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Reviewing The Gauntlet

In a surprising turn of events, Cloud9 (C9) has beaten ROX Armada (previously Invincible Armada) in the final stage of the 2017 Mobile Masters Invitational at the Prudential Center in New York. Armada nearly completed the “Run the Gauntlet” challenge, defeating four teams in succession – Tempo Storm, Tribe Gaming, GankStars and NRG – before ultimately falling to the last boss of the gauntlet, Cloud9. This was surprising to me, as in my eyes, Invincible Armada had always been just that: invincible. So, what led to this outcome?

Throughout the five matches of the Invitational, Armada did not significantly vary their team composition. In every match bar one, they locked in Baron as first pick, choosing him for their laner druid’s extremely capable hands. If NRG hadn’t banned Baron, it’s likely Armada would have again first-picked Baron for that match. Their jungler, Mango, chose assassins such as Taka, Blackfeather and Koshka. Their new roamer, Engineeus, taking over the role that Willy had performed superbly in the past, was the only one who changed his hero nearly every match (except for picking Glaive twice), as if eager to prove that he can play multiple heroes, and play them well.

Armada won their first four matches under twenty minutes each, with their aggressive and intimidating playstyle. All of the matches were best of one, as opposed to the usual best of three format seen in most other Vainglory tournaments. Armada won $3000 for every match won, winning a total of $12000 for four matches, a nice sum in their pocket.

In the final match, some believe Armada may have been fatigued, having played four matches with intense concentration beforehand. C9, on the other hand, were completely rested and ready, which may have played a role in the final result. In this match, Armada once again chose Baron as their first pick, following the maxim, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Bearing in mind the end result, this may have not been the best choice against Cloud9. Having seen three matches with Armada playing Baron beforehand, they were ready with a strategy to counter him. As it was a best of one format, neither team had the luxury of a rematch. I believe choosing Taka was one of the major reasons Armada ended up losing, as he did not have enough utility during teamfights. Engineeus as Lance also did not perform optimally, dying early on. Cloud9 showed incredible synergy and mechanical skill this match, with every one of their players at the top of their game. With Oldskool as Vox, gabevizzle as Ardan, and iLoveJoseph as Koshka, they were a force to be reckoned with. This match, the tables were turned. It was Cloud9’s turn to gain early advantages leading to their control of the map. For the first time in the gauntlet, it was ROX Armada that ended up fighting an uphill battle, performing well, but ultimately unable to stand up to Cloud9’s top notch synergy and execution.

To analyze exactly how Cloud9 was able to get the edge over ROX Armada, let us first look at another match of theirs. Apart from Cloud9, the team that gave them a run for their money was GankStars. The matches between GankStars and Cloud9 varied slightly in draft with the support roles of the opposition (GankStars had Lance, Cloud9 had Ardan) and Armada’s support (first Lyra, then Lance). While Lance can offer peel against a Koshka, he can’t completely negate an engagement like Lyra with her Bulwark. Where GankStars failed to capitalize on was the early-game potential of Koshka. Koshka is stronger in the early game than Taka and they needed to snowball fast before she fell off.

GankStars made a few rotations into Armada’s jungle but were not able to find many kills, objectives, or a gold lead larger than 3 thousand gold. Following a team fight at the 12 minute mark, GankStars were aced and from then on it went downhill for them. On the other hand, Cloud9 were able to snatch 2 quick kills early on and take the first turret and gold mine before the 10 minute mark. Also at this point, iLoveJoseph’s Koshka had a 20 cs lead over Mango’s Taka.

By the 13 minute mark, a 4 thousand gold lead had been amassed by Cloud9. While druid kept up with his laning efficiently, Mango was starved for gold. Around the 19 minute mark, Cloud9 just barely won a team fight and was then able to take a kraken and all of Armada’s lane turrets.

At this end point, the deciding factor in team fights was the difference between druid’s and Oldskool’s build. “I think a little bit of a mistake from ROX Armada was not playing a scaling composition. As soon as you get to the late game, that’s where it gets dangerous against Oldskool. Oldskool shines in the late game, that is what he wants”, I paraphrase FooJee. Oldskool’s Breaking Point build required him to build stacks off of Mango and Engineeus in order to deal greater amounts of damage, whereas druid’s build was for burst damage and had no scaling potential. In the two major team fights (one before kraken and the final team fight), Oldskool was just barely able to win out, and he ended the fights with 15 and 20 stacks of Breaking Point respectively.

