This is my take on the entire Season 3 Finals weekend extravaganza with lots of pictures, video and inside stories!
The Arrival / Practice
The casters, host, and Ubisoft reps arrive and start rehearsing everything for a smooth weekend. This would be the first Siege tournament since IEM to have a live audience in a nice arena in ESL Katowice, where the play days of the season were broadcast from.
The Katowice Arena
The arena itself had a nice stage area, 5 v 5 player setups with a big screen in-between, plenty of audience seating, and a nice analyst desk near the stage. The casting booth was a little isolated from the stage to make sure the players couldn't hear the casting and the audience wouldn't bleed into the commentary.
The Host - Matt Andrews (@Matt_Andrews)
Matt was the host of the Season 2 PC finals in Leichester, England and did a fantastic job so it was a pleasure to have him back. He's the kind of host that not only understands the game, but spends the time to ask a lot of questions of the casters, analysts, and players to really understand the competition and talk the talk from the analyst desk.
Panky has been around since the beginning, starting off with Punji as his co-host. Mzo joined in for the end of Season 2, followed by Bloodbath for the start of Season 3 and Kixstar towards the end. Everyone had found their grove and pairings during Season 3 and were already well settled in for a full weekend marathon of commentating and analysis.
The Competing and Showmatch teams (Influencers and Japan) setup and practice the new maps
The first day was long and focused primarily on the Semi-finals competitions between the 4 PC and 4 Xbox teams to decide who would be playing the finals on Day 2. There were also some teaser Dev panels for the upcoming Red Crow Season 4 DLC.
The day started with the PC finals.
Continuum vs GiFu - PC
The first match of the day was off to a great start with members of both Continuum and GiFu spending a good chunk of the night expunging their food poisoning. At least they both got it to make things fair! So if you were wondering why not everyone was wearing their jersey, I'm sure you can use your imagination 😉
Continuum are a team that proved themselves a force to be reckoned with during the Season despite being the #2 NA seed. While they are technically a new team, 2 of the members (Canadian and Yung) have been in multiple previous Finals on the team currently known as Most Wanted. 4 of the members (Canadian, Yung, Necrox and Retro) all have a history of playing on the original best team in the game, Team Mythic (which Kixstar was also on!). Through the play days they showed a lot of creativity in their strategies and excellent gun play, bringing a lot of hype to this match.
GiFu are a Finnish team who have been in the finals every season. They were always the team to come in as the #2 seed, and never a team that were able to win the finals, but did make top 2 in Season 1. This season they came in as a strong #1 seed, giving them the most potential for this to be the season they make it all the way. Most of their roster was consistent with previous seasons with the exception of replacing Protax with Shatte, a great player as well. They weren't the force Yunktis was last season, but they've been consistently good and they were expected to perform very well.
Picks and Bans
Continuum surprised with their bans by banning a map GiFu haven't been as strong on (Chalet) and leaving one of their best maps on the table (Oregon)!
It was no surprise to anyone to see Clubhouse being the top NA pick, and Oregon being the top EU pick just going by the Season 3 Play days.
The results of the match were a pretty big surprise with Ctm losing their map (Clubhouse) to GiFu and Ctm getting a 5-0 on GiFu's map (Oregon)! Hereford was won partially due to a round lead that Ctm got by not playing basement armory first and GiFu bringing a Montagne not anticipating that. What makes the Oregon turnout especially interesting is that Willkey on GiFu has made a point of beating Orbit/Orgless/Most Wanted on one of their maps every finals to put them on tilt. Canadian knew this and map a point of doing it to them on Oregon and it worked!
Playing Ducks vs Most Wanted - PC
Most Wanted (previously Orbit) are a team we've seen in the finals every season, so it was no surprised to see them rolling in as the #1 seed yet again. They were bringing a bit of a different lineup however, with 2 of their former members (Canadian and Yung) now on the #2 NA team and another 1 casting (Kixstar). This left only 2 original members (Kanine and Snake) on the team, and with LAN finals experience.
