Game 1 – Isle of the Dead
Read the Wind, Dual Shot, Aura of Displacement. One of these things is not like the other, can you guess which one? While there is no way EviL could have predicted that iQ would show up with Ranger spike, their map selection and teleport-heavy build choice made them some of the hardest-to-hit targets imaginable. Not content to simply hang around and dodge bullets, EviL took to the hills early and often, collapsing on iQ's flag runner in the first three minutes with two Assassins and moving swiftly into the base to take down a Bodyguard.
Forced to adjust to the now-you-see-them, now-you-don't mentality thrust upon them by their Korean opponents, iQ often had to forego typical flag capturing in order to stick together and land spikes. But while they were often successful in killing front-line targets, the nature of the Isle of the Dead allows for so much play with line-of-sight that EviL's backline remained almost entirely out of harm's way for the majority of the match.
Once again, a spike fell prey to a more mobile and adaptive build, as EviL consistently garnered morale boosts and stretched out the playing field enough so that when they collapsed as eight, it was like a tidal wave crashing down on the Americans, with no life preserver in sight.
Failing to inflict key kills, and losing NPC ground at a rapid pace, iQ was simply unable to withstand the pressure, and finally caved in around the 18 minute mark for the last time. With iQ in full-retreat, and attempting to survive until the next resurrection time, EviL did what they do best–executing a strategy. In mere seconds, iQ's remaining Bodyguard was down, and their Guild Lord was soon to follow. Give credit to iQ for utilizing the element of surprise, but give a little bit more credit to EviL, who made life a living hell for a target caller.
Game 2 – Isle of Jade
EviL took a primarily unchanged build into the second game, with the interesting replacement of a Ranger/Assassin for one of the Domination Mesmers. But this increased mobility appeared to be for naught as they loaded into iQ's hall selection, Isle of the Jade, a map that limits movement and split effectiveness better than almost any other. Not to be deterred, EviL formed up into a 4-4 split right out of the opening gate, and adhered to it from early on.
Meanwhile, iQ had gone back to their highly successful build from Game 2 against Irresistible Blokes, but were again on their heels in response to EviL's advances. Just as they had done in the previous game, the Last Pride found their openings and took full advantage, catching iQ players under-manned or out of position, and making them pay. By four minutes, iQ had become split up, suffered a few deaths, lost a handful of NPCs, and given control of the flag stand to EviL without much of a fight. By ten minutes, they had parked themselves firmly in their base, and had no interest in trying to chase their Shadow Step-loving opponents all around the map any longer. They wanted Victory or Death, literally.
The ensuing wait to VoD felt more like PvE than PvP, as EviL tried fruitlessly over and over again to “pull” iQ from the clutches of their NPC core. They even tried sacrificing deaths in order to sneak someone back in to resurrect them and perhaps take out a few more NPC's, but iQ never strayed far from their remaining defenses. The Savants sat back, drank some Dwarven Ale, and counted the minutes until they could again unleash their monstrosity of a VoD-strat for this particular map.
But as the Victory or Death shout landed, iQ took the unexpected route, and reacquainted themselves with the gank rush that had held up so well for them thus far in the tournament. EviL, who had manuevered to pincer the stray NPCs, were caught unprepared for such a move, and hurriedly moved back to defend their Lord. Having already sustained some hefty damage from the Spiked Coral en route to the opposing base, iQ began the fight without max Health, and perhaps thought they could out-damage the Lord before Monk support could arrive. But when almost an entire team has Dark Escape, and both Monks have Return, it becomes a tough task to sneak anything under their noses, to be sure.
All at once, three different battles raged into play. A 6-on-6 battle in EviL's base, a 2-on-2 battle in iQ's base, and an NPC-on-NPC battle at the flag stand, where iQ's remaining forces actually managed to take out both of The Last Pride's Bodyguards and quite a few Archers before going down themselves. Unfortunately for iQ, that was the only battle of the concurrent three that had much of a bright side. Forced to hold a Monk back to defend their own Lord, the Savants couldn't heal through the damage during their attempted gank, and wound up back at square one–the waiting game. Back to Plan A!
