By quincy0191

We’re about to be halfway through HoN Tour Season 3, and SynC eSports continues to pretty much dominate the competition. There isn’t much else to say – willowkeeper have shown some fight, but in four consecutive series now SynC has come out on top, and even if tree wins a cycle soon it’ll be hard to dethrone the current champions atop most peoples’ lists. For the first time, and with more lists than ever, they swept the first place votes.

As a programming note, if you voted in the last community poll for this week’s rankings you might have noticed a change. Instead of doing a top 8 and including only the teams in Diamond this cycle, we’re allowing lists to include any team (except for WOP DASH, as they had some significant roster changes and so are in a bit of a flux). So instead of average rank, each team gets points – 10 for 1st place, 9 for 2nd, etc. – and will be ranked according to highest score.

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Honorable Mention – Twisted Fusion (TwFu), 10 points

Honorable Mention – REXXARS (KNX), 15 points

Honorable Mention – Not Excellent (xCet), 15 points

Honorable Mention – Shrek is Love (Ogr), 27 points

8. Prime Icarus (PI), 39 points
I was so close to having bragging rights. So close. Excuse me while I toot my own horn, but on the last podcast I predicted Prime Icarus would win Gold. Breaky, Minimaggot, and probusk all said “Who?” PI came in 2nd place, losing the Grand Finals three games to two against Dawn, and if they hadn’t picked Aluna…but that’s a conversation for another day.

If you haven’t heard of this team – and they’re relatively new, so it’s likely – they’re mostly players from the old Donkekong (DNKE) squad, specifically Slaskedyret (mid), Shorkan (jungle, stud), and FiIe (suicide). The addition of Znoowy (support) and sertas (carry) revitalized the team, and after losing in the Winner’s Bracket Semifinals, they slogged through the Loser’s Bracket to reach the Grand Finals and will be in Diamond next cycle. They were omitted on a couple of lists, and most of those who ranked them believe they will drop to Gold again after this cycle. I am not one of those people.

7. Dawn (Dawn), 57 points
Speaking of probusk, look who’s got a new team and is on his way back to Diamond after leaving Reason Gaming. The excellent former mid player latched on to Dawn after their carry and drafter in sertas departed for PI, and played amazingly well in Cycle 3 as Dawn cruised through the Winner’s Bracket and nearly had an easy Grand Finals victory as well – a sub-20 minute Game 1 win had them up 2-0 against PI thanks to the Winner’s Bracket 1-0 advantage.

This iteration of Dawn is slightly different and looks improved; it’s not often you seen a player leave one team to join another and have them both end up coming out ahead. But sertas is fitting in very well with Prime Icarus and probusk is proving more than capable as his replacement, and though Dawn might still have trouble staying in Diamond for very long, it seems their chances are improved.

6. Night Raid (NR), 58 points
AKA The Last of US, NR made another roster change after Cycle 3, dropping Narcy in favor of Babygoatar. Last cycle’s additions of KingPlato and Present23 (Present25) apparently weren’t enough for them, and they had an…interesting turn of things. An early drop to the Loser’s Bracket likely was inevitable considering they had to face SynC eSports in the Round of 8, but after a Game 1 win and then forfeit victory against WOP DASH, they came out with a surprising triumph over the new and seemingly improved Reason Gaming to stay alive.

But in their Loser’s Bracket Semifinals match against Bad Monkey Gaming, they didn’t quite look the part of a team that had just defeated Rea, with a quick 2-0 loss and a fourth-place exit. No doubt they went further than some might expect, especially considering they were the eighth-place seed coming into the cycle. Are they the team that’s good enough to beat Reason, or the team that looked somewhat overmatched against BMG? Maybe both.

t-4. Reason Gaming (Rea), 88 points
And here’s why the HoN competitive scene is so great right now. Reason had massive roster changes after Cycle 2, and came out fighting in Cycle 3. They took what was an absolutely shocking win over Nullstone Gaming 2-0 in the Round of 8 to face willowkeeper in the Winner’s Bracket Semifinals. Then they nearly won that series, with three games that were all hotly contested. New Reason was looking like a force.

