Two months ago, it looked like this day would never come. I was definitely one of the skeptics; who could be optimistic and positive when faced with a $20,000 mountain to climb?
Well, myself and a legion of other TF2 players are going to feel the impact of a long-developing slap to our faces on Thursday, August 23rd at 7:10 AM when the flights for Platinum, PYYYOUR, b4nny, CyZeR, Shade, Tyrone, clockwork and Mackey roll into Birmingham Airport. Barring a catastrophic piloting error, they will get to set foot in England rather than Alabama.
No doubt the eXtelevision cameras will be on them from arrival to departure, trying to capture as much unique and interesting footage as they can for the eventual i46 documentary. These players have all experienced the ESEA LAN and the accompanying feeling of playing in front of hundreds of people while Counter-Strike players hurl racial slurs across the room at each other and Harbleu and Mackey get into screaming wars across the table. Will i46 be any different? Is there an adaptation that need be made by these players to keep level heads and steady hands as they fight it out to see whether Europe or the United Stares is the best Team Fortress nation? How will the differing format and the scheduling of the matches work for or against Leviathan Gaming's and Classic Mixup's favor?
To get the answers, I spoke to three of the most important people that Europe will be sending to i46: TCM Gaming's demoman, kaidus; Epsilon eSports TF2's Shintaz; and Multiplay employee-slash-TF2 tournament admin Tapley. Each of them contributed in their own way to helping me piece together this LAN preview, so when you inevitably find it to be an awful, lifeless article... please blame them instead of me!
Insomnia 46: Why Should We Care?
It was about three years ago when I first heard mention of American teams being sent over to Europe to compete in their big LAN events. Over that time period, Europeans have been enjoying a healthy serving of LANs – three Multiplay Insomnia events per year in loverly ol' England, trips to the harsh and cold Finnish air for the winter and summer Assembly events, The Community LAN organized by and for the community, even later adventures to MaXlan in France, and epic.FIVE's event in Staffordshire. That list fails to include the insanely long list of smaller Russian, French, Swedish, and Finnish LANs. Europe had it good for a long, long time; meanwhile we Americans would get really excited twice a year to watch four teams go play some playoffs at LAN in Dallas, TX.
But all of those events are in the past. The smaller venues still offer a bit of TF2 now and again, and Multiplay is always there with a TF2 tournament for the Insomnia Series... but the days of multinational “big” LAN events seem to be in the past for Europe. Many in the community worry that after Insomnia 46 passes, the biggest LAN event in TF2 history will also be the most destructive in TF2 history. Epsilon, Infused, TCM – will any of the big three remain after August 26th? With the long wait until the next LAN, and that LAN having no guarantee of being competitive or widely attended, what is there for Europeans to wait for?
On the other side of the globe, events such as the summer i-Series are severely lacking. These type of events draw in players, limited not only to competitive 6v6 players but public communities and the highlander teams as well. The exposure and the amount of growth it could stimulate is immense, but we were never lucky enough to have that. Alongside this was the constant debate about which teams were better between Europe and North America, with Dignitas, Pandemic, Epsilon,
compLexity, Classic Mixup, Leviathan/eMg/Quantic, and x6 all having had their names in the mix somewhere. But we've never gotten the chance to find out. Leviathan, under the eMg tag, played against FakkelBrigade ages ago but that was not the best against the best. We got closer with the recent show matches, pitting Leviathan against Epsilon and TCM against Mixup, but there were too many factors involved in online matches to conclusively settle anything.
Now, finally, we can pit our best against their best, Leviathan Gaming and Classic Mixup against Epsilon eSports, or against Infused, or against TCM. We finally get to know, in five days, thanks to the combined efforts of eXtelevision, VanillaTF2, the streamers from Leviathan and Mixup who brought so much attention to the cause, and the people organizing and casting the show matches and qualifiers. It took the biggest effort TF2 has ever seen to get twelve Americans across an ocean to play video games, and all thanks for it are owed to our very own community.
Insomnia 46: When Can I Watch?
As I mentioned, we 'mericans are used to a certain way of doing things. Four teams show up and battle it out three times a year with a winner's bracket and a loser's bracket to determine who our champion is. With over 400 players and an expected 64 teams in attendance at i46 all vying for a prize of £5000, playing through a straight bracket is a little more difficult. While most players will be arriving on the Thursday, the actual games should begin on Friday at around [b]18:00 GMT/1:00 PM EST/10:00 AM PST[/b]. The exact details will be determined once the sign-ups officially close, but this first set of play will be the Group Stages. Tapley does not yet know whether it will be four groups of sixteen or eight groups of eight, but the general way they lay out the groups is to keep as many of the top seeded teams away from each other as possible. All group stage games are meant to be played on the Friday, with last summer's final group stage games wrapping up well after midnight.
