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.

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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

 

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Team Allegiance: A Rising Force In NA

Spring Split Woes

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

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

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

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

Summer Split Resurgence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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