‘Teeming’ to Catch up with the Altador Cup!
As most Neopian lands begin to heat up, with the average temperature hovering about 40 °C, a certain fraction of the populace are feeling the heat, though it certainly is not due to the weather! For them, the spring season brings with it the much-awaited Altador Cup (AC) pre-season recruitment and training and all AC fans are holding their breaths for another spectacular tournament of electrifying clashes among the 18 teams which represent the various lands of Neopia. The seventh season of this annual sporting bash promises to bring with it the usual excitement and as I begin to get into the groove of Yooyuballing, I take you through a tour of all the teams in this fray and how they have fared in the past!
The spirited host team has never really managed to fire but is always seen as a potent giant-killer. These incessant poor performances have not dampened the hopes of its fans though! In an interview, one of them claimed that a bit of focus can take them a long way, "Last year the concentrated efforts on Slushie Slinger paid rich dividends with Altador coming only second in the game (behind Meridell). A similar amount of hard-work in Yooyuball and we might be the team to watch out for!" Altador might never be taken seriously by those that call themselves powerhouses, but this is a team that is just waiting to prove them wrong.
Rankings in past years – 14, 13, 13, 15, 17, 17
Considered an underdog for most of the latter years (compelling King Hagan to call the team off in AC IV), the scholars of Brightvale decided to prove that a pen, indeed, is mightier than a sword. In year V, they came almost on par with the powerhouses for the first few weeks, and again for a brief period in year VI, showing their mettle and posing a threat to all teams vying for the crown. "The only thing we lack is stamina and fortitude, a bit of synchronization and the team may well be capable of a higher tier" claims an inside source from the team. Definitely so; but then as another scholar once put it, "Inconsistency is the only thing at which men are consistent"; Brightvale has quite some way to go. Or does it?
Rankings in past years – 8, 12, 16, Did not play (DNP) , 13, 12
One of the most feared powerhouses of the Altador Cup, the Darigan Citadel seems to have taken a liking to the 'magically most powerful number' coming in 7th for the third time last season! But the fact that they remain 2nd in overall rankings, occupying all 3 podium positions once, Darigan Citadel is never quite out of contention. When a fan preferring anonymity was asked about the podium-finish-or-seventh-place-theory, he rubbished it, saying, "The team has always given its best to come atop, but there are so many other deserving candidates for the spot that it not always possible. (Coming 7th is) Just a coincidence!" Often talked about as having limited sportsmanship, the truth is far from it though; the team management claims they are extremely open to new players (to which I can personally vouch) before mouthing words like "freeloaders" and "low efforts"... You can love them, you can hate them but just can't ignore them; because when the phrase 'title contenders' comes up, DC is never find behind!
Rankings in past years – 2, 1, 7, 7, 3, 7
After Faerieland crashed last year, quite a few expected the team to back off from the cup, but they were forgetting that Faerieland were the holders of "the best sportsmanship award" not for nothing! Always a bottom tier team, even ranking last in years I and IV, the Faerieland team's statistical record is not as bad as it looks, with the team never going down without a fight. Its Yooyuball skills are in fact nothing to laugh at, occasionally even comparable to teams lying in the 3rd tier! It was difficult to contact spokespersons of the FL team; getting a response from one as, "The land is still in a phase of transition," before hastily adding "It doesn't have much to do with the AC, of course! The team is improving a great deal in Yooyuball and Slushie Slinger! Our Shootout Showdown record last year was nothing worse than the champions' but Make Some Noise... " his voice seemed to trail away. Impregnated in this team is the quality of a champion – never giving up – and this dedication takes them a long way ahead of other teams. But will it be enough?
Rankings in past years – 16, 15, 15, 16, 15, 15
The original champion of the cup, Haunted Woods has seemingly lost its track declining slowly about a downward spiral. But the fact remains that their pack of dedicated 'Haunties' (as some like to call themselves) can be a nightmare to most other teams when aroused. The first-class Yooyuball skills making up for the slightly unimpressive side-game performances (and they were second overall at Make Some Noise last year!), this team is constantly a prospect in the top tiers. Says one of them, "We lost quite some fan-base since we won the cup, causing a slight descent of the drive... But in the high intensity clashes when I see the sudden augmentation in morale, I feel, if such a fire-in-the-belly persists throughout the competition there is no reason why we cannot hold the cup again!" I couldn't have put it better myself!
