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:
................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.
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.
The Sharks are often referred to as the "GOAT FRANCHISE," and for good reason. The team has racked up the most trophies in the history of SPL, winning SPLs II, V, and VII. Backed by an excellent leadership foundation, solid retains like Conflict, and perhaps some shady tactics, the team has managed to clinch victory time and time again. Since SPL VII, though, the franchise been in turmoil. The team was eliminated in Week 9 of SPL VIII by a winless Classiest team, and failed to make the playoffs each of the past 2 seasons as well. The team looked to return to glory this season, and with legendary old gen expert M Dragon back in control for another year with his trusty puppet sidekick Analytic by his side, hopes were high that the GOAT FRANCHISE could live up to its reputation.
The team's only retain was the aforementioned Conflict, who returned to the franchise for the 8th time, a number that will probably be unmatched for the rest of this site's existence. The GSC pool is always a bit sketchy, to say the least, so locking down one of the best GSCers of all time for only 11.5k seemed like a great decision. As a big Conflict supporter, I personally felt that this was one of the best value retains in the entire tournament. With the backing of fellow GSC legend M Dragon, it seemed inconceivable, at least to me, that Conflict would flop in SPL XI.
At the start of the draft, the Sharks were ready to feast. The GOAT franchise did not hesitate to reveal their secret strategy for returning to glory; they would do the unthinkable: ally themselves with "the Jerk." The team picked up Jerk comrades bro fist and SoulWind for a combined 49k. Their prices looked very reasonable at the time, and considering how ridiculously expensive some far less talented players were later on in the draft, it's safe to say that both of these players were actually a bit underpriced. Having a core of bro fist / SoulWind / Conflict for only 60.5k combined is incredible on paper; this was definitely the best start of any team up to this point in the draft. The team also picked up teal6 for 11k, adding their 3rd Jerk member in 5 picks. teal was always known for his ability to farm the lower tiers, but after being forced into OU during Snake, he proved that there was more to his game after all. He had a very strong Snake showing, even taking down giants like ABR. I was personally unsure about his ability to smash the SS OU pool, but many individuals were relatively high on him. He was ranked 12th in the official PRs, so getting for 11k felt fair at the time. The team rounded out their OU core by picking up xray for 12k. xray is known for being a very solid ORAS player, but his lackluster play in SM left much to be desired. People were relatively skeptical about his ability to succeed, as evidenced by his 13th place ranking in the official PRs. That being said, getting him for 12k felt like a fair enough value at the time. With a high upside core of John / xray / teal6, the Sharks ended up with what many felt was the best SS OU lineup of the tournament. Add in two top old gen players in SoulWind and Conflict, and the Sharks looked poised to contend for a ring. All the team had to do was supplement these talents with some other notable players.
Unfortunately, things would not be that simple. I have no idea what happened in the Sharks war room after the teal6 pick, but it must have been something akin to what happened in the Lindworms chat during the Snake draft. The insanity slowly but surely started setting in, and by the time the dust settled, the Sharks roster went from looking like a magnificent conglomeration of talent to looking like the SPL IX Raiders. The team's next few picks weren't too bad, though. The Sharks' decision to purchase DeepBlueC for 8k was actually applauded by the masses, in fact. He was a pretty hyped DPP player; I personally never drank the kool-aid though. Regardless, it seemed like a decent enough pick to me. The team's next selection was frisoeva, a new player who had put forth a solid 4-2 performance in the Snake draft. I was pretty unsure of his ability to succeed, but considering the team only invested 5k in him, it's hard to really call it a bad move. The team then purchased Genesis7, the man who created the infamous "Leviticus aka bro fist in the trash can" meme, for 7k to play RBY; this seemed like a bit of an overpay to me, and considering that he was only ranked 9th in the Official Power Rankings, I would say the masses would agree with me on that as well. Spending 15k combined on DPP and RBY isn't ideal, especially to me; I was never really impressed by either of these players, so this automatically made me a bit skeptical of the franchise. Regardless, these three all had the potential to have decent seasons, and considering that they were only 20k combined, it's hard to envision that any of these decisions could realistically sink the Sharks' ship.
