In biggest Team Fortress 2 tournament of the year, America dominates
Froyotech, champions of the most recent season of the ESEA Invite league, America’s top competition, reached the final by sweeping the upper bracket.
Epsilon, Europe’s top contender and the defending i-series Team Fortress 2 champion, fought through the lower bracket to join them.
It was the epic conclusion everyone wanted. Europe and America’s best team in a showdown to decide which continent hosts the best Team Fortress 2 players in the world.
But the final didn’t live up to the hype. Froyotech obliterated Epsilon in one of the most one-sided matches of the tournament, blitzing the Europeans in the first map, cp_process, before forcing them to tap out in less than 10 minutes on the usually slow paced cp_gullywash, with a 5-0 score invoking the mercy rule.
Froyotech were simply on another level.
After going 5-2 during the group stage, they played at another level when more than just seeding was on the line. Froyotech didn’t drop a single map on their way to the championship, sweeping Reason Gaming, the Australians of Team Immunity, and Europe’s top team Epsilon not just once, but twice.
Grant “b4nny” Vincent, Froyotech's captain, earned a reputation as the best player in Team Fortress 2 for his Demoman play, destroying the American scene for years. He is now an international champion on Scout after switching to that class earlier this year. But title of “best player in the world” should now rest squarely on the shoulders of one of his teammates—Matt “Clkwrk” Dias.
Dias was simply unstoppable at i52. In his four games against Epsilon, he put up 110 kills against 57 deaths while at times doubling the damage of the other Scouts in the game. His ability to exert constant pressure on foes while consistently winning one-on-ones with other world class players gave his team huge playmaking ability other teams lacked.
It’s rare for a single scout to exert that much impact on the game. While the role often decides matches, Demomen and Soldiers usually take the more high profile fragging roles, considering they get a higher percentage of the all-important heals and the invincibility-giving Medic ÜberCharges.
But if Froyotech’s dominance came from their play off the medic. Dias, backed by Vincent in the passive scout role and roaming soldier Tyler “Blaze” Brown, were absolutely dominant on the flank. Froyotech’s medics and heavy classes got to sit back and watch as their more mobile players either won them battles or set up favorable situations. Dave “Lansky” Polansky, Froyotech’s pocket soldier, was perfect while cleaning up the mess created by his talented light classes.
The finals may have been a blowout, but the tournament was filled with quality games—and quality drama.
Classic Mixup, the other American team at the tournament and winners of i46 two years ago, barely missed out on making the finals an all-American i46 sequel. Mixup fought close series through their bracket, falling 2-1 to Epsilon in the semifinals before barely surviving a run-in with Australian hopefuls Immunity.
Mixup needed the most clutch play of the tournament to beat Immunity. Their medic Tony “harbleuuu” Ballo somehow pulled off a one-on-two win against the two Australian scouts to win the decisive “Golden cap” overtime round, giving the Americans a 2-1 series win.
That put Mixup into another battle with Epsilon, lasting three maps all decided by a single round. The Americans had a 2-1 lead in the final game with minutes on the clock, cp_granary, but Epsilon fought back to tie the match with seconds remaining. The Europeans carried that momentum into sudden death overtime to close out the match. Chris “WARHURYEAH” Parker in particular, the Epsilon Demoman, put on a show against the Americans.
That emotional high on Saturday night may have contributed to Epsilon’s collapse in the finals on Sunday morning—after the win against Mixup, they had little left to give.
Still, the tournament showed that America’s brand of Team Fortress 2 is the best. After winning relinquishing the i-series title to Europe last year, an American team is back on top, and two placed in the top three.
The primary difference between the two regions—and Australia—may be the roamer position. Tyler “Blaze” Brown of Froyotech and Brandon “Seagull” Larned of Classic Mixup play a much more refined roaming Soldier style than the other teams at the tournament. Instead of relying on the role as a complete throwaway, using it only as a distraction, a sacrifice, and a suicide playmaker, the Americans play a more complete style. They’ll use roamers to better control zones of the map before taking advantage of their mobility to make a big play at the perfect time.
For example, in the finals Brown pushed through his left choke past the wood planks to harass the Epsilon scouts on cp_gullywash mid instead of simply bombing into the fray like opposing roamer “Tek.” That provided constant pressure on Epsilon and split their attention, providing Brown an opportunity to jump in or giving Brown and his teammates the luxury of picking the perfect moment to jump in.
Brown and Larned consistently put up higher damage totals than other roaming players, despite taking a similar percentage of their heals. Larned often outdamaged his own pocket player, Tyler “TLR” Morgan, despite receiving half the heal load.
But whatever the reasons, the question has been answered—America is, in fact, the best continent in Team Fortress 2. At least until next year.