iBUYPOWER Masters 2017: The favourites

iBUYPOWER Masters 2017 starts today, with Cloud9, Liquid, Renegades, OpTic, Misfits, Luminosity, CLG and NRG in attendance. Only half of these teams have a chance at taking the title though. Let’s take a look at those teams.

Cloud9

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Cloud9 just came off a steaming hot victory at Dreamhack Denver, and even though the only team on their level attending was mousesports, they looked great. Aside from maybe Renegades, they look to be in the best form out of every team. Taking the wins (on LAN) that they should and not getting upset too much.

Placed in a group with Renegades, NRG and Luminosity, they are clear favourites to take the first seed in the group. And, unless an upset in Group B occurs allowing Liquid to face Cloud9, Cloud9 should have an easy path to the finals. The final will be a challenge regardless of whether it’s Renegades or Liquid; but Cloud9 should be the team to take the tournament.

Renegades

Out of the three victories that Liquid, Renegades and Cloud9 managed to get, Renegades achieved the best one. They got a victory at the Starladder i-League Invitational #2 over Virtus.Pro. Not only was it a victory, it was a domination. With a 2-0 over Virtus.Pro in the final, plus a Bo3 victory over HellRaisers, Renegades had a very impressive victory finally getting over their issue of choking away leads.

Renegades should end in the second seed for Group A underneath Cloud9, but there is always the chance for an upset sending them into the playoffs as the first seed. Although they’re not the easy favourites to win the tournament, they could definitely take the trophy at the end of everything.

Team Liquid

iBUYPOWER Masters

Photo by: hltv.org

Liquid have been looking weird since coming off of their double-final run after New York. Being unable to win a series at either ELEAGUE or EPICENTER, they went into the Americas minor with a couple question marks. They lost a Bo3 to Misfits but were able to come back and ended up taking the tournament.

In a group with OpTic, Misfits and CLG, it’s a possibility that Liquid could be upset or even eliminated in the group stage. With all that considered, Liquid should still make it out as the first seed, but it’s not guaranteed. Though, assuming the entire group stage is Bo1s, making it to the playoffs should ensure them at least making the final or taking the trophy.

OpTic Gaming

Being the only one out of the teams I’ve mentioned to not take a tournament in the recent future, they’re still one of the favourites just due to pure firepower. They have looked quite good online as well, although it doesn’t mean too much. They’re currently second in EPL although they’re only seventh in ECS. They did however qualify for IEM Oakland over Renegades.

Losing Bo3s against EnVyUs and Space Soldiers at the European minor means they’re probably unlikely to win against any of the three teams above in a Bo3 on LAN. But of course, since it is CS:GO, it is very possible for them to do anything. And, considering their firepower, they can definitely win matches with just pure aim.


Featured image via iBUYPOWER.

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Super Regionals

Super Regionals: The NA favourites

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

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

Super Regionals

Image courtesy of lol.gamepedia.com

 

eUnited

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

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

Luminosity

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

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

SpaceStationGaming

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

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

Super Regionals

Image courtesy of smite.esportswiki.com

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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Top image courtesy twitter.com/smitepro

 

Trevor May: “Follow the money, it’s where the masses will look”

Trevor May

Courtesy of Twitch.tv

The sports and esports worlds are becoming more intertwined by the week. It was announced that Minnesota Twins pitcher Trevor May and his company Esports Lab were investing time and money to help relaunch Winstonslab.com.

This is just one of the latest examples of traditional sports individuals getting involved with esports. While many of these individuals are only investing because they see business opportunities, May, while also seeing similar opportunities, is following one of his lifelong passions.

As a child May grew up playing on a Super Nintendo with his older brother. They would play games like Super Mario and once the Nintendo 64 came out, games like “Ken Griffey Jr. Major League Baseball”. While he had his passions for traditional sports like baseball, his go to after a long day was video games.

One of his best friends growing up had a dad who built computers just for fun. May, always being a console man at this time, went over and saw the room full of computers.

