The SPL Season 4 Summer Split is in the rear-view mirror, and Dreamhack Valencia is rapidly becoming a distant memory. Before it fades completely, it’s worth examining the trends and developments that this LAN brought us. We also need to spend some time discussing the NRG Invitational – the new SMITE all-star game series that is being played this year. This is fun and exciting stuff. The record for predictions for the finals is not so glowing – a disappointing 3-4. Despite this, it brings the record for the Summer Split to 38-25 (60%) and the record for the season to 78-51 (60%). That’s better than a coin flip, no matter how you look at it. Still, this could all be beginner’s luck, so let’s not get too complacent.
Jump to: NRG Invitational
Once again, NA teams go 1-5 and bounce in the first round. This time, we had two situations that occurred – and it’s not just about large objective play. We also saw the closest 3-0 set I have yet seen, and we saw the return of the LANimals in Team Rival (EU). This last point gave rise to something else of great interest to teams – a possible chink in the armor of Team Dignitas (EU). We also saw the fall of the Spring Split champions, and the rise of a new top dog in the SPL’s yard.
As it turns out, the only competitive team from NA this LAN was Trifecta (NA) – who took NRG Esports (EU) to three games and looked on the verge of winning in each of their losses. It’s a well-known fact NRG Esports are one of the best teams when it comes to late game play – and that Trifecta has exhibited issues with late game play through two splits this season. This was no exception. Trifecta secured no first bloods, but took 2/3 first gold furies – securing themselves the early game. As the games extended, Trifecta began to falter a bit – as the previous meta ended games much earlier and thus prevented teams gaining that late-game closeout experience. Trifecta only secured one first fire giant, no first portal demons, and only knocked down a tower once before NRG could knock one down. Taken together, it paints a picture of Trifecta having difficulty in the 10+ minute space, particularly around pushing the larger, late-game impacting objectives. Trifecta did manage some victories here and there in the late game, but they shifted to the back foot rather than being the aggressors. The breaking point was really towards the end of game two, when NRG managed to steal an FG and change the tide of the game. From that point forward, Trifecta began to look more hesitant and just a little worn down – while NRG became, well, energized. NRG took the game three, and moved on to the semi-finals. That said, it was not a blow out game, just a set that played into the strengths of the opposing team, and a failure to capitalize in ways that had meaning. Trifecta should be proud, even with the loss. Of course, losing Eonic will be difficult for them in the next split.
The rest of NA had a much worse go of it. Spacestation GG (NA)– with all of their new branding, team, hype, and coach – got worked over the worst of all the NA teams. The average game time didn’t reach twenty-five minutes, and the only objective secured by the team was a single first blood. That’s it. No towers, gold fury kills, portal demon kills, fire giant kills – first or otherwise. Absolutely brutal, though it might salve the wounds a bit for them to know Team Rival was a game away from a reverse sweep and taking the Summer Split for themselves. Probably not, though. Now to wait and see if a shake-up actually happens, but there are some complications that might prevent it. First, Zapman – the former captain and hunter for Team Eager (NA) – underwent some controversy, and no matter where you stand on it it is easy to imagine a new brand might want to avoid it. Second, djpernicus – a former teammate of Zap’s who left/was kicked – is the current coach for Spacestation GG. This might prevent the previously indicated move from occurring. We have a few weeks yet, so time will tell.
Luminosity Gaming (NA) were not a shining light for NA, this time around. Obey Alliance (EU) absolutely bodied them in the early game both games, though the first game was exacerbated by Mask’s (Jungler – Luminosity) risky play not being rewarded and instead being heavily punished. Simultaneously, ScaryD (Solo – Luminosity) had a hard time getting started. Once that was established, Obey’s plan was just camp BaRRaCCuDDa (Hunter – Luminosity), and it worked admirably. The second game went better for LG, but the same underlying problem – minus the pile of deaths – plagued this game, too. Obey was out-farming LG at a pace of almost 500 gold a minute. While the Gold Fury certainly helped put Obey further ahead, it wasn’t the sole deciding factor. The smaller objectives, wave control, and constant invading thanks to the pressure that Obey Alliance had within their team composition. LG purports to have gotten their preferred drafts – true or not we can’t know for certain – which places the emphasis even more on achieving and understanding these smaller soft objectives and when and where to apply pressure. Hopefully it’s another learning experience, and a chance for LG to take this humbling loss and grow.
