The early part of the season for any sport is always exciting. Some teams start to show flashes of brilliance, some are the steady hands from the previous season, some look sleepy but start to awaken, and other teams look like they forgot to add fuel to their jets and have resigned themselves to crashing and burning. This was the first full week of games, meaning we saw four sets on Thursday (2 EU, 2 NA), and then all teams competing on Saturday and Sunday. I was 9-3 for my selections for the week, and I am now 15-5 for the season. Not a bad start, if I do say so, but it will get harder from this point forward. Teams have had the opportunities to watch how other teams play, what gods are comfortable for which players, and what weak points have started to emerge. Let’s get into it.
The Age of Ouroboros
The Age of Ouroboros is upon us. I talked about this last week, but it’s in full swing now. With the changes to items, nerfs to base healing, and the altered relic system, there is a strong preference for gods with large area skills. Being able to lock down a massive area and just dump damage into the gods unlucky enough to be at the Circle K is a valid strategy for victory. Funny enough, a lot of this has come about because of the ban choices. The teams are truly the instruments of their own destruction. Thoth got through in 6 games, splitting 3-3, but was banned in a whopping 31 games. Ratatoskr was picked in 17 games and banned in 19, going 10-7 overall, Sylvanus was picked in 16, banned in 18, and went 8-8.
Hercules is in a weird spot. He was picked twice for support, 12 for solo lane, and was banned 18 times. This is strange to me because he went 2-0 and 3-9, respectively. I will talk about the support portion a bit more later, but I firmly believe he is overvalued in the solo lane position. He has solid sustain, great peel or disruption with hard CC, and CC immunity built into his ult, but his skills are mostly narrow and he doesn’t bring a ton to a team fight. I don’t think he is bad or anything. I just think he’s overvalued at the moment.
Still, it’s easy to see why certain gods are chosen in this bursty, controlling meta. Anhur saw huge success – he brings a large slow, terrain creation, control immunity during his ultimate (a high burst ultimate at that), safety through leap (that can also be used offensively as hard CC), passive penetration in an already aggressive meta, and a single target control/displacement ability. Amaterasu, that foxy lady, has an ult with staggered CC, team auras – offensively and defensively, a silence, and can punish bursty damage. Poseidon has the whirlpool for control, and the kraken for burst. Hun Batz, as mentioned before, Fears No Evil, and does monkey things. Zeus just has so much lightning. So. Much. Lightning. Scylla also saw some play, and she’s all about those circles. Same with Vulcan and Nu(de) Wa. Medusa being a set-up hunter for burst is nice to see, too. I don’t see this trend going anywhere any time soon, unless more items see changes.
Speaking of things not going anywhere, the global ult pressure is still real with Terra coming out as strong in an organized team. Surprisingly, she’s seeing success in the solo lane, where she was not play to great effect in season three. This will probably change as teams start to pressure her more. She has to be aggressive and overextend to get what she needs, meaning she can get caught with some focus. She also saw some play in the support role, to mixed results. Apollo was picked a lot, no surprise with his buffs and global pressure. Nu Wa saw some play, and I expect her to see more in the future. Ratatoskr and Thor were both in the mix an awful lot, though Rat is getting nerfed soon and his participation might drop. Anyway, this is still definitely a thing, though perhaps less so than in the past.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
One of the biggest trends emerging in this season is the play of warriors in the support role. Amaterasu is just killing it out there, Hercules saw success, Guan Yu and Erlang Shen saw a bit of play, and Odin was picked several times with no wins to his name. This definitely does not surprise me. Warriors bring a lot in way of disruption and sustain, while also offering more offensive aggression options for their lane partner, and they can do some serious work if found out of position. Traditional guardians are still seeing play, but they are almost more successful in the solo role than in the support role. Sobek, for example, was 4-2 in the solo lane, but 0-2 in the support role. Cabrakan was 4-4 solo, and 0-1 supporting. Granted, you still see the Big Three ™ support of Geb, Khepri, and Sylvanus, but the success of warriors in that role is quite real.
As more support pick up warriors, and more solo laners pick up guardians, don’t be surprised if Picks and Bans become a real headache for teams. When Amaterasu is killing it in two roles, and two players can wreak havoc with her, you have to ban her, right? Sure, but then leave traditional comfort picks open in two roles as a result. The mind games that are going to result from good teams being able to do this, not to mention jungle being able to pick some up to further muddy the waters, are going to be incredible. Part of Picks and Bans is knowing your opponent’s god pool, and being able to predict how a god is going to be used within the team comp. When you see something like Ratatoskr, Amaterasu, and Cabrakan, who knows who will be in what role? Expect this to continue, as it’s just too valuable at the moment to trend otherwise.
