The three-peat is on
The biggest story coming out of the Smite Gauntlet was always going to be whether or not NRG were going to be heading to Super Regionals and possibly SWC after. There is no need to go into much detail about NRG’s season so far, except that it is falling far short of the incredibly high bar they have set since their entrance to the Pro League.
It was hardly the sort of performance that is going to fill NRG’s fans with confidence ahead of Super Regionals. This is mainly because of how much they struggled against The Papis, a team who only won three out of the 14 games they played in the Fall Split. Without being disrespectful to The Papis, if in six weeks time NRG are trying to prove that they are the best team in the world, they should probably be making lighter work of a team of The Papis’ caliber.
If one thing has been made clear from the Fall Split and Gauntlet it is that the switching out of Peter ‘Dimi’ Dimitrov for João ‘maniaKK’ Ferreira has not been an immediate answer to NRG’s issues in season 4.
With all that being said NRG are still the best team the Smite competitive scene has ever seen. As Ryan ‘Aggro’ Bailey said, in Kennet ‘Adapting’ Ross they still have the best player to ever play the game. So, it would be premature to say NRG’s days at the very top are done. But at the moment it looks like a lot needs to happen over the next six weeks if we are going to see Craig ‘iRaffer’ Rathbone lift the golden hammer again.
Beware the NA Challenger team
Once again at a Smite Gauntlet the team from the NA Challenger Circuit had a great run and nearly caused a serious upset. SPL Gatekeepers had an incredible run last Gauntlet and this Gauntlet Salsa Squadron did the same. They knocked out two SPL teams and took Noble to three games, losing in an incredibly tight game three. Considering Noble went 2-0 against Vigilant to go to Super Regionals, I think it is fair to say that Salsa Squadron were not outclassed by any NA team there.
This does mean more than just the interesting trend that has developed from the last two gauntlets on the NA side of the bracket. Particularly in the context of the changes we are seeing to competitive in season 5, in particular the shrinking of the SPL to six teams instead of eight. Quite clearly there is a lot of talent in the Challenger Cup. However in season 5 there is going to be no direct route up to the SPL. While the changes are great in terms of providing stability and investment to the SPL, there is clear value in having a fluid league. I just hope that this is something that Hi-Rez bare in mind and a middle ground is found between stability and investment for the SPL and its players, while encouraging talent from the bottom up.
ALG and the end of an era
With ALG coming dead last in the NA SPL and then being knocked out 2-0 by a Challenger Cup team, it is hard to see that roster returning for season 5. Hi-Rez have come out and said they are going to be rewarding organizations with spots who have supported the SPL. So it’s not impossible to think that ALG the org could get a spot but I would be very surprised if Hi-Rez would be willing to boot out any of the rosters that placed first through sixth. Especially with the amount of hysteria that follows even the slightest mention of Kurt ‘Weaken’ Schray. With all the changes that Hi-Rez are implementing they are going to want to avoid any unnecessary attention.
This probably means it’s the end of the Weak3n and Jarod ‘Cyclonespin’ Nguyen jungle-solo partnership. While everyone knows twitch chats’ feelings about Weak3n, it should not be forgotten how incredible him and Cyclonespin looked in the AFK days. Cyclonespin’s Hun Batz from the solo is probably one of the most dominant things I have ever seen in the Smite pro scene, and Weak3n was a big part of that and more than impressive in his own right. It will be interesting to see where they go from here, because I am sure there is already a few teams looking at ALG’s squad with certain players in mind.
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