Playing Ducks on the other hand were new to finals, but had made a very strong showing during the play days. PC finals being in EU meant Playing Ducks had some support in the audience, especially being the underdog on PC. It was hard to know what to expect for a newer team vs a technically veteran team, but there was a lot of hope of a good showing.
The map picks and bans seemed fairly balanced, once again starting on Clubhouse. Then good second and third maps for Most Wanted with Chalet and Kanal, maps they are quite good at and usually NA favored.
Despite everything favoring Most Wanted except for 3/5ths of their roster being new, every single map was played the max rounds, ending in 6-5's. Most of the strategies on display were very surprising Season 1 meta from both teams. Teams playing a bit different from the meta is something that has been a bit of a weakness in the past for Orbit/Most Wanted so that most likely played a factor. The most surprising result of the match was the final round of the final map (Kanal). Most Wanted had decimated Playing Ducks down to 2 operators left without losing a single player, already in site. Suddenly Meepy of Playing Ducks helps lead a desperate clutch and Playing Ducks just barely win thanks to a well used smoke gas canister!
Vitality vs Excellence - Xbox
Excellence were a dominant force for NA Xbox this season and expected to do equally well in finals where NA have reigned supreme. Unfortunately for them, one of their best players, Geometrics, was unable to get the time off work to make it to Poland and a sub who had only played 1 play day had to replace him.
Vitality were pretty hungry for a win despite some ups and downs over the season. They had barely missed finals the previous season and really wanted to prove they had what it takes. EU has had a hard time making it into the top 2, with both previous season being all NA top 2 unlike PC. This was the first time having the Xbox finals actually taking place in EU, which could factor in.
The map picks weren't a big surprise given the current Xbox meta, but I felt like 2 of the maps favored Vitality more. Bank is one of those maps that seemed to end up as a 3rd map for both PC and Xbox. It's a map that hadn't seen a ton of PC play during the season, but Xbox had been picking it up quite a bit.
Despite being the underdog #2 seed from the "weaker" region, Vitality got the first 2-0 of the day, not even making it to map 3. This marks the first time an EU Xbox team has made it all the way to top 2.
Supremacy vs Onslaught - Xbox
Supremacy are a team that made it to finals last season but not to the top 2. They made a roster change swapping in a strong player with Spark. Based on their performance during the season, it was expected they would do pretty well against Onslaught, possibly winning.
Onslaught were known at one point as Notorious eSports and haven't made a heavy showing in the seasons, but definitely put in a good effort this season. It was a close fight to decide who went to finals second seed and Onslaught benefited from Denial forfeiting a match against them, giving them what they needed to go.
Onslaught made a major impact by decimating Supremacy on the first map, making everyone wonder if they had victory in the bag. Supremacy convinced everyone otherwise by cleanly taking the next two maps to go to the top 2. Despite them being a strong #1 seed, it was still a huge surprise to see an all EU top 2 finals this season.
Day 1 wrap-up
Day 1 saw a lot of good twists and turns. All the #2 seeds except Onslaught won their matches, upsetting a lot of expectations going in. Continuum bringing the hammer on the more seasoned GiFu. Playing Ducks dragging out every possible round exchange against Most Wanted into a mind blowing 2v5 clutch victory. Vitality pulling off the first 2-0 against a very strong NA team. Finally Supremacy losing a map before dominating their way to make for the first time not 1, but 2 EU Xbox teams made it to the top 2 finals.
The second day was not only going to be the top 2 finals, but it would also be full of Red Crow reveals, dev panels and show matches. The Red crow content wouldn't be played during the actual finals matches of course, but the players all got a good chance to play on it if they wanted.
Red Crow Reveal
The Dev panels brought out a variety of Ubisoft Montreal devs including a map designer and game designer to talk about the update and go a bit more in depth into the thinking behind it. Seems like Ubi are sending out more and more people each time as there were also some programmers there for any technical issues as well as product and brand managers. They definitely want this game to do well!
While the new ops wouldn't be in play during the competition, they would be played during some of the show matches. For more on how these new ops will drastically change the meta, check out this post. It was good to get a taste of them in action during the show matches, but their full devastating power will only be revealed by the invitationals.
