skill gap

NA closing the skill gap

It’s no secret that many consider Europe to be the dominant region when it comes to Rocket League esports. However, North America appears to be closing the skill gap.

Major LAN Events

Take a look at the top four teams from major Rocket League LAN events in the past. It’s easy to see EU’s domination over NA at the beginning.

RLCS World Finals

iBUYPOWER, a former NA team, won the first ever Rocket League Championship Series world finals. Regardless, EU was still dominant overall. Flipsid3 Tactics, Northern Gaming and The Flying Dutchmen, all EU teams, took second through fourth place respectively.

In fact, in all three seasons of the RLCS thus far only one team has represented NA in the top four of the world finals:

Season Two

  1. Flipsid3 Tactics (EU)
  2. Mock-It eSports (EU)
  3. Northern Gaming (EU)
  4. Take 3 (NA)

Season Three

  1. Northern Gaming (EU)
  2. Mock-It eSports (EU)
  3. NRG Esports (NA)
  4. The Leftovers (EU)

Since the season three finale of the RLCS, there are several tournaments one can look back to which suggest this skill gap is narrowing.

DreamHack / FACEIT

The RLCS features equal representation from EU and NA at the world finals. DreamHack Summer 2017, taking place in Sweden, only featured one team from NA. Of the 15 teams total who competed, the NA team, Rogue, placed in the number 3-4 spot.

skill gap

Image courtesy of steamcardexchange.net

The most recent major LAN event to take place was the FACEIT X Games Invitational. The tournament featured eight teams in total, four from NA and four from EU. The bracket was broken down into two groups, each consisting of two NA and two EU teams.

While EU looked strong as always, NA certainly showed up to play in this tournament. Out of nine matches that were played between an NA and EU team, NA came out on top five times. This includes the finals, in which NRG Esports beat Gale Force eSports four to three in a best of seven match.

Five out of nine games is relatively even, which is exactly the point I’m trying to make. The skill gap is closing. On top of this, the ending placements were just as even. Gale Force eSports took second. After that, the 3rd-4th, 5th-6th and 7th-8th slots each had one NA and one EU team.

Mechanics

It’s difficult to lock down a group of players, let alone a single player, as the top mechanically. There are too many top tier players in NA and EU, not to mention from other regions of the world.

When it comes to mechanics, top players may have certain mechanics that they are known for executing frequently and nearly flawlessly.

skill gap

Image courtesy of steamtradingcards.wikia.com

David “Deevo” Morrow is well known for his double taps; Francesco “Kuxir97” Cinquemani is well known for his mechanical ability playing off the wall; Jacob “Jacob” McDowell is known for his unusual mechanics; Chris “Dappur” Mendoza and Kyle “Scrub Killa” Robertson are known for their one-on-one abilities, just to name a few.

That being said, you don’t make it the top without being proficient in all mechanical aspects. Pick the “worst” mechanical pro player you can think of, and they’re still miles ahead of the average player.

So, I’m confident in arguing that NA and EU have been relatively equal, in terms of mechanics, since the beginning of the professional Rocket League scene. Decision making, on the other hand, is a different story.

Decision Making

Perhaps the most important aspect of decision making in Rocket League is knowing when and when not to rotate back. For those who don’t know, rotation is when you decide not to pursue the ball, rather opting to fall back and allow a teammate to attack.

It only takes one poor decision regarding rotation before you quickly find your team getting scored on. Watch past seasons of the RLCS and you’ll see EU’s superiority when it comes to rotation. That’s starting to change.

skill gap

Jacob. Image courtesy of nrg.gg

NA teams are refining their rotations, making effective decisions. One team worth taking a look at, regarding rotation, is NRG.

Along with his unusual mechanics, Jacob is known for his sometimes unusual positioning. While that has been advantageous at times, making it difficult for the opposition to predict, it has also been the cause of breaks in NRG’s rotation.

