Rocket League World Cup

Rocket League’s first ever World Cup is set to take place summer 2017. The event is destined to be a huge new milestone for the competitive Rocket League scene, despite anyone’s personal grievances.

Event

The Rocket League World Cup will feature 16 teams, 48 players, each competing for their home countries. Along with featuring countries from the regions included in the Rocket League Championship Series, North America, Europe and Oceania, the tournament will showcase teams from Asia and South America.

League of Rockets is presenting the event and John “JohnnyBoi_i” MacDonald is producing it. In addition to being

Rocket League World Cup

Image courtesy of amazon.co.u

streamed on the League of Rockets’ Twitch channel, videos of every broadcast will be available at badpanda.gg.

Organizers haven’t revealed details about the bracket or tournament style yet. There is a $5000 prize pool, which will be divided among the top three teams. The prize pool pales in comparison to the RLCS and only the top three teams will get their hands on any of that money. That being said, the RLCS is a different beast entirely and the prize pool is formidable compared to other Rocket League tournaments. Along with the glory of winning in the name of your country, the prize pool distribution provides all the more reason for teams to put everything into every game.

Countries

Of the 16 countries invited to take part in the first Rocket League World Cup, 11 are from EU, two from NA, one from OCE, one from Asia and one from SA. The countries and teams are as follows:

Asia

  • Japan: ReaLize, Lime, Nemoto

EU

  • Denmark: Nicolai “Maestro” Bang, Nicolai “Snaski” Vistesen Andersen, Kasper “Pwndx” Nielsen
  • England: David “Deevo” Morrow, Ryan “Doomsee” Graham, Dan “Bluey” Bluett
  • Finland: Joni “JHZER” Humaloja, Joonas “Mognus” Salo, Otto “Metsanauris” Kaipiainen
  • France: Courant “Kaydop” Alexandre, Victor “Fairy Peak” Locquet, Alexandre “Mout” Moutarde
  • Germany: Philip “paschy90” Paschmeyer, Sandro “FreaKii” Holzwarth, Alexander “Sikii” Karelin
  • Italy: Francesco “Kuxir97” Cinquemani, Mx22, darkpier96
  • Netherlands: Remco “Remkoe” den Boer, Jos “ViolentPanda” van Meurs, Niels “Nielskoek” Kok
  • Norway: Marius “gReazymeister” Ranheim, Martin “Sniper” Wulsrød, Tormod “Reganam” Lien
  • Scotland: Mark “Markydooda” Exton, Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson, David “Miztik” Lawrie
  • Sweden: Pierre “Turbopolsa” Silfver, Linus “al0t” Mӧllergren, Jesper “Flarke” Johannson
  • Switzerland: Nico “Stocki” Stockenberger, Kevin “Skyline” Carvalho, Oliver “Continuum” Meier

NA

  • Canada: Jacob “JKnaps” Knapman, Mariano “SquishyMuffinz” Arruda, Timi “Timi” Falodun
  • United States: Cameron “Kronovi” Bills, Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon, Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez

OCE

  • Australia: Phillip “Dumbo” Donachie, Michael “Bango” Eason, Jonathan “Express” Slade

SA

  • Brazil: Caio “Caio TG1” Vinicius, FirefoxD, Haberkamper

Theatrics

Anyone who has seen them knows videos in the League of Rockets series are filled with theatrics. And I don’t mean to imply any negative connotation when I say ‘theatrics.’

Rocket League World CupWhoever narrates the League of Rockets videos’ videos, going by the name of Sal, uses a voice changer, giving off a movie sounding tone. Add in high quality montages and well-timed background music and noises, and the League of Rockets videos are sure to leave you with goosebumps.

For example, take the Twelve Titans tournament. Rather than broadcasting the tournament live, League of Rockets released a video of the event the next day. Callum “Mega Shogun” Keir and JohnnyBoi_i casted the event, as any Rocket League tournament would be. But there was more to the video than that. It included cutscenes narrated by Sal introducing maps, players and rivalry history. Another noticeable feature was slow motion goal replays, really giving viewers a better look at the play that just previously took place.

While fans can stream the Rocket League World Cup on Twitch, videos of the broadcasts will be available on badpanda.gg post air. According to the site, “There will be additional exclusive content only on Bad Panda” as well. If the exclusive content is more of the League of Rockets theatrics, it may even be worth waiting for the video rather than watching the live stream.

Future

Rocket League World Cup

Image courtesy of mashable.com

Head over to Twitter and it isn’t difficult to find some less-than-pleased fans, agitated that their home countries won’t be represented in the first ever Rocket League World Cup. Although it’s easy to understand that sentiment, I implore those fans to look to the future.

This is the first of, hopefully, many Rocket League World Cups to come. So, your country isn’t represented in the first one, then that’s even more reason to support the event. Success of this event may be the catalyst for not only seeing a second World Cup, but an expanded version including more countries.

So, please, put your personal grievances aside and support the first Rocket League World Cup. I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want it to be the last.


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Mid Season Invitational Power Rankings

MSI will officially begin Wednesday as TSM, Flash Wolves, and Gigabyte Marines have earned their spots through the play-in stage. TSM looked shaky, needing a reverse sweep to take down Gigabyte Marines. It will definitely be interesting to see how the teams come out. Will G2 finally play well on the international stage? Can TSM bounce back from their poor performance? Can Gigabyte Marines make a Cinderella Run? Here are my power rankings of the teams heading into the Midseason Inviational.

