disclaimer: I didn't have time to proof-read or check over much of the article, but wanted to get it up for you guys. I will do my checking later when I get home from work.
Well, we have finally reached the tipping point: the half season marker. For the teams that have had to navigate through the rough seas and choppy water of a difficult and unlucky first half, you may be able to breathe easier. The rest of the season should have close games, interesting matchups and plenty to talk about.
Unfortunately, ESEA did not release the remainder of the season's matchups, so it will be difficult to assess a team's schedule difficulty until the very end, but there should be enough data already to give everyone a rudimentary idea of who will join the gauntlet of post-season and who will be left behind to try again this spring/summer.
This week sees us on the dusty, sand blown arena of cp_gullywash. This map lends itself to slower play and teams that can coordinate actions on all sides of the relatively large map. Flanks are a long way away from the main holding chokes for teams, and typically unable to be easily seen from one another, so everyone will need to be on their calling and awareness game or risk their flank being wiped before their combo can respond. Last pushes are also a point of contention, with a relatively easy to defend last and a long walk out to second, teams will need to be on their game, and medics ready to bail out of mids, if teams want to be able to recover from a middle fight gone horribly wrong.
I wish to pre-emptively apologize for how late this article got out, its been a busy week for me, and there was a lot I wanted to put into this article, so it took even longer than usual. I hope the content makes up for it.
Animus Victoria (formerly No Need For Names) must love being in this section of the writeups, as they again have a change to make, this time by dropping their scout Leaky for Namlay. On the one hand, I understand this move. Namlay is an accomplished player, having spent 5 seasons in Intermediate and even hanging with the Main/Invite crowd on a few occasions. He was on the S15 Animus Victoria with Blackymonster, Blew and Kraka, so he should feel right at home in their mumble and their plays.
On the other hand, Leaky was far from the weakest player on this team, so the decision to cut him instead of another player is a curious one. This new roster of Animus Victoria is the best iteration yet, with several powerhouse players on their respective classes and an excellent shot at taking a prize-awarding spot come the end of playoffs. Only time will tell.
I am not really sure what happened with the Virgin Police this week. Did they cut spadez? Moved him to backup? He is still paid up on their roster, but on viaduct, they picked up super-star ex-invite scout carnage to wreak havoc upon their enemies. Carnage played 9 seasons in a row on what were top teams at the time, including 9 LAN appearances (I don't know for sure, but I suspect that might qualify him for most LAN appearances, or at least close to it). I am not sure how this will play out for Virgin Police, a great deal of their success will ride on just how washed up the green-hatted legend has become. Will the Virgin Police be able to pull their game together for the off season or will they be left brown bagging and pissed, sitting 2-0 in playoffs?
New Team Spotlight: Just Greatness
This week on our new team spotlight, I feature a team that has had relative success in the league so far. The name might be familiar to those who follow the UGC team, but rest assured that the only things Just Greatness in ESEA has with their superstar UGC lineup is the name and team captain XCV.
Perhaps the success of the UGC roster has rubbed off on XCV, or maybe it is the calm cool certainty of victory that Cafe Monster's players can bring to a mumble. Whatever it is, throughout the interview, XCV and Chigga exuded an almost hubric confidence. No audio this week, the team instead opted to craft their answers carefully through text chat, the entirety of which is posted here with editing only for format and spelling.
Thanks for taking the time to sit for an interview. Why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself and your team?
I've been running ^Greatness for about 4 seasons now. The team started off with a good friend of mine, yomps, who now plays in IM and is one of the starting Scouts for cafe monster. Overtime, the team wanted to build the basic idea of constantly improving and becoming a family. We've had a ton of roster changes from when ^Greatness was in Steel to Platinum and Open. Chigga and I have been really focused on improving the team overall since we decided to give open a shot
So walk me through your roster for this season. How much experience does everyone on your team have? Is everyone's skill level relatively even, or are there skill disparities between the players?
Most of the players on this roster are relatively new to playing at this level. Our recent pickup, deetr, who was the medic for Goldman Sachs before the team disbanded currently has the highest level of experience. In regards to the amount of seasons each one of our members participated in, I'm currently holding that title. This team is mostly evenly skilled. We had a rough start to the season due to some issues with a huge gap between skilled players.
