By Fantasy

Just like the North American and European teams, the CIS squads are gearing up for the playoffs with a ticket to Bangkok, Thailand on the line. To give their playoff contenders a great opportunity for sparring and improvement, the seventh edition of the Garena Invite Cup was initiated with European competitors joining in. This time it was Shrek is Love and Reason Gaming answering the call, going toe to toe with the six best CIS squads from the past HoN Tour season.

So the emphasis was on the CIS teams and how they will fare and look after the extended Christmas break. With big hitters like Cats Gaming, Meka and QaM starting their year with a bang, this tournament was the perfect opportunity to send a loud and clear message to the competitors for the CIS HoN Tour Finals this February.

Contradicting the expectations of pretty much everyone, the powerhouse Cats Gaming looked lackluster and not even Meka could really fill that void. The winner of this cup from a CIS standpoint ultimately turned out to be QaM. The third ranked team from the CIS HoN Tour has not made headlines since their stellar and unexpectedly great performance at the start of the season. Back then it was QaM against SWAG in the Grand Finals for the first cycle with they looked to come out ahead as the premier contender of the young teams. Since then the buzz has cooled down and Meka was the primus in terms of the youngster teams fighting the established authority. Despite the lack of coverage of QaM, they remained a stable and strong team in the spectrum of HoN teams. They’ve retooled with pieces from the SWAG disbandment, they stuck together afterwards and constantly tried to push forward with improvements. Until this CIS Invite Cup they still remained the third fiddle in the big CIS orchestra - now they might take the helm.

This CIS HoN Tour spectacle might be one of the closest and most interesting contests in the history of the rising region. Prior to this teaser event it was a foregone conclusion that Meka and Cats will add yet another chapter to their ongoing rivalry - and only that results was really up for grabs. Otherwise smooth sailing for both squads was projected, as other serious contenders seemed to be the missing.

Now it is QaM starting off the year impressive, beating Meka in the Lower Bracket Finals to clinch a second spot in the Invite tournament to spark some new intrigue. Even more than the that upset, the even bigger storyline might be brewing over Cats. The team finished in last place, shared with Jk, unable to get past the relatively unknown teams of GMG and and NMG. Both teams usually would even present the slightest of problems for the most known team of the CIS market. This begs the questions whether the stakes were simply to low for Cats to bring out an A-Game effort or if the break made them rusty. In the past it has been a slight problem for Cats Gaming to become complacent and now take challenges serious enough. This netted them two frustrating losses in the DreamHack Qualifiers, but is yet to cost them a national championship in HoN Tour. That title will be on the line starting from February, 9th and is all but locked for the kittens.

Especially with this as the freshest performance, the competition might smell blood in the water and attack full throttle. GMG and NMG should not present an issue once the regional HoN Tour playoffs official kick off, but Meka and QaM are presenting serious challengers for the prestigious crown. So now the real question is which Cats will show up. Both tendencies are well documented in the teams past - both becoming complacent and blowing layups, as well as coming as an underdog and overachieving. Underdog status clearly will not belong to the team that won three out of five cycles this season - the possibility for an upset is more real than ever though.

Lost in all this to an extent? Reason Gaming’s tournament victory. The European team, who were on the verge of upsetting Sync eSports the other week are gathering some momentum for their own playoff push. The squad with the German carry Imbaboy were absolutely steamrolling the opposition - despite the slight, but noticeable ping disadvantage this tournament regularly brings to the European teams. Only once the team had to hit the dreaded concede button, as Meka was able to push them further than any other CIS team in the Upper Bracket Finals. Before that NMG and GMG had absolutely no shot of getting anything going against the Euros, as well as the beatdown QaM received in the Grand Finals. The anticlimactic ending not only boosts the confidence of the squad heading into the all-important playoffs, but also let’s some money rolling in. The win of this two-day tournament is worth $400 US-Dollar for the European squad, while second place finisher QaM only cashes in half of that. All other teams leave with Silver Coins but no hard cash in their hands.

About The Author: Fantasy
Fantasy is a journalist with four years of experience working in various eSports. He is currently the HoN Tour correspondent for the CIS and SEA regions, as well as an editor for both ESL Gaming and compLexity Gaming. In addition to his online endeavors, he studies Publicity and Communication, plays American football, and loves movies.