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Letters to the Future Fan – Immortals

 

Dear fan of the future,

I am unsure who is dominating the Overwatch esports ecosystem when you read this, or who is quickly climbing the rungs of the competitive ladder, but I write to you today about a team, player, or organization that is long past your time. Something that is timeless in their story and their purpose. Something that dared you to challenge your perception of the current landscape of Overwatch. These are my letters from the past to help educate people on where the community has come from and to act as a Rolodex of info on just who these teams were so that their legacy might continue to live on through you, the reader.


Maybe I’m biased and am wearing rose-tinted glasses, but there was a history before the Overwatch League. There were stories, and teams, and star players that captivated an albeit small audience.

The pre-Overwatch League era doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves and western Overwatch during that same era almost never happened. And without this time period in western Overwatch, we wouldn’t have the beautiful context to many of the players that are so beloved in the Overwatch League. History matters and it can–and often does–accentuate the experience you are a part of today.

So, that’s why we’re traveling all the way back to 2016 where a young Immortals brand was first getting their bearings together in League of Legends and was looking to extend their reach outside of the game they already participated in. They had a brand that was quickly growing in popularity, and at the time, Overwatch was the hot new esport ready to take launch. The two were a match made in heaven.

And it all started with one amateur team with a dream.

After defeating teams like Splyce, Selfless Gaming and Rise Nation, a young team by the name of Sodipop caught the attention of many organizations that were excited to enter Overwatch. The team had shown some level of proficiency even though they were not winning events and were hitting a plateau at around 3-4th place.

On September 12th, 2016, Immortals would sign the Sodipop roster after placing 3rd in the Alienware Monthly Melee: August, just in time to appear in ELEAGUE’s upcoming Overwatch Open, which was set to be on of the biggest events in Overwatch to date.

While we remember Immortals as one of North America’s better teams during the pre-Overwatch League era, they entered the space on a few very sour notes. Immortals entered the Overwatch Open in the North American group stage and were placed in Group B alongside Method, Cloud 9, and Fnatic. Unfortunately for Immortals, they didn’t win a single match and didn’t even take a map in either of matches against Fnatic or Cloud 9.

 

 

The team then failed to qualify for DreamHack Winter 2016. After beating Rise Nation during Round 1, Immortals then fell to Cloud 9 in the quarterfinals. This set them up to play against -bird noises-, who they defeated handily, but ultimately Immortals would hit another bump in the road during losers’ round three where they faced Team Liquid and were defeated, 0-2. It was clear the roster had some potential but were plateauing right outside more respectable placings. Starting your tenure in Overwatch with a 13-16th placing and a 7-8th placing wasn’t the best start in the world, but that would soon change for the better.

October 2016 would be a pivotal month in Overwatch esports history. Three of the top western teams were invited to South Korea to play in OGN’s Overwatch APEX Season 1. This exodus left a power vacuum in North America and Immortals tried to fill in the gaps the best they could. And Immortals performance at October’s Alienware Monthly Melee showed that matched their potential better than any placing they had put up since being signed.

Immortals was placed in Group B with Denial Esports, Method and FaZe Clan. Here they managed to secure the second seed from their group which allowed them to start the playoffs in the upper bracket. With group stage victories over Denial and Method, and even being able to take a map off of FaZe Clan, things looked promising for this young team.

During playoffs, Immortals upper bracket run was cut short by Kingdom Esports, Group A’s first seed. Sadly their losers’ bracket run wasn’t much longer. They toppled Tempo Storm NA, but in the rematch with FaZe Clan, they looked deflated and fell 0-2. This 4th place finish would inspire some hope going forward and Immortals took this as momentum in their next few events.

From here on out Immortals would see success at almost every event they played, garnering second place finishes at Carbon Masters October 2016, November’s Alienware Monthly Melee and Carbon Masters November 2016. The team suffered a bit of a slip-up during the Route 66 Cup, where they placed 4th, but this period still marked a great deal of success from their debut during the Overwatch Open.

And then it happened.

During December’s Alienware Monthly Melee, Immortals was once again placed in Group B with FaZe Clan, compLexity Gaming and Method. With a 2-1 match record and a 4-2 map record, Immortals advanced as the groups second seed heading into playoffs. There Immortals would coast past Kingdom Esports, 2-0, and would beat Cloud 9, who at the time was a top team in North America, twice in the winners’ bracket finals as well as the grand finals.

Immortals repeated this feat during the BaseTradeTV Cup where they toppled both Denial Esports and Selfless Gaming. Now, this is before Selfless Gaming became the powerhouse we remember them to be, but this repeat victory for Immortals is important. They’re a team that has struggled up until this point and now had two back-to-back wins against both sides of the competitive field. Immortals had shown they could handily beat teams they should and could compete with North America’s best. Now it was time to prove that fact.

 

NGE’s Overwatch Winter Premiere was set to be the event to close out 2016 and lead us into the new year. Some of North America’s best teams would compete in four qualifying tournaments to collect points based on placing. A 5-8th place finish would earn 20 points, 4th would gain 40, 3rd would receive 50, 2nd 100 and placing 1st at any of the qualifiers would earn you a direct seed into the main event.

The first qualifier saw Immortals in the top eight, but they fell to FaZe Clan in the first round.

The second qualifier saw Immortals in the top eight, but they fell to Fnatic in the first round.

The third qualifier saw Immortals within the top four, defeating Spicy Boys, but falling to Luminosity Gaming and Team Liquid in the 3rd place match.

The fourth and final qualifier saw Immortals securing a victory and their tickets to the main event. Through their first place run, they bested Kungarna, Luminosity Gaming, and Fnatic. Joining Immortals at the main event would be Kungarna, Team Liquid, Renegades, Luminosity Gaming, compLextiy Gaming, FaZe Clan, and Citzen7.

The next phase would be an eight-team round-robin group stage where the bottom two teams would be eliminated. Immortals came out of the group stage in first place, only dropping one match against Kungarna. With FaZe Clan and Citzen7 being relegated, the remaining six teams would compete in another round-robin where the bottom two teams would be eliminated and the remaining teams would travel to PAX South to play in the live playoffs. This time the only team to beat Immortals was compLexity Gaming. With Team Liquid and Renegades being eliminated as the bottom two seeds, Immortals walked into the PAX South hall as heavy favorites to win the entire event.

While they suffered from inexperience on LAN and were playing with a substitute main tank due to visa troubles, Immortals still reigned over the competition, besting Luminosity Gaming, 3-0, in the semifinals and then defeating Ghost Gaming, formerly Kungarna, 3-1. From this launching point, Immortals found roughly a two month period of prolonged success placing 3rd at February’s Alienware Monthly Melee and 4th at March’s Alienware Monthly Melee. This success would need to carry them into their next major; the Overwatch Carbon Series.

Immortals went into the Overwatch Carbon Series looking to repeat their performance at the Winter Premiere. They qualified for the playoffs as the second seed with a 6-4  match record and a 21-16 map record. From that, you can tell that things were not going well in Camp Immortals. The four series they dropped were against Luminosity Gaming Loyal, Hammers Esports, Luminosity Gaming Evil, and Renegades.

Heading into playoffs Immortals had a chance, but sitting as heavy favorites were Luminosity Gaming Evil, who ran the table going 9-1 through the group stage. And after Immortals quickly dispatched a floundering compLexity Gaming, the two were set to face off in the finals. Overcoming the odds, Immortals managed to topple Luminosity Gaming Evil, 3-1, and capture their second major title in 2017.

While Immortals did win the Overwatch Carbon Series, things were not as they once were. They weren’t as clean, they weren’t as decisive and that was prominent in their gameplay and results. This would follow them heading into April’s Alienware Monthly Melee where the team fell to a surging Selfless Gaming. This would mark a downswing for Immortals and the rise of a handful of highly competitive teams in North America. For the next three events, Immortals would not place within the top four. Something needed to change.

Enter South Korean flex support Park “KariV” Young-seo and main tank Koo “Fate” Pan-seung.

Both players would bolster the team’s morale going into the final major of 2017; Overwatch Contenders Season Zero. During the first qualification round for Overwatch Contenders, the team placed 9-16th; however, the following day, the team managed to run the entire 32 team event and come out the other end in first place, beating teams like Prestige Worldwide, Virtue, Tempo Storm, CLG, and Toronto Esports.

The roster would next be tested at the BEAT Invitational Season 2 where Immortals sprinted to the winners’ finals and would face off against the French superteam, Rogue. Immortals still felt shaky but would score a map win against Europe’s best team in a 1-3 loss; however, their rematch wouldn’t be too far off.

Dropping to the losers’ bracket, Immortals quickly did away with Arc 6 to pair up with Rogue for the grand finals. While this match was much closer than before, Immortals still came up short against the French superteam but managed to take them to a final game seven where they fell, 3-4.

In their next outing during Overwatch Contenders Season 1, Immortals sat among the elite. This also marked the return of another western giant, Team EnVyUs. With two of the best western teams in attendance alongside a handful of other top teams, Immortals had their work cut out for them before the Overwatch League was set to begin. Sadly Immortals only managed a meager match record of 2-5 with their only wins coming from Renegades and Kungarna.

 

Between October and November of 2017, Immortals announced that it had signed the entirety of their Overwatch roster to form the season one Los Angeles Valiant and would be competing in the inaugural season of the Overwatch League.

Not only did Immortals capture the hearts and minds of the North American viewer base, but it helped to propel many players’ esports careers along the way.

Jeremy “Jer” Santacruz would leave the team roughly after signing with them and would enjoy a roughly nine-month run with Renegades to finish out the year. 2018 saw Jer have brief stints with Kungarna, Mirage Sport Électronique, Karasuno, and Skyfoxes with little success. His experience and tenure with the game have brought him to New York in 2019. Jer is currently a part of the New York Excelsior’s academy team XL2 Academy.

