Friday, January 9, 2015

Bludgers in the Air, Part Two

By Alex Greenhalgh, Abby Whiteley, and Ollie Craig/Quidditch UK
With just two days left until the first drafting session for the Valentine's Cup, speculation is reaching a fever pitch. But how will the dice fall on Sunday evening? What forces determine the fate of the brave mercenaries facing the auctioneer's hammer? Who even are these captains anyway? QUK Media has all the answers, and here to give you the lowdown on the captains and their potential bidding schemes are three of their finest. First up, Alex Greenhalgh:

Alex Carpenter - Cap'n Jack's Quovely Quew

Alex is making her captaining debut at this tournament, and will be hoping to gain the experience that will enable her to make the step up for Southampton Quidditch Club next year. She was a huge part of their great performance at Southern Cup, with her pace and agility giving her an edge over the opposition. This, coupled with her shift into beating, has left her a very versatile player, which can only assist her when she selects her squad. 
Problems for this team could be her inexperience at captaining and her lack of knowledge of northern players. How will she cope with these issues? I think that Alex will be looking to build a team that has a few on and off-pitch leaders in order to help and advise her. However it is important that these players will also follow her lead when she makes a decision, without question. In addition, I think Alex will supply her team with a backbone of Southampton players, picking pairs such as Ben Lawrence and Fraser Posford, or Georgia McCall and David Holland, that will provide her with a decent defensive beating pair and couple of solid chasing options.

Daniel Mitchell - The Quoompa Loompas

A hulking keeper/chaser that plays for Loughborough Longshots, Dan is quite new to the sport of Quidditch, so I am sure he will be looking to draft a few players with greater knowledge and tactical nous early on in the game. By doing so, he can ask them to offer their wisdom on how to build a balanced top level team - something he direly needs, as he lacks knowledge of players outside of the East Midlands, placing him at a severe disadvantage.
He can build a basic foundation by bidding on Loughborough couples such as Bill Orridge and Holly Kerslake who he is familiar playing with, before pushing on and either taking a shot at snagging some of the higher priced players or looking for the hidden gems of the draft that he can snatch for a bargain price.
Sandra Kreit - Les Chatons de Cupidon

An experienced Toulousian chaser who also can play as beater and seeker, Sandra will be looking to make a big impression at this tournament and show Britain the best that France has to offer. As one of two French captains in this draft I expect that she will be looking to use her superior knowledge of the European players to buy the continent’s best at minimum cost. This tactic will potentially free up more of her money for when bigger names come up later in the draft, just as other captains’ coins will be running dry. That said, I do expect Gorik and Sophie, the other European captains, to give her some competition and push the Europeans’ prices up. Sandra will have to be savvy to avoid paying through the nose and becoming the cash-strapped one herself.

Steven Daly - Thorny and Looking for Quove

A cornerstone of the Leeds Griffins beater roster, I expect Steven to build a team of about fifteen players, simply because his knowledge of the more inexperienced players is lacking in comparison to that of other captains. However, having attended the Eggnog Tournament and Christmas Cup he will have seen some new players and the draft could let him pick up some talented pairs under the other captains’ noses. Steven‘s team will be built around fast chaser play backed up with highly aggressive defensive beaters. This could lead him to bid on Alice Faux-Nightingale and Sally Higginson, with the former offering the intense beating support and the later bringing fast-paced chasing to the table. The utility aspect of this couple is also a big factor, as it would allow him a great deal of flexibilty with the rest of his lineup. Also, I would be greatly surprised if Steven doesn't attempt to snap up Connor Simpson, as their close friendship guarantees a strong chemistry that would be the beginning of a fearsome beating lineup.

Next, in his QUK debut, Ollie Craig of Southampton Quidditch Club brings his trademark suaveness to quidditch prose, breaking down the prospects of three more Valentine's captains: 

Anthony ‘Batman’ Tatman - 21 Shades of Pink

There is really only one pair that we can be certain that Batman will pick, as Suzanne Robin is paired with fellow Quidling Robert Brignull. It’s fair to say that nobody would willingly walk on to a quidditch pitch facing the joint forces of Batman and Robin. 
But in all seriousness, Anthony is going to Valentine’s to win. Despite being one of the biggest underdogs in this competition as a relative newbie to the quidditch world, they have accrued a slick, seamless (and rather surprising) strategy to build a strong team from the base-up. 
I see Anthony selecting a strong core of two to four players who have over a year’s playing experience and who will thus be able to act as leaders for the rest of the team. One such pair could be Rebecca Alley and Ryan Smythe who, with their extensive quidditch experience, would be able to provide a good base and top leadership around which to build the team. 
I suspect Anthony’s squad will be one on the larger side, around the nineteen-player mark, but one with plenty of fast-paced, aggressive gems. One advantage Anthony has is that they have played all over the country this season, and will have had a lot of opportunities to scout out some useful (and cheaper) pairs, especially from the north, - something which many of the other captains will have missed out on. There are some excellent bargains in this draft, and Anthony’s nationwide knowledge suggests that we should not rule them out lightly.

