By quincy0191

We’re so close to the start of HoN Tour Season 3, and with the qualifiers over, we know which eight teams will be heading to Diamond Division for the first cycle. BMG, SynC, Reason, willowkeeper, The Last of US, and Shrek is Love will be joined by amateur division stars Dawn and the return of the REXXARS.

This also gives us the first opportunity to see how Cycle 1 might shake out, in the premiere edition of HoN Tour Season 3 Power Rankings! Opinions were culled from BreakyCPK, MiniMaggot, Beef, myself, three Diamond players, two Diamond teams, and the community to arrive at a consensus 1-8 rank of the Diamond Division:

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8. Shrek is Love (Ogr); Average Rank – 7.8

Poor Ogr. They went just 1-20 in Cycle 2 of Carnage in Caldavar, looking every bit the inexperienced team in games against top-tier competition as well as more middle-of-the-pack players. Their one victory came against Reason Gaming late in the cycle, where they managed to beat a 600 GPM Wretched Hag played by Xibbe.

That kind of performance can make any team look destined for Gold after Cycle 1, but we should keep in mind that they now have a lot more competitive experience than a new team, Dawn. REXXARS looked very good in the qualifiers, meanwhile, but their time away after Cycle 1 might hurt them.

On the other hand, they reportedly have not been scrimming much since the end of Carnage play, and their entry into the pro division of Cycle 2 came primarily as a result of REXXARS choosing not to play that cycle. Shrek is Love has a lot to prove if they want to hang around Diamond for Cycle 2, and they’re generally considered the favorite for demotion.

7. The Last of US (tUS); Average Rank – 6.4

Holy roster changes, Batman! tUS survived both cycles of Carnage, but just barely, and has undergone more shakeups than any other team. In Cycle 1 they fielded a typical lineup of miestybro, Diglet_, BeaverBanger, FuzzySloth, and WhaT_YoU_GoT. For Cycle 2 they replaced miestybro and BeaverBanger with `Drentz` and SwiftLame. Now the replacements are gone in favor of Narcy and mrzy. Meanwhile, `Drentz`, SwiftLame, and BeaverBanger (along with occasional tUS ringer Resher) have joined up to form Blue Dingleballs, who placed well in the qualifier match and may yet see Diamond in Season 3.

That inconsistency is the biggest issue when it comes to The Last of US. They can’t seem to find a consistent five-man roster, which essentially stops them from being able to develop as a team. It’s a testament to their ability to adapt and maintain, but naturally there are questions about dedication and team chemistry.

It’s worth noting that only tUS and Dawn had a standard deviation over 1 in their rankings, indicating that those two teams had the largest variation. tUS placed as high as 4th and as low as 8th – though of course that 4th place ranking was given by their own captain – so if you’re looking for a wildcard, you’ve found it.

[size]6. REXXARS (KNX); Average Rank – 6[/size]

This might be unfair for a team that took third place in Cycle 1 of Carnage in Caldavar. You may not recognize their names as they are no longer all actually REXXARS, but the players on the current iteration of KNX all played in CiC. On the other hand, arguably their most important player is now a member of the opposition.

iNsania – aka AZUREREXXAR – is now a member of SynC, and it remains to be seen how they will perform at the top level without the experience of a veteran competitive player in the captain position. These guys are all clearly excellent HoN players, but not every pub star turns into a great pro.

Most critical is the issue of how they will handle any sort of adversity. REXXARS made the HoN Tour Season 2 playoffs, but you might not remember them actually playing much. They lost 0-2 to SynC in their first match of Group B, then forfeited rather than play the Loser’s Match. After losing iNsania they disbanded instead of finding a replacement and playing Cycle 2. And in the Grand Finals match against Dawn, when ping issues arose in Game 1, they quickly forfeited and essentially threw the second game.

That’s the sort of thing that can get a team bounced from Diamond very quickly. The talent is absolutely there for REXXARS. They’ve been together long enough to play well as a team. The only thing standing in their way might be their ability to play when frustrated. If they can, KNX will be dangerous. If they can’t, they’re likely headed for Gold or worse.

5. Dawn (Dawn); Average Rank – 5.6

Dawn pretty much came out of nowhere. After qualifying for Diamond, team captain sertas confirmed they were a new team, but they certainly haven’t looked like one. Dawn rolled through the qualifiers without losing a single game, and consistently did very well in the Amateur Division in Carnage. Characterized by aggressive team play, it’s hard not to be reminded of BMG when watching them.

Now that I’ve dropped that comparison, let’s look at the downside: they have virtually no competitive experience, really the only team here that fits that description. Whether that plays a significant role is unknown, but I’ll put it this way: Shrek is Love looked really good in scrims against mid-tier teams before entering serious competitive play. Winning the qualifiers is not the same as beating top-tier mainstays.

