Terra

4.18: Terra, Skadi and Ratatoskr

The patch notes for 4.18 have been released. Instead of swinging the nerf hammer Hi-Rez has mainly just made some minor adjustments. One issue that is common in balance in pretty much all games is the proverbial see-saw characters seem to get stuck on. Either being far too strong or just completely out of the meta. With this in mind, Hi-Rez’s latest round of adjustments do seem to show a lot of restraint.

Terra

Terra

Image courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

The big exception to this is Terra. Terra is getting hit by a big nerf. Removing the root on her Obelisk is a big change. While I like the small adjustments elsewhere, Terra probably needed a big nerf. She has such a bloated kit, with far too much AOE cc contained within it. The problem with her root stemmed from a few major issues.

Firstly, the sheer size of it. The amount of space she could control with the Obelisk was just obscene. The second reason is linked to the space control, that was the ability to place it down then proc it. Being able to have a huge area of the map where essentially an enemy team couldn’t walk was just too strong. It also set up a CC chain which was far too long. The root into the stun was oppressive; if the enemy team was grouping at all there was a good chance of being able to get a multi-person CC chain. It was also a great escape tool as she could drop it in front of her and then use two dashes while anyone near her was rooted.

If Terra was released today with Obelisk in its 4.18 state, it would definitely be considered a great ability. It still works as a heal, still gives Terra a second dash and a 30 percent slow, remaining a very nice form of CC. All her other abilities are great as well, having one of if not the strongest Support ult in the game as well as a ranged AOE stun and the possibility of two dashes. Terra just did way too much and she needed a big nerf. How good her kit is after this nerf proves that.

Skadi

Terra

Image courtesy of smitefire.com

Skadi is probably the God apart from Terra who was screaming for a big nerf. The Skadi Nerfs aren’t particularly huge. She has been hit in two key areas, being the early snowball and zone control. One of the biggest problems with Skadi is how much she can steam roll opponents early and when you are behind a Skadi life is practically impossible.

The nerf to Kaldr’s damage is mainly at the early ranks only being a 10 percent nerf at rank five. Permafrost has its area reduced slightly, losing four units at max rank. Make no mistake Skadi is still going to be very strong and S tier but maybe these minor nerfs will be enough to let her see some play instead of being an instaban. Overall I’m not sure the nerf really fulfills its purpose as Kaldr is the last thing to be maxed on Skadi. This nerf is clearly aimed at her early power, but her early power doesn’t come from the Kaldr dash damage. I do like the light touch approach even if it will take a couple of patches to get her to a reasonable level.

Ratatoskr

The Rat buff is interesting as it is rather minor. The problem with Rat especially outside of competitive play is how easy it is for him to just run games. When Rat gets ahead due to his high mobility and semi global he can be everywhere at once and is pretty easy to use. When he is in meta he dominates ranked games and snowballs out of control regularly.

While these buffs seem good, it will be interesting to see how they work out in practice. One of the things about buffing his protection shred on the basis of ‘it will empower his other abilities’ is that it is quite often the last ability he uses. This changes sometimes when he is counter-ganking, but quite often the combo is a dash into a stun to lock them down for the flurry. While this buff will undoubtedly help, I do feel it plays against the God’s synergy, considering his dash is what you want to open with seeing as your abilities reduce its cooldown.

Terra

Image courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

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week two

RLCS/RLRS week two recap: Europe

Season four of the Rocket League Championship Series and Rocket League Rival Series are heading into week three. After week two, here are the standings, upsets and what to look out for moving forward.

If you missed it, take a look at the week two recap for North America.

Standings

 RLCS

  • Method 4-0
  • Frontline 2-0
  • Gale Force eSports 2-2
  • Flipsid3 Tactics 1-1
  • Team EnVyUs 1-2
  • Mockit eSports 0-1
  • exceL eSports 0-1
  • Team Secret 0-3

 RLRS

  • The Leftovers 3-0
  • The Juicy Kids 3-1
  • ExRay 1-0
  • Inspiration 1-2
  • Endpoint 0-1
  • Supersonic Avengers 0-1
  • Most Wanted Esports 0-1
  • Golden Hawks 0-2

As with NA, EU has some clear leaders in both the RLCS and RLRS after only two weeks. Those leaders in the RLRS, to no surprise, are The Leftovers and The Juicy Kids.

Upsets

The Leftovers’ relegation to the RLRS, after losing to Team Secret (then Aeriality) in the loser’s bracket of the Play-Ins, was unexpected. The Leftovers’ founder, Nicolai “Snaski” Vistessen Andersen, promptly tweeted about showing everyone they don’t belong in the RLRS. Since then, they’ve shown why.

The real surprises after week two, heading into week three, come from the RLCS.

Method

This Method roster has been playing together since season three of the RLCS, playing then for Resonant Esports. The squad consists of Linus “al0t” Möllergren, Otto “Metsanauris” Kaipiainen and Joonas “Mognus” Salo.

week two

Image courtesy of @Methodgg Twitter account.

