Treads and Steel: An E-Sports Evening to Remember

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sunday night, we had the pleasure of attending the World of Tanks Championship. Hosted by NVidia at the Showbox SoDo in Seattle, the championship hosted five teams from around the world, competing for a grand prize of $20,000. It was a very memorable night for the teams involved as well as the spectators.

The night began with a match-up between Polish team, Mousesports and Korean team NOA. From the first minute, it was clear that team NOA was caught at a disadvantage. Their team was very good on paper, striking a solid high damage, high hit point squad on the field. Their adherence to specific, by the book strategems left them crippled when dealing with an unfamiliar team.

Playing the numbers game works well for games like League of Legends or Starcraft, mostly because the heart of the game really is about the numbers. Many RTS style games are decided by one teams better statistical analysis.

World of Tanks is different in large part because of Wargaming's attention to detail. There are numerous calculations that happen behind the scenes with every shot. The distance, shell trajectory and type, the thickness and slope of the opposing tanks armor, even the angle that the shot hits are all integral factors. Because of this, playing the numbers game can get any player or team lost. Strategic rigidity is a death sentence in World of Tanks.

The flexibility of Mouseports team allowed them to move more freely about the map and react more clearly to the positions taken up by NOA. Within the first two minutes, NOA had already lost two of their heavier tanks, while Mouseports took no significant damage.

When the dust settled on the second battle, it was Mousesports that moved on to the semifinals against Chinese team EP where again their mobility and penchant for improvisation and decoy tactics saw them through.

Na'Vi took the final honors of the evening, a surprising upset considering the setbacks encountered by the team leading up to the event. Speaking about it later, Denis "BigBadWolf" Loktev and Team Captain Dmitry "de1uxe" Repin said "90% of our time was wasted trying to get visas for our missing players." Indeed, two of the teams most experienced members were not able to secure travel to the event, leaving Na'Vi with two substitutes who, talented as they were, had not played as closely with the rest of the team.

Yet another major setback came in the form of the latest title update. A serious overhaul of the artillery unit tree and damage table close to the event nearly nullified the core skill set of Na'Vi's Nikolay "Ec1ipse" Bogdanov, currently rated as one of Russia's top artillery players. By all accounts, Na'Vi should not have had a chance. As BigBadWolf put it, "I have no idea how we won."

But win they did, and in spectacular fashion. The team tore through US team Fulcrum in the semi-finals. The first match against Mousesports in the finals was anticipated to be a long battle, full of careful maneuvers and counter-maneuvers. Instead, Mousesports turned their strategy on it's ear, surprising Na'Vi with a rush in the early moments of the match.

Na'Vi seemed unprepared for the sudden assault and lost a number of units in quick succession. But just as Na'Vi seemed sure of defeat, Mousesports faltered for just a moment. They hesitated for only a few seconds, but it was all Na'Vi needed to regroup and clear the field of Mousesports heavily damaged units. De1uxe assured me "we were ready for the agressive play. And we had a little bit of luck."

The next match went to Mousesports, a long intense slog on a more open arena ending in bare knuckle brawl that was decided by just a couple hundred hit points. It was messy and hard fought, with a number of tanks falling to fire from point black shots and ramming damage.

Na'Vi took up positions quickly at the start of the third match. Killiroid spotted one of Mouseports IS-3's within the first minute close to Inspirer's position. Looking around the corner, Insipirer discovered that the narrow lane was occupied by the majority of Mousesports team. Na'Vi seized the opportunity and Mousesports found themselves flanked within second. Tank after tank fell, none able to find cover as Na'Vi pressed the attack. With a final shot to MouseSports lone Tier 1 tank, Na'Vi reigned supreme.

Na'Vi preformed beautifully Sunday night. Na'Vi felt that they "have the best team, [and] the best captain..." Despite missing players and shortened practice time, with the superb leadership and meticulous attention of de1uxe turned the tide; proving once again that they are Natus Vincere, "born to conquer."