Hello! Speck here, on behalf of the Media Team! Welcome to the first edition of Pick Out the Plays! These articles will seek to explore selected matches in an accessible, easy-to-read format, yet with extra breadth and depth, into why the results turned out the way they did. The intention is to offer a generalized report of each GP's events, whilst really getting into the nitty-gritty of the outstanding plays, the players behind them, and the decisions these teams made throughout. So sit back, get comfy, and hopefully, learn a few things along the way! Palingenesis Cynda Jordan Vantox Jake Harm Hyra (GP1)/Kev(GP2+3) vs. Arcadia Sky Teeples NBaird Monfi Fasuke PGM Taylor Pre-Game Analysis: Palingenesis, at this point, were proving an exceedingly dominant force in the division. Undefeated in their first four games, all of their victories were convincing wins, their smallest victory being a still comfortable 34-point finisher over Midnight Wasps. A victory on their part going into this match would solidify a comfortable 3-point lead in the division over 2nd place Princess Monarchy, and upholding the potential to remain undefeated in the season. Arcadia Sky, meanwhile, renowned as the Bonus Point Kings, were living up to the standard. Their largest defeat going into Week 5 was a mere 14 points against World Friend. Though their match against Gravity Team may very well have placed them in the relegation zone, Sky were fortunate to earn the points after Gravity Team's use of an unregistered NNID. A victory on Sky's part here would earn them a little bit of solace, with a 3-point safety net over the relegation zone, and propel them into 3rd place. Arcadia and Palingenesis, prior to this match, have played one another in several scrimmages over the past two to three months. ARC has bested GEN in the past four encounters, though all by relatively tight margins, the largest win by 28 points, as well as a 2-point squeaker in the second scrimmage. However, GEN's victory over ARC in their first encounter was a rather humbling one of 72 points. This match would mark the first time the two teams have competed in a ranked setting, and with both teams fielding potentially their most robust lineups, the match would undoubtedly prove one to watch. GP1: Palingenesis 167-161 Arcadia Sky Noticeable right from the get-go of this match, on Animal Crossing, is the tense, unwavering pack formed by players from both teams. Select players are able to break away or fall back, but it's never for too long and no one is ever safe. As a result, the races comes down to the wire, heavily influenced by those that can take the final shortcut or who has to lose precious seconds making the outside turn. Even then, it's an incredibly mixed race, with ARC clutching onto the early lead by 2 points. NOTABLE PLAY: KNOW YOUR ENVIRONMENT (play starts at 12:42) http://www.twitch.tv/mkboards/v/41981302 Breaking the mold and making quick work of his surroundings, PGM is able to perform a wonderful outplay on Cynda, earning him a huge breakaway despite the intense pack play following closely behind. Approaching the wooded section of the course, Cynda opts to use his super-mini turbo to swerve left of the most impeding tree. The option is undoubtedly a safe one, and in most circumstances, would be the better manoeuvre to make. Seemingly, approaching the glider, PGM appears from nowhere, and the casters suggest it's due to a shroom. This, however, cannot be the case, as PGM has a banana with him. Notice, that as Cynda is swerving around the tree, that there is an orange located on the right of it. This, ultimately, is the source of PGM's catching up. Using the orange, he is able to speed through the grassy area around the pre-glider turn, and then make use of his charged super-mini turbo to propel himself the remaining distance and finally past Cynda. Going into the glider, it is now merely a case of playing mind-games with the dragged banana, pressuring Cynda, which is further aided by the impaired traction from the blooper. Cynda hits the trail, and the following miscommunication between him and Harm with their items results in a guaranteed first-place hold for PGM, earning his team those precious 15 points. Toad Harbour sees a continuation of this large pack play, though GEN are able to make something of it; after PGM misplays the ramp of Toad Harbour, GEN are able to keep several members in high spots, adjusting for whenever a teammate makes a mistake or is in danger from incoming items. It results in a clan Top 3 from GEN, and a +8 race overall. The bump-and-grind nature of Dolphin Shoals sees the pack turn outwardly aggressive, each team tussling to grab ahold of what they can. Vantox and Harm are able to dodge the brunt of the damage and ease their way to a top 2, whilst Taylor makes effective use of triple reds as a threat to keep remaining GEN players at the back. Overall, GEN benefit slightly more from the front-run influence, earning +6. GEN are able to perform a similar principle in final race Yoshi Valley, with members splitting and taking various paths in the first lap to minimize the impact ARC's items can have on them. Unfortunately, due to an