The Challengers: Zeveron

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Team Zeveron

With the first weekend of the June North America Open behind us and the July and August qualifiers yet to come, teams from across the NA scene are set to compete for not only the prize pools, but the chance to represent their continent at BlizzCon.

Some of these names will be familiar, and they’re likely to do well in the events. Teams like TempoStorm, 2ARC and both Cloud9 Maelstrom and Vortex will be dangerous contenders in the quest to secure a ticket to the big show.

But what about the teams that are waiting in the wings to hit that stage themselves? Top-seeded ESL Major League teams are only one source of competitors for The Road to BlizzCon, and other challengers will now get their chance to prove that they have what it takes to represent North America.

Some of them are teams who have arisen from amateur leagues and tournaments. Others are ESL Major League teams who have yet to dominate their North American opponents.

But against a field of experienced and established teams who excel under the bright lights, they are the challengers.

Origins

Formed mostly by players who played for Evil Geniuses’ old Heroes team that eventually became Murloc Geniuses, Zeveron’s current roster is composed of Manny “Fury” Medina, Kayla “Faye” Murray, Rori “CauthonLuck” Bryant-Raible, Jon “Equinox” Peterson and Drew “Madtimmy” Rodgers.

Zeveron acquired the team shortly after newcomers Fury and Equinox joined up with the remnants of the old EG roster under the Murloc Geniuses banner.

Fury had parted ways with his previous team, Barrel Boys, and was playing with Goat Gaming until it, too, disbanded. Equinox had been playing with Goat Gaming as well, but had moved to Murloc Geniuses just over a week before Fury did.

“The original iteration of Murloc Geniuses was actually nine or ten different people, and it was just a paring down of which players worked best. As soon as we clicked onto this exact roster, I think within a week everybody pretty much knew that it was going to be good,” CauthonLuck explained.

Though the team meshed well, they did have to learn to work together – a staple in the team-based competitive environment of Heroes of the Storm where one player can’t carry the team.

Madtimmy emphasized how important that team-based play is in the absence of a traditional-style carry, saying he’d rather have a player who fits in and communicates well over a toxic player who is mechanically flawless.

“It’s a game full of communication. It’s not like League, where one person can carry and that mechanical player is much stronger. In this game it’s much different, you have to work as a team. If you don’t, you’re not going to win,” he explained.

Faye agreed, saying that past experience in the game had taught her about personality clashes and how they could impact a team’s performance in-game.

“I personally don’t want to play with anyone who has a bad attitude. I had a team like that when I first started getting into Heroes, and it made the team atmosphere horrible.“

Thankfully, CauthonLuck explained that wasn’t an issue for the team as they began practicing together and learning their own personal styles.

“All five of us instantly got along fine – especially at the start, when we lost a lot of games against good teams – but we didn’t blame each other, we didn’t rage out. We all looked at games objectively and tried to see how we could improve, how we could help each other instead of blaming each other. And it just clicked. We realized that this was going to be a team that worked.”

The big-time

While the team was putting in work, they had already missed the window to qualify for ESL’s second season of Major League. They would finally get the chance to hit the big stage when they were invited to the World Cyber Arena 2015 North America qualifiers instead of the Major League’s faltering eighth-place team, Rising Taquitos. ESL Heroes game head for North America, Matt MacNeil, explained that choice.

“Zeveron is a team that’s comprised of a lot of really well-known people in the community. Rising Taquitos was one of the newer teams. They were sort of the up-and-comers, the new kids on the block. It’s not that we didn’t want to give them a chance, but they were clearly struggling,” MacNeil said.

That choice ended up working out, as Zeveron won their match against their quarterfinal opponent, compLexity Gaming, 2-1. It was a memorable moment for Equinox, who had bounced around a number of pro teams before exploding onto the scene with this one.

“That was definitely my favorite moment so far. It solidified us as a top four team at that moment,” he said.

For Fury there was a personal vindication, as the compLexity squad’s roster was made up of the Barrel Boys players who had removed him.

