Gauntlet

Fall Split Gauntlet: Biggest takeaways

The three-peat is on

The biggest story coming out of the Smite Gauntlet was always going to be whether or not NRG were going to be heading to Super Regionals and possibly SWC after. There is no need to go into much detail about NRG’s season so far, except that it is falling far short of the incredibly high bar they have set since their entrance to the Pro League.

It was hardly the sort of performance that is going to fill NRG’s fans with confidence ahead of Super Regionals. This is mainly because of how much they struggled against The Papis, a Gauntletteam who only won three out of the 14 games they played in the Fall Split. Without being disrespectful to The Papis, if in six weeks time NRG are trying to prove that they are the best team in the world, they should probably be making lighter work of a team of The Papis’ caliber.

If one thing has been made clear from the Fall Split and Gauntlet it is that the switching out of Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov for João ‘maniaKK’ Ferreira has not been an immediate answer to NRG’s issues in season 4.

With all that being said NRG are still the best team the Smite competitive scene has ever seen. As Ryan ‘Aggro’ Bailey said, in Kennet ‘Adapting’ Ross they still have the best player to ever play the game. So, it would be premature to say NRG’s days at the very top are done. But at the moment it looks like a lot needs to happen over the next six weeks if we are going to see Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone lift the golden hammer again.

Beware the NA Challenger team

Once again at a Smite Gauntlet the team from the NA Challenger Circuit had a great run and nearly caused a serious upset. SPL Gatekeepers had an incredible run last Gauntlet and this Gauntlet Salsa Squadron did the same. They knocked out two SPL teams and took Noble to three games, losing in an incredibly tight game three. Considering Noble went 2-0 against Vigilant to go to Super Regionals, I think it is fair to say that Salsa Squadron were not outclassed by any NA team there.

This does mean more than just the interesting trend that has developed from the last two gauntlets on the NA side of the bracket. Particularly in the context of the changes we are seeing to competitive in season 5, in particular the shrinking of the SPL to six teams instead of eight. Quite clearly there is a lot of talent in the Challenger Cup. However in season 5 there is going to be no direct route up to the SPL. While the changes are great in terms of providing stability and investment to the SPL, there is clear value in having a fluid league. I just hope that this is something that Hi-Rez bare in mind and a middle ground is found between stability and investment for the SPL and its players, while encouraging talent from the bottom up.

ALG and the end of an era

Gauntlet

Image courtesy of eslgaming.com

With ALG coming dead last in the NA SPL and then being knocked out 2-0 by a Challenger Cup team, it is hard to see that roster returning for season 5. Hi-Rez have come out and said they are going to be rewarding organizations with spots who have supported the SPL. So it’s not impossible to think that ALG the org could get a spot but I would be very surprised if Hi-Rez would be willing to boot out any of the rosters that placed first through sixth. Especially with the amount of hysteria that follows even the slightest mention of Kurt ‘Weaken’ Schray. With all the changes that Hi-Rez are implementing they are going to want to avoid any unnecessary attention.

This probably means it’s the end of the Weak3n and Jarod ‘Cyclonespin’ Nguyen jungle-solo partnership. While everyone knows twitch chats’ feelings about Weak3n, it should not be forgotten how incredible him and Cyclonespin looked in the AFK days. Cyclonespin’s Hun Batz from the solo is probably one of the most dominant things I have ever seen in the Smite pro scene, and Weak3n was a big part of that and more than impressive in his own right. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, because I am sure there is already a few teams looking at ALG’s squad with certain players in mind.

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Featured Image from buritto.gg

 

Importance of the NRG Invitational

With the NRG Invitational beginning tomorrow, it’s time we take a look at why it’s a welcome addition to the Smite Pro League.

Breaking up the grind

Playing an esport professionally isn’t just playing games. For those who have followed the scene, you should be well aware of the amount of time SPL players spend Scrimmaging and watching VODs daily. This grind can start to take its toll on players and wear them down as the season progresses.

