NA

How Dreamhack highlighted the ever growing gulf between NA and EU

How we got here

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

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

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

Where we are at now

na

Image courtesy of neogaf.com

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

Why?

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

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

How?

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

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

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

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

NA

Image courtesy of smitepedia.com

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

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

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

What this means for competitive Smite

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

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

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

Top Image courtesy of twitter.com/SmitePro

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Smite Gauntlet NA Team Spotlights: Bookies Favourites

eUnited

Overview

eUnited is going into the Gauntlet as the highest seeded North American team. The single-elimination format of this tournament gives them a huge advantage. It is also worth noting that in the entirety of the Spring Split, eUnited only lost one set, which came to Allegiance, a team they are unlikely to be facing and who very recently had to replace their support.

Players

You can’t mention eUnited without mentioning Louis Phillipe ‘PainDeViande’ Geoffrion, or General Pain, as he is more commonly known.  He is a great support but he is more commonly known and lauded for his leadership. He has guided this team in all its iterations, highs and lows, going from SWC 2016 runners up, to relegations the next split, then back to 3rd place in a very competitive region this split.

However, this is not a one man army. Khaos, a relatively unknown player when he first got picked up by Pain, has developed into one of the most consistent mid laner’s in the league. Khaos’ most successful God’s this season have been Vulcan and Poseidon, having a win rate of 66 percent on both. Most impressive stat wise has been with Vulcan, pulling a KDA of 5.8

Another God to watch out for is Zhong Kui, a God who is going through a minor resurgence and one Khaos has a history of playing. The pick lacks slightly in direct burst damage but makes up for this in AOE damage and by bringing a tankiness to the mid lane not available in any other viable pick.

 

General Pain motivating the troops! Image courtesy of Redbull.com

Ben ‘Benji’ Mckinzey, eUnited’s solo laner, joined mid-way through the season and hasn’t missed a beat. This is helped by his history with the team – re-finding synergy is easier than totally starting from scratch.  Look to his dominant performance on Osiris against Luminosity in week six, where he went 3-0-7 doing 4k more damage than anyone on his team.

 

There has been some controversy over Benji this split. What makes this so interesting for the Gauntlet is that the controversy directly impacted another team: Soar. Due to Benji leaving Soar for eUnited halfway through the split, and in my opinion far more reasonable situations regarding Soar’s subs, Soar was forced into forfeiting their set against eUnited. Considering there are only two points between these teams, this could very well be split defining stuff.

Maksim ‘PandaCat’ Yanevich is a player to watch at Gauntlet. Look for teams to be built around his signature Artemis which is likely to be seen at least once this LAN. eUnited is known for their co-ordination and PandaCat is known for his Artemis.

This combines to make the inherently dangerous ‘protect the carry’ strategy more than viable for this team. Watch out for his Hou-Yi, he has been killing it on that God this split. He has a KDA of 4.1 on this God, double what he has on any other God. Pandacat has a decent KDA of 2.57 overall but that does not speak for his ability to run games. His average damage of 16524 which is fourth highest in the league for ADC.

Lucas ‘Varizial’ Spracklin in his sophomore year in the SPL is proving his potential. He is only 16 and maybe that shows in what is often his biggest criticism, over-aggression and playing poorly from behind. However, this kid will make plays and often shows he has potential to be a jungler of the very top tier. He has the stat line to prove it as well averaging a very respectable 4.08 Kills/Game and 7.33 Assists. This puts him up towards the top end of Junglers in the League.

 

Soar Gaming

Andinster’s last LAN in the Jungle. Image courtesy of Esports.smitegame.com

Overview

Hailed as one of the new super-teams coming into the split, they disappointed throughout the first half. To come into the Gauntlet in second seed is a huge achievement from where they were. What should give the most hope to Soar Gaming fans is their recent 2-0 over In Memory of Gabe (IMOG). They will most likely be facing IMOG for the right to play eUnited.

The nature of their 2-0 is the real cause for hope. The first game was dominating, with a great start from Alexander ‘Homiefe’ D’Souza on Awilix. The synergy between his pulls and Andrew ‘Andinster’ Woodwards Ra snipes were breathtaking at times, most notably, wiping Eonic off the map after a beautiful blink, pull and snipe combo. They then came from behind in the second game to take the victory, showing a resilience and skill-level of a very impressive team.

Players

Is this the Andinster show? For those of us who have watched the Smite competitive scene for a long time it is hard to see it any other way. The mechanical God who has either been the best player in the world, or one of them, since Season 0 is now a mid laner! Not many of us outside the scene saw that coming.

In my opinion, Andinster has looked great in mid. Even when Soar struggled at the beginning of the season, it would have been unfair to pin that on Andinster. As I said previously, his mechanics have always been beyond impressive. This makes the switch to mid-lane more understandable. As mid can punish you and your team hardest for mechanical mistakes.