However, as the skill gap tightens and NA teams make increasingly better decisions regarding rotation, Jacob’s unusual positioning makes NRG more dangerous than ever. Without impeccable decision making, unusual positioning is a recipe for breaking rotation and ceding goals. Add in proper decision making and it becomes a recipe for breaking the opponent’s rotation instead.

Conclusion

With the skill gap getting smaller and smaller, there has never been a better time to be a fan of NA Rocket League. Fans should psych themselves up.

A closing skill gap means tighter competition and, in turn, tighter matches. The best Rocket League matches are won by one game. The best Rocket League games are won by one point.

With DreamHack Atlanta beginning today and season four of the RLCS just on the horizon, it promises to be a great few coming months for Rocket League.

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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

 

Possible NA Season Four Rosters

It’s been just under a month since the season three finale of the Rocket League Championship Series. Already players are hard at work changing organizations, building new rosters, practicing and competing in smaller tournaments.

This guide is an attempt to help Rocket League fans keep track of the scene’s ever-changing teams and offer potential team compositions for the coming fourth season of the RLCS.

RLCS Season Three Contenders

As with previous seasons, season three of the RLCS allotted eight league play slots for North American teams and European teams. In addition, the top two teams competing in the Throwdown Rocket League Oceanic Championship made it into the season three RLCS world championships. This was the first time the RLCS included teams from the OCE region.

The top two teams from both the NA and EU regions, along with the world champions, received auto-qualification for season four. Season four will be the first season in which teams are auto-qualified for league play. However, these teams must retain two-thirds of their season three roster in order to keep their auto-qualification.

Auto-Qualified Teams

Two NA teams are auto-qualified for season 4. These teams are NRG and Rogue.

NRG

NRG left to right: GarretG, Jacob, Fireburner. Photo courtesy of NRG Instagram (nrggram)

NRG’s Rocket League team consists of Jayson “Fireburner” Nunez, Jacob “Jacob” McDowell and Garrett “GarrettG” Gordon. Beginning under the name Kings of Urban, Jacob and Fireburner have been teammates since the first season of the RLCS. With Kais “Sadjunior” Zehri as their third roster member during the first two seasons, this squad won both regional championships.

Despite winning the first two NA regional championships, this squad was unable to place higher than fifth place at the world championships. Cut to GarrettG replacing Sadjunior. The updated NRG squad became three-time regional champions and placed third at the world championships, higher than they had before.

With this current squad taking second place at the first tournament of the 7-Eleven Summer Series presented by Brisk, it doesn’t appear that they’ll be changing their roster any time soon.

Rogue left to right: Sizz, Turtle, Matt. Photo courtesy of rocketleague.com

Atelier/Rogue

Beginning season three under the name Atelier, Emiliano “Sizz” Benny, Matt “Matt” Dixon and Isaac “Turtle” App made quite a mark on the NA region.

After placing second in the regional championships, Rogue acquired Atelier. Rogue went on to take the fifth-sixth slot at the world championships.

Travelling to Sweden for DreamHack Summer 2017, Rogue placed in the third-fourth slot. There are no signs of any roster changes as of yet.

 

Other Season Three Contenders

Of the six other teams that participated in season 3 of the RLCS, there is a mix of roster changes, continuing rosters and disbands. Here’s what we know so far.

Denial Esports

Denial’s season three team consisted of Treyven “Lethamyr” Robitaille, Gabriel “CorruptedG” Vallozzi and Sadjunior. Denial placed in the seventh-eighth slot at the season three world championships.

While there doesn’t appear to be any drastic changes to Denial’s roster so far, fans did see a different starting lineup during the first tournament of the 7-Eleven Summer Series. Sadjunior was moved to a substitute position and Jason “Klassux” Klass took over the third starting position. They were eliminated by Take 3 in the first round of this single-elimination tournament.

Nothing is official, but the addition of Klassux to Denial would create a team with a strong starting three and an equally strong substitute.

G2 Esports

G2, Photo courtesy of g2esports.com

As an organization, G2, has been active in the RLCS since season one. That being said, Cameron “Kronovi” Bills is the only remaining member from the initial team, who were crowned the first world champions of the RLCS.