Yeah, your roster history is actually pretty interesting, for such a new team, there is a lot of activity in the last two months. smitherz, gr8stalin, and a few others have joined and left your roster. Were there some growing pains, or problems with meshing and finding the right chemistry and dynamic you wanted for your team?
There was a point in time before the season started where we were running out of options on who to roster on the team. Certain players were cut from the roster because of their toxic behavior and the negative energy they brought to the team. Although it was a major sacrifice to cut players from the roster, I would have to say it turned out well in the end because this team feels more like a family versus anything else. We all have fun playing together and I noticed a significant increase in how much heart and willpower we put into our matches because of that. The results from dropping the negative players was seen instantly. Scrims and matches were played out more smoothly and everyone feels like they want to be here rather than being forced to scrim.
I completely understand that, sometimes you have to make those hard decisions to improve the fun you and your team is having in a game.
Overall, ^Greatness is a team that is mostly playing in all formats. We currently have an undefeated 6v6 (http://www.ugcleague.com/team_page.cfm?clan_id=11931) and HL (http://www.ugcleague.com/team_page.cfm?clan_id=14680) team in UGC. It's extremely difficult to commit so much time into running the different teams. At the end of the day, these hard decisions that I make turn out well in the long run. We've had issues from people committing to other activities instead of showing up to scrims to people creating problems when the team is enjoying themselves because they're not part of the fun. Chigga and I don't have much tolerance for that and we have no problem letting people go. Each player that are involved in ^Greatness is part of the family and we have a blast being together.
Moving away from roster concerns, lets talk about your current season. After a pair of losses to sock condoms (over an hour long match) and malicious activity on snakewater, you guys recovered to win 4 of your next 6 matches. This includes a win against lolis in space, a team that probably isnt a top 16, but could find themselves in the top 20 depending on schedule. How do you feel your team has progressed since the beginning of the season and how do you think you will proceed through the next four weeks?
Now looking back at it, I'm not really surprised we lost to both of those teams when we basically had 5 players actively playing. The stats really speak for themselves. It took several of our players a while to shake off how we could of came out with both wins. But at the end of the day, nobody can really change what happened. The reason why we recovered was because we had that extra firepower. I think now that we have solidified our roster, everything is going to go a bit easier. I'm really happy with our line-up the way it is right now and can only expect good things to come out of it.
I'm going to press you for a more concrete answer. You play Uncle Drew Fanclub and Dedoris this week. Looking at your win history, these matches shouldn't be too hard for you guys. Are you expecting a 5-0 roll or maybe closer games? How do you think you guys will stand come the end of season, bearing in mind that if you win all four of your currently matched up games, you will probably play against some of the harder teams in the league.
With our current line-up, I feel we can definitely take on these tier 5 teams and roll them. We are capable of taking on the harder teams and making it a really close game, if not a win. We just need to stay on top of things and keep our momentum rolling.
Ouch. With an even record so far, a 12-4 season isn't impossible for you guys, and that would definitely put you firmly into playoff territory. Do you think you guys could be in the top 16 come the end of season, or is that a pipe dream?
I wouldn't say its either things. We will probably be in the brim of making it into playoffs but who knows if some unforeseen circumstances will not allow us to do so. Realistically, we could be a top 20 team.
Those are still pretty lofty goals for a team that has only just started open this season. What do you attribute your relative success to?
We all play with one common goal in mind and that's to get better. Scrims are more like friends playing together trying to get better, if someone offers advice to another, there is no tension at all. The friendly environment we have has contributed a lot in my opinion as well as everyone willing to listen to criticism and apply it.
Overall, do you guys feel that playing in ESEA this season was worth it? Do you feel as if you have improved as a team far more than you would have, say, in just UGC?
Playing in ESEA has definitely helped us because we have been able to play against teams that are in the same situation as us in the sense that this is their first season playing in ESEA. Looking over quickly at the teams that are in the highest level of UGC play, we could not really have improved at all. With ESEA, having to pay a fee, makes the person feel more accountable for their actions. In UGC if you don't feel like, you just don't show up and there isn't much weight to it. However, having to pay for league fees and premium fees makes the person a little more responsible and is worth it because you are motivated to work harder for the money you put in.
Do you have any advice for new teams coming into ESEA for the first time? What do you wish you had done to make your first season easier or better?
