Only three weeks to go in this shortened Summer Split, and what a doozy it was. Outside of the games themselves, we had established player drama!!! Dun dun DUUUUN! It wasn’t really so dramatic as something that makes a lot of sense contextually, and is exculpatory for a team’s play. Before we get into all that though, we need to review this past week. The predictions for the week were 8-4, for 16-8 on the season, and 56-34 on the year. The NA predictions were botched, but were all fairly reasonable predictions at the time. Sometimes you just have to stand by your wrong answers and take it on the chin…and then weep privately in the shower where no one can see you. This week should provide a fairly decent picture on who will make Dreamhack Valencia. For those of you following along at home, 4 EU teams and 3 NA teams will make it, along with the top team from South America (Brazil vs. LatAm winner). Even though I’m not actively tracking them, my money is on Black Dragons to make it through once more.
Clutch Your Pearls
An announcement late on Saturday night had been teased all week by various people who have pro scene contacts. This announcement would shake us to our very cores! It would change everything we know and completely incite chaos within the ranks of the average fan. As soon as these rumblings started, just about anyone who follows the SPL knew this was going to be a team-related, and it probably focused on Team Eager (NA) because of the pre-split drama that unfolded. Imagine our surprise when Zapman (Hunter – Team Eager) announced he was withdrawing from the team for a split!
*pause for gasps*
No gasps? Yeah, there wasn’t actually a lot of surprise at this announcement. It was obvious something was wrong with Team Eager, and it was more than just losing djpernicus as their shotcaller and jungler. With Sam4Soccer2 (Jungler – Free Agent) having issues gelling, people are quick to place blame on him, but it obviously goes deeper than that. While replacing a team member alters a group dynamic – and causes the group to reform their identity – it’s not as if this was the cause of the lethargy and apathy that showed its face in the first two sets of the season for Team Eager. Sam4Soccer2 has absolutely struggled, but it’s part personal struggle and part lack of team synergy. With Zapman – scene fixture and team captain – wanting to leave, can you blame the team?
The split will definitely be different without Zapman, but the scene will move forward without him. Without one of the best hunters in the world playing, other players will be looking to jockey for position and prove they have just been overlooked. A different player is going to get a chance to step up and see if they can perform. Aror (Support – Team Eager) will have the opportunity to show what he can do as a team captain and organization face. While it is certainly sad to see such a storied player step away from the scene, it’s necessary for the continued growth of the sport. I’m not necessarily certain that bringing back Xenotronics (Hunter – Team Eager) and ElChapo (Jungler – Team Eager) are a step in a direction towards a bright future, but it’s still people without spots currently getting another shot.
Of course, Zapman also stated this was just until the Fall Split – time will tell.
As a quick aside, it’s natural for longtime players and streamers to be burnt out. I have complete empathy for anyone who struggles to continually find passion in what they do. The decision to step away is a fine one, as people change professions all the time. However, when you leave a company your job is going to get filled. It’s possible the person who replaces you brings the energy you used to have, or exhibits something you never did. The world moves on, and sometimes it’s without you. Coupled with that is vocalizing the frustration you are feeling with your profession. Again, completely understandable, but people remember the things you say and burning bridges is a thing that happens. I am certainly not saying you can never express your discontent, but stating, “I’m leaving because this meta is AIDS and Hi-Rez doesn’t listen” probably isn’t the best decision. Even giving him the benefit of the doubt when it comes to “I’ll be back when sunder is nerfed =]” as tongue-in-cheek, this kind of stuff gets remembered.
What’s the Meta with You?
It’s really interesting that over a week or two, we saw the prominence of several gods that were often just pocket picks for a few players previously. We saw more Vulcan, more Nox, and more Ne Zha. While Vulcan results were mixed, the Nox and Ne Zha picks can be summed up as “these were pocket picks for a reason.” That isn’t to say those gods aren’t situationally great. Just that maybe it’s premature to break them out in SPL games without some more practice. Although, I don’t care how pocket Arachne is, maybe she should just stay in your pocket. Camazotz is a good example of giving it a bit of time. After a truly disappointing showing in week 1, the bat boy had a successful week 2 and was respected enough to draw several bans. Camazotz wasn’t banned in that massive ban-out the junglers game, Varizial1 (Jungler – eUnited). Just sayin’.
