Why is North America Falling Behind in Competitive Smite?

As Ryan ‘Agro’ likes to point out, Smite has never been this competitive. Although I would like to add a caveat to that: not between regions.

We have seen the most competitive split ever this spring, with top five teams in both regions taking games off eachother. Then we came to the first LAN in the Gauntlet and saw Europe’s fifth-seeded team take the whole show, while in North America the Challenger team Oxygen Supremacy did far better than anyone expected. However, between regions, it has been a very different story.

The two major regions in Smite have always been NA and EU, and between them, competition has

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

normally been very strong. Apart from 2017 SWC, we have always had multi-regional finals. However, recently that competition has not been there. EU dominated SWC 2017, although only sending two teams, and they both made it to the finals. It is important to note though, that NA did send more teams to Worlds because of a dominant showing at the previous LAN. In the last two LANs, though, it has been very noticeable that a gulf is developing between the two regions. Any time there has been an EU-NA showdown, it has been a blowout for EU, with rare exceptions.

 

Look at Dota, LoL, Starcraft, Counter-Strike and even Heroes of the Storm – EU is the stronger region. Smite has never been this way, until now.

We have also had genuine inter-region competition, as we do not have the Korean overlords to quail before in terror. Recently, this competition has gone to the wayside. As I said earlier, the only competitive set between regions we have had in the last two LANs is probably the 5th seed out of EU vs NA 2nd seed.

The most hype games Smite has to offer will always be the big region showdowns, between metas and players who don’t normally collide, coming face to face.

Playstyle

What reason have we been given for this sudden fall from grace?

The EU teams were very diplomatic and have repeatedly said that NA teams just haven’t figured out or caught up on the new meta. This is noticeable in the picks, most notably Cabrakan. Quite simply, EU doesn’t really rate the God. Yes, he is good and has lock-down but he isn’t the only one who provides that. There was also Skadi, again favored more by NA than EU. While NA sees her as a must-have, EU sees her as a very powerful but unnecessary God.

The major difference between NA and EU has always been that EU is a much slower paced region. Personally, I think that has always made a bit more sense as a game plan. As fast-paced, high-octane games make sense against people who are going to be out of position and late rotations, this is not mine and your ranked games. When you have the opposite, early aggression is much more likely to be punished and far harder to pull off, as you will have to put yourself out of position and leave yourself open to counter-rotations to get the value for your ganks. Plus, the harder and more you commit to a gank in regards to health and cooldowns, the less likely you are to be able to. In the immortal words of Thom ‘F.’ Badinger, “get the stuff after the stuff.”

This is one thing I feel was never fully analyzed regarding NRG. We have heard numerous times about how when they were in their prime, it was like a switch was flipped at 16 minutes and from then on they steamrolled teams. One of the major reasons for this, I feel, is that they knew they were the better team.

Why risk the volatile world of early aggression? Because you know that if you group up when everyone has a couple of items and is ready to perform their role in the team fight, you can win it. Also, a team fight won at that point in the game gives you a powerful gold fury, lots of XP and gold for the kills and incredible map pressure.

I feel a lot of the NA vs EU playstyle can be summed up in the fact that NA look for picks to dictate and win the game, whereas EU obviously takes them if they see the opportunity, but really they try not to lose the game and rely on superior team fights and late game as the win condition.  To put it simply, EU seems far more objective focused.

Looking Forward

Image courtesy of neogaf.com

NA doesn’t look like its going to get any stronger soon, but maybe these LAN’s have been the wake-up call. However, the NA teams are now back into transition mode. There have been significant roster changes in the middle to the bottom of the league, as well as the fact that Eager has parted ways with their Solo and Jungle. That is a scary, albeit maybe necessary, thing for the top seed. Who is going to replace them?

Right now as an outsider looking in, I would say the best free agents in NA are the two Eager just released. The dream scenario would probably be that Eager convinces Andrew ‘Andinster’ Woodward that he really wants to jungle again. I do not think that is very likely though as Andinster seemed committed to making Soar work in his interviews. The whole Soar team has stated that they are not particularly worried about how things are going right now, but are looking to the future with what they think is a very solid line-up.

The easiest fit for Eager is probably Andy ‘Elchapo’ Leon and Arthur ‘Uzzy’ Asherov. As the first seed, do you really want to be picking up players who were just dropped from the 7th seed? I think not.

Realistically, I think the best chance for Eager would be feeling out Brooks ‘Cynosure’ Matty. However, IMOG is a team I personally rate very highly and I think it would be hard to convince him out.

So it looks like while NA is rebuilding there is a good chance of the EU teams pulling further ahead.

One thing to take note of here is that the two players most likely to play their own meta, so to say, are Divios and DJ Pernicus. However, Divios very often sets solo lane meta and the Guan pick which didn’t work at Masters has definitely worked before.

eUnited hs also made a very significant change: They have removed their Jungler from the team. Replacing a Jungler in a team is one of the hardest positions to do so. There are multiple reasons for this: Firstly a Jungler requires synergy to some degree with every lane. There is also the disruption to the three man core of Mid, Support and Jungle which really dictates the flow of the game. Louis-Phillipe ‘PainDeViande’ Geoffrion has shown time and time again his ability to replace players. He isn’t quoted as saying “I love kicking people” for no reason, although with a scarcity of top level Jungler’s and 1st and 3rd seed looking for one, things could get tricky.

What this means is that 1st and 3rd NA seeds will be in a period of rebuilding. The last few LANs have show that it was growth and not consolidation that was needed. The thing is all top-tier teams have one thing in mind: SWC. Winning regional LANs and doing well in the league are all great, but everything though pales in comparison to the importance of Worlds. So making these changes may hurt in the short-term but does give them enough time to get ready for the main event.

Often, pro’s will say that they do not watch a huge number of games outside of their region. Obviously, when it comes to LAN, they research their opponents. However, this, in my opinion, will change now. If I was coaching an NA team I would be taking a lot of tips from EU right now. They are clearly ahead, if it is just a matter of NA being behind in meta then clearly the way to go is ‘follow the leader’. There is a good argument for NA being behind in meta. Either way, unless something changes, be it meta-shift or an NA catch up, we are likely to see another SWC in European hands.


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