Angry Titans and 6nakes Impress as British Hurricanes Drop Another Game in Overwatch Contenders

The season one champions are sitting at 1-2 to start the Overwatch Contenders season. It’s not only them losing games, but the way in which they are losing these games. 6nakes, a team that qualified through trials, surprisingly took the Hurricane’s to the woodshed this morning winning 3-1 with some fairly dominant efforts on both Oasis and Eichenwalde.

The Hurricane struggles to begin season two is one of the more shocking updates to come out of Contenders so far. Fortunately, much like season one, the Hurricane’s didn’t always look or play like the best team but found ways to continue to grow and eventually get to the spot where they’re beating the other top teams. This season could spell the same type of mid-season transformation, but the early returns look a lot worse than they did in season one.

It never got to this point, where teams were manhandling them on control and hybrid maps. Now it could be the unfamiliarity with the 6nakes, but losing in such dramatic fashion speaks to larger problems inside the team. It’s still early in the season, but the Hurricane’s need a quick turnaround or things could get ugly.

Angry Titans Stay Angry

The Angry Titans are one of the darling teams in the Overwatch Contenders. Fans love their dedication to tank-heavy compositions and their unwillingness to bend to the sniper-meta. While yes, they do run Hanzo, the bulk of their strategy is comprised of devastating Zarya graviton surges and converting off excellent team targetting. Early in the season, the Titans look like the best team in Overwatch supporting a 3-0 record with a +10 map differential.

As for the 6nakes, a team that I, personally, was super impressed with in Trials. I looked at them as an actual playoff threat in Contenders and it’s nice to be proven right early on. It’s still not close to a finished product, as the team sits in the middle of group A at 2-1, even in map differential, but the skill and talent are clearly there. Beating the season one champs will go a long way for confidence sake.

 

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Serral gets the comeback win over Scarlett at WCS Valencia

Two of the better players in the entire event faced off early in round one of the playoffs and it went the distance to a game five, with an impressive comeback. Joona ‘Serral’ Sotala, the best European SC2 player, fell down 2-1 off a suffocating aggressive style from Sasha ‘Scarlett’ Hostyn, that ultimately was her downfall on game five

It was a back-and-forth affair from two of the most exciting Zerg players, who approach the game differently. For Serral, it’s all about acquiring enough of the economy to feel safe in moving out. In Scarlett’s case, at least in the loss today, she would constantly try and cripple that economy. Unfortunately for Scarlett, if early aggression was held then it was a complete uphill battle to try and recover compared to Serral’s economy.

Losing in the macro-game forced Scarlett into whole scale changes to her gameplan. It wasn’t a move to cheese or gimmicks, but a notice to win the game before Serral can amass any type of big, macro army. And on a map like Redshift, where the normal second hatch for Zerg is ridiculously close to their opponents allowed for some fantastic early Zergling, Baneling, and even some spine crawler aggression. In these micro-intensive moments is when Scarlett shines and that’s how she worked her way to a 2-1 lead.

On the third map, Scarlett really showed her technical prowess and ability to read the situation. Switching into early muta’s and using them to pick off Serral units moving out of the home base. And once she was able to impact the Serral economy with Muta run-by’s, the zerling and baneling all-in came to finish the job. Killing off all Hydralisk with the baneling’s allowing the muta’s to pick off queens and the rest of the army ended the fight swiftly. Unfortunately, Serral adjusted to Scarlett’s adjustments just in time to save the series.

Scarlett did her job by winning the smaller, two-player maps, but switching to the bigger maps flipped the advantage back over to Serral. He wasn’t able to hold off the early-game unit aggression, but turning away Roach’s and stifling Zergling attacks on hatcheries and the main-base kept pushing Serral farther and farther ahead. Scarlett wasn’t able to gain any sort of advantage, meaning she has to fight a full-supplied Serral army.

Looking at the last map, after a tough loss on Darkness Sanctuary where Scarlett played more standard, she once again tried to catch Serral with an all-in on Catalyst, a medium-sized map. However, the attempt was sniffed out early and by the time the all-in took place, Serral had already acquired more roaches. Scarlett was one map win away from being the first person in forever to beat Serral at consecutive tournaments. Her style is somewhat of a yin-and-yang type feel with Serral, and after a glorious set today, these look two of the best Zerg’s by a long shot.