As expected when any god starts to see solid success, the second week sees a lot of targeted bans and people picking up the god. Not just the ones mentioned above, but Ravana saw a lot of play again this week – to lesser results as he was banned against many teams – and Sol started showing up all over the place – even in the ADC role! She performed well over all, making me very happy. We also saw more and more Hercules and Vamana, with Bellona and Osiris being banned as often as possible. When Nemesis wasn’t banned, she was almost always picked. Long live the Queen. Terra continued to be tremendously important. Khepri continued the trend of being extremely valued. Ganesha was played a few times, and was banned a good bit. Fafnir was played when he wasn’t banned. This leads to one final point here – even if you know your team very well and are targeting bans, you have to still ban the gods in the meta. Otherwise you end up facing Ravana and Fafnir or seeing a lot of Susano. You have to ease up off the mind games and just pick the obvious, sometimes.
Looking to the Future
We’ll have a new patch that tones down sunder and several other gods hitting this week. Lots of relics are getting buffed, death toll is getting that reduction from cleave attacks, and runeforged hammer is getting its price increased by 300. This should all shake things up quite a bit. Khepri, Fafnir, and Ganesha are all seeing nerfs. Neith and Da Ji are getting buffed. This means a few things. Warrior variety is going to open up a little and Bellona and Osiris won’t be quite so strong – though they will still be good picks. Vamana and Hercules might be the go-to gods from now one in the lane – with Amaterasu always sticking around. Terra is going to be even more valuable than she is now, unfortunately. The rest of the guardian field might be a bit more muddled, with some more variety. This might be a false hope from me – I just want to see more hot Bacchus play. Mages and hunters aren’t really seeing many changes – items or otherwise – so expect more of the same. Have we hit the point where Janus makes a return? Not quite yet, but soon…I hope. We are also likely to see some relic variety this week – really it will largely just be Frenzy being picked up slightly more and then some toying around with new ones but still using sunder in the interim.
Week 3 SPL Set Predictions
Thursday, June 8 – Mixed Division
The Papis (EU) vs. Team Rival (EU) – The Papis have a strange power to cause their opponents start playing at a quicker, less restrained pace in the first game of a set. The Papis aren’t fully capitalizing on it, but when they figure out how to do so it will be scary. They are still experiencing the growing pains of being in the SPL now, and this week won’t necessarily be easier on them after how Team Rival looked last week. Yes, it was against Burrito Esports (EU), but Team Rival was on point and unrelenting. While this should be a more exciting set than that one, Team Rival should be able to take it as a complete set. Team Rival 2-0.
Burrito Esports (EU) vs. eLevate (EU) – Burrito has had a mixed bag of performances thus far, showing moments of skill and confusion in equal measure. Elevate has simply not lived up to their mid-Spring Split presence after falling off during the Gauntlet. The synergy for eLevate is very suspect after seeing them against NRG. While many might believe this is a “return to form” for NRG, it’s more on eLevate for just being completely out of sync and all manner of screwy decision making. Jermain stopping for oracles during a chase. Are you kidding? Anyway, eLevate should win this set hands down, but they are having issues getting out of their own way. That said, I’ll put some faith in them and say they are focused on stopping their skid. Elevate 2-0
Noble Esports (NA) vs. Team Allegiance (NA) – While I remain interested in what Noble is going to break out in a given week, their performance has not been up to snuff. They looked lost against In Memory of Gabe (NA) last week. I don’t see them suddenly improving to compete against a team on a hot streak like Team Allegiance. The wildcard here is how the aggression of Team Allegiance will be impacted by the changes going live this week. Some of the strategy employed thus far will need to be looked at, but they should adapt fairly readily. Noble is likely to get shut out once again. Team Allegiance 2-0
Flash Point (NA) vs. In Memory of Gabe (NA) – Flash Point has looked worse and worse since their bright moment in relegations. They completely fall apart after things start to turn against them, and they just don’t have the resilience to snap-back right now. It’s unfortunate, because they really aren’t as bad as people are making out. They just need to figure out how to reset themselves, and how to become better decision-makers. It’s a process. On the other side, In Memory of Gabe had a great week 2, and they were definitely feeling themselves. I expect they will have a similar week here, further boosting their confidence. Honestly, the play and roster changes of other teams has probably energized them. They have serious hopes for Valencia, now. In Memory of Gabe 2-0.