After failing to qualify for the world championships in season two, G2 saw it’s first roster change. Ted “0ver Zer0” Keil retired and Brandon “Lachinio” Lachin left to help form Iris.

In season three, G2 and Kronovi came back to the RLCS with Dillon “Rizzo” Rizzo and Jacob “JKnaps” Knapman on the roster.

Despite not making it to worlds again in season three, the G2 roster has remained so far. In fact, the team took first place at the first tournament of the 7-Eleven Summer Series, beating NRG 4-0 in the finals.

When asked about season 4 during an interview on RLCS Overtime, Kronovi said “it’s either third time’s the charm if I make it, or three strikes you’re out if I fail again.” Continuing with this roster could be the resurrection G2 needs or the end of Kronovi, the mountain himself.

Genesis

Genesis, during season 3, consisted of Klassux, Trevor “Insolences” Carmody and Robert “Chrome” Gomez. They placed in the fifth-sixth slot of season three league play, falling just short of qualifying for the world championships.

Genesis reportedly had some teammate conflict throughout the season. Klassux tweeted a screenshot of an argument between himself and Insolences, which took place during season 3. This is, supposedly, just one of several problems the Genesis teammates had.

Chrome left Genesis and played for Take 3 during the first tournament of the 7-Eleven Summer Series. As mentioned above, Klassux played for Denial during the same tournament. As for Insolences, he tweeted about his uncertainty of whether or not to continue with competitive Rocket League. This came shortly after Genesis failed to qualify for the season three world championships.

Although nothing is certain at this point, it will be interesting to see where these players end up.

Selfless Gaming left to right: Mijo, Timi, Dappur. Photo courtesy of twitter.com/selflessrl

Selfless Gaming

Selfless took season three by storm. The roster consisted of Chris “Dappur” Mendoza, Timi “Timi” Falodun, Jesus “Mijo” Gutierrez and Braden “Pluto” Schenetzki. Pluto subbed in for Dappur during day two of the season three world championships.

It’s uncertain what will happen with this roster. All four of these players were involved with the first tournament of the 7-Eleven Summer Series but none under the Selfless name. Timi played with Ohana. Despite suggestions that Mijo is retired, Ohana listed him as a sub. Pluto played for Splyce, alongside Jaime “Karma” Bickford and Matthew “Satthew” Ackerman. Finally, Dappur played for The Muffin Men, along with Mariano “SquishyMuffinz” Arruda and Kyle “Torment” Storer.

Ohana was eliminated in the first round by G2, Splyce was eliminated in the first round by The Muffin Men and The Muffin Men were eliminated in the second round by G2.

Radiance/SetToDestroyX

Joshua “Lemonpuppy” Wright, Michael “Memory” M. and Eric “Halcyon” R. entered season three of the RLCS under the name Radiance. They were quickly acquired by SetToDestroyX.

After coming in last during the regular season, SetToDestroyX may be making some changes to the roster. Showing up at the 7-Eleven Summer Series, the roster consisted of Lemonpuppy, Coleman “ColemanA” Arehart and Matt “Loomin” Laymin. They were eliminated in the first round by NRG.

It’s unclear what the official roster will be come season four of the RLCS.

Take 3

Take 3 made their debut in the RLCS with a roster consisting of Rizzo, Insolences and Christopher “Zanejackey” Jacobs. Although this squad came in fourth at the season two world championships, Rizzo left to join G2 and Insolences joined Genesis.

Adam “Espeon” Barth and Vincent “Vince” Viani joined to fill the open slots for season three. They came in seventh.

Take 3 showed up to tournament one of the 7-Eleven Summer Series with a slightly different roster. Chrome took over Espeon’s position.

One notable thing about this change is Espeon’s presence on the tournament’s analyst desk. Espeon may be moving towards a caster/analyst role and out of a player role.