Few people have coached and played for the same team, but Zac “Chance” Palmer was the first I remember. Chance played for Immortals for roughly two months before stepping away in December of 2016 to coach the team. Both while coaching and playing the team, they found massive success at events like the Alienware Monthly Melee: November, the Overwatch Winter Premiere and the Overwatch Carbon Series. Since leaving Immortals, Chance had a short stay with NRG Esports in 2018 as a coach.

Athen “Aythen” Zhu was the veteran flex support for both Sodipop and Immortals. In June of 2017, after around 11 months of playtime with the core of the team, Aythen was moved to Immortals’ inactive roster. He reemerged at the beginning of 2018 as a part of the team Sleeper Picks and was a substitute for Grizzlys Esports later that year. Since leaving sometime last spring, Aythen has been inactive.

Much like Aythen, David “nomy” Lizarraga was with the core of the team when they were coming up on the Sodipop roster in 2016 and he also was moved to the inactive roster around the same time. He then moved to Virtue, a project team created by former Immortals coach and player Chance. After about a month with Virture and brief appearances on teams like EclipseGG, Hard Retweet, and substituting for 123 during Overwatch Contenders 2017 Season 1, he was drafted into the Overwatch League as an inaugural member of the San Fransisco Shock. He parted ways with the team after season one and has been seen on GOATS, Second Generation and, most recently, on the Toronto Defiant’s academy team, Montreal Rebellion. He’s now a free agent.

Current self-proclaimed “game player” for Team Liquid, George “Hyped” Maganzini, was another early member of the Sodipop roster that was signed to Immortals. Hyped left the team weeks before their official roster announcement for the Overwatch League was supposed to take place. Currently retired from the game, Hyped has gone on to find success playing Artifact and Auto Chess.

Brady “Agilities” Girardi has been with Sodipop and Immortals core forever. Known for his outstanding Genji play, Agilities was pivotal in Immortals early success. He is still with the team even after they migrated into the Overwatch League as the Los Angeles Valiant.

Known for his outstanding McCree, Christopher “GrimReality” Schaefer played with the team since their days on Sodipop. He also transitioned with the team as they went into the Overwatch League as the Los Angeles Valiant, but moved to an assistant coach during stage three. During the fall of 2018, GrimReality retired from Overwatch and is now a professional Apex Legends player for Gen.G Esports.

After outstanding performances on Mighty AOD, Park “KariV” Young-seo, joined the Immortals squad shortly before they left for the Overwatch League. While his role has changed countless times, he remains a key member of the Los Angeles Valiant to this day.

Stefano “Verbo” Disalvo trailed with the team during Alienware Monthly Melee: December and seeing how they won, it would be weird to not see him added to the lineup at the time. During his stay with Immortals, he’d enjoy a great deal of success and was lauded as a large voice in leading the team in-game. Verbo played with the Los Angeles Valiant for the first season, but unfortunately, his contract was not renewed for season two. He then would move to the North American Contenders team, Skyfoxes as a player for about two months before becoming the team’s manager.

Lee “envy” Kang-jae joined Immortals shortly after Kariv. He also stayed with Immortals as they transitioned into the Overwatch League, but departed the team during stage three. He left to return home to South Korea and joined Overwatch Contenders team, Meta Bellum. There he and Bellum placed at a respectable 3-4th place during Overwatch Contenders 2018 Season 2. After the conclusion of his Contenders seasons, envy returned back to Los Angeles to compete for the Toronto Defiant during Overwatch League season two.

Alongside Kariv, Koo “Fate” Pan-seung joined Immortals in June of 2017. He too joined the team as they became the Los Angeles Valiant and played with them through Overwatch League’s inaugural season. During the mid-season break during season two, Fate was traded to the Florida Mayhem for three western players from their academy team.

And as an honorable mention, you cannot omit coach Aaron “Aero” Atkins. The current head coach of the Dallas Fuel began coaching a handful of amateur teams before joining Immortals as they prepared for the Overwatch Winter Premiere. He would later lead FNRGFE and Fusion University before joining the Dallas Fuel during stage four of Overwatch League season one.

If you adore Los Angeles Valiant or vehemently hate them for whatever reason, we need to remember where we came from, and Immortals was an important and storied team. In many ways, they were the proto-Valiant. They built the careers of a number of players that are beloved and are still around to this day and they helped shape the narrative of the game we all love.


Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment and Immortals.

Forev, Febby, March join hands with Gunnar for TI9

 

Lee “Forev” Sang-don, Park “March” Tae-won and Kim “Febby” Yong-min have reportedly formed a stack for TI9 qualifiers. Joining the Korean trio will be Nico “Gunnar” Lopez and  Nuengnara “23savage” Teeramahanon, according to sources close to the players.

Forev and March were earlier part of J.Storm while Febby last played for Mineski. Gunnar last played for Chaos EC and 23savage will join the team on loan from Mscerberus.

The team will vie for a slot at TI9 from the Southeast Asian qualifiers. This roster also brings up the issue at Chaos EC who not long ago let go few of its players and shift base to Europe. Gunnar’s departure will bring Chaos’ tally of players down to three since William “hFn” Medeiros was let go nearly a week back.

This stack has been built in order to compete in the qualifiers scheduled to begin shortly after The Epicenter Major. The longevity of the stack will be determined based on their performance in the TI9 qualifiers.

The team name is yet to be determined at the time of posting this news. Stay tuned for more information!


If you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarY.

You can head over to our Dota 2 hub for more content.

Headline image courtesy:  PGL

Ixmike on playing on the big stage, coaches and TI9

 

In collaboration with AFK Gaming, Esports Heaven is proud to bring you an interview with none other than Michael “ixmike” Ghannam, captain of Team Team (now known as Beastcoast) where he talks about his experience at ESL One Mumbai, TI9, coaches and more.

Disclaimer: This interview was conducted with ixmike during ESL One Mumbai 2019.

Hi Ixmike, welcome to Mumbai. You had an excellent group stage before being eliminated by Mineski and TnC. According to you, what went wrong?

We kind of choked in the Mineski series. We didn’t play the Dota that we were comfortable with and got scared of some heroes that showed up and ended up not handling it well.

I’m not sure about the TnC series. It may be LAN nerves like it was the first game for us on the main stage. I thought the drafts were solid both games and didn’t necessarily think they had better strategy but in the end they outplayed us.

I mean it’s not everyday you can account for a four man black hole right?

Yeah, twice! Hahaha!

What is your impression about India considering this is your first time here?

It’s good. Better than I thought it’d be to be honest. My only real complaint is about the weather since it is really hot and humid out here.

Have you tried any hot food?

I don’t like to eat spicy food but other than that I liked the food overall.

How do you feel playing on the big stage once again? What have you been through during all these years?

It’s good. I guess I’ve been quiet but on the side I’ve been working really hard but being back on the stage at a major tournament feels great.

You’re one of the original North American stalwarts having established IXDL. Why hasn’t that worked in any other region besides NA and China?

Europe has had their share of in-house leagues, you know but they aren’t that popular. I don’t know really. I don’t have the answer as in-house leagues are tough.

The issue is that the player pool is really small and everyone wants it to be super elite, super high skilled and then you run into issues like the player base activity.

Not only that but also the players have grudges with other. It is a small community and when they see somebody in a pool they don’t want to play with them. That being said, it is difficult to make it work especially with matchmaking which is super convenient and chill.

Who are you looking forward to playing against the most at the MDL Paris Major?

Virtus Pro and Secret. They are the best teams at the moment. Liquid is good too but they have their ups and downs as well. We’ll probably get destroyed by Secret honestly but I hope to learn something from them.

We’ve noticed that you don’t have a coach while the other teams in attendance have one. What are the pros and cons of not having a coach?

I think the advantages are obvious. You’ve an extra player to help you as this game is so time consuming that you can’t even do things that you want to on any particular day.

If you’ve help from coaches, managers or any support system, it’ll be beneficial usually. Personally speaking, I don’t like coaches that much. Maybe I haven’t got a good experience but I like to think alone, work alone and that’s just me I guess.

What are your thoughts about TI9 heading over to China? Do you think this expansion of holding TI’s outside of USA is good?

It is good. You should have tournaments in every region as well as develop your fan base in every region. China is obviously huge for Dota 2. The only real sad part is issues regarding TnC/Kuku that can be a little dissuading. The other sad part is North America has zero lans. Overall, it’s good that TI is held in different regions.

Thank you for the interview ixmike. Any shout outs?

Shout outs to fans, to India .. it has been a pleasure and shout out to my viewers on Twitch and that’s it.


If you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarY.

You can head over to our Dota 2 hub for more content.

Headline image: ESL

Black on SA teams boycotting Infamous, DPC & more

 

We got hold of Dominik “Black” Reitmeier for a little chat where he talks about joining Infamous Gaming, South American teams refusing to scrim with them or leaking scrim details to other teams, DPC and much more.

Hey Black. Nice to get a hold of you again. How is it going?

Hey. Doing alright, trying my best to get mentally and physically in shape for the upcoming major!

Congratulations on qualifying for the Epicenter Major. How would you describe your journey into the qualifiers with a completely new team?

It went better than expected to be honest. We flew in Heste just one day before the qualifier, so we actually had zero practice games and had to use the qualifier to evolve after every game.All games were quite the challenge and we managed to learn a lot luckily.

But there has been some backlash regarding Infamous qualifying to a major from South America with a non native roster. Any thoughts on that?

We’re not doing anything illegal or wrong. We have been living here since we played the qualifiers (and even before that). It was simply the best opportunity all of us had together.

I’ve had quite a lot of success in the past and Biver+Heste+Skiter were very close to qualifying to the major/minor from the CIS region. I think we got a lot of potential if we get the opportunity to grow and show it.

I agree that what you did wasn’t illegal or wrong but for sure has gotten mixed reviews from the scene in general. Do you think going over there by any chance results in the development of the SA scene?

Honestly, I think we could learn quite a bit from the teams in SA and vice versa. However it is not happening. Why? Because SA teams refuse to play versus us and the teams that did play versus us leaked our scrim information to other teams.

