Another week, another bit of drama from NA. As it turns out, ViviaNx3D (Support) and the newly minted Team Cryptik (NA) – the artists formerly known as A Mighty Storm – reached a “mutual decision to part ways.” Genocide (Support – Team Cryptik) is the new support for the team – and the old support for the team before they became A Mighty Storm. This Team Cryptik is an entirely new team in name and roster than from the team roster in week one. Was ViviaNx3D removed from the team post-sponsorship? Did he truly give over his spot to Genocide (Support – Team Cryptik)? Did the roster buy the spot from ViviaNx3D as part of an elaborate plan to get back into the SPL? Honestly, it doesn’t matter to the kicked team members who are no longer part of the SPL. For the new players, they would be wise enough to keep their mouths shut and be politically sound for the sake of their new org. Regardless, the opposition brutalized the team in week three. Maybe week four will be better for them. New name, new look, new team? We’ll see.
Teams played a total of sixteen sets in week three, thanks to Hurricane Irma. The record for the week was 10-6 (with some controversy over two separate games) for a 62.5% win rate, bringing the split record to 19-13 (59.4%), and the season record to 97-64 (60.3%). It’s good enough to make it to post-season, right? I’d have the second best record in baseball.
As previously mentioned, Team Cryptik is sponsoring A Might Storm. The announcement was more or less simultaneous with the announcement of Genocide replacing ViviaNx3D. The timing makes sense from a rebranding perspective. ViviaNx3D burned a lot of bridges making his moves, and sponsors likely saw him as bad for their brand. These two items add even more meaning when taking into account the fact ViviaNx3D isn’t very good. All of this adds up to spell doom for any pro career he might have. Sometimes, things just shake out in exactly the wrong and right ways. This is one of those times.
Akillathehun (Mid – SPL Gatekeepers) replaced ManRay (Mid) after A Mighty Storm blew up. The success has been immediate. SPL Gatekeepers won the full set over Noble Esports (NA) and managed to split with a semi-reeling Trifecta (NA). SPL Gatekeepers currently sit in fourth place, with a big game this week against Luminosity Gaming (NA).
It’s all about that tank, ’bout that tank, no cannons. Over in the EU, everyone is picking up the hot Hide of the Urchin, hoping to stack them stacks. There is some debate over the efficacy of the item, but it gives you so much for a reasonable price – even without the stacks. While every single team member picking up the item in situations where you are behind might not be the absolute best call – it’s still something we are going to continue seeing. Let’s not get all up in arms and make a stink about how the item is “OMG so broken, I can’t believe it,” and just recognize that item changes toning everything else down has made items that were not that bad into the monsters they are.
With that emergent meta, it’s hardly surprising seeing Nemesis be a continual pick. Likewise, sustain, focus-heavy, and CC-heavy gods are seeing a resurgence. Gods providing multiple of these are incredibly valuable. The nerfs from mid-summer on shift the meta to something more akin to late season three than anything thus far in season four. This is good and bad. Those games radiated tension, but featured longer games. Game lengths continue to climb, but the additional time allows for more comeback potential. It’s a mixed bag.
The solo lane remains stagnant, for the moment. Erlang Shen, Osiris, Cú Chulainn, and Bellona are the featured warriors of choice, with some Sun Wu Kong and Vamana making appearances. Assassins see some play in the solo lane, but further game changes impact that feasibility. There are some one-off gods being played, such as Chaac and Nike, but those are corner cases rather than the rule. The Chaac pick this week was reactionary based on an assumed strategy. It panned out, but repeating that pick in the future is a risky one. Vamana picks up some steam this week, and it’s possible we’ll see the return of Amaterasu, as well.
The jungle is back to being full of assassins, though warriors are still poking their noses into things. Outside of Nemesis, we also see Serqet, Camazotz, Susano, Thor, and the warriors we have seen for a while now – Osiris, Erlang Shen, Ravana, and Odin. The warrior picks have fallen off, but they still have a very strong showing. Hun Batz showed up this week a few times, along with Ao Kuang. Camazotz falls off this week, but the other choices remain fairly stagnant – with the exception of Ratatoskr players playing a buffed Ratatoskr. Vamana appearing in the jungle is not unreasonable. Fenrir should be seeing more play, but that has yet to materialize.
