February 27th, 4:07pm America/New_York

TF2 Season 13 Invite Preview

John "djc-" Carter on Sat, 12/08/2012 2:12PM
(ESEAnews) - Let's keep it short and sweet, people - we got four new Invite teams. The other four returning teams all saw major roster shake-ups. Classic Mixup and Don't Trip have lost to Apocalypse Gaming, LASER BEAMS are losing to Intermediate teams, Xensity are pulling rounds from Mixup. Nobody knows what the hell is going to happen, myself included (although that is not particularly out of the norm), and this season looks like it could be the most drama-filled exciting one yet. Check out my power rankings, and make sure to turn in to ESEA TV to check out our first batch of streaming Invite coverage over the coming weeks! Enjoy, and feedback is always welcome.



Classic Mixup
0-0-0 (.000)
Streak N/A
1. One more season where Mix-up come in as the favorites, and it looks like there might be a long mile between number one and number two. It started off shaky when Harbleu was on demo and TLR was roaming, sure, but a quick roster swap to make it so that they had one guy learning a new position instead of two has put Mixup back into the driver's seat. They made moves at medic, pocket, and aggressive scout that were at worst lateral and at best massive upgrades (pending upon Ruwin finding his old spellbook that let him blink in and out of damage at close range). TLR's demo play so far has been a little bit hot and a little bit cold, with his roll-outs being as fast as every demo that isn't b4nny and his Quake Live time having given him frag video worthy pipes. The sticky aim does not seem to be on quite the same level, and even TLR seems aware of it because he often will not even reload stickies and instead opt for the mid-range fade away facial pipes. His play looks pretty similar to how Platinum was when he first made the transition to demo, and that is a little bit scary because it means we will have a Mixup who are just as good now as they were last season. Nobody gets more done with ubercharge than Platinum, and Ruwin has shown a willingness to follow him into the deep dark depths if it means one more dude gets a shotgun to the chest. Enigma is as steady as always, and with Yz50's dream of playing for a “SUPERTEAM” being realized, his play has definitely kicked up a notch. Probably the biggest factor in me predicting another LAN win for Classic Mixup is the fact that if everything goes awry and they look like a team who might not even make it to LAN, they can just switch back to a lineup that completely rolled faces in the most shameful way possible by having TLR pocket and Platinum demo once more.

Dont Trip
0-0-0 (.000)
Streak N/A
Choosing between Don't Trip and bp for the second spot is by far the hardest choice in the bunch here. One other thing working for them is the fact that Trip seem to have the second best chemistry of any team in Invite, with so many of their players having been together in the Spacewhales and Leviathan Gaming, while every other roster is trying to find some way to mash circles into square holes. Most of the time when I look at Don't Trip's scrims, clockwork is somewhere around sixty frags and the next highest is on maaaaybe thirty – that's kind of insane. Tyrone has also picked himself up off of the ground and seems to have more dedication and possibly more time to throw into his TF2 play; the inconsistency of being a bit out-of-practice is still there, as evidenced by the classic Tyreeze uber where he does six rocket jumps to chase down a medic, doing zero damage to him while getting kbk killed. It's going to be an adjustment for kbk because Tyrone plays an entirely differently style of pocket than either Platinum or Lansky did, in that he's more of a facilitator than anything else these days. With the power combo of blaze and clockwork on the flank, the amount of pressure on Tyrone to get out good ubers will be lessened, and it will open up space for dummy's DM to shine through. The final player on the roster, hero, never really defined himself as a player last season with his LAN being marked by some high highs out of his sniper play but also some low lows in his damage done and general contribution – look for season two of his scouting adventure to be a coming of age tale of epic proportions.

