First days at any event are always a life-drainer. Despite thinking I’d be heading out for an after party last night, my eyelids were heavy and brain mushy, so it ended up being an early evening with room service and a found-footage horror movie. I’m glad, though, because I was up early, feeling good, and ready to catch the second day’s Arena matches as soon as they began. With only a few remaining before heading into the final four, the two North American teams -- Evil Geniuses and Bring It -- continued to look strong, with Korea’s LG-IM and Europe’s Yaspresents and I’m Just Being Honest fighting for the remaining spots.
As I expected, Bring It went on a sweep, taking out Double G, AHQ eSports Club, and Yaspresents, bringing them into direct competition with Evil Geniuses for total wins, and guaranteeing both North American teams would be heading to the finals. LG-IM went up against Double G, and in an upset lost in a drawn-out 1-2 matchup, leaving LG-IM in a potential three-way tie situation for third and fourth with Yaspresents and I’m Just Being Honest. Speaking of upsets, EG saw a 1-2 loss against Yaspresents -- their first loss of the tournament.
In the final three matches of the round robin, Bring It maintained a flawless match record, taking out Yaspresents in a lengthy 2-1, who then turned around to knock I’m Just Being Honest out of the tournament. EG and Bring It played to determine the final four matchups, and Bring It took it for a perfect 9-out-of-9 win streak, setting up the final four of Bring It vs. LG-IM and EG vs. Yaspresents. As everyone prepared for the final six matches of the 2012 World of Warcraft Arena Global Finals, I managed to find some time to take a rest, eat a fruit cup, and reflect on my week in Shanghai. I leave tomorrow night, and while I definitely miss home, my cat, dailies, and unfettered Internet access, this is a city and event I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and I hope I can return soon. Catching what I can of the StarCraft II games so far, there have been some amazing runs, and I’m happy to see North American players doing as well as they have. It was almost certain to be Korean-heavy near the end, but the scoreboard reflects the spirit of the competition, showing that local heroes have a better shot than ever at taking home a world championship against Korean fan favorites. I wouldn’t be none too surprised if it happened next year.
Enough of that, though…there’s WoW eSports’in to do! Fruit cup emptied, I went off to watch LG-IM vs. Bring It on the main stage as the best-of-five double elimination bracket started. With Bring It having taken their previous games 2-0 in the round robin stage, I was expecting similar results. A wrench went flying into those plans, though, as I had to miss both the main stage match as well as Yaspresents vs. EG backstage to help set up an interview between MMO-Champion and WoW Lead Encounter Designer Ion Hazzikostas, who was in Shanghai to cast the Challenge Mode and Live Raid events with Blizzard eSports’ Rob “The Voice” Simpson. The live raid ended a while before that, though, and Ion was mostly just hanging out watching the matches, so it seemed like a good time for an interview before we hit the finals. (It’s technically the ArenaJunkies guys on-site, but Ion’s expertise isn’t PvP balance -- so it made more sense for them to stick to PvE/raid questions and pass the interview off to their Curse sister site, MMO-Champion.) So watch for that – there’s some good stuff in there, assuming the recording turned out over the crowd’s roars for Sen in the StarCraft II semifinals.
If Day 1 was EG’s rise to glory, Day 2 was their bitter struggle…and Bring It’s utter domination. Bring It ended up reprising their performance against LG-IM from the round robin by pulling out a 3-0 win with little contest, and showing strong as an almost certain finalist. Meanwhile, Yaspresents was able to knock EG down to the Loser’s Bracket to face LG-IM. And EG wasn’t done stumbling, as they lost the first two games to the Korean team, only just barely managing after one win to pull out another by focusing down Adouken, LG’s Warlock. It went to a nail-biting fifth game to determine who would move on and who would go home, but Evil Geniuses just wasn’t able to regroup and took fourth place.
No real surprise what would happen next. Bring It knocked Yaspresents down to face LG-IM, taking the first finalist spot. Let’s talk about Bring It for a second: Snutz is, for many, the best Warlock in the world, and twice has had the BlizzCon Global Champion title snatched from him. Relegated to second best, he had for a time sworn off World of Warcraft, but came back to the game with his friends Venruki and Kollektiv. Backstage, they were stern, serious, ready to play, and ready to win. And win they have, rocketing to the finals and waiting patiently for the Yaspresents-vs.-LG-IM game to complete. Yaspresents was able to pull out a quick and easy first game. LG-IM woke up in the second and kept the caster trio on their toes, but it wasn’t enough. Going into the third match, Yaspresents was off to a good start, and splitting damage on Adouken and Shotky was just too much for LG-IM, landing them in third place with a very respectable $27,000, and sending Europe’s Yaspresents to the finals against North America’s Bring It.
Cool, calm, collected, the teams were ready, the seats were full, and the finals began. I stood off to the side -- front of house, among the crowd. It’s more fun than watching it on a monitor in the back, even if I can’t understand the casters. The crowd here saw all of the China and Taiwan teams lose match after match the first day, and while they weren’t as excited for the European and North American teams, they did know Bring It, and they certainly knew Snutz. As he was introduced, the crowd erupted, and after only a short delay, game one of the finals began. The winner would take home $105,000, the title of 2012 Global Champion, and -- if it’s Snutz -- fulfill a years-long dream to finally take a global championship.
The first game was over so quickly I don’t even know what happened. I turned to talk to a coworker and everyone was yelling as someone’s health dropped. I think it was Câra who dropped first. I couldn’t even tell you what map they were on. Bring It’s shut-them-down efficiency was a hallmark of this tournament, and there was a buzz as it seemed they may close this thing out in record time. “Wishful thinking,” said my feet, as the second game began on the LoS-heavy “The Underbelly” (Dalaran sewers). Bring It stayed strong, though, as Câra hit a sliver of health five or six times, finally dropping after an exchange of close calls between the two teams. It all seemed clinched as the third started, but Another had switched to Mage from DK. While comp adjustments are fairly common, Bring It hadn’t changed theirs the entire tournament. They were clearly comfortable with their setup, and it showed. While Yaspresents had a few close calls, only a couple really felt threatening, and as the match continued, people begin to murmur: this thing might go to time. There’s a 20-minute time limit, and the winner is decided by total damage done.
Rob (Simpson) was next to me, he ran backstage to find out the status. Bring It kept a lead of about 3 million damage, a gap Yaspresents couldn’t hope to close unless Bring It stood up and walked away from their keyboards. We counted down in our heads, and sure enough, the match ended at the 20-minute mark despite another close call for Câra right at the finish.
A championship ending to a time limit can’t help but feel a bit anticlimactic, but reflecting on the tournament as a whole, this has been an incredible couple days. And honestly, you can’t ask for a better result than a team with a perfect record taking it all at the end -- there’s no disputing they earned it. I’m definitely going to watch VODs for the matches I missed, though. EG started so strong, but a few key defeats in the final four knocked out what seemed to be an unstoppable team on day 1. Meanwhile the Asian teams, save Korean LG-IM, seemed to be falling like flies, while Bring It slowly and methodically won match after match. In the end, Bring It retained their damage lead, Kollektiv and Venruki finally helped Snutz get his gold, and Bring It is crowned the 2012 World of Warcraft Arena Global Champions. Congratulations to them and all of our participants on a well-fought series.