Enshrined in Valhalla
While there were certainly players who were incredible this past week, this section is reserved for the heroes of the weekend. Those players managed who managed to fight through the odds and force a victory for their teams. The two heroes enshrined in Valhalla for the week are Adapting (EU – NRG) and Pandacat (NA – NME). Don’t get me wrong, a lot of players were insane this weekend (ScaryD, Pretty Prime, Divios, Ataraxia), but these two were the driving force of the victories each of these teams managed to salvage this past weekend.
After a poor showing from the whole NRG team in game 1 of the set against Valance on Thursday, Adapting hoisted the bodies of his teammates upon the mighty monkey shoulders of Hun Batz and led them to victory. He played nearly perfect in that game, taking advantage of Valance getting outpicked during Picks and Bans, pressuring the solo lane, and just running over Cherryo in the jungle. Adapting got absolutely huge from the kills he was getting, and then capitalized on it. He turned fights around with ease thanks to his lead and well-timed Fear No Evils. It’s easy to see why he’s considered one of the best players in the world.
Pandacat had a less dominant appearance overall than Adapting, but it was Pandacat’s patience and timing that swung the game in his team’s favor. Now, this set already has a legend around it, despite it just happening. The legend says Pandacat was playing on a single-wire connection with tin cans as communicators in South Africa, all while his family was livestreaming them watching a TV show they were streaming from Netflix. Ok, maybe it’s not quite that bad, but the team is claiming 900ms ping as a real thing. I don’t buy the number was that high, I’d buy 200-350ms, but that’s legends for you. Anyway, Pandacat made minimal mistakes in game two, and made the single play that turned the game in his team’s favor. While Eager was being their usual, aggressive self, NME kept withdrawing, allowing them to do so. Pandacat stayed out of the fight almost entirely, and continued to shift positions. Once Eager was in position, clumped at a choke point, Pandacat sprung into action, nailing the 5-man Medusa Ult, allowing for Zeus to just drop lightning bombs and wipe the floor with them. Yeah, it wasn’t the all-game dominance Adapting had, but it was the right play at the right time. That can be even more important, especially up against one of the currently best teams in the region. Huge play.
Tortured in Tartarus
You can’t have heroes without those who fail in their tasks. When heroes fall, they do so in spectacularly awful fashion, succumbing to their worst traits and bringing down those around them. They should be cast into darkest Tartarus, far beneath the watchful eye of Hades, to suffer for eternity…or at least until next week when someone else will win this ignoble honor. It’s not any fun to pick on teams that are already down, but this week two bottom-of-the-barrel teams legitimately contain the players deserving of this fate. MiketheMagikarp (Sanguine – EU) and Incon (Flash Point – NA), have been cast forth.
Where to start with MiketheMagikarp? Should I start with his 0.16 KDA across the two games with Obey? How about averaging 9.5 deaths for the set? No, let’s start with Geb jungle. Now, you can absolutely play some guardians in the jungle, Cabrakan or Fafnir for example, but Geb is such a weird choice. Sure, his kit is pretty solid across the board, but his scaling is bad. You can see him coming, and you have to use his get away/initiation correctly or it hurts more than it helps. He’s just a slow god, and while he does offer a lot of CC, which the team comp was obviously based around, he doesn’t have the presence of other jungles, even off meta ones. Cabrakan has the burst, CC in the kit, and disruption that a jungler needs, as an example. Geb could work, but only with with other synergy in other places. This wasn’t it, and it was just a bad choice. Unfortunately, even with Cabrakan the game before, he went 2-10. Maybe he should stay away from this selection and pick some traditional junglers while he improves his teamwork and mechanics. I honestly don’t think he’ll survive the split, at this rate. Sanguine doesn’t deserve this.