Now obviously players are grinding for a reason. These people dedicate so much time because they want to be the best at their craft, and ultimately walk away as a winner. That being said, sometimes losing isn’t so bad, as Kurt “Weak3n” Schray has said. Bummed out because Team Allegiance didn’t make the Summer Finals at DreamHack, Weak3n has been enjoying his time away from scrims and using it to reset for the upcoming split.

The SPL is tough because players don’t get a regular off season like football or baseball, it just isn’t plausible for the scene. Players only have a few weeks in between splits before it’s time to grind again, especially the teams who win. That’s what makes the NRG Invitational so important. It’s extra time off for some of the players, and for others, it’s a way to enjoy the game without the grind. It’s very comparable to an All Star game like in professional sports.

Photo by Hi-Rez Studios

Showing off the stars

As aforementioned, the NRG Invitational is just like an All Star game. The captains were picked based on the top four placed teams at the Smite World Championship, and most of the best players in the league are competing. It’s a great way to expose the stars of the league because of how jovial the LAN will be. Of course, the players still want to win, but not without having a little fun.

What is awesome about the format is that it isn’t just 5v5 conquest. The teams will be competing in four different game modes on Saturday for seeding come Sunday. First will be “Mage Madness”, which is a 5v5 standard Clash where the teams are restricted to Mages only. Next is “Three Amigos”, a 3v3 standard joust where the teams must select a Hunter, Assassin and Warrior. Third up is “Multiplicity”, a standard Assault where each team plays 5x a single God. Finally, “Pick Your Poison” is a 5v5 conquest where each team drafts their opponents’ Gods.

This format allows the fans to see the true skill of the players they’re watching. It’s fairly comparable to the Skills Competition in the National Hockey League, where the All Stars compete showing off their abilities in mini games such as Hardest Shot. This allows fans to root for seeing something amazing from any player instead of rooting simply for the team they support most. It brings a different type of fan interaction that is very much welcome in the scene.

More Smite Pro League

NRG Invitational

Photo by nrg.gg/smite

 

At the end of the day, fans are still getting what they want, and that’s some 5v5 standard SPL conquest. Sure the rosters may be a bit jumbled, but that just adds to the fun of it all. Everyone still has a favorite player or team they’ll be supporting this weekend.

What we could be getting with the NRG Invitational is important to the scene. We may end up with a small glimpse of the new Meta for the Fall Split, although that could be a stretch as players don’t really want to give up strategy. Due to players being less familiar with each other, these matches won’t be as heavily team based as true SPL matches. This will allow the raw ability to shine through as players won’t have the same type of communication they would with their own squads.

An interesting thing that could come out of this would be an improvement from North America. Again, this is a stretch, but with the NA players being on the same team as European players, it’s possible that they can pick a few things up from the comms. Most importantly, however, is that the NRG Invitational will be the last time we get to see two time Smite World Champion Peter “Dimi” Dimitrov compete this Season. NRG has replaced the Solo Laner, and we as fans are fortunate enough to have one last look at him before he steps into his new role as Coach of NRG.


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Feature Photo by Hi-Rez Studios

Best Performers this Split: The EU All Star Roster

ADC

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

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

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

Jungle

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

All Star

Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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

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

Solo

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

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

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

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

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

Support

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

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

All Star

Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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

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

Mid

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

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

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

 

Honorable Mentions

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

Jungle Anders ‘QvoFred’ Korsbo Benjamin ‘CaptainTwig’ Knight

Solo Dimi

Support Jordan ‘BigManTingz’ Theaker

Mid PrettyPrime

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

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

 

Top image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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The New Shifter’s Shield and Why It Is Broken!

Shifter’s Shield

Shifter’s has gone through a few changes in its long history in Smite. For a while though it has been regarded as a pretty useless item. The former theory-crafter and current Paladins designer, James ‘Krett’ Horgan, highlighted the failings of the old Shifter’s shield. He showed that Void Shield was not just better defensively but provided more damage thanks to the pen. Shifter’s shield has always tried to be a Jack of all trades. Unfortunately, the theme has always been master of none.

