Venenu Added Depth, A Chance at Gold for 2018 SMITE World Championship

By: Zachary Lange

Heading into the Season 4 Fall Split, eUnited SMITE was forced with a tough decision.

Former midlaner Alexander “Khaos” Greenstein retired to go work for Hi-Rez Studios, the developer of SMITE, leaving the team with a hole in the middle of their lineup.

After a tryout with Brandon “Venenu” Casale, the team immediately knew that he was the one.

“Ven just kind of fits in with us,” said guardian Mike “PolarBearMike” Heiss. “He is just a good overall teammate with his attitude.”

“We just clicked,” said hunter Maksim “PandaCat” Vanevich. “When we got Ven we just sat and played and in the first week together, we won every game and just knew he was the one.”

The decision paid off. In the fall split, eUnited came one map short of obtaining perfection, tying Luminosity Gaming 1-1 in the final game but otherwise going a flawless 12-0 in map count en route to a 6-1-0 season. In the 2017 SMITE Super Regionals, the team dominated and obtained the first seed for the 2018 SMITE World Championship, where they now face Team Rival in the finals for their share of $1 million.

One of the crucial factors that Venenu has brought to the team is an increase in the pool of Gods the team can choose from during the pregame picks and bans portion of a match. By having more options on the table, eUnited can keep their opponents on their toes more often, unsure of which game plan the team will choose.

During championship weekend, the team has remained calm and collected despite three members experiencing the hectic Worlds stage for the first time, including Venenu. Now, only one best-of-five series stands in eUnited’s way of claiming the title.

“This means a lot,” Venenu said. “I get to make a name for myself and show people what I can do and why I’m on this team.”

One of the advantages eUnited has heading into Sunday is the lack of Gods selected by the team thus far. By going flawless in the Knockout Stage of the tournament, defeating Black Dragons 2-0 and Obey Alliance 3-0, the team may have potentially stayed away from many of the Gods that the team may play in the Championship Finals. For Team Rival, it took until Game 5 to decide their semifinal matchup against NRG, exposing many of the team’s potential drafts.

But if eUnited can continue their dominance in this tournament, maybe they won’t stray from the path that led them to where they are.

Postgame after defeating Obey Alliance, Venenu stood in the main lobby of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre greeting fans and signing autographs for all that could make their way to him inside the crowded venue.

Cosplayers competing in a best costume contest, another main attraction of the weekend, littered the halls and made their way to the players for pictures. Fans range from all ages, with children, teens and adults high fiving life sized Gods and esports athletes alike.

Despite the chaotic scene that Venenu is experiencing, he took it in stride. It’s common of him to roll with the punches, having his teammates jokingly calling him the “team punching bag” during the daily team scrimmages online in preparation for the event.

“He’ll take a lot of crap from me and Scream, and his ability to not shut down when we give him criticism and then vice versa has been really helpful,” said PolarBearMike.

“PBM has been the one that has helped me in my role on this team,” Venenu said. “He’s just super knowledgeable about the game, and he would call me out on my mistakes and I am the team punching bag. But I’m very open on knowing what I screwed up on, and that’s okay.”

In their weekend festivities the team has been overwhelmingly upbeat and loose, joking with one another during what is easily the biggest moment in their professional careers thus far.

But now, all jokes are aside. It’s a business trip, with only one series unfinished.

Coverage of the 2018 SMITE World Championship continues at 3 p.m. EST on the Hi-Rez Studios Twitch Channel.