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

 

EU SPL: The battle for DreamHack

This Saturday was a very important day for the EU SPL. Not just the EU SPL but the entirety of the SPL, as this Saturday was the fight for seeding for DreamHack. With EU being the dominant region this season, I am sure there were some players across the Atlantic paying some very close attention. With EU having their current dominance recognised by Hi-Rez with an extra spot at DreamHack, four spots were up for grabs this weekend.

Third/fourth seed

The most important spot in the entire EU SPL as it is the final golden ticket to DreamHack. This was being fought over by two teams, Eanix and Team Rival. Team Rival before Saturday looked like hot favourites to take that spot as they were one point ahead, had an easier opponent and had the head to head over Eanix. This meant Eanix would need more points than rival before they could start booking plane tickets.

Saturday changed this though when we found out that Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko would not be able to play and that TheLittleLegend would be subbing in for him. It did not go well. TheLittleLegend did not perform considerably worse than the rest of Rival, but Rival as a whole did not look like the team they have shown themselves to be over recent months. They got destroyed both games, it was not even close. This is not something Rival fans should be awfully worried about as we have seen this sort of thing happen before. Smite teams have looked entirely different when they have had subs before and then just gone back to normal when their full roster is back.

This was great though from a viewer’s perspective because it meant that the NRG vs Eanix set took on real significance. If Eanix could 2-0 they would be 4th in the EU SPL and going to DreamHack. However, one does not simply 2-0 the back to back world champions. Eanix looked great and won the first game. The second game though was the NRG show.

The two things I would put it down to are Kennet ‘Ross’ Adapting putting in a monster performance on Thor and the Ne Zha pick for Eanix.

Adapting is no longer the undisputed best player in the world. That in mind though he is still one of the best; occasionally as well he will remind us just what he can do when he is feeling it. He is one of those players who are rare but inestimably valuable in both esports and sports who will occasionally just win you the game. All great junglers have a great Thor, Adapting is one of those great junglers. It is not quite like when Peter ‘DaGarz’ Gary was just not allowed the character, but Adapting on Thor will always bring the hype. He showed why against Eanix, running the game with a slash line of 8/1/6. His ability to be everywhere and the inherent damage within Thor’s kit allowed Adapting to be the omni-present terror to Eanix throughout this game.

Image courtesy of http://smite.gamepedia.com/Thor

I have often said in these articles that Ne Zha, while a good pick, will also be a heavily contributing factor in you losing some games. This turned out to be the case for Eanix this game. It is incredibly hard to win an SPL game when your jungler ends up 0/5/3. The pick seemed odd to me, you just performed incredibly well and beat NRG with a lower risk comp, why risk it all now?

There wasn’t a huge amount of synergy with the comp either. When you see a team pick a Ne Zha, often the first thing to look at is who is their mage? Who is going to instantly delete Ne Zha’s target? For Eanix it was a Sol, while very capable of deleting someone it is not the ideal pick. Her damage is oxymoronicaly sustained-burst, her ult comes out over time and a lot of the Sol burst comes from using Stellar Burst as well. This means things like Aegis or the Terra ult (something NRG was running) has a much higher chance of being able to save their life.

The only real synergy you could see from the rest of the team were the Hou-Yi and the Ares. Hou-Yi is one of the better ADC’s for the Ne Zha as the suns can be dropped right before the Ne Zha and his target land. While it is nice because there are not a huge amount of ADC ults which synergise with the Ne Zha, it again suffers the same problems as the Sol and doesn’t guarantee the deletion. Make no mistake when you run a Ne Zha you should be running it as a deletion comp.

The Ares does very much synergise with the Ne Zha though as it can burn multiple beads at once fairly consistently, allowing Ne Zha multiple targets for the Windfire Wheels. However, it is another big risk into your comp. With your LAN chances on the line it was a twist on the old classic by Eanix and they ran a go hard or stay home comp. Unfortunately they will be staying home. I may be a bit harsh on Eanix, but why risk your chance for LAN, cash and a free holiday to the beaches of Valencia on what is such a coin-flip of a comp?