Stats

The new Shifter’s Shield is incredibly good. Gone are the days of being a master of none, instead it is a case of one size fits all. This is what Hi-Rez wanted. They said in the patch notes that they ‘want to highlight this aspect of the item’ (Its multi-purpose role).  The item lives up to its name now, going from a very offensive item to a strong defensive item, shifting its role to your needs. Let’s see what it does compared to other items, when it’s fulfilling either one of its roles. When it’s damage and power you are looking for, it provides 70 power. That is the third highest physical power base in the game. Only being beaten by Bloodforge at 75 power and Transcendence at 97 power (fully stacked and at level 20 on a Hou-Yi). Both these items are more expensive, considerably so at 2850 and 2600 respectively.

When we look at what it provides defensively, the numbers are great again. While above 50 percent health, the 15 of each protections it provides are a nice little boost, but nothing special. However, the 50 protections it provides while under 50 percent health is very noticeable. For comparison, a Spirit Robe only provides 40 and you would need five stacks on a Hide of the Urchin to get the same amount of protections. While I am not arguing that this makes you as survivable as a Spirit Robe due to the great passive it provides, it does show that Shifter’s does do the job rather well.

Practical Uses

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

By amplifying the passive, the practicality of this item has gone through the roof. Who are most likely to build this item? Junglers, as we have seen in the SPL so far, this has become a staple third item for Junglers. Amplifying the passive is incredibly important, particularly for Junglers. This is the case because of how Junglers play the game. When you go in for the gank and blow your kit on whichever poor laner has attracted your ire, 70 power is incredible. However, counter-rotations are a thing you will encounter. You are also most likely an assassin, balancing that tight rope of having to be right on top of people while being squishy. So, this item allows you to gank powerfully, and then helps you get out, running away spamming the VEL’s.

An example of this is God’s like Thor. You dunk in right on everybody’s face, drop all your cooldowns with the 70 power bonus then as you get focused the 50 protections really help you either finish of a target with a few AA’s and gives you enough time to get your hammer off cooldown for the escape. Another example would be Camazotz, who is seeing a massive rise in popularity. As like Thor you have to be right in the thick of things and unless you are using your ult for escape, which is not ideal you do not have a huge amount of escape. The early protections of Shifter’s when combined with his natural sustain do give you the survivabilty required to get out after your picks. It also allows you to get the picks as your damage has not been hampered like it would normally from building early protections.

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

This is not just a Jungler’s item, ADC’s and Solo’s are building it too. Most notably ADC’s, and the question is why wouldn’t they? Kieran ‘Funballer’ Patidar on the first day of the Summer Split showed us the Shifter’s on a Hou-Yi, and others have followed suit. It is a great power base and a much quicker power spike than the Transcendence, being cheaper and not requiring stacks. Being an ADC is like having a target on your back all the time. You spend most of the laning phase in the longest lane, often by yourself. You are also incredibly squishy, with normally one movement ability being the sum total of your survivability. The late game damage you provide also incentivises people to be gunning for your life. Be it to stop you getting to that late game, or the inability to let you free cast once it has become the late game. So, as a hunter, finally being able to build defense without sacrificing power is a dream come true.

For Solo laners, it has not been quite as prevalent as the other two primarily physical roles. However, as Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov showed in game 2 against Rival, it is a great way to capitalise on a lead. He got ahead on Sun Wukong and went into a third item Shifter’s. This made the already higher level Sun Wukong really start to swing. This showed in the amount of early kills he was getting. Let’s not forget the great synergy this item has with the Sun Wukong passive.

Another big problem Shifter’s Shield has always had is that it does not give you any pen. However, nowadays Physical pen is so much easier to build than it ever has been. From the Jungler’s viewpoint, lots of builds currently have three of the four maces being built. The Crusher, which is the one mace not being built regularly, is not an awful item either. It also bridges me to the next major role using Shifter’s, ADC’s. With Ichvial, Fatalis and Executioner being so prevalent in hunter builds as well as full access to the mace tree, they are not short of pen either. Also, the Shifter’s is mainly being built by ADC’s in the place of what would be a Transcendence. So they haven’t actually lost any pen in the build, just gained a shed-load of on demand protections.

