Welcome to Season 20. I’ll be your host, VoxDei.
I had a lot of questions regarding when this article would be released. Well, now that there are 8 teams in Plat, it seems that now is the time. (Not to mention the team death and move up that happened literal minutes before the publish button was hit)
For the uninitiated, let’s do a quick wrap-up of last season and the off-season happenings.
Unless you don’t follow Highlander at all, you probably know that dK was finally able to earn (and keep) their 1st Place title after several seasons of effort. It came against their most respected and most heated rival, .knd, who have thwarted their efforts in seasons past.
The win comes after a wild ride of questions regarding if Grand Finals were even going to happen, but that information can be reviewed in the last article from the prior season.
The wrapup for the season was short and the offseason moved quickly. The main topic of conversation from the start was the whitelist moving forward for Season 20.
A big change is going to take place at the top of the division and it comes with only banning one additional item moving into Season 20. The only change to the whitelist (besides allowing new cosmetics) will be the Razorback being removed. A small change in number, but a huge effect on the most powerful class in the game.
Highlander has received a lot of criticism for being too Sniper-centric. There’s a lot in every map that comes down to the Sniper. Need to push a point? Buff your Sniper to get an important pick. Want to get aggressive? Can’t do it if the enemy Sniper is up. It’s part of what slows the game down and the only real counters have been to have an awkward Sniper v Sniper dance of who will manage to do over 185 damage first or get your Spy in a position to double headshot the Sniper with the Ambassador. The options were too limited at higher levels of play.
With the Razorback banned, the effects are already being felt. From my own personal experience (playing in Gold with a couple scrims against mid-Plat teams) Snipers have been dying a whole lot more which is playing right into what the league wanted to acheive. Sniper deaths have gone up considerably to the Spy, from maybe 3-5 a game, to double digits being well within reach. It’s a change that Spies (and the other 7 classes) are loving, and that Snipers will hate until they learn how to listen for decloaks better and adapt their playstyle. Even if your Spy is not as effective in stats, it is still a change in the mental game, since Snipers will have to be more aware of their surroundings, meaning hardscoping will be less viable.
So what does that leave for the Sniper secondary? It seems like most people are opting for Jarate. Depending on map/situation, it’s an easy way to give your team mini-crits and put pressure on the opposing team. If your Sniper is in a good enough position to land his jar near the enemy combo, raining explosives is a good way to bait the Medic into a force-pop or even a drop. If your Sniper is playing more combo-oriented now due to the Razorback ban, it can also be powerful for marking advancing enemies so they go down faster than before. There was concern expressed regarding the new Jarate-meta when the ban was being considered, but it’s likely the season will be played out before any additional whitelist changes are made, unless severely detrimental.
For those blissfuly unaware, Plat last season was made up of 15 teams from the getgo, many of which were a tier below what would make a standard Plat season. By the end of the season only 8 teams survived. 3 teams died during the regular season, 2 more at the roster lock, and the final team was moved down to Silver midseason.
Of these 8 surviving Plat teams, the only survivors were dK, .knd, bote (similar, albeit revised), #mcm, and Bv. The plan coming into Season 20 was to revive the missing Gold division as a bridge between the Plat-Silver gap and have an 8 team, 7 week round-robin for Platinum, which was more difficult to fill than expected. Of the remaining 3 spots for the Round Robin, two were all but certain pretty soon into the offseason. A revival of GLORY would be forming, comprised of a few members of the original GLORY iteration and the more recent EVL Gaming (HL.) Secondly, a return for the Sheen and the Ultra Lords, a comeback for players who have acheived mild success in Platinum, looking to compete once more.
EDIT: As of just moments after finishing the article, Sheen and the Ultra Lords dropped from scheduling. I will touch upon this and the contingency in their Power Rankings below.
This of course left the final round robin spot up for grabs, which was not as hotly contested as it may seem.
Teams considered for the final spot were in one of two camps: the High-Gold team refusing to move up, or the “sure we’ll do it” team undeserving of the spot. On 9/19, a meeting was called to fill the remaining spot, but no team was an acceptable pick. A group of Gold teams in the running to be moved up threatened to die if forced to move, much to the disdain of several Plat teams. This forced one of three outcomes. 1) A team gets moved up against their will, 2) a new Plat team forms within the next day, or 3) Gold is dissolved and a large Plat with Swiss scheduling is on the horizon.
