The Unstoppable Force

The fifth Cycle of Diamond Division competition is successfully and officially in the books. Once again [tdM]Trademark eSports, the most dominating squad of recent history, prevailed and captured their record-setting fourth Diamond Title. The team once again rolled the competition in the Upper Bracket of the tournament until meeting their new nemesis [sG]Stay Green in the Grand Finals.

What had been a match of epic proportions last time, spanning the entire distance of four maps, was over rather quickly with Trademark only struggling in the second game against the Miami Powerhouse. In every single game this cycle, Trademark eSports seemed to have a tight grip on everything that was going on in the match. Their drafting was strong once again; they were able to adjust to the small alteration that the meta game is recently going through, and their coordination and play-calling in clutch situation is still top notch. They are probably the one team I would never count out to pull off a miraculous defensive stand and turn the match. Every team fight I see of these guys is pretty much a well choreographed show that ends in a devastating loss for their opponents.

Trademark eSports does the least amount of errors, they have more than capable individual athletes that can make and create big plays on their own and they are just vicious is capitalizing and feasting off of enemies mistake. Every single missed engagement, every single wrong step or misplaced spell by opponents will immediately result in Trademark eSports turning the tides of a fight. The battles are just beautiful to watch and every single member of the squad deserves a massive amount of credit for this current dominance in the last two cycles.

As a matter of fact Trademark only lost a total of four games in the last two cycles. Their series record is set with a flawless 10-0, while their map record displays the stunning numbers of 20-4 (not counting the 1-0 default advantage of the Grand Final). In the current state of the game no team really comes close to Trademark which is also why they will go into the Garena Star League Qualifier as the absolute favorite.

Of course a team like Stay Green has come close to defeating them several times, but coming close is not going to cut it in the Grand Finals. Stay Green has found ways and opportunities to come up short in the big and deciding matches, which is one of the only flaws that the young and energetic team around their standout drafter swindlemelonzz still has to work on. The team looks solid and strong when going up against every other team, but as soon as Trademark eSports connects to the servers and the lights are on, Stay Green falls flat. It is almost like Trademark is the Kryptonite of the team from South Beach. In their only run to the Diamond Championship, Stay Green able to take advantage of a struggling Trademark eSports team and could avoid them in the standings. They only had to beat out teams like [357]QsQ, [LION]Lions eSportsKlubb and [TteS]Tt eSPORTS, teams they have a flawless record against. The Championship was certainly no fluke, but the circumstances and stars were aligning perfectly for Stay Green.

Regardless of that Stay Green is still the dominant second best team in Heroes of Newerth. With that being said they also are still a few steps behind the absolute Kings of Newerth and it might require some more innovative tactics, some curve balls in the drafting and laning phase, on top of a near perfectly executed game plan to push the Europeans from their throne.

New Territory

The great thing about the Championship Weekend in the Diamond Division is, that only a handful of illustrious and great teams are left to compete for the ultimate prize in HoN. Only six teams even make it to the second weekend of the contests and only three teams reach Championship Sunday. One of those teams in this cycle was [OTP]One Trick Pony, who had been the attraction of the first weekend.

Unfortunately the young team around captain and drafter fUzi had to pay the price of their inexperience when it comes to this latter stage of the tournament. They first got blown out by Trademark eSports, then got totally demolished by Stay Green in the Lower Bracket Final. They deserved to be in the spotlight and be in the mix to compete for a Diamond Championship, but the stakes and the skill were just a little bit too high for them. After all they just came off of the incredible run of the first weekend and were stepping into completely new territory. The spotlight was on them in both matches. They couldn't just run through the brackets and no one would watch. They were one of the headliners this Cycle, almost the main event.

Nerves come into play, in addition to facing the strongest and best two teams that the competitive HoN scene currently has to offer. The way they went down might have looked bad for them, but reaching these highs and breaking through is a great achievement on its own. The hard part now will be to repeat that success and don't look like a fluky One Trick Pony – I had to!