Mid-lane remains unchanged this week, with the exception of attention being focused on the Morrigan. A bug with her impacted the first game of NRG Esports (EU) vs. Team Dignitas (EU), and caused quite a stir. Abilities were inaccessible after transformation, creating several bad engagements and miscues. An ugly scene, to be sure. We saw the return of Ra this week – not that he ever left – making just a big an impact as ever. The current meta suits him well. Outside of that, his bird bro Thoth remains popoular, Sol is seeing continued play, Raijin is pick or ban, Ah Muzen Cab is the preferred ADC, and Scylla has made a modest return. Importantly, Janus saw success, and is likely to feature heavily once more. If you have been keeping up with this series, you know this is a big deal.
Support shakes up heavily for week four, due to nerfs hitting Terra’s root. Her impact is still meaningful, but lessened. Fafnir takes over the top support spot once more. Sylvanus – a.k.a. Tree Dad – is back in action. Sobek is a mixed bag, but popular. The same is true for Ganesha and Khepri. Athena saw limited play, but will increase in popularity in the near future. Geb isn’t seeing a lot of success at the moment. Strange pocket picks like Nox and Zhong will continue to see niche play. Really though, it’s all about Fafnir.
The hunter role sees only minor shifts. Ah Muzen Cab continues to climb in popularity. Skadi sees targeted nerfs, but she remains strong. Hou Yi and Jing Wei are very popular. Chronos has returned. Cernunnos sees more selection due to other-oriented nerfs. Nothing unusual or odd. As Hachiman becomes available, he will absolutely become ban or pick. He’s strong, though not excessively overpowered. He’s just a great pick in many situations.
Thursday, September 28 – Mixed Division
Valance Squadron vs. Team Dignitas (EU): Valance Squadron currently sits in fourth place with a set win coming only against Burrito Esports (EU). Valance has split with NRG, The Papis (EU), and Team Rival (EU). Team Dignitas (EU) has only split with NRG. Valance will step up their play this set, but Team Dignitas has been looking good and there is no sign of them stopping. The key to the set will be how successful Faeles (Jungle – Valance Squadron) is against Qvofred (Jungle – Team Dignitas). Lawbster (Mid – Valance Squadron) needs to step up his play to compete against Zyrhoes (Mid – Team Dignitas) in order for the team to see success, as well. The third element to watch out for is how Variety (Solo – Team Dignitas) handles the aggression coming his way. Will he demonstrate equal aggression, or will he be more patient? It’s always a gamble. Dignitas is the better team, but Valance can absolutely take a game. After a dropped game against NRG, Dignitas should be looking to bounce back – making that much more difficult. Team Dignitas 2-0.
NRG Esports vs. Obey Alliance (EU): This is definitely the set of the day, even over the NA powerhouse match-up taking place later in the day. The NRG/Obey rivalry was already a hot one, but the snaking of ManiaKK (Solo – NRG Esports) from Obey Alliance (EU) adds an extra layer to the feud. Obey Alliance is sitting pretty with a perfect record through three sets, but only one of those sets was with a team that should have been competitive. NRG has looked inelegant through four sets – against a mix of opponents. They had their best showing against Team Dignitas – the current top dogs in the league, but faltered against an Elevate team that Team Dignitas beat. Obey Alliance has looked like the more consistent team all season, but all bets are off with this set. The easy money is on a split – which is the most likely outcome over only two games. Still, I think Obey takes it. Obey 2-0.
Noble Esports vs. Spacestation Gaming (NA): Noble Esports does not look sharp through three sets. Spacestation Gaming (NA) looked incredibly rocky, but has since made corrections and have looked more like the team they were expected to be. This set is a mismatch on paper, and is likely to be a mismatch in actuality. Noble Esports has managed a set win, but was beat soundly in their other outings by the top NA teams. Noble definitely lost a step when MLCst3alth left the team, and they haven’t recovered. Even Wowy (Hunter – Noble Esports) has lost the spark that he possessed in the prior splits this season. Noble is trying to get by on “good enough,” which might make them stay in the league, but won’t net them wins. Spacestation Gaming 2-0.