With these builds in mind, the difference in team fighting strategies was another nail in the coffin for Armada. Knowing they were at a disadvantage and not wanting to allow Koshka to jump on their back line, they never fully committed to Oldskool and therefore he was able to build those breaking point stacks and dwindle down his target’s health. On Armada’s side, druid only kept applying a stagnant amount of damage. It’s important to note that while both GankStars and Cloud9 used assassins, Cloud9’s strategy did not prioritize the Baron, but rather his teammates. If Cloud9 could build stacks and force an early fountain of renewal from Armada, the fight would be in their favor. So, by dominating the early game and building for the late game, Cloud9 was able to pull off a winning performance in terms of momentum and map control, but they only narrowly won their team fights against Armada’s composition.

Ultimately, I wholeheartedly believe Cloud9 deserved this win, defeating the reigning World Champions. On the other hand, I also believe ROX Armada didn’t show us all the tools at their disposal, saving the other aces up their sleeves for Vainglory Worlds to come later this year. ROX Armada is still as much of a threat as before, and they’re just getting started, but Cloud9 has also reinforced that they deserve to be seen as a major threat.

Article written by DarkSquall and Ryann17

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Set for the summer? A preview of Vainglory8 North America

With the Vainglory Summer season starting this weekend, it will be interesting to see which North American teams go on to become the next champions. Quite a few changes happened over the break between the Western Unified Spring Championship and now. These team changes, acquisitions, and roster alterations have made the outcome of the North American Vainglory8 far less predictable than in the past.

The Unified Live Champions Cloud9, and the team that took out 3rd place, Team SoloMid (TSM), have not seen any changes to their starting rosters. Therefore, in conjunction with their dominant performances in the Spring Vainglory8 season, we can expect both these teams to stay out the front of the pack. Look out for them this weekend as they face off against each other.

Coming up behind them, I believe that GankStars and the Hollywood Hammers will continue fighting fiercely, and will round out the last of the top 4 spots. However, both teams have seen roster changes, and it is not clear as to whether this will help or hinder their performance. Hammers’ new jungler is now Arkaik, a role that was previously occupied by ttigers. GankStars, on the other hand, have had to let go of their old roamer R3cKeD, and brought in former Immortals roamer Vains. While the abilities of Vain have been seen before, Arkaik has yet to prove himself; however, he now has an amazing opportunity to do so in Vainglory8. If Arkaik synergises well with his team, Hammers may taste the success that they couldn’t achieve at the Unified Championship, in which they were knocked out in the first round by Immortals. On the other hand, GankStars’ overall play style will likely not change much, but it will be interesting to see if Vains’ style of roaming will match former roamer R3cKeD’s aggressive style.

Next up, I believe that out of the bottom four teams, Tempo Storm has the highest chance of success. They have already experienced the Vainglory8, and their starting roster is still the same, which may be a considerable advantage. Furthermore, while they were promoted last season from the Challengers battles, they were then able to build up enough points to avoid the relegation spots that demoted Rogue, Tribe, and Immortals. However, having been 3-0’d by GankStars at the Unified Championship, it is still unclear whether they will ever be able to perform well against the top 4 teams.

Finally, NRG, Nova Esports, and Echo Fox are the teams I’m hoping will surprise us the most. As none of these teams have taken part in Vainglory8 in previous seasons, there is no telling who will succeed, but it will be intriguing to see if they can shake up the standings. For anyone who might be confused at the moment, allow me clear up the team changes. NRG was previously a Vainglory Invitational Series (VIS) Challengers team, but acquired LOS BABOONS, who defeated Immortals. Nova Esports was formerly Rage Pingers, who knocked out Rogue. Lastly, the new Echo Fox roster is made up of the acquired team Giraffes, who defeated Tribe Gaming to secure their spot in the Vainglory8. In my honest (and biased, basically because I’ve watched the stream of Nova captain ‘starboi’) opinion, I believe that of these three teams, Nova will definitely be the team to watch this upcoming weekend, especially once we consider that they were ranked first in Challengers.

Summer season in North American Vainglory8 is set to be a blast! What are your predictions?