inopportune disconnection from Hyra and some solid catch-up play from ARC over the latter laps, they reclaim some lost points, winning the race by 6. Vantox proves to be GEN's strongest suit in the GP, scoring 47 points, a clear 10 points over 2nd place PGM. PLAYER PROFILE: GEN VANTOX Vantox was a long-time veteran of Zephyr, and was among its most active, regular members. Considering the long-lasting development he'd made with fellow Zephyr members, when the team disbanded and made a fresh start under Palingenesis, he, naturally, was one of its founding members. Over his time at both Zephyr and Palingenesis, Vantox has demonstrated keen improvement in competitive play; this season stands as his most impressive individual season so far, having contributed 492 points to the team and upholding an admirable 32.8 GP average, 5th overall at this time. Vantox's time trials also emphasize a strong grasp of the game. At this time, he holds 31st overall on the Player's Page. There is a noticeable consistency in his times; only 8 out of his 48 times fall outside the Top 50, and of those, none of them fall outside of the Top 60. His best time is on GCN Sherbet Land, where an impressive run of 1'47"439 places him 19th on the leaderboards. GP2: Palingenesis 170-158 Arcadia Sky Sunshine Airport sees almost an exact mirror image of Yoshi Valley. Clever slipstreaming from GEN members early sees them grasp top spots, and rotation of items on advancing ARC members keeps them there; but another unfortunate disconnection from Hyra and last-push effort from ARC distorts what could've been a better race for GEN. However, they are saved somewhat by the frontrun-encouraging nature of Sunshine Airport, and still take the early lead in GP2 by 4 points. With Hyra unable to rejoin in time to make the next race 5v6, and only holding two of the top spots, GEN's decision to pick Neo Bowser City was perhaps somewhat of a curveball. Despite the drawbacks, GEN are still able to demonstrate some sound play, taking advantage of the snaky turns and shroomspots to apprehend and slip by incoming ARC members. But ultimately, by the sheer presence of an extra ARC member and making use of the positions they salvaged in the previous race, ARC fight back with the larger presence, resulting in the first winning race by double digits, +12. Cloudtop Cruise sees several cases of individual players making great plays that become dampened by costly mistakes. Cynda is able to tech off the bouncepad first lap, followed by an impressive green snipe off the beanstalk barrier to humble 1st place Teeples, placing several GEN members in top spots. Taylor is able to advance himself into podium position Lap 2 via shrooms and make great use of fireballs in the crowded barrel section of the airship, rooting down Jake and Cynda, only to drive into a pre-glider shocker moments later and lose a valuable position. This would be a grave foreshadowing for Cynda making the same mistake in the final lap, and transforms the race into a last-second scuffle. Whilst the result initially appears to be a GEN victory as they secure spots 3 through 6, the point increments of Top 2 and supporting members in mid-bottom spots actually enriches ARC for a +8 race. NOTABLE PLAY: THREAT OF THE BACKFOOT (play starts at 39:00) http://www.twitch.tv/mkboards/v/41981302 With ARC leading the GP 16 points and now only 2 points behind overall, GEN would require a solid win in this race to return to their tailwind advantage for the match. GBA Mario Circuit was a fantastic selection on GEN's part. Their flock of middle-top spots is apt to bump out the top 2 spots, who start on the outside going into the first turn. The ease of catching up on this course means that GEN would have a buffer to turn the tides should any mistakes be made in the first seconds. When the time came to execute it, GEN did so with superb mixture of team co-ordination and individual play. Their cluster of spots is able to pressure Teeples on the first two turns, giving the ARC founder no choice but to fall back. With only PGM up front, GEN use their middle-top spots to their advantage, pulling predominately shrooms on the first lap and taking the shortcut to break away from trailing ARC members. GEN bide their time in the second lap, focusing on maintaining positions whilst Cynda attempts to wrestle PGM out of first with items. Eventually, it works, after Cynda pulls triple greens and makes two glorious snipes; the first removes PGM's banana protection going round the final bend, and the second beautifully predicts PGM's position going into first turn of the third lap, completely catching the sole ARC frontrunner off guard. Notice the mini-map in the third lap, as several ARC members spin out, essentially ensuring that GEN are able to maintain those vital high spots. With this fantastic race, GEN earn themselves a Top 4, as well as 8-9: a highly convincing win of +28. With this race in tow, GEN enter the third GP, able to build slightly upon their advantage, +18 overall thus far. GP3: Palingenesis 150-178 Arcadia Sky GEN continue their newfound momentum with Wario Stadium. Yet again, we see intensely close pack fighting, power items