Featured photo courtesy of StarCraft 2

WCS Valencia could pin Reynor and Serral against each other in round two of the Playoffs

WCS Valencia playoffs are here and our attention turns once again to the European slayer, Joona ‘Serral’ Sotala, in his quest to win another WCS title. His last win came only a month prior to Valencia at WCS Austin and he’s now got his sights set on winning four of his past five WCS events.

However, the path to another title will already be layered with the worlds best non-Korean talent. He not only has to start off against one of the most threatening opponents in the entire event, Sasha ‘Scarlett’ Hostyn, and play a Zerg vs. Zerg in round one, but will have to follow it up with a likely matchup against GSL Code S wunderkind, Riccardo ‘Reynor’ Romiti, who looks like the next big player at the ripe age of only 16-years old.

The potential faceoff between two of the perceived most talented players in Europe will be a big moment. Serral’s essentially taken over Europe without any issues and now Reynor could bring in his heavy harass Zerg style and make things more interesting in the SC2 Europe landscape.

In fact, this would be one of the few times the two have actually played at an event. The only recorded match I could find was from Assembly where Serral swept him 3-0. That match dates back to two years ago, so by the looks of it, both players will come in almost blind to the others traits and playstyle. But with all the data on Serral, Reynor enters as more of a mystery.

Rest of the Bracket

While most of the attention will be focused on the top half of the bracket, the bottom half also will provide some excellent matchups. Starting Neeb facing Bly in round one, a matchup that could come down to the wire. Neeb will be looked at as the odds-on favorite to make all the way through to winners finals. Secondly, Nerchio, who’s had a recent resurgence in play will be a threat. He will potentially get Has in the second round.

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Looking back to Scarlett, she has a massive opportunity to beat Serral and get momentum heading deep into the bracket. This entire article could be moot if she brings her best Zerg vs Zerg micro and builds to the table.  It could be Scarlett vs Reynor that would steal the show, but obviously getting through the European champ won’t be easy.

It’s the most stacked WCS event I’ve seen all year and should provide not only great StarCraft 2, but upsets. Expecting the unexpected as Serral eyes back-to-back titles. Reynor is clearly a player to watch after beating the likes of Classic in Code S just last week, but Serral is also an entirely different beast. Either way, Serral will have to earn his victories against two of the worlds best Zerg players.

Featured photo courtesy of WCS

 

Breaking Down the 9,000 IQ Play from the Los Angeles Gladiators on Kings Row

So, the Los Angeles Gladiators took care of business in game one of the Overwatch League playoffs over the London Spitfire despite some odd roster decisions and vague explanations of those decisions. It was one of the Gladiators easier sweeps of the season, as Surefour went absolutely off on hitscan, but that’s not the important part of this match.

The important part was on Kings Row when the Gladiators ran an unforgettable set-play to secure the map win. Now, this type of play has been run before on Kings Row for the attacking side: run through the left side apartments to behind the point, then circle all the way around to the back, head up the staircase and then fight near the point on high-ground. Simple enough to understand, but the Gladiators took it even one step further.

Running three tank, two support, and the one damage main in Surefour on Widow allowed for this to happen. First off, the Gladiators had to stay together the entire time through the apartment as to not alert the Spitfire that a member of their team wasn’t in the death ball. The Spitfire didn’t recognize that only five players made the journey to behind the point.

Secondly, using the quickest set of support heroes in Lucio with the speed boost and Moira’s shift and fast walk speed. Using these two, especially BigGoose on Lucio, clumped them up together and allowed for more AOE healing from both supports and easily pushed them through to the back. Once that was secured, it was simply a waiting game for Surefour.

Lastly is the subtleties the Gladiators added to this strategy by deceptively keeping Surefour at spawn. Deception is certainly a strong tactic in Overwatch, but it’s not often an entire set-up is focused around the deception. In a situation where the Gladiators only needed one point, running this seemingly routine strategy with a heavy-tank composition through the apartment, led the Spitfire to believe that all was required was to re-setup off the high-ground and fight on the point. Unfortunately, Surefour standing in spawn got free and easy shots onto Mercy and instantly turned the fight.