Luminosity Gaming vs. Trifecta (NA): Let’s face facts: Aror (Support – Trifecta) gets inside the head of BaRRaCCuDDa (Hunter – Luminosity Gaming). Ares is going to be banned in both games, or Aror will absolutely play him. Will he be the best pick for the team? It doesn’t matter – it’s a mental thing. Trifecta has struggled the last two weeks – with Snoopy (Hunter – Trifecta) missing a crucial set the team dropped to eUnited (NA), and then dropping a game against a rejuvenated SPL Gatekeepers. Trifecta is better than their last games, without question. Trifecta will find their step this week, and hang tightly with LG. It’s a split down the middle. Split 1-1.
Saturday, September 30 – EU
The Papis vs. Team Dignitas: The Papis have shown some signs of life, but not enough to get past Dignitas. Dignitas could be incredibly hung over or just forget to come to the game. If so, the Papis might get a win. Otherwise, this is a clean victory for Dignitas. Team Dignitas 2-0.
Valance Squadron vs. Obey Alliance: Valance is one of those teams that can take game off of anyone. They are also a team that gets inside of their own heads and drops games they shouldn’t drop. Obey Alliance is a team that wins games they should win, and has been winning the games that are question marks. Valance Squadron plays up or down depending on their competition. Matches like this should bring out the best in them. It’s going to be slightly easier for them to pick up a win against Obey than against Dignitas. That doesn’t mean it’s a forgone conclusion. Still, Obey have been on a tear. I think they take it home. Obey 2-0.
Burrito Esports vs. NRG Esports: Burrito only has a split against week one Elevate, but they are a much improved team over their performance in the Summer Split. The outcome here will again hinge on how NRG handles the Thursday game against Obey Alliance. If NRG gets shut out, all bets are off. If NRG wins at least one game in that set – and they should – then Burrito will get handily beaten. The games will be closer than you might expect, until NRG pulls away in the mid-late game time frame, but still. NRG Esports 2-0.
Elevate vs. Team Rival: Like their game against Valance Squadron in week three, this is a must-win match-up for Team Rival. Team Rival has been struggling in the online portion of the Fall Split, dropping games they absolutely should have won. Elevate is trending the other direction, winning games they are expecting to lose, and at least splitting sets they should at least split. The confidence of the team is way up, and with good reason. Elevate demolished Team Rival in their last match-up in the Summer Split – a set sans Deathwalker (Solo – Team Rival). In the Spring Split, the teams split. It’s been a long year, but think back to Spring Relegations this year where the two teams were more or less evenly matched and struggling against each other for success. Team Rival saw success at LAN and picked up steam. Elevate has stagnated until the end of the Summer Split, where they picked up momentum. This should be a close set, with a lot of competition. This set should be close, but Team Rival should manage to squeak by with a split. Split 1-1.
Sunday, October 1 – NA
Team Cryptik vs. Spacestation Gaming: Week three saw the absolutely barbaric beating of Team Cryptik. Twice. Spacestation Gaming looked good against their nemesis, LG, and won the set they should have won. Spacestation should demolish Team Cryptik, right? Not so fast. Team Cryptik has a chip on their shoulder the size of Tyr’s sword against this team. Both Vetium (Hunter – Team Cryptik) and Fineokay (Solo – Team Cryptik) were removed from the team before the Fall Split. Both of these players will be out to make the same statement of, “you made a mistake dropping us.” Still, that only gets the team so far. Spacestation Gaming will be out to prove they made the right choice in their replacements, too. This is a grudge match, pure and simple. Picking SSG to win the set is a safe bet. However, ego is a powerful motivator, particularly for Team Cryptik, at the moment. This is a risky pick, but I’ll stick with the gut. Split 1-1.
Noble Esports vs. Trifecta: Trifecta did drop a game to the SPL Gatekeepers in week three. Noble only has a win over players that are no longer in the league – and even that wasn’t easy. As long as Trifecta focuses, this should be a clean victory for them. I hope it is. Trifecta struggling has been tough to watch this split. Trifecta 2-0.
