Hong Kong Attitude: Should we believe the hype?

The ESPN Power Rankings last week ranked the relatively unknown Honk Kong Attitude 13th in the 2017 World Championship field. Are HKA the real deal?

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When the ESPN Power Rankings came out, everyone eagerly clicked on the link to see what rank their favorite teams earned.

No one was surprised to see the three LCK teams ranked top three, understood why Team SoloMid and G2 were at a comfortable 6 and 7, but eyebrows were raised when people saw the LMS #3 seed team Hong Kong Attitude ranked 13th.

HKA were ranked one spot above the North American team Cloud9, but they were placed much higher than the famous LMS team ahq e-Sports club.

Social media clamored asking who exactly this team was and whether they were actually this strong. Because the team placed 5th in Spring Season and 6th in the Summer Season, people scoffed in disbelief and ignored the story that is behind this dangerous team.

And that’s a bad mistake to make.

2017 LMS Spring Split

Originally named Hong Kong Esports at the start of Season 7, HKE were an obvious middle of the pack team at the middle of the spring season. And while they held a positive record against the lower end of the teams, they were only able to take a single game off of Machi E-Sports, and none against Flash Wolves, ahq, or J Team.

Ending the season with a 6-8 record and taking 5th place, Hong Kong Esports were only able to collect 10 championship points for the Regional Finals.

Before the Summer Split, Hong Kong Esports rebranded as Hong Kong Attitude, and proceeded to make some pivotal roster changes. After adding mid laner M1ssion and AD Carry Kaiwing, and swapping the previous AD Carry GodKwai to the jungle, HKA was ready to put their new squad to the test.

2017 LMS Summer Split

Unfortunately, the season did not start very well for Hong Kong Attitude.

A new and powerful team appeared from the Challenger scene called Raise Gaming, and were a contender to win the LMS Playoffs. Hong Kong Attitude went 2-5 in the first half of the Summer Split, and were not looking sharp at all.

The team took the two week break from Rift Rivals to assess themselves and make the necessary changes to avoid relegation since they were just beyond last place.

Hong Kong Attitude proceeded to go on a 5-2 tear during Weeks 6-9, defeating the powerful J Team, ahq, and
Flash Wolves in order to escape relegation and gather 20 championship points, qualifying them for the Regional Finals.

Although the team was disappointed that they were not able to proceed to the Playoffs, they took that time to study their opponents, grasp the new meta, and organize their team to take out their new toughest opponent: Raise Gaming.

2017 Season Taiwan Regional Finals

Hong Kong Attitude organized their roster for the finals as top laner Riris, jungler GodKwai, mid laner M1ssion, AD carry Unified, and support Kaiwing.

With a unified goal to take out J Team first and then Raise Gaming in order to proceed to Worlds, they met J Team with a strong strategy and consistent picks and bans.

Against J Team, Hong Kong Attitude proceeded to consistently ban Taliyah, Lucian, and Zac in that order.

While FoFo played a dangerous Taliyah during the season and Alex played Zac, the mid Lucian pick was not chosen for J Team, (leading to my own speculation that the two teams did scrim against each other for J Team’s preparation against ahq in the playoffs.)

HKA proceeded to take control early in the first two games of the series, drafting Rakan and champions that can easily follow up with the heavy engage potential.

With three wins in the series, HKA went to fight their last opponents.

Hong Kong Attitude had a 1-4 record against Raise Gaming, who finished the season tied with Flash Wolves at 10-4. Lucky for Hong Kong Attitude, RG had a poor performance against ahq during the summer playoffs, allowing HKA to see the weaknesses that ahq exploited.

HKA began each game by banning Orianna, and only banned Rakan and Kalista when they were on Red side in games 1 and 3. By last picking their top laner, HKA consistently forced RG to ban out Riris’s insane Rumble that punished J Team heavily.

The Fields of Justice

In the first game, Raise Gaming picked up an early lead by securing first blood and snowballing their lead until the 34 minute mark when HKA managed to get the RG mid laner and support caught out, allowing HKA to get Baron and acing the Raise Gaming squad.

While HKA were always behind in gold, it evened out when HKA picked up their second baron at 42 minutes. The final teamfight happened at the Elder Drake pit with Raise Gaming focusing the buff down and getting it, only for HKA to come in and ace them, giving HKA the first win.

The second game was a slow game that only started to pick up at the 26 minute mark when HKA catches the RG members off-guard in their own jungle, giving HKA the first three kills of the game. HKA then played the game in a beautiful fashion: get baron, fight in mid lane, win, take out two mid lane turrets and inhibitor, rotate bot and take the inhibitor, fight, win, and finish the game at 31 minutes. From the time that HKA took their first kills, they managed to finish the game five minutes later, à la solo queue.

The third game showed how much each team wanted to go to Worlds. It was a consistent back-and-forth battle with no obvious winner. If RG picked off a member, HKA would go on the other side and pick off a member as well. HKA was solid in picking off key members of RG and proceeding to baron. However, RG would then come back and take out the majority of the HKA members. The final teamfight was decided at 34 minutes when HKA picked off RG’s top laner and slowly won the teamfight focusing down one member at a time. After that teamfight, the LMS Regional Finals winner and LMS third seed was decided.

Hong Kong Attitude winning the LMS Regional Finals and poised to compete at Worlds

Does HKA deserve a #13 Power Ranking?

It’s safe to say that Hong Kong Attitude are indeed a powerful team. Their picks and bans are consistent, yet yield great results. They know how to play from behind, never lose sight of their win conditions, and can play a slow-game for their late game composition if need be. They have a strong team and a great underdog journey behind them that anyone can enjoy. A team who went from second-to-last in the standings to then qualifying for Worlds is similar to Cloud9’s path in Season 5.

But I do not agree with the rankings of placing HKA over Cloud9.

Cloud9 was good during the summer season. It’s true that they had a disappointing performance against Team Dignitas during the Summer Playoffs, and a rocky series against Counter Logic Gaming during the NA Regional Finals. However Cloud9 was relatively even with Team Dignitas overall, and almost won the fourth game until they got impatient.

Hong Kong Attitude’s problems are that their macro plays are sorely disappointing.

The team has to consistently secure a pick off in order to start Baron, rather than the standard baron dance that teams like TSM love to play with their opponents.

HKA are aggressive and will fight whenever and wherever, much like GIGABYTE Marines in MSI. While this is an exciting thing to watch, sometimes it means M1ssion flanking the enemy team with Syndra and getting blown up immediately still holding flash.

Despite all this, Hong Kong Attitude are a promising squad heading into Worlds.

They find themselves in Group D of the Play-In Stage with Japanese representative Rampage and Turkish representative 1907 Fenerbahçe Esports.

HKA meets Rampage on September 24th at 11 P.M. PST.

We’ll see how they manage.

What do you think about Hong Kong Attitude’s chances heading into the 2017 World Championship? Let us know in the comments below!