Are you excited for i49? Are you travelling thousands of miles to play video games and compete against the best players from 3 different continents? Going to Telford, United Kingdom to drink and play video games? Enjoy reading obnoxious, scandalous and smug predictions by a man about as qualified to judge you as a chain smoking, alcoholic obese doctor? Then read on as I aim to stir up more debate than a ‘who has the nicest hat’ debate on r/tf2 – it sure ain’t a Purple Gibus folks.
Last summer, before the start of the insomnia-46 event, I wrote a prediction article giving you 10 reasons why Americans will dominate our much loved and tender European LAN and in the process, destroy European TF2. This prediction was proven correctly (I take full credit for it despite writing a disclaimer that it wasn’t actually my opinion) by the events of the summer as we did see the Americans dominate the event and sharing an all-North American final between Classic Mixup and Leviathan Gaming. However one year on and after the catalyst of the European failure at LAN, we see a different European scene and in contrast, a different arrangement of International visitors. Old teams and has-beens have passed by, making room for the new generation of elite European TF2 super teams, in particular the dominant Epsilon eSports, the forever chasing second placed team Broder alongside their close competitors Infused (former Crack Clan). By contrast, the dominating teams from North America, Classic Mixup and Leviathan Gaming will both not attend, with the latter having folded. New squad High Roller’s Gaming (HRG) containing some members of the 2nd placed i46 side, Leviathan Gaming will be attending this event as sole representatives of the whole of the North American scene’s pride. Excitingly we have a chance to mix in the unknown with Australia’s most dominant side, Team Immunity being funded to come over to i49 making the event a great international spectacle.
But the question is can these two teams crack Europe’s best? Well ladies and gentlemen, in this reporter’s most humble and mutually unbiased opinion… I think not – And here’s why:
1) Ryb is back to his best
If B4nny is the ‘Jesus’ of TF2, Ryb is the ‘God’ of TF2, creating modern rollouts for the classic maps and being the innovator of ‘How to play Demoman’ since his days of dominating Europe with Team Dignitas. Even though he didn’t win the award for Demoman of the season, Ryb has been on blistering form in the past few months, dealing huge damage numbers for his team and dominating mid fights even against some of the quickest Demomen in Europe. His performances have given Broder the rise in performance they needed to establish themselves as the number two side in Europe and give them a footing to start competing with Epsilon. On LAN, Ryb is a grizzled veteran, winning numerous titles including i39 and i40 with Team Dignitas so returning to Insomnia LAN might feel a bit strange at first, but give it a few matches I can see the Ryb of old demolishing his competition.
2) Those two English Demos
I been bigging up Ryb, the master himself but you can’t forget about Numlocked and Kaidus, two of the most reknown in the world for their deathmatching ability and aggression. European Demomen have been bigged up for years and years, whilst North America has B4nny, Europe has always had Ryb, Kaidus and Numlocked. Each player has a different style of play, whilst Numlocked is aggressive and takes a lot of ubers plus heals, he is constantly dealing the damage to justify it whilst Kaidus is even more aggressive, pulling off the craziest of jumps, landing on your head and dropping your medic – he is certainly the most technically gifted Demoman in the game and when he pulls off the plays, they’re the best to watch. B4nny never did get to face Numlocked or Ryb at i46, so this time the challenge is different for him as a player, he seemed to struggle at some points during ESEA so against this calibre of opponent will ‘Jesus’ struggle? I wish I knew more about bulk as a player to properly judge him, so far with exception of one map versus Infused he hasn’t dealt more damage than his opposite number, whilst his frag and death count has been quite high…going off individual stats, which of course mean less….then the result…but it’s all I got so I can’t see Bulk making an impact as much as his European or American counterparts.