The next day, it was agreed upon that instead of the optimal choice (the team who had the best chance of succeeding) being moved up to Plat, the team who had the least chance of dying would be placed there. Outcome #2 saw the light, which ended up being a team put together by Shotaway in just a day as an attempt to save the divisions. As such, the final team is a mixed bag of roster members attempting to win a game somewhere this season.
As a final note, Steel and Iron have finally been merged. This is overall a good thing for the league as it will fill up Steel and therefore have more teams seed into Silver since the teams who don’t belong in the division will win more and be moved up. We are one step closer to a 3 division system now with this move.
Up to speed? Yeah, maybe for a day.
So this is what you’ve been waiting for, huh? I’d like to remind people of the level of conjecture that needs to be made regarding pre-season Power Rankings. Teams are often not finalized and scrim results are dubious at best with tryouts, etc. However, I’ll give my best attempt with some help from a few players who gave valuable input. (Thank you brick, bunny, m66, brooky, and Karl.)
1. Dunning-Kruger Effect V5 (dK)
It should come as no surprise that the incumbent from Season 19 is the team to beat in Season 20. Karl has been vocal in letting people know that the myth of the “all powerful dK” is a fallacy since the “they’ve been together for 1000 seasons” argument is untrue, but for once, the roster will remain in relative balance. I say this despite losing one of the most powerful classes in HL- the Demo. The positive for them is that Scouts and Engies are not terribly difficult to replace and they have some solid prospects on the horizon- including saam for Scout and Spades Slick for Engineer. One of the possible choices on Demo would be Corsa, who is not a Demo main by trade, but performed adequately in the few matches he played the role during last season’s playoffs.
The advantage dK has in this season is modest, but it’s there. They come off of a win in S19, only to come back against a division with a lot of new faces and changed rosters. They are included, but are one of the least changed of the bunch. Their biggest contenders have been unsure of their roster, at least as of Wednesday, which means dK has more opportunity than ever for a repeat.
2. The Kids (.knd)
It’s evident that the Kids can no longer be assumed the best due to their success in the past. Sure, dK’s victory last season cements that, but the team is also held up by the few remaining long-standing members of the team. Players like Etney, Katsy, Nursey, Ender, and yosh have been synonymous with the success of .knd for a handful of seasons, but as mentioned when Kresnik left, Kids Next Door is dead, and the Kids have moved in, in their place.
Certainly this roster is still very capable of taking down dK. A very similar iteration did so multiple times last season, but dK has the advantage, no doubt. Feint was a strong pickup for the team and was an uncontestable MVP during the playoff run. The core of their group remains the same despite the uncertainty of Nursey remaining on Medic or switching to Heavy with Split playing Med. As of releasing this article, this has not yet been sorted out.
3. Man Crush Monday (#mcm)
The surprising, but logical choice for 3rd this season goes to Man Crush Monday. I’m sure a lot of people would disagree with this ranking, but it makes much more sense this way.
#mcm was to be one of the best teams moved up to Plat last season and proved to be so despite their rough 4-4 go in the regular season. #mcm was able to push themselves past their competition and move in behind the undisputed Top 3 since the S19 start. However, their loss to bote in playoffs came down to mere seconds.
With that in mind, we come to Season 20. #mcm is sporting a similar roster, with some important changes. blinx leaves and Shea steps up in his place. Now admittedly, “Shea just plays so dumb,” but he’s been performing well in regards to DM so far and it looks like #mcm won’t suffer. Taking over for Pyro will be Geosus, a long-time member of the Plat club, but whose playstyle vastly differs from American, their previous Pyro. I’m unsure as of this moment whether this is a boost or bust for the #mcm squad, but Geosus’ talent is not to be questioned, it’s just a different type of talent. The question mark will be DrZoidy, the team’s new Engineer. A Scout main by trade (with a little Demo) whose DM will allow him the relative success on Engineer, but will his lack of Engineer experience be a detriment on Payload maps? We’ll have to see.
Does a team who missed out on placement by a literal second deserve to be placed under the team they lost to? Usually. The difference here is that the revised bote roster is far, far different than last season’s makeup, but I’ll get to that next.
4. Turquoise Jeep Records (Smangs)
So here are the new kings of the YouTube. Turquoise Jeep Records is (unofficially) sponsoring a Platinum Highlander team to reach a new demographic, but did someone tell them that this team isn’t guaranteed placement?
Okay now, I do not doubt the individual skill of each of these players. Each one of these guys on their main, would make… well… basically bote team- a 3rd place Plat team. However, you won’t convince me that this team will be able to continue their reign with 8 of them playing classes they’re not known for playing in Highlander, granted a few play these classes in ESEA.
