Spring Masters is behind us, and we have a new king for teams to look forward to toppling. A well-deserved congratulations is in order for Obey Alliance (EU). They looked strong all split, and persevered through an incredibly strong bracket to reach that prize. The final set was a full set of five games, with Obey Alliance coming out ahead of Team Dignitas (EU). As you might note, there are no teams from NA present in that final set. Just as there was no NA team in the final set for Season 3’s SWC. On the whole, NA teams were 1-7 against EU teams, with the lone win coming from Luminosity Gaming (NA) against Team Rival (EU). SoaR Gaming (NA) and Team Eager (NA) were beat in straight sets by Team Dignitas. In fact, Team Eager dropped a game to Black Dragons (BCL). The general consensus takeaway from the LAN is that NA sucks. Let’s talk about why NA sucks.
A Pound of Feathers and a Pound of Gold
Out of all the NA teams, only one came away talking about how to adapt to the current meta and the problems they faced. Every other team was talking about issues with the map – mainly the size and sight lines – or how snowballing was so prevalent – teams that secured first objectives (blood, gold fury, fire giant) won roughly 2/3 of the time. The fact of the matter is EU teams dominate the map, prioritize objectives, and have a better overall understanding of picks/bans at the moment. For all of their faults, Luminosity impressed the hell out of me by quickly and readily admitting they lost because of a lack of emphasis on the above items – particularly objective control. While I am certain they are unhappy with some of the overall meta trends, it’s important to know how to adjust to what is going on – rather than pining for changes.
The fastest gold fury kill was just over two minutes in a game two stomping of Team Eager by Team Dignitas. That influx of gold at that level is incredibly significant. I know all of the objectives were roughly 2/3 wins for teams that got firsts, but I would love to see how often teams that got both first blood and first gold fury won. I bet that statistic jumps even higher. Frankly, what this tells me is that teams are so used to getting ahead and playing from ahead that they do not know how to fight from behind. Honestly, I am still of the opinion that the snowball meta isn’t as bad as people are claiming – just that teams don’t practice losing. They consistently state it’s impossible unless teams throw the game, but NRG Esports (EU) and Black Dragons showed just how to do it. It’s not exactly guaranteed, but it’s still possible. I am not saying some changes don’t need to occur, but I do think teams need to alter their play styles if they want different outcomes and meaningful segments across the entire game.
God Dang It
The predictions I made were pretty spot on. We saw a lot of Cernunnos, Terra, and Bellona. Fafnir and Chang’e were banned a lot. Cabrakan was still a priority for a lot of teams. Sylvanus made a fair number of appearance. Ravana got a lot of play – people called me crazy for believing in my punch brother. Susano was still a killer. Athena and Erlang Shen saw a good bit of action. Really, the part I got wrong was forgetting about Serqet, thinking Ra would see more action than he did, and believing Hades would get played. Frankly, I think Hades would have been amazing at times – but the changes were probably too fresh to allow much work with him. One of my better predictions was stating the Morrigan would see more play. Boy, did she ever! Unfortunately, my out-on-a-limb prediction of Janus seeing more action didn’t pan out. Still, this should help put to rest any doubt I know at least a little of what I am writing about.
We also can’t continue without some discussion of the rise of Hou Yi and the fall of Geb. It didn’t register until later, but whenever Geb was selected my first reaction was always, “well, that team lost.” The rock and roller went 0-4 in the tournament, and it’s not a surprise. While he has a fair amount of CC – which we will discuss below – the common belief is he lacks early pressure. What that says to me is the team needs to be built with this in mind, but why would you do that where there are better options that require less synergy? In the case of Hou Yi, he began to be more valued after the Gauntlet and NRG’s lucky triple bounce. He’s always been solid in the jungle/objective skirmishes, but his zoning potential and CC really helped solidify his place in the meta. Not a surprise, but one that escaped me until I saw it once or twice more.
Fight, for Your Right
We did, indeed, see a carry over from the Gauntlet to the Masters, and the emphasis was heavily on the pick and roll. However, the emphasis on group sustain went down considerably in favor of individual sustain and ever-increasing amounts of control. This control manifested in myriad ways, but was a consistent theme across the days. There was a return to some tankier-double hunter compositions at first, but that wore down as the tournament went on. Team fighting was still a big emphasis, but the gods with CC, single target, and some area control were more prioritized as it allowed better objective control.
The trend to focus on the long lane and start to put the hunter ahead was a valid one, as that allowed transition into early gold furies more often than not. There were a few individual match-ups where focusing on the solo-side of the map was more prevalent, but this was a case-by-case decision rather than the general trend of earlier in the split. Again, with the emphasis on early leads and getting ahead in gold more quickly, focusing on the long lane could easily provide both of those things. Honestly, it was something of a shocker that it took so long to develop after the consistent shifting to a more single-target environment was made evident. Still, if you look at the trend across the sets, this was the biggest takeaway. Well, that and you can’t let anyone play Serqet when she’s so strong.
Cernunnos was interesting. He was picked a lot, and when he was on a losing team the casters kept saying he was “just another hunter” and “see, he’s not that strong.” However, that’s really not true. He’s incredibly strong, but not strong enough to solo carry games that have gotten out of hand for your teams. Also, he’s still a hunter. If he falls too far behind, he’s just not going to do the work necessary to fight into people. That doesn’t mean he’s not incredibly strong. He obviously is, and people still know it.
I’ve Got My Eye Guan Yu
How were the overall predictions? Well, not too bad. 7-3 isn’t too bad, but it doesn’t include the overall winners. As far as the set predictions go, those numbers weren’t too bad either, with only one more miss. While the prediction of LG winning over Team Rival was wrong, the subsequent backslide of Team Rival against Obey Alliance does reflect the overall state of the team. It was just more obviously offset by LG falling short and critically misunderstanding the unified meta. Team Eager was the larger disappointment.
Unfortunately, I underestimated one of the more crucial parts of the argument I made when discussing their first match-up.
“It’s when they face stiffer competition that they try and out-game their opponents, often to their detriment.”
Look at me with a straight face and tell me that this isn’t exactly what happened. You don’t pick Guan Yu jungle twice in a row without trying to do just that. Unconventional picks really work Team Eager at times, but it was clear from their faces they did not care about the games. They spent most of the time after the tournament complaining about the meta, the map, and the overall state of the game. Some of this is warranted, but some of this is just absolutely sour grapes and salty recriminations. Hopefully the team can bounce back from the loss and learn from their mistakes. There will undoubtedly be changes as a result of the Masters, and there will be a chance for team to flourish as the meta shifts for the Summer Split.
Teams to Watch in the Summer Split
Honestly? All of them. This split was something of a warm up for the rest of the year, and you will see more shake-ups as the hiatus continues into relegations and online play. Eanix has seen massive changes – Duck3y joining as a solo laner, and Faeles joining as the jungler. eLevate has picked up Nika. Cherryo has gone back to Sanguine but in a different role, and surrounded by different players. ALG has a new support. Flashpoint will be looking for at least one new member. Lionguard is looking for new members. Even the teams that won’t be changing will need to evaluate what they have did in the spring split and how they can improve.
Competition might be more heated in this split than in the spring split. Say what they will, you know every player wants a paid trip to Valencia…and so do their significant others.