Stay Green Rolls

There is only one word that comes to mind when thinking about [sG]stayGreen's performance in the last HoN Tour Diamond Division Cycle – dominance. For the first time in the history of the Diamond Division, a team did not only win the coveted Diamond title, but also never had to concede a single map. [tdM]Trademark eSports tried it numerous times, but mostly got denied by [coL]compLexityGaming, Stay Green, or in the later Cycle Championships by [TFR]The Fire Rises right from the get-go. Now the milestone is set and Stay Green becomes the new “Diamond Standard.”

It is not only this performance that puts Stay Green over the edge on the rankings, but also the symbolic appeal that this victory has as a whole. For the first time another team (that is not named Trademark eSports) could claim two consecutive Diamond titles. For the first time Trademark eSports is not sitting on top of the HoN Tour Rankings, and for the first time Trademark eSports did not even reach the Championship Weekend in the prestigious Diamond Division. All those factors taken into account can simply lead to only one outcome – Stay Green is the new Number One in the Heroes of Newerth scene.

The last couple of weeks posted an impressive winning streak for the boys from Miami Beach, collecting three different tournament victories. First off they “upset” the scene with a clean and clear sweep against former Number One Trademark eSports in the first GSL Qualifier. It was not only a win, but it was a sign of things to come. In an interview later swindlemelonzz revealed, that he was in the head of his opposing drafter Mynuts, knowing exactly what he was going to do after the initial first map was taken by Stay Green. After having a secured ticket to the mega-event in Bangkok, Thailand, the day-to-day business of HoN Tour was on the agenda for Stay Green. The only team that could contest the dominance of the squad was compLexity Gaming, who did at least manage to take away maps against their rivals. They did win some battles, but the war ultimately was won by General swindlemelonzz and his troops.

Now the latest shining trophy can be added to the imaginary shrine in the Stay Green apartment complex as yet another Diamond title was added. When I say imaginary shrine, they might also take into consideration of building a real trophy case fairly soon. As the dominant team of the dominant region they will enter the Garena Star League 2024 as the favorite to win it all; as the Number One seed in the HoN Tour Rankings they will be the favorite to win the entire first season of HoN Tour, as well. Tournament victories in those cups will not only give a nice purse to the players, but also produce real hardware to show off.

In that segment I am not even going into the Sound Blaster Heroes League that will conclude this Thursday, most likely with a Grand Final appearance of Stay Green. They could make this a very boring period in Heroes of Newerth as even the peers like miesty`` from [aL]Absolute Legends have made their thoughts public: that Stay Green might be the most dominant squad that HoN has ever witnessed. Still Trademark eSports captain Mynuts claimed that they will be prepared when the lights are on, compLexity Gaming will come out blazing in Las Vegas, and the “wildcard” candidate also have a little extra motivation now. One thing is for sure: Stay Green are no longer the hunter, now they will need to prove that they can not only hunt down opponents, but also can fight off every hunter that is now gunning for them.

Disappointing LB Finals

Even more discussed than the third HoN Tour Diamond Championship for Stay Green was the Lower Bracket Final between Absolute Legends and compLexity Gaming. Due to scheduling issues, compLexity Gaming had to either force two very quick victories over Absolute Legends or produce two quick losses against Absolute Legends to be on time for their Sound Blaster Heroes League game against [BYE]A HonTour Team. Since Absolute Legends was ultimately aware of the situation and the circumstances of their match, it was highly unlikely that the squad around Kookiez would concede prematurely. The only option was a forfeit or a quick loss to Absolute Legends to avoid the forfeit rule.

CompLexity Gaming decided to play the match, to avoid said punishment, running an aggressive strategy on the first map that brought them an early advantage. That advantage was still nowhere near as decisive for Absolute Legends to concede the match right after 15 minutes, so compLexity Gaming decided to concede instead. It was a strange sighting, but it wasn't as strange as the ensuing map.