Moving Forward

Registration for season four of the RLCS has not begun yet and, as such, there is still plenty of time roster changes and new teams to form. Teams are constantly changing and disbanding as players seek to rise to the top and dominate the competition. Below is the potential/tentative list of teams that you can expect to see competing for a spot in season four.

These are just teams consisting of contenders from season three of the RLCS. Expect to see other players rise up for their shot at glory. You can catch a glimpse of some of these other teams by tuning in to the NA Nexus Gaming Summer Invitational, beginning Saturday, July 1.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part two, potential EU teams.

Tentative/Potential Season Four Teams (with season three contenders)

  • Denial: Lethamyr, CorruptedG, Sadjunior, Klassux
  • G2: Kronovi, Rizzo, JKnaps
  • NRG (auto-qualified): Jacob, Fireburner, GarretG
  • Ohana: Timi, Moses, Gimmick
  • Rogue (auto-qualified): Matt, Sizz, Turtle
  • SetToDestroyX: Lemonpuppy, ColemanA, Loomin
  • Splyce: Karma, Satthew, Pluto
  • Take 3: Zanejackey, Vince, Chrome
  • The Muffin Men: Dappur, SquishyMuffinz, Torment

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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

Peacemaker: A misfit among coaches

Luis “peacemaker” Tadeu has been a coach for many teams, but in such a short amount of time. This has caused controversy, but on the other side of the coin has caused many to respect him. Today, I’m going to detail his journey as a coach and how he got to where he is today.

Tempo Storm/Games Academy

Peacemaker started his journey as a coach in Games Academy. Although, not really given any recognition until later into his time with Tempo Storm, he had been the in-game-leader of the team since being added.

Photo by: hltv.org

Having a huge impact in the North American scene as well as their entrance onto the international stage, peacemaker led the Brazilian team to the top of the rankings in NA. Before this, the only time we heard of them was when they took a map off of Cloud9 at the RGN Pro Series LAN back in November of 2015. The next time we heard of them was when Luminosity took Lincoln “fnx” Lau and Epitácio “TACO” de Melo from Games Academy, leaving them with Ricardo “boltz” Prass who later became their star player.

After qualifying for the MLG Major Qualifier over Winterfox, GA were picked up by Tempo Storm, taking peacemaker with them. From this point, Tempo Storm was able to make the quarterfinals of IEM Katowice 2016. They then won the CEVO Gfinity Pro-League Season 9 Finals later on against the Danish SK Gaming. 

A week after winning the CEVO LAN, Tempo Storm dropped peacemaker from their lineup. Most people thought that we wouldn’t be seeing much of peacemaker on a non Brazilian team.

Team Liquid

Six days after being dropped by Tempo Storm, Liquid picked up peacemaker as their new coach. Mind you, this isn’t during the time they had their lineup with Oleksandr “simple” Kostyliev and Josh “jdm64” Marzano. This was Liquid’s lineup with a dysfunctional Kenneth “Koosta” Suen and misplaced Eric “adreN” Hoag.

Joining Liquid, peacemaker had a tough task in front of him. A week after his addition, his team had to play ELEAGUE Season One. In their group was LG/SK, Cloud9, and Renegades. They left Atlanta that week with zero maps won. Coming close on some maps, but otherwise being blown out of the water. This is where peacemaker learned how much work he had to do. ELEAGUE was the only LAN he coached while Koosta and adreN were on the squad.

Two weeks before the ECS Season One finals, Liquid announced that they would be playing with jdm and s1mple at ECS and ESL One Cologne 2016. They also announced that s1mple is only standing in, and that they are picking up a rifler for after Cologne. This player was later revealed to be Jacob “Pimp” Winneche. With this lineup, peacemaker had the best North American AWPer, one one of the best players in the world and one of the best in North America.

Photo by: hltv.org

Coming out of ECS, Liquid had flashes of brilliance, but there were still issues that needed to be worked on. Leading into Cologne, Liquid had a bootcamp where peacemaker was able to work with the team. Contrast to only having less than two weeks to prepare for ECS, peacemaker had more time on top of that for Cologne. Their result speaks for itself. The time and effort put into the bootcamp was used well, giving them the strategies and power to make the finals of a Major.