We could help them improve a lot and they could help improve us a lot, it’s a shame that it is not happening. I’m getting similar vibes to when I played in China/the whole team DK drama that happened back then.

Hopefully teams will realise they harm themselves with this move as well and can be more respectful/thoughtful in the future regarding this.

Wow that is literally taking me back to the DK line up with Mushi and iceiceice and the boycott they faced in China. Not to mention leaking of scrim details is morally wrong as well. How are you guys coping with it? There must be some other alternatives that you might have come up with!

To be honest, it’s incredibly hard to get any practice in at all. As previous stated, we can’t play teams from this region. Then we have NA teams, who are either boot camping in Europe or scrimming EU teams. So that isn’t a valid option either. We’re planning to have a 1 week boot camp in EU prior to the event and we will have to make full use of that.

You stood in for Infamous at one of the events after which you joined the team for the remainder of the season. Were you brought in as a replacement for Mason?

No, I was brought in as a replacement for Timado. I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I was asked to stand in and the atmosphere felt quite good. I’ve been trying to build a strong and stable SEA team for a couple of months now, but with no success. Coming here was the only logical decision for me in terms of opportunity and potential

On the other hand, you’re back into competitive gaming once again after struggling for the better part of two years. How does it feel on coming back to the good old grinding days?

This is gonna be a bit of a long one. I took one year off to settle my life. Took care of many things, moved countries and overall had a lot of catching up to do.

During that time I did a lot of talent work as an analyst caster. Then right after TI when I wanted to start my “comeback”, I broke my hand and was out of action for another 4 months…then the season is underway again and amidst this qualifier chaos is super hard to find /build a new team.

Especially for someone that has been out of the scene for a while. Why would they want to play with you if they haven’t seen you play for over a year?

Now that I am finally back it just feels good to be able to compete again, I truly missed it and it makes me happier than anything else in the world. Competing is my life after all! I hope that this put me on the radar again for people that play against us/watch us and hopefully lead to many possibilities in my future again.

I am working very hard on improving myself, mentally and physically for DotA. I am also doing a lot of replay work and testing out a lot of things to widen my horizon and further improve my skills and mechanics.

Let’s speak about the new patch then. Summarise in brief about the way you perceive the current patch.

From what I’ve experienced in pub games as well as the Birmingham tournament: The game has been changed to make games go a bit longer again.

Games rarely end quickly now and almost always reach lategame, every hero has gotten an Aghanims upgrade cause of that and Roshan received another droppable item, the consumable Aghs. I personally quite like it, because it frees up draft much more and makes for exciting games/comebacks.

And what you think about the new DPC season announced for the next year?

Quite similar to the current one from what I’ve seen. Has it’s positives and negatives. I just hope that the qualifiers can be spread out a bit better, so they don’t happen right as tournaments end.

It is definitely something that needs to be worked on. Anyway, I sincerely hope your situation in SA gets better and without taking up any more time, I’d like to wrap this up. Anything you got to say?

First of all, thanks for the interview!

Also big thanks to all the people that kept believing in me even in the roughest of times. I hope this upcoming tournament can be somewhat of a success so we can make this comeback become reality. Always remember to stay hungry! Comfort is the enemy of progress. Also, spread positivity and make each other’s days better!


If you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarY.

You can head over to our Dota 2 hub for more content.

Headline image courtesy:  PGL

The Story of a Legacy: Flipsid3 Tactics

 

For most esports organizations, their Rocket League team is nothing but a side project. Psyonix’s title has experienced a giant increase in popularity in the last few years, which has certainly translated to esports, but it still cannot compare to giants of the industry such as League of Legends or Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

Flipsid3 tactics, however, was a notable exception to this rule for years. It is definitely not a negative connotation, though, as the US-based organization owned the most renowned team in the history of Rocket League. A team that was there since the beginning, that rose to glory in a bunch of occasions, and that constantly evolved in order to stay at the top. A team, all in all, that will forever have a place in the fans’ minds and, therefore, deserve to have their story told.

 

THE ORIGINS OF A LEGENDARY DUO


Markydooda and Kuxir97 would go on to be one of the most popular duos in Rocket League. Photo via: Psyonix. 

 

Mark “Markydooda” Exton and Francesco “Kuxir97” Cinquemani are now remembered as the most beloved Rocket League duo ever. In 2015, when they first met each other, however, no one would have predicted the amount of success they would end up achieving. Kuxir97 was a veteran of the Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars (RL’s prequel) scene and had to accomplish the hard mission of transitioning smoothly into the new game.

At the ESL Kick-Off Cup: Europe 3v3 – Cup 2, Kuxir and his team found themselves out of the tournament after losing against Teamy Weamy, which at the time included Markydooda and two British players the world has never heard of since. The Italian realized Marky had what it took and just a few tournaments later, decided to ask him if he could try out for his team. The answer was a yes and, as we know today, probably the most important one in the history of Rocket League.


Supersonic Acrobatic Rocket-Powered Battle-Cars, Rocket League’s predecessor,  also served as the breeding ground for some of RL’s professional players. Photo via: PlayStation.

In the end, Teamy Weamy decided to stay with Kuxir. According to the Italian, the reason was that he “just carried them through the whole tournament.” Some years later, Markydooda would find out that he had stabbed Kuxir while playing Battlefield 3 two years before they had even met each other. That made it seem, he said, like they were destined to be together. At the time, however, it was simply a matter of performance: the two of them complemented each other amazingly both in and out of the field.

They went on to demonstrate this at a few more online tournaments and, before they could even realize it, Flipsid3 offered to represent them in the upcoming competitions. This was a risky move from the side of Flipsid3 since Rocket League did not have a stable competitive scene at the time. Despite that, however, the signing of Teamy Weamy’s roster, which was then completed by Michael “M1k3Rules” Costello, panned out perfectly, as it would quickly mark the organization’s name in esports history as a whole.

 

SUCCESS AND DEFEAT: TWO VERY DIFFERENT TASTES


All the teams getting ready for the first ever RLCS finals in Los Angeles. Photo via: Vile Studio. 

Flipsid3 did not take too long to establish themselves as the early dominators of Rocket League. In 2015, the scene had still not transitioned to the LAN format but, at the multiple weekly and minor online events where the best teams clashed against one another back then, there was nobody who could stop them. They went on to amass a huge number of final appearances and tournament wins, including first place at the first-ever major competition, the Major League Gaming Pro League Season 1, and a runner-up outing at Rocket League Central Pro League Season 1.

By the time Psyonix announced the first edition of its Rocket League official championship, the Rocket League Championship Series, Flipsid3 were definitely the major favorites to hold the trophy. After all, all three of its players were most likely the three top players in the world. What could possibly stop them from making it all the way to victory?

In the beginning, they dominated. At the first European qualifier, they advanced to the finals against We Dem Girlz and then proceeded to expectedly win the tournament. Although their loss in the semifinals of the second qualifier against Supersonic Avengers raised some doubts within the community, Kuxir and company still gathered enough points as to qualify for the much-hyped international finals in Los Angeles.


Flipsid3’s performance at RLCS Season 1 Finals were marked by M1k3Rules’ drastic decision. Photo via: Psyonix. 

Before the start of the event, however, Flipsid3 received a piece of unforeseen news. M1k3Rules, one of the pillars of the team, was going through some personal problems. After the tournament, he would have to leave the team in order to be able to deal with them. As much as their teammates understood his situation, adjusting to the idea of splitting a roster that had dominated the scene ever since its inception was still something hard to do.

If the finals in Los Angeles were to be M1k3Rules’ last tournament with Flipsid3, it had to be the most legendary as well. Kuxir and Marky, thus, arrived in California with a clear goal in their minds. They had to be the first ever Rocket League world champions, and they had to do it for M1k3Rules to leave with the sweetest of memories.

Life, however, does not always go the way people want it to. Flipsid3 saw themselves relegated to the lower bracket after a first-round loss against iBUYPOWER, a North American team commanded by Cameron “Kronovi” Bills. Contrary to everyone’s predictions, though, they would take part in one of the most savage lower-bracket runs in history, annihilating all of their opponents in their way to the grand finals. Once there, they were once again paired up against iBUYPOWER.

Admittedly, the North American squad just played better than them. After a 4-2 defeat, they returned home with empty hands and having to say goodbye to M1k3Rules without any title to make the farewell easier. As Kuxir97 said some years later, it was the first time he had truly tasted bitter defeat. What he knew, however, was that he did not want to taste it ever again.

 

THE ACCIDENTAL CHANGE THAT FIXED IT ALL


gReazymeister ended up being a core piece of Flipsid3’s success. Photo via: Psyonix.

M1k3 was gone, but the competition continued with the second season of RLCS, and the Flipsid3 core definitely wanted to be part of it. For doing so, however, they needed a replacement. Who could they find that was able to fill the void left by M1k3Rules’ department? The question was hard to answer, but not impossible. The answer, indeed, was within the RLCS Season 1 Finals participants: Marius “gReazymeister” Ranheim.

gReazymeister, previously of Northern Gaming, had been defeated by Kuxir97 and co. in the lower-bracket finals of the tournament in Los Angeles. When he found out that Flipsid3 was looking for a third, thus, he immediately messaged Marky and asked him if they would be open to trying them out. Confident that they would not get a better offer, Marky accepted. As soon as gReazy started practicing with them, they started to notice how naturally developed their synergy was.

According to John “Johnnyboi_i” MacDonald, Flipsid3’s manager at the time, said he was “very surprised of how well he gelled with the team immediately.” This seemingly out-of-nothing harmony would show at RLCS Season 2 – Europe. RLCS Finals qualifying system had changed to two regional round-robin regular leagues that each qualified its four best teams to the LAN tournament. With a 5-2 record at the end of the regular phase and a dominant performance at the regional playoffs, Flipsid3 entered the season finals, once again, as the clear favorites to take it all.


