For the first time since the release of EA’s new game, Apex Legends, Fortnite reclaimed the main-stage of the competitive gaming world with their production of the Secret Skirmish, an event played on Valentine’s day and the day following for more than $500,000 featuring the 100 best professional Fortnite players in the world. Seemingly just another tournament thrown together by Epic, the Secret Skirmish held far greater importance to the gaming world as, for the first time in a while, Fortnite has a legitimate competitor. Apex Legends, EA’s response to Fortnite, has been the top overall streamed game on Twitch over the past ten days, blowing Fortnite out of the water in terms of average Twitch viewership. Epic needed the Secret Skirmish to respond to Apex, and to show the gaming world that Fortnite is still the premier video game in competitive Esports.
The event started off with a shock-as only 24 hours prior to the start of the event Epic canceled the two secret competitions that had not even been officially announced yet. Epic released this statement on the 13th noting that the on-site conditions would not permit them to play the two extra tournaments:
“Unfortunately, after testing on-site, we ran into technical issues that prevent us from holding these bonus competitions with the confidence needed to produce the show,” Epic stated. “We are removing the secret evening “operations” from the original schedule, and will continue with the Solos and Duos competition as planned.”
This progression was disappointing, as it would have been interesting to see what Epic had planned for the two secret events. It seems possible that Epic was planning on splitting the group of 100 players into teams and playing a few games of Team Rumble, as the game mode has become increasingly popular and has been a “featured LTM” for seemingly a month at this point. While the cancelations were unfortunate for many competitive Fortnite fans, the tournament continued and proved that Fortnite is still the premier Esports game-no matter how much EA pays streamers to play Apex Legends. In this recap, I will take you through the tournament in a chronological timeline, stopping to discuss key events and plays as well as explaining how aspects of the tournament relate back to the competitive gaming industry as a whole.
Rule Adjustments – 7.40
The morning of the tournament, Epic released the highly-anticipated 7.40 patch. The patch, which fixed many of the glaring issues in the competitive Fortnite scene, is highlighted below:
Hand Cannon/RPG Combo Nerfed
For more than a month, the meta of competitive Fortnite had been to loot both a hand cannon and an RPG, creating an unstoppable combination of material breaking power and splash damage. To combat the combo, Epic lowered the structural damage of the hand cannon and limited the RPG drops to only supply drops for the legendary variant and vending machines for the epic variant.
Clingers Replace Grenades
Brought back after being vaulted for two months, the clinger was a staple of competitive Fortnite in the Summer Skirmish. The clinger is less effective now, and it will be interesting to see how often players pick up clingers in competitive matches.
The “headline” news of the 7.4 patch, the new Infantry “M1 Garand” Rifle looks to be a cross between the heavy AR and the hunting rifle. The weapon comes in common, uncommon, and rare variants and does 41,43,45 damage respectively. The weapon also features the fastest ADS to first shot accuracy of any gun, making it a good weapon to switch to quickly and get off an accurate shot.
Pop-up Cup rules added the Default Playlists
While the Infantry Rifle headlined the update, the most important aspect of the update from a competitive standpoint was the introduction of four rule changes from past pop-up cups:
- Players receive a 50 health point boost with each enemy killed
- Eliminated players drop 50 of each material upon death
- 500 material cap on all materials
- Planes can no longer break through structures
For a more detailed look at the 7.4 update and how those changes affect competitive Fortnite going forward, click here.
Tournament Rules and Info
The point system of the Secret Skirmish was as follows:
+1 point for every kill after 8 eliminations
For the first time in a major competitive tournament, players were randomly assigned their duo partners instead of choosing them as they had in the past. This was an interesting and well-received change, as many of the players on teams such as FaZe or Liquid always play with the same teammates.
New Announcers for Each Game
Another change made to the tournament was the continual rotation of announcers. Each game, a new pair of streamers or commentators relayed the action from the gameplay, keeping the commentary interesting and allowing for multiple perspectives on how certain players were performing.
The Skirmish started with Dr. Lupo and Courage as the commentators. Not surprisingly, as the two have great chemistry and have worked together in past skirmishes.
The battle bus flew its course, and the Secret Skirmish began. Ghost Aydan and his partner Butters started off the action with the first battle taking place in Tilted Towers. Butters, an IT technician who came to the event to test servers, ended up showing off his skills and getting a spot in the tournament altogether.
Given the scoring format, players stocked up and turtled for the majority of the game. This caused both the players and the broadcast to lag significantly. This issue was most prominent in the first game but continued subtly in the mid-to-late stages of all games played on Thursday.
The game was highlighted by the duo of Dmo and Tfue, ranked 8th and 3rd in the most recent update of my rankings. Dmo racked up 9 kills and Tfue finished with 2 to give the duo a total of 11. The game ended with an excellent edit play by Dmo to drop down HighSky and give him and Tfue a 2-to1 advantage over Psalm. The two were able to pressure push Psalm with Tfue getting the game-winning kill.
Game 2 featured two female commentators, KittyPlays and Pookieface. KittyPlays, a streamer, and competitive player, won the duos tournament at the Korea Open with Tfue a few weeks ago. She barely missed qualifying for the Secret Skirmish and ranks 55th on my list of Top Competitive Fortnite players.
The end game was very similar to the first game, with Bizzle and TriggySoars controlling high ground and Saf and Ronaldo controlling the low ground. TriggySoars dropped down from his high ground to surprise Saf and give him and Triggy a 2v1 advantage over Ronaldo. Ronaldo was able to take out Triggy as the storm circle closes but Bizzle, still two stories above the rest of the players, was able to get a line of sight on Ronaldo and end the game for his team.
