Well, here we are. The end of the season snuck up so fast, it’s hard to believe these are the last words I’ll be writing it about Highlander until the summer. We’ve had one hell of a season, with a ton of breakout players, a team achieve a perfect record in the regular season, and a rock-solid maplist / whitelist. MM’s come out, a stream list’s been added, and i58’s creeping up.
But more relevant to the Grand Finals are the teams. The big shocker, of course, is that .knd were eliminated last Thursday. Boasting a perfect regular season record, first seed, and a single round dropped on their Viaduct playoff match, they went into Monday’s game against Dunning-Kruger Effect confident – only to lose 0-2 (that’s the map score, not a BO3 score!). They moved down to lower bracket, preparing to face Memento Mori, who had just eliminated $ilver $avages. Thursday came, and the game started slow. But soon, Memento Mori picked up pace, eventually ending the game 5-1 in their favor. The two teams were decided.
Dunning-Kruger Effect [b4nny / Bobby / Huey Lewis / Xan / Karl / Jordan_ / Metawe / vlad / Acooma]
dK’s had a rough going this season. Spending a good part of their season beleaguered by roster troubles, they dropped rounds and maps they didn’t want to drop. Ending in a respectable but disappointing third seed, losing only to .$$ during the height of their roster turbulence, and to .knd, as every other team did, they missed out on the free week for the #1 and #2 seeds. By now, their roster had been settled, though it seemed that every other match had a different Sniper playing. While not an easy ride, they found themselves in the Upper Bracket placement in the Grand Finals, facing…
Memento Mori [Syath / Doll / Geosus / Giraffe / Eerie Person / scratchy / Apple / Bagel / Deaft]
Memento Mori. You might be forgiven for not knowing some of these names. Many expected a .knd vs dK GF, or perhaps .$$ replacing one of them. Yet, m|M has bested both .$$ and .knd, and find themselves in playoffs. I’m reminded of .knd’s breakout season, though the situation is slightly different. m|M here are true underdogs. Few players on this team have participated in a Grand Finals, let alone won one. While perhaps a GF against .knd would more fit the story, they just eliminated .knd, so interpret that as you will. They’ve got a daunting task ahead, to defeat dK in two Best Of Threes, one on Monday and the second on this coming Thursday.
We’ll discuss maps more in depth later, and how they were chosen, but we’ll stick with the teams for now, and discuss the class matchups. This is something completely new in any of these articles, so if anything is written that you disagree with, subjectively or objectively, my sincerest apologies.
Scout: corsa vs Syath, favor Dunning-Kruger Effect
At the time they needed him the most, b4nny cannot play for dK, so his former teammate Corsa (the irony) replaces him. Having played against .knd last week, he’s definitely proved his ability to play Scout, a class we’ve not seen him on since the first week or two when he played for .knd two seasons ago. Syath may be the community favorite, and certainly has a chance to overcome Corsa, but the one contributing more for their team should be Corsa.
Soldier: Bobby vs Doll, favor Dunning-Kruger Effect
I feel as if neither Soldier are particularly flashy, both contributing pretty heavily to their teams but never drawing the attention of spectators or making a name for themselves. Both Soldiers do what they need to do, but with Doll having not played last week, the little things add up.
Pyro: Huey Lewis vs Geosus, favor Memento Mori
Both are flashy Pyros who like to bring a lot of attention to themselves, and had quite the following back before the Pyro nerf. However, despite my adoration for Huey Lewis, Geosus seems to have come out of the changes better than HL did. By no means is Huey a bad Pyro, but after being considered one of, if not the best Pyro, it seems he’s struggling to live up to those glory days on Ginyu / 20b. Geosus, however, seems to be going nowhere but up.
Demo: Xan vs Giraffe, favor Memento Mori
Demoman is the most important class in Highlander. Giraffe is the spearhead of Memento Mori, taking control in all aspects and calling the shots. Xan definitely has a part in it for dK, but takes more of a backseat than the ‘my way or the highway’ style Giraffe employs. Mechanically, the two are roughly equal, though their different playstyles may make Giraffe seem like a worse player at a casual glance.
Heavy: Karl vs Eerie Person, favor Dunning-Kruger Effect
Eerie Person is no doubt a skilled Heavy, but he does seem to have some struggle still to fully fit underneath Giraffe’s thumb, an issue completely non-existent for Karl. Karl is easily one of the top two Heavies in the league, and that just depends on how you compare him and Kresnik. And while Heavy certainly has an effect on the team, it’s largely just an anchor that keeps the team steady on the field, for better or for worse, and Karl’s got that practically perfected.