At the Season 2 finals, Kuxir97 and his teammates were willing to take revenge and, of course, the RLCS trophy. Photo via: Jeroen Weimar. 

This time, nobody was abandoning the team after the tournament’s conclusion. That, however, did not mean they did not want revenge for their Season 1 defeat. Once in Amsterdam for the finals, however, they were dropped to the lower bracket by Mock-It EU in the winners’ semifinals. Did they care? Not really.

Flipsid3 had been there before. Reminding their unbelievable Season 1 run, they went all the way to the finals in dominant fashion. Northern Gaming, who they once again faced in the lower-bracket finals, did not even stand a chance. Nonetheless, the hardest part was still to come. In the finals, Mock-It EU awaited them, ready to take them down once again. History had so far repeated itself throughout the tournament. As Kuxir had said the previous year, however, they simply were not willing to taste defeat twice in a row.

After the Italian legend scored the last goal in a double 4-1 trashing of Mock-It, Flipsid3 knew they were finally part of RL’s history. They had dominated the beginnings, set a benchmark for youngsters trying to get into the scene and, now, they were World Champions as well. The kings were finally crowned and, moreover, looked like they had no rival. From here, Flipside’s success could only grow further. That is, at least, what the players thought at the time.

 

THE BEGINNING OF THE END: A DISAPPOINTING FINALS

 

After having won RLCS Season 2 Finals, Flipsid3 allowed its players to take some free time in order to rest. This decision, however, ended up provoking the beginning of the end of Flipsid3’s prime. Maybe too relaxed after having conquered the world, gReazy and the legendary duo started practicing a little too late when compared to other teams for RLCS Season 3 – Europe.

Still, they were winning most of their scrims. Although the team started slowly in week 1, they never lost confidence in qualifying for the finals. With a 4-3 record and a runner-up finish at the regional playoffs, where they lost to the aforementioned Mock-It EU team, Flipsid3 entered the finals, which were once again held in Los Angeles, with the conviction of who has already been at that level of pressure.


After having conquered RLCS Season 2, Flipsid3 allowed its players to relax for a bit too much time. Nonetheless, they still made it to the Season 3 finals with ease. Photo via: Psyonix. 

They trusted themselves to step up at a LAN environment they were very familiar with. Such trust did not decrease at all when they were dropped into the lower bracket after a semifinals loss against NRG Esports. They had reached the finals the hard way two years in a row. Who could stop them from doing the same now?

It was The Leftovers. Suddenly, Flipsid3 saw themselves out of the tournament. A European team that did not even have a sponsor, a team that they had actually defeated at the regional playoffs, had just ended their RLCS Season 3 Finals run. When Kuxir and company left the stage, they did so with their heads down, ashamed of what had just taken place at the Wiltern Theater. They were no longer the kings, but in their minds, they were still the best team of them all. In Kuxir97’s words: “All three of us are the best, and I can say that. Even though we did not practice, and we did not deserve to win, that does not mean we will not come back. We will come back.”

Flipsid3 left Los Angeles with the promise of working harder than ever for next season in order to not fade away from the scene. Kuxir, in particular, told his fans he was committed to improving his individual level since he thought he was getting slower in-game. All of these plans, however, would soon find a very hard obstacle to surpass. gReazymeister was leaving the team and, with that, he unraveled one of the hardest eras in Flipsid3’s history.

 

EVOLVING BRINGS NO REWARDS: THE END OF THE LEGENDARY DUO


Miztik was one of the new players Flipsid3 had to adapt to playing with during their most difficult era. Photo via: WSOE. 

David “miztik” Lawrie was chosen for stepping in gReazy’s spot. At first, the former Mock-It Esports member seemed to be the perfect fit, as Flipsid3 went on to win DreamHack Summer 2017, which played out only three days after miztik’s departure from the NA-based organization.

RLCS Season 4, however, would mark the first time the legendary duo did not make it to the finals of RLCS. Throughout the season, Flipsid3 had time to introduce a whole new feature to the game, as Kuxir97 created and popularized the always-astonishing Kuxir Pinch. Regardless of how famous the shot went on to be, though, Season 4 saw Flipsid3 Tactics win only two games out of seven in order to miraculously maintain their spot in the first division. In the playoffs, they were demolished by Gale Force eSports, which featured the Dignitas roster which would end up mastering the scene, in a 4-1 match which left no room for doubt.

Flipsid3 was not the dominant force it once was anymore. At least, not this roster. In order for the Flipsid3 of old to come back, something had to change. At this point, Markydooda decided that the best thing to do was leaving the team. This meant the end of one of the most well-known and beloved duos in Rocket League, a duo that could be considered the fathers of competitive Rocket League. Markydooda, however, felt that he was not putting in as much effort as he should and, therefore, voluntarily departed so that Flipsid3 could search for a player with more motivation and determination than him.

For Marky, it was simply a logical decision. For the fans and, most importantly, for Kuxir, however, it was not as easy. In came Maurice “Yukeo” Weihs, an 18-year-old boy who played Rocket League with mouse and keyboard. He was certainly talented enough to stand within the best players in the world but, for Kuxir97, he was too much of a difference from his long-time partner and friend Marky. Flipsid3´s RLCS Season 5 performance was marked by this inability to mesh together and, once again, they were left out of the global finals.

The amount of talent within the roster made them be very close to achieving a spot at the LAN in London. In the end, however, a 4-2 loss to Team Envy in the decisive series ended Flipsid3’s hopes of playing on the biggest of stages one more time. It was only after this that Kuxir realized that he was the only reminiscence left from the old Flipsid3 and that, if he wanted to be at the top again, he had to treat his new teammates like what they were: new.


Flipsid3 was not the legendary core anymore. Unfortunately for Kuxir, they now had to find a new identity. Photo via: Flipsid3 Tactics. 

Thus, he committed to adapting and finally jelling with his teammates in order to tear up RLCS Season 6. He was close to doing so, as Flipsid3 got second in the regular phase and secured a spot in the finals. Once at Las Vegas, where the LAN was played, Flipsid3 bombed out of the tournament in fifth place, after a 3-2 loss to Cloud9. At the time nobody would have predicted it but, actually, Cloud9 ended up winning the whole thing in an incredible upset against Dignitas.

Yes, Flipsid3 had lost. This time, however, there was no shame in it. Kuxir and his teammates now knew they needed to evolve together and, maybe, through hard effort, end up creating a dynasty again. Whatever they would do in the end, there was no pressure. Kuxir now had two steady teammates he could develop with in order to come back to the top. That was his mentality, and that was what he was determined to do.

 

A FINAL VICTORY AND A TRAGIC FAREWELL


By the end of 2018, Flipsid3 was finally able to experience some success at a few LAN tournaments. Photo via: Vexanie for DreamHack. 

After a promising end of 2018, Kuxir probably was thinking about how further he could go with Yukeo and miztik at the RLCS Season 7. The top teams, however, were not thinking about Kuxir or Flipsid3’s future at all. A chain of player movements and deals between top teams ended up with Dignitas looking for a third.

At the time, Yukeo had already demonstrated his talent even at the biggest of scenarios and, partnered with his young age, he was the perfect candidate for a team that wanted to rule the world within the next few months. Thus, Dignitas made him an offer he could not regret. He said that leaving miztik and Kuxir97 was a really tough decision to make but, in the end, when he moved with his new roster, he knew he was taking a step forward in his career.

For Kuxir, changes had always been fatal. This time, unfortunately, was no exception. Flipsid3 decided to recruit Jack “Speed” Packwood-Clarke as a stand-in, a rookie who had never played at the highest of levels. When they attended WSOE 4: The Rocket League Showdown, therefore, nobody had them even close to favorites. In heroic fashion and against all odds, however, Flipsid3 did what they originally had always done better: winning.

After a 3-0 victory over Yukeo’s new team that granted them a spot in the playoffs, Kuxir and co. pulled out two consecutive upsets, against Cloud9 and NRG, in order to take the trophy. For the squad, tasting victory so rapidly felt amazing. For Kuxir, that victory made him recover the faith in the project. Now, he once again felt strong enough to fight for international tournaments. Little did the Flipsid3 roster now, however, that it would be the last victory in the history of the organization.


Flipsid3 ended up taking home the WSOE 4 trophy only a month before the team’s disbandment. Photo via: WSOE.

Regardless of how promising this iteration of the roster looked, on February 28, 2019, Flipsid3 released a statement in which they announced they were disbanding their Rocket League division. “With a very heavy heart, we are saying goodbye to Kuxir97 and miztik. We would like to thank them for the hard work and time they have put into the F3 Rocket League team and wish them all the best in their future endeavors. We will miss you”, the text read.

At the time, the eyes of the fans were set in other teams, in the teams that were capable of reaching glory and taking over the world. Flipsid3 was no longer one of those but, in hindsight, the release of Kuxir and miztik meant the end of one of the most iconic squads not only in Rocket League, but in all of esports. Flipsid3 dominated the scene for years, were home to some of the most exemplary players the RL community has ever seen and, overall, kept fighting for being one of the best teams all the way until the end. Nowadays, the leftovers of the organization are still stoically fighting it out, sponsorless, at the bottom of the RLCS. Maybe someday, Kuxir will finally be able to remind the fans of the Flipsid3 of old.I want to be remembered as the best player in the game. I’m not even close yet, but hopefully, I’ll have enough time to make it happen.” That is, after all, what every legend wants.


Featured image courtesy of  Rocket League.

Lucas “LuckyNeck” Chillerón is a vivid esports fan who loves following as many competitive scenes as he can in order to write articles about them. If there is anything you would like to discuss with him or let him know, you can do it at @lucprd.

The West Hits Their Stride at the Atlantic Showdown

 

Overwatch Contenders Atlantic Showdown entered and exited with a bang. Where the Pacific Showdown was a little more predictable, Atlantic had much more presumed parity as we entered day one. While it didn’t end up as close as people may have expected, the middle of the pack was very close in general. All in all, Fusion University returned to their dominant form and cruised through the event relatively unscathed. With that in mind, a slew of incredible players and stories have begun to bear fruit.

