NA

How Dreamhack highlighted the ever growing gulf between NA and EU

How we got here

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

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

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

Where we are at now

na

Image courtesy of neogaf.com

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

Why?

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

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

How?

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

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

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

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

NA

Image courtesy of smitepedia.com

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

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

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

What this means for competitive Smite

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

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

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

Top Image courtesy of twitter.com/SmitePro

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Takeaways from day one of DreamHack

Europe is better than North America

Ok yes, we already knew European teams dominate, but they’re all pro players. You have to give them the benefit of the doubt coming into the LAN that they’ll at least be able to compete. Well, maybe from now on we won’t be doing that. Apart from Trifecta, who lost a heartbreaking game two versus NRG (I think. RIP stream) none of the other two North American squads even put up a fight.

Games one and two between Trifecta and NRG were exactly what fans of the SPL were hoping for. Trifecta put on a show in the first game and was able to take it from the defending world champs. Then NRG showed why they’re so good, and climbed back from a 15k gold deficit to win game two and force a third game. This is where Europe began to steamroll the North American squads.

In seven total games played between the regions, NA won one time. Spacestation Gaming, the team that most people pegged as the saviors for NA, dropped their first two games relatively easily against the 7th seeded Team Rival. Not exactly what you would expect out of the top NA team. Then Luminosity gaming followed up with a disappointing performance of their own, although they were playing Obey, so any team could lose 2-0 here and we wouldn’t be terribly surprised.

Takeaways

Photo by www.smitefire.com

Resurgence of Odin

Odin hasn’t been a top pick in current meta. Osiris, one of the most popular gods, has a passive that completely counters Odin’s ult. That didn’t stop Ismael “KikiSoCheeky” Torres from locking in the Odin directly against the Osiris. And then he proceeded to be the biggest pain in the neck to the squad of NRG. Kiki was on the Odin in both games one and two, where he posted a slash line of 5/0/16 and 5/2/14 respectively. This led to NRG banning the Odin away in game three.

Team Rival then banned Odin away from Spacestation Gaming in game one of their set before their jungler, Aleksandar “IceIceBaby” Zahariev, pulled it out in game two. He completely controlled the jungle, dominating on the warrior for a 7/2/4 slash line, leading his team to a round one victory. The next we saw of the Odin jungle was the very next game, where Benjamin “CaptainTwig” Knight, of Obey Alliance, showed his prowess on the God, putting up a 5/1/13 score, prompting Luminosity to ban it away in the second game.

Odin brings a lot of early game aggression to the table, and that momentum can be carried late into the game in this meta. That coupled with his ultimate, which forces the enemy team to get the Phantom Veil Relic in place of something else, really shows why Odin can be a force. We also saw his ultimate used as a disengage both offensively and defensively, both for escapes and protecting objectives on the map.


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Feature Photo by Hi-Rez Studios

 

CS:GO Rivalries

The greatest CS:GO rivalries

Just as in traditional sports, esports have big rivalries as well. From incredible matches, rivalries are born. A few key elements to keeping our game exciting to watch are the storylines and rivalries between teams. Teams battling it out to stake their claim as the greatest of all time. Here are a few such CS:GO rivalries that transcended the rest.

NiP vs VeryGames

CS:GO Rivalries

via https://dotesports.com

Quite the rivalry this was; although, due to NiP’s dominance, it took a while for VG to be able to win against them. Despite it being lopsided in terms of results, it was an incredible David vs. Goliath storyline anytime they matched up, despite that VeryGames was actually the second best team in the world. VG made a lot of roster changes just trying to best NiP; when VG finally managed to knock NiP off their throne at ESL Major Series in fall of 2013, it was one of the most memorable moments in Counter-Strike history. This was the first of the many CS:GO rivalries, and both teams helped define the meta for years to come.

Fnatic vs NiP

Fnatic vs NiP is arguably the greatest CS:GO rivalry in history. When the two Swedish teams matchup, it’s nearly always a bloodbath. The rivalry took a very interesting start when Fnatic robbed NiP of Dreamhack Winter 2013, where NiP was the heavy favorite to win. NiP, now had a chip on their shoulder and were thirsty for revenge. The next time they would meet on a grand stage was following Fnatic’s additions of Olof ‘olofmeister’ Kajbjer, and Freddy ‘KRiMZ’ Johansson, at ESL One Cologne 2014. While a much improved lineup, NiP was not afraid. NiP was hungry for a major title, after falling short twice following the loss to Virtus.Pro at EMS One Katowice 2014. NiP managed to edge Fnatic in one of the most exciting runs through a tournament bracket I have ever witnessed. A great final, which saw NiP on top, finally.

