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Two weeks ago I highlighted the top eight teams following NUEL’s regular season. The top of the leaderboard was extremely close and teams seemed ready to make a statement going into playoffs. In the sights of most teams: York’s Underwatch. They proved themselves on Thursday night: but I was most excited by some of the evening’s Doomfist play.
Quarterfinal: Cambridge Cavalry vs. Swansea’s Rogue Swan
Swansea play Doomfist. It’s a rare pick, and extremely annoying to counter. Cambridge seemed prepared for it on the first map, King’s Row, and carefully managed their positioning to stop any proper dive from Swansea. I really liked Cambridge’s use of a Reinhardt on defense, to give the team more maneuverability: the rest of their defense looked listless though, and Swansea hauled the payload up to around five meters before end.
That said, Cambridge managed to push hard on attack to win the map. Mokyr’s D.Va bombs achieved frequent multi-kills, and the Swansea TheInfinity’s Roadhog pick wasn’t able to affect fights as much as Swansea had been hoping. Swansea found themselves one map down heading into Eichenwalde.
Swansea looked unphased by their loss, and used RectangleBob’s Pharah to great effect on attack. Cambridge’s first fight win of the map occurred on Eichenwalde bridge, with an incredible 5k from Tantalau35. Swansea Chimpy’s Genji proved too much for Cambridge and Swansea managed to cap in overtime.
On defense, Swansea’s supports, Curio and Jonty, were picked first. Cambridge snowballed and full-pushed with two and a half minutes to go, meaning only a third of first point was required to win. Swansea’s RectangleBob was the reason they managed this: after a won fight, he pushed up too aggressively and gave Cambridge the pick they needed to push properly onto the point.
Series MVP: Cambridge Mokyr. Excellent tank pressure was a huge reason Cambridge were able to attack as effectively as they did.
Semifinal #1: Cambridge Cavalry vs. York’s Underwatch
Cambridge didn’t get a break: their next opponent was York, on Route 66. This matchup, it’s worth saying, was a rematch of last split’s semifinals, where Cambridge came out on top. On attack, York took advantage of their four-tank composition to win drawn-out fights. York lost one fight in total: Cambridge just couldn’t chew through the front-line fast enough.
A swap to Reaper and Pharmercy proved more effective for Cambridge on attack. Great barrage play by Cambridge Tantalau35 secured first checkpoint, and Cambridge pushed through in overtime: York’s lack of damage was finally punished, and Z7k’s Mccree swap seemed a little too late.
Round 3 brought the first Sombra of ’66, on York JKLol21. Cambridge pushed just past first checkpoint, but their tiny time bank didn’t give them the best chance. York wiped them as they entered streets phase. When York attacked, it seemed very close until Cambridge walked off the cart, winning the season favorites the first map of the series.
On Volskaya, York’s attack was once again characterised by their quad-tank, long fight strategy. Having capped point A, they had trouble with Cambridge Tauneutrino35’s reaper, who absorbed a tonne of attention and pressure. His Tracer swap was no less formidable. York managed to cap, but with just 30 seconds left.
York’s management of defence was excellent. They used the high ground around point to disperse pressure from Cambridge. JKLol21’s Sombra shut down multiple important ultimates. After Cambridge eventually capped A, York found themselves at a severe ult disadvantage and Cambridge managed to cap before overtime.
In rounds three and four, York only managed to take point A, but full-held Cambridge to win map two and punch their ticket to the finals in London.
MVP of the series: York JKLol21. His excellent Sombra and Pharah were almost untouched and uncontested by Cambridge on Volskaya. His play was key in securing good holds against Cambridge.
Semifinal #2: Imperial’s IC9 LUL vs. Aberdeen’s Reservoir Hogs
I consider a shield hero very important when defending Hanamura, but Imperial clearly disagreed. The picks didn’t work out for them: both supports died to Aberdeen’s first attack. Defending the second point was more successful. Zelco popped off on Tracer, obtaining his team pick after pick before fights even started. It was only his death that resulted in Aberdeen’s two point and a half point ticks.
Imperial initially had a hard time contesting Katsune’s Widow. Their attack was just too slow, and they found themselves being picked off before they hit the point. Imperial Ronin’s primal rage kill onto Katsune managed to snowball his team to the point cap and map win.
Yahaha’s Doomfist isn’t rare in itself: there are plenty of Doomfists in the top 8. Imperial Zelco’s Tracer just proved more consistent on map one of Nepal. A swap to Junkrat came too late to change the outcome of first point. Imperial SilverHusky’s double kill secured his team a 1-0 round lead.
Sanctum highlighted a similar compositional disparity. Imperial TSG’s Pharah got shut down initially by Aberdeen Katsune, and Yahaha’s Junkrat was incredibly effective in the tight space around point. With round score drawn, map three loomed.
It was fun watching the casters criticize Aberdeen’s Reinhardt and Zarya as they won the first fight on point three. Aberdeen Chlorine and Sloom held down the point well, but Imperial Ronin was also in the game, and a more aggressive Winston handed Imperial the 2-0 on the series, and a second NUEL finals ticket.
MVP of the series: Imperial Zelco for his consistent damage on Tracer. Good Tracer play rarely gave Aberdeen a break. DPS carries are rare in NUEL, but Zelco managed it.
You can watch York and Imperial square off at the finals at the Red Bull Gaming Sphere on the 28th April!