Super Regionals

Super Regionals: The NA favourites

Super Regionals are right around the corner. While normally Super Regionals is the showpiece event of a Smite Split, in the Fall Split it sort of becomes a Super Gauntlet. The big prize at Super Regionals is not winning it but qualifying for SWC. Honestly I don’t think there is a NA team out there who wouldn’t take the deal right now for a SWC spot. It’s where the biggest prize pools and by far the most prestige is.

With that being said the strongest contenders for SWC from NA are eUnited, SpaceStationGaming, Luminosity and Trifecta. However, it is going to be hard for more than two of those to qualify. This is because after the Regional Semi-Finals it is going to go to cross region group play, of which only two of the six teams will qualify. We already know NRG, the back to back world champions, are going to be in that as well as two from Dignitas, Obey, Rival and Elevate. With how the regions have matched up against each other this Season I’d say we are most likely going to see four EU teams at SWC. This just puts added pressure on the B05 they will play against their own region.

Super Regionals

Image courtesy of lol.gamepedia.com

 

eUnited

eUnited have to be one of the favourites to qualify from NA. They have been on a tear this Split. With the recent losses of Alexander ‘Khaos’ Greenstein and what many viewed as the teams figurehead in Louis-Philippe ‘PainDeViande’ Geoffrion, it is a shock to many how well they performed this Split. When you consider that these were two of the core players that took them to a second place spot at SWC, their current form is all the more impressive.

Ben ‘Benji’ Mckinzey has looked phenomenal for eUnited this Split and with the current importance of the Solo side of the map, this has created a great platform for eUnited in their games. This has also helped Lucas ‘Screammmmm’ Spracklin perform. He has always been considered a very talented player, but he was often seen as inconsistent, gracefully falling behind on occasion. This Split has been a different story though, as eUnited’s results will tell you he has been consistently top level.

Luminosity

Luminosity this entire season have been around the top end of the NA SPL. They are a talented roster from ADC to solo lane, but where I think their biggest strength will come from is the duo lane. The experience that John ‘Barracuda’ Salter and Rosario ‘Jeffhindla’ Vilardi have is matched by few in the SPL. They have been competing since the days of weekly’s and are both SWC Champions. What is more incredible though is that if you include Launch Tournament, Barracuda has never placed lower than third in the four World Championships we have had. Jeff is only missing the Launch Tournament placing.

If anyone understands what it’s like to play in a pressure series when it’s all on the line, it is these two very talented veterans of the Smite competitive scene. Overall Luminosity is a very solid team which I expect to do well at Super Regionals.

SpaceStationGaming

SSG is one of those teams that is absolutely stacked full of talent, but has never quite fulfilled everyone’s expectations.

The big talking point this Split was about the return of Steven ‘Zapman’ Zapas to the SPL. The verdict I think most people have reached is that although a bit of ring rust showed at the beginning, he has been good, but not great. The problem when it comes to Zapman is that because he is such a favourite among the community and has this reputation as the swashbuckling ADC, unless he is getting penta’s left, right and centre there is always a slight pang of disappointment. He is a player who is known to thrive off high pressure and LAN environments though.

Super Regionals

Image courtesy of smite.esportswiki.com

A big part of their season, and something when we look back will be focused more heavily on, is the jungle role. Should Alexander ‘Homiefe’ D’Souza be the jungler instead of Andrew ‘Andinster’ Woodward? In all honesty I don’t know, but for me probably not. There is every possibility I’ve looked at the past through rose-tinted glasses but before there was Kennet ‘Adapting’ Ross there was Andinster.

When Andinster was a jungler, he was either the undisputed best player in the world or very close. When Adapting was viewed as just unplayable, Andinster for most peoples’ money took second or third place in their power rankings. Homiefe is undoubtedly one of the stronger junglers in the NA scene, and Andister, particularly this Split, has put in some great performances from the mid lane. Both of them playing well in their respective roles isn’t the question here. Whether it is the most efficient use of resources is the real question.

