Global Meta Check-in: Undeniable Parallels

Youngjae "RallyJaffa" Jeon
August 11, 2017

Since the launch of the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship earlier this year, we’ve seen a decline in regional meta differences and the rise of a global style. The new HGC structure massively increased the number of games played in the two major western regions, and Korea and China’s calendars became busier as well.

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With more frequent exposure to other regions’ preferred styles of play, teams around the world began to operate in a global strategy space rather than the ones in their own regions. This is particularly evident in Korea and China – a recent play is clearly influenced by the west.

This is not to say that Asian teams were ignoring Europe and North America before. Eastern teams have respected the European meta—particularly Fnatic’s interpretations of it—since the Fall Championship. Most drafters made a point to watch European games and take note of the ideas shown. In actual tournament play, however, most Korean and Chinese teams were reluctant to aggressively adopt foreign approaches. HGC Korea and HGC China’s Phase 1 metas were largely local only laced with some revelations shared with each other during the mid-March Eastern Clash.

The Mid-Season Brawl was where everyone finally woke up. In Sweden, it was made painfully clear that the European meta was head and shoulders above all the others, as demonstrated by Team Dignitas’ fantastic 9-3 performance against Korean teams. Since their defeat, Korea has been near-religiously taking notes from the best region in the world. Top Chinese teams have followed suit as well, although the retirement of eStar’s independent-minded spring roster may have been more of a factor than a collective intentional shift towards the global meta.

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Within this historical context came the Phase 2 Western Clash. While Fnatic’s undefeated run was what caught the attention of most fans, the tournament was also interesting in that it was the first European tournament where followers of eastern regions saw nothing that surprised them. The meta difference between major regions is now smaller than ever. Picks that used to define entire regions only a year ago—Tyrael, Stitches, Illidan—are now standard fare everywhere.

Six of the seven most popular Heroes at the Western Clash were also six of the seven most popular Heroes in HGC Korea last month.The only difference at the moment is that the Western teams draft Dehaka more, and the Eastern teams draft Illidan more.  A large part of why Korea used Illidan so much was because he could provide global presence from the melee flex position, much like Dehaka, from level 10 onward. It wasn’t like the two regions ignored the other Hero; Illidan was played almost as often as Greymane in the west, and conversely, Dehaka saw a reasonable amount of play in Korea, only held back from extensive involvement by Korea’s slightly stronger affinity for dive compositions and Malthael.

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After the Big Bang of the Mid-Season Brawl, it might feel a little odd watching the eastern regions adopt the global meta so rapidly, even if it’s a natural consequence of the west catching up to (and in the case of Europe, entirely overtaking) the east. For many casual viewers, the remaining stylistic differences between regions—Europe liking Brightwing a bit more than Malfurion, vice versa for Korea—will be a tad too subtle to get excited about. While it’s natural for teams around the world to gravitate towards the same meta occasionally, this doesn’t mean that these teams aren’t looking to innovate. The Eastern Clash is where we will likely see new iterations that will evolve this global meta forward.

For better or worse, even after saying goodbye to the old eStar, China remains the least conforming HGC circuit. Heroes such as Arthas, Greymane, and Tychus have much higher priority; Arthas, in particular, is actually considered first pick material in the region. On the flip side, international standards are often used in unconventional ways, such as Dehaka being utilized as a solo tank. HGC China also completely ignores Medivh—who has been used only twice in their last 56 games—and plays Stitches quite a bit less compared to other regions. It will be interesting to see how such ideas fare against Korea’s rather European approach. Who knows? If China can overthrow their regional rivals at Taipei, the meta as we know it might undergo a whirlwind once again.