SPL XI - Commencement Thread

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Another week, another eliminated team. Welcome to the BIGS eulogy

The SPL X BIGs season was a roller coaster, to say the least. Cdumas cancered and cost the team 23k. Banned users BUSHTUSH and myself helped Dave orchestrate trades, one of which was for the infamous CasedVictory, who got himself banned minutes after the trade. His banning did not stop him from being a powerful voice within the chat, however, as he and BUSHTUSH spearheaded a campaign to turn the BIGs into a bunch of fiery, passionate trash talkers. Miraculously, the team that was now calling itself the "MAGMA BIGS" defied all expectations and came within a few BD of making the playoffs.

As crazy as last season one was, it could not possibly prepare anyone for the absolute nonsense that the BIGs franchise would experience in SPL XI. Managers Dave and Void had no idea what they signed up for this season; that much is certain. Before breaking down the absurdities, let's start with the retains. Ezrael was the teams' first retain, as they locked down a top 2 doubles player for 10k. The majority of the community seemed to like this move, and it paid off in a big way, with Jon putting together a currently-undefeated campaign and staking his claim as the best Doubles player of the modern era. The other two retains, however, were a bit of a mixed bag in the eyes of many of Smogon's jerks. Nails was retained for 11k; many people felt that this was a bit of an overpay, especially individuals such as myself who laugh in the face of clowns who spend over 4k in RBY. That being said, he was ranked #2 in the Power Rankings, and is a recognized VGC force that can slot into Doubles as well. This flexibility is pretty useless on the BIGs, considering the fact that they retained Ezrael, but perhaps it could have increased his price in the general auction. The main reason it's hard to argue with the Nails retain, however, is that he was clearly an integral part of the team's draft planning, as he was given bidding power in the auction and used it without hesitation, basically acquiring pretty much the entire BIGs roster by himself. The team's last retain was Sabella. Sabella was 7.5k last year and went 6-3, and as such, the team opted to retain him for 10.5k this year. This was seen as an overpay by many individuals I spoke to; Sabella hasn't really had any great showings since that tournament, and it seems rather unlikely that he would have gone for over 10k in the auction. The BIGs almost certainly wasted a few thousand dollars with this retain.

The BIGs kicked off the tour by drafting an amazing superstar core of Ojama + TDK. It does not appear that the team was planning to take Ojama, but due to his notoriously abrasive personality and perhaps some shady tactics on his end, his draft price was about 10k lower than his real value. Nails scooped him up without hesitation, unwilling to let another team get the Kingpin for the meager price of 24k. The team seemed like it had some decent potential with some other high-upside players like pokeaimmd and Fakes; the team could very conceivably reach the playoffs should their superstar core live up to expectations. However, the team couldn't even make it out of the draft without their dreams being shattered to pieces, as Ojama decided to cancer on the BIGs and essentially forced them to trade him to the Tyrants for a rather pitiful package headlined by ima and GaryTheGengar. ima did display some of his upside in Snake III, and Gary has had some decent performances in the past; nevertheless, these are not exactly the types of names you would expect to see headline a trade for one of the best players of all time. After the draft, calamity ensued, as the rest of the community was outraged at Ojama's obvious attempt at cancering not only going unpunished, but being rewarded as well. "The Elephant in the SPL Room" was soon dealt with by the TDs, as they banned Ojama, refunded the money the BIGs used on him, and sent the entire trade package back to the Tyrants' roster.