First/second seed

There is a lot less to say about these two seeds. This is surprising as the top end of the EU SPL seems like a congested area with top seed being a hard-won trophy. The lack of talking points is because first seed was already secured for Dignitas and Obey beat them rather comfortably to secure 2nd seed away from NRG.

Obey did look great in this set though and that is something worth touching on. This Split has seen Dignitas and Obey switch positions in seeding and probably in performances as well. Nate ‘Ataraxia’ Mark recently said in an interview that Obey got over-confident and maybe took their foot off the pedal.

Image courtesy of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGYlz6PKsC8

It looks like they have their focus back now, as they were really impressive in their 2-0 over Dignitas. The only team who managed to do this all Split.

It is a bit hard to judge if this means Obey are back to their Spring Split dominance, where they showed themselves to be unquestionably a cut above the rest of the teams in the world. This is because, for Dignitas, it was essentially a friendly. They had nothing to gain and nothing to lose, except for possibly momentum and a bit of confidence. If you know though that you are hiding strats and not taking a series overly serious, it is not likely to knock your confidence very much.

So is this Obey coming back to form, or Dignitas just not showing up this set? As with most things in life I think compromise is the best answer. Obey look on the up but I would not expect any set between these two at DreamHack to look like this one. My main takeaway from this set is that it was just a bit of a disappointing way to end the EU SPL, as this looked like it could have been a blockbuster.

Top image courtesy of https://twitter.com/smitegame

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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

Eanix vs Rival: In-Depth Review

Going into this set, both Eanix and Rival were fairly close in the standings. Eanix was 5-3 and Rival close behind at 4-2. I would have called this set most likely being a split, with these two teams tracking each other in the standings for the foreseeable future. However, Rival walked away with a 2-0 victory. This puts Rival on par with the three other teams who have won two and split two while putting Eanix in a rather tough position when it comes to making DreamHack. Eanix is now very much out of that leading pack, having played more sets and being a down a point.

This match was going to be interesting to see what sort of performance Rival was going to produce after their shock split with The Papis. If anyone expected that to be the end of the Cinderella story of Rival, they were sorely mistaken.

Game One

The first game was everything you would expect from top-tier EU teams: slow paced, methodical and objective based. This was a 41 and a half minute game with only 15 kills. The game winning Fire Giant and Titan push was made without a kill being taken, this was EU meta to a whole new level.

Rival took a small lead early on from Gold Fury control and apart from a minor glitch when Eanix managed to take a Fire Giant from a single pick, Rival maintained control throughout the game. The Sol and the Jing Wei picks were great because they are both incredible objective characters. EU has always been objective focused, with the recent dominance of EU over NA they are leading the meta.

We are seeing both Sol and Jing Wei in both regions now and a big part of this is their objective control. Sol, for a mid laner, has relatively good objective secure with the Stellar Burst into Supernova burst damage. What she brings that other mages do not is the objective burn. With her AA damage output, she provides her team with two AA gods when it comes to objectives. This means that many more windows of opportunity present themselves, as you can take advantage of far smaller time frames.

 

Image courtesy of smitegame.com

Jing Wei is great for quickly bursting down objectives. Her passive crit coming from Explosive Bolts, combined with the 40 percent attack speed buff from Persisent Gusts, means she is one of the best ADCs in the game when it comes to bringing down the objective. Combine that with the added secure, she brings with Air Strike and the ability to only be about 10-15 seconds from any objective on the map due to her passive, she is an extremely underrated objective monster.

 

However, the Fire Giant they did manage to get did not generate any real gain for Eanix, who lost a fight at the first tier two they tried to siege, with James ‘Duck3y’ Heseltine dying to the isolation provided from Khepri Abduct.

From then on it was just a slow, and I can’t stress slow enough, choke-out by Rival.