SPL Gatekeepers vs. Luminosity Gaming: Like Aror, BaRRaCCuDDa has struggled against PainDeViande (Support – SPL Gatekeepers). Further, SPL Gatekeepers took a game off of Trifecta’s full roster in week three. In convincing fashion, no less. However, this is actually a good thing for Luminosity. Luminosity has a nasty habit of rising or falling to the competition. A team that has shown they can hang with the big boys less of a threat than one who has potential but hasn’t lived up to it, frankly. This won’t be a walk in the park. SPL Gatekeepers are a good team, and one that is learning and growing more quickly than most other teams, at the moment. Luminosity is going to be tested creatively and consistently. SPL Gatekeepers taking a game isn’t all that unlikely, and it’s not that risky. Neither is calling it a set win for Luminosity. If Luminosity picks up the full set win, that’s huge in terms for growth for the team, honestly. Let’s be a little trusting. LG 2-0.
Team Allegiance vs. eUnited: As much fun as it is to watch Team Allegiance when they are on, they haven’t been since the meta shifted in the Summer Split. They demolished in that aggressive, solo-pick focused meta. It’s a shame the entire season has seen the slow down of play and the reduction of aggression. Ah well. Team Allegiance doesn’t look like their hearts are in it. They have put together some good performances, but they just haven’t been enough. On the flip side, eUnited has been the best team in NA, and there is no reason to expect that to stop. The only variable is the possibility of a grudge match between Team Allegiance and PolarBearMike (Support – eUnited), after he left the team and then re-joined the league shortly later. That’s probably not enough to matter in the results, but might make the games more exciting. eUnited 2-0.
Week 4 Power Rankings
||Dignitas looked shaky against NRG, and lost their first game, though not set. Worrying? Not yet.||1|
||Obey continued to look great, but faces stiffer competition this week in NRG and Valance. This should be a telling week to see if they are the number two team in the EU, for real.||2|
||Softer opponents in week three, but the quality of games they played was tremendous. The fact they didn’t let up or sleepwalk is telling.||4|
||NRG found some fire in week three, splitting with Team Dignitas and crushing the Papis. Is that enough to right the ship? Who knows. NRG has been inconsistent in season four, but it’s enough to climb three spots this week.||7|
||LG played four games in week three, and looked great in three of them, including a cheek squeaker against SSG. However, they seemed to lose focus and just get jokey and not care in game two, making mistake after mistake. That’s worrying.||5|
|Elevate is playing very well, winning games they should win, and splitting when it’s up in the air. Great stuff, thus far. The team changes look very smart, at this point.||8|
||Rival has not been giving people a reason to fear the reaper, other than the gauntlet likely doesn’t scare them. They need to get in gear – fast.||3|
||SSG has found their footing, and are starting to look like the powerhouse they planned to be. They don’t have much stiff competition left in the split, putting the pressure on others.||
||Valance continues to be fierce competitors and wilting flowers. If they ever find consistency, it will be terrifying for their opponents. Until then, it’s still fairly scary.||9|
||Trifecta has stumbled in the Fall Split. They were the favorites in NA after the Summer Split, and seemed bolstered by Aror. However, some backsliding is expected when you form a new team, regardless of synergy. Trifecta is down, but not out.||6|
||SPL Gatekeepers looked great in week three. They took a game off Trifecta, and won a set over Noble. This team is shaping up to be a consistent threat.||15|
||They played Obey Alliance. It went as expected. Burrito is still playing much better than the Summer Split, and can continue to grow.||12|
||The fire just isn’t there. Team Allegiance hasn’t looked mismatched, per se, but they haven’t looked like a top team. They gave SSG a good fight in week three, but they look like a team just trying to get by.||11|
|14||Noble Esports is not looking good. They are getting trounced, and dropped a set to SPL Gatekeepers they should have at least split. It’s nothing but tough games to end the split, too.||13|
|15||The Papis are having a hard time. That isn’t going to change for them. EU is straight brutal.||14|
|16||Welp. Week three went as poorly as can be expected for the newly minted Team Cryptik. Week four isn’t going to give them much relief, either. If they salvage a split or manage a win against SSG, we can re-evaluate.||16|