However, by this point, the BIGs' players had gotten used to their new home, and the team's other superstar, TDK, was quite displeased about his team's situation. The BIGs decided to ship off TDK to the Tyrants in exchange for the same package they had received for Ojama; TDK had been slumping hard prior to this tour, so at least this trade was a bit more justifiable. But, either way, it was seen as a coup for the Tyrants by the majority of the community. The team used its refunded money to draft some pretty untalented castoffs and unproven rookies; in other words, they picked up a slew of filler characters. And, at this point, it had become pretty evident that the BIGs roster had become a shell of its former self. There's a reason you buy superstar players in SPL...simply replacing someone as good as TDK / Ojama with a bunch of random 3k clowns can't possibly be a viable strategy. The BIGs also traded away rozes to a Jerk team for 2 more players. When all was said and done, the BIGs ended up with a RIDICULOUS 25 PLAYERS ON THE ROSTER LOOOOOOOOOL I can't even believe that's a real number. They had so many players that I was able to make a quiz about them, and most people could barely recall the names of half the team's members. So, instead of TDK + Ojama, the team ended up with the following users:

ima, descending, garythegengar, eden, mannat, ninjadog, jytcampbell, callous, ricardo, sage, jacob

................Yeah, I think it's pretty clear why the BIGs were eliminated early.

The BIGs started out the season with 2 straight losses, getting smashed both weeks in a row and ending up with a -10 BD. At this point, pretty much every single human being alive had eliminated the BIGs from playoff contention. They were an absolute meme team, and all the shenanigans leading up to this point just added more fuel to the fire. The team was a complete laughingstock, and may people were wondering whether the squad would go 0-9. Going up against a white-hot 2-0 Sharks team, things looked bleak for the BIGs...HOWEVER, they managed to defy all expectations and won the next 2 weeks, putting themselves firmly in the playoffs picture with a 2-2 record at midseason. It was now time for the the team to take advantage of its main resource: its plethora of players. They traded Jytcampbell, soulgazer, Descending, and 6k in midseason funds away for Leftiez and Charmflash, two players with a great amount of upside. Leftiez had gone for a ridiculous 16.5k in the original auction, and was a solid player back in the day. Charmflash, meanwhile, was one of Smogon's most promising new talents, with back-to-back great performances in SPL X and Snake III to his name. Both players were struggling mightily this tour, and the BIGs took a chance on them, hoping that they could return to their former glory and help catapult the team to the playoffs. I liked both of these moves for the BIGs at the time; the team severely lacked an ounce of star power, and they really needed all the upside they could get. Even though both of these moves were risky, there was really no reason not to try them due to the overall lack of talent on the roster.

Unfortunately for the BIGs, these moves flopped in spectacular fashion. Charmflash went 0-2 in GSC OU, a slot which, as a whole, still remains winless this season and has only mustered one measly win in the past 16 weeks combined. Leftiez went 0-1 in SS OU and was never heard from again. At least part of this can definitely be attributed to the team's usage of these players; it's unknown why the BIGs didn't put Charmflash back in his SM OU home, or put Leftiez in BW OU. Squandering their talents by putting these heavily underachieving players into tiers they are hardly familiar with can't possibly be a viable strategy.

As for the rest of the team....well, most of it was a disaster too. There were some bright spots, though. I already highlighted Ezrael's success; he was a big reason why the BIGs were able to stay competitive for as long as they were. The team's second carry wound up being...Santu? You read that right, ladies and gentlemen. Santu miraculously went 6-2 and kept the team afloat when all seemed lost. The team also miraculously got a 4-2 performance from Sage, who pretty much the entire community had written off as unviable following her disastrous UU performance with the BIGs last season; she demonstrated that perhaps she may have some hidden talent after all. That ended up being a solid move by Dave. One of the team's other retains, Nails, the mastermind behind the team's draft, also put forth a positive 5-3 showing. The key cog of the TDK trade, ima, ended up going 3-3, so I guess there's that.

