With the placement round out of the way eight teams remain in the running for the Smite World Championship 2016 crown. Now it's time for some meatier matches in the form of the quarterfinals best-of-3s. To get you up to speed let's take a look at the story so far and THEN what's on the cards for today's teams:
Yesterday's matches were more about sorting the teams and giving you a sense of how the various regions measure up against one another. There were a number of one-sided games as a result – Isurus vs Epsilon in particular, where Epsilon ended the game with a totally clean sheet: no deaths and no damage to their structures. Isurus and Oceania's Avant Garde couldn't find their footing and were the first teams eliminated from the competition.
But there were also some more even tussles. Enemy's play versus Fnatic was probably the highlight of the day. The North American side put in a fantastic performance with multiple members of the team getting to shine on the world stage.
For example, at 42:11 in the video above you'll see mid-laner Khaos turn a crucial teamfight which then sets the North American side up to take the fire giant (sort of like Baron in League of Legends) and end the game. What happens is Khaos is playing a character called Zhong Kui. He's had to return to base to heal up so Fnatic aren't taking him into account in the fight. But he has an active item which lets him teleport to ally wards placed on the map. He uses that to appear at Enemy's fire giant ward then saunters into Fnatic's back line, stunning mid-laner Zyrhoes and hunter Realzx and picking up a double kill. Fnatic have no choice but to fall back and let Enemy take the fire giant and his attendant buffs.
For another example, If you skip back to 38:15 you'll see PainDeViande and Saltmachine making great use of Khepri's ultimate to score a kill and then get out of danger.
What happens, if you're unfamiliar with Smite, is this: Enemy have already killed three of Fnatic but Enemy's solo laner, Saltmachine, spots an opportunity to get a fourth by diving incredibly deep into Fnatic territory. PainDeViande is the support for Enemy and is playing a god called Khepri. Khepri's ultimate ability (you'll recognise it because it applies a beam of light to the ally he uses it on) means that if you die while it's applied to you that doesn't count as a death – instead you respawn at Khepri's location with a certain proportion of your max health. So here Saltmachine dives deep, PainDeViande applies the ultimate, Saltmachine picks up the kill and then commits suicide by taking shots from an enemy tower which basically teleports him out of danger and plonks him back with his team.
So with the first lot of matches out fo the way what's day 2 shaping up like?
Paradigm v OMG B
Today is where things get really interesting for me because Paradigm and Cloud9 both join the fray. They spent day one nursing their byes to the quarter-finals, keeping an eye on the competition and meeting fans. But first up for Friday Paradigm go up against China's OMG B. I favour Paradigm so heavily here. I was really hoping that the Chinese teams would turn up at SWC and really pile on the pressure but it's been a bit of a mixed bag. OMG B fell to paiN in their first match of the tournament – the match started evenly enough but once the Brazilian side started to get ahead OMG simply couldn't find a way back in so paiN just spent the game getting further and further ahead. OMG fared far better against Isurus, though, but based on the day one performance I'd be surprised if they best the strong-looking Paradigm. I'm hoping a best-of-3 lets them show a bit more of what they're capable of.
Enemy v paiN Gaming
I think this one will go to Enemy. Their performance on day one against a strong team with a reputation for being good at LAN like Fnatic show that they're a top tier lineup and they don't seem to be at all rattled by being at SWC. From what I saw yesterday, paiN are by no means a bad side, but while they can keep weaker teams at bay they're unable to hold off sronger sides. Case in point: their game against Epsilon. Much of that match was pretty passive but once it started to tilt in the European side's favour paiN couldn't put a stop to that.
Cloud9 v QG
I see this one as being really similar to Paradigm v OMG B. Qiao Gu Reapers gave Fnatic the trash talk treatment but Fnatic's captain preferred to let the game do the talking. QG got a bit of a pasting. (That is British for "losing pretty convincingly.") They scored a win later in the day to stay in the competition but it was against Avant Garde. Avant Garde are, I think, having that problem where a team gets really dominant in a region which is only just establishing itself and then runs out of things to challenge themselves with so improving is harder. So QG beat Avant Garde, but fell against a more experienced team. Cloud9 are another super-experienced team – four are defending world champions – so it might end up being more about how much of a fight QG can put up.
Epsilon v Fnatic
These two EU teams are scrim partners so this is the match I've really got my eye on. They should know each other inside out and I'm expecting a really tense series to round off the day. If you're looking at history, Fnatic finished lower at Super Regionals than Epsilon and had to qualify as a wildcard option, but the two teams were on opposite sides of the bracket so didn't play one another at the LAN. In terms of the fall season of competitive regional play Epsilon finished first while Fnatic came second. Epsilon also won once against Fnatic and drew once. From that evidence it looks like Epsilon have the slight edge, but you count Fnatic out of a LAN at your peril...
SWC starts streaming at 11am ET (4pm GMT) today - here's the Twitch link. The first match is scheduled for 11:15am.