World of Warcraft: MLG Orlando WoW Preview

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MLG San Diego was the first WoW LAN of 2008 and also the first WoW LAN for many top teams. It is a very different experience from playing at home, and can be a bit overwhelming, but with one tournament under their belts you can expect teams like Frag Dominant, Evil Geniuses, GotGame East and West, and SK USA to come out much more prepared and ready for the tournament environment.

Additionally, having seen their competition in action, expect teams to have gone home and corrected what went wrong and to have fine tuned everything that went right. Let's take a look at what we can expect from a number of the top teams going into MLG Orlando.

 

Evil Geniuses - If it aint broke, don't fix it

Conrad "Zyz" Lope
Dan "sp0h" Street
Isaac "Azael" Cummings-Bentley

I talked with the champs about their upcoming plans, and it seems they more or less think they have a recipe that works and just need to continue to play well while making good decisions in order to bring home another championship. While the team's druid Spoh is a tournament veteran, Azael and Zyz were both newcomers, and now have LAN experience that is all so valuable. The team has also undergone quite a bit of pressure, battling back from the losers bracket, with the whole crowd watching, and have come out on top. One concern the team did have was that being the defending champions paints a big target on your chest, as everyone feels they need to beat you to make it to the finals. At San Diego, they felt a lot of teams were surprised by how well they could run multiple group makeups, but now the cats out of the bag. Still, they feel that because of their quality, depth, and intelligent decision making things will be fine. They also expressed their desire to run their "main" makeup of Rogue, Warlock, Druid more as they feel it is a powerful comp they run well, but did not get to showcase enough in San Diego. In closing, Zyz mentioned he felt that their toughest competition in Orlando would be Frag Dominant Duelists and the new GotGame lineup (Sodah,Venruki,Happyminti).

Keys to Success:

Have an answer for Warrior Warlock Druid. On their road to the finals, EG did not have to play either of the strong online Warrior Warlock Druid teams (MoB and GotGame West). With Hafu's team and GGW both in attendance, I expect these guys to run into a Warrior, Warlock, Druid team somewhere along the line. It won't be easy, and if EG doesn't play well you can expect a "Who's the Boss" out of Hoodrych.

More consistent Druid play. Spoh's a top tier player, but in the past has been prone to making mistakes that cost his team rounds. At San Diego, he played amazingly well, and if he can keep it up, his team will be on a fast track to another championship.

Intelligent play calling from Azael. Having spoke with him, he made the majority of the calls on what lineups to run, as he was the utility player and wanted to be comfortable against whatever team they had to play. If he continues to make the right choices, and play his role well, he'll continue to hear MVP praises. Make a mistake, and you'll be easy pickings for the people looking to blame someone.

Known Comps:

Rogue, Lock, Druid
Warrior, Rogue, Druid
Rogue, Rogue, Druid

 

SK USA - Finally Neilyo and Serennia's Moment?

Vance 'Serennia'
Corey 'Glorin'
Neil 'Neilyo' Mosunic

After watching MLG San Diego, I really felt like SK blew a great opportunity to win the tournament with some poor strategy decisions and a few gameplay errors. With two of the most individually skilled and well known players in the game, I think it's only a matter of time before this team manages to win a championship. They managed a 3rd place finish last week at WWI, against an arguably tougher field, while using a substitute player (Inflamez) they had never played with. Serennia was absolutely confident that had they been playing with Glorin instead they would have won WWI, and that this time around they won't make a mistake and will capture the gold in Orlando.

Keys to Success:

Neilyo's Warrior. He's one of the best rogues out there, and has been working his warrior game up as well. At San Diego, things seemed a bit rocky, and his team captain didn't have full faith in his ability to perform, but he has been improving. I actually got the opportunity to play some arena with him on his warrior recently, and was quite impressed with how well he played. If he keeps it up on LAN and Serennia has enough confidence in his game to switch to a warrior instead of a rogue when needed, they team will be much better off.

Earthshock and Tremor WRU? Playing a shaman without addons isn't an easy task, but if you want to win a championship you have to deal with adversity and learn to play without them. In San Diego we saw a significant lack of tremor totem and earth shocks from Glorin, and it's one of the most important parts of winning with their group makeup. Sodah went to town on Neilyo's warrior with crowd control, as GGE beat them 3-0, putting up more rounds on their team then earth shocks Glorin cast in the series.

Serennia. The team captain often makes off the wall strategy decisions for his team that sometimes works well, and other times loses rounds. Hopefully, for his teams sake, we'll have more of the former this tournament. His druid game will also need to be on point, avoiding getting caught in bad positions and dying instantly

Winners Bracket. An early trip to the lower bracket will be worse for this team then any other. Serennia's a great player to have on your team when you're winning, but when you start losing, things are not so pleasant. If SK starts playing the blame game, I find it hard to believe they'd be able to make a long trip through the lower bracket to come back and win.