With the exception of Jayden, everyone is playing outside of their main. The most likely to succeed of the rest will probably be Carcin, who has proved himself already in a few scrims during the offseason. Turquoise Jeep has also struggled during their scrims against Bv, a team who underperformed vastly during the last season. No doubt Bv has improved, but it also suggests a dropoff by Turquoise Jeep as well. The question that remains is…
how you like your eggs how long will they offclass for if they find out they may not place?
5. Chill Penguins (Bv)
Chill Penguins have surprised me so far with their offseason peformance. Once what was thought of to be one of the better Plat teams in Season 19, they started the season with high expectations but poor results, finishing 3-5 in the regular season.
The main struggles for the team seemed to be a lack of coordination and aggression, but they may have found their answer in crab_f and American. There are a lot of adjectives I’d like to use to describe the pair, but for the sake of brevity (and PG writing) I’ll say “aggressive.” Both are known for their “caution to the wind” style of play and rely on their DM to succeed, which works more often than not. They’ve seemed to be the spark plug for an otherwise stagnant Bv team, resigned to be mediocre. With the lineup they’ve managed, the results have been solid, going toe to toe wth Turquoise Jeep and perhaps finding their way into being one of the Top 4 teams this season depending on their performance as the season progresses. The one uncertainty remains their Sniper, with choices between blinx, Timeless, and IssGonRain. Although all 3 would be solid pickups, from my experience, blinx seems to fit best with the team, being one of the most surprisingly strong performers I’ve played against this offseason.
6. Fast Forward [››]
Well, the rumors finally came to fruition and Sheen and the Ultra Lords have passed into the great beyond. What does this mean now for Plat? The Gold team Fast Forward had initially agreed to be moved up should this very thing happen. Whether they’ll hit the rewind button on that statement remains to be seen.
The only other option would be for another Gold team to step up to the plate, however the talent pool is narrow, and those at the top seem unwilling to make the plunge. Keep an eye on the forums in the coming days to see how this plays out.
Whether or not they like it, UGC has removed Fast Forward from the Gold schedule so I think they may be trying to call civ and exile’s bluff. I have to give huge props to UGC for essentially telling them that there only option is to drop if they want to backpedal on their original offer.
I have them ranked above the Plat Saviors and Glory, mainly because of the practice [››] has had as a team, and the solid players that makeup the roster including Coldster, Exile, and sullyy. I have keith as a question mark because of the uncertainty surrounding him maining for them in Gold. Now that they are Plat, I would expect him to main again, but that has yet to be confirmed.
Despite a few of the players belief that they are not capable of playing Plat (or just don’t want to put forth their 100%) they sport a roster that is absolutely capable of trading rounds with the teams surrounding them in rankings and could even chip the armor of Bv/bote.
I’m excited how things end up playing out for Fast Forward this season.
7. Glory to Arstotzka (:glory:)
Glory seems to be comprised of some solid Plat talent, but falls a bit flat in some areas where others will succeed. Each team above them has their niche, but I’m not getting that feel from them. dK and .knd are the timeless incumbents, #mcm and Turquoise Jeep the “so close” teams from last season, and Bv is the revitalized “respect us” team.
I had a tough time deciding where to place Glory in regards to Fast Forward, but with the Glory roster the way it is and the difficulty they’ve had in scrims against Jeep and Bv, it’s hard for me to rank them above just because Fast Forward came from Gold.
Glory is going to be a decent team, but I don’t think they’ll excel in either their DM or coordination despite each individual player having Plat talent. Rogue is a more-than-capable Medic and Scruff can hang with the best on Spy, but unless some huge pickups on Soldier and Sniper save the day, Glory will be unfortunately plain.
*Note that this team does not have a name at the time of the article’s release, so I will refer to them as the Plat Saviors from here on out.
The afterthought of this season is going to be Ice and Shotaway’s team (name not official.) Although valiant, and I commend them for stepping up where so many teams have quivered in fear, the season does not bode well for them and I’m sure they’d agree. The few bright lights on the roster are spring rolls and goldfish, but the team may suffer if the combo has trouble gaining chemistry with goldfish being match only. benn and Shotaway are two other strong members of the team, but I’m not sure it’s enough to put them over :glory:.
It’s honorable that they saved Plat from the automatic bye and allowed Gold to remain the way it is, but at the cost of their sanity. Truly, it is them and not I who deserves the Suicide Watch roster. Best of luck, boys.
