For most of the players on Tempo Storm, their recent qualification to 2018 HGC Global Championship Grand Finals at BlizzCon will be their 3rd year in a row competing. It should come to no surprise given the power house names comprising the team that is Tempo Storm. However, for Fan “Fan” Yang, this has not been the case. This year will be his long-awaited return to HGC Grand Finals since his former team, Cloud 9, was crowned the first ever Heroes of the Storm world champions back in 2015.
By the end of 2015, he was the most accomplished player in competitive Heroes of the Storm scene. With his former teammate from UC Berkeley, they were able to achieve 1st place finish in the first ever Heroes of the Dorm. Months after at Las Vegas, he held up his trophy on the stage of America Championship alongside his former teammates of Cloud 9 as the region’s best team. Shortly after, he was holding up a much heavier trophy on the stage of BlizzCon, as part of the best team in the world. By the end of 2015, he parted ways with Cloud 9.
His departure from Cloud 9 was a shock to the community as he was regarded as one of the best players in North America and it only made sense that he would stay with the team that had recently won the world championship. However, it was not long until he joined an up and coming team, Bob Ross Fan Club, and was able to win over his former teammates on Cloud 9 in the grand finals of the next tournament they competed in, Heroes Rising. Bob Ross Fan Club became Team Naventic, and continued to meet Cloud 9 in the finals of tournaments. 2016 Spring Regional Championship, Team Naventic lost against Cloud 9 1-3. Both Team Naventic and Cloud 9 qualified for the 2016 Spring Global Championship in South Korea, where Fan’s team placed 7-8th, while his former teammates placed 5-6th. Next tournament they would meet in the grand finals was at Dreamhack All-Stars - Austin 2016, a 3-2 victory against Cloud 9 (which secured Team Naventic another spot in an international tournament, Dreamhack All-stars - Summer 2016). However, this was the last time ever that Fan would play against Cloud 9 at a tournament.
Gale Force Esports was starting to enter the top level of competition in North America around this time. Primarily active in the online amateur scene, the team’s first breakout performance was at Dreamhack Austin where they would place 3-4th place at their first live tournament as a team. The team primarily consisted of Heroes of the Dorm players and they were rapidly climbing up the ladder of North American ranks. With the downfall and the eventual disbandment of Cloud 9, it was then that Fan and his team started to be matched against Gale Force Esports in tournament finals. Teams competed against each other in the next two tournaments they would play in, both times GFE coming out on top. Less than a week after being eliminated by GFE two tournaments in a row, Fan left Team Naventic to join forces with GFE.
With Murloc Geniuses (consisting of his current teammate at Tempo Storm, Jun and Cattlepillar) securing the first of the two North American spot in the first qualifier for world championship at BlizzCon 2016, Fan and his new teammates had one shot left at qualifying. In the second qualifying tournament, GFE was not even able to come out of the group stage, only taking a match off from a newcomer team to the competitive scene, Imported Support.
However, with Murloc Geniuses winning a tournament again and how the rules for qualification worked out, GFE had one last chance to qualify for BlizzCon 2016. A best of three versus Denial Esports would determine the second seed to the world championship. Denial Esports rostered three of Fan’s ex-teammates from Cloud 9 (KingCaffeine, k1pro and iDream). They were the dark horse of the tournament despite their poor performance in the previous tournament and with iDream coming out of retirement for the final qualifier. Denial Esports tore through the main tournament bracket, losing narrowly to Murloc Geniuses 2-3 in the grand finals which earned Denial the final BlizzCon 2016 qualification match vs GFE. Around a year ago from this time, Fan and members of Denial Esports were winning tournaments together on the big stage as the best team in the world. On this day, with the 0-2 loss to his former teammates, Fan’s 2016 season came to a closure while Denial Esports went onto representing North America at BlizzCon.
With the introduction of HGC and the stability it brought to North American teams, Fan competed with GFE for the whole of 2017 season. Throughout the year, GFE was consistently top 3 in the North American region, showing promising signs of a strong team that could potentially qualify for BlizzCon at the end of the year. HGC introducing weekly match schedules for the teams, it naturally made the all the participating teams to take practice more seriously and this led to rise of new powerhouses in North America. The competition was tougher for GFE and Fan, with teams like Tempo Storm (formerly of Murloc Geniuses), Roll 20 (formerly of Team 8) and Team Freedom rising up the league leaderboard.