Saturday, June 10 – EU
Elevate vs. Obey Alliance – Elevate managed a cheeky split during the Spring Split, but this is a team that lost its way. They should be coming off their first set win of the split, which should help their confidence. Unfortunately for them, Obey Alliance found their first set win of the split, and knows they need to pick up the pace in order to make Dreamhack. The only questions are the levels of aggression for players on both teams. Will ManiaKK and EmilZy calm down just a bit? Will Jermain be reasonable? It’s always anyone’s guess. Still, with they way the two teams have been playing, Obey Alliance should pick this set up. Obey Alliance 2-0.
Burrito Esports vs. NRG Esports – NRG Esports is probably in a better place mentally after all of the drama of the previous week, though their salt levels likely still run high. However, their level of play against eLevate should be plenty in order to secure a victory over Burrito Esports. The way the meta shift will occur this week should move solidly in NRG’s favor, in all honesty. Burrito Esports is more likely to have a harder time adjusting and then keeping up with NRG’s pace. All things remaining constant, this puts the set firmly in NRG’s favor. NRG Esports 2-0.
The Papis vs. Team Dignitas – Team Dignitas soundly beat Team Eanix with strong fundamental, non-flashy game play. It was just one team outperforming the other in every measurable area. The unknown quantity is how the Papis can introduce the brand of chaos they have brought to sets thus far, and if Trixtank and Variety can resist the urge to get into the fast-paced skirmishing the Papis seem to prefer to invoke. Again, they haven’t been able to capitalize on it yet, but eventually they will. Teams have to learn how to resist. That said, Team Dignitas should be able to take the game at the speed they want to take the game and end up with another set victory. Team Dignitas 2-0.
Team Rival vs. Team Eanix – Team Rival were feeling themselves last week. Team Eanix got a bit demoralized. Provided Team Rival takes the win over the Papis on Thursday, they have a very real chance to take this full set from Team Eanix. Team Rival is more willing to be innovators during the SPL matches, while Eanix seems to play it a bit too safely. The phrase most appropriate to Team Eanix right now seems to be “play to not lose.” I would much rather see them present a killer instinct that leads to a bit more slop – like against the Papis – than a methodical loss. If you are solely looking for FP, split is the safe bet. However, Team Rival can easily take this set. I think they do. Team Rival 2-0
Sunday, June 11 – NA
Team Allegiance vs. Team Eager (TBD) – The Team Formerly Known as Eager lost Zapman, their sponsor, and their jungler in a week. They have a new name they will be announcing, and Xenotronics and ElChapo to replace their lost players. While Eager could find some success by allowing Xeno and Chapo to run island-roamer in the long lane, it’s going to take some time to find the new identity of this team. Unfortunately, the new identity is likely to be that of a middle of the road team rather than one of the best in NA. They might come out roaring with the new lineup, emboldened by the roster change – it definitely happens – but it seems unlikely. More likely is Team Allegiance continuing their tear and walking out with an unexpectedly easier set. Team Allegiance 2-0.
Noble Esports vs. eUnited – This should be one of the more interesting sets of the day. eUnited got demolished in a set in which they should have been competitive. However, the meta shifts should also favor them to a degree. Noble will probably be nursing similar wounds against the same foe that crushed eUnited. This will be something of a bounce back game for both teams. eUnited should probably walk away with the set, but I think Noble finds their first win of the season, instead. Split 1-1.