It would nonetheless be surprising not to see Dawn at least survive Cycle 1, and there’s a legitimate chance they could win games or even a series from any of the teams above them, including the Big Two. We haven’t really seen Dawn fail yet, so expectations are high.

4. willowkeeper (tree); Average Rank – 3.8

Not only is this where the line between top four and bottom four is drawn, it’s the biggest discrepancy between any two rankings on the entire list. Dawn and tree are separated by nearly two points, and it’s safe to say that here is where we go from “team that could surprise or could get demoted” to a squad that could easily be in Diamond for the entire season. willowkeeper had a nice coming out party in Cycle 2 of CiC, showing skill, teamwork, and a willingness to experiment.

The big battle for them is therefore going to be getting over Reason Gaming. The difference between tree and Reason is also the second-smallest gap between any two teams, so they should have a legitimate shot at third place or perhaps higher if they can show real improvement. Displacing BMG or SynC on a regular basis is likely asking too much, but it’s not out of the question.

Their biggest advantage is their dedication. MiniMaggot labeled them “the hardest working team in HoN,” and that epithet is an enormous boost to the chances of any team. They’re certainly not lacking in individual talent by any means, but the sort of attitude that causes a team to believe they can be the best and has them put the hours in to achieve that goal will by itself help them reach it. Confidence can get a team far, and tree has every reason to be confident.

3. Reason Gaming (Rea); Average Rank – 3.4
Reason are in a slightly odd position. It feels like they’re almost on the decline with up-and-comers willowkeeper on their heels, and what appears to be a significant gap between them and second place. The recent decision to drop SaintroX from their roster is going to add questions to a team that has never really been able to consistently put its name among the best in HoN.

Yet they’re consistently considered the third-best team right now, placing there on the majority of lists. There are essentially two ways to look at Reason Gaming: as a team that’s never been a legitimate challenger to the #1 position in HoN, or as a team that is consistently good and slowly but surely climbing the ladder.

Perhaps it’s unfair to compare Reason now and Reason six months ago; after all, the only players who are the same are ImbaBoy and Z4NE. This is mostly a different team. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen. Maybe change will beget growth, and suddenly we’ll be talking about three consistent teams in contention for first place. Maybe Reason will stagnate and be passed by willowkeeper, Dawn, or others. In any case, there is opportunity and danger ahead.

2. SynC eSports (SynC); Average Rank – 1.8

The perennial also-ran. Since the departure of Stay Green, the favored opinion is that there is one team at the top, and it’s not Flensmeister’s crew. To their credit, they have not been discouraged by the dominance of BMG, and made a roster change for Cycle 2 that reflected a desire to get better and eventually knock off the monkeys.

While SynC was almost universally ranked as the #2 team in HoN, both Diglet_ and MiniMaggot’s rankings reflect a different opinion. We’ll get to some issues that hurt BMG in a moment, but the latter’s decision reflects SynC’s recent activity as much as anything. Apparently SynC have been scrimming a lot lately, and KheZu, Zlapped, and iNsania have been playing their fair share of TMM. That might not translate into immediate success, but it couldn’t hurt, and it’s the sort of dedication necessary for SynC to climb the mountain. BMG’s reign at the top has gone on for awhile, and SynC are looking to exploit any weakness they can find.

1. Bad Monkey Gaming (BMG); Average Rank – 1.2

Could there be anyone else? BMG have barely lost since the exit of Stay Green, and to be fair they were consistently beating sG as well in online play towards the end of HoN Tour Season 2. They couldn’t handle the LAN champions in person, but now that their long-time nemesis has withdrawn their name from consideration, it’s difficult to consider anyone else. Simply put, BMG have been dominant.

Here’s the problem, though: nobody cares about “have been” when you lost arguably your best player in Limmp and one of the best carries in the game in fUzi (RIP). BMG really took off when they replaced Flensmeister with fUzi, and without their dynamic carry or the half of the Vanguard Brothers there are holes in the armor. No doubt returning mid player Superkge and his god hooks won’t be much of a downgrade – if at all – but whether Xibbe can adequately replace fUzi is a question.

Until they show a serious decline in play, BMG have to be considered the favorites for first place in Cycle 1. Even with a fUzi-less roster, they took the Cycle 2 Grand Finals three games to one. The subsequent departure of Limmp will likely have an even larger impact, but it still might not be enough to put BMG in legitimate danger of losing the crown.

Look forward to new power rankings after each Cycle, and of course a big thanks to MiniMaggot and the rest of the contributors for their votes!