While he has been great this Split from the Mid I don’t think many people are putting Andinster as one of the best mids, never mind players in the world at the moment. The same can be said about Homiefe in the jungle. Admittedly part of this may be from just how far behind NA has fallen this season, and as I said earlier it may be my rose-tinted glasses; but I don’t think Andinster in the mid lane has been the most efficient use of SSG’s resources.

Conclusion

Overall as I said at the beginning of the article, I think for NA teams to qualify for SWC, they are going to have to do it in the semi-finals. If I were putting my money on results it would be that eUnited are going to beat Trifecta. Then Luminosity are going to beat SSG, although that will be a close series and it could go either way. But I am 60-40 on LG’s side.

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Songs of praise for 2017’s Call of Duty World League Championship

The culmination of every Call of Duty season is the World League Championship and this year was no different. It’s no secret that Infinite Warfare has been, let’s say, disappointing but I believe this championship to be one of the most memorable of all time in spite of that. In this article, I’ll pick out a few of the things that made this Worlds a pleasure for both competitors and fans alike.

A multitude of teams

Despite OpTic Gaming going into the tournament as favorites, it wasn’t as clear cut as previous years. Due to IW’s erratic nature, any of EnVyUs, eUnited, Splyce or Luminosity could have won the event on their day.

OpTic had to beat Anaheim champions Luminosity to get to the final. [Source: MLG]

When these teams clashed they produced amazing series worth re-watching while we wait for WWII: OpTic narrowly beating Splyce to defeat the seventh place meme, EnVy’s ridiculous comeback against eUnited and EnVy sending OpTic to the lower bracket, to name a few. Any times these teams had to face off against one another you could feel the tension. After EnVy forced OpTic to play against Luminosity, I’m sure Green Wall fans were worried their team would fall short again.

You even had Rise Nation and FaZe Clan making last ditch efforts to save their dismal seasons. At one point I thought a Team Revenge style run was on the cards. It made the majority of series thrilling to watch.

A beautiful venue

Last year was the first time Call of Duty had used an arena as a venue. At the time we were all in awe at how CoD could fill such a venue, but, looking back, that stage was nowhere near as beautiful as the Amway Centre.

At Call of Duty XP, the players were in towering booths away from the crowd meaning the fans couldn’t as easily see or hear the players. This, in turn, meant that fans were less likely to get hyped about huge plays and players less likely to feed off of the crowd’s energy. This year we got the open stage we are used to seeing, filled with an array of lights to make sure all eyes stayed focused on the CoD at hand.

From the stream, it also looked like the crowd was more tightly packed in this time. The upper rank and the floor looked pretty close, making it easier for quieter fans to get involved with the chanting when it’s going on all around them.  My final point is that the lesser amount of large venues this year made the fact that it was being held in this huge stadium all the more exciting.

Multi-stream, multi-stage

MLG’s decision to run four streams in the group stage on all of MLG.tv, Twitch and YouTube is something to be proud of. While there may have been a few hiccups with the audio and flickering video, for the most part it was solid.

The schedule was easy enough to follow using the graphic on the World League Twitter and meant that the tournament could be run with the best format with all the players having the same downtime between games. This is something other esports such as Counter-Strike and League of Legends have been ridiculed for. Maybe it’s time they took a leaf out of Call of Duty’s book.

Another surprise was the decision to give the Bravo stream its own stage, directly below the main one. This is the first time I’ve seen this happen in esports and I would say it was successful. Fans could enjoy the juiciest matches’ full screen and then watch the Bravo stream in-between the Alpha games. There were times when the loser of the game on the main stage would play the winner of the team on the lower stage, making it all the more exciting for fans as they could see both games as they were unfolding.

Four teams played simultaneously at the World Championship. [Source: Reddit u/theesportstv]

To the fans

And finally, thanks to the fans for showing up and supporting what they love. All the chanting, funny signs and talking down caster’s microphones only made the stream more entertaining for us stuck at home watching from our bedrooms. It’s amazing that even with such a lackluster title this year everyone made the effort to support the biggest event of the year. Hopefully, it’s a sign of even better things to come when we ditch the jetpacks in November.


