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It’s no secret that Europe has been a dominant force in the SMITE Pro League. The North American circuit has seemingly been in decline since Cognitive Prime took the World Championship trophy in Season 1. Other than a dominant streak from AFK Gaming in the middle of Season 2 and some impressive runs from both Cloud9 and Enemy in Season 3, Europe has felt untouchable in the last few seasons of the SPL.

EU team NRG has taken the last two World Championship titles, and the region has continued to dominate in Season 4. Spring Masters champions Obey Alliance and Dreamhack Valencia winners Team Dignitas have picked up where NRG left off — getting the better of their NA counterparts at seemingly every turn. In fact, the last time any NA team was able to take a set off an EU squad was back at the Season 3 Super Regionals, when ALG went undefeated in the Group Play stages.

But in spite of this brutal losing streak, it’s not all doom and gloom for North America as we head into this year’s Hi-Rez Expo. Both Luminosity Gaming and eUnited are representing the NA region at the tournament — and though the odds aren’t totally in their favor against the likes of NRG Esports, Obey Alliance, Team Rival, and Elevate, there’s still some hope that they can redeem North America’s reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the SMITE Pro scene.

Before we see how these two teams fare at HRX 2018, let’s take a look back at how North America performed and progressed throughout the course of Season 4.

 

Spring Split

 

This split began with an action-packed relegation phase where aspiring SMITE teams could play for a shot at entering the SPL. Of the six teams who participated in this phase, only the top-ranked team moved on to run with the big dogs of SMITE Pro. Here’s how each up-and-coming team did during this portion of the split:

  • In Memory of Gabe (4-0)
  • Enemy (3-1)
  • Noble Esports (2-3)
  • NeilM (2-3)
  • Cope is Still the Problem (2-3)
  • Astral Authority (1-4)

Once we had all the teams in place for this split, the real action began with the online portion. Team Eager came out ahead of the pack early on and stayed strong throughout each tournament. With the likes of Zapman, Aror, TheBest, djpernicus, and Divios on their roster, this team looked like they would go the distance — and they brought out some unique strategies of their own to try and do just that. From Guan Yu or Chang’e jungle to Ra mid and Erlang Shen support, Eager made their own meta and stuck with it. And to everyone’s surprise…it worked!

After five intense weeks of online tournaments, Eager took the top spot in team rankings, followed closely by Luminosity Gaming and eUnited (who had merged with Team Enemy earlier in the year). The standings after this phase were as follows:

  • 1st: Team Eager 4-3-0 (11-3)
  • 2nd: Luminosity Gaming 3-4-0 (10-4)
  • 3rd: eUnited 3-3-1 (9-5)
  • 4th: SoaR Gaming 3-1-3 (7-7)
  • 5th: In Memory of Gabe 2-3-2 (7-7)
  • 6th: Team Allegiance 1-3-3 (5-9)
  • 7th: Noble Esports 1-2-4 (4-10)
  • 8th: Flash Point Esports 1-1-5 (3-11)

Following this segment of the Spring Split, the bottom six of these teams entered into the SPL Spring Gauntlet LAN to qualify for placement in the SMITE Masters LAN. With Team Eager and Luminosity Gaming already qualified for the Masters event, the other NA teams would have to battle it out against the top challenger circuit teams and some lower-seeded SPL teams from the EU region if they also wanted a seat at the SMITE Masters later that month.

Each team went in with high hopes, but most of the lower-seeded NA teams weren’t able to stand up to Oxygen Surpremacy, a team that came out of the Challenger’s Circuit. Ultimately, only SoaR and eUnited made it to the final rounds — but once these two teams found themselves facing down EU powerhouses like NRG and Rival, they weren’t quite able to bring home those final wins. Here’s how each team fared when all was said and done:

  • SoaR Gaming (4-4)
  • eUnited (1-2)
  • In Memory of Gabe (3-3)
  • Team Allegiance (0-2)
  • Noble Esports (0-2)
  • Flash Point Esports (0-2)

With the Spring Gauntlet out of the way and subsequent seeding determined for the next event, our NA teams headed into the SMITE Masters LAN to test their mettle against other elite teams from all over the world.

Though Eager finished first in the online phase of this Spring Split with their unconventional tactics, they couldn’t replicate that success when they moved into this LAN portion. In a head-scratching run at the Masters, Eager nearly lost their quarterfinals set to Brazilian team Black Dragons — and then failed to pick up a single game against their semifinals opponent, Team Dignitas. As a result, their final match results didn’t look so hot:

  • Quarterfinals
    • Luminosity Gaming vs. Team Rival (1-2)
    • Team Eager vs. Black Dragons (2-1)
    • SoaR Gaming vs. Team Dignitas (0-2)
  • Semifinals
    • Team Eager vs. Team Dignitas (0-3)

Although Eager was the highlight of this split, other NA teams found themselves in the same boat in terms of struggling against EU teams. In a similarly rocky Masters performance, Luminosity Gaming and SoaR Gaming both took devastating losses in their matches against Team Rival and Team Dignitas, respectively.

