Last weekend the top 8 European national teams advanced from the group stage to the playoffs of the Nexus Games Europe 2017, a tournament format featuring non-HGC players from several European countries to compete on a professional level.
What made this tournament so unique was the fact that players were all chosen by Blizzard who took criteria such as Hero League MMR into account. Although that led to countries like Poland, Spain, France, or Russia to look incredibly strong on paper - mostly due to the fact that they were able to field former HGC pro players or seasoned Open Division veterans - there was an astounding number of upsets going on. The Netherlands, Hungary, and Germany, for instance, surprised everyone with strong mechanical play and exotic team compositions, which caused them to advance to the quarterfinals or - in the case of Team Germany - even to the semifinals.
Being one of the commentators next to my HGC China co-caster Tetcher and Bakery, who had been casting a professional tournament for the very first time, I took the opportunity to interview some of the participating players. In the following we are going to take a closer look on what Team Poland’s MaNa, Team Netherland’s Darkomicron and Xavalosh, Team Sweden’s Henn1ng, and Team Hungary’s karci had to say about the Nexus Games Europe 2017.
Hey, please introduce yourself to the community - who are you and what do you do in Heroes of the Storm?
PL.MaNa: Hello. My name is Grzegorz Komincz, I am a professional Starcraft 2 player and I am just passing by as a player in the Nexus Games tournament.
NL.Darkomicron: Hello everyone! I'm Ferry "Darkomicron" van de Pol and I'm an amateur Heroes' player. I used to play Starcraft 2 but currently I'm studying at university, doing the Psychology master "behavioral change". When I have spare time you can find me in Hero League grinding the ladder, I aim for a top 50 spot each season.
NL.Xavalosh: Hello! Name's Xavalosh. I've been playing the support role since the HotS alpha way back in 2015.
SE.Henn1ng: Hello everyone! I am Henn1ng, an 18 y/o Swedish support player. I am playing Heroes of the Storm competitively in the open division for Team Singularity and trying to achieve my big dream of going pro.
HU.karci: Hi, I'm Kovács 'karci' Marci. I'm playing Ranged Flex for Team Singularity (a soon to be HGC team), also I was the drafter / shotcaller for Team Hungary in the Nexus Games.
PL.MaNa: I was kind of expecting to be picked to represent Poland in Nexus Games. I was quite consistently hovering around top 20 GM and it was said that the players would also be picked according to their Hero League rank.
NL.Darkomicron: It sure does! When it was announced I was incredibly hyped. I knew that there were few (if any) Dutch players above me in Hero League so I was confident I could get in. After the deadline there was a little bit of trouble with the selection procedure, apparently something went wrong and team league was also taken into account. I didn't even get an invite at first! Luckily I was able to reach an admin at Blizzard and they realized that there was a mistake so eventually everything got sorted out and I was relieved when I got my invite. I was very excited to train with the team and see what my fellow Dutchies were made of.
NL.Xavalosh: A reaction similar to finally receiving the grades for a final exam. Ecstatic to be picked and relieved to be one of the 5 on the main roster. I even had a noise complaint from my neighbours.
SE.Henn1ng: When the Nexus Games first got announced I was only thinking finally! - that we get an international championship between countries, just like in football. At the time when it got announced I hadn't really put much effort into HL this season, so I was only sitting at 1,5k-2k points. But I had already made up my mind that I wanted to be a part of the Swedish national team. So 2 days later I had grinded into grandmaster where I still sit today, comfortably at #11. When I got the mail that I had gotten accepted I became really happy and also relieved that I made it.
HU.karci: I was really hyped by the concept and was hoping to prove some people that i'm capable of playing better than they think.
PL.MaNa: No, never. Heroes of the Storm is also the first MOBA game that I have ever touched so it was an absolutely brand new experience for me as a professional 1vs1 player.
NL.Darkomicron: I have competed in Starcraft 2, I went professional for one year but after that I decided to start studying. Regarding Heroes', all the way back in the beta days I was in a team with Grubby called Over9k. We scrimmed a little back then, but after that I only played Hero League. Because of my studies I don't have a lot of spare time that I can put into scheduled training with a team. I usually play whenever I can squeeze a few hours in, however it's practically impossible for me to schedule training 3-4 nights a week. The Nexus Games was my first serious tournament in Heroes of the Storm.
NL.Xavalosh: I've dabbled in qualifiers for LANs before the HGC. Along with countless Go4Heroes and a few Open Division cups, but playing in the Nexus Games is by far the biggest tournament I've had the pleasure of participating in.