It is here that the Sharks would have their "Lindworm" moment. The team inexplicably decided to draft BLIGHTBRINGER...for 18k??????????? LOOOOOOOOL WHAT WHY SKALS;FKSLKFL I was absolutely baffled when this happened; his price just kept climbing higher and higher and I wondered whether or not I was watching another one of those mock drafts conducted by filler characters. It seemed ludicrous that a journeyman player who had never really achieved anything of note on Smogon could possibly be anywhere near 18k. But sadly, my friends, this was in fact the official draft. I was later informed that Blight had performed admirably in the latest edition of the Callous Cup; regardless of that, there is no way anyone is ever convincing me that this wasn't one of the biggest overpays ever. ADV prices as a whole were illogical, and this is one of the main moves I point to prove that notion. The team rounded out their draft by picking up EviGaro, an RU mainer, for LC and picking up the makiri-endorsed duo of Mr.GX and Kiichikos for Doubles. Almost everyone was skeptical of EviGaro's ability to succeed in LC, and considering that the highest priced LCer was only 9k, investing in such an unknown commodity, even for as little as 3k, is perhaps more of an issue than it might originally seem. As for the Doubles players, it's well known that makiri selects a VGC player to be the franchise's Doubles player every season. Sometimes, it pans out, like when the team selected IAmARookie a couple of years ago and he washed the competition. Other years, the franchise ends up with fodder players like fespy who tank the season. It was basically a coinflip as to whether or not these individuals would succeed on the big stage.
Regardless of how poorly I thought the second half of their draft went, the team entered the season with absurd levels of hype. The masses had firmly entrenched the Sharks in their "big 3," and countless individuals were singing their praises and harping on how unlikely it would be that the franchise would miss the playoffs. This was my take on the roster: "This team’s draft started out really strong, but it got a bit insane by the end like LOL They have playoff upside and have a ridiculously strong tiebreak. The team is very top heavy, though, and they definitely have bust potential. It will be interesting to see how high they can soar." The team looked like the reincarnation of the aforementioned SPL IX Raiders, with star talent through the roof accompanied by a bunch of filler characters, each of whom had the potential to either have solid seasons or flop spectacularly. That Raiders team did come within 1 game of taking down the greatest roster of all time, and with a ridiculously powerful tiebreak featuring SoulWind and the best tiebreak player ever in bro fist, the team certainly had upside. I wound up ranking them a tier below the Tyrants / Cryonicles / Wolfpack in my rankings, placing them at 4th. Surprisingly enough, the team was actually ranked as low as 8th in the official Power Rankings, despite the community's willingness to hype the team at every turn. The team very clearly had bust potential; if a few of their filler characters came through, though, the lineup could easily make the playoffs.
The Sharks came out guns blazing, looking like the best team in the tournament through the first 2 weeks. They took down another pre-season favorite in the Wolfpack in Week 1, before taking down another solid-ish team in the Scooters in Week 2. To top it all off, the Sharks would face off against a team many felt was the worst in the entire tournament in Week 3: the BIGs. The BIGs looked like an absolute joke of team through the first two weeks, and the amount of memes surrounding the team and their ridiculously big roster simply added fuel to the fire. It seemed almost guaranteed that the Sharks would feast on their inferior competition and get off to a white hot 3-0 start. However, instead, this week proved to be the catalyst for their future struggles. The team was the first victim of the team formerly known as the MAGMA BIGS; the loss sent the Sharks on a downward spiral. However, the loss to the BIGs wasn't the only tragedy that happened during Week 3. Legendary basketball player Kobe Bryant unfortunately met his demise on January 26th, the last day of Week 3 of SPL. Now, how does this relate to the Sharks? Well, as I'm sure almost all of the community knows, Sharks LCer EviGaro, who was 3-0 at the time, decided to disrespect the fallen warrior and all of his tearful fans by bringing up his infamous rape allegation. The curse of the Black Mamba would go on to haunt both EviGaro and her team for the rest of the season. The Sharks would only win 1 more week for the rest of the season, as they were only able to acquire 5 more points in the next 5 weeks of the season. The team still had a chance to make the playoffs heading into Week 9, but it looked to be an uphill battle, as they would need to win a series against perhaps the best team in the tournament in the Dragonspiral Tyrants, who had been ravaging everyone in their path since the end of Week 4. Unsurprisingly, the GOAT franchise was unable to overcome such a daunting hurdle, and they fell short of the playoffs for the 4th year in a row.