Though SoaR Gaming and Luminosity were able to dust themselves off after such a difficult start to Season 4, Team Eager wasn’t quite able to survive the pressure. Their roster collapsed shortly after the SMITE Masters event, as hunter Zapman decided to take a break from the competitive SMITE scene. The remainder of this team’s roster became Team AI, but the new squad wasn’t able to make any real waves in subsequent splits.

When it was all said and done, Spring just didn’t seem to be the split for North America. Though the region’s teams were hoping they’d get a better shake during the Summer Split, things didn’t exactly pan out as they would have liked when the middle third of the SPL rolled around.

 

Summer Split

 

Following the collapse of Eager at the end of the Spring Split, it was time to shine for In Memory of Gabe and SoaR Gaming. In the time between splits, both these teams signed with new organizations and took on new names. In Memory of Gabe became known as Trifecta, while SoaR briefly used Monkey Madness as their moniker before finally taking on the name of Spacestation Gaming for the rest of the season.

But before these two teams could start battling their way through the Summer Split, aspiring SPL teams had to prove themselves in Relegations once again for a chance at participating in the second split of Season 4. A few teams from Spring Relegations reappeared for Summer Relegations, including Noble Esports and NeilM (who changed their name to SPL Gatekeepers after failing to qualify in the Spring). Here’s how rankings looked post-Relegations:

  • 1st: Flash Point Esports (2-0)
  • 2nd: Noble Esports (2-1)
  • 3rd: SPL Gatekeepers (1-2)
  • 4th: Quignitas (0-2)

With Flash Point and Noble taking the final open slots for the Summer Split, the online phase got underway. Bringing their new names in tow, Trifecta and Spacestation Gaming (SSG) both performed well and found themselves tied for first place with a 10-4 record for this portion of the split. Let’s take a quick look at how the standings shook out following 6 weeks of online play:

  • 1st: Spacestation Gaming 4-2-1 (10-4)
  • 2nd: Trifecta 4-2-1 (10-4)
  • 3rd: Luminosity Gaming 3-3-1 (9-5)
  • 4th: eUnited 3-2-2 (8-6)
  • 5th: Noble Esports 3-1-3 (7-7)
  • 6th: Team Allegiance 2-2-3 (6-8)
  • 7th: Team AI 1-4-2 (6-8)
  • 8th: Flash Point Esports 0-0-7 (0-14)

With such an impressive run, both SSG and Trifecta seemed to be great frontrunners for North American heading into the Summer Finals at Dreamhack Valencia. Although Luminosity came close behind and brought the count of NA teams at Dreamhack up to three, the North Americans still found themselves slightly outnumbered and outmatched at this LAN.

Trifecta looked confident out of the gate in a strong quarterfinals set versus NRG, where they won Game 1 with ease and found themselves with a commanding 18,000 gold lead by the 35-minute mark of Game 2. But just when it started to look like this NA team might take a set off an EU opponent for the first time in nearly a year, NRG bounced back with clutch saves from iRaffer’s Khepri and Yammyn’s sneaky offensive positioning on The Morrigan. NRG recovered their deficit to take the win in Game 2, then rode that momentum into Game 3 — where they not only grabbed the win, but did so with only one death on the board by the time the Titan fell.

With Trifecta knocked out of the Summer Finals bracket, the only remaining hopes for North America were SSG and Luminosity. Unfortunately for both teams, neither of them was able to take a single game off of Team Rival or Obey Alliance during the quarterfinals. As such, the final standings from Dreamhack Valencia were dominated by EU teams:

  • 1st: Team Dignitas (8-2)
  • 2nd: Team Rival (7-4)
  • 3rd: Obey Alliance (3-3)
  • 4th: NRG Esports (2-4)
  • 5th: Trifecta (1-2)
  • 6th: Spacestation Gaming (0-2)
  • 7th: Luminosity Gaming (0-2)
  • 8th: Black Dragons (0-2)

As brutal as the Spring Split was for NA, the Summer Split didn’t treat the region’s teams much better. But North America’s finest SMITE players hadn’t quite reached the end of the road yet, as they still had the Fall Split to recover from the bruisings they’d received earlier in the year.

 

Fall Split

 

The most important split of all in the SPL is the Fall Split — the one that leads up to the SMITE World Championship at Hi-Rez Expo. And it was the last shot that North America had at proving it was still a relevant region in the SMITE Pro scene.