This is where the praise ends, really. The team's final retain, Sabella, ended up below .500 and reinforcing the notion that the decision to retain him was probably a bit unwise. Joey also put forth a relatively poor performance and currently sports a mediocre 3-4 record; Fakes also underperformed, and didn't show up for a few of his games; this hurt the team as well, since he could have easily farmed such a terrible ADV player pool if he had wanted to. The team's LC core was an abject disaster, only managing to pick up 1 win up this point. Considering the team utilized a revolving door of trash, ninjadog, and Kushalos in this tier, the result really isn't too surprising. The team was so desperate that it turned to 2020 HODOR, who actually managed to acquire the team's lone win in LC. The reason he could be slotted into LC was because he floundered in GSC, contributing to the 0-8 with 3 straight losses. The other headline of the team's trade package for TDK, GaryTheGengar, also put forth a poor showing. He wound up going 2-4, which isn't too shocking considering the type of player he's been for the past decade. The team also went 3-5 in BW OU, with jacob not being able to carry the load after Fakes was flexed out of the tier. Frania did go 3-0 in that slot, though, so...I guess there's that? I suppose he was one of the team's sole good pickups. Probably the saddest part of the BIGs season to date is that the fans never got to see MANNAT play. Oh well.

The BIGs had 24 different players play a game for them this SPL (a stat courtesy of Finchinator). That's pretty much the only stat you need to know, honestly. Shuffling the lineup is fine, but when a roster has to go through so many iterations in one season, it's clear that its talent just simply isn't up to par. The BIGs were unable to recreate the magic that propelled them to a near-playoff birth last year, with the tumultuous circumstances surrounding the team ultimately dragging them to the depths of the SPL ocean. In my past two eulogies, I pointed out three main reasons for the teams' failures. The BIGs similarly had a multitude of issues, but there is one that clearly stands out from the rest. The entire Ojama / TDK fiasco effectively gutted the heart and soul of the team, and stripped the roster of the star power it so desperately needed to compete for a trophy. No team can recover from such a poor start to the tour; it's possible to deal with the loss of one high-priced player, as the BIGs themselves displayed last year, but dealing with the loss of two is nigh impossible (well, unless you just go full Snake 1 Pitvipers). At the very least, the BIGs were one of the most entertaining stories of SPL XI, as evidenced by the length of this eulogy. It's unclear whether Stone_Cold will return to the helm following such a crazy season, especially considering how little influence had in the auction, but he has enough World Cup trophies to retire happily if he sees fit. Regardless of who the manager is, I'm sure the BIG's antics will continue to be a major story in future SPLs as well.
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You need to have a very high IQ to understand the competitiveness of Clamp, the mind games are extremely subtle, and without a solid grasp of 1° generation mechanics most of the plays will go over your typical player’s head. There’s also the RBY nihilistic outlook, which is defly woven into its gamebreaking bugs - its personal philosophy draws directly from Crystal_ and Pikasprey Yellow, for instance. The real gamers such as ALLALA understand this stuff; they have the intellectual capacity to truly appreciate body slams between two Tauros, to realize that RBY is not just competitive - but a truly idealized metagame at that.
As a consequence people who dislike RBY are truly IDIOTS - of course they couldn’t appreciate, for instance, the humour in ALLALA existential phrase “gl hax”, which in itself is a cryptic reference to the great Flinchrachi plays made in DPPT.
I’m smirking right now just imagining one of those addlepated simpletons scatching their heads in confusion as Heroic Troller’s genius unfolds itself on pokemon showdown. What fools... how I pity them.
And yes by the way, I do have a Cloyster tattoo. And no, you can’t see it. It’s for SPL players’ eyes only - and even them have to demostrate that they are within 5 predict layers of my own (preferably lower) beforehand.
With the Ruiners' recent victory, it is finally time for the Wolfpack eulogy.

Anytime that TonyFlygon signs up to manage a team, you expect big things to happen. Tony is one of the most well-respected managers in the game, and was a vital part of constructing a team many consider to be the best of all time in the SPL IX Wolfpack. In SPL XI, he teamed up once more with his Jerk comrade ABR, an OU demi-god who is known for talking even more than Finchinator in team chats. Pre-season expectations were naturally lofty for the Wolfpack, and most people would have automatically pegged them for a playoff spot just off the talent of their managers.