CS:GO Rivalries

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

The next time these two would clash on a big stage was at MLG X Games Aspen Invitational. This match is one of, if not the most exciting and closely contested best of threes in CS:GO history. A must watch match for any new viewers, and another one of the great matches these two would produce. The last notable time that these two would meet, was in the grand final of ESL One Katowice 2015. The first two maps were absolute thrillers, but the third map was a bit of a letdown. The only real reason it was very close was that NiP mounted a monstrous comeback but fell short in the end. If it were a bit more back and forth, I think this very well could have been the best matchup between these two.

Fnatic vs LDLC/EnVyUs

This rivalry has a storyline similar to that of ‘Rocky’ as LDLC, in their first major matchup came but three rounds away from winning it on the third map. Then we had the most notorious boost in CS:GO history, that led Fnatic to come back from a 13-3 deficit. LDLC was gifted the semifinal spot; however, as Fnatic just surrendered the win to them, due to the massive controversy that had spewed from the boost. This led the LDLC core to win its first major. They would meet many more times, but the next most notable meeting was at ESL One Cologne 2015 in the grand final, following a French shuffle that saw Kenny ‘kennyS’ Schaub and Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire now on EnVy. This roster fell short of Fnatic that time; however, it would be the last time this team would lose to Fnatic during the era of their rivalry. They last notably met at Dreamhack Winter 2015, in the quarterfinals, where EnVyUs bested Fnatic with no massive controversy. This meeting would mark the end of one of the greatest CS:GO rivalries we have ever seen.

Luminosity vs Na’Vi

CS:GO Rivalries

via https://esports.yahoo.com

Two highly tactical teams meeting to create incredible games? Yes, please. This rivalry was a bit short lived; unfortunately, we never got to see the true end all on the grand final stage of MLG Colombus due to Ladislav ‘Guardian’ Kovács’s wrist injury. It still produced one of my all-time favorite best of three matches to date, in the semifinals of Katowice 2016. This match was the climax of their rivalry, where Luminosity trumped Guardian and Na’Vi. No other CS:GO rivalries had quite the same shock and awe factor as this one did, specifically pertaining to the tactical genius both squads brought, not to mention the amazing AWP matchup in GuardiaN vs Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo.

SK vs Virtus.Pro

Another one of the best CS:GO rivalries was born at ESL One Cologne 2016, a matchup that admittedly could have been better if Virtus.Pro did not make the joker pick of Nuke for the second map, but Cobble and Mirage were still thrillers. In the end, SK emerged victorious on this one, but Virtus.Pro would strike back at ESL One New York in exciting fashion. VP would win out at the ELEAGUE Major as well, but SK was a bit handicapped by stand-in Ricardo ‘fox’ Pacheco; however, that didn’t stop them from making it one of the closest 2-0 best of three matches of all time. The rivalry would come to a bit of an abrupt end after VP would best SK one last time in the grand final of Dreamhack Las Vegas. The end of this rivalry was based on Virtus.Pro’s break from the scene for a while, when they came back, they were nowhere near the level they were at before they left.

Astralis vs FaZe

CS:GO Rivalries

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

The most recent matchup that I’ve had my eye on, Astralis vs FaZe could still have a few more thrilling matches to come. The grand final of IEM Katowice 2017 was an incredible first battle, and the follow-up meeting at StarLadder was not a disappointment in the slightest. They would meet a third time in the semifinals of IEM Sydney, where FaZe Clan would again take it in another great match. While the matchup has been dormant for a while, due to Astralis’ taking a break from the tournament circuit, upon the return of Astralis, I’m sure this will still be a great rivalry. This rivalry has only just begun it seems, and I cannot wait for all the incredible matches we should get between these two titans.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has created many great rivalries throughout the years; while these are not all of the great rivalries, but some of the most notable ones.


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DreamHack preview: Luminosity Gaming

Luminosity Gaming has long been among the North American favorites. Here are a few reasons why they have a shot to return to glory at DreamHack.

Experience

Luminosity is a team that is very familiar to the setting of a LAN. Each player on the squad has an abundance of experience over the course of the last year, including a trip to the Smite World Championship. This may not seem like much, but it’s a big deal when it comes to nerves and being able to perform under pressure.

John “BaRRaCCuDDa” Salter and Rosario “Jeff Hindla” Vilardi both have a SWC title under their belt and have played together for years. This type of experience isn’t rivaled by many players throughout the league, and can’t be replaced. Throw in their mid lane player Woonyoung “Baskin” Kim, long time solo laner and former Cloud9 teammate, and you’ve got easy chemistry. This is a squad that led the entire SPL in kills with 228, an average of 16.29 per game.

