All eyes were set on the action unfolding in Sydney, Australia as the fourteenth Intel Extreme Masters season was kicking off. Oceania’s now yearly clash gathered the usual sixteen teams with a good third of those hailing from the SEA region itself. Notable absentees were Astralis and Na’Vi, but there was still plenty of epic action to watch, with the now famous, roaring Aussie crowd in the background.
The road to yet another attempt at a trophy for Liquid started in Group A, where they started to tear a path to the upper bracket finals. They never had to break a sweat as they took down each opponent 2-0 and it seemed like this may finally be their moment to claim a trophy at a premier event. Their first serious opposition were the Ninjas in Pyjamas, although they were only able to make the maps close, as Liquid powered through them anyway, locking down Nuke in 27 rounds and Overpass in 30. This victory directly landed the horsemen in the semifinals of the tournament, where they would have to wait for both groups and the quarters to complete.
Meanwhile, Fnatic were battling it out in Group B, with a more difficult path than Liquid. Indeed, after defeating Heroic in their opening match, they were sent in the lower bracket by MIBR after a blowout, only able to score 13 rounds in two matches. Fnatic have had quite a struggle to rebuild their roster over the last year but the addition of the prodigy Brollan and the experienced veteran Twist has started to pay off. Fnatic made a terrific run through the lower bracket of their group to secure a spot in the playoffs.
This led Fnatic to meet their Swedish brothers, Ninjas in Pyjamas, in the quarter finals, which turned into an explosive match. Both teams delivered, and after the first map which Fnatic won thanks to a comfortable advantage after their T side, the series dived into a gruesome battle between the ten players. Overpass was eventually grabbed by the Ninjas, but only after three overtimes. The next map involved yet again two overtimes, until finally Fnatic emerged victorious after a long, six-hour best of three.
Both Liquid and Fnatic conquered in their semifinals, the former against MIBR in two maps, and the latter against NRG, in a straightforward series where both teams won their map pick, before Fnatic closed it out on Mirage to grab their own spot in the finals.
To Team Liquid fans, this was all too familiar — a strong group stage performance with the chance to win a big tournament as the favorite. But as we’ve unfortunately come to expect, when Team Liquid play in a final, they always have to defeat their worst enemy: themselves. So as the series began, everything was up in the air as to how it would unfold.
It took all five games, but Team Liquid closed it out and won their first big title and you could see that this win meant everything. To Liquid, to their fans, to everyone that wanted this team to finally lift a premier trophy, this was the moment. The moment when they took down Fnatic, when they didn’t second guess themselves, when the perseverance and belief that their work would pay off, which, for nitr0 and EliGE, happened four years and four months after joining Team Liquid.
On the other side of this truly epic moment, let’s not forget Fnatic, who after a struggle of more than six months to get back to the top, put up yet again a fantastic run and a stellar performance against the second-best team in the world. After putting the pieces back together, their run through the event reminded the world that Fnatic is still made of legends, and that they will rise back to their former glory given enough time.
Thunder Smash (Smash Ultimate)
Thunder Smash had one of the largest prize pools in the game as well as one of the highest entry fees. On top of that, the prize was nearly winner take all, with 1st place getting $20,000 dollars and 2nd place getting 2,100 which made Thunder Smash a very small but incredibly stacked tournament. Despite having less than 100 entrants, it had several of Ultimate’s best players.
When Dabuz took 1st place, it was one of the most hard-fought, well-earned victories of his
career. To get that massive 20K prize, he had to beat WaDi, Mr. R, ESAM, Salem, and MVD.
These are players that regularly make top 8 at major tournaments and push the limits of their
characters. Dabuz found himself playing in the lower bracket against Mr. R, one of Europe’s best players and one of the best Chrom players in the world, just to get into top 8.
In top 8, ESAM and Dabuz squared off in what might have been the set of the tournament.
ESAM quickly took a 2-0 lead but Dabuz gradually began to get a read on ESAM. Dabuz had Esam’s number the next two sets and won both cleanly. Game 5 went down to the wire, both players trading stocks evenly. They were both a single hit away from death when Dabuz managed to clutch out the win.
With that win, Dabuz earned a rematch with WaDi. He fell to 0-2 once again with his Palutena. Switching back to Olimar, Dabuz reverse 3-0’d WaDi and made it to Loser’s Finals. In Losers’ and Grand Finals, Dabuz would face two of the world’s best Snake mains in Salem and MVD. He took both down in convincing fashion, only dropping one game across all 3 sets.
