Welcome to ESEA Invite S17 LAN Finals. We're finally here after the longest break ever (the last regular season match was played on 9/23), but for our patience we should be rewarded with one of the most competitive LAN events in ESEA history. This Saturday, December 6th, at 10:00 AM EST (and Sunday, December 7th) over on the ESEA Orange Stream, North America's 4 best teams will duke it out in a double elimination bracket to see who will be crowned ESEA's S17 champions. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the teams heading down to Dallas hoping to walk away with the title.
Surveying the Competition
- Froyotech > Street Hoops Esports: 5-0
- eLevate TF2 > Classic Mixup: 5-4
- eLevate TF2 > Froyotech: 5-2
- Froyotech > Classic Mixup: 5-0
- eLevate TF2 > Street Hoops Esports: 5-4
- Froyotech > Street Hoops Esports: 4-2
- eLevate TF2 > Froyotech: 4-3
- Street Hoops Esports > Classic Mixup: 4-3
- eLevate TF2 > Classic Mixup: 5-0
- Froyotech > Classic Mixup: 5-3
- eLevate TF2 > Street Hoops Esports: 5-2
- Classic Mixup > Street Hoops Esports: 5-1
As evidenced by the exchanges between the 4 teams, we had a really good showing out of pretty much everyone this season. eLevate naturally having emerged victorious in every skirmish given their perfect season, with Froyotech not far behind. Mixup and Street Hoops struggled to put up wins against the 2 regular season titans, but we all know there is more to this tale than just scores.
Street Hoops Esports // Record: 10-6
- Scout: paragon
- Scout: cyzer
- Pocket: grape
- Roamer: ash
- Demoman: deadbolt
- Medic: ninjanick
Street Hoops are the little engine(s) that could. Coming all the way through Open and Main, to LAN in their very first season of Invite. Now, they're back once more. Last time, they were able to "upset" XTS to place 3rd. But things have changed since. Cozen joined a rival team, and that team went on to be undefeated during the regular season. Will the boys on 20b be able to bring about another strong showing?
The main superstars on this team are certainly grape and cyzer. Grape does massive work on Pocket and cyzer hardly needs any introduction. His Scout partner paragon had been somewhat hit or miss throughout the season but still put up impressive numbers alongside cyzer. I would consider deadbolt, ninjanick, and ash the weakest in their respective classes out of the 4 teams, but that doesn't mean they won't perform well. Ninjanick will be LAN rookie of the team, but he has experienced the LAN environment with the team during the October GXL / CEVO LAN. Given their past experience there and the preparations leading up to LAN, I asked grape about his expectations and how they'll perform as a team.
"Going in as fourth seed, it would be somewhat irrational to totally rule out the possibility of us getting fourth. At the same time, as a competitor I think we have the capability to really give any of these teams a run for their money, as long we go in with the right attitude and our DM is on point for the weekend in Dallas. We had some frustratingly close losses with eLevate at GXL and during the regular season, and given that they're the first seed in the tournament, I think we certainly have the capability to make a run for it. At the same time I think most people see us as underdogs, and it would be hard to disagree." - grape
Street Hoops certainly have the potential. Their regular season was crazy close, having 5 matches with a round difference of just 1, and many other close games. With GXL fresh on their minds, you bet they're looking for some overdue revenge.
Classic Mixup // Record: 11-5
- Scout: enigma
- Scout: arcticjoe
- Pocket: Platinum
- Roamer: harbleu
- Demoman: xalox
- Medic: indust
Mixup had the most tumultuous season by far. Their 11-5 record is their worst since S11, and they had to manage multiple roster changes (I lost track, but certainly more than 3) over the course of the regular season and made one final change to the roster you see above. Platinum and harbleu are reunited with the Soldier class and being both Soldiers on an iteration of Mixup since S14. Xalox and indust return to an ESEA LAN once more, while their newest member arcticjoe will be making his debut.
"Thing got busy for TLR in real life so he stepped down, the moves for Platinum / harbleu to Pocket / Roamer were only natural. Arcticjoe is someone we've shared a Mumble with for quite some time now, and he and I go way back. We used to play on the same Natural Selection team almost a decade ago. While we haven't had much time to play together and gel, we're all finally in a role we individually enjoy playing." - enigma
The case of arcticjoe is interesting (perhaps unique?) since (a) he last played actively for Wood Pig before they died and (b) he's the only player on the team without any previous LAN experience. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't think his performance come LAN will be the most crucial. Even though Platinum and harbleu have been away from Soldier for a few seasons, they've been there on that class before and are still LAN veterans. Also of note is that the last time Mixup brought LAN newbies was S11 with lansky and kbk. Whether or not arcticjoe will have a breakout LAN or underperform will surely have an impact on their team.
In light of the roster changes, what engima mentioned regarding classes is key. Harbleu is playing Roamer, a class he enjoys far more than Medic. Platinum is playing Pocket, a class he enjoys far more than Demoman. I remember a previous interview when harbleu was playing Scout and the members of Mixup were mentioning how they just enjoy playing TF2 again, because of the class changes. Combined with the raw experience this squad has, it'll be exciting to see how games develop for them this weekend.