As Resonant, they came in sixth during League Play of RLCS season three and missed out on the World Championships after losing to Flipsid3 Tactics in the first round of playoffs. Despite missing LANs, the trio stuck together and moved from Resonant to Method.

As seen in throughout the history of the RLCS, trios and duos who stick together for multiple seasons often do better than many teams that formed for the season. Method is not only proving that so far this season, they’re showing that trios sticking together might be stronger than threes team with a long-time duo.

Method was hard at work during the off season, consistently competing in season one of Gfinity’s Elite Series and the European Gfinity Weekly Cups, and it has shown. They were easily accepted as a top six team coming into League Play but are quickly showing everyone that they have the potential to be much more than that.

Frontline

week two

Image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net.

The other surprising team in EU right now is Frontline. While Frontline had a bye week in week two, they still sit at number two in the standings after week one.

Frontline consists of Dan “Bluey” Bluett, Thibault “Chausette45” Grzesiak and Victor “Ferra” Francal.

Ferra, a former member of The Leftovers during season three, knocked his old squad into the loser’s bracket during Play-Ins, securing their spot in the RLCS this season. After their performance during Play-Ins, many expected them to do well. So far they’re doing great.

In week one, Frontline took down two top-tier teams, Mockit eSports and Gale Force eSports. While Mockit lost their auto-qualification bid from season three, due to losing two-thirds of their starting line-up, they still managed to find their way into the RLCS. The real shock here, though, is the victory over Gale Force eSports.

Gale Force eSports was on fire this off season, despite seemingly having a second-place curse until NBC Universal Open. The star-studded Gale Force squad consists of Courant “Kaydop” Alexandre, Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver and Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs. They were considered the favorites to win EU regionals, and perhaps worlds, at the beginning of league play.

Coming off their bye week, Frontline is looking to continue their undefeated streak and match Method’s 4-0 standing. They are set to play Team Secret and Flipsid3 Tactics in week three. Frontline and Method face off in week four.

Moving into week 3

In NA, the two teams with only one series played so far, G2 Esports and Ghost Gaming, find themselves undefeated. That’s not the case in EU. Both Mockit eSports and exceL are 0-1 so far for the season. While they aren’t looking to continue an undefeated season, as with G2 and Ghost, they are looking to turn their seasons around.

Mockit

week two

Image courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Mockit consists of Victor “Fairy Peak” Locquet, Sandro “FreaKii” Holzwarth and Philip “paschy90” Paschmeyer.

Mockit has been an ever-present force since the beginning of RLCS, despite constantly changing rosters during off seasons. While they are looking to turn their season around in week three, it certainly won’t be easy. Mockit is scheduled to play Flipsid3 Tactics and EnVyUs, both considered powerhouses of EU. Flipsid3 Tactics were the world champions of season two and EnVyUs, then Northern Gaming, the world champions of season three. The other major powerhouse being Gale Force eSports.

However, as the first two weeks have shown, anything can happen in EU Rocket League. Gale Force, Flipsid3 Tactics and EnVyUs were expected to be top three, in varying orders depending who you ask, coming into season four. However, they currently sit at three, four and five, respectively.

exceL

The exceL squad is my personal EU team to keep an eye on this season. Consisting of Niels “Nielskoek” Kok, Kasper “Pwndx” Nielsen and Hampus “Zensuz” Öberg, these players aren’t strangers to the RLCS.

ExceL has a somewhat easier turnaround week coming than Mockit. Although they are playing EnVyUs in their first match of the day, their second match is against Team Secret.

I expect the match against EnVyUs to be much closer than that of the one against Team Secret. Not to put Team Secret down, but it was a shock they made it into the RLCS this season, and they have yet to prove they belong, sitting at 0-3.

No matter what happens, EU has already flipped expectations on their heads. There’s no reason to assume they won’t do it again as the season moves forward.


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pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Strategies to expect for the remaining 2017 Pokemon VGC season

The 2017 World Championships have come and gone, and so far, two regionals have already taken place. There are still many remaining events that will use the 2017 rule-set, including the London International Championships happening in November. If you are planning on competing in one of these upcoming tournaments, you’re probably wondering what kind of metagame you should prepare for. This can be difficult considering the last two top cuts in Ft. Wayne and Bremen looked almost nothing like Anaheim’s. So, how should you prepare for the post-worlds VGC 2017 metagame? Hopefully we’ll have some answers for you.

An Overview

For starters, I’d like to break down the current metagame into two categories: successful world’s teams and counters.

The three most popular teams to come out of Anaheim’s top cut are Sam Pandelis’ Mandibuzz and Tapu Lele team, Tomoyuki Yoshimura’s take on MetaMence and Paul Ruiz’s Persian and friends composition. The reason I mention these specifically is that all of these teams have appeared on popular VGC YouTubers channels (including but not limited to CybertronProductions, Osirus Studios and Ray Rizzo).

These teams are picking up popularity because they’re 1) Relatively easy to play and 2) Are quite consistent in a number of match ups.

I wouldn’t count on not seeing any other teams from the Top Cut of the World Championships, but if you’re bound to run into any, it will likely be one of these three.