“For me it was revenge. That team replaced me because they felt I was holding them back, so after joining Murloc Geniuses/Zeveron, beating that team felt really good. It showed I’m not a weak player; I’m not the reason those guys were held back. It felt really good, winning that series in WCA” Fury said.

Nemesis

Zeveron moved on to the semifinal, where they faced perennial contenders TempoStorm. Zeveron shocked their opponents by taking game one. Game two appeared to be theirs as well after they wiped out TempoStorm in defense of their own core, which was left with only a sliver of health.

TempoStorm’s Arthelon respawned first and ended the game seconds before Zeveron could eliminate the enemy’s core. With Madtimmy left alone in base to defend, Arthelon made a mad dash for the objective and, when Zeveron’s core fell, he was one auto-attack away from death.

Despite being moments away from moving on to the finals in game two, Zeveron lost game three.

“It really sucks. Both sides had their chances to win. I think you have to take the good. On the bigger eSports scene, it made the team look like a real contender. Even though we expected to win, and wanted to win, and are disappointed in how it turned out, I think the public perception of us as a legitimate threat to the top teams was established there. We have to learn from it and go forward. No use dwelling on it,” CauthonLuck explained.

Equinox said that they’ve been working on closing out games and have learned from their experiences against TempoStorm. Their game, he says, is stronger for it.

“We realized that all we need to do, since we’ve got a really solid early to mid-game, is learn how to close out games cleanly and have zero chance of throwing,” he explained.

Interlude

Since their WCA appearance, the team’s profile in the Heroes scene increased substantially.

In an interview, Cloud9 Maelstrom’s warrior player John Paul “KingCaffeine” Lopez (generally considered one of the strongest warrior players) gave high praise to Fury as one of the better warriors in the NA scene. Fury says he views himself as a top warrior player, having played only that role since he began competing.

“My playstyle, compared to other tanks, is I don’t like to take free damage. I position myself pretty well. I’m in the frontline, but I don’t take free damage, and when my team’s ready to fight I engage or help engage, depending on the heroes we have. Overall, I think my playstyle is pretty simple to learn: you play pretty safe, and then be aggressive when need be,” Fury said.

Without ESL Major League obligations, Zeveron was left to continue practicing and preparing for their next opportunity. They took first place in the 25th installment of the Go4Heroes Americas cup in late May, and turned some heads when they reached rank one in Team League with an undefeated record of 29-0.

“Overall, it was pretty easy. One night was pretty close to losing the record. We went against Kappa Wolves in Team League, and we let them have The Lost Vikings on Garden of Terror. We were down like two or three levels at the beginning, it was pretty bad. We ended up making a comeback, so that was nice,” Equinox explained.

Unlike competitive formats, Team League doesn’t allow bans - something that made the feat somewhat more difficult. The team didn’t start out with the intention of an undefeated record, though.

“Once we got to around 20-0 we were like, hey, let’s just go the rest of the way undefeated, and we just “tryharded” the rest of the way, so to speak, and it was pretty clean,” CauthonLuck said.

The Road to BlizzCon

But their big chance eventually came when Blizzard announced the North America Open events, which will qualify teams to potentially represent North America at BlizzCon.

Along with the tournament announcement came the addition of a Dota-style two-ban system to the competitive format. That shift has been the focus of Zeveron’s current practice and training. Known for using Kerrigan extensively, they needed more options in the new draft environment.

“I think we are all enjoying the variety in drafts now, and the benefit your team gets from being able to run a wide variety of comps. As soon as this double ban system came out, we started focusing immediately on improving our comfortable heroes, to the point where we could run many more comps than we had shown before,” CauthonLuck said.

Equinox said that teams who are used to relying on certain team compositions now have a choice: adapt or die.

“I think what I like about it the most is that there are a couple teams that rely on cheesy comps to win...not going to say which ones. There are a couple teams, and it’s pretty easy to beat them now because they can’t get those cheesy comps anymore.”

The game’s meta has also changed substantially since the release of the newest content patch. Johanna’s ability to draw enemies in lets her peel effectively for her team’s assassins while setting them up for area-of-effect damage that can hit more people than ever. With the arrival of Kael’thas’ there are more assassins than ever available during the draft: a change that has, in some cases, impacted Faye’s choice of hero.