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Overwatch Contenders week 5: A tale of two finals

Europe

eUnited was favored to win the tournament since June. Their competition in the bracket never really matched up, no matter what or when the match happened. eUnited showed top tier gameplay, coupled with outstanding performances, putting them ahead of the rest of the teams within the European bracket. Their staunchest opponent only reared their ugly head in the final match, an ironic twist of fate. 123, the culmination of unsponsored talent, rose to the occasion. It wasn’t Misfits, or Ninjas in Pyjamas, or even Laser Kittenz – it was a living mirror reflection of eUnited’s team-first mentality.

Dota 2 Power Rankings Team Liquid

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

The ensuing final match was like watching a fighter shadowbox. eUnited did what 123 did, they dove at the problem and let the rest shake out. eUnited just had more firepower than 123, with players like Kruise out-shining Snillo and Mistakes. Vallutaja (pronounced Vallutaya) wasn’t forced to carry heavily like his counterpart Mistakes on Tracer. The D.Va play from uNFixed and Kodak was not comparable. uNFIxed planted himself in front of Snillo and absorbed every bullet, rocket and mean look he had. Kodak had less impact simply because Kruise on Genji never bothered to deal with the D.Va unless he had to.

The score of four to one does not reflect what exactly happened in this match. The key difference between eUnited and 123 was flexibility and firepower. Kruise and Boombox (on Zenyatta) were better than their counterparts. eUnited compensated their deficiencies by plugging their better players into situations where they flourish. 123 could only do what they knew and practiced, never deviating, never wavering, less the house collapse.

North America

While undoubtedly the favorites to win it all, Immortals were not the talk of the tournament. Yes, they won, beating Liquid handedly in a four to one match where Liquid looked hard press to attempt any strategy without a strong counter. But the talk of the tournament was a former sponsored team, now freelance. It was a contenders storyline made in heaven with FNRGFE showing the grit to battle their way in and around every situation. They fell short, like any sad film where the real hero never sees the finish line. They did, however, make it into Season One, and if any indication is true, we’ll be seeing more out of them in the coming months.

Immortals, on the other hand, looked as poised as ever to not just secure the win but annihilate the competition. Whether tired from the previous down to the wire match or overwhelmed, Liquid looked lost. Their one shining win was beating Immortals on Gibraltar, which very well could have been the start of a streak. It was more a bump on the Immortals pathway towards the finale. It’s hard to describe just what exactly makes them better than Liquid. Their DPS with GrimReality and Agilities looked ready to pick and play any hero to guarantee a win. They not only wanted to win, they looked like they wanted to prove something.

One thread to reflect on is that Immortals won the second day of open bracket back in June. They lost to Arc6 (Formerly Yikes!) in a two to nothing rout and later were held to their only draw against them in groups. Now they’re kings of the tournament and Arc6 will be forced to drag themselves through yet another bracket just to qualify. They improved and evolved their games week in and week out against. The only key to beating them lay entirely on knowing to exploit their sometimes rocky team fights. Liquid could not capitalize on those and went down round after round afterward.


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Three things the Summer Split taught us about the SPL

The early game meta is here to stay

It looks like Season 4 of Smite will be defined by the early game meta. It has persisted through the first two Splits of the season and with only one more split to go it is not likely to change. However, this should be qualified, by the fact that it is not quite as pronounced as it was in the Spring Split. Games in the SPL are going much longer, something Mike ‘PolarBearMike’ Heiss pointed out in a recent tweet.

There are two reasons it is here to stay. Firstly, the map, it caters itself to this early game aggression. PBM has a great video on his YouTube explaining this from the perspective of an SPL player.

One of the reasons PBM gives for this is that, the core of the map has been around for a very long time. As such, the players have gotten much better at exploiting the map as they have gotten better and due to playing on the same core for so long.

This leads to the other reason why the early game meta is dominating at the moment. Players and teams improved, becoming better at holding onto leads. As such playing compositions which give you a lead early on are more powerful as SPL teams capitalise on leads much better than before. It is far harder to hold out for 40 minutes and have Kali win you the game like a famous game from Thomas ‘Repikas’ Skallebaek. Obviously the easiest way for Hi-Rez to counteract this is still through map changes.

NRG are still not the force they once were

This is one that a lot of people may be confused about, as NRG were not the dominating team seen in previous seasons last Split. NRG’s history of dominance in not just Europe but the entirety of the Smite scene means one split is not enough to say their era of dominance is over, more data is needed.