11-0-0 (1.000)
Streak W11
If you formed a team where you found the six people who put in the most time to deathmatching and MGEing and doing whatever they could to improve themselves, the roster would look a little something like bp's. It could also be called a bit of an Invite Pugs superstar team, because b4nny, cyzer, and shrugger have long been core players in those pugs and Taggerung made sure to hop in last season to keep his skills up to snuff while Chess Club's practice time diminished. What LG struggled to do in its last season was pick up pieces that actually complemented the play of the best demoman in the game – he needed an aggressive scout who could win enough individual DM battles to clean up b4nny's damage at the end of fights. The loss of clockwork hurt them noticeably when they got to LAN. Their solution, shrugger, is one of the most difficult scouts to hit in TF2 and has more than enough time to keep his DM at a dominant level... but he also became notorious for his LAN debut, which looked like someone wildly out of his depths. Now that he knows the adjustments he has to make for offline play and better understands the hardware setup he will be facing at the venue, expect shrugger to undo that reputation in season thirteen. Over in the combo's direction, lansky should be a direct upgrade from Tyrone's play on LG last season, and he is a very consistent pocket – what he gives you on uber number one is going to be the same as on uber number thirty. It's just a question of whether or not his consistent level is high enough, and he seems to be the player who has the most to prove this season. Their roamer, Taggerung, flashed some brilliance when he showed up to LAN and had a few highlight plays including uber juggles and rockets bending around corners for airshots, but from the scrims I have seen so far and the comms I have heard from the team, he seems to be the one with the most work to do to adjust to the rest of the team's style. The glue that holds it all together is Shade, who has been cutting ubers between b4nny and the pocket soldier for years now and should be able to append another fine season of play to his resumé.

0-0-0 (.000)
Streak N/A
Most major teams from the past few seasons have experienced the joys of New Team Syndrome – you start off fresh, you get your six, you go into some scrims, and you roll over kids for the first two weeks or so. Then reality sets in and you adapt down to your actual level. I cannot recall a top team who had success that started off the season as anything but poppin' fresh and hot right out of the oven. If LASER BEAMS want to have a good season, they will need to be the first team to do just that. Probably no team in the league will have more support this season than BEAMS off of the strength of their massive streamer fanbase and community mentoring content they plan to pump out this season, but the fan favorites have looked a little off so far. Losses to IM teams have been sprinkled in with taking rounds off of Classic Mixup, touches of drama have already cropped up with PYYYOUR seemingly not being so happy with Lange and Sean streaming so many of their scrims. The BEAMS performance so far has been quite removed from Official Fresh Status. There is, however, a ton of talent on the roster that suggests they can do the impossible: Justin has been to multiple LANs as scout, Seagull and PYYYOUR are known as two of the game's best multi-classers and strategists, Lange showed flashes of brilliant pocketing in his time with the Mighty Ducks, Zbryan was one of the most respected roamers in IM during season ten, and seanbud is making yet another run in Invite on his old class of medic. But nothing seems to be going right, with PYYYOUR struggling with rollouts and having his damage not match up to other demos, Seanbud's time on scout having hurt his sense of timing and positioning on medic and leading to some dropped players on ubers and early pops, and Lange at times dipping into Shotgun Hell as he pumps a scout for six, six, eight, and ten before being taken down. LASER BEAMS will be a weird mix of personalities, a weird mix of player faults, a weird mix of inconsistencies, and we get to see it all unfold live on stream five nights a week. They are talented enough that when the dust settles, I expect to see them at LAN but they are going to have to pave the road before they get to travel along it.

Move us to intermediate
0-0-0 (.000)
Streak N/A
The first scrim I ever saw Apocalypse Gaming play was against LASER BEAMS, and it was a seventy minute long affair that saw rando going off for eighty some frags; he's a little bit good. With rando in the lineup, the team gives hard games to some of the teams in the top four and they managed to turn heads with a 5-3 win over Classic Mixup earlier in the preseason. Squid will be making another appearance in Invite playing scout for the team, and he seems to complement both rando and Kapoww very well, keeping his deaths low while playing a more reserved style than the super DM-heavy crouch-spamming double jumping that Kapoww tends to go for. Chriz Tah Fah looked a bit outclassed in his brief Invite debut last season, and it looked like the game was just moving too quickly for him to follow, but the extra season in IM has let him get into that turbo mode. While he is still prone to some inconsistencies and can get caught out more easily than some of the demos in the top four, his damage output is always solid and he gives squid and Kapoww plenty to clean up on. Inconsistency seems to be a theme, really, which is no surprise for a young team – roamer Boink has had some pretty sick sprees so far and he was another to impress and really make his mark in that eternally long LASER BEAMS scrim; he was in fact so impressive in that scrim that the legendary David “OOV” Mao messaged me to talk him up. Rounding out the team's six is Drogo, who seems to have some pretty good uber management but just really struggles to stay alive sometimes. With a pocket as aggressive as rando, some extra lives lost are to be expected, but in close games between AG and other teams, the biggest difference is almost always medic deaths. They are most certainly the biggest competition for the fourth LAN spot at the moment, and are one of those Invite teams who comes out of the gate scrimming as much as humanly possible. I expect big improvements over the course of the season, and a very close playoff run with LASER BEAMS in the new year.

