With HGC drawing to a close, it’s a good time to look back at the greatest champions of all time. Whether heroes or villains, technical masters or passionate underdogs, these are the teams that built the competitive scene and made a lasting impression on the game’s history.
You may remember our GOAT article from 2017 chronicling the greatest teams up to that point. Curious how they stand compared to now? Check it out!
The three main things we’re looking for are:
- The level of dominance
- The length of competitive career
- The team’s ability to create memorable moments
First off, the level of dominance is a pretty straightforward and essential metric. How much did this team win, and how hard did they win? It’s not just about consistency or the number of top appearances; it’s all about the gold. And what’s more, we’re looking for flawless victories, not just barely scraping by with first place.
Second, the length of the team’s competitive career is important. For this article, we’re going to be ranking teams spanning their entire career, not just individual rosters. This is partly because MVP Black would probably take up all five spots otherwise, but also partly because some teams have transcended different metas, different rosters, and entirely different tournament formats to maintain a lasting legacy that will never truly tarnish.
Finally, a great team leaves us with great memories. Teams not only need to wow us, they need to inspire us by creating memorable moments. This aspect is obviously much more difficult to measure as an accurate metric, but it’s important enough to include nonetheless.
No surprise here.
MVP Black (later KSV Black and Gen.G) is by far the most successful team in competitive HotS history, from beginning to end. Throughout their entire career, they played 16 premier LANs—where they were the favorites to win every one—and 10 times out of 16, they delivered and took home the gold. To this day, they still retain the record for the longest win streak ever: 41 straight maps during Spring 2016. It’s no wonder they were nominated for all three of our best series of all time back in 2017. Three and a half years of sheer global domination combined with a history of outstanding players make this team the #1 by far.
MVP Black’s history can be split into two distinct eras: the Lockdown era and the Rich era. The early roster of MVP Black was nothing short of incredible. Superstar players Lockdown, Sake, and Sign ran over the competition with their aggressive mechanical play and set the bar for skill level at the highest levels. Black’s macro play developed far sooner than their counterparts in the East and rivaled the macro play of the best teams in the west.
At the end of 2015, former badboy “Oreoman” joined the team under a new moniker in order to change his identity. And without a doubt, he did. Praised as the single greatest mechanical player in Korea, Rich astounded us with his jaw-dropping plays on Thrall, Illidan, and a host of high-impact melee assassins. From here, Black got even better. Spring 2016 was the most brutal era of domination ever for Black, later rivaled only by their run in late 2018.
Was MVP Black mortal at times? Yeah, they definitely dropped a series or two and even lost a few tournaments. From their inexplicable loss to Team DK in 2015 to their memorable losses to Tempest, Ballistix, and Fnatic, MVP Black is not without flaws. But crucially, these losses were the result of other teams rising to the occasion—not because MVP Black played poorly.
Despite their losses, Black always bounced back stronger than ever. If we remember one thing about the HotS competitive history, it should be that Black was always there, always waiting—and they rarely came out on the losing end.
At this point, Dignitas has cemented their place in history as the greatest western team in HotS history. With the most medals and prize money of any western team, they have retained a high level of play and understanding of the game for a solid three years across multiple rosters. They definitely deserve this spot.
From the very beginning as Bob Question Mark, Dignitas set themselves up as a serious competitor not only in Europe but on the global stage. 2016 resulted in a year of regional domination equivalent only to MVP Black’s reign in Korea, with 3 out of 3 first place finishes in the qualifiers and 3 out of 3 victories in the European circuit. Based on those numbers alone, Dignitas was actually the most successful team in the world in 2016.
Fnatic pulled ahead of them by the end of 2017, but Dignitas stayed competitive and rebounded in 2018 with some of the best HGC records to date and both Western Clash victories. Unfortunately, Gen.G cut them short in both the Mid-Season Brawl and at BlizzCon, but it was clear that Dignitas was on the same level.