Engie: Jordan_ vs scratchy, favor Dunning Kruger Effect
Engie is an interesting class, where on PL they’re either one of the most important classes, or a near useless cart jockey. On 5CP and KoTH, however, they’re far more deadly, with a scary-strong hitscan DM, and the ever-loved minisentry to play with. Just off of accomplishments and general opinion alone, Jordan has the advantage here, and it’s an advantage in more than just medals and off-season rumor forum posts.
Medic: Metawe vs Apple, favor Dunning-Kruger Effect
While his detractors would call into question his ability to play (Viaduct) in playoffs, Metawe’s experience should give him the edge over Apple. Apple is a fantastic Medic, but inexperience definitely shows here and there, especially playing with a Demoman as pushy as Giraffe is. Expect both teams to try and exploit the other Medic’s downfalls, true or false, but expect dK to get a lot more from Apple than m|M will from Metawe.
Sniper: vlad vs Bagel, favor Dunning-Kruger Effect
Big props to Memento Mori for allowing dK to ring vlad here. It’s not easy to allow arguably the scariest Sniper in the game to play against you in the Grand Finals, yet here we are. Bagel’s definitely proven himself strong, and Sniper matchups usually to come down to a handful of unrelated variables that are impossible to predict, but vlad isn’t hyped up for no reason.
Spy: Acooma vs Deaft, favor Memento Mori
At the start of the season, Acooma was considered the greatest Spy to be currently playing the game. As of now, I think arguments could be made both ways. It’s no secret that many consider Deaft to be (among) the reason(s) that m|M have gotten this far, and Acooma’s appeared to fall into the shadows, his praises no longer being sung. Deaft definitely has a lot to prove against Acooma, and it’ll be interesting to see the class that interacts the least match up to each other.
The map selection was different this season, instead of the normal system of each team picking one and Viaduct being the decider. A pick-ban system was implemented, with the Upper Bracket team having the benefit of first choice in the two sides.
They banned Badwater first, and m|M banned Swiftwater. dK had played Badwater against .knd, and have a reputation for not liking the map quite as much as others. Memento Mori banned Swiftwater, a map they beat :> 2-1 on – not the most comforting scoreline, especially against the 2-0 dK handed ‘92 on the same map. Next up came the picks, with dK selecting Ashville, the Week 2 map. Having handed a 4-0 loss to Bv on it, and m|M having received a 0-4 loss to ‘92 on it, as well as the general makeup of the map supporting some of dK’s stronger players. Memento Mori picked Gullywash, for pretty obvious reasons. The decider map was left up to dK, who elected to choose Product – a map that m|M played .knd on in Week 2 of playoffs, to be ultimately shut down, but not before taking that single round.
Map 1: KotH_Ashville (dK’s choice)
Luckily, with no Stopwatch maps present, our Grand Finals experience will be nice and simple. Instead of the standard four rounds, only three (one ‘half’) will be played. Ashville favors dK pretty strongly, as the dK flank is certainly stronger than their m|M counterparts. It’ll be a lot easier to keep Giraffe from strongarming dK around on this map too, especially if the dK flank is allowed to get behind m|M. Sniper, as on all KoTH, is very strong, and vlad should be able to keep Bagel busy. On the other side, Deaft will likely go crazy on this map, and if he focuses the right targets, should ruin dK’s chance of a clean victory. 3-2 in favor of Dunning-Kruger Effect.
Map 2: CP_Gullywash (m|M choice)
Many teams have a pocket map, one where they can beat teams arguably better than them consistently on it. While at the top of the top there isn’t anyone significantly better usually, pocket maps do still exist, and m|M’s is definitely Gullywash. Expect a strong resistance from dK, especially if they’ve lost Ashville, but m|M should have a stranglehold on this map. 3-1 in favor of Memento Mori.
Map 3: KotH_Product (dK choice)
With the only other maps open for choosing being Upward and Steel, and the latter not being a good choice due to the confidence m|M have on it, Product was a pretty safe choice. .knd had effectively shut m|M down on it, and dK’s won against .$$ on it recently. Viaduct is probably the default KotH map in many people’s minds, lending a lot of strength to Sniper, Scout, and Demoman, and relying a surprising amount on coordination and team skill than DM. At this point, if this map is being played, both teams will have taken a map victory, so exhaustion and atmosphere will go into deciding the winner a lot. 3-2 in favor of Memento Mori.