Gallant BlizzCon efforts put Australian eSports on the map

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    BlizzCon was, as usual, highly entertaining. (Photo: Blizzard Entertainment)

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    California’s Anaheim Convention Centre – just a stone’s throw from Disneyland – saw an action-packed weekend of incredible eSports action. Going up against some of the world’s behemothic nations, the boys from down under did themselves proud.

    At last year’s BlizzCon event, Australia were almost completely absent from the convention’s eSports scene.

    Adam “Chanimal” Chan flew the flag in World of Warcraft, but as a member of American team Tempo Storm, while Australian team Reborn were bundled out of the Heroes of the Storm Global Championship (HGC) winless.

    Fast forward just twelve months, and only the StarCraft II World Championship Series was uncontested by an Australian team.

    The Overwatch World Cup, HGC, World of Warcraft (WoW) Arena Championship and Hearthstone Inn-vitational (HSI) all had a distinct Aussie flavour this time round – and our players weren’t just there to make up numbers.

    The most high-profile team by far was Australia’s national team competing in the Overwatch World Cup.

    After the group stage event in Sydney sold out Star City for three days, all eyes were on the Aussies as they made their debut at the BlizzCon finals.

    Ajay “Aetar” Umanaskar, Jordan “Gunba” Graham, Jason “ieatuup” Ho, Marcus “Kiki” Jacob, Andrew “Rqt” Haws and Ashley “Trill” Powell were actually playing together for the first time since that wonderful weekend in August.

    But, having been the only non-group winner to progress through the round of 16, few gave the team a chance of unseating Canada in their best-of-five quarter-final.

    In true Aussie fashion, the six competitors embraced their underdog status in a big way.

    A comprehensive loss on the first point of Oasis put them on the back foot, but they were able to take advantage of a gaffe by Canada’s Liam “Mangachu” Campbell on the next point to get back in the series.

    After Canada had secured enough picks to claim the team fight, Mangachu got overzealous in his pursuit of the retreating stragglers and left the point unattended. Given Canada hadn’t actually captured it, Australia won it.

    The Aussies went on to claim the decisive point and take a 1-0 lead in the best of five.

    Not content with just one win in the books, Australia put together a very spirited performance on King’s Row to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.

    Unfortunately, that was where their luck ran out.

    The hyper-talented Canadian team found their rhythm after an iffy start, grinding out tough victories on Hanamura and Junkertown to even the series.

    Mangachu then atoned for his earlier mistake with sublime Pharah play on Nepal in what proved to be an easy Canadian victory in the fifth and final match.

    As disappointing as the loss was, Australia’s efforts against the eventual runners-up had their praises sung universally across the broadcast teams.

    Arguably the country’s lowest-profile competitor, Hearthstone player Alex “navi00T” Ridley actually enjoyed both the most success and heartbreak at BlizzCon.

    Playing alongside the USA’s David “Dog” Caero and Romania’s Dima “RDU” Radu in an invitational tournament, their team – the Chillblade Crusaders – finished the group stage on top the ladder after three consecutive 2-1 wins.

    navi00T was undefeated as the primary player, with his outrageous dominance of Alliestrasza’s big druid deck in the second match one of the highlights of the tournament.

    He picked up two more wins as primary player in the final against the Grimestreet Grifters, but unfortunately was sent packing after running into an outrageous comeback by Korea’s Hakjun “Kranich” Baek.

    He left the tournament with his head held high, however, as undoubtedly one of BlizzCon’s brightest performers.

    Alex "Navi00T" Ridley (right) in action for the Chillblade Crusaders.

    Alex “Navi00T” Ridley (right) in action for the Chillblade Crusaders.
    (Photo: Blizzard Entertainment)

    Beforehand, Australia’s BlizzCon campaign actually started last Saturday, October 28 (our time), with Dark Sided playing in group B of the HGC.

    The team, comprised Jeremy “Moops” Setio, Ashley “DeMise” Branson, Josh “Hacky” Hackett, Robert “robadobah” Purling and Hayden “Sashin” Kang, were always going to struggle first up against European powerhouse Fnatic first up.

    They ensured the eventual tournament runners-up didn’t have it all their own way, but were still dealt a 2-0 loss in the best-of-three series.

    That put them in a sudden death match-up against China’s Beyond the Game.

    While they were able to claim the first game in convincing fashion – Australia’s first ever win in the HGC Finals – they suffered heartbreaking defeats in the next two games to see their tournament finished.

    It was a similar story for Blank Esports, Australia’s first ever WoW Arena Championship team.

    Drawn against rough opposition in Rockets: Eclipse, the Aussies were pushed to the brink of elimination after a 3-0 best-of-five loss.

    But, like Dark Sided, they were able to make history by claiming the country’s first ever win at the tournament, pulling level at 1-1 with Method: Synergy in their best-of-five, before eventually falling 3-1.

    Joel “Streaming” Barker said to Blizzard before the tournament began that eSports were “still pretty stigmatised [in Australia].

    “The older generations are just unaware of what’s happening, but once they understand I think they’ll support it.”

    Hopefully, with more performances like these, we can all get around Australia’s eSports teams.