Team Allegiance: A Rising Force In NA

Spring Split Woes

Team Allegiance did not have the strongest of Spring Splits. They won five games, lost nine, and were the last team to be 2-0ed in a crazy run by Oxygen Supremacy in the Gauntlet. To put it simply, it was not the sort of split players of that caliber would be hoping for.

Team Allegiance has high caliber players, there should be no doubt of that. At the start of the split, the Allegiance roster looked like it had the potential to go far. They had rising stars such as Aleksandr ‘Oceans’ Brudnyi and veterans of the scene such as Kurt ‘Weak3n’ Schray and Jarod ‘Cyclonespin’ Nguyen. Not to forget Mike ‘PolarBearMike’ Heiss and Michael ‘Metyankey’ Fasciano. You have a group of players there who would not look out of place in pretty much any roster in the league. There also seemed to be a strong and vocal shot-calling component, having both Weak3n and PolarBearMike on the team.

The promise of the team did not materialize though throughout the Spring Split. The results were not there. Apart from eUnited, their performances against the top end of the league were not impressive. This led to PolarBearMike benching himself and while he did say there where other real world factors, he specifically notes that under-performing wasn’t the problem but “the way we handled it”.

It is worth noting at this point that Weak3n had already said early on in the split that the Spring Split didn’t mean much. The thrust of his argument was that the start of the season would be largely people adjusting to meta but most importantly teams would still be building synergy. He said this is the split where you would get a much better idea of the teams and how they are going to do throughout the rest of the season. Whatever you think of Weak3n (he is a very good player btw, despite what twitch chat has to say), you are undeniably wrong if you don’t think he has a very firm understanding of how the SPL works and how to build a successful team.

Summer Split Resurgence

Allegiance has looked great this split; they look like they are definitely a top three team in NA. There are a couple of reasons for this.

First, four out of their five players have had a full season to get synergy.

Second, Neil ‘Neirumah’ Mah seems like a very strong pickup. James ‘ViviaNx3’ Murphy didn’t really get a huge opportunity so cannot speak on his level, but the team seems to think Neirumah is an upgrade.

Another of the big reasons for their current upswing in form is their objective control. In a recent interview with TGH, Weak3n explained that NA was behind because EU was “experimenting” much more. The most obvious way you can see Allegiance experimenting is by how frequently they run the Isis in mid lane.

Image courtesy of smite.gamepedia.com

 

The Isis has worked incredibly well for them. She gives them great early pressure in mid. Early pressure in mid is vitally important, especially in this meta. She is also an incredible teamfighter. The spirit ball is great burst and CC and can set up great engages and peel.  The silence and protection shred is one of the most underrated CCs in Smite. Her ultimate is ridiculous, probably one of the best if not the best tools in the game to deal with hard engage. It creates a massive area which is just far too dangerous to stand in because at full charge is one of the highest damaging abilities in the game, as well as giving significant damage reduction and a burst heal meaning that not just does the floor become lava, that carry you were trying to burst down is now incredibly safe.

What the ult is famous for though, and what Allegiance are using it for extremely effectively, is objective control. Another thing that has been lauded as being behind the EU supremacy recently. Allegiance has been using the Isis ult just to take the Gold Fury on cooldown. An example of this is in their win against Luminosity in 30 minutes Allegiance had four Gold Furies and a Fire Giant to their name. This is while being down two kills, once again proving kills<objectives.

Another reason behind Allegiance’s great results this split is the dominance of the right side of the map. Weak3n and Cyclone are running games like the old AFK days. The perfect example of this is the set they just played against eUnited. There is, of course, the now infamous pick of Arachne for eUnited. However, the performance by Weak3n, in particular, was impressive. Afterall, you can only play what is put in front of you. This great objective control they now have with a dominance of the right side of the map is driving them to success this split.

Allegiance look like they could become a real force to be reckoned with this season. They have it all, talent, veteran leadership and importantly at the moment what seems like a willingness to adapt. There is also the fact that within in NA one of the best teams in Eager looks a lot weaker than last split. Not only have they lost the synergy they had developed over the previous seasons, the players they have got in seem to be of a lesser caliber.


