We’re coming close to the end of this year’s Paladins World Championship and tensions between the six remaining teams are rising to a breaking point. Today, four teams have fallen and only two are left standing following the remainder of the group stage and the semifinals. These are of course Natus Vincere (EU), and Fnatic (EU). Four hard-fought best-of-five sets, and two endurance-pushing best-of-sevens later, let’s go over how this inaugural event came down to our two finalist teams.
Match 1: Kanga Esports vs. Nocturns Gaming
Winner: Nocturns Gaming (3-0)
In the first of the two remaining Group A sets, Kanga Esports took on Nocturns Gaming in a brutal head-to-head battle. A 3-0 sweep ensued, but not in the direction that most expected. Kanga were favored by many in this matchup, but it was Nocturns that came out swinging!
Drafting was far from standard during the first two games. Strix in Game 1 and Kinessa in Game 2 went the way of Nocturns, and in the hands of etaceH these champions turned lethal — going so far as to dominate Kanga on their unusual-yet-characteristic map pick of Timber Mill.
Even Brightmarsh and close quarters weren’t enough to slow down the Latin American squad, and their victory was swift. This was a strong start to Nocturns’ double-header, and a sign of things to come.
Match 2: Virtus.Pro vs Nocturns Gaming
Winner: Nocturns Gaming (3-1)
The other half of the Group A sets faced Virtus.Pro against Nocturns Gaming in a rematch from the second day of competition. The first time these two teams met on stage, Virtus.Pro’s drafting bamboozled Nocturns and left them reeling. But in the vengeance match, this certainly did not remain the case.
Game 1 went the way of Nocturns on Brightmarsh, a rerun of the last map from their previous set. Similarly some heroic retakes from the LatAm squad netted them their second game on Frozen Guard. Virtus.Pro fought back in the third, at last making their Terminus pick work and in what feels like a rare occurrence and bettering etaceH’s Strix. But their respite was short lived, and Nocturns Gaming took Vitrus.Pro to arguably their overall best map of Stone Keep — and, well, the rest is history as the top seeded European team was toppled.
Match 3: China Dream vs Fnatic
Winner: Fnatic (3-2)
Group B’s first set of the day pitted China Dream against Fnatic. The superteam made from members of both JC Gaming and QG Craze forced Fnatic into a corner, taking their set the distance. Niche Cassie picks and an epic master vs apprentice sniper duel between CN.Dream’s Strix and Fnatic’s Kinessa ensued — but ultimately only one team could come out on top in the final decider game.
Game 1 started off strong for Fnatic on Jaguar Falls. Despite letting a rare Makoa through the Draft for CN.Dream, the Chinese team’s triple Flank threat didn’t seem to cut the mustard versus the more typical, damage-orientated composition. Game 2 on Serpent Beach flipped the set, ending in a 3-3 tie closed out by a heroic triple from JC_mumo. Back on form, CN.Dream proceeded to find their footing — and with the more atypical picks of Cassie and Ash in their draft, the Chinese team were able to extend their lead by another game.
Fnatic were unaffected however, and Game 4’s Frog Isle location pitted sniper against sniper in a setting that echoed reminders of why bugzy’s Eagle Eyed Kinessa still carries a weighty reputation. With the set all tied up, Brightmarsh in Game 5 was the final showdown setting. Though the game’s initial momentum went the way of CN.Dream and Fnatic found themselves down 0-3, they were able to pull off a successful defense and then rally back with gusto to convert on a payload and take the set-winning point.
Match 4: G2 Esports vs. Fnatic
Winner: Fnatic (3-1)
The final Group Stage set of the event closed with G2 Esports vs. Fnatic. North America’s last hope and second seed out of the PPL Fall Finals, G2 Esports were the hometown heroes for this set. Despite the roar of the crowd (and horn to boot), their fighting spirit alone was not enough. Fnatic surpassed them in the set and ultimately advanced to claim a semifinals spot.
Games 1 and 2 went swiftly to Fnatic, and G2 appeared to be visibly struggling. Solo Torvald Front Line two games in a row put a heavy pressure on WarDoom, which produced visible stress in the form of a sweat-beaded brow and vocal protest on break. Game 3 with G2’s map choice took the matchup to Brightmarsh. For the second time in Fnatic’s sets today, Makoa was allowed through the draft — and after a shaky start, WarDoom along with Evulli came alive. Clutch Dredge Anchors and excellent target focus from both Makoa and Talus alike assisted G2 in rolling through Fnatic to keep their dream alive.
Their success was not long-lived however, and ultimately the North American juggernauts fell on Jaguar Falls — one of Fnatic’s best maps. Cybe8’s Ruckus, Fisheko’s Fusillade Drogoz, and Thiel’s battle-standard bearing Ash planted the flag of victory firmly on the Temple Isle objective and closed out the set to advance.
Match 5: Natus Vincere vs. Nocturns Gaming
Winner: Natus Vincere (4-7)
In the first best-of-seven (Bo7) semifinals set, Natus Vincere clashed with Nocturns Gaming. While many weren’t sure how this matchup would turn out, Nocturns Gaming held their own as one of Europe’s best teams consistently locked them down. Things were looking rough during the first game as Na’Vi kept pushing back until they claimed victory, but that only fueled Nocturns’ fire.