Of course, when teams do well, the next logical step is to figure out a way to counter them. We’ve already seen Mandibuzz and Persian pick up in usage (not just because of Ruiz and Pandelis) but because Foul Play is a solid answer to MetaMence. I’ll get into some other counters in a bit, but your mission as a team builder is to create something that counters the meta and something that counters the counters.

Sounds easy right?

Popular World’s Strategies

I’ve already mentioned the teams from World’s that I think will be the most popular, but adaptations aren’t totally out of the question. These are modes from successful World’s teams that are the most likely to be adapted.

MetaMencesalamence pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

We’ve already dedicated an entire piece to MetaMence, so make sure to check that out if you want a detailed breakdown. One thing I praised MetaMence for is its flexibility in team building, which is why I expect it to return with a different supporting cast.

Foul Play users like Mandibuzz and Persian or bulky Water-types like Tapu Fini and even Milotic are good answers to this combo. Foul Play makes Metagross think twice about wanting to boost while the bulky Water Pokemon can these two for either neutral or super-effective damage.

Mandibuzz, Tapu Lele and Friendsmandibuzz pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Tailwind and Tapu Lele go together so well and it looks like Mandibuzz has taken over Drifblim’s spot as Lele’s speed-boosting partner. This team has become slightly harder to deal with now that Ninetales can buff up its teammates with Aurora Veil while Xurkitree and Garchomp set up in your face. The hyper-offense nature of the team forces a lot of defensive play so setting up and sweeping can be easy for this team to pull off.

Alolan Marowak was clutch for Ryota Otsubo in the finals as Marowak was able to break Pandelis’ Aurora Veil with Brick Break and halt Xurkitree’s Thunderbolts with Marowak’s Lightningrod ability. Tapu Fini works pretty well here too, being able to switch the Terrain and threaten Fairy-type attacks on Mandibuzz and Garchomp. Basically, denying the team set-up by taking away things like Tailwind, Aurora Veil and Psychic Terrain are the way to beat it. It’s tough considering one mistake could lead to Garchomp and/or Xurkitree 2-0’ing you.

Whimsicott’s Z-Nature Powerwhimsicott pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

How could I mention Worlds without talking about the team that won it all? We saw how much of a threat Whimsicott was, being able to fire off priority Z-moves and support Otsubo’s team with Charm and Tailwind. 2013 World Champion Arash Ommati has already earned a Top 4 and Top 8 placing with a team very similar to Otsubo’s with a bit more of a standard approach (Arcanine > Marowak, Garchomp > Krookodile).

While I don’t think Otsubo’s exact team will make big waves post-worlds, Whimsicott might solidify itself as a viable Tailwind supporter.

Persian and Boosting Sweepersalolan persian pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Paul Ruiz showed us yet again how terrifying and annoying Alolan Persian can be to deal with, especially with two monsters who can boost their stats next to it. Persian has a lot of disruptive options at its disposal making it easy for Pokemon like Snorlax to set up and sweep without even needing a Speed advantage. Fake Out can buy you a free turn, Parting Shot weakens your opponent’s threats and Foul Play can eliminate your opponent’s heavy physical hitters.

As for Dragon Dance sweepers, Gyarados and Salamence are great next to Persian. In his team report, Ruiz liked Salamence because of its higher Speed and Attack stats compared to Gyarados. Salamence, arguably, has better matchups, but like Gyarados, it has a 4x weakness to a very common attacking type. Something they also have in common is their heavy hitting Supersonic Skystrike coming off of moves that would normally take two turns to hit (Fly and Bounce respectively). What I personally don’t like about the Flynium-Z route for these two is that their attacking options become severely limited after the Z-move is burned. However, if that Z-move hits into a non-resisted target, expect a KO to start the game.

For counters, Ruiz didn’t like his match up against Mandibuzz and Trick Room (Mimikyu+Snorlax mainly). Mandibuzz does threaten his mostly physical team with Foul Play and can easily take away the speed advantage with Tailwind. Trick Room is threatening simply because this team has a fast Snorlax, allowing most other Snorlax to beat it under Trick Room.

Go check out his team report here!

Counters to Consider

Now here’s the fun part: the counters that you’ll have to counter.

Mandibuzz/Persianalolan persian pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Not to be redundant, but these two have picked up a ton of popularity after Worlds. Both can decimate a boosted Metagross and Snorlax with Foul Play while providing excellent support.

Lightningrodtogedemaru pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Tapu Koko and Xurkitree are as popular as ever following the World Championships, and there’s nothing that these two hate going up against more than Lightningrod (and maybe a Garchomp holding a Choice Scarf). Alolan Marowak looks to be the favorite, but I wouldn’t count out Togedemaru. Togedemaru can be a pain to deal with being able to Fake Out, Encore and flinch your team to death with Zing Zap. Marowak mainly just does damage. Lot’s and lots of damage.