Last Split Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone spoke about how at least at the start of the season, NRG were taking things a bit easier to avoid burning out. This was often suggested as a reason why NRG were not performing to their usual standards. This is not to say NRG are performing badly or aren’t still a great team. It is just NRG used to be head and shoulders above the rest of the competitive Smite scene, setting records we are unlikely to see matched. This is the visual representation of NRG’s performance in Season 3.

View post on imgur.com

People suggested that taking their foot off the pedal meant they were slow to catch up to meta or maybe even just a bit rusty. Those excuses are no longer viable. This is unless perhaps burn out has occurred within the ranks of NRG, or some players just aren’t enjoying the game right now. This is something iRaffer admitted too, in what has become an infamous Reddit post about Sunder. Maybe with all the success and the recent complaints about the Smite meta, it has been harder to get as motivated. Something which could very much change going into the Fall Split, as that is the Split leading into SWC. If getting the three-peat and another chance for cash doesn’t motivate them, I’d be very surprised.

Another factor is that the competition is far better this year. It is not as if NRG are playing badly but the new-look Obey is an incredibly strong team, while Dignitas is looking stronger than the old Orbit team. Throughout the league, especially in Europe there are a lot of really high quality teams.

However, saying all this, there is still a not so small part of me that expects iRaffer to lift the golden hammer again this year. I don’t know if it’s because my mind now sees it as routine, or i’m just too nostalgic for my own good, but I have a sneaking suspicion the three-peat is on.

The competition is real!

This is something that has featured in other parts of this article, but deserves its own segment. The competition levels in the SPL have just risen and risen throughout Season 4. While at the end of the Spring Split the gulf between NA and Europe was exposed, there is hope that over this Split that gap will shrink. I think it is still likely that Europe are going to dominate, though hopefully not as much.

Within the regions though the competition is fierce. I think one thing that illustrates this point quite nicely is when you look at 6th place in both regions. Team Allegiance and Elevate are not bad teams, in fact they are good teams who are getting better. This season is the only season in Smite where we would have teams of that caliber so far down the standings.

Look at the top of NA as well, last split Luminosity looked definitively like the best team in the region. This split they just squeezed into the final LAN spot, one point ahead of eUnited in 4th and only two points ahead of Noble in 5th. Noble was a team everyone was writing off at the beginning of the split.

In Europe, the region that got an extra spot to Dreamhack, we had 2nd-4th being fought over up until the last day of competition. Things are really heating up heading into World’s next split. I genuinely think in Europe that the top five teams will all be going into next split thinking they have a realistic chance at being SWC champs.

Image courtesy of tentonhammer.com

 

Top Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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OWL Contenders Week 5: Finals preview

The finality of finals finally. We made it. Back to the bracket (no more group stages!), eyes on the prize, $25,000 to first place plus an invitation to Season One of Contenders, $10,000 to second and so on. But we don’t know who’s going to be featured on the weekend streams and there are only three matches to be shown nightly. The catch? They’ll be the best teams in those games so it’ll be a good series regardless. Capping it off, every match is a best of five which gives teams a lot more time to feel each other out.

Who’s ready?!

Europe Predictions

Eight teams are ready to annihilate one another for the top spot. Forged in the fire of groups, these eight are eUnited, Movistar Riders, Singulairty, Laser Kittenz, 123, Rest in Pyjamas (NiP), Misfits and Bazooka Puppiez.

eUnited vs Movistar Riders and 123 vs Rest in Pyjamas would be my two must see matches. eUnited has been a force of nature within the European portion of the tournament but Movistar Riders has been resilient, to say the least. Their records combined are nearly identical in groups with only Movistars sporting a loss. Add in that they supplemented their team with Destro and replaced Finnsi, and this would be a show match for sure. At the same time, eUnited losing seems farfetched but they had a rather easy group stage.

eUnited beats Movistar but it will go the distance. Five matches played out to the tune a jumping Winston slamming carts, points, backlines, jams, hoops. Counting out Logix, Cwoosh and Destro for Movistar is harsh but seeing Vallutaja’s Tracer chew up teams match after match begs to temper such enthusiasm.

