map changes

Smite Patch 4.13: Will this patch and its map changes end the early game meta?

Smite patch 4.13 will undoubtedly affect Smite. Are these map changes the right way to go about mediating the power of early game comps and their snowball effect?  That is the purpose of these map changes, as Hi-Rez stated, saying that there is “a feeling that games are too heavily weighted towards the early game”.

They are probably not wrong; Anyone who has spent any time on Reddit over Season 4 can attest to the community’s attitude towards this. Hi-Rez’s approach is two-fold. Firstly, they are reducing the ability to snowball with significant XP reductions to neutral camps and objectives. Secondly, they are increasing the health and functionality of some of the structures.

Neutral XP

Smite patch 4.13This is the better of the two changes as far as I am concerned. The large amount of neutral XP on the map currently is one of the prevailing factors for the early game meta that has been prevalent throughout Season 4. Lane dominance has been strong as a result, and even small camps can make a substantial difference when added to a lead repeatedly. After any sort of pick or won team fight, there was usually so much XP left on the map through these minor objectives that the punishment for a death was just too steep.

Another change that has been made was a reduction in XP for the Gold Fury. This seems like a good change to me, as early Gold Furies can quite quickly snowball a lead completely out of control. Hi-Rez has made it clear in the patch notes that they recognized “XP gain is what allows a team to secure early leads (through Levels) and Gold is what allows teams to close out games (by being an item ahead)”. With this in mind, the large reduction in XP from the Gold Fury changes the nature of the objective itself, for the better in my eyes.

With this in mind, the large reduction in XP from the Gold Fury changes the nature of the objective itself, for the better in my eyes. No longer will the Gold Fury make a particularly large impact in the early game as 200-300 gold per person is not really going to affect your team’s ability to fight. The value of the Gold Fury is going to be cumulative, we are going to start to see it make an impact when a few have been picked up and we are dealing with a possible 600-900 gold advantage per person, or in conjunction with other objectives. It will become the sort of objective that enhances your mid to late game rather than snowballing an early game. I think this will be a good change.

Structures

The structure changes I am less thrilled about. I will start with the ones I do think are good though.

Firstly, I am quite a big fan of the respawn changes to Phoenixes. Having Phoenixes respawn at 5 percent health was less than ideal. It handcuffed teams to their bases and allowed for completely uncontestable objectives and periods of time where it was just impossible to fight, making for dull lulls in the game and a late game snowball of a sense. Also, it was far too simple for teams to just group near them at respawn and tap them then pull back with very little risk. I also like the fact they can now regen to 70 percent health. I think it is a nice middle ground between still having a defendable objective while also being penalized for losing it in the first place.

What I am less happy about though is the health increases of the structures. In particular, Phoenixes are being too heavily buffed. A 50 percent health buff seems too drastic to me. I also don’t think it helps deal with the snowball meta. I fear this will just promote turtling and make uncoordinated games far harder to close out. We have all been there: your team has Fire Giant, you’re sieging a Phoenix, you’re wondering how much TP you’re gonna get for this win, then you have people engaging before the wave gets there and an ADC who seems to hate structure damage.

The Phoenix is already a powerful structure, especially when it is not approached correctly, which I hate to say is a large amount of the time by a large amount of the player base. I don’t really see much siege potential at all without a Fire Giant. What I fear is that this does not create better games but merely drags out a game, not in a fun manner either. Nobody likes it when one team is clearly dominant but just can’t end and you spend 20 minutes having small periods of action but it’s mainly wave clearing, waiting for the Fire Giant to respawn and praying to God that your ADC stops pushing halfway up lanes with no wards by himself.

Conclusion

Overall, these are good changes to the Smite map. However, I much prefer the XP changes over the structure HP changes. At first, the numbers may not be perfect. As Hi-Rez acknowledged in the patch notes, they have to walk a tight rope between making things impactful in the early game but not having one mistake end a game. You want the early game to mean something because if it doesn’t that is just as bad as it meaning everything. It is a hard balance to find, as Season 4 has proven. While I doubt most of this will be perfect at release and numbers will need tweaking, I feel like it’s moving in the right direction.


Feature image courtesy of smitegame.com.

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NA

How Dreamhack highlighted the ever growing gulf between NA and EU

How we got here

The big story in competitive Smite throughout Season 4 has been competition. There have been two aspects in regard to competition. Firstly, competition has grown incredibly within the regions. Seed one through six are all capable of taking games off each other now in both regions. What is possibly the bigger story is that NA have fallen off a cliff competitively when it comes to LANs.

In every other season NA has been able to compete at the highest level. Admittedly NRG have been top dogs for the last two years, but between the rest of EU and NA there has not been much difference. However, at the very end of Season 3 things started to change. EU sent only two teams to SWC after not performing all that well at the preceding LAN. However, EU dominance started to show there as both EU teams went to the final. This was even more impressive as at the time Obey were not respected as the team they are now. The second team in EU was OrbitGG who didn’t go to SWC due to poor performances at the preceding LAN.

It was at the Gauntlet though and Smite Masters where we really learned just how big the gap had grown between the two regions. It was dominant from EU just putting NA to the sword. Nothing epitomised this more than the way in which Rival handled Soar (now SpaceStationGaming).

Where we are at now

na

Image courtesy of neogaf.com

EU was known to be stronger than NA; however there was hope that the gap would shrink. Day one of Dreamhack Valencia put such vain hopes to rest. In the three sets between NA and EU only one game went to NA. What was more telling was the way in which EU won. It was brutal, NA were made to look like one of the minor regions. 4th seed in EU, Team Rival, absolutely took SSG, the first seed from NA, to pieces. The way in which that happened makes me confident that Eanix, EU’s 5th seed, has a better chance of winning SWC than any team in NA.

Why?

NA have little success in Moba’s. In pretty much all Moba’s NA are significantly behind the rest of the competition. A few theories are banded around but I don’t put a huge amount of stock in any of them.

