Been Here Before

Last week I wrote about the hope I felt as soon as I saw the new life in [coL]compLexityGaming. In their first appearances with Riser_ they didn’t look splendid, but also didn’t look horrid and out-of-sync like other teams looked just this week. Thinking about Riser_ as a proven commodity in a slightly derailed train on the path to success, I was pretty sure that this addition could only be beneficial for the organization and the team.

Obviously I am not saying that Chessie was a bad teammate by any means, but sometimes a team just grows stale and a change is mandatory. The same effect can be seen in pretty much every mainstream sport, where teams all of a sudden have a surge in success due to a change in coaches or players – and the mentality switch that comes along with it.

In the case of compLexity Gaming, the mentality might not be changed forever, but a couple of malfunctions in their mentality toward the game have changed in recent weeks. For the first time since they crashed and burned numerous times against the old nemesis [tdM]Trademark eSports, all members seemed to be focused on one goal and one goal only. They wanted to get back to the top, back where they feel they belong.

The talent was never in question as bkid, MoonMeander, Haxxeren and Franzzii have been absolute standouts on their respective positions for quite some time. Haxxeren was considered the best carry player before the emerging force of noobG took over. Franzzii won the award for “Support of the Year 2021,” Moonmeander and bkid are widely regarded as two of the best all-arounders that are left in the game – and rightfully so. Although Chessie won the “Jungler of the Year 2021” and Riser_ has not been playing the jungler role in Tt eSports all that much, the change still seems to work. In terms of scrimming, the activity is spiking for the combination of Americans and the lone Danish player Haxxeren. With the scrimming, the success came back and reached a highlight this past weekend in HoN Tour.

Granted the victory against [sG]Stay Green will most likely go down as a fluke win at best, just to disregard the victory would be wrong as well. Before Riser_ officially became a part of compLexity and they started picking up their scrim activity again, they couldn’t even hold a candle to Stay Green in direct competition. Ever since the Miami Powerhouse overcame compLexity in a cycle, they couldn’t come back and fight for revenge. The same happened to [LION]Lions eSportsKlubb and compLexity as the Swedish team just needed one victory to go on a streak against the proud American organization.

Now the tides seem to have turned again as compLexity was able to put the roaring Lions away in the GSL Qualifier, and they also seem to be much closer with Stay Green again. The GSL Semifinal between those two combatants was highly entertaining and competitive, and so were the HoN Tour matches. In the end most people will remember the victory for Chessie dropping out and Stay Green fighting an uphill battle against the numbers advantage of compLexity Gaming, but the game was very close and contested. A couple of weeks ago that wouldn’t have happened in this matchup.

Now we get to see an old flame kindling again with the big rivals of 2021 competing in a Final once again. It is only the Winner Bracket Final yet, but Trademark eSports has been a fixture to the Grand Final throughout the entire HoN Tour Cycles, not counting the third one, and compLexity might be well on their way back to the top. This match is not only exciting and great for the history these two teams share with Grand Finals battles in pretty much every single major tournament HoN has held in the last six months, but also for the new rivalry this could spark. The GSL Qualification for Trademark eSports seemed to be a foregone conclusion as they did dominate every other team in HoN Tour and in the entire scene before falling to Stay Green this Thursday. A loss to compLexity Gaming in HoN Tour might bring a lot of nervousness to the great Swedish-Danish collaboration to work even harder for that precious trip to Thailand.

Ponies in Danger

From the beginning on the HoN Tour Diamond Division was a place with a ton of upsets. Not necessarily all the way to the top with Trademark eSports, compLexity Gaming, and Stay Green being the frontrunners in every other cycle so far, but in the field behind that. First it was [aL]Absolute Legends that shocked the world with an awesome performance in Cycle 1, followed by drops in their activity as well as their success. After that a bunch of teams made a name for themselves with great performances the one day, followed by letdowns the next.

Most recently it was [OTP]One Trick Pony and [TFR]The Fire Rises that had the entire buzz around them, but the new Cycle brought new light to that. One Trick Pony was a mess in the current cycle, based on the results and the negative attention that was focused on them. I don’t really want to get into details or comments about that situation as it was handled and discussed at length over the weekend.

All I want to say is that the way it was handled from one party might not have been ideal. It is one thing if it just doesn’t fit with a certain team, but at least don’t abandon the ship in the middle of a storm. Stick to the end, ride it out and do it out of your own decency. I know Tralfamadore returned to the team to finish the competition, but it is still a bad taste in my mouth as I am sure it also leaves a stain on One Trick Pony and Tralf himself.

As far as the team and Tralf are concerned, I hope they both continue on their paths. Tralf is a magnificent player with a little bit of “off the field” issues, as NFL Scouts would probably call it. Still his talent is massive and the amount of passion he has for the game and the competitive scene has been almost unrivaled when he was still playing. The one downside I would see in him is that he comes across as a person who needs and wants to hold the reigns of an operation. Ideal would be for him to form a new team with people he can deal with and knows that they are a fit and then go strong in the direction of emerging as a powerhouse come Season 2 of Hon Tour. Just short-cutting and going with a team that might not work out in the end is probably not the best decision and option.