Objective Control

In recent splits, the European teams have become known for their objective control, especially when playing against the North American squads. Perhaps recognizing this, Luminosity Gaming has taken strides at improving their objective control, finishing the Summer Split with 32 Gold Fury kills. That number is good for second in the SPL. They also secured the Gold Fury first 11 different times, for a 78.57% rate, good for first in the SPL. As we saw this split, teams securing the first Gold Fury were winning at an absurd rate.

They also had the lead when it came to the big objective, the Fire Giant. The secured the second highest FG total in the SPL at 15, and finished first with 12 first Fire Giants at a rate of 85.71%. Being able to secure the first Fire Giant in the current meta is enormous. It’s enough for a team to go for the jugular on a team far behind, or it can be a big enough boon to even the score up after a slow start to a set.

Luminosity Gaming

Photo by www.shazoo.ru

The “Sextank”

BaRRaCCuDDa and Jeff Hindla. Those names alone give Luminosity a shot at winning in Valencia. Jeff Hindla is one of, if not the most selfless support in the SPL right now. He’ll walk into DreamHack with the fewest kills among North American supports, but the second most assists, and third in the entire SPL, at 146. On top of that, Jeff in known to ditch his old friend Barra in the duo lane early, so Barra can farm up and be prepared for the late game.

You’ll hear it from time to time that BaRRaCCuDDa has plot armor. He always seems to come out ok, no matter the situation. That’s all well and good, but it’s been a while since Luminosity has actually won anything. That’s where this guy comes in. He doesn’t have the best stats in the league, averaging just over 3 kills per game and 6.5 assists. That means nothing when it comes to Barra however, he’s the type of player that can turn it on when his team needs him. The level of consistency that he plays with is unparalleled in the SPL, and no matter the lead, no matter what part of the game, teams better be on the lookout for BaRRaCCuDDa.


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ESL One Cologne: The tournament for the Americas

ESL One Cologne throughout the years has seen a couple different American teams playing on the stages. Whether it be the stage at Gamescon in 2014 or the stage in the LANXESS Arena. Not only that, but the last two years have only seen American teams in the Grand Finals. An interesting statistic to say the least. Here, we’ll go through the teams who played on the main stages of Cologne. Explaining how they got there, and how far they went.

SK Gaming/Luminosity

2015 was the first year the Brazilian scene met the main stage of ESL One Cologne. Barely making the playoffs over FlipSid3 in 2015, Marcelo “coldzera” David found himself in his first international tournament. And oh boy, did he surprise everyone with how skilled he was.

2016 saw the Brazilians dominate under the the Luminosity banner, before moving over to SK for ESL One Cologne. Finding themselves in the group of death, SK scored wins over G2 and FaZe, moving to the quarters against FlipSid3. For a second year in a row, SK beat FlipSid3 in Cologne. Making their way to the Semis against Virtus.Pro, SK Gaming found themselves struggling to close the match, but ultimately doing so in one of the best matches of Major history. Meeting Liquid in the final, it wasn’t too surprising to see SK dominate the North American side and take their second major title.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

So far in 2017, we’ve seen SK at their worst and at their best, and we’re only seven months in. Coming into Cologne, SK had won two tournaments beforehand. They were by far the favourites for the event. Struggling slightly in the swiss stage, SK made it out 3-2 and met OpTic in the quarters. On paper, a one sided match up but OpTic showed themselves to be strong and took Mirage, but ultimately lost the series. SK moved on to beat FaZe, arguably their rival, and dominated the European team. Going into the grand finals, it may have been a surprise to find Cloud9 there. SK didn’t let the surprise get to them though. SK controlled the entire match and took the match 3-0 and won Cologne for a second year in a row.

Cloud9

Cloud9’s first experience with Cologne was 2014, where they played their first tournament with Mike “shroud” Grzesiek. A situation very similar to Luminosity’s first tournament with coldzera at Cologne. In the group stage, Cloud9 won against Titan, and had their famous comeback against Dignitas on Mirage. Making the quarterfinals, Cloud9 met Ninjas in Pyjamas, a fan favourite. Though, Cloud9 were favoured in the match, they ended up losing due to a very important kill by Adam “friberg” Friberg. Without this one kill, Cloud9 could have definitely made the finals of ESL One Cologne 2014, but talking about what if’s is a bad thing.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

Leading up to Cologne 2015, Cloud9 looked like a Top 4 team, favoured to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, Cloud9 left the tournament in the group stage due to yet another clutch play at 13-13 in a round Cloud9 should have won.

