Summer 2017 over/under (part 2): LCS players above expectations

With three weeks of NA and EU LCS in the books, audiences are starting to get a feel for teams’ strengths and weaknesses. Some squads have carried over similar strengths from Spring Split. Others have risen or fallen in performance. But even within rosters that tend to play consistently, there always seems to be an ebb and flow on the individual player level.

Last week, I highlighted players who need to return to past form for their respective teams to have a chance at peak performance. This week it is all about the other side, summoners who are trending upward so far this summer. These players have visibly improved. They are putting up statistics that are exciting and surprising. More importantly, though, these members have elevated their teams’ overall performances with their gameplay on the Rift.

Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaha

CLG, Top laner

KP%:    61.8%   (2nd top laner)

D%:        19%    (4th top laner)

Darshan is a player who has come and gone as a presence in the top lane. While he almost mirrors his statistics from Spring Split, Summer Split seems different. Many of the imported top laners who struggled to find their place last split currently feel much stronger. Yet, Darshan has been able to keep up enough in lane to help CLG pressure the map through split-pushing and cleaner Teleports. Darshan’s team will rely on him to anchor his lane against top-heavy teams in the NA LCS.

CLG Darshan is exceeding expectations in top lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

DIG Shrimp is exceeding expectations in the jungle

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Lee “Shrimp” Byeong-hoon

Dignitas, Jungler

KP%:    79.1%   (2nd overall)

XPD@10:    325  (3rd overall)

Dignitas’ newest jungler, Shrimp, has been on a tear so far this split. He and top laner, Kim “Ssumday” Chan-ho, are the only members of the team to start ahead of their opponents at 10 minutes. Despite Dignitas’ early deficits, Shrimp has enabled the team to control Elder Dragon and Baron better than most teams in the NA LCS. His Lee Sin is particularly strong.

Choi “Pirean” Jun-Sik

Team Envy, Mid laner

KDA:    4.2   (4th mid laner)

DPM:    494  (6th mid laner)

Pirean is by no means close to the best mid laner in the NA LCS. However, his addition to Team Envy has seemed to boost their overall performance. Within the team, Pirean has the highest KDA, lowest death share, and ties Apollo “Apollo” Price in damage share. Even in Envy’s losses, the mid laner looks proactive on picks like Taliyah and Ahri. Pirean seems like a much better fit than Noh “Ninja” Geon-woo in spring.

NV Pirean is performing above expectations in mid lane

LoL Esports Flickr

UOL Samux is exceeding expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Samuel “Samux” Fernández Fort

Unicorns of Love, Bot laner

DPM:    604   (4th overall)

DMG%: 28%  (6th overall)

Despite already meshing well with Unicorns of Love in his rookie split, Samux is solidifying himself as a top AD carry in EU LCS this split. He is putting out high damage and keeping his deaths low, sporting a 7.7 KDA. Samux’s positioning and decision-making have been crucial to Unicorns’ scary team-fighting. Standing out this way among a strong field of European bot lanes truly is a feat.

Kim “Wadid” Bae-in

Roccat, Support

D%:   15.4%  (2nd support)

KP%:  68.5%  (6th support)

The flashiest Rakan player in the EU LCS, Wadid has been a primary initiator for Roccat this split. This trend started during Roccat’s win streak towards the end of Spring Split, but he has blossomed these past few weeks. Wadid enables his bottom lane partner, Petter “Hjärnan” Freyschuss, to get ahead during laning phase and clean up team-fights. Viewers feel this player’s presence on the map, which is impressive considering there are several competitive, veteran support players in the league.

ROC Wadid is exceeding expectations as support

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

honorable mention

IMT Cody Sun and Olleh are above expectations in bottom lane

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Li “Cody Sun” Yu Sun, Kim “Olleh” Joo-sung

Immortals, Bot lane duo

DPM: 534,251 (2nd bot lane duo)

FB%: 27%,20% (1st bot laner, 1st support)

The success of Immortals’ bottom lane is difficult to separate between marksman and support. Both Cody Sun and Olleh have exhibited vast improvements from their starts at IEM Gyeonggi. Many fans could see the power shift towards the end of Spring Split, but not to the current degree. This duo has consistently pressured opponents throughout the game in laning, turrets and team-fights. Olleh’s aggressive Bard and Morgana pairs particularly well with Cody Sun’s Caitlyn and Varus. Immortals’ bottom lane has been a force so far, and remaining at the top of the standings will definitely depend on their continued growth.

All of these players are playing above their previous benchmarks. It only takes a short time for above expectations to turn into the expectation, and, as the NA and EU LCS advance, viewers will look for continued improvement. No one will necessarily remember which teams and players were stomping or slumping three weeks into the split. If these players truly want to leave their mark, they will need to maintain this high level of gameplay over many more grueling weeks of League of Legends.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Champion Statistics: Oracle’s Elixir

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Amazon subsidiary Twitch and Blizzard make a deal: Twitch to host APEX and Premier Series, Prime users get free loot

On June 20, Twitch announced a deal with Blizzard, owner and creator of Overwatch. As part of this deal, Twitch will host two of the biggest Overwatch tournaments: the APEX League and Premier Series, along with other Blizzard esports tournaments. Further, Twitch Prime users will get a lot of free loot.

This is a great moment for Overwatch players and fans. But this deal was not just created for them. When you look behind the curtain, you’ll find Amazon’s marketing team hard at work.

Twitch is currently a subsidiary of Amazon.com, who has been increasingly expanding into the esports market over the last several years. In 2010, Amazon bought Reflexive Entertainment. Two years later, it developed Amazon Game Studios as a subsidiary specializing in game development. 2014 saw Amazon make a strong commitment toward the esports industry. In that year, it merged Reflexive Entertainment into Amazon Game Studios in 2014 and it purchased both Double Helix Games and Twitch as well.

Twitch began almost as an accident, but in less than a decade it has become the go-to streaming source for esports tournaments, streaming, and other content. Currently, it’s viewing services are free to anyone, while a Twitch Prime membership is available at an extra cost. This membership allows viewers to skip past all the ads and receive special in-game content in several games.

But there’s a catch.

