It’s an interesting time to be a SMITE fan as we enter the halfway point of season three; the skill levels of both individual players and whole teams are improving with every game, and the competition as a whole is closer than it has ever been. However there is one team that constantly dominated the landscape of pro SMITE for the past year, the European powerhouse that is Panthera.
The story of Panthera’s rise to prominence is unheard of in the history of this game, coming from way out in left field at the start of season 2 to go more or less undefeated for the entire season, and they are still miles ahead of any of the competition. But it’s not as if the SMITE community is a stranger to superstars and rags to riches stories; players like Barraccudda, MLCStealth and Jeff “The Sex” Hindla are household names for their time as world champions under the banner of Cloud Nine, Titan climbed all the way from the challenger cup to become the best team in Europe in the space of eight months, and currently Enemy sit close to the top end of the NA league after starting the season as group of relative unknowns.
But Panthera? Panthera are on a different level, so let’s dissect these wonderboys and find out what they do that makes them so unstoppable in the battleground of the gods, and hopefully find some sort of weakness in the current best team in the world...if they have any.
A Guide to Becoming the Greatest SMITE Team in the World
First of all let’s talk about the individual skill of these players, it’s pretty fair to say that they are a mechanically flawless group, which is not something you can say about every player, even the legendary Zapman will whiff an ability every once in awhile; but with Panthera you have to prepared to fight them knowing that they WILL execute every combo, every ultimate and every basic attack with sometimes inhuman accuracy.
This pinpoint precision also translates into their teamfight strategy, which is especially good at not only securing well timed combos, but also forcing the enemy team into a state of panic and disarray. It isn’t just the fact that Emilitoo will hit every basic, or that Yammyn will hit every snipe, it’s a combination of the team using their abilities in conjunction with each other to not only get the damage off but to cause the enemy team to misuse their own abilities in a panic. Let’s break it down with an example:
This comes from game two of Panthera’s set against Hungry for More in week nine of the Spring Split, let’s break down the team fight around the gold fury. [START - 18:36]
So let’s set the scene, HFM are off to a strong start with a lead in kills, gold is more or less tied up but HFM has a small XP lead and currently Emilitoo does not have his ultimate available after an exchange with Ataraxia, so they decide to try and force a fight at the gold fury, seems pretty standard, right?
However, Emilitoo spots this out and Adapting immediately begins to swing around the back of the gold fury pit, where HFM have no vision. They also have no vision on their own side of the gold fury which allows Dimi to teleport directly into the backline while Variety has to teleport into the middle of the pit, in front of Panthera. Also, Manalike is out of position, having to make an awkward rotation round the mid harpies and gets spotted out by Yammyn.
So Variety teleports in and immediately uses Ring of Spears to initiate onto Emilitoo and iRaffer, but the rest of his team is backed up slightly as they have to reset the gold fury. However before he gets boxed in Emilitoo fires a ricochet and does massive damage to CaptainTwig on the third bounce, stunning him and forcing him to use his ultimate to get out of the fight.
iRaffer immediately chains up Variety to negate the ult of his jump, his main source of damage and his only form of escape. Interestingly, Emilitoo chooses not to immediately use his jump to leave the Odin cage, as most would; instead he saves it until Manalike comes round the corner in order to avoid the CC, this is because he knows that the rest of the HFM are not prepared to aggress onto him and iRaffer in fear of the reactionary Ares ultimate.
Now that Captaintwig is out of the picture and Manalike has rotated in Panthera can start the real fight. Adapting and Dimi come in from behind, Yammyn fires his ultimate just as Fear no Evil is cast, narrowly missing PrettyPrime. PrettyPrime and Ataraxia immediately use purification, giving iRaffer the all clear to blink in and use his ult on the two carries, meanwhile Manalike is on the wrong side of the golf fury pit, unable to provide any peel for his teammates, and Variety can’t provide any help because his ultimate was already used. So PrettyPrime and Ataraxia have to use both of their own ultimates to avoid getting pulled, Ataraxia manages to escape but poor PrettyPrime has nowhere to go and gets finished off by Adapting.