Unfortunately, Cloud9 for the first time were unable to qualify for a major, being ESL One Cologne 2016. In 2017 though, Cloud9 were directly invited as PGL took reigns for the second major of 2017 over ESL. Here, we saw Cloud9 struggle at the beginning but claw their way back to make the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs Cloud9 met NiP, a rematch of 2014. But, this time Cloud9 took the win and advanced to face Na’Vi in the semifinals. Na’Vi, on arguably their two best maps, lost 2-0 to Cloud9 who went on to play the grand finals against SK Gaming. Unfortunately for Cloud9, SK Gaming were looking for revenge for EPL Season 4, and SK won Cologne over Cloud9.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid first met ESL One Cologne in 2016 as they were directly invited by making the playoffs of MLG Columbus. Using Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev as a stand-in for the event, it wasn’t far fetched to say that Liquid would make the playoffs. They did just that by beating mousesports 2-1 to advance to the playoffs to face Na’Vi in the quarters. After beating Na’Vi, Team Liquid made it to the semifinals to face one of the favourites for the tournament. Liquid decided they didn’t like that title for fnatic, so they took the series 2-0. This put them as the first North American team in the finals of a major. Unfortunately for them, they met SK Gaming and lost 2-0 convincingly against the Brazilians.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 saw Liquid qualifying for the tournament online. Watching the swiss stage of the tournament though, you would have thought they were invited. Going 3-0 in the group stage facing Na’Vi, Immortals and OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid showed the world that the major qualifier was not who they truly were and made their way to the LANXESS Arena. Sadly, Liquid met FaZe in the quarters and were dismantled easily by the European team.

OpTic Gaming

ESL One Cologne 2016 was the first time any player on OpTic made a major. With their inexperience on the major level, OpTic lost to both NiP and FlipSid3 in the group stage, going 0-2 and dropping out of the tournament.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 was a different story for OpTic, who showed up to Cologne with zero eyes on them, and as little pressure as possible. At this point, every player on OpTic has played at the top level. Even though they went 0-3 at the major qualifier just a week before, OpTic showed up to Cologne on fire, taking down North, Space Soldiers and most notably FaZe. Only losing to Liquid in the swiss stage. Going into the playoffs they were matched against SK Gaming. Being the most one sided matches of the playoffs on paper, OpTic showed up with a little bit of fight in them. OpTic took the first map in the series off of SK pretty convincingly. But alas, SK Gaming are far more experienced in these situations and left OpTic in the dust in the next two maps.

ESL One Cologne 2017

 

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: Helena K @ ESL Gaming

 

This year, Cologne showed that the Americas, not just South America, has a place on the big stage. Admittedly, Astralis weren’t present at the tournament, but it isn’t too far fetched to say that they could have taken a playoff spot over Na’Vi or NiP rather than the North American teams.

Throughout the years though, Cologne has shown to be a nice tournament for the Americas, having an American team on stage every year. Not only just one, but half the spots were taken by the Americans this year. That shows some heavy improvement from the region, and maybe some extra confidence in the city of Cologne.

Featured image via ESL Gaming

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SPL Summer Split: North American All Star team

With DreamHack around the corner, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the Summer Split, and the players who deserve to be part of an All Star team.

Solo Lane All Star

This one is tough to choose. We saw strong play out of the Solo lane this split, but the All Star selection comes down to two players. The Short Lane veteran Jarod “CycloneSpin” Nguyen, and the newcomer Alec “fineokay” Fonzo.

Cyclone returned to form this split, posting the highest KDA out of the Solo lane at 3.88, as well as posting the 4th fewest deaths per game out of every player at 1.5. He was a rock for Team Allegiance, and always looked good, even in their losses. If Cyclone can continue this play, ALG will have a good shot at making Worlds.

Even with how well Cyclone played, the rookie fineokay deserves the All Star nod. Joining Spacestation Gaming (SoaR at the time) in the middle of the Spring Split, fineokay has shown he’s not to be treated like a rookie. He finished second in KDA behind Cyclone in the Solo Lane, and just behind him at 1.6 deaths per game. Yes, Cyclone had the better stats, but what doesn’t lie is the record. fineokay helped to propel his new team to a first place finish in North America.

Jungle All Star

The Jungler of choice for the SPL All Star squad is much easier than the Solo Lane. Alexander “Homiefe” D’Souza of Spacestation Gaming was an absolute monster this split. There were discussions whether Suharab “Mask” Askarzada or Homiefe were the top Jungler in the world. That was answered this split, and it’s Homiefe.