Known Comps:

Rogue, Shaman, Druid
Warrior, Shaman, Druid

Frag Dominant Duelists - Can an American RMP win an entire tourney?

David "Dej" Roggenkamp
Daniel "Ely" Vulis
Corey "Emolol" Ratliff
Sean "jones122" Jones

After seeing Council of Mages dominate the field at WWI, perhaps there is some hope for the RMP players out there who were afraid their comp wasn't capable of bringing home the gold on its own. If there is an American team who can do it, it's certainly Frag Dominant Duelists, who after qualifying for both the Arena Tournament and the CGS tournament online are considered the top Rogue, Mage, Priest from the US. When I talked to them about expanding their lineup to run more then just the usual, they felt like RMP is strong enough to win against almost every other team, and that they will be prepared for teams who attempt to counter them at this tournament. With some of the first tournament jitters out of the way, the team is confident they will do extremely well in Orlando, as they feel that nerves lead to some of their losses in San Diego.

Keys to Success:

Defeating Warlock Teams: Warrior, Warlock, Druid and Rogue, Warlock, Druid are some of the most common fights for Rogue, Mage, Priest and they aren't easy encounters. Even though they defeated GotGame West 3-1 at San Diego, some reports say that Duelists have been having a rough time beating this lineup consistently online since then. They'll also likely need to get past EG's Rogue, Lock, Druid which many consider an even harder fight but by no means impossible. If FDD plays well, they can certainly pull off the wins, but it's going to take high level play from everyone on the team.

More Counterspells: At the beginning of San Diego, Celex wasn't counter-spelling much at all. Towards the later matches, he got better about it, but still wasn't as good as a champion should be. Playing without some of the usual addons can be troublesome for a mage, but I expect him to be much better about counter-spelling in Orlando, having practiced much more online without a focus frame.

Transition Gameplay: Many people make the mistake of thinking Rogue, Mage, Priest is a purely offensive team that must always attempt to rush their opponent down. Sometimes though, a better strategy is to try and outlast a bit more, waiting for a good kill window to appear, while wearing down the enemies mana. FDD is well known for being very good at transitioning between both styles of play, and if they are able to switch it up when needed, you can expect a better finish then last time for this squad.

Known Comps:

Rogue, Mage, Priest

 

MoB - Do it on LAN

Alex "Mazud" Maznev
Henry "offcell" Forber-Pratt
Timothy "kollektiv" Yen

MoB goes a different direction this tournament, having picked up Dude I got it on fraps, a strong online force, having taken first place in both the Arena Tournament round one qualifiers and CGS qualifiers. Their shadow priest (Offcell), affliction warlock (Mazud), restoration shaman (Kollektiv) team is an uncommon setup that manages to catch a lot of teams off guard in online play. It remains to be seen though, how much their online dominance will translate into live play. Two huge factors for this team are the lack of addons available such as focus frames and the unavailability of troll priests. Add in the fact that most top teams will be ready to run a double undead rogue countercomp should they run into MoB, the cards are stacked against them for this tournament.

Keys to Success:

Playing without addons: During the initial stages of the CGS qualification round, MoB struggled to do well, as they were reportedly practicing without addons. After they turned them back on, they shot to the top. If they want to win, they have to learn how to manage without focus frames, spell alert, etc. and I think it's perfectly within their capability.

Kollektiv: Many say that he carries the team, and I'm inclined to agree. His ability to balance interrupting enemy spellcasters while keeping his team alive is a real difference maker for this lineup, and he'll need to have a great tournament if their team hopes to come out on top. It won't be easy without the bevy of addons he uses online, but as one of the best shaman in the game I see him being able to cope.

Lineup depth: In a live tournament setting, you can expect many teams to attempt a double rogue lineup against MoB in hopes of counteracting their strong shadow damage. They will need to have some answer for these teams if they want to go all the way, but we haven't seen any success fulmulticlassing out of these guys yet. They realize this though, and I hope for their sake they have some surprises in store for the competition.

Known Comps:

Warlock, Priest, Shaman

Got Game East - Can Sodah do it again?

Elliott "venruki" Venczel
Michael "Sonydigital" Sherman
Jordan "jordanmance" Mance
Alex "sodah" Ringe

In San Diego, one of the best druids in the world showed up with a pseudo-pug and managed to upset quite a few big names en route to a third place finish. For Orlando, he's opted to team up with longtime online mage teammate Venruki and a community favorite rogue, Happyminti. This star studded lineup certainly has the potential to make it deep into the tournament, if they play the metagame well. Their Rogue, Mage, Druid main lineup isn't all that strong against the top contenders on paper, so their success is going to come down to how well Venruki can multiclass when necessary. If he does well like Azael at the last tournament, expect great results from this team.

