Week 1 - Badwater
This match is actually a throwback to the Challenge Cup Grand Finals (check the VOD here!) in which dK was victorious on Badwater versus Froyotech, despite Froyo taking the match overall. I won't stray too much from the path here and I expect dK to take the W again. The big thing to note is that the rosters for each team are different than those from their last matchup. dK has replaced 4 players with only saam, bo4r, and Deaft returning, whereas Froyo has only switched three of their players, replacing Freestate, Cookiejake, and paddie with arekk, garbuglio, and shade. Arguments can be made that Froyo has definitely come back stronger, but with the map being Badwater, it definitely feels like dK should have the upper-hand.
I'm projecting that both bo4r and corsa will perma-snipe for either side, which I'm super interested to see the rematch of. They tied for frags back in November with each getting 29 and also tied the SvS at 8. I'm assuming the battle will be just as hard fought, with neither Sniper willing to budge. With the Razorback and Darwin's Danger Shield being default bans along with Machina and Jarate being banned by Froyo, perhaps this will hinder the Snipers a bit, but I think both have done more with less in the past.
The dark horse in this one will be Deaft, who is currently the #1 Spy in UGC Highlander. If he can keep corsa off balance and take shade's lunch on more than one occasion, he can do a lot to swing the pendulum in dK's favor. Froyo did smartly ban the Dead Ringer to hamper Deaft, but with the Amby and L'Etranger being saved, it seems like dK had a plan to go in and give him plenty of toys to work with.
The huge boost in dK's favor is the big brain of dK Karl himself. Although b4nny's intellect and calling abilities have set him apart from the other players in 6s, from a purely Payload standpoint, he will have his work cut out for him with Karl calling the shots on the other end.
The last thing I'll mention about the Pick/Ban is that I really liked Froyo's strategy through it. They banned a few things to keep bo4r mainly to stock items, banned the Fists of Steel to stop Karl from just riding the cart, saved the Kritzkrieg after they realized the Wrangler was banned, then banned the Short Circuit. Froyo might be able to get away with full-time Kritz because of the Wrangler being out of the equation, with no Short Circuit to stop them. Well played.
If Froyo can get in the mindset of how to play Payload, they could come out and completely smash dK, but with Badwater being an equalizer in this sense, I'm expecting history to repeat itself and for dK to come out on top. My advice to Froyo is to run a Pyro or focus your Scout on Spy-checking, because when left alone, Deaft will tear your combo to shreds. The only question left on my mind is, "Who will play Engineer?"
This game definitely has the possibility of getting out of hand in a hurry, but for now, I'll stay cautious with only a 2-1 victory for Cat Noises. Despite Generations sporting a roster that should be totally comfortable on the map, Cat Noises has an advantage, nearly class-for-class. First, let's talk about the Scouts. Neither player is unfamiliar with success, but Slemnish's career runs deeper than syath's. I expect the 1v1s that may occur between the two could go either way, but overall Slemnish should have the advantage in the fight. In terms of bans for Scout, nothing too egregious is missing and I don't anticipate the lack of an Atmoizer or Bonk! making much of a difference. Even in terms of what's in the field of play for Scouts, I expect both to run Scattergun/Milk/Basher.
exile vs campy on Demo is really too close to call in my eyes, with exile being stronger in Highlander and campy reaching higher levels in 6s. I'll reserve my judgement as not to look like a fool. Sniper vs Sniper is of course, the most important battle of them all. In terms of raw skill, andrew does narrowly beat out Fallen Lord, but with Shotaway (Spy for Generations) likely to get double-digit Sniper kills, Fallen could go on an absolute rampage, as he did recently in a Highlander scrim which included the two.
The question is, can the remaining utility players work hard enough to overcome their counterparts? I'd expect zuchima for Generations to run the helm at Engineer, unless their sub and Engineer main, wax plays, but Spamfest is quite literally, as good as they come. However, we have seen keeping sentries up be quite difficult in Prolander so far. Will Spamfest's experience be negated by this or will his rock solid be enough to make up for it? I suppose we'll have to see come match time.
Looking further into the picks/bans, the only other surprise to me is Generations banning Spy weapons when they have a top-tier spy in Shotaway playing. Perhaps he's confident enough without Amby/DR to succeed, but I'm not sure who they're trying to hinder on UwU with those bans.
Generations is going to need to come prepared and blitz off of any momentum Cat Noises give them. In the beginning I was actually leaning their way, until I remembered how much andrew, Spamfest, and Slemnish can do to put this game in UwU's favor.