After a long – though entertaining – break, the SPL starts its return this weekend. We are treated to the last round of relegations prior to Season 5…and possibly the last relegations ever if the plans for Season 5 are successful. This is an incredibly important round of relegations and subsequent split due to the pending changes – but more on that later. The landscape of the current SPL teams not facing relegations has also changed drastically in the downtime between Summer and Fall Splits. We’ve had roster swaps, returning players, and retirements. Two teams made powerful moves against their competitors – whether intentional or not. Let’s go.
Before we discuss what might change in the landscape, we have to establish the lay of the land. In order to get the lay of the land, we have to look at how the forces are currently arrayed. Thus, we must review the rosters of the teams currently in the SPL. For those of you who don’t closely follow changes and drama outside the game itself…you are in for something of a shock.
We’ve seen a lot of changes, in both divisions of the SPL:
- Dimi (Solo – NRG Esports) left the solo lane position to become the coach for NRG Esports (EU).
- ManiaKK (Solo – Obey Alliance) left Obey Alliance (EU) and joined NRG Esports.
- Obey Alliance picked up Xaliea (Solo – Free Agent) as their new solo-laner.
- Ojoboom (Mid – The Papis) left The Papis (EU).
- MrNazer (Mid- SNES) joined as The Papis new mid-laner.
- Nika (Various – Free Agent) joined as the coach of Valance Squadron (EU).
- Vetium (Hunter – Spacestation Gaming) left as the hunter for Spacestation Gaming (NA) and is currently a Free Agent.
- Zapman (Hunter – Team Eager) joined as the new hunter for Spacestation Gaming.
- Fineokay (Solo – Spacestation Gaming) left as the solo-laner for Spacestation Gaming and is currently a Free Agent.
- ScaryD (Solo – Luminosity Gaming) left as the solo-laner for Luminosity Gaming (NA) and joined as the solo-laner for Spacestation Gaming.
- Eonic (Support – Trifecta) retired from professional SMITE, leaving Trifecta (NA).
- Mirage (Jungler – Flash Point) left Flash Point.
- Whalrus (Solo – Flash Point) left Flash Point.
- TheBest (Mid – Team AI) left as the mid-laner for Team AI and is currently a Free Agent.
- Aror (Support – Team AI) left as the support for Team AI, and transferred team captaincy to ElChapo (Jungler – Team AI), and joined Trifecta as their new support.
- Divios (Solo – Team AI) left as the solo-laner for Team AI, and is currently a Free Agent.
- Incon (Mid – Free Agent) joined Team AI as their new support.
- Tmoney (Mid – Free Agent) joined Team AI as their new mid-laner.
- Whalrus joined Team AI as their new solo-laner.
- Khaos (Mid – eUnited) retired from professional SMITE, leaving eUnited (NA) for a coding position at Hi-Rez Studios.
- Team Allegiance (NA) and Eanix (EU) are no longer sponsoring teams within SMITE. The rosters remain in the league.
The new rosters for relegations will be listed below, rather than above.
When listed out like that, it’s a staggering list. There are sweeping changes on both sides of the league – with some players retiring, being picked up from free agency, and massive team swaps. We aren’t even done yet. As of this writing (August 18, 2017) there are still two positions open for major NA teams: the solo lane of Luminosity, and the mid lane of eUnited.
ManiaKK has long been friends with the NRG players, just as ScaryD has been friends with Homiefe (Jungler – Spacestation Gaming). Is it just as simple as the opportunity arising for these players to play with friends? In the case of ManiaKK, Dimi was no longer doing a great job in his solo role and it was obvious NRG needed a change. ManiaKK had apparently wanted to join NRG back when Dimi was originally considering not returning after SWC 2017. This seems like a natural fit, given the particulars, but one that still massively hurts one of the best teams in the EU – Obey Alliance. Obey Alliance went through this once already this season, with Variety (Solo – Team Dignitas) leaving before the season began. ManiaKK was an inactive free agent at the time, and Obey Alliance was able to entice him back onto the team – his interest seemingly rekindled with the Dimi situation. With the pick-up, and the way the meta shook out, Obey managed to win the Spring Finals. Unfortunately, the shifting meta meant Summer Split was less successful for them. The aggression of ManiaKK and EmilZy (Support – Obey Alliance) was punished more heavily, and it took longer than desired for the team to change around that. Following a disappointing end to the Summer Split for Obey, ManiaKK took the opportunity to join NRG and here we are now. Obey has turned to Xaliea – a player who left/was removed from Eanix after the Spring Split – who has sat idle for the last split, and is known to have personality conflicts. Whether or not NRG intended to handicap a competitor, this move has done exactly that. Obey will need to focus incredibly hard and push through Tuckman’s stages of group development in a hurry.