Considering how many changes we made to our roster, we actually have a list of suggestions to any new teams in ESEA. The most important one is to avoid having a rapper on the team who constantly talks about his or her mixtape. Make your availability known to your team so that they know when to expect you to be there and can accommodate to it. Not everything is going to go perfect, but people need to learn how to work around their given circumstances and not let them discourage them if the outcome isn't the one they expected. The experience is over all worth it if you can find the correct group of people to stick with.
Well thank you for your time XCV, good luck to you and your team for the duration of the season. Maybe we will see you in playoffs!
Useless Statistics: Capture Points Captured
I really enjoyed putting together the statistics on damage output per point of health received last week. Stats can be a useful tool, or a complete red-herring. Last week I promised a match breakdown on viaduct, but a combination of the match I was wanting to cover not having an stv demo available on ESEA's site and not really having the time to dedicate to writeups this week. So today's stats are neither of those things. Instead I thought we could take a look at a useless, meaningless, but fun statistic: Capture point Captures over time.
Most important to note is how I decided to display this data. You see, some scouts are determined to get the most capture points captured in the league, but really, the important statistic is how many capture points you get per minute. In this category, we see a certain avian capture enthusiast actually coming second in the league, behind Seendio scout Asianriceguy. I predict that as the season heats up and Night Owls plays against harder teams, Owl will end up pulling ahead in this category. Close games offer more opportunities for points to be captured, and an enterprising scout with a goal in mind could certainly walk away with enough caps to top the league.
Like I said, this week is a little light in the meaning and interestingness of statistics. I have something extra-special planned for next week.
Match Preview: Week 5
We go from slim pickings in the world of good matches straight into what I would call a target rich environment. There will be a TON of close matches this week, and moving forward through the rest of the season. I do want to address the reason that I don't do a top 10 or top 16 week after week: they are boring and I am not good at them. It is hard to rank some of these teams. To what extent does high level DM outshine solid teamwork and maneuvering at this level? How much can we expect from each player on the various maps when they may not have the same base of experience to draw off?
The other reason is this: aside from the Muffin Men, none of the top tier teams have had anything even approaching a difficult schedule. This means, from a matches and stats point of view, I have no data to go off of.
There were almost certainly more matches I could have talked about for this week, but I decided to keep it pared down somewhat. I ended up deciding on the 6 best matches featuring 8-0 teams, but there are at least 6 more matches that are worth writing about and watching if one were to have the time. To the teams I short shifted, my apologies, but you will get the chance to shine once playoffs come around the bend and I basically have to talk about every match. The following matches are all between top 16 teams and will help be predictors of what the season is going to look like at the very end. For some teams, this will be their first loss, others will have the chance to prove themselves the dominators of the league. Also note that in the table above, you can click on a matchup to be taken directly to that part of the article.
Well it sure took long enough. Five weeks into the season and only now am I featuring Seendio in a match of the week. The reason for this is clear. So far, Seendio is the only team to not drop a single round. With only one forfeit win this past week on viaduct, Seendio has an astonishing 34 rounds played without losing a single one and I bet that, if one were to watch all the demos, all their mids would be clear victories as well. One thing is certain though. Seendio's free ride is over. All that remains to be seen is how they will fare once the heat gets turned on. And we could not ask for a better matchup than Animus Victoria
Animus Victoria (formerly No Need for Names) is the team I thought would be contesting Seendio all the way to the top. And in some ways, I still think that is possible. If we look at their roster, we can see plenty of talent waiting to be released in blew, namlay and Fearless. Losing TicTack may have been a harsh blow to the sheer fragging power of this team, but looking around at the other teams, I don't see many players that can really stand up to them on the MGE plate.
One team, however, where I do not feel this is an apt comparison is in Seendio. Smile has this unique ability to turn everything in front of him into a fine mist of red goodness, and that which does not die to his domination are easily cleaned up by two incredible scouts in Antwan and Asianriceguy. In fact, it is in this scout pairing that I feel most of the difference will become clear. Namlay is a good scout for sure, but bunny is not nearly so impressive, and I don't think either of them can hold a candle to the performance the alliterative duo from Seendio will be able to give in this match.
