The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015

April 29, 2015 // 11:45 p.m.

Tags: #esports #the-grand-finals-2015 #wargaming #wargamingnet #world-of-tanks #world-of-tanks-grand-finals-2015-results

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015

This past weekend, thousands of tank lovers and esports fans descended on the EXPO XXI in Warsaw, Poland, where the sounds of tank cannons firing and armour ripping could be heard from all around. That's because it was the second Grand Finals of the Wargaming.net league, the esports division of World of Tanks, which pitted the twelve finest World of Tanks teams against each other over two gruelling days of battles so that one could earn the title of world champions and earn a cool $150,000 in the process.

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge

In recognition of World of Tanks' growth in popularity as an esport, the venue this year was bigger than last. However, Wargaming actually underestimated how many would turn up to the free event, which unfortunately meant many were left waiting outside for hours. Thankfully, the sun was shining brightly, at least on the first day, and there was a stream set up for the outdoor pundits to watch (as well as Twitch streams in English, Polish and Russian for global fans). Still, it seems like a bigger venue is in order for next year's Grand Finals...

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge

Proceedings were kicked off with a press conference featuring Wargaming's CEO, Victor Kislyi, and director of esports, Mohamed Fadl, as well as representatives from two of the event's sponsors, Intel and Razer. The stage layout, lighting and sound system made it abundantly clear that Wargaming is taking esports very seriously – it was as much about spectacle and entertainment as it was about the games and players, just as is the case with any more established esports championship. In fact, the company has already invested $26 million in esports in its short three year presence, a number sure to rise as the viewership and potential revenue also does.

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge

Also announced were the new Bronze, Silver and Gold leagues, designed to nurture the game's best players and give them something of a clear, upwards career path in esports. Bronze league is for those skilled solo players, and will aim to entice them to become more competitive and form teams. Silver is for the semi-pro teams, with Wargaming promising to help the best ones with promotion and finding sponsorship, and Gold is for established pro teams. Here, Wargaming will actually provide teams a regular salary outside of any sponsorship and winnings, with the aim of allowing it to become a full time job. Exactly how much a single team will earn was not revealed, but Wargaming has a current annual budget of $3 million, with $750,000 allocated to each region.

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge - Natus Vincere (top) returned to defend their title (bottom)

With the conference over it was time to pit tanks against tanks. Returning to defend their title after last year's win was Natus Vincere, also known as Na'Vi, as well as Virtus.PRO who were surely looking to take revenge on Na'Vi after their defeat in the 2014 finals. Last year's bronze medallists, HellRaisers (know before as Unity), also made a re-apperance, as did the Korean team ARETE. The remaining eight teams were newcomers to the Grand Finals looking to prove their worth. These included Schoolbus, ELONG, RUlette, RG.RAZER (Reform Gaming) and YaTo Gaming, as well as two teams who gained entry after receiving a Wild Card – Kazna Kru and WP.SC6 (Santa Claus and Six Deers).

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge

Wargaming has been very open about the fact that the battle structure in last year's finals simply didn't work from an esports perspective. The ten minute battles were often drawn out affairs with both teams camping almost the entire time, and often ending in a draw – hardly exciting for the viewership. It responded by shaking up the Team Battle mode with shorter rounds and new Attack/Defence rules that eliminate the possibility of a draw. Each match was determined by a best of nine rounds, with each team attacking and defending twice on two maps, with a tiebreaker on a new map to decide a winner if there was a draw after eight rounds. The impact was immediate, with battles now being much more heated, often culminating in multi-tank shootouts where speed, precision and teamwork were vital to success. The crowd reactions said it all – loud cheers, jumping out of seats and incessant banging of thundersticks. The new rules and structure were badly needed for World of Tanks to gain ground in the esports arena.

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge

The first day was the group stage. Each seven man team played against the other two teams in their group, which were selected such that no one group could have more than one team from the same region. At the end of the day, two teams remained from each group, meaning four would be eliminated and go home with nothing. Returning champs Na'Vi dominated the day with two 5:0 wins, while RG.RAZER humiliatingly lost 5:0 to both teams in their group. ARETE were also knocked out on day 1, and neither team from the North American league, (RUlette and Elevate) were able to dish out enough freedom to their enemies to keep themselves in the running.

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge

The second day had a few surprises in store. In the first match, Wild Card team Kazna Kru trumped their EU league rivals Schoolbus for a place in the semis. However, after defeating the other Wild Card team (WP.SC6), ELONG then did the same to Kazna Kru and secured a spot in the Grand Final – while they may have been lucky to face both Wild Card teams in the knockout stages, no-one expected a Chinese team to make it that far.

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge - ELONG were understandably thrilled to make the finals

Na'Vi saw off Virtus.PRO, who were unable to take revenge after last year's defeat in the finals, instead losing 5:3. They then faced off against HellRaisers, who only secured a semi-final position after a narrow victory over YaTo Gaming in a match that went all the way to the tiebreaker – the only one of the day to do so. However, HellRaisers came out fighting strong in the semis, and crushed Na'Vi 5:2, sending the previous champions packing. It was a bitter pill for Na'Vi to swallow, but they saved some face by whitewashing Kazna Kru in the battle for third place and earning themselves $35,000, leaving Kazna Kru with $20,000 and the remaining quarter finalists with $5,000 apiece.

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge - HellRaisers were likewise ecstatic about defeating the reigning champions, Na'Vi

At last, it was time for the final match of the 2014/15 Wargaming.net league season. HellRaisers at this stage were now looking unstoppable, and despite some valiant attempts from ELONG, they couldn't be halted, winning the Grand Finals 2015 with a 7:1 thrashing. They were crowned champions and awarded $150,000, while ELONG had to settle for $75,000.

The Wargaming.net League Grand Finals 2015
Click to enlarge - There could be only one winner - congratulations, HellRaisers!

If you want to catch up on the action, the full matches can be viewed on the WGL EU YouTube channel, while highlights can be found on the Wargaming Europe one. Also stay tuned here for an interview with Wargaming's director of esports, Mohamed Fadl.
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