[ECS4] European Championship Series 4

Season 4 of the European tournament for Warband.

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[BladeCast] European Championship Series | The story so far (1/3)

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Tardet

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After a successful Warband Revival League which saw Commando Oida dominate all opposition to lift the trophy in the grand-final against Apis Europae, a part of the scene expressed the wish to stand aloof from division based format and attempt a return to traditionally more competitive and entertaining formats. Answering the call was most-established admin trio Aeronwen, Deacon & Scar who settled on bringing back one of warband greatest competition of all time, the European Championship Series.

With the help of Yamipirate and Bullez - who have both been instrumental in the success of recent tournaments - the ECS admin team intends to inspire a new breath within a warband competitive scene which has not yet been fully convinced by what Bannerlord currently offers for competitive grounds. Straying somewhat from the format which established the ECS has one of the most competitive tournaments in the scene, this fourth edition will have the challenging aim of creating more high-stakes matches than recent competitions did, without risking to exclude smaller teams in the early stages.

The tournament's structure has been therefore reworked, with the first 12 seeded teams being spread in three different groups, A, B & C whereas the 7 remaining ones will fight each other in Group D. This should hopefully provide for a fair middle-ground where most encounters remain exciting and where the less experienced teams don't exit the tournament after two stomps.




With the group stage now finished and each of the different ladders (Challenger, Master & Championship) about to begin, we felt like this was as good timing as any to reflect back on the ECS story, with three editions already behind us. From the title we have chosen, many will hopefully recognize a tribute to Osiris' video for the WNL. In a similar fashion, we wanted to go back in time with you all and take a look at how everything started but also how the ECS as a tournament, changed the course of competitive warband for good.
 
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Tardet

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THE STORY SO FAR


4th of August 2013. As Apis Europae cruises past Legends in the 12th and last week of the Warband Native League 2, they conclude their second successful European run of 2013, equalling at the time the record set by the Guard of Istiniar as the only team which had ever won two back-to-back major trophies. Although IG had managed to redeem themselves after a poor showing in the first WNL season by securing the silver medal in this one, this period definitely outlined a shift in the scene's dominance. With a new European superteam visibly willing to create a lasting legacy in the competitive community and many rivals awaiting their chances to dethrone the current champion, the atmosphere was suitable to establish greatness.

Looking back at it, it wasn't only within the teams' hierarchy that things were changing. This second season of the Warband Native League also comforted Deacon in his administrative role, as much as it helped to reveal Scar's undeniable talent as an admin. It also marked the last tournament hosted by Goliath and Mayund, who although had both been instrumental in setting up the foundations of the league, were no longer going to be seen among the WNL administrative crew for the editions to come.

With the Warband Native League out of the way, and the Nations Cup having already taken place earlier that year, Deacon & Scar had free rein to push another project of theirs at the centre of the competitive scene. This is how the European Championship Series came to be.



Part 1 - Pushing competitiveness forward


A | The Qualifiers - An already very competitive first ground.

From the start, the first season of the ECS marked a significant change in the way to approach tournament's formats. While the ENL and WNL had been massive leagues often spread in several divisions (meaning everyone had a chance to play in them but also were meant to commit on the long term), the ECS focused more on the top-level of the scene. The aim was to create a more considerable amount of exciting and close fights, increasing the stakes as your team could be out after playing a couple of matches only.

The tournament's reveal went live on September the 30, with 16 spots officially announced. Of those 16 spots, 12 were reserved for the invited teams with the 4 remaining to be attributed during a qualifier taking place just before the competition's start.

The amount of competitive players undoubtedly being at an all-time high, not everyone could be directly invited to the main event. Although hard to imagine now, a large number of skilled and experienced teams were therefore due to meet in the qualifier stage, hoping to grab one of these sought-after four spots. With the likes of Sbo, Nameless, AB, PaD, OrP, Bohemian Guard or Wolfpack being registered, this pre-tournament was going to be incredibly intense, especially with the sign-up of KURWA - a mixture of ex TnT players led by SotaMursu - meant to spice things up even more. Each team was thus spread into four groups of three, with the best team from each of these groups qualifying for the main event. After the two qualifying rounds were played, Sbo, AB, KURWA and the Bohemian Guard emerged on top; thus the real tournament could begin.