N/A. Sheen and the Ultra Lords (estevez) [??/odb/lazy/Rolls Royce/Vanilla Love/Feroaffer/eerie person/angryofficer/Pellovely] Where do I start? This roster is made up of talent that could comprise a placement-worthy team should they choose to do so, but the early signs seem to point to less determined play. It’s likely this team won’t see much scrim time in the future, due to logs like this (http://logs.tf/1523874) getting around, but I’m not sure it matters much to the majority of the players on the team. The whole “2-Scouts-on-Swiftwater-last” level of play is only the beginning it seems. The Sheen roster has also attempted to scrim Glory, but it was a scrim which included Drake on Heavy, Kresnik on Engineer, and angryofficer on Spy instead of his normal Sniper role. Losing scrims to Glory doesn’t make me particularly excited for what their matchups will look like when the season starts, however it will be entirely possible a complete 180 will take place when they have their 9 mains. Whether they will ultimately decide to shoot for a placement badge or look to make a mockery out of Platinum remains to be seen, but I believe that if they put the effort forth, their DM will easily carry them above the remaining two teams. If they go 100%, we could see them jump far up this list.
Week 1 Matchups
Our season begins with Swiftwater, but not your father’s Swiftwater. This is the Valve version, the “official” version, whose advantages/disadvantages can be argued elsewhere.
To name a few of the differences, changes were made to the one-way/flank area leading to the 2nd point for attacking teams, which extended the area they could hold without a threat in their face. Considerable changes were also made to the houses around 3rd, including a one-way dropdown and a large flat highrise, basically built for engineers to place their gun down.
In addition to some windows now closed off to nerf some long sniper sightlines on 4th, the garage now features an entrance only on the side closer to 3rd point, meaning the flank route on the map edge is no longer a threat.
Many more small changes, and a few changes to the last point, have been made to make the map more “Valve-friendly” but it’s arguable whether these changes are enjoyed in competitive.
(Home Team vs Away Team)
I have confirmed that Fast Forward will be inheriting Sheen and the Ultra Lords schedule completely.
Predicted Outcome: 2-0 The Kids
Welcome to Plat! This certaintly can’t sit well with the Fast Forward crew, getting dragged into Plat and playing a Top 2 team. It’s funny how it works out that both of the newest additions to Plat got matched up against the two strongest teams. (Remember, the Round Robin schedules are made by a computer, not an admin.)
Fast Forward is underrating their potential, but I don’t think they will rise to it this week. The Kids still hold all the chips and I think regardless of what happens with the Nursey combo switchup, the Kids are likely to walk away with a 2-0 victory.
We’ll see some strokes of strong play by sullyy and keith most likely on Fast Forward, but not enough to swing a round completely in their favor. We can only hope that Fast Forward has the ability to perservere through their difficult Week 1 matchup and get stronger as the season progresses.
For anyone interested, I’ve kept the original writeup with The Kids vs Sheen below:
The Kids vs Sheen and the Ultra Lords
Predicted Outcome: 2-0 The Kids Whether or not Sheen and the Ultra Lords decide to try or switch around their roster, I don’t think there’s a way they can topple the Kids without some significant help by the Kids themselves (read: throwing.) It’s hard not to repeat what I mentioned in the Power Rankings, but you’re talking about one of the longest-standing Plat teams vs. a complete wild card on Monday night. During previous meetups (with Sheen as $$- a similar roster) the Kids have been victorious, winning 4-1 and 4-0 on Ashville and Lakeside respectively, and I see no change in the near future. It’s still up for heavy debate whether Sheen will play 100% or play as they have in their offseason scrims, but the latter has no chance. If everyone comes with the mindset to pull one over on the UGC community, then the Kids may just sweat and have themselves a close game. The one positive in Sheen’s hands is that the Kids have yet to complete their roster, which may lend itself to some uneasiness. But at the end of the day, the Kids’ roster is still comprised of the highest echelon of Plat talent, which is not easy to topple, even on their worst days.
Predicted Outcome: 2-1 Smangs
This is definitely going to be one of the best matchups we’ll see all season with two teams who are rivaling eachother in skill. Of the Plat leaders I spoke to, most agreed that these teams were going to end up with some incredibly close games due to Turquoise Jeep’s offclassing shenanigans and Bv’s revitalized roster. They’ve already squared off a few times in scrims, with Bv having the edge.
