ESPNU broadcasted a bracket reveal Sunday evening to begin the Round of 64, where “The Real Dream Team” was placed in the top half of the D-bracket against Robert Morris University, the first university to incorporate eSports into their athletic program. Between March 13 and April 3, the Heroes of the Dorm team will battle in online matches in the hopes of making it to the Heroic Four again.
In the competition, teams will compete in the Heroes of the Storm computer game. It's still fairly new to the multiplayer online battle arena world, but several of the players on this year’s team have already made a name for themselves in the professional scene. Returning players business communication sophomore Michael “MichaelUdall” Udall and criminal justice senior Stefan “akaface” Anderson recently competed with the now-disbanded professional team Panda Global at the North America Spring Regional for a chance to represent North America at the Heroes of the Storm 2016 Spring Global Championship. Electrical engineering junior Parham “Pham” Emami, who also competed in the Heroes of the Dorm tournament last year, previously played on the disbanded team Kappa Wolves.
Despite being new members of The Real Dream Team, sociology senior Austin "Shot" Lonsert and business and communication senior Vann “Vannity” Childs are no strangers to the professional scene. Lonsert previously played for the professional team Resurgence, and Childs provides Heroes of the Storm coverage for eSports media website GosuGamers.
Also joining the roster this year is civil engineering senior Isaiah “Snickers” Rubin. With such a strong roster, this year’s team is a crowd favorite to win the tournament and earn tuition for their collegiate careers.
Blizzard Entertainment has introduced several updates to heroes and battlegrounds to evolve the Heroes of the Storm meta since releasing it over summer. Hero bans, new levels and patch releases have helped players become stronger.
Childs said the game has evolved and allowed players to have better understandings of how it's played.
“You compare the game play from last year to players now and it's like night and day,” Childs said. “People literally threw together dorm teams, exactly what you would call it and they just found some guy that had a relative understanding of how to play the game and made a team. But now, since the game has evolved, the meta has changed."
The inaugural Heroes of the Dorm tournament made history as the first time eSports was shown on national television. This year, Blizzard Entertainment has expanded on the game’s hype with the decision to make the Heroic Four a two-day tournament on ESPN2.
“I think it’s great that it’s becoming more mainstream and accepted by the media,” Lonsert said. “A lot of professionals have been complaining that they don’t really get the respect from other people and some people are embarrassed to say that they play games professionally. It’s sad that we have to be embarrassed by it, that we are seen as nerds.”
ASU’s biggest threats will be the University of Texas at Arlington, a team with a professional player of its own, and Boston College. Despite the combined Heroes of the Storm experience, the team is wary of dark horses, like a player that plays a similar multiplayer online battle arena (such as League of Legends or Defense of the Ancients) professionally. Overall, the team is confident that they’ll make it to the final round of the tournament. After coming so close to winning last year, the returning players are determined to go 3-0 in the final round.
“End of game three — because we are going to 3-0 them — the confetti cannon goes off and my parents will run up on stage,” Udall said. “That’s their plan, they’re going to run up on stage so I can give them a hug. We’ll win and I’m going to dab.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow @danicalbarnett on Twitter.