The only major Quake tournament of the year was a thriller, even if it wasn’t exactly what fans were hoping to see.
This year’s Quakecon featured a what it calls a Tri-Master tournament, a $32,000 event pitting teams against each other in three different game types to crown a winner.
Meltdown, a team sponsored by the growing European esports bar chain of the same name, took the title. Led by Swedish Quake 4 icon Johan “Toxjq” Quick, the team went undefeated in both Team Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.
The tournament’s format awarded points to each team based off their ranking in a Swiss-style tournament in each game mode. A Swiss tournament uses a non-elimination format where competitors are paired based off how they’ve done so far and a winner is determined by an aggregate score at the end. That unique format afforded Meltdown enough of a buffer that Quick’s 2-2 duel performance scored just enough to win the tournament outright.
For their efforts, Meltdown took home $8,000 for each of their three wins—Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and the Tri-Master tourney itself.
But for Quake purists, the duel tournament on Sunday was the real competition.
Shane “Rapha” Hendrixson made history by winning his fourth Quakecon Duel championship. The value of his record-tying title, tying the mark set by Alexey “Cypher” Yanushevsky last year, remains up for debate.
The duel portion was only one-third of the event, with $8,000 on the line, a far cry from previous prize pools. With less money up for grabs and more game types for which to prepare, none of the world’s top duellers were in top form. Of course, that includes Hendrixson, who famously entered Quakecon in 2014 with little practice, subsequently failing to defend his 2013 title.
This time, though, lack of preparation was par for the course.
The event itself was odd thanks to the Swiss format, which made it a bit of an uneven bracket.
Hendrixson avoided traditional rivals like Anton “Cooller” Singov and Yanushevsky. That’s in part because fellow American Tim “DaHang” Fogarty, who placed second at least year’s event, did his dirty work for him, beating both Singov and Yanushevsky.
But Hendrixson had his work cut out for him. He faced Fogarty in the third round and bested the American.
Then he had to face whiz kid Sergey “Evil” Orekhov, a rematch of the 2013 Quakecon final, to win this year’s title—not once, but twice. First he bested him in the final round of the Swiss, and then again on the big stage in the Grand Finals. Hendrixson showed why he’s in the conversation for the best dueller of all time. The American had ice in his veins as he played his brand of Quake, using his positioning and planning as a deadlier tool than his own aim.
It’s hard to put the title up there with previous duel championships, or to claim that it puts Hendrixson on equal footing with Yanushevsky for the honor of being the best there ever was. But it certainly muddles a discussion that one year ago seemed slanted in favor of the Belarussian player.
Like after last year’s Quakecon, we’re left wanting more. The story of the modern era of Quake, with Hendrixson and Yanushevsky literally trading Quakecon titles since 2009, seems like it needs another chapter.
Quake is one of the original esports, and it’s also one of the most pure, especially in duel form, an intricate dance of skill, strategy, and death. But this is the only major tournament of the year, and even giving it that “major” label seems like a stretch at this point. We may never get to see the next chapter of the saga of Hendrixson and Yanushevsky, or see if Orekhov can develop into an even greater challenger.
All you can do is enjoy what little the Quake scene and the duel genre has to offer. Meltdown put on a show winning the two team tournaments, filled with plenty of exciting action. Hendrixson showed yet again why he’s in consideration for the best there ever was.
If you missed the action, you can catch up with VODs handily organized at Esreality.