Midnight Madness

It was one of those HoN Tour Championship Sundays that you hope for. We had three great competitors on an equal level battling for the crown of Newerth. As a result, not only did the Loser’s Finals go into a deciding third game, but the Grand Final also had to go the distance to determine our champions. In the end, the community saw the return of the kings as [tdM]Trademark eSports recaptured their throne after being pushed off last Cycle. A remarkable three time Diamond Division champion was crowned, while [sG]Stay Green came within striking distance of repeating as Cycle winner.

First of all, we should give credit where credit’s due. Trademark eSports did a marvelous job on every single day of HoN Tour competition in this tournament. Their newest player Fittske was an immediate fit, their standout players like zai`, noobG and Limmp performed well and the captain Mynuts led his troops to their goal – a third Diamond crown.

However, the pure dominance of days past is gone as teams like Stay Green and [LION]Lions eSportsKlubb are making tremendous strides to catch Mynuts and crew. Yesterday, Stay Green was on the verge of an epic comeback after trailing 0-2 but they couldn't close the deal. Trademark seemed to crumble under the pressure of closing out the series but that didn’t help the new Miami Powerhouse as much as they had hoped. In the end, it all came down to the fourth and final map, but a couple of miscues in clutch situations prevented Stay Green from winning two titles in a row. They would have been only the second team in HoN Tour history to claim two titles but Trademark would not be denied.

Now, Stay Green has to make another run at the title but will certainly be better prepared as the team is expected to move into their team facility in Miami before the fifth Cycle officially kicks off. This will most likely give them another spark, improving their communication and understanding of each individual member. Plus, sLiCKz playing with a much better ping will surely help the Australian carry player up his game. Trademark eSports is on the top after Cycle 4, but Stay Green is improving in all areas and will take another crack at the Kings in a couple of weeks.

The other interesting thing that came out of this HoN Tour Cycle was a certain unsung hero on the side of Stay Green. Skyzoe once again stepped up to the play for his “former” team and delivered a couple of excellent matches in relief. The personality and character that he displayed yesterday were splendid and will make him an asset for whatever team he joins. Everyone who ever watched his stream can attest to his very relaxed and laid back style. His in-game skills are still very strong, as he was not only an important piece in the success of Stay Green, but also for the old Lions eSportsKlubb team that won NASL Season 2. On top of that, he just showed his dedication and loyalty to a single team by showing up for an important game, despite being replaced. Add that to his role change shortly before that and it’s clear that Skyzoe shouldn’t have trouble finding a new and powerful team soon.

Roaring to Third Place

Last week, Lions eSportsKlubb delivered two major milestones in their young team’s history. First off, they were able to defeat their longtime nemesis [coL]compLexityGaming in a HoN Tour tournament. And as a result of that victory, they claimed a spot in the Upper Bracket Semifinals for the very first time.

The victory against compLexity was long overdue, as the Swedish team has had to face them almost every single Cycle. Those matches all were compelling and hard fought with Lions pushing compLexity to the edge on several occasions, just never over the edge. They were finally able to do that in this Cycle and not just once, but twice. First, they pushed compLexity down to the Loser’s Bracket and then Lions finished them off later in the tournament. Once again, that victory opened the door to uncharted territory for the young team around Handsken, who spoke fairly confidently in the Honcast interview before his big clash against Stay Green on Sunday.

For the first time, Lions eSportsKlubb was still alive on Championship Sunday and ended up finishing in 3rd Place. It could have been even better for Lions, who delivered an excellent first match against swindlemelonzz and crew. Granted, the games were played under weird circumstances with iNsania having connection issues throughout the games but I don't want to take away anything from Lions. They were in the lead before the disconnects occurred and they just powered through the match, regardless of the unfortunate situation for Stay Green. They had the chance to put the second ranked team to bed when Skyzoe stepped in to replace iNsania but Stay Green rallied and proved to be just a bit too strong for the Swedish organization.