Top Image Courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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Why MSI should transition to a gauntlet tournament

The 2017 Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) is a League of Legends tournament attended by 13 teams from 13 various regions. This year’s MSI consisted of three stages ultimately ending in a grand final between the best two teams. Taking place in Rio de Janeiro, this event took seeding based upon the past two years of Worlds and MSI performances to have a few teams automatically place into group stage (South Korea, China, and Europe) while the rest of the 10 teams battled it out through the play-in stage.

Group stage consists of a double round robin via best of one matches. The top four teams from this double round robin move on to the knockout stage which consists of best of five games with single elimination. It is this knockout stage that does not make the most sense for this international tournament.

The Gauntlet

SKT T1 Huni leaves the stage with team. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

The LCK currently runs a gauntlet-styled tournament that MSI should adopt. The first place team does not play until the final round, receiving a bye for their performance throughout the normal split. The playoffs consist of the third place team playing against the fourth place team, then the winner of that team plays the second place team, ultimately leaving one team to play against the first place team. This style of competition puts much more weight upon the group stages of the tournament, making each and every group stage game bring with it more impactful consequences.

Skating By Groups

Examining the current four teams in groups can lead one to believe that some teams have just “skated by” while other teams have just had a poor performance in the group stage.

After the Flash Wolves controlled performance in play-ins, most fans and even Faker, believed that they were going to be the biggest threat to SKT T1’s empire. The Flash Wolves then managed to beat SKT in a decisive manner during the group stages, further showing their skill and prowess. However, the Flash Wolves later received a few too many losses in groups, ultimately leaving what should be the second best team in the tournament in fourth place during the knockout stages. This being said, expect the most heated competition and the highest skill caliber League of Legends has ever known not in the grand finals, but instead in the first match of the knockout stage.

With the second best team playing against SKT on Friday, May 19th, what should be a game for third and fourth place will be between G2 Esports and Team WE. Potentially, any of the teams that made it into groups has what it takes to make the match that will occur this Saturday, May 20th, a fiercely close competition. That being said, the match between G2 Esports and Team WE will still be one of close competition. However, it is unlikely that either of these two teams will stand a chance against the winner of SKT versus Flash Wolves.

A Better Tournament Style Means Better Games

A gauntlet-style competition not only makes each game of groups much more intense, as each team mus

TSM and Flash Wolves shake hands after their game. Courtesy of Riot Flickr

t compete for standings during the gauntlet-style knockout stages, but it also provides a more accurate way for each team to garner the appropriate rewards from the prize pool. With third and fourth place getting significantly less money than second place, a gauntlet-style competition would more accurately reassign this prize pool based upon how close one can get to taking down SKT T1, a team that has proven to be well and above the rest of the competition. Until then, variables such as TSM taking down Flash Wolves will prevent the most accurate portrayal of skill and will doom each team that enters the knockout stages in fourth place, regardless of their skill, relative to the second and third place teams.

 

Featured image courtesy of Riot Flickr

Smite Gauntlet: What Did We Learn?

Bellona’s Back!

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

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

Image courtesy of SmiteFire

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Itemisation

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

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

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

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

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

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

EU Stronger than Ever

Team Rival

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

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

Stand-Out Performers

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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

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

NRG

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

eUnited Set

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

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

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

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

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

Looking to Masters!

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


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Are NRG No Longer the Masters LAN Favorites?

Two years. That’s how long it has been since the boys from NRG Esports didn’t win a LAN in which they were competing. Absolutely incredible when you sit back and think about it. For a team to put in the work needed day in and day out to play with the sort of consistency NRG has been playing with for the past two years is just remarkable. So why all of a sudden did the streak come to an end? What happened that led to Team Rival winning the Gauntlet instead of NRG?

The Grind of The Smite Pro League

The grind of the SPL is pretty taxing on the body and mind. And you may be saying to yourself that it’s just playing video games, but it’s more than that.

Brandon “Venenu” Casale of Oxygen Supremacy walked us through a day in his life over the weekend at the Gauntlet. He referred to his day typically consisting of school, homework, and then hours of Smite. Many other players have mentioned similar scenarios in their own lives. As Team Eager fans know, Cody “djpernicus” Tyson is currently pursuing med school. This is unbelievable for a professional gamer of any kind knowing how much time needs to be dedicated to the game. Then you have the likes of Kurt “Weak3n” Schray, John “BaRRaCCuDDa” Salter, and Riley “Incon” Unzelman, among others who stream for hours and hours on end almost daily. They do all of this while continuing to spend hours scrimmaging and practicing with their teams.