Game Two

Game two started off looking like it was going to be a bit of a stomp and that Rival’s slow choke from last game had taken the wind out of Eanix’s sails. In the first six minutes, Rival took a 4-0 kill lead and a 3k gold lead. However, Eanix brought themselves back into the game with a great teamfight by their own speed buff. What most likely won them this teamfight was a very early rotation from Kieran ‘Funballer’ Patidar. This turned a 4v4 into a 5v4 for Eanix, resulting in them winning the teamfight 3-0.

Funballer has been incredible this Split. There has been a lot of talk about Daniel ‘Faeles’ Evans and what he will do for Eanix. However, the stand out player for me in regards to Eanix has been Funballer. I’ve been watching Funballer since Smite was in open beta and I have never been this impressed with his play. This is not to take away from how he has played before – he has always been a very good player. The teams he has been on is a testament to that, if nothing else. However, this split he is just crushing it. The mechanics are there – they always have been – but where Funballer stands head and shoulders above a lot of other ADCs in the league is his ability to rotate. This was something brought to attention on the stream, but he has been doing it all split not just this set.

Funballer has always been aggressive in lane, known as one of those ADCs who wants to fight. This season, however, he seems to have decided fighting just one person in lane isn’t enough, he wants to fight everybody. He is using his vast experience in the SPL to make incredibly impactful rotations. In this game, he probably made the rotation which stopped this game turning into a stomp. We have all seen how in Season 4, small leads can be snowballed and held on too. Rival for a time in the game had a large lead; 3k after six minutes is very much the start of a snowball.

Image courtesy of twitch.tv/funballz

 

Look at what he allowed Liam ‘Vote’ Shanks to get through his rotation. A proxied wave and a red buff, that’s it! It was too early in the game to put serious tower pressure on and there was nothing else left on the map. The risk-reward calculation was perfect. Funballer was already behind and Vote to get that farm was not going to change the game, Funballer turning a team fight and getting his team three kills very much did. While it may not have changed the result, it definitely changed the game.

From there the game evened out for a while, until near the 20 minute mark when Eanix won a teamfight around the Gold Fury. By the 33rd minute in the game Eanix were leading 14-8 in kills and had amassed a 7k gold lead, things were looking good for Eanix. Then it all changed, Rival won a team fight handily over Eanix.

Mistakes were made. Eanix messed up here, there is no denying it. Firstly, Emil ‘Lawbster’ Evensen blew his Kraken on Aleksandar ‘iceicebaby’ Zahariev. This took iceicebaby’s Beads and Bracer’s and there are a lot of ults in the game where that trade would be considered worth it, however, not your team’s big mage, team fighting ult. Especially as the Bracer usage meant iceicebaby was ready to fight directly afterward. Of all the characters in the game to not have their actives up, Nemesis is probably one of the best. She has her shield to soak damage and heal her, her double-dash to escape and her ultimate to give her protections and movement speed. Next Faeles threw down the Hun Batz ult, only hitting two and with none of his team able to follow up. Alexandru ‘Wlfy’ Lefterică on Isis didn’t even deem it worthy of using his beads on.

I’ve been critical of Eanix in that teamfight but now I am going to sing the praises of Rival who played it beautifully. The ult combo they pulled out was near perfect. Adrian ‘Deathwalker’ Benko immediately Eagle’s Rallied onto the face of Lawbster burning the beads. Straight after that Petar ‘Kalas’ Matejić using No Escape on the now Beadless Poseidon and the Geb, the two targets who are guaranteed to get pulled in. As soon as that happens right underneath his feet comes the Fields of Love and Circle of Protection. Goodbye tank, goodbye mage.  This fight was so clean from Rival, if you look at the surviving members of Eanix’s health it’s practically full. In fact, after this it is Rival who run away because they were so selective in their targets, as they had to be, being down so much gold and xp that the rest of Eanix could probably have fought them. If you want to learn how to execute a team fight from behind and capitalise on mistakes, look no further than 33 minutes of game two Eanix vs Rival.

