The Smite World Championship for 2016 kicks off today at the Cobb Energy Centre in Georgia. I've already written a guide to explain what the event itself is but there are a lot of matches happening on day one thanks to the tournament's double elimination format. I'll be going along to watch and report back (after I've opened my birthday cards - IT IS MY BIRTHDAY and I'm the sort of person who brings cards with me on a trip) but so you don't feel lost if you want to watch, here is a helpful intro to the eight teams who will be playing and their basic storylines.
If you've read the primer you'll realise two teams are missing from day one - Paradigm and Cloud9. That's because their performance at Super Regionals entitles them to a bye so they automatically go through to the quarter-finals. You'll see them play on day two but on day one they can just eat Rice Krispy Squares and size up the competition. That's what I would do.
1. Epsilon vs Isurus
Epsilon are the second EU seed, which was a bit of a surprise given they spent the fall split (it's basically pro Smite's autumn term) dominating and only dropped one game. They're thought of as this lean, mean killing machine but they still got beaten at Super Regionals by the rambunctious Paradigm chaps. Isurus have dominated their own region - Latin America - but what that means in comparison to the other teams at this event is uncertain as I don't think there have been any cross-regional events that would give you a reference point prior to this. There's also the fact that the LatAm team came in last place at the previous SWC. Of particular interest here is that Isurus's coach, Ydwar 'Solana' Dijkstra, spent six months of 2015 as coach for Epsilon so that might give some extra insight to help with the first match-up.
2. paiN vs OMG.B
So paiN are one of the surprise attendees here as they managed to topple Brazilian regional favourites, INTZ, for their spot at Worlds. INTZ are the Brazilian side who made it to SWC last year under the name We Love Bacon, by the way. Brazil picked up a win against a Chinese side last year in case you want to use that to inform some kind of general regional ranking but it was a best of 1 game so I'd say it was inconclusive at best. There's also the fact that OMG B (who I keep accidentally calling OMBee and thinking about bees) had a dominant regional qualifier with only one game lost and will have been scrimming with not one but two sister teams.
3. Enemy vs Avant Garde
Enemy are not so much famous as infamous. This is because the captain, PainDeViande, fired his four teammates and replaced them at the start of the fall season. It's the sort of move that doesn't exactly endear you to people so you better hope it pays off. After a not-particularly-amazing split the team brought their A-game to the November LAN event and qualified for worlds. PainDeViande will be hoping his slash and burn strategy can carry the team further. Avant Garde, on the other hand, did have a really strong home season - I think they're actually undefeated in the Oceania pro league. I don't have a sense of how the younger region stacks up against the rest of the world yet but they're coached by Job 'CaptCoach' Hilbers. He was with European side Titan when they made it to the second place at last year's SWC so his contribution might give Avant Garde a really useful edge.
4. Fnatic vs QG
Fnatic came fourth at last year's SWC as SK Gaming. They're one of the most solid, stable teams in the pro scene - I think they're the only lineup who is returning unchanged - and have a reputation for being lethal at LAN events. They're not bulletproof though. Fnatic went into their Super Regionals matches expecting wins and the other teams punished that complacency hard. They're at SWC as a result of winning the wildcard match and were determined to use the intervening time to get back on form. QG are also SWC veterans, with four of their lineup having attended last year's competition as Doage Is Dog. I remember them being aggressive as all hell so I'm kind of leaning towards a massive bloodbath prediction here.
After that the matches will be as follows with the losers of 7 and 8 being eliminated:
5. Winner of 1 vs Winner of 2
6. Winner of 3 vs Winner of 4
7. Loser of 1 vs Loser of 2
8. Loser of 3 vs Loser of 4
And finally, here's a reminder of what they're playing for:
1st prize: $500,000
2nd prize: $230,000
3rd/4th prize: $75,000
5th-8th prize: $25,000
9th/10th prize: $10,000