This insight is credit to Reddit User p_merte who graciously allowed us to host his thoughts here on TNM
Negative Synergy are indisputably the top team from the Australia/New Zealand region. During qualifying, they romped home to first place without dropping a single game and will be attending their second World Championships after their joint 9th-10th place in Korea. It’s an all Aussie lineup that was formed late last year and they’ll be looking to progress to the second group stage this time around.
Negative Synergy put a huge amount of emphasis in the qualifiers on prioritizing Thrall. Thrall is often their first pick and is picked due to his incredible solo lane presence which is crucial in competitive play. To maximize the Thrall, NS often picks an Uther to follow up on the Thrall pick; this is of course to maximize Thrall’s burst output after a Sundering to split/isolate targets. In fact, something that you should take note is the reluctance of Negative Synergy to play the second off support. Whilst the main regions often prioritize the Tassadar in either the first rotation of bans or picks, Australia and New Zealand did not play the same sort of meta.
To follow up on the standard Thrall and Uther pick, NS often opt for the Li Ming pick as their priority pick for ranged assassin. In the last rotation of picks, it will usually be a Falstad or Sylvanas to complete their back-line damage where Sylvanas will be drafted for more lane control and Falstad more for the global i.e. Tomb of the Spider Queen and Dragon Shire respectively. As for the warrior choices, they do not prioritize them as highly, often picking either Johanna or Muradin in the middle of the draft (although there was one sneaky Rexxar pick on Infernal Shrines after they grabbed Sonya first!). It’s interesting to note that the 2 games they picked Etc during Korea Spring Championships, they won both matches.
As for bans, apart from the standard Illidan and Kael’thas bans, something that they do often is to deny the Zagara pick as the first ban after they prioritize the Thrall to control the solo lane on maps where the solo lane is important i.e. Tomb or BHB; however, it appears that no Australia/New Zealand teams play Chen so we’ll see if this same sort of strategy will work in Sweden. As for the second ban, often it will be on either a main tank when they have first pick and prioritized Johanna for the 2nd/3rd pick on rotation heavy maps or it will be on Sonya to deny the bruiser since they have first picked the Thrall. Perhaps with the increasingly wider pool of viable warriors, NS will decide to switch up their draft priority as denying warriors/bruisers seems less effective in the meta at the moment.
- Understanding when to rotate early to the objective e.g. they understand when to rotate early to the objective for Infernal Shrines
- Understanding maps when drafting i.e. picking early game heroes for Sky Temple and later game heroes for Infernal Shrines
- Decent combos off the sundering/maw or a stun
- High risk, high reward plays from their ranged assassin
- Lack of peel from the front liners for the back line. Often an enemy bruiser is given too much time and space to pressurize NS’ backline
- Prioritisation of targets which result in messy fights
- Sloppy shot-calling in terms of when to take a fight or when to give things up especially when it comes to controlling a shrine or a temple
- Easily flustered when 1 person dies, it gets a bit clown fiesta
- Thin hero pool and not really accustomed to the current meta
In my opinion, I think Ninja, their ranged assassin player is the one to watch for Negative Synergy. He’s constantly looking for flanks and aggressive gusts on Falstad whilst blinking forward to secure kills with Li Ming.
Things to look for
- Prioritization on Thrall and Uther in draft
- Aggressive ranged assassin play from both Ninja and Benjamin94. Both these players like to aggressively position themselves with Sylvanas, Falstad and Li Ming, often attempting to E in or flanking from a dangerous position
- Willing to aggressively gank top lane on Dragon Shire early game
- The merryday-esque Uther style where you aggressively looking for a stun after a sunder or to combo with Li Ming
- Panicky decision making if they lose 1 hero both in team fights and post team fight macro decision regarding the match objective
Out of all the teams in the top 4 regions, I would say X-Team are the most unpredictable team where 1 day there are beating the Spring World Championship runners up, EDG 3-0 and the next week they lose to a tier 2 Chinese side TSD in LeiFeng Cup 2-1 after they’ve qualified to Sweden. Their unpredictability has therefore led to people dubbing them the “dark horse” of the tournament. In the group stages of Gold League, they were utterly average, barely scraping out of their group in 4th place with a 2-3 record but in the playoffs they increased at a rapid rate, defeating arguably China’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th best team on their way to losers’ final. Unsurprisingly, they were beaten by the titans known as eStar but don’t be surprised if X-team win against the supposedly better teams for the main regions.
