Stay Green Answers

In the last column I asked whether [sG]Stay Green is the new king and ruler of Newerth or not. swindlemelonzz and his crew answered that question rather decisively and without really leaving much doubt. With a flawless performance on the first HoN Tour weekend they solidified their high ambitions and high goals for the upcoming weeks. I am skeptical every time a team comes up and gets one or two signature wins over their nemesis. Every time that happens I usually give the defeated team the benefit of the doubt and hope for a tremendous and intense rivalry to emerge, but in the case of Stay Green they look too strong – clear and simple.

This weekend was an indictment of what we've seen the last couple of weeks on a consistent basis. Ever since the team dominated their arch rivals [tdM]Trademark eSports in the Grand Final of the first GSL Qualifier, a slight wind of change has blown through the lands of Newerth. The Cycle 6 Championship turned this slight breath into a strong wind, until this weekend unleashed the storm.

Stay Green did not only march to the Upper Bracket Finals with ease, but their toughest opponents slipped and exposed quite a lot of weaknesses. Trademark eSports went to the Lower Bracket in the second round and got bounced out on the second day. [coL]compLexityGaming dropped a map against the unknown team of [vtD]Vietnamese Dream and then got totally obliterated by Stay Green themselves in the UB semi-finals. [LION]Lions eSportsKlubb and [357]QsQ both went to the Lower Bracket immediately from the start of the Cycle with Lions rebounding after all, but QsQ dropping to Gold. The last team from the Top 6, [TteS]Tt eSPORTS, had no chance against complexity in the Upper Bracket, and had to concede early in the Cycle with a second loss to Lions eSports in the third round of the Lower Bracket.

So while the reigning and defending champs are virtually toying around with their opponents, the rest of the bunch is slipping and falling left and right. This of course leaves the stage for the younger and newer teams like [aL]Absolute Legends and [AiD]Afraid, but they all got overshadowed by the new king in the land of Newerth – Stay Green. The coronation will still have to wait until they capture another Diamond Division Championship and might add one other major title, but they are destined for greatness at this moment. Two major events are being played this week and next week, a new Honcast Community Ranking will appear and then they will push away Trademark eSports, who will hopefully plot for revenge soon.

The Free Fall

It is no secret that I am a fan of Trademark eSports, but lately the team of my heart has been going through a deep slump. It all started with the first GSL Qualifier, where Trademark eSports lost to their nemesis Stay Green for the first time in a major competition. The downward spiral might have begun there, because ever since that event the greatness aura has been removed. It was quite similar to the change in greatness just last year when Trademark eSports finally overtook complexity Gaming. The Vanguard tournament and the HoN Tour Qualifier only three weeks before the big DreamHoN Winter Championship fueled Trademark eSports with positive energy and momentum, while the Gold Standard of that time, complexity Gaming, had to question themselves.

The same thing might have happened the last couple of weeks with Stay Green overtaking the spot from Trademark eSports. Stay Green steamrolled them in the GSL Qualifier, and then Trademark eSports went full-tilt on the last weekend of Cycle 6 competition. For the first time Trademark reached the Upper Bracket Final, but couldn’t win the entire tournament in the end. For the first time they went winless on the Championship weekend. They didn’t only lose to Stay Green, but also lost the rivalry battle against complexity Gaming, an opponent that they had dominated for the last couple of months. The torch might have still been in their hand, but they now have to pass said torch to Stay Green with their disastrous outing in Cycle 7. As I wrote about “firsts” above, this Cycle had a couple of new ones for the four-time Diamond Champions. They never went to the Lower Bracket after the first day of competition before, they've never lost to either Absolute Legends or [xCet]Team Excellent in HoN Tour before, and they've never finished as low as 7th/8th in the Diamond Division.

Now, the squad around captain Mynuts still managed to qualify for the GSL event through the second Qualfier with a good showing against complexity Gaming, but that positive emotion has been overwritten with this HoN Tour Cycle - the worst in the team’s history.

They now get the next weekend off and will play the SoundBlaster Heroes League on Thursday, but until then they can just focus on getting together and getting back in shape. Everyone has his opinion on these guys and everyone wants to see change happening, but that is not necessarily the point. Obviously you can point the finger in the direction of the cutting of iNsania and the pickup of Fittske to replace him, but I believe that is not the whole story. It might be a contributing factor and a good discussion point to say the very least, but Trademark won two Cycles with Fittske as well. iNsania might have been part of the glue that holds Trademark eSports together and he might have been a contributing factor for the cohesiveness on the inside, but jumping to the conclusion that Trademark would be sitting at five Diamond Championships and counting with iNsania still in the roster is not the right move to go.

