Team leagues are wonderful, complex things. With so many matches and so many players in every single match there are countless ways in which results can turn out. Players have bad and good days. Sometimes your best line-up isn't available. Often you can find yourself at a quick deficit because of some well-thought cheese - or from an unfortunate build order loss.
Every map in a team league match is essentially a single Bo1 between two players - it's extremely volatile. At the beginning of every match there will be a team who is favored or players who are expected to do particularly well - yet we frequently see upsets and surprising map victories stringing together into a match victory for the underdogs. Team leagues lend themselves to these situations and that is what makes them so complex and hard to predict.
Currently in the SC2Improve Team League we have two teams who stand out above the others as teams who have surprised us with a string of fantastic match results which has lead them to being the leaders of each of their groups. Team ALTERNATE are the current leaders of Group A with a 6-0 (+18) score, while Team Redbloods lead Group B at 6-2 (+4). These two teams are not the teams many people would have expected to see at the top of the league at this late stage of the competition - so what has brought them so far?
Team ALTERNATE (aTn) are an all German team who have been around since the beginning of Starcraft 2 and have been home to players such as Socke, Cloud and DarKFoRcE alongside numerous others. Last season ALTERNATE just missed out on a place in the playoffs in the SC2ITL, placing behind Team Gravity and Cascade by map score. Between seasons however there was a significant change to the aTn roster - on September 18th ShoWTimE, a frequent WCS Premier League player throughout 2013 and 2014, joined the team.
Having always hosted a small roster of at most five players while playing in the SC2ITL it is important for everybody in the team to pull their weight when it comes to every clan war. Even with an impressive ace player up their sleeves heading into Season 3, it just isn't feasible to expect ShoWTimE to win every map he plays - and that is where Lambo comes in. A very strong Zerg player who has the ability to pack a very strong punch to their opponents line-up. Lambo has delivered multiple of these punches already this season, being a key player in many of the teams victories by taking 3 or even 4 maps in a single series.
By combining these two heavy hitters with the unpredictable play of their frequent starter in matches KnowMe alongside strong 'filler players' ARes and kauP you will very quickly realize why ALTERNATE have done so well already this season. A strong all-around roster with no real weak points. While not all of their players are superstars, their thirst to perform well in the league brings them victory after victory. Their real test will come in their next match, where they go up against mYinsanity. After this however there is only a weakened ESC Gaming, an up-and-down Karnage eSports and two of the lower teams in the league Mouse Control and Followers of Extermination who stand between them and their place in the playoffs.
Being a freshly formed team coming into the third season of the SC2ITL nobody really knew what to expect from Team Redbloods. Based on performances in other leagues it would have been fair to guess that they would most likely be a team who would end up in the scrap for the final position in the playoffs in Group B. What we actually saw from the team was something very different. After six matches the team were 6-0, but it had not been an easy journey as they had gone through four ace matches to create this record.
Interestingly Redbloods are another team who host a very small roster of players - similar to ALTERNATE. The four players they use in their line-up each match is the same, Protoss players Ignite and SpaceMarine, Terran player Lillekanin and Zerg player HaNfy. At a quick glance it is a roster which doesn't strike very much fear into their opponents - but as with ALTERNATE each and every player seems to give it everything they have got to push the team to victory each week.
It was not just one single player who came out in each of the ace matches and closed things out - in fact out of their four ace matches it was a different player each time who stepped up to the occasion. This combination from the entire team, who sometimes even found themselves fighting from behind, is what has brought them this far. It is hard to call which victory was the biggest upset of theirs - when they beat AT Gaming, Season 2 champions, or Cascade, who had only dropped one map in four matches when the two teams clashed.
They have fallen into a slight slump in the last couple of weeks, with losses to StarTale and Team Gravity - a slump they will need to pull themselves out of if they want to finish as strong as they started to make it to the playoffs. Their remain matches are against aAa, DarkStar and Derava Kapsa. They will go into the DarkStar and Derava Kapsa matches as the favorites and as long as they can claim both of these victories a playoff spot will be guaranteed for them.