1.SK Telecom T1 (Korea)

This should come to no surprise to fans and analysts. Korea as a region and SKT as a team have dominated the LoL scene for quite some time now. They’ll be looking to assert their dominance even more if they can go through MSI undefeated. SKT holds some of the best players in the world at each of their position.

Their most infamous has to be their mid laner, the GOAT, Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok. As long as Faker is on this team, you can bet on them being World contenders for awhile. Alongside Faker, has been his head coach since the beginning Kim kkOma Jung-gyun. Kkoma has been praised for being the best coach in League of Legends, having led SKT to all their World Championships. He’ll look to add a back to back MSI title to that list.

2. Flash Wolves (Taiwan)

Photo by: Riot Games

Flash Wolves may play in a top heavy region, but despite this, they’ve showed consistently time and time again that they cannot be underestimated. Coming off a successful IEM win at Katowice, Flash Wolves will look to surprise spectators and continue their reign as the “Korean Slayers”.

Flash Wolves play an aggressive style, often making plays in the early game with jungler  Hung “Karsa” Hau-Hsuan and support Hu “SwordArt” Shuo-Jie looking to make plays. Not only can they build big gold leads in the early game, they know how to properly finish games as well.

Flash Wolves came into the season sporting a new ADC in Lu “Betty” Yuhung who looks to get better and better every time we see him. Betty finished their series against SuperMassive with a monstrous KDA of 36, only dying once the whole series. Their longtime jungle/mid duo of Karsa and Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang have not shown any signs of slowing down. They had a phenomenal performance against SuperMassive, dominating their opponents. Flash Wolves have the best shot at upsetting SKT here at MSI.

3. G2 Esports (Europe)

Despite G2 having not played a game at MSI yet, they definitely showed a dominant run in playoffs en route to their third European championship. Everyone from G2 are ready to finally prove that they can perform well on the international stage. Maybe with the help of sports psychologist, Weldon Green, they can finally get that monkey off their back of choking internationally.

Mid laner Luka “PerkZ” Perković in particular will have lots of pressure as he’s become known for not playing well in international competitions. If he plays well, G2 can definitely make a decent MSI run. G2’s bot lane of Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “Mithy” Aguirre Rodriguez will be one of G2’s power positions. With the meta shifting back to “carry style” ADC’s, G2’s bot lane can definitely have a major impact in games.

What’s worrying is how long their games tend to go. Against some of the best teams in the world G2 will need to have the ability to close out games or risk failing in international play once again

4. Team we (China)

Team WE is a name that’s been around professional LoL for some time now. Once a powerhouse in their region, they’ve returned to take the throne as the number one team in China. After years of mixing rosters, they finally found success dropping only a single game en route to their 3-0 sweep of Royal Never Give Up in the LPL finals. They don’t play the stereotypical play style of all aggressive early game teams we’ve seen in the past from China.

WE plays much more controlled and teamfight well in the mid/late game. Jungler Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie is an absolute monster and will be essential in WE’s success. In the mid lane, Hanwei “xiye” Su, has a deep champion pool and has shown good performances on both control mages and assassins. He had the 2nd best KDA in the LPL for at 4.7.

China has since fallen off from being the heralded “2nd best region”, but WE will look to prove that they are still one of the best.

5. Team SoloMid (North America)

Photo By: Riot Games

TSM looked shaky in their play-in series vs. Vietnam’s Gigabyte Marines. It felt like they were heavily disrespecting their opponents going for questionable invades and teamfights almost expecting the other team not to be prepared. This caused them to go down 2-0 in the series, before reverse sweeping their way to victory.

That series had many North American fans breathing sighs of relief. TSM will be heavy underdogs now at this point of the tournament if they struggled that heavily against a wild card region.

Even in the reverse sweep, their last two wins were not clean by any means. Gigabyte Marines showed the capability to gain early leads off some poor play out of TSM. Gigabyte Marines nearly had the series in game four, before overstaying in TSM’s base which ultimately led to TSM’s victory.

In particular TSM’s adc, Jason “Wildturtle” Tran had an awful series, dying in a winning 2v2 and often getting caught out of position while only having a 52.9 kill participation percentage. He’ll need to step up big time if TSM wants to finish in the top four of the group stage.

6. Gigabyte Marines (Vietnam)

Although they are the wildcard representative of MSI, their play-in stage performance was amazing in terms of Wildcard performances in international tournaments. Gigabyte Marines gave North America’s TSM a run for their money, nearly taking the series. Maybe some nerves and lack of experience, forced a bad call to try to end the game that resulted in a throw, but nonetheless this team has impressed.

Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh has been an absolute monster this whole tournament. He’s currently 2nd in KDA and first in DMG% among junglers who have played at MSI so far. Gigabyte Marines rely heavily on him to setup plays in the early game to snowball leads. It will be interesting to see how he matches up against the likes of SKT’s Peanut or Flash Wolves’ Karsa.

One of their weak points will definitely be in top laner Phan “Stark” Công Minh. Stark showed some great performances on Gragas during their series against TSM, but was non existent if not on that particular champion. In game three, he was constantly solo killed by Hauntzer’s Gragas and never seemed to comeback from it throughout the series.

Despite losing a close series to TSM, the group stage will be best of 1. Don’t be surprised to find Gigabyte Marines apart of the top four once the group stages conclude at MSI.