After the Major and when they finally had Pimp on their lineup, Valve banned coaches from talking during a round. This was not only a huge blow to the whole scene, this was a massive step back for Liquid. They lost their only in-game-leader, and leader in general. This shone brightly from the time of the announcement to the end of peacemaker’s time in Liquid.

Liquid would only attend one more LAN until peacemaker left; while they had a decent placing at ESL One New York, everything else around the team was a pile of crap. They failed to qualify for ELEAGUE Season Two, losing a Bo3 to Echo Fox. Along with that they played pretty bad in EPL’s 4th season, only qualifying due to the fact that Renegades couldn’t attend the finals. Shortly after EPL ended, peacemaker had left the team on his own terms.

OpTic Gaming

When Spencer “Hiko” Martin was announced to be playing for OpTic as a stand-in, the same was the case for peacemaker in the coaching position. Almost immediately, OpTic played Dreamhack Masters Las Vegas. While they did have a decent start to the tournament, upsetting North, they faltered and ended up losing out in the group stage. While many, myself included, gave the team the benefit of the doubt as they didn’t have long to prepare, they didn’t show much anywhere else even a while after the event.

Photo by: hltv.org

OpTic’s second LAN under peacemaker was IEM Katowice 2017, an event where peacemaker saw his first success a year prior. This year, it was the complete opposite. OpTic ended the tournament 0-5, not winning a single map in the group stage.

Almost two weeks after Katowice, peacemaker was cut from OpTic. It was announced that the players just didn’t like the style that peacemaker used.

Misfits

Four days after the entrance of their French duo, peacemaker joined the team as their Head Coach. His first long term team with a proper leader, Sean “sgares” Gares. While in the online season of EPL, peacemaker wasn’t able to make much impact as the season was almost over. But, Misfits were able to participate in qualifiers for some LANs.

They were able to qualify for Dreamhack Tours and the Americas Minor. But, they fell trying to qualify for Dreamhack Summer and ESL One Cologne. Qualifying for Tours was definitely a good thing for them though, as François “AmeNEk” Delauney and David “devoduvek” Dobrosavljevic were able to play on home soil.

Photo by: hltv.org

Coming in to Dreamhack Tours, Misfits fell in their first match to Natus Vincere. But on the second day, Misfits came back swinging. Upsetting both Heroic and Na’Vi in Bo3s to make the semifinals against Hellraisers, who they fell against. At this event, whether it was a joint effort from peacemaker and Sean, or just the sheer firepower from Shahzeb “Shahzam” Khan, this lineup was working for peacemaker.

The weeks leading into the Americas Minor was rough for Misfits. Not only was Sean unable to attend due to his wedding, Misfits benched Shahzam the weekend before the event. This was an issue, a big one. Misfits already lost their in-game-leader for the event, and now their best player has been benched. Immediately the community came to blame peacemaker for the decision. While the public only knows that Shahzam was benched due to no commitment to a bootcamp. Speaking to peacemaker himself, I was also told there were other internal issues surrounding Shahzam.

Immediately the community came to hate and blame peacemaker for the decision to bench Shahzam. Him saying that it wasn’t only his decision fueled the fire even more. Since then, the situation has been solved.

Originally I had said that peacemaker had lost his position as Head Coach, which is wrong. Peacemaker has corrected me and told me that he is still the Head Coach of the team. Making note that tweet from Misfit’s owner was badly worded.

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Smite Pro League: Masters LAN Review

The Smite Masters LAN was yet another successful tournament for the Smite Pro League. Before the LAN, I posed some questions and pointed out a few things to watch for during the LAN. With the way things played out, we received our answers and they’ve left us with some interesting thoughts for the upcoming Summer Split.

Which Favorite Will be the First to Fall?

Team Eager and Obey Alliance were the top seeds coming into the Masters LAN. Based on the way the seeding worked out, the team most likely to fall first was Obey Alliance.