“I’ve been playing less Jaina, because we play a lot of Kael’thas. But Zagara is played a lot less, Tychus is played a bit less. Other than that, I don’t know. With the assassin heroes, there’s like a clearly defined five or six of them that you pick, and after that it’s just whatever you think fills the right comp that you’re going for,” Faye said.

With the arrival of high-burst combinations in the meta, some teams have moved away from using Tassadar, who was often seen as a good utility pick who offered middle-of-the-road damage. However, CauthonLuck thinks the High Templar still has a place on the battlefields of the Nexus.

“He’s kind of on the bubble of the top assassins. Any time he’s with an Illidan, it’s a great pick, just for the shield. Same with Kerrigan. You want to be able to lend your melee assassin some survivability. He’s really good against burst-oriented comps like Tyrael and Falstad, since that’s one less good target to go on. He also fits in really well as a pusher or counterpusher into promote-based comps.”

Asked whether there was another team that they are keeping their eye on outside of the top four, Equinox pointed to COGnitive gaming, who recently went through a roster shakeup, as a possible threat. Adding former TempoStorm assassin and shotcaller Mike “Glaurung” Fisk and longtime community member and support player Jeffrey “iakona” Dolan, the team has a certain unknown quality.

“Overall, it’s an improvement. From scrimming them earlier, they’ve had some pretty poor shotcalling. With Glaurung, their shotcalling is much better, it’s more decisive. You can definitely tell in their rotations. The downfall is that it’s pretty predictable. That’s the only downfall of it. And iakona is definitely an upgrade,” Equinox said.

Faye was less certain, saying that, at least for the moment, the field in North America was pretty thin.

“There’s a pretty big drop-off between the top five or six teams and then everyone else below that, so it’s really hard to say if there’s a team that will do well or not,” she said.

Zeveron has reached the Ro8 in the June North America Open and is set to play Cloud9 Maelstrom in the first match of the double-elimination tournament. Their fans will be watching, drawn in by their near-victory against one of the strongest NA teams at WCA. Fury took a moment to thank those fans for their support of Zeveron.

“Thanks to all the fans. I hope they keep watching. We’re not fancy like Cloud9 or TSM or anything like that, but we’d like to bring very good games against the top organizations as Zeveron.”

Asked what was so “fancy” about those teams, Fury laughed.

“You know, we’re the underdog ... for now.”

Josh Bury is a freelance journalist with a passion for Heroes of the Storm, Basketball and other nerdy activities.You can follow him on Twitter.

Cosplayer of the Week: Katrina Fox

theScore esports Staff 1d ago

Los Angeles-based cosplayer Katrina Fox might be best known for her awesome depictions of characters like Katarina and Jynx from League of Legends, but the 25-year-old is also a writer for iCosplay Magazine, a non-profit magazine that celebrates the art of cosplaying.

"Cosplay is such an important thing to me because it has helped me and so many others become more confident with ourselves, make great and lasting friendships, experience a different side of life and people as well as stretch my abilities and push myself to learn more and be the best ME I can be," she wrote in her Patreon profile.

Check out some of her best cosplays below.

Poison Shot by @carlosgphotos #poison #capcom #streetfighter #cosplay #feoranna

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Norm Kelly on esports: 'It's a sport in my eyes. So I admire the guys that do it well, just as I admire guys that play football well or hockey'

by 3d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of Lucas Oleniuk / Toronto Star / Getty

Toronto city councillor Norm Kelly has built a sizeable Twitter following thanks to his love of hip-hop and pop culture, but the 75-year-old politician inadvertently dipped his toes into esports when he shared an image of a FaZe Clan fan messaging him "FaZe Up" on a frequent basis.

Though Kelly may not be familiar with FaZe's quick-scoping montages, he says that esports has enormous potential in Toronto. As a member of the city's Economic Development Committee, he told theScore esports he would ask staff to look into ways they can help promote esports.