Cover photo by: Riot Games

Tune in Wednesday for the opening ceremonies of MSI on May 10

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MSI: Group A Preview

The first stage of the Mid Season Invitational is just a few days away, and there’s a lot to be excited about. For the first time ever, MSI will have a play-in stage where wildcard regions will play for a chance at a best of five series with either TSM or Flash Wolves. Group A may be nicknamed “group of death” in terms of the talent in this group. Many of these regions have been known for stellar play in Wildcard tournaments.

Red Canids

Courtesy: Riot Esports

Red Canids will have the home field advantage playing in Brazil. They handily swept Keyd Stars 3-0 in the CBLOL en route to qualifying for MSI. On that Keyd Stars team were fan favorites from last worlds, jungler Gabriel “Revolta” Henud, and top laner Felipe “Yang” Zhao, who shocked EDG at last worlds.

They made a key addition to the head coach position, adding on longtime League personality/coach Ram “Brokenshard” Djemal. His latest stint ended with his North American Challenger team, EUnited, falling to Team Liquid in the LCS qualifier.

They come in with one of the strongest bot lanes in Brazil.  At ADC they sport one of the most famous Brazilian superstars in Felipe “brTT” Goncalves. They have the French support, Hugo “Dioud” Padioleau. Dioud who has shown much success in the region.

Mid laner Gabriel “tockers” Claumann also got to strut his ability on the World stage last year. He was a great addition to this roster, allowing them to finally find success in the region.  Their second mid laner is infamous twitch streamer, Felipe “Yoda” Noronha. Yoda is a master of playing assassins. He’s most infamous for his Katarina which has drawn bans in competitive play.

Brazil has been known to have some of the best international success among Wildcard regions. With the home field advantage, everyone in Brazil will be rooting for them to advance to represent their region well.

Super Massive eSports

Courtesy:Riot Esports

Super Massive Esports return to MSI, where they took a game off of NA’s CLG the last time they were here. Statistically, Super Massive has the best players at every role. Each player is a top player in the region. They qualified for MSI after taking a 3-1 series over Crew esports.

Much of their roster from last MSI are returning. Many will remember their star support, Mustafa Kemal “Dumbledoge” Gökseloğlu. In their first match vs. SKT, they did a clever roam to the mid lane to first blood Faker. Jungler Furkan “Stomaged” Güngör and mid laner Koray “Naru” Bıçak also return to the MSI stage.

Top laner Asım “fabFabulous” Cihat Karakaya had one of his best splits earning the TCL MVP award. He had a perfect win rate on Camille so look for it to draw bans possibly.

Turkey has had a very good record in Wildcard play. They’ve had some of the best success in Wildcard tournaments, so they’ll definitely be favorites to get out of group A.

Rampage

Courtesy: lolesports

Rampage is one of the newest Wildcard regions in Japan, qualifying for MSI after barely beating Unsold Stuff Gaming 3-2, en route to sweeping a 3-0 final against Detonation gaming.

At the support and jungle positions, they have Korean imports Jeon “Dara” Jeong-Hoon and Moonyong “Tussel” Lee. Dara has quickly risen to stardom in Japan, being voted to represent the region for the International Wildcard Qualifier two years in a row. He’s been known for playing tanky bruiser supports, but has shown great skill on Lulu as of late.

Dara has shown skill on very high pressure junglers, such as Lee Sin and Nidalee. He’ll look to pressure the map early for them to see success in this group A. The pro scene is definitely growing in Japan, and Rampage will look to prove how much they’re growing as a region.

LG Dire Wolves

Courtesy: OPL lolesports

Last, but not least, we have LG Dire Wolves out of the OPL region of Australia.They qualified for MSI after taking a 3-1 series over Legacy eSports. After a few splits of barely missing success, the Dire Wolves were able to take the OPL championship.

The Dire Wolves are led by star ADC Calivin “k1ng” Truong, who showed great play on some of the early lethality champions, such as Jhin and Varus. He’ll be vital in their team’s success in this group. Mid laner Richard “Phanatiks” Su is an aggressive player, known to play assassin champions when he can, such as Zed, Fizz, or Kassadin.

For the past few IWQ events, the OPL have fallen just short of qualifying for international events. The Dire Wolves will want to come in and prove that they can be the first team to do so. Their first step will be qualifying out of group A.

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Ashton Cox’s Lucky Pineapple: VGC 2017 Latin America International Championships Recap

Ashton Cox is your first ever Latin America International Champion for Pokémon VGC, thanks to a lucky pineapple. Yes, you read that right. A pineapple.

Aside from Cox’s innovative good luck charm, he played an impressive finals set in the face of a dominating Game 1 win from his opponent. With some controversial, lucky critical hits going his way in Game 3, Cox took Torkoal and Lilligant to their first major win of the season. There’s a lot more to discuss from São Paulo, but let’s first take a look at the Top 8 results.

Results & Teams (Top 8 Cut)

1. Ashton Cox [US]

2. Javier Senorena [ES]

3. Gabriel Agati [BR]

4. Carlos Ventura [PE]

5. Ian McLaughlin [US]

6. William Tansley [UK]

7. Tommy Cooleen [US]

8. Markus Stadter [DE]

Weather WarsImage result for torkoal png

São Paulo’s Top 8 consisted of five different weather setters, with three different weather conditions being featured in the top three teams. We saw weather playing a pivotal role in the finals match between Ashton Cox and Javier Senorena. Positional switching determined the effectiveness of both Cox’s Torkoal and Lilligant, and Senorena’s Ninetales. Is it possible that weather will finally make its way to the top of VGC 2017’s usage?Image result for lilligant png

So far, only two weather team modes have made themselves known: Double Duck and
Torkoal+Lilligant. With Double Duck recently claiming its first major tournament in Utah, and now Torkoal+Lilligant with a victory in São Paulo, we could see a dramatic rise in weather usage in the coming months.