The case of ScaryD is at least as interesting. ScaryD was a monster at the end of Season 3. He showed up in a big way in Super Regionals to help his team make SWC 2017, and then continued that play into the tourney itself. His play helped extend LG to five games against NRG in the semi-finals, and made for a memorable performance with some of his plays. In the Spring Split, the addition of Baskin (Mid – Luminosity) gave some space to LG’s performance as a team. ScaryD was still a monster, but it was intermittent. He would over extend plays and delve too greedily and too deep at times, but the meta allowed for people to get away with that. The Summer Split did not. It became something of a meme for ScaryD to give up first blood, or get punished for his positioning. This is unfair to some degree, because his play wasn’t bad. He helped secure some games for LG when it mattered most…even if he was a little sloppy and helped contribute to some of their losses. Still, LG got beat in convincing fashion by Obey Alliance and that was that. All the while, ScaryD is going to events with his boys Eonic and Homiefe. People have friends, of course, so it’s not like this is a big deal or telling (OMG BARRA TOOK A PICTURE WITH ANDINSTER). Still, this friendship makes a move like this less surprising. Of course, it also says the team – org and players – believed ScaryD was an upgrade over fineokay – a strong candidate for rookie of the year. This is all provided this wasn’t a mutual decision on the part of LG and ScaryD. This is a very interesting move – all the more so because LG hasn’t announced a roster yet.
Conventional wisdom says LG picks up either Divios or fineokay and is done. Less conventional wisdom says LG picks up TheBest and Baskin moves back to solo. I do think fineokay would be the best pick up from a synergy perspective, but this is just a speculation.
Relegators, mount up! Eight teams enter, four teams leave! THERE CAN BE ONLY…FOUR! Four teams from each division will duke it out, with the top two teams in each joining the SPL for the Season 4 Fall Split.
The four EU teams are:
- The Papis (SPL): Warchi (Hunter) | Dracomarino (Support) | MrNazer (Mid) | Dheylo (Jungle) | iCreedx (Solo)
- Burrito Esports (SPL): Kespainify (Hunter) | Fusify (Support) | DeathPanter (Mid) | Dzoni (Jungle) | Sibi (Solo)
- New Game Plus (CC): Gamehunter (Hunter) | Murrdurr (Support) | Phlippo (Mid) | Repikas (Jungle) | Vastrakal (Solo
- Victorious Secret (CC): Spudio (Hunter) | Lancewolf (Support) | MrSt3fan (Mid) | Frostiak (Jungle) | Julio69 (Solo)
The Papis have seen a change in mid, but the buzz around MrNazer is tremendous. Lots of positive comments from people that are good judges of skill. As you know if you have read anything I wrote about the Summer Split – I think The Papis have a chance to be killers. They have a record of excellent early game pressure they weren’t able to quite translate into wins. As long as the synergy is there with the new pick-up, and it probably is, the Papis should secure a spot in the league. They were better than Burrito in the Summer, and the additional experience is only going to help.
Of the remaining, the easy answer is Burrito Esports to repeat…but I would look more to Victorious Secret. MrSt3fan (Mid – Victorious Secret) was the shining spot on Sanguine, before he was unceremoniously let go. Frostiak (Jungle – Victorious Secret) was in a similar position, with potential that wasn’t quite realized. This team has roundly trounced the competition, and is likely to gun for a spot in the SPL – taking out Burrito Esports. New Game Plus (EU) could potentially show up and kill it, but they have fallen short in recent history. They are likely the dark horse from the EU side.
Over in NA we will see the following:
- Team AI (SPL): Xenotronics (Hunter) | Incon (Support) | Tmoney313 (Mid) | Elchapo (Jungle) | Whalrus (Solo)
- Flash Point (SPL): Sops (Hunter) | Shadowq (Support) | ManRay (Mid) | Mexiety (Jungle) | XenonHawk (Solo)
- SPL Gatekeepers (CC): DayToRemeber (Hunter) | PainDeViande (Support) | Moswal (Mid) | Grave (Jungle) | MandoWarrior (Solo)
- A Mighty Storm (CC): Gh0st (Hunter) | ViviaNx3 (Support) | Wolp (Mid) | Plazma (Jungle) | Uzzy (Solo)
Out of those, Flash Point honestly looks the weakest. Both CC teams look stronger, and would be fun to see in the league. Team AI has experience and some excellent role players to be the favorites, particularly with the seemingly strong positional shift of Incon back to Support. Incon has worked with Xenotronics (Hunter – Team AI) in the past, so they have experience together coming into the team. Whalrus has been a little team-hoppy after leaving Noble Esports in a move that didn’t pan out. He’s generally considered the strongest player on the team, and rightfully so. Still, this should be a very interesting team to watch, and they are favored to win with good reason.
Of the two CC teams, SPL Gatekeepers and A Mighty Storm are fairly evenly matched. Both teams would have some good drama match-ups if they made it in. It’s something of a coin flip, but I’d give the win to A Mighty Storm.