Rankings in past years – 1, 7, 8, 10, 12, 11
Credited with several of the major upsets of AC history, the Kiko Lake team has a small but gallant fan-base which knows exactly, the Achilles' heel of most powerhouses and strike it hard. Though a risky team if underestimated, Kiko Lake has only had those couple of wins; and a fairly poor run otherwise, steadily appearing in lower tiers. This does not deter the team planning though, as a reliable source tells me, "Their team strategies are resilient as ever and the resolve is evident. Planning ahead has been their strength and such foresight makes the opposition ranks nervous." This team is decently skilled in all games and if they pour their hearts out, no result is unachievable... With hardly any expectations to bog them down (unlike the next team), will Kiko Lake manage to convert the infrequent upsets into a concrete performance? Time will tell.
Rankings in past years – 13, 14, DNP, 14, 16, 16
Five top tier appearances and four podium positions, Krawk Island is arguably the best team there is in the Altador Cup. Consistency, outstanding Yooyuball skills and unmatched sportsmanship – this team has it all. A minor flaw is that their Slushie Slinger and Make Some Noise talent remains wanting, especially for a team that has eyes on a repeat victory. They missed top tier the year after they won, getting affected by what many call the winner's curse, but last year with the retirement of the team's star "Dasher" Soley many pundits were calling them off only to be slammed by another stellar performance! A critic stated copiously, "Krawk Island may have some might across the plank but when it comes to the critical half of the tourney, it is doubtful that they would be able to overpower the upcoming new top tier teams as was exactly seen last year. But that also shows that they are a force to reckon with till the very end!" The eternally mounting anticipations of fans can often be too tricky to handle, but will KI once again prove all analysts wrong?
Rankings in past years – 3, 4, 2, 1, 7, 2
Deemed as one of the best teams not to have held the AC trophy, ranking 3rd overall, Kreludor has been a rising star ever since its absence from the second year. Kreludor is one of the most unswerving all-round performers with no visible weakness in any of the games. "But they also do not have a clear strength either, which at times leads to their downfall," says an expert. She further opines, "Their well-balanced and rather proportionate techniques mean the opponent can target a single game and snatch it away from them; and in the case of powerhouses they unquestionably go for Yooyuball and thereby gain an overall win... " The disappointment of not winning the trophy despite making top tier thrice consecutively can have two obvious outcomes: they simply decide to go for the kill and this time, decimating all opponents, finally get that elusive cup; or cry in the face of their woes and agonies nearly giving up. Ignore the exaggeration, but the point remains, that when it is Kreludor we are talking about, then among the two, we know what to expect!
Rankings in past years – 9, DNP, 6, 4, 2, 3
It is often said reaching the peak might be easy; it is staying there which is the difficult part. And which other team can epitomize that better than the one which faced the biggest plunge in AC history. A 13th place finish last year, after winning the cup just a year before that, was a result that took a good number by surprise. Yet that the Lost Desert still ranks 5th overall speaks volumes about their years of dominance. An impressive Yooyuball record and an almost as spectacular side-game supremacy (until last year) has meant this team is one to be dreaded. "We became complacent after winning the cup, and thereby the results last year... We will be back stronger than ever before this time, I promise you. Most other teams have faltered after getting crowned and made a stunning comeback. We will go one step ahead and try to become the first double champions!" observes the Lost Desert team's mental conditioning coach. Whether they manage to do that or not, Lost Desert is one team you've got to be on the lookout for.
Rankings in past years – 5, 5, 3, 3, 1, 13
With the fourth installment of the AC, there was the emergence of a new AC super-power in the making. Slowly but surely, this team garnered enough talent to jump one tier and became one of the finest and most consistent team. For Maraqua supporters, the 4th place finish last year was an achievement in itself but also a disappointment, both at once. "Getting into the first tier but failing to capitalize on it was kind of a bitter-sweet pill to swallow. But we are ready for it this time, with some special training for the finals!" informed Maraqua's youth instructor. Maraqua is known for its dramatic second round resurgence into the fray, even if they have lost out in early stages. This makes them dangerous adversaries, what with their exceptional Yooyuball skills and just as effective side-games expertise! Maraqua will be coming into this tournament brimming with confidence, and a tag of one of the favorites. It is not as though they do not have experience of winning in finals, having done so thrice before, albeit in lower tiers. Many would say the championship bracket makes it a different ball-game altogether, but Maraquan fans would have their fingers crossed for the ultimate triumph!
Rankings in past years – 10, 9, 10, 5, 5, 4
A team overflowing with potential, Meridell has been on the list of serious contenders' right from the inception of the cup. That they have still not managed a top tier place has irked its fans and invited disparaging remarks from others. But a top-class fifth place finish last year denotes it isn't long before team Meridell's name appears as a formidable podium place contender. "I envisage Meridell to finally break into the top tier. All signs are confirming that it is imminent. The year 2012 is being foreseen as team Meridell's year!" predicts a famed astrologer and numerologist. (He further expands upon his theory by claiming the Inner Dream Number of Meridell (5) matches that of the current year and more such things... ... ) Whether the stars forecast a Meridell victory is not what concerns us but what kind of performance the individual Yooyuball stars of this budding team give. Their track record in Yooyuball is enviable and last year's Slushie Slinger record inimitable! The only (and not so atypical) weakness for Meridell is its irregularity, and once they come out of their peculiar mode of underperforming one day and going full throttle to gain a shock victory on the next, they might prove the stars right for once!