He had internal issues with the captain Mynuts and apparently those couldn’t be resolved, so the “last step” was taken to clear the air. iNsania sure was a key component of the success of Trademark eSports, but when two players don’t get along with each other for a long period of time, at some point you have to take measures. The disappointing third Cycle was the time for Trademark to do so, and it served as an immediate fix. Now it is gut-check time and the period where morals come into the discussion.

Trademark eSports has time to fix the mess and from my understanding of the situation they will utilize that time to come back in the best possible shape for the SoundBlaster competition and the eighth and final Hon Tour Cycle.

Cinderella Stories Everywhere

HoN Tour has been a great platform for all sorts of teams to showcase their incredible talent, coordination, and special tactics. Teams like Domain of Pain, [OTP]One Trick Pony, and Absolute Legends were put up in front of a challenge and overcame it. Other teams like [oo7]We Are Spies, [DonD]DoberOnDamp, [DCx]Justice League, or even [F4NG]Fntastic4nGombos reached notoriety through participating in the highest league of the HoN Tour circuit, which snowballed even outside of HoN Tour, at least for We Are Spies.

This week’s Diamond Division had not one, but three Cinderella Stories with Absolute Legends, Afraid and Team Excellent overcoming huge adversities and gaining the spotlight for quite some time. First, credit where credit is due to Absolute Legends.

They have been one of the teams that I have been on the bandwagon only to crash and burn with it. Sometimes they are extremely frustrating to root and cheer for with their tight college schedule and other real-life commitments that are keeping them away from the game. Due to those crowded schedules they had to forfeit both GSL Qualifiers, and even went to the Gold Division with a lack of practice time. Still they are innovative, funny and highly talented with fan favorite Kookiez being their drafter. He might not have the most conventional approach to drafting, laning, and the game itself, but most of the crazy stuff he does with his team somehow works. He has reintroduced Pandamonium, they have played a very aggressive style, and they have fun while playing. In the first-ever Cycle of HoN Tour the team came out of the gates blazing through the competition, finishing fourth and gaining the attention of a major sponsor like Absolute Legends. After that the hype cooled down a bit with more, with more early exits and wacky performances until they returned to form in Cycle 5.

Still it was a up and down with this team as they weren’t able to qualify for the Sound Blaster Heroes League due to the fact that they only had time for one single attempt, and they went out early in Cycle 6 again. I started questioning myself as I really like this team and their personalities. Their stream is incredibly hilarious and the play style and passion they have for the game is very refreshing to watch. Now they can prove their talent on the big stage for the very first time as they enter the Upper Bracket Finals for the first time in their team’s history. They cinched a Top 3 finish for the first time as well, and can even extend that run on Championship Weekend.

Another great Cinderella story was undeniably Afraid, who had a terrific week with the GSL Qualifier outings and their HoN Tour performance Saturday and yesterday. First, they put up a great fight in the GSL against QsQ to make their first real splash in the scene for the wider audience. Still their inexperience or lack of routine might have been revealed in that quarterfinal series against QsQ, with Afraid throwing away two games and making Emperor rage. “That is why you get a Bound Eye, MAN!” was as much of a spot-on analysis as it was the neck-breaker in Game 3 against QsQ. Afraid was in a prime position to win that series and move to face Stay Green in the semifinals, but they blew it.

Still their name was mentioned much more than before after that terrific showing, and they backed up this hype and momentum with two great victories in the HoN Tour Upper Bracket and their first appearance on Championship Weekend. On their way to this great moment for the team around the great drafter and carry Jollem were no easy opponents as they edged out Lions eSports and demolished Team Excellent to get the chance to face Absolute Legends. Those Legends were a bit better than Afraid, but they now have no reason to have fear against anyone. Their drafting is solid, their carry player is racking up huge GPM numbers and is playing one of the emerging carries in Artillery almost to perfection. The coordination is there; everything seems to be running smoothly and in the right direction with this squad.

The same can be said for Team Excellent who are switching names like crazy, but at least their performances are consistent so far. This week was totally different though as they came a lot further than just avoiding elimination. They defeated legitimate top teams with QsQ and Trademark eSports on their way to reach the second weekend of HoN Tour competition - a first for these guys as well. Granted from the three miraculous and unexpected stories of the weekend they might have the weakest with victories over two struggling big names, but their accomplishment is still more than noteworthy. Especially when one looks at the standings, this team gets a giant boost through their performance. They secured a bunch of points, while only being down a couple to Pikachu before the Cycle started. Everything they get now will serve as a cushion for the final Cycle of HoN Tour on their quest to reach the 11th place at least.

