August 31st, 2016
UGC Plat Highlander Season 19
A double dose of Grand Finals action is headed our way with .knd coming from the Lower Brackets to thwart dK in their initial attempt to bring the first, 1st place medal home to the long-standing roster. Just to note, there’s nothing about the second BO3 yet because dK and .knd have not been able to amicably set up a time to play. I wanted to release this half to lighten my workload and say somethings that I’ve written regarding this debacle, found underneath last week’s wrapup.
Predicted Outcome: 2-1 dK
Final result + Match Length + Logs: 2-0 The Kids
Steel: 2-1 The Kids // 54:25 // http://logs.tf/1507714
Vanguard: 2-1 The Kids// 29:44 // http://logs.tf/1507522
Despite a long match, this ended up being a lot of fun to watch. There was a huge back and forth on Steel, which although long, was rarely dull during the cast. Vanguard also found its way to be relatively exciting (for HL 5CP that is) and was hotly contested, with .knd only capping the winning point with 2 minutes remaining on the clock.
Tensions were definitely high between these two teams from the start with some questions regarding who gets to choose their side (Attack/Defense) at the start of Steel. I have no idea what was said to whom, but neither team was willing to budge from their pick to start on the defensive side. This went on so long, that Kumori, head admin for UGC had to join the server to sort out the confusion, which ended up with .knd the “visiting” team on the map choosing their preferred side since it was dK’s map pick. In an act of proactive administration, she remained in the server for a period of time but from what we could see, that was the end of the stubbornness.
Right out of the gate, we saw dK struggle immensely after starting on their non-preferred side. As a team, they couldn’t get the ball rolling and only managed to cap B after 4:22 and never found their way to capture the C point. The problems for dK were plentiful this half, starting with two of their most valuable players, bo4r and Deaft. It’s true that Steel does not yield itself to being a Sniper dominant map, but bo4r couldn’t get anything started at all, finishing a disappointing 9-14 and Deaft trailing behind at 5-16, the two lowest kill totals among non-Medics during the 22 minute round. It should also be mentioned that during dK’s offensive round, they were outfragged a massive 105-49, which is a glaring statistic.
On the .knd side of things, both yosh and feint had enormous halves. feint took down Skeez three times during the half including a pretty awesome drop stab in which Skeez dropped his uber. Yosh’s performance speaks for itself with a massive 28-14 scoreline, repeatedly being a factor in .knd’s round win. Slemnish was also a huge part in this first round who tied for the second most kills with 20, but more importantly had two drops on Skeez. Now, excuses may be made as I believe Mustardoverlord pointed out Skeez’s 100+ ping, but it’s a flimsy defense in regards to his 3 drops. .knd didn’t have the easiest time taking this round, despite their solid defense. They took longer to cap B than dK, forcing them to cap C at the minimum but once the B defense was finally broken, it didn’t take too long for .knd to snowball it into a round victory.
After their round loss, dK came back strong. After what must have been a pretty solid pep talk, dK’s defense was stunning in the 2nd round. .knd’s offense went about as well as their last one, except they were forced to try and cap E in this go of things. Vand was the breakout star for dK in this half with 26 frags, 17 of which came during their defensive round. bo4r also started to get hot outdoing yosh in this second round. The difficulties for .knd started to pile on at this point as Nursey was unable to keep her players alive as well as she did in the previous round, dropping combo members multiple times as she milked ubers for as long as possible. There were multiple instances of this which may have lead to .knd’s decline in performance.
.knd continued to struggle on offense, setting a beatable 11 minute time. Just like their previous attacking round, it didn’t seem like .knd knew exactly how to tackle Steel offensively and took points through brute force, more so than with superior coordination. Nursey’s luck took a turn for the worse as her death total in the second half (10) was a huge jump from the 2 in the earlier round. Skeez also seemed to settle in, still dying 8 times, but did not drop and found his way to more than double Nursey’s assists. Defensively, .knd crumbled here and could not repeat their first half performance. dK managed to beat .knd’s time by over 5 minutes and forced an overtime round on Steel.
For the tiebreaker round, things swapped once again and .knd was on the defensive side to start, but as before, their miracle B could not be repeated. dK marched through on their way to an impressive 6:13 time. The highlights of everything seemed to be going dK’s way. Corsa finally hit his stride with a 17-5, 584 DPM performance, and 4/5 top performers were on the dK team that round, outfragging .knd 81-64. Of course, a lot more goes into a victory on Steel, so despite dK’s statistically better round, .knd still came out on top. We saw a number of plays by corsa, Aegis, and bo4r throughout the half which ended up as confirmation of their statistically strong game but they couldn’t keep the momentum going during .knd’s final offensive attempt.