So what does this have to do with NRG exactly? Well, a lot of this stuff applies to them. They have streamers, they have students, and each player on the roster has a life outside of Smite. The amount of dedication to the game that they have put in to remain such a dominant force in the SPL is a tremendous accomplishment. Unfortunately, a streak like that comes with a price. The players themselves have mentioned being burned out from playing the game, but still want to be able to compete at a high level. We’ve heard multiple times that they took a break this spring split, scrimming and practicing less so they can remain fresh and ready for the LAN tournaments that mean so much. This type of burnout is exactly what Mark Cuban was referring to when he said he didn’t want to invest in esports.

So looking back on the Spring Split, maybe there’s a reason why NRG started so slow, and then finished strong at the end. They were taking their break, and as it got closer to the Masters LAN, they picked up their play and made a push. Although they technically made it to Masters LAN, you could argue this wasn’t exactly worth while for NRG, as they finished 3rd in EU and were forced to compete in the Gauntlet, where again they finished 3rd. If their goal was to qualify with minimal effort, they certainly didn’t do that, playing five games more then they would have if they qualified in one of the top two spots in Europe.

Photo Courtesy of Hi-Rez Studios

The Competition is Just Flat Out Better

Let’s not take away from what Team Rival did this past weekend. They put on an absolute show and proved they can hang with the top teams. It is just simple fact that the SPL teams in EU have improved immensely. There’s proof that the gap between NRG and their competition has diminished, if not vanished entirely. Let’s face it, the NA teams didn’t exactly prove they could beat the EU teams at the Gauntlet. Eager and Luminosity proved they could compete with the EU teams last season at the Smite World Championship, but that’s been it so far. In Europe however, you have Obey and Dignitas who played phenomenal all split. Team Rival just showed us that they aren’t to be overlooked. Eanix took Rival to three games, and so did Elevate.

Just to be clear here, I’m not saying that the competition is better than NRG. What I’m saying is that the competition is better then they have been over the past two years while NRG was on their streak. Everyone on their team finished top four in KDA this weekend, which included Kennet “Adapting” Ros going 11-0-12 on Nemesis and 13-4-10 on Susano in his last two matches securing the Wild Card spot. The team also had the highest collective KDA on the weekend at 3.47 while Craig “iRaffer” Rathbone and Peter “Dimi” Dimitrov finished first and second in assists per game with 14.2 and 13.6 respectively.

NRG Lost its Touch

So personally I think saying NRG lost its touch is a stretch, but hey, it’s a lot easier to make this argument then if they had won the Gauntlet.

Look at the facts: They dropped games against nearly everyone they’ve played this year outside of the bottom three in Europe, and eUnited. They claim that they took it easy this split so they didn’t get burned out. That’s fine and dandy, but were they that cocky? Did they actually think they were so far ahead of the other teams that they didn’t need to put in as much work as the rest of the SPL?

James “Duck3y” Heseltine from Lion Guard Esports stated during the Gauntlet that he thinks NRG has trouble adjusting to the meta, that they take longer than the other teams. Maybe this is true, and it would explain why they played better towards the end of the split. What it doesn’t explain is why they weren’t able to come into the Gauntlet and be the NRG that everyone expected to see.

Photo Courtesy of NRG Esports

The Real Explanation

To be honest, it’s probably a little bit of everything. Say what you will, at the end of the day this is still the two-time defending World Champions we’re talking about. They got beat by Team Rival, a team that showed up and played their hearts out. One more triple bounce in the Jungle and maybe NRG walks away with the Gauntlet and this isn’t even in question. They still dominated their games against eUnited.

The Smite Pro League is filled with strong players and teams, and that stretches all the way through the league. If I had to put any sort of money that mattered to me on it, I’d end up picking NRG before most, if not all of the SPL teams. They’ve earned the right to be given the benefit of the doubt. Sure, there’s always going to be teams making claims and gunning for the top spot. Quite frankly, that should make it all the sweeter when NRG prove the haters wrong and come out on top once again.


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League Champions Korea: Spring 2017 Playoffs So Far

All you need to know to get up to date on League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK)

With LCK’s semifinals for the Spring Split coming soon, now is the optimal time for a brief update before the League’s premier games. In this article, the logistics of the League’s gauntlet style tournament as well as a short recap of how playoffs have been will be discussed.