Homi boasted a KDA of 5.2, which was a whole 2 points higher than Brooks “Cynosure” Mattey of Trifecta. On top of that, Homiefe finished 2nd in NA with 4.5 kills per game, and 5th with just 1.6 deaths per game. He also participated in 78.2% of Spacestation Gaming’s kills, good for 4th highest in North America.

Photo by Hi-Rez Studios

Mid Lane All Star

Just one split off of his first pro split spent in a new role, who would have thought the best player out of the Mid Lane would have been Andrew “andinster” Woodward? We saw flashes out of the Spring Split whenever Andi would play Ra, but he turned it up during the Summer Split, and showed why he was once considered the best player in the world.

Andi was a Jungler when he was known for being the best, but he has shown that it was more about his skill at Smite then his ability in the Jungle. Andi had the highest KDA in the North American SPL this split at a whopping 5.36 as he carried Spacestation to the top. He also finished second in the league in deaths per game at just 1.3.

Support All Star

The closest race when it comes to All Star in a specific role has to be out of the Supports. Between Connor “Jigz” Echols and Sinjin “Eonic” Thorpe, we had some impressive guardian play.

Jigz captained his newly named Spacestation gaming to first place in North America while posting the highest KDA in his role at 4.62. He led his team by example when it came to deaths per game by leading the league with 1.2. Everyone on Spacestation gaming finished top 5 in that category, and everyone died fewer than 1.7 times per game.

Eonic led the resurgent Trifecta to a strong 10-4 record, good enough for second in North America. He was right behind Jigz in KDA posting a 4.28 stat line. He finished first in the SPL in assists per game with an insane 10.5, as well as third in deaths per game at 1.4. Eonic also participated in 77.2% of his teams kills, good for 6th in the SPL.

ADC All Star

This split saw Steven “Zapman” Zapas step away from the Smite scene. The stage was set for someone to fill his shoes, and Evan “Snoopy” Jones stepped up in a big way. For reference, he played Vulcan ADC and dominated with it, so there’s that.

Snoopy posted a solid 4.76 KDA in the Carry role, as well as leading the league in kills per game at 4.9. He also fell into the group of players that died just 1.6 times per game. Snoopy stepped up for SPL fans in the absence of Zapman, and now he’s got a shot to step up for North America come DreamHack.


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3 takeaways from the SPL Summer Split before DreamHack

There’s only a week left in the SPL before we know all the teams qualified for DreamHack. We’ve seen a lot of good Smite played, but here are a few things we’ve learned:

Europe keeps getting better

During the Spring Split, we saw the dominance of Obey Alliance. They stepped up and became Europe’s best team, followed closely by NRG and Dignitas. This split, we have seen Dignitas take the lead in the standings, and not only be the first team to qualify for DreamHack, but already clinch the 1st seed out of Europe. We’ve also seen NRG split with the mighty Dignitas squad, and Obey alliance split with NRG. Rival has continued to show they’re a top team in the world and have pulled a split with Obey themselves.

Not only have the top teams performed, we’ve seen the bottom teams show they’re capable as well. Eanix have put themselves in a decent position, with a chance to make DreamHack if they can pull off a 2-0 against NRG and if Elevate manages to split with Rival. Elevate, despite losing their star jungler, has shown that they’re still not a push over and are capable themselves. Burrito, having lost all 6 sets they’ve played, has still shown that the ability is there for them. They’ve taken a lead against many of the EU teams at some point, and with more SPL experience, can learn to hold and grow that lead into wins.

The most intriguing thing in EU right now just may be The Papis. After trying for so long to break into the SPL, they’ve finally done it and have shown they deserve to be there. Not quite with their record, but with some of their performances. Typically you’ll see the bottom two teams only pull points off each other out of Europe, but not for The Papis. They’ve taken splits from Elevate, as well as Rival, a team looking poised to make a run into DreamHack. With some more SPL experience, The Papis may be the new EU powerhouse.

North America is still a mess

I mean that in the best possible way: North American is still a mess. Coming into Sunday of Week 4, there was a grand total of zero teams qualified for DreamHack. After Sunday, there are still zero teams qualified. Without comparing them directly to EU, it shows just how deep the talent pool in North America is. Anybody could show up and beat anybody on a daily basis. It’s good for competition, and it’s good for the SPL.

Luminosity gaming started the split appearing to be the lone team on top of North America, but as of late the rest of the pack has caught up. After Luminosity there’s four strong teams with Allegiance, Spacestation, Trifecta, and eUnited all fighting for the three DreamHack spots. Each team has had their moment of pure dominance during the Spring Split, and each team has looked like the best team in NA. Week 5 is going to be insane and with five teams fighting for the three spots, we’re in for a show.