But not just Torkoal and Pelipper, this also means definitive rise in the hail and sandstorm setters, Alolan Ninetales and Gigalith. A popular way for teams to counter opposing weather is by setting their own, which Ninetales and Gigalith perform effectively.Image result for alolan ninetales png

Aside from their weather benefits, Ninetales and Gigalith mainly play much more pivotal roles. Ninetales is effective in supporting its teammates with Aurora Veil, which boosts both defensive stats for the entire party for five turns. Gigalith, on the other hand, takes advantage of its low speed to act as part of an ant-Trick Room or pro-Trick Room mode on a given team.Image result for gigalith png

What’s fascinating about weather in this format is the slight alteration to its role. Instead of weather-based modes and teams becoming popular, we’ve seen weather being used mainly to disrupt opposing weather conditions. Pokémon like Ninetales and Gigalith serve much different roles, with their weather conditions simply being a plus.

Poor Politoed probably misses its friends Kingdra and Ludicolo.

Xurkitree & Smeargle: An 8-0 Swiss Run

Hm… Smeargle paired next to a boosting sweeper? Where have I seen this before?

image courtesy of PokémonShowdown!

Oh right, last year’s atrocity of a format…Image result for xurkitree png

Anyway, Ian McLaughlin piloted a rather new strategy that could launch this shocking Ultra Beast into the realm of relevance. Meet Smeargle’s newest partner in crime: Xurkitree. Another powerful Pokémon with an amazing set-up move that can just as easily take advantage of Smeargle’s insane supportive abilities to ruin your life.

Despite Xurkitree’s very sub par defenses, this strategy features a bulkier build, holding one of everyone’s favorite 50% HP recovery berries. By abusing Fake Out and Follow Me from Smeargle, Xurkitree can boost to absurd levels of Special Attack by using Tail Glow (boosts the user’s Special Attack by three stages).Image result for smeargle png

While we didn’t see Xurkitree shine in McLaughlin’s streamed match versus Eduardo Fontana, what we did see was just how scary Smeargle can be when paired with another Ultra Beast. By, once again, abusing Fake Out and re-direction, McLaughling was easily able to sweep through Fontana’s team with Pheromosa. With Smeargle there to protect the constantly boosting Ultra Beast, Fontana stood no chance against Pheromosa’s onslaught.

I think McLaughlin’s performance with this team proves just how scary Smeargle still is. There are still powerful Pokémon in this format, mainly the Ultra Beasts, that can easily take advantage of Smeargle’s endless supportive move pool.

Carson St. Denis: The 5 Mon Champion 

The Senior division rarely gets a lot of attention, but Senior player Carson St. Denis did the impossible in São Paulo. He won the entire tournament with a party of only five Pokémon.

St. Denis most likely fell victim to a fate that has plagued a number of strong players this season: team sheet errors. For those unfamiliar with the rule, if there is information on a player’s team sheet that is inconsistent with what appears in game, the affected Pokémon can be removed from the player’s party.

Luckily, St. Denis is one of the strongest Senior’s players in the world and really did not need Snorlax much in his Finals match against Jan Tillman. Tillman’s team featured his own Snorlax, but not an accompanying Trick Room mode which would’ve been a reason for St. Denis’ Snorlax to be useful. St. Denis played an amazing set despite his handicapped party to take a 2-0 victory, and another International title.

Tman’s Top 8 Curse Image result for pelipper png

I unintentionally called this in my last piece, but Tommy Cooleen made it yet again to an International Championship Top 8 with his signature Double Duck team. But, unfortunately like London and then Melbourne, Top 8 was as far as the ducks could swim.

Nevertheless, Cooleen’s consistent performance with the same archetype is beyond impressive. Out of the three International Championships so far, Cooleen has made it to the Top 8 in all three tournaments. With just one International left, can Cooleen make the cut again and potentially break his Top 8 curse? We’ll find out in Indianapolis.

Final Thoughts

With the penultimate International Championship behind us, we set our sights stateside for the upcoming Virginia Regional Championships, which proves year after year to be one of the US’s most competitive events. As for the International stage, the final tournament in Indianapolis could be a make or break tournament for players both native and foreign. It’s going to be an exciting end of the season leading up to the World Championships in August. Only time will tell what groundbreaking new strategies will claim these last few tournaments.

Thanks for reading!

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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An Update on World Cup Qualifying (Part 2)

North America (CONCACAF)

The final stage of qualifying in North America features six teams with three automatically qualifying and the fourth place side moving onto an international playoff. With four of the ten matches played, it is Mexico who have claimed the top spot with three wins and a draw equaling ten points.

The United States stumbled out of the gate, but recovered this past week with a thrashing of Honduras and a hard fought draw in a visit to Panama. The US currently sit in that dicey fourth position, ahead of Honduras on goal differential. The rise of young stars such as Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and Bobby Wood of Hamburg have given new life to an American side that desperately needed, and could still use a pick-me-up. The US have proven commodities in goalkeeper Tim Howard as well as John Brooks, Fabian Johnson and Clint Dempsey.