“This was my first true lan experience, and I loved it,” May said in an interview with The Game Haus.

With this, May was shown another side of gaming, online gaming. He went over to his friends house to play until he finally was able to get his own laptop. Once that happened, he started playing games like the “Total War Series”, “League of Legends”, “Warcraft 3” and “World of Warcraft”. These games allowed him to immerse himself into the world of online gaming and he’s never looked back.

Competition

The one thing that intersects for May between sports and esports is the competition associated with it. As one may expect, he is a high-level competitor and always has been. Whether he is pitching for the Twins or trying to get that Chicken Dinner in PUBG, May is out there to win.

“If you are going to put any real time into something then you want to be good,” May said. “Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and I hate to waste time”.

May is dealing with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. This is a surgery that normally requires anywhere from 10-18 months to come back from. It is much quicker nowadays but that is still a long time to be off the field. For a competitor like May, it is especially hard to be off the field and since he is unable to pitch competitively, he has taken his time to jump into video games and streaming.

A few months back when May started to gain a following on Twitch, he was contacted by the esports organization Luminosity. He quickly joined their streaming team and has felt welcomed since day one. Luminosity and May are working together on a gentleman’s agreement, which means no contract is involved. This is due to May’s contract with the Minnesota Twins.

The Business Side

While he is sidelined, May hasn’t only been playing games. He is also getting involved on the business side of esports.

“I knew from a business standpoint that I wanted to get involved,” May said.

For someone who does not like to waste time, he felt that furthering himself in the business world would be a good thing to focus on. May believes that jumping into the esports scene while it is young is a great business decision.

Trevor May

Courtesy of wwg.com

During this time, he has also been working on his company Esports Lab. One of the company’s first moves was getting involved with Winstonslab.com in order to bring it back.

They had a good following but did not have the means needed to continue on. When May was contacted about the company, he realized that this website was very similar to the analytics in baseball.

He said the world is data-driven and that like advanced metrics in baseball, esports such as Overwatch should use them too. This will allow for people to have a better understanding of what is going on in the game.

He compared this to World of Warcraft. This was a game May had played for many years and spent a long time playing competitively.

“The best way to get advantages was to look for the small ones,” May said. “Whether it was slightly better armor or a better weapon you needed any advantage you could get”.

With this comes his belief in Winstonslab. Franchising for Overwatch is coming with the new OWL and teams will be doing whatever they have to in order to get that slight advantage.

Now that he is more involved with the esports scene, May realizes what esports franchising really means. There will be a lot more money put into the scene and it will continue to attract big time names and playmakers. He also believes that once players become more well-known and esports becomes mainstream, then more people will continue to watch it.

A Newer Generation of Two-Sport Athlete

Trevor May

Courtesy of twincities.com

When asked about people who either don’t understand how people could like both sports and esports, May said if you’re prestigious at something, you warrant respect.

“If you are in the top percentage of people at anything then you deserve respect,” May said.

He continued by pointing out that people who are amazing at anything deserve a chance at making a living off of it. Esports may not be there yet, but they will be. May believes that someday soon they will get their due.

 

Trevor May is showing the world that sports and esports can be interconnected and he is a big advocate for just that. You can watch his stream and hear him talking about this. While he has had the time off he has put a lot of effort into playing games consistently and yet is still able to balance his baseball life. Sadly he knows that his time streaming will decrease once he is healthy and the next season starts.

What May is doing is something that people will hear about more. The esports world is in its infancy but, it’s growing fast. More important people will continue to get involved from both worlds and the message of understanding and respect will hopefully grow along with it.


Featured image courtesy of the New York Post.

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

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

A multitude of teams

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

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

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

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

A beautiful venue

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

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

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

Multi-stream, multi-stage

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

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

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

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

To the fans

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


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Feature image courtesy of Astro Gaming.

