It’s times like this week that remind me that while some professional teams are better than others, that skill differential is usually shown over a larger set of games. When there is a small set, anything can happen. It also reminds me that eSports need better governance. Without stricter guidelines and improved transparency, it will continue to look like the fledgling field that it is. Before we get into that, let me first say this – I hope you all will stick with me for the remainder of the split, at the very least. This was a rough week for me, no joke. Not only did my my losses this week eclipse my loss totals for the season, it was my first week where my pick rate was below .500. It might be a small consolation that I standby my predictions and pick them on my own ticket, but at least I feel that same pinch as all of you. Still, from everything I can gather, my predictions were still better than the majority for the weekend. At any rate, this brings me to 20-12 for the season, or a 62.5% prediction rate. On the trending front, I feel pretty good about the analysis I have been making. This week proved that out more than every. Anyway, there is so much to unpack this week. Let’s get into it.
Governance Isn’t a Dirty Word
Having established, enforceable, clear rules doesn’t make your eSport uncool. It’s not the equivalent of wearing black socks and sandals on your summer vacation. Instead, it’s listening to the travel advisory so you don’t get stabbed to death in an alley in low town. I get it. I really do. This is a burgeoning industry and there are no standards established. It’s the Wild West and everyone is rushing to stake out their claim and be the first to strike it rich. All I am saying is watch Deadwood. The story ends badly for a lot of people. A better acceptance of law and order would have gone a long way, you know?
Week 3 highlighted a place the SPL dearly needs governance – rosters. Just like in other professional sports, the organizations, teams, and players do not owe the fantasy players anything. Their job is to be as successful as they can be. Unfortunately, lack of clear, concise rules around rosters is a source of frustration for fans and players. For example, there were six substitutions this week, and the only way you knew about them at all is if you followed the players and organizations. In some cases, not even then. Only when the game started did you know there was a substitution. This is something of a problem because the information on who the subs are is not publicly available (better hope you go to Twitch and can find out from the players). Rosters are submitted on a weekly basis, must have at least five people on it, may not have more than eight people, and five people must be designated as starters. You may swap starters and substitutes with 24 hours notice. Rosters are generally only “locked” week by week, or for the duration of a LAN competition.
What does locked mean in this case? Players can’t join another team. They can opt to quit, obviously, but they can’t join another team. This is fine, until you realize that the most common lock is the week by week lock. This week saw a problematic situation. Benji, SoaR’s solo-laner during weeks 1-2, left SoaR late Tuesday night, rejoining his former team, eUnited (Enemy). SoaR was playing against eUnited on Sunday, and were unable to field a roster because one sub was unavailable for them, and a second joined another team for the week. Due to this happening right before rosters were submitted, this left SoaR without a solo-laner and they had to forfeit to eUnited. Essentially, intentional or not, the circumstances are such that Benji’s actions immediately netted his new team a set win against his old team. I am not assigning malice here, but rather highlighting a place that’s awful for teams, players, and fans.
There need to be provisions in place to account for this situation. In this specific instance, the game should have been rescheduled instead of forfeited.
There also needs to be more transparency. While Nulisa and N0numbers were updated on the roster prior to game time, the substitution/starter designations need to be more visible. Full roster submissions should be visible, and there needs to be an easy way to view this information. By the time most players could act on this information, it was too late. Considering people had to spend currency to be able to vote, this isn’t much to ask.
Who has a 25-6 (~81%) win record? Hun Batz! Who is not getting banned nearly as often as he should be? Hun Batz! Who’s ult is absolutely devastating in the high burst, high control meta of season 4? Hun Freakin’ Batz! People are finally talking about how impactful he is, but this has been going on for all of the season thus far. His presence is so huge, and the item changes in season 4, particularly Heartseeker, has made him a serious threat outside of his ultimate. The larger problem is that the items have made everyone do more damage more often, so taking away control from character during a planned burst window is absolutely devastating. Poseidon saw victory in 7 of the 9 games he was in (20-14 overall), for much the same reason. Whirlpool is great control, and Kraken is great burst. Zeus is likewise popular, 14-10 overall with 29 total bans. He’s actually more popular than Poseidon, as his burst is even burstier and more frequent. He doesn’t have the great control built-in that Poseidon possesses, but if teams get that elsewhere, then it doesn’t matter.