3) The roamers are more developed
For years the Americans taunted Europe for their roaming soldiers and their lack of creativity or aggression, or just not being able to air-strafe and last year Harbleu and Mackey certainly showed the Euros not necessarily that they were higher quality players in terms of DM, more that they were more creative, more innovative, distracting and constantly keep the aggression up, exposing the European playstyle for it’s passive play. Well Europe has certainly grown from this, adopting the American playstyle roamers like GeaR, Jukebox and T-Mac have developed their own styles from their gunboat play, with aggressive rollouts, creative plays aiming to distract or destroy. But they aren’t one trick ponies either, deathmatch wise all three are at the top of their game, the likes of Jukebox has that extra weapon of sniping for his team which he showed in the i49 showmatches vs HRG that it’s going to be a threat, whilst GeaR is always in position to do exactly what his team needs him to do, whether it’s to die for his team, make an uber force or play off his team’s damage and clean up. I am not going to put down Taggerung or Aporia, to be fair I don’t know a lot about either other than watching a couple of LAN matches and pcws, but neither player seems to do anything different other than the standard roamer roles, try get the medic, force the medic in a stalemate, quick rollouts on a target at middle, all I can say is come LAN I can’t see them having an impact as big as their peers.
4) Mike is the best Soldier in the world right now
A year ago Mike went to LAN with the lesser known Premiership outfit Quarantine and performed admirably, being praised by the likes of Platinum from Classic Mixup – “imagine what he could do with the best players around him”. As of today Mike’s performances for Epsilon have been outstanding, outperforming every soldier in Europe, it is quite a statement to call him the “world’s best” but few people this side of the Atlantic ocean would argue against it as the current ETF2L MVP winner. Whilst HRG’s Lansky and Immunity’s Yuki might be two of the biggest names in their respective continent, pound to pound it is going to be really difficult for them to measure up to MGE Mike.
5) HRG are a one man team
A controversial statement certain to get me sent death threats from American fanboys everywhere, however a statement that is undoubtedly echoed by a some players both sides of the Atlantic – HRG wouldn’t be champions without the man with the plan, B4nny racking the damage, getting the frags and in general just dictating the pace of the game to suit his needs. There is no doubt B4nny is one of the finest TF2 players on the planet, if not THE finest but he still came second place with LG at i46, so it shows you need the team around you to enable success. HRG are undoubtedly built around B4nny with a high level of teamwork and low level of mistakes, but when you take B4nny out of the picture, what is there left? Shade + Lansky make an exceptional combo, their Roamer Taggerung is extremely strong and the Scouts of Cyzer and Shrugger are fine players but the real linchpin of this team is their Demoman, he is the one who makes things happen for them and wins them games, changes rounds and makes room for the scouts to clean up. Europe is extremely adapted to shutting down one-man teams, if B4nny is shut down by the likes of Epsilon, Broder and Infused then they will find it very difficult to get a foothold in the game, it will be just like fighting Byte in 2008 – “B4nny down – PUSH”.
6) Europe has the better scouts
When Mixup and LG came over, they brought with them 4 of the greatest scouts to play the game and the likes of Enigma and Clockwork who performed particularly well for the North Americans. This time around though HRG’s will only bring one of that four back to Europe to defend their continent’s honour, the Canadian Cyzer alongside the timid, shy-looking personality that is Shrugger who has in previous LANs let the pressure get to him. Now look at the likes of Cookye, Stefen, Bash, Bybben, Tviq and Saemzi going up against these two, this time around although the Cyzer / Shrugger pair is deadly and not one to be overlooked, certainly they will be relieved not to see the faces of Clockwork, Enigma or Ruwin sitting opposite them yelling “raise your dongers EUROPE” across the arena. If anything I expect HRG scouts will be the intimidated ones, having had a light taste of Epsilon and Broder in the showmatches, in particular feeling the wrath of cookye, the legendary prowess of schocky and my player of the season Bash, I expect to see these scouts crumble slightly under the pressure. Sadly, I haven’t seen too much of iM’s scout’s, the powerhouse that is Sheep has had a couple of good performances judging from a few days of pcws against Europe’s top 3, but his scout partner, “Three-Seven” has struggled a bit more. But for them to face this level of opposition for the first time ever? It’s a tough ask.
7) Team Immunity are used to facing a certain level of opposition.