Article written by Ryann17 and edited by DarkSquall

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Reflections on the future of Vainglory

With the presence of esports rising, it’s no wonder that all platforms have gained more exposure these past years. Consoles and PCs were always powerhouses, but recently they’ve been shown to an even larger audience thanks to being broadcast on television. With tournaments such as EVO being shown on Sportscenter, and the ESL CS:GO and Street Fighter V leagues appearing regularly on TBS, esports are now in a better spot than ever to grow and expand.

After the success SEMC had with Vainglory’s 2016 season, it seems that this year Vainglory could be on track for that same level of success. As far as we know, this season will retain the Spring, Summer and Autumn Championships – culminating with Worlds. However, is that it for Vainglory? While the current system is not a terrible thing for Vainglory, it may be a massive disappointment for audiences if the amount of top-level tournaments remains the same.

What would it take for Vainglory to reach a bigger audience?

As it stands, Vainglory has been downloaded over five million times from the Google Play Store, and that number is sure to be even greater on the Apple App Store. Comparing that number to the amount of people who were mobile gamers in 2015 – 165 million[1] – we can see that the Vainglory community has the potential to grow exponentially. Furthermore, we may already know the answer to the above question. When the revolutionary 2.0 update was being showcased, it was revealed to us that Super Evil Megacorp (SEMC) was in the process of constructing a 5v5 gamemode for Vainglory.

I initially rejected the idea of this new gamemode, for fear that we’d lose touch with the 3v3 style of MOBA that made Vainglory unique. Furthermore, I was hoping that if a 5v5 game mode was developed, it wouldn’t become the standard mode of gameplay in the competitive scene. However, I’ve changed my mind. Based on the fact that League of Legends, Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm and SMITE all have an enormous following for 5v5 competitive tournaments, it is my opinion that Vainglory’s upcoming 5v5 gamemode will accelerate the expansion of Vainglory – both casually and competitively. 5v5 MOBAs have a pre-existing larger market and audience from the popular PC games already mentioned, and this will increase the appeal and marketing value of Vainglory itself.

What needs to change to encourage this development?

In order to greater support a 5v5 competitive scene, I am of the opinion that Vainglory would need to host more tournaments, with bigger cash prizes to offer. While financing of these tournaments will be difficult, a lot of it can be accomplished with more people and organizations branching out into Vainglory: sponsoring competitive teams, and hosting professional leagues. It’s important to note that the amount of tournaments Vainglory has is suited to the limited amount of professional teams competing at the moment. However, the current financial rewards in the Vainglory esports scene can’t support any more teams, because there are only three live finals to which the top six teams of a region are invited, and only one world invitational – if there’s no money being offered, there’s no reason for more teams to compete. While it might be a stretch, it is possible to fix this. More professional organisations joining Vainglory with the 5v5 boom will increase viewership, which in turn raises revenue and causes prize pools to increase – eventually becoming a self-promoting cycle. For example, Dota 2’s biggest event in 2014 had 20 million views with a peak of 2 million concurrent viewers at one point: the peak audience double that of 2013 viewership[2]. For League of Legends, in the two year gap between 2014 and 2016, League viewership rose dramatically from 27 to 43 million[3][4] – an enormous 59% increase. If a similar increase in viewership occurs with Vainglory, there is huge potential for significant revenue growth.

What can 5v5 bring to Vainglory’s gameplay?

One of the reasons I enjoy Vainglory are the quick matches that can finish within 20 minutes. While 5v5 would almost certainly increase match length, it will additionally allow for more interesting strategy and depth in game.

Check out this clip from the North American League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split, which shows part of a match between Team SoloMid (TSM) and Cloud9 (C9):


I’m not a League player, but what stands out to me in this video is how well TSM were able to play in the given situation. As they were taking the Elder Dragon (an important objective in League), all five members of C9 came to initiate a teamfight, planning to catch out TSM. In the brawl that ensued, TSM killed three of C9’s players and managed to take the Elder Dragon with no losses. TSM then rotated down to the bottom lane, as the two remaining C9 players moved to take down TSM’s towers. To counteract this rotation, TSM sent back only two players – and this is what got me hyped up while watching the clip. TSM simultaneously pushed down the lane towards C9’s Nexus (League’s equivalent of the Vain crystal) while also winning the 2v2 against C9 at their base – securing the championship in a series of decisive plays. In my opinion, it would be amazing for that level of strategy to be introduced into Vainglory: not just the more complex team-fighting dynamic, but the increased importance of map awareness and rotations, as well as the larger focus on objective-splitting and strategic positioning of players.

