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☆ESOC Autumn 2017 Grand Finals☆
Sunday, January 21st: 18:00 GMT


The three-match, the grudge match, the long awaited show down; known by all since the brackets were first released, LordRaphael vs _H2O is here! Wait what? No, the grand finals doesn't feature the long antcipated showdown between upper vs lower bracket favorites, but @Mitoe vs. @goongoon is here and trust me, it is everything you want and more.

Mitoe, the champion of the lower bracket, and representing the famous team houshe clan, is looking to secure his major tournament win after coming so close in recent ESOC history. After a 2nd place in the Starvation Tournament, 4th place in the Spring, and 3rd place in the WarChiefs, now is the time for Mitoe to ascend to greatness. His opponent, goongoon, has also flirted with the top. Top 8 in Autumn 2016 and 3rd place in Summer 2015, losing in both cases to the eventual champion, goongoon has the pedigree to deserve to stand at the top. Who will win? This seems to be the most difficult finals to predict in the history of ESOC as neither player is a clear favorite. What can be said, is it seems for certain that the players will be prepared as the rumors circulating in discord and ESO are strong. Mitoe is frequently seen in a private chat with H2O late into the night, surely grinding through the map pool and discussing possible scenarios. Meanwhile, one of goongoon's close friends has reappeared on ESOC in the last week and is seeking games from top players, including Mitoe. Ladies and gentlemen, even without the expected participants, this finals should prove to be one of the most thrilling yet, so make sure to tune in this Sunday on Twitch to ESOCtv.

Watch live at:
http://www.twitch.tv/esoctv
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Hello again everyone. Last time, we a resilient French force grind out a win against Russia. Today brings a game that won’t go down as a classic in of itself, but was still a violent, if short, affair with enormous stakes and huge consequences.
This game was played on Tibet and casted by Radix Lecti.

Background
Two tournaments ago, goongoon and LordRaphael met at this same stage, and the result was a three hour epic filled with tension and momentum swings game after game. It went the distance and in the end, LordRaphael prevailed en route to a (some would say shocking) upset of _H2O in the finals, 5-1. goongoon, never quite the bride but always the bridesmaid, entered this game with a chance to avenge his loss, holding match point. LordRaphael, needing a win to stay alive, picked first and opted for the ever-popular Aztecs.

A Call Answered
In the first installment of this series, we saw Aizamk defeat diarouga with his unconventional Sioux play. It was the prelude to this tournament, and I ended that piece wondering who would be the next player to be bold enough take up the Sioux in a big game. All tournament long, I’ve looked for good Sioux games. And while they have been played, there hadn’t seemed to be a player willing to go to them in a critical moment. That call, sounding from war drums and echoing down the Great Plains, had gone for so long unanswered. Other nations had had their day, but the Sioux bow riders were still waiting for their moment in the sun.
They would wait no more. To my delight, goongoon picked the Sioux.

So The Drama
So this ensuing game was actually the third attempt to play it. It was first was restarted when goongoon mistakenly picked Alaska instead of the scheduled Tibet, then again about ninety seconds into attempt two, when LordRaphael asked for a re, saying he’d accidentally picked a sea deck. Caster Radix Lecti allowed the replay, but not without reservations from goongoon. goongoon left the lobby and this game was played only after he returned a few minutes later. And so when the stage was finally set for game 6, tensions were already sky high.

Openings
The faster Sioux explorer gifts Age I to goongoon. He’s able to dash around the map and pick up treasures and guardians, and Lordraphael is forced to hug the bottom corner of the map, or else run the risk of being picked off by the Sioux horseback explorer. LordRaphael is able to grab a couple small treasures while goongoon takes several more and places a trading post, as well as three teepees. They hit the requisite 800 food around the same time, but while goongoon elects to go up with wood, LordRaphael goes up fast.
Two tigers, tamed by the Sioux, are wandering around the mountains of Tibet when they come across an enemy construction. At least three Aztec villagers rush to complete an aggressive war hut on time to match the quick age up. How two tigers were able to relay this information to the Sioux warriors is something I will never know, but nevertheless if LordRaphael had any hopes of surprise they were gone as quick as they’d come. Yes, Tibet is a map filled with chokepoints and favors a long, defensive game. But this is Aztecs and Sioux. Those types of games aren’t in their playbook.
This may as well be Yukon.

First Contact
A second trading post goes up for goongoon during transition, but the sight of the forward war hut puts a rest to any plans he had of an econ game. More teepees line the mountainside, and he places a war hut of his own. When the Aztec army comes, it takes out a trading post instantly before turning its sights on the base. There’s a skirmish, but teepees are too strong. A simple counter push of Cetan Bows, villagers, and the tigers are enough to hold the Aztec army off. goongoon ships Axe Riders and sends them to the north of the map to raid. At the same time, the regrouped Aztec army pushes back into the Sioux base. LordRaphael finds more success this time, taking out two teepees and doing some damage to the superpowered Cetan Bows with his Coyote Runners. He’s also able to kill the tigers. But the push doesn’t come close to threatening goongoon’s position. His infantry are simply too strong when in the protection of teepees, and goongoon has plenty more still standing at the top of his base. To win the game and stay alive, LordRaphael is going to have to figure out another way in.

Coyotes vs. goongoon
The armies wander around the map for a while. A game of cat and mouse plays out between goongoon’s Axe Riders and LordRaphael’s entire army. Meanwhile, a mismacro causes Raphael to ship his 600 wood to his forward hut instead of his town center. Forced to send at least one villager down there anyway, Raphael moves several, probably hoping to secure more resources for later. He tasks several villagers to a hunt, and then the Sioux army comes sweeping in.
goongoon catches LordRaphael in an awkward moment. The Aztec army is split up, and the villagers are vulnerable in the center, trapped by the Tibetan cliffs on one side and the Sioux army on the other. LordRaphael collapses upon the Sioux in a fight that seesaws back and forth. At the top, goongoon’s Axe Riders make quick work of the Aztec Macehaultin. But the Riders wander too far, and then reinforcing Coyote Runners rush in to pick off the unprotected Cetan Bows. Away from the protective aura of the teepees and the bodyblocking Axe Riders, the Sioux infantry which had thwarted LordRaphael’s aggression just a minute before are wiped out.
Having regained momentum, LordRaphael doesn’t wait to regroup. Hes strikes again at the Sioux base. It will cost him everything.

To the Halls of Montezuma
In the safety of his own base, goongoon easily defeats the remaining Coyotes with a mishmash of villagers, town center fire, and cavalry. What little advantage LordRaphael had gained from the fight in the center was wasted immediately. The Aztec army rebuilds in the center of the map, near the forward base and leaving the town undefended. The Sioux add in more and more cavalry support, preparing to make a strike of their own. goongoon moves them in, but upon finding an empty town he starts to search the map for what’s left of LordRaphael’s army. There’s a brief raid, Coyotes bringing down a couple villagers before themselves being picked off by Bow Riders, and then, the finale.
On the same ground where LordRaphael had seized momentum earlier, goongoon picks his spot to fight. It’s not close. Really, it’s over before it even begins. The Sioux finally have their day.

Aftermath
It’s been a tournament full of upsets and twists. After _H2O’s early exit, LordRaphael emerged as the clear, perhaps even uncontested, favorite. But it was not to be. The Kings have fallen. goongoon went on to beat snowww in the semi-finals, and his opponent will be Mitoe, who upset Kaiserklein and avenged a loss in the 3rd place match in last year’s Spring Tournament. The seasonal tournament victor will be someone who has never topped before. It’s going to be a battle of second chances and upstarts for the Age of Empires crown.