Hercules, you know the obviously OP guy, is 6-13 in the solo lane, while being a respectable 3-1 in the support position. Hercules can be a beast to take down, but his offerings are just not there for what people demand out of a solo laner these days. He’s just not the dominant force that people were predicting for organized play. He can do a lot of work against people that aren’t prepared for it, see Izanami, but he doesn’t offer enough in the solo lane. The solo laners these days are all about group presence. Despite what people say, Amaterasu is still amazing in the position (3-1), she just happens to also be incredible at the support position (7-1). Thanatos has seen success in the solo position (3-1), but none to speak of in jungle (1-5). He offers an area silence, good mobility, a single target deletion, and an area slow, in addition to his good sustain. It makes sense. Guardians are seeing a lot of play in this role due to their natural tankiness, sustain, and group presence. I couldn’t be happier my boy Xing Tian is seeing so much love (6-3). Terra was pressured a lot more in many cases, and saw less success this week. It’s like we talked about that happening or something.
Let’s spend a moment to talk about Susano. He saw a buff a few patches ago and everyone was talking about how unstoppable he’d be. He seems like a good fit for the meta, area damage, some poke, and an area knockup as an ultimate. The problem is that ultimate isn’t instant, and he doesn’t really have any other soft cc tied to his other skills. This lowers his utility considerably. It doesn’t seem like much, but having to spend 1s to deal half damage on the ultimate to get a knockup, or 2s to get full damage and the knockup, is a big deal. That’s time he isn’t doing something when he needs to be doing something. This makes him just barely a bad fit for the meta. It’s enough so that it just doesn’t mesh well, and is more awkward than it should be. His record of 3-12 says what you need to know, at the moment.
Finally, can we stop talking about the season 4 snowball? Yeah, it can get out of hand, but we have had several come from behind games at this point, and it would be disingenuous to call them all throws. People are just bad at playing from behind, and this season is very swingy. It’s just not the foregone conclusion people would have you believe.
Enshrined in Valhalla
As much I want to just spend this time talking about how incredible ScaryD is playing, and the fact he broke out solo lane Hades and made it look amazing (RIP Ranked Queues), I have to give this honor to the players that made a huge difference for their teams. This week, the honor goes to Cherryo (EU – Valance Squadron) and Incon (NA – Flash Point). The squads for both teams looked fantastic this week, with Flash Point looking like a completely different team, but these players did a lot for their respective squads. Multiple members of the squads could be argued for this honor, but it was Cherryo and Incon that stood out.
Cherryo had an exceptional set on Saturday, a week after he struggled on jungle Ymir (something he is known to try and make happen). He went 8-0-25 across the set, absolutely dominating on the God of Monkeys. While all of VAC looked incredibly this week, their picks and bans were incredible, it was Cherryo that impressed me the most this time around. Hun Batz can make such a difference when played well, and Cherryo did exactly that. Managing to be in the right place at the right time, and making the right play is a big deal as a jungler. This week, Cherryo was spot on.
Last week, I gave Incon the ignoble honor of being tortured in Tartarus. This week, he managed to push the boulder up the hill, and have it stay there. Not only did he stick with mages, he managed to make good, team-centric decisions, and provide benefits to his team in each situation. He managed a 12-2-18 record across the set, including a 0 death game on Zeus. Janus can be a good that looks amazing in the right hands, and awful in the wrong hands, and Incon rose to the challenge. It definitely helps that his entire team looked better this week, looking like a team for the first time, but Incon improved so much over the weeks before, he definitely deserves this.
Tortured in Tartarus
This week was a weird one. It saw a lot of erratic play all over the place, and people were made to pay for their hubris. I am not immune to this, and I feel lucky I escaped one set below .500. There are a lot of candidates for the condemnation this week, as a result. It is tempting to just put eUnited here and call it a day, but that wouldn’t be fair. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt that this was just a bad circumstance and not a malicious act. It sucks, but that can be mutually exclusive. That said, PainDeViande (NA – eUnited) is tossed into the pit this week, along with Frezzyy (EU – Lion Guard eSports).