Look for some amazing plays on each side here, Fearless is going to have a hard time getting on caboose here on gullywash, and the ability to churn out amazing uber after amazing uber on smile may hand Seendio a victory on a plate wrought of the finest gold in the land. Ultimately, I feel that Animus Victoria may not be able to live up to the hype I have been giving them this season. Seendio will definitely have their no rounds lost streak broken, but this is currently their biggest hurdle to a 16-0 season and, from here anwyway, it looks like just a little crack in the road, barely worth slowing down for. A long 5-2 Seendio
Do you smell that? Either someone just shit themselves or that is just the smell of fear. The harder of the two match-ups for Guado Glories cum I AM NOT BILLUSTER, this will truly give us an idea of where the two teams stand side by side. Guado Glories is an easy team to pass by. At first glance, it is unclear where their place should be in the overall rankings. They have a talented and confident medic in overseer, for whom playing under pressure should be no stranger after s14 in invite and two seasons in IM playoffs. Giraffe's interests include long walks on a mine infested beach and outputting large amounts of damage and linkuser and arekk are also ready and willing to put their team in a backpack and take the enemies to school. With such confident and powerful players, it is little wonder they were able to take out The Muffin Men 5-3 way back in process.
But the season has changed since week two, and if they want to continue to assert their dominance, they will need to put up a good fight here. I think Guado Glories is the biggest challenge that Seendio will face this season, and the opposite is most definitely true. I just extolled Seendio's virtues, but I think where they will really shine against the Glories is in their transition phases between fights. Both teams have competent combos that will keep the enemy team at bay long enough to get fair exchanges in, but the cleanup crew in Antwan and ARG is going to really put a damper in the chances of our underdog team. That post uber phase is critical on any map, but in this matchup, where even uber fights and trades will flow frequently, it really will all come down to the discipline and fragging ability of the scouts to determine victory.
Look for Guado Glories to make Seendio work for their 16-0 here this week. Especially keep your eye on air and smile, each determined to put out tons of damage and work. Giraffe will have a challenge at mids in red, but with some solid tactics and a good supporting lineup, even a few of those coveted early round fights can go their way. At the end of the game (quite possibly going all the way to an hour), look for a battered Seendio to pull ahead a victory, but lose the most rounds to a single team they will until off season. 5-3 Seendio
Two more teams with 8-0 records, two more teams looking to hold on to that perfect streak. This will be an excellent place for a scrappy Night Owls to prove that their stupidly easy first half of the season doesn't mean they can't hang with the big boys. bwatbwatbwat has a bit of work to do themselves, dropping rounds to Monkey Madness and Red Hot Digi Peppers on process doesn't bode well for the team, although an easy 5-0 against Victorious Secret restored a little of my faith. Each of these teams has a few star players on their team that will really need to be on their game in order to do the work needed to secure that W.
On one side of the field, n00biesn00biesn00bies has a ferocious demoman always ready for action (and pipe frags) against anyone who stands in his way. This may attribute to their struggles on process, a map traditionally favoring scouts over demos. I don't think n00bies will have this problem on gullywash, which isn't traditionally a super demoman heavy map, but one in which the spam heavy class can set up the angles and distances and control the engagements much easier. This will play in the favor of bwatbwatbwat and their strong scouts, especially in Salmonbun, who is always ready to clean up on that damage.
Kicking dirt on the other end of the pitch, Night Owls has been less giving with their rounds, only dropping two to ^Greatness and a couple single rounds here and there. But honestly, these are all teams Night Owls should be 5-0ing, and the same thing applies here to them. Up until now, there has been nothing standing in their way of wins except themselves, but here this week, everything needs to be out on the table if either team wants a win. Air shows up every game and keeps his team moving forward with strong ubers and testify has proven himself quite tenacious, able to overcome the strain that having a medic main as a scout partner can bring. What remains to be seen is whether or not bwatbwatbwat will be able to poke and prod at Night Owls and ruffle the feathers of their flank in order to make plays.
Overall, I think bwatbwatbwat can beat Night Owls pretty solidly here, if they don't trip over themselves along the way. Their combo should be more reactive and capable, and this will serve them well if they can rotate heals and heavy classes onto the wide open flank of gullywash to bully out the relatively fragile scouts. At the end of this match, I feel that the only number going up for Night Owls will be their namesake scout's capture point record (most in open buddy!). 5-2 bwatbwatbwat
ESEA seems to have a little bit of an 8-0 undefeated round robin going on here, a very good tactic to see just who can rise to the top. Of the 6 teams with a perfect record so far this season, I can't help but feel that SYOPS is among the weaker of the crowd. Though their power comes from a well rounded lineup with decent experience and solid team dynamics, I don't think that can hold up to the strength of a team like Animus Victoria and their roster of strong fraggers.