SE.Henn1ng: I have played Heroes competitively since the HGC qualifiers last winter, so I've been playing open division this entire year. So the competitive side was nothing new to me. But it was still a new experience playing with national teams like this.
Describe what it feels like to build a team from scratch. How much practice did you put in? What were the greatest challenges to overcome?
PL.MaNa: I don't think we built a team from scratch. I heard that some of my teammates already played with each other and they had competitive experience so I basically joined the train. I practiced as much as I could with hero league and we also scrimmed a bit with other national teams. The greatest challenge for me was to coordinate all of our moves to work together. As a solo player I always rely on myself and this time I could use the help of my teammates but we had to time it perfectly. I think I failed a lot of the times where the team needed me to followup properly.
NL.Darkomicron: It's really hard actually! Once the Nexus Games were announced I started scheduling months in advance. I made sure I did as much work for my studies as I could ahead of time and arranged at my job that I would be unavailable to go to work for these two weeks. Even though I tried to free up as much time as possible, I still had some things I had to attend to during this week and of course every member of the team had their own things going on in their lives. I made a schedule with everyone's availability and I started contacting people from other national teams to plan scrims.The first week we were able to get some good team practice in, but sadly in the second week there were a lot of conflicting schedules and I spent most of my time training alone in Hero League.
NL.Xavalosh: Having met a lot of the players on the roster whilst playing HL, we all knew eachother pretty well, as there are few high-ranked Dutch players. This allowed for a very relaxed atmosphere while started playing together on voice.We couldn't do much practice in the first few days due to roster and schedule issues, but we made sure to make the most out of every scrim we got, playing both comfort comps and trying out new things to see if we can learn them fast enough for our next series.The greatest challenge was improving our macro play. We were doing very well during teamfights and tried to draft and pick the map around it, but a lot of the times we struggled to play the map, having to rely on our teamfighting prowess to win us the game.
SE.Henn1ng: It was an interesting experience, especially since I got to play with my Singularity teammate Knuutti, getting reunited with my good friend Rask and also getting the chance to play with DyKarN and Skogh for the first time. We tried to get in as much practice as possible, we began practicing on the sunday before the nexus games started and from there we just tried to scrim between 2-4 hours every night. The biggest challenge we had was with Skogh and DyKarN in the first days and in the first games of the tournament. Since neither of them had played the game competitively before and Skogh having to roleswap from ranged assassin to melee flex. But both of them were really open to criticism and were really willing to improve - which they certainly did. It was really cool to see the way they developed during the course of the tournament - both in terms of speaking and in individual skill.
HU.karci: It was kinda hard to build a normal team from Hero League players, since all five of us was Ranged mains. We practiced ~5 hours almost every day after the announcment of the teams. The greatest challange for the team was to extend their hero pools from 1-2 heroes to 3-4 so we'd have more options to choose from. For myself, the greatest challange was to learn how to draft - how to lead a team, which was hard for me because i've never done it, but in the end it worked out somehow.
PL.MaNa: After I saw the names myself, no. Apparently we had one of the strongest teams in the tournament but I did not know about that. After the first set of scrimms I could feel that these guys are really strong and if I can catch up to them in terms of HotS skills we would be able to do very well if not win the entire thing already.
NL.Darkomicron: I honestly didn't really know about Six and BGuy before this tournament began, and Atmos was only a name I saw a few times. I didn't know how good they were or if we would even work well together as a team. It turned out we had a lot of flex players, with Xavalosh being the only one to main a role (Support). We decided rather quickly who would play what and started scrimming. It went very well at first but then we started losing quite a few before our match against Spain. We knew the Spanish team was a strong one so I wasn't quite convinced that we could take them on. Turns out we were more than capable as we closed out that match 2-0. Once we had that win, I was confident we could make it out of the group. I even had hopes we could maybe surprised Poland but their team was on a whole different level. I'm glad we reached the playoffs, it was my goal when I started this tournament. After our playoff games versus Sweden however... I think we could have gone further. I'm a little disappointed about those games. I think we had a very real shot to win!
NL.Xavalosh: Initially? Heck no. When I saw the group I was worried we'd fall short against Spain and be out of the tournament as both them and Poland had very stacked rosters. Though when we got the 2-0 victory vs Spain, it dawned on us that we had a real chance of getting out of groups as long as we won against The Czech Republic, who we thought was the one team we'd get a definite win against.
