One Trick Pony Delivers

I have to admit it. I was not a believer when ArchiTigeR told me after Cycle 4 that his team will be Top 4 in the next Diamond Division. I have been a fan of [OTP]One Trick Pony no doubt, but I didn't think they could just flip the switch and deliver such extraordinary performances on Saturday and Sunday. But they did and therefore made me look pretty bad. I even brought this topic up in the most recent preview of the Diamond Division.

Bottom line is that One Trick Pony not only played terrific Heroes of Newerth, but they also looked like a fabulous team that knows exactly what they were doing at any point in the games. In addition to that, they also reintroduced The Chipper to the scene, making Xibbe look like a new and improved version of the famous We Heart Pigs player chu from back in the day. It was successful, aggressive and some of the most entertaining HoN that we’ve seen in the last couple of months. Not a farm fest but all out aggression paired with great game sense. Tralfamadore said it best on Honcast when he mentioned the “seasoned” look of One Trick Pony's decision making. They didn't force the issues, they weren't chasing too long, they had a clean and clear grip on their game plan and a strong belief in their abilities.

That game sense showed itself several times in the series against [LION]Lions eSportsKlubb when they went for a dive, but immediately initiated a structured retreat without any casualties. No one was doing something crazy. They all stuck together, helping each other out and displaying a high level of discipline. Another aspect of their success was the complete knowledge of their strength in the lineups they were able to draft. In the first game against Lions eSportsKlubb, they did something very uncommon and grouped up Master Of Arms and Pharaoh in one lane with the big tanky initiator taking the farm and experience early on. After Pharaoh got his ultimate, he completely surrendered the safe-lane to Master of Arms who was able to elevate his farm and ended up carrying the entire game. Znoowy on Pharaoh utilized his farm to perfection early on and “snowballed” in a way, hitting ultimate after ultimate and initiating countless kills.

The last thing I want to touch on is the changed leadership in the team. After their success in the first four Cycles, the team still decided to change up their roles and their captains with fUzi taking over for the German Streufutter, who remained a part of the team. That shows dedication and chemistry inside the team. Every time you change a captain, it will usually lead to drama or at least some speculation. In this case, the team managed it internally and decided that the most recent results were not good enough. They initiated a change, which seemed to work. All five members of One Trick Pony played fantastic during the first weekend of Cycle 5, with clean sweeps over [MlST]Team Mistral, [sG]Stay Green and Lions eSportsKlubb. The team has now reached the Winner Bracket Finals for the very first time in team history and will clash with the three-time champions [tdM]Trademark eSports on Saturday. Regardless the outcome, One Trick Pony has already proved ArchiTiger’s bold statement correct and has secured a third place finish at the very least.

More Kills, More Action, More Entertainment

We spoke about it in the first segment about One Trick Pony already, but I really feel like it is a very important point to make. The most recent Cycle has been one of the most entertaining I have seen in the Diamond Division for quite some time. It had nothing to do with the big names clashing, the roster changes being in effect for the first time or One Trick Pony shocking the entire scene. It was simply because of the aggressive play style and drafting that several teams showed in their games.

Teams like One Trick Pony ran an unconventional burst hero like Chipper several times with huge success. Pharaoh and his presence and capability to facilitate ganks from a long distance has also been popular. [oo7]We Are Spies is also emerging to be a fan favorite because they embrace the aggressive style. Plus, we saw iNsania going for a Riftwalker as an aggressive supporter with huge damage potential in team fights and initiating abilities while setting up major ganks. All that factored in, this game is becoming more and more aggressive again. I believe to all of our liking.

A couple of month back we saw teams like [coL]compLexityGaming dominating because of their implacable ability to stretch out a game and get the farm they needed on their carry, Haxxeren. The games dragged on and it mostly came down to one big team fight and the winner of that fight was also the winner of a hour long PvE spectacle. That style is not gone entirely, but signs of a new system are all over the place.

Teams go again for aggressive trilanes and aggressive junglers like Parasite or Ophelia become more common again as teams take more and more care of passive junglers with their blind bans. Aggression oriented tanks and damage dealer like Hammerstorm or even Pharoah are becoming a factor again, in addition to stun oriented gankers like Magmus and Fayde returning.

I would like to compare this with the NFL for a moment, where the conventional systems of the balanced offense are still played by most of the teams – mostly with success. But an unconventional motion is sweeping the league with the Spread Option Read that has made college football a spawning ground for lovers of offensive football. Still, the old system is dominating and no team with the “new” system has won a title yet, so it is still looked at as a gimmick. Robert Griffin III, Russel Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are proving that the system works – even in the big leagues. The same goes for the aggressive style of play in Heroes of Newerth. The major teams, the dynasties like Trademark eSports, compLexity Gaming, [TteS]Tt eSPORTS and [357]QsQ are sticking to the old methods, while the young guns like Stay Green, One Trick Pony and [TFR]The Fire Rises are playing with high risk, high reward game plans.

The different philosophies clashed this weekend with split results and it will happen again on the big stage next weekend when Trademark faces the unconventional and aggressive team One Trick Pony.

In the end, the farm fest is way less entertaining and the aggression and gank oriented play is making for games with a bigger appeal. It all comes down to what BreakyCPK has been saying for weeks now: ”We are here to have some fun!”.

