If there was one word to describe the Vainglory Spring Season 2016 European Championship Finals, it would be "familiar."
Despite newer teams appearing in the final 8, in the form of 4Justice and Team Clytia, it was once again the established, professional teams that came out on top.
It's a sign that, while some young teams may be able to break into the top ranks, they're going to have to contend with serious, well-funded competition in future.
The first day still managed to hold a few surprises, however.
The aforementioned Team Clytia managed to hold their own against well-established team G2 Kinguin, taking them to a third match and ultimately beating them after a series of long, tense battles.
And the relatively new Gankstars Cerberus team, despite having the backing of a professional eSports organisation, found themselves in the losers bracket after losing to last season's runners-up, Snow Tsunami.
Elsewhere, Team Secret proved why they were the reigning champions by utterly destroying the young 4Justice team.
And the newly acquired Mousesports team, formerly Rebirth of Empire, proved their worth as a professional team with a series of risky, aggressive plays that caught opponents SK Gaming by surprise.
Heading into the second day, it looked like anything could happen.
Anything except 4Justice going through, as they were thoroughly taken apart by the SK Gaming team in two rather short matches.
The highlight of the losers bracket was Gankstars Cerberus versus G2 Kinguin, two of the biggest teams who were both fighting for their lives in the tournament.
All seemed lost for G2 Kinguin, who were annihilated in the first match after a poor draft phase that left them with a confusing composition that simply didn't work.
But just as all hope seemed lost, and Gankstars looked to have the second match sealed, G2 made a stunning recovery, and somehow snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, taking their opponents to a third match which they ultimately won.
From then on, that feeling of familiarity started to take hold.
Team Secret crushed Mousesports with its tried-and-tested SAW push composition, and Snow Tsunami steamrolled through Team Clytia's defence for an easy win.
That left two rematches to go for a spot in the final – Mousesports vs SK Gaming, and G2 Kinguin vs Team Clytia.
The Mousesports/SK Gaming matchup went essentially the same way as the first day – SK Gaming won first, Mousesports second, and after a tense final match, Mousesports came out on top.
Team Clytia had no such luck, however. The more experienced G2 Kinguin ran circles around them in their rematch, with a number of distraction plays that left Team Clytia defenceless and G2 Kinguin taking the spot in the final.
The final day came, and suddenly it was clear why everything felt so familiar – the four finalists were identical to the finalists of the last season.
Granted, Rebirth of Empire was now flying the Mousesports banner, but the teams themselves hadn't changed at all.
And neither did the results. Both Team Secret and Snow Tsunami proved to be overwhelming forces in their first matches, bringing out compositions unseen in the rest of the tournament to throw off their opponents.
And with both G2 Kinguin and Mousesports out of the picture, it was once again down to a Team Secret vs Snow Tsunami final.
And for a while Snow Tsunami looked to have the upper-hand, crushing Team Secret's SAW push comp in the first match and causing their first loss of the tournament.
But it was all for naught, as Team Secret came back stronger than ever, and took three matches from Snow Tsunami in one fell swoop.
So once again, Team Secret came out on top, marking their third tournament win in a row, and proving that they're still the team to beat.
Hopefully that feeling of familiarity will be gone at the Summer Season finals, and we'll see more new teams coming in and holding their own against the big boys.
But as it stands, the influx of interest from bigger eSports organisations in Vainglory could spell the end for independent teams in the scene.
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