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Another HRX is around the corner, which means another chance for beloved players JeffHindla and BaRRaCCuDDa to make their mark on the worlds stage. Most other teams in the SMITE Pro League can combine their worlds credentials and still not measure up to this iconic duo lane. But how did this pair, and the rest of the Luminosity team, ensure their return to HRX for this season?

LG’s Season 4 performance began with some major changes. The boys were coming off an impressive run at HRX 2017 — ScaryD had emerged as one of the best solo laners in the circuit, Mask had proven himself on the biggest LAN stage of the year, and Barra was playing at a higher level than ever before. But despite their semi-finals finish in Season 3 worlds, LG dropped Xenotronics as their mid going into Season 4. And thus began a game of musical mid-laners that rocked the whole SMITE scene.

Many players in North America changed roles to fill a talent void in the mid lane. High-profile personalities like Andinster (formerly a top-tier jungler) and Baskin (formerly a solo laner) made the transition to mid for S4. And though we won’t say that all the players who swapped to this role did so exclusively to try and join the Luminosity roster, the opening did heavily influence the scene. With Andinster and Baskin in mid, alongside established players like MLC_St3alth and Khaos, LG had many excellent options to fill that void if they could entice a player to leave their current team.

As the NA SPL scene eagerly anticipated Luminosity’s decision, Barra had a little slip of the tongue that spoiled the surprise for everyone: Baskin would be the team’s new mid. The pick made sense, given that Baskin is indisputably one of the best mechanical players in the game, and he’s already teamed up with Jeff and Barra before as part of the Season 2 C9 roster. If LG fans didn’t have high enough expectations after the team’s great Worlds performance, they certainly did once the new roster was announced.

 

 

The newly assembled LG lineup started off strong at the beginning of the Spring split. In their typical fashion, the team had some inconsistent games during the split but walked away with a second place finish that secured their spot at the 2017 SMITE Masters LAN. Baskin looked comfortable enough in his mid role — not a superstar just yet, but clearly a master of the fundamentals. His new jungler, Mask, said that the transition was easy for Baskin:

“The only growing pain with Baskin was godpool, the longer he played the role the better he got.”

Going into the Spring Gauntlet LAN, LG’s nemesis was Team Rival — a European team that had historically been near the bottom of the SPL but skyrocketed to the upper echelons of EU rankings after some stellar performances during the split. Despite being the #2 seed in NA, Luminosity knew they had their work cut out for them when they faced off against Rival.

This set wasn’t just about LG vs. Rival. It was about NA vs. EU. The “NA sucks, EU is dominant” sentiment found some traction during Season 3 worlds, because both finalist teams were European. But the Spring Gauntlet LAN wove a new storyline that will persist into this year’s HRX event. Rival looked like the better team — and even though LG was the only North American roster to take a game from an EU opponent, their prowess still wasn’t enough to win the set.

With a little bit of a vendetta building, NA teams entered the Summer split with hopes of closing the gap between their region and EU. Luminosity took this task more seriously than most, studying their loss to Rival and what the European teams were doing that made them successful. So when they qualified for Dreamhack Valencia, the LG boys knew it was an opportunity to prove that at least one NA team had learned from their beatings at the SMITE Masters.

Unfortunately, this proving ground was simply too much for LG and their fellow NA teams. The European squads showed no mercy and dominated NA across the board. Not a single North American team made it to the semi-finals, and LG themselves lost badly in back-to-back games.

Now that the team had been dominated for two LANs in a row by European squads, it was clear that something needed to change. ScaryD in particular hadn’t been bringing much consistency or looking like the world beater he was at HRX, so the team decided to part ways with the young solo laner. According to JeffHindla, the choice didn’t come easy:

“Honestly we needed a change of pace. Everyone loved scary and he’s a great person to team with but things just didn’t work out.” –JeffHindla

For the second time in Season 4, LG was on the hunt for a new member. Luckily, there’s a lot of solo lane talent in NA, which meant lots of excellent options for the picking. SMITE fans tossed around names like CycloneSpin and Benji as possible picks. But instead of recruiting an established solo star, LG went another direction and brought on an unproven rookie with loads of undeveloped talent: Aquarius.

It was a risky decision to pick up someone who had spent the year at the bottom of the SPL, but Luminosity’s veterans knew they were making a good choice. Because of their already star-studded roster, the team didn’t need any more high-profile players. All they really needed was a competent solo player who could hold down their lane, synergize well with Mask, and create room for the two carries in team fights. And because both Jeff and Barra have plenty of experience molding young players into SMITE champions, it wasn’t a huge leap to do the same with a promising player like Aquarius.

 

 

Much like the Spring Split was all about adjusting to Baskin’s return, the Fall Split was focused on allowing Aquarius to get comfortable. It didn’t take long, either, because LG quickly looked like they were firing on all cylinders yet again. When Super Regionals rolled around at the end of the Split, LG qualified as the #2 NA seed with their two new members in tow.

Once more, Luminosity would vy against other top teams for their usual spot at HRX 2018. They played like uncaged LANimals for most of the tournament, but ran into a tough set against Spacestation Gaming in the semi-finals. This matchup felt poetic in a number of ways. It pitted two of the best hunters in the history of competitive SMITE, BaRRaCCuDDa vs. Zapman, against each other in a deadly duo lane showdown. It was also a chance at redemption for ScaryD, who had found a home with SSG after being kicked from Luminosity.

SSG came into the LAN on a hot streak, looking to upset the second-seeded LG. The ensuing set certainly delivered on the hype, going all five games in a tense back-and-forth. After splitting the first two games, the third game of the set looked like it was going to go to SSG until Baskin made an incredible play while piloting the Morrigan and took a second win for LG. When the set pushed all the way to Game 5, it was Aquarius on Thanatos solo and Mask on Ravana jungle that came up big and secured Luminosity’s seat at HRX.

 

 

Though LG wasn’t able wasn’t able to take the #1 seed off their scrim partners, eUnited, the team felt that Super Regionals still gave them a lot of confidence going into worlds:

“[We] have a lot of room for improvement and personally it makes me very excited to see where we can take the team.” –JeffHindla

The Luminosity boys have an air of confidence heading into HRX this year, and it’s appropriate that they feel ready for the challenges ahead. Jeff and Barra know what it takes to win a World Championship, and they’ve finished in the top 4 at every SMITE World Championship event they’ve participated in. Baskin looks ready to be a star in the mid lane (if he isn’t already), Mask’s level of play continues to improve, and Aquarius has proven to be a vital contributor in the solo lane.

Despite losing the first seed to eUnited, it’s clear that the gap between these two NA teams is not a large one. Either one could end up raising the hammer when all is said and done at this year’s HRX. But if history is any indicator, having JeffHindla and BaRRaCCuDDA as your duo lane dream team means your chances of winning worlds are that much better.

To see who comes out victorious, you’ll have to tune in to the action when HRX kicks off on January 4th. Even if you can’t attend the event in person, you can watch the matches with fellow SMITE fans at participating Coke Theater locations. Or you can tune in to the HiRezTV Twitch channel to watch the games via live stream and get all those sweet, sweet loot drops. We’ll see you there!