During that last half of the tiebreaker round, we saw a number of .knd players unable to achieve much. 6 .knd players combined for 9 frags, which included Slemnish (0), Giraffe (3), and yosh (2). Stepping up big was feint who killed Skeez twice and notched 7 kills on the round. Despite the DM trouble, .knd was able to cap the E point after only taking A and B, and choked off dK from the E point after considerable captime had already gone down. The round looked grim to start, but .knd ended it with an exclamation and kept their 1st place chances intact.
Much to many people’s disappointment, .knd chose Vanguard as their playoff map during the first BO3. The disappointment mainly comes from 5CP being played in Highlander and its knack for slow gameplay and stalemates, but a bit of it has to do with the map itself.
.knd has gone with this pick twice during their playoff run and have had success on it both times. Even though the round reached the half hour limit with only 3 caps, the map wasn’t as dry as you’d expect. Both teams rarely sat back and allowed stalemates to perpetuate for very long, aside from pushes out from the last point.
Aside from the last round, dK managed to win every mid with little resistance. bo4r and Vand provided their teams with necessary lifts during the midfights and throughout the entirety of the map, putting up the top 2 frag spots for their team. Once the mid was over though, .knd took charge. Leading pushes at every chance was Slemnish, who did a lot of work while ubered and systematically took down dK players when given the opportunity. Despite Giraffe sharing most of the ubers with Slemnish, he didn’t really seem to have the same success Corsa did overall, which may have lead to some of .knd’s issues converting rounds.
One of the big takeaways from the match is that .knd lives and dies with their Medic, Nursey. Now obviously a team is going to struggle if their Medic dies repeatedly, but this seems to be a pretty big weakness for .knd. During this Vanguard game, Nursey died 2 times to Skeez’s 10, so .knd had few worries, with their Medic alive 90% of the time, which means more heals and more ubers. This is juxtaposed with Nursey’s more difficult time on the last 2 rounds of Steel, where she died just as much as Skeez. The difference being this seems to hurt .knd moreso than it does dK.
Of Skeez’s 10 deaths on Vanguard, feint managed 3 of them, continuing his stellar performance across both matches. I came into this match believing more in Deaft to succeed, and don’t get me wrong, he had a decent game, but feint went above and beyond to secure his team a victory.
The members of .knd stepped up in a big way on Vanguard, showing their experience on the map and showcasing the brilliance of their flank, Slemnish and Etney, and the ever-consistent yosh. On the converse, maybe it was dK who showed their inexperience. Deaft, Karl, and Aegis all did not play in the Week 4 matchup against .knd on Vanguard, and the latter two definitely struggled to contribute as much as they would have hoped.
With .knd securing the go-ahead round with about 2 minutes left on the clock, the pressure was on dK to continue and perform on mids the way they had since the start of the map. Whether it was the pressure or just an adaptation by .knd, their attempt failed as dK players started throwing players in at every chance to see if someone could
Grand Finals Preview
So, as mentioned, The Kids have reset the brackets and are on their way to a second BO3. The large question remains whether or not they can upset the favored dK for a second time. Like the Steelers and Cowboys of the 70s or the modern Patriots vs. every other team in the NFL (we all hate you guys), the rivalry between dK and .knd are reminiscent of generational rivalries between sports teams who constantly clash at the top. There’s been controversy before and since the match which should hopefully yield a fire-fueled, but not petty match.
As mentioned earlier, there were some issues with side-picking on Steel, which eventually favored .knd as it was within the ruleset for them to choose their starting side. But since then, there have been posts on the forums revealing more controversy.
First, we may not see Deaft continue to help dK towards a title he cannot earn. Deaft, although invaluable for any team, did not find his way onto dK’s (or anyone’s) roster before the lock. Most teams have been comfortable with him ringing, and .knd has allowed it twice before in playoffs, but has decided to deny Deaft as a ringer coming into the second BO3. This is obviously a huge blow to dK who have relied on Deaft’s perfect timing and crucial picks to succeed this postseason, but the issue does not stop there. There have been attempts to have the match played on a different day, which don’t seem to be going anywhere, since both teams are missing players on the days the other team is willing to play. Notably, Skeez has pointed out that Hng, the starting Spy for dK before Deaft, wouldn’t be able to play this Thursday, as well as Billysaurus (Pyro), and himself (Medic.)
So whose fault is it? Technically, it’s well within .knd’s rights to stonewall ringers and force dK to adhere to the default match day. Some more careful consideration by dK or Deaft could have avoided the situation, but does this oversight deserve to be punished? Better yet, could it cost them a championship?