Changing of the Guard
To the surprise of almost no one, we were treated to an all EU semi-final and final. The sets saw a rematch of the Spring Split semi-finals in Obey-Rival and a hotly anticipated set between Dignitas-NRG. Obey-Rival went in favor of Team Rival this time around – thanks to strong reads and strategy by Rival’s coach that was executed brilliantly by the team – while Dignitas managed to defeat NRG in an extremely close 3-0 set. Seriously, it was incredibly tight.
The brilliant thing spotted out by Team Rival – giving credit to their coach, AlphaJackal (Coach – Team Rival) here because his work with the team has been stellar and he’s an articulate dude – is that Obey has had trouble adjusting to the meta of this split. While Obey excelled in the aggressive, all-in, fast paced play of the Spring Split, they struggled to adjust back to the slower, more pick-oriented play of the Summer Split. That isn’t to say they were bad by any stretch – they were not. EmilZy (Support – Obey Alliance) and ManiaKK (Solo – Obey Alliance) are both aggressive players, and positional and engagement mistakes were apparent as the split progressed. However, the strong jungle play from CaptainTwig (Jungler – Obey Alliance) managed to carry the team through the end of the split, including some key victories over Dignitas in the last set of the online portion of the Summer Split. This came mainly through the return of the warrior junglers, but was helped out early by the Ne Zha plays. Twig dictated the jungle meta this split, without question. After Obey picked up a strong victory running Odin jungle, Rival quickly ensured he was banned out the rest of the set and was prepared for the Ne Zha picks. There was talk of these two teams being scrim partners, which helped Obey not really care about the weirdness of Deathwalker’s (Solo – Team Rival) picks – solo Geb returned – but this is the second time in three tournaments where Obey has dropped sets to scrim partners. While not a trend necessarily, it’s something to consider. In the end, Rival was better prepared and more adaptable.
The Dignitas-NRG Esports match-up was incredibly interesting to watch. A lot was made of the Adapting (Jungler – NRG Esports) and Qvofred (Jungler – Team Dignitas) match-up, but that was the least of the stories. The final score was 3-0, but it easily could have been a 3-0 in the other direction, or some combination of 2-1. Two of the three games were almost an hour in length, and were extremely back and forth. The second game went strongly and decidedly in Dignitas’ favor. This NRG only picked up first blood, first portal demon, and first tower once against Dignitas – dropping the other first objectives during the three games. This really means games one and three were extremely close affairs. The third game saw a whopping 60 kills. That’s an all-out war in EU play. Unfortunately, NRG fell short in a couple of team fights as the game went on and it spiraled out of control from there. This was less of a direct correlation between junglers – though Qvofred’s map presence was superior to Adapting’s in this particular set – and more that Qvofred didn’t need to be the first option for Dignitas the way Adapting had to be for NRG. Though less than in the Spring Split, Adapting was attempting to carry NRG on his shoulders and his phenomenal play. The rest of the team performed well – Raffer (Support – NRG Esports) stepped up to the plate in a big way, as did the rest of the team – but the general level of play from Dignitas and their objective control was just a little bit better. If there was one weak link from the tournament, it might be the play of Dimi (Solo – NRG Esports) – which fell just below that of his other teammates. Though this might be a hard loss to stomach for NRG and their fans, it was far from a drubbing or crushing defeat. The score doesn’t tell the story, here.
