New Rivalry

The competitive Heroes of Newerth scene went through a lot of big announcements in the past week, ranging from major tournaments like the Garena Star League 2024 to several significant roster changes with far reaching implications for everyone.

Two of the teams that were directly involved in these crazy roster shuffles were [sG]Stay Green and [tdM]Trademark eSports who will compete in the HoN Tour Diamond Division Upper Bracket Final with a lot at stake. For Trademark eSports, it will be about making a statement that the early exit from the third cycle was just an aberration. On the other side, Stay Green will try to disprove exactly that to not look like a “one-cycle” fluke.

In the end, a lot of storylines are going to surround this epic clash of the two best teams in Heroes of Newerth with brothers in arms, rivalries within the rivalries and, most importantly, the quest to dominate the HoN scene once again.

The most obvious story between these two has revolves around Chessie, who agreed to leave his former team in [coL]compLexityGaming and join the new and fresh roster of Stay Green. With that transaction, the old story that I liked to emphasize in basically every single duel between compLexity and Trademark has changed focus. Yes, Chessie and Limmp are brothers but for a few hours every single week they are enemies, while the Freedman brothers, swindlemelonzz and Zfreek, are playing together on the side of Stay Green. I don't know if it is the first time that two different pairs of brothers compete in the Upper Bracket Finals of any tournament, but it still makes for a very nice side note for the action that will commence on the battlefield of Caldavar.

Also important with the roster situation is how it affected both teams. It is hard to foresee exactly what Chessie will bring to Stay Green, but he is a very experienced jungler and will definitely be a good addition for the roster. Due to his contract situation with compLexity, he was not legally cleared to participate in the fourth cycle so his return to competition seems to be set for the next weekend. In his absence, iNsania took over the jungling role, which allowed Stay Green to practice their new assignments and roles in a real game setting. With Zfreek taking up the hard support role, a couple of minor things need to be addressed in his game. He will need to get used to the new role and so it will take a little bit of time for him to be fully adjusted. In the meantime, iNsania did a fantastic job as a replacement jungler and he also had very kind words about the Stay Green team in general.

“Atmosphere in this team is so good, very constructive and really nice leadership between sLiCKz and swindlemelonzz.“ iNsania stated just after the Upper Bracket semis against [LION]Lions eSportsKlubb.

One can only assume how good this atmosphere will get once all the players on the team take their talents to South Beach and practice in one single house. I predicted Stay Green to be on top of the world a while ago and my prediction is still looking relatively good. All the changes and voices from inside the organization and from players associated with the team is giving me reason to believe in this prediction.

A team like Trademark eSports is still not to be underestimated by any stretch of the imagination. They have returned out of their recent roster transaction in a great fashion with the same dominant aura surrounding them. Their new hard support player Fittske is one of the few support players out there that is regarded as top notch. While all other hard supports might have haters and guys disagreeing with an elite label on them, Fittske stands out as being regarded one of the best by almost everyone.

He showed that skill this weekend as his new team flat out dominated their competition, starting from the newcomers [DonD]DoberOnDamp and ending on Sunday night with the sensation of the last cycle, [357]QsQ. The team looks strong again after going through a little bit of a “crisis” the last cycle where they only finished fourth, their weakest finish in HoN Tour history. The reality check set in fairly quickly as they are now back in the top three and are aiming for a place in the Grand Finals yet again.

One of the reasons here has to be Fittske who, as one of the best support players, seems to have brought a spark to Trademark eSports again. After last cycle, I quoted an anonymous source saying that the desire and the motivation were just lacking for Trademark and it seems to me like the fresh wind in the roster will serve to push the team to their maximum performance.

Still the biggest challenge for both teams is still ahead and we will definitely know more on Saturday night.

Recharging compLexity

It seems like I write about compLexity every other month. Most of the time, it’s talking about the situation they’re in and the downward spiral that started after losing to Trademark eSports week after week. This time, I want to take a different approach.

