By quincy0191

That was probably the most surprise-filled cycle of HoN Tour Season 3 we’ve had yet, and maybe the most shocking one ever. BMG fell far and fast, losing to Ogr early and then getting knocked out by Nullstone Gaming. tree also fell victim to the Americans, while Cycle 4’s third-place team in Dawn are now back in Gold. SynC taking another cycle win is probably the least surprising thing that happened, and in general that wasn’t exactly a given considering their loss last time out.

Power rankings are all over the place this time out – we’ve only got 11 teams named, including one that hasn’t shown up before, but there are a lot of even finishes and lists that are all over the place. Of the 12 lists, many came together at the last minute with players yet again emphasizing how difficult it is to separate these teams, to the point where iNsania had to have a tie between willowkeeper and Nullstone. I don’t blame him.

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Honorable Mention – Wake of Gods (WoG), 1 point

Honorable Mention – Prime Icarus (PI), 24 points

Honorable Mention – Night Raid (NR), 34

8. Dawn (Dawn), 37 points
And back to Gold we go. Cycle 3 Dawn rises to Diamond division on the back of a slightly iffy performance, going the distance in each of their final three series to finish 11-4, which sounds better than it is for a cycle champion. But in Cycle 4 they ride a great performance from recent addition probusk to a third place finish, only slightly overshadowed by Bad Monkey Gaming’s victory. Cycle 5 Dawn seems to have been figured out, as an early loss to resurgent Nullstone Gaming 1-2 is followed up by an 0-2 defeat at the hands of fellow Gold stalwart REXXARS, and now they’ll have to work their way back to HoN Tour’s top division again.

Their issues in Cycle 5 seemed to be directly related to their success in Cycle 4, namely their reliance on probusk. Not to say that the team overall isn’t talented, because they definitely are, but their surprising success was built largely on a four-protect-one strategy that allowed their carry to become unstoppable. Teams were quick to adjust the next cycle, and focused heavily on shutting down probusk early and often. It would seem Dawn need to be a little more well-rounded and less dependent on their carry to win; then again, willowkeeper has played similarly since the start with baltazar` and it hasn’t hurt them much.

7. Shrek is Love (Ogr), 44 points
The surprise of the cycle, the surprise of the season, maybe the surprise of the year. Ogr has gone through a multitude of changes since Carnage in Caldavar. The team that went 1-20 in CiC is mostly gone, with just team captain Kluckmuck and mid/suicide player DemStratZ (AKA MightyMarcus) hanging around. Occasional member DEEP_XD (AKA BunnyGeneral, S’taaf) is their permanent jungler. Former carry CountCrapula is in TZP. One-cycle suicide player RockyBalboa is jungling for KNX. Now they’ve got ex-Excellent members NoX (Horspel) and Massera to complement the three players that have remained throughout HTS3.

And they beat BMG in the Round of 8, temporarily worrying the monkeys with the threat of Gold. It was shocking enough to see Reason in the lower division, but to have BMG go from cycle champions to eliminated on the first weekend in one cycle might have been the biggest turnaround in competitive HoN history. Not too many expect great things out of Ogr going forward, as they’re generally considered favorites to return to Gold, but we didn’t expect much before either.

6. REXXARS (KNX), 61 points
Is it safe to say KNX are the Dawn of Cycle 5? They beat the Dawn of Cycle 4, which was the actual Dawn, and ended up finishing in fourth place as eventual runners-up Nullstone knocked them out in the Loser’s Bracket Semifinals. They’ve added former BMG suicide player Xibbe to their roster, and the last time KNX picked up a well-known veteran presence it was iNsania leading them to a third-place finish in Carnage. I doubt that Xibbe will have the same impact – he isn’t assuming the role of captain and drafter like iNsania did – but he should add to a team that already looks pretty good.

On the other hand, we’ve seen this before from Gold teams (once again, Dawn being the prime example): they come up, do well for a cycle before the other teams figure them out, and then get beaten back. REXXARS also didn’t win any huge fights in Cycle 5 either – they lost to SynC, beat Dawn, beat Ogr, and lost to Null. In other words, the only teams they beat were ones that have spent a significant portion of Season 3 in Gold, and they lost to the two teams that have been consistently Diamond-level. KNX is better regarded than Dawn, and for good reason it seems, but they’re close to the edge.

5. Reason Gaming (Rea), 68 points
Well, look who’s back. Reason took a short vacation south of Diamond, and a great many players think they’re a team to be reckoned with despite an early exit in Cycle 4. They finished as high as second place and had a number of fourth and fifth place votes as well, so it seems like the majority of evaluations think Cycle 4 was a fluke.

Here’s the thing, though: they didn’t exactly sweep through Gold. The Solaire Club is a mid-tier Gold team that is improving but isn’t particularly close to threatening Diamond division, and they took a game off Reason. Prime Icarus managed to force a Game 3 as well, and if not for using ringers in the Grand Finals, probably would have ended up doing better than a 3-0 sweep. Yet Reason seem to be well respected despite some lackluster results in the last few cycles.