PainDeViande isn’t here for his actions that resulted in the forfeiture of his newest member’s former team, but his abysmal performance. Granted, there was not much time to practice and get used to the new team, but yikes. PainDeViande was 0-13-5 across two games, and his death wish in the first game was just out of hand. He was constantly out of position, taking risks that were foolhardy at best, and absolutely a detriment to his team. In the second set, he opted for Terra paired with Xbalanque to face Fafnir/Medusa. Early deaths, no presence, and zero pressure allows Team Allegiance to have their way with the long lane, and snowball the pressure against the rest of his team. Oh, he also picked up Benji over Eruzies. I obviously don’t know their team dynamics, but I liked seeing Eruzies play. Hopefully he will get a chance in the future.
Frezzyy takes a lot of crap from people. It’s popular to hate on him, and blame him for Obey Alliance’s loss in the SWC finals. While it is true he was not good on Sylvanus during that set, there were more problems than just him. The mark against him is that most people see him performing bad-mannered (BM) behavior against his opponents. What people don’t realize is the scene isn’t that big, and most people are friendly with each other. I know my friends and I all talk shit when we play, and I don’t think the pros are any different. Of course, this week didn’t do him any favors in the eyes of the average viewer. Frezzy was 0-12-5 across the set. He was consistently out of position, and his aggression on these immobile, traditional support guardians works against his natural tendencies. His Hercules play against CycloneGG was fantastic, and it matches his style. Hercules was wisely taken away from him by Valance, but returning to Sylvanus and Khepri was a step back for his game. He really needs to expand his god pool, particularly to include Amaterasu, and work more on making some non-traditional support picks work for him. I wish him success, but he needs to move past his positioning issues.
|1||Obey Alliance played a reinvigorated eLevate team, and really only lost due to the salty runback. CaptainTwig is very skilled, but he is a dueler, through and through. He let that go to his head a little, and his team believed in him, which is a good sign. It didn’t work out, but I still think these guys have what it takes. They are currently third in the standings, but only due to the fact they haven’t played a Thursday game yet.||1|
|2||Luminosity moves up three spots this week on the strength of their performance against Team Allegiance. Not only did they execute extremely well, they did so with some unorthodox picks that they have clearly been working on. Their communication has been top notch lately, and it’s clear they have adapted to the new season.||5|
|3||Valance Squadron absolutely dominated Lion Guard eSports. Their research was on point, and it forced the picks and bans in the direction they wanted it to go. When they got what they wanted, they executed to perfection. This is a continued improvement over the course of the season, and they look like a squad out for blood||6|
|4||Eager played a reeling IMOG team, and took a split. Their first game was a dominating display, while the second game was a case of the ongoing fate of NA teams. Eager is a top team, but they need to tighten things up if they want to come out on top.||4|
|5||Dignitas dropped a game against eLevate and nearly looked like it was going to lose the full set. Then they looked shaky against Sanguine, which is probably the worst team out there right now. The team just looks overconfident and under-practiced. They need to buckle down and practice team play.||2|
|6||This week was a hard week for IMOG. They got battered in game one, and then made some bad decisions to go on and lose game two against Noble eSports. They continued the losing streak and dropped a quick one to EGR, before finding their footing and picking a win to salvage a split. This was their first real test, and it did not go well. Hopefully they can right themselves going forward.||3|
|7||eLevate split two sets with two very serious teams. This is a new look roster for a team that needed the breathe of fresh air. I still might blame the Obey Alliance victory on overconfidence, but clean, efficient play allowed that to happen. Time to take them more seriously.||11|
|8||They did better than expected with a role swap and a sub. They manage a split, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. I hope these guys will come into the last few games with clear heads, or at least start shaking off the Conquest Crud and start pushing. They need to reconnect to each other.||7|
|9||Well, a new solo laner, a crushing defeat, and a win by forfeiture. Why do they fall only one slot? These guys have played together before, so the synergy should come back in short order. PainDeViande needs to consider moving off Ymir as a first choice, though.||8|
|10||Lion Guard had a very bad set against VAC, but split with CycloneGG. They have skilled players, but they need to sort out some of their god pool issues and work to their strengths, not the strength of the meta itself. It’s weird to say that, but this team has players that are unconventional and they need to play to that.||10|
|11||This team plays up or down to the level of their competition. They played one clean game and one sloppy game in their sweep of IMOG, and then got outplayed by Flash Point. This is after splitting with another NA power house. I’d like Chapo to play a bit cleaner, and expand his god pool. He’s very, very aggressive and not always to the benefit of his team.||9|
|12||CycloneGG picked up a win off a depleted NRG team. Nothing to take away from them, but let’s not call it a clean win. Still, maybe it is a catalyst for the future sets? Time will tell.||14|
|13||Team Allegiance demolished eUnited, but was demolished in turn by Luminosity Gaming. They are a very middling team at the moment, but with flashes of clean play and good direction. They still need to keep grinding, and maybe start thinking about the next split.||12|
|14||One very clean win over Noble, and one back-and-forth win over Noble. This team looked…well…like a team. It was clear they were making good calls, good choices, and communicating. I am very happy to see them on the board and I hope they can continue to rise.||15|
|15||Right now they are at their low point. They might continue to make it a valley, or rise to the occasion with Fineokay as their new solo laner, and hopefully new substitutes. I hope it’s the second path.||13|
|16||They showed a bit of life against Dignitas, but still walked away with nothing. They very well might be a winless team.||16|
Week 4 Predictions
I predict a bye-week for all teams.