There were three more major team fights in this game, two went to Rival and one went to Eanix. The important thing about them was after the momentum change of that 33 minute team fight it was Rival who were agressing. The team fight Eanix one was to wipe Fire Giant off of Rival and didn’t leave them much to capitalise on. The other team fights were important but make no mistake about it, this game turned in the 33rd minute, with some exceptional team fighting from Rival.


Top Image courtesy of https://twitter.com/eanixgg

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The New Shifter’s Shield and Why It Is Broken!

Shifter’s Shield

Shifter’s has gone through a few changes in its long history in Smite. For a while though it has been regarded as a pretty useless item. The former theory-crafter and current Paladins designer, James ‘Krett’ Horgan, highlighted the failings of the old Shifter’s shield. He showed that Void Shield was not just better defensively but provided more damage thanks to the pen. Shifter’s shield has always tried to be a Jack of all trades. Unfortunately, the theme has always been master of none.

Stats

The new Shifter’s Shield is incredibly good. Gone are the days of being a master of none, instead it is a case of one size fits all. This is what Hi-Rez wanted. They said in the patch notes that they ‘want to highlight this aspect of the item’ (Its multi-purpose role).  The item lives up to its name now, going from a very offensive item to a strong defensive item, shifting its role to your needs. Let’s see what it does compared to other items, when it’s fulfilling either one of its roles. When it’s damage and power you are looking for, it provides 70 power. That is the third highest physical power base in the game. Only being beaten by Bloodforge at 75 power and Transcendence at 97 power (fully stacked and at level 20 on a Hou-Yi). Both these items are more expensive, considerably so at 2850 and 2600 respectively.

When we look at what it provides defensively, the numbers are great again. While above 50 percent health, the 15 of each protections it provides are a nice little boost, but nothing special. However, the 50 protections it provides while under 50 percent health is very noticeable. For comparison, a Spirit Robe only provides 40 and you would need five stacks on a Hide of the Urchin to get the same amount of protections. While I am not arguing that this makes you as survivable as a Spirit Robe due to the great passive it provides, it does show that Shifter’s does do the job rather well.

Practical Uses

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

By amplifying the passive, the practicality of this item has gone through the roof. Who are most likely to build this item? Junglers, as we have seen in the SPL so far, this has become a staple third item for Junglers. Amplifying the passive is incredibly important, particularly for Junglers. This is the case because of how Junglers play the game. When you go in for the gank and blow your kit on whichever poor laner has attracted your ire, 70 power is incredible. However, counter-rotations are a thing you will encounter. You are also most likely an assassin, balancing that tight rope of having to be right on top of people while being squishy. So, this item allows you to gank powerfully, and then helps you get out, running away spamming the VEL’s.

An example of this is God’s like Thor. You dunk in right on everybody’s face, drop all your cooldowns with the 70 power bonus then as you get focused the 50 protections really help you either finish of a target with a few AA’s and gives you enough time to get your hammer off cooldown for the escape. Another example would be Camazotz, who is seeing a massive rise in popularity. As like Thor you have to be right in the thick of things and unless you are using your ult for escape, which is not ideal you do not have a huge amount of escape. The early protections of Shifter’s when combined with his natural sustain do give you the survivabilty required to get out after your picks. It also allows you to get the picks as your damage has not been hampered like it would normally from building early protections.

Image courtesy of Smite Wiki

This is not just a Jungler’s item, ADC’s and Solo’s are building it too. Most notably ADC’s, and the question is why wouldn’t they? Kieran ‘Funballer’ Patidar on the first day of the Summer Split showed us the Shifter’s on a Hou-Yi, and others have followed suit. It is a great power base and a much quicker power spike than the Transcendence, being cheaper and not requiring stacks. Being an ADC is like having a target on your back all the time. You spend most of the laning phase in the longest lane, often by yourself. You are also incredibly squishy, with normally one movement ability being the sum total of your survivability. The late game damage you provide also incentivises people to be gunning for your life. Be it to stop you getting to that late game, or the inability to let you free cast once it has become the late game. So, as a hunter, finally being able to build defense without sacrificing power is a dream come true.