The map selection for the group stages will include:
⋅ cpbadlands ⋅ cpgranary ⋅ cpsnakewater ⋅ cpgullywashfinal1 ⋅ kothviaduct
From the group stages, the top two or four winners from each group will be advancing, slotting either 16 or 32 teams into the bracketed part of the event. Saturday is devoted entirely to the teams working their ways through this double elimination phase, with the bulk of the matches being one map affairs, again finishing up deep into the night. Events on this day will kick off at about [b]10:00 GMT/5:00 AM EST/2:00 AM PST[/b]. If games run too late into the night, teams may have the option of delaying them to the Sunday morning, and several of the later knockout games are kept for the Sunday as well (i.e. the game which determines who moves out of the loser's bracket). Once we hit these final knockout games, the format transitions to best-of-three instead of one map only.
The map selection for the knockout stages and grand finals will include:
⋅ cpbadlands ⋅ cpgranary ⋅ cpsnakewater ⋅ cpgullywashfinal1 ⋅ cpgravelpit
Any undecided knockout matches to be played on the Sunday will start at [b]10:00 GMT/5:00 AM EST/2:00 AM PST[/b]. The grand finals will take place on Sunday, August 26th, starting at roughly [b]17:00 GMT/12:00 PM EST/9:00 AM PST[/b]. Coverage for the entire event will be provided by the boys over at VanillaTV, featuring casting from Pledge, Skully, AcidReniX, Beta, Comedian, and ETF2L's caster of the season Admirable, with camerawork provided by Comedian, Skyride, and Beta.
Insomnia 46: Who Should I Watch?
Okay, now that all of that is out of the way, we can be honest with each other – you guys want to read about the top teams and the top players. You were interested in the format and the start times, and now you want to hear all of the personal details of the top European teams so that you can have appropriate mocking comments to spam in the SourceTV chat. I will be covering the top eight teams here; these are not the official seeds, as those will be done by Tapley once he knows who all has signed up. Instead, this is my personal list of the top eight teams and a little bit of information about each of them.
EPSILON eSPORTSAnders “F2” Carstensen Jean Louis “Knoxxx” Boyerim Tim “GeaR” Glöckler Tomas “Extremer” Astrauskas Patrick “Shintaz” Panebianco Stefan “schocky” Berends
The perpetually inactive kings of European TF2 are back once more to exhibit their dominance over a summer LAN. The last time they lost a major competition, it was an ETF2L Grand Finals to Team Infused. As best I can recall, they are undefeated at LAN since losing to Team Dignitas at i40. You would think that at some point, their inactivity would come back to bite them in the ass but it never, ever has. They will begin practicing for the LAN on Monday and play through the Wednesday before heading off to LAN. GeaR was recently “missing,” having been offline for three weeks, but again – this team is used to shaking off the rust by now. So much of what they do revolves around how strong of a main caller Knoxxx is. Shintaz recently returned to active duty and was, by his own admission, fairly unfamiliar with Snakewater. He told me that Knoxxx basically just told him everything to do and how to do it and when, and Shintaz ended up as the top fragger in the game and being Epsilon's star player. Knoxxx's DM is not the best and nobody is particularly scared of fighting him in a one-on-one, but the idea that his calls make up for it actually seems to be true.
CLASSIC MIXUPBrad “PYYYOUR” Ross Tyler “TLR” Morgan Anthony “Harbleu” Ballo Mike “Platinum” Miles Sven “Ruwin” Zobler Carl “enigma” Yangsheng
Having now written articles for Mixup's show match exhibition, for their first week of ESEA's matches, and for the Invite preview, I have run out of things to gush about with this team. My biggest worries for their LAN play are how well they hold up “mentally.” Mentally is definitely not the right word, but I have no idea what would be. About half of the team (PYYYOUR, Harbleu, Ruwin) is known for going on-tilt fairly easily in high pressure situations and the last LAN performance for PYYYOUR and Harbleu was a repeat of that. But think about all the matches and all the LANs that have happened in the past – Blaze was a choker, cyzer was a choker, TLR was a trophy thief. All it takes is one successful LAN to erase everything bad that your past has ever held and Mixup are well-equipped to make this their one great LAN.
LEVIATHAN GAMINGDante “Shade” Funari Tyrone “enoryt” Wang Kevin “mackey” Mackey Grant “B4nny” Vincent Paul “Cyzer” Sandhu Matt “Clockwork” Dias
And once more, how much more can I say about a team that I have talked up so much? I can provide a little bit of European insider insight here – many Prem players think that LG just are not that great. B4nny is obviously impressive and there is not a man alive who can deny clockwork's top scout play, but LG seems to be at its worst when facing teams who have great teamwork. When games come down to b4nny and clockwork versus six coordinated people, the odds are always going to be in the other team's favor, with the LG wins coming out of play above-and-beyond expectation. While the joke is that Europe has always had bad or inferior soldiers, the soldiers in the other top five teams are all quite skilled and LG are going to be at a severe disadvantage with the recently unretired Mackey and the... whatever the hell Tyrone is these days.