Weathertorkoal pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

News flash: Rain and Sun are still good. It’s mainly the sun I want to talk about though. Since Worlds, Torkoal has won two regionals with a second one appearing in Ft. Wayne’s Top 4. Rain, on the other hand, has had zero appearances. I think players were sleeping on Torkoal while Pelipper and Golduck were tearing up the metagame, but Torkoal can still bring the heat. Whether partnered with Lilligant or under Trick Room, those Eruptions are going to melt teams unprepared for the Sun match up. For any team being built after Worlds, make sure you pack something that can deal with Torkoal, Lilligant and the other usual suspects (Tapu Lele, Pheromosa, etc.).

MimiLaxmimikyu pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

Despite all of the Foul Play, Snorlax is here to stay. Mimikyu looks like its back after an impressive showing at the World Championships as Snorlax’s main Trick Room setter. Mimikyu can be an incredibly annoying Pokemon to deal with especially since it basically has a free hit it can take thanks to Disguise. Not to mention, Ghostium Z has become the go-to item for Mimikyu so have fun trying to predict whether or not your opponent goes for NeverEnding Nightmare or Z-Destiny Bond.

Snorlax on the other hand, well, it’ll just keep using Belly Drum.

Smearglesmeargle pokemon vgc 2017 strategy

For our last Pokemon, here’s a bit of an underdog that I expect to do well post-worlds (I promise I’ll stop the puns now). A couple Smeargle have popped up in Ft. Wayne and Bremen next to Ultra Beasts that Smeargle likes to partner up with. Smeargle is a very disruptive Pokemon that can easily draw attention away from the boosting monsters known as Nihilego, Xurkitree and Pheromosa. Oh did I mention that Porygon-Z took home a regional title in Bremen next to Smeargle?

Taunt is likely going to be a good choice for your team.

Final Thoughts

So far we’ve seen two regional Top Cuts that look completely different from the World Championships that were just a month ago. I’m not sure how far VGC 2017 has left to go in terms of creativity, but I think I summed up what we’re most likely going to see in the next couple months. Then again, Dragonite has been on the rise so at this point anything can happen.

Hartford, Connecticut is our next location for regionals coming up at the end of the month. A stream will be provided thanks to Clash Tournaments which brings a huge sigh of relief for us journalists. We’ll be recapping everything that goes down in Hartford, but until then we’ve got you covered with everything Pokemon VGC!

Thanks for reading!


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underperforming

Why are some teams under-performing?

The Counter-Strike scene is in a state of flux like we’ve never seen before. Truly, there are about eight teams who can at any time win a tournament. The tier below the ‘top tier’ (teams that could win a big tournament) is as strong as it has ever been. Team Liquid, per HLTV, was rated as the ninth best team in the world. A fringe playoff team, who could maybe make the semis of an international tournament, with a lucky bracket draw. That was their situation before they made the finals at ESL One New York, beating the best team in the world in a best of three to get there.

However, there are some teams under-performing given their stature and talent level. I’m going to try to analyze why these teams are under-performing, one by one. My definition of ‘under-performing’ is a team that isn’t playing up to their standards or expectations. Keep in mind, some of my analytics will be related to the eye test; therefore, there will be opinions. I know, opinions in 2017, an absolute deathtrap.

Astralis

Astralis is a team everyone has noticed under-performing. From IEM Oakland in 2016 until DreamHack Masters Malmo 2017, Astralis did not fail to make the semifinals once. During this span, they made six finals and won three tournaments. Falling out in the group stage is unacceptable for a team of their stature, I don’t care the format. It is not okay to lose to Team Liquid in a best of three match when best of three’s are supposed to be your bread and butter.

To theorize why Astralis are playing poorly, by their standards anyway, let’s look into the individual performances of players, as I think they still play one of the best brands of Counter-Strike in the scene today. When looking, Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander is really the only under-performer (0.99 HLTV rating in the last three months on LAN).

All that said, I’m not worried about the Danes. Their style of Counter-Strike is highly proficient, and they have some of the best players in the game. I believe they will return to their winning ways very soon.

Virtus.Pro

I will admit, you can never really say what form VP are in. They can bomb out in groups of one tournament, and win the next one; however, the reason I say they are under-performing is that those peaks haven’t been there. The last time they made a finals appearance at a notable tournament was DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, six months ago. For reference, this is their second-longest finals drought, since their drought at the end of 2015 into 2016. This drought is still in full effect, and I’m not sure I see it ending soon.

Noticeably, VP doesn’t seem to have that same sort of chemistry we are used to seeing. Usually, VP looks like a ‘hive mind’ sort of team, as if they know exactly what one another will do next; I haven’t seen that VP as of late. The under-performance of Wiktor ‘TaZ’ Wojtas, Filip ‘NEO’ Kubski and Janusz ‘Snax’ Pogorzelski doesn’t help (0.91, 0.93, and 0.97 HLTV ratings over the past three months on LAN, respectively).

At the end of the day, the poles are in serious trouble right now. If they don’t put it all together and do something, the unthinkable might happen.

