by Sascha “Yiska” Heinsich
We are a couple of weeks into the TR practice phase and there is really only two more weeks to go until it gets serious and the tournament phase starts. For those unfamiliar with what’s going on right now, Blizzard opened their yearly tournament realm on which you can play whatever character with current season gear you’d like. The top 8 teams from each continent in the 3 vs 3 bracket will then be invited to the “regionals” (still in question for Europe). From this stage on, the tournament will be held offline and the top 2 of each event from the respective continent head to Blizzcon to battle for the crown of the world champion as well as a $75000 dollar prize. In short, if you take WoW Arena remotely serious, you definitely want to be there.
As we are in the practice phase right now and most pro teams are still goofing around with different comps or specs, you should take the following information with a grain of salt. The ladder will (most likely) be reset on the 27th of May and that’s when it really counts. You will see more of the big names going into serious mode. Right now, looking at the top 20 there are still some interesting topics to explore.
Complexity.Black, at that time still playing with the new shoutcaster for MLG, Nathan “Kintt” Quin, invented Beast Cleave for MLG Dallas ’09 and had an amazing run with that comp for many tournaments. It begged the question why no one really tried to mimic their strategy for 4 consecutive tournaments of which most were dominated by the team. Not even the top dogs of counter combing – x6tence trained the comp and it seemed like coL.Black was the only Beast Cleave on the WoW horizon. Moving into season 8 gear, despite the overall success of the team on live servers, it was still unclear if the comp would be viable this tournament season. As it turns out, a team called “Hawk Gaming” is taking the top position on the US TR with an impressive winning record of 161-29. Snutz reported on this weeks ArenaCast (which you can check out here) that this team does play really well and they pulled things off that “blew his mind”. Whether or not they can compete with Black or if they can reach for a top 8 spot remains to be seen. What we can gather from this, even in this stage of the tournament, is that Beast Cleave is far from done and things certainly aren’t looking too bad for Twixz & Co. on paper.
Sitting at 6th place with a 75% win ratio is the team of Nadagast, Hoodrich and Velsus playing the seemingly dateless comp of Warrior/Warlock/Druid. The team has been turning some heads even on live ladders and have been the first team in the world to reach 3k rating this season. What’s really interesting to see is how well they do compared to the WLD veterans “Plasma TV inc” over in Europe. Inflame, Paperkat and Carecoala, who won Blizzcon ’08, have been struggeling so far as their 59% win ratio at 2.2k indicates. The question is, are they still too rusty to compete with the top dogs or is it the European meta game that doesn’t favor WLD as much? Certainly we will find out once the practice phase is over. Keep in mind, all it takes is one crazy night where you play your A-Game and you meet manageable teams and you got your self a ticket to regionals by sitting it out. A lot of strategizing and certainly dodging is needed to make it to the top. As it looks right now, there are far more than only 8 top notch teams competing for the top spots that have been flying below the radar for many community insiders.
At a concerning 18th spot sits “BAR” with 67%, the only RMP in the US top 20 at the moment. Not too many people seem to believe in the comp anymore and when Hydra’s RMP isn’t on top of the Cyclone-EU ladder, the alarm in the elite RMP head quarters should be ringing. Not only that, but also coL.Red seem to have abandoned RMP, at least as a ladder comp, to qualify for TR and they will probably try their luck with RLD. While skimming through the top 20, one comp seems to be what RMP has been for the beginning of the last season, Rogue/Lock/Shaman. RLS has been around for a while now and it feels like after the victory of Team EG/Fnatic at Cebit, coupled with the upgraded gear, many teams seem to be confident in the line up and perform quite well both in Europe and in North America. Was Cebit a symbol for RLS to be the representitive of the Caster/Healer/Melee trifecta over RMP? Certainly RLS is classified as a “skill comp” by most community members and the possibilities of this comp seem mouth watering. As always, we should not forget about the Koreans and especially Button Bashers. Whenever we thought RMP was done, they showed us that the comp still has room for improvement and the potential to win tournaments.
When I first opened the top 20s, I thought I would see a Wizard cleave roll-fest. As it turns out, there are only three Harry Potter representatives in the NA top 20, which is about as much as there are TSG teams. Have we been fooled by our emotions into thinking that only because Wizard cleave is the most annoying to play against, they are also the hardest opponents? Shouldn’t there be more Wizard cleaves up there of top players goofing around with these comps, now that it doesn’t matter? Where are the Elemental Shamans, the designated flavor of the month class to hate right now? To beat a top team by critting and one shotting the opponent can be ridiculously easy at times, but is it enough to count on the lottery every game? It certainly doesn’t look like it. It will be interesting to see how this will turn out in the tournament phase as well as at the upcoming MLG qualifiers for the tournament after Columbus. To date, Team EG’s Pookz/Azael/Tenderloin have been the only team to ever attend an offline event with a Wizard Cleave comp. Until someone proves me wrong, I’ll have to assume that we were over-reacting.