Just when it looks like the biggest thing happening this week would be talking about the impact of last week’s Thursday games being canceled due to Hurricane Irma or the insane state of EU, some major NA drama occurs and tosses that narrative out the window. We also need to talk about all that other stuff, but hopefully it won’t get too wordy. We went a decidedly meh 4-4 last week, but maybe we were lucky to even do that considering the state of EU. Yeesh. That’s 9-7 on the split, and 87-58 for the year.
So ViviaNx3D (Support – A Mighty Storm) pulled a PainDeViande (Support – SPL Gatekeepers) and kicked all of his team members, replacing them with former SPL players. While certainly a bold move, that in itself isn’t necessarily problematic. The drama stems from two things: the team members only found out when the roster was posted on twitter, and the team mates removed approached Hi-Rez about the situation prior to this occurring – informing them ViviaNx3D was toxic and wanted to see what could be done. The answer was “Hi-Rez don’t care. Your fault for making him captain.” I discussed a situation like this occurring when the CC teams got into the SPL this split, due to how Season 5 is going to shake out – so I’m not surprised to see it in action. It was always just a matter of time with the current rules.
Under the current rules, the captain controls the roster of the team. This is explicitly stated, and the team members are fully aware the captain controls the roster spot. However, when the captain is the problem, there is no recourse for the team members. As the person responsible for the roster, the captain is in the unique position this split to provide a salary for the team next split – provided they make the top six. This encourages the captain to make aggressive moves to ensure himself or herself a guaranteed salary. With so many established players available in free agency – and the absolute battering A Mighty Story (NA) has taken – replacing an under-performing team with veterans who were already working together in the Combine makes sense.
The issue is whether the captaincy should be registered in this fashion, and whether Hi-Rez should intervene. Hi-Rez has taken a hands-off approach, for better or for worse. In this situation, Hi-Rez was notified a week ahead of ViviaNx3D’s decision that the team found ViviaNx3D toxic and was having a lot of problems with him. Hi-Rez tried to let the team sort it out, but everyone was kicked off and replaced via a twitter post, instead. Hi-Rez issued a warning to ViviaNx3D about the behavior – indicating that there was something they found unacceptable and damaging – just not enough to do anything about it from a professional level. No matter what Hi-Rez did here, it was a no-win situation. Should Hi-Rez intervene in team issues? Should they revoke or ignore captaincy? If yes to these, where is the line and the responsibilities? There isn’t a way this shakes out to make everyone happy on Hi-Rez’s part, frankly. The frustration is understandable, but no matter what this is just a bad spot for them to be in.
Regardless, ViviaNx3d dedcided to burn some bridges in a public fashion . The behind the scenes commentary suggested this sort of behavior was expected from him, but the public isn’t necessarily privy to that, and thus the surprise. The rather raw and immediate commentary from pros and figures is interesting, as it’s disgust rather than surprise. Shitty people are going to do shitty things. Especially when there is money and livelihood on the line.
The only other roster change to speak of is ManRay (Mid) leaving SPL Gatekeepers (NA), with no official announcement on his replacement at this time. Odds on Wolp (Mid), Sheyka (Mid), or even TheBest (Mid) are pretty high.
EU was quite the “cluster jam” this past weekend. NRG Esports (EU) dropped a full set to Elevate (EU), Team Rival (EU) seems to be playing close games in only half of their sets and still dropping them to other top teams such as Obey Alliance (EU). Valance Squadron (EU) split with The Papis (EU) – after splitting with NRG the week before. This puts EU in a position where NRG is tied for 5th with Burrito Esports (EU) and The Papis, and Team Rival is alone in last place. It’s not unreasonable to expect this to not be the case long term, but it speaks to the ravenous jungle that is EU at the moment.
