deficits and tried to get rid of them through several scrims against teams like Stay Green and QsQ. So a sense of urgency could be seen in those reactions to some adversity. In the match against [LION]Lions eSportsKlubb they looked fine once again, with good coordination in massive teamfights and almost every other treat that made them so great in the past months. Then, against QsQ they did not just lose—they got completely demolished by the squad around NoVa.

After the match I tried to get some answers from Trademark eSports and found something I expected in the last column. The hunger, the desire, the unrivaled will to win is gone for some reason. Five month ago I would have gotten a response about challenging the powerful compLexity Gaming, pushing themselves up and talking about their strength and how close they are to finally defeating compLexity. Now that they’ve done this a few times, the fire is gone.

The team began to slack in practice and cooled down for a while—obviously a mistake with new contenders on the rise. This is the time for Trademark to rebound. They are all extremely passionate about the game and have a great desire to win and be the best in this game. Now that some more competition is in the scene, I feel like they will step up to the challenge.

I am not sure if I can say the same for compLexity Gaming, as their downward spiral has been going on for weeks. Ever since they lost their mojo on the biggest stage of HoN at DreamHack Winter they have been in some very tight and close matches with opponents they would have rolled four months ago. I am not saying that the other teams are still the same and compLexity is just playing down to them—they all got better—but compLexity has lost their edge.

I have been on them for not playing consistently enough in the past (which even Chessie mentioned in his interview with RoLanD). I watched them play one of their best games followed by one of their worst, all in one series, but that may not be their biggest problem. Something else seems to be on their mind when they are on the server. The members make careless mistakes, small blunders and major communication errors that are apparent to everyone. MoonMeander is one of the greatest players this game has, but he has been making crucial mistakes as of late. The same goes for the other players: acting too risky without proper backup from their team.

That said, I still consider compLexity Gaming a top team without a shadow of a doubt, but they need to get back on track as soon as possible. They have the biggest sponsor in the scene and they just keep coming up short in the biggest tournament series HoN has to offer. Something has to change in that team, mostly from a mental standpoint I believe. They are all highly skilled individuals with fantastic track records in Heroes of Newerth so I feel they can turn it around—it will be much tougher for them than for Trademark eSports though.

Welcome Back Guys

Three of the four Gold teams that will get promoted into cycle four of the Diamond Division have already been playing Diamond for at least one season. With Domain of Pain and [QsQ7]QsQ 777, two initial members of that division are returning to the Premier League to face the tough competition. [zhiT]Shit Happens was there in the second cycle but failed to record a single victory, which sent them back to Gold. The new members of the prestigious Diamond Division are [DonD]DoberOnDamp who started their journey in the Bronze Division and have earned a promotion in every cycle to end up with the biggest challenge ahead of them.

This is usually the time were I predict teams to go down and teams to stay in, but this is getting harder and harder every time. When I glance over the twelve teams that have retained their Diamond status from the third cycle, I see no real clear-cut candidate for the demotion. But when I look at the four promotions I have trouble identifying the weakest link there as well. I would still say that Domain of Pain has the skill to stay in Diamond, when they actually show up for a change and don't have to ask their manager zeNap to fill in for missing players.

The second best chance of retaining Diamond status probably lies with QsQ 777 as they have shown some really great HoN in their two stints with the Diamond Division. If they get a favorable matchup they have the chance to shine on for sure. The other two teams are very hard to measure as I wasn't overly impressed with Shit Happens in their first attempt to conquer the Diamond Division, but with Jollem added I think they are definitely a stronger competitor. They might not be the strongest team, but with a little bit of luck in terms of the brackets, they could make something happen and stay in Diamond for a while.

The great unknown is DoberOnDamp as I haven't seen anything of that team yet. I expect some nerves and some rookie mistakes from them as they play against the big dogs for the first time.

If I would have to make a prediction on who falls down to Gold, I would probably nominate [vtL]Vitriolic Gaming, [C1K]Call It Karma, Shit Happens and DoberOnDamp, but that can change very drastically as soon as the brackets are released for the newest cycle.

Winners and Losers

Last but not least the weekly winners and losers of the Diamond Division and a little bit of the Gold Division when I see it fit. Once again the disclaimer that I don't consider the losers in this category to be horrible teams; they just suffered through a horrible week in one way or the other.

Winners for me are Stay Green and QsQ. Some might wonder why Tt eSports is not in here, but they haven't won a match “this week” and were brought to their splendid position last week, so they are neither winner or loser.

As for Stay Green I think the nomination as a Winner of the Week is pretty self-explanatory as they have finally achieved that major tournament victory. They have been waiting for so long and have been close several times. After the giant setback of the DreamHack and the HoN Tour Qualifier Final defeat they have composed themselves, undergone some major changes and are now on top of the HoN Tour cycle. Their leader swindlemelonzz has been very outspoken about their projected success and greatness and now he has something to show for his words. I personally like the attitude and the words swindle used in several interviews, and that new HoN Tour Diamond Championship shows they are backing up the talk.

The second nominee is QsQ for their terrific weekend in the HoN Tour Diamond Division. They did not only defeat the two best teams in HoN on one night, but they also did it with ease and two 2-0 victories. They came storming out of the gates on Championship Sunday against Tt eSports and looked fabulous against Stay Green for most of the Grand Final. They are on the upswing again and are striving towards their destiny and the next step in the progression of the QsQ project—their first title.

Losers of the week are the two giants in compLexity Gaming and Trademark eSports, who both finished the cycle with their worst placements in team history.

For Trademark eSports this is not really a tragedy, as they had a very commanding lead of the rankings that just got diminished. Still, a sense of urgency has to be in the back of their minds as more fourth place finishes won't get them a direct ticket to the undisclosed finals location where Joe Pesci and Robert DeNiro have acted in a Martin Scorsese movie that is not Goodfellas (I can't make it any easier). I doubt that Trademark eSports feels any need to go through the Qualification tournament to get to that event, so they can't rely on that cushion for much longer.

For compLexity Gaming the loss put them even closer to the edge. They are merely 500 points away from falling out of the top three and therefore losing the guaranteed spot to play in the HoN Tour Finals. Of course that entire tournament is five cycles away, but it still doesn't hurt to look ahead and remind the competitors across the board to play up to their potential—the way we all know they can play.

- Sören "Fantasy"