The extra month off since stage four ended has to lead to some interesting new set plays and compositions, as we saw today with HOTBA and the Philadelphia Fusion going triple-DPS. It’s allowed teams more experimentation and now we are seeing refined strategies in this current Widowmaker-focused meta. The Gladiators are at the forefront of these types of innovative plays and should inspire other teams to try new things out.

Featured image courtesy of LA Gladiators twitter

ESL One: Cologne Final Four: How We Got Here

Astralis, FaZe, BIG, and Natus Vincere. The Final four of ESL One: Cologne as the final two days of the event approaches. Two of these teams will be going home after today. The least likely to win will easily be played by BIG and Na’Vi, who both had surprising but strong runs all the way through to the semifinals.

Astralis

Let’s take a look back at the past week, Astralis has put up staggering numbers in their five map wins. Of the top five ranked players through the week, Astralis has three of the top five, according to HLTV. The Dutch team has managed to put a hurting on opponents with great accuracy numbers and a low death total. Dupreeh has the highest rating with a +41 kill to death ratio, but Ga1ve and Device have been just as instrumental to their fantastic start.

FaZe Clan

Overall, FaZe Clan strung together the strongest set of games from any time I spectated this week. The team as a whole dominated, but Rain’s sheer carrying mentality came through as he utterly outclassed teams in their six ESL One maps. A +46 K/D ratio and the highest accuracy of any player makes him a threat to win the MVP at Cologne. Guadrian’s also had big performances along with NIko, which is business as usual.

FaZe did drop a game to Fnatic, but outside of that, it’s been business as usual. Sights will be set on Astralis, as this game will serve as a trap game for both FaZe and Astralis. Overlooking these opponents could result in going home early.

BIG

BIG’s path to this point required some bracket luck and despite not finding a player within the top ten of player rating, they’re still playing well enough to pull off the upset. BIG enters the semifinals with a 7-4 record, dropping four maps this tournament. It’s been a hard fought road to this point for BIG. BIG dropped games against Fnatic, Renegades, and MIBR. The margins of victory for this team were narrow, going to overtime in an elimination TWO TIMES this tournament.

Na’Vi

Unlike BIG, Na’vi’s got a less balanced attack and been more reliant on S1mple being an absolute madman. S1imple’s been insane in his last few matches as Na’vi needed it to power through Fnatic in the quarterfinals and ENCE Esports earlier on in the bracket. Similarly to BIG, Na’vi journey had them lose to G2 in round one, and later pass that team that sent them to the losers bracket. If Na’vi gets anything from Edward and Zeus, Astralis could be in for some trouble.

Both players sit at a combined -30, but the rest of Na’Vi are a combined +197 kills so I’d say that evens out.

Prediction: Astralis over Na’vi, FaZe over BIG

Astralis> FaZe in the finals

Featured photo courtesy of reddit user Skaronator

Overwatch Contenders Season Two starts with a bang as Mastermind GC and British Hurricanes fall in day one

The Overwatch Contenders season is back. Seven regions, 84 total teams, 6,048 players all looking for a chance to make it to the big leagues. Overall, contenders is flushed with talent and much like season one should bring some high-level Overwatch.

Yesterday marked the start of the European and Australian seasons. The same teams enter season two as the prohibitive favorites to win the league in almost all respective league. Starting in Europe, the season one champion British Hurricanes actually fell in their first matchup at the hands of Young and Beautiful. In the Australian region, similarly to the British Hurricanes, the season one Australian champ, Masterminds GC, losing to Dark Sided team who held them to only four points in four maps.

Europe

Looking back at the reason the British Hurricanes lost turns the focus to the meta switch and how these teams adjust to the move away from dive-compositions. In the first game of the season, Matt “Dids” Didehvar on Widowmaker and Mateusz “MATTH” Prymas on Hanzo gave the Hurricanes fits all afternoon. It was a constant barrage of picks onto the squishy characters. Hurricanes had no answer despite solid performances out of the damage department.

In the next few matches, the Angry Titans took care of business against Orgless and Hungry, followed by an exciting third match between two of the teams who qualified through trials. These two teams have a history: 6nakes being the trials champions and Bazooka Puppies barely sneaking into the top four. During trials, these two teams played a close five-game set, but 6nakes still got the better of them. In the loss today, it was a complete team effort, getting strong performances all over. However, without the ferocious Hanzo aggressive out of William “Asking” Vetter, the win was likely not happening.

