Last season, br0 showed their dominance with wins over all but two teams. At LAN, they dropped from the second seed after beating only an unexpectedly weak [/flag]Mihaly's Flow. In the offseason immediately following LAN, they moved
[/flag]oPlaid off of the team, [/flag]mesr from medic to scout, and picked up former Mihaly's Flow demoman [/flag]soup. With these additions, br0 was a surefire favorite to make another LAN appearance. Br0, now [/flag]Spacewhales, quickly settled into the middle of the pack and started off the season alternating between wins and losses. Perhaps the 4-5 loss to
[/flag]Goin’ Heavy on cp_granary was the wakeup call the team needed, but they went on to win their next seven matches, and secured their LAN spot just above [/flag]Chess Club. Going into this LAN, the Whales share an advantage with the two teams seeded above them: they've all been to LAN before. Seventeen of the eighteen players on the top three teams have all been to LAN, and all performed admirably for at least one season.
Season 11 was a strong showing for pocket soldiers at LAN. Harbleu, Tyrone, Boomer and Platinum all headed up their teams with theirs medics in tow. Of these four players, [/flag]Boomer was probably the weakest performer, struggling to help keep his team on the radar. Although he has settled into the team even further, Boomer has repeatedly switched roles with Blaze at different points in the season, potentially threatening to disrupt the team dynamic. Or not. Whales are revered for their relaxed play style, subbing in alfa and other ringers to play for their starters all the time. Changing up roles, classes and strategies has left the Whales with an adaptive edge, hopefully one that can minimize the disruption of a hurried setup on unfamiliar LAN computers. This season won't be very different than last; Tri, TLR and Tyrone will all be strong performers on their respective teams. Whether or not Boomer can adjust his play from last LAN or not will be a key factor in whether or not the Whales can rival LG in their first set on Saturday.
[/flag]Mesr started his medic LAN career as a fill-in for Mixup a couple of seasons ago. His performance was surprisingly strong, and his follow up LAN with br0 was another excellent showing. His play this season was also some of the most entertaining ever. Mesr leads the pack in crossbow double kills, clutch ubersaws, and crazy dodging. His play style really utilizes the whole 'medic kit', especially the offensive aspects.
The scouts on br0 were originally mesr and [/flag]Yz50, but halfway through the current season, mesr replaced soup on medic, and [/flag]clockwork left LG to play with Yz50 on scout. With a collective 3 LAN titles between the two of them, these scouts are more than capable of being the best in Dallas this season. Clockwork's performance at i46 was nothing short of amazing ; the LAN setting seemed to hone his focus and bring nothing but the best in terms of aim. Last season, although arguably outclassed by oPlaid, Yz50 still played well, even if his team’s performance could be described as 'forgettable'. The scouts will be crucial in deciding how well the Whales will do.
Although I could have grouped [/flag]blaze in with Boomer in my analysis, I wanted to leave [/flag]dummy and blaze to the end. Much like Chess club's Kermit and Tagg, blaze and dummy will serve as the wild factor for their team. This is not to say that either of their abilities to perform is in question, but instead that they have the potential to play well enough to push their team over the edge in beating LG match and carrying on their success through the upper bracket, all the way to Mixup. Blaze is often referred to as the best roamer in TF2 at the moment. I would argue that this is true, and that his play all but improves on LAN, no longer having to play with ping far above what other invite soldiers are used to. Dummy, on the other hand, is not usually considered to be on the same level as Platinum or b4nny, and probably isn't the best demo man to ever play. I would argue that he could compete with the best of the best, and that a solid performance might put him ahead of the competition. If clockwork carries over the demo-centric scout play style that he and Cyzer shared on LG, dummy should have everything he needs to play at his best.
The Whales are hard to peg this season. They really do have the potential to win the whole thing, or to lose close games to LG and Mixup and end up third again. Their matchup against LG in the first round will probably contain some of the best matches of the LAN, and potentially decide who will end up in the finals after all.