Overall, this Item is probably a bit too strong at the moment. Also Hi-Rez has made a point of trying to create build diversity and avoid cookie cutter builds. Something Shifter’s in its current form is not doing, everyone’s buying it. It pains me to say this as someone who spends most of his time in the Jungle or in ADC, but it does need a nerf. However, I love how the item works and think it should remain in the meta. It would be a mistake to relegate it to the state of uselessness it has spent most of its life being. I think the easiest way to do this would be a slight price increase and see how that works. However, that may be enough just considering how much this item gives you.

Top Image Courtesy of Smite Wiki

 

Smite Gauntlet: What Did We Learn?

Bellona’s Back!

Bellona, in the online portion of this split, was nothing to scream and shout about. She had a pick/ban rate of 16.36%, a win rate of 50%, and a relatively low KDA of 1.8. Bellona, however, returned to take a prominent place within the Gauntlet meta over the weekend. With a pick/ban rate of 42.42% and a staggering win rate of 88.89%, it was a bit of a surprise as she is not one of these typical LAN monsters, such as the Anhur, who gains a lot from the 0 ping environment. Her abilities are easy to hit regardless of ping (barring the exceptional). She has been seen lately as a bit of a counter pick, as the disarm on her 3 can really hinder basic attack based gods. However, AA gods were not the story of the Gauntlet.

The favoured Hunter, Skadi, is the most ability-based Hunter Smite has ever seen. With power and penetration being the preferred build with very little, if any, attack speed being picked up. Ability based Junglers dominate the meta and the Kali pick we did see was far from expected. It is worth noting that the Bellona was also drafted in that game, perhaps in an attempt to protect the Kali from that disarm, although that is hard to say considering Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko’s tendency to pick the Bellona this LAN anyway.

Image courtesy of SmiteFire

One criticism of Bellona is that she can be low impact. Her burst damage is easily interrupted, a disarm is all well and good but there is better CC, and the ultimate is rather telegraphed. But at the Gauntlet, any claims about low impact and the ult have been dismissed by Deathwalker. Look to game two against NRG when they were fighting for their life being down 0-1. He gets a great ultimate at the left Phoenix setting up the defence against a Fire Giant team, setting Rival up to not lose a Phoenix in that push.

Then the coup de grâce when Deathwalker single-handedly wins his team the game. Left Phoenix down, tank dead and you’re facing a full Fire Giant back to back World Champion team. I mean the game should be over, but in steps Deathwalker with a three-man Eagle’s rally right to the dome of the Support, ADC and Mage. GG Rival and then we all know what happens next.

One thing to point out here is that while that ultimate was great, it should never have been allowed to happen. This is clear from when we hear the NRG comms in their games against eUnited and them screaming ‘safe way!’ repeatedly, when they are making that same rotation to mid Phoenix.

One reason why Bellona showed her potential this LAN is that she is great in every part of the game. Her laning phase is great, and even if you can interrupt her Bludgeon it is still amazing. One reason for this is because of the Season 4 Death’s Toll. The loss of power for increased sustain is great for solo laners with AOE autos. If you go to interrupt the Bellona you will get hit, meaning she can group the minions. Then, Bellona is healing for 48-56 health per auto depending on whether or not she is hitting you, as well as the wave. That means over a wave she has nearly got a full health pot worth of healing. Considering most solo laners will start 4 health pot 4 multi pot early on she is gonna out clear you anyway and doesn’t need to worry about tanking the wave that much.

With that sort of laning phase, it is easy to get Bellona ahead or at the very least stay even. Once that happens, you have a Warrior with strong autos, a decent amount of burst from Bludgeon (serious burst if you are ahead), who is also incredibly tanky when you consider the blocks on her dash and the ability to stop the highest damage characters in the late game from doing their damage thanks to Scourge.

There is also the incredible zoning potential of her ult. You are not going to want to take a team fight down 35 protections from the other team! Let’s not forget her passive giving her movement speed and protections from being hit or hitting you! Bellona has been slept on recently, but with the recent performances in the Gauntlet, most notably on Deathwalker and Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov, do not expect that to be the case going into Masters and the Summer Split.