How it Works: LCK Gauntlet

LCK, like its western counterpart, LCS, has ten teams facing each other twice throughout the split; fighting for their place in the standings that will inevitably result in promotion/relegation tournaments for the bottom two teams, and playoffs for the top four. Tiebreakers occur when two teams have the same game record and head to head record. This occurred between MVP and Afreeca Freecs this season. While this tiebreaker did not hold much weight, as the two teams would then replay each other in the first round of playoffs, it did decide who gets side selection for the next round.

The LCK playoffs operate very differently than their western counterparts. In the LCK, the first place team does not play until the final round, receiving a bye for their performance throughout the normal split. The playoffs consist of the third place team playing against the fourth place team. Then the winner of that team plays the second place team, ultimately leaving one team to play against the first place team. This manner of competition puts much more weight on the individual split, as there are more games where a bye can be achieved. Overall, this is very healthy for LCK, as teams must go through a gauntlet of playoff games before playing against the first place team. This format rewards dominant performances in the regular split, which have become all too typical in the LCK.

 

MVP Jeong “Max” Jong-bin, two kills into his quadra kill on support Sion. Courtesy of OGN.

Playoffs So Far

With Afreeca Freecs (AF) taking the tiebreaker, they were poised to win their next best of five against MVP, in order to play against the third place, kt Rolster. While this was the expected result, AF was subdued by underdog team MVP, a team that just pushed into LCK through the promotion tournament this time last year with a mostly rookie roster. This was in large part due to the momentum MVP took off of a play around baron. Kt Rolster expended too many resources stealing the baron during game one of the series. One over-extension led to MVP taking the first game, which quickly translated into a follow-up victory, securing the series with a zero death MVP bot lane.

After sweeping AF, MVP went on to get swept by kt Rolster. This allowed kt Rolster to play against second place team, Samsung Galaxy, in a best of five that ended much like the previous series (3-0). Kt Rolster flaunted their obvious strengths in both sweeps, with solo laners Wonseok “Pawn” Heo mid, and Kyungho “Smeb” Song top. Renowned 2014 world championship MVP from Samsung White, Sehyoung “Mata” Cho, had a huge impact on Malzahar in kt Rolster’s game against MVP, with pick after pick. Neither MVP nor Samsung Galaxy had a chance to truly challenge kt Rolster, both being 3-0s.

The mistakes they did show played into their commonly criticized characteristics. When kt Rolster is criticized, it is for their lack of team play. Kt Rolster is known largely as a team of Super-Star players, and less known for their meta gameplay and map movement. While their sweep against Samsung Galaxy showed that they can play as a team, albeit a bit messy, their true strengths lie in the power of their individual players as expected.

 

Kt Rolster’s Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong. Courtesy of OGN

The Finals to Come: Kt Rolster vs SK Telecom T1

So far, playoffs have been composed entirely of 3-0 sweeps. I’m sure all League of Legends fans are looking for a closer series between Kt Rolster and SK Telecom T1 (SKT). That being said, what can we expect to see between these two powerhouse teams? SK Telecom T1 is looking as strong as ever. Kt Rolster with their most recent roster seem to be gaining steam, as they have plowed through Samsung Galaxy 3-0.

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Oxygen Supremacy: Your New Favorite Smite Team

If you told me before the start of this Gauntlet that Oxygen Supremacy would be the talk of the Gauntlet for North America, I wouldn’t believe you. Sure, they’re good enough to win some games, but to do something that would get everyone talking and be the most exciting part of the day would sound like a stretch. Well, it happened, and it was incredible.

The Smite Pro League has been a way for me to watch, learn, and enjoy a game that I’ve spent so much time playing. Today, Oxygen Supremacy gave everyone watching the same feeling we get when we see a Cinderella team make a run late into the playoffs of a traditional sport. The feeling we get from watching a double digit seed beat a heavy favorite in the NCAA March Madness Basketball tournament. Esports are absolutely in the same conversation as traditional sports, and Oxygen Supremacy proved that today.

 

Photo Courtesy of Brandon “Venenu” Casale

 

Oxygen Supremacy made a run that SPL fans will not soon forget. This team was formed as a Challenger Circuit team after rosters were picked apart towards the end of Smite’s Season 3. They are comprised of some former pro players, along with some new faces to the SPL scene.

