One of the side benefits/downfalls of live tournament play is the ability to lean over and take a sneak peak at the guild hall of your opponent before you enter the match, and sometimes even the build. With that said, this one was a tale of last-minute craziness, and oh what a string of mind games it was. EW gathered together in their guild hall with a "normal" build, and just before accepting the challenge from Te, logged out and logged back in, all prepared for Feast of Corruption spike. But by some fantastic revelation, or perhaps just by sheer chance, Kriegar from Treacherous Empire made his own last minute switch: Cry of Frustration.
One of the foundational strategies to fighting against a spike has always been to change up their focus and direction as much as possible, so they cannot adequately get a rhythm with which to stand still comfortably and spike. Te's plan from the beginning appeared to be a bait and switch, and it couldn't have worked more perfectly....Frozen Soil didn't help EW's cause, though.
Making a move to the Flame Curse Sentinels, EW saw Te as a team in retreat, and pushed in quickly, spiking down the perimeter Archers with ease. But with the Bodyguards aggroed and Te returning, Esoteric Warriors made perhaps the most fatal mistake imaginable–they placed a Frozen Soil, despite a decidedly weak tactical position, and were thus unable to resurrect their fallen team members as they went down. Maelstroms and Fireballs boosted Te's already formidable damage output, and the Americans pressed harder on the gas as they pushed EW back out through the lava. By the time eight minutes rolled around, Te had the first Sentinel dead, an almost completely dead EW team fleeing before them, the flag stand firmly in their control, and had killed a Bodyguard right before EW resurrected in their base. But this was no waiting game, as we'd seen many times before.
Andrew "Trex" Miller had continued to work on the second Sentinel during the turn of the tide, and placed himself in position to stand as a constant threat to EW's remaining NPC's. Once again, shift the focus of a spike team, and they will surely falter. Caught between trying to spike, trying to capture the flag, and trying to save their remaining Archers and Bodyguard, EW roamed back and forth, but ultimately could not keep pace.
Cry of Frustration was surely the MVP this day, though. Te lingered on the brink of disaster so many times during this match, but dodged the bullet almost every time, thanks to timely interrupts all around. The flag stand team bought Trex enough time to work his magic, and any verbal beating I may have given him following their loss in Game 1, I rescind in place of praise for his efficiency and effectiveness in Esoteric Warriors' base.
With VoD rapidly approaching, Te did their utmost to delay, interrupt, and damage, concerned about fighting in the cramped corridor at the flag stand, and the potential for losing all their NPCs in one Feast of Corruption spike, trying to bring the battle to the foot of EW's base. But the damage, degen, and hexes were difficult to keep pace with, and eventually Te fell back to the support of their NPCs, where the final battle began.
The final five minutes were a sight to behold. I made the dash from the control room to the stage area, eager to witness this one first hand. The crowd was seething and shouting, responding in a chorus of cheers with each of EW's successful spikes, but their European brethren were struggling. I positioned myself next to Leo "Kriegar" Cheng, who was staring intently at his screen, waiting and watching for each FoC spike so he could use Cry of Frustration and Gale. Te barely survived a series of spikes, but fought back harder each and every time, forcing their way into the thick of the Necro cluster. Then all of the sudden, the kills began to rain down. "DPS THE LORD", shouted Kriegar, and all damage went to EW's Guild Lord, forcing them to go into full healing mode. Then, having once again shifted their opponent's focus, Te struck a decisive string of kills, all the while continuing pressure on the Guild Lord. The crowd screamed with anticipation, the German announcers yelled loudly (nothing unusual there), and Te flipped out on stage. They put the finishing touches on a fantastically played game, and mobbed each other with delight. Somehow, some way, both American teams had managed to make it to the second round–who would have thought?