Like every split, the Fall phase began with online relegations to determine which aspiring team would get to play with the rest of the pros. Flash Point Esports and SPL Gatekeepers tried their hand at Relegations once again, and SPL Gatekeepers finally found the success they were looking for during the last relegation of Season 4. They took the top spot in relegation rankings, followed closely by A Mighty Storm:

  • 1st: SPL Gatekeepers (3-0)
  • 2nd: A Mighty Storm (2-1)
  • 3rd: Flash Point Esports (1-2)
  • 4th: Team AI (0-3)

After qualifying for SPL through these relegations, both SPL Gatekeepers and A Mighty Storm changed their team names — with Gatekeepers becoming known as Team Vigilant, while A Mighty Storm became known as Team CryptiK.

When all these NA teams entered the main phase of S4’s final split, it wasn’t Luminosity or Spacestation or even Trifecta that set the bar this time around. Instead it was eUnited, the team formerly known as the remnants of Enemy earlier in the year. With PolarBearMike joining the roster to take over the captain role from PainDeViande, eUnited found their stride and held it throughout the split. They were so dominant during this portion of the season that they only lost a total of three games out of the 20 they played, including matches played at LAN events like Super Regionals.

But it wasn’t such smooth sailing for other teams who had performed well in previous splits. By the time the online phase was over, eUnited was top dog and the formerly dominant teams were filling the second, third, and fourth place seeds:

  • 1st: eUnited 6-1-0 (13-1)
  • 2nd: Luminosity Gaming 5-2-0 (12-2)
  • 3rd: Spacestation Gaming 3-3-1 (9-5)
  • 4th: Trifecta 3-2-2 (8-6)
  • 5th: Team Vigilant 1-3-3 (5-9)
  • 6th: Noble Esports 1-1-5 (3-11)
  • 7th: Team CryptiK 0-3-4 (4-11)
  • 8th: Team Allegiance 0-3-4 (3-12)

The bottom four of these teams would have to fight their way through the Fall Gauntlet event if they wanted a shot at playing in the 2017 Super Regionals and qualifying for the World Championship at HRX 2018. But most of their dreams were dashed as the tournament played out — and in the end, Noble Esports was the only team that secured themselves a spot for Super Regionals.

When these qualified NA teams took the stage at the Super Regionals LAN, they looked nothing like the teams we’d seen in the Spring and Summer Splits. Not only were they able to take games and sets off of their EU opponents, but they also brought some incredible gameplay with them that had casters and fans alike on the edges of their seats.

In the Group Play stages of Super Regionals, Noble got knocked out early in a brutal 0-5 run. Trifecta fared a little better, coming away with a 2-3 record that saw them beat Noble and Dignitas before losing to NRG and SSG. Counting this Trifecta loss, SSG ended the Group Play portion with a 3-2 record — having only lost sets to NRG and Elevate. With these records in tow, both SSG and Trifecta headed into the semifinals to face off against the top two NA teams for the Fall Split, Luminosity Gaming and eUnited.

During these semifinal rounds, eUnited took a clean 3-0 set against Trifecta, who didn’t look prepared at all for the intense pressure that eUnited brought to the table. On the other side of the semi-final bracket, we saw an epic series play out between Luminosity Gaming and SSG. Going the distance to the full five games of the Bo5 set, it was a battle of hunters as LG’s BaRRaCCuDDa faced off against SSG’s Zapman — but in the end, the duo lane dream team of BaRRaCCuDDA and JeffHindla was simply too strong for SSG, and Luminosity took the final win to proceed into the NA finals match.

After a flurry of hard-fought victories, Luminosity and eUnited met on the Super Regionals stage to fight for the top NA seed. Each game was close, and the set went all the way to five games as neither side was willing to give up the opportunity to bypass the placement rounds at this year’s World Championship. In the end, eUnited came out the victor with a 3-2 record and proved once again that they deserved their #1 NA seed, even if they were the new(ish) team on the block.

 

What’s Next?

 

North America doesn’t have much left to do in Season 4 of the SMITE Pro League. All that’s left now is the biggest event of the year — the SMITE World Championship at HRX 2018. These NA boys will definitely be outnumbered this year, as they’re the only two NA teams among a sea of international contenders.

While eUnited waits comfortably in the wings for lower-seeded teams to fight for the right to face them, Luminosity will have to claw their way through the placement stages — where their first opponent will be Australian team, Scylla Esports. What happens after that is up to them and the kind of performance they can bring to the table.

To make sure you don’t miss a minute of these NA teams vying for glory, be sure to check out our SMITE World Championship schedule for HRX 2018. When the event rolls around, you’ll be able to watch all the action live via the official HiRezTV Twitch channel, or at a participating Coke Theater near you.

For more updates in the meantime on your favorite NA contenders, be sure to follow @SmitePro on Twitter to get all the latest news!