Esports VaingloryLeague

Behind the Scenes with Alliance and GankStars Sirius

GankStars Sirius and Alliance have recently demonstrated they’re the two best teams in North America right now and the top contenders for first place in the upcoming Live Championships. After GankStars Sirius had such a dominating performance over Alliance with a 3-0 sweep in the finals of the first VGL qualifier, it appeared GankStars was the best team in North America. However, in the finals of the second VGL qualifier, Alliance returned the favor in a 3-0 sweep of their own, claiming the honor of first seed for the Winter Season Live Championship next week.

The question stands: for two teams who appear so equally matched, why such dramatic outcomes? And who is going to come out on top in the Live Championships?

The Shifting Meta

IraqiZorro, captain and laner for GankStars Sirius, shared the following insight:

GankStars and Alliance have been friends for a much longer time than they have been rivals, they have faced each other and even played together on the same teams numerous times. The two teams know one another in and out. This has resulted in an environment where if the current patch reveals a weakness in one of the teams, the other team is able to very effectively abuse it.

Since the first qualifier was on version 1.13 and the second qualifier was on 1.14, each having a different meta with different viable heroes and team comps, this could be a factor. In particular, buff comps and hyper-carries were in style (again) in 1.14, areas where Alliance tends to excel. However, with 1.15 being so new and the meta still adjusting, it’s going to be hard to predict which team will have the upper hand during the Live Championships.

Forces of Nature

FlashX, captain and roam player for Alliance, believes their poor performance in the first qualifier was due to uncontrollable factors, such illness.

I was feeling incredibly ill and decided to try and sleep it off and start formulating the game plan in the morning since I’m an early riser by nature. Unfortunately, I became overwhelmingly ill and on the verge of severe dehydration, so I decided to admit myself to the hospital in order to receive saline fluids. I was eventually released from the hospital a mere three hours before our scheduled game time. — FlashX

Unfortunately, his dedication to the game was not enough. They ended up having to go into the three-game series blind because Alliance’s players prefer to do their own research and analysis rather than having a team of analysts. In the latter scenario, things might have turned out better for them.

Preparation is incredibly important for all eSports. Successful teams go far beyond simply playing games. The binder that was filled with notes during VIPL and the second qualifier was completely empty for the finals of the first qualifier. If two teams are equally skilled, the one with more preparation will surely come out on top.  — FlashX

Last, but not least, in their second game against GankStars in the first qualifier, Alliance was actually winning, but a power outage hit the home of MICSHE, laner for Alliance.

He disconnected at a critical point when the gold mine was getting close to paying out and GSS destroyed our first turret before the admins finally realized what was going on and paused the match. It was nearly a 1.8K gold swing in favor of GSS in less than 60 seconds due to a 3v2 situation. Thinking quickly (and still without power), MICSHE turned on the hotspot on his phone and tried to play off of that connection for the remainder of the series, but he had constant 300-500ms latency. — FlashX

Hopefully, these sorts of events will be a non-issue in the Live Championships. However, there are rumors that IraqiZorro may end up participating from home due to visa issues, so let’s pray for good weather.

Roster Changes

There has been some speculation as to how the recent roster changes for Alliance and GankStars Sirius would impact the respective teams, for better or for worse. Prior to the second qualifier, GankStars’ jungler, CullTheMeek, went over to Alliance and GankStars pulled a new jungler, FooJee, from one of their other competitive teams.

While the teams’ rosters have remained generally the same, the new additions have changed how the teams approach the game and to what they identify as their strengths and weaknesses. — IraqiZorro

Iraqi also believes that Alliance may have had the advantage of synergy. Alliance had lived with and practiced with CullTheMeek for an entire month while the two teams were out in Korea for the second season of VIPL, so it very possible they were able to hit the ground running with their revised roster. Now that each team has had more time to adjust to their new rosters, the playing field should be more level during the Live Championships.

Mind Games

Leading up to the second qualifier, FlashX explains how they began planning their comeback against GankStars:

Ironically, we have nearly the same practice schedule as GSS. Mind games start well before the finals. We allow them comfort picks, practice deepening our own hero pool at the expense of our Elo, and then punish them when it matters. Sure, a ton of pride comes out of winning a ranked match, but at the end of the day, it’s the events played before thousands of fans that matter.

We took a risk in the semifinals and ran SAW all 3 games. Now after that happened, GSS has absolutely no information as to what we are planning on doing in the finals. They now have this SAW comp ingrained as a threat into their heads (which he is a massive threat under the right circumstances).

Interestingly, in spite of the mind games, neither team reports that their opponents were able to use an unexpected strategy in the second qualifier. Even though innovation is more of Alliance’s modus operandi, expect each team to attempt to bring something new and innovative to the Live Championships – the reward for successfully outwitting your opponents is too great to pass up the chance.

May the Best Team Executor Win

After their recent loss against Alliance in the second qualifier, IraqiZorro shares an important insight during a sportsmanlike kudos to his rivals:

I think in the most recent matchup we were able to predict and expect the strategies Alliance did end up executing; however, the degree to which Alliance were able to perform using these strategies and how effective they were, was what we did not expect.

It’s all about the execution. With two teams that are equally capable of being top dog in North America, it comes down to their ability to execute a strategy – and do so flawlessly. With the Live Championships approaching later this week, who can we expect to see win? The more mechanically adept team? The more cerebral team? No. The team who is able to execute the best. May the best executor win.

The Winter Season Live Championships for North America will be at Red Bull eSports Studio in Santa Monica on March 11-13. Tickets are already sold out, so if you cannot attend, the matches will be streamed live on Twitch.

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