The first ESL Go4Paladins Europe Cup Monthly Finals of 2018 took place last week. This tournament gave us a strong start for a new year of Paladins esports, and answered a lot of questions lingering in the air following the GankStars PC team’s departure from the competitive scene.
How would the top spots rearrange? With the light of prize positions now piercing the canopy of the European amateur competitive scene, which contender would step up to the podium? All was answered during this tournament, so let’s take a look at the bracket to see how things started out!
Due to a tie in the standings, nine teams were invited to the January 2018 Finals instead of the usual eight, and a Best of One (Bo1) placement round was held between MACIAAAAAAAL! ESPORT and Planetkey Dynamics Paladins to see who would fill the finals slot in the quarterfinals. The PkD squad came out on top, so they went on to fight their way through the bracket!
With placements completed, the best-of-three (Bo3) quarterfinals were a close-fought battle for the most part. The only sweep on the board went the way of Aim5, who took their match 2:0 versus CIS team FlashPoint Esports.
Blazing Hussars vs Planetkey Dynamics Paladins, Team Viral vs Team Cosmic, and Handsome Jacks vs SpaceCreators were all pushed to their limits in 2:1 wins for Blazing Hussars, Team Viral, and SpaceCreators. These matches were an impressive demonstration of how volatile the European region is when it comes to amateur competitive play!
Broadcast, as always, picked up from the semifinals — and the quarterfinals had set quite a precedent for these matches to live up to!
Blazing Hussars vs Aim5
Winner: Blazing Hussars (3:0)
The upper side semifinals pitted Blazing Hussars against Aim5 in a best-of-five (Bo5) to qualify for the Grand Finals of the first Monthly Finals Cup of 2018. Banning the maps Frog Isle and Frozen Guard, the first destination of this set was Brightmarsh.
Tried and tested versus new strats was the storyline of this map. Aim5 pulled out a pocket Pip/Buck Flank-style duo to put the pressure on, but fell short with their solo Front Line Fernando being unable to stand up to the point control stronghold of Inara, Ash, and Grohk from Blazing Hussars. Whilst Revelation’s Pip was able to pick up top damage overall in game, sheer sustain and objective control secured Blazing Hussars an easy 4-0.
The second game on Serpent Beach was a different story. Led by Kamyker’s Makoa, Blazing Hussars pushed a 3-0 scoreline in the first ten minutes and looked sure to convert for the win in Overtime! Only a clutch respawn trickle from Aim5, with Bull3tSpeeD’s Assert Dominance play buying valuable seconds, allowed Aim5 to hold on. Aim5 brought things back with a return capture enabled by Capture Boost and Revelation’s Drogoz finding a critical Dragon Punch onto the enemy Makoa — but Aim5 was unable to push to equalize and ultimately could not hold back the tide. Blazing Hussars closed the game out with a 4-2 scoreline.
In the last chance for Aim 5, Map 3 went to Jaguar Falls. Blazing Hussars drafted a first pick Bomb King — and from there, the game just fell the way of the tournament top seed with what seemed like little resistance from Aim5. The first of the Grand Finalists got confirmed with a 3:0 set from Blazing Hussars.
Team Viral vs SpaceCreators
Winner: Team Viral (3:0)
On the lower side of the bracket, the ex-Straight Out of Casuals roster recently acquired by Team Viral faced off against the up-and-coming lineup of SpaceCreators (the latter featuring some well known names from Europe’s Ranked scene). But competitive play, even at an amateur level, is heads and shoulders beyond most Ranked experiences due to many factors, coordination being one of them. Would the raw talent of SpaceCreators be enough? They’d taken down previous Go4Paladins Finalist team Handsome Jacks in the quarterfinals after all…
With Brightmarsh and Frog Isle banned, Map 1 saw a sniper vs sniper duel on Frozen Guard. SpaceCreators took up Kinessa and Viral rounded their draft with a last pick Strix. It was master vs apprentice, but the most unusual part of the draft was the pocket strat Viral brought out — sleeppyy ran Mega Potion Pip and Eraze picked up Grover. Foregoing a typical ‘main Support’ in favor of burst throughput onto a Mother’s Grace Inara, SpaceCreators’ fragile lineup simply couldn’t contest with the sticking power of Team Viral, and the map fell the way of the latter 4-1.
Map 2 took us back to Jaguar Falls and a boasted much more contested game. SpaceCreators were able to push a 3-3 scoreline from Viral — but once again the double support duo of Pip and Grover, this time with Frogblender running Efflorescence for the Wild, took the lead. A hard-fought battle overall with healing numbers from both teams topping 200k, Team Viral were able to gain the final cap on the back of an Evil Mojo scattering SpaceCreators into a decisive Dragon Punch for the win!
Onto Map 3 and Serpent Beach for another Kinessa vs Strix battle, the Champions took the same sides as before. Frogblender’s Strix stole the show, with Unauthorized Use letting them predict Kinessa’s movements and dominate while Viral’s Inara/Pip combo couldn’t be moved from the objective. With a 4-0 scoreline, Team Viral took it all to advance to the Grand Finals.
Blazing Hussars vs Team Viral
Winner: Blazing Hussars (3:0)
With sweeps across the semifinals, would the Grand Finals tell a different story? Frog Isle and Stone Keep got banned away, and for the third time Jaguar Falls made it to the spotlight as the first map of the series.
Team Viral attempted their pocket Support combo once again on this map, but Blazing Hussars led with a first pick Bomb King and were able to dismantle it wholeheartedly. With aggressive double Front Line zoning, double Support point control, and His Majesty bringing raw damage potential, Blazing Hussars took down Team Viral with a last minute gas-pedal conversion that staggered Viral beyond recovery and started off the set with a 4-2 score.
Map 2 went to Brightmarsh, and Blazing Hussars were back on the Bomb King. Makoa too, much to everyone’s surprise! Back in the hands of Kamyker, Blazing Hussars put on a Leviathan-fueled clinic on how to win objectives with displacement. As the game fell 4-1 to Blazing Hussars, Viral were left with only one opportunity to step up their draft and pull out something different.
Serpent Beach was where they made their stand, and Strix was Viral’s method. Sticking with the Pip Support, Inara gave Viral good point control and they took the first capture of the game relatively easily. Unable to make the push, Blazing Hussars tied things up and answered back with two single captures. Kamyker on Makoa again provided a pretty severe hindrance in the side of Viral, camping their Strix into a corner which prevented them from being effective damage for the team.
Tied up 3-3, Kamyker found an early pick onto Viral’s Inara, and from there the point snowballed out of control. Viral were unable to regain their momentum — which wasn’t helped by some critical misplays and the team’s failure to capitalize on key ultimates such as Evil Mojo.
With a final 4-3 victory and a 3:0 set score, your first Monthly Finals Champions of 2018 are the all-Polish team Blazing Hussars! Team Viral took second place, and SpaceCreators are sitting in third for January 2018.
Want to get involved with the ESL Go4Paladins Europe Cup? Open Bracket Qualifiers for February 2018 begin on Thursday, February 1! You can visit the Go4Paladins Europe Cup info page for details on how to sign up.
The ESL Go4Paladins Europe Cup is broadcast every Friday and features a cleanfeed on Mixer for aspiring broadcasters and commentators to use for their own broadcasts. Check out our Cleanfeed blog post for more info on that.
As always, don’t forget to follow @PaladinsPro on Twitter to stay up to date on competition in the Realm!