The SMITE Season 4 Spring Gauntlet is in the books, and what a wild ride. I got a lot wrong – and a lot right – about what the Gauntlet would bring us, but it certainly delivered on the entertainment. The Spring Masters LAN should provide another bevy of twists and turns, and we can only hope we another amazing pro tournament to watch. Before we do, let’s breakdown what happened this weekend and what we might be able to see in the coming Masters LAN.
Meta Meta Meta
The pre-Gauntlet predictions for the meta were the following:
- Return of the isolation comp, and a decreased success of the all-in comps
- Healing sustain comps return in force
- An emphasis on focusing out the ADCs to allow an easier time focusing a single target – either through ADC level leads or through support picks
For cold predictions based entirely on patch notes and trending, that’s not half bad. A large majority of the games featured exactly these things, and while the last point is the one most open to interpretation it is also the one that proved the most influential across the LAN. However, let’s address these in order.
Ra was – without a doubt – one of the most influential gods during this LAN. This was in part because both Wlfy and Andinster are monsters on the god, and part because the master of the laugh spam provides both of the first two points above. Ra was banned 6 times, and was 6-1. Fafnir was 12-3 with 11 bans. Sylvanus was 6-2 with 10 bans. Terra had a losing record at 6-9, but was still banned 10 times. Susano – previously with an incredibly poor showing across the split – was 10-3 and banned 15 times. Hun Batz – previously ridiculous with an 83% win rate in the split – was 4-7 and banned 18 times. Likewise, Poseidon saw a sharp decline in his importance and efficiency, ending up at 3-4 with only 3 bans. We saw several comps that were running a magical jungler, two ADCs, and two guardians. Chang’e being the jungler of choice, of course. Bellona saw a huge resurgence – which makes me ecstatic.
With all that in mind – not to mention the appearance of incredibly pen heavy builds – it is clear the focus was on sustaining and re-engaging after finding a pick to them push objectives or team fights at an advantage. This is a more traditional approach to the game vs. the all-in madness we have been seeing since the beginning of season four, though that methodology is still finding some success here and there. It’s not that Poseidon is suddenly ineffectual, it’s just that his success revolves around the other team grouping and the fight going to conclusion. When a team can poke until a pick happens, and then re-engage after they have been sustained, that tactic is no longer the primary choice. The same is true for Zeus and Vulcan. The Bird Brothers – Ra and Thoth – came to the forefront, with Chiron and Isis making a splash. Scylla was hit and miss, but her Ult does much the same thing as Ra and Thoth, just with honestly harder confirmation and not as much frequency of use. Fight me.
The pick-and-roll strategy becomes a little dicier once the healing sustain get a little more limited, though only a little bit. Ra still provides a relatively safe retreat spot – thanks to the protections – though the amount healed decreases or requires players to build differently (let’s assume this happens first). Sylvanus gives the in-combat protections and heals. Terra will…pretty much do what she does now because her healing is sorta incidental at this point. However, this might actually benefit Hel and we might end up seeing her played, because her burst healing is pretty crazy. I digress. Healing will still be good unless more changes come in 4.7…and I know a lot of changes are. Still, we’ll see this matter for Masters LAN – as it won’t be on 4.7.
Finally, let’s talk about the last point above – the focusing on the duo/long lane. While this didn’t happen every single game, it was a large part of the successful strategies of the competing teams. The solo/short lane was still receiving pressure when the match-ups were especially unfavorable, but when match-ups were more even the focus shifted to the duo/long lane where pressure could be exerted on the ADC. This is important because the pressure also allowed the red buff to be continually invaded, while also placing the opposing ADC at a disadvantage. The ADC falling behind two levels is much more meaningful than the solo falling behind a level or two. Even if the enemy solo gets ahead a level from the lane neglect, having the ADC be two levels up is a big win. It’s also generally clear which gods have a tougher time playing from behind, and it’s no surprise that it is often the hunters that have this issue. They are very level and build dependent.
These trends can be expected to continue into Masters LAN – though the god pool might change some depending on whether the patch is 4.5 or 4.6. It’s mostly about the hunter who ends up getting banned – Cernunnos or Skadi, and how sustain-oriented the comp needs to end up being. We know it won’t be on 4.7, but either 4.5 (Gauntlet) or 4.6 (current) are likely and it hasn’t been officially announced.