tri hards
0-0-0 (.000)
Streak N/A
Everyone's favorite laid-back chilled-out Invite team returns, with a new lineup and with new off-classers. The Spacewhales pocket of several season, boomer, will return to his demoman roots but trying to take over for kermit will be no easy task. Scout pair weeble and Omar will be returning, with the two having had a so-so LAN that can be explained away due to the team's lack of practice time and the long period of inactivity both had beforehand. With weeble's sniping and Omar's spy play, the team should basically get medic picks at will which is something no other team in Invite really has, and Chess Club could swing that into plenty of free round wins over the season. Lord of pocket soldiers, Tri, will push into another season of Invite with his long-time group of friends. The dude, when active, is one of the best pockets in the game – the unfortunate part is that this team and his last team seem to just not have the time to commit to scrims, so we might not see that consistent dominant play he showed us at his first LAN ever again, but the memories will still remain. The final spot, and the most important spot, will be taken up by the much-maligned Visitor, a.k.a. Big Jim a.k.a. The Juiceman a.k.a. Jimmy Bada$$ a.k.a. The Bone Crusher. If all were right in the world, Visitor would have been an Invite player several seasons ago, but his general attitude was off-putting to any teams with an open spot on roamer. The dude got skills though, or had them at least, because Leviathan Gaming was willing to try him out and seemed ready to pick him up before Dave__AC decided to make a comeback to TF2. Then injustice got in the way, as he loaned out his ESEA account to a man with devilish thoughts on the mind who used a public Counter-Strike hack and got him a year ban. Now he finally gets a real chance at Invite, a moment of redemption, an opportunity to be the man he always knew he could be – don't fail us now, Jimmy.

0-0-0 (.000)
Streak N/A
Blight Xensity might be the most difficult team to talk about in all of Invite. Let's start with the known, the predictable: TicTac is sick nasty. Playing a mix of pocket and roamer for Xensity over the past few seasons, he has been by far their best player, always putting up huge damage with or without heals, and now that he's pocketing he pulls off some pretty spectacular ubers. In season's past, it was SoLIDSnaKE cleaning up his damage, but the TF2 legend is gone. His replacement will be former ESEA-IM demoman Mausy, who has been looking to make the Invite jump for two seasons now. He definitely has the DM to step into SoLID's shoes, but nobody is too sure if his grasp of the game and his awareness will be Invite-caliber. Picking up the Gunboats once more will be Relic, former LAN champion and MVP for Classic Mixup, who joined the team in a bit of drama as Ghos7ayama was cut from the team right before registration closed to make way for Relic. While the kindness of that act may be in question, the justification of it is probably not – Relic has looked very solid in his scrims so far and if he takes his time with Xensity seriously and returns to his season ten form, the team's power classes will be scary. Mausy's former IM teammate rb has also made the jump, continuing the cycle of Xensity having to replace one scout per season while trying to find the perfect partner for Arc, the team captain. One thing that is not missing in Arc's play is confidence: several seasons ago, he said that if his team won the Invite vote, he thought they were at worst a LAN team and that they would not be one of those teams to squeak in and finish weak. There has been talk for so long now of Arc finally stepping it up and making a big leap in his game, and for Xensity to have any chance in Invite, his promise to put in more practice time will have to come to fruition very early in season thirteen.

Vector Gaming
0-0-0 (.000)
Streak N/A
Team captain Milehighmilitia recently appeared on Fully Charged to answer some questions about his new team's chances – he was realistic to a depressing degree, but remained hopeful in spite of the obstacles the team must overcome. The fourth place finisher in Intermediate last season won the vote-up, but lost their longtime captain Shwan in the process. Rolling in with a new roster featuring Mile on pocket, Javab on roamer, thrickstr and hibachi on scout, DougyG on demo, and ninjanick, they look to be the least talented team in Invite; none of those names pop off the page at you. What they do have going for them is longevity, as mile/thrickstr have been together for ages, with ninjanick and DougyG having been around for the ride over the past few seasons. There is a strong base of teamwork already present, most of these players are close friends with Dougy and javab having grown up near each other – the positives they have are things that some Invite teams past could dream of having. The question now is whether or not they can get their individual skill, their DM, and their game sense to match.
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