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With HRX 2018 drawing ever closer in January, the top SMITE teams from every region are more focused than ever before on developing new methods that might give them a much-needed edge in competitive play. Though the four European teams coming to the SMITE World Championship already have a slight advantage in numbers, they’re still working hard on some game-winning strategies of their own.

If you’ve been keeping up with the SPL, you know that Europe has been a dominant region this year — so much, in fact, that this year’s HRX will feature four EU teams rather than last year’s two. For those of you who haven’t had much time to devote to tracking the SPL this season, no worries. We’ll be breaking down all the highs and lows that your favorite European teams brought to the table in Season 4 of the SMITE Pro League.

 

Spring Split

 

  • Top God Picks: Fafnir, Terra, Hou Yi, Skadi
  • Top God Bans: Serqet, Susano, Terra, Skadi

After NRG successfully took home their second SMITE World Championship title at last year’s HRX, it seemed like every team in Europe was more determined than ever to dethrone them as the reigning champs. The start of the Season 4 Spring Split was the perfect opportunity for those teams to show how much they’d progressed since Season 3, and prove that they could come back stronger with some S4 balance changes and a new meta to match.

When the Spring Split finally kicked off, Obey Alliance was initially declared the team to beat. With EmilZy taking over the support role for Frezzyy and ManiaKK taking over for Variety as the solo laner, it seemed like Obey had finally managed to secure a powerhouse roster strong enough to topple everyone else in the EU SPL.

Obey wasn’t the only team to experience roster changes, though. Their former solo laner, Variety, joined the likes of Qvofred, Trixtank, Zyrhoes, and Arkkyl to form a new roster under the Team Dignitas moniker. Because this team was composed of highly regarded and well-seasoned pro players, Dignitas quickly became a fan favorite as well.

By the end of the Spring Split, both Obey and Dignitas had lived up to fan expectations. Obey ended the split as the top seed, with Dignitas following close behind as second seed. Both teams had finally gotten the better of reigning world champs NRG, who ended the split in third place. Though these three top-tier teams were expected to finish in the upper echelons of rankings from this first phase of the season, Obey really separated themselves from the rest of the pack by only dropping a single game through the entirety of the split.

The top two teams from this split automatically qualified for the SMITE Masters LAN in April, while everyone else in the SPL prepared to battle it out in the Spring Gauntlet to claim one of the coveted Masters slots.

With NRG being thrown into the Gauntlet with a rabble of other teams, fans were wondering whether or not they’d be able to make it out. As always, the NRG boys found a way to get by — but not in the way viewers expected them to. Instead of NRG dominating the LAN, it was Team Rival who took the event by storm and surprised just about everyone when they defeated the reigning world champs to qualify for the Masters. Though NRG still squeaked by and managed to qualify themselves, Rival’s outperformance of them was a tough blow for the team.

When all was said and done at the Spring Gauntlet, Rival had put themselves on the map as a real contender for the top team in Europe. Their innovative playstyle helped them catch NRG and everyone else at the Gauntlet off guard, and their prioritization of off-meta picks turned seemingly unviable gods (like Isis, Kali, and Athena) into seriously competitive choices. Needless to say, Rival’s unique approach got the cogs turning in the minds of other teams who had watched them knock down NRG. With the Masters LAN on the way, everyone wanted to come up with a surefire way to take home the win — and Rival had seemingly shaken up the scene enough that a few new tactics fell out for other teams to try.

Ultimately, though, the SMITE Masters tournament held the same fate for these European teams as the entirety of the Spring Split. Obey Alliance mowed down everyone in their path and secured the title of Spring Split champs after a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Team Dignitas in the finals match. But there’s no rest for the talented, and Obey didn’t get too much time to celebrate their Masters victory. The Summer Split was right around the corner — and with it, another set of tournaments to grind through in hopes of becoming one of the top four EU teams and earn a seat for the Summer Finals at Dreamhack Valencia.

 

Summer Split

  • Top God Picks: Osiris, Sol, Hou Yi, Ravana
  • Top God Bans: Ravana, Osiris, Serqet, Terra

The Summer Split of Season 4 played out more or less the same way in regards to which teams were expected to qualify for Dreamhack Valencia. Dignitas, Obey, NRG, and Rival all walked away from the split with seats waiting for them at the Summer Finals, so the event would be a rematch in more ways than one. These teams wanted nothing more than to topple each other — especially after the way things went down at the Masters LAN.

As teams tried new tactics, a few fresh faces appeared in the pool of god picks for the region. While most of the meta stayed the same, gods like Bellona, the Morrigan, and Osiris saw more prioritization in drafts than they had in previous splits.

Though the top four teams for the Summer Split were the same as those from the Spring Split, there was a little bit of a power shift that made them all play musical seeds. When the dust settled in the online portion of this split, Team Dignitas came out on top and headed into the Summer Finals at Dreamhack Valencia as the #1 EU seed.

Upsets were bound to happen at the Summer Finals, but no one was expecting the matches to play out quite the way they did. Team Rival broke down Obey’s defenses in the semifinals with a brutal 3-1 set, leaving Team Dignitas to take on NRG for a ticket to the finals. Unfortunately NRG suffered a worse fate, as Dignitas made quick work of the two-time world champions with a clean 3-0 sweep in the semifinals — ensuring that the only thing standing between Dignitas and a Dreamhack win was the underdog, Team Rival.