A lot of people had a suspicion that a map related to a Skyscraper was eventually coming due to some older dev interviews, no one was really prepared for the yakuza skyscraper temple we got. This map is both visually stunning and extremely competitive. Sometimes it can be hard to appreciate it during the chaos of a match, but the fly through and time spent talking with the level designer on the panel helped. We were also treated to a reveal not even us casters or pro players were prepared for, Bartlett University! Really looking forward to mid-season reinforcements for that one.
Influencers vs Japan
To help show off the two new maps they brought out some familiar faces (Serenity17, Machay, and Kix) along with some other well known twitch/youtube stars with TangyD and Teo. They also brought out a team from Japan to help show off the emerging asia cup style as well as whether or not they'd have some kind of hometown advantage on the Japanese map. Both teams practiced on the new maps a lot, but I think the influencer team weren't taking things quite as seriously, partially because of their streamer personalities. Unfortunately only the influencer team was mic'd (as there was only 1 player on the Japanese team that spoke much English) so we only got to hear one side of things. The Japanese team did seem pretty excited to be there behind the scenes and I hear good things about the asia cup, so hopefully they will be a part of the world competitions in the future!
Continuum vs Playing Ducks
Continuum put up a strong showing against GiFu, but the map picks clearly reflected some confidence from that with Oregon and exploiting weakness from Playing Ducks with Clubhouse. The most interesting choice was Bank as the deciding map. Bank is a map almost never played by Continuum, and one that Playing Ducks has played quite well in the past. As you'd expect from a top 2, it made it all the way to Bank with a VERY close win by Continuum to claim the Season 3 PC champion title. In talking to Canadian of Continuum later that day I mentioned a Playing Ducks Bank strategy I quite liked, setting up a bunch of drones as cameras and having one guy watching them all to cover flanks. He said he had been aware of that strategy and actively exploited it to at least 1 round victory. That's why they are the #1 team, Canadian knows how to counter-strat!
As an interesting twist, part way into the Bank match when it was 3-3 and Continuum won the round to make it 4-3, there was a sudden pause in the action as the ESL admins approached the stage. Hushed tones revealed Playing Ducks were informing the admins that Canadian had used a map exploit to make a kill on Playing Ducks which helped them win the round. There was a long break and lots of debate between teams, ESL, and even Ubisoft on how to handle the matter. Luckily everyone was level headed and no salt was had. It was agreed that if Playing Ducks could replicate the exploit (a crack that you can only see through from 1 side) for the admins then the point Continuum had gained would be rolled back and the round played again. The exploit was replicated, both teams went back to their computers with determination not to let this shake them. Playing Ducks proceeded to take the point instead, making it 4-3 in their favor. That was probably the best possible outcome for everyone involved and despite Continuum taking the win, no bad blood was had between the two teams.
Also make sure and check out our awesome play-by-play document of the matches here!
Vitality vs Supremacy
Not only was it amazing having 2 EU Xbox teams finally make top 2, but they were both French teams and scrim partners! These two teams were very ready to go neck and neck with each other and unlike the 2-0 Vitality got against the NA team, this one went 2-1 for them. It was a hard fought and well earned victory. No love was lost between the teams as you could see them hugging each other, crying in happiness, and congratulating each other on a game well played. A great ending to a great matchup.
Ubisoft left one final ace up their sleeve to announce at the end of the matches that we all had only heard in rumors up to this point, the Invitational. Instead of jumping straight into Season 4, there would instead be invitationals held near the Montreal studio that makes the game. This would not only make for a really exciting match, but tons of Dev reveals and showcases to help celebrate the first year of Siege eSports!
At the end of both days the teams were all in good spirits win or loss. Most Wanted had some drinks with GiFu to commiserate their loss and happily invited Playing Ducks and Continuum members to join them. There was a lot of cheer, hugs and excitement about the invitationals in February. We all eventually had to part ways and head home, hoping to see as many of each other as possible again in Montreal.
If Season 3 is any indication, Siege is set to become one of the best eSports of all time and a great future for many competitors!
Watch the full VoDs of both days here