Firstly, you hear that ego hinders NA teams; they think they are all better than they are, don’t play for the team and big egos clash. This doesn’t make any sense to me for so many reasons. I mean is John ‘Barracuda’ Salter’s ego getting in the way of LG competing internationally? I think not. You occasionally hear that NA doesn’t take competitive gaming seriously and conventional sports are much more popular. EU is no different, conventional sports are far and away dominant over esports. Most people don’t really know about competitive gaming as a thing. I honestly couldn’t give you the reason, but it is a trend which is hard to ignore.

How?

More focused on Smite I can’t tell you the core problem, but I do have some ideas as to symptoms of the issue. The big thing here that everyone notices is how much more objective focused EU are than NA. I think one of the best ways in which we have been shown at Dreamhack so far is through mid lanes and supports.

The first time this is apparent is in the Rival vs SSG set. Game 2 was won through objective control. The Ra pick by rival was huge. Firstly, it takes away one of Andrew ‘Andinster’ Woodward’s favourite picks. Secondly, it gives you a great ultimate for objective secure. Then SSG backed themselves into a corner with the Hades pick. They had zero objective secure. Up to 20 minutes the game was close but Rival were behind in kills, but had three Gold Furies.

Take away those Gold Furies and SSG are in a dominant position in the game instead of slightly behind. Their objective play was just sloppy as a whole that game though. When they lost a Gold Fury because five people backed at the same time, it was infuriating. This is something that has been known since the game was in open beta. I mean this is not EU playing amazingly but NA playing pretty poorly. Rival were also taking Gold Furies in the face of SSG. This is because of their dominant objective secure.

Look at game number one in the NRG vs Dignitas set. Dig have a Sol in the mid lane and NRG had a Vulcan. While Sol’s objective secure is not bad it just can’t compete with a Vulcan. Dignitas recognise this though, so Jeppe ‘Trixtank’ Gylling starts with a HOG.

NA

Image courtesy of smitepedia.com

This allows them to really compete and contest at Gold Furies. It shows the thought that EU are putting into making sure that they don’t fall behind in the objective game. Something NA clearly are not doing at the moment. Notice how he didn’t go HOG when NRG had a Morrigan in the mid lane, showing that this is a thought process based around big mage ults.

NA also seems to be one step behind when it comes to Meta. One way in which this has risen to prominence is how little they value the Sobek. Sobek has been dominant this LAN. Objective wise he is one of the best supports. If you are baiting a Gold Fury he is great as anybody who comes near has to fear the pluck into your entire team. Same goes for anybody trying to contest. You could be one second away from being flung into the entire opposing team.

On top of that he probably has the best ult for securing objectives, with Lurking in the Waters, slowing anybody who comes in, doing huge amounts of damage to players and objectives. For example, when Trix went HOG on Sobek he alone could probably burst the Gold Fury from 30 percent down in a second or so. If you look at the only NA team to win a game, it was when Sinjin ‘Eonic’ Thorpe was playing the Sobek. NRG noticed this though and started banning out the Sobek vs Trix.

What this means for competitive Smite

Nothing good comes from this ever growing divide. Smite competitively is hamstrung in one major regard. We have no serious Asian scene. In particular, Korea does not recognise Smite as a competitive game. Having Korea as a region in a game is beneficial for so many reasons. Korea takes esports more seriously than any other region in the world. For those of you who do not follow any other esports, the best way to describe this is to mention Kespa. That is the government body specifically designed to deal with esports, who even go as far as hosting their own ‘Kespa Cups.’ Korea drag every other region up as they are so professional and take esports so seriously that to keep up everyone must try to emulate. Korea is very invested in their esports scene.

Missing those benefits hurts competitive Smite, but now not having Korea becomes even more of an issue. Only having one region who is competitive will get boring very quickly. If it stays this way, there will be no inter-region competition at LAN’s. Inter-region competition is the most exciting part about big LAN’s. When that disappears, interest in major events falls rapidly.

At the end of the day if NA doesn’t up their game soon everyone suffers.

Top Image courtesy of twitter.com/SmitePro

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Best Performers this Split: The EU All Star Roster

ADC

Kenny ‘Arkkyl’ Kuska has to be the stand out ADC for EU this Split. This must be incredibly pleasing for the French ADC, mainly because he was the one player people were questioning when Dignitas, the new ‘super-team’, was formed. This Split though he definitely put in an all star performance.

It was not the mechanical skill of Arkkyl that was being questioned though. As in his relatively short time in the SPL he had put in some great performances. Rather it was consistency and how he would manage on a top end team, as there is little doubt that his current roster was a big step up. When on a weaker team, it is often a lot easier to show glimpses of your quality rather than prove it every week. This is down to your team being more likely to be behind and if you are known as one of the best players on a weaker roster you are likely to get a lot more focus.

Arkkyl has more than proved himself to be up to the challenge. Last Split he showed he could be consistent and had some performances which hinted at his potential. However, this Split he has been consistently excellent. He has a KDA of 5.91, 3rd highest in the league. The statistics back up how great his play has been even more, he also has 61 kills the 5th highest in the league. This shows that it is not by being passive that he has such a high KDA but through pro-active aggressive plays.

Jungle

Nobody is going to be surprised at the who MVP in the Jungle for the Summer Split is, it is Kennet ‘Adapting’ Ross, the King is back. He is not just the MVP for the Jungle though he is probably the MVP for the whole of Europe. This guy would make it onto any all star roster, he is probably the best player Smite has ever had.

All Star

Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

Adapting’s stats this split are eye-watering. He tops KDA at 7.85, which is 1.78 higher than his closest competitor, who just so happens to be his mid-laner. He also has the most kills in the entirety of the SPL with 84. This is 16 higher than anyone else’s and over 23 higher than EU’s closest contender Arkkyl. If you think I have run out of ridiculous stats for Adapting, think again. He also has the highest kill participation in the league at 85.12 percent. All this while managing to come in second in deaths per game at 1.21, only slightly losing out to once again his mid laner!

What else is there to say about Adapting? He has just been tearing up the SPL since he joined. He is so good, he was getting called the best player in the world while this team were still in the Challenger Cup. Last Split it was very much a debate about who the best player in the world was, this split not so much. I’ll end how I started, the king is back!

Solo

It was hard to pick a solo for this all star roster, as the top three in EU have all had excellent performances from their solo-laners. They are all very close in overall performance, so when stuck lets the stats decide!

