Hel

Hel: The new support meta

Hel

Hel has recently found her way back into the meta. What is unusual though, is that she has found her way into the support role. For a god who has been in the game since 2012, Hel has seen very little play in competitive Smite. There have been brief windows where she has been picked, but Hi-Rez for a long time has found it very hard to find the middle ground for Hel. She was either far too strong or far too weak; as such I wouldn’t be surprised if she had been banned more than she had played.

However, it looked like Hi-Rez had managed to make Hel strong again, but nobody seemed to notice. The current version of Hel was implemented into the game on the 1st of February, and didn’t see competitive play until the 5-6th of August at the NRG invitational. Considering that in EU this week she was either picked or banned in 5/8 games played, it is rather extraordinary she never saw play. There have not been many occasions where a character has not seen major changes or adjustments and had their value in the meta skyrocket so quickly.

There are a few contributing factors to why I think Hel was slept on for so long. Firstly, at the start of the year we were dealing with an early game meta. Hel has never been a character associated with early game, and for good reason. I think this in conjunction with the following reasons is the major reason she has only recently started seeing play.

Secondly, Hel is coming into prominence in the support role. Smite has traditionally never really seen healing supports as the meta. There have been notable exceptions such as Erich ‘Shadowq’ Grabowski and his Aphro pick in the support role. However, that was very much a pocket pick and never considered meta.

Finally, and I mean this in all seriousness, it’s Hel. Maybe, a new God released with the same kit would have featured sooner. However, Hel for a long time has been considered trash tier and even the Hel mains were coming out saying they felt she was weaker than her already pitiful state. Although, we all should have known better than to listen to Hel mains.

What makes her good?

Something Hi-Rez Ajax mentioned in his progress report was how big the change to her Dark Stance 1 (Decay) was. The ability to clear from a safe distance was a game changer, especially in the support role. In the duo lane a Hel against good opposition should very rarely be allowed to use Repulse on the wave, without severely risking her life. For those of us who have played the game long enough, we have watched this play out a hundred times when your support picked the pre 4.1 Hel. It was soul destroying to watch your support get repeatedly froze, plucked or stunned in the middle of a creep wave as one of the squishiest characters in the game. This was also an issue in every other role, however this is possibly the biggest change allowing her to transition into support.

Hel

Image courtesy of Smite.Gamepedia.com

Her movement speed buff is incredible. Before CDR she has 50 percent uptime on an AOE 25 percent movement speed increase. With full CDR she only has a downtime of 1.2 seconds, considering that ability also has a HOT; to say the least it’s pretty powerful. Bare in mind that at full CDR, Lotus Crown will also only have a downtime of 2.2 seconds. At the moment this has got to be the highest utility ability in the entirety of Smite. The best way to think of it is like a near constant Heavenly Wings, but trading out slow immunity for a protection boost. Combined with her AOE Cleanse any team she is on is almost impossible to escape from and peel off your carries. She is a walking AOE relic bot.

Warrior junglers are something which I think have benefited Hel to some degree. With more Warriors being run in the jungle it is easier to make up for the front-line you lose from Hel support. Note how NRG played a Ravana jungle with the Hel support, meaning they had a Bellona and a Ravana who could more than fulfill the front-lining duties for the team. However, it is not entirely necessary as Obey showed running a Serqet with the Hel support. It is worth noting though that Serqet pick does make Hel a lot safer as Serqet is one of her natural predators. This was something clearly on Obey’s mind as they also ran one of her other biggest threats Osiris in the solo lane. Plus if you ask Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone Serqet is a support too.

This new version of Hel is an extremely powerful God in the meta and has incredible potential if played properly. The big question at the moment is whether or not the upcoming nerf in 4.17, which will reduce the movement speed she gives to allies from 25% to 10%, is going to knock her out of the meta. If I am honest, I think this nerf is a bit much and we are likely to see that movement speed moved back up slightly in following patches. At least I hope so, it’s been nice to see a support more concerned with empowering their own team rather than disabling the opposing team.