Lions has delivered and went from an underdog team in the Qualifier to an elite team in HoN Tour. It looks like they have overtaken compLexity in their current state, their scrim results are terrific and their good performances are finally showing up in the rankings. Before this Cycle, they have always been a threat to several huge teams, but they could never really finish the job. That changed and now they are slowly but surely making their way to the top .Next stop, Grand Finals.

Monumental Changes Next Cycle

As the fourth Cycle ends with the victory of Trademark eSports once again, we are entering a very interesting off-season in the HoN Tour calendar. The top 16 teams in the current HoN Tour standings will receive an invitation to compete for one of the open Garena Star League 2024 spots after Cycle 5, but also a couple of roster changes and location changes could become a massive factor moving forward in the highest HoN Tour division.

Perhaps the most notable change is that the last three members of Stay Green are taking their lives, computers and careers to Miami. Before Cycle 5 kicks off, all of the members will be living under one roof in the Florida sun. Everyone is speculating how big of a difference this will ultimately be but the resolved ping issues for sLiCKz might be the biggest factor in the first week. Every competitor is in fear and awe of the Australian star in the LAN environment and now,with better conditions and better ping, he’ll be in similar form for online events as well..

In terms of teamwork or chemistry, I believe it will play a contributing factor early on. They need to incorporate a completely new player into the mix with Chessie finally joining the team with this Cycle. With these changes, the team has a huge opportunity to make their mark felt on the HoN scene. Every piece is in the right place. There’s a lot of positive talk about their play and there’s no major internal drama to speak of. Despite not being “sponsored,” this bunch is pulling together to succeed and are willing to take every step necessary. That includes members switching their roles, switching teams and even moving thousands of miles to play HoN. I am very impressed by everything this team has done in the recent history and I hope they will continue to perform moving forward.

Another unconfirmed player transaction is [TteS]Tt eSPORTS’s Riser_ moving to compLexity to join their starting five. This change would not only be a huge move for the struggling giant compLexity, but would also be yet another blow to Tt eSports, who suffered through a similar situation with sLiCKz a few weeks back.

Ultimately, what Tralfamadore said on the Honcast podcast the other day could prove true. If Tt eSports is going to lose yet another strong player, especially after coming back from the loss of sLiCKz, it could be just devastating for the morale of the team and every individual member. Tralf and Milkfat spoke about a boiling point for the captain wyt` and both hoped that this point wasn't reached yet. I am a strong believer in Tt eSports and wyt` as a person so if this situation with Riser_ does go through, I hope that he stays with HoN and tries to make his team work out once again.

As far as Riser_ is concerned, I think that he is a very smart and talented player, which are both very good attributes for being part of a major team with a big sponsorship. This is a chance to play with the likes of MoonMeander, bkid, Haxxeren and Franzzii on their way back to the top. This will become a truly dedicated team once again, with a focus on lots of scrims and preparation. As with other teams, “fresh blood” could be more than beneficial for the roster.

Bottom line is that while Tt eSports might be in trouble, compLexity could rise like a phoenix from the ashes on their quest to rule Newerth once again. When the North American organization can get back into form and develop chemistry with a high-profile player like Riser_, this could lead to yet another team fighting for the HoN Tour crown every Cycle. Exciting times indeed.

And They’re Back

Familiar faces will grace the Diamond Division in the fifth Cycle again with [oo7]We Are Spies and [aL]Absolute Legends returning to the big stage. In addition to those “veterans,” [Dmsn]AnotherDimension and [SdS]SdS are making their way to the Diamond Division as well. Rookies are always very exciting to watch when the big lights are on them, but I have a very good feeling about this particular class.

The team with the best chance is We Are Spies and I was actually able to get a little bit of a talk in with DirtyMobs during the week. He felt like his team was just a little bit too inexperienced in their first run in the Diamond Division. They were still a young team and lacked a bit of synergy and communication in clutch situations. Still, they were able to push a formidable team like Lions eSportsKlubb to a third match, while Honcast captured all the action. That past performance proves to me that they are able to handle their nerves and that they will not falter under pressure, which makes them a threat. On top of that, DirtyMobs said that his team should be an exciting one to watch, as they are not going for farm focused strategies but will play an aggressive and risky style with a lot of kills and action all across the board. Definitely something to keep an eye on.