Solo – Ismael “KikiSoCheeky” Torres

Jungle – David “Skeeledon” Dougherty

Mid – Brandon “Venenu” Casale

Support – Neil “NeiruMah” Mah

ADC – Michael “DayToRemember” Galvin

After placing first in the Challenger Circuit, they were given an opportunity to compete in the Gauntlet, with a chance to make it to the Masters LAN at the end of the month, just like the other SPL teams. For OS, however, this meant climbing the Gauntlet ladder and knocking off every team ahead of them along the way. After seven grueling hours of Smite, OS fell just a few games short, but they put on one of the most memorable performances Smite Esports has seen recently.

Photo Courtesy of Hi-Rez Studios

Match 1: Oxygen Supremacy VS Flash Point

Game 1:

Going into this first game, people around the SPL already had heard rumblings of how good Oxygen Supremacy was, but nobody had really seen what they could do outside of scrims. Flash Point drafted a solid early game comp, with Ryan “Aquarius” O’Neill on Osiris, Eugeen “Mirage” Mathew on Awilix, and Eric “ShadowQ” Grabowski on Sylvanus. True to the draft, Flash Point seemed to be in control of the game, but OS just hung around long enough for their comp to really take over. Recognizing the FP ADC was an Artemis, Skeeledon decided to camp Duo Lane, preventing Nathan “Xenotronics” Hewitt from getting online, while feeding DayToRemember. After falling behind in kills early, something just clicked in Oxygen Supremacy, and their carries took over. Catching up in kills, eventually the Titan fell, and game 1 went to OS.

Game 2:

Game 2 was a different story. Venenu was on Thoth, Skeeledon was on Susano, and they went in! Venenu posted an incredible 11/1/8 line, while Skeeledon mirrored that at 8/1/11, and that was all she wrote. The major point of emphasis from this game was the play out of Skeeledon. He showed up in game 1, but game 2 he showed not only his team, but everyone there watching that he was here to play and he was here to win. This confidence out of their jungler would push OS for the next six hours.

Photo Courtesy of Hi-Rez Studios

Match 2: Oxygen Supremacy VS Noble Esports

Game 1:

This is where things got really interesting. With Noble just witnessing the game that Venenu had on Thoth, they decided to ban it away from him. However, they let Hun Batz through to Skeeledon and The Morrigan through to Kiki. Bad choice. This game was where the OS hype train took off. They pulled out the double hunter comp, with Venenu on Chiron, which blew everyone’s minds. This game was just Oxygen flexing their God pools. Hun Batz would jump in and Fear No Evil, then Chiron would Centaurus and drop everyone low, then The Morrigan would ult as Hun Batz, and then DayToRemember on Rama would Astral Barrage. All of this would be set up by the hottest Nature’s Grasp you will ever see from NeiruMah’s Sylvanus. It was just absolutely insane to see this comp, and for it to just obliterate Noble.

Game 2:

Game 2 we saw them flex their God pools yet again. Kiki would take Xing Tian to the solo lane, Skeeledon would play the constantly banned Chang’e, and NeiruMah would play Ymir. Noble put up a much better fight this time, with Brett “MLCSt3alth” Felly trying his hand at the hunter mid, and dealing most damage (surprise surprise), along with Andy “Elchapo” Leon pulling The Morrigan into the Jungle himself. Noble started strong. Absolutely insane peel from NeiruMah would prevent them from snowballing and taking control of the game. Venenu would see his only death on Chiron in this game. That didn’t mean much, as eventually Oxygen Supremacy took the game in yet another decisive victory.

Photo Courtesy of Hi-Rez Studios

Match 3: Oxygen Supremacy VS Team Allegiance

Game 1:

Yet again Oxygen decides to go to a double Hunter team comp. This time we saw Skeeledon on Ao Kuang, his 4th different God in five games. NeiruMah was on Terra, his 4th different God in five games. Venenu was on Skadi, his 4th different God in five games. Seeing a pattern here? You could not target ban this team all day long. Allegiance seemed to have drafted very strong, with Kurt “Weak3n” Schray on Serquet, a God he’s known for. Jarod “CycloneSpin” Nguyen was also playing a God he was known to bully on, Osiris. For quite a while in this game, ALG seemed to control the tempo. The game was slow, and for the longest time there was only one kill on the board. That changed during the second Gold Fury fight, a fight that Oxygen won handily. The game then spiraled out of control for ALG, and OS was back to the fast paced machine they had been in the previous two matches. Before we knew it, this one was over too.

