SPL SPRING GAUNTLET: UNDERDOGS WIN THE WEEKEND
by Wyatt Hall
The SPL Gauntlet has officially ended, and what a long weekend it was. Roughly ten hours of pro level Smite gameplay for three straight days. Luckily, it was full of action and surprises. It’s time to go over what happened, who won it all, and who to look out for in the upcoming months. Let’s dive right in!
Day 1: SoaR wins the day, Oxygen wins our hearts
The first day of the Gauntlet featured the bottom 6 teams in the NA SPL plus the top challenger cup team. This day was probably the most upset-filled one, with Oxygen Supremacy stealing the show. This CC team, that very few expected to do well, ended up sweeping three sets in a row. They rolled right through Flash Point, Noble, and Allegiance. They ended up falling to In Memory of Gabe but they definitely gave them a run for their money. It seemed like what finally ended their streak was fatigue, which is understandable since they had been playing for roughly 7 hours straight at that point. If they had even a short break in between games we might have even seen them go ever further.
After taking down the new fan favorite team in OS, IMOG went up against SoaR. The set between the two lasted the full three games with SoaR finding their stride and taking the day in Game 2 and 3, looking stronger than ever.
Day 2: Rival stands unrivaled
The second day sees the same format but the EU teams got their time to shine. The team that came on strong today was by far Team Rival. Sure, they were the third-seeded team in the EU Gauntlet behind Eanix and NRG, but they weren’t expected to make it past their second set. In fact, myself and many others predicted them to fall to Elevate. They definitely showed that they deserved better. They not only ripped right through Elevate, they took down Eanix in dominant fashion to come out of the day on top.
Besides Rival’s sets, the rest of the day was pretty standard. Optimus Gang (CC) was able to take down Sanguine and from then on, the higher seed won every set up to the Eanix vs Rival upset. Lion Guard might have been able to beat Elevate in their set but they were forced to forfeit when their mid laner, ShadowNightmare, started to have some heart issues.
Day 3: Three champions emerge
The third and last day was the day everyone was looking for. These 4 sets would decide who goes to the Spring Finals along with seeding. To add even more hype, we get to see the first EU vs NA sets of the season. Despite NRG and eUnited being the easy favorites to win, both SoaR and Rival were able to claim the top two spots from the Gauntlet at the Finals LAN.
The last spot left was decided by a wildcard game between the two top seeds who weren’t able to defeat their challengers. The rematch from Season 2 worlds played out exactly like it did in Season 2, with NRG sweeping the set rather easily.
EU also won the seeding contest between Rival and SoaR. The set was close, but Rival is on a hot streak right now and SoaR was not going to stop it.
Teams headed to LAN
Rival was probably the least expected of the three teams making it through. They decided to shut up the haters and show just how good they can be. They had the longest path to victory of the three teams, but that didn’t phase them one bit. They had a rocky start against Elevate, but once they got going, they were unstoppable for the rest of the weekend. Not even NRG, the defending world champions, were able to take them down. This is definitely a team to watch at the upcoming LAN. They have their work cut out for them, facing Luminosity in the first round, but they’ve proven that they are not a team to ignore.
SoaR is a team that would deserve the “Most Improved” award if it was such a thing. This team was second to last for a good portion of the split, and after a change of solo laners, they rose to the top. This good performance streak continued into the Gauntlet, and now they’re going to the Spring Finals LAN. They could easily be compared to Season 2 Gauntlet, that went from low seed to the Smite World Championship finals in the span of a couple months. We’ll see if they continue to improve at the rapid pace that they’ve been going at. They face Team Dignitas in the first round, who aren’t an unbeatable opponent but will surely prove to be a difficult one.
What has happened to NRG? Before the Gauntlet, they had won the past six major LANs in a row. They didn’t drop a single LAN in the entirety of Season 3. Now they’re barely making it to the Finals as a wildcard, just 3 months after they won their second world championship. Some speculate that they’ve not been trying as hard and interest in the game has gone down, but the issues seem to go beyond that. Maybe it’s just the dawn of a new era of champions. Maybe they’ve just been in a slump and they’ll be back on top in the Summer. One thing has stayed the same, and that is that they don’t like losing. After losing in a heartbreaking set against Rival, they completely steamrolled eUnited. Whatever it is, they’ll need to regain their spark soon if they want to make it very far in the Finals. They face LG Dire Wolves first and will move on to face Obey if they win. Obey is looking easily like the best team in the world at the moment, and something’s going to need to happen in the next week if they want to take them down.
Iceicebaby (Team Rival) - All of Rival had a fantastic weekend, but the real star of the show was iceicebaby. In almost every game his team won, he was all over the map, causing issues for every opposing lane. In team fights, he caused chaos among the enemy team with his huge ultimates. The terror he caused was amplified even further when he was allowed to play what seems to be his signature god, Susano. In the few games that Susano slipped through, he absolutely DOMINATED on this god. He got 5x his deaths in kills whenever he was able to play the storm assassin. This man is a force to be reckoned with.
Oxygen Supremacy - The cinderella story of the Gauntlet. This team went from relatively unknown, to being a fan favorite in the span of a few hours. Before the fatigue started to set in, this team looked unstoppable. Sadly, the Gauntlet is an unforgiving style of tournament, and it defeated them in the end. Despite their loss here, expect them to return in a blaze of glory when relegations return before the SPL Summer Split. This team won’t be going away anytime soon.
This weekend was filled with exciting games. 14 teams came in looking for victory, and only 3 came out qualifying for the Finals LAN. Rival, SoaR, and NRG may be able to rest easy for the time being, but the Finals are coming soon and they will face much tougher opponents. Hopefully, they will continue to find success. Until then, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Wyatt Hall is a lover of video games, politics, and especially esports. You can contact him at his email: email@example.com. You can also find him on Twitter at @thewyatthall15, on reddit as /u/Skyhall, or in-game as Skyhall.