Several months ago, we announced that our Paladins team had qualified for the newly announced Hi-Rez Expo in Atlanta; you can read more about that here. Following 2-0 victories over Team Viral and Kings of the North in the Champions Circuit, Burrito prepared for Hi-Rez Expo with confidence. An undefeated season and several months to practice gave them the upper hand going into the new year. The team consisting of Erik ‘Bird‘ Sjösten, Kevin ‘Laizy‘ Jensen, Teemu ‘Spunkki‘ Tenhunen, Thijs ‘Thiel‘ Smit, and substitute player, Malkolm ‘bonkar‘ Rench, would be heading to Atlanta, GA from January 5th until January 8th as the top seed European representative. With last year’s experience being a defeat in the semi-finals by District 69 while they played under the Torpedo tag, Burrito was looking to take revenge on their long-time rivals in 2017.
The Group Stage
After a short break for the holidays, Burrito Paladins was well-trained and prepared for Hi-Rez Expo to start on January 5th. Being thrown into Group B, alongside Team Eager, Nocturns Gaming, and Abyss Esports Club, Burrito needed to study, learn, and adjust to the play methods of teams from all across the globe. Since having Thursday off, the team was able to set up scrims against the competing teams, as well as watching Group A matches in an attempt to soak in new strategies. The following day, Friday the 6th, Burrito would have their first match against Latin America’s Nocturns Gaming, who had just come from a loss against Abyss. The defending European champions did not skip a beat, as they followed step by dominating Nocturns 3-0, with maps scores of 4:0, 4:2, and another 4:0 to round it out. Game 2 of the group stage was played against Australian powerhouse, Abyss Esports Club. Abyss was standing with a record of 2-0 after wins against Eager and Nocturns, leaving Burrito as their last challenger standing.
Burrito would need to show their cards quickly, after taking Frog Isle 4:2, Abyss came back in Map 2 with a close score of 4:3. After a struggling Map 2, Burrito dropped Frozen Guard with a score of 4:1. Moral seemed down after the tough loss, and with a map score of 1-2 in favor of Abyss, Burrito would need to take the next two maps straight in order to tie for first in the group. Map 4 was Jaguar Falls, a map with a challenging center control point. And whether someone gave a motivational speech, or the individual determination of each player penetrated the surface, Burrito came back with a clean 4:0 victory to bring the series to Map 5. The final map of the series was played on Fish Market, and began incredibly back and forth. With Burrito’s two front-line composition of Ruckus and Makoa, they were able to capture the point twice, but were halted by Abyss’ strong defense. On the third round, with both teams tied 2:2, Abyss captured the point and had only meters left to close out the map and the series, but the two takes and major backline damage from Burrito stopped the push before overtime could start. All that was needed was one capture for either team to close out the series. Abyss managed to hold the point until 45%, but was shut down and wiped after a heavy 5-man engagement by Burrito. Abyss’ large backline composition was held back from the point, giving Burrito the victory, and closing out the series 3-2. Abyss did a fantastic job in showing the world was OCE Paladins is truly about.
Leading the group 2-0, Burrito only needed one more victory to head into the semi-finals against Group A’s 2nd place finisher, Matchpoint. Their last opponent would be North America’s Team Eager, who was currently 1-1 in groups after a victory over Nocturns (who ended with a record of 0-3), but with certain victory on their minds, and fire in their hearts, Burrito shut down Eager with scores of 4:1 on Serpent Beach, 4:1 on Timber Mill, and closing the series with a score of 4:0 on Frozen Guard. With an overall record of 3-0, Burrito took first place in Group B, and would head into Day 3 of Hi-Rez Expo against Matchpoint, who’s only loss in Group A was to District 69.
The Playoffs and the Finals
Going into Day 3, Burrito was matched up against North America’s first seed in MatchPoint. MatchPoint previously went undefeated in the Champions Circuit, much like Burrito did back in October. With the pride of Europe behind them, Burrito didn’t hesitate to shut down their North American counter-part with a score of 4-0, crushing the semi-finals with map scores of 4:2 on Frog Isle, 4:1 on Jaguar Falls, 4:3 on Frozen Guard, and moving on to the grand finals with a score of 4:2 on Serpent Beach. This victory over MatchPoint guaranteed a rematch from last year’s Championship, where Burrito (then Torpedo) fell to District 69 in the semi-finals of the Paladins Founders Tournament.