Game 2:

Just for fun, Oxygen showed they weren’t done with flexing their God pool. Kiki took yet another God to the solo lane in Nike, while Skeeledon played his 3rd Mage out of the Jungle, with fan favorite He Bo. Weak3n actually counter picked the He Bo with Fenrir, and first blooded Skeeledon, something he had been doing to opposing teams all day long. Like game 1, this one hovered pretty even for a while, until Venenu popped off, finishing his Chiron play 7/0/4, totaling an incredible 20/1/24 line on the Mid Hunter. Just like that, everyone was all in on Oxygen Supremacy.

Photo Courtesy of Hi-Rez Studios

Match 4: Oxygen Supremacy VS In Memory of Gabe

Game 1:

At this point, nobody could figure out what to do when it came to banning out OS. There were just too many Gods that they had been playing well all day long. This game was a fight for OS, that’s for sure. However, we didn’t see them struggle, or even change the way they had been playing. NeiruMah still had incredible pulls to set up some important kills on Sylvanus. Venenu ended up with Thoth and was able to burst down the members of IMOG. DayToRemeber did his thing on Medusa, controlling his lane. Somehow, some way, Oxygen Supremacy won yet another game. Seven in a row, it was unprecedented. Then IMOG figured something out.

Game 2:

Gabe had spent all day watching Oxygen and learning their strategies. They were able to play them the toughest we had seen all day. They took Thoth from Venenu and put it on Tyler “Hurriwind” Whitney in Mid lane, who completely dominated OS, going 9/0/14. Sinjin “Eonic” Thorpe took Sylvanus away from NeiruMah, and was able to keep his team sustained in order to win the long team fights that Oxygen had been winning throughout the day. Then they shut down DayToRemember. By far it was his worst game of the day, going 0/9/9 on Medusa. Suddenly OS got a taste of their own medicine, and they were blown back by IMOG. A minor setback as it was a three game set. With the score tied at 1-1, Oxygen Supremacy still had their chance to pull through.

Game 3:

The first game 3 we had seen all day was another rough one to watch. With Hurriwind’s performance on the Thoth, OS banned it out, letting Zeus slip through for the first time today. Not only that, but Eonic was back on Sylvanus, a God who pairs extremely well with Zeus. Not only that, but after a strong game on Thor, Jungler Brooks “Cynosure” Mattey was poised for another strong game on the God. This one was hard fought by Oxygen. They fought as long as they could, but it just appeared as if the gas tank was empty. That’s just what playing seven hours straight of Smite against the best players in the world will do to you.

What You Should Take Away

At the end of the day, Oxygen Supremacy fell 2-1 vs In Memory of Gabe. That’s not what this is about. What it’s about is the way this was done. Sure they could have made it past Flash Point, Noble, and Allegiance losing a couple games here and there. They didn’t. This Challenger Cup team pulled off seven straight wins against the top Smite players in the world. The Gauntlet could have been incredibly boring, with each team winning the match they were “supposed” to win as the higher seed. And sure, we still got In Memory of Gabe vs SoaR Gaming in the end; but we still got a taste of what’s to come in the Smite Pro League.

Challenger Cup may have been weak before, but there are some phenomenal players ready to take that jump and become top SPL players themselves. Venenu showed he’s just as good, if not better then some of the Mid lane players currently in the SPL. Same goes for Skeeledon, NeiruMah, and the rest of Oxygen Supremacy. Relegations are no longer just a tournament that needs to be played before the season starts, because the Challenger Cup teams are gunning for a spot in the SPL. These guys are good, they’re thirsty, and they just might take the Smite world by storm.

 

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Smite Gauntlet NA Team Spotlights: Bookies Favourites

eUnited

Overview

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

Players

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Soar Gaming

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

Overview

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

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

Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

In Memory of Gabe

Overview

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

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

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

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

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

Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Image: esports.smitegame.com

 

 

 

Smite Pro League Spring Gauntlet Preview

The regular season for the Smite Pro League Spring Split has come to an end, which means it’s finally time for some LAN tournaments!

Smite Masters will take place at the end of April, with Team Eager and Luminosity Gaming already punching their tickets by finishing first and second respectively out of North America. Across the pond, Obey Alliance and Team Dignitas qualified after their strong splits, overtaking the two-time reigning world champion NRG Esports.