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Featured image courtesy of Smite.Gamepedia.com

 

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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Smite Gauntlet: What Did We Learn?

Bellona’s Back!

Bellona, in the online portion of this split, was nothing to scream and shout about. She had a pick/ban rate of 16.36%, a win rate of 50%, and a relatively low KDA of 1.8. Bellona, however, returned to take a prominent place within the Gauntlet meta over the weekend. With a pick/ban rate of 42.42% and a staggering win rate of 88.89%, it was a bit of a surprise as she is not one of these typical LAN monsters, such as the Anhur, who gains a lot from the 0 ping environment. Her abilities are easy to hit regardless of ping (barring the exceptional). She has been seen lately as a bit of a counter pick, as the disarm on her 3 can really hinder basic attack based gods. However, AA gods were not the story of the Gauntlet.

The favoured Hunter, Skadi, is the most ability-based Hunter Smite has ever seen. With power and penetration being the preferred build with very little, if any, attack speed being picked up. Ability based Junglers dominate the meta and the Kali pick we did see was far from expected. It is worth noting that the Bellona was also drafted in that game, perhaps in an attempt to protect the Kali from that disarm, although that is hard to say considering Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko’s tendency to pick the Bellona this LAN anyway.

Image courtesy of SmiteFire

One criticism of Bellona is that she can be low impact. Her burst damage is easily interrupted, a disarm is all well and good but there is better CC, and the ultimate is rather telegraphed. But at the Gauntlet, any claims about low impact and the ult have been dismissed by Deathwalker. Look to game two against NRG when they were fighting for their life being down 0-1. He gets a great ultimate at the left Phoenix setting up the defence against a Fire Giant team, setting Rival up to not lose a Phoenix in that push.

Then the coup de grâce when Deathwalker single-handedly wins his team the game. Left Phoenix down, tank dead and you’re facing a full Fire Giant back to back World Champion team. I mean the game should be over, but in steps Deathwalker with a three-man Eagle’s rally right to the dome of the Support, ADC and Mage. GG Rival and then we all know what happens next.

One thing to point out here is that while that ultimate was great, it should never have been allowed to happen. This is clear from when we hear the NRG comms in their games against eUnited and them screaming ‘safe way!’ repeatedly, when they are making that same rotation to mid Phoenix.

One reason why Bellona showed her potential this LAN is that she is great in every part of the game. Her laning phase is great, and even if you can interrupt her Bludgeon it is still amazing. One reason for this is because of the Season 4 Death’s Toll. The loss of power for increased sustain is great for solo laners with AOE autos. If you go to interrupt the Bellona you will get hit, meaning she can group the minions. Then, Bellona is healing for 48-56 health per auto depending on whether or not she is hitting you, as well as the wave. That means over a wave she has nearly got a full health pot worth of healing. Considering most solo laners will start 4 health pot 4 multi pot early on she is gonna out clear you anyway and doesn’t need to worry about tanking the wave that much.

With that sort of laning phase, it is easy to get Bellona ahead or at the very least stay even. Once that happens, you have a Warrior with strong autos, a decent amount of burst from Bludgeon (serious burst if you are ahead), who is also incredibly tanky when you consider the blocks on her dash and the ability to stop the highest damage characters in the late game from doing their damage thanks to Scourge.

There is also the incredible zoning potential of her ult. You are not going to want to take a team fight down 35 protections from the other team! Let’s not forget her passive giving her movement speed and protections from being hit or hitting you! Bellona has been slept on recently, but with the recent performances in the Gauntlet, most notably on Deathwalker and Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov, do not expect that to be the case going into Masters and the Summer Split.

 

Itemisation

The biggest point of note in Itemisation is how much Spear of Desolation was picked up in the Gauntlet compared to the online section of this Split. Spear of Desolation is a great item for Mages. It has so many of the stats you want giving a decent chunk of power at 90, CDR, and penetration.