Photo by Hi-Rez Studios

The production of the streams has improved

It’s not directly related to the players or teams, but it’s still important if the SPL wants to compete with the big esports. I wrote an article a little while back, detailing how Thursday Night Smite could be a big deal for the SPL. Whether or not Hi-Rez saw it, or at least saw the feedback from it, they’ve improved in areas they needed to.

They have increased coverage of the games when the time allows it, going into detail on player match ups and lane match ups. They’ve focused on recapping the game, and taking a look at where some things went wrong or right for teams, as well as in depth analysis of picks and bans both before and after games. Hi-Rez has always done well with interviewing players after games, but they’ve seemed to even improve on that.

The Summer Split has been a lot of fun for SPL fans, and Week 5 is going to be crazy. I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out before we head to DreamHack.


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Feature Photo by Hi-Rez Studios

Three takeaways from the HCS Summer League thus far

The third week of the HCS Summer League has ended, and the top three picture is starting to become clearer. These are three observations of the Summer Season before we enter the final week of competition.

 

Semantics Really Matter, Apparently

Fans who had tuned into the second day of Pro League week three play were met with an extended delay early-on. The match countdown timer had ended and instead replaced by a “We’ll be back” graphic. The series was set to feature teams Luminosity Gaming and OpTic Gaming, and likely would have drawn in a larger crowd. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins of Luminosity is a popular streamer on Twitch, and OpTic is the undisputed best team in Halo 5. Fans were eager to see how the new addition to Luminosity, Ryan “RyaNoob” Gettes, would perform in his second Pro League outing.

When the casters finally returned, some-30 minutes later, they explained to the audience that Luminosity would be forfeiting the match. The reason for the forfeit being that Luminosity had only requested a substitute player for one match, not two. The team is using the term “substitute” for RyaNoob, as he has yet to officially sign with Luminosity.

Ninja clarified his intentions on Twitter, which seem perfectly logical.

It’s disappointing, but surprising to see a match with the potential to bring in viewers be dealt with in such a way. OpTic probably would have won the series anyways, but that is beside the point. ESL have seen their fair share of criticism from the Halo community. Situations like this certainly do not help.

 

EnVyUs Should Avoid Game 5 Like the Plague

Team EnVyUs could be having a drastically different season right now. Currently at 2-3, EnVy is in a tough spot. They find themselves among two other capable teams in the throes of uncertain Pro League placement. It’s no question that EnVy is a better team than Evil Geniuses or Luminosity. But to an outsider, they may just seem like another average team taking up a middling spot in the top eight.

So just what happened, exactly?

In week one of Pro League play, EnVy squared off against OpTic gaming. EnVy had just embarrassed OG at HCS Atlanta, and was riding high. After jumping out to a 2-0 series lead, the series looked all but over for OpTic. Except it wasn’t.

OpTic caught fire, and stunned EnVy with three back-to-back wins, taking the series. EnVy had every opportunity to close the series, but couldn’t. The loss put EnVy in a hole early, and set the tone for OpTic to win four more consecutive Pro League series.

EnVy’s face-off against Splyce in week three painted a similar picture, just without the demoralizing reverse-sweep. The series went back-and-forth, with neither team claiming too much momentum. The two squads eventually arrived at game five, where Splyce would narrowly emerge victorious.

If EnVy were able to take each series, they’d be at a comfortable 4-1, and likely tied for the top spot. A placement that provides a much clearer demonstration of their true ability. Although this isn’t the case, there’s no reason why it can’t be. EnVy plays both Ronin Esports and Str8 Rippin next week, who are the 7th and 8th seeded teams. Two wins against these vulnerable squads may elevate EnVy into the top three.

 

The OpTic vs. Splyce Showdown is Going to Be Epic

OpTic Gaming is a team that needs no introduction. They’re the back-to-back World Champs and the most dominant force in Halo 5. The roster monopolizes the “Top 5 Players” discussion, and they belong to one of the biggest orgs in esports.

Bubu dubu of Splyce. Image by FantasyHCS.

 

Splyce, on the other hand, is a different story. After having their Pro League spot essentially stolen, Jesse “bubu dubu” Moeller and crew made a grueling trek through the amateur Halo scene, wiping the floor with nearly every AM team as they went. Splyce went on to place top six at the Halo World Championship and secured their place in the big leagues.

Splyce only got better with the acquisition of power slayer Jonathan “Renegade” Willette, who helped them secure a top four finish at HCS Daytona. Since qualifying for the Summer Pro League, they have all but demolished the competition. Both a hyper-aggressive playstyle and slaying prowess have carried Splyce to five straight victories in the Pro League.