GFE ended Phase 1 of HGC 2017 at 2nd place, and Phase 2 at 3rd place. Good enough results to qualify for the newly introduced Western Clashes, a mid-phase tournament amongst the western teams. However, they failed to qualify for the much larger scale international tournaments, Mid-Season Invitational and ultimately BlizzCon 2017 too at the end of the season. For both cases, even with the highest seed possible for the qualifiers for these important tournaments, they were unable to perform when it mattered the most. Despite being on one of the top teams of North America, Fan was unable to return to the stage of BlizzCon 2 years in a row.
For the 2018 season, Fan joined Tempo Storm as part of team’s restructuring for the new season. Team rostered Cattlepillar, Psalm, Jun, Glaurung and Fan. Fans of competitive Heroes of the Storm named this team the “Super Team” of North America. Not only were they mechanically excellent at the highest level, but they were also veterans in terms of the knowledge they all brought to the team. It was supposed to be the smooth sail and that was the case for Phase 1 of HGC 2018. 1st place finish in the standings, 3rd place finish at Phase 1 Western Clash 2018 and most notably the 4th place finish at Mid-Season Invitational 2018, the highest a North American team has placed until then at an MSI.
At the end of Phase 1, Psalm, who has been together with Jun and Cattle since the revival of Murloc Geniuses, stepped down from the roster to pursue a professional career in another game. This was a huge blow to the team, as Psalm was a vocal leader within the game alongside Cattlepillar, Tempo Storm’s captain. To replace Psalm, ViN, a player from an amateur scene was invited to the squad. Despite the roster change, the team was able to win 6 out of 7 matches leading up to Western Clash #2. Although the team had a successful transition from Psalm to ViN during the regular matches, it was a complete different story when it was time to compete against the international teams in a live tournament setting. The team placed last place at 8th, a huge drop off from 3rd place finish compared to the Western Clash earlier in the year.
A very familiar scenario for Fan. Despite performing well in the regular seasons, his team has always failed to show up at the most important moments. Tempo Storm, dubbed as the “Super Team” wasn't the highest placed team in North America on the leaderboard at the end of Phase 2. They were second to HeroesHearth, meaning Fan and his team had to go through another step ladder tournament tournament format in the playoffs to secure themselves the 2nd and only North American spot left at BlizzCon 2018.
Tempo Storm awaits at the top of the bracket; Fan is used to this by now from the previous years. The victor of Team Octalysis and Team Freedom match would be determine Tempo’s gatekeeper to BlizzCon. Team Octalysis being up 2-0 in the best of 5, it was expected for them to win the series given their dominating results in the second half of Phase 2. Reverse swept; 3-2 victory for Team Freedom. Tempo Storm had lost their most recent match versus Team Freedom with the score of 1-3, and in the most recent Western Clash, Team Freedom had placed 3rd place in comparison to Tempo’s 8th place finish. The match wasn’t exactly in Tempo Storm’s favor.
The final match between the teams started with a 2-0 lead to Tempo Storm and on the 3rd map, they were able to keep the lead throughout the game on Cursed Hollow. A strong push by Team Freedom with Curse active with the boss pushing down bottom lane; Hanzo’s Dragon Arrow stun on all members of Tempo Storm followed by Fenix’s Purification Salvo that locked onto all Heroes. Lucio, played by Jun, breaks it down with Sound Barrier that negates all of Team Freedom’s damage. Fan on Genji, activates his ultimate Dragon Blade with the shield provided by Lucio, swipe and swift through all members of Team Freedom, securing 4 takedowns with 5 players still alive on the battlefield from Tempo Storm. Tempo rushes towards the enemy Core to secure that BlizzCon ticket that Fan wanted so badly over the years. By the time Tempo Storm arrives in the bases of Team Freedom, 2 members of Team Freedom are waiting to defend the Core. Shield of the structure goes down rapidly, but ViN on Greymane, the character with the highest damage output in Tempo Storm’s composition, falls first. With 71% health left on the Core, all members of Team Freedom had respawned and rushed towards Fan on Genji, the other damage carry on the team. Fan attempts to stay alive with his deflect ability but the duration of the skill is too short to matter, and he falls. Even without the damage carries, Team Freedom’s Core health bar ticks down. With 14% health left on the structure, remaining heroes of Tempo Storm are takendown and the opponent team mounts across the map, winning them the map. Tempo Storm was 14% away from securing themself tickets to BlizzCon, and they were unable to close out the game.