The Deal

You can only get a Twitch Prime membership with an Amazon Prime membership. Now that doesn’t seem like a big deal. After all, Amazon Prime includes thousands of movies and TV shows, millions of ad-free songs, and unlimited free two-day shipping on all eligible purchases. Twitch Prime just seems like an added benefit. But Amazon now appears to be using this benefit as a marketing tool to draw esports fans to purchase its Prime service by offering a free Overwatch Gold Loot Box, which includes at least one legendary item to anyone who purchases by August 10.

As most players know, items in Overwatch rank as either Standard (White), Rare (Blue), Epic (Purple) or Legendary (Orange). Standard items are most common and Legendary are the least, appearing only 2.55% of the time. To be assured of a free legendary item is a big deal. Amazon/Twitch seem to be using this as a means of marketing to Overwatch fans. And the gifts/marketing don’t stop there.

Twitch Prime users will also receive 10 free Standard Loot Boxes over the coming months. These might not contain a legendary item, but it’s certainly another incentive to try out that free Amazon Prime membership they keep advertising. The current price of 11 loot boxes is $9.99, only $1 less than the $10.99 monthly membership of Amazon Prime. But giving away 10 loot boxes, or even more than that, won’t hurt Amazon in the long run. These are, after all, virtual products. No packaging. No shipping. No assembling. Just pure profit.

As the esports industry continues to expand, this deal between Twitch and Blizzard is not just meant to benefit long-time fans. It is a promotional opportunity for Amazon to market toward a growing demographic and give esports players and fans a reason to buy their monthly service.

And the deal goes even farther than Overwatch.

Blizzard is also the owner and creator of many other games which will be receiving the Twitch treatment. Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm players can also expect to receive free gifts and in-game content from their Twitch Prime accounts as well. And Twitch will be hosting 18 other esports tournaments including Heroes of the Storm Global Championship, StarCraft II World Championship Series, Hearthstone Championship Tour and Global Games, and World of Warcraft Arena Championship. These are some of the most watched esports tournaments every year.

Amazon has spent billions entering the esports industry, and they are going to do everything they can to make their investment pay off. Purchasing Twitch alone cost the company $970 million. The Blizzard-Twitch deal is just one of many avenues in which Amazon is slowing becoming a major player in this growing market.

By hosting their tournaments through Twitch and giving free virtual gifts to players of many different Blizzard esports, Amazon is poised to become a major player in the esports industry. With a large and growing influence over some of the biggest tournaments, Amazon will gain huge amounts of advertisement revenue during these tournaments with an increasing number of mediums. Even the longtime haters of Amazon may soon become avid devotees.


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Image: entrepreneur.com

Rocket League: A growing esport

Rocket League as an esport is on the rise.

The game’s second anniversary is just around the corner, bringing with it the beginning of the fifth competitive season. This comes just after the conclusion of the third season of the Rocket League Championship Series, the largest tournament available to professional and non-professional Rocket League players alike.

With this in mind, it’s easy to discern that Psyonix’s hit title will only continue to grow within the esports community, for a number of reasons.

Expanding Mechanics

Since the beginning of Rocket League, players have been working to perfect and expand their in-game mechanics.

Photo courtesy of playstation.com

During the first season of the RLCS, it was considered nearly impossible to predict and clear the ball as it was bouncing off your team’s backboard. By the beginning of the third season, however, playing the ball off of your opponent’s backboard was no longer as effective as it was not even a year prior. Players learned to predict those bounces and quickly get their cars in the air to clear the ball well away from their goals.

All players know they have the ability to jump and then flip the car in their chosen direction. Over the past two years though, top competitors learned to reset their jump mid-air, by touching all four wheels to the ball or the ceiling. This allows them to take another shot at the ball without ever touching the ground, changing it’s course and throwing off the opponents prediction.

This just scratches the surface of what players have come up with. It seems, so far, that there is no limit to what players can come up with regarding the mechanics and control of their cars.

New and Old Challengers

The third season of the RLCS brought with it some intriguing new challengers. The first two seasons had only been open to North American and European teams. Season three expanded to give the Oceanic region a chance to make their mark on Rocket League history as well.

Despite the expectations of casters and the players from NA and EU, one of these teams, Alpha Sydney, beat Denial Esports in the very first series of the world championships. They then went on to get knocked out of the double-elimination bracket, however, many believed they wouldn’t win a single series.

New challengers showed up within the NA and EU regions as well. Two players largely unknown prior to RLCS season three served important roles in helping their teams make it into the world championships.

Castors dubbed Timi “Timi” Falodun, playing for NA team Selfless esports, the “weekend warrior,” due to only being able to play on weekends. Regardless of this, Selfless Esports was one of the four NA teams to take the stage at The Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles for the RLCS season three world championships.

The second unknown player was Victor “Ferra” Francal, playing for the EU team The Leftovers. Ferra came out in the first week of league play and scored an insane goal, faking out all three players on FlipSid3 Tactics, the season two world champions. The Leftovers went on to take fourth place in the world championships.

Now, consider the recent announcement of the fourth season of the RLCS. While nothing has been announced, yet, regarding the inclusion of Oceanic teams, the number of NA and EU teams that will be included was increased. On top of the eight spots allotted for league play in both regions since season one, there will be a second division in season four. Despite limited details on this second division, we know that there will be room for an additional eight teams in both regions.

The addition of the Oceanic region, along with the mark made by these, as well as other, previously unknown players, were clear indications that it wasn’t too late for players to make their debut in the professional scene. Now, the announcement of a second division for, at least, NA and EU only furthers the suggestion that players can still break into Rocket League esports.

Prize Pools

Finally, let’s take a look at the prize pools over the seasons. Psyonix has been able to vastly increase the prize pools available to these RLCS competitors since the first season. They’ve done this in two major ways.

The Psyonix team regularly adds new cars, decals, rocket trails and other cosmetic changes to the game for a small fee, with a portion of the proceeds going to the funding and prize pools for the RLCS. Since all of these additions have been cosmetic, thus far, players don’t have to worry about a pay-to-win dynamic.