In the finals face-off between Dignitas and Rival, the usual meta was pretty much thrown out the window. Both teams brought out playstyles and tactics that hadn’t been attempted since Season 0 of SMITE. Rival found themselves down 0-2 at the outset, but they weren’t ready to give up just yet. With everything on the line, Deathwalker brought out Ares in the solo lane to help Rival find their first win of the finals round — and more importantly, giving them some momentum to take the win in the next game as well. But in the all-important Game 5 of the finals match at Dreamhack Valencia, Dignitas mustered up the last of their strength and pulled out a 3-2 victory to become the Summer Split champions.

Although this win marked the end of the Summer Split and Dignitas had taken the crown as the new top team in Europe, one thing had been made clear to everyone: Rival was a true contender in the EU region, and their fellow teams should be wary of crossing them.

 

Fall Split

 

  • Top God Picks: Ah Muzen Cab, Hou Yi, Serqet, Fafnir
  • Top God Bans: Raijin, Artio, Osiris, Ah Muzen Cab

From being the top-seeded EU team in the Summer Split to taking home the victory at Dreamhack Valencia, Team Dignitas seemed unstoppable heading into the Fall Split — and for the most part, they continued to dominate in this final phase of the season. However, the other teams who were trailing just behind them were in for a harder struggle this time around.

Team Rival, in spite of their incredible performance in the Spring and Summer Splits, found themselves floundering in the online phase of the Fall Split, where they took multiple losses right off the bat. Meanwhile, Obey and NRG were trying to play catch-up with Dignitas — though they did so to mixed results. Interestingly enough, Obey and NRG had just played a little game of roster shuffle at the start of this split, after Obey’s solo laner ManiaKK hopped over to join NRG and was replaced by former Paradigm member Xaliea.

With the 2017 Super Regionals closing in fast, these EU teams were really starting to feel the pressure. This LAN event would be the last chance each of these teams had to qualify for the SMITE World Championship at HRX 2018. And with only five spots open on the docket, no one wanted to be one of the three teams who would be left on the sideline.

As clear-cut as pro standings seemed to be in the region, Europe ended up being a complete toss-up in the end. Obey, Dignitas, and Rival nabbed their spots at Super Regionals, but NRG didn’t make the cut and would be forced to fight through the Fall Gauntlet for another shot.

Who took the fourth place seed and Supers qualification away from the defending world champs? None other than Team Elevate. While the EU SPL was busy being captivated by Dignitas, Elevate was waiting in the wings and quietly crafting a plan of attack that ended up solidifying them as a team worth watching through the rest of the Fall Split.

But in spite of a disheartening defeat in the Split, NRG wasn’t about to let Elevate completely knock them out of the running for HRX. Few things are guaranteed in the SMITE Pro scene, but one thing’s for sure — it isn’t really an SPL LAN if NRG isn’t taking the stage. So these grizzled EU veterans brawled their way out of the Gauntlet and into one of the last spots at Super Regionals.

 

Super Regionals 2017

 

After a hard-fought Fall Split, these EU teams gathered at the Hi-Rez Esports Arena to go head-to-head against both each other and the top-tier NA teams at the 2017 SMITE Super Regionals. The stakes were high and tensions were even higher as teams came together for the Group Play phase of the event. During this stage, NRG didn’t drop a single game and seemed to be returning the champion form their fans were used to seeing them bring to LAN events. Their stellar performance in these initial matches automatically qualified them for HRX 2018, where they could try to turn their double World Championship title into a historical triple.

NRG wasn’t the only team who outpaced the competition in Group Play. In a totally unexpected upset, Team Elevate caught everyone off guard with a three Guardian, two Hunter meta shift. Ultimately, this strategy helped them get the better of their competition and won them a ticket to attend HRX alongside the team that they nearly knocked out of the running.

Even though this was a surprise to everyone, Elevate landing the World Championship qualification wasn’t the most astonishing thing that happened at Super Regionals. That (dis)honor goes to Team Dignitas’ performance throughout the event. Where they had been looking exceptional since the start of Season 4, the boys seemed completely disjointed when they took the Supers stage. An initial 0-3 set loss to Rival seemed to throw them off their game for the rest of the week. After getting knocked down to the Group Play bracket, Dignitas was seemingly unable to recover from their early losses and ended up failing to qualify for HRX altogether.

On the other end of the bracket, Obey and Rival were left to scrap it out against each other for the top seed going into Worlds. Whoever took that #1 spot would automatically advance to the quarterfinals, while the #2 seed would have to claw their way through placement matches first. When the match kicked off, Rival’s struggles during the online portion of the Fall Split seemed to disappear entirely. They employed some clever playstyles and seemingly unviable picks that left the boys of Obey scratching their heads — and soon enough, Rival had toppled this top-ranked team in a commanding 3-1 set.

 

What’s Next

 

By the end of Super Regionals, the European region had managed to fill out four of the six open SPL slots for HRX 2018 — thus solidifying the idea that that EU is currently the best region when it comes to SMITE. As to whether or not North America (or even an international team) manages to shatter that perception, it’s too soon to say. You’ll have to join us see what happens as the Season 4 SMITE World Championship plays out.

To catch all the action, you can tune in to our HiRezTV Twitch channel and get sweet loot rewards while you watch. You can also follow us on Twitter (@SmitePro) for more updates and additional content before and during the event.

See you at HRX!