Day two has just wrapped up here in Atlanta, at the Smite World Championships, and I have to report: no big surprises yet. We’ll get into today’s matches in a minute, I just want to give a general overview of the tourney so far, and that overview is: while fan excitement and enthusiasm is up from last year, over the first two rounds nearly all the favorites have won (and handily) and, just like last year, all the non-NA/EU teams are out. That is so sad, I really had hoped that, with another year under their belts, the Chinese, Latin American, Brazilian and Oceanic teams would have some impact on this years Semi-Final and Final. Alas, it is simply not to be, the established teams, with their tested and true meta-game, have proven to be unassailable.
Anyway, on to the matches.
The day opened with the first place qualifier from the EU, Paradigm, playing one of the two Chinese teams, OMGB. As this match started, I was pleasantly surprised when OMGB took First Blood! And then Second Blood! Maybe this would be the breakthrough moment for Chinese Smiters? Ten minutes later Paradigm had evened the score, and the two teams were battling, seemingly on equal terms. Unfortunately the Chinese team couldn’t maintain that pace, and by the fourteen minute mark, Paradigm had established firm control. Two deicides and ten minutes later and Paradigm took down the Titan to win game one.
Game two wasn’t nearly as close, Paradigm had steadied their nerves from the first game, and scored a very fast First Blood, 30 seconds into game two. Paradigm parlays this early lead, along with steady pressure across the map, into a rather easy game two win, taking the match two games to none. And just like that, one of the two remaining Chinese teams would be going home.
The second match of the day pitted Enemy (NA) against Pain Gaming (BRA). Enemy was considered by most to be the favorite in this match-up, but Pain had put on a very impressive showing on day one, playing Epsilon even up for about twenty minutes before they folded under the pressure. First Blood goes to Pain Gaming, but Enemy answers right back, and the score is 1-1 after five minutes, and 3-3 after ten minutes. Things start to go wrong for Pain at about thirteen minutes in, when they over-commit to score a kill on the Gold Fury, but they trade two kills and two towers for it, putting themselves in a deep hole. It is now becoming apparent that Pain doesn’t know how to handle Serqet and her poison attacks, losing player after player to her stings. After twenty minutes the kill count is 12-3, and a few minutes after that Enemy drops the opposing Titan, taking the first game.
The second game goes much as the first, Pain takes First Blood, before Enemy begins turning the tide. Enemy’s edge in experience, and skill at the Pick/ban phase of the game starts to show, Enemy is ahead 6-2 by the sixteen minute mark, and close it out shortly after, winning game two, and thus the match, 2-0. The Brazilians play valiantly, but in the end their lack of high-end competitive experience costs them, though I do expect we will see them again in the future, their mechanics were very tight, and they seemed to be learning throughout the tournament.
Next up is Cloud 9, one of the tournament favorites, from North America, up against the last Chinese team remaining, the QG Reapers. This will be the shortest and simplest recap, as the Chinese team is totally outclassed by the Americans. Both games play out exactly the same, the Chinese team is down five kills to none in under five minutes, and the Cloud 9 boys never look back taking the first game 30-6 and the second game 19-1, thus ending the tournament for the second Chinese team, and also eliminating the final non-EU/NA team, ensuring an all EU/NA semi-final. Cloud 9 really looks unstoppable, like they are playing on a whole different level.
The final match of the day will pit two EU teams against each other, Epsilon, who went 27-1 during the SPL Fall Split, and Fnatic, who are the longest tenured team in the Smite Pro Leagues. These two teams are long-time scrim partners, and know each other exceedingly well. Having said that, I am sure they both have saved some pocket strats for just such an occasion as this, and we will see those tricks of the trade shortly.
In the first game, the teams open slowly and carefully, each mirroring the actions of the other. First Blood goes to Fnatic, more than ten minutes in. The score is 4-2 after seventeen minutes, and 6-4 after twenty-two minutes, but Epsilon is looking stronger and stronger. At twenty-nine minutes the kill score is 6-6, but Epsilon has established a very solid gold lead, and is looking better and better. Epsilon secures the Fire Giant buff at thirty-one minutes, and uses that victory as a springboard to a Titan kill and game one is in the books as an Epsilon win at around thirty-seven minutes. Easily the closest game of the day, and most fun to watch.
Game two has Fnatic fighting for thir tournament lives, but, as is often the case, the loss in game one has really boosted Epsilon’s confidence and their performance. Epsilon scores First Blood a little over one minute into the game, which solidly puts them in the driver’s seat for the rest of the short-lived match. Epsilon goes up 4-2, then 7-3, then 12-3 in the span of thirteen minutes. Fnatic just can’t seem to stem the flow of blood, and they drop game two, and the match, not long after.
This sets up an epic match for tomorrow between Cloud 9, from North America, and Epsilon, from the European Union, a true battle of the Titans, and a match between North American dark horse Enemy and the top seed from the EU, Paradigm. Tomorrow’s matches are best-of-five and the first match, Paradigm vs Enemy, start around 11:00 AM.