April 9th and 10th saw the second annual Heroes of the Dorm final hosted at the Century Link Event Center in Seattle, Washington. Saturday night found University of Texas, Arlington “Dark Blaze” facing off against University of Tennessee “We Volin” in one match while Arizona State University’s “The Real Dream Team” was pitted against the University of Connecticut “Tricky Turtles” in the other. Emerging victorious from those games, UTA and ASU met in the finals to determine the best college Heroes of the Storm team in North America and award the winning team college tuition for each member. Arizona State walked away with the title and prize in a decisive three-game win of the best of five final.
This weekend was the culmination of several weeks of competition that had over 400 teams whittled down to these two with pride, bragging rights, and tuition on the line. Arizona State had been the favorites from the beginning, last year’s runners-up back for revenge. UTA was a fan favorite, with unique gameplay that stood out among a field of teams who generally stuck to the game meta. In contrast, UConn made it as far as they did thanks to methodical and careful strategies that slowly took their opponents apart with technically solid play. And Tennessee was the Cinderella team of this tournament, going farther than any of the experts anticipated, entertaining the crowds with their exciting games.
Crowds began lining up three hours ahead of time both days, where the excitement was palpable. Conversations on who they were cheering for as well as their own strategies for the game could be heard throughout the gathered fans who basked in the rare Seattle sunshine while waiting for the doors to open. While there were not many cosplayers, there was no doubting the passion of everyone for the tournament, the game and Blizzard in general.
The first match saw UTA beating Tennessee in two straight games in a best of three. Throughout the tournament, Dark Blaze delighted the fans and commentators alike with their unique drafts and unusual strategies. The first game showed they had no intention of stopping when it was working so well for them. Drafting an unusual combination of Artanis, Zagara, and Abathur, the crowd went wild before the players ever emerged on the Sky Temple map and Tennessee didn’t stand a chance.
The second game was over before we knew it. A typical Heroes of the Storm game takes about twenty minutes. The second game between UTA and Tennessee took only thirteen minutes before UTA destroyed the core on the always popular Battlefields of Eternity map to secure their place in the finals.
The second match between Arizona State and UConn was a fun one for those who watched Heroes of the Dorm last year as well. Both teams were returning after a strong showing last year and had a lot of support both in the arena and online. Arizona State, after losing in the 2015 finals in a close 3-2 battle with University of California, Berkeley, showed that they were ready to play. While UConn stuck to their methodical style, playing a nearly technically perfect game, they were no match for The Real Dream Team who steamrolled them in two quick matches that barely left the crowd time to catch their breath.
Arizona State boasted two of the most recognizable names in the Heroes of the Dorm tournament; Mike “MichaelUdall” Udall and Stefan “akaface” Anderson. Returning from the previous year, Udall’s leadership and akaface’s support play were a constant source of interest throughout the games. It took very little time for them to move on the Finals, their confidence at an all-time high during the post-match interview.
By Sunday evening, excitement had reached a fevered pitch as the doors opened early to let in the waiting crowd who cheered at one point when UTA walked past. Signs and cheers, thunder sticks and character heads filled the arena as everyone anticipated a good match. While they weren’t disappointed, most were surprised with just how strong the win was for Arizona State. It took only three games for last year’s runners-up to claim the prize. The first two games were the definition of domination, with UTA seemingly off-balance through both, always on defense.
In the third, and definitive, game, it became much closer. Towards the end, fans on both sides were screaming themselves hoarse in the longest game of the weekend. And while UTA put up a good fight, Arizona State proved just too powerful for them to overtake. The 2016 Heroes of the Dorm champions were joined on stage by their family and friends to accept their medals and celebrate their victory.
In perhaps the most moving moment of the tournament, Arizona State player Austin “Shot” Lonsert fell to his knees in tears after telling his mother that he did it for her. Momma Shot (as she is known on Twitter) stayed next to him for the rest of the ceremony and mother and son both looked overcome with joy.
The fact that this year three matches were aired live on ESPN can only bode well for the future of Heroes of the Dorm and eSports in general. The games are still available for streaming on ESPN’s site. The second annual Heroes of the Dorm tournament could only be described as a success. Unique gameplay, passionate fans and, in the end, one very happy team, all added up to a tradition that should only grow in the coming years.