It’s hard to mention Heroes of the Storm without first acknowledging what I’m coining as “the December Disaster” that shook and divided the game’s community. It wasn’t long before the aforementioned cancellation of Blizzard supported-and-organised competitive play that Heroes Lounge, a Heroes of the Storm amateur league, took matters in their own hands and organise what has now become the biggest high-level tournament of Heroes of the Storm: Division S.
The organisers used their knowledge of running their amateur leagues Division 1 through 7 (which are still running in their 9th edition in Europe) to create a long-lasting scene for both North America and Europe. In January 2019 the signups opened and grabbed the attention of many a former pro-player as well as newbies eager to test their mettle. In February, the Qualifier round began and most games had the honour of being casted in English by none other than Khaldor, one of the most prolific and loved casters before, during and after the HGC era.
With the Qualifiers decided, we have witnessed since March 16 teams (8 from each region, North America and Europe respectively) battling it out on a weekly basis in a Double Round Robin format. They have been trying to prove that they deserve to win the grand championship, along with its (approximately) €2 000 cash money prize. I have been lucky enough to follow the evolution of the 8 teams on the European side of the tournament. I’m here to report how these teams have managed to make themselves stand out through their gameplay, as well as their personalities and see which 6 teams will advance to the next round.
DIVINE VENDETTA started as Memeldors Meme Machines and made a name for themselves by winning the 8th edition of Division 1 and subsequently being peer-pressured by Khaldor himself to try out the real deal when Division S was still in its incipient stages. Unfortunately, the scene hasn’t been kind to the primarily German team. They haven’t managed to win a single game throughout the 14 weeks of the tournament. All isn’t doom and gloom however: they are now sponsored by Divine Vendetta, rebranding themselves and holding their own against veteran players to the last map.
One of their standout picks is Dehaka on Towers of Doom, played by either DeathKnight or Born (who tend to switch between the Tank and Bruiser roles). Their roster is rounded up by Smaragd and Slake who both tend to take ranged damage roles, as well as Martin the healer main, who has grown fond of Anduin, the newest hero of the Nexus. There also seems to be a preference for Tyrande and Junkrat in their drafts, but this might just be because these heroes are currently staples of the Meta.
GO NEXT is the next team under our visor. They have also not had the most success during the tournament, only winning 2 of their 14 matches played. We see that their early game is great, but more experienced teams manage to turn the game around in the late game.
Their players currently include Chelvin, the resident burst mage with a love for Genji, Talouf and Skynox, solo laner and healer respectively, Galaxy, the flex player and Wit, the main tank. Wit in particular has been standing out with his Johanna, Tyrael and Garrosh gameplay in the past few weeks. With the way they have been improving since the beginning of Division S, winning two matches as well as coming second in the Masters Clash tournament, I expect this team to make some major waves in the next edition of the tournament, if they decide to participate.
LFT dubbed LA FRENCH TEAM by Khaldor have come into the scene during the European Nexus Contest, coming in second. There, they were coached by the famous Mene himself. They have since adopted the appropriate (albeit incorrect) nickname that has been given to them and have shown what they can do during Division S, facing their former coach several times.
In their roster we find Mascarade, the tank player, Daykwaza on the solo lane, Tobos, the ranged damage with an affinity for Hanzo. Rounding it up are the Zeratul-loving Kolios, a rather new addition replacing Nesdip and BananaH whose name forced Khaldor into a now-famous tongue-twister when he started playing Ana. The team has had moderate success in Division S, but have secured themselves a spot in the next round of the tournament, with a total of 6 match wins.
TEAM RUSSIA, similar to LFT, first appeared during the European Nexus Contest, which they ended up winning. They have decided to push themselves in this new tournament, testing their courage and holding their own against several former professional teams. A recurring strategy for the Russian team seems to be abusing the comeback mechanics that Heroes of the Storm provides. If you’re facing Team Russia and they’re behind, it’s high time you were afraid.