The second choice for the week hurts me. I like Incon. I enjoy his streams. I enjoy his story. I think he’s a solid player in ranked. However, he is making selfish/solo play choices to the detriment of his team. He absolutely loves hunter mid choices, and while Neith did see success, so far there haven’t been any other hunters seeing success there. Izanami is just not a great choice in mid. Yeah, her clear is great, but she just doesn’t have that burst and her mobility is limited. He picks Bumba’s Mask all the time, which is great solo when you can’t count on teammates to help or enemies to play aggressively when appropriate, but in an organized match, it’s just wasted gold. The jungler will either take that farm, or you can’t get it yourself because of pressure from the opposing team. Finally, he’s just not getting the practice on the mages that he needs to practice. He needs to put in that time to perfect his mechanics and get comfortable on the various utility and burst mages that will be dominating the meta. Above all, he needs to work on his team play. He has to shed that solo hero/hunter mid mentality he gets from his daily play. He can succeed, but he needs to put in the work. This week showed that to be true.
|1||Prettyprime and Ataraxia are at the top of their game, Captaintwig is thriving, and EmilZy already seems like he’s been there forever. When your weakest link is maniaKK, you know your team is in a good place. Their first two sets have just been dominant. No question they deserve this.||1|
|2||Dignitas might be the best team in either region, at the moment. They just haven’t played any competitive teams yet to test them.Unfortunately, it will be another two weeks before we see them square off against real threats. Qvofred and Variety look like they have always played together, and Arkkyl is quietly dominating. This team is scary.||3|
|3||The same thing about Dignitas holds true for In Memory of Gabe. They have yet to play any truly competitive team, but they have looked like mechanical gods in their first sets. They managed to shutout Flash Point in the first game, and quickly capitalized on mistakes in the second game. They look comfortable as a team right now. They will get challenged soon, and we’ll know more then.||5|
|4||NA hubris, man. Eager is a very aggressive team, and they have played together for a while now. They are innovators, and see success from those innovations. However, they tend to get way too comfortable and confident. The picks in their second game were not targeted, and their play was completely aggressive and sloppy. SWC was the same way. Hopefully they can grow this year.||2|
|5||Not to take anything away from Noble, but Luminosity just didn’t take this game seriously, and was just experimenting. It was clear in the play and the after game comments. Some of those deaths were just suicides by certain players to figure things out. Case in point, the complete dominance of them on Sunday. I love this team, and think they will be great, but they have to stay focused and serious.||4|
|6||Valance Squad had a good week. They split with NRG, dominating in game 1, and stomped Cyclone GG. NRG outpicked them in game 2, and maybe got in their heads a bit, but it was still a great showing by Valance. This is a team to watch in EU. They might be spoilers to a top two team, and are in the conversation for top four in the region, for sure.||6|
|7||I hope all of NRG bought Adapting drinks after the matches. He was their savior, and his play helped them to regain their form. I think they will continue to thrive the next week or two, before facing more competition in week 5. They have to get back in form in a hurry, but I think they are awake.||8|
|8||NME played its last game under the NME banner. They will be joining their owner’s new org before their next game, in which they will be branded as eUnited. The only reason they dropped a slot is their wins and losses were sloppier than NRG’s. This team will continue to get better, and, like VAC, is in the conversation for top four in their region.
Update: 3/1/17 – Eruzies – the young solo laner – has been replaced with Benj1, the former solo laner of Enemy, and, until today, the solo laner of SoaR.
|9||Noble has pulled a split in two of their three sets, thus far. One of those was with Luminosity, and one was with Allegiance. This difference in teams should tell you where I am going with this. Either they got lucky with Luminosity, or they under-performed with Allegiance. Right now, I believe the first more than the second scenario. Still, they have shown improvements. The next few weeks will let us know for sure.||15|
|10||Lion Guard had a big week. They won their first set, they got picked up by Lion Guard and got to shed the name Novus Orsa, and they got demolished by Dignitas. Still, they beat a team they should have beat, convincingly so, and lost to a team they were expected to lose to. These guys are raw, and are streaky, but middle of the pack is about right for them.||10|
|11||At least they have a split, so far. This position is less their doing, and more the doing of every other team. Elevate should beat a few other teams this split, but the best they should realistically shoot for is avoiding relegations.
Updated 3/3/17: In a kind of shady announcement, Nulisa and N0Numbers played in the set against Team Dignitas. Had I known the team was subbing two people who very much want to be in the pro scene, I would have updated to a split. Alas. Anyway, they are now permanent members, BlizzardFX is a sub, and there is no word of Mogow.
|12||Team Allegiance managed a split with Noble, which I expected. There was too much salt there to not make both teams come out swinging. ALG needs a lot of work to compete, but it they are definitely not the worst team in the league. They will improve as the split goes on. They need to get better in a hurry though, no doubt.||14|
|13||SoaR Gaming does not look like a good team through two weeks. Their saving grace is they faced the two of the best teams in the league, and now it’s behind them. I think we will see them improve as the split goes on, but there is an equal chance of an implosion if they drop a set they shouldn’t. Time will tell.