wreaking havoc on the tight turns and anti-gravity sections. However, Cynda and Harm make a clean getaway with sound technical play, and offset any remaining GEN low spots with a +12 result. But then, in came the switch-up: Dry Dry Desert. ARC are able to take advantage of their middle spots first lap for the majority of them to take the ending shortcut first lap, getting several bodies into mid-high spots, with Fasuke taking lead. GEN place themselves into compromising spots in 2nd and 3rd in the middle of 2nd lap; as a consequence, ARC are able to both rid of Vantox with shells, and advance with further shrooms, with Monfi now taking the lead with one shroom remaining. Cynda is redded after the snakey turns, and now Teeples and Baird are able to join the frontrun party. By the time GEN get their shrooms and prepare for the final cut, it's too late; the Top 4 are too far ahead, and remaining ARC members Taylor and PGM are able to also take the final cut. A great race to stop GEN in their tracks, ARC gain an incredibly pivotal 32 points. Now having stolen GEN's sense of flow, ARC (Monfi)'s choice of destination is Music Park. The first lap largely unchanges spots, where ARC slipstream one another round turns to maintain their top spot presence. Lap 2, however, would prove wholly exciting, however, as the match introduced the crucial item, that, up until this point, had been wholly elusive: the shock. 'Both teams pulled one at the exact same time. I panic-shouted to activate, but the ARC member used it before Harm could. But I still dodged in a star, because I saw they had a shock as well.' - Jake Both teams see benefits and drawbacks from this spontaneous shock. Vantox, shocked in 2nd, can now safely overtake 1st place Teeples having intercepted the pack earlier. Cynda is the first player to be able to grab a box after shock in 5th place, and can advance upwards. And as mentioned by Jake, his dodging in a star earns some places. Yet, ARC already hold top spots on a track that inherently favors top spot starting positions, and so lose relatively little to the shock. Further, it was a counter-shock, meaning GEN were given no freedom to harvest more dodges and actively plan a more beneficial shock. Nonetheless, GEN steal Top 2 and Kev joins them with some nice advancement in lap 3, for a +6 finish on their part. Notwithstanding the overwhelming win on Dry Dry Desert, ARC still trailed going into the final race. They'd need their play to be truly impactful here to steal away the victory for the final race, on GEN's 3DS DK Jungle. From the get-go, GEN was putting ARC on the edge, using shells to subdue them and send then to the back of the pack. But it was time for ARC to pick up their resilient, never-say-die attitude, and from the inception of the second lap, the comeback campaign begun. Their first tool of destruction was a blue shell, that smacked away 2nd place Kev and allowed PGM to now stalk behind 1st place Harm. But whilst all this was happening, ARC used their time in the back to prepare for their second tool of destruction: Their second shock in a row. 'DK Jungle, it looked like we were screwed, and then Taylor being Taylor just pulls a shock, and then that pretty much saved our race... When they were majority of top spots going into DK Jungle lap 2, we weren't thinking about losing the war of anything like that, we were just focusing on what we could do to get up there, and then they decided to put the items in our favor on that last lap, and we just took advantage of that' - Teeples The shock saw Fasuke and Teeples dodging in a star and bullet bill respectively, and allowed a vital few seconds for PGM to reach for the lead, as Harm unfortunately fell off opting to take the alternate branching path at the end. With a Top 2 breakaway in PGM and Fasu, ARC members now just had to maintain grip on their spots in the pack, avoiding any substantial hits. They were fortunately able to do so. Grabbing victory from the clutches of defeat, ARC took a +14 race and the win. FINAL TABLE Closing Statement Palingenesis played convincingly, and showed throughout being more than able to secure solid clusters of points in their favor. The disconnections in the early-match were unfortunate, and the final two shocks proved to be a little too overwhelming for them. Though they can no longer strive for the undefeated season, they still remain first in the division overall. Should their first half success, despite this loss, mirror in the second half, Palingenesis will almost certainly see themselves advancing into Division 1. Arcadia Sky demonstrated in this match that they are not to be underestimated. Going into a match against the top team after a season consisting of narrow losses was naturally going to be challenging, yet this result should be an indication of what never giving up in the face of difficulty can achieve. Going into the second half, Sky should seek to build upon the momentum gained from this win, and convert their close-cut losses into raw victories. Their bonus points can potentially prove invaluable, and could take them into second place; nor is 1st completely insurmountable, given the correct circumstances.