Mexico’s side includes a trio who star in the Portuguese league. Wing back Miguel Layun and midfielder Hector Herrera are regulars for second-place Porto. While striker Raul Jimenez plays for league leaders Benfica. All three gained valuable experience in the Champions League Round of 16 this season. Finally, the Mexican attack is led by former Manchester United and Real Madrid forward Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, who now plays for Bayer Leverkusen.

Costa Rica announced itself to the world with a run to the quarterfinals in Brazil in 2014. Former Arsenal winger Joel Campbell and midfielder Bryan Ruiz are experienced international players and play for Sporting Lisbon. Finally, Costa Rica’s best attribute is the wall that is goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Since his outstanding performances in the 2014 World Cup, Navas has become the first choice goalkeeper at Real Madrid and made key saves during their Champions League title run a year ago.

New United States manager Bruce Arena is off to a strong start in his attempt to save the USMNT’s World Cup Qualifying Campaign

Who Will Be in Russia Next Summer?

Mexico have firmly put themselves in a good position and their past experience should keep them from falling back.

Navas, Ruiz and Campbell are about as talented a trio as there are at this stage of qualifying. Costa Rica will be there next summer.

The talent of the United States is too much and as they become more and more adapted to new manager Bruce Arena’s tactics, they will only get better and better.

Finally, Honduras’ past experience should help them eek out Panama and Trinidad & Tobago for fourth place and a spot in the playoff.

 

South America (CONMEBOL)

Widely considered to be the most exciting of the qualifying processes. CONMEBOL’s qualifying is only one round featuring all ten nations with the top four qualifying for the tournament and the fifth place team qualifying for a playoff.

With the help of some mind-boggling performances from their superstar Neymar and guidance of new manager Tite, Brazil sit atop the group by nine points and have already clinched a spot in Russia next summer. Bottom feeders Bolivia and Venezuela have been eliminated, but just six points separate teams two through eight with just four matches remaining.

James Rodriguez-led Colombia sit second at 24 points. That is one point ahead of Chile and Uruguay, who boast their own stars in Alexis Sanchez and Luis Suarez respectively. Argentina sit in the playoff spot with 22 points, but have been rocked by the news that Lionel Messi will serve a four game suspension for cursing at the referee.

With three matches remaining on Messi’s suspension, Argentina will need their other big players to step up in his absence. Paris Saint Germain’s Angel di Maria and Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero are two names that come to mind as possible candidates to pick up the slack.

Argentina will have to fend off Ecuador who sit on 20 points, as well as Peru and Paraguay who are further back with 18.

Lionel Messi’s suspension means his teammates will need to step up if Argentina want to qualify for Russia

Who Will Be in Russia Next Summer?

Rodriguez, Sanchez and Suarez all enjoy strong enough supporting casts to join Neymar and Brazil in Russia next summer. Rodriguez has pacy Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado. Sanchez is aided by Bayern Munich’s bulldog midfielder Arturo Vidal. Suarez teams up with PSG striker Edinson Cavani to make for a dangerous strike force.

Finally, it is difficult to imagine a World Cup without the magic man himself, Lionel Messi. Argentina has more than enough talent to get by in his absence and advance to a playoff where they will surely be heavy favorites..

 

Check Back Next Week for Part 3, and an update on European qualifiers.

 

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lucioball

Dear Blizzard, Keep Lucioball Forever

Lucioball came seemingly from out of nowhere. Blizzard pushed an update to Overwatch today that not only added a ton of new cosmetics available for a limited time, but a brand new game mode called Lucioball. For those who are uninitiated Lucioball is very different from all of the other brawls and game modes Blizzard has created in Overwatch. It’s a mode that basically recreates first person Rocket League where the only character available to players is of course Lucio. The object of the game is to score as many goals as possible in a short time frame. The teams are small, only sporting three players each, and requires basic understandings of futbol strategy.

Like Rocket League the rules are easy to grasp, you don’t need to know what all the characters abilities are, or how they chain together. You don’t need to understand the complexities of the competitive meta to know why switching characters is a big deal in the middle of a game. Lucioball just is.

I’m not only writing this as a breakdown of just why Lucioball is fun and quaint, but why Blizzard should seriously consider keeping it around in the game forever. Much like previous games in the FPS genre, Overwatch’s developers toy with the games mechanics in order to create fun new modes. Fans of Halo will know the name Griffball, originally a fan created game mode later embraced by Bungie and its current caretakers 343 Industries. Griffball is not only a fan favorite game mode, it’s actually home to it’s own tournaments and community. Griffball is an excellent example of how a game played at a high competitive level can have multiple modes of play. Even the game most similar to Lucioball, Rocket League, has multiple modes of play, and more are being added by the developers all the time.

I don’t expect Lucioball to be as big as the normal Overwatch experience, or even as widely watched, but there is something special about having a more accessible and fun game mode to break up the monotony. Tournaments could run smaller side tournaments where, in between matches, organizers could run a smaller Lucioball tournament. In a way it breaks up the formula of watching normal Overwatch, gives people who are still learning Overwatch a nice entry point and gives something for more versed players to have fun with.

Blizzard please, don’t get rid of lucioball, don’t time gate it, don’t only bring it back for events, leave it in the game. I guarantee that if you left it in there, multiple communities and tournaments would crop up around it. Lucioball could be a great thing for this community, don’t drop the ball.