When these two teams meet up next week, it will surely be the most exciting Pro League series thus far. While it’s nearly impossible to predict an outcome for the series, Halo fans can be assured that it will be far from boring.

 

Featured Image by TeamBeyond.net

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North American SPL DreamHack hopefuls

Current Standings

Photo by Hi-Rez Studios

Noble Esports

Wow, were Noble fun to watch last week or what? On Thursday they took a 2-0 victory against Team Allegiance, a team viewed as top three. Then they took a very hard fought 2-0 against eUnited, who was looking like a team poised to make a run for DreamHack. Up until Week Three, Noble hadn’t picked up a single game. Now they’re sitting in fifth place, with six points and a shot at DreamHack.

Technically speaking, only Flash Point is out of the running for DreamHack as of right now, but Noble is the last team with a legitimate shot. They don’t control their own fate, however, but they can put themselves in a pretty good situation. They have two sets remaining this split, one with AI, and the other with Flash Point, both of which are behind them in the standings.

Should Noble take a 2-0 in both games, they will end up with 12 points. They will need some help from the other teams, as the teams ahead of them are in a much better situation.

In Memory of Gabe (Now Trifecta)

IMOG was right there during the Spring Split. They were so close to clinching a spot at Smite Masters. Not much has changed for them, and yet again they’re a squad right on the edge of a spot at DreamHack. They’ve done enough to put themselves in this position, but it will take a strong performance out of them the final two weeks to clinch a spot.

Gabe plays AI, Luminosity, and Team Allegiance in their final three sets. On paper, and based on the standings, the way these games should go are 2-0, 0-2, and 1-1, which would give IMOG a total of 11 points. As with Noble, that point total doesn’t look like it will be enough to clinch a spot, and they too will need some help from the other teams.

If they don’t want to have to rely on others, however, Gabe can easily clinch on their own. Taking a game off of Luminosity, and then a 2-0 on ALG, IMOG will end up with 14 total points, which would be enough to make DreamHack. It’s all on Gabe to show up and perform at their best in the final two weeks.

Team Allegiance

ALG underperformed in the Spring Split. With the roster they had, there was no reason they shouldn’t have been competing for a spot at Masters. They’ve turned things around this split, and have positioned themselves to make DreamHack.

Allegiance is in the same boat as IMOG. On paper, they should be splitting 1-1 with both of their remaining opponents, IMOG and Monkey Madness. But if ALG is going to make Dreamhack, they’ll need to take at least 1 2-0.

The game they’ll need to find the 2-0 in will be the Monkey Madness game, as that’s the one that comes first. That’s a tall task, as MM is currently tied atop the North American standings. However, MM lost 2-0 against Luminosity, a team that ALG split with. If you believe in the transitive property, and ALG = Lum, Lum > MM, then ALG > MM. But they play the game for a reason, and anybody has a shot here.

Monkey Madness

They’ll probably be under a different name by the time DreamHack comes around, but Monkey Madness is in one of the best positions to make it there. They are tied for first place in North America with Luminosity and have complete control of their destiny.

It’s simple – if MM win 2-0 in their game versus ALG this weekend, they clinch. No relying on anyone else, just win and they’re in. Losing against ALG is where things could get messy. It wouldn’t mean they are out, but it would mean they could only total 13 points, and ALG, IMOG, and Luminosity all have the ability to end with at least the same amount of points.

Luminosity Gaming

Luminosity has been one of the top teams in North America for a while now and currently sit in first place by tie breaker. With three games remaining for Luminosity, and two of those games against some of the bottom teams, Luminosity has the best shot at making DreamHack.

Just like Monkey Madness, Luminosity controls their fate. Unlike Monkey Madness, they can’t clinch just by winning their next set just based on their schedule. On paper, Luminosity should 2-0 all three teams they have left to face. This would give them a total of 19 points, and clinch first place in North America.

Should Luminosity choke, they could be in a bit of a bind. As unlikely as it is, they could end up getting beat 2-0 or splitting 1-1, and a combination of those could spell disaster for them. In the end, Luminosity is a veteran team, and they’re going to do what it takes to clinch their spot as soon as they can.


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Feature Photo by Hi-Rez Studios

Week 3 Day 2 HCS Pro League Predictions

Week Three of the HCS Pro League Summer Season is shaping up to be the most interesting one yet. Earlier this week, it was announced that Team Liquid and Str8 Rippin would be exchanging players. The transaction was finalized, with Tim “Rayne” Tinkler now a member of Str8 Rippin, while Aaron “ACE” Elam found his new home on Team Liquid.

Both teams suffered a rocky start to this season of the Pro League, and a roster swap may just be the solution to their Summer Season woes. This article breaks down each matchup for the second day of Pro League Week Three and predicts each victor.