 

Itemisation

The biggest point of note in Itemisation is how much Spear of Desolation was picked up in the Gauntlet compared to the online section of this Split. Spear of Desolation is a great item for Mages. It has so many of the stats you want giving a decent chunk of power at 90, CDR, and penetration.

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

Item’s do this occasionally when they are new, they don’t get picked up during the online phase as all scrims are dedicated to the game they are playing that week and they want to get their builds right. As much as the pro’s play the game, they know what works and it will take some time to oust their preferred items from the build. Especially more than the average player, builds are made around timings and pros have a better understanding of how a change in one part of the build effects another. When we have these breaks between the season and LANs it gives the pros time to experiment more in scrims as they aren’t worried about the set in two days. The big bonus of Spear of Desolation is being able to build CDR and Penetration at the same time.

The big bonus of Spear of Desolation is being able to build CDR and Penetration at the same time. The drawback was always the expense of the item, with other pen items being 450 gold cheaper in Spear of the Magus and Obsidian Shard being 300 gold cheaper. Never mind it’s not giving as much pen. However, it seems the pros have decided it is worth the investment. Most are building Spear of Desolation in the third item slot. This means that by your third item as a Mage you have 20 pen due to the 10 also on boots, 10% CDR, and a large power base, especially as a lot of people are building it with Bancroft’s Talon an item which is coming back into favour with recent buffs.

This is also a reason for Spear of Desolation’s entrance into the meta. The low cost of Bancroft’s allows your third item to be slightly more expensive. Most people are building another pen item on top of this later in the game, meaning you end up with more pen overall. Although Alexandru ‘Wlfy’ Lefterică showed this is not necessary, starting Book of Thoth and going a fourth item Rod of Tahuti in Rival’s second game against Eanix. He went top damage with the same build on Thoth as well as in the second game vs Soar. Pulling top damage numbers twice shows that he wasn’t hurting from the lack of pen. It is worth noting there weren’t many dedicated magical defense items built by Eanix that game.

Bancroft’s has seen a resurgence and is worth a quick mention as well. I say quick, because the reasons are obvious: the item is great. At its max effectiveness, you get 200 power 40% Lifesteal and you only pay 2300 gold for it. Also, now you don’t need to be dead to get max effect of the item. Being capped at 25% means you get a lot more use out of this item as the passive is strong when you are healthy enough to still fight.

EU Stronger than Ever

Team Rival

Rival looked very strong at Gauntlet and obviously not the biggest upset of the week considering Oxygen Supremacy’s incredible run. They were however not many people’s favourites to face off against NRG. Then to take that a step further by beating NRG! Although as I have alluded to and will go into more detail later they shouldn’t have. Smite like life, however, is about seeing an opportunity and taking it, something Deathwalker definitely showed in their game two against NRG.

What was probably the most impressive was the way in which they dispatched Soar. I was not expecting their victory, if they got one, to be so comprehensive. The first game, while not always leading in term of kills, they always led in the more important stats of gold and experience. Of the 70 players at the Gauntlet only 17 managed a KDA of above 3 barring their support the remaining four players of Rival all managed this showing this was definitely a team performance.

Stand-Out Performers

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Aleksandar ‘iceicebaby’ Zahariev, apart from having a great IGN, was also the MVP of the Gauntlet. I don’t think I am being unfair when I say nobody saw that coming. He more than tripled his Spring Split KDA of 1.31 with a KDA of 4.5 at Gauntlet. The Bulgarian Jungler looked dominant on his three main picks of Susano, Thor, and Serqet. Particularly the Susano where he has a combined slash line of 26/6/21. While Susano was definitely the most successful Jungler at Gauntlet with a win rate of 76.92 iceicebaby piloted the God incredibly well. His K/D on the God of 4.33 compared to the Gauntlet average of 2.27 proves this point. Look out for him at Masters we may have a new superstar from the Jungle to talk about.