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Takeaways From The Copa America 2016

This year’s 2016 Copa America Centenario ended the same way as last year’s; Chile outlasted Argentina in a penalty shootout to win the Final. I never enjoy penalty shootouts, because it’s as close as it gets in sports to deciding the game on a coin flip, since anything can happen in penalties. However, I feel that this tournament gave fans, critics and teams quite a few takeaways for their brains to digest.

The United States aren’t there yet

The hosts reached their goal, set by coach Jurgen Klinnsman, of a semifinal appearance, but couldn’t stretch further as Argentina swatted away any hopes of reaching the final. Argentina smothered American players with tenacious and quick pressure, forcing the US into costly turnovers and fouls. The USA proceeded to lose a tightly contested third place match 1-0 against Colombia, a team they lost to in group play 2-0. The Yanks can hold their heads high as there were some strides in progress in reaching the level they want to be at. Among the younger group of Americans making their senior team debut in a major tournament (a group that included Portland Timbers talisman Darlington Nagbe and Borussia Dortmund wunderkind Christian Pulisic), it was Bobby Wood, who recently signed with Bundesliga side Hamburg, that drew much attention and praise with his performances. Wood, who was suspended for the semifinal against Argentina, played with quality and intensity in every match he was a part of, forcing defenses to respect his speed and pace to help setup his team for goals and even nabbing one for himself. There is much to look forward to with this younger group of players.

Mexico broken and humbled

Coming into the tournament, Mexico were viewed as favorites to challenge the likes of Argentina and Brazil. Then a 7-0 loss in the quarterfinal to Chile happened. This was most likely El Tri’s most humiliating defeat in their history and gave the players, coach and federation a lot to ponder, but the most puzzling part about that loss is Chile practically ran up the score up on a team that looked to have given up and stopped playing with a sense of pride or dignity; in the FIFA video game terms, they would’ve “rage quit”. I have a friend or two who are of Mexican decent, and I have noticed that Mexicans have great sense of pride for their heritage, culture and nation, and even I felt sorry for their fans as they had to watch their team get dominated and mentally crushed by the Chileans. Surely, out of the ashes of this meltdown, El Tri will find motivation through this devastating defeat to perform with more passion and pride even in the face of adversity when they travel to Russia in 2018 for the World Cup.

Brazil… just humbled

As a heavyweight in this or any part of the world, expectations are always high for the always talented Brazilians. Unfortunately, they were robbed of a chance to reach the quarterfinal by a referee who awarded Peru a goal that was an illegal handball in the last game of group play. That being said, Brazil were without their sensation and face, Neymar, who opted to play in the Olympics in Rio over the Copa (a decision that was forced on him by his club team, Barcelona), and their fans will be quick to remind doubters of his absence. I would be quick to remind those fans that Neymar plays on the wing and doesn’t defend, so Brazil conceding goals should be their biggest concern heading into Rio and beyond.

Colombia holds onto 3rd

Colombia went into the tournament with expectations similar to that of Chile; they had their stars and wanted to prove themselves against the big dogs in the Americas, Brazil and Argentina. James Rodriguez, the star that supernova-ed onto the international scene two years ago in Brazil, arrived at the Copa with something to prove after season with European champions Real Madrid, in which he saw little time under new manager and Real legend, Zinedine Zidane; James was fresh and hungry to raise his stock in hopes of either earning more playing time or convince a team to buy him from Real Madrid at a high price (2 goals and 1 assist for the tournament could be considered adequate enough to get transferred). Los Cafeteros lost in the semifinal to a red hot (pun intended) Chile squad 2-0, but salvaged the loss with a 1-0 win against the host nation to take third place in the tournament; a fair finish when looking at what teams were in the final.

Chile still hot

After being tripped up at the beginning of the tournament, Chile avenged their opening loss to the team that handed it to them, Argentina. The defending champions retained their title the same way they won it last year; they didn’t flinch in penalties. The feisty Rojas validated their rise into the conversation as one of the greatest teams in the world and earned the respect of many a football fan. While Chile’s style of play, like other South American countries, differs greatly from European powerhouses like Germany, Italy or Spain, they know how to do the one thing those countries can do: win on the big stage. Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez will go down on their national team as two of the greatest leaders their team has ever had as they look to push this momentum into the World Cup in Russia.

Argentina in shambles

What is there to talk about with La Albiceleste after this tournament? The team seems unable to grab an international title after 3 straight finals, their corrupt federation in charge of the team is facing a possible ban and being disqualified from international competition (World Cup included). In addition to this, half of their team’s best players, including Lionel Messi, are claiming to retire from the national team. Phew, life sure is easy for Argentines. In all seriousness, I feel that this team, being made up of some of the greatest players in the world (pre-Copa Final), is becoming the new “Cleveland” with Lionel Messi the new “LeBron James” (pre-title), despite all his accolades at the club level. Argentina losing at the big tournaments at this point is looking like the equivalent to the USA losing in basketball in three consecutive Olympics; they really shouldn’t despite other countries’ talent. With Messi declaring his retirement from the national team, the Argentinian media should not be so hard on him, since it is not entirely his fault that the team can’t win (although a missed penalty in the shootout against Chile on Sunday certainly didn’t help his cause); Messi is a once in a lifetime talent that is just one of eleven players on a team. I felt Messi had played to his absolute limit against Chile, but it wasn’t enough. Gonzolo Higuain’s miss in the first half wasn’t enough. Argentina will have to sort out their issues from within if they want to keep their talented team together and still contend for the World Cup in Russia

Who is peacemaker? (Liquid hires peacemaker as coach)

The first Brazilian to join a North American Counter-Strike team is not a player, but a coach. Just yesterday, Team Liquid announced that Luiz ‘peacemaker’ Tadeu, former coach of #2 Brazilian side Tempo Storm, will now take the helm for Liquid’s CS:GO squad.

peacemaker TS

Brazilian pride: peacemaker coaching for Tempo Storm. Photo courtesy theScore eSports.