4. Bad Monkey Gaming, (BMG), 80 points
And that’s not how you want to follow up a cycle win. An extremely disappointing Round of 8 performance against Shrek is Love – not to diminish their win, but Ogr does not beat BMG without BMG beating themselves at least a little – led to what had to have been a scary match against Night Raid. NR wasn’t playing with their full five-man roster, so as far as matchups go, this was about as good as it was going to get. But they still beat tree last cycle, and after losing against Ogr it seemed like anything was possible.

Well, it pretty much was. They made it through the Loser’s Bracket Round 1 to avoid relegation, but a LBR2 loss to Nullstone was nearly as surprising as their initial position. Sure, BMG had lost to them before, but that was in Cycle 2 when New BMG had just been formed, and Nullstone was a bit disappointing in cycles 3 and 4. In the end the loss made some sense with Null finishing 2nd, but BMG are once again reshaping their roster. Xibbe is gone to KNX as we talked about, and Support is departing as well. In all honesty I’m surprised to see them so highly rated without even knowing their starting lineup, and given their showing in the last cycle. BMG have a lot of questions ahead of them and a Round of 8 loss – even demotion to Gold – is no longer an impossibility.

3. Nullstone Gaming (Null), 94.5 points
So after two weeks of underperformance, Nullstone is back to being one of the top teams in HoN again, beating willowkeeper in the Loser’s Bracket Finals to become the fourth team to appear in the Grand Finals. Or you could say Nullstone is overperforming again after two weeks of regression to their true talent level, and next cycle we should expect them to fall back to earth again.

In two of their four Diamond cycles, Null have finished in second or third place. In two of their Diamond cycles, Null have finished in fifth or sixth place. They’re either a series win away from a cycle championship or a series loss away from heading back to Gold Division, and that kind of inconsistency makes it very difficult to evaluate them. After a cycle in which they’re riding high and looking great, most evaluators are high on them. But if they bow out early, will we see the same stability in the rankings afforded to Reason and BMG? Something tells me no, and I don’t necessarily disagree with that assessment. When Nullstone look good, they look great. When they don’t, they seem eminently beatable and maybe undeserving of Diamond. The truth is probably somewhere in between, even if we never actually see that 4th-place team.

2. willowkeeper (tree), 96.5 points
Back to the penultimate position, willowkeeper looked much better with baltazar` back and perhaps a fire lit with a poor Cycle 4. Perhaps BMG can look at tree’s bounceback (as well as SynC’s) and get some confidence that the same can happen for them. Regardless, tree looked much better in the first two rounds, and then something fell apart. That does tend to happen for a lot of teams against SynC – tree perhaps more noticeable than most considering how many series the two have played – but their Loser’s Bracket Finals loss to Null was unexpected.

Consecutive second-place finishes cannot be ignored, and in general people seem to think willowkeeper is the second-best team in HoN. I happen to agree. But it’s hard to ignore how fleeting that actuality was – tree advanced quickly from fourth place in CiC to a Grand Finals loss in two straight cycles, and now they seem more like a middle-Diamond team. That requires at least a couple teams that are better than them, though, and it’s hard to identify who that might be right now. Is it BMG, who finished 5/6th last cycle? Nullstone, who reached the Grand Finals for the very first time? Reason, who spent last cycle in Gold? Night Raid, who’s going back to Gold? KNX or Dawn, who have spent multiple cycles in Gold? tree doesn’t seem like an especially great answer to the question of who’s in second place, but everyone else seems at least a little bit worse. It’s not exactly silver-by-default, because they’ve earned it, though it’s not far off.

1. SynC eSports (SynC), 120 points
Yet another first-place sweep for the undisputed champs. SynC came out looking like they were furious about their first series losses in Cycle 4 and ready to do something about it. That they did, stomping through every series with a grand total of one lost game against Nullstone. They rarely looked challenged, and unfortunately the Grand Finals in particular were probably the most one-sided we’ve ever seen.

There doesn’t appear to be a legitimate challenger to SynC right now. BMG looked like they could grow into that title, but now they’re losing early and changing their roster. willowkeeper probably have the best shot, but they’ve never really been able to beat SynC. If Nullstone get hot at the right time they could do damage, but you’re not betting on them to take multiple cycle crowns. SynC isn’t a team that looks wholly invincible, as a few cracks in the armor have shown. What they do look like is far and away the most consistent and best team in HoN right now, so even if they fall it isn’t far and they don’t stay down for long. Maybe they don’t win Cycle 6, but they probably do. The same goes for Cycle 7 and 8, and at the end of HoN Tour Season 3 it’s very difficult to see them coming away with fewer than six cycle wins. They’ve got a chance now to make it four straight through the end of the season, and I imagine they’ll do just that.