Organizational Rises and Falls
Here is where the predictions go atrociously awry – picking the winners. Flash Point has serious chemistry issues as a total team, though their individual play looked more solid than it has been coming into the LAN – with the exception of the picked on Xenotronics. ALG has more going on behind the scenes than roster issues. eLevate didn’t have their heads on straight. eUnited was imploding for everyone to see. Even the defending world champions had some struggles getting things together, just playing way more loose than we expected them to be. Things aren’t all bad on this prediction front, however, as SoaR Gaming did win NA – even if they looked lost in the finals themselves – and Noble Esports proved to be all hype and all rhymes.
The two biggest surprises are not really surprises, but they were things that weren’t clear if you were on the outside of the professional scene. The two teams who are considered the best scrim teams in their region came to a LAN against teams they often scrim with and dominated. For Oxygen Supremacy (NA), this meant they put in a Herculean effort to try and win the gauntlet – falling 5 games shy. They won seven in a row in absolutely convincing fashion, showing off incredible communication, good strategy, and a large god pool. Their mechanics are still not the best, but it’s strong enough for them to climb past the lower half of the NA scene. Just absolutely incredibly performances from the entire team – Kikisocheeky (solo), Venenu (mid), Skeeledon (jungle), Neirumah (support), and Daytoremeber (adc).
In a good illustration of the above meta shifts, it wasn’t until In Memory of Gabe (NA) shut down the Daytoremeber that they began to turn the tide. Focusing on the ADC consistently was something the team couldn’t adjust to, and Oxygen Supremacy lost their momentum and ran out of steam. Figuring that out in game two, game three was a complete snowball-fest in only a way a team who has just turned to tatters can provide. Still, the performance all day was amazing, and these guys are going to be true competitors to the bottom teams getting relegated in NA. Beware of sharks in the shallow end, guys.
On the other side of the Gauntlet, Team Rival (EU) scrapped against all competition before winning the whole thing in dominant fashion against a SoaR Gaming (NA) team that looked a little off. Like Oxygen Supremacy, Team Rival is considered the best scrim team in their region, and they brought it to the LAN in spades. The team was firing on all cylinders, and their strategy was a very similar one to Oxygen Supremacy…and the aforementioned emerging meta. Getting Vote ahead and allowing Wlfy to sustain the team on Ra – not to mention allowing both of them to snipe out single targets – carried them through. Deathwalker was a monster, dominating whenever he got Bellona with his aggression and key decision making. Iceicebaby was a different player, becoming one of the best junglers currently playing – at least for this LAN. It wasn’t all a single strategy, though. They showed a tremendous god pool – a characteristic of the good scrim teams – and obviously researched the competition and were more prepared than their competition. Team Rival absolutely deserved to win the Gauntlet, and did so in convincing fashion.
At the Masters LAN, Luminosity Gaming (NA) will be going up against Team Rival, in a set that will assuredly see a lot of action. The biggest advantage LG will have over the teams in the Gauntlet is they will have a larger sample size to consider and work to prepare against. However, LG is notorious for having a weak pick/ban phase, and that will matter tremendously when facing Team Rival. That said, it should be a hell of a set, regardless of outcome.
The Spring Masters LAN takes place April 27-30, and brings the first leg of Season 4 to a conclusion. The standings are thus:
- Obey Alliance
- Team Eager
- Team Dignitas
- Team Rival
- SoaR Gaming
- (Isurus Gaming or Valorous Team) – LatAm
- NRG Esports
- LG Dire Wolves
- Black Dragons
Thursdays games see the LatAm team squaring off against Black Dragons (Brazil), and NRG Esports (EU) facing LG Dire Wolves (OCE). Based on the outcome, it’s up in the air who will be facing Obey Alliance (EU), and who will be facing Team Eager (NA). There are a lot of intriguing match-ups that could come from this (NRG vs. Obey or NRG vs. Eager), but let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. What we DO know is that Team Dignitas (EU) will be facing SoaR Gaming and Luminosity will be facing Team Rival. These should both be amazing sets to watch.
Look forward to full predictions – and a piece on the problems of eUnited – prior to the LAN next week.