My Thoughts on Heroes CCL Season 1

Tl;dr: A polished, professional, and downright exciting tournament worth your attention!

I remember when HGC was cancelled back in 2018 and I felt a real loss. High level Heroes of the Storm was truly a joy to watch. The great production, incredible analysts and casters, and the extremely high level of play made for exciting weekends of games. I personally felt that after the cancellation and the near abandonment of Heroes of the Storm by Blizzard, professional Heroes of the Storm at that scale was not long for this world. Oh how glad I am to be proven wrong.

HeroesHearth is an organization that has been a mainstay of the Heroes of the Storm community for years. During the HGC days their team came up through the lower leagues and burst onto the scene at the highest level. They were my favorite team with players like Khroen, BBJ, and Ishb00. After HGC, HeroesHearth continued to produce Heroes of the Storm content and run tournaments. Heroes CCL feels like the culmination of years of research and preparation. The polish and production value showcased is a testament to the time and effort HeroesHearth has poured into making Heroes CCL a top-notch tournament.

The Casters

I'd like to start with the casters. The three primary casters for the CCL were DoA, Grubby, and Bahamut. For me personally, watching DoA and Grubby cast games made me realize how casting truly is a skill that takes practice to perfect. Their ability to cast and coordinate transitions in-game and between games was great. Though DoA was not as knowledgeable about Heroes of the Storm as either Grubby or Bahamut, his caster experience and skill still shone through. Part way through the tournament DoA asked to swap-out for Bahamut for play-by-play casting, and I believe this change made for an even better product. Bahamut is one of my favorite play-by-play casters. His enthusiasm and knowledge shines and always gets me hyped up. Grubby and Bahamut together casting the games was incredible. They had great chemistry and worked well off each other. I feel that having DoA come in after the games with his notes and analysis complemented the the in-game work of Grubby and Bahamut. Overall, I really enjoyed watching the tournament on the main HeroesHearth channel with these three at the helm.

The Production

The production quality of the CCL, from top-to-bottom, was excellent. From the in-game observers to the between game production, the entire team behind the scenes deserves a round of applause. Even small things like hiding the space behind the casters with a uniform background adds a feel of professionalism and polish I didn't even know I wanted. There were audio hiccups here-and-there, but that's to be expected in a remote casting situation. Any issue was handled quickly and delays were minimal. Something I do hope they implement in Season 2 is in-game replays. I would love to see a picture-in-picture of a crazy play mid-game. It would be remiss of me not to talk about the venerable Gillyweed's player interviews. Gillyweed was always incredible on the analyst desk during HGC and hasn't missed a beat since. Her interviews with players from every team added valuable depth and insight into what the CCL means for them. Overall, I was thoroughly impressed and the CCL has not just met, but exceeded my expectations.

The Organizations

In order to have a team in Heroes CCL, organizations had to go through an entire application process through HeroesHearth. As a grassroots tournament, I believe implementing this process was an excellent choice. What we saw from the organizations that got selected was exactly what the professional Heroes of the Storm scene needed. All the org owners were engaged with the community and their players. Time and effort was put into creating a structure around their players through the addition of coaches and the creation of academy teams. The enthusiasm that these org owners had for the game itself could be seen through the product on our screens. Kudos to Heroes CCL and the organizations for giving professional Heroes of the Storm the structure, support, and attention it deserved.

The Player Draft

Something that Heroes CCL did that I believe was a cornerstone to the success and the excitement of the tournament was having a draft. After the organizations were selected there were exhibition games featuring free agents followed a draft. By instituting a draft process for this tournament, the CCL created a situation where both new and old players in the Heroes of the Storm scene had an opportunity to play in high-level games. We got to see veteran HGC players alongside up-and-comers in a healthy mix across all eight teams. The draft day show went very smoothly with representatives from every organization making their selection live. It was clear that every team did their research and spent countless hours scouting as we saw the best of the best drafted.

The Games

Even with excellent production, polish, and structure, Heroes CCL would not have been the success that it was without excellent Heroes of the Storm gameplay. Every weekend reminded me why I loved watching professional Heroes of the Storm in the first place. The level of skill on display was incredible. Every week we had memorable moments and nail-biter series. We saw teams adapt and grow week to week. We saw a lot of strong standard drafts but also some crazy drafts (I'm looking at you Granit Gaming game 5 Murky). The meta was also interesting with double support, triple bruiser, and triple ranged assassin drafts all making appearances alongside a myriad of others. There were games and series every weekend that had me shouting and losing my mind with ridiculous plays and even mishaps (now I'm looking at you Crowd Control with that missed boss on Towers of Doom). Every player brought their A game and it showed.

Final Thoughts

There are still a million things about this season of Heroes CCL that I could go on about, and I think it's safe to say that Season 1 was a rousing success. At the time of writing the crowdfunded prize pool stands at over $17,300! That is an incredible outpouring of support for a grassroots tournament like Heroes CCL. From HeroesHearth, to the organizations, and the players, Heroes CCL has jolted professional Heroes of the Storm back into the mainstream and shown that this game is here to stay. I know I can't wait for season 2!