As soon as that hits Dimi uses his ultimate to stun Manalike and Variety, forcing out Manalike’s ultimate and eventually killing him. Panthera now start attacking the gold fury, knowing that Ataraxia’s ultimate is down and successfully zoning HFM with the sacrifice of iRaffer. The fight ends with iRaffer kiting half of HFM towards their own side of the jungle and CaptainTwig accidentally killing Ataraxia by walling him out of the jungle and letting him be chased down by Emilitoo and Dimi. [END - 19:49]
That fight was actually closer than most fights against Panthera end up being, but still shows how Panthera are able to control the pace of a fight perfectly. The way that Adapting and Dimi were able to rotate from behind HFM, coupled with Manalike getting separated from the fight and Variety using his ultimate too early meant that HFM were unable to coordinate with each other and the carries were left with no peel.
This style of aggression is noticeable in most Panthera teamfights, the key is to separate the enemy and ensure that the objective is secured afterwards. Of course, you’d expect most teams to have a grasp of the old F. mantre of “the stuff after the stuff”; however Panthera and other top level teams take this philosophy a step further, it’s not just about taking a gold fury or a tower, Panthera use their teamfight wins to assert dominance over the map, they win a fight, take the gold fury, then from that point forward they look to control the entire map by invading the enemy jungle and forcing fights; it’s something more akin to “the stuff after the stuff after the stuff after the stuff”. This persistent and methodical aggression is what makes Panthera a snowballing powerhouse, and a very hard team to defend against.
Can They be Beaten?
While it’s true that Panthera are not unbeatable, they have lost games before, it going to take everything the other teams have got to bring down these titans of SMITE; and while it’s easy for me to sit here and break down what can be done to beat them, actually being able to pull it off in an SPL match is a whole other story.
Probably the hardest part to beating Panthera is simply getting to the same mechanical level as them. Yes, if you put any individual players in a one vs. one situation the skill gap would be very narrow, and some other players like CaptainTwig or Omega may win out over Adapting or Dimi. What I’m talking about here is coordination, the secret that separates the good teams from the great teams is not when to use your ultimate, but when to save it for the possibility of a better situation, such as providing better peel for your teammates.
While Panthera’s coordination is something to aspire to, there are a couple of exploitable weaknesses in their tactics. Firstly, they usually rely on making the enemy team go into a panicked state, specifically the support player, to ensure that they cannot provide sufficient peel for their carries. While we don’t have access to team communications during a match, it’s easy to imagine the ADC and the mid laner both saying “I need help over here” while the solo laner is saying “I’m here on my own, I need help too” and the support begins to panic and second guessing himself, and instead of choosing a target to save he ends up not saving anybody.
For the frontline players, the key is not to hesitate, if a teamfight is about to breakout you need to know where your carries are and what they plan to do, and if all hell breaks loose, choose one that you’re going to stick with and provide peel for if necessary. For the backline carries, to key is not to panic, Adapting and Emilitoo dive into the backline very quickly and usually end up going in two vs. one or three vs. one, but it works for them because the backline panics and can’t coordinate their damage, however if the game is relatively even enough, you will find that in the fights that Panthera loose usually come down to Adapting getting out-damaged by a combination of the mid and the ADC.
Panthera also struggle (in the lightest possible use of the term, granted) against more sustain-based team compositions, a fact that may become more prominent in the coming months as healing is currently playing a larger role in the metagame. Prolonged teamfights can leave Panthera impatient and often give the enemy team more team to regroup, calm down and regain some coordination. Panthera like to go into a teamfight with a distinct advantage of surprise, and work to keep that advantage by ending the fight as quickly as possible so that the enemy team doesn’t have time to react.
As I said, it’s easy for me to sit here and break down the in’s and out’s of a teamfight, hindsight is a wonderful thing. However when you’re in the middle of a competitive match with thousands of people watching your every move, it’s understandable to imagine teams getting a little bit nervous. Mind games play a much larger role in eSports than you might think; Panthera know this, and they certainly know how to exploit them.
So there you have it, I would love to say that it’s as simple as following these steps and you’ll see Panthera at the bottom of the table in no time, but if that were the case Panthera wouldn’t be up there in the first place and I’d probably be a pro player by now. However, hopefully this insight into one of the top teams in the world with give you some ideas on how to improve your team play, and who knows? Perhaps another team may rise to claim Panthera’s throne. That would be a shame, I was enjoying my easy fantasy points.