Day 4 was the last day of the Hi-Rez Expo, with finals for all games including SMITE, and SMITE XBOX One being placed in sequence. Paladins would be taking the stage first at around 10AM Eastern, giving the players enough time to fuel up and get some breakfast before battling for the $150,000 prize pool. After a little bit of trash talk against North America, the series started with Fish Market and Timber Mill being banned out, and setting Map 1 as Frog Isle. With D69 opting for the double frontline composition, holding the payload back became a challenge for Burrito, and D69 took Map 1 with a rough score of 4:0. Map 2 started on Jaguar Falls, a solid map for both D69 and Burrito. But D69 came through with a challenging double frontline, double support composition against Burrito’s heavy damage composition. Round 1 started off very strong for D69, but solid Evie plays from Bird, and Makoa hooks from Thiel secured the capture and two points for Burrito, but several back and forth fights with incredible overtimes started to even the map 3:3, while PERDO’s Androxus secured the map 4:3 after several Reversal kills. Setting the map score to 2-0 in favor of D69. With Map 2 being much closer, Burrito began building momentum going into the third map, Serpent Beach. Getting the second and third picks, Burrito quickly grabbed Fernando and Ruckus, the most winning frontline composition. But D69 responded with last picking Barik for their own double frontline composition. While the Barik was not very good on offense against the massive burst damage of Burrito, it did help stall two pushes until Laizy’s backline Evie shut down D69’s healing, securing one full push and Map 3 with a 4:2 score. Securing a 5th map, Map 4 would be set on Ice Mines as Burrito kept their momentum strong, even picking up double support against D69’s double frontline. Ice Mines went back and forth for the entire game, with both teams capturing and defending, putting the score to 3:3 with one last attempt to secure the map for both teams. With the double support from Burrito keeping the team alive, Burrito was able keep D69 off the point in the final round, securing the map 4:3, and evening the score at 2-2. Frozen Guard was chosen as the 5th map, and with the series tied 2-2, whoever took this map would more than likely carry the momentum into the next two maps. But with each team having successful stalls and pushes, the second/third pick Fernando and Ruckus proved to be the strongest composition in Paladins once again. Clearing the way for PERDO’s Androxus and one last successful push to take the map 4:2.
With D69 being one map away from defeating Burrito for the second time at LAN, Burrito desperately needed to turn things around and take the last two maps straight in order to take the trophy. The sixth map was played on Jaguar Falls, which D69 had taken 4:3 as Map 2. Since Burrito was given second and third picks, the standard meta picks of Fernando and Ruckus were immediately locked in by Burrito, followed by Evie, Cassie and Ying, which faced off against D69’s Pip and Mal’Damba double support counter. The beginning of the map started with UNBELIVABLE’s Pip keeping Burrito off the control point, but as D69 crept towards 99%, bonkar and the rest of Burrito swept D69, securing the point and halting D69 at 99%. A very strong push to follow, and Burrito was up 2:0. Round 2 started much stronger for Burrito, with Laizy’s Evie, bonkar’s Cassie, and Bird’s Ruckus, Burrito kept their momentum strong, pushing the control point and the payload to the very end. Thiel’s body blocking and shield management kept his team going strong for the entirety of Map 6, and being a key role in closing out the map in their favor, 4:0.
This put Burrito and D69 on a seventh and final map, and if you’ve read the entire article until this point, you are a saint and a scholar, and I apologize deeply for how astronomically long this has become. Sure, you could watch the video, but this is just as exciting right? Probably not.
Anyway! The final map of the Paladins Invitational at Hi-Rez Expo was played on Frog Isle with D69 going double frontline, and Burrito going double support with Pip and Mal’Dama. Although the draft for D69 was a bit strange since they attempted take Evie from Burrito, but in return handing over Sha Lin over to bonkar. Much like on Map 6, D69 pushed hard at the beginning, up to 99%, but was shut down by Laizy’s Cassie and Thiel’s Makoa. With the support of bonkar’s freshly acquired Sha Lin shutting down PERDO on Androxus, Burrito took the reverse cap and pushed incredibly strong. Near the last point, Bird landed a massive Evil Mojo on D69, helping the rest of his team clean up and getting the cap, resulting in a 2:0 lead for Burrito. Inching closer and closer to ending the series, Burrito stayed passive to not give up too much ground to D69. But when Burrito saw an opening, the combo of Thiel’s Makoa and bonkar’s Shin La, Burrito managed pick after pick, as our sub player scored a Godlike spree with 13 kills straight. While it looked like D69 was managing a strong hold, a quick reset by Burrito immediately turned things around. With all five members alive and strong, and a strong credit lead thanks to the massive killing sprees from everyone, Burrito capped the point for one final time to close out the series 4-3.
Words could not express how proud we are our Paladins team, not only for taking the trophy and defeating their long time rivals, but for everything they’ve done under the Burrito title. With the undefeated season, and the beautiful comeback from 0-2, to tying it up 3-3 and keeping us on the edge of our seats. Congratulations boys, and well played.
Massive shout out to our long time rivals, @, for putting up an incredibly fight and giving us a run for the money.