Heroes, Community & CCL Esports
My Builds My Tiers
Phase 1 Review & Clash Predictions
Overall - pleasantly surprised. The goal coming into this first phase was to set the foundation for growth and get to the point where we felt like we were improving more on a week to week basis than most teams. I thought there was an outside chance we could make the clash, but given our insane early-season schedule, wasn't counting on it - just aiming for being at at least 3 wins and in a position to make a run in the 2nd part of the split.

Managed to hit our goals so it feels like we're playing with house money here at the clash. A good opportunity to get our newer players some lan experience and have some fun, but also to feel the weight of how far we still have to go in comparison to some of the world's elite teams. The first phase was about getting in the right mindset and attitude for long-term improvement, improving macro play, holding onto leads, and hero versatility without focusing much on mechanical mistakes or improvement. Following the clash, there will be a little more focus on putting in the grind and on mechanical improvements which will both be required for a legitimate run at making MSB. 

Looking back on the start of the season, my main concern was with the way the schedule was laid out. We got some spicy RNG on the opening weeks, that or blizz was trollin. We played the 3 big teams right off the bat, and since SSG was looking really strong pre-season too it looked as if a team climbing in from open was being thrown up against the 4 best hgc teams immediately. Though I felt confident that by the end of part 1, we'd be in a pretty good place, I thought that due to being thrown to the wolves on the opening weeks while we were still finding ourselves and dealing with potential nerves/frustration - there was a real possibility that we could find ourselves at 1-3 or 0-4 after 3 weeks. 

The team seemed to have the right mentality going into the start of the season though - we just focus on learning what we can and getting better every week and the wins will eventually come. Don't need to feel like our first 2 weeks are make or break for the year - we playin' the long con. Sure enough, we got pretty crushed in week 1 against tempo. Though we were technically just a second away from defending our core and taking the series to game 5, it felt like we were pretty dominated throughout the series and gave us a good focus point on what to work on for the next week. 

We took that into our set with TF and though the results were the same, a 3-1 loss, the series felt surprisingly even, with a couple silly late game plays being most of the difference in the series, and us opening up early to mid-game leads frequently which we were never able to do vs tempo. I think that series gave us a lot of confidence despite the score, and we were able to roll that into a dominating 3-0 over SSG and a shocking 3-1 upset of T12 the following week despite getting 4 leveled in game 1. 

Week 4 turned out to be a difficult week due to some intelligent planning/prep for us from GFE and the way the schedule was laid out. We had 2 sets that week, and had to focus preparation for the first one, SIM. Though we had a solid 3-1 win in that set, we then had to prep for GFE who had only us to prepare for all week, and was able to see our set against SIM ahead of that match too. Along with being on their home server, we certainly didn't underestimate GFE, and knew it would be extremely hard to win both matches this week, but we were still pretty surprised at how badly they beat us in that set. 

They showed us we still had a long way to go in our ability to play a wide variety of styles at a high level, and kind of set the blueprint for how to draft against us, while we were still working on expanding our hero pools and playstyle, which led to another difficult set against LFM the following week. Not to take anything away from those teams, as they both made big improvements throughout the season as well, and look capable of taking a set from any team in the league when on their game.

In terms of where every team ended the season, I think GFE was the biggest surprise for me. I expected that SSG would be the dominant team outside of the "big 3" teams, as they were laying some 5-0 scrim sets on us shortly before the season started, but GFE ended up taking their spot and seem to be in a fairly good position to challenge some of the higher ranked teams in part 2 for MSB playoff position. Everyone other than ssg and gfe ended up about as expected, with LFM having the expected record, but looking a lot stronger than you would suspect at 1-6. 

Looking ahead to the clash, I'm curious to see how a larger sample size of the regions stack up to each other. While I'm fairly confident that there will be at least 1 NA team taking a set off EU, I don't see NA challenging for the trophy yet. With our region getting the chance to player lower ranked EU teams than we've seen before, and 6+ total sets against EU, not managing to win 1 would be a colossal failure that would require a deep look at the way our teams are constructed. If any NA team makes it into the finals, I think that would be considered a huge success. 

Predicting a top 4 of 1 NA team and 3 EU, but an all-EU finals. 
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Awesome write up Cauthon, thanks for sharing your thoughts!
So, if NA gets wiped we should expect more roster swaps? I think it's less about how our teams are constructed and more about how our teams prepare. From what I've read, it sounds like Hero League is a large part of the practice, while that's good for maintaining mechanical skill, I think it's limiting the growth of our teams. Basketball teams don't practice by having all individual players join random street pick up games. The teamwork is what needs to be better honed if we're going to challenge EU and eventually KR.