Throughout the major soccer nations of the world, there exists a system of promotion and relegation that determines which division each club will play in from year to year. While the specifics will vary from country to country, the general principle is this: teams that finish at the top will move up a division, and teams that finish on the bottom will move down.
There are two notable exceptions. One of these is Australia. The other is the United States.
In American sports culture, the concept of promotion and relegation doesn’t even land on the radar. Tell a baseball fan that in another country, the dreadful Minnesota Twins of 2016 would start the 2017 season in Triple-A, while the Triple-A champion Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders would be promoted up to Major League Baseball, and they’d like as not wonder if you’d eaten some bad mushrooms.
Here again, however, we see a notable exception: soccer. Because the system is most closely identified with world football, the topic remains a subject of serious advocacy and contention in American soccer circles. Advocates point to the system’s many benefits, including true Cinderella stories, the prevention of teams tanking seasons for draft picks, and the ability for any club to rise up from its community with unlimited destiny.
Critics frequently point out that systems without parity often concentrate success in a few teams, and that the American sports fan psyche would be unlikely to follow a relegated team.
I’m not so sure about all that. To me, if you bask in the highs, you need to endure the lows.
And as it happens, this past week I got relegated.
From the outset, I felt that being placed in Diamond League flattered me. I play casually, developing various hangars instead of focusing on building up a solidly-performing core. I don’t put a lot of emphasis on winning or losing, which has given me some resistance to the frustrations many are feeling with the new matchmaker. I still get to blow things up, run around the battlefield, and have a grand time of it.
When I went through my five-game trial, I didn’t even do particularly well. When I got sorted into Diamond, I couldn’t believe it. Surely I wasn’t that good at the game…was I?
Flash forward to the end of the league season, and to my horror, I suddenly found myself in Gold League 1.
With a day to go, I just needed a few games to climb back up. And for the first time in my War Robots career, I played for accomplishment, not entertainment. I played out of my skin, feeling like something significant and tangible was on the line. It was enormously entertaining. Just like every game at the end of season in a relegation battle matters, every match I played was a matter of life and death. A loss was a grievous tragedy, a win a glorious triumph of the ages.
One of the games was of particular note. I spawned in Yamantau in my Galahad, making for center beacon. I fell off the riser onto the ground, shield-forward, saving me from taking a Trebuchet hit to the face. I headed up the ramp, faced stiff resistance from two of the enemy that got there at the same time…and got meched.
Incensed, I dropped next into my Thundorkan Lancelot, heading straight back into the fray as fast as my jets could carry me there. I stormed up the ramp, and killed the three Reds congregating there- losing an Orkan in the process. Taking shelter behind one of the covering walls for awhile, I killed a fourth as they tried to ascend the ramp, but lost the second Orkan. Smoking from both hardpoints with limited life and just a Thunder to my name, I figured I was a goner and started assessing the battlefield to see what I needed to spawn into next.
Before long, another enemy Red charged up the ramp. A friendly Blue appeared behind me, chucking a storm of Aphids at the foe before backing off. I lurched out from my hiding place, and finished the job. That stopped the direct assaults, but my sliver of life bar was like blood in the water. One tried to work the corridor and flank me, but I managed to kill him after he’d taken some fire.
Then came the last gasp. As the game was winding down, a last Red defiantly started up the deadly ramp. We lit him up, too, and he veered away to fall to safety halfway up. With nothing to lose, I lumbered forward and dropped down off the ramp after him, delivering the fatal ambushing shot from my Thunder as I touched down.
Seven kills in one bot. Survival against the odds. Surely a match to go down as one of the most memorable I’ve ever had.
And for all that? I was back in the hunt for Diamond with a puzzling “Challenge in Progress” message. I couldn’t figure out why I’d have to requalify after our initial placement, but there it was. Falling short of the mark at season’s close in the “challenge,” I consigned myself to sticking in Gold for awhile.
When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, right? I realized this would be a great opportunity to get some By the Numbers data for Gold League, and excitedly cranked up the ol’ spreadsheet to start recording results. I played a game, then jotted down the other players’ stats. Played another, repeat. One more, and then…
It’s a funny oul’ world, innit?
I’ve started settling in as leader of the Aurora Nova iOS Chapter, and we’ve been growing rapidly. And by “growing rapidly,” I mean “trebled in size in about a week” rapidly. I’m starting to wonder when we’re gonna run out of beds at the inn, which is a problem I didn’t think I’d have to face for quite some time to come.