Here are some of the most important narratives from the Atlantic Showdown.

 

Hurricane Miss The Mark

 

The power was there. The individual performances were apparent. But British Hurricane just missed the mark at Atlantic Showdown.

Samir “Tsuna” Ikram didn’t have the most amazing ultimate efficiency, but his volume was actually insane. In multiple fights where he’d use Graviton Surge and within a matter of seconds, it felt like he was half-way done with charging another one.

Seb “numlocked” Barton was a monster the entire event, specifically on Junkertown against Team Envy. Jakob “bock1” Kleveland had a handful of impressive performances throughout the Showdown that should solidify him as one of Europe’s best flex supports. Each player played well. The issue came down to teamwork and coordination, not individual skill–the Hurricane have that in strides.

The team didn’t play well, the players did.

Things seemed to nosedive after the Hurricane’s narrow loss to Team Envy, 2-3. Coming that close to beating such a strong opponent had to have messed with the team’s overall mentality.

I think Europe, in general, didn’t show what they really had to offer. Experiences like this really force players to grow. LANs like this are where real player growth happens and for the Hurricane and our next team, I think the Atlantic Showdown will be watershed moments for them.

 

The Angry Titans’ Rollercoaster

 

 

Day one of the Atlantic Showdown saw Angry Titans look more like frustrated dwarfs in their first match against the top seed from North America and eventual champions; Fusion University. However, things took a positive change going into day two, with convincing wins over Lowkey Esports and ATL Academy. It’s difficult to quantify exactly what changed, but the Titans seemed to be taking more proactive fights to allow Fabio “AFoxx” Veigas the space to play for more aggressive angles in team-fights. With success in their eyes and the will of the European crowd at their backs, the Titans advanced forward into day three.

However, coming into day three, the Titans seem deflated in their opening maps against Team Envy. Lukas “LullSiSH” Wiklund uncharacteristically charging into angles that threaten a potential environmental kill and the Angry Titan’s supports layering support ultimates on more than one occasion seemed to paint a very panicked picture.

Momentum seemed turned around on their defense of Hanamura with their spectacular bunker composition. With Stefan “Spectr9l” Fiskerstrand forcing out key support ultimates with Torbjorn on Point B and Erik “Erki” Nolander playing out of his mind on Mei and Brigitte, things looked up for the Titans, but map five was to be the final nail in Angry Titans’ coffin.

With their defense being solid on Rialto, one of the Titans last fights on offense ended up being a disaster. In a clumsy rush, one the team’s last fights ended with some key blunders which put them back significantly. This would ultimately end with Titans being held before finishing the first point. Like one last sad gasp for air, the Titans slowly approached the cart to trigger overtime, they get hit with a Graviton Surge and then they layer their support ultimates again. And in one final wild rollercoaster ride, the hopes and dreams of Europe regaining their lost Gauntlet seed were squashed like grapes in a winery.

Overall the team had bright moments and sparks of brilliance, but it felt like the pressure got to them and we never got to see the “real” Angry Titans. Again, I think Europe didn’t show what they truely had to offer. Sadly, for such a young team in a cutthroat environment like Overwatch Contenders, I don’t see them continuing without making some form of roster change.

 

Envy Stands Out

 

 

While Team Envy didn’t win the entire event, their performance should give some semblance of hope to Western fans. It seemed like nearly every player on this roster had a standout performance in one map or another.

The understandable questions that seemed to orbit Seo “Stand1” Ji-won’s entry into the team were put to rest. It’s hard to put too much faith into a team when they have to find a last minute substitute, but somehow Envy always finds a way. This was highlighted during their upper bracket finals match against Fusion University, specifically on King’s Row.

Stand1 has an impeccable understanding of how much damage he can take, what cooldowns are available and what the team is looking to do. Throughout the map, he was constantly flirting with death and managed to retreat successfully and as much as I can praise Stand1 for knowing his limits, Team Envy in general needs applause as well for covering him when he was exiting neutral fights.

This success while playing with a substitute hints at a strong system undoubted led by coaches Ash “Chu” Long and Ronnie “Talespin” DuPree. This also leads me to believe that Team Envy’s main support Anthony “Fire” King is the brains of the operation in-game and helps to lead the team and guide them at every turn. This is exemplified by one play on Hanamura against the British Hurricane. Down in numbers, Fire leads a re-engage to defend the first point of Hanamura which ends up being a strange marriage between bravery and genius.

And last but certainly not least, Elliot “ELLIVOTE” Vaneryd had an absolute all-star performance the entire event. The number of ultimates he denies, his flexibility, his understanding of when and when not to position aggressively and having that consistency across the entire three-day event is something that separates him from the pack. ELLIVOTE is a stand out talent that deserves every single offer he’s going to get in the next few weeks.

 

Fusion University Yearns For a Challenge

 

 

Fusion University sits on top of the world at the moment.

The next generation of teams will struggle to replicate their dynastic run through multiple Contenders seasons. And after their run through Atlantic Showdown, teams now have to measure their success internationally. That said, there is not much left for Fusion University in Overwatch Contenders North America.

What impressed me at Atlantic Showdown was their improvements. During the regular season, Fusion University didn’t strike me as the powerhouse we once saw. Ultimate timings were off, their main tanks were on a merry-go-round, and things just didn’t look as clean as they had previously. Well, funnily enough, when you’ve got all your players on a low ping environment and they aren’t up until the wee hours of the morning, they tend to play better.

One thing that stood out was how well Kim “Alarm” Kyungbo and Simon “snillo” Ekström worked together. Alarm is a generational talent that is going to crack the Overwatch League wide open next season and snillo is highly underrated. Their coordination in timing Brigitte’s stun with a volley from Zenyatta was eye-catching and surprising. A near eureka moment.

And you can’t forget how well Shin “BERNAR” Se-won played at the event as well. While he feels more passive compared to his peers, the number of ultimates he denies is terrifying.

And to bookend their fantastic season, Fusion University has now announced that the team would be taking on a new challenge in South Korea and would be competing for a seed in Overwatch Contenders Korea through Contenders Trials. The exodus is equal parts interesting and exciting, but I’m just thankful we might actually see both winners from each showdown play against each other within a similar metagame.


Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

Izento’s 2019 LCS Summer Split Power Rankings

 

With the ending of the Mid Season Invitational and the arrival of the 2019 LCS Summer Split, we come back with few roster changes and we can largely expect similar rankings of the regular Spring Split standings, with some exceptions.

Team Liquid have come off with a respectable 2nd place finish from their MSI run, along with snagging the LCS Spring Split trophy, and now remains the question as to whether TL will fall from the top spot due to teams becoming stronger and more comfortable with their rosters.

Welcome to my power rankings, full of disrespect and praise.

10. Clutch Gaming

Call me old fashioned but I like having my dessert last, which means Clutch Gaming are a condiment, not even a main dish or an appetizer, but more akin to natto (I recommend never trying it) over rice. This team hasn’t changed their main problem, which is a disjointed team plan and not understanding how crossmap plays work. Huni has been often caught out while LirA either is making a play on the other side of the map or Huni simply being overly aggressive without proper ward coverage. There seems to be a disconnect with Huni and LirA, which is strange given that you think their communication would be top notch considering there is less ambiguity without the language barrier. Meanwhile, although Damonte has shown he has the potential to carry on occasion, it proves to be neither frequent nor impacting enough to keep CG afloat.

With the change of Cody Sun replacing Piglet, I don’t see this team changing much, given that their problem is fundamental macro and ADCs traditionally don’t affect team macro decisions, but who knows, maybe Piglet tried to overstep his boundaries? It should be said that Piglet wasn’t a particular burden for the lane phase, as his CSD10 is good (given the context of being a 9th place team) and his DPM is 4th overall in the league (counting only starting ADCs). Cody Sun isn’t a bad ADC by any means, but it’s the overall team identity that is sorely lacking. CG was a Walmart G2, trying to do flex picks without understanding the fundamentals of the game, and I don’t see this iteration being any different, especially without a managerial change to get these players on the right path.

9. Optic Gaming

OpTic Gaming are in shambles, from the players all the way up to the executives of the entire organization. The team has made no roster moves (as of this writing) and this can allude to the turmoil from the higher-ups refusing to spend any more money on roster moves, as they may be in a limbo state of changing ownership.

OPT will still suffer from the same problems as before, a gaping chasm in the top lane and a bot lane which will not win them the game (that’s not to say they will always lose you the game either). Along with these two problems, this team looks lost when mid-to-late game comes around, and it’s through the saving graces of Meteos and Crown that this team even manages to get wins on the board. The only hope I see in OPT is that Crown will be better acclimated to NA and maybe we’ll see the carry pants get put on by their substitute Dardoch.

8. Echo Fox

Echo Fox made an impressive last ditch effort to claim a playoffs spot in Spring Split, with large credit given to the upsurge of Rush and Solo performing well at the tail end of the FOX split. They learned to play around their pressure from jungle and top, along with traditionally giving a gank to the mid lane at least once which allowed FeniX to get even further ahead on the gains he already created for himself.

The main criticism to give Echo Fox is that while their jungler has shown small improvements to his champion pool with the addition of Jarvan, he’s always been a better bruiser and assassin jungler rather than a tank jungler. He hasn’t proven he’s flexible enough in this role, which alludes to his days in KT Rolster being incapable of replacing the mighty Score. Along with this, he only started to work better with his solo laners towards the end of the split, which isn’t enough to instill faith in how stable his game-play may have become. The same can be said about Solo showing his fangs towards the end of the split as well. With so many better lineups and firepower existing in the LCS, it’s difficult to rate this team any higher.

7. Golden Guardians

Golden Guardians were given the benefit of the doubt at the start of the Spring Split. On paper, this roster was meant to do great things and place around 4th (which they did, by getting 5th), but the potential ramp-up time given for these veterans to figure out things should have offered more towards the end of the season. With other rosters getting stronger, namely 100 Thieves and CLG, those seem more alluring for potential playoff teams.

