Today was another huge day for competitive Smite. After yesterday's double elimination best-of-ones, play transitioned into a best-of-three, single elimination bracket for the quarter and semi-finals. At the end of play, the top four positions remained - with grand finalists set, and a further two teams eliminated.
Titan vs. We Love Bacon started off as a closer contest than perhaps Titan's fans would have liked. The European first seed is, conversely, something of an underdog - and trading blows with WLB as they did in the first half of game one compounded that narrative. If they struggled here, the notion went, then the favourites - SK Gaming, COG Red, COG Prime - would be insurmountable. On the other hand, this was a testament to WLB's ability - they can and did stand toe to toe with one of the best teams in the world, doing themselves proud until Titan's teamfight came online. PrettyPrime's feared Vulcan was the playmaker, here, securing game one for the Europeans with a clutch double kill at the climax.
Game two was far more one-sided. Buoyed by their success, Titan came back with a performance that was stronger than anything they had offered earlier in the tournament. At 20 minutes, the scoreboard sat at 26 kills to 3 and Titan moved confidently into the semi-finals.
Any questions about COG Red's ability to bounce back from a loss were quickly dashed by COG Red vs. OMG. This was a demonstration of everything the young North American team do well. Within a few minutes, they'd claimed five kills without taking a single casualty. By 16 minutes, the scoreboard sat at 21-1 with all of OMG's towers and Phoenixes in ruins. The remaining Chinese team managed to hold off the onslaught briefly - earning themselves an additional three kills - but the impressive timing they demonstrated on day one didn't mean much against a team that controlled the pace of the game from the outset. As promising as the nascent Chinese Smite scene is looking, COG Red demonstrated exactly why they're considered a world-class team.
Game 2 was won and lost on the draft. OMG refused to ban Thor despite DaGarz's legendary affinity for the god, while Red risked a throw by playing to the crowd with a Ne Zha pick-up. When first blood went to OMG, it felt like that overconfidence would be punished harder - but that wasn't the case. Like game 1, Red played their hearts out here: a relentless series of ganks and teamfights that always ended in either outright victory or a favourable trade for the US side. With 45 kills on the board by eighteen minutes, this is the game you watch if you want violence. On the other hand, with 38 of those kills belonging to COG Red, it's not the game you watch if you're looking for a fair fight.
The results of the quarter finals guaranteed a NA-EU grand final, with each region's teams facing each other in two semi-final matches that proved to be the tournament's best contests so far. The first, Team SK vs. Titan, was a rematch of the EU Regional final which Titan won. Here, though, they faced a revitalised opponent - one that, by Titan's own admission, had won 95% of their mutual scrims. Team SK were also running on the momentum earned during yesterday's convincing victory against COG Red. To a degree, however, all of that confidence set SK off-balance. In both games they denied Repikas his dangerous Kali by snatching it for Zyrhoes, but found themselves facing a team that had planned for - and had a solution too - the god that is known for winning them games. In game 1 Titan drafted smart, banning out Badgah's Geb and, with that single move, creating an advantageous situation for their own support and AD carry pair.
The game itself started out fairly passive, transitioning into a period of trades throughout which Titan managed to maintain a slight advantage and better objective control. Denied Kali, Repikas' Athena demonstrated the jungler's range by denying ganks around the map and setting up even more clutch ults for PrettyPrime's Vulcan. There seemed to be a stall in momentum when the time came for Titan to end the game, but this is perhaps better interpreted as caution: they were careful to maintain pressure but only press engagements they could win. That said, Ataraxia's death to SK's midlane Phoenix has to stand as the day's standout almost-throw. He made up for it with a game-ending triple kill that ushered Titan into game 2.
And what a second game. By picking up Kali again and banning out Vulcan SK left the field open to Repikas' Thor and the first appearance of PrettyPrime's Nox. Another relatively calm beginning ended in a deep jungle invasion by Repikas that secured first blood against Zyrhoes. Titan built up a lead and protected it with KanyeLife's Ymir and his walls of ice. In a midgame engagement around the Gold Fury, SK looked to be in a position to fight their way back in, but Nox proved too much to overcome. Titan controlled multiple objectives with effective split-pushing before coming together to finish SK off and enter the grand finals as Europe's representatives - completing a journey that has its origins, remarkably, in Smite's amateur league. Regardless of tomorrow's results, the journey of Agilitas-Aquila-Titan is one of the best stories of the last year in e-sports.
In the second semi-final, COG Prime vs. COG Red, the twin pinnacles of North America's mountain of Smite talent clashed to claim to top spot. These games proved just how evenly matched the two COG teams are, particularly the first one - essentially a single long teamfight that neither team could claim an advantage in until the very end. The difference was COG Red Divios' Hercules, a constant frontline presence that Prime simply couldn't kill. The advantage afforded by his staying power ultimately led Red to win a convincing teamfight in the jungle. Even though the score sat at 22-25 at that point, it was the leverage they needed to down a single Phoenix, push for the titan and end the game.
Game 2, the tournament's longest single match, was proof of Prime's discipline and fortitude. They claimed Hercules for themselves this time, alongside Thor, Geb, Nox and Apollo - a cross-section of some of the most impactful gods at SWC. On the other hand, Red took Anhur, Fenrir, Nemesis, Poseidon and Athena - all deep within their own comfort zone. With the draft fairly even, two things tipped the game in Prime's favour. One was MLCST3ALTH's Nox, and the other was Barraccudda on Apollo. Perhaps lifted by home-state support, Barraccudda played out of his mind and forced favourable trades with a series of clutch kills. It looked like we might be in for a turnaround when Red managed to steal the Gold Fury and push onto Prime's Phoenixes, but after trading a run of Fire Giants and base pushes Prime's early advantage ultimately proved to be the difference. For the first time, a SWC best-of-three went to a third game.
Despite losing first blood to Red, Prime looked to be in control of game 3 from the beginning. They let Red take Thor, but countered with Serqet and Scylla - and by letting Red play into their comfort zone, Prime set their opponent up to be outmanoeuvred. As DaGarz fell further and further behind, Prime kept up the pressure and maintained 100% control of the Gold Fury and substantial influence over the majority of the rest of the map. For the third time in the set, Hercules' durability denied the big plays that might have given Red a way back into the game. During Prime's push for Red's final phoenix, it was Hercules that downed DaGarz's Thor - the point that everybody, including the crowd, knew the set was finally over. COG Prime moved on to represent NA in the grand finals, but the standing ovation that followed was, I think, directed at both of the teams on the stage.
Tomorrow's games begin at 10.30am EST/3.30pm GMT. To find out more about the Smite World Championship 2015, check out our beginner's guide. You can find videos of each of today's games on the SmitePro YouTube channel. For more Smite coverage, click here.