Tempo Storm had no part in the last international Heroes of the Storm tournament.
It wasn't -- and hasn't -- even been close to competing on the likes of an international stage since the inaugural Heroes of the Storm World championship.
During its latest chance to qualify for the Summer Global, Tempo Storm flailed to a seventh/eighth place finish.
"At DreamHack Austin, we were disappointed with our performance," team captain Kurt "Kaeyoh" Ocher said. "I don't think, overall, our play was that bad. Going into the Astral [Authority] set, we hurt ourselves by our drafts. We ended up with Goku on LiLi, which he was unfamiliar with. We never did that in scrims. I think a last second draft decision hurt us."
Tempo Storm drafted LiLi to counteract Illidan, which led to a game one loss and a final 0-2 series loss. Tempo Storm eventually fell and walked away from Austin without a win.
Entering the North American Regional 2 in Burbank with traces of doubt after the departure of stalwart tank Aaron "erho" Kappes, North America's underdogs have found a taste of international flavor. In what could be Tempo Storm's biggest test this season, the team is crunching for the next regional through the tryout of Ed "TigerJK" Hong and the consultation of two South Korean professional players, Seung "Swoy" Won and Jin "NaCHoJin" Su.
The two have been on North American servers pursuing playing careers in the states. As Tempo Storm have blocked out chunks of the team's day dedicated solely to scrimmaging, Swoy and NaCHoJin have observed, analyzing TS' draft and detailing nuances of the game.
"As the NA scene looking into the Korean [scene], it's hard to understand the draft decisions," Ocher said. "Being able to talk to one of them and be able to communicate is very cool."
Part of what set NA so far behind MVP Black, EDward Gaming, Team No Limit and eStar Gaming at the Spring Global Championship was a molasses-slow read on the meta. The Chinese and Korean teams had beaten the meta into a pulp, bashing out strategies in league play entering the event and dissecting it for weeks on end. All North American teams could do was watch and wonder before gearing up for the tournament. With one week to figure out the meta, neither Cloud9 nor Team Naventic could escape the group stages.
Tempo Storm is trying to cram in as much Korean knowledge as possible in the waning moments before the upcoming regional. The team surely needs it, as Kappes' departure and fewer scrimmage partners than usual have handicapped the team.
"We have a smaller sample size than usual," Ocher said about reading other teams' comfort picks heading into the tournament. "Partially because of our performance. Teams are de-prioritizing us a little bit."
As Tempo Storm turns its pages from its playing days with Kappes, the team has started integrating Hong into its play style. The team, a precious few days from its last chance to qualify for the global, is unsettled on his role. Will Hong play warrior or support? Does Brian "Zixz" Skarda slide from support to warrior? Ocher admits he doesn't know Tempo Storm's final form yet.
"Entering the North American Regional 2 in Burbank with traces of doubt after the departure of stalwart tank Aaron "erho" Kappes, North America's underdogs have found a taste of international flavor."
"Tiger -- he's happy to play either role," Ocher said. "Same with Zixz. Both of them would be main supports."
Kappes' departure left the team with another pressing question: where do they sit mentally? Kappes stepped down due to cited burnout issues. Ocher, while surprised by Kappes' decision, said he did not resent the choice. He knew Kappes wanted to feel the team out and an early exit was a possibility. If there were a silver lining from losing one of its top talents, Ocher said the team has used it as motivation.
"Mentally, I'm 100% focused on the game right now," Ocher said. "With Tiger, he's given us a bit of the motivation to push us to be the best we can be. I'm very much a grinder. I want to work as hard as I can at the game. I think I'm one of the hardest working players at the game. I will continue to do that until we win a championship."
Many know the tune too well. Professional players dip into the content creation pool and see a less stressful existence. Even as other professionals have waded into content creation, Ocher says his work with Tempo Storm's Meta Snapshot and other creative media have not tempted him into anything but remaining in competitive play.
"I still have the competitive bug," Ocher said. "I'm enjoying that lifestyle. I like practicing and competing and the grind. To drop all of that, I could see myself transitioning to that in the future. But I still definitely have the competitive bug now."
Ocher laid out what he is expecting from the rest of the tournament field: Team Naventic, Cloud9, Team Name Change, Gale Force Esports, Panda Global, Brain Power and Astral Authority. He hinted that Naventic might deploy more frontline heavy comps, while melee assassin comps from GFE and AA could be the norm for this tournament. Brain Power, he thought, would play a standard comp.
C9, with its recent and scrutinized addition of Ben "cattlepillar" Bunk to replace Taylor "Arthelon" Eder, has the potential to unleash more off-meta picks, Ocher thought.
"I think cattle is a super exceptional player," Ocher said. "Pound-for-pound player-wise, I think they made a great trade in for Arthelon. I don't think he had the drive to polish his game."
And for what to expect out of Tempo Storm?
"I think we're aiming to do well at this tournament," Ocher said. "We would all love to finish as the champs of the tournament. If everything lines up and we're 100% firing on all cylinders, we can do it."