The acquisition is a make-or-break one for Team Liquid, whose roster includes an impressive but underachieving list of NA phenoms (koosta), rising stars (EliGE), and veterans (Hiko). Since they lost their knock-out punch import, the Ukrainian multi-talent s1mple, Liquid’s lack of cohesion, consistency, and in-game leadership has showed. They failed to make the finals of DH Austin, an NA LAN and their first tournament without s1mple, and then exited in groups at the ESL Pro League finals after getting stomped by an olof-less fnatic, 2 maps to 0.

Peacemaker could be the coach that will turn them around. Over his rather short resume coaching Games Academy / Tempo Storm, he has appeared to be an intelligent shot-caller and attentive motivational coach. Tempo Storm’s successful runs at the CEVO finals and DH Austin with a lineup with less talent on paper than Liquid’s were both impressive.

But beyond coaching Tempo Storm, who is peacemaker? What did he do before coaching Tempo Storm, and what sort of Counter-Strike mind is he? As it turns out, peacemaker has been playing the game since 2002, and been a pro within the Brazilian CS scene since at least 2008.

Source

Team Liquid’s announcement reports that peacemaker was a CS 1.6 player, but this is partially incorrect. The first reference to peacemaker I can find is a Portuguese-language article from Teamplay Electronic Sports in October 2008. (Shoutout to HLTV.org user ‘-who-‘ for helping me research these sources!) That article repeats a report that CnB Gaming (a.k.a. the Cannibals), a domestically successful Brazilian team in Counter-Strike: Source, was hiring peacemaker and another player, ‘ekz,’ as a replacement for a departing member of the team. (Or so Google Translate tells me. I can’t myself speak Portuguese.) Based on their focus on ekz, I would guess that peacemaker was a sixth man for this team.

The article reprints an interview of ekz and peacemaker from CnB’s website that no longer exists in original form. In the interview, peacemaker states that he is 20 years old and had been playing the original Counter-Strike since 2002, making him 14 at the time he started playing. His Liquipedia page confirms that he was playing under a number of CS 1.3-1.6 clans I do not recognize from 2002 to 2008; presumably, he was not a full-time player during this period.

He also says that he had just started playing Source a month ago with the encouragement of’ Ivan ‘ruffo’ Ruffo, a contemporary Brazilian player, and that he was putting off school for a year; we can assume this was the start of his professional intentions in CS.

Why pick up Source instead of 1.6? Many CS 1.6 players, particularly from NA and Brazil, were lured to CS:S in 2006 and 2007 by the false financial promise of the Championship Gaming Series, or CGS, an eSports league that was supposed to grow to rival professional sports leagues. However, the glow of CGS and thus CS:S’s lucrative eSports position was well-faded by the fall of 2008, with the league itself folding in November. Pocket-money from tournaments may have been something peacemaker was hoping for on the long-shot, but it certainly wasn’t to be an education.

If good pay was unlikely, what was the real attraction to joining CnB as a pro CS:S rookie, then? My theory, barring an actual interview: the teammates he would have! Playing for CnB at the time was the brilliant ‘cogu’, Brazil’s brightest CS star and one of 1.6’s all-time greatest AWPers and all-around players. In 2006, cogu led Made in Brazil (mibr) to Brazil’s only major championship; what CS nerd in Brazil wouldn’t want a chance to play alongside him?!

mibr's major title in 2006 under the likes of cogu and fnx was the height of Brazilian CS 1.6. Photo courtesy Vinicius Alves, Youtube.

mibr’s major title in 2006 under the likes of cogu and fnx was the height of Brazilian CS 1.6. Photo courtesy Vinicius Alves, Youtube.

Over the next year, a trail of old Teamplay articles record peacemaker’s movement through the constantly shuffling Brazilian CS:S scene. Some names he played beside an observant CS:GO fan might recognize: zqk and steel of KaBuM! and KeydStars fame, and zews, current coach for Luminosity, and possibly even FalleN for a brief moment on vSONE (though I can’t confirm this). The scene seems like it was a mess at the time, with players constantly shifting allegiances and dropping out of the game for school or personal reasons.

The only tournament I can find that he participated in at the time was a large domestic tournament in July 2009, the Destroyers TargetDown Cup II. He and the team he joined the month before, Team Yeah, went out in 6th-7th place following two heartbreakingly close Bo1 losses. The team he had left, CnB, made it to the finals. Whoops. The team that beat them? Team TargetDown (TB), a dream mix of RKZ, zqk, bit (IGL of major-winners mibr), cogu…and FalleN.

On his teams, peacemaker was always a rifler. What his playstyle was, I wish I could ascertain; I find CS:S demos from this era difficult to get a hold of, especially for someone who wasn’t from France or NA. I’d like to assume he wasn’t yet an IGL, though, since he was often one of the least experienced players on his team.

