UB loses to Laval in Heroes of the Dorm Grand Finals

Team loses opportunity for $500,000 grand prize

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BURBANK, CALIFORNIA -- UB’s Heroes of the Storm team fell short Saturday night, losing in the Heroes of the Dorm Grand Finals against No. 2 Université Laval 0-3. The eighth seeded “Improbabull Victory” battled their way to a 3-2 win over No. 5 California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, but couldn’t carry its momentum into the final round.

Dorm, a collegiate Heroes of the Storm tournament started in 2015, offers full tuition to the winning team, and has kickstarted many professional players’ careers. This year, a fantasy bracket was added, promising $1 million for a perfect bracket. An individual won $10,000 for the most accurate bracket. The four teams participating in the Heroic Four earned custom gaming computers courtesy of ASUS.

Five-hundred audience members sold out Blizzard Arena and more than 20,000 viewers watched the event from home on the popular streaming website Twitch. The collegiate tournament’s success is a testament to the growing success of the $1 billion esports industry.

Buffalo started its day with a loss against CPP, but bounced back to win the next two matches. An out-of-the-box character pick for CPP in game four helped tie the series, but Buffalo’s determination shone through in a dominant performance to win game five, advancing them to the final round.

Squaring up against Laval, who didn’t lose a single match the entire tournament, proved to be too challenging for Buffalo. The Laval team has been playing together for four years and practiced against professional teams throughout the tournament.

Sophomore accounting major Allen “FantaFiction” Hu said the team recognized Laval would be a formidable foe, but hoped the momentum of winning their first series would help them win.

“Going into the finals we were confident after just winning game five against CPP,” Hu, the team captain said. “We knew the first game would determine how well we were going to do in the set. That game immediately made us realize that they were the better team.”

In the earlier stages of the tournament, games were played in a best-of-three format, switching to best-of-five from the round of eight moving forward. Buffalo breezed through the earlier stages, rarely losing a match, and unexpectedly swept No. 1 seed University of California, Irvine 3-0.

But, they never had to play more than three games in a series. Because of this, the additional games played took a toll on the team’s gameplay and players’ stamina.

Hu said they hadn’t prepared physically or mentally for playing so many games in a row, which allowed Laval to capitalize on sloppy plays.

“Playing all five games against CPP, it took a toll on us mentally,” Hu said. “We had to play Laval immediately after, we had like a five minute break. We don’t normally play 8 games straight, so that really took a toll on our gameplay.”

While Laval made its wins look easy, players had nothing but respect for Buffalo’s players. Patrick “Wouka” Langlois, a senior counseling major at Laval said he knew Buffalo would be an easier team to play against, but was shocked at how challenging the first match was.

“We expected Kentucky to be way harder but it was an easy match, Buffalo ended up being way more difficult of an opponent than we expected,” Langlois said. “We preferred Buffalo because they play the same type of style that we do and we think we’re better at that type of approach. CPP played a cheesy team composition, which can be unpredictable, so we didn’t want to play against that.”

For Improbabull’s other members, the tournament served as a learning experience and stepping stone for their ––hopeful–– professional video game career.

Rober “V8der” Sands III, a junior English major said he learned a lot from his tournament experience. After watching professional leagues streamed online, he said he knows what it feels like to be on the other side of the computer screen.

“It’s really tiring to play in a tournament like that,” Sands said. “But honestly the biggest [takeaway for me] was meeting so many new people and seeing all of my team’s hard work come to fruition. It was a dream come true to be there, but it would’ve been a little bit better if we won.”

Sands is happy he and his teammates made it to the final round but he wants better. After putting in so much time and effort during the semester, he’s upset his team wasn’t able to take home the grand prize.

“It’s weird for me, I’m a little bit subdued,” Sands said. “For me obviously, I wish we could have won but I’m still proud we made it this far. The only thing we can do is keep practicing and come back next year better than ever.”

Some members of UB’s team didn’t tell their parents they were traveling to L.A. for an esports tournament, let alone participating in the tournament at all. But Sands family has been supportive of his hobby and flew out to watch him play live.

“My family gave me a lot of support, I owe a lot to them my younger brother, he was always there for me,” Sands said. “My parents were always there to support me and my hobby. My dad came and showed up which is amazing because he didn’t know a lot about the game.”

Sands said three of the five team members are considering returning for the tournament next year, but regardless, he’d like to see Buffalo go all the way next year.

In Dorm’s inaugural season, Arizona State University was the runner-up team, but returned in 2016 to take the grand prize. Hu said he thinks UB can repeat this trend to win the tournament next year.

“We were definitely the underdogs this year, but now we know what it’s like. Next year we’re going to try even harder,” Hu said. “Laval put in so much time and effort, I think if we want to win it, we’ll need to practice even more to ensure we can win it. I really think it’s possible.”

Max Kalnitz is the senior news editor and can be reached at max.kalnitz@ubspectrum.com

@Max_Kalnitz