It has, however, given me more chances for squadding, which is one of clanning’s main benefits. Truth be told, I’m a poor squadder. I’m on unpredictably, and often I’m conducting research and data collection, meaning I can’t risk throwing off the results by introducing another non-constant variable. You tend to feel guilty, but in the end it’s the cost of doing business.
I found out this week that squadding as a clan leader carries its own enhanced set of highs and lows. I seldom squadded in my previous clan, but when I did it was nice to do well. Now that I’m looked at to lead, however, there’s an added pressure to perform.
Allow me to illustrate. A recent squadding session saw me with four members of the clan, and I managed to find time for three games.
You know those people who annoyingly drone on and on (and on) about how important beacons are to the game?
They’re absolutely right. If you’re not listening to them presently, I would encourage you to begin. In the match above, their top three outperformed our top three, with first player doing so by a considerable margin.
Heck, their top three out-damaged our top four.
But then you look at the beacon count, and the game starts to make sense. Captain_John was a beacon beast, and helped push us over the top even if he only came in fourth in damage. Me, I was happy to put up a healthy chunk of damage and acquit myself well.
Trogon had to go, and this time it was our turn to outdamage the foe (beacons were about even). A fun game, my Doc was dropped down to 73 health, which is the featured image for today’s post. Lowest I’ve ever been, though not quite as impressive as the picture I came across recently which showed a pilot’s mech at one health.
To the Doc’s credit, it still has all its weapons! Top half of the table in damage, I’ll take it.
Then there are the games that make you want to crawl under a rock, the ones that form that nagging little voice inside your head to chirp, “whyyyyy did they select you as leader, again?”
I mean, sure, I played like crap. I was out of position in my Galahad. I then teamed up with a Thunder Carnage in my Tulumbas Doc, thinking I could soften up the enemy and set up a kill, while benefitting from the Carnage’s Ancile protection.
That seemed sound in theory as the two of us made our way around the left flank of Dead City, killing a beacon defender and capping it. But then when the Carnage hit rush as I was looking the other way, I found myself on my own as a Plasma Death Button Griffin and some other bot closed in.
But hey, at least I finished ahead of “Furious Grumper.”
Sometimes it’s the small things.
I’m going to award a broad honor this week, not to any one pilot in particular but to a certain segment of them. One more Battle Story to see us out.
I dropped into a match today in Shenzhen, leading as I typically do with my Galahad. I capped our nearby beacon, watched the courtyard for any incursions, and when it seemed the enemy was sticking to the outer periphery I went in for the center beacon.
A Stalker came from across the courtyard, blazing away after popping its Stealth ability. Right behind him was a Leo who was using a building as cover, popping in and out with Aphids and a Thunder. At 10-o’-clock was a PDB Griffin, and at 4-o’-clock was some other enemy Red that had snuck around the outer edge to threaten our home beacon. I was boxed in.
Thankfully, a PDB Griffin of our own touched down beside me, and started laying into the Stalker after he uncloaked. I faced unenviable odds, but luckily they weren’t coordinating their assault. I’d shoot at the Griffin on my left and chase him into cover, pop at the Leo when he stuck his head out, then whirl and drain some shots into the guy on the edge of the courtyard near the museum. There was no way I could prevail- eventually, they’d figure it out and simply burn me down, but I was putting in a solid dent in their life totals and killing one was certainly possible.
I felt another moment of relief when I noticed Magnum fire splashing on my back, telling me the Griffin was back in action. I kept working my forward firing arc’s three stations, but the damn Griffin kept hitting me in the back. Why do so many people autofire Mags?
That’s when I noticed- to my shock- that my life total was dropping precipitously. Waitaminnit… I turned, right before dying. The Griffin was dead on the ground. It was the Stalker– at a sliver of life- all along.
Someone popped the Stalker right after, and I managed to get this nice commemorative photo of the three corpses.
So this one’s for all the wily-as-hell Stalker pilots out there, like my unnamed opponent above. It takes some real skill to pull it off, but those who can effectively pilot this nettlesome little Light are consistently some of the best players I find myself up against.
It’s also a good reminder why “kill-stealing” isn’t a concept in this game. Finish ’em off every chance you can, folks- a bot with a sliver of life is still a threat.
I had a lot of ground to cover, and still plenty more on the plate- including a hangar update. But for now, thanks for reading!