Team: Aston Clutchers

Lineup: Revan (Captain), Psychology; Khaniv0re (IGL), Computer Science; Zephyr (Awp), Computer Science; Bigdaddyvac, Mechanical Engineering; Assassin_V4, Computer Science and Aston eSports president. Substitutes: Stanley, Biology; Galla, Maths

Favourite Maps in Summer: Cache, Cobble, Mirage

Path to Playoffs: w1g1 win vs Southampton (Cache); w1g2 win vs Staffs CS:GO (Cache); w2g1 win vs DMU (16-1); w2g2 loss vs LU Brexit (Cache); w3g1 win vs Derby (Cache); w3g2 loss vs LU Brexit (Cobblestone); w4g1 win vs Derby (Cache); W4g2 loss vs LU Brexit (Mirage)

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Our third seed, Aston, are a team formed by their captain Revan’s dream of having a team to rival the League of Legends team’s success: “All I wanted was to make a team”. Now graduated and playing in his final tournament wearing the Aston colours, this is the side’s last chance to win a title for him.

Always keen on forming a team, Revan’s work began when he persuaded eSports society president Galla to expand the society. The building blocks of Aston’s current roster began to assemble when Assassin_V4 found Revan by accident after the latter posted a picture of himself with EnvyUs on reddit. Assassin_V4, relatively new to CS:GO and playing on a laptop, would not make it onto the first team permanently to begin with and was even benched in spring. With 1500 hours of practice and careful tutelage from Revan, however, Assassin has rapidly developed into a key player for his team and been elected Aston eSports society’s new president on the side. Big Daddy Vac, Stanley and Khaniv0re were recruited through the society or through friendships formed on their computer science course. Star Awper Zephyr, the final piece of the puzzle, appears only occasionally with the Aston squad due to his commitments with up and coming semi-pro team Nerdrage, but he has been a huge difference-maker for Aston this summer. Aston now boasts a confident roster, capable of realising their dream of cementing their position as the UK’s premier eSports university.

Aston’s current success had humble origins. The team was still in a very formative stage in Nuel Winter, with Zephyr and Khaniv0re only added to the side a few weeks into the tournament. “It was a split for us to get our team together”, says Assassin. “We were pretty much a bunch of noobs”, adds Khaniv0re. The team lacked synergy, devil-may-care spawn-flasher Jack jarring with the rigid strat calling style of then-igl Revan. Their issues built to a head in their early playoff exit against Swansea Red. With Khaniv0re and Revan both rushing to make the game in time, the match started late with the team physically exhausted from running to their PCs and not warmed up. The result was a crushing defeat and a return to the drawing board. The lineup was rejigged and Assassin_V4 benched to the second team to learn his craft. In a portent of the Aston organisation’s scarce luck that spring, the second team’s first game in qualifiers was against eventual winners DMU, an embarrassing 1-16 defeat. The improved first team also suffered a 1-16 defeat at the hands of Loughborough to fall to the lower bracket. A loss to Surrey saw Aston crashing out early in the playoffs once again. Still unable to catch a break, in KoTN the team mistook Oxford for scrim partners Cambridge. Having beaten Cambridge 16-1 on Mirage, they confidently chose the map, not knowing they had instead handed Oxford their home map, consequently losing 16-13.

We had some awful communication; even if we had some skill, we didn’t have the communication to win”, explains Revan. Something had to change if Aston were to succeed this summer. Deliverance came in the form of a return to the first team from star awper and team Nerdrage member Zephyr, who has subsequently established himself as the best sniper in the in the NUEL competition. The team were also helped by a revitalised Assassin_V4, now a 1500 hour veteran mentored personally by Revan, capable of outrageous lurk plays and solo site takes. With the exception of rivals LU Brexit, Aston have swept the competition this summer in dominating fashion, crushing high seeded teams such as Southampton and Derby.

Aston have continued tinkering with the formula this summer, mainly in response to their repeated defeats at the hands of top seeds loughborough. In their first encounter in week 2, playing with stand ins Stanley and Galla, Aston allowed home map Cache through the vetoes, not realising they were going up against the most experienced university Cache side in Britain and consequently losing 16-8. Not to be deterred, in week 3 game 2 Aston picked Cobblestone in an attempt to test Loughborough’s map pool, now with Khaniv0re calling the strats with a looser, more permissive style much more natural for their players than Revan’s cerebral calls. They started out strong on the favoured T side, winning 7 rounds in a row. LU Brexit were a tricky team to hold off though – with the game tied at 10-10, Revan’s men lost their nerve and slipped behind. After breaking the Terrorist economy, an improbable comeback with Loughborough sitting on 15 rounds seemed to still be on the cards. The legendary Loughborough force buy proved too strong, however, finishing the game in tragic fashion at 16-12 just as it seemed like OT was inevitable. “We just got really cocky”, Assassin_V4 suggests. After cruising to an even stronger victory over Derby in week 4 game 1 (“Beating Derby again was nothing, pretty much” comments Khaniv0re), Aston faced off against Loughborough a third and final time in what would prove to be the closest encounter of the three matches. This time, Aston opted for Mirage, the favourite map of regular team mates Assassin, Stanley (replacing Zephyr) and Khaniv0re. When Assassin, halfway through moving house and playing on a wireless dongle, had internet issues, Zephyr had to swap back in at the last moment. Despite the last minute changes and Zephyr’s personal discomfort on the map, an Aston side desperate to overcome LU on their third try took it to the wire. They were once again felled at the last hurdle by the devastating LU force buy, losing 16-13.

These losses have not weakened Aston, but helped them to perfect their lineup. With Stanley now edging out BigDaddyVac for a starting roster spot and Khaniv0re calling the strategies, Aston have never played better CS:GO. “Between now and Spring, we’ve all improved so much as players – we just know better how to play off eachother right now”, explains Khaniv0re. Assassin_V4 adds: “the team we have now compared to previous seasons is a much stronger side”. The squad are open about the way the NUEL tournaments have helped them to grow their careers (Revan goes on to a job in software), their eSports society and most importantly their personal teamwork and friendships with each other.

Revan’s squad are eager to face former scrim partners DBC and win the rematch against Loughborough, avenging their rapid playoff exits at the hands of the two sides in previous NUEL tournaments. With Mirage, Cache and Cobble in their front pocket, a willingness to risk maps like Train and Nuke in their back pocket, and a whole lot of swag in their bag, Aston are confident that they have a team capable of taking it all, despite never having beaten either DBC or LU Brexit. “The team we have now is not the team they played before”, Revan says. On their potential rivals, Khaniv0re adds “I think we are better than them. We can beat any team on any map – we do feel like we are the best team here.” Society president Assassin_V4, keen to establish Aston as the premier eSports university in the UK after the League of Legends team’s success, confirms: “We want to be the best – we are here to win”.

You can catch all the action from the NUEL Summer Playoffs on twitch.tv/thenuel this Monday at 7PM!