"Everything at city hall starts with a reports staff, so I'm gonna ask them to do the research and come back to committee to tell us how we can play a role in growing the sport here in the city," he said.

"I mean, this is the fourth largest city in North America. And so when you're that big, when you're that important, I think it's critical that the city engage itself in trends that are beginning to emerge. We gotta be, if you can't be at the head of the curve you gotta be as close to it as possible."

Though not a city typically associated with esports, the 2016 NA LCS summer finals in Toronto managed to sell out the Air Canada Centre, home arena of the Toronto Maple Leafs, in August. Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is reportedly looking to double down on esports, with the company's COO Dave Hopkinson recently telling SportTechie that the Toronto Raptors are eager to field a team in the upcoming NBA 2K eLeague.

RELATED: NBA and Take-Two Interactive Software to launch NBA 2K eLeague

"I think that it's really important for the city government to understand what's going on out there in the field of sports and entertainment and do its best to reinforce it and help grow it. I think the Raptors initiative is fabulous," Kelly said of the report.

Though not a gamer himself, Kelly says he has great respect for how the medium has grown, as well as for the athletes who are currently competing in esports.

"When I grew up in Toronto, it was all outdoor sports. We played baseball in the summer, football in the fall, hockey in the winter. But when I became a parent, the electronic revolution was just taking off and today, all the games that one can play electronically are amazing," he said.

"I understand what it takes to focus, to participate successfully, it's a sport in my eyes. So I admire the guys that do it well, just as I admire guys that play football well or hockey. [They've] got super talent, so I not only admire them, I'm jealous! I wish I had it too."

While he says he hasn't had the time to try his at hand at first-person shooters, the Scarborough—Agincourt councillor warns that he could be quite handy with an AWP if given the chance.

"My dad was in the RCAF during the second World War and he taught air crews how to handle small weapons, so the guys in my family have a good eye," Kelly said. "And man, I wish I had the time to participate in some of the war games, because frankly I think I would do pretty well."

No doubt, Marcelo "coldzera" David and Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev had best watch their backs.

Sasha Erfanian is running through the 6ix with his woes. Follow him on Twitter.

Gerard Piqué announces new esports project

by 4d ago
Thumbnail image courtesy of REUTERS/Susan Vera / Action Images

Spanish footballer Gerard Piqué is entering the world of esports with a new project that looks to combine esports and football called eFootball.Pro, Piqué announced Tuesday.

Few details regarding the project have been revealed, though its website states Piqué is hiring a variety of people to "create the future of football in eSports," with open positions for competition, content creation and marketing, business and event management listed.

Piqué currently plays for FC Barcelona as a centre-back, alongside the Spanish national team.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Esports Arena to debut mobile esports truck

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Thumbnail image courtesy of ELC Gaming

Esports will be hitting North American roads this summer with Esports Arena Drive, a 53-foot customized truck that can transform into an esports stage in a few hours, Esports Arena announced Wednesday.

The truck, called Esports Arena Drive, will transform into an esports stage and studio in less than two hours and will include a competition stage, production facilities and a lounge, among other features.

“Esports Arena Drive will be able to connect our existing [arenas] to all regions across the country, launch nationwide tours, amplify existing esports events, and even bring esports to non-gaming events in one streamlined operation,” Paul Ward, co-founder and CEO of Esports Arena, said in a statement. “Esports Arena Drive will provide a new and unique experience to the North American esports industry.”

Ward confirmed to theScore esports that there will be no title limitations for Esports Arena Drive. Event dates and locations will be announced at a later date.

The North American truck is modeled after Big Betty, a similar truck operated in Europe by Esports Arena's sister-company ELC Gaming. That truck made its debut at gamescom 2016. The rig hosted the $25,000 Euro Esports Superstars Hearthstone tournament in December, which was won by Thijs "Thijs" Molendijk.

Preston Dozsa is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.

Cosplayer of the Week: Yaya Han

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Thumbnail image courtesy of Kyle Nishioka / Flickr

In 1999, Anime Expo unwittingly played host to a future star of the cosplay industry. Of course, at the time, there was no way of knowing that 17-year-old Yaya Han would go on to become one of the industry's most iconic figures nearly two decades later.