Splyce vs. Team EnVyUs

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

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

Snip3down of Team EnVyUs. Image by EsportsWikis

If there is a matchup for Splyce to lose, this may be it. Although Splyce has the raw slaying power to compete with most teams, EnVy has the experience to counter. This shows when the assists of each team are compared. EnVy’s 430 assists in the Pro League outclass Splyce’s 394. This means that while Splyce may have greater success in one-on-one battles, EnVy reduces the chance of players being caught alone. EnVy will allow Splyce to be only as aggressive as EnVy wants them to be, setting up team shots, and playing the numbers game.

Another benefit for EnVy is their ability to stay calm under pressure. Rarely do the ever allow blowouts or snowball victories, and this doesn’t look to change any  time soon. If Splyce wants to hold on for a series win, they cannot get complacent. No series lead is safe against EnVyUs, and Splyce must remember that.

Key Matchup:

Snip3down leads EnVyUs with 27 Sniper Rifle kills in the Pro League, the highest kill count between both teams. Splyce must keep the power weapon out of his hands if they want to take this series. If not, expect Snip3down to continue slaying and creating openings for himself and the rest of EnVy.

Prediction: Team EnVyUs 3 – 2 Splyce

OpTic Gaming vs. Luminosity Gaming

OG: T.j. “Lethul” Campbell, Matt “Royal2” Fiorante, Paul “SnakeBite” Duarte, Bradley “Frosty” Bergstrom

LG: Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Cameron “Victory X” Thorlakson, Joe “TriPPeY” Taylor, Tommy “Saiyan” Wilson

OpTic Gaming has been, and will continue to be, a force of nature in Halo 5. The roster leads the league in crucial stats, and they have dominated each matchup thus far. Luminosity, on the other hand, hasn’t had the greatest Pro League showing. At 1-2, LG desperately needs wins to turn their record around and become contenders. As mentioned in the Day 1 predictions article, this is a make-or-break week for the squad. A winless Week Three likely means roster turmoil, which could signal further losses as new players adjust.

If Luminosity wants to have any chance at victory, they must outclass OpTic with firepower. All four members of OpTic currently lead the league in damage output per game. Their ability to constantly apply pressure and keep the enemy shields chipped away greatly contributes to their success. LG’s current damage output is dismal in comparison, and their ability to step up will determine how quick this series ends.

One player that needs to specifically improve is Ninja. He currently leads the Pro League in Deaths Per Game and has the lowest K/D, accuracy and damage output on the team. If Ninja cannot improve in Week Three, he might find himself in hot water for a roster change.

Key Matchup: It’s OpTic Gaming, there really is no key matchup here. OpTic is too good at everything, and it will require a herculean effort by LG to keep up.

Prediction: OpTic Gaming 3 – Luminosity Gaming 0

Evil Geniuses vs. Str8 Rippin

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

Str8: Richie “Heinz” Heinz, Tim “Rayne” Tinkler, Bradley “aPG” Laws, Dan “Danoxide” Terlizzi

In an interesting move, Str8 Rippin acquired Rayne from Team Liquid, in exchange for Ace. While Rayne has proven to be a top objective player in Pro League, it’s questionable whether he brings the slaying power that Str8 needs. He leads the league in Flag Defense and Flag Return stats, but also has the fourth-highest deaths per game, joining teammate aPG. With Rayne playing as a CTF anchor, his defense may open opportunities for players like Danoxide to get crucial kills.

Rayne of Str8 Rippin. Image by Twitter.com/Str8Rippin

The matchup with EG will, however, show off Str8’s objective prowess against another OBJ-minded team. Both Str8 and EG are winless in Slayer game types in the Pro League. Handing EG their first Strongholds loss of the season will allow Str8 some confidence in their objective game. Such a victory may give them a clearer focus when it comes to improving slayer strategy and create a path to improve their abysmal 0-3 record.

For all intents and purposes, this week is all about Rayne. His performance and synergy with his new teammates will dictate whether or not Str8 Rippin can be saved this season. If Str8 finishes Week Three at 0-5, it is almost guaranteed that they will finish the Pro League in last place.

Key Matchup: Slayer, slayer, slayer. Neither EG or Str8 have claimed a victory in the game type through three weeks. The team that can capitalize during slayer games will win this series.

Prediction: Evil Geniuses 3 – 2 Str8 Rippin


Do you agree with these predictions? What are your thoughts on Rayne joining Str8 Rippin? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image by GameRevolution 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Garrett! Get in touch with Garrett personally to talk more HCS and see more articles by following him on Twitter @gbSTATUS!

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