Harry ‘Varitey’ Cumming just beats out the other two to take his spot in this all star roster. Varitey is someone who has not always been rated as highly as he is now. However, in recent memory he has been lauded as one of the best solo-laners the SPL has to offer, and rightly so.

It is rather simplistic but I see my Solo-Laners in two categories, the Ryan ‘Omega’ Johnson kind who are looking to destroy you in lane. They are forcing you to base at every opportunity, taking your buffs and essentially trying to ground you into the dirt. These Solo laners are bullies in every sense of the word, doing everything short of taking your lunch money and sticking your head down the toilet.

The second kind are in the Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov role who are more willing to take losing match ups to help a draft and are more macro focused. (this is not to say Dimi will not stick your head down the toilet and take your lunch money Smite-wise but it is not all he does) Variety is definitely in the first mold of Solo laners, being especially dominant on Osiris, undoubtedly one of the best in the league on that god.

This is shown by him having the highest kills in Europe for a solo laner on 47. Variety also has the highest KDA for any solo-laner across both regions at 4.59. Showing he is not just aggressive but incredibly successful at it. Another hallmark of a great solo laner is their farm generation or GPM and again Variety tops Europe at 509, putting him 2nd across the entire SPL. An all star set of stats from an all star player.

Support

Step forward you unsung heroes, ye valiant few who die for others sins. Who among these brave and undervalued players of the SPL stands a top the pile? Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone has just edged out all the others this Split.

Stats are a strange thing to examine when it comes to supports, as their deaths can often come from others mistakes or be the best play to make. Kills are also not something that most supports are going for, often being much happier to give it to a carry on the team.

All Star

Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

However, there are some more reliable stats. GPM is one of them, finding farm on a map when none of it’s yours has always been an art form of the support. Admittedly with the power of Travellers Shoes and Watcher’s gift this has become easier in recent times. In this stat iRaffer came second in the league at 474. What supports really pride themselves on though is assists. Here iRaffer outshone the rest of the league with 152 assists at a rate of 10.86 a game.

Some people may say this is skewed with just how high the amount of kills NRG as a whole was getting but with a participation rate of 74.42 percent which is towards the higher end of the league. Personally I think it is even more impressive. This is because it shows how iRaffer was such a big part of getting these kills and why he is on my all star roster.

Mid

NRG feature again in this all star roster with their mid laner André ‘Yammyn’ Brännvall. He has been consistently one of the best mid laners in the world for the last two years. This Split has been no different, he has been exceptional.

There are a lot of things on which we can judge a mid laner. Is it their damage output? This is an important factor, as mid laners are the aoe damage dealers for a team. Is it kills? Another important factor but counter-intuitively mages are not the ones to finish off kills a lot of the time with their burst ults. Instead they weaken a team while the more mobile characters sweep in and mop them up. Is it GPM? Well seeming as a mid laner shares most of their farm it seems a hard thing to put at the top, being so dependent on whether or not your jungle and support are taking it. In all these stats though Yammyn is near the top of Europe showing how good is play is.

The stats we are left with and which Yammyn does top the league seem to show a lot more to me. These are KDA and and deaths. Mages are probably the squishiest class in Smite. Incredibly low protection and health scaling, combined normally with a lack of mobility. They are also put into the most contested area of the map meaning there is the constant threat of death. So for Yammyn to only have 15 deaths is an impressive feat. When you combine that with the fact that he has the highest KDA in the league for a mid at 6.07 far above the 4.53 of Emil ‘PrettyPrime’ Edstrom (the man who would replace him in this list) and joint 2nd highest kills, it gets all the more impressive.

 

Honorable Mentions

ADC – Kieran ‘Funballer’ Patidar Nate ‘Ataraxia’ Mark

Jungle Anders ‘QvoFred’ Korsbo Benjamin ‘CaptainTwig’ Knight

Solo Dimi

Support Jordan ‘BigManTingz’ Theaker

Mid PrettyPrime

If you would like to know what an NA version of this would look like, look no further my colleague Brendon has you covered! http://thegamehaus.com/2017/06/30/spl-summer-split-north-american-star-team/

A quick shout out to @BluesVult who’s spreadsheet was the source for a lot of these stats.

 

Top image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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Three things the Summer Split taught us about the SPL

The early game meta is here to stay

It looks like Season 4 of Smite will be defined by the early game meta. It has persisted through the first two Splits of the season and with only one more split to go it is not likely to change. However, this should be qualified, by the fact that it is not quite as pronounced as it was in the Spring Split. Games in the SPL are going much longer, something Mike ‘PolarBearMike’ Heiss pointed out in a recent tweet.

There are two reasons it is here to stay. Firstly, the map, it caters itself to this early game aggression. PBM has a great video on his YouTube explaining this from the perspective of an SPL player.

One of the reasons PBM gives for this is that, the core of the map has been around for a very long time. As such, the players have gotten much better at exploiting the map as they have gotten better and due to playing on the same core for so long.

This leads to the other reason why the early game meta is dominating at the moment. Players and teams improved, becoming better at holding onto leads. As such playing compositions which give you a lead early on are more powerful as SPL teams capitalise on leads much better than before. It is far harder to hold out for 40 minutes and have Kali win you the game like a famous game from Thomas ‘Repikas’ Skallebaek. Obviously the easiest way for Hi-Rez to counteract this is still through map changes.

NRG are still not the force they once were

This is one that a lot of people may be confused about, as NRG were not the dominating team seen in previous seasons last Split. NRG’s history of dominance in not just Europe but the entirety of the Smite scene means one split is not enough to say their era of dominance is over, more data is needed.

Last Split Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone spoke about how at least at the start of the season, NRG were taking things a bit easier to avoid burning out. This was often suggested as a reason why NRG were not performing to their usual standards. This is not to say NRG are performing badly or aren’t still a great team. It is just NRG used to be head and shoulders above the rest of the competitive Smite scene, setting records we are unlikely to see matched. This is the visual representation of NRG’s performance in Season 3.