As for the 123 vs Rest in Pyjamas match, it may be upset city. Pyjamas have been on the major stage a long time. High-risk games where mistakes cost matches, they’ve shown their composure. Remember they were a pro-team until a week ago. They gutted out their matches and fought through groups despite the possible blow to their confidence. The problem is that 123 makes matches look as easy as their name. They play aggressive but have their hand on the shifter, knowing when to reverse when necessary. In the matches that were streamed they showed incredible poise in group fights, a mastery of good dive mechanics. The match may go in 123’s favor but Pyjamas likely wins out in a best of five. For 123 to win out over Pyjamas it will hinge on if Pyjamas runs out of steam. They went the distance getting into the final bracket but maintaining such a push? That’ll be harder than getting there. Sprinting is difficult but there’s a reason tournaments can be called marathons. Well managed tempo for Pyjamas and stifling 123’s Snillo and Mistakes will be the keys to the match.

Laser Kittenz takes out Singularity in a roll because they want to rematch with Misfits. Destiny and magnets are the two strongest forces in the universe and that will win out eventually. Singularity is an amazing team and their matches deserve a real look into.

Misfits handles Bazooka Puppiez and this one is not going to be close by any means. Puppiez is staring down the barrel of Misfits who only want to fight Laser Kittens to the death. Puppiez tied eUnited but ultimately had to make a tiebreaker to win out over Team expert.

That leaves us with eUnited vs Laser Kittens and 123 vs Misfits. That’ll be a hell of a lot of good matches till the end of the evening for the Euro crowd. Everyone gets to see eUnited (with Boombox playing out of his mind hopefully) going ham against the rest of the bracket. 123 surprising the world with their out of the woodwork storyline. I’m sure deep down a rematch between Misfits vs Laser Kittens would arguably be the best possible outcome for their fanbases.

North America Predictions

(Quietly hopes the matches don’t go late. Yep, WOOO!)

Half the teams are breathing a silent relieving sigh. Immortals aren’t in their bracket. FaZe will likely fall to Immortals in a rout but discounting ShaDowBurn, the best Genji in the tournament, seems cruel. FaZe clutched out wins in a ridiculous stacked group. The thing is that meta feels a bit tilted after the Reaper buff and Sombra has been rearing her head in the matches, especially on defensive holds. If FaZe play smart they may take a match off Immortals but their chances are slim.

In the meantime, LG Evil with (Big) Jake who’s Soldier is the stuff of true fear, is matched against Kungarna. You’ll remember Kungarna for robbing every one of their good night’s rest and flipping the table against Cloud9 in the wee hours of a Monday morning street fight. Are upsets on the horizon for Kungarna? LG Evil is an amazing team and deserves their credit but Kungarna showed they talk smack and back it up, which means they deserve the respect as well.

I’d take FNRGFE over Renegades simply over the fact that they survived a group of death for two weeks. They lost three games in a group with Immortals who were nearly perfect. They beat Arc 6 (Yikes) so handily Twitch might have to submit the VOD to the police for abuse. Renegades post a similar record as Immortals but lack the same fatalistic feeling. This would be the match of the day for sure with upsets as a high serving.

Team Liquid vs Envision may not look like much on paper and to be fair, it may be the best match. These two teams will take it to overtime in a battle but I feel Liquid got a pass. They’re not as great as their record and Envision’s isn’t much better in the scope of things. Their group performances look eerily the same, winning close to the same number of maps. The difference is that Envision dealt with LG Evil and Liquid dealt with FaZe who’s not in the same bracket as far as teams go. Liquid wins but it’ll be a coin flip.

That leaves the winners with Immortals, LG Evil (despite Kungarna putting up a hell of a fight), FNRGFE and Liquid. Immortals for LG Evil becomes a ridiculous topic of discussion which deserves an article better written than this author can produce. FNRGFE may well cruise into the finals and get routed but it falls essentially on their ability to beat Renegades and maintain momentum in the win.