The Wolfpack were armed with what many considered to be the best duo of retains in the tour. Charmflash and Welliou had both come off crazy runs in Snake III; both were key cogs of the "Leviathan Show" that took home the trophy. Many individuals expected Charmflash to go for as high as 20k in the normal auction, while Welliou was expected to be around 14-15k by most speculators. Because of this, the decision to retain both of them for a combined 20k was a no-brainer, even if the Wolfpack management wasn't as high on these players as the rest of the community. This is one of the situations where the decision to axe retain trades backfired in a way. There is no doubt in my mind that Tony would have shipped off both of these players if retain trades were allowed, since Tony, ABR, and the Jerk as a whole valued these two players less than most of the community. If a team offered the Wolfpack around 9-10k for both of these players, I have a hard time believing that Tony would have refused. Nevertheless, the Wolfpack were massive favorites heading into the auction simply off the weight of these two retains, as possessing this amount of value in the retain market is unheard of in 2020.

The team started off the auction with a bang, reuniting ABR with his Northeast comrades Star and BKC. Star went for 18.5k; to outsiders of the Jerk, this might have seemed like a bit of an overpay. However, the Jerk considers Star to be one of the premier players of the tournament, and considering his ability to flex to multiple positions while simultaneously supporting other slots such as LC made him well worth the price in my eyes, regardless of his lack of amazing results on the sheet. BKC went for 29k, which is actually a fair amount lower than his usual price. This was due to his rather mediocre performance in the last edition of the World Cup, as well as his absolutely horrendous Snake Draft. 29k for BKC in SPL seemed like a steal in my eyes; he always has a knack for performing in this tournament, and his team support in the old gens is unrivaled. To top it all off, as an old gen savant, his poor performance in SM OU during Snake Draft shouldn't have factored too heavily into his price, in my opinion. With four picks in the books, the Wolfpack looked absolutely godly. They had a surplus of value with their retains, and had old gen knowledge through the roof with BKC. Add in ABR's OU knowledge, and the Wolfpack looked absolutely primed for success in SPL XI.

Naturally, the one tier that was foreign to the roster was Doubles. Thus, the team made an intelligent decision to pick up the individual many pegged as the best Doubles player in the tournament, SMB, for 10.5k. This seemed like a pretty good selection once you factor in the wealth of knowledge the team had across all other slots. The Wolfpack draft was rolling along nicely, and if you asked me whether or not they would make the playoffs at this point of the draft, I would have bet my life on it. The team's next selection was sulcata for 10k; the "milk" had performed admirably in recent official tours, and this felt like a somewhat fair price considering the generally dire state of the GSC pool. That being said, there was definitely bust potential here; 10k is sort of stretching the limit of the milk's upside. Either way, it was a fine pick.

It is here where the draft got a bit...wonky. Tony is not usually one to be blinded by friendship, like poor drafters such as my good friend teal6 often are. This makes his decision to spend a ridiculous 22.5K ON PEARL to play BW OU even more of an anomaly. Pearl is a good player, but he's far more experienced at farming lower tier mainers than he is at tackling a relatively tough old gen playerbase. To put this price in context, SoulWind, who was pretty much the consensus best BWer in the pool, was only .5k more than him. Meanwhile, Pearl is middle-of-the-pack in this BW pool, easily behind SoulWind and dice, and also below names like Finchinator, Fakes, and zf, depending on who you ask. I personally put him 5th behind SW, dice, Finch, and Fakes; he was also ranked 5th in the official power rankings. This pick was clearly a massive overpay, probably influenced by how little Tony trusted the rest of the BW pool. Either way, though, I don't think that's really an excuse to spend this much on Pearl; I expected him to go for around 11-12k this auction. This was the first real mistake of the Wolfpack season so far, and basically nuked most of the value they got from their retains. That being said, the team was still in a position to finish their draft strong.