View post on imgur.com

People suggested that taking their foot off the pedal meant they were slow to catch up to meta or maybe even just a bit rusty. Those excuses are no longer viable. This is unless perhaps burn out has occurred within the ranks of NRG, or some players just aren’t enjoying the game right now. This is something iRaffer admitted too, in what has become an infamous Reddit post about Sunder. Maybe with all the success and the recent complaints about the Smite meta, it has been harder to get as motivated. Something which could very much change going into the Fall Split, as that is the Split leading into SWC. If getting the three-peat and another chance for cash doesn’t motivate them, I’d be very surprised.

Another factor is that the competition is far better this year. It is not as if NRG are playing badly but the new-look Obey is an incredibly strong team, while Dignitas is looking stronger than the old Orbit team. Throughout the league, especially in Europe there are a lot of really high quality teams.

However, saying all this, there is still a not so small part of me that expects iRaffer to lift the golden hammer again this year. I don’t know if it’s because my mind now sees it as routine, or i’m just too nostalgic for my own good, but I have a sneaking suspicion the three-peat is on.

The competition is real!

This is something that has featured in other parts of this article, but deserves its own segment. The competition levels in the SPL have just risen and risen throughout Season 4. While at the end of the Spring Split the gulf between NA and Europe was exposed, there is hope that over this Split that gap will shrink. I think it is still likely that Europe are going to dominate, though hopefully not as much.

Within the regions though the competition is fierce. I think one thing that illustrates this point quite nicely is when you look at 6th place in both regions. Team Allegiance and Elevate are not bad teams, in fact they are good teams who are getting better. This season is the only season in Smite where we would have teams of that caliber so far down the standings.

Look at the top of NA as well, last split Luminosity looked definitively like the best team in the region. This split they just squeezed into the final LAN spot, one point ahead of eUnited in 4th and only two points ahead of Noble in 5th. Noble was a team everyone was writing off at the beginning of the split.

In Europe, the region that got an extra spot to Dreamhack, we had 2nd-4th being fought over up until the last day of competition. Things are really heating up heading into World’s next split. I genuinely think in Europe that the top five teams will all be going into next split thinking they have a realistic chance at being SWC champs.

Image courtesy of tentonhammer.com

 

Top Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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EU SPL: The battle for DreamHack

This Saturday was a very important day for the EU SPL. Not just the EU SPL but the entirety of the SPL, as this Saturday was the fight for seeding for DreamHack. With EU being the dominant region this season, I am sure there were some players across the Atlantic paying some very close attention. With EU having their current dominance recognised by Hi-Rez with an extra spot at DreamHack, four spots were up for grabs this weekend.

Third/fourth seed

The most important spot in the entire EU SPL as it is the final golden ticket to DreamHack. This was being fought over by two teams, Eanix and Team Rival. Team Rival before Saturday looked like hot favourites to take that spot as they were one point ahead, had an easier opponent and had the head to head over Eanix. This meant Eanix would need more points than rival before they could start booking plane tickets.

Saturday changed this though when we found out that Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko would not be able to play and that TheLittleLegend would be subbing in for him. It did not go well. TheLittleLegend did not perform considerably worse than the rest of Rival, but Rival as a whole did not look like the team they have shown themselves to be over recent months. They got destroyed both games, it was not even close. This is not something Rival fans should be awfully worried about as we have seen this sort of thing happen before. Smite teams have looked entirely different when they have had subs before and then just gone back to normal when their full roster is back.

This was great though from a viewer’s perspective because it meant that the NRG vs Eanix set took on real significance. If Eanix could 2-0 they would be 4th in the EU SPL and going to DreamHack. However, one does not simply 2-0 the back to back world champions. Eanix looked great and won the first game. The second game though was the NRG show.

The two things I would put it down to are Kennet ‘Ross’ Adapting putting in a monster performance on Thor and the Ne Zha pick for Eanix.

Adapting is no longer the undisputed best player in the world. That in mind though he is still one of the best; occasionally as well he will remind us just what he can do when he is feeling it. He is one of those players who are rare but inestimably valuable in both esports and sports who will occasionally just win you the game. All great junglers have a great Thor, Adapting is one of those great junglers. It is not quite like when Peter ‘DaGarz’ Gary was just not allowed the character, but Adapting on Thor will always bring the hype. He showed why against Eanix, running the game with a slash line of 8/1/6. His ability to be everywhere and the inherent damage within Thor’s kit allowed Adapting to be the omni-present terror to Eanix throughout this game.

Image courtesy of http://smite.gamepedia.com/Thor

I have often said in these articles that Ne Zha, while a good pick, will also be a heavily contributing factor in you losing some games. This turned out to be the case for Eanix this game. It is incredibly hard to win an SPL game when your jungler ends up 0/5/3. The pick seemed odd to me, you just performed incredibly well and beat NRG with a lower risk comp, why risk it all now?

There wasn’t a huge amount of synergy with the comp either. When you see a team pick a Ne Zha, often the first thing to look at is who is their mage? Who is going to instantly delete Ne Zha’s target? For Eanix it was a Sol, while very capable of deleting someone it is not the ideal pick. Her damage is oxymoronicaly sustained-burst, her ult comes out over time and a lot of the Sol burst comes from using Stellar Burst as well. This means things like Aegis or the Terra ult (something NRG was running) has a much higher chance of being able to save their life.

The only real synergy you could see from the rest of the team were the Hou-Yi and the Ares. Hou-Yi is one of the better ADC’s for the Ne Zha as the suns can be dropped right before the Ne Zha and his target land. While it is nice because there are not a huge amount of ADC ults which synergise with the Ne Zha, it again suffers the same problems as the Sol and doesn’t guarantee the deletion. Make no mistake when you run a Ne Zha you should be running it as a deletion comp.

The Ares does very much synergise with the Ne Zha though as it can burn multiple beads at once fairly consistently, allowing Ne Zha multiple targets for the Windfire Wheels. However, it is another big risk into your comp. With your LAN chances on the line it was a twist on the old classic by Eanix and they ran a go hard or stay home comp. Unfortunately they will be staying home. I may be a bit harsh on Eanix, but why risk your chance for LAN, cash and a free holiday to the beaches of Valencia on what is such a coin-flip of a comp?

First/second seed

There is a lot less to say about these two seeds. This is surprising as the top end of the EU SPL seems like a congested area with top seed being a hard-won trophy. The lack of talking points is because first seed was already secured for Dignitas and Obey beat them rather comfortably to secure 2nd seed away from NRG.