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(OrP, Wolfpack or Nameless being already out after the qualifiers phase is a testimony of the intensity present in tournaments back then)

B | The Group Stage - In the end, they were only height.

The first part of the ECS main event unfolded as a GSL group stage, pretty similar to the qualifier one with the main difference being the presence of four teams in each group (unlike the three of the qualifiers) and with two teams qualifying in the end for the knockout stage. Each of these groups was defined during a draw night, hosted by Captain Lust on Horse & Sword.

In Group A, the seasoned veterans from Court of Reveran made quick work of the freshly qualified Armata Brancaleone during the first week whereas Westward managed to give quite the hard-time to Inquisition (14-10 final score), one of the squads foreseen to pose a real threat to Apis Europae. The CIS team stepped it up during their winner match against CoR and qualified for the next phase while in the lower-bracket, Westward sent the Italians from AB home after a convincing victory. In the tie-breaker match, however, Court of Reveran proved too much to handle for the Turkish team, as they defeated Mete_Khan and his men 12-4.

Group B had the potential to offer a tantalizing derby between French powerhouse Renegades and their home-soil rival, Legends. For that to happen, both teams had to win their opener against the Bohemian Guard and Polish veterans from Saracens respectively. Although RNGD had no trouble defeating the first, Legends' heroic defence against Saracens wasn't enough as the poles - powered by a strong Sebek - took the match, 10-6. SRC and RNGD were therefore due to meet in the winner match and after a nail-biting series which saw acts of individual and collective brilliance on each side, Nubijuki's men were able to edge the victory 9-7. On the lower side of the bracket, Bohemians were torn to pieces by Legends - who had gained massively in strength with the addition of Tobi & Peter. The use of Nord horse archers from the french side on Snowy Village was the last nail in the Bohemian Guard's coffin, setting-up an exciting rematch between Saracens & Legends for the final playoff spot. With the momentum carried from their match against Bohemians, Legend was able to take revenge from their earlier defeat against the Poles as they convincingly defeated Saracens 11-5 and qualified for the quarter-finals.

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(Yup, this was a competitive map 7 years ago. And it made for one of the most interesting match-ups in the group stage of the ECS)

Group C played out a bit differently than the other groups. With Call of Cthulhu (one of the invited team) withdrawing from the tournament one day before their expected match against tournament's favourite Apis Europae, Nameless was given a second chance and replaced them. However, due to the late timing, the match couldn't be replayed, and Nameless was directly sent in the lower-bracket. There, they faced Schwertbrüderorden which had shown clear signs of trouble against the Teutonic Knights in their first-week match and which, once again, couldn't achieve much as Nameless solely defeated them on the same scoreline, 13-3. In the winner-match, Apis Europae logically defeated the Teutonic squad with ease to take the first seed spot of their group. The tie-breaker could have been an exciting encounter yet ended-up being once more extremely one-sided, as the Teutonic Knights cruised past Nameless, 12-4 final score.

The four remaining teams composing Group D arguably made it the group of death, with Wonwokie, Heroes, IG & KURWA all capable of making a decent run in the playoffs, at least on paper. After their decisive run in the qualifiers, many were awaiting KURWA's first match yet the score was deceiving as IG solely defeated Sotamursu' squad in their opener, 11-5. The other match in week 1 was much closer, but it was eventually Heroes who prevailed against Wonwokie after a strong showing as Sarranids on San'di'bush in the last set. The CIS team was, however, unable to close the skill-gap in the winner-match against IG who crushed them with ease while qualifying for the playoffs in an outstanding fashion. On the lower side of the bracket, KURWA almost fell for the trap set by Wonwokie as they barely escaped elimination but as they faced Heroes in the tie-breaker for that group, they definitely proved what they had been foreseen as one of the hot prospects of this tournament, crushing their CIS opposition 14-2 on Mountain Fortress and Reveran Village.

C | The Knock-out Stage - Road to glory.