Photo courtesy of steamtradingcards.wikia.com

The second way they’ve been able to increase the prize pools is through additional sponsors as the tournaments grow. Twitch, the largest site in the world for streaming games, is an official organizer. Right off the bat, working with Twitch, Psyonix has a competitive edge. Twitch often features live RLCS matches.

The sponsorships continue to grow as well. Old Spice and Brisk were the main sponsors at the beginning of season three. By the time the world championships rolled around, 7-Eleven was a new sponsor and Mobil 1 had become a returning sponsor from previous seasons.

Through these means, the total prize pool rose from $55,000 USD in season one to $300,000 in season three. The prize for being crowned the world champions in season three was $55,000 alone, the amount of the entire prize pool for season one.

It’s reasonable to guess that the prize pool for season four will see its own increase.

Television Broadcast

As of Wednesday, NBC Sports announced their break into esports with a two vs. two Rocket League tournament, with a prize pool of $100,000.

NBC Sports will air post-qualifier matches on regional channels and the grand finals on their national channel. Along with NBC Sports, several networks in other countries will broadcast the grand finals.

This is the first time Rocket League is hitting cable and could be a huge step towards cementing the game’s place within esports. It has the potential to attract new viewers, something vital to the longevity of a game as an esport.

While some may prefer to stream the esports they watch, there are important potential benefits to consider. NBC Sports televising Rocket League is not only a step towards the growth of the game’s esports scene, but another small push forward for epsorts in general. The longer the list of esports titles that are televised the better, in my opinion. I dream of one day going to a sports bar and seeing as many television screens filled with esports as traditional sports.

All things considered, Rocket League doesn’t appear to be going anywhere in the esports community but up. So, I guess what I’m trying to say is, grab your favorite gamepad or keyboard and mouse and start practicing.


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Week 4 Day 1 HCS Pro League Predictions

As the Summer Season of the HCS Pro League enters its final stretch, Week 4 begins Wednesday night. This week has several make-or-break matches, the most important of which will likely decide the top dog going into DreamHack Atlanta: OpTic Gaming vs Splyce.

Str8 Rippin vs Luminosity Gaming

Saiyan has been the spine of LG thus far. Image by Tommy Wilson.

LG (Assumed): Bradley “APG” Laws, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson

Str8 (Assumed): Tim “Rayne” Tinkler, Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali, Richie “Heinz” Heinz, Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi

LG has done well to improve their standings recently with victories over Ronin and Liquid. Unfortunately, the team was disqualified due to a roster miscommunication last week against OpTic, but that was likely to be a 3-0 anyways. Going into Week 4, LG has a good chance to further improve their standings and tie their win/loss ratio at 3-3. Str8 Rippin has been struggling and the past roster changes may have only weakened them further.

Meanwhile, this is a must-win for Str8. They’re already nearly guaranteed to be at the bottom of the bracket going into Atlanta and they will need to put the pieces together fast to avoid relegation. Str8 currently sits at 0-5. They will need to beat both LG and EnVy in order to even have a chance at improving their standing. It doesn’t look good for them.

Prediction: Luminosity Gaming 3-1 Str8 Rippin

Fantasy Picks (Fantasy HCS): Saiyan, TriPPPey, APG

 

Team EnVyUs vs Ronin Esports

Mikwen has been leading his team through the season and is looking to close out strong. Image by Halo Esports Wiki.

nV: Justin “iGotUrPistola” Deese, Austin “Mikwen” McCleary, Eric “Snip3down” Wrona, Cuyler “Huke” Garland

RE: Visal “eL ToWn” Mohanan, Cory “Str8 SicK” Sloss, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza and Ayden “Suspector” Hill

For nV, the Pro League thus far has contained a few unexpected defeats. That said, they’re looking to rebound against Ronin in Week 4 and have a decent chance of doing so. Despite sitting at 2-3, tied with EG and LG, nV still sits in a good spot due to their win at Daytona. On top of that, their scrim results have been improving, with impressive victories not only over Team Liquid but OpTic Gaming as well.

Ronin, on the other hand, is in a bad spot. Despite picking up eL ToWn, they haven’t been looking particularly great. Being that they’re sitting at 1-4 in the league, that’s not a great sign. While scrims have shown a little promise, this squad has continued to get dominated. Along with Str8, they’re looking like an easy team to relegate.

Prediction: Team EnVyUs 3-0 Ronin Esports

Fantasy Picks (Fantasy HCS): Mikwen, Snip3down, Huke

 

Team Liquid vs Evil Geniuses

TL: Zane “SubZero” Hearon, Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher, Aaron “Ace” Elam,  Kevin “Eco” Smith

Justin “Roy” Brown. Image by Halo Esports Wiki.

EG: Justin “Roy” Brown, Jason “Lunchbox” Brown, Michael “Falcated” Garcia, Josbe “Tapping Buttons” Valadez

Since trading Rayne for Ace, Liquid has seen some improvement. The team went 2-0 last week and improved their overall standing to 3-2. They currently are sitting in third, behind Splyce and OpTic. Scrims have shown a tie between Liquid and Oxygen Supremacy but the squad was dominated 2-9 by EnVy.

EG, on the other hand, is running into their usual problem: lack of practice. With nail-biting, game five losses to both Splyce and Team EnVyUs, the potential of this squad is apparent. This is the best EG has looked since X-Games 2016. Over the past week, they have shown a bit more consistency in scrims, despite both of their match-ups being losses. If the EG that nearly took down Splyce shows up, we could have a great series on our hands.

Prediction: Evil Geniuses 3-2 Team Liquid

Fantasy Picks (Fantasy HCS): StelluR, Eco, Tapping Buttons

 

Splyce vs OpTic Gaming

Shotzzy and Renegade have been the tip of the spear for Splyce. Image by Halo Waypoint.

SPY: Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller, Ryan “Shooter” Sondhi, Jonathan “Renegade” Willette and Anthony “Shotzzy” Cuevas-Castro

OG: Tony “LethuL” Campbell, Jr, Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Mathew “Royal2” Fiorante, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom

This match is big. Both of these teams are tied for 1st place in the league with a 5-0 record. This match will likely decide which team takes the first seed into Atlanta.

Splyce has had a few close calls. They only narrowly beat out EnVy and EG but have shown that their firepower is not to be trifled with. However, Splyce hasn’t even scrimmaged over the past week. That lack of practice may not allow this series to be as close as many want.

