'World Of Tanks' Grand Finals Results: Upsets, Bloodbaths And Eternal Glory From This Year's Championship Tournament
After game after game of decisive blowouts during the Group rounds of the Wargaming.net League Grand Finals for World of Tanks, the competitors in Day 2 made it a brawl worthy of the title 'world champions'. At least until the end, when it became clear who the winner was meant to be.
Eight of the original twelve teams entered the Warsaw Centrum Expo XXI charged after many of their 5-0 or 5-1 curbstompings of their competition. Others, like Chinese team EL Gaming, limped into the quarter finals after suffering at the hands of last year's champion, Natus Vincere. To many, it was Natus Vincere - shortened to Na'Vi - who were destined to win once again, reasserting Russian dominance.
Indeed, the second round of the day was a rematch of the finals competition in 2014 between Na'Vi and long-time rivals/friends Virtus.Pro and that became a slugfest of epic proportion, with the teams trading wins. Tactics were switched up constantly between rounds, with neither side ever asserting a clear advantage. What made this match particularly fun to watch was the extremely precise manner of play meant that there were moments of individual heroism, in which a lone tank railed against the dying of the light and refused to be put down. During round 5, it appeared Virtus had an early triple-capture (three tanks in the capture point) but were then mercilessly gunned down by such precise fire from Na'Vi I'm not sure even Virtus knew what was going on.
It became clear that Na'Vi would take the pot during Round 7 when the team pulled off a ballsy maneuver to capture the base on Ruinberg almost from the getgo. To Virtus.Pro's extreme credit, member Justcauz nearly saved it with a well-timed shot, which would have reset the capture counter, but he was given a choice between two targets and he chose the wrong one. Na'Vi wins, and went on to take the match in eight rounds.
The whole eight game brawl had the feel of the 2004 ALCS between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees: whatever came afterwards would never be as special as this.
Oh, how wrong we were.
Chinese representatives EL Gaming were in a tight spot. After dispatching WP.SC6 on the secondstage (thereby ensuring that SC6 would never make an appearance on the Main Stage), they were facing elimination themselves. Down three games to one in the third match of the day against hungry fighters Kazna Kru, the Chinese team doubled down on their aggression and it paid off hugely. The roar of applause when EL Gaming put it away in the eighth round could be heard across the street. During the pre-show voting to decide who would win the match, only eight percent of all fans voted for EL Gaming. The victory sent made EL the first Chinese team to make it to the Grand Finals, and it was truly a sign of things to come.
After defeating Yato Gaming, the CIS/RU representative Hellraisers - who were known as Unity last year - went head to head with Natus Vincere in the second semi-final round of the day. After a surprising victory in the first round on Cliffs for Hellraisers, Na'Vi made it look easy, handily picking apart Hellraisers in an amazing crossfire. The teams traded victories in the next two rounds, but then Hellraisers pulled a chapter from the Chinese playbook and dug into the reigning champions in three successive brawls that displayed such great individual play that the winner was only determined when the last enemy tank was in ruins. Hellraisers cruised to a stunning 5-2 victory over the #1 team in the world.
Natus Vincere did not appreciate the humiliation they suffered at the hands of Hellraisers, and were looking to ease their pain in anyway possible. Sadly, that meant that Kazna Kru would suffer the embarrassment of a 5-0 rout during the 3rd/4th Match. A rather large technical delay struck the arena - one of many that plagued the event all weekend - during the first round and cost what looked like a Kazna victory. Shenanigans? Doubtful, but Na'Vi did look very, very focused in the proceeding rounds.
And so there were two. The shadows grew long on the ground outside, the air cool and comforting. Inside, the heat and smell from two days worth of competition and spectating left you fondly remembering spring days of your past; of sunshine, swimming and fresh air. Yet no sweet memories would want to pull you away from the Finals match. Two spectacular teams would enter - both underdogs who were never meant to get this far - but only one would get to walk away a winner.
The Finals match, unlike the previous rounds, was a best of seven affair between EL Gaming and Hellraisers. That's 12 games total, with a tie-breaking 13th played if required. It became clear by the third round that we would never even reach double digits: this was all Hellraisers, all the time. Where they found the energy to attack, attack, attack (even on defense!) was beyond me. Yawns permeated the audience watching like Morse code - long, short, long. Constant. Yet, Hellraisers remained absolutely ice cold under pressure.
It was a bloodbath. Few standard strategies were employed, both teams simply went after one another and let the gods of war decide who was right, and who was dead. The second round was exciting, with the tank advantage constantly shifting. First it was a three on two for Hellraisers, then a two on two for Hellraisers, and then finally a game of 'next shot wins' with both remaining tanks held together only by duct tape. With EL Gaming on attack, they had to either capture the point - which was not an option any more as there was no more time - or destroy every last Hellraiser. Forced into option two, the last EL Gaming tank roamed through Ruinberg in search of the last Hellraiser and nearly had him dead to rights with an impressive ram, but HR was just a touch faster and dispatched him in shot.
Round 3 was an intense Close Quarters fight that, again, could have gone either way. Hellraisers all the way. Round 4 saw EL start to falter and Hellraisers picked them off like fish in a barrel, something that very rarely happens on Ruinberg.
But turkey shoots are what Prokhorovka is all about and Roun 5 turned into just that, a "bloodbath" one of the commentators called it. Hellraisers baited EL Gaming with a sacrificial lamb near the train tracks, and EL took it hook, line and sinker. They were punished for their mistake with a massacre of crossfire.
The writing was on the wall at this point. The dream of a comeback slipped ever more and more from EL's fingers. But they would not go down without a win, they still had their pride and they rallied for the sixth match, finally getting the better of Hellraisers in the scrum. 5-1, Hellraisers.
The seventh round began slowly, each team needing a break from the carnage. EL sent its lower tier (but faster) scout ahead, but Hellraisers was onto them and just annihilated it. The outcome was inevitable.
By the eighth match, people were on their feet. This could be the one. Hellraisers figured that if it isn't broke, don't fix it and charged forward against a battered and bruied EL Gaming. As they hunted down the last tank as it tried to limp away, you could see the Wargaming crew hurry to get the mainstage ready. Even they didn't expect this to be over so fast! A final shot, a hull explosion and the crowd roared! Gusts of cold air rushed into the arena, waking up everyone for one final 'huzzah' as the baby-faced kids from Hellraisers took the stage and declared their only waking thought at the moment:
"That we are world champions!"
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