One Trick Pony on the other side is currently without a fifth player, and according to Znoowy the passion and the drive of that team has vanished a bit after the recent hiccups. They have been the “Best Upcoming Team 2021” and the way I always pictured them was a dedicated group with fun and the will to improve. The way Znoowy now phrased his statement and the story about the team is not reading very good. I can understand that something like that is frustrating when you are close to the top on one day, but then proceed to lose two players in one weekend which puts your future in the Diamond Division on the line. Things like these frustrations make you second guess a couple of steps and the overall junction of the team. I can only hope they find a good fifth player again and decide to continue playing as One Trick Pony. The aggressive style and the way they draft is highly entertaining and I wouldn’t want to miss that team in the competitive scene today.

Rise Again

This column has been about the rise of compLexity again, now the rise of [TteS]Tt eSPORTS is going to be discussed again. I wanted to write about this ever since I saw the GSL Qualifier where they reached the Semi-Finals by sweeping [357]QsQ. This team around the new captain LeonBlack` has been written dead so many times, but always managed to come back to the top – or at least close to the top.

After the team lost their star sLiCKz back in December, a lot of writers, players. and contributors to the scene have made their voices heard that this will be downfall of the majestic and traditional team in Tt eSports. With sLiCKz one of the only “old” members left, that helped to build up the staple that was Frenetic Array and then became Tt eSports. Only one original member in wyt` was left, surrounded by a bunch of talented and established players from a new time.

Still Tt eSports went out there and performed at a high level, even without their carry player sLiCKz being around. The team performed and even shocked the world when snapping the impressive winning streak of Trademark eSports in the third Cycle of the Diamond competition. The team was back on the podium and back into the consideration of being among the few elite teams that this scene has to offer. A new shock occurred when wyt` and Riser_ decided to step down or switch teams, forcing the squad to rebuild once again. This time CHEESEHELMET and Jeppins joined, two friends of the players for a long time. On paper it looked like a cohesive unit, but some concerns still stayed with people believing that it really was only a bunch of friends playing a game together, without a strong motivation or eagerness to prove their worth.

All those critics saw some light and validity to their argument in the fifth Cycle when Tt eSports finished in the double-digits ranks of the Diamond Division, one round after avoiding elimination. It seemed to be right that the new Tt eSports didn’t really had much drive, not much compatibility to perform to the highest of expectations that the name of the program still indicates.

Apparently the boys around the new captain LeonBlack` used their time and weekend off last week very good and so they came out ready to play this week. In the GSL Qualifier they put Pencils and QsQ away, in the Diamond Division [AiD]Afraid, [PNIS]Pencils and [Pika]Pikachu fell victim to the Americans already. Next up is Lions eSportsKlubb, the toughest test the new roster has to face after the reason upwards trend in their form. If they can overcome the Swedish team, their place in the Honcast Power Rankings has to be altered, as well as their spot in the discussion about elite teams. A squad that can go through that much and still come out on top is definitely worth a second look in that topic.

Hope to See You Again, Golden Boys

The topic of this column might as well have been the ups and downs in life – speaking about downs again. Four teams have to go to the Gold Division again after failing to record a single victory in two chances on Saturday. Among these are three recently promoted teams and The Fire Rises, who recently made it into the Top 10 of the Honcast Rankings. Still a position on that list is not guaranteeing a spot in the Diamond Division as iNsania has to lead his team back to Diamond again.

As far as my knowledge of the situation goes, The Fire Rises is still a highly talented and good team, but the spot in the HoN Tour Rankings is killing them and other competitors to be honest. Due to the deletion of all their points they are forced to play against Trademark eSports in every Diamond Cycle to then meet the 8th/9th placed team in the rankings in the Lower Bracket. In the current standings this would have been Absolute Legends and Pencils, but in the end it was Pencils. All the three teams have been in the Top 10 Honcast Rankings which essentially means that one of the best teams in Heroes of Newerth has to get demoted due to the fact that a great team got punished to the ground.

That triggered an interesting dynamic in the upper portion of the bracket, and this week The Fire Rises fell down to that dynamic. The team is highly competitive and can go toe-to-toe with Trademark eSports for the second Cycle in a row. However, they still have to go to Gold this time. After all there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they will play again in Diamond before the season ends – meaning they will place Top 4 in the seventh Cycle. In my mind they will even be the front-runner for that Gold Division as they are the only team in that division that has ever won a map against the most dominant squad in recent history. A good resume doesn’t win you games, but this bunch can use the opportunity to work out their chemistry, play-calling, tactics and synergy in the Gold League to then make a great impression back in Gold.