The Wolfpack smartly decided to pick up a 3k DPPer in BIHI. Spending 3k on DPP, especially when you already have the support of the most knowledgeable DPPer of all time, is obviously ideal. I didn't know whether or not BIHI was viable, but he did have a nice run in the last DPP Cup; with BKC's assistance, I felt that he had a pretty decent shot of being a nice value pick for the team. The team then decided to take Sceptross for 4.5k in RBY; spending 7.5k combined on DPP + RBY is obviously ideal, so I thought this was a pretty sensible selection. I figured he had a decent shot of having a relatively average performance. The team's next selection was Sjneider, a player who I have a hard time predicting. I've never really been impressed by him, but he did manage to farm the lower tiers last Snake. I didn't really have any faith in his ability to succeed in ORAS, but it is important to note that he would have the support of ORAS legend ABR on his side. The team rounded out their starting lineup by taking HT and The Hallows. I think everyone knows my stance on HT by now...he's pretty unviable. He somehow fluked his way to a good performance in Snake, but the odds of him doing well this tour seemed pretty low in my eyes. Taking him for 3k in LC is actually more of a sketchy idea than one might originally think as well, considering that the highest priced LCer was only 9k; there were many far better players that only went for a few thousand dollars more, such as Osh and LilyAC. Even with starmaster support, I was very dubious of HT's ability to succeed. The Hallows is another player I had virtually no faith in; I figured that he could easily get annihilated. The team also traded for rozes, another Jerk member, after the draft to act as another form of support.

Overall, the draft definitely fell off after the team spent 22.5k on Pearl; that much wasted money can really hurt a team late in the draft, as evidenced by the fact that it forced the Wolfpack to pick up fodder slots like HT due to their lack of funds. That being said, the Wolfpack still had a very solid championship-worthy core, and almost everyone, including myself, marked them as one of the favorites to make the playoffs and subsequently win the trophy.

From the outset of the tour, though, it was clear that victory wouldn't be as easy as everyone envisioned for the Wolfpack. The warning signs were apparent from Charmflash's first game that things might get a bit hairy for him this season. teal6 played Charmflash like a fiddle, reading him hard with Chandelure and capitalizing on his Protect fetish with a Bulk Up Conkeldurr that absolutely ravaged the hyped super-rookie's team. On the brightside, the GOAT seemed to be living up to his moniker, absolutely demolishing Conflict and showing that he was ready to put his losing ways behind him. The Wolfpack eventually fell to the Sharks in Week 1, but considering how hyped the Sharks were by the masses, this wasn't too bad of a loss. As the weeks went on, however, it was clear that the Pack had some pretty significant issues. Sceptross looked like a disaster, sulcata looked like one of the worst players on the planet, and HT's black magic seemed to have run out. Luckily for the Wolfpack, they still had some patented ABR magic left in them, as sulcata salvaged a tie for the team against the Tigers with enough crits, dodges, and 4-5 turn sleeps to make even Fear cringe. As dire as things were, the team was still alive due to the phenomenal play of the GOAT; they managed to tie the Raiders in Week 3 despite another awful performance from Charmflash. The Jerk team had only managed to accrue a meager 2 points in 3 weeks; the season was slipping away from them, and management knew that they had to shake things up sooner rather than later. For every win that BKC effortlessly clutched for the team, Charmflash bestowed them with a loss. As the weeks went on, it was clear that he was nowhere near the player he had been in SM OU a few months earlier. Perhaps the only way to get Charmflash back on track was to put him back in his SM OU home; however, the team's current starter, Charmflash's former teammate Welli0u, was 3-0 in SM, so removing him from the slot seemed a bit illogical considering how unproven he was in other tiers. It also became increasingly clear that Charmflash's motivation was at an all-time low; he had become obsessed with World of Warcraft (yes...in 2020), and the tension between himself and his managers had reached a boiling point.