Some of the most iconic and well known players emerged from Dignitas as well. Bakery, known for his incredible prowess on support, went out of his way to get involved in the community, voice thoughts and opinions on the game, and help out in almost every project he could get his hands on. Snitch built up a huge following as a streamer and became one of the most outspoken critics of the game using his platform. The point? Dignitas is important as an organization too because these guys not only participated in the pro scene, but actively worked to transform the game into something better.
Out of all the teams here, Team Liquid has gone through perhaps the most iterations. Between the original 2014 roster led by former SC2 pro Sheth to the Team Liquid we know today headlined by flex-support Nurok and long-time pro HasuObs, they have sported some of the most creative and talented players on the planet. The tradition of creative picks and playstyles was passed down from generation to generation, and while some rosters peaked and others hit multiple nosedives, Team Liquid never left us with a dull moment.
The trademark style of Liquid revolved around unique picks and strategies. Who can forget Lowell’s hipster Thrall? Or Vortix’s unmatchable Vikings play? What about dar’umbi? With the exception of perhaps Zealots, no other team in Europe has ever come close to matching their off-the-wall drafting, and only the best of the best could keep up with their macro-centric style.
The single most important era of Team Liquid is during the Summer of 2015, when brothers Lucifron and Vortix went on a rampage across the European scene and dominated for 4 months straight with almost no resistance whatsoever. Though they later faltered against the surprisingly good and then-unknown team Bob Question Mark on the Road to BlizzCon, Team Liquid was undoubtedly among the top 3 in the world at that point in time.
Though the team never quite reached those heights again, they continued to play rather consistently across several different rosters. The so-called Liquid Curse prevented them from ever breaking into the top again, but over three more years, they managed to stay on the radar as a solid 3rd/4th place team in Europe.
So why is Liquid ranked at #3? Because they blow other teams out of the water when it comes to memorable moments. Off-meta picks are just the start. They have provided us with some of the closest and most exciting series in the history of HotS, like the series against Gen.G at BlizzCon. As much as they disappointed, when they were on form it was a spectacle like no other. And that’s why I have to give them the #3 spot.
Like Team Liquid, Ballistix also has a legacy. It’s easy to remember Ballistix as the second best team in Korea, but you have to remember their roots and their journey to put everything into perspective.
The roots of Ballistix can be traced all the way back to 2014 when a group of retired SC2 players (one of them a GSL champion) formed Team No Limit (TNL). TNL wasn’t a particularly precocious team, but they quickly improved and (with the sponsorship of Team DK) went on to BlizzCon 2015 to play against Cloud9 in one of the most famous matches of all time.
Team DK eventually went under, and TNL played for a few months before disbanding, but the passion for competitive gaming lived on in the hearts of Noblesse and sCsC. Along with leftover players from dissolved orgs such as Team AsD and Team Hero, they formed the Lost 5, also known as L5, and tore through the competition in late 2016. Out of nowhere, these five abandoned players defeated MVP Black and went on to win the world championship without breaking a sweat. Since then, they remained top competitors for the better part of two years, taking multiple wins off MVP Black and Tempest.
Their playstyle has always been straightforward and simple. They draft standard, take good fights, exhibit god-tier macro, and simply win through pure efficiency. Stylistically, they are the epitome of Korean work ethic—an obsession with improving upon the fundamentals until everything is close to perfect. Watching Ballistix play is like watching the workings of a clock—everything perfectly measured, perfectly paced, and slowly ticking away until the victory screen. While their style may have been unimpressionable at times, there’s no doubt that Ballistix is one of the best teams of all time.
This team must absolutely be credited for their contributions to HotS. In the Western world, Tempo Storm was the progenitor of it all. They invented macro play as we know it, they defined the roles we use in competitive play today, and they were a huge part in getting the competitive Heroes scene started in its infancy.
Lauded as the greatest team in the west and perhaps the world (though we later found out they were, at best, second after MVP Black), Tempo Storm had so much going for them with their early roster. Unfortunately, team tensions grew to a toxic level and forced a second iteration led by Kaeyoh. The loss of god-tier players like Zuna, Dreadnaught, and So1dier was devastating though. Cycling through some of the new HotS talent like erho, Tomster, Zixz, and ladder superstar Srey, the newest roster couldn’t make the same impression and eventually disbanded.