Froyotech // Record: 14-2
- Scout: clckwrk
- Scout: b4nny
- Pocket: lansky
- Roamer: blaze
- Demoman: duwatna
- Medic: shade
Froyotech. Pretty much everyone knows every player on this team and they're nothing short of legends(?). Duwatna was the newest cog to the b4nny machine and fit in well, and the team continued to mostly dominate Invite, although they did drop 2 maps to eLevate during the regular season. Still, they toppted Mixup and Street Hoops, are the current world champions from i52, and the recent victors of CEVO / GXL. Who cares about not having a 4th perfect season if you're just gonna take all the titles.
What is there to talk about? Froyotech will sport the strongest flank this weekend, as clckwrk is nothing short of spectacular on LAN, while b4nny and blaze are always prepared to make crazy plays. Meanwhile, lansky and shade have never lost a LAN as a combo. However, I think the Demoman competition will be surprisingly fierce, as I can't pick a clear leader out of duwatna / xalox / Bdonski, though I have a slight favor towards Bdonski. Regardless, Froyotech are the favorites to win this ESEA LAN and continue to be the team to beat.
I wasn't able to get a quote or anything from blaze, but enjoy this classic instead.
eLevate TF2 // Record: 16-0
- Scout: alfa
- Scout: Decimate
- Pocket: rando
- Roamer: Ma3la
- Demoman: Bdonski
- Medic: cozen
Elevate are the 4th team in ESEA Invite history with a perfect regular season. They follow the likes of Check Six, Classic Mixup, and bp with a flawless 16-0 record and walk into LAN as the #1 seed. However, 16-0 isn't the end, but LAN performance and results. Can the eLevate squad rise to the challenge and acquire the true perfect season?
At a glance, I'd definitely say so. Cozen is a really good Medic, and combined with Bdonski and rando, their combo should be the one to beat. Decimate and alfa have proven they're a quality Scout pair and can match the clckwrk, enigma, and cyzer giants. They may not be flashy (when alfa isn't Sniping, at least) but they will be consistent. This time around, eLevate have a few more LANs under their belt and will have worked hard to remedy their past mistakes. I think the competition is just right where eLevate and push their way into the Grand Finals, and wash away the doubts that they're just an online team.
"I'd say we are as prepared as we an be, but there's always room for improvement and with that goal in mind we will keep trying to better our game in order to have an edge over the other teams. I think we'll perform better than we did at the other LANs purely because we finally got more used to the LAN setting and we know that if we are at the top of our game we can win in any situation. It's just a matter of doing the same things we do online at LAN, if we can transfer those skills and not succumb to the pressure, we should be more successful than the past LANs. Anything can happen at LAN so we will try our best to upset the favourites." - alfa
Upper Round 1
eLevate TF2 vs. Street Hoops Esports: A grudge match from S16 LAN right away, the new lineups go at it once more. Cozen having jumped ship while Big Brown comes to town. Cyzer should be the best Scout in this exchange, and I'd give the edge to the 20b flank, but rando and specifically Bdonski will be more than enough for grape and deadolt to handle. The pressure is on ninjanick to be slippery and put on his strongest farmer impersonation, because cozen will for sure be doing that all maps.
Froyotech vs. Classic Mixup: I really think this comes down to whether or not arcticjoe shows. If he does, Mixup should have relatively even footing If he doesn't, clckwrk and b4nny are going to give Mixup hell. Platinum vs. lansky is a Pocket matchup I've been dying to see, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that regard. Should arcticjoe slack, the plays will be on harbleu and enigma to be more destructive
Just so I have this noted before LAN begins, here are some of my (fun?) predictions for the overall event.
1. Froyotech // 2. eLevate TF2 // 3. Classic Mixup // 4. Street Hoops Esports
Even though Mixup is my favorite team, I'm going to go with my gut feeling and say that the Grand Finals will be Froyotech and eLevate, with Mixup having just come short against eLevate in the Lower Bracket. Street Hoops will put up a valiant effort but the other teams will be too much this time around.
Unfortunately, predicting statistics would be pointless as not all playtime would be equal. But what i can do, is predict the standout players / MVP at each respective class.
- Scout(s): clckwrk, enigma
- Pocket: grape
- Roamer: harbleu
- Demoman: Bdonski
- Medic: shade
I think it's hard for anyone to pick against clckwrk. Enigma is obnoxiously consistent with his performance and so will take the 2nd Scout spot. Everyone knows grape is really good but I think this is the LAN where we get blown away. The Roamer choice was difficult, as blaze is just really good but I think harbleu and his usual antics will be more effective (and certainly fun to watch). As mentioned earlier, the Demoman race is close but I'll give slight edge to Bdonski. Shade will be the best Medic almost without a doubt.
Finally, let's go for some completely arbitrary predictions.
- Most Headshots: paragon
- Most Uber Drops: shade
- Most Backcaps: b4nny
There you have it. Make sure to catch all the action this weekend, as we're sure to have a thrilling and exciting event! Good luck to all the teams and may the best team win.
Editor's Note: Sorry guys, this wasn't as well written and extravagant as I had originally planned. Having been busy kept me out of the Invite TF2 loop for a long while, not to mention missing GXL almost completely, so I didn't really know what to write.
Cover art by http://viewseps.deviantart.com/