Initial thoughts on the World Championship draw

With the conclusion of the Stage Two playoffs, Call of Duty fans can look ahead to the World Championship in just over a week. The group stages were drawn live after yesterday’s grand final. While some teams will be happy with the outcome others may be starting to sweat. Here are some initial thoughts following the draw and who will make it through to the knockout stages.

In the clear

There are a few teams who I see making it through the groups undefeated. The first being stage two winners, OpTic Gaming. The Green Wall usually has no struggles versus the European teams and having already faced Epsilon in the pro league should only make it easier.

Clayster only recently joined eUnited from FaZe. [Source: MLG]

The second team I have going undefeated is eUnited. Clayster and Arcitys have more than enough slaying power between them to take down Mindfreak, Infused and Lethal Gaming. That’s without adding the other two into the equation. They shouldn’t be tested whilst getting out of groups.

Team number three is Luminosity for similar reasons to eUnited. Octane and Slacked are too strong for the rest of the field. Supremacy and Vitality simply don’t have slayers that can match up to them. Rise, on the other hand, have the potential with Aqua playing well as of late but the rest of the squad is far behind leading me to believe that they will also get steamrolled.

Finally, making it through undefeated I have Fnatic. It might seem like an odd choice considering the potential Str8 Rippin has, and Evil Geniuses’ veteran players, but something Fnatic has shown is that they consistently beat teams underneath them. A skill really undervalued in a game like Infinite Warfare.

The battles for second

Group A could go one of two ways. Epsilon could crush the two qualifiers or they lose out at the biggest tournament of the year. If Epsilon doesn’t return to their previous form they could struggle against Echo Fox and 3sUP who have a blend of experienced and young players. Hopefully, the European boot camp in Orlando helps them as they are a team that could make the playoff bracket interesting with their potential to take out NA giants.

Second seed Team EnVyUs might also have a rough ride in group B. The way they lost the grand final speaks to their inconsistencies. They are stacked up against Elevate, Projekt Evil and Mindfreak Black. Elevate are another team that disappointed in the global pro league so they will be looking to bounce back. Projekt Evil are a team on the rise after they qualified for group play at Anaheim through the open bracket. I am unsure on the Australians as I haven’t seen enough of them but I’m sure they have a few tricks up their sleeve that could catch the aforementioned out.

Rated is known for his aggressive plays. [Source: MLG]

I have a surprising prediction for group E in that I believe Red Reserve will take the first seed over Faze Clan. As I mentioned in a previous article, Red Reserve has all the makings of a quality team. If Seany plays the same as in the pro league I can see him consistently besting Enable. Meanwhile, Rated and Joe can outmatch Attach and Zooma in aggressive playmaking if they play their A-game.

My last thoughts are with group G and Splyce who were disappointing at playoffs. Ghost Gaming was unlucky not to qualify for stage two playoffs. They showed great promise despite having not been formed long before the league kicked off. There’s also Millennium led by MarkyB and Moose waiting in the wings to reclaim their spot at the top of European CoD. Splyce have time to sort out their play and I still expect them to top the group but it could be a tight finish.

What are the storylines to watch?

Previous World Champ from Advanced Warfare, Replays, is back out of retirement to captain the Echo Fox side. Much of the community will be rooting for him to make it deep as he’s loved for his stream and just being an all-around nice guy.

One grudge match everyone is looking forward to is between Str8 Rippin and Evil Geniuses. Str8 Rippin player Study was dropped from the latter not that long ago so he will be out for blood. Str8 is also responsible for bringing young gun Temp back to the top of the scene. He missed out on a lot of top Call of Duty after the age restriction was imposed on the World League, but now he has finally turned eighteen and is ready to dominate the competition.

Can Europe win a world championship? Splyce finished second at CoD XP last year which was a huge boost for the European scene. This year they’ve surpassed that by winning Stage One, the first time an EU team has won an international event in CoD history. Fans from the region will be wondering if there’s any chance they can take first this time around.