6 months later came the reboot. The revamped Murloc Geniuses squad led by CauthonLuck signed with Tempo Storm and quickly became the hottest team in North America. Using safe, macro-style drafts, the team rediscovered its roots in slow, methodical play amid the chaotic landscape of the North American meta. Though several roster changes plagued the team throughout 2018, they remained a threat and never truly disappeared from the top of the North American leaderboards.
In the end, Tempo Storm clocks in as the best team in North America for three years out of four, making them undeniably one of the greatest teams of all time. As a cool bonus, Tempo Storm sponsored Tempest for three months in between North American rosters.
Cloud9 had an inspiring run from August 2015 to March 2016 where they finally surpassed their North American rivals Tempo Storm and conquered the world at BlizzCon 2015. No one will ever forget the “undying” composition of Murky/Leoric used to confound Team DK and ultimately take a win over the Koreans. Unfortunately, the roster took a nosedive in 2017 and quickly disappeared from notoriety. While the talent from Cloud9 moved on to new teams, they were never able to replicate the success at the height of their career.
Fnatic was so, so close to making it on the list, but what held them back was a lackluster 2018. Fnatic’s surprise win at DreamHack Winter in late 2015 was the beginning of a promising history. 2016 went well too, as they steadily improved and stood side by side with mYinsanity/Misfits and Dignitas (well, a little lower than DIG), but 2017 was really their breakout year. Their victory at the Mid-Season Brawl was spectacular, and they rode the momentum all the way to the Grand Finals at BlizzCon vs MVP Black. The all-Swedish roster spearheaded by Breez and Quackniix is still one of the most memorable rosters in terms of both success and sheer charisma.
How could Tempest not get mentioned? The dream team created by brothers Hide and Lockdown shook the world in summer 2016 by beating MVP Black twice in some of the most important tournaments of the year. The finals between the two at DreamHack Summer is still considered one of the best series of all time. While Tempest remained relevant throughout 2017 and 2018, they more or less played second fiddle to L5/Ballistix, and that’s where they sunk under the radar. Kudos to Tempest for setting the record on the most logo iterations in the HGC, though.
Roll20 (Team 8), Gale Force, and Team Freedom all deserve a shoutout, but HeroesHearth ends up being the winner simply because they captured our hearts like no other North American team did. Reminiscent of the classic Barrel Boys back in 2015, HeroesHearth built off-the-wall strategies and executed them with a very high level of precision. The organization itself has contributed so much to the community with their social media site, and the community presence of Khroen, McIntyre, and even Arthelon cannot be understated. In addition, the team was also filled with some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet; if you didn’t get a chance to meet them at a HeroesHype party, you’ve missed out.
The Beast from the East! eStar had a relatively short but explosive career. The original roster led by xia0t and NccCc was undoubtedly one of the greatest teams of its time, and certainly the best team in China. Counting up all of their titles in 2015 including qualifiers and minor tournaments, they have 23 gold medals and 4 silvers, placing them in second behind Team Liquid for the most titles in one year. However, Summer 2016 marks the complete collapse of the pro scene in China. In rapidfire succession, EDG, Braveheart, OMG, Team YL, and eStar all disbanded and left a huge void at the top of the leaderboards. Though eStar reformed later with an all-new roster (although with the notable absence of Tumi) and limped through 2017, the world superpower that we knew in 2015 was gone.
If you miss HGC, check out some of these community tournaments:
A Look Into the Nexus Contest
Life Outside the HGC: Taiwan and SEA
CBHotS Paving the Way for LatAm
Life Beyond HGC: An Offseason Update
A Look Into the Nexus Contest
Life Outside the HGC: Taiwan and SEA
CBHotS Paving the Way for LatAm
Life Beyond HGC: An Offseason Update