The other three teams are hard to judge at this point. I wouldn’t really go against [QsQ7]QsQ 777 to get into Diamond for a fourth time, setting a very respectable record if they succeed. They have made it back to Diamond two times before and even once managed to retain that status for more than a single Cycle. They are one of the classic “elevator” teams that are a common occurrence in German Football with teams reaching the first Bundesliga the one season by crushing their competition in the second Bundesliga, but they are just not good and consistent enough for the big leagues. I would place money on them getting back to Diamond once again, but just because of their history of prevailing in Gold.

[hade]HAVE IT and [CM]Clan Milk might be able to make it back into Diamond as well, depending on which teams will get promoted this time. They have proven their playing style once before and they haven’t been shut down in Diamond at all. As a matter of fact the current class of demotions might have been the most successful of them all. Only QsQ 777 didn’t manage to win a single map, all the other three teams won at least once – The Fire Rises even twice and against Pencils and Trademark eSports.

They all have the potential and the class to return to Diamond immediately, but some of the competition in Gold is not to be trifled with. For me the return of The Fire Rises is a lock, but the other three might struggle a little bit along the way. I would say QsQ 777 will get it done again, Clan Milk defeated The Fire Rises back in the SoundBlaster Heroes League qualifier so they are no joke either, only Have It has some question marks to it.

Winners and Losers

Closing the column as always is the Winners and Losers run-down of the last weekend. This time also the results of the GSL Qualifier will be featured in this category as I don’t usually have much high-level competition to pay attention to during the week. It’s a nice change of pace to be honest.

Winners of this week are compLexity Gaming, Trademark eSports, and Tt eSports, not to forget about Stay Green here.

Stay Green might even be the biggest winner of the week with them clinching that coveted spot for the Garena Star League 2021 the earliest. From now on they got that “monkey” off their back -- now they can look forward and solely prepare for the tasks at hand with the SoundBlaster Heroes League Championship Bracket and the remaining HoN Tour cycles. Also they can already look ahead to March when they will get the chance to travel to Thailand, an experience that might not come around again. A team that started off with a disappointing DreamHack Winter 2021 has come full-circle in a way, winning two major tournaments again with the chance to avenge that “LAN stain” on an even bigger stage.

compLexity Gaming deserves the spot here for obvious reasons as they battled their way back to the top. Just a couple of weeks after officially welcoming Riser_ into their midst they are back in a Final, the Upper Bracket Final against Trademark eSports. They could get revenge for all the defeats in the recent past against Lions eSportsKlubb and even Stay Green in the GSL Qualifier and the HoN Tour competition, directly trending upward in Rankings again. Now they will meet their old rivals in Trademark eSports for an epic clash and a little glimpse into the past.

Basically the same praise goes out to Tt eSports who have overcome yet another set of roster changes. The team just keeps on winning and winning when counted out. They are like a boxer that gets knocked down several times, but always comes back swinging. Hats off to the team and the morale within the team. I truly hope that LeonBlack` can stir that ship to victory on a consistent basis.

Last but not least Trademark eSports has to get recognition. They lost to Stay Green for the first time in a long time in the GSL Qualifiers, but came back strong in the Diamond Cycle. Once again they made it to the Upper Bracket Finals, and once again they are eying on a spot in the Grand Finals of HoN Tour. The victories in the first rounds put them in a prime position for success and open a lot of mathematical possibilities for them to already clinch that coveted spot for Las Vegas. Scary for the competition is that “commitment to excellence” attitude of the squad that immediately went back into hardcore scrimmage mode after losing to Stay Green. They have the attitude and work ethics of champions and it pays of week after week.

Among the Losers of this Week are The Fire Rises, Absolute Legends and One Trick Pony, all for a variety of reasons.

The Fire Rises and Absolute Legends are pretty similar in this regard, as they have been building up expectations with their Cycle 5 performances, but fell flat on several occasions. The Fire Rises got demoted and lost the opportunity to play for a lot of money in the SoundBlaster Heroes League with a loss to Clan Milk in the quarter-finals. Absolute Legends on the other hand is not going to get demoted. After a 5th/6th finish and a good performance at the beginning in the GSL Qualifier, they lost to Isot Pelit in the SoundBlaster Heroes League, followed by a loss to Afraid in the Lower Bracket Round 2. I am not talking down to Afraid, but the expectations for Absolute Legends ought to be much higher than 9th/12th spot in the Diamond Division.

The sad end point belongs to One Trick Pony this week. They did lose on the servers against [MlST]Team Mistral, and they lost off the servers with a discombobulated roster that has absolutely no synergy, no team spirit, and looked like a mess. I am not going to point my finger at anyone, but the way the “feel good story” of Cycle 5 went down in a hurry is just mindboggling and sad. They will most likely continue to play, but there reputation and status has lost a little bit through this whole incident. Not even the CIS Showmatch tournament win can change that, as it was overshadowed by drama.

- Sören "Fantasy"