Team: LU Brexit
Lineup: Shiftea (IGL), Graphic Design; Add, Computer Science; Myaumix, Computer Science; Wilrus (AWPer, Captain), Computer Science; Nimajik, Computer Science; Substitutes: Major Tom, Graphic Design, Samstar 68, Accounting and Finance
Favourite maps in Summer: Cache, Cobblestone
Path to playoffs: w1g1 win vs DBC (Cache), w1g2 win vs RHUL (Cache), w2g1 double OT win vs Derby CS:GO (Cache), w2g2 win vs Aston Clutchers (Cache), w3g1 win vs DMU (Cache), w3g2 win vs Aston (Cobblestone), w4g1 loss vs DBC (Cache), w4g2 win vs Aston (Mirage)
Since winning the first university counter-strike tournament in summer 2015, Loughborough have been unable to replicate their success. Sporting a new and improved roster based on the most stable core in the league, 1st seed and presumptive favourites LU Brexit are keen to reclaim their status as champions once more.
Loughborough have a long history in university Counter-Strike as one of the only two universities to take part in all 4 league tournaments to date and the only one to keep their core roster intact. Initially founded by former NUEL caster Exohain, the team’s first lineup of Shiftea, Myaumix, Add, Cowwy and Sgt Sausage was assembled by Add from a mixture of his matchmaking friends and talents spotted at Loughborough University’s regular LAN parties. The team found instant success in the BUCL Summer Tournament in 2015, beating Sheffield Hallam, Oxford and Lancaster in Bo3s on their way to the title.
Loughborough’s dominance of the university CS:GO scene was to be short lived, however. The expansion of the league brought by the first NUEL tournament and poor timing with their new intake of freshers saw Loughborough unable to take on fresh talent, instead sending fresher and eventual first team player Wilrus to second team LU Black along with newly scouted 2nd year Nimajik. The result was a painful season, culminating in a heartbreaking loss to Sheffield Hallam’s ‘Shuggernauts’ with accusations of cheating even presented. “It really hurt our morale, that season”, Rifler and team founder Add says. IGL Shiftea adds ‘I’m still so salty about that’.
Nevertheless determined to take the defeat in stride, Cowwy and Sgt Sausage were replaced by talented rookie awper Wilrus and rifler Big M Yo. The new lineup practiced harder, scrimming on ESEA and fighting their way to the last 3 of the Spring tournament. Matched up against eventual winners DMU in the upper bracket final, Loughborough crumbled in the face of Jack’s relentless fragging. Facing old BUCL finals opponent Lancaster in the lower bracket final for a chance at redemption and a rematch against DMU in the grand final, rifler Myaumix accidentally slept in requiring a last minute substitution for Nimajik. The rookie pulled out his best shots in his first best-of series with the squad but was unable to save the team from another heartbreaking exit from the competition within touching distance of a second title. The King of the North Tournament also brought them little joy, with the roster dismantled by coursework deadlines.
Loughborough, however, were onto a winner with the line-up of veterans Add, Shiftea and Myaumix paired with the newly experienced Wilrus and Nimajik. Shiftea’s calling remains the best in the league, but the heavy fragging performances of Nimajik and Wilrus‘ uncanny clutching skills and dependable captaincy have returned them to prominence as the most dangerous team in the NUEL. Loughborough’s path to the final has seen them take a staggering 7 out of 8 maps over their opponents, only dropping to Surrey in week 4 when their semi final attendance had already been confirmed. This is all the more impressive when you consider that their path to the final has included difficult matchups against 2nd seed Surrey with a 1-1 record and three memorable encounters against 3rd seed Aston, LU winning all three.
There have been two main factors in the streak of victories. A patient, information based playstyle predicated upon Loughborough’s ability to make timely information plays and Shiftea’s ability to preemptively change tactics to keep their opponents guessing have presented a daunting task for any challengers, not to mention the crushing aim talent of the side. Their series of games against Aston demonstrated this most aptly. Both factors were on display in a 16-8 dismantling of fellow remaining undefeated team Aston on both teams’ strongest map in week 2, game 2. Aston went back to the drawing board, coming back with a new IGL and a new map choice in Cobble in week 3 but fell 16-12, losing the final round to LU’s characteristically strong force buy. “I was quite worried it was going to be their pocket pick”, commented rifler Myaumix – but teams who have tested Loughborough’s map pool with surprise cobble, train and overpass picks over the NUEL and BUCL tournaments have often been surprised by the team’s strength on them. Aston got the closest to a win in week 4 with a 16-13 game on Mirage against a LU team unaccustomed to the map and with cruise control engaged having already tied down a playoffs appearance. “It was Nima’s first game with us on Mirage”, Add points out. “It was a great game”, grins Shiftea.
Despite having conclusively dispatched rivals DMU, Loughborough still feel bitter about their previous tournament exits. Now facing Staffordshire, Loughborough present a daunting challenge. Loughborough have aiming talent, a sound tactical footing, potent eco rounds, and a diverse map pool, placing them in a class above other NUEL sides. After frustration and roster inconsistency in previous NUEL tournaments, Loughborough feel confident about their chances of progressing despite a lack of practice. They are hoping to meet Surrey in the final, a chance to set the record straight against the only team who felled them in qualifiers. “Surrey are the only team who beat us so far so we really want to beat them!” says ADD. “We’re coming for revenge”, adds Myaumix. The team also remain unconcerned about a 4th matchup against Aston, Add joking “there are four maps left that we haven’t played, right?”
Loughborough weren’t expecting their success, but they are definitely enjoying it. “We came into the tournament just thinking ‘let’s do what we can’ and now we’ve got this far we are saying to each other ‘let’s win it’ “, says ADD. Loughborough have been almost perfect – a tense double OT on home map Cache vs Derby in week 2 and a loss to Surrey on the same map in week 4 remain as black marks on their record for Sheffield to exploit. Loughborough have also been strongly reliant on Cache and Cobble in this tournament. The team has previously looked strong on Train and Overpass, but has not played them for several months and not with their current lineup. Testing them on the fringes of the map pool and abusing their 1v1 reliant set ups are potential weaknesses in their formidable armour. Their need to win 1v1s in order to succeed will be particularly challenged in the semifinals when untested stand-in Samstar replaces Nimajik, although Add comments that “he plays in a similar way to Nimajik so he should hopefully slip right in”.
Considering these routes to success in theory and implementing them in practice are very different things for challengers, however. Loughborough have truly earned their no.1 seed and are the clear team to beat heading into the finals. Pointing out that Loughborough university Alumni are currently 14th unofficially in the olympic medal table, Shiftea proclaims ‘we want our gold medal!’. Provided Samstar proves to be the capable replacement the team thinks him to be and their map pool stands up to scrutiny, Loughborough have a strong chance to top the podium and claim both the TT eSports prizes and a glorious return to champion status.
You can catch all the action from the NUEL Summer Playoffs on twitch.tv/thenuel this Monday at 7PM!