OpTic continues to avenge their Daytona loss through the league. They have appeared unstoppable, with only nV coming close to beating them. In fact, their only scrim loss was to nV and that can be chalked up to just a bad day.

However, if Splyce shows up and plays well, this series gets a lot closer, possibly even becoming a coin-toss.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming 3-1 Splyce

Fantasy Picks (Fantasy HCS): Anyone from OpTic. Maybe Renegade or Shotzzy.

Week 4 is huge for everyone, as seeds will begin to be set in stone. Do you disagree with any of the predictions? What matches do you think will be close and be the best to watch? Be sure to participate in the discussion!

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Header image by ESL Halo.

 

 

Divisions in Competitive Call of Duty

A recent interview posted on the PlayStation website revealed a few details about the upcoming Call of Duty title WWII. In a question asked by a Twitter user, Michael Condrey revealed that there are to be some exciting changes to the current Create a Class system. He stated:

We’re days away from E3 2017 and the team at Sledgehammer Games can hardly wait to share more on our multiplayer plans. We’re particularly looking forward to revealing more on Divisions. Divisions fundamentally redefines how players invest in their Multiplayer soldier career. Replacing the create-a-class system, players choose from five iconic World War II divisions each with specific basic combat training, division training and weapon skills. We think it’ll intrigue Call of Duty series veterans, and we can’t wait for our fans to see it for themselves.

In this article, I will discuss some of my thoughts on how this might impact the competitive scene in the upcoming year.

WEAPONRY

The system sounds strikingly similar to that of CoD’s biggest competitor, Battlefield. In EA’s latest release, Battlefield 1, the player can specialize in a number of classes ranging from the close quarters’ Assault class to a horseback riding soldier with the Cavalry class.

As in Battlefield, the E3 reveal shows us that it’s likely each division will be restricted to a certain type of weapon. For example, the infantry divisions used at E3 had either the M1 Garand or the BAR while the mountain division made either the M1903 or the Kar98k available.

Click to get an enlarged look at the Infantry division. [In-Game footage belongs to Sledgehammer]

Click to get an enlarged look at the airborne division. [In-Game footage belongs to Sledgehammer]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Separating the different types of weaponry adds more hours of grinding into the game as players will no doubt work to unlock various cosmetics only earned through using a particular class. A thought I had about how it could change the competitive landscape is if there was a limit on how many divisions can be used on one team. If it were limited to just one or two then expert players in one division may be more valuable players than others.

An obvious example would be the mountain division which homes the sniper rifles. If teams have to have a sniper player their value in the esports space would rocket.

Although it’s unlikely to happen, it would deepen the tactical play of CoD and definitely help bring back more defined roles.

DIVISION SKILL

Another element to creating the perfect class is the game’s perks. However, in WWII perks have been replaced by various division skills and training. Division skills, as the title would suggest, are exclusive to whichever division the player chooses to use. The ones I saw at E3 seemed fairly basic, for example a bayonet charge melee in the infantry class or being able to equip a suppressor in the airborne class.

The two more exciting ones were sharpshooter in the mountain division and incendiary shells in the expeditionary division. The former allows the player to gain aim assist and see enemy name tags whilst holding their breath. This should be extremely helpful for players using that division since it revolves around the bolt action rifles. However, it should not affect competitive too much since it does not reveal players through walls or anything game breaking like that.

The incendiary shells are shotgun rounds which spark flames that burn enemies to death. I simply picked this one out since it seems like something that could be overpowered. If previous games are anything to go by, shotguns will likely end up being banned anyway, thus making the skill useless.

DIVISION TRAINING

Division training seems to be division specific perks aimed at directing the player to use that class in a particular way. For example, the division training available for the airborne class at E3 was Pathfinder III which grants the player increased sprint speed, duration and the ability to mantle faster. This suits the airborne playstyle as it focuses on sub machine gun play.

There’s currently not a lot to say on division training since at E3 only one was available for each division.

BASIC TRAINING

The final perk related addition to create a class is basic training. Confirmed in a tweet by Michael Condrey, any basic training unlocked can be used across any division.

The most impactful basic training on competitive is probably phantom. This perk gives quieter movement, no fall damage and makes the player invisible to UAV. To long-time players, the perk is better known as dead silence and has been in every Call of Duty. However, it is particularly problematic in this case since players are already limited in what perks they can choose.

Even if the developers have tried to integrate quieter movement into the game, professionals will more than likely choose to use dead silence so their ability to make plays is never hindered. This can make the game stale for viewers as they end up seeing the same setup every map.

Another interesting basic training is smoked. This gives the player a smoke as their secondary grenade. As we’re back to boots on the ground the use of smokes could further tactical depth. I can envision players smoking off certain trench routes to deny the enemy information in the round. The gameplay below is of the map Point du Hoc which looks like it could utilise smoke grenades.

The final perk I will discuss is called scope. This makes the player move faster while aiming down sights as well as adding an additional attachment onto their primary weapon. The reason why this could be impactful in competitive play is if there is no stock attachment.

Stock also allows for faster movement while aimed in and is a favorite among pros as it gives assault riflers a more even playing field against the sub machine guns. It will be interesting to see if riflers opt to take the perk over something standard like phantom.

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Team USA annihilates Team Canada in E3’s Overwatch show-match, but was it a mistake?

On June 15, Team U.S.A. and Team Canada played against each other in a tournament hosted by E3, one of the largest gaming conventions in the world. An hour and 15 minutes later, Team U.S.A. had annihilated their opponent, sweeping all four games. But this victory was not without controversy.

While Team U.S.A. featured much greater overall teamplay, the organizers favored U.S.A. in subtle but important ways.

 

Teamplay: An Important Contribution to Team U.S.A.’s Victory

Matt “CoolMatt69” Iorio is interviewed after a crushing victory over Canada in game one. Courtesy of Twitch

Players chosen for international tournaments are the best of the best from each country. But being the best does not always mean you can play well with others. This was evident during yesterday’s tournament.

