HGC Playoff Preview

Blizzard Entertainment
May 18, 2017

On Championship Sunday at the Western Clash, Team Dignitas, the third seed from Europe, ran the gauntlet through the lower bracket, playing 13 consecutive battlegrounds to secure the trophy. While unlikely, this exact same scenario could unfold in the stepladder bracket this weekend in the HGC Playoffs.

The results of the past ten weeks no longer matter; the only thing that matters is who shows up to win this weekend. For speculation’s sake, we will draw on past results to gauge the power levels of the contenders aiming for the final spots at the Mid-Season Brawl in Sweden.

B-Step is a threat, but Gale Force is the final boss

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Gale Force eSports sit at the top of the playoff bracket for North America, with only a single best-of-five sitting between them and glory. Out of all the competitors in the North American playoffs, Gale Force have only dropped series to Team 8 and Team Freedom, but both losses occurred before the Western Clash. Since bombing out at that event, they’ve dominated the region, with their only blemish being a concerning loss to No Tomorrow - a team destined for the Crucible.

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Of all the teams in line for the second spot at the Mid-Season Brawl from North America, Team 8 seems the most likely to make an impact at the event. After all, they are the only team to have taken a game against European opposition in the past year. After achieving a top-four placement at the Western Clash, though, they stumbled when they got back on home soil, losing to Gale Force eSports, Tempo Storm, and B-Step. If B-step wins their way through the bracket, Team 8 will have their chance for revenge. Although they would probably prefer to play against Superstars or Team Freedom; two teams they easily defeated in the regular season.

Stafford ‘McIntyre’ McIntyre flew out to San Jose to join the rest of B-Step for a boot camp at NVIDIA Headquarters last weekend. The team has been practicing at the venue all week and will be playing through the stepladder bracket together onsite.

Superstars will be waiting for the winner of Team Freedom and B-Step in the next round. Being that they are undefeated against Team Freedom, it’s likely that Superstars will be cheering for them to win over B-Step. If Freedom fails, things get a little stickier for Superstars; they lost a close series to B-Step 3-2 in Week 2, but defeated them 3-1 in Week 9. With this boot camp, B-Step becomes one of the biggest wildcards headed into the playoffs, thanks to their hit and miss record throughout the season and the mountain of results they accrued in competitions prior to the league’s launch. Will we get the team that won BlizzCon 2015 or will we get the team that lost 3-0 to Naventic in Week 6?

There is hunger for an upset in Europe, but it’s unlikely

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Playing Ducks, Team expert, and Tricked esport have all put on a show throughout the regular season, coming close to taking down the top three teams on several occasions. In the first series between Playing Ducks and Tricked esport, Playing Ducks is favored because they’ve won this head to head twice now. However, if Tricked manages to win, their next series would look promising as they are one the only team outside of the top three who have taken down Team expert - the opponent they would face in the next round.  

None of these teams, though, have beaten Team Dignitas - the Western Clash Champions and 3rd place team in Europe currently. It looks almost certain that the final spot for Europe at the Mid-Season Brawl belongs to either Team Liquid or Team Dignitas, who are 1-1 in the head to head against each other.

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However, if Playing Ducks, Tricked, or expert manages to trump Team Dignitas, things become more interesting. All three of the lower ranked teams in the playoffs have a case against Team Liquid. Team expert was the only team outside of the top three to defeat them in phase one, Tricked has taken them to a fifth map twice now, and the Playing Ducks have also managed to take three battlegrounds from Liquid on the two occasions they’ve met.

For the bottom three in the playoff bracket, their biggest games are the ones against Team Dignitas. Team Liquid are no pushovers, but they’ve shown a considerable amount of weakness against every team in the playoff bracket.

MVP Black are pretty much untouchable

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MVP Miracle and GG are about as evenly matched as you could hope for in a first-round series. They’re one series apiece in the head to head, with both going the full five maps. The winner of this exciting matchup faces Tempest, who lost to Raven 3-1 last weekend – the last-place team in Korea. Tempest has dropped maps to both teams in Phase one, and hasn’t fared well against Mighty – their opponent in the next round should they win their first series.

The real question here is, who stands the best chance of defeating MVP Black? Mighty has not taken a single battleground from MVP Black. Both Miracle and GG have taken one battleground each. Tempest has taken two battlegrounds.

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Though other regions may hold uncertainty, MVP Black are the clear favorites here to represent South Korea at the Mid-Season Brawl alongside L5.

Everything that has transpired over the last ten weeks boils down to the HGC Playoffs, and while these teams are safe from the Crucible – the real competition is just beginning. The playoff schedule can be found on our calendar page. All of the HGC playoffs will be broadcast live right here on playheroes.com/esports.