And then there were four.
"Heroes of the Dorm" started the last weekend in March with 16 hopeful schools and teams eager for the chance at the scholarship prize. They would go all-out, draft pocket picks, develop aggressive strategies, pick well-executed team fights and build smart combinations with the notion that there may not be a tomorrow waiting for them.
When the dust cleared, the four remaining hopefuls were Tennessee, UConn, UT-Arlington and Arizona State. It will be tough to call as all four university teams looked great throughout the tournament with their own moments of absolute dominance. This will be a very close showdown, and it's any school's game to claim the final prize.
Day 1 highlights
On Day 1, the juggernaut teams -- Boston College Pool Plato ST, University of Connecticut Tricky Turtles, Cal Berkeley Golden Mishas, Arizona State University Real Dream Team and UT-Arlington Dark Blaze -- all made it through. Each school had its own strength in execution, but the lack of upsets against these schools was a disappointment. On the other hand, that's good news for the next stage, when every game of Heroes of the Storm is a guaranteed quality match.
Dominance continued: Boston College Pool Plato ST against Johns Hopkins The Button Mashers.
One of the popular picks to make a long run in the tournament, Pool Plato ST blended experience, execution and creativity to make short work out of its opponent. This school could be the sleeper to take down the entire tournament, and it absolutely showed.
Pool Plato ST asserted its strength from the start of the draft until the end of the set against Johns Hopkins The Button Mashers. The team crafted a lineup that could pressure from safe distances, emphasized support (cleanses) and shields and boasted a stronger initiation. As a result, every fight that was dictated by the game's pace went to Pool Plato ST and, with that, the map's objectives and lanes were awarded to them, as well. In the end, Game 1 was a victory through map suffocation and overall level leads.
Movement was key for Pool Plato ST in Game 2, as the team from Boston College emphasized speed and flexibility in the draft in order to control neutral objectives and kite team fights. It certainly worked, as The Button Mashers were forced into uncomfortable situations from the early game on, when Pool Plato ST pressured every lane and shifted as a group to generate a bigger push. With the early advantage, Pool Plato ST lived on the enemy's side of the map to siege through the defenses. Like a copy of the first game, the map control allowed Pool Plato ST to win out every big fight and crush through the base with a level difference.
Experience matters: Tennessee We Volin against LSU Bob Ross Fight Club
While many of the matchups featured in the "Heroes of the Dorm" competition were lopsided, this pairing was as close as it could be. Both schools were excellent stall and defensive teams, with slightly longer average game times -- 18:56 (Tennessee) and 22:27 (LSU). The experience edge of We Volin ended up being the clutch factor between the two schools in their exciting, and long, set.
The marathon set started in a defensive struggle between the two schools in Game 1. With neither team hesitant to force a fight, it was an objective stall for the majority of the match. It was a game of disengages, but one large mistake from Bob Ross Fight Club ended in the first noticeable edge for either side when the team from LSU lost three heroes for the price of none. We Volin needed only the slight lead and used it to bully through map objectives and fights (targeting the correct heroes) and ended the first game in its favor.
The defensive stalling was the star in Game 2, when We Volin commanded the early game lead with better laning and crisp movement. But it was Bob Ross Fight Club that fought back and controlled the neutral objectives. It was a battle of trades, lead notwithstanding, and Bob Ross Fight Club made the correct calls. The LSU squad secured the important fights, objectives and map presence, and it made the comeback for the tie.
The last game was all We Volin despite the great stalling ability and defense of Bob Ross Fight Club. While the other two games were slow struggles for an end, this game finished off in a climatic fight at a largest neutral objective when Bob Ross Fight Club gasped their last against We Volin.
Day 2 highlights
The upset: University of Connecticut Tricky Turtles against Cal Berkeley Golden Mishas
A clash between two tournament favorites before the Grand Finals should be a must-watch. The strength of both teams were in full display, but it was the Tricky Turtles' execution that really shined through.
The first game that these two schools played was unexpected -- a strong early lead by Tricky Turtles coupled with better team fight execution into a snowball victory over the Golden Mishas. Whether it was through better rotations, priority of map objectives or even the recognition of when to fight, the Tricky Turtles met every bit of aggression with favorable trades.
Game 2 was the classic: a long game that ran past 20 minutes with neither side relinquishing any kind of fight. There were plenty of peel-outs, objective snipes and rotations instead of a large fight in the midgame. In the end, it was a base race that won it out for the Tricky Turtles when the Golden Mishas made a curious choice to go all-in despite a Medivac Dropship delivering the entire Tricky Turtles team to the enemy core.
Game of inches: UT-Arlington Dark Blaze against Boston College Pool Plato ST
In a sneak preview of the kind of quality matches that await the viewer in the Heroic Four of the tournament, the Dark Blaze and Pool Plato ST put on a clinic.
The pace was set in Game 1. Pool Plato ST started the momentum in its favor with map and objective control, but Dark Blaze were favorites for a reason when the UT-Arlington team adjusted its strategy to prioritize rotations and kept the game in a stalemate. Pool Plato ST would respond to every attack and ended up taking favorable trades despite Dark Blaze's best efforts to finally break the game its way. The speed between both schools was blistering -- Pool Plato ST hit level 20 before 17 minutes. With that lead, Pool Plato ST forced its way through the enemy's base and ended the first game on the first real base siege.
Dark Blaze used an old strategy that was out of the current landscape to really surprise their opponent. While a majority of the game was quite even, the trump card of Dark Blaze's team composition and fighting combination would really pay dividends. With the bloodlust team fight for Dark Blaze, their mobility and chase potential helped the UT-Arlington team prevail in small skirmishes. Pool Plato ST made concentrated efforts to force fights and defend the larger map objectives, but Dark Blaze's team fighting execution was pristine; between holding spells like bloodlust or gust until the very end or prioritizing hero targets, the team from Texas took the upper hand and lead with every fight. Eventually, the lead was too much (any lead was large), and Dark Blaze took care of Game 2.
Game 3 was further proof that Dark Blaze was just the better team this year. The UT-Arlington squad took advantage of better trades, drafted another creative lineup that absolutely worked on the battleground and fought better fights with their signature execution. While Pool Plato ST's defense was absolutely on point, it was the constant pressure from Dark Blaze that won out and stormed through the set. This is a team to fear.