Obey did look great in this set though and that is something worth touching on. This Split has seen Dignitas and Obey switch positions in seeding and probably in performances as well. Nate ‘Ataraxia’ Mark recently said in an interview that Obey got over-confident and maybe took their foot off the pedal.

Image courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGYlz6PKsC8

It looks like they have their focus back now, as they were really impressive in their 2-0 over Dignitas. The only team who managed to do this all Split.

It is a bit hard to judge if this means Obey are back to their Spring Split dominance, where they showed themselves to be unquestionably a cut above the rest of the teams in the world. This is because, for Dignitas, it was essentially a friendly. They had nothing to gain and nothing to lose, except for possibly momentum and a bit of confidence. If you know though that you are hiding strats and not taking a series overly serious, it is not likely to knock your confidence very much.

So is this Obey coming back to form, or Dignitas just not showing up this set? As with most things in life I think compromise is the best answer. Obey look on the up but I would not expect any set between these two at DreamHack to look like this one. My main takeaway from this set is that it was just a bit of a disappointing way to end the EU SPL, as this looked like it could have been a blockbuster.

Top image courtesy of https://twitter.com/smitegame

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SPL game of the week: Obey Alliance vs Team Dignitas

Context

Obey Alliance vs Team Dignitas was the last set of the Spring Split. Both teams fought their way through Smite Masters and proved themselves to be the best two teams in Smite for the Spring Split. So, it seems rather fitting that they will end the online stage of the Summer Split for EU. It is also great to have the EU online portion end with such a great set, as well as being the game of the week

Image courtesy of https://twitter.com/obeyysmite

Things have changed though since the Smite Masters Grand Finals; it seems as if these teams have switched fortunes. The Spring Split was the Obey Alliance show, no doubt. They dominated the online stages and carried that form through to the offline stage. However, this Split their results have been a bit disappointing. I want to stress that they have only been disappointing when compared to the incredibly high bar they set last Split. Also I think it is hard to say that Obey are still not playing great Smite, but maybe the other teams have taken a step forward.

NRG are performing closer to the standard we have come to expect. Let’s not forget either that Dignitas now has a Split under their belt and will obviously have improved as a team. Everyone in Europe has improved though, seeds one through five are probably expected to split with each other now. As well as this Split some dead-weight from the EU has been shed and the new blood of The Papis and Burrito Esports have shown they are more than capable of an upset.

Dignitas have taken Obey’s spot on top of the perch. They are starting to show that for once, the tag ‘Super-team’ is not a curse, nor irrelevant. They are currently 5/1/0 in the standings, setting themselves apart from the pack, four points in front of their nearest contenders. This guarantees them first seed going into DreamHack Valencia, something which must feel great. Especially for the European players, it will be the first time in a long time they will be competing on home soil at a LAN. However, don’t expect them to take it easy on Obey because of this, they will want to maintain not having lost a set this split. As well as the fact that beating what is going to be one of your biggest rivals at DreamHack is a huge momentum boost.

Obey will be fighting tooth and nail for the set victory this weekend. The momentum boost of taking down one of your biggest rivals is huge. What is more important though is that they are still in a scrap for seeding. By the end of this weekend, Obey could end up anywhere from second to fourth. Do not underestimate the value of seeding, as any Esports fan can tell you many tournaments have been won through favourable brackets. For more information on all the permutations of the EU standings, look no further, TGH has you covered http://thegamehaus.com/2017/06/20/going-dreamhack-valencia-eu-standings-end/

Predictions and contested picks

The mid lane is going to be hotly contested for picks. For Dignitas, Joakim ‘Zyrhoes’ Verngren Sol is a very important pick. Sol has taken the mid lane by storm and become an important pick in any draft, but Zyrhoes was one of the people who pioneered the Sol pick. If this gets through the banning phase, look for Dignitas to pick it up at the first opportunity. However, I would not expect to get through the banning phase. If this happens, things get more interesting for the mid lane.

 

Image courtesy of pcgamesn.com

They get more interesting because all of a sudden The Morrigan comes into focus. This has been a fall back for Zyrhoes in recent times, something Dig prioritises highly. To show how much they prioritise it, in their last set against Burrito Esports when the Sol got banned, they first picked The Morrigan. Emil ‘PrettyPrime’ Edstrom also prioritises it, as their last set he played The Morrigan both games, as well as numerous times before this Split.

Ne Zha has come back into the meta, with a lot of SPL junglers picking him up. Benjamin ‘CaptainTwig’ Knight has always played the Ne Zha and has taken full advantage of his return to the meta. He does not just play the Ne Zha a lot, he plays it very well. Obey Alliance as a whole play around the Ne Zha well though, as he is one of those picks that requires coordination with your teammates. He also recently picked up Sun Wu Kong in the jungle, so that is a possible pick out of left field.

Another potentially interesting pick when these two teams meet comes from the Hunter role. Jing Wei is creeping back into meta and is a God that both Kenny ‘Arkkyl’ Kuska and Nate ‘Ataraxia’ Mark have been picking occasionally. This is not going to be as contested as The Morrigan in mid as both these hunters have played a lot of God’s recently and there are probably more top tier ADC’s at the moment. It is something we could potentially see though.

These are two incredibly evenly matched teams, with a ton of skill and experience on both sides. If I were to call it, I’d say it’s probably a split with perhaps Dignitas on recent form just edging it out.

Top image courtesy of http://team-dignitas.net

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Who is going to DreamHack Valencia?: How the EU standings could end up

Going into the final week there are numerous permutations the EU side of the league can go through. The two major points of contention are going to be fourth spot and second spot in the EU standings. With first spot already wrapped up for Team Dignitas, it is the other spots which will be grabbing most of our attention.

The Battle for Fourth

Fourth place in EU will be hotly contested this weekend. It will be the last spot sending teams to Valencia. The difference between fourth and fifth spot is the difference between a failed Split and a possibly great Split for these teams.