After these three intense weeks of competition in the main event, filled with many tense match-ups, we, therefore, had our 8 qualified teams for the knockout stage of the ECS. With the fixtures defined as Vaegis & Swadia battling it out on Village and Nords & Rhodoks on Field by the Rivers, these four tantalizing quarter-finals (Inquisition vs KURWA, RNGD vs Teutonic, IG vs Legends & AE vs CoR) promised some proper warband display, each encounter to be more exciting than the other. On paper, they definitely held the promises set-up by the ECS to bring warband competition to another level, but in practice, they played out a bit differently.

Inquisition against KURWA was the first quarter-final to take place and served as a reminder that despite their struggle in the group stage, the squad assembled by Sotarmusu was definitely a title-contender in the ECS, as they made quick work of Bendetto’s team, 12-4. Although this wasn’t necessarily the expected score, it definitely sent a message to the rest of the knockout teams. Meeting the expectations of this new stage, KURWA had increased their level of play by a significant margin and had to be taken as one of the most serious threats moving into the semi-finals. This wasn’t the only stomp in the quarters, however, as Apis Europae cruised past Court of Reveran in a similar fashion as KURWA, 13-3. Confirming their status of favourite at the same time, the bees from Europe clearly had their sights on yet another trophy as they were set to face their old rival IG, who had just defeated Legends in what looked to be a rather tense and keenly contested match. Though logic had been respected with the favourite qualifying for the next round, praises had to be given to Legends which had achieved its best run in a major tournament and undoubtedly held a strong potential to establish themselves amongst the top moving forward.

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(Legend denying four match points in their quarter-final against IG to bring the game to OT was a massive tournament highlight)

The last quarter-final opposing the french super team Renegades to the Turkish veterans from Teutonics ended-up being the closest match-up in these quarter-finals. Put in difficulty on Village, Renegades had to battle hard to close-up the deficit on FbtR and was only able to secure the draw in the very last. OT was therefore required to decide between both teams but with the match having dragged-on for a long time and rules not being perfectly clear on the conduct to follow in such a situation, it was decided by the tournament’s administration that the remaining rounds would be played the following Sunday, effectively delaying the tournament for a week. This raised the light on an issue which had been present in the scene for quite a while already (and that would continue to develop in the years to come) where most teams were unable to play at full strength other than on Sundays, effectively causing huge headaches to the admins in the case of unexpected delays. Eventually, the OT between Renegades and Teutonics was played-out and it was the Frenchmen who came on top, concluding the list of the four semifinalists.

Although mental fortitude and experience had powered Renegades through that quarter-final, the weaknesses they had shown in that particular match legitimately raised questions about their chances going against KURWA. Foreseen as one of the teams capable of posing a real threat to AE’s victory at the beginning of the tournament, Renegades couldn’t ignore that the odds had now slightly shifted towards a KURWA squad which looked like it had never stopped gaining in skill and momentum throughout the course of the event.

Such shift ended-up being confirmed very early in that semi-final, as KURWA gave Renegades an absolute tactical lesson on the open map, Snowy Village. Pressured from every part, unable to develop their gameplan and largely outclassed in skill, Nubujiki’s men were unable to contest their opponent during the first part of the match, consequently letting the scoreline spiral out of control. They were eventually able to show a much better face on Verloren, fighting KURWA on an equal level, unfortunately, the score advantage given-up on the first map was way too large and a 4-4 draw on the close-map was nowhere near enough to give hopes to the French squad. KURWA, therefore, went on to qualify for its first grand-final, eagerly waiting for the winner of Apis Europae versus Istiniar Guard. What could have been another banging semi-final ended-up however being yet another stomp from AE. Looking nowhere as good as during the group stage and even their quarter-final, IG was largely outclassed in every game aspects, confirming the trend established since the beginning of 2013 that even though they were still capable to perform deep runs in tournaments, IG was no longer able to contest the current best team in Europe. That responsibility was now laying in the hands of KURWA to stand in the way of a third major title in a row for the boys in black & yellow.

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(Nubijuki & Neathar being cornered down and decimated was an accurate representation of RGND's performance against KURWA on the first map of that semi-final)

D | The Grand Final - Eye to eye with the elite.

Vendetta & Ruins ended-up being the maps chosen for this grand-final, one which had all the ingredients to be an amazing warband match. On paper, Apis Europae was obviously the favourite but a lot of knowledgeable personalities, including community manager Captain Lust, made it clear that if one team could defeat them, it had to be KURWA.