While Team U.S.A. worked as a cohesive whole, Team Canada did not. This was most evident when we look at how members of each team communicated with each other. Each player from U.S.A. displayed an immediate trust of one another committing themselves to objectives and targets that benefited the whole team.

Canada, however, featured a wide array of miscommunication. Instead of following through on clear objectives together, the players failed to communicate efficiently. For example, D.Va and Winston could not get on the same page, often leading to one of their deaths. Targets were not marked efficiently, and there was an obvious lack of commitment to the match and to each 

other.

 

Canada in the Shadows

Lack of communication was not the only reason for Canada’s loss. Hosted by American cell phone carrier T-Mobile, there seemed an obvious bias in favor of U.S.A. throughout the match.

And this was evident before the game even began.

When both teams were being introduced, much more time and attention was paid to U.S.A. while Canada was forced to sit in the shadows. This is not necessarily unusual. After all, the host country is often favored in international showings.

But the events that followed proved that there was much more going on than a little hometown taunting. For example, U.S.A.’s players were set up in a nice shady spot while Canada’s team was forced to sit in the hot sun. This left the Canadian player to deal with two disadvantages: the discomfort of the heat and the glare of the sun. As a result, U.S.A. had a significant and unfair advantage during the entire course of the tournament.

This could have just been chalked up to poor planning by T-Mobile and other organizers, but the list of advantages given to U.S.A. stretches even longer.

 

To Pause or Not to Pause?

During the pause, Mangachu expresses his thoughts.
Courtesy of Twitch

On Lijang Tower: Control Center, the last map in the match, Team U.S.A. requested a pause for Jay “Sinatraa” Won, who was experiencing some technical difficulties. This was normal enough as teams typically receive pauses to correct for such problems.

What was abnormal was that the pause revealed in-game chat in which Canadian player Mangachu was complaining about how U.S.A. received a pause while his country did not. While Mangachu may have been stretching the truth in some way, information that came in after the game suggests otherwise.

 

 

Can Canada Get a Break?

Roolf and Agilities swap roles on Dorado, much to the confusion of the casters

Team Canada’s disorganization may at first sight seem to be the result of poor decisions like switching Brady “Agilities” Girardi to healer while giving their star healer Randal “Roolf” Stark the spot of DPS. But this poor mistake makes much more sense given Lane “Surefour” Robert’s after-game comments when he revealed that Team Canada’s PCs were under-performing.

He stated that Agilities’ computer had severe FPS lag and that he could not play DPS at a pro-level. As a result, he gave the role to Roolf who had a playable framerate. Surefour claimed that each computer was running over 100 FPS less than the optimal amount.

With such a low framerate and a refusal by T-Mobile and E3 to grant a pause to correct the mistake, Team U.S.A.’s various advantages appear to be more than coincidence.

 

Conclusion

While the USA deserves credit for their victory over Canada, the advantages given to them by T-Mobile and E3 cannot be overlooked.

The Casters, Ster and Jason Kaplan, discuss what’s wrong with Canada.
Courtesy of Twitch

Still, it would be unfair to say that these organizers purposefully placed U.S.A. at an advantage. Nonetheless, these mistakes could have been easily avoided or remedied, and the failure to do so shows a lack of competence by organizers.

While we look forward to the upcoming Overwatch World Cup, we must be wary of such organizational mistakes. If esports are ever to receive the same respect traditional sports receive, our tournaments must be better organized. Perhaps as fans and players of Overwatch, we need to demand that Blizzard creates a set of rules or guidelines for future tournaments in order to maintain fairness throughout gameplay.


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HCS mid-season roster changes

At the end of Week Two of the HCS Summer Season, the first of two transfer periods opened up. Before long, rumors were abound and the community sought for scraps of news. With the second transfer period coming up, let’s recap some of the roster changes that have happened as well as what we can expect.

Str8 Rippin

Str8 Rippin has had the most changes, with both Aaron “Ace” Elam and Bradley “APG” Laws reportedly departing the roster. In lieu of these two players, Str8 acquired Timothy “Rayne” Tinkler from Team Liquid and played their matches this week with Hamza “Commonly” Abbaali. The Str8 roster will now likely be Rayne, Commonly, Richie “Heinz” Heinz and Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi.

This change is somewhat confusing. Str8 has lost a lot of slaying power from APG as well as losing out on overall damage output and aggressiveness due to Ace leaving. Despite this, they have picked up two very objective-minded players. While Commonly is relatively similar to Ace in terms of objective plays and damage output, Rayne does not compensate for the slaying ability lost. Combined with Heinz already being another objective-focused player and that leaves Danoxide with more pressure to slay.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid has made a trade with Str8 Rippin, gaining Ace in return for Rayne. The Liquid roster is now Ace, Zane “Penguin” Hearon,  Braedon “StelluR” Boettcher and Kevin “Eco” Smith.

This roster change may not have necessarily improved or worsened Liquid to any significant extent. While Ace does perhaps bring some more damage output to the team on paper, he also lacks the chemistry that Rayne had with the roster. This will likely leave Liquid in a similar spot to what they would have been in if they had kept Rayne.

Ronin Esports

Ronin has dropped the most controversial player in the HCS, Carlos “Cratos” Ayala for Visal “eL ToWn” Mohanan. The roster is now eL ToWn, Cory “Str8 SicK” Sloss, Tyler “Spartan” Ganza and Ayden “Suspector” Hill.

Similarly to Str8, this seems like only a slight upgrade. eL ToWn does fill the same support role as Cratos did, with only slightly better slaying ability. However, eL ToWn still struggles in his individual gunfights. His strongest asset to the team will likely be his already well-developed chemistry with Spartan, but Ronin will likely remain at the bottom of the rankings for the duration of the season.

Luminosity Gaming

In a surprise move, it is expected that Luminosity will be dropping Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson in order to pick up APG. APG has already stated multiple times on stream that he intends to leave Str8 and the LG is looking to pick him up. The roster will now presumably be APG, Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Joe “TriPPPeY” Taylor and Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson. All the while, rumors of retirement are swirling around Victory X.

This change could go either way. APG adds more slaying power to the team but now nobody on the roster is especially objective focused. If the squad can compensate for this by over-slaying and having the other players adapt, then this could help LG. If not, Luminosity could slip back down the ladder to join Ronin and Str8 Rippin. Victory X and Ninja also were a proven duo, so chemistry and play-style clashes could also come back to bite LG.