The two teams desperately trying not to be fifth are Eanix and Team Rival. Team Rival have some slight advantages over Eanix towards this end. The biggest advantage is that they are one point ahead in the standings. This point advantage is compounded by the fact that they also took the set against Eanix 2-0. This means that even if they end up on the same amount of points, Eanix are not going to DreamHack Valencia. What this means is that Eanix need to get a 2-0 this weekend while hoping Rival lose both games in their set.

This brings us to the second advantage, the teams they have to face this weekend. Rival are facing sixth seed Elevate this weekend. They have only managed to secure one set victory this entire split. Sitting at sixth in the standings only ahead of two brand new teams to the SPL, this is a team that Rival should beat.

Image courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2GcC1FKkXY

Team Eanix have much sterner opposition in the current World Champions, NRG. Having to 2-0 the current World Champions going into the final week of the Split rather speaks for itself. They would have to be the first team all Split to pull off this difficult challenge. When we consider as well that Eanix only secured 2-0’s against The Papis and Burrito Esports, the two SPL newcomers, the chances look even worse. There is also the fact that against the top two teams their results have not been overly impressive. They got 2-0’d by Rival and Dignitas, and unfortunately last week they couldn’t put away Elevate, severely hurting their DreamHack chances. Do not expect NRG to take it easy on them either as this week is important for them too, with many permutations in the standings still possible.

The Battle for Second

NRG or Obey could  end up in a tie-breaker for fourth, but both of them will be focusing on how they can get second. Currently NRG and Obey are on 12 points with a 3-3-0 record. If Rival win and either or both these teams get shutout in their sets, we will be in a tie-breaker position for second place. If these three teams all split against each other, a tiebreaker will have to be played, meaning we could end up in a three way tournament for seeding.

Both these teams have the ability to guarantee top three for themselves. Having only to secure a Split to guarantee third or better in the Summer Split. Of course though there is still the possibility of a tie breaker between these teams for the coveted second position. As I mentioned earlier, they are on the same amount of points and went 1-1 in their set this Split.

They are equal in all regards other than the challenges they have ahead this week. NRG are facing Eanix this weekend, a team who I expect to come fifth. Compare that to Obey who are facing Dignitas, the top ranked team in the league this Split. To put into context how great Dignitas has been, they have only lost one game all Split. It took until the last week in the Summer Split for them to drop a game against NRG.

Predictions

Luckily for me, first place is all wrapped up for Dignitas, but this is where I believe the EU standings will finish.

Dignitas 5-2-0 17

NRG  4-3-0   15

Obey 3-4-0  13

Rival 3-3-1  12

Eanix 2-2-3  8

What I believe is most likely to change is that NRG and Eanix will split, resulting in a playoff for second place between NRG and Obey.

Top Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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Is a Lack of Class Diversity Within Roles a Bad Thing for Smite?

In the earlier seasons of Smite, we had lots of class diversity within the roles. I personally think it made for a more interesting meta and game overall. It did this through genuinely allowing for different approaches to winning, instead of different brands of similar styles. It also made the game more fun to play. Most people will main a role or a couple of roles, so getting to play different classes and play styles stopped your favoured roles from becoming stale. In recent times though this diversity has died off and left Smite worse off as far as I am concerned.

Previous Seasons

Solo lane is a prime example of a narrowing of Smite, particularly in the roles. Over the history of Smite we have seen every class be viable in the solo lane. We have seen certain players make their names from non-warrior picks in the solo lane. The best examples of this are Jarod ‘CycloneSpin’ Nguyen and Jeron ‘Xaliea’ Klaver, players who dominated at times in the SPL with Assassins. When CycloneSpin was the best player on the best team in the world, it was through playing Assassins in the solo lane.

Image courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

We saw high-octane, high-impact Gods like the Hun Batz being played by Cyclone. It created great games to watch, with early rotations and a pseudo-jungle in the solo lane. It also made solo lane a far more interesting place to watch as there was genuine kill potential between laners instead of the solo slap-fight we have become accustomed to.

Jungle is the other major role where diversity has all but disappeared. Jungle used to be a varied role; being a jungle main, it was that aspect which drew me to it in the early days of Smite. However, now it is just Assassins and not even a particularly large pool of Assassins at that. To newer players it must seem extremely odd that I have a diamond Freya who has been played ADC a max of about 10 times. Ymir used to be a common sight hulking through the Jungle. Tyr used to be a jungler more than a solo laner. All these Gods have in their day been great junglers. At the very least, this made the role more interesting to play and far more flexible.

The reason I focus on these two roles as the epitome of role diversity is two fold. Firstly, these are the roles which lend themselves to role diversity the most. Secondly, these are the roles which allow diversity elsewhere in the team. For example, the Ymir jungle allows your solo laner to worry less about front line, or perhaps your support to consider a better laner than a CC bot.

Where We Are Now

Right now, the classes for roles are very much set in stone. The height of our role diversity is a possible Amaterasu support, a Hunter mid or a Guardian solo.

Even that though seems formulaic. We know which Hunters we are most likely to see in the mid lane, which are basically the more mage-esque Hunters. They are also not always easy to pick as it can hinder your team’s magic damage capabilities. With the lack of magic damage available in the jungle and from solo at the moment, this is a genuine concern.

The Guardian solo at the moment as well is formulaic. The only exception to this is the recent Geb pulled out by Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko. This surprise pick is the exception, not the rule at the moment. It is also worth noting that Deathwalker is someone who is particularly interesting in his picks; think of his recent solo Ah Puch. Also the Guardian is played very much like the Warrior, except for favouring CC over the damage a Warrior provides.

What Created the Issue?

One of the big changes that got us here was the change in Power Pot. Being able to purchase a Power Pot at start made a lot of things more viable, especially in the jungle. It allowed weaker early game characters to improve their clear and impact, meaning they didn’t just fall too far behind to be impactful late game. A prime example of this was the Freya, who with some help from teammates and a Power Pot had manageable clear. It also allowed early game hyper-carries like the Ymir to really utilise that powerful early game. The old Ymir jungle was an example of something I saw as great game design. It was interesting having a hyper carry in the early game who could use it to get his team an advantage and then fall back into a tanky CC bot with very average damage in the late game.