Now, the Thursday games didn’t happen due to Hurricane Irma, and those will be played on September 21, 2017 with the scheduled week three September 21, 2017 games being moved to September 22, 2017, instead. This is good for some teams, and bad for other teams. Spacestation Gaming (NA) benefits from having a game under their belts before facing Luminosity Gaming (NA), but NRG Esports can’t be feeling great going into a delayed match-up against Team Dignitas (EU) after their loss to Elevate. The NA scene was a lot more expected, minus the eUnited (NA) and Trifecta (NA) set going the other direction from predicted. This isn’t a big surprise, seeing as how Snoopy (Hunter – Trifecta) was unavailable for the match and Meerkat (Sub – Trifecta) had to take the spot.
The meta shifted a small amount from week one to week two, but remained largely the same. Cú Chulainn continued his dominance, but Erlang Shen had a resurgence in the solo lane and say success. Camazotz saw a huge drop-off in success. Jing Wei continued to have a fairly high loss rate. Artio and Skadi had a 100% pick/ban rate – with Skadi dominating when she got through. The Morrigan continued to be a huge threat. Hou Yi was the second most popular hunter. Raijin saw even more play – with a jungle appearance, no less! Chaac was also played in the solo lane by Aquarius (Solo -Luminosity) to counter a double assassin pairing by Team Allegiance (NA). The double assassin idea was very interesting, but it just didn’t end up working out for Team Allegiance. It was also the first time in a long time that Chaac was the right pick – safe, good poke, solid sustain.
Expect the meta to continue shifting a little bit as people continue to try and find the right combination of safety and picking. That’s what the meta is all about, but it’s not the exact same as the season three meta. The gods good then aren’t the same as the gods good right now. The items have shifted. Lots of minor changes still being practiced. The jungle and solo lanes are probably the most in flux at the moment – and will continue to be in the next week or two. I wouldn’t be surprised with a jungle Chaac pick. Janus will probably see more play as immobile gods are picked more often. We’ll see.
These were shared last week, but with the caveat they would be reshared this week. So let’s take a look and see what changed.
Thursday, September 21 – Mixed Division (Hold Over From Week Three)
The Papis vs. Team Rival (EU): The Papis are coming off a harder-than-expected relegations, and then a battering at the hands of Obey Alliance. The success will continue to hinge on the whims of MrNazer – and how broad the shoulders of Dheylo (Jungle – The Papis) and Dracomarino (Support – The Papis) are. The Papis did find a split against Valance Squadron, so they are on the board. On the other hand, Team Rival is notorious for their spotty online play – and is a surprising 0-4. That said, the second game against Team Dignitas (EU) looked great and it was a very close game. That set was one that was incorrect last week, but that second game was a near thing and it easily could have swung if Dignitas was even slightly less dominant. Rival should be able to put this one in the bag quite easily, provided they show up. If they don’t, the Papis might sneak one – though that is a long shot. Team Rival 2-0. (No changes)
NRG Esports vs. Team Dignitas (EU): How disappointing not to be getting this match-up this week. Still, it makes week three all that much more exciting. NRG is a bit of a mixed bag, at the moment. Valance Squadron (EU) always looks good at the start of a split – and is skilled enough to take games off of anyone – but the expectations for NRG were very high. They certainly did not live up to them in the first or second set. It does still raise a question about the late game strength of the team, and how their signature identity is now a bit diminished. Dignitas looked as strong both weeks as they did in the Summer Split, and there is no reason to think they are going to change their course. This set is likely going to be a tense one, but it favors Team Dignitas at this moment in time. NRG might get one game, but even that is something that can’t be too believed in at this moment. It’s certainly possible the week one NRG isn’t the one we will continue to see, but it’s what we have. These should be hard fought games that tip towards Dignitas. Team Dignitas 2-0. (No changes)