For Solo laners, it has not been quite as prevalent as the other two primarily physical roles. However, as Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov showed in game 2 against Rival, it is a great way to capitalise on a lead. He got ahead on Sun Wukong and went into a third item Shifter’s. This made the already higher level Sun Wukong really start to swing. This showed in the amount of early kills he was getting. Let’s not forget the great synergy this item has with the Sun Wukong passive.

Another big problem Shifter’s Shield has always had is that it does not give you any pen. However, nowadays Physical pen is so much easier to build than it ever has been. From the Jungler’s viewpoint, lots of builds currently have three of the four maces being built. The Crusher, which is the one mace not being built regularly, is not an awful item either. It also bridges me to the next major role using Shifter’s, ADC’s. With Ichvial, Fatalis and Executioner being so prevalent in hunter builds as well as full access to the mace tree, they are not short of pen either. Also, the Shifter’s is mainly being built by ADC’s in the place of what would be a Transcendence. So they haven’t actually lost any pen in the build, just gained a shed-load of on demand protections.

Overall, this Item is probably a bit too strong at the moment. Also Hi-Rez has made a point of trying to create build diversity and avoid cookie cutter builds. Something Shifter’s in its current form is not doing, everyone’s buying it. It pains me to say this as someone who spends most of his time in the Jungle or in ADC, but it does need a nerf. However, I love how the item works and think it should remain in the meta. It would be a mistake to relegate it to the state of uselessness it has spent most of its life being. I think the easiest way to do this would be a slight price increase and see how that works. However, that may be enough just considering how much this item gives you.

Top Image Courtesy of Smite Wiki

 

Why is North America Falling Behind in Competitive Smite?

As Ryan ‘Agro’ likes to point out, Smite has never been this competitive. Although I would like to add a caveat to that: not between regions.

We have seen the most competitive split ever this spring, with top five teams in both regions taking games off eachother. Then we came to the first LAN in the Gauntlet and saw Europe’s fifth-seeded team take the whole show, while in North America the Challenger team Oxygen Supremacy did far better than anyone expected. However, between regions, it has been a very different story.

The two major regions in Smite have always been NA and EU, and between them, competition has

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

normally been very strong. Apart from 2017 SWC, we have always had multi-regional finals. However, recently that competition has not been there. EU dominated SWC 2017, although only sending two teams, and they both made it to the finals. It is important to note though, that NA did send more teams to Worlds because of a dominant showing at the previous LAN. In the last two LANs, though, it has been very noticeable that a gulf is developing between the two regions. Any time there has been an EU-NA showdown, it has been a blowout for EU, with rare exceptions.

 

Look at Dota, LoL, Starcraft, Counter-Strike and even Heroes of the Storm – EU is the stronger region. Smite has never been this way, until now.

We have also had genuine inter-region competition, as we do not have the Korean overlords to quail before in terror. Recently, this competition has gone to the wayside. As I said earlier, the only competitive set between regions we have had in the last two LANs is probably the 5th seed out of EU vs NA 2nd seed.

The most hype games Smite has to offer will always be the big region showdowns, between metas and players who don’t normally collide, coming face to face.

Playstyle

What reason have we been given for this sudden fall from grace?

The EU teams were very diplomatic and have repeatedly said that NA teams just haven’t figured out or caught up on the new meta. This is noticeable in the picks, most notably Cabrakan. Quite simply, EU doesn’t really rate the God. Yes, he is good and has lock-down but he isn’t the only one who provides that. There was also Skadi, again favored more by NA than EU. While NA sees her as a must-have, EU sees her as a very powerful but unnecessary God.

The major difference between NA and EU has always been that EU is a much slower paced region. Personally, I think that has always made a bit more sense as a game plan. As fast-paced, high-octane games make sense against people who are going to be out of position and late rotations, this is not mine and your ranked games. When you have the opposite, early aggression is much more likely to be punished and far harder to pull off, as you will have to put yourself out of position and leave yourself open to counter-rotations to get the value for your ganks. Plus, the harder and more you commit to a gank in regards to health and cooldowns, the less likely you are to be able to. In the immortal words of Thom ‘F.’ Badinger, “get the stuff after the stuff.”