They got matched up with NRG Esports in their first set, and that was followed with Team Rival. Both of these sets were taken to the final game, one best of three, the other best of five, with Obey miraculously coming out on top.

Eager had the easier road. They wound up facing the team from Brazil, Black Dragons, in their first set. This was one that everyone had going to Eager in a 2-0 sweep. Black Dragons showed that the other countries aren’t as far off of NA as we thought, and that they should be taken seriously. The wound up pushing Eager to the limit and forced a game three before ultimately falling to the NA champs.

The next set for Eager also took three games, just maybe not the way they wanted. Their next matchup was with Team Dignitas from EU, in a best of five with the winner going to the Masters Final. Eager put Cody “djpernicus” Tyson on Guan Yu in the jungle for the first two games, and it resulted in an embarrassing exit for the favorites out of North America.

Will NRG Bounce Back?

The short answer is, well, no. Technically they were out in the best of eight round and accomplished nothing.

The long answer is they never really went anywhere to begin with. They played the LG Dire Wolves from the Oceania Pro League in their first set, a best of three. The first game was a shocker for most people watching. The Dire Wolves came to the 2017 Smite World Championship and laid an egg. They didn’t really impress anyone and walked away without a win. So with them facing NRG in their first set, we expected more of the same. What we got was a very close first game, with it looking like DW had a shot of toppling the World Champions. That didn’t happen, however, and NRG asserted their dominance in the second game without having a single death.

NRG’s second set was a rematch of the 2017 World Championship vs Obey Alliance. This was one of the best sets from the weekend and featured a game one where NRG looked like they were going to completely stomp anyone they were up against. NRG unfortunately dropped games two and three and were out of the tournament on just the second day, but we found our answer as to whether NRG had gotten worse or not: Everyone from EU has just gotten that much better and are able to compete with anyone they’re up against. Which leads us to our next question.

Photo By: Hi-Rez Studios

Who Will Win the Region War?

EU. I don’t even know what else to say about this. North America was completely dominated by the teams from Europe to the point where it was a meme for the rest of the weekend.

Team Rival’s win at the Gauntlet was not a fluke, these guys are the real deal. Team Dignitas are absolutely the “Super Team” that they were supposed to be when their roster was announced. Obey Alliance has taken over as the number one team in not just Europe, but the world. And let’s not forget NRG Esports, who could have gone just as far in the tournament as any of the other teams had they not been matched up with the champs in their second set.

What we learned from this is that NA has some work to do. EU appeared to be a step ahead of all the teams from NA with everything from Picks and Bans, to objective control. North America was embarrassed, plain and simple. Hopefully for the sake of the rivalry they can pick things up for the upcoming Summer Split, and put on a strong performance at Dreamhack.


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Featured Photo By: Obey Alliance

Are NRG No Longer the Masters LAN Favorites?

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

The Grind of The Smite Pro League

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Hi-Rez Studios

The Competition is Just Flat Out Better

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

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

NRG Lost its Touch

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of NRG Esports

The Real Explanation

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

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


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Predications for ELeague: Adam Stevens (guest writer)

Courtesy of Eleague Twitter account.

Courtesy of Eleague Twitter account.

The $1.2million ELeague tournament hosted by Turner is set to kick off May 24th with a plethora of teams attending.

 

In this article I will break down who is attending the event, where I think they will place and who could potentially upset the pack.

 

Since Turner announced the ELeague there was an air of uncertainty around the teams with a small group of teams being announced initially which didn’t include any of the top tier names. After lengthy talks the full list of teams attending was announced, and didn’t disappoint.

 

 

Teams attending:

Astralis

Cloud9

CLG

compLexity

dignitas

Echo Fox

EnVyUs

FaZe

FlipSid3

fnatic

Gambit

G2

Liquid

Luminosity

mousesports

Natus Vincere

NiP

NRG

OpTic

Renegades

SK

TSM

Virtus.pro

TyLoo

 

For those of the more visual bent, or who just like pretty logos. Courtesy of liquidpedia.

