Game 1 - Burning Isle
Without doubt, the element of surprise has always been War Machine's greatest and most effective asset. They hold onto a build like a fickle child loves a toy for only one day—gone, but not forgotten. Several seasons ago, when fast-cast air spike was the untameable build of its time, and Rifts were on the top of that particular food chain, WM pulled out an amazingly dominant and dismissive playoff route that left everyone whacking their heads and shouting "why didn't I think of that?" The key to success? Three copies of Energy Surge, and about a bajillion Enchantment strips, give or take.
Last night, just about everyone had a different notion of what the reclusive Korean powerhouse would pull out of their hats. EviL put in their two cents, iQ milled around and offered suggestions, and Te did what Te does, they took it one skill at a time, and decided to stick with what they knew they could win with. But three Energy Surges? We felt the pain just watching.
The Americans came in with their Assassin and Illusion Mesmer setup, but were faced with a surprise in WM's hall selection, the Burning Isle. Te seemed unfazed, and walked straight to the flag stand, ready to battle head-on. Two Boon Prots and an Assassin are rendered terribly helpless when faced with this kind of Domination shut down, and the situation certainly wasn't helped as Te got themselves extremely spread out right off the bat, taking early casualties. Thanks in part to slow Te rezzes, WM pressed and took their openings, pushing Te into a retreat only moments after the first meeting in the middle.
But Te reacted quickly, shifting their focus to split, and sent Trex off to begin work on the Flame Sentinels. Either WM didn't notice or didn't care, but by nine minutes, both Sentinels were down and Trex was making his way into WM's base. With the path clear, Bob followed suit, and by 11 minutes, War Machine were left with only a handful of NPC's remaining, and forced into a full withdrawal.
Through either a lack of communication or a lack of forethought, Te missed their biggest opportunity of the match at this point. WM split up in order to defend their base, but Te neglected to take advantage of the mismatch at the stand, not bringing up a flag, and not pushing on an under-manned team in the middle. Instead, the primary team held fast to their base, while Bob and Trex were overrun on their retreat through the lava. Now the fight became one of pure survival for Te—make it to VoD with a solid NPC edge, and just maybe they could pull it off.
As if recognizing their missed opportunity, they pushed out when they resurrected, but once again could not hold on very long. By 14 minutes, Sheep was DP'd out, and the rest of his team was hurting badly on the morale chart. There the match stood, perched at the foot of Te's base, with WM pressing now and again, whittling down NPC's where possible.
With VoD closing in, WM appeared to get impatient, and continually overstayed their welcome in Te's remaining NPC's, taking losses on a few occasions, and generally placing themselves in a position where retreat would be costly. When the 30 minute shout finally did arrive, Te made their first truly decisive move of the match, and it just about turned the tide. Pushing out with their NPC's, they ran a split formation. Bob ran around the back towards WM's base, Trex grabbed a flag and booked it towards the stand, and the remaining team simply fought for their lives.
Trex moved with purpose, capping the flag, returning WM's backup flag, and began his trek to meet up with Bob in WM's base, but all over the map, his team was drowning. The VoD damage increase, coupled with the huge morale disparity, was far too much to deal with, considering every protective Enchantment cast was instantly ripped off. Te fought with a fire and a drive to win that they should be proud of, but this match was lost, despite a 25th hour morale boost. The nature of the Burning Isle means there are numerous opportunities for clumped up teams to get caught in Energy Surge traps, and WM took full advantage of it, all the way to victory.
Game 2 - Burning Isle Again
I'm sitting here somewhat dumbfounded at what I just finished watching. Te came to the table with a thoroughly unexpected build, and WM showed that they either did their homework extremely well or they somehow have the ability to see into the future.
Once again, the map selection was a surprise, as Te opted for a condition-overload pressure build, hoping to work away at WM's Monks' energy pools and muscle their way to victory. But who could have planned for Life Bond on two characters, Mend Ailment on three, and an almost completely turtled War Machine team right off the bat?
Even so, Te should have had this match—of that, there is no doubt in my mind. They lost because they brought what I can only describe as a wasted Necromancer Skill Bar: no Well of the Profane, and no Death Nova. As soon as WM realized that the only corpse control they would have to deal with was Putrid Explosion, they had a field day with Te's pets. Bob and Paladin, playing Thumpers in this instance, were thus rendered only weak Hammer Warriors for the majority of the match, and I really wish I knew who to point the finger at for that one.
As soon as the gate dropped at the start of the match, WM had a clear strategy in mind: Delay until VoD, and make certain that Te wouldn't have any Bodyguards left when that time came. Life Bond went on the Assassin by way of the Mesmer, and off to the races he went, straight through both Flame Curse Sentinels, coming out on the other side by the skin of his teeth while the bonded Mesmer sort of evaporated. Oddly, he was only able to take out one Bodyguard, dying in the process, and putting a bit of a damper on what should have been a game-breaking move.
The next 20 minutes saw a great deal of fighting, but in all reality, they would have accomplished the same thing if they'd taken a page out of the EviL and iQ book and just stared at each other. Nearly all of Te's damage output was negated thanks to Life Bond, Mend Ailment, and Heal Party, alongside the DP thrust upon the poor pets, totalling up to a fantastically unproductive battle. Much credit has to go to Planeswalker, who played his Elementalist to perfection, always staying out of harm's way and able to switch off between shutdown and support. But around 25 minutes into the match, back went WM's Assassin, intent on finishing the job he started early on.
Scooting across the lava towards Te's base, accompanied shortly after by an Illusion Mesmer, WM's gank crew made quick work of Te's remaining Bodyguard and a handful of Archers before a response was sent back. But the damage had been done, and Te now needed some kind of miracle to overcome the odds.
The Victory or Death shout arrived, and Treacherous Empire's Thumpers rushed up to greet War Machine's almost completely untouched NPC armada. They held the NPCs up for a bit, but then the decision was made to fully engage. Trapped in a tight space, and taking heavy damage, they became weak targets for WM's spike and dual-Surge pressure, suffering death after death as they lost control of the flag stand and were forced back into retreat.
Where was the Well of the Profane? Where was the Death Nova? This series should have been heading for a third game, but instead an unfortunate gaff meant the potential for an all-American final flew out the window. The massive crowd boomed, the announcer shrieked, and the Koreans exploded into cheers as they put the killing blow on their opponent's Guild Lord just after the 38th minute.
Once again, Te fought their hearts out, and kept pushing until the very end, but they were simply unable to make a dent. War Machine proved to the world that they are still the most dangerous, unpredictable, and disciplined Guild Wars team on the planet, and will surely enter the championship match a hefty favorite. They're not here to make friends, they're here to win.