First the draft saw a lot of “unconventional” heroes like Gauntlet, Slither, and Blitz, but that wasn't even the weirdest part. CompLexity Gaming decided to try the Lvl. 1 Kongor, the Legends spotted it and a 15 minute Midwars broke out. While it might have provided some entertainment with a 10-men Kongor attempt, that was ultimately interrupted by bkid surging in as Magmus. It also featured a Quad Kill by MoonMeander's Engineer, one of the highlights in the contest.

Despite providing entertainment for the masses, the professionalism of the competition was diminished by it. As much as I understand the reasoning behind the quick concedes to be able to play in a huge tournament of your own sponsor, it is still baffling to me to reschedule that SBHL match to such an unfortunate time slot. The Diamond times are fixed months in advance, repeating week after week. It might have been hard to reschedule a match that one team had no real interest in rescheduling, but still, the way it turned out was not really in the interest of compLexity Gaming nor HoN Tour.

Debuting on Championship Weekend

Two of the six teams that had the honor and privilege to play the second weekend in the Diamond Division Cycle stepped on new ground. [xCet]Team Excellent and [AiD]Afraid had incredibly strong outings on their first weekend with upset victories. Excellent was able to push [357]QsQ into the Lower Bracket and Trademark eSports out of the entire tournament, while Afraid came out ahead against [LION]Lions eSportsKlubb and Team Excellent to make a run all the way into the Diamond Division Semi-Finals – another first for the team.

Despite the strong performances on the first week, both teams soon realized that the competition only gets tougher on the second weekend. Ultimately both teams had to suffer defeat by the hands of compLexity Gaming, but Afraid at least scored a victory on their debut at the Weekend.

First things first, Team Excellent against compLexity Gaming. It was close, it was tight, and it was thrilling. The two teams battled for all three maps, but in the end the more known and established team prevailed. It is not the first time this has happened to Team Excellent, who have made tremendous strides in the last couple of weeks, but that little something is still missing. In their contest against Trademark eSports in the Sound Blaster Heroes League they were in control for most of the third game, but then took an ill-advised crack at the opposing tower that blew up right in their faces. It was pretty similar to the contest with compLexity on the weekend. It wasn't a stomp or anything lopsided by any means, but it came down to a couple of mistakes committed by the young and still inexperienced team of Excellent. On Championship Weekend those mistakes come back to haunt you, and probably no team is better at capitalizing and feeding off of your minor mistakes than compLexity is. Their time will come though, maybe even in the HoN Tour Offline Finals Qualifier.

Now to Afraid, a team that has made a lot of headlines in the last weeks. First they had a great run in the second GSL Qualifier with an appearance in the quarterfinals, almost kicking out QsQ to reach the semis. Then they come out of the gates in the HoN Tour Diamond Division with a victory over an established Top 10 team in Lions eSports, ultimately reaching the Diamond Semi-Finals in the Upper Bracket. The victory over Lions eSports wasn't a fluke was proven this Saturday with a 2-1 repeat of the first round victory over the Swedish team. The victory granted Afraid a Top 4 finish, but also brought them into a crushing competition with compLexity Gaming. In that Best of Three the young team realized that they should be afraid of a couple of squads that are still a step better. Like Team Excellent their time will come; with that finish they improved their seeding significantly and will not only get another crack at the Diamond Division in the next week, but also get a favorable seeding in the important Offline Qualifiers for the big event in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Hello Again (Ich sag einfach, Hello Again)

Yes I am German, yes I know this old “Schlager” of Howard Carpendale, yes it is a god-awful song, but the text is too fitting for the Gold Division class that earned a promotion. After all the “firsts” discussed in this column, yet another “first” can be added to that list. Never before were all four promoted teams come-backers. Every team has already played at least one Diamond Division Cycle.