I think there is reason for optimism after all, because the team has finally acknowledged their troubled situation. They are actively trying to change things up and bring in some “fresh blood” as Haxxeren has said. They are not just sticking to their guns and trying to walk a steady path, even though that path is a dead end. I believe for such a great team it is hard to make those real big transitions like changing roles, changing drafters and bringing in new people because you always have the early success in the back of your mind. You can be tricked into thinking that the success will return just by waiting around and hoping for the best, but you have to work for it.

To quote Frank Costello: “No one gives it to you. You have to take it.”

That quote is not just out of one of my favorite movies, but it also tells the story of the recent situation of compLexity Gaming. From all I understand, they are trying to make it work and they don't hold a grudge against Chessie.

After the shattering announcement that Chessie would leave the team, the HoN scene was shocked for a while and I can only assume that compLexity was shocked internally as well. Yet, they are still not giving up but they try to look at this change as an opportunity to start over.

Everything they are trying to change will not kick in immediately and that does explain some of the poor performances or tight matches they were in this past weekend. When you not only have to work in a new member with LezzQQ, but you also have to change your roles in-game and also in the organization inside the team, it will take more than just a few scrims to get back on track.

Still I believe that compLexity Gaming is going to be on the right path again, after all those changes show results. I am not sure who is going to draft down the road, as I saw Franzzii drafting for the team on Saturday while bkid was back under center on Sunday. There are still some open questions there, but the rest of the team looks fairly set and it should all work out. MoonMeander has been a good jungler for quite some time and now he gets the chance to prove himself in real competitive matches. LezzQQ was one of my favorite players back in the old Blackfade team and by the looks of it, he hasn’t lost too many steps in his absence. He is still a wrecking force on many heroes and will be a great addition for the compLexity Gaming organization if he becomes their permanent fifth member.

The rest of the team is still good and their immense talent will prevail (or should prevail) over almost every other competitive team out there. In terms of pure individual skill, not many teams can actually go toe-to-toe with compLexity Gaming and that serves as a huge advantage for the North American organization. They've been putting some more emphasis on scrimming again to provide some coordinational substance to their raw individual still – once again the right approach in my mind.

I can't really predict when they are going to be back to challenge the current top two teams in HoN, but no fan of compLexity should overreact to the recent cycle loss to Lions eSportsKlubb. The Swedish team is elite in their own right and they are no shame to lose to. CompLexity Gaming will be back in the saddle and will be back as a serious challenger for tournament championships. I expect them to compete the top spot in cycle... seven – just throwing a number out there.

The ever-changing midfield

HoN Tour adds a lot of excitement to this beautiful competitive scene, but it also adds a lot of frustration for me as a writer. Every time I believe I have found a legitimate team that can challenge for top spots in the future, I usually get disappointed in the next cycle. It happened in this column many times in the past and I am fairly sure it will happen many more times in the future.

It all started with [DoP]Domain of Pain and [aL]Absolute Legends, who I frequently complimented before they both dropped into Gold Division soon after. It happened with Lions eSportsKlubb as well when I saw them getting a real tight grip on a top six placement for cycles to come, but they went up and down as well. The most recent feature of this ever-changing saga is [MlST]Team Mistral as I saw some good potential in the team recently. Now after their impressive debut cycle, they are back in the bottom ranks of the Diamond Division getting eliminated in the second round of the Lower Bracket. I did not expect them to challenge for a spot at the podium or anything, but I at least thought they were going into single-digit placements once again. Well, maybe I even have to put them into a category of “successful” picks on my part, as they at least remain in Diamond.

One other team that I promoted fairly heavily in the last couple of weeks is [OTP]One Trick Pony, who also came up short in the second round of the Lower Bracket. Still, I wasn't necessarily shocked that they would come up just short against [PNIS]Pencils, another of my “chosen teams.” I did talk to ArchiTigeR after the matches, trying to dig through to the problems of this team. He told me, that the preparation for the fourth cycle was not ideal as many of the members had a lot on their plate in terms of studying, so the scrims did not happen over the last couple of days. That was the reason behind the elimination on the first weekend, according to ArchiTigeR.

