Welcome back, ladies and gentlemen. Another season passed, culminating up to the pinnacle match of North American Highlander. ESEA LAN has just happened, leaving a sense of excitement and hype for a Grand Final that may attract less attention, but will certainly be more interesting.
For those out of touch or just tuning in, UGC’s Highlander (one of each class) season has arrived to its conclusion, with upper bracket team Kids Next Door taking on lower bracket team Menace To Society tonight at 9:30 EST in a series of games anywhere between two and six maps to decide who is the champion of the season.
Kids Next Door
|Kids Next Door
It used to be when you talked about the winners of Platinum, the same few names came up - stabbystabby/The Syndicate, Max!/Ginyu Force, Street Hoops. However, in a single season, Kids Next Door grabbed the attention of everyone, beating out Ginyu Force over three maps to claim a victory. Now it’s been proven that you don't have to stack, or even sprinkle, a team with Invite talent in order to get the gold, and knd. have every intention of proving it again.
Kids Next Door is quite possibly the best Highlander team to currently exist, and arguably in recent history as well. A look down the roster may not ring any bells for new players introduced to TF2 through the esea3 channel, but there is quite frankly no weak spot on this team. Even the oft-criticized Ibby, who probably hasn't run Scattergun more than ten times total in his history with knd., was an absolute monster against mTs last week in the Upper Bracket Grand Finals.
The team has amazing levels of coordination and synergy (matching avatars!), and have the DM and gamesense to back it up. They probably hold some record for least roster changes between seasons, losing only two of their mains between their last season and this one. Underestimating this team will only lead to terrible results, as they are beyond a doubt worthy of the crown, and all the praise given to them.
Menace To Society
|Menace To Society
Menace To Society, on the other hand, needs no introduction regardless of where you come from. Enigma is our lord and savior, m4risa hacks, and Harbleu spits on floors. Jokes aside, mTs has honed for themselves a reputation as one of the best teams in Platinum, although perhaps never quite the best when it comes to picking up the gold.
Regardless of previous performance, however, Menace To Society are just as likely to take the crown. All of their players have amazing experience, and some of them are arguably the best player of their class currently playing. If you’ve been in touch with Platinum for a bit now, or went on a trip looking at previous seasons of Platinum, the only name you might find foriegn is Giraffe, and that’s your loss - while being the only person who’s not quite played on a team at the highest levels of Highlander (highly debatable though), Giraffe is a fantastic player and strategist, and adding Harbleu to the midst, if they’re on the same page and can successfully organize their team in-game, it’ll be difficult to unravel that.
To save you all from reading an explanation of how the Grand Finals work while trying to read about the maps and matchups themselves, it’ll go here.
The maps will be Ashville (mTs’s pick), Upward (knd.’s pick) and Viaduct (default 3rd map). Ashville will be the first map played, with Kids Next Door picking their preferred team color. Once one half is played (first to three), it moves onto Upward, with Menace To Society picking their preferred color. One half of offense/defense takes place, and if neither team has won both maps, Viaduct comes out, with Menace To Society picking the preferred color.
While KOTH and 5CP(not present) maps tend to not find themselves as affected by the Bo3 edits, Payload takes a huge hit, as the main system behind PL, allowing both teams to defend first, is thrown out the window with only one half being played.
Should mTs win twice today, the lower bracket place means they have to win another two maps on Thursday. If knd. win two maps, then that’s it and knd. win Platinum for the second time, and for the second time in a row. Viaduct will be used to see who wins twice today if each team win one of the two team-selected maps.
Map 1 - Ashville (mTs's pick)
Ashville is a black horse of a map, probably picked due to that factor and that mTs likely feels confident on KOTH maps in general. There’s not a whole lot to say about Ashville, as it came late in the season meaning the matchups then aren’t too useful when it comes to guessing what team has advantage on the map. Similarily, Ashville isn’t considered much of a staple HL map, and is certainly an interesting sight in the Grand Finals. Clearly the folks at mTs are confident in their ability to win, but knd. are no doubt eager to grab the victory as well, likely ending it there - unless they lose Upward, a certain possibility.
While the Demos and Snipers will no doubt be a dominant force on this map, a lot is on the flanks to make things happen, and there’s a reason that Ibby is hated or congratulated, depending on how you view his antics. Ashville seems like a fantastic map for the Soda Popper, which could certainly make life hell for the mTs players. mTs aren’t fools, however, and will most certainly have a plan in store to stop Ibby from stomping all over them, all while with a purple colored gun. 3-1 in favor of Menace To Society.
Map 2 - Upward (knd.'s pick)
What is there to say? Kids Next Door picked the map, they won against the same team just last week, and picked the same map last season in the Grand Finals. Clearly they’ve got some confidence in their skills on the map. Menace To Society, though, are not pushovers on this map, as they contested knd. well enough until the last minute, never once letting the map have an obvious victor until they failed a push on last with 10 seconds left on the clock. With mTs picking the color, and only one A/D cycle to be played, it’s entirely possible for mTs to win this game, and according to an AMA by Katsy?, Upward is a map mTs in general is confident on. However, knd. are incredibly strong and should take this map, but it’ll probably be the closest of the three.
If last week’s game is any indication, expect Ibby to do an absolute ton, despite having cart-pushing requirements. Scizor and m4risa will no doubt be major contributors to how the match goes, and depending on their individual countersniping game from last map, there may be some confidence going into Upward, but that could easily turn into hubris if someone picks up steam. Depending on key players like the Snipers, Engineers and Spies, and of course classes like Demoman and Medic, the game could easily go either way, and will likely be up for grabs until the very last second. 1-0 in favor of Kids Next Door.
Map 3 - Viaduct (Default Tiebreaker)
Assuming we do make it to Viaduct, this is the map that mTs will need to win to give themselves a chance. Should knd. win this map, that will be the definitive end to the season, and if mTs win, keep the dream alive another day (technically three). Viaduct has been a map that a lot of people think both teams will perform well on in general, and to be fair, in the top of Platinum that’s generally the case. Earlier in the season, knd. had the more difficult game on Viaduct, facing bote, who ended the season in 4th place, while mTs faced Tree Forest 2, who ended the season 4-6.
Both teams have plenty going for them on this map, between players like Giraffe, Ibby, m4risa, and Scizor, and a lot will come down to who outsnipes who and what team strategy works better, but expect a fantastic game nonetheless. 3-2 in favor of Kids Next Door.