Blink nerfs also reduced diversity in the jungle. Adding mobility to characters who didn’t particularly have it was huge for their viability. The two best examples of how the Blink nerfs reduced the jungle pool are Tyr and Ymir. Ymir obviously has no mobility, so that re-positioning tool for ganks was huge. However, it was just as important for Tyr because while he has his ult for engage, it is his Fearless combo that provides the gank potential.

Image Courtesy of gamerprompt.com

It was these Gods who had CC and early game damage on their primary abilities, which had their jungle viability completely nerfed with the Blink nerf. Especially as they transition into tankier roles, meaning they need to take as much advantage of the early game as possible.

Hi-Rez is also partly at fault for this homogenisation of the roles. They have a history of when a new class finds a footing or takes over a role, not buffing the traditional class but over-nerfing the invasive class. When we had Warrior support as the only support, the answer was a whole-sale nerf to the Warrior class. While Warrior’s did need a nerf, it nearly removed them from the role, and did not focus on making supports better while Warrior’s slightly weaker.

We recently started to see AD-Mages taking over the Hunter Role; again it was a group nerf to those mages. Sol has been made into pretty much a pure Mage. While it is great she has not been nerfed into oblivion, it would have been better to see her have some presence still in the Hunter role. It would be nice to see more of a meeting in the middle of buffing the weaker and nerfing the overpowered when it comes to these sorts of situations.

We have seen a lot of work on Starter Items in recent times. What I think may be missing are starter items which particularly enable multi-role lanes. The easiest example of this is that we could have multiple Bumba’s Mask’s each offering different things.

It would be interesting if Hi-Rez tried a few God releases where they specifically designed characters with role-diversity in mind. I think the community would be very interested in an Assassin designed for the solo lane, or a Guardian designed for the jungle. We have enough Gods in Smite now that they could really start to experiment, not as much hangs on every release.

Another way in which Hi-Rez could facilitate this will have to wait for Season 5. One reason the situation is how it is, comes down to the map. This is a map which has favoured the early game meta heavily. One of the reasons solo has gotten so stale and Warrior heavy is how much that lane effects jungle camps. Losing solo lane normally also means you have lost that side of your jungle. This takes XP and gold from three members of the team. In a meta about getting an early lead and holding it, that is just unacceptable.

Hi-Rez do not seem to have it as a priority at the moment. That may be a mistake, as it is something which I think improves the game from SPL to Casuals.

Top image courtesy of forums.2p.com

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Eanix vs Rival: In-Depth Review

Going into this set, both Eanix and Rival were fairly close in the standings. Eanix was 5-3 and Rival close behind at 4-2. I would have called this set most likely being a split, with these two teams tracking each other in the standings for the foreseeable future. However, Rival walked away with a 2-0 victory. This puts Rival on par with the three other teams who have won two and split two while putting Eanix in a rather tough position when it comes to making DreamHack. Eanix is now very much out of that leading pack, having played more sets and being a down a point.

This match was going to be interesting to see what sort of performance Rival was going to produce after their shock split with The Papis. If anyone expected that to be the end of the Cinderella story of Rival, they were sorely mistaken.

Game One

The first game was everything you would expect from top-tier EU teams: slow paced, methodical and objective based. This was a 41 and a half minute game with only 15 kills. The game winning Fire Giant and Titan push was made without a kill being taken, this was EU meta to a whole new level.

Rival took a small lead early on from Gold Fury control and apart from a minor glitch when Eanix managed to take a Fire Giant from a single pick, Rival maintained control throughout the game. The Sol and the Jing Wei picks were great because they are both incredible objective characters. EU has always been objective focused, with the recent dominance of EU over NA they are leading the meta.

We are seeing both Sol and Jing Wei in both regions now and a big part of this is their objective control. Sol, for a mid laner, has relatively good objective secure with the Stellar Burst into Supernova burst damage. What she brings that other mages do not is the objective burn. With her AA damage output, she provides her team with two AA gods when it comes to objectives. This means that many more windows of opportunity present themselves, as you can take advantage of far smaller time frames.

 

Image courtesy of smitegame.com

Jing Wei is great for quickly bursting down objectives. Her passive crit coming from Explosive Bolts, combined with the 40 percent attack speed buff from Persisent Gusts, means she is one of the best ADCs in the game when it comes to bringing down the objective. Combine that with the added secure, she brings with Air Strike and the ability to only be about 10-15 seconds from any objective on the map due to her passive, she is an extremely underrated objective monster.

 

However, the Fire Giant they did manage to get did not generate any real gain for Eanix, who lost a fight at the first tier two they tried to siege, with James ‘Duck3y’ Heseltine dying to the isolation provided from Khepri Abduct.

From then on it was just a slow, and I can’t stress slow enough, choke-out by Rival.

Game Two

Game two started off looking like it was going to be a bit of a stomp and that Rival’s slow choke from last game had taken the wind out of Eanix’s sails. In the first six minutes, Rival took a 4-0 kill lead and a 3k gold lead. However, Eanix brought themselves back into the game with a great teamfight by their own speed buff. What most likely won them this teamfight was a very early rotation from Kieran ‘Funballer’ Patidar. This turned a 4v4 into a 5v4 for Eanix, resulting in them winning the teamfight 3-0.

Funballer has been incredible this Split. There has been a lot of talk about Daniel ‘Faeles’ Evans and what he will do for Eanix. However, the stand out player for me in regards to Eanix has been Funballer. I’ve been watching Funballer since Smite was in open beta and I have never been this impressed with his play. This is not to take away from how he has played before – he has always been a very good player. The teams he has been on is a testament to that, if nothing else. However, this split he is just crushing it. The mechanics are there – they always have been – but where Funballer stands head and shoulders above a lot of other ADCs in the league is his ability to rotate. This was something brought to attention on the stream, but he has been doing it all split not just this set.

Funballer has always been aggressive in lane, known as one of those ADCs who wants to fight. This season, however, he seems to have decided fighting just one person in lane isn’t enough, he wants to fight everybody. He is using his vast experience in the SPL to make incredibly impactful rotations. In this game, he probably made the rotation which stopped this game turning into a stomp. We have all seen how in Season 4, small leads can be snowballed and held on too. Rival for a time in the game had a large lead; 3k after six minutes is very much the start of a snowball.