Flash Point vs. Luminosity Gaming – The one question about Luminosity is always whether they are going to play to the level of their competition. They looked amazing taking a set over Monkey Madness, solid in taking the set from Noble Esports, and looked good in the split against Team Allegiance. Despite people claiming Team Allegiance threw the game allowing LG to pick up a win, I would invite them to rewatch that set. There was throwing on both sides, and it was fairly indicative of a first set of a Split. Anyway, if Luminosity plays as they are capable and have been, this should be an easy set win. Unfortunately, it’s Luminosity so you just never know. I just can’t predict them at all. I’ll go with the stats and play on this one and say LG takes it. Luminosity 2-0.
In Memory of Gabe vs. Monkey Madness – Monkey Madness is a team that seems to be hot and cold. They got battered pretty badly by Luminosity in week 2, but looked good against Team Eager when Team Eager was playing fairly well. In Memory of Gabe should be coming off of two set wins in a row against low end teams, which is where they stalled in the Spring Split. This should be a great set as both teams really fight to make Valencia, after having battled it out to make it to the Masters LAN previously. This is a good rivalry to watch for as long as these rosters are the same. The outcome of this set could shape the rest of the Summer Split for NA. Watch it closely. The safe bet here is a split, and the most likely result. Split 1-1.
Week 3 SPL Power Rankings
||A dominant performance over a good, competitive team sees them move up to the #1 spot this week. Dignitas is doing everything it can to prove they are continually growing.||2|
|2||NRG will always be a tough opponent for Obey Alliance, and this week was no exception. More concerning is the play in the Papis, where the methodical nature of the team seemed to disappear. While still excellent, they are showing signs they need to regain their form.||1|
||Team Rival was feeling themselves in a great performance over a lesser team. This is a fun team to watch.||3|
||LG looked stellar in a solid win over Monkey Madness. They have continued to focus on the larger soft-objectives, and farm up whenever they can. Their team fighting is as great as ever, too. Good progress, still a lot to do.||4|
||NRG picked up some much needed wins over a staggering eLevate, but needed some help to do it. They retain their spot mainly due to strength of schedule and pending meta shifts from the patch. The changes definitely benefit their play.||5|
|6||Team Allegiance boot stomped eUnited. It was ugly. That was a big win, but does it tell us more about ALG or eU? The meta shift and changes this week might be slightly against ALG’s play style, leaving them some need to rework their process. This week should let us know.||9|
|7||Why doesn’t Eanix fall further? Team Dignitas is really, really good right now. Eanix didn’t play badly, Team Dignitas just played better.||6|
||Monkey Madness looked bad against LG last week. They should possibly fall further, but the teams below haven’t shown they are ready to move up.||7|
||IMOG looked like they were having a great time against Noble Esports. The team is still hot and cold, but they are trending upwards right now.||10|
|10||Even though they didn’t pick up a win last week, their play is enough to warrant their move up over those below them. The way they control the early pace of their opponents is unreal. They just have to capitalize.||12|
||Yikes, what a week. Sure, they beat Flash Point but they lost Zapman, their org, and have two new players joining them. Players that have flamed out previously in the SPL. Not a great look going forward. I can’t imagine this team makes Valencia or stays together into the Fall.||8|
|12||Brutalized. Absolutely brutalized. Bad picks and bans, bad builds, bad plays, bad comms. It was just ugly. Hopefully this is just growing pains and they can bounce back this week.||11|
||They were their own worst enemies against NRG. They should have made those games more competitive than they were. They have only themselves to blame.||13|
||Even in losses, Burrito has shown more potential than the lower NA teams. They have a long way to go, but they would likely pick up wins over their NA counterparts.||15|
|15||Week 2 didn’t answer most of the questions around the squad – it gave us even more. This squad could still perform very well, but it needs something to jumpstart it.||14|
||Flash Point continues to shoot itself in the foot. They need to slow down, communicate, and work as a team. They aren’t doing any of that right now.||16|