Update: 3/1/17 – SoaR’s solo laner, Benj1, has left the team and rejoined his old team, Enemy. No word as of yet on SoaR’s replacement solo laner.
|14||Like SoaR, CycloneGG’s lone saving grace is they have faced serious competition in weeks one and two. We will see how they perform against Lion Guard in week three. I expect a better performance, but these two weeks might have done their moral in.||13|
|15||All three sets have been against the best teams in the region. Everything else is down hill for them, right? Right?||12|
|16||This team won’t survive the split with their current roster. They look like the worst team in the league, and with good reason.||16|
Week 3 Predictions
Week 3 should start separating the contenders from the pretenders.
eLevate vs. Team Dignitas – I don’t see Dignitas splitting with eLevate, and I don’t see them dropping two. 0-2
Lion Guard vs. Cyclone GG – A rematch of relegations, but Lion Guard has grown some since then. 1-1
Noble vs. In Memory of Gabe – In Memory of Gabe is playing so well right now. I wouldn’t count on them getting overconfident or goofing around with Noble. 0-2
eUnited (Enemy) vs. Team Allegiance – eUnited might be the better team at the moment, but ALG should be the better team. eUnited will be looking to synergize with their new (former) solo laner, Benj1. They should find their feet quick, but this set will be a little rough. Both will screw up some and end up taking one off of each other. 1-1
Cyclone GG vs. NRG – NRG has some wins now, and they beat a good team. They will be merciless. 0-2
Lion Guard vs. Valance Squad – Updated 3/3/17: Lion Guard eSports (LGE) has yet to look good in two games. They looked great in their first game against Cyclone GG, but Frezzyy was a hindrance in game two. This could possibly split, but Valance Squad is the better team. As long as Valance Squad doesn’t get in their own heads (as they did game two against NRG), they win out. 0-2
eLevate vs. Obey Alliance – Updated 3/3/17: New look eLevate will be looking to prove themselves, but Obey Alliance has looked the best in games thus far. Their players are performing well individually, and as a team. I think this will be harder than it would have been otherwise, but I still believe Obey Alliance wins out. 0-2
Team Dignitas vs. Sanguine – This might be the fastest set of the year. Blink and you miss it. 2-0
In Memory of Gabe vs. Team Eager – Updated 3/3/17: IMOG got dominated in game one against Noble, and then basically threw game two (bad shot calling combined with rituals – it’s rarely ever just one thing). This puts this game in a very different light. IMOG has had some weaknesses exposed – big team fighting and individual baiting over objectives – and Eager can be smart enough to capitalize. IMOG will be looking to bounce back, but so will Eager. Eager will be looking to prove that their split with eUnited was a fluke. This is risky, but I think Eager wins out. 0-2
Noble eSports vs. Flash Point – Updated 3/3/17: Well, Noble just upset IMOG on Thursday. They dominated a game, and they came from behind to win, with the help of some bad decision making from IMOG and rituals. Noble definitely looks like the better team. However, taking away some of the big circle comps from Noble can make them vulnerable. A few targeted bans could make the difference. We could see some regression with Noble as a result, but I rated them as high as I did for a reason. 2-0
eUnited (Enemy) vs. SoaR – Updated 3/3/17: What a frickin’ mess this is. No word as of now who will be the new solo laner for SoaR. eUnited looked absolutely awful on Thursday. Benji was the best of a bad lot. PainDeViande was playing like he was competing with Frezzyy for most feeding in a single game. It was just ugly. Of course, SoaR has looked just as bad. I still think I like eUnited slightly more than SoaR, but this is a pure coin toss. I’ll backtrack on my previous statement and say let’s look for a split. 1-1
Team Allegiance vs. Luminosity – Updated 3/3/17: ALG looked good against eUnited, and with Noble picking up a full set against IMOG, their loss looks a little better against them. ALG and LG are scrim partners, meaning this set will be a both a little more loose in some ways, and a little more tense in others. I do believe LG is the better team, but they are taking some time to adjust. I worry about Luminosity taking this game lightly and screwing around. Luminosity should pick up both games, but a split wouldn’t surprise me. NA is untrustworthy. It’s just true. 0-2