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

 

Top Image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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Relegations and what they meant for the Pro League

Europe

The European Pro League looks like it just got a lot stronger. For the first time ever, both Challenger teams have joined the Pro league. They did it in quite some style too! The two Challenger teams, Optimus Gang and The Papis, ran a clinic on the former SPL teams. The games were not even close.

As in a previous article and is obvious right now, EU is the strongest region in Smite at the moment. It is scary to think that from the looks of things they just got a hell of a lot stronger. Of importance here as well is that New Game Plus were not in these Relegations. A team with two former SWC runner ups, in Thomas ‘Repikas’ Skallebæk and Andreas ‘Murrdurr’ Christmansson (formerly Kanyelife). Not to forget the former Titan of the Smite Scene, Mark ‘Gamehunter’ Horstern, winner of the Launch Tournament where he also got a Penta Kill.

The Papis

This was the stand out team of Relegations. They beat Novus Orsa and Optimus Gang in 20 minutes in dominant style and only took 10 more minutes to dispatch Sanguine, in the same dominant style. To illustrate just how impressive the Papis were, they had a combined K/D of  62-14. They performed really well as a unit, with no player looking like a particular weak link. It will be interesting to see if anyone gets found out against some higher level opposition. However, I wanna be singing the praises of The Papis instead of undercutting them.

So, let’s talk about the two stand out performers, Marc ‘Warchi’  Gómez and Jokin ‘Dheylo’ Martiarena. Warchi looked great on every God he played, playing a new one every game. The most memorable purely for who it was, was the Susano. Warchi showed his versatility in piloting the assassin very well, broken as he may be. Although, being at the top level of Smite is often about spotting the broken and running it. His work on the ADC’s though was even more impressive with K/D’s of  7/0/7 on Medusa and a 7/3/9 on the Cupid. Worth noting here is not just Warchi’s dominant performance, but the type of God Papis like running in the Hunter role. All three of these picks are great team fighters with high impact team fight ults. As I said earlier, The Papis work great as a unit, so it is no surprise that they grab these great team fighters in the primary carry role.

Dheylo was an absolute force of nature in Relegations, ripping through teams like a hurricane. I mean he was outstanding! if he keeps up this level of performance in the SPL, against what admittedly will be considerably tougher opposition, Laners are going to start needing counselling. K/D is not everything, ask your support. However, when you are pulling numbers like 26/0/27, it truly is a case of ‘numbers don’t lie.’  If anyone in this split’s Relegations showed they were too good for the Challenger Circuit, it was Dheylo. He also showed he can play the very early game pressure focused God of Awilix and the more late game focused Nemesis. Although, I do find it a bit of a misnomer how much Nemesis is regarded as a late game God. Her clear is sub-par and her personal damage early is definitely lackluster, but that ultimate is always incredibly effective. While she personally may not be the strongest early, the value she gives to the rest of your team through that ultimate does allow for a lot of early pressure. Over-extend at your peril against the Nemesis. Overall, I am incredibly excited to see if Dheylo brings these sort of performances into the Pro-League.

Optimus Gang

Optimus Gang will be joining the Pro League along with The Papis on merit of having beaten both Pro League teams. Optimus Gang were not quite the force that Papis were during Relegations. This is most obviously shown by the way in which The Papis dismantled them in 20 minutes, when they faced off against each other. Stylistically one thing to point out with this team is their preference for early pressure, while it is meta right now, Optimus Gang really embraces it. This is most notable in their preference for Isis, Thor as the Mid-Jungle duo. As well as running Osiris in the Solo Lane or the equally pressure-heavy Bellona.

They were impressive against the former SPL teams though. Comfortably beating Sanguine over 30 minutes, holding a considerable lead throughout. While Novus Orsa was put to the sword, dying 30 times in a 20 minute game. That is an absolute demolishing.

Optimus Gang does leave a question in my mind though. Are they very good or were the SPL teams very poor? While BO1s are not the greatest indicator, they are the best data we have right now. Optimus Gang clearly out-performed the SPL teams, but as I said earlier, they got picked apart by The Papis. It is also important to remember these were teams that showed they were just not Pro-League level. Sanguine wasn’t winning a game all split, and Novus Orsa won four games in total over the split, two of which were against Sanguine! Since then, the best players from these teams have been cherry picked from better SPL teams requiring fresh blood. Beating the worst SPL teams who have got considerably worse since the end of the split probably doesn’t say as much as the way The Papis handled them. Either way, only time will tell, and hopefully this fresh blood in the SPL will stand up to the test and give us more competition than the previous ones did.