How will the professional scene change with the introduction of 5v5?

It’s always been a fairly common opinion that North America is the best region in the world at Vainglory, with the best teams competing in NA. The same reasons are continually thrown around when debating “NA > EU”, such as better drafting strategies, players having higher skill, and increased aggression being the meta. However, during the inaugural Vainglory World Championship, when Phoenix Armada (now Invincible Armada) performed spectacularly, a paradigm shift occurred in the Vainglory community. Armada is now viewed as easily being the strongest and most dominant team in the world. According to several professional players who competed against them, Armada’s success stemmed from their extremely impressive individual mechanics, their rapid decision making in clutch situations, and their utilisation of early game aggression even more effectively than the teams from NA.

One clear example of their dominance can be seen when looking at a match where Armada were up against GankStars Sirius. While Armada were on the back foot and retreating after losing Willy, both druid and Mango quickly bought infusions at the jungle shop, and thus were able to quickly and brutally retaliate against an overconfident Sirius.


While plays like this will still be possible in the future of Vainglory, it is my opinion that 5v5 will shake up the current professional scene dramatically. With a larger map, deeper strategy and a greater number of teams, I feel that while individual mechanics will remain relevant, they will no longer be the most important factor when deciding the outcome of a match – and gaps between skill will be able to be bridged with advanced macroplay. Invincible Armada may no longer remain on top of the professional Vainglory scene, with brilliant thinkers like FlashX able to counteract the overwhelming skill of players like druid through strategy, instead of having to match their mechanics.

Lastly, while I haven’t kept in touch with regions other than EU and NA, the recent VGL and VIS matches have showcased how the overall skill level of high-tier players in Vainglory has increased, and the gap between Vainglory8 and Challenger teams has decreased. Recently, all three Challenger teams defeated the Vainglory8 teams in the Challenge battles, taking their spots for the next split of Vainglory8. With the reliance on mechanics likely to reduce in the future, the perceived differences between professional and Challenger teams may disappear forever.


So, how will new players coming into Vainglory perform?

My current opinion is that some of the competitive players who are brought in by professional organisations from PC MOBAs will end up performing better than expected. As the 5v5 map in Vainglory will most likely be similar to the maps of other existing MOBAs (think League or Dota maps), any new competitive players with a background in 5v5 MOBAs will have an advantage over the current crop of competitive players, who are habituated to the 3v3 map. Their preexisting knowledge of 5v5 strategies and rotations could possibly see newcomers in Vainglory dominate the old hands such as the Hollywood Hammers (formerly Hammers Esports) and GankStars.

As for playing skills and mechanics on touchscreen devices, since many current professional players already come from MOBA backgrounds, I am of the opinion that the mechanics of newcomers would eventually catch up to the rest of the competitive scene. This is seen all the time in many other esports, where players transition to other games and find success. In Call Of Duty, players like FormaL and Crimsix first played Halo, before switching over and dominating. In Tekken 7, Poongko switched from playing Street Fighter and was also quite successful. Finally, while he hasn’t played competitively in Vainglory, Zekent – a developer in SEMC – used to play competitively in League of Legends. I find it extremely plausible that players could switch over to Vainglory from games like League, Dota 2 and SMITE, and end up thriving.

Final thoughts

This returns us to the main question: will Vainglory ever make it to the big screen? As of right now, it may still be too small, and lacking in appeal to a larger audience. However, if everything goes right for SEMC in the roll-out of the 5v5 gamemode, and the introduction of more professional organisations into the Vainglory scene is successful, it’s not impossible that one day Vainglory may become bigger and better than anything we could ever imagine.

Article written by Ryann17 and edited by hoIIand


  1. U.S. mobile phone gamers. (2015). Statista. Retrieved from
  2. McWhertor, M. (2014). The International Dota 2 tournament watched by more than 20M viewers, Valve says. Polygon. Retrieved from
  3. Worlds 2014 by the numbers. (2014). Riot Games. Retrieved from
  4. 2016 League of Legends World Championship By the Numbers. (2016). LoL Esports. Retrieved from