How do you feel about these changes? What teams do you think will improve? Which will worsen? Be sure to share your opinions!

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Header image by ESL Halo.

Str8 Rippin look to tear through the competition at CWL Anaheim

A few days ago, Str8 Rippin made the announcement that they have acquired a Call of Duty team. This was news that shocked many people in the esports world.

Str8 Rippin is an esports organization that has been around since as early as 2006. When you think of Str8 Rippin, the main person that comes to mind would be Halo pro Tom “TSquared” Taylor. Even though he was one of their most successful players and is closely associated with the org, he did not create it. He does, however, continue to be a major part in the management of things to this day. Str8 Rippin is currently being managed by Tom with the help of Everett “Small” Coleman, and Lalo aka “Muggsy”. This org has been making noise in the competitive Halo scene for years, and now they are expanding into Call of Duty.

Str8 Rippin’s Call of Duty Roster

The biggest part of this whole deal is the acquisition of Jeremy “StuDyy” Astacio from Evil Geniuses. After the first stage of the Global Pro League, Evil Geniuses made a roster change which caused StuDyy to lose his spot on the team. This meant he was up for grabs by any other org that would be willing to pick him up. Str8 Rippin hopped on it very quickly and acquired him.

Having a veteran like StuDyy on your team is a great way to make your debut into the Call of Duty competitive scene. His competitive resume is quite impressive.

Along with StuDyy comes an impressive roster to back him up. Ricky Stacy aka “Ricky” has played for both OpTiC Gaming and OpTiC Nation as well as Cloud9 and other major orgs. He has numerous top four finishes on his resume. Jonathan “SinfuL” Baez also spent some time on OpTiC Nation as well as teams such as Echo Fox, Strictly Business, and vVv Gaming. Meanwhile, Brandon “Dashy” Otell is one of the hottest up and coming amateur players trying to make his big break.

CWL Anaheim

Over the years, Anaheim has been home to some of the largest Call of Duty events. The crowds come in masses to watch their favorite teams compete.

This event will be an “open” tournament, meaning anyone who pays for a team pass will be able to fight their way through the open tournament brackets for a chance to duke it out with the pros later on in the tournament. Since Str8 Rippin did not qualify for pool play, they will be forced to enter as an amateur team and play their way through the open brackets to make it there. With a strong roster, Str8 Rippin is one team expected to make a big run.

CWL Anaheim takes place this weekend at the Anaheim Convention Center with a total prize pool of $200,000. Look for Str8 Rippin to come out and show the world that they are here to tear up the competition. How well do you think they will do this weekend?


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Images courtesy of Str8 Rippin

E3 press conferences buzzword: Esports

The E3 press conferences usually have buzzwords that are marketable and present images of a bigger, brighter future with their product. This year’s term is “esports” and developers are using it at length to try and attract this new burgeoning industry.

In the first three days of E3, EA, Microsoft, and even Bethesda have used the term. Esports is no longer the misfit child that didn’t have a place at the grownups table. Esports is now slowly moving up publisher’s radar and will now be used as a marketing tool to sell and sustain their games. It’s creating a scenario where players almost have too many options when it comes to competitive gaming.

EA

Let’s start with EA, who’s making a clear push to make their EA Sports titles relevant in the esports landscape. The popularity of FIFA with a more attention focused on the competitive side could be the next big thing in esports. Games like Madden and FIFA, that already have a dedicated player base, will now give players even more reasons to play.

Photo courtesy of YouTube.com/IGN

On top of the preexisting Madden Bowl, EA Sports has green lit the FIFA world championships with a rather large prize pool. With the commercial success of the EA Sports franchises, it’s the obvious next step in the evolution of their brand and games.  It’s okay to be skeptical about sports games becoming major players in esports, but it’s nearly impossible to deny the potential.

Microsoft

Microsoft didn’t make the competitive side of their games the main selling point at their E3 press conference. It was more centered around the announcement of their next generation console, Xbox One X. This didn’t stop individual developers from pushing the esports side of their product.

Forza Motorsports lead developer spoke about the company’s desire to jump into the esports marketplace. The driving game genre has barely dipped into the esports pool. The Forza team is realizing that jumping into the game now could be extremely beneficial and profitable venture. They repeated the phrase “esports” on IGN’s Live post-show at least over 10 times. Based off those interviews alone, it’s safe to say Forza, and Microsoft, have an eye on esports.

On top of Forza diving head first into esports, the introduction of the new Dragon Ball Z fighting game will undoubtedly bring a new wave of competitors to their console. Read more about the Dragon Ball Z game here.

Microsoft knows esports is a viable money maker and has dabbled in the space before.  It’s a matter of time before Microsoft makes it a priority. Expect more emphasis on esports from them in the future as the marketplace develops and solidifies itself.

Bethesda

Photo courtesy youtube.com/gamespot

Strangely enough, Bethesda made the largest waves regarding esports this weekend with the introduction of the Quake World Championships at Quakecon 2017. The annual convention centered around the Quake series will have more excitement and anticipation as players will compete to win a part of the $1,000,000 prize pool.

Quake, as Bethesda pointed out, was one of the forefathers of the esports scene. Alongside Counter-Strike, Quake pioneered the first-person shooter as a competitive game. The high skill ceiling in Quake allowed for players to separate themselves from the pack. It also made the barrier of entry higher for Quake than other competitors, but that allowed for players at the highest level to fully explore the possibilities of the game’s engine.

Finally, we’ve returned to the beginning and Bethesda is going to make Quake their marquee esports title again. Longtime fans of esports and Quake will be happy to see the fast paced one vs. one shooter back at tournaments, but it will be competing with the likes of Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Overwatch. It will be hard to make a new impression on young gamers while catering to their old audience who have been calling for a new Quake game.

Regardless of the competition, Quake being back is good for esports. A developer willing to put another million dollars is even better. Developers are clearly not afraid of investing into competitive gaming any longer. It’s only Wednesday and esports have been mentioned in every press conference, check back to see what other games will be looking to break into esports throughout the week of E3.