So something that the Chinese region has really championed is the triple front line blowup comp. X-team is no different. These sort of comps usually revolve around utilizing Xul and/or Thrall as the burst/CC followup after the initial stun and something like a Kael’Thas or Sylvanas followup to instantly destroy a target. Such comps are mechanically difficult to execute and if the execution is not spot on, usually you blow most of your cool downs. X-team in particular, really like settling for the Diablo pick for the blow up; often they sacrifice prioritizing the main initiating warrior to get picks for the other 2 front liners plus the back line damage dealer. Like all Asian teams, expect to see Tyrael to provide the safety blanket after the initial burst to prevent the counter engage. Aside from them, you will see your standard Etc, Muradin, Sonya and occasion Zeratul as your front line. And of course Illidan will be grabbed if he makes it past the first ban. Something that we have to keep in mind is that these drafts were picked before Blizzard nerfed some of the stun heroes such as Muradin, so we’ll have to see if it has changed X-team’s draft.
In terms of the draft order, X-team tend to prioritize their back line damage dealer first, where they will go for the Kael’Thas if he makes it past the ban or they will grab Sylvanas to guarantee maximum value from map objectives. The Thrall+Xul pick is usually next depending on the importance of wave clear on the map and it’s usually followed by the support. Usually it’s Uther because you have the follow up stun and you have the divine shield to guarantee burst damage from one of your heroes if necessary. X-team are also not afraid of sticking Misaka, the ranged flex, on heroes such as Falstad, Tyrande, the Lost Vikings or Sylvanas when YaoYao is on a mage. Banning Falstad is a high priority for X-team usually to allow the blowups to flourish.
- Taking advantage of other team’s mistakes. We saw them heavily punish EDG when they made late game mistakes and especially ZeroPanda’s Top in the series before
- The triple front line comps are insanely well executed combined with either the Kael’Thas damage or the Sylvanas wailing arrow where heroes are eliminated immediately
- Quick rotations to skirmishes which often lead to a numbers advantage and easy kills for X-team
- Really strong at utilizing Sylvanas to push for maximum value
- It’s pretty well documented that they tilt in series.
- No blow up, no party; if they fail to secure a kill early, they’re stuck in a pickle
- Draft smallish hero pool as they draft similarly most of the time
- Struggles on Battlefield of Eternity, the shotcalling is slow and they seem to regularly fall behind in the immortal race
I’d say their star player is either their ranged assassin player YaoYao who supposedly is/was the highest HL MMR player in China and is highly impactful or Elegant, their team captain and main tank. Mechanically he is strong, he engages aggressively and who can forget Zoia’s beautiful gushing over Elegant and his flawless bone structure, cheeks and general handsomeness. In fact, I’ll make him the star player cause Zoia thinks he’s got the look of a star.
Things to look for
- Something that you will notice from the Chinese teams is that they are willing to lose 2-1 rather than just lose 1-0 to minimize the opposing team’s advantage
- The blow up comps
- Maximize Sylvanas value with split-push and in team fights with Wailing arrow and using Haunting Wave aggressively
- They make YaoYao their main ranged assassin play Tyrael sometimes in the blow up comps depending if they draft Xul or not
- Teams that play against X-team don’t steal the Uther pick early enough to prevent the blow-up comp; eStar did so in loser’s final
Thinking X-Team will win 2-0 as Negative Synergy haven’t faced this sort of blow up style before, thoughts?