Topping the list is the reigning Gold Champion with [Due1]Do You Even Lift Bro, who made an incredible run through the Gold Division – another first as they lost one single map in every match they played. Ultimately that resonates in a 12-6 map record with a 6-0 series record, being among the greats of the Gold Champions with the series record, but the worst in map record. The firsts keep on coming, as Do You Even Lift Bro were one of the first four teams to ever earn a promotion into the Diamond Division. Unfortunately they couldn't last long in the top shelf of the competitive scene, as they forfeited their matches and got knocked down by default in the second Cycle. On paper they have experience in Diamond, but a closer look reveals that no match against the tough competition was ever played.

Second in Gold is [DCx]Justice League, an old friend of this column. The former QsQ777 is one of the only few teams that has made an appearance in many editions of the Monday Morning Carry, with mixed emotions attached. Mostly it was because they either got promoted into Diamond again or went back to Gold straight away. Still the team is one of the 16 original HoN Tour Diamond Division teams, they have played four Diamond Division Cycles, retaining their status only once. Now they get their last chance to polish up that résumé to close out the first season of HoN Tour on a high note.

The appearance of The Fire Rises was shaky to say the least. They have made it through the Gold Division as the third best team, but their captain iNsania also announced on Facebook yesterday that the flame is extinguished and the team disbanded. So either the team will get some folks together to play for the team, or they will have to forfeit right away.

Last but not least on the promotion list is [hade]HAVE IT, a team that got promoted two Cycles ago and demoted again one Cycle ago. Now they have their second attempt to face the best of the best in the NA/EU scene to redeem themselves for their debut season.

It might be a bit pointless to discuss which team has the potential to retain their status in Diamond, as no following Cycle will have those teams again, but still I am trying to predict the demotions. I think The Fire Rises is a pretty safe bet with their disbanding status hanging in the balance. Even when they get a five-man group together this quickly, it won't have the best results right away. My second and third team is Have It and Do You Even Lift Bro, followed by [DonD]DoberOnDamp. This is solely based on my hopes to finally see Justice League win a match after a promotion. They deserve it!

Winners and Losers

My usual closing statement of the Monday Morning Carry column is the Winners and Losers category of the week. This time I can also take the results of the Sound Blaster Heroes League Round 16 into account. Judging from that, my winners are Stay Green and Absolute Legends, for various reasons.

Stay Green seems like the most obvious choice and rightfully so. The last couple of weeks have been utterly dominated by Stay Green who play out of everyone else's league. Most of the matches these guys are playing are not even real contests, they are just showcases for the greatness that Stay Green brings to the table these days. They are the clear Number One team, and teams like compLexity Gaming and Trademark eSports need to come up with something new or something really awesome to kick them off the throne for now.

Second is Absolute Legends, for their first Grand Final appearance. Unfortunately that accomplishment is overshadowed by the road that took them there. Still, in a results-based world, the circumstances of that Grand Final appearance will soon be forgotten and only the numbers and records of that Cycle will say “Absolute Legends, Grand Final Cycle 7.”

As for the Losers of the Week, I will go with Lions eSports and Team Excellent on this column.

Lions eSports because of their relatively early exit from the HoN Tour Diamond competition after placing Top 4 in the last three Cycles. While it was not a big letdown that the Swedish organization delivered on Saturday, two losses to the same opponent are worrisome. You might be doing something wrong or have exposed a weakness that causes another team to own you -- it can be a slippery slope from that. Still the team is still alive in the SBHL; they will get a to seed for the HoN Tour Offline Qualifiers, and they have a chance to get another Top 4 placement in the eighth Cycle if HoN Tour.

As far as Team Excellent goes, it is not that they are a bad team or anything, it is just the kind of week the boys had. They pushed two top teams to the limits, but they winded up eliminated on both occasions. They are still a young team, they are still inexperienced, and they still need a little bit more time to grow together as a unit, but all the pieces are there. Still the fact stays that they walked into this week with a lot of momentum and a lot of talk, but ended up with a 0-2 series record.

To quote the skits from First Take this week: “Women lie, Men lie, Numbers don't lie!”

"- Sören ""Fantasy""