So, how did the team fail? Well, to absolutely no one's surprise, the Sharks were really as top heavy as everyone thought heading into the tour. SoulWind, xray, and John put forth a magnificant carry performance, going a combined 22-4 and nearly dragging this team to the playoffs. As the season progressed, it became increasingly clear that if any of John, SoulWind, or xray lost a single game, the Sharks would be incapable of claiming a victory in any given week. This was particularly concerning since xray's record was inflated by a host of luck in his favor. He was bound to collapse sooner or later under the weight of his team's struggles, and he wound up knocking his own team out of the tournament with a pretty spectacular choke against Christo in Week 9.
Erzengel, one of the team's 3k buys, also managed to defy all expectations and go 5-4 as well. However, I'm sure that the Sharks don't feel that great about his performance anymore after his catastrophic choke in Week 9 against CBB basically erased the last vestiges of hope from the team. The team's other filler characters failed to put forth any noteworthy performances. DeepBlueC and Genesis7 both finished the season at 4-5. Going 8-10 in the variance tiers for 15k isn't awful, though. frisoeva also managed to go .500, making him a solid value pick for 5k. While none of these three players had amazing showings or anything, they did well enough to not sink the ship.
This is where the good news ends, however. To absolutely no one's surprise, Blightbringer ended up being one of the worst selections of the entire auction. Despite the support of ADV legend M Dragon, Blight only managed to rack up a measly 3 wins in 9 weeks in an absolutely horrendous ADV pool; purchasing him for 18k was almost assuredly the decision that set the franchise ablaze. Aforementioned Kobe hater EviGaro also ended the season 3-5, getting washed in every single game after her untimely comment. The makiri-endorsed Doubles duo also flopped SPECTACULARLY, ending the season with ONLY 1 WIN LOL That really hurts, bros. The most surprising thing about the Sharks' season, though, was the extremely poor performance of Conflict. The former GSC demi-god only amassed a measly 3 wins in 9 weeks. If he put forth his usual amazing performance, the team almost assuredly would have reached the playoffs.
At the end of the day, the Sharks are who we thought they were. They were an extremely top heavy team with countless filler characters whom they relied on too heavily. With Conflict unable to carry his share of the load, the team collapsed under the weight of the Kobe curse and their horrendous Doubles play. If I had to name the main reason for their failure, though, I think it's pretty obvious. Purchasing Blightbringer for 18k was an absolutely INDEFENSIBLE move at the time, and it looked worse and worse as the season progressed. The ADV pool was probably the weakest it had been in the history of SPL, at least before players like Tama and Roro started flexing into it later in the season. A lot of individuals seem to be blaming M Dragon's team support for Blight's failure as well. Nevertheless, the Sharks' decision to take such an unproven commodity for such an absurd price instead of simply bidding on a cheap player like CyberOdin was baffling at the time, and set the Sharks' demise into motion. I've always supported the GOAT franchise. They were my first real team on Smogon; SPL IV was the first time I got to play an entire team tournament, and SPL V was my first SPL victory. I'll always have a soft spot for the decorated organization. I hope that the team returns to their former glory sooner rather than later, since SPL is always more fun when the Sharks are good. With 4 poor seasons in the books, though, it's safe to wonder whether the Sharks can ever return to their rightful throne at the top of the SPL mountain.
Before understanding the expectations the community had set for the Raiders in SPL XI, it's important to understand their history. Prior to SPL VII, the Raiders were a laughingstock. They only managed to make the playoffs one time before then, and the franchise was arguably the worst one in the entire tournament. Things all changed in SPL VII, when the Raiders fell into the hands of the Jerk. They acquired franchise cornerstone TDK with the same sort of devious tactics Tony would later use to pry ABR from the Ruiners' clutches in SPL IX. With seemingly 90% of the Jerk concentrated on one roster, the team seemed poised for success. Unfortunately, they ended up flopping spectacularly. This tour did set the stage for the next two seasons, though, where the Raiders found themselves as title contenders two years in a row, and were one ABR freeze away from taking home the franchise's coveted first trophy. This heartbreaking loss proved to be too much for Raiders' management, however, as they abandoned the team and left it in the hands of their Doubles player Kaori and his trusty pal Gondra. Before SPL X, BKC was banned for some of his usual harsh comments. He decided to help his hometown Raiders, ensuring that the team would have amazing old gen support. The team managed to draft the combination of SoulWind + Trosko for only 23.5k combined; couple those with two solid retain steals in roscoe and Pak, another superstar signing in bro fist, and the aforementioned ghost of BKC, and it seemed like the Raiders would be title contenders. 9 weeks later, these expectations proved to be a far cry from reality, as the Raiders finished in last place in SPL X. This would be all she wrote for Kaori and Gondra, as they gave the team to Kingler12345, otherwise known as "the loaf." With this much failure in the books for the organization, expectations were beyond low for the Raiders heading into SPL XI. Kingler decided to manage with fellow LCer Corporal Levi; any time two mainers manage a team, it always raises a fair bit of skepticism within the community, and when added to the already-low expectations for the hometown Raiders franchise, it's safe to say that many people almost immediately pegged them for a bottom 3 finish in SPL XI.