Conclusion

This should make for a great weekend of European and North American Overwatch. The tournament thus far faced criticism for some of the wild things that have occurred but has shown tremendous potential to highlight the non-Korean scene. This may be in part to Alex “Gillfrost” Gill and the Carbon series he ran months prior that featured many of these teams. All the same, it’s about the games and the players more than anything. A tournament is just a marquee hanging over a bunch of people doing their best to be the best


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FaZe Clan and eUnited swap Clayster and Gunless

The pre-Global Pro League Stage Two rostermania was expected to be an entertaining one, but it turned out to be almost uneventful. However, one high-profile roster swap made the anticipation worth it.

FaZe Clan dropped team captain James “Clayster” Eubanks and swapped him out for Pierce “Gunless” Hillman. This was the first roster change for FaZe in over two years, leaving OpTic Gaming as the longest standing roster in competitive Call of Duty. Mindfreak would have that honor, but they played without Denholm “Denz” Taylor for Stage One of the Global Pro League before picking him up again. Clayster took Gunless’ place on eUnited.

In their announcement, FaZe called Gunless “Call of Duty’s fastest rising talent”, which is supported by the fact that Gunless’ resume was not very impressive before Infinite Warfare. This year, though, he managed to win CWL Atlanta with eUnited and was named MVP in that tournament.

Image: FaZe Clan

Gunless’ position with eUnited had been on the bench since the Stage One playoffs when eUnited placed 5th-6th and he decided to explore other options as a result.

“I brought this up to my organization that I had offers on the table and I wanted to explore them and I tried to come to a decision with them peacefully but they wouldn’t budge and wouldn’t allow me to leave for a better team that could benefit my career a lot,” he said in a Twitlonger post.

While he was not yet free to join another team, Gunless chose not to play with his eUnited teammates from that point on and did not play at CWL Anaheim.

Clayster joining eUnited was not entirely a surprise. After Stage One playoffs, where FaZe placed third, Clayster teamed with eUnited and they played under the alternative alias “Billy has no thumbs” for an MLG 2K series, and won. But later at CWL Anaheim, Clayster was still with FaZe and eUnited used Michael “Swarley” Carter as a substitute.

Neither FaZe nor eUnited had the tournament they wanted at CWL Anaheim. FaZe placed 13th-16th while eUnited finished 9th-12th, both severely lower than the teams had done in earlier LAN events. Both teams, however, have been on the brink of being the best in Infinite Warfare throughout the season and one of them may now be able to claim that title.

In a year where no team has consistently been a favorite to win, the roster swap between FaZe and eUnited is an effort to improve team chemistry before the home stretch of the Infinite Warfare season.

Stage Two of the Global Pro League starts on June 30th and concludes with playoffs at the end of July. On August 9th, the CWL Championship begins in Orlando, Florida.

How do you expect FaZe and eUnited to perform with their new rosters? Comment below!


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Image: eUnited Twitter

Ninjas in Pyjamas released, Cyclowns disband and Finnsi leaves Movistar Riders

Well that was incredibly pointed. As mentioned in our OWL takeaway, Blizzard has fallen flat on its face in terms of presentation. NiP’s announcement only lends more credit to the idea. If Blizzard hopes to run a successful league, they’re going about this in the wrong way. Right now CS:GO is getting more viewers, more money, and more players. More everything is good for a scene while Overwatch has quietly slipped farther in viewership.

In other news, Finnsi left the Spanish team of Movistar Riders with very little explanation. At the worst Google translation, it has something concerning discipline. Upon some digging into the Reddit threads, I was linked to this.  That is Logix talking about it at length. Personal issues are not uncommon with players in any sport and if the team suffers for that, there has to be comeuppance.

Besides NiP leaving the scene, Cyclowns disbanded hours after going down with two losses and a draw in Overwatch League. The team lasted five months. Two major players, Meowzassa, the main tank for them joined Laser Kittens in late May, and Boombox, who played Support, is on eUnited. While Meowzassa and Boombox were receiving offers, the remaining teammates did not. This reads that the five of them really wanted to stick together and play. That having been said, it leaves open the potential for the remaining players to fill some gaps in other teams immediately.