Then they lost to The Last of US (now Night Raid of course) in two games and bowed out. A team that had come up from Gold, lost quickly against SynC – again, no surprise – and then taken a free trip to the second round of the Loser’s Bracket thanks to a forfeit beat the team that looked evenly matched against willowkeeper. So again, we have to ask: is Reason top three or even top two material, based on their play in the first two rounds? Or are they mid or even lower tier in Diamond, based on their 5/6th place finish? I don’t think it’s out of the question to say that HoN has more depth in the middle right now than it’s had in years, with even some of the Honorable Mention teams up there with good competitive histories and teams in the middle of Diamond that are jockeying for position.

t-4. Nullstone Gaming (Null), 88 points
And it just continues, with yet another team that could reasonably be ranked anywhere between third and eighth. Nullstone Gaming finished third in Cycle 2, after all, surprising everyone by taking out Bad Monkey Gaming in the Loser’s Bracket Semifinals. Then they lost 0-2 to Reason in the Round of 8 and avoided relegation thanks to a 2-0 win against Twisted Fusion, before getting beaten by BMG 2-1 to end their run in 5/6th place along with Reason.

So again, is Null the team that got third in Cycle 2? Are they a mid-tier Diamond team? Are they a high-tier Gold team that could be relegated this cycle? All these things are possible and more, but more will cost extra. And I’m not asking these questions to overuse a rhetorical device or fill space – I legitimately do not know the answers, and I suspect that no one is particularly confident. Several players have commented in compilation of these lists that ranking the middle tier is exceedingly difficult. They are not wrong.

3. Bad Monkey Gaming (BMG), 113 points
For the most part, though, 1-2-3 seem to be pretty set. As said earlier, SynC swept first place, while tree took 12 of 14 second place votes. BMG, for their part, grabbed a similar 11 third-place votes, though their two of the three outliers put them in the #2 position. The new iteration of BMG seems to be well settled as the bronze medalist, though something tells me they’re not particularly happy with that finish.

Considering they are a fairly new team, it isn’t surprising it took them a bit of time to get going, and the 4th-place departure in Cycle 2 can be forgiven; Cycle 3’s No. 3 rank and corresponding placement on these rankings seems to suit them much better for the time being, but as they get going willowkeeper will have to watch out. BMG stretched the limits of tree’s powers in Cycle 3 in the Loser’s Bracket Finals, and while they haven’t quite breached the hull yet, rivets sure seemed to be popping out with alarming regularity in that series.

2. willowkeeper (tree), 123 points
At the same time, the structure integrity of tree’s ship was not compromised. They got through that series and technically the Grand Finals, though the way they got through that was by losing. Game 1 looked like things could get very interesting, and while SynC ended up taking the series 3-1, once again willowkeeper had their chances.

It does feel like I’ve been saying that a lot, though, and yet we haven’t seen tree come out substantially ahead. Whether it’s a lack of competitive experience, communication issues, bad luck, or a pure skill deficit (it’s not a lack of practice, I can tell you that), there isn’t too much question as to the best team in HoN right now, and it’s not these guys. Second place is nothing to be ashamed of – and there is a long list of teams that would be happy to be where they are right now – especially considering just a few months ago tree was barely known, and in that time they’ve leapfrogged a lot of good teams. It’s perhaps unrealistic to expect them to beat SynC so soon, but they set a high standard by advancing as far as they did as quickly as they did. Now that their progress has slowed a bit, and other teams are catching up.

1. SynC eSports (SynC), 140 points
14 rankings, 10 points for first place, and 14*10=140. We had more lists than ever for these rankings, and that means more chances for someone to go Diglet_ and put SynC in second place. But for the first time, a team is universally ranked as the best in Heroes of Newerth, and it’s an award that’s well deserved. SynC became only the second team to win three straight cycles of HoN Tour, joining StayGreen (HTS2), also known as the most dominant team in HoN’s history.

Where do they go from here? There’s nowhere but down, but SynC haven’t looked particularly interested in that direction. This isn’t a team that’s looking particularly vulnerable right now, in fact they’re playing better than ever. The separation between first and second place might be bigger than any two other positions. Actually, I forgot one place they can go: into the record books. A fourth straight cycle victory would be unprecedented. On the other hand, we thought sG couldn’t lose until LIONS came out of nowhere. compLexity looked unbeatable before tdM showed up and cost Tralfamadore his hair. So I’ll refrain from saying anything for now, and instead offer a nod, a wink, and a series of violent, exaggerated movements.