The Raiders' only two viable viable retains were Trosko and SoulWind. If the team was able to sign both of them for only 30k combined, they would easily form the best retain duo in SPL. The man now known as "GODSKO" had dismantled the competition ever since the start of SPL X, and SoulWind had clearly established himself as one of the best, if not the best, BWers on the site. SoulWind, however, had PTSD from last year's disaster, and for good reason. He refused to hop aboard the team's ship. Trosko, however, did agree to play. With this signing, the Raiders were already off to a magnificent start; Trosko almost assuredly would have been around 20k after his ridiculous performances over the course of the past year. Could they escape their tortured history with the aid of arguably the best retain in the entire tour?
The team started off the auction by picking up Earthworm for 10k. I and many others thought that this was a great selection at the time. Earthworm, while not being anywhere near as dominant as he was in his peak, was still thought of as a capable old gen player; considering the pereptually dire state of the GSC player pool, it seemed laughable that Earthworm's price had reached such a depressed point. This notion would be further reinforced when MrE, a veteran who wasn't even in the last edition of the tournament, went for 10.5k, despite being notably less impressive over the course of his career than Earthworm. The team then decided to purchase dice for 26k; this felt like a bit of an overpay, especially considering that SoulWind, who many individuals would rate above dice in BW OU, went for only 23k. dice also doesn't provide the teambuilding support of someone like BKC, so this price definitely felt a bit inflated at the time. That being said, I'm a huge dice fan and I bold him every single week, so I personally figured that there was a decent chance he could live up to his lofty price tag, even if it was about 4k more than I would have spent on him. With the surplus of value they acquired with the Trosko retain as well as the Earthworm pick-up, the Raiders could justify spending a bit extra on player they desperately wanted.
The Raiders' next pick was a bit...sketchy. The team purchased Posho for 11k. Posho is one of the strangest players on the site. He went from being an absolute God during his Smogon Tour run to basically falling off the map with countless poor performances in team tours over the past few years. Many people, myself included, figured that he could still be viable in BW, though; he did manage to go 4-5 in SPL X in that tier. If you were still a believer in his, perhaps formerly, lofty ceiling, the decision to spend 11k on him wasn't indefensible. My main problem with this move is pretty obvious, though...the Raiders already spent 26k on dice, whose best tier is BW OU??? Like??????? LOOOOOOOL What am I missing. There's absolutely 0 evidence 2020 Posho could succeed in any tier besides BW OU, so buying him for 11k to play a non-BW tier seemed absolutely insane at the time. The team's next pick was MetalGro$$, whom they acquired for 8.5k. I've never really been a big believer in Metal, and find him to be pretty mediocre. I thought this was a slight overpay, but it wasn't that bad of a pick considering that a sizable chunk of RBY talent had left the player pool over the past few years. The team then picked up LilyAC for 4k, which felt like a solid pick at the time. The "air conditioner" was coming off a nice 6-3 Snake run, and with the help of two managers who main LC, it seemed pretty likely at the time that she could continue her success.