The team will get a veteran in Tralfamadore, but that doesn't necessarily give them a huge boost in success right away. If anything Tralf can be a very valuable part in their growth process from the mental standpoint, but doesn't equal a huge boost on the servers immediately. The recent weeks have proven one thing – roster changes need time to work out and unfold their real strength. [coL]compLexityGaming is going through it, Stay Green is going through it, Tt eSports suffered from it, only Trademark eSports is above everyone else in this category as well.

Tralfamadore is a splendid player, he has experience in clutch situations and he can work as a perfect addition to their lineup adding a very good jungler, as well as a mental coach for the young team to get used to high-profile situations. The next time these boys enter the final weekend of HoN Tour Diamond competition it could look totally different.

The Old Standouts

This is not an obituary by any means, but ever since DreamHack Winter 2024 rolled around the rankings of Heroes of Newerth has changed dramatically. The podium of the DreamHoN event had Trademark before compLexity Gaming and Tt eSports, with Stay Green (former Gary Johnson) and QsQ going out in the Group Stage already. That has shifted now, and only Trademark eSports remains on top.

Stay Green has surpassed every competitor on their surge to the top, while QsQ is one of the most consistent top performers in the entire Diamond Division. The team around captain NoVa has been Top Six at the very least. This in combination with the recent slide of compLexity Gaming and Tt eSports makes QsQ the third team in the rankings and the third team of the “Great Five” that headed into DreamHack Winter 2024.

In the current state of the competitive scene Tt eSports is more likely to fall out of the “Great Five” discussion with their tumultuous roster situation after the departure of Riser_ and wyt`, two important pieces to the team’s success. They are not out completely, but they have a tough road ahead of them. In the meantime young teams like Lions eSports, [aL]Absolute Legends and One Trick Pony are heavily contesting the old order with huge success lately. Lions and One Trick Pony both captured the podium and coveted third place in the two recent cycles, with Tt eSports doing it in the highly irregular third Cycle. After that success Tt eSports went south, resulting in an all-time low 9th/12th place in the most recent cycle. Just one single victory over [DonD]DoberOnDamp was the difference between retaining the Diamond status or suffering the ultimate defeat and moving down to Gold.

CompLexity Gaming looks a bit brighter, but they are coming off a historic low performance this cycle. The assumption that Riser_ would fix all the problems was obviously far fetched, but the signing of Riser_ brings some peace and routine back into the team. They now have to focus on the rebuilding process to perform better and get to the Offline Finals in Las Vegas – a place where this team definitely belongs.

MoonMeander is back home, they have been picking up the scrim efforts again and seem to do pretty well in those. Now they have to transform the practice shape into the game and soon they will challenge the two other teams again. Another Grand Final between the old and historic rivals of compLexity Gaming and Tradmark eSports would be something.

A Golden Return

Championship Weekend is behind us and that means that the Diamond Division will get new blood again. This time [Pika]Pikachu, [hade]HAVE IT, [CM]Clan Milk and [QsQ7]QsQ 777 are the newcomers or returners.

The best chances to succeed are obviously with Pikachu, who haven't been underperforming to get demoted to Gold, but ran into technical difficulties that caused them to forfeit their first round match in Cycle 3. Granted it took them two cycles to return back to the promised land, but now they return as the Gold Champion with a decent seeding at least. With their amount of points, they can avoid facing Trademark eSports and Stay Green in the first round of Diamond – two teams that no one really wants to play against.

Pikachu has been performing really well lately and an almost flawless march through the Gold Division is certainly an indication of that. They only lost games to Have It in the Gold Division, but never really trailed or got into serious jeopardy of losing a series. That will change in Diamond now, as they face much stronger teams, but Pikachu seems more than equipped to at least retain their Diamond status and maybe even go on a run into single digit placements.

Now after Pikachu it gets tricky predicting a second team that will do well in Diamond. The most obvious choice would be Have It, who finished the Gold Division as the runner-up and also played a terrific match back in the Qualifiers against the then dominant team of compLexity Gaming in the Lower Bracket of that competition. They couldn't defeat compLexity, but still send a message to other teams around that they are not to be trifled with. The roster might have changed, but the names on that team are known entities that can provide some upsets in the Diamond Division.