DeathWalker had a great Gauntlet and is one of the major reasons behind the Bellona resurgence the first part of this article was dedicated too. I have made clear how I think without Deathwalker, Rival do not win this Gauntlet. He also has the most interesting pick of the Gauntlet. A solo Ah Puch – nobody who hadn’t been scrimming Rival or is very close to the scene would have been expecting that pick. That is something which would be met with hails of ‘report!’ In most ranked games! Yet, while they lost the game, it wasn’t the Ah Puch which was to blame. The way Deathwalker navigated the early game on one of the easiest Mages to kill in the game is something worth taking note of. This begs the question what else is he likely to pull out at Masters?

NRG

There has been a lot of talk about NRG being knocked off their perch. It is a little too early to be saying that as far as I am concerned. They should have 2-0ed Rival and they only didn’t due to a pathing error. An error as I said earlier, their comms suggests they are not likely to repeat again. Then considering what Rival did to Soar it is more than probable that NRG would have also walked away from that set victorious. The eUnited set was not just NRG booking their place at Masters it was a statement. From one man in particular Kennet ‘Adapting’ Ros. Who decided he wanted to remind us all why for the past two years he has been considered the best player in the world!

eUnited Set

The first game was even through 20 minutes with eUnited actually slightly ahead. Then it just became the Adapting and Dimi show, going 11/0/12 and 8/0/14 respectively with Adapting doing 26k damage. To put that in perspective, the Zhong Kui did 16k. That is another thing often overlooked about NRG during their drafts.

That draft was beautiful at shutting down a Zhong Kui. The Nemesis pick is obvious and its benefits have been espoused numerous times. What was drafted around it was what made it so great. The Scylla Nemesis combo makes it impossible for a Zhong to get a decent ult off. After the Judgement from Nemesis, you have the root chunking 20-30 percent of a Zhong’s health and then the unmissable damage in the Crush which takes off the same or more again. So without even needing to ult the Zhong is on his heels.

Admittedly, the Bellona pick came before the Zhong and it just happened to work out very well for eUnited. The Hou-Yi also zones the Zhong out as he isn’t walking through that and living to tell the tale. This made it nearly impossible for Zhong Kui to be Zhong Kui as he was relegated to a back-line mage.

The second game had NRG dominate the kills throughout although eUnited did a good job utilizing the map to keep it even. That is until the 20 minute mark. Then again, NRG just blew the game open. From minute 20 to 24 they turned a 3k gold lead into a 8 k gold lead. There were impressive performances from multiple players from NRG this game Dimi with top damage on the Erlang Shen going 1/2/17 doing everything you could ask of your solo laner, as well as André ‘Yammin’ Brännvall going 7/1/12 and the ADC Emil ‘Emilitoo’ Stärnman putting in a solid 4/1/8.

However, the main man was Adapting going 13/4/10, not participating in two of his teams kills for an overall kill participation of 92%. Adapting is unreal when he plays at his best. He also shot calls for his team which shows that there is more to this Jungler than mechanical prowess. If I was going to be facing NRG at Masters that set against eUnited is the last thing I would have wanted to see. Not only will NRG have a chip on their shoulder, but they will be the bottom seed from the two major regions in the game. The King is back and has got to be feeling himself after those performances in the final two games they played. This really should have been their 7th straight LAN victory and I wouldn’t be surprised for them to take number 7 when they get to the main event.

Looking to Masters!

Considering the last SWC finals was an entirely European affair, and this LAN, made up of the mid-lower tier teams, was dominated by Europe, the question of the stronger region seems to be pretty self-evident at the moment. Eager and Luminosity will have to play incredibly and put in a great performance to upset the European dominance. Bare in mind that Obey beat Eager in the Semi-Finals of Worlds to go through, and since then have only gotten better. Although, the Anubis pick which went 1-2 in games won in that set for Eager probably hampered them. As I reckon they had a better than 50 percent chance in a straight up game, especially as the first game went horribly for the Anubis. Putting yourself behind in such a pressure cooker of a set is more impactful than normal. LG and Eager are both great teams who could very easily walk away from Masters with a win. My money though is on EU to bring another trophy back across the Atlantic with them.


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