In terms of teams to watch out for coming out of trials, 6nakes is undoubtedly that team. Similarly to Young and Beautiful, 6nakes is more inclined towards the snipers and with the meta being the way it is, Asking might be one of the newest threads in that division. It’s a balanced team, but the test will be against the contender’s teams and seeing how they stack up.

Australia

Australia got the jump on the rest of the contender’s leagues this week and have concluded week one of matches. With the Masterminds falling, the league has a different look extremely early into the season. The rest of the results were as expected, with the season one champion Sydney Drop Bears winning it easily over Blank Esports.

I wanted to take a second to recognize a most excellent play pulled off on first point Illios. As you’ll see in the video, this team boost the right heroes and move in the right direction, in-sync to dive directly onto the healers without being seen. Kanga Esports, fortunately, won the game because of this maneuver and avoided the reverse sweep out of Serenity.

Echo Fox Reverse Sweeps Team Kaliber a day after doing it to Red Reserve in the CWL Pro League

One day after ending Red Reserve’s win streak with a reverse sweep, Echo Fox comes from the depths of a 0-3 halftime deficit against Team Kaliber, in game three, down two maps, to pulling out one of the most remarkable comebacks of season two. It took all Echo Fox had to offer, but they pulled off the upset and moved ahead of TK in the standings.

Game One – Hardpoint

In similar fashion to Red Reserve, Team Kaliber started off playing a strong defensive game, mainly using Accuracy to hold down the hardpoint as the SMG’s go out and pick off Echo Fox at spawn. Accuracy was the hero of London Docks, as TK could rely on him holding down the point with little help. This lead to big plays, as Accuracy setup perfectly when the point was finally secured.

Accuracy ended up dropping 41 kills on Docks and was a +14 in kill-death ratio. He turned a number of bad situations into favorable ones, with the correct spacing on approaching SMG’s. Accuracy stayed out of range, making it tough to get in on him. Outside of that F3RO and Kenny traded enough to earn the win.

Game Two – Search & Destroy

Search & Destroy is where Echo Fox made it’s living against Evil Geniuses and Red Reserve yesterday, but going against F3RO and an impressive TK setup on Ardennes Forest, sending Accuracy top-side and letting F3RO roam, caused problems for Exho Fox. It was a struggle trying to break that setup, and that showed up with F3RO’s and Accuracy’s kill-death. Kenny, on the other hand, played extremely aggressive and often times traded positively on his SMG.

Kenny dropped 11 kills on the TK map win. Saints had his moments on this map for Echo Fox, but with Faccento getting shut down trying to work towards the high-ground, where Accuracy setup, it wasn’t enough. TK also worked the objective much more efficiently than Echo Fox getting almost double the plants.

Game Three – Flak Tower

45 seconds into Flak Tower, F3RO picked a few kills, grabbed the flag, and returned it to his base. This put immense pressure on Echo Fox to step up and do something. Nothing change after that in the first half, TK continued to push all half. F3RO went absolutely off early on. It wasn’t until a quick two caps from Temp that spurred the comeback.

In every situation, every map count, and any deficit, Echo Fox is finding miracle ways to win these maps. The work on Flak Tower is nothing short of miraculous. When this team needed plays, someone was bound to step up. Look at Temp, before his captures, he was getting out-fragged badly in his base against F3RO. However, when Echo Fox needed it most, he played objective-based and pushed two huge flag caps.

The hero play coming out of Aqua, against both TK and Red Reserve, deserves plenty of attention. He wasn’t the main fragger for Echo Fox, but when a play was needed to be made Aqua has consistently made it.

The Magic of Echo Fox Saints and Faccento

There’s plenty of crossover between these two teams. Faccento, as he said in his post-game interview, grew up playing with some of the TK guys. Saints earned his notoriety with Team Kaliber and are now one of the best assault rifle players in the CWL. There’s no love lost, and after their performances today it’s sure to add fuel to the rivalry fire.

In the last two days, Saints has put up daunting numbers, finding a large number of kills. The final two games of the matchup with TK lead to huge clutch plays from both players, the cornerstone of Echo Fox’s 3-0 week five was the clutch plays in key moments.

Turtle Beach – Recon 50X White Stereo Gaming Headset – PS4 – Xbox One