If the Posho selection drilled one hole in the Raiders', the team's next two picks riddled the whole entity with a plethora of them. The Raiders, FOR SOME REASON, decided to draft Lycans AND pasy_g for a combined 33.5k LOOOL LIKE WHAT WHY LMAO I don't know if the Raiders didn't get the memo that UU wasn't in SPL, but surely something happened in the war room; perhaps it was the Lindworm virus rearing it's ugly head again. Even if UU was in SPL, this would still be a bit of an overpay for Lycans. But without UU, this was an absolutely egregious pick. There's not even any evidence that Lycans is viable outside of lower tiers; like, congratulations, he managed to farm 4 wins in the thinking gen in World Cup...like, who cares? LOL I probably wouldn't have ever spent more than 5k for Lycans in this SPL, so this was easily one of the craziest picks of the entire auction, and basically torpedo'd all of the value they got from the Trosko retain. With the dice overpay canceling out the Earthworm value, the Raiders basically found themselves at +-0. They then decided to cast another anchor to sink their season, as they decided to pick up pasy_g...for 16.5k LOOL WHY WAS THIS AN OPTION?? Despite being a long-time veteran of Smogon, pasy had never really accomplished anything of note on the big stage, and despite the dire state of the ADV pool, this felt like a crazy overpay to myself as well as the rest of the even mildly intelligent people in the Smogon community. Once again, I will point to the fact that CyberOdin, a veteran player with similar levels of success as well as a bit more recent ADV success in team tours, went for only 3k. The Raiders really decided that spending 33.5k on two players who were probably worth around 10-11k was a good idea. These were legitimately the two worst back-to-back selections since the Lindworms reached HARD for Indigo Plateau and tko during rounds 5-6 of the Snake III draft. At this point, I had absolutely 0 faith in the Raiders.
The team then picked up kaori for Doubles for 4k, which felt like a solid price considering his past SPL exploits. They also decided to spend 9k on ToF, bringing their combined RBY + DPP total to 17.5k, which was definitely a bit too much for my liking. ToF could definitely succeed in this SPL, but 9k seemed a bit lofty for his services. The team rounded out their starting line-up with 2020 washed reiku, who many people felt would be a ghosting slot. They also selected an absolute random in Vai Lusa to be their final SS OU starter. They also picked up Vulpix03 and Simia to back-up their OU core in case things went awry. As you can sense by my general tone in the latter half of this write-up, I was a complete non-believer in the Raiders. My original assessment of the squad was the following: "Overall, this team definitely had some egregious overpays. They’re definitely not good, and it would be kind of surprising if they made the playoffs, honestly." I didn't really see anyone in the community hype the team up either. The Raiders did surprisingly manage to lock down a top 3 spot in the official Power Rankings, which many people simply chalked up to luck. This team just looked way too mediocre to make the playoffs; however, a sizable chunk of teams in this year's SPL were also riddled with holes, so there was an outside chance that the team could make a run if things broke their way. I wound up ranking them in the 7-team second tier of my Power Rankings, placing them at 8th.
With some good fortune on their side, the Raiders managed to defy all expectations in Week 1. Squaring off against the tournament favorite, the Tyrants, the loaf's squad would not back down, and managed to claw their way to a 6-5 lead with Earthworm vs. Floppy remaining. This game looked like an absolute blowout on paper. Earthworm was infinitely better when both players were at their peaks, and Floppy was so unviable over the past few seasons that even labeling him as crust would be pretty generous. The game progressed as one would expect...until Earthworm committed one of the biggest chokes of the season and let Floppy win the game with his Curselax. This was a big blow to the Raiders, but they still managed to secure a tie against the tournament favorites, so this week wasn't all bad, despite how gut-wrenching Earthworm's blunder must have been for the team. The Raiders got washed by the upstart Ruiners in Week 2, and people wrote the team off once again.
After the first two weeks, it was clear that SS OU was not Trosko's forte. They moved him to SM OU, where he would return to his usual monstrous self. That wasn't the team's only issue, however. As the season progressed, it became increasingly clear that Earthworm, Lycans, and Posho were all unviable. They were all struggling mightily, but due to the lack of viable subs on the roster, the Raiders were faced with a perilous "pick your poison" type of situation. The team decided to put their faith in Posho and his aforementioned BW abilities. The team put their marquee 26k player, dice, to the test, flexing him to GSC so Posho could play BW OU and have a realistic shot of winning some games. This strategy...actually accomplished nothing LOOL Posho went 1-3 in BW OU, with his only win coming against a DOUBLES PLAYER in MajorBowman. Posho just might be unviable in general in 2020, honestly. dice was up to the test, though; he was undefeated in GSC heading into his Week 9 showdown with Anti, proving that his skill transcends tiers. With 38k in value basically being deadweight, it's a wonder that the Raiders were able to stay afloat for so long. The team ended up being carried by some pretty unlikely sources.