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

Item’s do this occasionally when they are new, they don’t get picked up during the online phase as all scrims are dedicated to the game they are playing that week and they want to get their builds right. As much as the pro’s play the game, they know what works and it will take some time to oust their preferred items from the build. Especially more than the average player, builds are made around timings and pros have a better understanding of how a change in one part of the build effects another. When we have these breaks between the season and LANs it gives the pros time to experiment more in scrims as they aren’t worried about the set in two days. The big bonus of Spear of Desolation is being able to build CDR and Penetration at the same time.

The big bonus of Spear of Desolation is being able to build CDR and Penetration at the same time. The drawback was always the expense of the item, with other pen items being 450 gold cheaper in Spear of the Magus and Obsidian Shard being 300 gold cheaper. Never mind it’s not giving as much pen. However, it seems the pros have decided it is worth the investment. Most are building Spear of Desolation in the third item slot. This means that by your third item as a Mage you have 20 pen due to the 10 also on boots, 10% CDR, and a large power base, especially as a lot of people are building it with Bancroft’s Talon an item which is coming back into favour with recent buffs.

This is also a reason for Spear of Desolation’s entrance into the meta. The low cost of Bancroft’s allows your third item to be slightly more expensive. Most people are building another pen item on top of this later in the game, meaning you end up with more pen overall. Although Alexandru ‘Wlfy’ Lefterică showed this is not necessary, starting Book of Thoth and going a fourth item Rod of Tahuti in Rival’s second game against Eanix. He went top damage with the same build on Thoth as well as in the second game vs Soar. Pulling top damage numbers twice shows that he wasn’t hurting from the lack of pen. It is worth noting there weren’t many dedicated magical defense items built by Eanix that game.

Bancroft’s has seen a resurgence and is worth a quick mention as well. I say quick, because the reasons are obvious: the item is great. At its max effectiveness, you get 200 power 40% Lifesteal and you only pay 2300 gold for it. Also, now you don’t need to be dead to get max effect of the item. Being capped at 25% means you get a lot more use out of this item as the passive is strong when you are healthy enough to still fight.

EU Stronger than Ever

Team Rival

Rival looked very strong at Gauntlet and obviously not the biggest upset of the week considering Oxygen Supremacy’s incredible run. They were however not many people’s favourites to face off against NRG. Then to take that a step further by beating NRG! Although as I have alluded to and will go into more detail later they shouldn’t have. Smite like life, however, is about seeing an opportunity and taking it, something Deathwalker definitely showed in their game two against NRG.

What was probably the most impressive was the way in which they dispatched Soar. I was not expecting their victory, if they got one, to be so comprehensive. The first game, while not always leading in term of kills, they always led in the more important stats of gold and experience. Of the 70 players at the Gauntlet only 17 managed a KDA of above 3 barring their support the remaining four players of Rival all managed this showing this was definitely a team performance.

Stand-Out Performers

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Aleksandar ‘iceicebaby’ Zahariev, apart from having a great IGN, was also the MVP of the Gauntlet. I don’t think I am being unfair when I say nobody saw that coming. He more than tripled his Spring Split KDA of 1.31 with a KDA of 4.5 at Gauntlet. The Bulgarian Jungler looked dominant on his three main picks of Susano, Thor, and Serqet. Particularly the Susano where he has a combined slash line of 26/6/21. While Susano was definitely the most successful Jungler at Gauntlet with a win rate of 76.92 iceicebaby piloted the God incredibly well. His K/D on the God of 4.33 compared to the Gauntlet average of 2.27 proves this point. Look out for him at Masters we may have a new superstar from the Jungle to talk about.