When it comes down to known entities, the other two teams of Clan Milk and QsQ 777 don't have to hide themselves either. For QsQ 777 this will be the third try in the Diamond Division after getting demoted in Cycle 2 and 4. An old saying states that the third time's the charm, a motto that QsQ 777 surely wants to prove. In their other stays in the highest HoN Tour Division the team never really did badly, but couldn't break through either. They are definitely one of the teams that is in the discussion to fight for their status right away, because of their history and the stigma of being one of those “elevator teams.”

Clan Milk on the other side has several known SBT players in their midst, some of them already made their impression on the competitive scene with a team called QoP in the DreamHoN Online Summer Championship back in August 2024. Granted the success was rather limited in terms of actual results, but the play style and skill-level of these guys is very high. On the most recent Honcast Podcast that team was obviously a topic for discussion with Milkfat in the mix, bringing up his roots. All four panelists agreed that it is not only an individual skilled team, but also a team with finesse when it comes to tactics. They are the one wildcard in the competition and can either make a significant splash right away, or go down to Gold again. This Saturday we will find out more.

And to put myself out there again I am going to predict my demotion candidates again – something I have like a 60% efficiency in. My four teams are QsQ 777, Have It, [AiD]Afraid and [PNIS]Pencils. The last one might surprise a couple of people, but it is due to the structure of the points in the current standings. [TFR]The Fire Rises got a deduction of all their points and will clash against Trademark eSports every single time. As a result of that one strong team will be in the Lower Bracket immediately, which will create more problems for other strong teams in the middle of the standings. Either Pencils or Absolute Legends will have to face The Fire Rises in the elimination setting. I think Absolute Legends are a tiny bit stronger than Pencils and a little bit more committed in their current run, so Pencils would face The Fire Rises. To be honest that match is just a total toss up, but after thinking about it really long and really hard, I believe the team around captain iNsania will prevail. Prevail in a very close, tight and exciting match.

Winners and Losers

The usual ending to this column is the Winners and Losers category, once again featuring Trademark eSports and Stay Green as winners of the weekend, while One Trick Pony and Lions eSports get the recognition in the other category.

The first choice in the “Winner of the Week” segment with Trademark eSports should be more than obvious. The team has a great record, the team has great players and the team is a four-time Diamond Champion. In addition to that they are more than 4,000 points above Stay Green in the Rankings and more than 10,000 points above the fourth placed QsQ. Mathematically that means they only need 2,000 more points to clinch the playoff spot, when QsQ wins the rest of the three cycles – I guess it is safe to say that Trademark eSports will be in Vegas, Baby.

Stay Green is in this category because they were able to gain revenge. On the first weekend they ate some serious Chipper Rockets as they fell rather decisively to One Trick Pony. In the fashion of a veteran top team that result didn't discourage the bunch, but encouraged them to practice harder and come back with a vengeance. In the best John McClain fashion they stormed through the rest of the bracket and completely outplayed One Trick Pony on their second meeting. The final frontier is still Trademark eSports, but their performance is still admirable after an early setback.

In the other category One Trick Pony and Lions eSports are finding a place, unfortunately for them. One Trick Pony came off a great outing on the first weekend, but just got rolled in the two matches this weekend. The discrepancy between smaller teams was so brutally obvious in those matches, that the stomps almost became a suffer to watch. Still the result is nothing to be depressed about, but One Trick Pony clearly knows what they have to work on now.

The same goes for Lions eSports, who suffered a small setback this week. The Swedish team has been on the rise for quite some time now after they finally put their nemesis compLexity Gaming away. Now a new bully has arrived in their way, namely Stay Green. In the last two cycles Lions eSports got eliminated by Stay Green, this time almost annihilated. Just like One Trick Pony they have their work cut out for them and I am sure they will return even stronger in the next Cycle.

-Sören "Fantasy"