SK Gaming

Let me be clear, I do rank SK as the best team in the world; they just haven’t been dominating the way we grew accustomed to since cs_summit. Following a group stage exit in SL i-League Starseries Season 3, they failed to win only one tournament until the PGL Major. From the PGL Major onward, they have yet to make a final, much less win a tournament.

Watching them play, they don’t seem to have that same discipline as the SK of 2016. They seem much looser, which I suppose has been to their benefit up to this point. In terms of individuals under-performing, there’s not much to speak of besides Epitacio ‘TACO’ de Melo not playing well (0.96 on LAN over the past three months). Although João ‘felps’ Vasconcellos is coming off his worst performance since joining SK at ESL One New York (0.89, negative 22 K/D), I personally am not concerned.

It’s likely SK will turn it around; on the off chance they don’t, my money is on G2 to take over their world number one spot.

I suppose we are in ‘the parity era’ so these under-performances are sort of warranted in a way. The nature of the game and the scene does tend to lean itself towards less dominance from teams, so you might think I am overreacting; the way I see it though, these teams have too much pedigree to not be performing.


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SoCal Regionals 2017 preview: Street Fighter V and Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

SoCal Regionals has been a staple and one of the few times the fighting game scene takes its talents to the most talented region in the United States. The event will feature 12 separate tournaments including the worlds first major Marvel vs Capcom Infinite tournament. The focus will be on Street Fighter V, but there’s enough for all types of fighting game fans to keep them interested.

The four main events will be Street Fighter V, Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, Tekken 7 and Injustice 2. Marvel will be the most intriguing because it’s a new game, but the SFV tournament will have the most fire power with all the heavy-hitters showing up. All the other events have significantly lower turnouts.

Unfortunately, the event as a whole has much lower turnout than expected. The reason for this is the tournament overlap, which is spreading out the talent. TGS, EGX and CEOTaku are all happening and plenty of Street Fighter and other players are playing elsewhere this weekend. A large portion are still making their way to California, but this explains why the turnout has dipped.

Street Fighter V

Street Fighter V is going to be a mix of the regular Wednesday night fight crew intertwined with some Japanese players and a slew of top-20 players. The favorite heading into the weekend will be the juggernaut Punk but players like Darryl “Snake Eyez” Lewis, Eduardo “PR_Rog” Perez, Justin Wong and momochi could be a problem for Punk.

PG Punk. Photo courtesy of twitch.tv/evo2k

Based off bracket projections, it’ll most likely come down to either Snake Eyez, PR_Rog or 801Strider on the winners side. There’s plenty of potential upsets along the way with names like NO RESPECT, Veloreon and ChrisT waiting to take out the top names. Top 64 will be separated into four separate 16 player brackets that get funneled into top 8.

In terms of must-watch matches, the potential for upsets is there for a lot of these match ups, but I’m looking more towards underrated threats to make deep runs. BrianF vs Smug is a set I’ll be looking forward to. Two of the best Balrog players facing off once again. NO RESPECT with his patented Urien going up against Momochi (and Justin Wong). K-Brad against Verloren could decide that entire pool.

SCR won’t feature the heavyweight bouts, but there’s enough talent to watch a whole bunch of high quality matchups. It’ll also be interesting to see if any of the top four fall. Punk has had early bracket trouble in the past, and there’s names here that players aren’t necessarily prepared for.

Marvel vs Capcom Infinite

Expect the unexpected with Marvel Infinite. Obviously with the game being released last Tuesday the depths of the mechanics and characters won’t be close to fleshed out. Early tournaments are more for feeling out certain strategies and even more importantly, CHEESING.

Week one tournaments almost always come down to cheese. Cheesing essentially means using cheap tactics that haven’t been learned to counter yet and winning. It’s a fleeting feeling of superiority, but it’s undoubtedly effective in the early stages of a fighting game. Let’s look at the players who might take advantage of this at SCR.

Looking at the names attending, it seems pretty straight forward who’ll be able to quickly adapt and have a chance to take the event. The first names to focus on are the veterans: Justin Wong, NYChrisG, Cloud805 or RayRay. Any of these guys are capable of winning, but week one tournaments usually aren’t about talent.

In the end, it will be a combination of a gimmick team or strategy, a lot of luck, and the overall experience of a dedicated fighting game player. At the same time, natural talent can compensate for lack of experience. Expect to see new players giving experienced players a run for their money.

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Who has the best shot to be this year’s Albus Nox?

With the World Championship starting this weekend we’ll have the chance to see some massive upsets. The possibility of either of the teams dropping a few games could start off Worlds with a bang. Last year we got to witness the first upset of a Wildcard team in groups. Albus Nox Luna of the CIS region were able to take second in their group finishing 4-3 ahead of CLG and G2.

Instead of having a separate Wild Card tournament to determine who will play in Worlds from the non-major regions, we now have the play-in stage. The play-in stage allows for Wildcard teams the chance to face third place teams of the major regions with a chance to upset and qualify for the Group stage.

