Hotancold proves how impactful a support player can actually be.
Esports may temporarily be restricted to the online realm, but that doesn't mean that we can't have exciting tournaments in the meantime. Back in August, Ubisoft held the Rainbow Six August Major for the North American region. Four teams fought for the trophy and gave their all. Spacestation Gaming, the winners of the Six Invitational 2020, were regarded as the top favourites. Rightfully so, as the squad had made a comfortable first place in the regular season of the North American League. There wasn't any shred of doubt that they would win their Opening Match against DarkZero Esports and to go on to the Grand Finals.
But that's not what happened. Against all the odds, DarkZero beat the juggernaut and sent them down to the Lower Bracket. DZ went on to dominate the tournament, winning the Grand Finals in decisive fashion. Being crowned the winners of the North American Major, one player, in particular, stood out for the team - Matthew "Hotancold" Stevens.
The player has been part of professional Rainbow Six: Siege ever since 2016. Starting with FlipSid3 Tactics, he attended the Pro League Year 2 Season 1 Finals. The team was unsuccessful, however, as gBots sent them out in last place. He then joined SK Gaming to moderate results, as the team never mounted a deep run into a tournament, let alone win any events. At the start of 2019, he joined DarkZero Esports.
DarkZero have always been somewhat on the edge of success. They would win the online season of Rainbow Six Pro League, for instance, only to falter at the offline Finals. This didn't change for quite some time. With Spacestation Gaming winning the Six Invitational 2020, the rest of the North American teams basically had to live in the shadow of their more successful rival. But over the past few months, SSG have slowly lost grip over their domestic scene. First, their matches got closer. Then, they suddenly lost overtime maps to weaker teams. Finally, they started losing the entire series. While they did finish NAL Stage 1 in first place, they already showed signs of their eventual downfall.
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The only surprise was that it was DarkZero who overtook them. Not Oxygen, not TSM, who had actually performed much better in the months and weeks leading up to the Major. One of the reasons for DZ's success is Hotancold. At the event, he scored a 1.23 rating, setting himself on top of every other player. But it's not for the reasons that you might expect.
Usually, when a player tops the standings, it's because of their insane fragging output. In the European Major, Olivier "Renshiro" Vandroux got his MVP award by getting over 100 kills throughout the entire competition. Hotancold, on the other hand, had 55 frags to his name. As a comparison, TSM's Jason "Beaulo" Doty scored 83 kills at the North American Major. So where does this rating come from?
Hotancold put the defuser down 13 times throughout the event. The only other player to do this as well was Troy "Canadian" Jaroslawski, who had to play more maps overall, and failed in virtually every other aspect of the game. Hotancold is a fantastic helping hand for his team. Similarly to Niclas "Pengu" Mouritzen and Loïc "BriD" Chongthep, his job as a support is to assist his colleagues. He drones, he plants, he tries to stay alive, and clutch the round out. The only reason why his 1vX figures were so low at this event is that he wasn't really required to clutch anything out.
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So let's take a look at his operators. On the defence, he mostly picked Jaeger and Mozzie throughout the Six Major. These operators free him up during the round. Unlike Smoke or Bandit, for instance, he isn't required to stay at a specific spot or attend to his gadgets all the time. He can set his ADS or Pests down at the start of the round and then do as he pleases.
But unlike Renshiro, he doesn't use this freedom to start roaming, which is also why we don't see him rack up the big kills. Instead, he anchors the site alongside Skys. In the Grand Finals of the Rainbow Six Major, we mostly saw him steer away from the early battle on the defence. While Kyle "Mint" Lander often got the entry kills, he waited patiently until the attackers were close to the site, and then stopped their offence in its tracks.
Speaking of offence, he mostly picked Maverick or Hibana on the attacking side. Generally, he takes a huge step back compared to his colleagues on the team. Hibana makes this particularly easy, as he doesn't even have to enter the building to use his X-Kairos pellets. Mint and Tyler "Ecl9pse" McMullin are often the first in, while Hotancold stays outside and drones them in. This information play is critical. It allows the other players to safely move and work on their individual objectives, without having to constantly watch their flanks.
In FPS games, in particular, support players often don't get the credit they rightfully deserve. We tend to talk about the star-fraggers, the aimers, and the ones with the quick flicks, simply because their work is visible on screen and in the statistics. But sometimes, the impact of a supporter becomes so obvious that it's impossible to ignore. Hotancold is one of those cases. His work has been crucial to the success of DarkZero Esports and will continue to help them fight for the top spot in North America.
Images via DreamHack | SiegeGG