Focusing on fun and creativity, Yaya pays homage to her favorite characters in every cosplay she creates.

Otakon

In 2005, Yaya took the plunge and jumped into the world of cosplay full-time, transitioning from casual cosplayer to costume commissioner as her sole source of income.

"My business has slowly, painfully, amazingly developed into a variety of branches," Yaya told Nerd Bastard's Luke Gallagher in 2014. She went on to explain how she felt uncomfortable with calling herself a "professional cosplayer" but expressed pride in how the cosplay scene had grown into an economic industry.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

It's undeniable that Yaya's brand has sprouted off in many directions. With a branding deal with Jo-Ann Fabrics, her own line of accessories and a comic book series based on Yaya's electricity-manipulating original character, there is seemingly no area within cosplay that Yaya will not explore. She has also starred in several shows including Syfy's Heroes of Cosplay, and was brought on as a guest judge for season two of TBS's competition show King of the Nerds.

Junko Enoshima - #DanganRonpa Costume made by @yayahan Photo by Iconiq #cosplay #junkoenoshima #yayahan

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Like many other prominent cosplayers, Yaya has often received flak for being a "sexy cosplayer". In 2014, she admitted the growth of the cosplay community has likely allowed for more criticisms and body shaming but, in an interview with Playboy in 2015, explained that she feels confidence is key to soaring above the negativity.

"I think it is very empowering for women to be confident. I don’t believe showing skin or being sexy is objectifying a woman, I think it’s actually the opposite," Yaya told Playboy.

"That’s why I’ve never felt the need to do a gender bend, to change a male character into a female. I’m always about representing strong female characters."

Yaya's confidence shines through in every cosplay she presents. Whether it's a body-armored Batgirl or a skin-tight Psylocke, the pride she takes in her cosplays is obvious, lending an attitude that is uniquely Yaya to each of her characters.

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Sometimes that confidence in her designs comes at a cost: time. In her interview with Nerd Bastards, Yaya expressed the extra difficulties in cosplays like as her Dark Elf, Banshee Queen Enira, Batgirl, Carmilla and Oruha.

"All of them had challenges such as fussy materials to sew, weird props, weird wigs, weird wings, new techniques to be learned," said Yaya, "and for all of them, I pulled multiple all-nighters to finish the project."

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On her Facebook page, Yaya states that she believes cosplay is "the ultimate form of Creativity, and a sincere form of expression for fans and artists alike." Her appearances at major conventions as a featured guest and willingness to take on projects like creating an accessories line have been criticized as money-grabbing, but that is far from the truth.

Yaya speaks about her passion and love of cosplay every chance she gets. She doesn't shy away from opportunities to better the community or expand its reach, and always creates her cosplays with dedication and love of the character in mind.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

One of her most recent projects allowed her to find a middle ground between her love of anime and video games: Camilla from Fire Emblem: Heroes. While her early cosplays are focused on anime and manga, where her cosplay roots lay, Yaya has switched gears and taken on more video game and comic book characters in recent years.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

League of Legends has inspired several cosplays for Yaya. In her own words, Ashe's Heartseeker skin "won [her] over the minute it came out!" In 60 hours, she created everything down to the gold trimming on the costume, with help from Kamui Cosplay on the bow.

Since debuting Heartseeker Ashe in 2014, she has re-worn the cosplay several times at major conventions. Her Warring Kingdoms Katarina and Arcade Miss Fortune cosplays have also received praise and accolades.

A post shared by Yaya Han (@yayahan) on

"Cosplay is an art form, a dedicated passionate unique art form and it requires so much focus and dedication," Yaya said in her final statement to Playboy.

"I really wish people would understand that aspect more."

Today's mood. (Photo by @awesomebenny)

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If you want to follow Yaya as she carves a new path for cosplay, check out her social media here:

Kristine "Vaalia" Hutter is a news editor and resident cosplay geek at theScore esports. You can find her on Twitter.

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