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France’s Rogue Takes First Place at the Overwatch Takeover 2 Tournament Over eUnited

Between June 1 and 4, TakeTV, a German production company, hosted their second annual Overwatch tournament. Eight international teams competed in a round robin bracket to determine this year’s winner. Each match was played as a four-game set with the winning team moving onto the playoffs. The two strongest teams this year were the North American based, Rogue, hosting an all French roster, and the European team, eUnited.

The finals was a rematch between the two teams. Although Rogue had 3-0’d eUnited in the winners bracket semifinals, eUnited came in red hot, sweeping Cloud 9 in their previous match up.

SoOn picks of Vallutaja in a Tracer 1v1
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

On the first map, Nepal, both teams elected to go with the now popular “Dive Comp,” and would do so the rest of the match, featuring a Lucio, Winston, Tracer, Zenyatta, Soldier: 76 and D.Va or Genji. Early into the first round on Nepal: Village, Terrance “SoOn” Tarlier was able to out-duel Hendrik-William “Vallutaja” Kinks in a Tracer 1v1 to give the advantage to Rogue. Snowballing out of that pick, they were able to secure the point first. However, eUnited came back, getting an early pick on Winston and winning the next fight, and the next. They were able to hold the point until 90%, needing only one more fight to secure the first round victory. In the final fight of the round, eUnited’s Andrei “unFixed” Leonov went legendary, getting four straight kills securing the round win.

Boombox’s Zenyatta was on fire this match up, picking off multiple heroes
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

The second round on Nepal: Sanctum featured Isaac “Boombox” Charles’s impressive Zenyatta. His mechanics seemed to be getting picks out of nowhere, as he somehow picked off Dylan “aKm” Bignet’s Soldier: 76 multiple times. In what seemed like a lost round to Rogue after eUnited’s Harrison “Kruise” Pond got a quadruple kill with Dragonblade, SoOn’s Tracer was able to barely touch the point in the nick of time to trigger overtime for his team, allowing Rogue to follow up and clean up eUnited. Perhaps shaken from the teamfight, eUnited was unable to defeat Rogue in the next three team fights, giving the round over to Rogue in a stunning fashion.

On Nepal: Shrine, Rogue seemed to obtain full control. With lack of communication and coherence, eUnited lost precious time as they staggered their deaths, meaning that they had to wait longer to push onto the point. Luckily they were bailed out as no one on Rogue was able to stop uNFixed, who was able to acquire five eliminations and the point for his team. Unluckily, in the ensuing fight where eUnited had no support ultimates, Vallutaja got picked by NiCo, leaving eUnited in a disadvantaged 5v6. However, they were bailed out by Boombox, as he was able to out-duel Nicolas “NiCo” Moret’s Genji Dragonblade and secure the fight for eUnited. However, Rogue was not to be denied as they used their superior ult advantage to secure the round win.

Leading 2:1, Rogue needed one more win to secure their first victory over eUnited. Returning to Nepal: Village, Rogue knew they had to do something different as they had lost the first time the two teams met up on this map. Instead of playing defensive when they had gotten the point, Rogue pushed onto eUnited in the final team fight, causing Kruise to waste his D.Va’s Self-Destruct. Without self-destruct available, Rogue focused D.Va down, allowing aKm to clear the field with Solder: 76’s Tactical Visor. With that victory, Rogue looks poised to become victors and takes the lead against eUnited, 1:0.

On Route 66, the next map, Rogue tried to play an aggressive strategy on defense, playing near the cart in boxcars. Unfortunately, their plan was foiled when they were spotted by Hanzo’s Sonic Arrow. Boombox was able to show off his impressive Zenyatta mechanics again, out dueling NiCo’s Dragonblade, again. In a last ditch effort to stop the stampeding eUnited team, Jean-Louis “KnOxXx” Boyer switched to Reinhardt. Almost immediately after, he was able to pin an ulting Genji in midair. However, eUnited quickly responded with their own counter-pick, with uNFixed switching to Sombra. With Sombra’s ultimate, Knox’s shield was no more and Rogue was easily cleaned up, and eUnited was able to push to the end with 41 seconds remaining.

Boombox holds off NiCo’s Dragonblade
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

While eUnited’s attack was impressive, Rogue began on what seemed like a stellar push, never giving a chance for eUnited to fight back. NiCo was able to grab a triple kill with his Dragonblade in the second phase of Route: 66, and they reached the second checkpoint with four and half minutes to go. Rogue’s push slowed down in the third point as they were unable to obtain the picks they needed. But when SoOn was able to pick off Boombox with a Tracer Pulse Bomb, Rogue went all-in. Knox was able stop Kruise’s Dragonblade with a splendid Earthshatter and Rogue wiped eUnited, finishing off Route: 66 three seconds slower than eUnited.

Rogue was given one minute to push the cart against eUnited. With both teams unable to stop the other’s attack on the first point, Rogue seemed to be in very good shape. However, Boombox’s Ana denied Nico’s Genji some very necessary healing with an anti-grenade and died shortly after. Benjamin “uNKOE” Chevasson’s Zenyatta quickly followed suit, dying to eUnited’s Genji. With only 58.78 meters pushed on the cart, eUnited was in very good shape to take the second map over Rogue. However, their extra three seconds did not help them, as SoOn’s Tracer got an early pick on to eUnited’s Zenyatta. Needing a fast reset, eUnited rushed onto the cart into Overtime, but were unable to kill anyone, giving the second map to Rogue.

Following the second map, Rogue lead 2:0. Was eUnited going to get 3:0’d again? The third map, Hanamura, was Rogue’s first chance to become champions. eUnited was first up to attack. Boombox, who was on-fire the entire series, was able to take down three people and secure the first capturepoint on Hanamura. Quickly going off of their momentum, eUnited fast pushed point B on Hanamura, initiating with Thomas “Morte” Kerbusch’s Sound Barrier and Kruise’s Dragonblade. They were then backed up with Boombox’s Transcendence once Sound Barrier was depleted. However, they were only able to get two picks before NiCo used his Dragonblade to start Rogue’s counter attack. Using their short spawns to their advantage, Rogue only allowed one tick to be captured in that team fight. eUnited’s second push was more successful. eUnited traded one for one, that one pick was crucial to eUnited, as now Michaël “Winz” Bignet was unable to obtain and use Zenyatta’s Transcendence. Without Transcendence, eUnited cleaned up Rogue, taking the round with almost four minutes remaining.

