This is your spoiler warning for the winners of the Smite World Championship 2016...
Epsilon Esports have won the 2016 Smite World Championships.
Along with the understated Thor's hammer trophy above they walk away with $500,000 and bragging rights. I'm including the latter because esports are always trying to treat bragging rights as a commodity. I wonder how a bragging rights exchange rate would look. Like, how many avocados could I get for these bragging rights? I think you could get around 382,515 avocados for $500,000 if that helps set up a point of comparison?
Anyway, the victory came after just three games of the best-of-five set.
In the first game Epsilon utterly dominated and Enemy simply couldn't find their way back. It looked like perhaps situations where Enemy couldn't exploit other teams' tendency to underestimate them or play those longer-term mind games they talked about with Paradigm would leave them vulnerable. It seemed at one point that Saltmachine was trying to do some split pushing (as Cloud9 had done the previous day to great effect) but he simply didn't have the damage output to put significant pressure on his opponents.
Listening to the team speak after the game, Enemy felt they had played poorly across the whole set and spoke about getting caught, about miscommunicating, about bad warding decisions and so on. For what it's worth, Epsilon were more apt to talk of an experience gap which left them in a better position to know how to capitalise on opportunities.
Enemy found far firmer footing in the second game with their jungler, Adjust, putting in a characteristically terrifying performance as Serqet. Where Epsilon had stomped in game 1 they were facing serious pushback. For a long time it looked like Enemy were playing that familiar Smite game where a team steadily builds up a lead until they're ready to punch a titan – that's the end objective – in the face. But Dimi was on a Tyr - sorry*, on a TEAR - and was able to use that character to keep Enemy at bay as they attempted to take necessary objectives like the gold fury.
At 27 minutes the European side was able to use the space created with a successful teamfight to take down the fire giant effectively setting Enemy's gold and experience advantage back down to zero. From that point onwards Epsilon were able to extend their lead, particularly by knowing how to judge when to take a fire giant. From about the 40 minute mark they were, to use a technical term, "balling out of control" and soon finished the game.
The final game felt like it might well go to Enemy as they traded well and were rewarded for some patient, well-judged plays. The game was paused around the 20 minute mark as the Mumble server the teams were using went down. At that point Enemy were ahead – actually, after the match was over Epsilon admitted that losing communications cost them the gold fury which was a big boon to Enemy. Epsilon support player iRaffer even said "We should have lost [game 3] if they could capitalise on their lead."
They couldn't. Shortly after resuming play the North American side were undone by a bad decision. As Epsilon's solo laner, Dimi, explained:
"We tried to stall for time as much as possible and wait for them to mess up. They really got lost in aggression in the last fight at the speed buff [it's one of the jungle camps which bestows a speed bonus]. They tried to take away speed and Osiris [Enemy's solo laner] didn't have ult and they got caught out. We killed four of them and managed to make so much more out of the wipe than they could imagine."
The game turned on that fight. Epsilon took down the fire giant as a result of the majority of the Enemy threat being dead and then, in the next team fight, they killed the entire Enemy lineup and biffed their titan until that $500,000 was theirs.
"It feels good man," was jungler Adapting's verdict on lifting the trophy hammer. "That was legit really cool. I'm taking that to the grave."
"Having the whole crowd roaring at you when you're lifting it is a once in a lifetime thing," added iRaffer. Then: "Unless you win again…"
*I'm not sorry.