HGC Korea Playoffs Preview


originally published on heroesofthestorm.com/esports (Korean)


Following a fairly entertaining final week of the regular season, HGC Korea moves on to the postseason action fans have long been waiting for. The regional meta is very much uncharted at present; a variety of unconventional picks and compositions have seen success over the last few weeks. Upsets at the lower rungs of the stepladder would not be too surprising, seeing how even veteran commentators and players are not yet sure of how to best interpret the current patch.



GG (6th / 5W-9L / 23-33)


Most analysts had predicted GG to finish sixth in the regular season, which turned out to be true. A large part of GG’s unimpressive placing was due to their over-reliance on their frontline of Park “Hooligan” Jong-hoon and Moon “Good” Sung-hyun; the two are capable of carrying entire games when the stars align, but their performances deviate severely from week to week, an undesirable trait in a double round-robin. This could, however, work to their advantage in the Playoff format, as one miraculous weekend run is all that is needed to make it to Jonkoping.


Something GG will have worked on over the short buildup to the postseason are their relatively narrow and predictable hero pools. Song “WooJae” Woo-jae may co-lead the region in number of heroes played (17), but the team as a whole does suffer from not being able to fully abuse certain heroes in the meta, such as Arthas, Auriel, and Nazeebo.


On the flip side, it should be noted that GG have shown decent speed in picking up newly released heroes, and is also the only team in Korea that plays certain ones – most notably Leoric – properly. There is a good chance GG will come up with an effective off-meta take on this patch’s still developing meta.


GG’s first match will take place against MVP Miracle on Friday: the two are dead even in the head-to-head at 5-5, and the showdown is expected to be close. A determined Hooligan, vowing to try their best, boldly revealed that GG was thinking about utilizing unorthodox compositions.



MVP Miracle (5th / 6W-8L / 28-32)


Many were confused as to why Kang “Ttsst” Oon-sung and Im “Reset” Jin-woo were transferred to MVP Black over the offseason, as MVP Miracle had been doing very well with Reset as their main playmaker. The sheer name value of their replacements, however – former world champions Lee “HongCono” Dae-hyeong and Park “Dami” Ju-dalm – was massive enough to squelch concerns.


Unfortunately, the new MVP Miracle turned out to be a dumpster fire. The aggressive approach of the ex-Tempest frontline proved to be virtually incompatible with the remaining three members’ more risk-averse style, a problem that in hindsight should have been foreseen and prepared for. Less individually talented teams would trample over the disarrayed superstars, week after week, via better teamwork.


Come Round 2, however, the team managed to start turning their fortunes around. The lack of synergy, while still observable, became less and less jarring; the meta slowly shifted back into a range favorable for Dami; and HongCono’s form started to rise, at once linearly but then exponentially. While Miracle’s regular season ended with a 1-3 loss against L5, it was made clear throughout the match that the team had finally found firm ground.


MVP Miracle reportedly has been putting in insane practice hours over the last few weeks. When asked about his mindset going into the Playoffs, HongCono spoke not of victory but only of effort. Soon the fruits of their labor will be on display.



Tempest (4th / 8W-6L / 31-24)


Tempest’s shocking loss to last-place Raven on the final day of the regular season, combined with their less shocking but also unexpected fall to Mighty in the week prior, knocked them down to fourth place right before the Playoffs. While most still expect the Eastern Clash participants to at least make it to the finals against MVP Black, their recent form in the league is definitely a cause for concern.


Many fans point to rookie melee flex player Jang “Modernlife” Jin-hak’s narrow and static hero pool as the root of Tempest’s problems, but such analysis is only half true and painfully surficial. There is a fair bit of nuance to the squad’s strengths and weaknesses, and the key to understanding the subtleties lies in examining how exactly shotcaller Yoon “Sign” Ji-hoon’s style of play juxtaposes with his teammates’.