Will we have another Albus Nox play spoiler for one of the major regions? Let’s take a look at some teams that may have the best chance:

Gambit (1st place lcl)

Photo by Gambit Gaming

Gambit Gaming represent the same region Albus Nox did last year, the LCL. They also have two former players in Alexander “PvPStejos” Glazkov and Michael “Kira” Garmash. Kira and PvPStejos were huge in Albus Nox’s Worlds run last year. Kira has shown the ability to have a wide champion pool.

They also have some legendary veterans in jungler Danil “Diamondprox” Reshetnikov and support Edward “Edward” Abgaryan. Diamond and Edward were longtime legends in the EULCS after dominating tournaments in Season 2 as Moscow 5. This will be a chance for them to add onto their legacy.

Rekkles also shed some light into Gambit calling them an EULCS caliber team in his 3rd place interview. Gambit definitely have the experience to do so. They’re a very much an early game team who can create leads through skirmishes. They’ll often go for these early baron calls despite not having proper vision setup. They’re a high risk, high reward team that can definitely shock some of these teams with weak early games such as Cloud 9.

Gigabyte Marines (1st place gpl)

Photo by Riot Esports

Unlike the other teams on this list, Gigabyte Marines aren’t in the play-in stage as they earned their region a pool two seed at MSI. They are placed in Group B with Korean Powerhouse, Longzhu Gaming, and North American first timers, Immortals. For Gigabyte Marines this could be a hopeful group for them. Longzhu will most likely be favorites, but the second seed is up in the air. Immortals will be favorites, but let’s remember that Gigabyte Marines nearly beat TSM in a best of five at MSI.

The Marines played a lot through ganking the bot lane early at MSI. Star jungler Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh was instrumental in their MSI run and will look to put the team on his back once again. With carry junglers out of the meta now, it will be interesting to see how they decide to play. They built their own meta at MSI, with snowballing the early game through bot, so they have the ability to create their own meta.

1907 fenerbahce (1st place tcl)

1907 Fenerbahce come in with a ton of momentum after winning the TCL 3-0 against SuperMassive. Historically, we’ve seen teams from Turkey do well in Wildcard tournaments and even take games off some of the major regions. Fenerbahce have a mid-jungle korean duo in Kim “Frozen” Tae-il and Kang “Move” Min-su. Move spent some time in NA and EU having some solid seasons before coming over to the TCL. Top laner, Berke “Thaldrin” Demir, has had some international experience with previous Turkish teams.

Being placed in group D has to feel like a blessing. Hong Kong attitude are the 3rd place team out of LMS and finished 6th in the regular season before getting in through the regional qualifier. Fenerbahce have the disadvantage of coming to Worlds late without a bootcamp, but we’ve seen teams do well without scrims.

The mystery of developing your own meta brings an extra surprise factor especially in best of one’s. Albus Nox mentioned not being able to get scrims last year before going on their magical run.

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Cover photo by Riot Esports

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Junkertown

Overwatch patch adds Junkertown map and Mercy changes

Yesterday, Overwatch was patched and added the long-awaited Junkertown map and Mercy changes to the game. You can find the official list of changes here. You can see the new map and Mercy changes in the videos below.

Junkertown: Long Range Combat

The biggest take away from Junkertown is that it’s open. Every single phase of this escort map features long sight lines that make it perfect for long range combat. See in the clip below how much distance is between Widowmaker and the enemy and how little cover they have. Because of this, we expect more barrier use on offense and defense when it comes to Junkertown, and of course, more snipers.

Mercy Rework

Obviously, the biggest change to Mercy is switching her Resurrect from her ultimate to a single target ability. This change also brought along some nerfs, such as limiting the range of Resurrect to five meters and requiring line of sight.

Some players may not like these changes to her Resurrect, mainly the limited range. Requiring line of sight for Resurrect means Mercy can’t hide behind walls to Rez teammates anymore, a staple of her gameplay in the past. Limiting the range to five meters forces her teammates to play close together. Otherwise, teammates are forcing her into unnecessary danger based on where they die.

Do you like the new map and Mercy changes? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


Featured Image Courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment

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liquid

Team Liquid makes two grand finals in a row

Team Liquid has been one of the most confusing teams in the CSGO scene. Having some of the best players in NA, they’ve never lived up to the potential. And outside of issues we may not know, there’s really no apparent reason why. Fortunately, in recent events, they have shown some amazing things. Let’s look through their last two events and see what exactly went right for the team.

ESG Tour Mykonos 2017

Group Stage

Starting in the group stage, TL faced BIG on Overpass. There wasn’t too much on the positive side of things to take out of the match. Both teams made many mistakes and Liquid just so happened to make less of them. They then went on to face Virtus.Pro in the winners match, where VP took down Liquid somewhat convincingly on Mirage. The groups ended pretty uneventfully, as TL took down BIG quite easily in a Bo3.

Playoffs

liquid

Photo by: hltv.org

The semifinal against SK Gaming is where things get interesting for Liquid. Coming into the event, many expected that SK would take it with little to no competition. But, Liquid had something to say for themselves. In a surprising manner, Liquid took down SK Gaming without much competition from the Brazilian side, who, off the back of a few clutches and surprise rounds, only put up 12 and 10 rounds respectively in two maps.