For those of the more visual bent, or who just like pretty logos. Courtesy of liquidpedia.

 

The current CSGO competitive landscape is incredibly interesting, we’ve got Luminosity, the most recent Major champions, Na’Vi who consistently challenge for the top spot, and multiple teams that have recently made a roster swap which could potentially see them rocket to the top.

 

My top five looks like this:

Luminosity

Na’Vi

Astralis

Fnatic

NiP

 

Luminosity have shown that they’re an incredibly strong and tactical team that have so much to offer in the top tier CSGO scene. The big question about this line-up is if they can constantly stay at the top and make sure they don’t get figured out and completely antistratted by the other top tier teams.

 

 

Na`Vi have the issue of whether or not GuardiaN will be able to consistently play at the top of his game with the injury he has picked up in the past few months. He’s had to change his ingame sensitivity and has since not been the absolute dominant force he is known for. If Na`Vi can overcome this they will be consistently hitting top two.

Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

Courtesy of Liquidpedia.

 

Astralis have shown they’re a top tier team time and time again, but have never been able to close it out and win tournaments they play well at, they’re the team that keeps on choking. I have no doubt Astralis will be in the top 7 teams in this league, they have the potential to upset and break the top one and two places but it’s more likely they will finish in third to seventh in my opinion.

 

Courtesy of liquidpedia.

Courtesy of liquidpedia.

Fnatic have been constantly changing their roster to try and stay on top after Olofmeisters injury means that he will be unable to play for the coming months. They have tried Plessen, but recently cut him from the roster citing the team’s poor results as the reason for this. Now Fnatic have brought in Wenton, who hasn’t had the best start with Fnatic losing to Astralis but it’s still early days so we can’t read too much in to that. Fnatic have been dominant in the past but without their star player Olofmeister, the question is, can they continue to be dominant?

This last place in my top five could really be a mix of three teams, NiP, Virtus.Pro or EnVyUs. I have chosen NiP since they have been looking like they have transformed their playstyle from a puggy style to a more structured strategic play which worked really well for them at Dreamhack Malmo. I am really impressed with the work Threat has done with this team and I do believe that if they play like they did at Dreamhack Malmo they will be able to challenge the top three spot.

 

 

 

 

The upsetters, the teams I think could potentially bring in some great results against the top tier teams in this league.

 

My first pick in the upsetters category is Tyloo. They’ve shown they’re incredibly dedicated to the game and improving, and they’re bringing a whole new level of CSGO to the West. The top tier teams don’t have much experience against this team and they don’t have many demos to watch back to work out how they play. If they come in to the tournament strong they could bring some upsets. This team is also great to see if the Asian scene can compete with the Western scene, how they match up and how they will improve will be really interesting to watch.

 

Courtesy of liquidpedia.

Courtesy of liquidpedia.

 

A team that seems like it has a lot of potential is NRG, I would really like them to make a roster change to bring in one fragger in replacement of maybe Legija or gob b and move one of the Europeans to coach. They have the brain, I’m just not sure they have the aim.

 

My third and final team included in this upset category is mousesports, they’ve had some really good results lately and have been knocking on the door of the top tier teams constantly. They beat Luminosity and Liquid at Dreamhack Malmo and multiple top tier teams online since.

 

My final ranking prediction is this:

 

Luminosity

Na’Vi

Astralis

Fnatic

NiP

EnVyUs

Virtus.pro

mousesports

TyLoo

G2

CLG

FaZe

Gambit

dignitas

SK

FlipSid3

Cloud9

Liquid

NRG

compLexity

Echo Fox

Renegades

TSM

OpTic

 

 

 

AUTHOR BIO

 

Adam has been playing Counter Strike for a little over 10 years now and has set up http://bc-gb.com a CSGO news and opinion website and https://www.customesports.com a custom esports jersey and apparel supplier. You’ll normally find Adam on his websites, Reddit or https://www.twitter.com/admstevens.