The team finally decided to bench Charmflash in Week 4, and managed to win a close 7-5 series against the Classiest. At midseason, the team finally decided to cut bait with their saboteur, shipping him off to the BIGs in exchange for Jytcampbell + 6k. I've never really been impressed by Jyt and consider him a bit unviable, so to me, this move wasn't too riveting. They also managed to use that 6k to acquire the Baron, a formerly hyped player who was currently on the Tigers' bench for reasons unknown. The Wolfpack also got rid of Sceptross due to some of his irl drama, and acquired prominent derk member Zesty as support. Could these three players really make up for the loss of such a hyped retain?

Well, apparently they can LOL After another awful performance from HT, the team turned to Jytcampbell in LC. He managed get 2 wins in 4 weeks, albeit against some less-than-stellar competition in 1-6 tazz and 2020 HODOR, to help the team stay afloat a bit longer. The real carry, though, was the Baron, who revitalized the Wolfpack with a crazy 5-0 performance against notable names like Empo, Lopunny Kicks, and blunder. With the GOAT, starmaster, and Welli0u still rolling, the team looked to finally have some promise. Unfortunately for them, their schedule was a bit of a nightmare down the stretch. They had to face off against the top 2 teams of the tournament in Weeks 7 and 8, taking on the Tyrants and the Cryonicles, respectively. The team managed to split those series, but due to their horrendous start, they now no longer controlled their own playoff destiny heading into Week 9. As the week progressed, spirits were high in the Wolfpack camp. They were farming the BIGs, and the Scooters looked to be in prime position to knock the Ruiners out and vault the Wolfpack into the playoffs. However, one untimely Nasty Plot from ZoroDark, followed by some untimely karma against Fear, followed by a lost 50/50 by CyberOdin, was all it took to end the Wolfpack season once and for all.

Outside of BKC, star, and Welli0u, the team also had some other solid performers. SMB went 6-3 in Doubles, taking home the 3rd best Doubles record of the tournament. Sjneider also had another good tour, finishing 6-3 with the assistance of ABR's team support. BIHI also went 6-3 with the help of the GOAT; all three of these players ended up providing solid value for the team to keep them afloat during their times of crisis.

The rest of the roster wasn't so impressive, though. Pearl failed to live up to his lofty price tag, only managing to acquire 3 wins in 8 weeks; he was always going to be an overpay barring some miracle, but his below .500 performance served as a second dagger to the team's playoff hopes. sulcata also only managed to nab 3 wins against a pretty mediocre player pool, falling short of expectations. The team's RBY slot was also a disaster, with rozes only managing to get 1 series win in 5 attempts after supplanting Sceptross. The Hallows also proved his unviability, going 2-6 with some pretty poor performances along the way. Despite all of these shortcomings, if Charmflash was as good as advertised this tour, the team probably would have made the playoffs. Unfortunately, World of Warcraft had other plans.

Overall, the Wolfpack season was cut short due to two main factors:

1. Charmflash's horrendous performance
2. The team's decision to purchase Pearl for 22.5k

Charmflash's lack of motivation and WoW addiction led to a terrible performance that sank the Wolfpack ship. You really can't blame the Wolfpack for this one. Tony and ABR had virtually no choice but to retain Charmflash due to the nuking of retain trades; one would be foolish to simply skimp out on 7k+ of value in a tour where value is paramount. This is one of the reasons that retain trades were a nice addition to SPL; it's unfortunate that they can be so easily manipulated, but they do add an extra layer of strategy and give managers more options instead of simply forcing their hand. We can blame the Wolfpack for their season decision, though. Tony most certainly did not plan to spend anywhere near 22.5k on Pearl, and this almost certainly compromised some of the team's other slots, such as LC. Despite this poor season, I wholly trust Tony and the Wolfpack to rebound next SPL. Tony is still one of the best drafters in my eyes, and ABR's team support cannot be understated, should he choose to manage SPL again. The Wolfpack still have the 2nd most rings all time, and it would be foolish to expect them to descend into mediocrity in the coming seasons.
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