Sign’s style of play has always been based around diving in deep for pickoffs, which usually demands his team to follow up on his aggression with as much damage and healing as possible. As such, Tempest’s games tend to revolve around Sign constantly trying to capitalize on good openings, while his teammates try to maintain a position where they can provide immediate backup. While this approach to the game is undoubtedly valid, it does sometimes clash with Chin “Hide” Gyeong-hwan’s interpretation of the support position (generating additional value by being as much of a daredevil frontline bruiser as possible) and Kim “duckdeok” Kyung-deok’s preference for a slower and defensive game (as opposed to high-risk high-reward aggression). Tempest’s occasional total breakdowns in formation come from this.


With four former world champions on their roster, Tempest have proven several times over the season they very much are a world class team when they click; the problem is that they fail at it a bit too often. What’s past need not be prologue. Will Tempest aim to win through their heterogeneity, or despite it?



Mighty (3rd / 8W-6L / 28-28)


Mighty is Tempest’s polar opposite in many ways. Tempest consists of one newcomer and four legends, whereas Mighty consists of one seasoned veteran and four relative unknowns; Tempest will always be beheld to their former glory, whereas Mighty has yet to claim any royal history. But most interesting is how the core strengths of each squad (Tempest’s sheer individual brilliance vs. Mighty’s gritty cohesion as a team) is what the other must acquire if they are to ascend to the next level.


Much of the team’s identity is derived from tank player Kim “JOKER” Ju-hyeong, who is incidentally the only member who has been on the organization’s previous Heroes roster. His consistent fundamentals-first approach to the game anchors his flashier teammates to a reliable big picture, while not robbing of them of the space they need to shine. Behind JOKER’s spearhead, the team forms an incredible balance, with Kim “Magi” Jin-hwan and Kim “SDE” Hyun-tae’s more measured and cerebral style complimenting and offsetting Lee “Sans” Jin-young and Na “NaSang” Sang-min’s audacious and instinctual tendencies.


Despite Mighty’s virtues, however, they are not expected to fare well against MVP Black. Mighty is not an impressive team when it comes down to individual mechanics, a quality required to compete at the very top level of competitive play. Mighty is the only team in the Playoffs to have failed to take even a single map from Korea’s two titans: their regular season record against L5 and MVP Black is 0-12.


Can teamwork alone take a team to the top? This weekend should tell. When asked about his goals for the Playoffs, JOKER answered that win or lose, Mighty would aim to show their competitive potential.



MVP Black (2nd / 12W-2L / 38-10)


There is simply no way to discuss this team without demoralizing the entire Playoff competition. Out of all HGC Korea teams, MVP Black boasts the highest KDA, the lowest time spent dead, and the widest hero pool. Most importantly, it has yet to drop even a single match this year to any team not named L5.


Prior to HGC kickoff, many had expected MVP Black to suffer heavily from losing their superstar frontline of Sign and Lee “Rich” Jae-won. Such concerns turned out to be false, however; Jeong “KyoCha” Won-ho proved to be a phenomenal melee flex, and Ttsst and Reset both slotted into the team perfectly. Reset, in particular, found phenomenal individual form around the Eastern Clash and has not let go of it since.


Objectively speaking, MVP Black’s ticket to Sweden looks to be already secured. The old fox Lee “Sake” Jung-hyuk has proven himself to be the best flex player in Korea, and Yi “merryday” Tae-jun is in peak condition, clearly determined to end his storied career on a high note. There is little reason to believe any team could possibly out-draft the wily KyoCha, or outmuscle the star-studded squad in mechanics.


To even stand a chance against MVP Black, as dreadfully trite as it sounds, teams will have to come in with an entirely fresh take on the draft; as evidenced in their showdown in Shanghai against the Chinese giants eStar, MVP Black definitely can make uncharacteristic mistakes when facing alien compositions. With the competitive meta in wild flux, this Sunday just may be the best chance any of the lower teams have at toppling the Eastern Clash champions.



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