After late 2009, the trail goes cold. Liquipedia says he joined Team TD from 2009 to 20??; I suspect he focused on studies or something of this nature during those years while still keeping one foot in CS. He’s had a “couple breaks but never really managed to get away from the game,” he says in his welcome interview with Liquid; I suspect that this was one of those half-breaks.

Early Global Offensive: Stuck in Brazil

In Global Offensive, peacemaker continued to be a player in the domestic scene. At this point, he has played long enough in CS terms to be called a grizzled veteran; and when he says in his Liquid interview that he was always the IGL of his teams, I assume he is referring to his CS:GO experience. (Then again, you know what they say about assuming.)

There is actually a clip from 2013 on de_nuke, relatively early in GO’s history, of peacemaker landing a 4k on a retake, including a 1v1 clutch, that you can see right below.

The play isn’t actually terribly impressive. Peacemaker uses a good sense of timing to come out of vents at the right time, but I must note that his aim doesn’t look incredible, and two of his opponents were clearly on low HP. More notable is the venue–ESEA League #2, a tier 3 format–and two notable teammates who die in the clip, zews and boltz. I can assure you that the two teams (syt.MK and gathers) were not exactly world-beaters.

Boltz would prove enough of a talent for FalleN to recruit him into KeydStars, the breakout Brazilian lineup that began upsetting the world’s best teams in Bo1s in the beginning of 2015. In 2013, though, the Brazilian scene was floundering. After playing for a team called vti for half a year, peacemaker was recruited to Afterall Gaming in late 2013 to replace one of their old 1.6 legacy players, who left the team hanging at an event to attend a party. The forsaken party-goer was fnx. The young talent who remained on Afterall Gaming was fer.

Interestingly, peacemaker would stick with this lineup for two years as its IGL, making him a stable source in the Brazilian CS:GO scene and allowing him to witness several of his former teammates achieve unprecedented international success with FalleN’s overachieving band of Brazilians. It wasn’t until Luminosity’s final and decisive roster move in November of 2015 that peacemaker would be able to prove his chops as a coach rather than a player.

Global Offensive Success: the Coaching Begins

As FalleN cut steel and boltz from Luminosity to poach TACO and a resurgent (and now hard-working) fnx from Games Academy (read: FalleN’s farm team), he also brought in zews, peacemaker’s old CS:S buddy, as coach. GA needed a coach, and zews recommended peacemaker.

Under his leadership, Games Academy acquitted itself well in North American leagues, making it to the CEVO Gfinity finals and placing well at several smaller tournaments, including the NA qualifiers for IEM Katowice and Dreamhack Malmo. They picked up new sponsorship with Tempo Storm, but still failed to qualify for the major and went into IEM Katowice as huge underdogs.

In an interview with HLTV above during the major qualifier, peacemaker discusses his motivational role with the team. When rounds go against them, he explains, the team gets emotional and starts to choke; that’s where he steps in, to be both a cheerleader and a voice of reason to his emotional, young Brazilian team.

It was his rigorous work with Terrorist-side executions that would become apparent at the next tournament, however. At IEM Katowice, Tempo Storm would upset Virtus.pro, EnVyUs, and even took a map away from Na’Vi, arguably the best team in the world. In the process, they would put up massive numbers of Terrorist rounds, but struggle on their Counter-Terrorist sides–indicative of a team with excellent training, execution, and T-sided gameplan, but failing individual skill and mediocre CT coordination/gamesense. Thus, for their initial run, peacemaker must be given credit for the work he did outside the game, but showed room to grow in his understanding of CT-oriented CS.

Tempo Storm’s improvement since then, including their tournament win at the CEVO Gfinity S9 finals, has to be credited to the growth of several of its players, especially felps and boltz, each of whom have come to discover their own play-styles since Katowice. Peacemaker may have facilitated their growth as players, but the team’s work-ethic and growing international experience is probably the most relevant factors here. Nevertheless, the team’s continued success gives peacemaker a good notch on his belt; this team is not a flash in the pan, and they have both identity and the good fundamentals and executions that are so characteristic of good Brazilian CS:GO.

The New Chapter: Team Liquid

Will Team Liquid benefit from the coaching of this old CS:S pro? On the surface, peacemaker is perfect. He has experience taking young talent (something Liquid certainly has) and imposing a system of execution-based tactics and good decision-making onto them (something Liquid could use a lot more of). Furthermore, he has experience guiding teams to victories in close games, games where the team was beginning to choke. Tempo Storm did this several times at Katowice, but won out; Liquid has done this multiple times across multiple tournaments, and they always lose. An extra steadying voice besides Hiko would be a welcome addition.

However, Liquid also has a history of: (1) not boot-camping, (2) not living together in a gaming house like TS did, and (3) rejecting people from the team when they push their buttons. This is not exactly ideal material for a coach that wishes to transform a team into winners. Also, there’s a palpable hunger from Brazilian CS players which seems to have eluded the more salaried and complacent NA players like those on Liquid. If the clay isn’t malleable, it’s hard to craft good pottery with it.

Peacemaker has the skills, I believe, to make Liquid into NA’s consistent best team and a good team internationally. My question is whether he has the right material in Liquid. Only time will tell if old Brazilian wisdom can prevail over rash American pride.

What do you think? Are there any details of peacemaker’s career and accomplishments that I missed? Leave a comment and let me know!