Sophie Chrétien - Sacréblues Cruise

As the London Unspeakable’s coach, if there is one thing that Sophie will have learned, it is that a well-balanced team with excellent chemistry can neutralise any opposition housing a couple of superstars. And this chemistry is 100% what I can see her prioritising.  Fast, crisp passing will be the order of the day for the Sacrébleues Cruise, and a good shout would be the Loughborough pair of Ben Hallam and Anna Rees, who know each other’s playing style well. 
Like Batman, Sophie has been all over the country so far this season with London, and has gained a good knowledge of players from all over the country, which may well stand her in good stead with some of the lesser-known pairings in the draft. 
Sophie says that she is going to attempt to leave the London players to the other captains as much as possible, as it would be excellent experience for all parties to play with different people. However, this will mean ignoring such power pairs as Fiona Howat and Robbie Young, which could leave her at a disadvantage come game-time.
Then again, she does describe herself as “a bit rubbish at poker”, so who knows who she may end up selecting!

Warren McFayden - One Knight Stand

He may not think a lot of himself as a captain, but few of the other captains are likely to disregard Warren, back for another fantasy tournament after being crowned joint victor in the Christmas Cup with the Knights Before Quidmas.
 I expect his drafting strategy to be similar to CC, with big money going down on a couple of power pairs like Abby Whiteley and Charis Horn or Lee Baughan and Evan Edmond, while the rest of his funds can be used to flesh out the squad however necessary. It may not be one of the biggest squads in the tournament, but Warren can rely on the supremely fit and hope that they don’t pick up too many injuries.
One of Warren’s main advantages in this draft is his utility as a keeper. Keepers always seem to be lacking in fantasy tournaments, and subsequently the few available often go at a vastly inflated price. The money Warren saves on a keeper could well help him afford a couple of other reasonably nifty players (and no, that isn’t a hidden allusion to Norwich players). 
If his success at The Christmas Cup is anything to go by, Warren’s team is likely to be right up there come the end of Valentine’s II. Write him off at your peril.

Our pre-draft coverage of the Valentine' Cup ends with another new QUK recruit, already lauded as both an independent quidditch journalist and creator of Quidcrush - two experiences that leave her in an excellent position to discuss this tournament. Reviewing the three remaining captains is Abby Whiteley of the Radcliffe Chimeras: 

Tom Challinor - Sassination

A name which should be familiar to those of you who have had dealings with the Keele Squirrels in the past year, but which may otherwise have slipped under the radar, is Tom Challinor. Primarily a chaser (although also a keeper and seeker on occasion), Challinor has over a year’s worth of experience with one of last season’s top performing teams, as well as being a veteran of the much-admired Craigslist at Christmas Cup in November. He states that he is “mainly focused on making it an enjoyable experience for who I end up drafting”, and is looking to Valentine’s as an opportunity to try something new but, given that he has come from a team who have been accustomed to competing at a high level, and from reports of his determination of playing on despite injuries at Christmas Cup, I suspect that his modesty belies a secretly competitive nature, and he will be playing to get some wins under his belt.
 Although Tom has had plenty of time to get to know the QUK community, I think he will draw upon his home team's talent, and invest a reasonable amount of his money in the Norton/Burnett pairing. Norton, Tom’s captain and fellow quaffle player, would be a natural choice, and would help form the core of a fast and capable chaser lineup, whilst Burnett, an unrivalled beater tactician and exemplary player in their own right, would bring some much-needed beating expertise to Tom’s quaffle-orientated personal experience. Quaffle player captains often depend upon other players' insight into the more obscure beater game, and Burnett, the Team UK beater coach, would prove an excellent choice for Tom in this regard. An alternative choice here would be Ollie Hymers and Jade Saunders pair, which would bring Saunders' ample experience and excellent defensive beating to the table, along with Tom’s teammate Hymers. However, given that Hymers is not playing as a chaser, this formidable pairing of a dependable defensive beater and a faster, perhaps more aggressive style, may be used to round out Tom’s beater corps rather than be a first choice.
Alice Faux-Nightingale and Sally Higginson, a surprisingly low-priced pair given neither of them are playing out of position, would be an obvious choice for Tom, since he will know just how good his teammate Alice is from first-hand experience, and will have clashed with Higginson during the infamous Keele-Bangor matches last season, therefore knowing how supremely irritating she is to play against. I think that even if there is significant price inflation on this intimidating pair, they would make a brilliant addition to Challinor’s team.