SE.Henn1ng: We instantly had getting top 4 as our "main" goal, but we took our goals step by step. First getting out of groups, then advancing to semis and after that we were like - "how about that we just make it to the final aswell?" So we tried our very hardest and managed to beat France and advance to the final. A bit unfortunate that we couldn't pull through and win it all. But Poland played insanely well the entire tournament and really deserved the title. I am still very happy with my individual performance this tournament aswell as my entire teams performance. It felt good proving everyone wrong cause I don't think a lot of people were considering us as "final material".
HU.karci: Not really, i seriously thought we'd go 0-3 in groups from what i've experienced while scrimming, out of the ~30 maps we played in scrims we only won 2-3 and 1 out of that was a Cho'Gall game so i didn't really have high hopes, but my team and i stepped up on match days!
Were you able to watch some of the tournament on stream? How did you like the overall presentation of it?
PL.MaNa: I caught some of the games on stream. There were some technical problems that made a piece of that tournament not available to the general audience from the Ro8, but other than that I think the tournament looked quite good. I was the most disappointed about lack of interviews or any kind of message to the fans after we won everything. Blizzard contacted us about a possibility to interview after each match starting from the groupstage but then they changed that only for the bracket. In the end even the winners didn't get to talk to show themselves to the audience so I am disappointed about that.
NL.Darkomicron: Yes! I watched the VODs to check our own games. I did research on the teams we had to play in the tournament, so I watched their games as well, and after we were eliminated I made sure to check out the finals.I think the casters did their best to create storylines and shine spotlights on the individual players. Even though they had limited information to work with, I think they did a tremendous job with that. While I was watching I sometimes noticed something that was definitely worth explaining or calling out which would then be missed by the casters but I think it's impossible to touch on everything because there is so much happening simultaneously. The casters also need to keep hyping the audience, so you can't go into analysis for every single detail. This is easier to do during drafts, and I really liked Bakery dropping the knowledge bombs during hero picks and bans. He was very on point, as could be expected of a (former) professional player. Overall I really enjoyed the stream and I appreciated all the hard work Kendric, Tetcher and Bakery put in, and I believe most people will agree with me when I say it really showed!
NL.Xavalosh: Wasn't able to watch much of it during the group phase, as I was mostly focused on scouting and scrimming vs others. Though the games that I got to watch, primarily our own, I was impressed by the casting and quality of it. Finally 1080p 60fps HotS stream!
SE.Henn1ng: I have watched our games in the tournament through all of the VODS now afterwards. Really like the "professionalism of the entire tournament, a bit different from how open division is managed. A little sad/boring that we didn't get to play anything at LAN, as I think atleast the final could have been played in the studio.
HU.karci: Yes! I rewatched every VOD of our games for the caster analysis to see what i should improve on our teamplay. The stream presentation was really good, and i liked the "format" of the 3-man caster team too.Would you like to see the Nexus Games reappear in 2018?
PL.MaNa: Absolutely, I think it was a great opportunity for up and coming players to prove themselves as well as for a random player to have a feel of a competitive match in HotS.
NL.Darkomicron: HELL YEAH! This tournament was AMAZING! Even before it started I think it had a very positive impact on the EU ladder. Everyone was trying to qualify and I really noticed a higher quality of Hero League games and shorter queues as well. The whole ladder was tryharding to try and qualify. I really enjoyed playing Hero League during that time and the tournament itself was a fantastic experience. For me, being part of this event brought a whole new dimension to this game. I never experienced playing it, quite like I did during this tournament period. It's a great way to increase the skill level of the amateur players and bring more competitive knowledge into the Hero League realm. Besides, it's perfect for aspiring players to get their name out and show the world what they are capable of as a possible stepping stone into the professional scene.
NL.Xavalosh: Definitely! If they can work out some of the issues we faced before and during the tournament, I'd love to see it come back! (and be invited again, ofcourse ;) )
SE.Henn1ng: Is that even a question? Of course I would! It was amazing and I really loved the concept.
HU.karci: I hope there'll be another Nexus Games next year - because it's a great opportunity for the Hero League players to show what they're capable of - but i hope i won't be able to participate in it. ;) (karci is making a cheeky reference about future HGC players not being allowed to participate and him hoping to become one.)
@MaNa: You’re known to play a mean Chromie and Probius. What makes these Heroes so enjoyable to you?
PL.MaNa: I started playing Chromie long time ago, before all the buffs she has received because she was considered an "unplayable" hero. Her skillshots were very hard to hit and I was always the guy to show others wrong. There's no impossible for me. Same with Probius, I think the hero can have a huge impact in the game if played correctly but it's very difficult. You must be quick and judge the situation when you have to be with the team and when you can take a risk and move by yourself.