DeathWalker had a great Gauntlet and is one of the major reasons behind the Bellona resurgence the first part of this article was dedicated too. I have made clear how I think without Deathwalker, Rival do not win this Gauntlet. He also has the most interesting pick of the Gauntlet. A solo Ah Puch – nobody who hadn’t been scrimming Rival or is very close to the scene would have been expecting that pick. That is something which would be met with hails of ‘report!’ In most ranked games! Yet, while they lost the game, it wasn’t the Ah Puch which was to blame. The way Deathwalker navigated the early game on one of the easiest Mages to kill in the game is something worth taking note of. This begs the question what else is he likely to pull out at Masters?

NRG

There has been a lot of talk about NRG being knocked off their perch. It is a little too early to be saying that as far as I am concerned. They should have 2-0ed Rival and they only didn’t due to a pathing error. An error as I said earlier, their comms suggests they are not likely to repeat again. Then considering what Rival did to Soar it is more than probable that NRG would have also walked away from that set victorious. The eUnited set was not just NRG booking their place at Masters it was a statement. From one man in particular Kennet ‘Adapting’ Ros. Who decided he wanted to remind us all why for the past two years he has been considered the best player in the world!

eUnited Set

The first game was even through 20 minutes with eUnited actually slightly ahead. Then it just became the Adapting and Dimi show, going 11/0/12 and 8/0/14 respectively with Adapting doing 26k damage. To put that in perspective, the Zhong Kui did 16k. That is another thing often overlooked about NRG during their drafts.

That draft was beautiful at shutting down a Zhong Kui. The Nemesis pick is obvious and its benefits have been espoused numerous times. What was drafted around it was what made it so great. The Scylla Nemesis combo makes it impossible for a Zhong to get a decent ult off. After the Judgement from Nemesis, you have the root chunking 20-30 percent of a Zhong’s health and then the unmissable damage in the Crush which takes off the same or more again. So without even needing to ult the Zhong is on his heels.

Admittedly, the Bellona pick came before the Zhong and it just happened to work out very well for eUnited. The Hou-Yi also zones the Zhong out as he isn’t walking through that and living to tell the tale. This made it nearly impossible for Zhong Kui to be Zhong Kui as he was relegated to a back-line mage.

The second game had NRG dominate the kills throughout although eUnited did a good job utilizing the map to keep it even. That is until the 20 minute mark. Then again, NRG just blew the game open. From minute 20 to 24 they turned a 3k gold lead into a 8 k gold lead. There were impressive performances from multiple players from NRG this game Dimi with top damage on the Erlang Shen going 1/2/17 doing everything you could ask of your solo laner, as well as André ‘Yammin’ Brännvall going 7/1/12 and the ADC Emil ‘Emilitoo’ Stärnman putting in a solid 4/1/8.

However, the main man was Adapting going 13/4/10, not participating in two of his teams kills for an overall kill participation of 92%. Adapting is unreal when he plays at his best. He also shot calls for his team which shows that there is more to this Jungler than mechanical prowess. If I was going to be facing NRG at Masters that set against eUnited is the last thing I would have wanted to see. Not only will NRG have a chip on their shoulder, but they will be the bottom seed from the two major regions in the game. The King is back and has got to be feeling himself after those performances in the final two games they played. This really should have been their 7th straight LAN victory and I wouldn’t be surprised for them to take number 7 when they get to the main event.

Looking to Masters!

Considering the last SWC finals was an entirely European affair, and this LAN, made up of the mid-lower tier teams, was dominated by Europe, the question of the stronger region seems to be pretty self-evident at the moment. Eager and Luminosity will have to play incredibly and put in a great performance to upset the European dominance. Bare in mind that Obey beat Eager in the Semi-Finals of Worlds to go through, and since then have only gotten better. Although, the Anubis pick which went 1-2 in games won in that set for Eager probably hampered them. As I reckon they had a better than 50 percent chance in a straight up game, especially as the first game went horribly for the Anubis. Putting yourself behind in such a pressure cooker of a set is more impactful than normal. LG and Eager are both great teams who could very easily walk away from Masters with a win. My money though is on EU to bring another trophy back across the Atlantic with them.


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