ToF and MetalGro$$ both put together excellent seasons, going a combined 13-5 in the variance tiers and giving the team the boost they so desperately needed. The team's desperation OU core of Vai Lusa / simia / vulpix03 also performed admirably, and were positive heading into Week 9 with only a 10.5k combined price tag. Lycans also managed to redeem himself a bit. With Trosko unable to play in Weeks 8 and 9, Lycans stepped up to the plate and took down both Tace and 0-6 Relous; while the quality of his opponents wasn't exactly anything to write home about, he should be given credit for stepping up when the team needed him most. reiku and pasy_g also miraculously managed to put together above-average campaigns. LilyAC also had another solid season with the help of both Kingler and Levi, and ended up being one of the team's best selections. The team's Doubles core of Kaori + Lunar wasn't exactly good, but they did enough to keep the team alive, at least.
With the help of the aforementioned unlikely sources, the team managed to scrape by week after week, securing tie after tie until they put themselves in prime playoff position down the stretch. The team took full advantage of their cupcake match-up with the Tigers in Week 8, absolutely smashing them and 10-2 and acquiring some much-needed BD in the process. The team had pretty good odds to make the playoffs in Week 9, only needing a tie or some other results to swing their way. Against all odds, the Raiders looked to defy expectations and return to the playoffs once more. Unfortunately for them, there comes a breaking point for every mediocre team. When you rely on unproven filler characters for too long, bad things tend to happen. Lusa, Simia, and vulpix03 all melted under the pressure, going 0-3 combined in the final week against the classiest with some pretty horrendous performances between them. Simia was first up to the plate, and he absolutely butchered his end game against suapah and donated a win after getting absurdly lucky. Despite his terrible performance, the Raiders found themselves up 5-4 with three games remaining; if they simply won one of them, they would be able to finally punch their ticket to the playoffs. They looked to have secured their victory after Lusa dodged Insult's Will-O-Wisp with his +4 Corviknight; however, despite being up 6-4 with a +4 Pokemon with Roost, he was somehow unable to bring home the win. His absolutely terrible display was a harbinger of things to come, as vulpix03 played a terrible game against blargh, erasing all of the leeway the Raiders had amassed up to that point. Luckily for the Raiders, they saved their best player for last. Hopes were high that dice could take down Anti and clinch the Raiders a playoff spot. However, he fell short after some timely predictions by Anti against dice's Marowak. And so, instead of finding themselves in Hikari's semifinals post, the Raiders find themselves as the subject of the latest eulogy.
Overall, the Raiders exceeded my expectations. I wasn't expecting anything from them going into this tournament due to my lack of faith in the manager duo, but despite some absolutely asinine drafting decisions, the team managed to stay in contention all the way until the final game of the regular season. Unfortunately for them, though, their bad drafting eventually caught up to them, causing them to rely on one too many filler characters with the season on the line. I really can't blame the team for taking Earthworm at such a depressed price point. Also, pasy_G did manage to finish 5-3, so his 16.5k price tag, while absolutely egregious at the time, at least doesn't look awful now. Their variance tier players also managed to perform excellently. dice, while being an overpay, also managed to go 6-3 while flexing into another tier, so I can't really lambaste them too much for spending too much on him, either. As such, the reasons for their failure will be attributed to two main factors:
1. Their decision to buy Posho for 11k despite having dice for BW OU and the widespread knowledge going into the tournament that Posho was unviable in any non-BW tier
2. Their decision to buy Lycans for 17k for reasons that still remain unclear to this day
The Raiders are a pretty bad franchise, and the team's rather questionable drafting decisions in SPL XI makes me pretty skeptical of the franchise's potential for success in the future. The Jerk was close to solving the Raiders puzzle, but unfortunately they were unable to secure the ring. It must be said that the Raiders ability to battle back against all odds despite such a dire draft is impressive, so perhaps there is hope for the loaf in the future. However, good drafters are the key to SPL success, so it's fair to wonder whether the team will ever be able to lift that coveted trophy. So, for now, I present you guys with the ribbon for the longest eulogy to date. Congratulations!