This is one thing I feel was never fully analyzed regarding NRG. We have heard numerous times about how when they were in their prime, it was like a switch was flipped at 16 minutes and from then on they steamrolled teams. One of the major reasons for this, I feel, is that they knew they were the better team.

Why risk the volatile world of early aggression? Because you know that if you group up when everyone has a couple of items and is ready to perform their role in the team fight, you can win it. Also, a team fight won at that point in the game gives you a powerful gold fury, lots of XP and gold for the kills and incredible map pressure.

I feel a lot of the NA vs EU playstyle can be summed up in the fact that NA look for picks to dictate and win the game, whereas EU obviously takes them if they see the opportunity, but really they try not to lose the game and rely on superior team fights and late game as the win condition.  To put it simply, EU seems far more objective focused.

Looking Forward

Image courtesy of neogaf.com

NA doesn’t look like its going to get any stronger soon, but maybe these LAN’s have been the wake-up call. However, the NA teams are now back into transition mode. There have been significant roster changes in the middle to the bottom of the league, as well as the fact that Eager has parted ways with their Solo and Jungle. That is a scary, albeit maybe necessary, thing for the top seed. Who is going to replace them?

Right now as an outsider looking in, I would say the best free agents in NA are the two Eager just released. The dream scenario would probably be that Eager convinces Andrew ‘Andinster’ Woodward that he really wants to jungle again. I do not think that is very likely though as Andinster seemed committed to making Soar work in his interviews. The whole Soar team has stated that they are not particularly worried about how things are going right now, but are looking to the future with what they think is a very solid line-up.

The easiest fit for Eager is probably Andy ‘Elchapo’ Leon and Arthur ‘Uzzy’ Asherov. As the first seed, do you really want to be picking up players who were just dropped from the 7th seed? I think not.

Realistically, I think the best chance for Eager would be feeling out Brooks ‘Cynosure’ Matty. However, IMOG is a team I personally rate very highly and I think it would be hard to convince him out.

So it looks like while NA is rebuilding there is a good chance of the EU teams pulling further ahead.

One thing to take note of here is that the two players most likely to play their own meta, so to say, are Divios and DJ Pernicus. However, Divios very often sets solo lane meta and the Guan pick which didn’t work at Masters has definitely worked before.

eUnited hs also made a very significant change: They have removed their Jungler from the team. Replacing a Jungler in a team is one of the hardest positions to do so. There are multiple reasons for this: Firstly a Jungler requires synergy to some degree with every lane. There is also the disruption to the three man core of Mid, Support and Jungle which really dictates the flow of the game. Louis-Phillipe ‘PainDeViande’ Geoffrion has shown time and time again his ability to replace players. He isn’t quoted as saying “I love kicking people” for no reason, although with a scarcity of top level Jungler’s and 1st and 3rd seed looking for one, things could get tricky.

What this means is that 1st and 3rd NA seeds will be in a period of rebuilding. The last few LANs have show that it was growth and not consolidation that was needed. The thing is all top-tier teams have one thing in mind: SWC. Winning regional LANs and doing well in the league are all great, but everything though pales in comparison to the importance of Worlds. So making these changes may hurt in the short-term but does give them enough time to get ready for the main event.

Often, pro’s will say that they do not watch a huge number of games outside of their region. Obviously, when it comes to LAN, they research their opponents. However, this, in my opinion, will change now. If I was coaching an NA team I would be taking a lot of tips from EU right now. They are clearly ahead, if it is just a matter of NA being behind in meta then clearly the way to go is ‘follow the leader’. There is a good argument for NA being behind in meta. Either way, unless something changes, be it meta-shift or an NA catch up, we are likely to see another SWC in European hands.


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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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