Keys to Success:

Venruki's Multiclassing: Reports say he can play priest and rogue along with his main class of mage. Everyone knows he's a top caliber player, but will this transition over into his other classes? His team will need to make the right decisions regarding when to run each of their team makeups, and he'll have to perform in order for them to have a shot at winning.

Be prepared for first LAN: Happyminti and Venruki will be playing in their first WoW LAN in Orlando, and we do not know how big of a change this will be for them. We've seen quite a few players do amazingly well their first time out, and hopefully with some direction from Sodah, these two will be ready to play in a foreign environment without addons.

Known Comps:

Rogue, Mage, Druid
Rogue, Priest, Druid
Rogue, Rogue, Druid

 

Got Game West

John-Paul "Greenrangerz" Grenier
Zack "gotgamezak" Packard
Adam "hoodrychz" Brown
Ryan "Didyz" Pinkham

Greenranger and his team are no strangers to almost making it. First there was Tournament Realm 1, where his team had to play a last minute playoff match for the final qualification spot (despite holding the 4th place spot at the proper cutoff time) but lost 3-1. Then there was MLG San Diego, where they got surprised by Nihilum and could not find an answer for their hunter setup. CGS was the same, as an unfortunate disconnect in the final minutes of illegible game time left their team just short of second place, while a win would have allowed them to qualify. This team has been on the brink of something great for a long time, and I expect this event to be their breakthrough. It's just a matter of time until everything clicks for Hoodrych, Greenranger, and Didy and when it does, watch out they are a force to be reckoned with. Many players in the WoW community herald Hoodrych as the best 3v3 warrior, and with good reason. His play against Hafu's team in San Diego was, in my opinion, the reason his team came out on top, with excellent defensive play and intelligent quick swaps to a druid left in a bad position. They need to watch out for enhancement shaman teams attempting to abuse their warlock though, the best option likely having Didy swap to a rogue. I am not sure if he is capable, but with Nihilum absent from this tournament, GGW is in an excellent position to win this one. The majority of teams I talked with all feel as though this team will be their toughest competition, and I feel the same way.

Keys to Success:

Heal the Pet: Against Frag Dominant Duelists, Didy's pet got abused and lead to their team losing that series against the strong Rogue, Mage, Priest team. It seemed that there were opportunities to through some lifeblooms out though, and the pet deaths were likely due to the small size of the pet unit frame on the default UI. If Greenranger can pay more attention to the pets HP, I expect this team to do much better against FDD, and in general.

More Solid Warrior Play: Some people criticize Hoodrych's style for being too flashy and unnecessary, with crazy intervenes and spell reflects happening all the time. I personally greatly enjoy it, and feel as though something small like intervening a cheap shot can in fact win the fight for your team. If Hoodrych can continue to play well and make intelligent quickswaps his team will be in a great spot to win it all.

Can Didy multiclass?: I honestly have no idea if he can play a rogue or not, but if he can this lineup is close to perfect. Their hardest fight would end up being Rogue, Mage, Priest and although they did lose to one in San Diego, I feel if they play well they will win a series against FDD. SK.us may prove troublesome for them though if they are forced to run a warlock against their double melee, enhancement shaman onslaught.

Known Comps:

Warrior, Warlock, Druid

Pandemic

Mason "Nitrana" Groendal
David "sckz" Quick
Joe "NoktyN" Romano
William "Teeb" Lee

2008 hasn't been nearly the year 2007 was for last years undefeated champs, but things have the opportunity to turn around in Orlando. Having finally picked up an all important full time druid, the team will finally be able to run group makeups more suited to their main classes that will put them in a better position to win. Their new druid Teeb already has LAN experience (he played at WSVG Toronto last year) so you can expect the team to be solid in that regard, and play the metagame well. The biggest question will be how well the team gels with a new player, as they have been playing together just a fraction of the time as some of the powerhouses going into this tournament. If the practice they put in is quality enough, they certainly have the depth, skill, and knowledge to beat anyone. Their group makeups will be quite similar to the San Diego champions, EG, with Noktyn and Nitrana feeling more at home on Warrior and Rogue then Azael. If they can get past Rogue, Mage, Priest teams keep your eyes out for Pandemic.

Keys to Success:

Smart metagame play: After making the mistake of leaving a rogue off of the roster for MLG San Diego, expect them to have a much better handle on what they need to run in order to win. Being able to comfortably run druid makeups will bring much more consistency to the team, but they need to run the correct ones, and have faith in them when they do.

Quality Warlock Play: Having realized paladin just isn't going to cut it in competitive 3s, SCK took up warlock some time ago. He's come along well, and has always been an extremely vocal player with a good view of the fight. The team will need to run a warlock centric comp several times, in my opinion, if they want to win the tournament. If sck can hold it down, expect the team to do well.

