The Winter Championship, as the first major of the season, will also serve as our introduction to some of the doubles teams that will be battling it out over the course of the season. Like the singles events, each doubles tournament has 1250CP and $1,250 awaiting the victorious duo, but this time there’s something else to think about too: your teammate.

According to doubles World Champion Diakou, there’s a lot that goes into your partner. “When you pick a teammate you have to ensure your partner has the same goal as you, as well as being somewhat close in skill. You also have to have good overall team chemistry and synergy.”

Making the right choice is doubly important this year, since teams will be taking part in the Circuit as a single entity. Partners are in it for the long haul; they will only earn CP as long as they are in the same team, and if a duo chooses to disband in favor of a new partnership, they’ll be relinquishing all the points they’ve earned along the way.

Attending events together could turn out to be key, and is likely a part of the pairings we will see at the Winter Championship. Although this event is online, other high profile events like CEO Dreamland and Combo Breaker are not. Being able to play together offline as well as online could prove the difference in amassing the Circuit points needed for an invite to the World Championship.

This could prove troublesome for intercontinental teams like Starlight and Diakou, the last pair who took first place at BCX in November. For other teams, like [R]eason Gaming’s Lanz and Ephi, there is the opportunity to reforge a successful partnership over the course of the year, and continue to improve their doubles skills. Having finished Top 8 at BCX, the duo will be among the top seeds at the European Winter Championship, and will be looking to start the year strong.

America, on the other hand, will have a whole host of other worries. Teams like LDZ and Boomie and Pugzyxd and Eggsoup will all be in attendance and looking to stamp their authority on the first event of the 2017 Circuit. LDZ and Boomie in particular will be looking to prove their strength; as a new team, there will be plenty of uncertainty about how they will perform outside the world of ranked. As the current number one ranked team in the world however, they will be feeling confident going into the Winter Championship.


Circuit Points – The ties that bind?

Taking first place at the Winter Championship will earn a team 300 of the 1250 Championship Points on offer, but that may well prove more of a curse than a blessing. Because teams are locked in for the duration of the Circuit, as long as you want to keep your CP, choosing the right teammate is more important than ever.

However, there’s no such thing as guaranteed success, and if things start to go awry over the course of the season then there’s a difficult decision to make. At what point do you give up your hard earned points and start again? Those 300 CP that you earned right at the start of the season could well become an anchor around the neck of your team, and it will be fascinating to see whether struggling teams stick together, or choose to give up their points.

What does it take to win a Championship?

And those who were hoping to claim some of those prize pools will have a battle on their hands. It’s not simple to win in doubles; there’s a whole host of extra things to think about, and the very best players are completely different beasts in doubles. Diakou says that part of this how you spend your focus:

“When I play 2v2 I barely look at my own character. I make sure that my my own character and actions are almost autonomous so I can focus on how my partner is doing and my enemies’ movement.”

He adds that there are different priorities when it comes to the neutral game: “I mostly try to look for the quickest way to kill someone and drag as much possible attention towards myself, I feel safe when I know my partner has less pressure on him. It’s not uncommon to see me deal less damage than my partners but end up with five or six KOs.”

Character choice plays a part too, and it’s likely we will see a very different tournament than what we saw at BCX in November. At that event there were some common factors that featured on many teams; most notably the presence of defence heavy tanks like Roland and Ragnir  working in partnership with highly mobile characters like Hattori and Asuri. Katars were featured often and thanks to the presence of multiple Rolands in the Top 3, plenty of lance play as well. With changes made to weapons and characters since BCX, along with the release of a few new characters, it’s likely that the Winter Championship will be a very different beast.


Who are the threats in the USA?

LDZ and Boomie

LDZ spent a lot of time learning the intricacies of doubles in 2016 – though he had a great performance at BCX, perhaps an indicator of what was to come. Since the start of Season 3 however, he has found a new partner in Boomie, and together the two have become the best doubles team in the world. (Not to mention they finished 1st and 2nd Place respectively in the Winter Championship 1v1 US tournament.)

Now LDZ, newly proficient in doubles, and Boomie will be looking to stamp their authority on the Circuit at the very first opportunity. As a new team, both will have plenty to prove; Boomie will want to show that changing partners despite a top 3 finish at BCX is the right move, while LDZ will want to reinforce that he is now as much a threat in doubles as he is in singles.

The duo run the risk of wanting it too hard, however: Boomie is just 14 years old and though he’s an excellent player, there are questions about his mental strength. He regularly places well, but has yet to take a major. If LDZ turns out to be unable to help relieve some of that pressure, Boomie may well prove unable to take the strain.