The Summer Split Finals match between Team Dignitas-Team Rival started off fairly uneventfully. Team Dignitas took the first two games in commanding fashion and looked to be closing out the set with a clean sweep…until Deathwalker picked Ares. Now, the rest of the composition was extremely suited to this pick. KaLaS (Support – Team Rival) picked up Athena, Wlfy (Mid – Team Rival) was on Ra – one of his signature picks, iceicebaby (Jungler – Team Rival) went Odin, and Vote (Hunter – Team Rival) was allowed Cernunnos. Don’t let anyone tell you different, Cernunnos performed very well at 6-3. This team was incredibly focused on setting up situations without escape and synergizing with each other’s control. The taunts into unmissable chains just lead to too much damage early on, allowing Deathwalker to control the solo lane over Variety (Solo – Team Dignitas). As a result, Dignitas began to try and force plays, ending up in awkward situations and engagements, often going in 4v5. Game four saw Odin and Athena again allowing similar control for Team Rival and a similar result – it wasn’t just the Ares pick, folks. Despite the Athena pick again in game five, the lack of Odin lock down added some room for flexibility for Dignitas. Qvofred ended up back on Camazotz, Arkkyl (Hunter – Team Dignitas) was able to secure Rama, Trixtank (Support – Team Dignitas) was able to play his signature Fafnir, Zyrhoes (Mid – Team Dignitas) was allowed Sol, and Variety was on Sun Wukong. The lack of control in Rival’s competition allowed Dignitas to control the pace of the game more readily, and once the mobility and danger of Camazotz helped seal the win for Team Dignitas, crowning them the Summer Split Champions.
Note: As a reminder, you aren’t Deathwalker (unless you are Deathwalker reading this, I guess) and you probably don’t have the team comms in non-competitive play to make this quite the success it was here.
The take away from teams looking towards the fall should be that Team Dignitas looked incredibly uncomfortable facing some off-meta picks that really honed in on the control aspect of the game. Taking away a little bit of comfort and forcing Team Dignitas into situations outside of their hands thanks to taunts, cages, and allowing re-engage on your terms rather than their terms was key to Rival seeing success. This will undoubtedly Team Dignitas will be looking to shore up in the future. For now, it’s possibly a way forward for teams looking take the lead in the fall.
The NRG Invitational 2017
SMITE SPL is getting an all-star series! In true professional sports fashion, the captains of the teams that reached the semi-finals in the last SWC will be captains of the invitational teams – but there are some twists. Each team must select a member of the NRG Esports roster (it’s their invitational), you can’t pick more than two members from any other team, and you have to pick at least one member from outside your region. This will be a draft that occurs after the SMITE patch notes show on July 26, 2017.
Teams will undergo a series of fun challenges to determine rankings on Saturday, August 5, with the actual competition taking place on Sunday, August 6 with two best of 3 sets feeding into a best of 5 set. The first and second place teams take home a tidy sum, while the third and fourth place teams at least walk away with something. This is a LAN series, occurring at Hi-Rez studios.
The captains for each team will be Aror (Support – Team AI), Ataraxia (Hunter – Obey Alliance), BaRRaCCuDDa, and iRaffer. Picks are not limited to the teams that went to the semi-finals, and it should open up a lot of fun possibilities. Who on their own teams do they value the most? What fun combos of players will we see? Will playing with other people shake up permanent teams in any fashion? Will this afford some growth and strategy sharing?
The draft order will be iRaffer, Ataraxia, BaRRaCCuDDa, and Aror, and the draft will follow traditional fantasy drafting “snake” order meaning 1,2,3,4,4,3,2,1 and so on. As far as draft predictions go, let’s try it out.
- iRaffer – Adapting
- Ataraxia – CaptainTwig
- BaRRaCCuDDa – jeffhindla
- Aror – Qvofred
- Aror – Variety
- BaRRaCCuDDa – Yammyn
- Ataraxia – Andinster
- iRaffer – PandaCat
- iRaffer – PrettyPrime
- Ataraxia – Jigz
- BaRRaCCuDDa – Deathwalker
- Aror – Emilitoo
- Aror – TheBest
- BaRRaCCuDDa – Mask
- Ataraxia – Dimi
- iRaffer – Benji
These are probably way off base – but fun, never the less!