The gray area of ringers has long been a problem in UGC. Although the rules are clearly in favor of the team who is being asked, there is a large stigma on the act mainly due to lower divisions vying for wins through rule exploitation and denying suitable ringers for advantages. The issue here is that .knd is not doing it to disallow a sandbagging player to dominate (I mean, it is Platinum after all) but to send a message to dK to let them know they’re in control. Mind you, this isn’t even speculation. Etney himself provided the information on the forums:
We’re denying ringers because dK felt like being children and refusing to switch team colors when it was our choice. We were forced to bring an admin in for them to move. We don’t feel like being the better people.
Questionable as it may seem, it seems like almost a perfect cap on a season doomed from the start. Concerns around using Swiss over Round Robin scheduling for Plat, the loss of the Gold Division, divisional placement for new teams, and the strength of competition were abuzz at the season start. The forums were a veritable circus in pre-season, the majority matches were deemed laughable in the regular season, and it’s been capped off by what is becoming a joke of a Grand Final matchup.
The unfortunate thing for UGC and NA Highlander enthusiasts as a whole, is that it’s not a one-off issue, but rather a continuation of multiple lackluster and/or controversial seasons. S17 was a no-playoff, joke season to give admins a much needed rest, which happens once a year. As you can imagine, these seasons usually see a decrease in competition and often intentionally coincide with when participation is at its lowest. S18, although seemingly like any other, ended with the infamous LMAOBOX VAC-ban wave, which saw Snipers for the winning Platinum (dK), Gold (Quail Noises), and Silver (Water Under Abridge) matches banned, leading to overturned matches and revoked titles for all three teams. S19, which as I mentioned before, started with massive discontent and continued with disappointment, may now be tainted by the pissing match between the two best teams finally meeting in a Grand Final setting.
Though the rivalry has always been strong between these two teams, held together by mere shreds of mutual respect, it seems as though it’s all falling apart in this final week. Perhaps call it an open letter to dK and .knd, but please put on a good show for us Thursday. Let the controversy find catharsis through the match and not through petty acts hindering us enthusiastic spectators, old and new, as we watch the game. Let the best team earn the win.
(Home team vs Visiting Team)
Predicted Outcome: dK wins 2-1
Maps:Ashville, Vanguard, Swiftwater (if necessary)
So, how exciting is it that we will officially have Grand Finals! Truth be told, there should have been little doubt that a game would be played. It seemed more like a game of chicken and taunting eachother more so than a possibility.
The best part about these finals is that we will get to see all three HL gamemodes, KOTH, CP, and Payload (should it come to a 3rd map.) I haven’t received confirmation if Swiftwater will be played as a half or a full map, but since I will be away for the day, I had to post the article with my best guess.
Let’s get into the maps, shall we?
Ashville: .knd win 3-2
Ashville is a different breed of koth map than we’re used to seeing. What separates it from Product, Lakeside, and the like is mainly the classes that can excel and the specific way it lends itself to playing, which is more strategic than DM intensive.
I think .knd come out with a strong pick and a victory on the first map simply because the map should play toward their strengths.
The first thing to note is that two of the biggest pieces of either team will be slightly neutered in the matchup. Sniper is a class that can still put together big games, regardless of the situation, but Ashville lacks the ease of sniping that Product brings. Really, you have only a few options as a Sniper. Your safest spot is with your combo, who is likely on the ramp. If you sit near them to stay safe, you’re playing defensively at best, waiting for any class to peek from the enemy ramp and hoping that someone denies bombers. If you play on the battlements, you can play aggressively and dominate 2/3 of the map, but can be easily thwarted by Scouts, Soldiers, and Spies since you will have less coverage. Now, we aren’t talking about two ordinary Snipers, we’re talking about the two best Snipers in Platinum. Both are going to get their shots in, but I think yosh’s playstyle is better suited for Ashville than bo4r’s “let me just get a 10k real quick, brb” type insanity.
In terms of the Spies, dK is not going to be able to use Deaft. Although initially denied as a ringer, .knd backtracked on their initial stance and decided to allow Deaft to play again. The problem for dK is that it was already too late and Deaft will now be unable to attend the match. In his stead will be Vipa, Spy for a former battleship, turned record label. His opposing number will be feint, who went absolutely huge in Monday’s match against dK. Both Spies will have streaky success. There are a lot of flank routes on the map and getting behind the enemy team isn’t difficult, but big combo picks will be hard to come by depending on how the opposing team decides to hold. Because of feint’s overall quality performance on Monday and Vipa’s more recent struggles against .knd during their lower bracket game, I expect feint to turn in bigger numbers.
In terms of flank for either side, it will be a battle similar to what we’ve seen, but with Corsa back on Soldier, replacing Aegis, which should be an upgrade in position for dK. It’s a tough call here with who will perform better, but I have to give the edge to .knd. Corsa will be reckless with his life and should outshine Etney in terms of quality bombs, forces, and impact plays for his team. His DM should also carry him out of any less-than-advantageous situations he find himself in. On the other hand, Slemnish should continue to pound as he has against dK, but his impact should be larger than Corsa’s, leading to a better game by .knd’s flank as a whole. The map itself is also very Scout-friendly, so if Slemnish can find his way through the various flanks, it could spell an early disaster for dK.