Eggsoup and Pugsyxd

Relentless aggression is the name of the game for Eggsoup and Pugsy. They push harder than anyone else, and if the enemy doesn’t adjust, they’ll find themselves down a couple of stocks before they know it. The duo are among the best around when it comes to converting off their partners, and when they are at their best, damage stacks up at an astonishing pace.

If there is a worry with Eggsoup and Pugsy, it’s their mindset. During BCX it was remarked on that they have a tendency towards going on tilt when something goes wrong, and when their head isn’t in the game, they make mistakes. When you play at such a high octane, it only takes a mistake or two to lose a stock, and when that happens you can definitely see their heads drop.

That’s why the pair will be hoping to start the year off in the best possible way; winning the Winter Championship will give them the momentum they need to get their engines going throughout the campaign. Expect them to swing hard from the start, and don’t be surprised if they run straight through some other strong teams.


3sUP Starlight and Astronaut

Back when he was still going by Twilight, Starlight teamed with Diakou to become the 2v2 Brawlhalla World Champions. With a new partner, he no doubt has his eyes set on once again beating all comers – and he’s picked one of the strongest players in America to help him do that.

A relative newcomer to the scene, Astronaut is something of an unknown. Having failed to set the world on fire in tournaments last year, Astronaut has spent the off season levelling up. He’ll be looking to prove that his staggering rise through the rankings was no fluke, and lay claim to his first high profile victory to boot.

Astronaut has had a quick rise to just a few points away from being in contention for number one ranked player on the US leaderboards, and his partnership with Starlight is close to being the top team in the world. Just like LDZ and Boomie, as a new team Starlight and Astronaut will want to make a statement early. They will be coming out with all guns blazing to prove that they ought to be feared.


Who are the threats in Europe?

[R]eason Addymestic and Cake

Cake is the most recent addition to [R]eason Gaming’s roster, but he has wasted no time in forging a partnership with Addymestic; the duo are the top EU team in the 2v2 rankings, and sit in the global top 3. The Winter Championship will be their first tournament together, however, and it remains to be seen how their ranked victories translate to results when it matters.

There’s no reason to doubt their prowess, as Cake in particular is no stranger to success in teams. He has notched tournament wins over another of Europe’s top teams, Dobrein and Diakou, who are set to be the main roadblock in the way of Addymestic and Cake establishing themselves as the top team in Europe.


Diakou and Dobrein

Although they’re not currently at the top of the leaderboards, Diakou and Dobrein are a devastatingly effective doubles team. Despite being unable to play with his partner at BCX, Diakou forged a makeshift partnership with Twilight and the duo played their way all the way to the championship title. During that run, he brought Dobrein’s jersey to every match, paying tribute to his absent partner.

There are question marks about Diakou’s performance going into the first major tournament of the year, as he has been making the transition to keyboard. He’s not yet completely comfortable with the change in controller, and has spoken about his fear of being carried by Dobrein, but as long as the duo see good results, Dobrein is unlikely to mind bearing a heavier workload.

For his part, Dobrein is known as one of the most consistently solid players in the world. He has a knack for building damage remarkably fast even in the general madness of doubles, and his superb positioning makes him so dangerous in teams play. In partnership with Diakou he takes control of the stage, letting his partner take the lead off-stage, where Diakou is so proficient.


[R]eason Lanz and Ephi

It would be remiss not to mention Reason Gaming’s Lanz and Ephi, back in Europe after a relatively successful assault on the USA for BCX, who will be looking to establish themselves as one of the leading doubles units on their side of the pond.

With Ephi, one of the most strategic players on the Circuit, setting the pace, Lanz and Ephi take things a little slower than other teams. Given the chance though, the duo will explode into action. Lanz, unsurprisingly a lance specialist, hits hard, and Ephi does a great job of maneuvering opponents into positions where they take a lot of damage from the heavy hitter.

At times during their Top 8 run at BCX however, the duo fell foul of some poor awareness. Every now and then they would have a game where they did as much damage to each other as their opponents, and when you’re playing teams like Dobrein and Diakou, you just can’t afford to give them free damage. They will no doubt have redoubled their efforts since BCX; now it’s time to prove that they can do it when it counts.


More than a prize pot at stake

For all of those involved, the Winter Championship offer an opportunity to set a benchmark for their own performances in the year to come. Some, like LDZ and Boomie, will want to prove that their performances last season were more than just a flash in the pan. Others, like Dobrein and Diakou, will be intent on proving that their partnership is worthy of being talked about as the best in the world.

Ultimately though, the Winter Championship will be an opportunity to put a target on their backs. By taking first place, or simply performing well, teams will be establishing themselves as the pair to beat. Footage

Time will tell but, for now, we can be content in knowing that the Winter Championship is just the start.