Mid can punish you and your team hardest for a mechanical mistake, simply due to how many mages have their damage stacked in their ult, as well as the prevalence for long range and line abilities. This is also shown by how often he picks Ra, which might be one of his only potential drawbacks, a possible reliance on the character. However, as always with LAN’s, there has been a break where pocket strategies and new God’s will have been practiced. Andinster could come into the LAN better than we have seen him yet. He is only going to get better the longer he plays mid.

Homiefe is a top-tier jungle. He is also one of the major reasons this squad was seen as a new super-team.  The fact Andinster was willing to step out the jungle for Homiefe illustrates this best. It is not only his team which think he is a great Jungler. Look to Kurt ‘Weak3n’ Schray who in one of his videos claims, not only will he ‘potentially’ but in fact ‘probably’ be the best ‘jungler in the game’ at some point. It’s high praise when a rival jungler claims you have the ability to be the best in the world.

What is to be expected from Homiefe? Like a lot of the best jungler’s, he likes to set the pace of the game. This is shown by his three most played gods being in order Thanatos, Thor and Awilix. Homiefe has some impressive stats. His stat line for the split is 45/35/82 (K/D/A). When we compare that to the leagues average of 41/34/79. Bear in mind, this is with 2 less games played, due to forfeit as well as a rocky start to the split for Soar.

Connor ‘Jigz’ Echolz is the captain for the team. For those who watch a lot of Twitch streams, Jigz the troll may not seem like your immediate thought for captain. However, that is ranked and this is competitive. This is a guy with a proven pedigree when it comes to a Smite brain. You only have to look to him being picked up as a coach for the old TSM roster to see that.

Jigz this season has been doing far better on the aggressive supports than the defensive ones this season. His Fafnir over five games remains unbeaten with a  KDA of 6.6. Compare that to his Geb which has yet to see a win in three games this season, averaging a KDA of 0.4. So look to Jigz to play more of that offensive style of support, on which he is having a lot of success.

Connor ‘Vetium’ Roberts is a strong ADC and like all carries will be integral to his team’s success at Gauntlet. Any of us who have played the game are aware how often it can come down to how the ADC’s perform, simply due to how much of your late game damage is focused around this role. Vetium can bring the damage. The first game against IMOG I referenced earlier in regards to Homiefe, was also a dominating performance by Vetium. He managed to pull out 21 thousand damage on Skadi. For comparison, the next closest in the game was at 11 thousand.

Oddly he has a surprisingly low number of kills per game only averaging 2.58. However, his assists are high averaging 6.33 pulling his KDA to 3.14. This puts him near the top of the pack for ADCs and is an indicator of his class. Look for Vetium to be taking advantage of pre-nerf Skadi (Gauntlet will be played patch 4.5.) While not as synonymous with Artemis as Pandacat, also look for him to pull that out at some point. He is currently undefeated over three games on Artemis with a KDA of 8.2. Considering how much pressure any Artemis is going to have focused on them, that is incredible.

Alec ‘fineokay’ Fonzo joined Soar halfway through the split. He has been very impressive since doing so. His stats speak for themselves. Fineokay has died less times than games he has played! He has the second highest assists in the league for solo lane at 9.63 a game. He is only being beaten out by the resurgent João ‘Maniakk’ Ferreira, who plays for Obey the top seed in the world right now! One of the most impressive things about fineokay is his god pool. During this split, not once has he played the same God in both games.

Towards the end of the split a definite style has emerged, with Terra being his most picked God and Guan Yu coming second. One thing worth noting is how strong he looked on the Vamana and Amaterasu as well. This shows he is not pigeon-holed as a player who can only play healers. He can be aggressive and in your face too. The healing picks are just exceptionally strong at the moment and Soar since the start of the split have prioritised having at least one, if not two healers. Those are the two God’s to look at though for fineokay as I think Soar will be looking to utilise the healing meta, as they have all split, before the nerfs of 4.6 come in to effect.

 

In Memory of Gabe

Overview

In Memory of Gabe are a bit of a dark horse when it comes to this Gauntlet. The reason for this is, they are the only team I don’t expect to make it to Masters but would not be surprised if they did. They started the split great but as their opposition got harder and other teams came into form they slowly slipped down the table. The big set for them is the Soar set. It seems obvious, but if they beat Soar they will be facing eUnited a team they split with in week six. More than that though, it at the very least guarantees them a BO1 against the EU Finals loser.

Anything can happen in a best of one, it’s a game of who blinks first. To get to that they have to go through Soar, where picks and bans will be more important than usual. Brooks ‘Cynosure’ Matty has a disgustingly good Serqet. Soar will be aware of this, especially as it relates to their healing comps and is a character which must give Ra mains nightmares. Look for Soar being tentative to pick the Ra before they see a Jungler. They may just ban out Serqet, although in the set between these teams the Hun Batz first pick for IMOG twice made this unnecessary. If I was IMOG I would be looking to bait out that Ra into Serqet. Cynosure just looks so strong on it. Combined with how eage

Source Hi-Rez <http://esports.smitegame.com/2017/03/22/eonic-vs-jigz/>

Goodbye clipboard! Hello Keyboard! Image courstey of Esports.smitegame.com

r Andister has been to pick up the Ra the bait may not be impossible.

