I don’t care if they go out in the first round; Team Secret banding together to drag Team Liquid down to the Loser’s Bracket at The International 6 made them champions in my book. You should have seen the stupid grin on my face. Actually it looked a lot like the stupid grin on Arteezy’s face:
Yes, they lost 8 games in a row. Yes, they are now staring down the barrel of a tied-for-last-place scenario. But Ancients be damned if they weren’t, in this particular moment, having a grand old time.
Unlike Justin, I, uh, do not care for Team Secret. Yeah, that’s probably the most charitable way to put it. Excepting BuLba (because #TarheelNation, y’all), that whole team can wallow in hot garbage. But one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and one team’s elimination is another’s advancement. So I will, in fact, look forward to seeing Team Secret
crumple take on LGD in the biggest single game of either team’s career.
In fact, coming out of the group stages, one of the biggest stories of The International 6 is just how many once-assumed-to-be-elite teams will face elimination in best-of-one matches later today. There are a lot of potential heartbreakers here—I’ll be sad to see the loss of either Fnatic and Escape Gaming (even if the latter has never really felt like anything more than a pick up group of popular free agents)—but no elimination match is dreaded more than Team Liquid vs. Na`Vi.
Part of why that match is so hotly anticipated and anxiety-inducing is that both teams were expected to do much better in the group stages than they did; Team Liquid has been widely considered the best team in the world for much of 2016, and Na`Vi came into TI6 hot off a victory at StarLadder. It’s hard to imagine just how frustrated both teams must be. But, of course, only one will go on to the next round of the loser’s bracket (and that winner will have the dubious honor of facing the loser of Evil Geniuses and Newbee’s impending clash).
It’s 12:30AM on the East Coast and my living room is lit up with the paddle-like sounds of Videoball. Tim Rogers, the game’s developer, is on screen as number108 in a 3v3 match. There’s no chatter on the stream or in chat, so the only sound is Jenn Frank’s smooth voice calling out when a goal is scored—”touch topper, double touchie, touchdown”—and the arcade pings whenever someone fires. The game is spectacularly frenetic in threes, and the teams appear fairly well balanced for a midnight pick up game. The team Tim Rogers is on, alternatively orange and then blue, manages to win the first three rounds before a shake up in the ranks unsettles him for two rounds. An orange team particularly adept at creating blocks, manages to thwart even the most determined shots.
Twitch reports that eight of us are watching the game, but in the silence of the chat stream it feels like I’m the only one.
This weekend’s Neo Star League playoffs proved just how volatile professional StarCraft II can be—the tournament included many of the same players from last week’s IEM Shanghai, but the brackets couldn’t have been more different. Neo Star League’s finals came down to a matchup between two players who were knocked out in the first round of IEM Shanghai: Team Liquid’s Jens “Snute” Aasgaard and Rye Esports’ Huang “Cyan” Min.
Snute took the tournament decisively—his Zergling, Baneling, and Ravager style of play bested all of his opponents; only Marc “uThermal” Schlappi, AT Gaming team member and IEM Shanghai winner, was able to take any maps off Snute in the playoffs. Maybe it’s a coincidence that neither of Snute’s Protoss opponents were able to snag a map away, but some are saying the ‘ling, bane, Ravager style is simply broken—especially against Protoss. I’m not going to pretend I can speak to balance issues in Legacy of the Void. I can’t (and I also don’t want to). But from what I saw, Snute really knew how to handle his units, and he deserved to take the crown. That surround on Cyan’s army in the finals? Ridiculous. In a good way.
Snute’s winnings—$22,500—pushed him into the top spot as the highest-earning non-Korean StarCraft II player, with a total of $250,805. A pretty impressive number for a StarCraft II player, unless you compare it to Dota 2’s The International 2016 prize pool. But hey, maybe we’ll get there one day. Especially if StarCraft HD turns out to be a real thing.
Next week we’ve got the 2016 WCS Summer Circuit Championship; we’ll see a lot of familiar names in the talent pool, but it’s likely there will be a new name in the champions spot, if things keep going the way they have been. For me, uThermal in particular has something to prove—if he wants to prove his IEM Shanghai win wasn’t a fluke, he’s going to have to show some impressive results in the Summer Circuit Championship.