A Mighty Storm vs. eUnited (NA): An entirely new team than the one written about last week vs. eUnited. eUnited has been a powerhouse through two weeks, though the wins against Trifecta need an asterisk – as noted above. Still, the current incarnation of the team is probably both the most likable and the best of the season. With their play against Trifecta, it’s much easier to believe in the consistency of the team at this point. The “new look” A Mighty Storm is going to have a lot to prove and need to do so in a hurry. There is some synergy existing in the team due to their Combine practicing, so it’s not a fresh team in the traditional sense. The team is likely to be stronger than the previous incarnation, but the outcome should be the same. eUnited 2-0. (Updated)
Luminosity Gaming vs. Spacestation Gaming (NA): Man, week three is going to be so good. Spacestation isn’t as bad as we saw in week one – though week two still leaves a lot of questions. They might not be rockin’ best team in NA status, but they aren’t going to be as bad as they were that first week, for sure. Luminosity has looked better than the rest of the splits this year, thus far – but there are still mistakes being made in each of their sets. Both teams will be highly incentivized to pull out wins in this set, particularly with Luminosity’s record against the teams and players in earlier splits this year. Yes, it’s meaningless for all things but ego – but all good players have some ego. It’s a fact. Either team could squeak out an overall set win, but the safe bet will be a split. A complete collapse by either team will pretty much doom them. Split 1-1. (Updated)
Friday, September 22 – Mixed Division (Week Three)
Burrito Esports vs. Valance Squadron (EU): Valance split with NRG and then split with the Papis. This is more of their old struggles rearing their head. Burrito also split with Elevate, who beat NRG last week. Does this mean anything? Probably not – the sample sizes are all too small to make this matter. Still, Burrito is a better team than the Papis in most measurable ways. Does Valance manage to play two great games in a row? It’s consistency they are lacking, and the tentative play showed itself a bit again last week. Valance is better than the Papis and Burrito, but they are their own worst enemy. The question is just if they can get past themselves to show it. Burrito didn’t look the worst against Dignitas, either. It won’t be an easy set for Valance, but they should take home the win. If they will do so is less certain. Valance Squadron 2-0.
The Papis vs. Elevate (EU): Elevate managed to close out 2-0 against NRG last week, and split with Burrito the week before – after a commanding performance in game one of that set. The Papis pulled through a split with Valance Squadron, but lost against an Obey Alliance team who was not taking it all that seriously. Elevate showed they have the ability to give teams a run for their money, and they ended the last split with that same mentality. However, Elevate also has a reputation for not being finishers – also known as “split monsters.” Elevate has been exciting to watch, and it’s hard to imagine winning over NRG doesn’t give them some sort of boost. Elevate 2-0.
A Mighty Storm vs. Team Allegiance (NA): Finally, a full on heel team for NA that everyone can root against. Unfortunately, this new roster is probably at least as good as the current incarnation of the Team Allegiance roster – without some rapid growth and lessons learned from their games with LG. This should be a fairly close set, honestly. Neirumah (Support – Team Allegiance) is better than ViviaNx3D, Cyclonespin (Solo – Team Allegiance) is still probably better than fineokay (solo – A Mighty Storm) – though it is close, and Weak3n (Jungle – Team Allegiance) is probably better than Sam4Soccer2. The rest are probably the same or tip slightly toward A Mighty Storm now – more equal than not, frankly. Hopefully, A Mighty Storm gets completely shut out – and loses all remaining games – but that isn’t likely to happen. A split is the likely outcome. Split 1-1.
SPL Gatekeepers vs. Noble Esports (NA): Noble Esports looked a lot better in week two, and SPL Gatekeepers looked more or less as expected against SSG. However, SPL Gatekeepers has a new mid-laner they will be working with, and there might be some level of competition being bolstered here as a result of Moswal (Mid – Noble Esports) being a former member of SPL Gatekeepers. SPL Gatekeepers are better than the old-look A Mighty Storm, and Noble Esports had a harder-than-needed time in closing them out. This is likely to be a close set that could tip in favor of either team, with a split being the likeliest outcome. It will come down to SPL Gatekeeper’s new mid-laner, and how he or she fits the team. Split 1-1.