Player movement seems to be a lot more chaotic when the talent pool for a game is so vast. I still refer to the quote from my superior editor, Jared MacAdam, “a scene with more talent than teams”. The base sentiment, however, is that a league like this is in flux still. There are a lot of incredible players. The same cannot be said in terms of teams with available spots. It’s a buyers’ market and the easier a player is to get along with, the less of a problem it will be to pick them up for a team. The issue is they’re behind the eight ball to stay in line or they’ll be on the street in months. Finnsi will crop up again without a doubt and the rest of Cyclowns will likely find teams willing to pay them and give them a roster spot.

Call it luck that Cyclowns suddenly dissolves. With Finnsi gone, you can swap in anyone on Cyclowns and lose almost nothing. It is fantasy sports teams in real time with real players. There’s not even a commissioner saying you can’t do it either. In this case, Movistar played a match with former Cyclowns player Destro taking Finnsi’s spot. Is it a try out, a possible roster move?

I just wonder how this continues when Overwatch League is still mid-way through the season. At some point Blizzard has to ask themselves if starting a league when the entire scene has monumental shifts with teams forming and disbanding, players switching teams in mid-season is viable. A perceived lack of steadiness in North America and Europe and that leads to having questions about solvency for a league. Teams are questioning the game’s ability to remain within the public eye and be a pillar for their organization. One only has to look at APEX to get an idea of how a league keeps its teams and players in line, so why is Blizzard struggling? It’ll be something to watch in the future as Overwatch continues barreling forward toward an uncertain future. Especially now with a major team that influenced the meta suddenly being yanked out of contention.

More as this develops.


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Overwatch Contenders Week 3: Group stage round one takeaways

It’s remarkable how much a tournament can twist around in a week’s time. Here are a few points to mention concerning the Overwatch Contenders tournament as a spectator.

One: The lack of streams on matches is becoming abhorrent

In group stages, there are 16 very strong teams that should be all drawing in major viewership from their respective fans. We get to see eight games over two days. That’s a quarter of the number of games played in that time, and it’s not good enough, especially without a replay feature. No replay feature means people can’t go back and watch the replays themselves or even have a VOD or two to browse.

During the Saturday European games, eUnited, who crushed the competition last week, had no games on stream. None. The single best team of the bracket and of the groups gets no coverage whatsoever. This is a huge tournament. Put the big teams out there. Close matches between two strong teams yield the best results.

Two: The group format is confusing

This is going off Team Liquid’s page here. Here’s what I can gather: every win is a point, ties are nothing and losses lose a point. Ergo, a team that wins every match finishes with 12 points at maximum. So the closer you play the game, especially with a two-two tie, means you theoretically have averted damaging the chance to continue but have also done yourself no favors. This shorter gap means matches become more important and so on and so forth. Every match that ends in a tie creates more pressure to win the next one. So the emphasis is on wins overall first, followed by how many maps are won. Losses are losses and ties mean absolutely nothing happened. There, this is the format explained as best as one can without any explanation from Blizzard.

For people who’ve never seen a group stage, this is confusing, and for a tournament to go from brackets to groups, this is even more confusing. Somewhere Blizzard figured group stages are a good way to measure teams metrics and yet they did brackets first. They could have done pools and used that to weed out a lot of the teams and then gone to brackets. Evolution does it every year with over hundreds of people and it gets sorted out rather quickly. Whatever the case may be for the tournament thus far, changing styles only made it worse. When group stages are over, the tournament seems to go back to brackets. So why did they do this in the first place?

Three: The shadow of the news cycle

One group has a team that disbanded immediately following the day’s matches. Cyclowns, who a week prior showed incredible poise and play under pressure, folded. What happens next week? They’re still in the groups, so do they just give the whole group a free point now by forfeiting? There are no rules in the tournament document I’ve found that has any info for this. To make matters even worse is the Defran suspension on Selfless which forced a switch and sub-in with Carpe. Carpe had a single day to practice with Selfless who also switched Kresnick for Midnight (a D.Va Main) and finished the night going for two losses and one win. The win was against FaZe clan which is considered an upset until you look at the group performance. The Carpe and Midnight storyline would’ve been a lot bigger if Blizzard had streamed more matches during the day.