On a map such as Vendetta, where rangers were given countless spots to shoot from, and with Vaegirs being the most balanced faction out of the two, Apis Europae definitely had the chance to run away with an early lead as they started as Vaegirs with a 3 archers set-up. It was still KURWA as Sarranids who managed to strike the first blow by taking a strong early lead with three flags in a row spawning at the tower. Eventually, AE was able to slightly recover by stealing the last round of the set away but nobody could ignore the statement made by KURWA in that first side. The back to back champions was gonna have to play their A-game in order to beat them and use every resource at their disposal. Either that map actually somewhat favoured Sarranids or the spawn they had (inside the city) did, but AE’s face completely changed once they started the second side. Although they had only made one replacement in the form of BD taking Cleric’s spot as infantry, they were far more dominating in team fights, using that constant rain of arrows from their three archers to pressure the KURWA’s team. With only one flag out of four spawnings at tower, the bees from Europe were able to show more of their tactical abilities and positionings in other areas of Vendetta and ended-up taking back the lead at half-time, smashing KURWA 4-0 on the second side. Both teams had arrived on the server, the grand final was on.

Starting the second map with a two rounds lead, given how the match had begun, was undoubtedly huge for AE. But as the experienced team they were, they knew KURWA couldn’t be counted out before they were mathematically beaten. Convinced by the three archers set-up they had run on each side of Vendetta, they replicated the same composition as Nord on Ruins. Although that many rangers could be equally - if not even more - deadly on an open map, Nord was definitely not the best faction to make the better of such a large number of rangers. KURWA’s choice as Sarranids was even more incongruous as they opted for a single archer, four infantries, three cavalries set-up. The game plan was therefore simple on paper, KURWA had to rush the fight before AE could set-up their archers in a deadly crossfire. The first round showed exactly that, as KURWA’s gamble on the flag paid off. Unable to set-up their archer properly and with Vivar stepping-up massively to the task, AE was unable to put enough pressure on the flag, allowing KURWA to raise it just a tiny bit enough for them to win the round in the very last second. Certainly powered by that strong debut, KURWA’s flair for flag continued to pay off as they were never completely out of position in any of the two following rounds. This allowed them to once again deny AE’s three archers set-up once the flag had spawned, fighting in areas where their infantries were favoured, and consequently picking-up two more rounds. Just as the repeat of the first map, however, AE ended-up stealing the last round of the half very much against the current momentum favouring KURWA by baiting them into a chaotic tower fight which turned at their advantage. The score was therefore perfectly even (6-6) and whoever would win this last set, was going to be crowned the winner of the European Championship Series.

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(That part of the map could have very well be renamed 'Tower of Hell' by Apis Europae given how many fights they lost around it in the first side of the grand-final)

On Sarranids, AE went for a much more traditional set-up, a regular four cavalries, two archers, two infantries set-up while KURWA kept the exact same composition they had run previously, this time as Nords. Once again, KURWA was quicker on the flag and had already raised it half-way with one minute left on the mark and AE infantries just arriving nearby. This time, however, their cavalry had it differently and with a massive quadra kill from Rey, they were able to put it back in the end, with only a couple second left in the timer when they finished KURWA last players on the flag. Back in the driver seat, AE was able to secure the following round in brilliant fashion, being just one round away from making history. But that’s also where KURWA’s own genius and skill was eventually going to show. With their back against the walls in the third round of that last set, with their best performing player from the set prior, Vivar, crashing at this very instant and forcing them in a 7v8, with every odds against them, KURWA did not give up. The fight that followed next must be one of the most amazing displays of mental fortitude ever witnessed in competitive warband. Despite being one man down, KURWA lured AE into a deadly trap around the main ruin area, picking-up four kills in quick successions, and despite AE’s best efforts to try and bring that round back, KURWA was able to secure it in the end, with half their players alive on top of that. Their infantries now fully geared-up and with just one round away from being able to bring the game to overtime, KURWA had now every chance to come back into that game and win the whole thing.