Saturday, September 23 – EU
Elevate vs. Team Dignitas: The outcome here might depend on how they fared in the set with the Papis. If they are still riding high, this set gets a lot closer than it will be if Elevate fairs less well than anticipated. Team Dignitas is still the best team in EU, but Team Rival provided something of a blueprint on how to give them a hard time – unusual picks and pressure from areas that they are not used to expecting. Nox support has been seen, but it’s still weird enough to throw some people off until they get used to it. It’s also not likely to be the only pocket pick that Elevate might have. That isn’t to say Team Dignitas will crumble, just that for one game they might stumble and have a hard time. Elevate can absolutely take a get off of Dignitas, and could ride that into a full set – but it’s not the most realistic outcome. Team Dignitas is still more likely to pick up the full set and walk away with three more points. Team Dignitas 2-0.
The Papis vs. NRG Esports: NRG should win this. They should have won against Elevate. They very likely might be 1-5 coming into this set. NRG is a better team, but they might still be reeling and uncertain as to their path forward. Will this be NRG’s way back into the split and a chance to recover and finish out strong? Hopefully, for them. The Papis will just be happy if they force a split, which would be overachieving for them, frankly. Let’s see if NRG disappoints again. NRG Esports 2-0.
Burrito Esports vs. Obey Alliance: Obey has been looking great this split, particularly in their win against Team Rival in week two. Burrito showed grit in splitting with Elevate, and looked as good as can be expected against Team Dignitas. Obey is the clear favorite, here. The addition of Xaliea has thus far been a good one, and they seem to be playing tighter and better than in the Summer Split. Burrito has the potential to fight into things early and maintain a lead long enough to make things difficult, but Obey just farms so well right now it is hard to establish a lead like that without a lot going poorly for Obey. While not impossible for Burrito to pick up a game or even the split, it’s not good odds. The good odds are still firmly on Obey. Obey Alliance 2-0.
Valance Squadron vs. Team Rival: Rival has had a rough start to the split. They are currently in last place in the EU, and have dropped games to the strongest two teams in the EU. Luckily, they have already played the strongest two teams in the EU. They needed help last split from Elevate to get into the Summer Split LAN, and had to run the gauntlet in the Spring Split. There is no doubt the team plays well at LANs, but the competition has stepped up this split and Rival needs to start taking full sets if they don’t want to run the gauntlet again. Valance will be looking to take the set over Rival, and more or less force them to have to do just that. The question is if Rival shows up in game one, and if Valance can show up for both games in a set without wilting. The answer to both is a resounding “ehhhh” complete with a hand wiggle. The most likely outcome here is a split. Split 1-1.
Sunday, September 24 – NA
Team Allegiance vs. Spacestation Gaming: This is a more interesting match-up than might be expected. SSG won’t be able to cruise past Team Allegiance in the same way they did with SPL Gatekeepers. Team Allegiance is absolutely good enough to take some games off of SSG. The main questions will be how do Neirumah and Metyankey stack up against Zapman (Hunter – Spacestation Gaming) and Jigz (Support – Spacestation Gaming), and how badly can Weak3n and Cyclonespin abuse Homiefe (Jungle – Spacestation Gaming) and ScaryD (Solo – Spacestation Gaming). It will also be quite interesting to see how Oceans (Mid – Team Allegiance) competes with Andinster (Mid – Spacestation Gaming). It would be easy to say Spacestation Gaming should take this easily because they are a super team, but it’s not going to be that cut and dry. They certainly could take both games, but it’s not a forgone conclusion. In fact, it’s not even the most likely outcome. Split 1-1.
A Mighty Storm vs. Luminosity Gaming: This set is now not as easy as it was a week ago. Still, this should heavily favor Luminosity. Luminosity – at this point in time – looks to be the stronger cohesive unit, and their individual players are strong than those on A Mighty Storm. That doesn’t mean it’s absolutely positively going to break this way, but if Luminosity can maintain their play from weeks one and two, this shouldn’t be much of a struggle. Still, Luminosity is often unable to do so, and finds themselves stumbling. This is a good litmus test to see if that remains the case this split, or if they changing their narrative. No matter how you slice it, the story of this game is going to be about how Luminosity rises or falls to their own challenges. Luminosity 2-0.