The real challenge for SYOPS is going to come from fatigue. They play Animus late, and after a double header. This is the more challenging by far of their two matches, and exhaustion may come into play. If they start scrimming at 9pm EST, they may not finish their night until 1am, a full 4 hours later. That is a long time to be on your A-game, mentally and physically and I can't help but feel it may take its toll on the SYOPS squad. This match will come down to whether or not SYOPS has an answer for the strong soldiers on Animus Victoria. While neither blew nor Fearless are a TicTack level presence, they are still more than able to put in the necessary work to guide a team to victory. Combine that with a strong, if new to the roster, scout in namlay who will likely be getting a lot of heals from Blackymonster, and this match looks really good for AV. 5-2 Animus Victoria
The first of the two matches for SYOPS TF2 on Wednesday night should go a little better for the team. Blanc Esports is having a good season. Their record was a little harder than most teams at this level, and they met their two serious matches well, with a 2-5 loss to Muffin Men and a 0-4 win against Squid Squad on metalworks. Their loss to The Muffin Men may seem a foreboding sign, but to me it just indicates that the team has a lot of potential. I see the Muffin Men as a much harder team to face off against than SYOPS, and if they were able to shut the former out of two rounds, the latter should be able to yield more.
Wednesday is going to be a good night for Blanc to be on their game and in their best form. Avast is capable of putting out the damage needed and dango and MentalVortex are good scouts that should be able to hold their own against dflame and Soarex. The biggest challenge I forsee for Blanc will be in converting their picks into successful pushes. Mid on gully is traditionally a hard mid to hold on to, popping into the point often allows the enemy medic to escape unharmed and ready to re-engage with their advantage. Strong soldier play from SpaceCadet and Noumenon will be vital to this team's success. At the end of the second half, however, I just think the DM, experience and power from SYOPS will overwhelm Blanc, leaving them with a second loss in this first week of real play. 5-2 SYOPS TF2
The final of the 8-0 guantlet matches that I am featuring this week, bwatbwatbwat and Guado Glories are both looking to keep their perfect record. Unfortunately for both teams, I just don't see that happening. Instead, each team will likely be looking at badlands week with a very respectable 9-1. Fortunately for the teams featured so far in the writeup, a playoff spot is all but guaranteed (I am unsure if an even record will be enough, but my gut feeling without doing the math is that at least a 10-6 will be needed).
So either way, these two teams have to be feeling pretty good (well lucky, but rather be lucky than good), but both should still be gearing up to fight over the chance to hold on to their perfect record. Of these two teams, bwatbwatbwat has the best chance. They don't have to face off against Seendio this week, a lucky break that ends next week. The only thing standing in their way is Guado Glories, and I really don't see the Glories backing down to this pressure.
The only category I really see bwatbwatbwat having a clear advantage over Guado Glories is in their demomen. Giraffe is a strong player for sure, but his command of movement at mids is what really gives bwatbwatbwat their power. Then, once they transition from mids to pushes, arekk and linkuser should be ready to contest Salmonbun and whatever scout they play with this week over the cleanup frags. bwatbwatbwat just has too many variables coming into play for them for me to call this in their favor. One win and one loss for each of these teams this week seems overwhelmingly. Though there ought to be a couple rounds of back and forth as bwatbwatbwat grapples for footing on the slow, inevitable rockslide of defeat, Guado Glories should be able to take this win home and leave both teams 1 game shy of those 10 wins. 5-2 Guado Glories
That's it for this time. Again, there are tons of excellent matches this week and the competition is heating up. The seeds in the top half and the seats themselves in the bottom half of the top 16 are all up for grabs. Seendio seems indominatable upon their throne made of skill, but anything below that is anyone's game. Teams looking upwards at the top 16 should not cede hope as we round out the season. Many teams with easy schedules the first half will quickly find themselves under water and struggling to breathe against the pressure of a dozen mid/high open teams. All of them want the chance to play for cash and IM spots in Season 19. Best of luck to everyone out there.