 

North America

There is a little less to talk about in NA. In a reverse of what happened in Europe, both SPL teams held onto their place in the Pro League. They are practically new teams with all the fresh blood being added to both squads, something which deserves a mention though.

FlashPoint

Flashpoint gutted their team. With the results they were getting, it is hard to blame them, no matter how popular some of the players they replaced were. The only remaining members are Eric ‘Shadowq’ Grabowski and Eugeen ‘Mirage’ Mathew. Shadowq is one of those players who has the cerebral tag attached to him, something not hindered by his long tenure-ship in the Smite Pro scene. A player I also have a little bit of a soft spot for from his old Dignitas days, the original crowd favourites. A man whose mechanics should not be looked past. Us veteran spectators are unlikely to forget this moment from the Launch Tournament.

As Flashpoint only played twice, it is hard to get a gauge on what to expect from them. However, it is worth noting that the new players definitely held their own. The mechanic heavy Nox pick from Jon ‘Sheyka’ Sheyka performed very well, despite the pick’s inherent risk. Sops, the new ADC, showed his class on the Hou-Yi. While Dante Le Fargo showed he is no slouch with a 6-0-7 on the Vamana. He also showed a different side to his game on the supportive Terra going 0-0-9.

Noble

Noble have replaced their Jungle and Solo from last split. The console players they had previously didn’t quite cut it. Matthew ‘Copebby’ Irish has had, let’s say, a chequered past with the Pro League. Playing Solo for AFK gaming, he was a bit of a weak link. Hopefully his new role in the Jungle suits him better. History shows there is good reason for optimism, as lots of people who are not Solo Laners have struggled in that role in the past. He did not have the strongest showing in the Relegations though. In particular, his 1/6/3 performance against Flashpoint. Admittedly, the Serqet got picked into the Hercules, and that is any Hercules’ nightmare. Incredible displacement, percentage damage, and 100 percent healing reduction means you’re going to have a bad time as a Hercules. It is unclear if this was intended as a solo pick originally, but they hoped by putting it on the Jungler he would be harder to isolate from the team. Maybe Copebby was taking one for the team there. Either way, it didn’t work out. He played the Ne Zha in his other two games, something which I am unsure of. Ne Zha is a great situational pick and a powerful God to have in the back pocket. However, Ne Zha is an incredible risk and it is far easier to have your Ne Zha lose you the game than it is for them to win it for you. Hopefully we will see more of Copebby’s God pool as the Summer Split moves on.

The stand-out players on this team are Brett ‘MLCStealth’ Felley and Jacob ‘Wowy’ Carter. MLCStealth is a former world champion and his mechanical prowess and abilities as a Mid-Laner are well known. Despite recently being on weaker teams than the old C9 crew, his performances have still shown his class in the Mid Lane. Despite coming second to last in NA last split, MLC still managed to pump out more damage a game than any other player in the league. Wowy is a great ADC, again a player who despite being in a weak team last split managed to perform at a consistently high level.

Ryan ‘Aquarius’ O’Neil performed well in Relegations, but it is worth noting that he was dropped by Flashpoint, the worst performing team in NA last split. Let’s hope that although there may be some doubts around Copebby and Aquarius coming into the split, they provide a solid enough platform for these two players to really start strutting their stuff. These are the sort of players you want to see performing.

Meta

As there have been no great shifts in the Meta yet since the last LANs, and the end of the Spring Split, not much has changed. Early pressure is still king. However, there are some things worth pointing out. Cernunnos, a God being espoused as the most broken God ever afflicted on the Smite community, still keeps his run of a rather lackluster win rate. There is no doubt this is a strong God with an incredible ult which can CC most of a team fight without the fear of diminishing returns coming into play. The fact he also has built in life steal in a Meta where most ADC’s are not building it is another string to his bow. Also, a built-in Frostbound Hammer is never going to hurt. Without a large pool of games to analyse, it is hard to make a definitive judgment on how strong he is; but from what we have seen at the top level, he is strong but manageable.

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

 

Susano though seems to be a different matter. That is a God I see running far more games from casuals to the Pro League than the Cernunnos. He has everything! He has an absolutely insane amount of easy to confirm damage, never mind how well Hydra’s Lament synergises with him. Unbelievable chase and mobility as well as some of the best CC in the game in his two and Ultimate. The only thing he is missing is built-in protections, but good luck catching him. Warchi playing this ability-based Assasin in the Hunter role shows quite how powerful Susano is. In my opinion, Susano has proven again over Relegations that he is more in need of a nerf than Cernunnos.


Top image courtesy of esports.smitegame.com

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