He still saw a silver lining on the horizon, as the schedules for the upcoming weeks look a little bit better for actual practice. ArchiTigeR seemed set on dedicating more time to the practice with the team to secure better placements in the Diamond Division once again. He says that the team is aiming for a Top Four finish in the next cycle.

To see that goal come to fruition, one of the big teams in the Diamond Division have to slip though. CompLexity Gaming is still a household name, [TteS]Tt eSPORTS is looking very strong, Lions eSportsKlubb just defeated compLexity for the very first time and QsQ is coming off that miraculous run last week. In order to get to fourth place, One Trick Pony has to at least leave three of the four teams behind, which will be a very difficult task.

Wake Up Call

I just couldn't pass up a pun with waking up and Domain of Pain in this column. It was just way too tempting. Still, the rest of my words will be quite positive about one of my favorite teams, who finally showed some decent action on the battlefield.

The departure of hard support Fittske might have served as a wake up call to get the sleeping giant back into shape. All five members were in the lobby on time and all five members played excellent HoN, despite situation they were in. Parakletos stepped in as the team’s support player this cycle, allowing the others to continue with their usual roles..

Still, there’s a lot of positives about this cycle, as Domain of Pain battled tough opponents and looked strong doing so. After their initial tough match against compLexity Gaming, they went on to sweep [C1K]Call It Karma and Mistral Gaming to place 7th/8th. They lost a very close match against the fast improving [TteS]Tt eSPORTS but still have seen improvement, despite the roster shakeup.

I did not see this coming at all, even though I was one of the biggest cheerleaders for Domain of Pain in the past. I am still not going to commit myself to the success of that team just yet. They had a nice run and I am more than happy for the team, but I don't want to hype them up again, just to see them fall. I am like a New York Knicks fan in this regard. I just can't commit my entire heart to them again, just so they will be dominant in the regular season and collapse under the light of the postseason. I think I will wait at least one more cycle to parade about Domain of Pain again.

Winners and Losers

To end this in the traditional way, let's take a look at the Winners and Losers of this week, shall we?

Winners and Losers this time around have very much to do with actual transactions and roster changes in the “offseason” that translated well onto the battlegrounds.

The first winner is definitely Trademark eSports, who are looking very strong with their newest acquisition Fittske and the revival of the team. It seems likely that they are on their way to a third Grand Final in just the fourth cycle – an impressive record.

The second winner is Lions eSportsKlubb because they were finally able to put their old nemesis away in a game. For quite some time, they have struggled week after week against compLexity Gaming, always coming really close to landing that victory over the giant. Now they have finally succeeded and reached their first Upper Bracket Semi Final in HoN Tour's elite division.

Last but not least, Stay Green has to be in this category as well, just because they have landed a huge name in the “offseason” and were still able to perform at a very high level even though that acquisition was not allowed to play. They seem to have strong leadership, strong drafting, strong individual players and a good atmosphere in the team to elevate them to these highs. This is the fourth consecutive Upper Bracket Final the boys around swindlemelonzz will play. In all four played cycles they have been on the verge of the Grand Finals.

Now to the unpleasant part of my article, the teams that had a bad weekend and are considered “Losers of the weekend”.

My first loser of the week is compLexity Gaming, even though I just wrote a huge part of this column on why they are going to be back very soon. The current state of the team is still not what we’re used to seeing and losing a huge contributor to their success in Chessie is definitely not helping either. Just not the best week for one of the most accomplished squads in HoN today.

The second team on this list is One Trick Pony because they looked like a sure bet for top eight for two consecutive cycles but now they take a small step back again. The reasons for the diminished placement are mentioned above and the team is well aware of them, but still they underperformed. Just not the greatest week but let's see if they can achieve their high goals for next week.

That’s all for the column for this week. Stay tuned for next week when the promotion teams are in and we have a new champion – or the old champion, you never know. I wish you a great week.

- Sören ""Fantasy""