Image courtesy of twitch.tv/funballz

 

Look at what he allowed Liam ‘Vote’ Shanks to get through his rotation. A proxied wave and a red buff, that’s it! It was too early in the game to put serious tower pressure on and there was nothing else left on the map. The risk-reward calculation was perfect. Funballer was already behind and Vote to get that farm was not going to change the game, Funballer turning a team fight and getting his team three kills very much did. While it may not have changed the result, it definitely changed the game.

From there the game evened out for a while, until near the 20 minute mark when Eanix won a teamfight around the Gold Fury. By the 33rd minute in the game Eanix were leading 14-8 in kills and had amassed a 7k gold lead, things were looking good for Eanix. Then it all changed, Rival won a team fight handily over Eanix.

Mistakes were made. Eanix messed up here, there is no denying it. Firstly, Emil ‘Lawbster’ Evensen blew his Kraken on Aleksandar ‘iceicebaby’ Zahariev. This took iceicebaby’s Beads and Bracer’s and there are a lot of ults in the game where that trade would be considered worth it, however, not your team’s big mage, team fighting ult. Especially as the Bracer usage meant iceicebaby was ready to fight directly afterward. Of all the characters in the game to not have their actives up, Nemesis is probably one of the best. She has her shield to soak damage and heal her, her double-dash to escape and her ultimate to give her protections and movement speed. Next Faeles threw down the Hun Batz ult, only hitting two and with none of his team able to follow up. Alexandru ‘Wlfy’ Lefterică on Isis didn’t even deem it worthy of using his beads on.

I’ve been critical of Eanix in that teamfight but now I am going to sing the praises of Rival who played it beautifully. The ult combo they pulled out was near perfect. Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko immediately Eagle’s Rallied onto the face of Lawbster burning the beads. Straight after that Petar ‘Kalas’ Matejić using No Escape on the now Beadless Poseidon and the Geb, the two targets who are guaranteed to get pulled in. As soon as that happens right underneath his feet comes the Fields of Love and Circle of Protection. Goodbye tank, goodbye mage.  This fight was so clean from Rival, if you look at the surviving members of Eanix’s health it’s practically full. In fact, after this it is Rival who run away because they were so selective in their targets, as they had to be, being down so much gold and xp that the rest of Eanix could probably have fought them. If you want to learn how to execute a team fight from behind and capitalise on mistakes, look no further than 33 minutes of game two Eanix vs Rival.

There were three more major team fights in this game, two went to Rival and one went to Eanix. The important thing about them was after the momentum change of that 33 minute team fight it was Rival who were agressing. The team fight Eanix one was to wipe Fire Giant off of Rival and didn’t leave them much to capitalise on. The other team fights were important but make no mistake about it, this game turned in the 33rd minute, with some exceptional team fighting from Rival.


Top Image courtesy of https://twitter.com/eanixgg

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The Papis: A team to watch?

The Papis dominated in relegations, making short work of every team who came up against them. However, the question was always going to be whether they would look as good in the SPL.

Coming into this past week, The Papis were sitting on a record of 0/1/2. This wasn’t the dream start to the SPL that they would have hoped for. When you look at the teams that they had to start with though, it’s no surprise. Eanix is a team who will expect to be challenging for a place at DreamHack, currently sitting in second place in Europe with a record of 2/1/1. The other team they lost too was Obey, who came first in Europe for the Spring Split as well as being the winners of the Smite Masters. It would be unfair for us to expect a brand new team in the SPL to beat such high-level opponents.

The Papis split their match with Elevate. This is by no means a weak team. It may have been a bit of a blow to lose Daniel “Faeles” Evans to Eanix, but Elevate is still a strong outfit. They are not in that top echelon of teams, but to most neutral observers they are well capable of beating a team recently out the Challenger Circuit.

The Papis split with Rival looks more surprising when you take a closer look at their split with Elevate. In the first game, they were firmly beaten in 19 minutes, with a kill count of 16-0 in Elevate’s favour. The next game was a tight affair. The Papis did have a minor lead through the majority of the game but were also trailing in kills, showing it was no walk in the park for them. This suggested the higher regarded team of Rival would make quick work of The Papis.

Rival is a team who, due to their offline performance at the end of the last Split, have propelled themselves into the upper tier of SPL teams in a lot of peoples eyes. Admittedly, the upper tier is a little crowded at the moment. In EU the top five teams are all genuinely competitive. So, a quick 2-0 was what most people would have locked in their fantasy points for. However, in the first game of the set The Papis really dominated them.

The Papis held a lead throughout, minor at first but really grew their advantage from the 23rd minute onwards. In this game The Papis dominated the objectives getting three Gold Furies and a Fire Giant, with Rival only able to pick up a consolation Gold Fury as The Papis were pushing down the right Phoenix. The Papi’s also dominated kills, ending up with an advantage of 16-4.

Looking Forward

What fans of The Papis should be excited about is the future of this team, which is guaranteed to be good because of how well they work together. This is not a one-man show by any means. In their victory against Rival, every member of the team did their part. Their lowest kill participation was from Marc “Warchi” Gomez and Ojoboom, who had a very respectable 75 percent kill participation. This shows how much of a unit The Papis are when they get it right.

This is a team just finding their feet in the SPL. However, they have been together for a long time, trying to make that jump from Challenger to Pro League. This means that they already have a lot of synergy. One of the questions when entering the SPL was always “Is there going to be any member of the team who is going to get found out at the pro level?” Happily, for The Papis, this does not seem to be the case.

I think it would be very unfair to say that any of these players look woefully unequipped in the SPL. They have had players performing better than others, but we have all seen how players can thrive and improve their game when consistently playing at this high level. You only have to look at the solo-lane monster that is Adrian “Deathwalker” Benko to see how much a player can improve from their first split.

All that is now required of The Papis is for them to get comfortable at the very top level of play. They have a great base to work from and it will be very interesting to see how they rise to the challenge. Although, for this split it would just be a great achievement for them to avoid relegations. But with the strength of the European scene right now, it’s unlikely to happen. However, I do expect to see them in the SPL next split.


Top Image Courtesy of https://twitter.com/thepapissmite

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