The problems with Golden Guardians stems from their bot lane being incapable of playing properly during team fights and the jungler doing overly aggressive invades which sets the entire team back. Deftly is the lowest DPM starter ADC out of the entire league and Olleh hasn’t shown the synergy that well with his ADC nor his jungler. Contractz, while he has shown times where he can carry, his lows are far too rock bottom to be considered a high tier jungler, and with so many control style junglers in the LCS, he’s easily predictable and often punished heavily for his mistakes. The bright spots for this team are still Froggen and Hauntzer, but there are still concerns as to whether both of them can play the flex champions which have become meta necessities, as the MSI tournament has shown us. With GGS’ reluctance in playing Sylas, Irelia and Akali, therefore those champions often were must-bans, the question of if the GGS solo laners have mastered these champions still hangs in the air, and that is far too large of a gamble to rate this team higher with how many qualms can be had with the other members of the team.

6. Counter Logic Gaming

What can make Counter Logic Gaming instantaneously better? A top laner that doesn’t int. CLG have replaced Darshan with Ruin, a top laner that was formerly of Giants Gaming in the EU LCS back in 2018 (2017 if you count the Challenger Series) and 1907 Fenerbahçe in 2019 where he won the Winter TCL (Spring Split) against Supermassive. Ruin could be the old image of Darshan, otherwise known as ZionSpartan, playing split pushers and drawing tons of pressure. Ruin’s champion pool consists of aggressive champions like Jayce, Ryze and Irelia. CLG almost got into playoffs with a struggling top laner and with more pressure top side, it could free up Wiggly to counter-jungle more and get more objectives on the map, given that the current meta is all about solo laners.

5. 100 Thieves

There’s no way Aphromoo can play that badly twice in a row…right? Aphromoo had bad laning phases and encompassing game-play that seemed uncanny for the veteran support player. Not only has Aphromoo had to work with a under performing mid laner, but he’s also never played with a foreign ADC, especially one who has just been imported to NA. Korean ADCs are prone to playing a traditional style of scaling and waiting for team fight phase in order to take advantage of enemy team mistakes, which is why Aphromoo may have been desynced from Bang, given that Doublelift, Cody Sun and Stixxay were all more aggressive ADCs than Bang when it comes to the laning phase. The playmaker should have figured out by now that he has to change his style to accommodate the slower pace of Bang.

The addition of Amazing to the jungle is a welcome addition to the 100T roster, as this is a veteran who previously played for Schalke04 back in 2018 Summer Split, boosting them to a finals match where they would lose against Fnatic. Amazing’s primary strength is the ability to call the shots and vocalize what he wants done in the early game, and while that would seemingly not be what 100T needs…they desperately need that. If Amazing can string together a plan for their early and mid game, along with giving a strong second opinion for the late game, this should improve the team drastically. The only concern is that S04 mostly operated on a split push style, with Nuckduck getting priority mid lane and Amazing hovering Vizicsacsi in the top lane to get him ahead. With a significantly weaker mid laner, Amazing will have to transfer more pressure mid lane. Not to mention, Amazing’s champion pool hasn’t looked good since 2016 with Nidalee and Elise being meta. In 2018 he was limited to Sejuani, Trundle and Skarner, given that S04 relied on a tanky frontline to extend into late game while Nukeduck used his champion ocean to meet any needs that S04 needed to enable split pushing. 100T have a better jungler now for sure, but to break into the top 4 in this meta means that you need to have strong players in all roles, and they are have an unproven hole in the mid lane.

4. FlyQuest

Wholesomeness can only get you so far, and for FlyQuest that happens to stop at 4th place, just outside the big three. While they did incredibly well for Spring Split, this team is something that can be considered a sum greater than their parts. V1per is enabled to carry the team on occasion, Santorin has proven he’s one of the league’s best junglers, Pobelter is still a strong domestic force and WildTurtle can function as the team’s wildcard. With the addition of Wadid replacing JayJ at the support position, this is the only changing factor for FlyQuest to improve from the magic they had in the Spring Split

Wadid comes from the LEC team Rogue, which placed last place in Spring. That’s not entirely indicative to individual performance, but Wadid has to effectively perform better than a rookie support player who was middle of the pack and only has room to improve. The smallest of hurdles will be creating synergy with WildTurtle that rivals that of his previous support, but the veteran ADC has gone through so many different supports that he’s one of the best ADCs to have in a situation of building synergy as a bot lane duo.

3. TSM

The uncertainty of BrokenBlade has been answered in the Spring Split. A player that was renown for his mechanics, he lived up to the hype. BrokenBlade was one of the best performing players on TSM during the finals. Add to that, Bjergsen is a player that doesn’t have a low floor for performance, which gives him a high level of consistency that isn’t matched by any other mid laner in the entire league. Couple that with Zven and Smoothie building advanced synergy, something which had been viewed as a potential boon for the team, this team skyrocketed to the top of the standings once they got their footing at the end of the Spring Split.

The jungle position is the only spot that will be changing coming into the Summer Split, with Akaadian being swapped out for Grig. The positive of Akaadian is that he could play an accelerated playstyle which matches the aggression of this current meta, but the last time we saw Grig, he was mostly restricted to champions like Sejuani, Gragas or Trundle. Grig will have to come in proving that he has learned to play more early game champions and dictate the pace of the early game. While TSM do have the roster to outplay most teams with their star power, the amounts to less and less when fighting teams at higher rankings. Incorporating Grig once again to the starting roster and instilling early game shot calling will prove difficult to topple both number 1 and 2 on a consistent basis.

2. Cloud9

C9 already have one of the best supports in the entire league, the best top laner in the league, and a jungler which is 2nd best in the league. In terms of raw skill, this team certainly has an enormous amount. With their ability to be flexible (sometimes too flexible) in draft, this team is a danger even on a conceptual level.

Nisqy hasn’t proven to show the dominance he had during his Summer Split of 2018 in EU, but he hasn’t been a massive letdown either. His freshman split in NA is over and now he should be fully integrated into the C9 playstyle.

Reasons for putting C9 above TSM would be having a stronger jungler, backed up by a new jungle coach in ReignOver, one of the best early game junglers NA had in recent times, and a top laner that really has no downsides. C9’s top side of the map, combined with jungle are a stronger combination than TSM’s.

1. Team Liquid

Team Liquid shocked the world with their MSI run, with no small feat of eliminating Invictus Gaming on their way to the finals. This team has flaws, but each member covers the other quite well.

The biggest fault of TL is their top laner Impact, or one would first assume. His performance at MSI showed that he’s more versatile than fans thought, often carrying TL to a victory and proving he’s functional on carry champions, with or without resources.

Xmithie is the league’s best jungler, voted to the All-pro team for Spring Split and also putting on an exceptional showing for MSI. TL’s focus on objective control rather than kills or tower dives seems a little out of place for this meta and the early aggression of other teams, but within NA, it’s a well-suited strategy.

TL will stay on top for the foreseeable future for this upcoming Summer Split, staying ahead of their competition C9 and TSM on the basis that their jungler controls the game state better than any other in his role, along with a top laner that is rarely broken and a support which knows how to shape the mid and late game to his liking. TL can improve on giving their mid laner more carry potential and also playing through top domestically, but they have plenty of time to translate their lessons from MSI to the LCS against lesser opponents. The most likely guarantee is that this team wont be beaten by anyone outside the top 3.

___

Izento has been a writer for the LoL scene since Season 7, and has been playing the game since Season 1. Follow him on Twitter at @ggIzento for more League content.

Images courtesy of LoL Esports

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Statements Were Made at Pacific Showdown

 

The inaugural Overwatch Contenders Pacific Showdown was a masterclass in just how strong many teams outside of the Overwatch League actually are. At the end of the day, Element Mystic continued their run of brilliance capturing the title and securing South Korea an added seed at the Gauntlet. They marched their way to victory going undefeated and only dropping three total maps throughout the entire event. This statement victory solidifies them as the strongest team in the Pacific region, but there were more than just success driven narratives developed at the Showdown.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways from Pacific Showdown.


LGE.Huya Disappoint

 

Instability, lack of preparation, and a poor map draft all spelled disaster for the Chinese favorites, LGE.Huya.

In LGE’s match against Talon Esports, the team struggled against Talon’s Mei focused compositions and blundered away a massive lead going into the final fight on Nepal Sanctum. One fight was all they need to retake the point and start the series 1-0, however, the usual spotless student, Tang “KaMi” Yitao, had other plans. To ensure the victory, he positioned a little aggressively on Doomfist and was picked off early leading to Talon’s engage and eventual victory.

Now the ball was in LGE’s court.

The map one loss gave them the following map pick which should have been an advantage for them. However, they picked King’s Row, a map Talon Esports knows all too well and frequently utilizes Mei both on Attack and Defense. To me, this shows either a lack of preparation and scouting or the team wearing their rigidity on their sleeve. Rigidity both in the sense of only showing success on one composition and failing to adapt to the enemy team’s strategy. Towards the end of LGE’s attack their Sombra ace, Zhong “Haker” Haotian, felt the need to switch to Ashe in desperation.

Let it be known that he has not had a significant amount of time off his Sombra pick–ever, so this swap to Ashe was shocking, to say the least. And on the final map, Horizon Lunar Colony, Talon continued to force the Mei on Attack which still caught T1w off guard. The Chinese team showed signs of life with Haker finding some key hacks onto the enemy Mei and Ana player, He “Molly” Chengzhi, finding some clutch Biotic Grenades on Point A. Sadly LGE was unable to secure the win on their final push with their win condition available.

Haker went on social media to clarify his position on why he made the swap to Ashe. “I think you can tell that EMP is useless when you watched [it] live,” he said. “I thought our damage was not enough to kill [the] enemy, so I switched.” Haker also went on the clarify that the team was also having a difficult time bridging the language barrier with their Korean tank line.