Despite Bv’s success, I think Turquoise Jeep is going to come to play when they see Bv on the schedule. Because of the Round Robin format, playing the rank 3-6 teams is going to be a must-win to find your way into the 4 team playoff and neither team wants to start the season with a loss.
As a flank, Turquoise Jeep has the advantage. Although crab_f has been a net positive for Bv, I’m cautious of the clashing playstyles between himself and whymeo. Whether this proves to be a detriment will remain to be seen. On the opposing side, besides Carcin, SmileZ and Vipa seem to be the most “comfortable” offclasses for Jeep. The one big thing that Bv will have in their pocket is American, whose playstyle is surprisingly not easily countered. If he is able to play his game, it’s going to be a rough go of things for a number of Jeep players.
In regards to combo, it’s hard to give a perfect analysis of the Jeep squad because of the previously mentioned offclassing. However, fuzion outperformed m66 in both of the Swiftwater halves against Bv, with similar Medic and Heavy statlines. The important thing to note is that Paals was absent from this scrim, which could prove to be a difference maker when it comes to combos. Regardless, if Bv gets a solid footing on their offensive rounds, they may be able to take advantage of Rolling’s inexperience on Engineer and make quick work of sentries despite the chance that Rolling’s DM may carry him out of some unfavorable situations.
The battle of the pick classes is won by Turquoise Jeep as well. Carcin has proved himself worthy of Plat-level sniping, outdoing blinx, who has been a huge factor in Bv’s scrims this offseason. The Kris18-Jayden matchup is a little different, but Jayden’s playstyle will likely yield itself to a better game overall, even if Kris ends up with flashier plays.
The advantage is certainly in Jeep’s favor, but only by a narrow margin. I’m excited to see this one play out and may even do a post-production cast should no one decide to pick up the mic.
Predicted Outcome: 2-0 dK
If Turquoise Jeep vs Bv is the match of the week, this is its bizarro counterpart. This is likely to be the most one-sided match we see all season, with the exception of The Kids vs Plat Saviors, which could be just as brutal.
The good news for the Plat Saviors is that they get one of their toughest matchups out of the way early, but their schedule is still filled with teams above their paygrade. Their first 3 weeks see their two strongest opponents, slowly ramping down to season close.
It’s likely we’ll see dK ironing out some of their kinks and probably not playing at 100%, mixing and matching their roster throughout the game to find the optimal mix of players. For the Plat Saviors, they’ll probably treat it like a scrim, but do what they can to at least make dK sweat.
The only chance for the Plat Saviors to take a round is if Shotaway can be an enormous thorn in bo4r’s side and open up the sightlines for akemi, who will have to be at the absolute top of his game, but even this is probably not enough.
The more likely scenario is a relatively quick game, outside of the round where Plat Saviors will set the map time. Not an easy way to get your feet wet in Plat.
Predicted Outcome: 2-0 #mcm
Early chatter on the forums has this being a pretty close game, but I just don’t see it. Perhaps it’s the fact that #mcm ranks 3rd on my list and Glory second to last. Perhaps it’s also the fact that #mcm has the advantage of an entire season of Plat with a semi-consistent roster and Glory has not yet figured theirs out yet.
The real test of character will be to see how Glory plays this match. If they come out with a level head and are not afraid of the challenge, they can probably put up a solid fight against #mcm and maybe even get close to snagging a round. However, a lot will need to go right in the combo of Glory to get the job done.
It’s not going to be easy to get into the swing of things again versus such a strong opponent. If Glory was starting off against Plat Saviors or even Fast Forward, they would have a good matchup to shake the rust off. Instead, they walk into a match with a TBD Sniper against watterson, who is making a name for himself quickly in Plat.
Glory does also have the huge boost that is Scruff McGruff on Spy who will be able to counter watterson with the new Razorback ban, and will probably prevent him from going completely off the charts on such a Sniper-friendly map. Of course, lurking in the other corner is Evil, who, like watterson, is cementing his name as a top spy for seasons to come. The pyros, Marty (Glory) and Geosus (#mcm) will have a lot on their plate in this matchup. Despite the few confirmed mains, it’s likely we’ll see Cap$ize and Rogue have some relative success (with whichever Heavy they pick up) just due to their talents in their own right.
Regardless of the positives for Glory, I still believe #mcm has more on their side. Shea and bunny have combined as an excellent flank and Ezrik, Rue, and Couches will continue working on the cohesion they’ve been building since last season. Watterson and Evil should top the Kills column with relative ease and DrZoidy will do whatever it is he finds himself able to after watching a few YouTube tutorials on how to play Engineer.