Luckily for NRG, they still have a shot at making Smite Masters through the Spring Gauntlet LAN. This grueling tournament is set to start this Friday, April 14th at 11 AM EST, running through Sunday for the last chance to make the Masters LAN.

The teams participating in the Gauntlet are as follows:

NA

  • eUnited
  • SoaR Gaming
  • In Memory of Gabe
  • Team Allegiance
  • Noble Esports
  • Flash Point
  • Oxygen Supremacy (Challenger Cup)

EU

  • NRG Esports
  • Eanix
  • Team RivaL
  • Elevate
  • Lion Guard Esports
  • Sanguine Esports
  • Optimus Gang (Challenger Cup)

The Gauntlet will start with a Smite Challenger Cup team from each region (Oxygen Supremacy in NA and Optimus Gang in EU) facing off against the team who finished in last place (8th) in each respective region (Flashpoint in NA and Sanguine Esports in EU) in a winner-take-all one game set. The winner will then move on to face the 7th place team, and they will then play a best of 3 set, with the winner advancing, and so on. The winners of the final match in each region will then play each other for seeding in the upcoming Masters tournament, while the runners-up will play each other for a final chance at the wildcard spot.

Gods to Look Out For

Season 4 has seen a plethora of Gods being played in its current meta. Because of this, and because certain teams like to get cheeky when it comes to picks and bans, don’t be surprised if someone pulls out a God that isn’t played all that much. I’m looking at you, Ah Puch. However, as long as nothing has changed in the most reason scrims, it’s safe bet that these are the Gods we’ll be seeing the most of:

Solo:

The solo lane has been seemingly dominated by Guardians this season as opposed to the traditional Warriors that we’re used to. As a result, expect to see a lot of Terra, Xing Tian, and Cabrakan in the short lane. Guardians are the types of Gods that can be left alone to farm in the early to mid game, and then make their rotations and be virtually immortal with the level lead they’re likely to have. Come late game these three Gods have a lot of lock down with their Crowd Control abilities. Expect to see Odin to counter any Healing heavy team comps.

Jungle:

The jungle has seen a lot of different Gods played in it as well, from Chang’e to Ymir. What you should expect is the old standby picks for this LAN. Ratatoskr, Susano, and Thor are all likely to be picked or banned very often this weekend. The mobility out of these Gods make it easy to gank with them, as well as the global pressure from Rat and Thor. And if Cabrakan can make it through bans, expect to see him played in the jungle role as well.

Mid:

Middle lane doesn’t have as wide of a pool as the two previously mentioned lanes. Poseidon has seen a return to glory this season, and that’s unlikely to change at the LAN. He’ll be joined by Zeus, Ra, and Janus. The meta is controlled by Mages with burst ults that can be used for objective secure. Unless a team comp is specifically set around the God, you’ll likely on see these types of Mages locked in at mid.

Support:

Support is probably the role with the least amount of diversity. All season long we saw lots of Khepri and lots of Sylvanus. Expect more of the same, along with Geb. These three Gods all have strong peel, and the ability to separate an enemy team in a team fight. Each of them also has an ability to protect their squishy team members when needed.

Carry:

Hunters. The day’s of the magical ADC have passed, for now, leaving the long lane to be controlled by Hunters again. Medusa has performed exceptionally this split and there’s no reason the think that won’t continue. Almost any Hunter is viable in the current meta, so you can honestly expect to see whatever God each player is feeling. This will be the first time we’ll see Cernnunos played at the pro level, that you can be sure of.

 

Gauntlet Predictions

With the way the Spring Split played out, the Gauntlet is anyone’s tournament to win. It’s possible for one of the Challenger Cup teams to make a deep run. North America has eUnited, a former World Championship runner-up (under Enemy at the time), and Team Allegiance, who just played in the World Championship LAN a few months back. Of course, NRG is the favorite when it comes to the European scene.

I’m predicting eUnited to win in NA, beating In Memory of Gabe 2-1 in their set. In EU I’ll take the easy way out and go with NRG over Eanix 2-0. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t think the same. As far as the wildcard goes, IMOG has my vote in a 2-0 over Eanix. At the end of the day though, none of my predictions really matter, there’s a reason why they play the game, it’s a great time to be a Smite Pro League fan.

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