They are Golden – Not Necessarily Great

Four teams every second week get promoted, four teams every second week get demoted. I would personally rather write about the fortunate teams that finally get a chance to showcase their skills in the Diamond Division as opposed to writing about teams collapsing and falling to Gold, but it needs to be done.

This week two big names are on the list of demotions, with One Trick Pony and QsQ losing their Diamond status; two of the original Diamond teams losing their spot. For One Trick Pony it was an unfortunate situation with a complete roster overhaul and then some personal commitments of one of the members to keep them away from at least competing. They fell victim to the “First Round FF” rule after all and will play the last and final Cycle of HoN Tour in Gold.

QsQ on the other hand was going through a rough time even before this Cycle with performance stagnation and some mediocre results. Still the drop to Gold was totally unexpected, at least from my own expectations. When the brackets were released it was clear that one talented team of four formidable squads will have to suffer the fall and compete in the Gold Division to close out the first season of HoN Tour. Still my prediction wouldn’t have been QsQ at all. Maybe this is not all bad after all, as it can serve as a wakeup call for the spoiled squad. Spoiled in this instance is not meant as something bad in any way, but ever since the project of Q sQuad was formed by NoVa, their path always went up. From the first major tournament, over the first playoff appearance and playoff victory in a major tournament, all the way to the first DreamHack participation of the young roster. Then a little bummer with the DH performance, but since then they recovered and placed at least Top 6 in every single one of the sixth Cycles. That streak snaps now and QsQ can use the time in Gold to get some confidence and their game back on for the incredibly important HoN Tour Qualifier for the Offline Finals that they will have to go through.

With these two big names departing the other two teams that have to go back to the Gold Division are almost forgotten – and that is not a good thing. Both Vietnamese Dream and Fntastic4nGombos had good outings in the Upper Bracket against two very tough opponents, but still performed well. Vietnamese Dream took a game away from complexity Gaming, while Fntastic4nGombos defeated Trademark eSports on one map. Still they couldn’t overcome their adversaries in the Lower Bracket elimination matches with We Are Spies sweeping the Gombos out of the premier league of HoN, and Vietnamese Dream being edged out by Pikachu. It is unfortunate for both, but Vietnamese Dream can still prove their talent in the Sound Blaster Heroes League, while Fntastic4nGombos can look ahead and prepare for Season 2 as an upcoming and talented team.

Winners and Losers

The ending of every Monday Morning Carry is always the Winners and Losers section, and this week is no different. This time Stay Green, Afraid, Absolute Legends and Team Excellent receive the honor of being the Winners of the Week, while Trademark eSports and QsQ receive the shame of being Losers of the Week.

For the Winners everything is already mentioned above. Stay Green is steps ahead of the competition with an impressive run through the entire bracket of the Diamond Division on the heels of their two major victories in the GSL Qualifier and in Cycle 6. On top of that, they benefit from their main rivals slipping to claim the number one spot in Power Rankings right now – at least in my book.

Afraid, Absolute Legends, and Team Excellent all share the same story with all of them coming out of “nowhere” to reach the second weekend of HoN Tour. For Absolute Legends the second weekend is no news though, as they placed 5th/6th twice before. For Afraid and Team Excellent those experience will be the first of that kind. How can they perform when the real lights are on is the question, but right now only the spotlights of this column is on them.

As far as the Losers of the Week, QsQ and Trademark eSports are pretty much the first names that come to mind. I usually don’t like to complain on such a high level as Trademark eSports is still performing with the 7th/8th place and a secured spot in the GSL, but the outcome of this Cyle and this weekend's performance were just subpar measured by their own standards. They might be able to rebound and come out strong with a little rest and some time to regroup, but for now they are down and out of the Cycle for a painful weekend.

QsQ is out of the Diamond Cycle for more than just a painful weekend, as the team won’t have the chance to ever compete in that high and prestigious division of HoN Tour ever again in Season 1. The form curve has shown down for the last couple of weeks, and this column highlighted the stagnation in form and performance last week. I couldn’t have imagined QsQ dropping out of Diamond though, but that became reality Saturday night.

To end this with a quote from NoVa describing the situation very drastically, but quite fittingly: "At least next cycle is last one. Makes it impossible to drop to Bronze."

"- Sören ""Fantasy""