Four: Matches that were streamed were not that good

Teams getting demolished on a stream is not fun to watch. Immortals, the absolute favorites to win this, only lost a single map the entire time. Sure great play and amazing teamwork is something to study and revere. It doesn’t make for good viewing, however. Another example is the Selfless/FaZe match which essentially turned into a real match. FaZe pulled a reverse sweep on Oasis that started entirely off of ShadowBurn getting a reflect kill off a McCree Deadeye. The whole match swung and suddenly everyone comes alive. The rest of the series becomes tense as a result. That wasn’t always the case in streamed matches over the weekend.

Final thoughts

Those are some serious gripes but I won’t lie that the overall production quality was solid. The casters have found some serious chemistry and it’s working great now. We have laughs coming out of them with good jokes and insight wrapped into a solid package. The observers are doing their absolute best to really work on their camera control. You see a lot of the action the moment before it happens and get a decent scope of who’s doing it. It’s a rough job trying to guess just who is going to be making the hard picks for people. This is their inaugural season and it’s not surprising they’re trying and testing out things as they go along. It does, however, start reflecting on the tournament as a whole when even the pro team’s players start dissing the tournament on Twitter before and after their matches though. If this does wish to continue for improvement, Blizzard needs to look into making a replay system for their matches. Valve and Riot have made it a requirement for these types of things and even Blizzard can’t make the excuse of no replay. Hearthstone and StarCraft 2 have it so why is such a key feature missing. Much like this tournament, it’s in development but it needs to hurry up and fast.


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“From Our Haus to Yours”

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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Overwatch League Contenders: European Weekend Recap

Never underestimate eUnited or Cyclowns. While playing semi off key, their dive comps both looked very well oiled and extremely dangerous.

European teams have a very strong base in Genji play. Sticky bomb kills going into a three kill was not uncommon but Dragonblades were accounting for most of the deaths in any match, sometimes nanoboosted. Both of these teams played each other off stream on Saturday, with eUnited winning two to one against Cyclowns. eUnited never dropped a match before or after that war with Cyclowns.

Cyclowns went on to crush the Sunday bracket, only getting a serious challenge from the next point. Both teams DPS are the stuff of nightmares and on full display throughout the Saturday and Sunday streams. Highly recommended viewing content for those looking to see great anticipation from Tracers or Genjis.

On Saturday, GamersOrigin lost to Bazooka Puppies but on Sunday stormed through the brackets, ultimately getting second place after losing to Cyclowns. Origin played out of their collective minds throughout Sunday, giving a lot of people the impression that they’re an up and coming team in the European arena. They’ve been around since the beginning of Overwatch. Their two longest tenured players are Hyp, who is captain as well as support, along with Noki, also support.

The casters for Europe are very entertaining. The rapport between the pairs of casters really shows. Erik Lonnquist and Christopher Mykles look to be working through a transition phase from League to Overwatch. You never got an odd vibe from anyone during this section of the tournament. Each pair of casters played off one another, through the blunders and word flubs you see a sense of appreciation for each others company. Blizzard’s picks to commentate are really impressive and give a sense of calm insight and emotional commentary without being too overbearing in either sense.

Things that could definitely use some improvement

The waits between matches almost kill any interest. Some matches take roughly 20 minutes to start, and that 20 minutes is enough to lose any focus one has. This will likely be fixed soon when the next round kicks off next weekend, though. All eight teams will have everything in order before the rounds begin to cut down on wait times. If they’re lacking content between the matches, that’s understandable.

Lack of coverage is another issue. We see a lot of matches scheduled but only half the matches streamed. It’s confusing when someone is looking forward to watching a team only to find out their match is not streamed. Four matches a night with 10 to 20 minutes between each match feels empty.

There’s not much else to gripe about really. The matches are all played online, so pauses are inevitably going to happen. Teams may be a bit late and it may take a bit of time to organize over 750 teams. Getting a controllable bracket can’t be easy and it speaks volumes that Blizzard got this tournament to function as well as it did and still get some coverage on the key matches.

Here’s looking forward to next week when the North American sweet 16 go into the four groups to battle for the top four spots. The round robins will hopefully be getting a lot more coverage than the four matches shown each day so far.


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