Game 1 went the way of Na’Vi on Brightmarsh in a clean 4-0, which left Nocturns looking entirely outmatched. Nocturns responded by taking Na’Vi to Stone Keep — and while they managed to tie up the set, this game was hard fought and often placed the weight of success or failure entirely on the shoulders of etaceH’s Lian. Luckily he performed above and beyond to keep the team’s morale high.
From Game 2 onward, this set flip-flopped back and forth, with control of Na’Vi’s Jaguar Falls pick going to Nocturns and their Damage-focused draft. Similarly, Nocturns fought back in a close match on Frozen Guard. 3-3 and a final capture objective decided how the game would end, with the Front Line monsters Puleule (on Fernando) and Sadhak (on Ruckus) converting clutch kills to secure the win.
Na’Vi responded with Serpent Beach, controlling their map pick thanks to the double Flank pressure of Buck and Talus which provided momentum that Nocturns’ simply couldn’t answer for. Game 6 brought the teams to Ice Mines in what felt to many like a desperation play from Nocturns. This typical 3-3, ‘last teamfight wins it all’ map has often been a last resort for Paladins esports teams, banking on lucky fights or late-game compositions to gain an edge. But contrary to popular belief, Nocturns’ lackluster early-game Terminus paid off enormously in the game-winning point as a Reanimate/Tempest gas-pedal combo painted the battlefield black and yellow — tying Nocturns up with one game remaining.
A gruelling best of seven set drawn out to the last game, the Latin American giants, top of their region now for so long, looked poised to live the Cinderella story and at last represent their region in the finals of an international LAN. Splitstone Quarry would be the decider map for these two teams, and etaceH’s Strix once again graced the battlefield. But alas, even Ghostfeather with impeccable aim was not enough to face down Natus Vincere, whose draft built on sustain and raw power took Nocturns to their limit, and ultimately made them fall.
Match 6: Ninjas in Pyjamas vs. Fnatic
Winner: Fnatic (4-1)
In the second semifinals set, Ninjas in Pyjama crossed swords with Fnatic. A highly anticipated matchup come to fruition, these two teams share a history that spans years of Paladins esports at this point. Old allies turned enemies, old enemies now friends. But there is no room for sentiment on the battlefields of the Realm, and a slobber-knocker of a set commenced on Frozen Guard.
NiP looked comfortable in Game 1 — with a doublekill with Through Time and Space for Bird here, a game-ending conversion with remarkably little resistance there. The team appeared to be playing into the crowd’s expectations, but unfortunately that proved to be a fatal mistake for most of today’s teams.
Fnatic chose Jaguar Falls for Game 2 and played this set explosively. Literally. Fisheko’s Bomb King proved devastating here, with bugzy showing his flexibility rolling in with a semi-flanking Seris pickup. Combos were flowing aplenty, and NiP’s Zhin selection fell resoundingly short — not even creating ripples on most capture engagements.
Game 3 brought the fight to Serpent Beach. Once again, Fisheko dominated the competition on Bomb King, and Bugzy once again turned ripples into waves with a backline-flanking Talus that nobody was prepared for. At times fighting 1v3, bugzy’s veteran experience and judgement shined through, giving Fnatic the edge and allowing them a conversion finish for the 3-1 set lead.
Splitstone Quarry would be Ninjas in Pyjama’s choice of map to wrestle back control in Game 4. A solo Fernando, double Flank, and double Support hoped to provide both sustain and early-game pressure versus Fnatic’s roster that would overwhelm them before itemization came online, but it just didn’t matter. Fnatic found success yet again in Talus with Antediluvian’s early-game anti-heal capabilities shutting the doors of the Church of Grover. What use is your damage when an immortal War Machine is immovable from her battle standard? What use your sustain in the face of True Power?
With their backs against the wall and no options left, it was Timber Mill where NiP made their final stand. No snipers graced the wooden graveyard — instead, it was the Flankers who told a far more bloody story. Fisheko sprung to action once again as the blaster-master of AoE Champions, this time on Evie the Winter Witch. Multikills were flowing, and capture pushed to conversion. Fnatic’s 2-0 lead turned into 3-1 as NiP were unable to match Grover’s range control on defense. The game-winning point swung 97% to NiP, but even Laizy’s heroic Heat Haze wasn’t enough as Cybe8 swung the Wild’s executioner’s axe and severed all chance of a comeback with a game-ending doublekill.
Standings & What’s Next
There’s only one round left in this year’s Paladins World Championships, and it all comes down to this; the Grand Finals. This best-of-seven match will determine for the very first time who is truly the best Paladins team in the world! Here’s the start time for the winner-takes-all final:
- 12:45 PM EST – Natus Vincere vs. Fnatic
Even if you’ve missed all the matches up until now, you definitely don’t want to skip out on tomorrow’s pinnacle set. So make sure you tune into the official Paladins Twitch channel and join your fellow fans in cheering on your favorite team as they vy for the World Championship title. You can also follow us on Twitter (@PaladinsPro) to get by-the-minute updates on what’s going down.
See you tomorrow!