There's nothing quite like a 35 minute Guild Lord escort when you're facing elimination, but it's especially exceptional when you're packing Glyph of Sacrifice and Meteor Shower. Rayne played his part just like his name specified, and held agro like a champion. Just as he'd done against iB, he hit Whirling, received a healthy dose of Smite, and ran into the biggest group he could find to lay traps while a Meteor Shower flew in from overhead. Instantaneous mayhem, now in a convenient take-home kit!
Down went the remaining NPCs for EviL, followed by a series of kills on Assassins, and then the underlying question of the match came into focus. While a Monk/Assassin makes for one of the most elusive healing builds you can muster, what happens when there's nowhere left to run? Forced to stick with their Guild Lord, EviL deflated and just couldn't pump enough sustained healing power into their Lord. With no way to regain energy because they weren't the typical Mesmer secondary, the Guild Lord went down in the most peculiar of scenarios–with the entirety of his team still alive and holding a massive morale advantage.
Game 3 – Isle of the Dead
Idiot Savants walked out their front door, took one look at The Last Pride's build (the exact same offering as they showed up with in Game 1), and turned right back around. EviL's greatest weakness had been put up on display at the end of Game 2, and iQ intended to do whatever it took to recreate the conditions that earned them their last victory, even if it meant turtling in their base for a full 30 minutes. Morale boosts came and went, the two most outlying Archers were left to die, and the Americans sat calmly in their seats and waited. iQ's logic was simple: disable EviL's ability to split you up and gain any kind of NPC advantage, and they will be unable to throw much weight around come VoD because their build lacks the brute force that iQ's possesses. It sounded solid, and certainly had history on its side, considering the fairly tragic meltdown that we saw on the Isle of Jade, and so we waited along with them.
By this time, the crowds had dispersed, as the show was wrapping up for the day. With the loud music off, the public eye not peering in so closely, the house lights back on, and the teams left to discuss and debate amongst themselves, the waiting game was less excruciating for those of us in attendance. In fact, it was almost calming after the frenetic activity from the past couple days.
Victory or Death!
At long last, the teams engaged and the real game finally began. iQ set to work on their now trademark Whirling Defense + Smite + Meteor Shower combination, and instantly made things tough for EviL. In a somewhat strange move, both Bloodlight and Last of Master stayed and fought at the flag stand, despite holding anchors (via Aura of Displacement) that would have instantly placed them in iQ's Lord room and forced their opponent back to defend. Instead, the match went heads up, and the AoE-fest began for iQ. Holding an E/Mo back to be a Heal Party machine, iQ pushed hard, and rarely let up. For the first few minutes of VoD, they paid little heed to the flag stand situation, instead focusing their attention on setting themselves up with an NPC advantage. After a tug of war battle and each team trading kill after kill, iQ possessed a lone Bodyguard, while EviL was out of NPCs.
Enter: the Guild Lords.
By 35 minutes, iQ decided it was time to run their first flag of the match, and it just might have been the best one they'd ran this entire tournament thus far. Rayne pushed the flag up, right through a pressing EviL team, captured the tower, and proceeded to return EviL's completely unguarded backup flag. By the time the Koreans could respond, it was too late, and morale was assured for iQ.
When their boost arrived around the 38 minute mark, the Savants were out of resurrection signets, and just barely holding ground with EviL. The added Health, renewed sigs, and true-blue morale boost (there's nothing quite like that feeling) pushed iQ to the next level, one without fear or doubt–they were on a mission. They pushed in, they took losses, but they just would not let up. A tenacious veracity has characterized iQ throughout this tournament, and as they worked away at EviL's Guild Lord in what can only be called an epic finale, it really felt like the end of an era for those of us looking on.
At one point, Soul Wedding and Only One Star were so low on Energy that Soul Wedding was yelling to just let him die so he could be resurrected with a bit more Energy. Once again, with no way to recoup spent Energy, EviL could not keep pace with iQ's damage output. Their Guild Lord fell, and the Americans were victorious, even following an EviL morale boost, and two of iQ's members lying dead on the Guild Hall floor, including a Monk! They erupted as one, mobbing together on the stage while EviL sat and stared at their monitors in disbelief. Idiot Savants had made it to the finals, and the Last Pride had suffered their first ever championship tournament loss. Oh, what a day!