Moving on to the grand finals, Liquid faced mousesports. Unfortunately for Liquid, Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný decided that he wanted to win the game himself and had a pretty easy time doing so. All maps aside from Liquid’s second map win were pretty one sided, with mousesports taking the last map in an even more dominant fashion.

After the event

After the event, a couple things that Liquid could take away were their result and beating SK in a best of three. It was a huge improvement over what Liquid had shown earlier in the year. Everyone, including themselves, knew it as well. Liquid was on the rise.

ESL One New York 2017

Group Stage

The group stage for New York started off with Liquid losing a Bo1 to Astralis and moving into the lower bracket to face Virtus.Pro in a Bo3. In impressive form against the NA killers, Liquid took the best of three, losing one map and moving on to face Astralis once again.

In the second match against Astralis, no one could’ve predicted Liquid beating them in a best of three, but they did just that to move on to the playoffs.

Playoffs

liquid

Photo by: hltv.org

TL ended up in the semifinals against SK Gaming once again. This time though, the Brazilians would put up a much better fight than before in Greece. Liquid took the lead in the series, taking the first map, but SK immediately took the second with dominance. The last map in the series was the most exciting, being close from start to finish. But, in the end, Liquid took the series and moved on to their second grand final in a row.

The final was played against FaZe Clan, who showed absolute dominance in their previous matches, and continued in the final where they took all three maps sending Liquid home before claiming the trophy.

After the event

After ESL One New York, Liquid should be proud of their performance. Winning three Bo3s against some of the hardest teams to play in that format of a match, Liquid is showing to become one of the best teams in the world after a year of almost no success and surprisingly very few roster changes. Liquid has only positives to take from the event and hopefully will come back even stronger at ELEAGUE in two weeks.


Featured image via Dreamhack.

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Filling the post-nerf power vacuum

Hearthstone’s upcoming 9.1 balance changes are a shotgun blast into the top tiers of ladder. Besides Priest, the changes will impact every tier one deck. Pirate Warrior, Jade Druid, Aggro Druid and Murloc Paladin all suffer substantial nerfs to core, deck-defining cards. With the top dogs all cowed, who will rise to take their place?

Rise of Razakus

nerf

Priest’s repeatedly refreshing heropower is devastating when it’s zero mana

Priest may be the first on people’s minds. Raza/Kazakus has proven to be a scarily potent deck on both ladder and in tournaments. While the deck suffers from consistency issues, it is truly terrifying when all the pieces slot together. Shadowreaper Anduin’s “machine-gun” effect of zero mana Raza hero powers ends games fast vs control, and that frees the deck up to run a decent anti-aggro base.

Razakus’ achilles heel has been succumbing to the twin threats of the uber-aggressive burn of Pirate Warrior and the ever-ramping late-game threats of Jade. With the Fiery War Axe and Innervate nerfs, the deck will gain some breathing room to dominate.

Don’t count on a Priest-only meta though. Exodia Mage exists as a strong counter, and a singleton deck like Priest can only run one dirty rat as counterplay. What’s more, aggressive Midrange decks like Hunter may also arise to give Priest trouble with sticky minions and continuous pressure.

Mage’s Secret deck

With less powerful Aggro, Mage may be free to become more aggressive

Secret Mage has been operating under the radar lately. While it’s one of the few decks that maintains a decent winrate against Jade Druid, its other matchups suffer. Most notably, the three most popular Aggro decks all rip it to shreds most games. Mage simply can’t compete with Aggro Druid, Murloc Paladin and Pirate Warrior’s early game consistently enough. And with few comeback mechanisms, it struggles to come back from early disadvantages.

Luckily for fans of Fireballing face, all three of those decks are affected by the nerfs. With fewer counters, Secret Mage could prey on the control decks that timidly emerge into the new meta.

Still, it’s unlikely to be defining. Jade Druid will likely continue to be a better counter to Control, while maintaining decent winrates vs aggro; even with a six mana Spreading plague and weakened Innervate.

A new kind of Warrior

nerf

Worse Innervate means more time to play Geist

Though it’s very much an underground hit currently, Fatigue/Mill Warrior is turning heads. Ever since Dog’s refined list exploded the deck into the popular Hearthstone consciousness, it’s been showing significant potential. With an infinite win condition and serious anti-aggro credentials, the deck is held back largely by a high skill ceiling and slow games.

Unlike almost every Warrior deck ever, Mill/Fatigue Warrior does not run Fiery War Axe. As such, it will get through the balance changes unscathed. Moreover, Warleader’s nerf weakens a key unfavourable matchup in Murloc Paladin. With a less competitive field, the deck could become much more viable.

However, there are some caveats. Midrange decks may emerge and challenge the deck’s limited mid-game board control options. Moreover, the deck is far too slow and difficult to have an overwhelming ladder presence.

Rexxar’s return

Good old Midrange Hunter looks to make a comeback. The aggro-flavoured beast synergy deck has a long and storied history. However, since Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, competitive early game minions such as Patches have limited its utility.