Roster Changes will take some time

Another thing this weekend has shown us is that you can not just plug a player in and expect huge results right away. CompLexity Gaming, Tt eSports and Stay Green made those experiences and all three found themselves in the Lower Bracket very early on.

The biggest concern but also the biggest challenge was for Tt eSports, who had to overcome the loss of two players, had to change up their roles and also used LeonBlack` as a captain for the first time. I believe that anyone who expected a huge result right from the get-go was kidding themselves. The transition will take some time and will be a very long process for the boys from America. I don't doubt that they will find their way back into the high rankings of HoN Tour, but not right now. However, the process of learning to play with each other might not take the longest. Like LeonBlack mentioned in his statement, they are all very familiar with each other and have been friends and playing partners for quite some time. The big shake up is the drafter and captain position, which is unknown territory for LeonBlack. Also, they had to change up their roles with the loss of Riser_ and wyt`. A new jungler has to emerge. They need to figure out their carry player, their suicide and their initiator. Basically everything that you need to succeed. That and the coordination in tumultuous situations will grow slowly and in Cycle 7 or 8 they might be able to challenge for a top spot again.

CompLexity Gaming, on the other hand, fell victim to the top heavy Lower Bracket. I don't believe that they are so far off with their newest acquisition, Riser_, not as far as falling down to 7th/8th place in this Cycle. They have room for improvement, but in a normal Cycle with Stay Green and Trademark eSports marching through the Upper Bracket, compLexity wouldn't have fallen out this early. The end result might not be thrilling for the players and the organization but the individual outings weren't that bad. They completely obliterated [Dmsn]AnotherDimension and thenthey came very close against their new nemesis Lions eSportsKlubb. They played well against a emerging and highly potent contender in The Fire Rises before ultimately pushing Stay Green to their limits. That should be an encouraging sign for the highly talented boys from compLexity.

Last but not least Stay Green, the Miami Heat of Heroes of Newerth. For the sake of swindlemelonzz and his team, I hope that they don't need as many attempts to win the ring with this roster as LeBron James needed in South Beach. They got flat out upset by One Trick Pony, even though swindlemelonzz used to poke fun at the Ponies in one of his podcasts a while back. While it is not that fair to bring this up, it proves my point perfectly – the scene has moved forward and more teams are emerging as serious contenders. Stay Green are among the best teams we’ve seen in a long time and still has that spot. But at one point soon, they should really start to show dominance over the rest of the scene. Second place finishes are admirable, but this team is not build for second place – this team has one goal and that is championships.

They have a facility to practice now and their chemistry should mprove massively. On paper, they’ve got everything they need to succeed. This Cycle they will have to do it out of the Lower Bracket and Trademark eSports or One Trick Pony won't be easy to defeat with a 1-0 advantage right from the start.

Winners and Losers

A shorter version of the Monday Morning Carry column closes with the Winners and Losers segment as usual. Once again, a spot in the Upper Bracket Finals or major resurgences will earn you a spot among the elite teams that have already been praised as Winners of the Week.

It won't come to no surprise to anyone that One Trick Pony is in this category. What they did this past weekend is nothing short of spectacular, featuring an entertaining play style and signature wins over teams considered at their top of the game. Next weekend, they can go for the “podium sweep” of the last Cycle. The team will need great coordination, great aggression, great innovation and major victories to make one of the biggest upsets in HoN Tour history happen.

The second team here is Trademark eSports, who once again managed to get into the Upper Bracket Final. The team has been stable in these matches and has been a part of four of these already. Every time Trademark has reached the Upper Bracket Finals, they also won the entire Cycle. The good omen is there and the stats are indicating another win, but One Trick Pony and the other four remaining teams will surely not go down without a fight.

The third member of this esteemed “Winners of the Week” club this time is [aL]Absolute Legends, who came out of nowhere to reach the top six. Two weeks ago, I compared the ups and downs of Domain of Pain with the ups and downs that a New York Knicks fan feels with good regular seasons, but horrible and unsatisfying postseasons. This analogy fits to Absolute Legends as well, who returned to Diamond via the final promotion spot and then just stormed out of the gates with 2-0 victories over We Are Spies, [AiD] Afraid and [PNIS]Pencils. They deserve the spot in the category and I really hope they can put up those results on a constant basis.

The last part is dedicated to the Losers of this Week and, as usual, I don't mean any of this as disrespectful. The teams in this category just had an off-week or had other issues in terms of their play.

The first Loser of the Week is Tt eSports, who lost long-time team members Riser_ and wyt` and also had their lowest HoN Tour Diamond placement ever. Of course, this was due to the fact that Stay Green showed up this early in the Lower Bracket. However, at the end of the season, the fans and media will just look at the rankings and they will show 9th/12th place. The team has potential, but this was a downer for sure.

The same goes for the famed team of compLexity Gaming, who made a splash by acquiring a strong player like Riser_. And yet, they end up in their lowest placement ever which is a minor cause for concern. They also met Stay Green earlier than expected, but the goal for compLexity surely isn’t a single digit placement in Diamond, but a spot at the podium, at the very least.

- Sören "Fantasy"