While Dabuz was the star of the show, his teammate Hungrybox made some serious waves as well. Though Hungrybox only placed 13th, he did so in a stacked tournament using a character many regard as one of the worst in Ultimate. Hungrybox made Jigglypuff look solid, taking top players Myran and Mr. R to last stock situations and even forcing Mr. R to switch from Chrom to Snake.
PEL Kick-off Cup
The PUBG European League started its 2nd phase on April 30th with the PEL Kick-off Cup, a tournament that saw the game’s best and brightest compete for points, pride, and cash. Team Liquid took home a boatload of all three. In fact, Team Liquid arguably put up the most dominant showing PUBG as a whole has ever seen.
In this case, the stats tell the story best. Team Liquid placed top 5 in 10 of 12 rounds. They got 1st place in 5 rounds, 2nd in 1 round, and 3rd in three others. Team Liquid earned 173 points, 70 points higher than the second-place finisher, Team Se7en. The team landed a whopping 99 kills and did nearly 18,000 damage. Team Se7en earned 62 kills and about 11,500 damage just for comparison. 3 of the 5 top players in terms of damage and kills were Liquid players and Jeemzz logged 34 kills by himself! That’s as many kills as 5th place team, Desperado, got across all 4 of their members.
While some of Team Liquid’s success came from getting advantageous circles, their dominance simply can’t be explained away by good fortune. They were red-hot all tournament, consistently making smart map movements alongside highlight-reel plays. Team Liquid played with patient aggression most of the Cup, avoiding bad positions and fights. They played a coordinated game where they gave away little information about their own position and capitalized hard on the mistakes other teams made.
The circle Gods smiled on Team Liquid, but not so much on Natus Vincere. Na’Vi landed in 13th place at the end of the day as they struggled to find good positions as, all too often, they couldn’t quite break into the circle as it shrank. While Na’Vi struggled, there were silver linings. Na’Vi staged some good attacks on other teams and managed to land a lot of shots. Despite their placing, they did the 2nd most damage of any team in the Kick-off Cup and were only 10 points off placing in the top 8.
The Capcom Pro Tour landed in Malmo, Sweden this past weekend for HeadStomper 2019. The European ranking event hosted two Monster players on the Sunday finals with one taking home the W.
Fnatic Shakz may have fallen to one of Europe’s most feared grappler players, Infexious in pools, but he still managed to slide into Top 8 losers’ side and secure himself some extremely valuable Capcom Pro Tour points. Shakz fell to Sweden’s hometown hero, SaltyKid who used the local power-up to secure a 3rd place finish. Shakz is off to a great start in 2019, having already secured two top 8 appearances and is currently sitting at 47th Globally and 8th in Europe on the CPT leaderboards.
Liquid`Nemo has been defined as many things depending on your point of view, chaotic, professional, crazy, mind blowing — whatever you want to call him, one title can be universally agreed upon after HeadStomper 2019: “Champion.” Nemo secured his first tournament victory under the Liquid banner, coincidentally on Team Liquid’s arguably most successful multi-esport weekend ever.
It wasn’t a surprise that Nemo got his win, it was only a matter of time, but you could see it in Nemo’s face he was relieved to claim his first victory for Team Liquid.
As expected, Nemo’s victory was no easy feat. He had to go through multiple Premiere event winners in AngryBird, whose Zeku is changing the meta, and a former EVO Champion in Luffy.
Nemo beat AngryBird on the slimmest of margins in a final game standoff. Nemo’s optimization of counter hits and keeping his head straight in scrambles allowed him to inch ahead and move forward in the bracket. The rest of Nemo’s Sunday would feature a back and forth deathmatch with Luffy’s Rainbow Mika, the mix-up heavy grappler.
Nemo sailed past Luffy in Winners finals with a 3-0 sweep but Luffy cruised through losers finals to secure his runback with Nemo in grand finals. Luffy came prepared with smart adaptations from their first set and reset the bracket 3-1. Ultimately, Nemo was able to find his footing, counter-adapt his playstyle and Luffy wasn’t able to adjust in time. Nemo pushed the pace and claimed his prize as Headstomper 2019 champion!