Tempo Storm has been the consistent beacon of light for North America in 2018. Finishing in the top 4 in both the first Western Clash and the Mid-Season Brawl moved the region one step closer to shedding the “NA LUL” tag that has been haunting them for years. In each Heroes Global Championship league match they were flexing their muscles; each LAN event they were improving and it finally appeared that this upcoming Western Clash event would be their best chance at taking home a first place trophy.
Then, their world collapsed on them.
Harrison “psalm” Chang announced his retirement from the scene to pursue a career in Fortnite, resetting progress that was accrued throughout the year in one swift TwitLonger. In 1001 words, Tempo Storm lost their in-game shot caller, drafter and a stellar playmaker.
Forcing the team to adjust, they brought in Seung Won “Swoy” Kim, the former Korean-champion player to coach and Vi “ViN” Nguyen to fill out the roster.
They were talented enough to secure the second seed in North America in phase 2 but numerous questions remain, including how they will perform at their first LAN post-psalm.
Fan “Fan” Yang who slid into psalm’s role on the team, discussed his tempered expectations for this weekend’s event.
“I'm not totally sure about how everyone on the team is feeling but, for me personally, I think I’m feeling decent about this event. I think Dignitas is pretty heavily-favored in general, which is fairly obvious, but all the other teams I can’t really tell their power level. Like, I think everyone else is in this clump where everyone could potentially beat everyone else. It just depends on who shows up on that day, who is playing really well, who adjusts well to the LAN and that kind of stuff.”
A generally confident Fan seemed at a loss for words as if he was conceding to the fact that, in the current team’s state, your expectations for them should be lowered because his are.
“For me, my expectations for this event are going to be lower than the last two times we went to Western Clash and Mid-Season Brawl. Obviously, we did lose psalm and that’s a pretty big hit in terms of not just how good of a player he is but we spent six months trying to improve our synergy with psalm so we had to, kind of, reset our synergy from scratch there.
It's interesting because almost every tournament I’ve ever gone to I’ve been aiming for the win. For this tournament, I’m still going to try my best but I’m looking at it more as a, ‘try to improve our team as much as possible and use it as experience to get as good as we can before BlizzCon.’ For us, ultimately, our goal is to win BlizzCon. Doing well at Western Clash is nice but I think we're willing to make some sacrifices here if we need to just to make sure we do well at BlizzCon.”
Picking up the pieces
In order to ensure success at BlizzCon in November, three individuals, in particular, will need to be on their A-game if they expect to outperform the Tempo Storm of old. ViN learning to play within the team, Swoy adjusting to coach a Western team and Fan who is taking on the majority of the responsibilities that psalm left them with.
“I would say getting ViN up to speed has been going pretty well so far. He learns really fast and he’s always open to general advice and anything we tell him he tries to take it as constructive criticism. I would say the biggest hurdles on our team come from stuff that has to do with psalm leaving because I took over psalm's role and psalm used to do a lot of the calls on-par with Cattle during tournaments and stuff. Cattle does more of the strategic pre-plan calls and psalm is really good at, ‘this is the state of the game and because this is the state of the game there’s this one move we have to make.’ I’ve been trying to do more in that respect and, obviously, that changes our team dynamic a lot.
Also, we've given the role of drafting to Swoy, which psalm used to do. It’s never been attempted before for a Western team to have a Korean coach so we're trying to integrate into that as well. Swoy drafts very Korean-like drafts. He doesn’t understand the full strength of our team, our individual players and where they lie yet. Trying to integrate that has been quite a challenge. We're using the tournament to smooth out all of these road bumps while hopefully doing well along the way.”
While trying to smooth out some rough edges, Tempo Storm will have their hands full in the first round of the tournament as their opponent, Method, is determined to challenge Dignitas and Team Liquid for the top spot in Europe.
North America this year has had their best LAN performances ever against the rest of the world but Fan isn’t so optimistic that is going to continue at this event, especially in their matchup.
“I think one of two things will happen. I’m a little bit pessimistic about the state of NA in this tournament. I’ve said on my stream multiple times that I think this will be the one tournament where NA probably does not do better than the last because NA has been doing better every single international for quite a while now. I personally think the trend will stop this tournament because I think every team outside of HeroesHearth has actually regressed in skill and only HeroesHearth has stayed the same or maybe gotten a little bit better. So, I think if that is true, there’s a chance that Method could take us out and Europe is just dominant over NA. I hope not, but that’s one case.
The second case would be if Europe is not extremely dominant over NA then I think we do have a good chance of taking out Method. We scrimmed some of the other EU teams and based on results, if Europe just is not better than NA I think we have a really good chance of beating them.”
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.