Team EnVyUs have the chance to win back to back Worlds, something that has never been done before. This roster has ridden the Infinite Warfare gauntlet but has stuck together in spite of that. The World Championship could be the reward worth all that wait. Not only that, but JKap could actually win three rings in a row. A feat that would probably never be reached again.

JKap first won the World Championship in 2015 with Denial. [Source: zimbio.com]

And finally, will OpTic Gaming do what they couldn’t before? Green Wall fans can be found far and wide but they all crave the same thing, the World Championship. OpTic Gaming has won MLGs to X-Games in recent years but has missed out on the illustrious ring despite fielding the God squad we know and love. With the win at stage two under their belt, is this Scump and Formal’s time to take it?

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Feature image courtesy of unionxvg.com

 

Ones to watch: GPL season two playoffs

Although the teams for the Call of Duty World Championship have just been finalized there is one more battle ready to take place. That battle is the playoffs of Call of Duty’s second LAN pro league. The first round matchups caused controversy within the scene as they were drawn off stream leading some players to believe they were fixed. Although that may be detrimental to some squad’s chances of winning the tournament, there will be some thrilling first matches for fans to tune in to.

This article will pick out some key players their team will need if they are to overcome the rest of the field.

FaZe Clan’s Pierce “Gunless” Hillman

Two of Call of Duty’s biggest brands go head to head in round one. The first, FaZe Clan, is still fresh off of the transfer of Gunless. Meanwhile, Team EnVyUs continue to falter against the top teams.

Call of Duty World Championship

Gunless led eUnited to the trophy at CWL Atlanta. [Source: MLG]

Both sides have struggled massively in Infinite Warfare so I expect this one to be a brawl. If FaZe are to come out on top Gunless needs to be the star he was back on eUnited. The team qualified for the players in the final series of group blue. They had to win the series versus Ghost Gaming without conceding two map losses. They managed to end it convincingly on the fourth map, although, games one and three were nail-biters.

Looking at FaZe’s stats, it seems odd that Gunless had the lowest overall kill death ratio. It could be that with Clayster’s departure Enable can embrace being the main assault rifler. Furthermore, opening up space for Attach to make plays but Gunless is going to have to be on that same level if they are to take down the likes of Splyce or Luminosity.

I’m not hating on Gunless’ performance by any means, the man was still a beast in Search and Destroy. The Canadian had the highest K/D whilst simultaneously having the most bombs planted. It’s just we know that the CWL Atlanta MVP has more to offer in the respawns.

Tom “Tommey” Trewen of Fnatic

Tommey has been at the top of European CoD for as long as I can remember. Even though nowadays Splyce is taking all the glory, the Brit remains a huge figure in the scene leading Fnatic’s foray into Call of Duty.

Call of Duty World Championship

Tommey was perfect for Fnatic’s entrance into CoD. [Source: @fnatic]

When the team was conceived many would have believed Tommey to be its star player, however, he has been overshadowed by adored brothers Skrapz and Wuskin. Much like Gunless, we know that Tommey can bring more to the table.

He has always been a clutch player, particularly in Search and Destroy. If the squad is to knock down the Green Wall, Fnatic is going to need that skill, especially since you could argue OpTic’s best game mode right now is SnD.

Enigma6’s Nicholas “Proto” Maldonado

Call of Duty World Championship

Proto does the dirty work for E6. [Source: enigma6group.com]

The notorious Enigma6 qualified from the same scrappy group as FaZe. They secured their playoff spot due to their head to head record against Ghost Gaming, beating the team both times they played. However, the wins didn’t come any easier.

Latest addition Royalty put his backpack on for the weekend leading the slaying in every single game mode with General usually not far behind. Proto was lacking in that department, finishing the weekend with an overall K/D of 0.90 being sub par in Uplink and SnD in terms of the slaying.

In spite of the stats, Proto holds his place in the team. He was their lead scorer in both Uplink and Hardpoint. However, the lack of fragging will be a problem against the likes of eUnited if the team want to make a deep run. With no guarantees that Royalty will go that nuclear again if Proto can step up and make the difference, they might be able to steal a win. Something Enigma6 is quite known for doing.