Players

Eonic is a great support. For old school Smite fans it is more than a bit nostalgic to see him back in a playing role, with his old Cog Red ADC Evan ‘Snoopy’ Jones. Eonic is one those players who brings far more than what we, the fans see. The best way to show this is by looking at just how many teams have brought Eonic on as a coach.

This is not take away from him as a player with his assists per game sitting at 9.43 and a KDA of 2.23. They are both towards the top end of the league especially when we compare him with mere mortals. We can’t all be Emil ‘Emilzy’ Nielsen with a KDA of 10 from the support role (is this kid for real!) Look for Eonic to play strong laners who are great at defending their team. Sylvanus and Khepri have worked  well for him this split and fit that mould perfectly. Do not be surprised to see him pull out a Sobek, at some point either. A God he is played for a very long time and he is very impressive on. One reason for this is that Eonic walks the line of aggression and peeling for his carries with Sobek’s myriad of crowd control better than most.

Snoopy had a rough last season. The tag line with Snoopy was always that he is the best sub to ever grace the scene and could play anywhere. Last season burst that bubble, epitomized when he and Soar parted ways, as the Snoopy Solo experiment didn’t work. This isn’t to say Snoopy can’t play other roles, It is impressive the level he displays in them. However, ADC does seem to be his best role. Despite his complaints about it.

What is he likely to pull out at Gauntlet? Like every other ADC look for a Skadi. He has also shown a very good Medusa this season winning 2/3rds of his game on it, with a KDA of 2.9. Before Jonathan ‘Marvalz’ Maher there was Snoopy when it came to Rama snipes. This season he has played it twice with no wins and a KDA of 0.1. This is not typical, fear those snipes. One final point on Snoopy is: expect the unexpected. This is the player who out of nowhere, brought out the Mercury ADC at LAN, shocking everyone.

Cynosure was a revelation to the SPL. All eyes were on the Jungler coming out of the SCL, wondering could he hack it in the SPL? Most were expecting great things. However, It wasn’t Cynosure that I was talking about just then, it was Andy ‘Elchapo’ Leon. Cynosure is the one who came good though. In every measurable statistic that matters, Cynosure comes out on top. Most notably his KDA of 3.39 more than doubling  Elchapo’s. This is not to hate on Elchapo but simply to show how impressive Cynosure has been. Stats will also be skewed based on the fact Noble have had a tough season. Not this much though. The transfer from SCL to SPL is not easy. Cynosure has made it look so.

This is an 18-year-old in his first season on PC just killing it, he will only get better. As I mentioned earlier Cynosure’s Serqet is nasty! Look for that to get pulled out at LAN especially into the opposition he will be facing. In week Six we saw a focus on Hun Batz with IMOG first picking it in both games against Soar. However that did not go too well, and the next set saw a Susano and Chang’e picked up. So there is a good chance we will see some variety in the jungle picks.

Hurriwind for so long was a nearly man. Teetering on the edge of the SPL. He was a sub for a long time and then did the rounds on some lesser teams. Thom ‘F.’ Badinger spoke on cast openly this season about how a large part of the community including himself, did not think he was good enough. That’s all changed now, which was the thrust of F.’s point. Hurriwind like all good-mid laners can hit the big-boy ult. He was showing us that particularly at the beginning of the season.

He has also expanded his god pool to include Medusa. Although as anyone who has been hit by Medusa’s abilities will tell you, she is a mage who for some reason has hunter autos. Hurriwind’s most played God’s this season are Janus, Zeus and Ra. One of those three, most likely the Janus will be picked up by Hurriwind at some point during the Gauntlet. Hurriwind has the mechanics to make Janus (the God who can walk through walls!!!) look even more broken.

Last but not least, Mark ‘Whalrus Maloney’ the solo laner. Whalrus has had a strong season, at times absolutely running away with games. He plays an aggressive style of solo lane. He enjoys lane bullies or at least has the most success on them.  This was very noticeable towards the back end of the split where he put out dominating performances on Vamana, Osiris and Thanatos. Cabrakan is a strong God right now, however it has not worked out too well for Whalrus this season. Most notably going 0/8/3 against Luminosity Gaming and picking up just one win in three games with it. Although it is worth noting that was against Luminosity and the game in question had more than one member of IMOG struggle.  Under the pressure of LAN conditions this may point towards Whalrus focusing on the Vamana, Thanatos and Osiris. As Whalrus has had serious success with those Gods, particularly the first two with respective KDA’s of 4.8 and 8.

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