Week 5 Predictions
Things are getting interesting, now. Some big clashes this week.
Valance Squadron vs. Obey Alliance – Cream of the crop, rise to the top. This should be a hell of a set. Both teams will come out slugging, and I don’t think a two game set will show the clear victor. I believe this set will split, while a longer set would favor Obey Alliance. 1-1
Team Allegiance vs. Team Eager – I could see a split here, it’s NA after all, but I believe Eager will look to finish strong. 0-2
Flash Point vs. SoaR Gaming – SoaR picked up a new solo laner in Fineokay, who is someone I have always liked from Open Bracket and Challenger Cup play. Flash Point will be looking to prove they are a good team, and one that has started to gel. I think we see SoaR pick up their first win, and Flash Point walk away with one. 1-1
Team Dignitas vs. NRG eSports – Dignitas has been very unsteady in their past sets, but NRG is down right mediocre. It will come down to two things: is NRG looking to care about this split at all, and is Dignitas over themselves and back to working hard? I think this will be a salty set, with focus on Variety and his temperament. Like other games on this day, I think this splits. 1-1
Lion Guard eSports vs. NRG – Which version of each team comes to play? Weird to think these two teams are vying to be middle of the pack in the EU. I believe in NRG over Lion Guard, despite the shortcomings NRG is displaying this split. Lion Guard is just too spotty. 0-2
Team Dignitas vs. Obey Alliance – Variety’s New Team vs. Variety’s Old Team. Obey Alliance has looked better so far, but this will be a statement set from both teams. Again, I think two games won’t prove either team superior, but over a longer set I like Obey just a little more right now. 1-1
eLevate vs. Valance Squadron – Valance will have some time to look over the new roster’s performance, something teams couldn’t do very well in week 3. As long as Valance is clean in picks and bans, I believe they get the full set to themselves. 0-2
CycloneGG vs. Sanguine –Sanguine might pick up their first win here, but I wouldn’t count on it. I wouldn’t hate anyone who believes this will happen, but I believe CycloneGG wins the full set just slight more. 2-0
Noble eSports vs. Team Eager – How will Noble spring back from their loss to Flash Point, and how will Eager approach this set, knowing they split with a team that Noble beat in the same week? Noble will play up to Eager’s level here, and probably force the split. 1-1
Team Allegiance vs. SoaR Gaming – Team Allegiance has not looked good lately. They were beaten soundly by two top teams, have split against middling teams and haven’t shone all that much. SoaR is still getting their act together, but the addition of Fineokay has re-energized them. I think the cap for SoaR is higher, and I think they get at least one win here. This series really could go either way, but I think split is the right call. 1-1
eUnited vs. Flash Point – Call me crazy, but I think Flash Point really shows up to this one and looks to shine. I don’t have much reason behind this pick. I just think Flash Point will make it happen. This is even on the heels of an incredibly weak set against SoaR. eU is erratic, at best. 0-2
In Memory of Gabe vs. Luminosity Gaming – Set of the week for NA. I have liked what I have seen of Luminosity’s picks and bans, but I also believe IMOG has been looking to run and gun at Luminosity for the entire split. The LG fan in me says they take it, but the pragmatist says split. I listen to the pragmatist, here. 1-1