Engineer is also a class on this map that can have some impact and be a major annoyance. It sounds obvious, but the Engineer will only have the kind of impact their team allows them to have. If dK is always playing from behind, then spamfest is going to struggle, and vice versa. Who wants to take bets on which Engineer gets the Level-3 up in shutter first? My money’s on Ender.
Lastly, the combo’s should sit about even, only finding additional success when the other players on their team can put them in an a better position. We’re talking b4nny’s DM vs Giraffe’s HL gamesense and it’s hard to know which one will have more success. The one thing to be wary for either side is that both Demo’s will likely require a ton of heals to support their aggressive gameplay. The Heavy battle will come down to who can do more with less, which is not easy to predict. Because .knd’s flank and pick classes should be able to outperform their counterparts, the .knd combo should have more opportunity to succeed.
Vanguard: dK wins 3-2
The rosters for these teams tonight will look more similar to their Week 4 matchup. b4nny is back on Demo, Corsa on Soldier, and a Spy other than Deaft will be taking the helm. .knd looks about the same, outside of their upgrade on Heavy from Blues to Kresnik.
.knd has won the map twice now against dK, but the streak will likely end here.
I believe that in their current state, dK boasts enough firepower to thwart .knd in their victory run. b4nny will provide a similar lift as he did in Week 4 (posting up 60 frags) but he will be cut short of that with Kresnik leading the charge for .knd instead of Blues, who posted disappointing numbers. Giraffe has not really hit his stride offensively on the map it seems, with very low numbers comparatively against b4nny in Week 4 and Corsa this Monday. With the combo in favor of dK, the game should go that way as well.
On Monday, Slemnish and Etney put up some awesome numbers against Vand and Aegis, but Vand should have a better chance to contest with Corsa on his side. It’s hard for me to say that Slemnish could be outdone, especially with what he’s proved so far in the playoffs, but if Vand and Corsa can play together, they may be able to stop the Slem-train from pounding again. It is important to note however that the .knd flank slightly outdid the dK flank in terms of frags in Week 4, but dK took the edge in damage.
Perhaps 5 rounds is a little too generous for this matchup, especially after the 2-1 scoreline on Monday featuring a 16 minute round, but I have a feeling we might see one or two rounds get steamrolled. My absolutely useless prediction is going to be that dK will go up early 2-0, with .knd coming back to a 2-1 before losing a heartbreak round and going down 3-1. With less than 5 minutes in the game, .knd will post a masterful offense to bring to 3-2, but be unable to match the last round.
Swiftwater: dK wins 2-1
It’s hard for me to believe that .knd can fix their troubles on Payload so quickly. The real question is if Kresnik can provide the needed lift that .knd has been missing on Upward. Yes, Swiftwater plays very differently to Upward, but Payload still has its normal quirks that .knd hasn’t seemed up to the challenge to master.
yosh suprised us in .knd’s Upward game against dK in the Upper Bracket Final, outplaying bo4r for the majority of the game. Will he be able to provide the same level of play on a more open map like Swiftwater? My belief is that this is where bo4r is going to prove himself yosh’s true equal. There is way too much opportunity for bo4r to go off and .knd is going to have to play differently because of it. Uber pushes will be delayed, cart presence will be minimalized, and corners will have to be triple checked unless they can keep bo4r down. Feint’s done a good job of it so far and yosh has had the upper hand so far in playoffs, but bo4r has his time to shine, and his team’s going to need it.
Offensively, .knd’s combo should have the edge against b4nny and Karl. Although b4nny is undoubtedly a monster at Demo, I don’t think Payload is really his area of expertise nor does he spend the majority of his time learning, common Sentry Gun spots on Swiftwater . Despite this disadvantage, because of Karl’s strong knowledge of the game b4nny should have an easier time with Karl carrying him in terms of map/gamemode knowledge.
The trick here will be to see which team can transition points better, and I’m giving that edge to dK. Once .knd loses 2nd, I could easily see dK converting that into 3rd if they can keep even a modicum of pressure going, and these points can easily snowball if you’re not careful. This has been .knd’s issue so far on Payload in the playoffs and Kresnik can help, but not fix this problem.
Both teams should set relatively quick times and we (hopefully) shouldn’t see a slow, stale 16 minute defense come at any point, but with quick times comes volatility, and with volatile gameplay comes the opportunity for DM to completely change the flow of the game. If .knd can’t find themselves in a comfortable position (and they probably won’t) dK should take this map and could even do so 2-0.