Trei “Zer0” Morris of Splyce

At MLG Anaheim, Zero was fighting to be the best player in the world. The man was hitting shots we thought not possible. The second place finish seems to have hit him hard with group yellow being one of his worst events yet.

Call of Duty World Championship

Zer0 pictured left on stage. [Source: MLG]

Similarly to Enigma6, Splyce qualified for the playoffs because of a 2-0 head to head against fellow Europeans Red Reserve. Despite their victories over Red, they were another team that looked unconvincing after being swept by eUnited and even losing to Rise Nation on the final day.

If Splyce is to beat the number one ranked team Luminosity in the first round, they are going to need their best player back on top form. His K/D in the pro league was at 0.90 while at Anaheim he racked up a deadly 1.17 over 38 maps. If Octane performs the way he did at Anaheim I honestly believe Zero is one of the only players that could possibly shut him down.

If Zero wants to defend Splyce’s title from season one he’ll have to prove that group yellow was an anomaly in an otherwise fantastic year for him. The playoffs start up later today with the first series being eUnited against Enigma6, tune into mlg.tv to see the action unfold.

 

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Feature image from MLG, Stats courtesy of codcompstats.com

Inferno: The hallmark of grand finals

PGL Major Kraków was a topsy turvy tournament, to say the least. A Gambit side led by Danylo ‘Zeus’ Teslenko took the victory in a thrilling final map on the historic Inferno. We saw an incredible clutch from Abay ‘HObbit’ Khasenov and consistent fragging from Dauren ‘AdreN’ Kystaubayev whilst the AWPing of Vito ‘kNg’ Giuseppe and the leadership of Lucas ‘steel’ Lopes tried to keep them in the game.

The map in question, Inferno, has hosted a number of grand final deciders. Despite only being reintroduced into the map pool this year, it has remained a popular choice among top teams. It is favored as a neutral playing field because most teams know all the basic strategies but the tempo can be changed between fast and slow. Its design also allows for clutch plays whether that be as a CT from pit defending the A bomb or as a terrorist running down banana.

For these reasons, we’ve been gifted many memorable finals thanks to Inferno. This article will pick out some of the best that you may be interested in re-watching.

SL-iLeague Starseries Season 3 Finals

FaZe Clan had been on the rise since picking up Bosnian superstar Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač. They had recently formed a rivalry with the Danes of Astralis, who bested them in the final of Counter-Strikes famed ESL One Katowice.

However, there was more than just the rivalry at stake for FaZe. The team was out to prove what international teams can achieve. Not only that, Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen craved revenge against his former team while Fabien ‘kioShiMa’ Fiey wanted to prove he wasn’t ‘The Problem’. With the grand final one a piece, was there a better way to end than in overtime on Inferno?

ESL One Cologne 2014

Over three years ago now, back when it was still a major, the grand final of ESL One Cologne 2014 was decided by Inferno. The perfect stage for the still ripe El Classico between Fnatic and NiP. The aforementioned beat the Ninjas in CSGO’s first ever major championship while the legendary team was still missing one from their trophy cabinet.

Facing one of the most dominant Inferno teams in Fnatic, it seemed as if all the odds were pitched against them. After going down early, an unforgettable ace from Adam ‘friberg’ Friberg instilled confidence in the Ninjas who would go on to win their only major in CSGO.

ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals

For this match, we head over to London to witness an intense best of five final. Luminosity, now known as SK Gaming, was fresh off the back of a major win at ESL One Cologne 2016. While challengers G2 Esports had struggled with consistency. It was on the astounding duo of Richard ‘shox’ Papillon and Adil ‘ScreaM’ Benrlitom to prove French CS was still at large.

The first four maps were nail-biting with every map ending with both teams in double figures. The last map Inferno did the entire series justice. The game went into overtime boasting incredible plays from Shox and Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David. If you are a newer viewer it’s one I’d definitely recommend watching.