2-1 match score in favor for Tempo Storm. Game 4, Team Freedom has the lead in the latter part of the game. Double support composition with Valla as the main sustained damage dealer, with a talent advantage over Tempo Storm, Team Freedom looked to siege the Core for an attempt to end the game. Tempo Storm, featuring their own double support composition with ViN on Sgt. Hammer, the push seemed defendable. To even the casters’ surprise, ViN decides to immobilize himself in siege mode, in very close range of Team Freedom. He was punished quickly within seconds, which ultimately led to another defeat of a map for Tempo Storm.
Tempo Storm was still technically 1 map away from an invitation to BlizzCon, but now also with a pressure of 1 map away from giving Team Freedom that opportunity instead. The map that would determine everything, Battlefield of Eternity.
Known as one of the more snow-bally battleground in the map pool, Tempo Storm was in trouble losing the first Immortal objective as it destroyed the top lane fort with ease. Second objective, lost. Third objective, lost. Tempo Storm’s base is wide open with both of their Keep structures demolished. With the third Immortal pushing towards the side of Tempo Storm, Team Freedom attempts to damage the Core with a talent advantage, reminiscent of game 4. Fan, on the main damage dealer this time on Raynor, positions himself to the side to shred the health pool of Team Freedom as they attack the Core. Team Freedom retreats, but Fan, despite being on a ranged carry with a relatively low health total, stutter steps forward to the frontline of Tempo Storm, and puts out any damage that he could. Opposition’s Auriel turns for a slight second to push away advancing Fan from Team Freedom, which closed the slight gap that Glaurung’s Illidan needed to dive in and to start another engagement. As Team Freedom all turns around and clumps together to focus on Illidan, Jun’s Tyrande lands a huge Lunar Flare that hits 3 members of tunnel visioned Team Freedom, subsequently winning them the team fight. For the first time in game 5, Tempo Storm finally gets a level lead on Team Freedom.
Level 19 to 18, in favor of Tempo Storm with an objective that would seal the match available on the map. Team Freedom makes the call to ignore the Immortals and to go for the Core to force a team fight before Tempo Storm unlocks a significant talent advantage at level 20. Team Freedom goes for the Core, but very soon realizes the mistake they have made. They retreat yet again towards their own minion wave. Tempo Storm marches forward, as they clear and receive the experience points that those minions give. Level 20 hits, Cattlepillar on Arthas quickly takes his level 20 talent, Death’s Advance, to speed towards Team Freedom’s backline. With the shields and heals of ViN and Jun on Tassadar and Tyrande, Tempo Storm charges forward. 4 members of Team Freedom is banished from the map; their death timers are too long for them to be revive back to defend the Core. 3-2 victory for Tempo Storm and a successful qualification for HGC 2018 Global Championship Finals.
ViN’s first world championship. Cattlepillar, Jun and Glaurung’s 3rd year in consecution. For Fan, 3 years since his last one where he was crowned as one of the first Heroes of the Storm champions. The team still has a lot to prove on an international stage given their lackluster result in a North American / European teams only tournament. They have yet to face the powerhouse Eastern teams from China and Korea, in addition to the dark horses teams that represent Australia and Taiwan. Tempo Storm being placed in Group A in the group stage, stacked with the likes of GenG (#1 seed from Korea), Beyond The Game (#1 seed from China) and TeamLiquid (#2 seed from Europe), the road to the finals is not an easy one. Titled the “Super Team” of North America, Tempo Storm will be tested their knowledge and mechanics of the game to see if they are fit to be the best team in the world.Photo Credit: Blizzard Entertainment