Rogue answered with their own fast push, quickly taking point A. Although Vallutaja was able to land very nice double kill with Tracer’s pulse bomb, eUnited could do nothing but stall for the next two minutes on point B. Eager to defeat eUnited, Rogue quickly ended the second round, taking it with more than five minutes remaining, one minute faster than their opponent.

A nanoboosted Knox fights off two eUnited players
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

It was now eUnited’s turn to attack in round 3. By diverting uNKOE’s attention away from healing NiCo’s Genji, eUnited took their advantage and quickly took point A. On point B, both Knox and Normunds “Sharyk” Faterins zoned off each other’s Soldier 76’s Tactical Visors, rendering those ultimates useless. However, Sharyk was not only able to zone off the opposing Solder 76, but he was able to kill both of Rogue’s DPS, giving the advantage to eUnited, and they were able to capture point B before Rogue was given the chance to stall with one minute and 41 seconds remaining.

In round 4, Rogue had little trouble taking the first point again as SoOn was able to participate in five kills. As Rogue headed toward point B, eUnited needed to hold Rogue off to stay alive in the competition. It did not look good for eUnited when Kruise’s nanoblade was unable to get any kills due to uNKOE’s Transcendence. Shortly after, Rogue’s Winz pushed the fight forward with sound barrier and soon after, NiCo quickly obtained two Dragonblade kills while SoOn took another with a pulse bomb. However, it was not enough as eUnited was somehow able to hold, with Boombox barely killing NiCo before dying. After that teamfight, Rogue seemed lost. When they were able to pick off Sharyk in a later teamfight, Rogue’s Morte tried to preemptively use Transcendence to give them an edge over eUnited. However, they were unable to get any picks while Morte used his ultimate, and that lead to nothing stopping Kruise’s Dragonblade, in which he sliced and diced Rogue. eUnited was then able to hold off Rogue to take map three, handing Rogue their first loss in the entire tournament.

With the score 2:1, eUnited was hanging onto a thread heading into the fourth map, Numbani. They were, however, holding the momentum and they took the first point swiftly over Rogue in the first round. Following some missteps on the Rogue side, eUnited was able to also take the second point when aKm accidentally killed himself with a rocket when Sharyk jumped into him. Right when it seemed that eUnited couldn’t be stopped, Rogue regained their composure and won the next fight after SoOn picked off Boombox with a pulse bomb. Rogue needed to hold of eUnited for over five minutes to stop them from completing the map. Even for Rogue, it was no easy task. However, that one teamfight that they won was crucial, was eUnited was unable to regroup, getting picked one after the other. At one point, eUnited had to retreat to their spawn as Rogue just kept building their ultimates killing them one after the other. Even with such good defense from Rogue, five minutes seemed too long, as eUnited was finally able to get a good push in as uNFixed was able to finish off three. Nearly wiped, Rogue was again in a tight spot. uNKOE was forced to burn Transcendence to stall for his team as eUnited was only one meter away from the finish line. The last-ditch effort somehow worked, as the Zenyatta ultimate stalled long enough for aKm to get Soldier 76’s ultimate and force eUnited to back off. Rogue was then able to stop their opponent the following fight, somehow holding eUnited from full pushing Numbani.

Rogue and eUnited fight near mid by the buses on Numbani
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

Following the exciting round 1, eUnited was again in a make it or break it situation, needing to stop Rogue from getting to the finish line. Unlike Rogue, they were able to hold point A very nicely following a very aggressive defense strategy, surprising Rogue by the bus at mid. eUnited then backed off and played on site, again wiping Rogue with impressive play all around. eUnited continued their defense winning every single fight decisively. Rogue somehow found themselves with only one push remaining, hoping to finish eUnited right here. eUnited, trying to full hold Rogue and keep their hopes alive by forcing the match to go to a fifth and final game. With such high stakes on the line, eUnited attempted a pre emptive attack onto Rogue, much like their first fight of the round. However, this time Rogue was prepared and the quickly took care of Kruise. With no more Genji, eUnited had no hope of defending the first point anymore, and Rogue finally took point A with less than a minute remaining. With the notoriously hard defense on point 2, Rogue demolished eUnited with aKm’s tactical visor, taking a quintuple kill in the process. eUnited now had to hold Rogue for two and a half minutes to stay alive in this match. uNFixed pulled through in the next team fight, flanking from behind enemy lines and picking off two Rogue members and a team wipe with one minute remaining in the game. After a short reset, eUnited planted themselves on the high ground, trying an ambush on Rogue. However, uNKOE pulled off an amazing Zenyatta right click to kill Boombox, who had been doing such things all match long. Trying to salvage the situation, Kruise dragonblades, killing Morte. aKm responds with his own ultimate, shutting down Kruise’s Genji and Valujallah’s Tracer. After that fight, Rogue had victory in their sights. In the final stretch, Knox was itching for a good Earthshatter.

Knox lands a perfectly timed Earthshatter onto eUnited
Courtesy of Overwatch TakeOver 2

Once he saw Sharyk place bubble, he know that no one could stop his ultimate. Timing his ultimate beautifully, he is able to land Earthshatter on both Morte and Kruise, killing them. However, it was not over yet as Vallujalah quickly responds with his own double kill, with a perfect pulse bomb onto SoOn and aKm. What happens next is a cluster of ultimates and chaos. But, unfortunately for eUnited, no one on their team was able to contest the point as Rogue took the fourth and final map, declaring themselves as victors of the Overwatch TakeOver 2 tournament, winning themselves a $25,000 first place grand prize.

Rogue proves to the world why they are considered one of the top teams currently in Overwatch, as they only lose one map in the entire playoffs. But eUnited too, shows that they are not to be messed with, as they were the clear second place team after sweeping Cloud 9, and earning themselves a nice $12,500 for their performance. The finals was an exciting and well fought match from both teams and lived up to what viewers could hope for.

 

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