Game 1 - Druid's Isle
To say that these two teams were ready to play would be a monumental understatement. Following a day of technical mishaps and confusion, the countdown to match time was full of anticipation and trepidation, but thankfully went off without a hitch. During the downtime since yesterday, iB had made the decision to switch up their build for the opening game, having placed Nature's Renewal and Tranquility in yesterday's match, only to see hardware failure put an end to the day's play. The guys from iQ weren't terribly pleased, because they felt they had a strong advantage against that build, but nevertheless went into the game confident and with yesterday's build intact.
Mobility and confusion were the tactics of choice for iB, who pulled their Recall build from playoffs past, and looked impressive out of the opening gate. iQ appeared caught at first, unable to decide on the appropriate counter strategy, eventually opting for containment over pressure, despite a physical-heavy build and the degen-assistance from a Tainted Flesh Necro. Early on, iB found their openings, working their way into 3-on-1 situations where possible, and maintaining a steady presence in iQ's base. Protecting with a defensive Elementalist where possible, the Savants had difficulty running flags, but held onto their NPCs well until the eight minute mark, when Shadow Stepping reared its head and the Blokes found their opening. Dispatching the E/Mo roadblock quickly, the two Warriors and Assassin combo took down a Bodyguard before iQ could adequately fall back and defend.
The next 20 minutes provided little in the way of highlights, but a continual pressure and harassment strategy forced iQ to almost always be on their heels and in a reactionary mindset. Here and there, iB found cracks in the defense, and were able to whittle down iQ's NPC forces impressively, never venturing in too far without an anchor to pull them back. As for the flag stand team on iB, they appeared to be chanting the mantra of survival, as the entire team teetered on the brink of wiping several times, due in large part to the absence of Heal Party and Extinguish. But Crippling Shot from both Rangers, Blackout on the Mesmer and both Rangers, and Return on one of the Monks meant catching up to the elusive Fins was tougher than it looked.
With a dwindling NPC army at their disposal, and iB maintaining a steady Morale advantage, the Idiot Savants ventured forth into gank territory, which they obviously considered to be their last option. It was short, it wasn't pretty, and it certainly wasn't successful, as iB steamrolled over the invading force, leaving almost no one alive going into the 32nd minute, and even saving one of iQ's stranded Warriors. But upon resurrection at their base, the Americans took their tenacity and their never-say-die attitude right back across the map, though this time a curious thing happened. Instead of focusing their sights on iQ's backline, they appeared to panic and went into pure defense–Warriors on Warriors, Rangers on Warriors, and even the Mesmer doing his best to slow the damage output. Considering the relatively disparate Morale situation, and the additional damage output from their Guild Lord, iB needed only to turn their attention to Sarus and Red Bars for just a moment, and the match would have been theirs for sure. Three Blackouts, a bevy of interrupts, a Domination Mesmer and three Physical characters add up to hell for a Monk troupe that can't kite away, as they were held hostage trying to keep their team alive during the gank.
With nothing in their way, apart from the annoyance of adrenaline loss because of Blackouts, iQ poured on the damage and degen. Poison, Disease, a nuisance of a Hammer Warrior (Counter Blow!), and solid interrupts all added up to a complete implosion from iB, who simply could not sustain the damage output and DPS without Heal Party. In a stunning turn of the tide, even to those of us behind the stage watching and conjecturing, iB's Guild Lord went down alongside almost the entire team just before he was scheduled to head to the middle of the Hall.
Game 2 - Jade Isle
Glyph of Sacrifice, Meteor Shower. Perhaps that's what iQ will be remembered for in this second game, but for me, it will be iB's monumental failure to execute that told the tale for this one. Sporting a modification of KGYU's now-famed condition-pressure build, the Blokes swapped out the usual Tainted Flesh Necromancer for a trapping Ranger with Nature's Renewal and Tranquility (likely their build from yesterday's cancelled first match). But their follow-through, or lack thereof, was utterly baffling, and the blame falls squarely on their Rangers.
iQ's build, on at least a base level, appeared relatively typical–though certainly played to their strengths. Two nice Heal Parties, Smite, Traps, and possibly the most irritating Hammer Warrior build ever devised (Five knockdowns!) all added up to a fairly comfortable, if not terribly imposing offering. For 30 minutes, iB pushed, and iQ reacted and reflexed, but collapse was never in sight.
Sporting THREE copies of Deblitating Shot, a load of interrupts, and lots of conditions to spread around, it was a task in and of itself to figure out where iB's bow-wielding troupe were focusing their attention. Aegis or Balthazar's Aura on the Smite Monk? Nope. Ether Prodigy or Fireball from the flag stand Elementalist? Nope. Oath Shot or Traps from the Trapper? Nope. Where then, was this potentially devastating pressure that the build promised? Well, I'll tell you. It was with Empeh, and Empeh alone. He maintained Melandru's Arrows at all times, and kept iQ bleeding almost the entire match. With Serpent's Quickness and Debilitating Shot, he tried to pressure the Monks at times, but he was surely alone.
Sissi, who possessed the game-breaking assets in NR and Tranquility, insisted on placing his spirits in the thick of the battle, so that even when he successfully got them down, they were destroyed instantly. He was rendered an almost non-factor thanks to a quality job done by Lara Valor, which can be attributed mostly to Sissi's inability to adapt and just get his job done.
But Wraith, even more than Sissi, was an absolutely mystery to me. Apply Poison was almost never up, his interrupts were MIA, and he spent more time using Crippling Shot than anything else, which just simply isn't an issue when your opponent has an Elementalist sitting back untouched, casting Extinguish to his heart's content, and a Smite Monk who was rarely pressured and able to use Draw Conditions effectively.
So what is the story to be told here? What is the hidden gem that can be found underneath all this posturing and failed execution? Glyph of Sacrifice and Meteor Shower, it seems. The entire match, iQ paid almost no attention to the flag stand. They played defense, they protected themselves against the potential threat of degen overload. Basically, they tread water. But when the water is this calm, something surely had to lie beneath.
When VoD hit, iQ's plan went into motion. Their Trapper, who had played decoy nearly the entire match, dashed to the front of the pack. He put up Whirling Defense, and body-blocked the ENTIRE NPC core of iB. Balthazar's Aura went on him, and iQ's Elementalist used two skills he'd been saving the entire match–by now, I would hope you know what I'm talking about! In a blink, the red team went from Morale control and apparent positional advantage to dead, defeated, and absolutely sunk. iQ enjoyed their first morale boost shortly after, and only had to wait a little bit longer for the Blokes' Lord to make his way out to the middle.
Not enough pressure, not enough coordination, and certainly not enough implementation, and the underdogs fought their way to victory today. Congratulations goes to Idiot Savants, especially for Game 2, where they took a big chance in their tactic, but it paid off massively.