SPL Gatekeepers vs. Trifecta: If Trifecta has their full team, this should be a walk in the park for them. SPL Gatekeepers are not an easy team to get around, but Trifecta is an excellent team when firing on all cylinders. The only question is “are they going to do so?” The set against eUnited is going to be seen as an anomaly this split, when all is said and done. Trifecta should be able to find their footing against a team that is not as skilled as they are, and right the ship from the week two loss in much the way SSG did in week two against the same team. Trifecta 2-0.
Noble Esports vs. eUnited: This might be a closer set than you think. Noble Esport has a history of playing up against their opponents, and eUnited might just be the best NA has to offer at the moment. They have grown over the last two weeks, and are likely more confident than ever. The presence of the solo-laners in team engagements is the main area to watch, but it strongly favors eUnited. The duo lane pressure should easily go in favor of eUnited, and the mid-jungle synergy is theirs to throw, as well. This set should just be all eUnited, but Noble possesses the ability to make it exciting along the way. A split isn’t all that unreasonable, but it’s not the go-to outcome. eUnited 2-0.
Week 3 Power Rankings
||So far, so good. The NRG set this week will be a highlight.||1|
||A convincing set over Team Rival in week two moves them up a spot this week into the number two position. Obey is looking great.||3|
||Team Rival has the worst behind them, at this point. Dig and Obey are out of the way, and Rival can look to get on the right foot and forge their own path. They haven’t looked bad in their losses. They just played the two best teams.||2|
||eUnited is looking fantastic right now – with statement wins over SSG and Trifecta. The Trifecta win was without the full roster for Trifecta, but it was impressive, nonetheless. eUnited looked sharp, played the map well, and kept up the pressure.||8|
||The tentative hope continues. LG looked great against ALG, and showed some great drafting prowess in game two. Is the meme dead? We can only help.||6|
||No Snoopy, no game plan, no wins. Is it that simple? No, of course not, but it’s hard to judge a team when the full team isn’t there – see Team Rival in the last set of the online Summer Split without Deathwalker.||5|
||NRG do not look like themselves. Even placing them this high at the moment is based on the hope they roar back and find their stride. It’s not rooted in reality, at this point. It’s just impossible to count them out, so this is the benefit of the doubt.||4|
||Dominating wins over NRG following one good and one just-off game against Burrito. If Elevate maintains, things get interesting.||
||Valance Squadron might be up to their old shenanigans. They split with NRG and the Papis, and the game against the Papis was theirs to lose. Let’s hope they continue to evolve as they showed they could.||7|
||SSG still doesn’t look like a full team. They looked like good players in week two, just not a good team. That will only carry them so far. They move down a spot this week based more on the other teams than their own play, however. They can still recover, but they need to do so quickly.||9|
||ALG looked lively in game one on the back of some LG mistakes, but couldn’t capitalized and got brutalized in game two. Things aren’t looking too good for them, at the moment.||10|
||They played Team Dignitas. It went as expected. Burrito is still playing much better than the Summer Split, and can continue to grow.||12|
||Long, drawn out wins on the back of Moswal against a team that has now been disbanded and reformed via the powers of drama. Noble has always been something of a sleeper team that could take wins from anyway, but not consistent enough to always do it. Things don’t look likely to change.||13|
||They found a gift of a win from Valance Squadron, and that’s enough to move them up a little in the bottom ranks. Their outlook hasn’t changed, however.||15|
|15||Their match against SSG went as expected. They might be able to take games off the mid-tier teams at the moment, but not the top ones. Will a new mid-laner give them new life? Let’s find out.||14|
||Do they truly belong here based on their new team? Probably not. However, they remain here this week until they play their week three games. It might not be fair, but it is just.||16|