LGE.Huya not only was the first team eliminated from the event, but they also cost the Chinese region a spot at the Gauntlet. With Haker’s impending retirement and the team’s disappointing performance at the Pacific Showdown, I would not be shocked to see LGE.Huya restructures and builds around their Chinese core.  

 

Pacific Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

 

Talon Esports had a stand out performance at the Pacific Showdown, but it began with some surprising day one calls.

Talon Esports opened the event in their first meeting with T1w Esports. This match was a decisive victory for T1w and Talon looked fairly flat. When put up against such a team that is prone to pulling out some strange compositions, there was no flair in return from Talon.

None of their comforts picks and unorthodox strategies that we saw from them in their domestic final. Now, this was remedied in their match against LGE.Huya and advancing into the lower bracket where they played a much more interesting rematch against T1w Esports, filled with their signature Mei pick amongst other things.

Talon Esports young main tank Kim “MuZe” Young-hun was put on display and held his own against many of Pacifics better Reinhardt players. He and longstanding Thai veteran, Ubon “oPuTo” Dara, were absolute standouts at the event showcasing both flexibility and raw mechanical skill.

They managed to retain their regions Gauntlet seed. But out of everything, they showed that the Pacific region should not be overlooked. This small victory and their regional presence at the Gauntlet show help to harbor more fans and respect for a very dangerous region.

 

T1w Esports Steps Up

 

Chinese Overwatch is always lovingly pinned as “wacky” and “weird” but no one really embodies the moniker like T1w Esports.

T1w’s Contenders playoff performance seemed to signal that things internally were taking a turn for the worse. Despite that, they somehow managed to crawl their way to the Pacific Showdown. I think the claim is very presumptuous, but I think it’s based in a sliver of truth. I don’t think you advance first in your group in dominant fashion and then proceed to nearly lose to the fourth seed from the opposing group and the third seed from your own group without something happening behind the scenes.

However, T1w looked jovial on stage and showed a revitalized sense of confidence in their matches against their first few matches Element Mystic and Talon Esports. They returned to their roots on Control playing numerous DPS focused compositions and they leaned on their Doomfist specialist, Tan “Mijia” Xujie to help turn the tide on Assualt and Hybrid. His performance on his signature hero alongside DPS ace and Chinese Overwatch veteran Liao “MoLanran” Yang were paramount in the teams shockingly deep run at the event.

This return to form would come into question as the team prepared for the lower bracket finals against O2 Blast. And unfortunately, a lot of those regular season problems began to arise outside of their fairly close Control map. Both Tan “illusion” Li and Han “Silver3” Haibo were mispositioning constantly and were caught out a number of times. As well as the team generally playing on the back foot constantly. When T1w did win a team fight and secured some space, they looked solid, but regaining that space seemed to be a problem.

All in all, T1w Esports had an impressive showing at the Showdown. They were a team that no one expected to make such a deep run and for that, you have to give them credit. They had their ups and their downs, but a third-place finish is nothing to scoff at.

 

Business As Usual

 

Element Mystic entered the event as the obvious favorite, they showed why they were easily the best team at the event and walked away with the inaugural title. Everything was business as usual for the veteran Korean team.

All tournament long, Element Mystic was able to dominate with a style all their own. Imposing their will at every turn. During their domestic run, Element Mystic popularized a composition focused around Doomfist and Sombra piloted by DPS aces, Kim “Sp9rk1e” Yeong-han and Kim “Doha” Dong-ha. These two players have not only continuously been standouts Contenders wide, but they’ve garnered recognition worldwide as some of the most talented players outside of the Overwatch League.

With a star-studded support staff around them, Element Mystic trounced over the competition in front of them. With that said, they do have a tendency to kind of goof around and not take every match seriously. I believe that the map they dropped against T1w Esports could be an example of this very phenomenon happening. Element Mystic had a solid defense against T1w on King’s Row, but floundered out and was full held on Point A–which is a rare occurrence for such an outstanding team. This problem would not persist throughout the rest of the event as Element Mystic casually walked past most of their opponents.

This leaves us with the question; if Element Mystic continues to dominate Overwatch Contenders Korea, where, if ever, will they find an equal?

That question may be answered this October at the freshman showing of the Overwatch Contenders Gauntlet.


Joseph “Volamel” Franco has followed esports since the MLGs of 2006. He started out primarily following Starcraft 2, Halo 3, and Super Smash Bros. Melee. He has transitioned from viewer to journalist and writes freelance primarily about Overwatch and League of Legends. If you would like to know more or follow his thoughts on esports you can follow him at @Volamel.

Images courtesy of Blizzard Entertainment.

Sockshka on Ana, OG, DPC and more!

 

Esports Heaven was able to get hold of Titouan “Sockshka” Merloz — current coach of OG — for a quick chat. In this interview, Sockshka talks on a wide array of topics such as his recruitment to OG, ESL One Birmingham 2019, Epicenter Major, DPC and more.

Hey Sockshka. How have you been doing?

Hey KarY! Pretty good I have to say since we just qualified for Epicenter Major.

Congratulations on qualifying for the Epicenter Major. OG performed admirably. Let us go a bit back. You’ve been away from the esports scene since 2015 when you last played. What were you up to during that time until now?

Thank you so much. It was as always a tough qualifier but we did it. During those 3 years I was finishing my studies. I was still looking at a lot of Dota but as a fan and sometimes commentating for Froggedtv — the main Dota 2 French broadcast.

So is it safe to say that you’ve retired as a pro player?

Yes it is, I won’t pull out a Sebastien.

Haha you stole the words from my mouth. But hey, he did win a TI! Anyway, tell us about how you got approached for the coaching position at OG?

Well I know Ceb for more than 10 years now, he is a friend and we kept close contact even after I retired. We were talking a lot about Dota. OG was looking to structure by adding more people to help the team after their win at TI, I guess Ceb thought I might be a good addition and proposed it to the team !

Let’s talk about MDL Major and the recently held Epicenter qualifiers. How do you rate OG’s performance especially after the bad start they had post TI? What needs to be improved?

The start of the season was really rough as you know. I feel like we couldn’t build on the TI success mainly because of player changes. As soon as Ana came back, everything looked better instantly.

We qualified to Paris major 2 weeks later and ended up placing 6th there, which was quite a performance if you think about the struggle to even qualify for one before.

But still our run in the Major as well as the qualifiers showed the gap between us and the best teams like Secret, EG and Liquid. Rest assured, we are working hard to close it.

That brings me to my next question. Where do you think OG needs to improve so as to close the gap with other top tier teams?

Mainly discipline I would say. I might be biased obviously but I feel like we are one of the most entertaining teams to watch because we are a really aggressive team by nature. If we can tone it down a bit in crucial moment at times then it might be a good start.

Oh entertaining you surely are … Lakad Matataaag .. haha! You’ve big shoes to fill post Ppsarel’s departure. What do you think you bring to the team from the perspective of a coach?

Ahaha hard question, I guess you need to ask the players.

I will when I get a hold of them 🙂 OG will be attending ESL One Birmingham and Epicenter Major. What are your expectations on the team’s performance?

Winning both of them!

How does Ana gel perfectly with the team (despite the obvious reason that OG won TI with him) as compared to others like Pajkatt and ILTW?

Ana’s aggression is unmatched, and it fits perfectly with the play style of the remaining players. Position 1 player with this kind of mentality is a hard thing to find. I guess there might also be a mental thing behind it as the other players feel way more confident playing with Ana knowing they won TI with him.

That’s understandable. Leading up to TI9, do you think OG will make it into the direct invite list? There are odd chances of that happening by the way.

Yes I’m really confident we will make it. There is chances we don’t even need to place high in Moscow to qualify for TI, but for our confidence we all want to do it without anyone’s help. And we will!

Valve hasn’t announced any changes to the next DPC season. It’ll be the same as this one. According to you, is it feasible/sustainable for Dota 2 to have only 5 Majors and Minors or did you like the one before?

I love this one. We do need to make some changes considering it is really difficult for tier two teams to exist in this system, especially in Europe and China.

Imagine being an European Dota 2 team in Europe — there are 3 majors slots and 1-2 minor slots. You have to face Secret Liquid and NiP ( 3 of the 8 teams already qualified to TI ), OG ( rank 10 in the DPC ranking ), Alliance ( top 15 in the DPC ranking ). To even qualify for a Minor you will have to beat 1 or 2 of those teams.

If we take the last Major as an example, you needed to beat NiP during the Minor Europe qualifier who finished top six in the tournament. So every start of the year you are telling those teams, “good luck attending one LAN event this season”.

In my opinion, top 4 of the last major should be invited ( for example VP, Secret or VG having to play qualifiers 3 days after winning a tournament can’t be a thing ), two slots for Europe and China, one for each other region, and give the last four slots during the Minor.

We would probably need to have 12 or 16 teams at minor then. I guess the problem would be the money needed to make the minor happen but I’m sure we could find ways to finance it and make it viable for organizers.

I didn’t give much thought to it and I probably don’t see an obvious thing that makes it impossible, but if you ask me, that’s what I will do.

Nice to hear that. Let’s wrap this up. Anything you’d like to say?

Thank you for the interview and don’t forget to follow and support OG at both ESL Birmingham and Epicenter Major!


If you would like to know more about my work, you can follow me at KarY.

You can head over to our Dota 2 hub for more content.

Headline image courtesy:  SLTV

The Tactics of Aleksib, CS:GO’s Rising Leader

 

ENCE are one of the hottest rising teams in the world. Their finals at IEM Katowice 2019, top 8 finish at StarLadder i-League Season 7, and victory at BLAST Madrid put them as a solid top 5 team with potential to grow. What makes ENCE is that they don’t rely on individual players to carry the day. Unlike teams like FaZe, they don’t require their superstar player going off. Jere “sergej” Salo cam be alright for a tournament and other teammates can pick up the slack. At the Major for instance, we saw Sami “xseveN” Laasanen carry ENCE over the line with his great clutching. At BLAST, we saw Jani “Aerial” Jussila’s aggressive rifling making the difference. The most consistent factor that defines ENCE’s victory isn’t any of the star players, but rather Aleksi “Aleksib” Virolainen’s system and tactics.