Enough about Europeans and Americans (+ Canadians), let’s talk about Australians (+ New Zealanders) and the reigning kings of down under, Team Immunity. If you look at the population of this continent, we’re talking only around 28-29 million people living in total, so you can imagine the community is going to be much smaller than the talent pool of Europe and North America. Now I don’t doubt iM have some exceptional players, as a team from pcws they look like they could make the playoffs but but when you look at the Australian TF2 scene the talent pool is a lot smaller, the competition a lot less developed and the overall skill level is lower so for a team like Immunity, they’ve never really been pushed or challenged to play at a higher and higher level like HRG and Epsilon have, they have always dominated the scene playing the same, less developed sides and winning it all.
8) Epsilon is Europe’s answer to Classic Mixup
Last year, North American side Classic Mixup was formed with some of the most elite players in the history of TF2, forming their very own superteam. In Europe, we had Epsilon dominating the scene but you could always probe for weaknesses in every top side, there would always be a couple of elite players in a slightly weaker team you could fit in to improve them. A clear example would be the way Extremer’s performances stuck out last summer due to lack of practise. Well since that event, Epsilon has taken the stance of creating their very own European super team with every class dominated by one of the best players. For Soldier you have the undisputed best in EU duo of GeaR and Mike, for Scouts the deadly German duo of Bash and Stefen, with the former being on top of his game with his scout partner Stefen/schocky being the most coveted and successful player in ETF2L history, amassing no fewer than 10 ETF2L Awards including current Player of the Season. Of course tactical minded and elite healer, Knoxx has been leading the team and making fewer mistakes than any other Medic around alongside some Demoman named Numlocked I am sure none of us have heard of who puts out more damage per map than the Enola Gay does per combat mission. Let’s see how good Europe’s super team is shall we?
9) HRG looked less than convincing at ESEA LAN
For those that didn’t catch the ESEA LAN and it’s Heavy + Quick Fix shenanigans, let me just recap some of what we saw at ESEA Season 14 LAN in Dallas, Texas:
Quick Fix, Heavies, Snipers, Teams not pushing on Uber advantages, Quick-Fix, Teams standing around for 5 minutes before deciding to push, Quick Fix, Heavies, a 30 minute half that ended 0-0, Quick Fixes and Engineers.
Now a weekend of this in addition to a month or so practising for this and barely any time to practise for the European format might throw HRG off their game a little. Bear in mind LG and Mix^ spent nearly 2 months practising for i46 with the European format last time, by the time they arrived at Telford, they had every little change they needed to make perfected to an art. To re-adjust to this probably won’t take long, but to be at their peak it may well take a few matches, put that on top of some of their performances at ESEA LAN, losing 5-0 to the 2nd best team in North America on Snakewater, dropping rounds to the 4th seed, Apocalypse Gaming, it’s hard to say this team is playing at their best currently so come another 3,000 miles across the Atlantic to i49, will they have time to adjust to everything? I think it will play a part…
10) Yuki seems like the only ‘great’ player from Immunity
Another bold statement from me, the man who is risking his reputation and honour (what’s left of it anyway) to call Immunity a one-man team but from the 3 days of watching pcws from them, I honestly think they are. The man is of course, their pocket Soldier Yuki who is the caller, leader and main damage dealer for Immunity. He’s definitely one of the best pocket soldiers in the world, judging from what I have seen and he could fit into any top side in Europe or North America and look comfortable but sometimes I feel he doesn’t have the team around him for his team to be the winners of i-series. They’re all good players, this Australian/New Zealand line-up but Yuki is a level above them in terms of reading the game, I don’t doubt his teammates are good players but come crunch time when Immunity face Broder, Infused or Epsilon if Yuki is the only one competing at their level in terms of strategy then iM are going to struggle.
Agree? Disagree? Post your comments below with your opinion, I love speculating and discrediting people based upon a few sums on the screen and praising others based on their MGE hours. It’s time to get hyped and start stream chat arguments as i49 is only less than 48 hours away! Last year I ended up inadvertently being correct with my prediction, this year I hope to pressure Epsilon, Broder and Infused to keep the record going, I’m looking forward to our second intercontinental LAN and watching (hopefully) a European team take on HRG in the final, perhaps the Aussies will throw in a surprise as well. For the American hate mail, please post to my P.O. Box, in Euroland. GET HYPED and let’s hear the European seagull squawk for our once proud continent.