Sadly, that’s where an unfortunate incident happened in the last round. A troll who had found access to the admin password, logged onto the server and started banning players left, right and centre, causing the match to stop and ensuing chaos. The following discussion which happened both on the forums and on steam, with each team blaming each other for the incident, caused a huge drama, a drama which could not be resolved in time as both teams refused, then accepted to replay the last round/set in different timings. In the end, Apis Europae ended-up being awarded the default win and was crowned champion but there is no arguing that the way that grand-final had been ruined could not let anyone be satisfied with the conclusion of this amazing tournament.

Conclusion| What did the community learn from the European Championship Season 1?

The European Champion Series was a pioneer tournament in what it brought to the scene. Sure, some of the issues which were spotted in that tournament had appeared way before that but the idea of pushing competition forward also highlighted the necessity of fixing them in order to have a healthy competition going. Here is the list of all the important features in the scene that would change later after the ECS.


  • First and foremost, the incident that happened in the grand-final and that completely ruined what could have been one of the most amazing warband matches, but also gave one of the finalist teams - here KURWA - an understandable sentiment of unfairness, could not happen again.
Fix: A whitelisted admin permission which would no longer be linked solely to a password but also to your GUID. This would allow the admin team to have a constant track of which people had access to the admin password and prevent anyone from getting away with such disruptive behaviour.
  • The randomness of the flag that could potentially spawn four times in a row in one set, giving a random advantage to a team.
Fix: A script that would prevent the flag from spawning twice in a row in the same location, during one set.
  • The tie-breaker being a replay Bo2 in the first map, then if needed of the second, until one team took a decisive lead, leading to potential forever-lasting OTs.
Fix: A completely new map, Winterburg, created specifically for OT, with mirrored spawn and faction, played out in a Ft3.
  • The Bo4 set, leading more than often in 2-2 draws, creating very similar matches with very similar sets.
Fix: A new Ft3 format for each set.
  • The fact that players could be recruited by a better team once their team was eliminated, creating unfair competition.
Fix: Forbidding players to switch teams once the final stage (often the knockout-stage) had begun. Eventually, later on, a capped system where players that would play one official match with one team could see themselves removed from the roster if they (or their captain) wished to, but would remain tied to the roster thread as ‘capped players’ and could not be added to another team roster for the remainder of the tournament.

Some of these changes took months, if not years, to be put into effect. But there is no denying that the ECS, in the way it unfolded, helped the scene tremendously in not only increasing the overall level of competition but also creating a fairer, more coherent atmosphere in warband tournaments. It is a huge part of warband history, that every blader should take the time to understand. For a lot of us, this was our first major tournament, one we’ll always remember regardless of how we performed. But for the warband competitive scene as a whole, this was definitely something more. A shifting moment, one that would definitely shape the future of our community and impact other competitions, years after it was initially hosted.



TITLE IS A TRIBUTE TO OSIRIS WNL5'S VIDEO, ARTICLE BROUGHT TO YOU BY @BLADECAST_TV, CUSTOM GRAPHICS BY @ROSSLINGTON, ECS LOGO IS PROPERTY OF THE ECS TEAM, WRITTEN BY @TARDET
 
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Tardet

French Toast
Count
NW
Everyone should be able to know where they come from. Here's a chance for some of our newest player to learn that and for the oldest, to let nostalgia take them onto to a trip to better, simpler times.

Kudos to anyone who is mad enough to read the entire thing but even cross-reading through the article is appreciated enough.
 
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Alyss

Grandmaster Knight
I am glad we got new maps since the old days ^^ Must have been pretty awful playing on snowy mountain
 

GrafBlade

Knight at Arms
I will read all of it tomorrow, but just from taking a look at the screenshots, seeing this maps, the clans and all this player names, I can just take up your words:

I let nostalgia take me onto a trip to better, simpler times! Nice work!
 

Teroa

Sergeant at Arms
While I was reading this, I got a bit thrown back in time. In the last 15 minutes it was amazing to experience this great part of warband history again.

Very nice!
 

Tardet

French Toast
Count
NW
Thanks for all the wonderful feedbacks guys, appreciate it a lot. I added some credits at the end of the article, hope I didn't forget anybody.

where is ecs2, up next I hope
There should be 3 parts in total, one for each season of the ECS, that will be posted on this thread.

Generally speaking, we (BladeCast) were a bit lacking stream & content-wise for the group stage (mostly my fault tbh) but we'll definitely try to step it up for the remainder of the tournament.
 
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