Noktyns Play: This will be Noktyn's first time to play his warrior with a druid in a tournament. During early arena days, he was viewed as one of the best warriors around, but since then hasn't received the recognition he deserves. A great technical player with a solid understanding of the game, look for his opportunity to finally shine in Orlando. He needs to seize this moment and make good plays in order to help his team come out on top.

Known Comps:

Warrior, Rogue, Druid
Warrior, Warlock, Druid
Rogue, Warlock, Druid

 

fnatic

Kyle "Azureflames" Holroyd
Brian "Caal" McPharlin
Jason "Agnos" Weber
Thomas "Elaglo" Parker

After two second place finishes in 2007, fnatic has been quiet as of late. Some may say that they are "has beens", but underestimating this lineup is a huge mistake. Look back at MLG San Diego, they sent the third place finishers GGE to the losers bracket early! Having kept the same members from their original Mage, Warlock, Druid lineup, fnatics had to do some learning of new classes, which is no easy task. Their team leader Caal still wants greatly to do well, but admits they haven't been practicing as much as he would like to. Still, if they have a good day, the team is capable of running several lineups well enough to beat some of the top dogs. Don't take them lightly.

Keys to Success:

Azurewrath's Warrior: Warrior, Warlock, Druid will be a staple for the team if they want to get deep in the tournament (it's what they put GGE down with). Agnos and Caal play their main classes for this makeup, so their success will rest heavily on how well Azure manages to play warrior. He's put in a lot of work at it, and hopes he can do well enough to win in Orlando.

Caal's Leadership: The team's druid is always the most vocal and calls the shots during matches. If he can motivate his team and make proper strategy calls, he'll put his team in a much better situation to be successful. His druid play is generally on point, as he leads by example, but he must play extremely well for his team to have a chance.

Agnos' Warlock: Time and time again, people have questioned Agnos' ability and motivation at the warlock position. Many feel as though his play is the weak point of the team. He needs to prove the naysayers wrong and have an MVP tournament in Orlando.

Known Comps:

Mage, Warlock, Druid
Warrior, Warlock, Druid

Orz

Rumay "Hafu" Wang
Alexander "glickzz" Haderski
Andrew "Rhaegyn" Miller

Hafu, Rhaegyn, and Glick are back, this time without the MoB tag by their names. Going by their original online name Orz, they hope to do better in their second live event. Having been knocked out of the last tournament by two of their biggest online rivals, GotGame West and Frag Dominant Duelists, expect this team to come out better prepared and ready to avenge these losses. Last time around, their attempts at multiclassing didn't work out as well as they had planned, as Rhaegyn's rogue play was unimpressive in the match against Frag Dominant. Hopefully they've managed to put in more practice and will be able to run their main team makeup more this tournament. I still believe this team can take down Rogue, Mage, Priest with their normal Warrior, Warlock, Druid setup if they play well. With all the recent controversy surrounding this team and their exodus from the MoB gaming family, I see them being extremely motivated and capable of going all the way if their secondary comps work for them.

Keys to Success:

Glickz Play: A lot of people in the community consider Glickz to be the best warlock around these days. He's always impressed me personally, and I thought he played quite well in San Diego as well. If he can keep playing at this level, it's going to make things much easier for his teammates to do their job and post up wins.

Hafu's Positioning: In their matchup against GGW, Hafu left herself in some bad spots that forced her to blow defensive cooldowns earlier then she would have liked to, leaving her helpless late game when she got swapped to. While it's not always her fault, she does have a tendency to gravitate to the middle of the arena, instead of hanging on the outskirts of the fight like the other teams druid. If she can play it a bit more safe, I expect their team to be more successful.

Multiclassing: One of this team's strengths over other Warrior, Warlock, Druid teams are their potential to run multiple lineups. Glick can play a ret paladin and Rhaegyn can play a rogue, but they haven't always played them well enough for a tournament environment. If they can improve in this department, the team will have a great advantage over the teams who can only run one comp.

Known Comps:

Warrior, Warlock, Druid
Rogue, Warlock, Druid
Warrior, Paladin, Druid

 

The Unknowns

In San Diego, we saw a relatively unknown team, GotGame East, shock the tournament field, knocking off several big names on their way to a third place finish. Rumor has it, another member from this squad, Lycra, will be in Orlando with a new team of his own. While I wasn't able to get any details about this team, keep an eye out for them. Who knows who else might show up to Florida and make a name for themselves. There are plenty of highly skilled teams out there who might be laying low hoping to be the next GGE and surprise everyone. Almost all the teams from San Diego will be in Orlando, and the new MoB lineup will be great to see in action. Expect some exciting matches! Don't miss out!

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