But with Aggro Druid, Pirate Warrior and Murloc Paladin all taking serious hits to core cards, it may thrive in the post-nerf world. A decline in Pirate Warrior especially could give the deck new lease of life, as the near-mandatory double Golakka Crawlers can finally be cut if Pirates fall below a critical threshold.

Still, with no eight mana Call of the Wild as a tempo finisher, Hunters will be unlikely to truly take first place. Deathstalker Rexxar and Savannah Highmane are simply not enough to finish games against Control a lot of the time. And with aggro decks still out-competing Hunter’s first few turns, a Rexxar meta seems unlikely.

The Eternal Jade

Without Innervate, Aya is still potent

Unfortunately, many signs still point to a meta still dominated by Jade. As with the nerfs to Midrange Shaman preceding unprecedented Midrange Shaman dominance, Druid’s main counters are being hit hard too. While an Innervate nerf will curtail Druid’s power greatly, the power of cards like Malfurion the Pestilent, Aya, Jade Idol and Ultimate Infestation will remain. Along with the traditional Druid core of Swipes and Wild Growths, a slightly more anti-aggro Jade Druid could still dominate all slower matchups while retaining anti-aggro consistency.

However, only time will tell. Perhaps the Innervate nerf will be more impactful than many realise. Or perhaps Zoo will come out of nowhere to become a tier one deck. The only way to make sure is to test these decks out in the merciless proving ground of ladder.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment via Hearthstone.gamepedia.com.

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Group D preview: Group of Life

The 2017 World Championship is approaching, building up hype for this epic tournament. With the group draw concluded most are heralding group D as the “Group of Life.” Group D is considered a favorable group due to not having a Korean team in it. With Korea’s success in previous World Championships, it’s a blessing if you can avoid facing one of their powerhouse teams in the first part of the tournament. This group holds two veteran teams in TSM and Flash Wolves, with new comers from the EU LCS, Misfits. There’s definitely a strong possibility that if things play out the way they should, WE could be put into this group as well.

Flash Wolves

Photo by: Riot Esports

Flash Wolves earned another Worlds berth by winning the LMS region once again, defeating AHQ 3-0 in the finals. They’ve dominated their region for the most part for the past few seasons. They like to play through veteran jungle/mid duo, Maple and Karsa. With the meta shifting to more supportive tank junglers, it will be interesting to see how Karsa performs. We’ve seen in previous Worlds his best performances on aggressive ganking junglers such as Lee Sin and Elise. Maple also hasn’t looked great this past split, but a good boot camp before Worlds could help fix some of their issues.

While Flash Wolves were able to take the top spot in LMS, they haven’t really looked much better from their MSI performance. Top and bot lane are average at best. Support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie will often times look to roam to setup plays for his team. Their ADC, Lu “Betty” Yuhung, didn’t have a great showing at MSI. If he performs the same way against even better competition, they could be hurting. Nonetheless they have been known to snowball really well off early game leads. TSM and Misfits like to play more towards the mid-late game. If Flash Wolves can set the tempo and get snowballing they can definitely win this group.

Team SoloMid

Photo by: Riot Esports

Team SoloMid come in as the number one seed from North America after defeating Immortals 3-1 in the NA LCS finals. TSM have finally been blessed with one of the better group draws they could have possibly asked for. No Korean teams, so there’s absolutely no excuses for not being able to make it out of their group this time around. The pressure will be on for them to perform and make it out.

They are led by the two star carries of Bjergsen and Doublelift. Support Vincent “Biofrost” Wang was shaky in his first Worlds appearance last year. Up against the likes of Mata and CoreJJ, he looked outclassed. This year he comes in with a lot more experience. He showed up huge for TSM in their finals series against Immortals, earning the finals MVP. His play making on Rakan played a huge part in their series victory.

TSM’s weaknesses lie in the early game. With strong roaming, support/jungle duos can look to gain early leads and possibly snowball the game. TSM likes to play towards the mid-late game where their shot-calling has been much improved since the Mid Season Invitational. Even when they are behind, they are very good at knowing how to catch up. TSM look like favorites to win their group on paper, but they’ll need to show it on stage.

Misfits

Photo by: Riot Esports

Misfits head to Worlds as the second seed after losing to G2 3-0 in the finals. Not much was expected of Misfits heading into the EU LCS Summer Playoffs, but they had a magical run to the finals where they looked like a much different team from the regular season. They looked like a completely new team. Maxlore and Ignar in particular were coordinating some excellent roams to help snowball their leads. They were shot-calling much better in the mid-late game as well.

They have two monster solo laners in mid laner Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage and top laner Barney “Alphari” Morris. Both laners have shown the ability to pop off in games with Power of Evil contributing a ton to his team’s total damage. Alphari is a mechanical beast, but can sometimes succumb to early enemy jungle pressure.

Misfits will be the underdogs of this group as no one on their team has ever been to Worlds. It will be good experience for the young organization from EU, but most people are expecting them to finish like Splyce did last season.

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