In some ways, the ENCE system resembles Astralis. Each of the players have a defined role within the system. The system is defined by Aleksib and Slaava “Twista” Rasanen, the coach. While the infrastructure is similar, there are subtle differences in how the roles are divvied up. On the T-side: Sergej and xseveN play the wings, Aleksib and Aerial take map control, and Aleksi “allu” Jalli is the AWPer. On the CT-side Aleksib supports Aerial in taking aggressive rifle duels, Allu is the AWPer, and sergej and xseveN largely play anchor positions. While the roles between ENCE and Astralis are different, the efficacy is similar in that each player can have impact within their designated role. The team does not fall apart if one of their star players happens to have a bad day.

The reason for this is Aleksib’s tactics. Aleksib adheres to the fundamentals of CS:GO and has a level of detail that only the top in-game leaders can match. His tactical vision has established made ENCE’s map pool one of the best in the world. They play six of the seven maps (excluding Vertigo which just came into the map pool). ENCE are one of the top teams on maps like Train, Dust2, and Mirage. They broke Astralis’ win streak on nuke. Even their lesser maps of Overpass and Inferno still give them a chance to upset. On Overpass they go to double-digits against Na`Vi and tied Liquid 15-15. They beat Liquid on inferno at IEM katowice. While it is impossible to comprehensively go over ENCE’s playbook, I’ve picked out core ideas that give a good background to understand what makes Aleksib’s tactics some of the best in the world.

 

Setting up the Trade Kills

The most important pillar of making a good CS:GO team is ensuring trades. In this section, I’ve picked out a round from BLAST Madrid. This round was from the group stages when ENCE played Astralis on Dust2.

 

 

In Round 11, ENCE are go into a 4v4. xseveN got a pick through a smoke at long. When ENCE took short, Nicolai “device” Reedtz got an AWP pick and fell back. In this round Aleksib calls for an A-split. What’s interesting is how ENCE play it out. ENCE have sergej use two smokes from short. One for short and one to cover between car and long. ENCE then have three players push long.

By using this chain of events, ENCE diminishes the trading power of Astralis while increasing their own. By having sergej throw the smokes, device cannot commit to trading the players at long. Sergej understands this and holds his position knowing that device will have to split his attention between short and long. This allows ENCE to have stronger trade potential for the three man pack as they clear pit. While ENCE are unable to close this round, it displays ENCE’s ability to use a passive lurker to allow increased trade potential for their main hit.

 

Structured 3 man setups

 

ENCE is a team that also has a clear idea of what they want to do if they get in a small man situation on either side of the map. The two examples I’ve picked out from this section are two games from BLAST. One against Na`Vi on the CT-side and one against Astralis on the T-side.

 

 

ENCE played Na`Vi at BLAST Madrid on Mirage. In the 14th round of the half, ENCE were in a 3v4 situation after losing out in the trades for mid control. In response to this, ENCE do a creative setup. They have Aleksib take control of B halls with his AUG, have Allu control short from window, and have sergej hold near connector towards A-site. In this scenario one of three things happens:

  1. Na`Vi push out B. In this scenario Aleksib will get a favorable duel because of his AUG.
  2. Na`Vi take short control. If this happens, Allu can get a kill. If he misses, he can fall back and call the info. Depending on what he sees, he can have sergej swing out and trade.
  3. Na`Vi go towards A. In this situation, sergej gives ENCE a chance to do the retake as he is cutting off players from pushing all the way into jungle or ticket.

In this particular round, it’s scenario number 2 as Na`Vi try to do a B split. Allu gets his shot off and sergej swings to get another player, leaving ENCE in a 3v2. From there they win the round.

The second example comes from the finals against Astralis on Train.

 

 

In the sixth round of that game, ENCE go for their standard four man execute on the B-site with xseveN lurking. Device gets two players in the hit, but ENCE are able to kill the two riflers on the site and plant the bomb. In this scenario, xseveN has some leeway in how he wants to play this round. He can rejoin his team, play from ivy, play from tcon, or hold ladder. In this instance, ENCE and xseveN understand that xseveN needs to buy as much space as possible.

ENCE understand that a typical CT-side default is two on A, two on B, and a rotator. They have killed the small-site anchor and the rotator. The last remaining player is device at the back of the site. They have the utility they need to close the gap, but they need time to make it happen. Astralis understand this too, as both Emil “Magisk” Rief and Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen start to look for potential aim duels against xseveN. XseveN cleverly runs out of T-main to olof. While he gets zero kills here, he forces both Magisk and dupreeh to run over and clear him out. This let’s his two teammates close the gap on device, kill him, and get a better postplant scenario in the 2v2. ENCE is one of the best teams at understanding how to maximize their positional advantages in the 3v3 scenarios and this has been on of the key reasons why they have been successful in 2019.

 

Staying a step ahead of the meta

ENCE often have clever setups or tactics that counter the established meta. The best example of this comes from their battle against Astralis on Train at BLAST Madrid.

 

 

One of the typical ways of clearing out popdog as the T-side is to throw a molly to flush out the pop player. Then have someone throw a flash over T-main, and have a third play come out and kill now blind player. This is exactly what ENCE did to Astralis in the eighth round of this game.

In the 22nd round, Astralis decided to use a similar tactic. Aerial had been playing fairly aggressively around olof for most of the half. In response, Astralis first cleared out that position. Upon realizing that he wasn’t there, they intuited that he was likely in popdog. They used the same molly, popflash combo to kill him. ENCE’s setup however was a counter to that typical tactic. When Aerial was mollied out of popdog, he strafes out of popdog and looks directly into the wall. At the same time, Aleksib throws his molly at T-main. Aerial then swings aorund and kills Dupreeh.

This sequence is clever for multiple reasons. First it allows for Aerial to get a 50/50 duel against Dupreeh. Secondly, the timing of Aleksib’s molly means that only one player can make it out of T-main, so if Aerial wins the duel he cannot be traded. Finally, Aleksib can trade Aerial in the event that Dupreeh is the one who wins the duel.

This attention to detail is one of the reasons why ENCE have been one of the best teams in the world.

 

Setting up the long game:

One of the trends that all of the great in-game leaders have is conditioning the opponent. They are able to string a bunch of rounds together that can manipulate or convince the enemy to run a certain type of aggression or setup. Aleksib has this characteristic as well. Two examples of this are from BLAST Madrid against Astralis and IEM Katowice against Na`Vi.

ENCE played Astralis on Train in the finals of BLAST Madrid. In the first seven rounds of Train did not go for any structured take of ladder room. In the third, he had Allu rush it. In the fifth, sergej took it in mid round. In the sixth, they went for a 4 man hit on the B-site. It is only in the eighth we see ENCE use mass utility to take control of pop and in that round, they get two opening kills for their trouble.

This round ordering seems to be by design. In the first few rounds of the half, ENCE didn’t do a safe clear of pop. They realize that Astralis will recognize this and will naturally start to put someone there. This is what happens in the sixth round as Dupreeh takes control of pop early. Later on in the round, xseveN lurks out mid and sees that Dupreeh was in pop. Once this information is relayed to Aleksib, that is when Aleksib decides to call for the molly take of pop in the next rifle round. He understands that there is a higher than average possibility that Astralis will go for pop control as they haven’t seen ENCE call for a full utility take of it yet and that is when Aleksib calls for it.

Another example of Aleksib conditioning his opponents is from the semifinals of IEM Katowice Major.

 

 

The game was also on Train. ENCE stuck to their bread and butter for most of the half as they opted for fast paced executes to either win rounds or grind down the economy of Na`Vi. What is notable here is that every time they went for the A-site, they always made sure to have xseveN lurk at ivy. He varied up the timings throughout the half and this sometimes caught Na`Vi off guard.

By the time the 13th round starts, Na`Vi are conditioned into thinking that someone will lurk out from ivy. This was all a setup by Aleksib though as in this outer execute, he has xseveN join the pack. In addition to that, he has the team throw the smoke to cut off ivy from yard, rather than having it be in lane.

This sequence of rounds allows for a few things. First it gives ENCE a better line of sight down lane so that they can trade. With 4 players instead of 3, there trading power is stronger than their previous hits. Secondly, they’ve conditioned Denis “electronic” Sharipov to focus on ivy, and this allows them to close the gap and kill Ioann “Edward” Sukhariev before electronic can adjust. Finally, by calling this round at this point in the half, Aleksib increases his chances at both winning the round and breaking the economy of Na`Vi.

 

The Push Back

2018 saw ENCE grow throughout the season as they climbed up the competitive ladder through the tier two scene. In 2019 we have seen the fruits of those labors. Second at the IEM Katowice Major, top 3 at BLAST Sao Paulo, top 8 at StarSeries i-League Season 7, and a victory at BLAST Madrid.

While each of the five players stepped up throughout this time period, the most consistent factor in ENCE’s success has been their tactics. These five months have been an incredible showing for Aleksib as one of CS:GO’s leaders. The next five months will be a push back from the elite teams in the world. Teams like Astralis, Na`Vi, and Liquid will now start to study ENCE in earnest. All of the top teams will soon recognize that ENCE’s greatest strength is their tactics and teamplay. Soon teams will specifically start to anti-strat ENCE’s trading tendencies, 3v3s, CT-side aggression, and multi-round setups and find ways to either counter it or diminish its effects.

For Aleksib, the next five months will be a turning point in his career. If he can weather the storm and stay a step ahead of the competition, he will establish himself as one of the great tactical leaders of modern CS:GO.

If you enjoyed this piece on ENCE, consider reading: ENCE, the Consolidation of Finnish Esports.


Follow the author on Twitter at @stuchiuWriter.

Image courtesy of BLAST Pro Series