TCM GAMINGAhmad “Byte” Fansa Jani “Hocz” Laakkonen Sebastian “Zebbosai” Olsson Jason “kaidus” Allen Kalle “hymzi” Honkala Jukka “Rebeli” Kauppinen
If this were any other part of 2012, I would have put TCM at least one spot higher. As is, I might want to drop them down a notch or two. Zebbosai came on strong this season as maybe the Premiership's top roamer and received plenty of acclaim for his play, but the big star of TCM is kaidus, who just creates so much space for the rest of his team. The big problem is that kaidus recently re-aggravated his Repetitive Stress Injury and is having some trouble with his wrist. He dealt with the RSI once before, but his play was severely hampered by it. While meaning no disrespect to the rest of TCM's roster, it is clear that as kaidus goes, so does the team. The rest of the team has enough of a blend of DM and smarts to stay near the top, but I think they sadly find themselves “near” and not “at.”
TEAM INFUSEDDuncan “dunc” Wraight Alex “Hat” Melia Rauli “Darn” Savela Seb “numlocked” Barton Tony “cookye” Hänninen Björn “bybben” Anderson
Much like with TCM, Team Infused could have been anywhere from one through four depending on what time of year you ranked them at. Their roster underwent a ton of changes this season, as Fisshu, Mike, and Flisko all departed to be replaced by bybben, Darn, and Hat. Darn and bybben are obviously the old school legends of TF2 and everyone was so excited to see them back. Apparently Darn has taken over main calling duties for the team now, which has proven to be a bit of an issue. In many ways, Darn's in-game style is taken straight out of 2009, when he was at his most dominant. Cookye and bybben can contest for being the best scout pair at this LAN and do a ton of initial damage and open up space on middles, but the support for that just never seems to come out of numlocked or the soldiers. An issue like that seems a small one to fix, but Infused have been playing the same style and under the same main caller for so long now that it might be too lengthy of a transition to get them up to par with the top four.
QUARANTINEPatrick “Kritzonite” Spence Henrik “Knutsson” Knutsson Mike “Mike” Adams Jamie “fuo” Woods Greg “Greg” Bushell Simon “BeaverN” Sjosten
Quarantine with their full lineup could pull off a few upsets at LAN and maybe even breach the final four. With Boomeh out for personal reasons and Nace gone because he... er... has a broken washing machine? That is the dude's actual excuse. I know I have not taken many chances to be funny or insulting or anything in this article, but damn dude, there are literally trillions of better lies to tell than that. In their places will be Quarantine's backup soldier, Knutsson and former Infused scout Greg. The Infused flank duo of Greg and Mike will be able to make some plays, and BeaverN is considered one of the best tracking/aiming scouts in Europe, but fielding an incomplete lineup just dampens their chances far too greatly.
PUNCHLINEPierre “k3” Olivier Pierre “Captainhax” BBayon Théo “Tek” Guillebaud Aurelien “Flinn” Wulsztat Hugo “Flippy” Perhirin Clément “Plapla” Lerat
This is another team who have some “wasted” potential; Punchline finished highly in the Premiership this season and were showing signs of great improvement. And then they took a two month break after their final game and have apparently not played a single map since. Tek is one of the best roamers in Prem and Flippy's sniping skills are legendary, but I think Punchline will mostly be using this LAN to have a good time and prove that their playoff appearance in Prem was not a fluke, rather than trying to compete for one of the top finishes.
TEAM DECERTOPeter “ilike2spin” Bradford Joonatan “Snyyppis” Mero Jack “jakle” Lee Chris “WAR” Parker Luke “Stark” Hageman Peder “crouton” Holterman Solland
Joining the list of teams making recent roster changes is Team Decerto. Crouton will be replacing Tack, who has a broken arm and is unable to use his mouse hand for much of anything. These guys are going to be the new addition to Prem next season, having won their way via promotion from division one. Stark has made a pretty big rise this past season, going from a complete unknown to being one of the Team England starting scouts. WAR has been getting attention from Prem teams for quite a while now and is fresh off of an i45 grand finals appearance, and he no doubt wants to prove that his play there was not a fluke.
Insomnia 46: Following the Action
If you guys want to tune in to any of the streams or get written updates live from on-site at i46, there are a number of places you can go. First off, the VanillaTV guys have their affairs well in order and you can find them at any of these links:
If you want to just watch the streams, you can do so right here on TeamFortress.TV! Stream statuses are updated once a minute so that you will always know right when the casts have gone live. The action will be live from Friday morning through Sunday afternoon, so make sure to tune in and support this game and all the effort that we put in to get these teams over to Europe!