All members manage to stand out in one way or another, making banning against them particularly difficult. Stalk’s Tyrael and Garrosh are fearsome, and he is the original “Hungry for More” Stitches on Tomb of the Spider Queen. KolyaMarzhin will get his Malfurion at all costs. MrBanaBeer has proven his skills on Tracer several times but will not shy away from a Li Ming game. FarlendeR’s sustained damage is topping the charts. AndShamzik will hold his solo lane against anyone. With 7 match wins, Team Russia is an opponent not to be underestimated.
WIND&RAIN started the tournament as WHAT DOES THE PHOTOGRAPHER SAY?, which was dubbed as TEAM CHEESE due to how long it took to say their name. They have since received sponsorship and are flying their “WaR” banner amongst the greatest players of Europe.
Even though their team name is new, the players are veterans and have come up with several winning strategies at which you might raise an eyebrow at first. They are Galnegunnar, also a Malfurion main, Skogh with a strong preference for Hanzo, Berghult and the ever-silenced MaxPassion who form the frontline, as well as Makke, whose Tracer and Genji are top tier, but who has come to be known for his Mephisto plays on Infernal Shrines more than anything. As of right now, this Swedish team is tied with Team Russia at 7 match wins.
NOTHING LEFT is the first team entering the Top 3 of the championship and for good reason. Anyone familiar with HGC will recognise all their players as coming from former professional teams, with PotiBoss, Deeaybe, Linked, Bl3kitny and Mopsio all with professional experience from before Division S. Of course, these players are known from the predominantly-Polish HGC team known as Leftovers.
It’s not hard to single out heroes for each of them, but it has to be said that standing out are Deeaybe’s Tracer and Li Ming, as well as Bl3kitny’s Maiev. Linked is not afraid of picking Kharazim from time to time. PotiBoss is known for his Yrel on the solo lane, or the occasional Greymane, while Mopsio is known for playing to win on anything from Anub’arak to Genji. Nothing Left have gathered a total of 10 match wins.
Next on the list is WASHED UP who also has a few familiar names in their ranks. Of course, the heroes these players excel at are too many to list, but I singled out a few who don’t find themselves in the spotlight too often. Amongst them are Mene’s Kael’Thas and SmX’s Deckard. These two players are of course Fnatic’s legendary burst mage and healer respectively. Then we see Team Liquid’s HasuObs on Sgt. Hammer and Ethernal on Yrel, filling in as sustained damage and offlaner. And finally Dignitas’ own JayPL rounding up the roster as Washed Up’s resident tank, with exceptional plays on Muradin.
Besides those, Mene’s Jaina and SmX’s Tyrande are always a pleasure to watch. They have gathered 11 wins during their Division S run. Notable is the rough start that they had which could be explained by the unusual roster, what with all players coming from different teams.
Rounding up the Division S Europe top teams are GRANIT GAMING, leading the charts with a whopping 13 wins out of 14 matches played. This team is also the only one to be virtually unchanged from HGC in both name and line-up. Lauber in the Tank role with outstanding Diablo and Muradin plays. Fury on the Offlane dropping skilled Entombs with his Leoric. Henn1ng, one of the best Tyrande players currently in the game. The versatile Svampgroot, who has mastered anything from Zeratul to Hanzo to Junkrat. And finally T (to be read as “Tai”) in the spotlight with playmaker heroes such as Li Ming and Tracer.
So far, only Washed Up have managed to defeat these behemoths of Heroes of the Storm European ESports. Nothing Left and Team Russia came close too, but in the end Washed Up only lost once during the entire 14 weeks of the Division S Group Stage.
All of this having been said, get ready for an unforgettable Playoffs tournament coming in just a few weeks. To be more exact, the next stage kicks off Saturday the 13th of July with the grand final the following day. Tune in on Twitch to see which of the top six teams of Division S is worthy of taking home the €2 000 cash prize as well as the glory of being named the strongest Heroes of the Storm team in Europe.