ESL One Katowice 2015

After looking into Cologne 2014, you’ll probably get a sense of Déjà vu here. We’re back, map three, Inferno, NiP versus Fnatic. This time Fnatic demonstrated that dominance through utterly crushing the Ninjas on their CT side. In spite of that, NiP would make the game entertaining through a second half resurgence.

This game is a great example of how to play the CT side of Inferno. NiP making great use of crossfires on the A bombsite, meanwhile, Fnatic perfected the art of banana control. If learning some new tricks is your thing, many of these can still be used in the newest iteration of the map.

 

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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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Three things the Summer Split taught us about the SPL

The early game meta is here to stay

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

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

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

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

NRG are still not the force they once were

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

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

View post on imgur.com

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

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

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

The competition is real!

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

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

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

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

Image courtesy of tentonhammer.com

 

Top Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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Luminosity Gaming wins CWL Anaheim

Luminosity destroyed European hopes of back to back championships in a nail-biting Grand Final at CWL Anaheim.

Call of Duty’s most historic event saw a repeat of the Stage One finals between Luminosity and Splyce. However, this time the roles were reversed. Luminosity reached the Grand Final through the winners’ bracket, while, Splyce had a strenuous Sunday after dropping to the losers’ bracket following an early loss to fellow countrymen Epsilon.

After narrowly beating OpTic Gaming in the first round of the bracket, Luminosity would go on to sweep Evil Geniuses and Epsilon to cement their spot in the Grand Final.

Grand Final

As many know, Anaheim is illustrious for creating epic games and this one was no different despite the 3-1 score line.

The Grand Final series opened up with Scorch Hardpoint, where LG jumped out to a lead. Splyce would crawl back into the game on the second rotation of hills. It looked like Sam “Octane” Larew had put the nail in the coffin after going on an insane streak of kills in the hangar Hardpoint. However, with LG needing only one point to win, Splyce contested the hill for around 30 seconds, eventually closing the deficit and snatching the win 250-249. To see the exciting end just watch this clip.

Game two was Search and Destroy on Crusher. The teams traded rounds, although Luminosity was much more consistent throughout the game and looked experts at holding and retaking bomb sites. The scoreline looks close but Luminosity looked in control throughout the map and won it.

Map three was Throwback Uplink, which started out relatively slow with the first half ending at just 5-3. LG was on the attack for the majority of that half but didn’t convert many chances that were until the second half. All of the NA team went on a tear in the second half ending the game 11-5 after rallying the drone multiple times. Throwback was a pleasure to watch with both Octane and Trei “Zer0” Morris showing off their superb accuracy, gunning people down from range with the NV4.

The final map in the series was Retaliation Hardpoint which again went down to the wire. Similarly to game one, Luminosity jumped out to the lead with MVP Octane going on a seven kill streak and earning his bombardment. However, Splyce came back after Octane wasted his streaks allowing Jordan “Jurd” Crowley to get some of his own. The game came down to the bridge hill with all the players piling in like a game of Advanced Warfare. This time Renato “Saints” Forza secured key kills to win the championship for his squad.

Closing Thoughts

Octane earned the MVP award for the event. [Source CWL]

As they did in Counter-Strike, the Luminosity organization has seemingly plucked out another rising team that has won them a championship. Casters, analysts and players have been tipping the team to reach the top for a while now and they have finally succeeded in doing so. Octane earned the MVP award but it was Saints’ revitalisation that truly gave them the power to win.

Although Splyce did not win the Grand Final, they too deserve huge credit. Reaching the final has further merited their win at Stage One after defeating a string of teams in the losers’ bracket and still showing up in the Grand Final. Bance was crazy with the ERAD this event, scoring multi-kill after multi-kill, while Zer0 made a case for being the best player in the world.

This year Anaheim has gifted us a new rivalry and I fully expect to see a rematch between these two titans in Stage Two playoffs of the World League.


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