By quincy0191

Cycle 1 is over, complete, finished, ended, done, and gone. We saw former Diamond teams The Last of US and Shrek is Love relegated to the Gold Division, and tUS has in fact disbanded as well. Those two teams finished 7th and 8th respectively in the last edition of the Power Rankings, so we’re looking at a pretty good track record here.

The new Diamond entrants are Gold champions Nullstone Gaming (Null) and Moes Tavern, now known as WOP WOP (W0P). Meanwhile, the departure of Handsken, Jonassomfan, and Sealkid has produced a reincarnated BMG, with a roster of Xibbe, Superkge, Support, Tankafett, and Haxxeren. Since the community poll was put up with BMG instead of BMG, I have elected to simply remove them from the community rankings, so they will have eight rankings instead of nine.

Here are this cycle’s teams:

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8. WOP WOP (W0P) – Average Rank 7.3
WOP WOP lost six games in the Gold Division last cycle, a bit of a surprising total given their seven victories. But the composition of those six losses is what matters: they dropped one game to Donkekong (DNKE), and five to Nullstone Gaming, the other new team in Diamond this cycle. They were 7-1 against teams that weren’t Null, and 0-5 against their promotion buddies. That’s likely the sort of thing that puts them eighth overall in the current rankings; they are strong enough to beat up on most of the Gold Division, but how they will fare against Diamond teams certainly remains to be seen.

Things won’t be easy as they start out with a Round of 8 match against reigning champs SynC eSports, and it certainly seems like an early trip to the Losers Bracket is in the cards. But this is not a team without experience in the upper echelons; LEEEEEROOY (AKA ImbaPingu) and DR0GEN both rang in CiC, the former for willowkeeper and the latter for Shrek is Love. They’ve got some history and could surprise some people.

7. Nullstone Gaming (Null) – Average Rank 6.7
Null finished third in the HTS3 qualifiers, just missing out on Cycle 1 play themselves, and if WOP WOP have pro experience, then these guys definitely do. `Drentz`, BeaverBanger, Resher, WhaT_YoU_GoT, and SwiftLame all played regularly for tUS during CiC. While The Last of US is technically no more, one could be forgiven for mistaking this team for that one.

They clearly proved themselves too strong for Gold as well. They did not drop a single game the entire cycle, going 11-0 against the likes of PepsiMax, The Solaire Club, Instant Reflex, and WOP WOP, four very good teams. They’ll be facing the re-formed BMG team initially, and out of all the first round matches this is the one that is most likely to be a significant upset. Their opponents don’t have a lot of experience playing together, and these guys have that and some talent behind them as well.

6. REXXARS (KNX) – Average Rank 5.9
The REXXARS got a bit of a reprieve in their Losers Bracket Round 1 match as tUS was unable to field five players, and therefore forfeited. That’s not to say they couldn’t have beaten the North American squad – certainly their strong performance in CiC suggests otherwise – simply that they really avoided the threat of relegation entirely. After being summarily dispatched by Reason Gaming, KNX will look to move a little further forward this time.

That should be slightly easier with a first round match against willowkeeper, though tree won’t exactly be a pushover. At this point, though, facing anyone that isn’t SynC or BMG in the first round should be a relief. REXXARS will need to step it up a bit if they want to avoid another early trip to the lower bracket, but it’s much more feasible now than it was last cycle, and with an easier path they might see some good money.

5. Dawn (Dawn) – Average Rank 5.2
It would be difficult not to call Dawn’s first time in Diamond Division anything but a disappointment. They certainly had their moments, but they did not look like a team in the same league as SynC eSports in their Round of 8 match, and let Shrek is Love get far too close to advancing. While they avoided moving down to Gold, they did so just barely, losing five games and winning just two.

Certainly Dawn is a strong group of talent, and they run idiosyncratic heroes like Oogie, keeping their opponents off balance and guessing during the drafting phase. Of course, that can also work against them if they pick something too off-the-wall. But with what has to be considered a slightly weaker field this cycle, Dawn should have little difficulty remaining in Diamond this cycle, and if they can recapture the team that stunned the qualifiers they could go far.

4. Bad Monkey Gaming (BMG) – Average Rank 4.3
It’s really hard to know what to make of these guys. We had rankings varying from 2nd to 7th, and it’s mostly because this is a team we haven’t seen before. Although they were able to take BMG’s place in the rankings due to the continued presence of Xibbe and Superkge, as well as Support’s inclusion as a backup player, this five man team is entirely different from the BMG squad we saw during most of the last few months.

Will they be just as good as their name-brand players suggest they can be? Or will they fall the way of Potato and lose early, despite boasting established talent? It’s hard to imagine they have significant team chemistry given their lack of experience playing together, but it’s also hard to imagine BMG bowing out early, even if this isn’t quite the same BMG.

3. Reason Gaming (Rea) – Average Rank 2.9
The departure of SaintroX and the addition of Pew has produced a different but likely similarly talented Reason Gaming squad. They looked great against Ogr and held their own against SynC, then beat REXXARS 2-0 before losing by the same score to willowkeeper. The Rea-tree rivalry might be the closest we’ve currently got, and while the #1 team right now is pretty obvious, the fight for second place is quite close. Reason lost out last cycle, but there’s no doubt that they could see the Grand Finals this time around with BMG out of the picture.

2. willowkeeper (tree) – Average Rank 2.33
There’s less separation here than anywhere else, and while willowkeeper generally came out ahead, this is new territory for them. They have been around for some time, but never this close to the top spot in HoN. Thanks to a few months of hard work and some good fortune with top teams leaving the scene, they’ve been able to steadily climb the ladder and are currently expected to be the biggest challenge for SynC.

Some people might think that it won’t actually be a challenge, with SynC just being far too good for tree to handle. I might remind those people of the fights tree put up against BMG in the last cycle, eventually falling to a 4-1 record but looking substantially better than that over the teams’ two series. Considering how much difficulty SynC had beating BMG, and how much difficulty BMG had beating willowkeeper, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a hotly contested Cycle 2 Grand Finals between these two teams, and maybe even a willowkeeper victory.

1. SynC (SynC) – Average Rank 1.0
There wasn’t really any other contender for this spot. For the last several months it’s been BMG-SynC at the top. Last cycle that got flipped to SynC-BMG as Flensmeister and crew finally beat their rivals, needing every bit of that one-game advantage to do so. Without Handsken and a bunch of his old buddies around, it’s more or less impossible to argue SynC isn’t the best team in HoN right now, and if they don’t win Cycle 2 it will be a huge upset and a major disappointment.

At the same time, we’ve been wrong before. Last cycle, in fact, where just two of 10 lists put SynC over BMG, producing eight of ten incorrect evaluations and a #1 team that was actually #2. So while the expectation is absolutely for a cycle victory, SynC and fans might want to be careful about assuming it before anyone actually plays any games.