The same goes for Another Dimension, who I expected to come into Diamond on previous occasions already. They always found a way to end up just short, usually one victory away from the promotion to Diamond. Recently, they added Bitchzlapped and Sender to the team, while losing the well-known player Smackdonald. They remain a very talented team and should be a candidate to stick in Diamond for more than just this Cycle.

Absolute Legends is a whole other story, as they admittedly don't invest much time in Heroes of Newerth, thanks to college and other projects eating up a lot of time for the individual members. Still, even with the lack of practice, they were able to defeat [Pika]Pikachu and [PUDG]Dendis jungldevos in the Gold Division, two teams that are not pushovers. The team has talent and experience no doubt, but in the end you just need more than just natural abilities to succeed in the Diamond Division with the quality of teams competing.

Last but not least, SdS, who has been around forever but has never really made the biggest splash. They play primarily for fun and have the distinct advantage of being together with the same lineup for long period of time. The last time I saw SdS compete at a high level was in the DreamHoN Online Summer Championships, where they only managed to one victory in the group stages. The fact that they made it into Diamond is impressive, but I am afraid that this will be a very short stint.

On the other side of the spectrum are [FyKu]Fack You Kurdi, [vtL]Vitriolic Gaming, [QsQ7]QsQ 777 and [C1K]Call It Karma, who all have to go back to Gold. Every one of those teams has already spent some time in Gold so they are entering familiar territory. But a couple of question marks remain. Usually, I proclaim all demoted teams to be favorites to return to Diamond but this time it is very different. Fack You Kurdi and Vitriolic Gaming currently don’t have five members on their roster while QsQ 777 and Call It Karma will face stiff competition with Pikachu and Dendis jungledevos waiting in Gold.

If I would be forced to predict, I would give the Gold Championship to Pikachu with Call It Karma as the runner up. Dendis jungledevos will come in third, while QSQ 777 battles against a newcomer for the last spot. Nothing too exciting but it is a prediction after all.

Winners and Losers

As usual, the regular closer to this column is “Winners and Losers” and this time I will not only recognize teams but an individual as well. Namely, that will be Skyzoe, who showed a lot of character this weekend when he substituted for Stay Green to help them get back to the Cycle Finals.

As for teams, those awards go to Lions eSportsKlubb and Trademark eSports for obvious reasons.

Trademark eSports was able to lose a long-time member like iNsania and, after a disappointingly low fourth place in Cycle 3, managed to recapture the top spot. The transition to a top notch support player like Fittske was seamless and Trademark showed flashes of the dominance that we’ve seen over the last few months. However, the competition has gotten tougher and no victory is guaranteed anymore.

Lions gets a spot here because of the continuous improvements that this team is making. When they started in HoN Tour, they were on the map but have always been known as a wildcard. They’ve been through a few roster changes but seem to have found their mix. Now it’s time to show results and cement their place at the top of the standings. Victories against compLexity and close battles against Stay Green are helping in that regard.

Losers of this week are hard to find, as the top competitors actually made it into the second weekend of HoN Tour Diamond competition. With that said, a 5th/6th place finish for [357]QsQ on the heels of that tremendous run to close Cycle 3 is a slight disappointment but I would not call them a loser.

I would rather give those titles to the two former Diamond teams that are now stuck in Gold Division: Pikachu and Dendis jungledevos.

Both teams suffered a very similar fate this past week, falling to Absolute Legends on their path to reclaim Diamond status. The expectations for those teams were very high, especially for Pikachu. Now both teams have to sit back and watch as the top teams compete for a trip to Thailand and the Diamond Division crown while they both fight through Gold once again.

- Sören "Fantasy"