Game 3 featured Zeke and SypherPK as commentators. Zeke, the face of past Fortnite tournaments such as the Fall and Summer Skirmishes, has more experience than anybody calling Fortnite tournaments. His partner, SypherPK, is a streamer and ranks 45th on the top 55 list.
Nickmercs and Harmful got off to a hot start, taking out Overpeek and Pate1k as well as Aydan and Butter before the second storm circle began to shrink. Surprisingly, the two opted to not land at Tilted Towers for this event, a staple of Nickmercs at competitive Fortnite events.
The late game rations for game 3 took place directly south of Polar Peek, with players using the hillside for a natural height advantage over the players at the bottom of the hill. With the 8th storm moving back up the hill, players were being picked off like flies as they all tried to get up the hill safely.
One player who shone in the midst of the chaos was Ceice. Ranked 24th, Ceice finished the game with 7 kills, including these three in the final 15 seconds of the match. One of the best plays of the day, Ceice showed here why he is so well-respected in the competitive Fortnite community.
Having not gotten a kill before this round, Ceice carried his partner, getting all 7 of their eliminations in the match and vaulting him and Lyricen into 3rd place in the tournament thus far.
The highlight of the game and one of the best shots of the day came from FaZe Cloak. Cloak sniped Povsy off the wing of his plane while riding on a plane of his own, an impressive shot that can be viewed here.
It was an even better match for NickMercs and Harmful, as the duo ended game 4 with ten eliminations between them, making them the second team after Tfue and Dmo to reach the 8+ elimination bonus.
In the end, Anthony carried ClarityG to victory with all of the duo’s 5 kills including the winner over Thiwifo and Jtruth, who had 11 eliminations as a pair before being taken out to lose the game. Even after losing, the duo of Thwifo and Jtruth scored an impressive 9 points to jump them into 3rd place after the first four games.
The play of the game in game 5 came early in the action, as Aspect and Snood, ranked 14th and 15th in my Fortnite Top 55, got off to a hot start in Pleasant Park including this low ground quick scope kill on BaySoldier to win them Pleasant Park.
Sheep and DopaiTV were both killed by a stormwing; however, the planes were much less of a problem this week without the ability to break structures upon impact.
Ronaldo and Saf had another game where they reached the kill bonus, eliminating 9 while finishing just outside the top ten to earn four points in game 5. Poach, and Tendons also played well in game 5, with Poach making a nice edit play on Dafps to earn the duo third place in and an extra point. BlooTea and Zayt ended up winning game 5 with 6 kills between them, pushing them into 7th pace overall after five games.
Going into game 6, the duos of Tfue & Dmo, Saf & Ronaldo, Thwifo & Jtruth, and Bizzle & TriggySoars were all tied up with ten points each. With a grand prize of xxx awaiting the winner, the pressure was on as the random duos jumped together from the battle bus on the last time on Thursday.
To start off the end game, Thwifo and JTruth took advantage of an old combination, the RPG and heavy sniper, and earned a quick 7 eliminations before Truth accidentally blew himself up to end their chances at a victory Royale in game 6.
While there were many exciting plays throughout the day, none stood out more than the finish of game 6, as Sad was able to make on the the best plays in the history of competitive Fortnite, eliminating seven of the last nine opponents in this 30-second clip. Not only was this the “most incredible play I’ve ever seen” as exclaimed by CouRage, but it vaulted Saf and Ronaldo into first place in the duos tournament. An incredible play, Saf showed here why he is ranked in the top 10 in my Fortnite Top 55 Rankings.
Observations and Trends
Hand Cannon/RPG Combo Ditched
With the 7.4 update that limited the availability of RPGs and nerfed the structural damage of the hand cannon, players shifted away from the combination of weapons. Instead, players used the RPG/heavy sniper combo, which was more effective yet a very slow technique because you have to wait for the heavy sniper to reload between each rocket shot. This technique proved to be best performed as a team, with Thwifo and JTruth showing how powerful the combination could be with three quick kills in game 6.
Infantry Rifle Ineffective
Very few players were seen with the new infantry rifle in their inventories on Thursday, a sign that many players do not feel like the weapon is a viable option in competitive play. This is not a big surprise, as the gun is seemingly a unique addition to the game and was not necessarily meant to be one of the stronger weapons in the game, only coming in common, uncommon, and rare variants.
Planes and Clingers
Both clingers and planes were once overpowered items in competitive Fortnite. Planes specifically have been one of the most complained about topics within the competitive community and Epic seems to have found a balance that makes planes still useful but not unfair in competitive play. After the patch, the planes are still a useful tool for rotations but cannot be used to plow through opponent structures and easily win gunfights early in the game.
Clingers seem to be a great addition to the competitive scene this time around, as dynamite and clingers provide players with two unique throwable that each has its purpose in the game. Clingers allow you to focus on a single box while dynamite allows you to clear out multiple layers of structures with a time delay.
End Game Improvements
With the integration of the new pop-up duo rules into the default playlists, players had fewer materials endgame and are unable to build themselves in for the entirety of the game. Instead, players were forced to look for eliminations as their source for materials and health, as each player drops 150 materials and 50 health points upon death with the new ruleset. These changes made the endgames a lot more interesting, as players were able to combat the ticking storm damage with bonus health received from eliminations, allowing players who went on killing sprees to stay alive longer, leading to better endgame plays than we have ever seen at a major Fortnite tournament.