Andrew Hull - Pablo and the Banditos

With the joint highest starting price of any of the captains (tied with Matty Panda), Team UK keeper Andrew Hull is in the enviable position of already having a quaffle-playing lynchpin around which to organise his team. Having played with Bangor, that elusive but formidable team, for over two years, Andrew is very well used to playing high-pressure games, and his extensive experience in organising a defence as a keeper will be exceptionally useful in creating cohesion in a mercenary team.
Ludicrous team name aside, I would expect to see Andrew putting together a highly competitive team. Although his profile states chasing and seeking alongside his preferred keeping role, keepers are notoriously rare in merc tournament sign-ups, and unless Andrew is willing to blow a significant portion of his budget on Twistolajczak (in my opinion, unlikely), he would be lucky to find a keeper of similar calibre to himself for a reasonable price in the auction, so I suspect he will remain keeping. For the bidding, then, this means that Andrew will be looking for quaffle players who can dominate the behind the hoops area, and dependable beaters to hold the fort whilst the quaffle play moves upfield.
I would expect to see him going for the criminally underpriced Heynes and Shaw as an alternative to Twistolajczak; Andrew has played on the same team as both of these players, both having been on Team UK, and Heynes being a former Bangor player, and they complement his style well. Heynes is very talented in the midfield, and Shaw is a master of converting the behind-the-hoops space into points, so the three of them – all of them with experience leading teams on-pitch - would create a formidable quaffle play lineup which could guide the rest of Andrew’s chaser corps. Another quaffle player option for Andrew would be the underpriced Greenhalgh/Thripp pair, as Thripp is a superb behind-the-hoops chaser and incredible on defence, and Greenhalgh, who offers multiple positions and is reportedly focusing a lot on beating this season, could be a great choice as an all-round player, whilst also offering a very high-quality keeper sub.
An excellent choice for Andrew, and a couple for which I think he would be willing to pay a significant amount of money, is the Morton/Davies pair; quite aside from the fact that Davies and Hull have over two years' experience playing alongside one another, the two would make a fantastic defensive counterweight to Hull's decidedly aggressive keeping style. Both Morton and Davies are also exemplary tacticians, and they would offer plenty of expertise to newer or less cautious beaters on their team. This would exonerate Andrew of responsibility for the beating game, leaving him to focus on his specialty in quaffle play. 

Gorik Verbeken - Gorik or Die Tryin'

Best known for spitting verses at Christmas Cup, Belgian Gorik Verbeken is by now a familiar face at events UK players have attended, having been to Valentine’s I, Global Games, and Christmas Cup. Some people’s first reaction to Gorik on a tactical front might be that his lack of expertise in UK talent will be his failing, but I strongly doubt this will be the case; his attendance at the aforementioned major events gives him an ample knowledge base of both the best that the UK has to offer, and talented fresh blood. In fact, his awareness of Belgian players who have signed up will give him a fantastic edge in the bidding for smaller-price couples, where people are looking for bargains and knowledge of lesser-known players is crucial.
 Although primarily a keeper, Gorik is practised in the other three positions (though he has not listed chaser), and this will serve him well, as he is not restricted by any specific limitations of knowledge or position; if, for example, he finds himself a beater short or his keeper gets injured, he can step up to the role. This will be extremely useful when it comes to the draft, as Gorik will not be beholden to such narrow requirements as some of the other captains, and will be able to bow out of bidding battles for very expensive couples without incurring serious harm to his lineup.
That said, I would be surprised if Gorik did not get involved with the inevitably furious bidding for the terrifying combination of Robbie Young and Fiona Howat. Latent loyalty to his Christmas Cup captain, along with a wealth of experience testifying to the importance of seeking in merc tournaments, means that Gorik will be highly interested in this pair, and I think he will take the hit here and use his knowledge of lesser-known players to fill out his on-pitch lineup. Ruth d'Hoore, Gorik’s teammate, made an impressive showing with the Merry Marvels at CC and Team Belgium at GG, but is still a relative unknown to most UK captains, and I think Gorik is likely to turn to her, paired with the Quidling rising star of Jamie Cash, to flesh out his chaser and beater lineup, hopefully at a bargain price.
I would also expect Gorik to drive the competition to high prices for the suspiciously cheap Jørstad/de Wit combination. Belgian players rate the Dodos as a real threat for EQC, and de Wit is one of their primary keepers, although his true skill lies in strong chasing on the counterattack, and is far more of a threat than his price and player description imply. More importantly, however, Gorik played on the same team as both Jørstad and de Wit last Valentine’s; he knows how to play alongside them, he knows they can play together, and these two would be a terrifying midfield duo to complement his own style.

No comments:

Post a Comment