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Hirez Expo Day Three: The Real Flank Blues

Hi Rez Expo Key Art

What a pair of finals those were! Oh my goodness, I don’t think I’ve been on the edge of my seat for finals ever, and this is my fourth year attending.  This was an incredible weekend of esports, where all of the former champions were knocked out incredibly early, by teams that were hungrier, and more prepared. I don’t want to say EUnited were ill-prepared, because I’m sure they wanted to bring the championship home for NA again. However, they most definitely got outplayed, and I think they will be back stronger than ever.  I was disappointed that Obey went out on such a crippling, crushing loss. From what I read, this is going to be their last year with Obey Alliance, so it is my sincere hope that those guys find a new org to work under. It would be a shame for the Smite scene to lose so many talented players. This was a weekend of upsets and disappointing sights. SSG (SpaceStation Gaming) were/are the hometown heroes, the local boys just trying to win and do their community proud.  Jeff, BaRRa, all of them are top-class players who got smushed by Dignitas.

The picks and bans were pretty standard in my opinion, but in game three they tried a nice, safe easy initiation comp (Chiron, Athena, Da Ji, Terra, Hachiman) and were no match for the wacky comp of Dignitas (Serqet, Fenrir, Discordia, Chernobog, Baron). I do want to say that Arkkyl probably has the most insane Chernobog I’ve ever seen. I never really thought Chernobog would be so insanely powerful; useful, a wonderful, unique ultimate, but I did not expect Arkkyl to make look teams free with a Penta and a Quadra.  That’s what teamwork gets you: Pentakills. I did say wacky but I guess that’s not fair. Fenrir support has been seen all weekend, and earlier still, and I see it. It makes sense. But I do not like it. That’s just personal opinion talking, mind.  The other SMITE match I wanted to discuss was yesterday’s finals: Rival vs. Splyce. All weekend I said Rival would make them look free, much as they did every team before Splyce. But what I did not anticipate is how bad Splyce wanted this. Splyce went from being low on the totem pole, to dominating their matches with skill I’ve seldom seen in this game.

Splyce played with more discipline and mechanical reliability, and I feel like they out-Rivaled Rival.  I have the utmost respect for AlphaJackal as a coach, and the Rival boys, and want nothing to do with throwing shade on them. I do feel like they had it easy with NRG Gaming, who did not respect the strength of the Reaper. Homiefe as a replacement for Yammyn was fine, and he played his damn heart out. But letting IceIceBaby have Mercury was foolish on its face, and Rival had a free run to the finals.  The first Rival/Splyce was pretty aggressive, with Rival’s squad of Raijin, Xbalanque, Ares, Ravana, and Amaterasu running roughshod over Splyce in a very decisive fashion. Vote stole first blood by being in the wrong part of town and got away with being heavy-handed all game. By 20 minutes the had a Phoenix, and another Fire Giant kill, and the longer it went, the better chance Splyce had with their Erlang, Artio, Vulcan, Jing Wei, Kuzenbo squad. At 36 minutes, there were no Phoenixes, no Splyce, and no Titan.

As the matches went on though, Splyce found their feet, and Rival could not find the right bans to stop Splyce’s overwhelming power. With four bans, they could not get the right picks to completely halt Splyce.  When they took Moswal’s Ah Puch, he would bang on the drums with Raijin. Cyno was an absolute unstoppable monster all weekend, as was Cyclonespin.  Divios on solo-lane Geb was unbelievable and was always in the right place at the right time. Then there is Cyno, who is absolutely godlike on Ne Zha, if you’ll pardon the expression.

Though I’m no coach, and certainly no pro, it always seemed to me like Splyce were in Rival’s heads, and made it very difficult to find the right picks and bans. That’s not a negative to AlphaJackal, he’s easily the best coach I’ve had the pleasure to talk to.  I do think Rival was hurt by Deathwalker being out of position. Any time a fight would break out in the last matches, he was picked immediately and died. Whether it was Fenrir catching and dragging him off, or simply greed, Deathwalker would get drug down low, forcing Rival to leave a fight that they could have won. Splyce would play it cool and not dive them because that’s where Rival is the best: with a team that gets too big of a head, and plunges forward. Rival is excellent at the ol’ “turn and burn”.  So huge congrats to the Splyce org and their incredible squad. The Hammer stays in America for 2018! But I do think that 2019 will be the year that all teams Fear the Reaper.

I, unfortunately, missed so much of Paladins, because I was so focused on taking notes on Smite, but I was 100% convinced that NaVi were going to take it home again (giving a member of their team a third world championship), but it was not meant to be.  Envy earned their way to the finals in a series of long, hard matches, and while I went on record saying I though NaVi would be the victors, I wanted to see an insane comeback from Envy and for them to show the world why they belong. They did just that! Envy got a win, followed by a series of crushing losses. Then out of nowhere, Envy was capping every point, but never quite pushing the payload. This was getting them wins because I feel like again, the name of the game is underestimation. NaVi seemed to have an easy ride to the finals, and the final match came down to Cassie having a 20+ kill streak, and looked very much like a pubstomp, or a Quick Play match. Not to disrespect Natus Vincere, but they seemed to be broken, or could not get back on their feet after a pair of defeats to the underdogs.  Congratulations to Envy, you guys earned that victory 100%.  But this means that there are a lot of things to talk about in Smite/Paladins as we go forward into their next Seasons. That discussion is coming very soon.

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