@Xavalosh / Henn1ng: Good Supports always stand out in Heroes of the Storm. What gives you the biggest joy when playing Supports and who is your favorite Hero in that role?
NL.Xavalosh: The biggest joy for me is when I'm either able to amplify an already good play/teamfight or manage to turn one around by hitting a good cleanse/ulti and win the game because of it. It has happened so often a game turned around completely due to either saving a teammate in a bad position, or correct timing of my abilities. Favourite hero? Rehgar. No competition.
SE.Henn1ng: Nothing gives you a better feeling than when landing those extremely good and clutch cleanses and ultimates. The other thing that really makes me enjoy playing that role is when you have those games where you really can feel the impact you had, putting out high healing numbers, not dying, landing your cleanses and ultimates. My favorite hero is as the casters highlighted the entire tournamet - Rehgar as he does it all (or atleast used to) having good healing, a clutch ultimate, cleanse and the waveclear/being able to solo camps. But lately I have also become really fond of Stukov due to his CC combo and his insane healing output.
@karci: The commentators called you one of the most innovative players in the tournament. How come you play such a large variety of Heroes so well?
HU.karci: It was surprising to hear that from the casters, because in the old system where you didn't need to have Level 5 on a hero to play him in Hero League i just spammed them when they came out so i could learn how to play that hero well, if i'd need to play it in Open Division or somewhere like that, so it was not something special for me to play those "new" heroes then, but i guess i left my mark with the help of them.
@Darkomicron: You’ve been playing solo laners for the most part of the tournament. What is your secret to becoming good in that role? Do you have any tips for players out there?
NL.Darkomicron: I feel like there are many tiny things that I do that give me an edge when I am laning against someone. I feel very comfortable on a few very different solo lane heroes which makes me flexible in draft. I make sure I know how to trade effectively in the different matchups or how to play to the strengths of my pick if it is a losing lane draft wise. I also think it's important to know which combination of abilities/auto attacks are needed on minions to clear the wave the quickest. Malthael is one of my favorite heroes and probably the one I feel most comfortable on during laning. I know exactly how many ability casts and how many auto attacks I need (on different types of minions or mercs) to clear the waves at various stages in the game, because the scaling increases your waveclear as the game progresses.
Solo laners have a lot of different things they need to check on, but most important is making sure you are safe. This means you should not overextend and die. Dying is literally the worst thing you can do in the solo lane and it's almost never worth it. There are some tricks that can help you stay safe, like freezing a lane. You can do this by letting the enemy push the wave towards your towers and then keeping the enemy minions alive long enough for your new minion wave to arrive. Now the minions are fighting on your side of the lane which makes you safer (closer to the gate/towers) and allows you to perhaps make a play and kill the enemy laner if he goes forward to soak the minion XP. Another piece of advice is to regularly check the minimap to see if you know where the enemy heroes are located. When they are off the map, they could be roaming towards you so you should be wary unless your team can reassure you that you are safe.
Last but not least: Do you have any shout outs?
NL.Darkomicron: I'd like to thank Blizzard and its staff for making this amazing game and organising the Nexus Games. It was absolutely fantastic. Thanks to KendricSwissh for reaching out to me for this interview, and for casting this amazing tournament together with Tetcher and Bakery. Thanks to my team, Xavalosh, Atmos, BGuy and Six. Last but not least, thanks to all the Dutch fans cheering me on. I loved reading what you guys had to say in Twitch chat and I got quite a few messages in game as well, you guys are lovely and I hope I made you proud!
NL.Xavalosh: Huge shoutout to my teammates for performing so well throughout the tournament and exceeding my expectations and to Blizzard for hosting a tournament I hope will come back soon in 2018! @Xavalosh on twitter btw : ^)
SE.Henn1ng: First I want to thank Blizzard for arranging this tournament, and also the casters for the work and effort they put into this. I also want to shoutout my teammates, both in Sweden (Rask, Knuutti, Skogh and DyKarN) you guys played one hell of a tournament and I'll cherish our memories for a long time. And also my teammates aswell as my organization Team Singularity (Laranas, karci and Knuutti). I also want to thank my parents, my friends and my relatives for their support, watching and cheering for me. If you would be interested in following me - I stream on https://www.twitch.tv/henn1nghots
HU.karci: Shoutout to my team, the hungarian community who cheered as one throughout the tournament, the Hungarian caster Westen, and shoutout to my teammates - Henn1ng and Knuutti - who reached 2nd place in the tournament!