Rankings in past years – 7, 8, 5, 11, 8, 5
The newest team in the AC, Moltara, in its first year itself made a record, an infamous one though. It is not the fact they lost and ended up bottom of the rankings; but the way they went down, apparently without any traces of a fight, getting crushed by the lowliest of teams. Last year they came back a bit stronger winning a couple of games, (not to mention causing one of the biggest upsets in AC history by beating Krawk Island) still ended up in last place again. "They could easily have come second to last at the very least, last year. They had more Yooyuball wins than Altador in group stages but faltered in the finals. Coming year could see them out of the last tier if they win against the lower ranked teams by putting some superlative efforts and maybe even against the larger opposition camp, if they are taken lightly!" exclaims an optimistic analyst. As it is only two years since they joined the cup, it is very difficult to say much about Moltara. Hopefuls claim third time's the charm and Moltara has nowhere to go but up! Other naysayers reckon that they would be further 'done and dusted' with consecutive last places. Moltara, if they get some critical support, can surely go on to become one of the respected teams and this cup is their chance to prove they aren't pushovers...
Rankings in past years – DNP, DNP, DNP, DNP, 18, 18
The dark horse of the Altador Cup, Mystery Island is one team that can disconcert even the best in the business on their days and get rattled by some underdogs on others. Mystery Island is inconsistency personified! Their Yooyuball prowess is distinctive and they can pack a serious punch when they want to; but a large discrepancy between the efforts in two days implies they hardly capitalize on such strong points. The below-par side games skill makes matters worse. "Since the last two years the team has been found lacking in one of the most necessary ingredients of performing well – and that is the determination to succeed and the will to perform well! Mystery Island in earlier years was known for its grit and commitment, at least on-field. Ever since that has gone amiss, the team has plummeted in the ranking" believes one of Mystery Island's team sponsor. Yet most powerhouses know better than not taking MI lightly and thereby this team faces a bigger challenge to get back to their old winning ways and live up to the hopes of fans which never subside.
Rankings in past years – 6, 6, 9, 6, 14, 14
A team as famous for its (bad) puns as its astounding Yooyuball talent, Roo Island has been there, done that. This team is the meanest powerhouse when it comes to Yooyuball, but when it comes to standings it is more like playing yoyo-ball; moving up and down every year! Flitting between tiers 1 and 3, Roo Island has a new revelation in store every year. What remains common throughout though is its keen fan base which plays die-hard Yooyuball! That they often neglect the side-games at which they are just around average means it is difficult to surpass some of the bigger foes. A native Roo Islander reflects "With the recent hubbub caused by bugs, the team is determined to show that we can come up stronger, sharper and better! All the more attention is being paid to side games, in which we did miserable last year; in addition to the usual Yooyuball practice. And, well, going by our annual "ups-and-downs", this is the year of being atop!" Roo Island ranks 4th overall and is thereby respected as a very tough competitor, especially since they focus on the all-important Yooyuball, by all teams. Whether this catapults them into top tier for a chance of becoming first ever repeat winners or burdens them enough to drop even further than last time is something many are waiting to watch...
Rankings in past years – 4, 2, 1, 9, 4, 9
An unparalleled fall in rankings two years back, especially when they were being considered as forerunners to win the cup, took even the 'worst' critics of the Shenkuu team by surprise. That their unimpressive performance continued over last year indicates they are gradually being put off the list of powerhouses by analysts. But they couldn't be more wrong! Or that is what the Shenkuu spokesperson suggested, "We were so used to being in the top bracket that a string of losses were all the more uncomforting. We have recovered from that blow now though and are hoping to live up to our potential. This year we will be back with a bang!" Shenkuu even in their years of glory were reputed to be kind of sluggish in the beginning but once they began to gather steam, there was no stopping them. Glimpses of such performances were seen last year but those were very few and far between. Nevertheless they are always considered a threat, especially taking into account their vast Yooyuball resources, keeping them in the hunt. This year might just be the 're-turning' point for them!
Rankings in past years – DNP, 3, 4, 2, 11, 10
Slowly rising as the new side game queen, Terror Mountain has seen a steady climb finally taking them straight into tier 2, last year. That they could not do much in the finals and succumbed to much powerful Yooyuball giants does not mean much, because Terror Mountain has shown one and all that they have arrived! "If a bit more focus is given to Yooyuball, Terror Mountain will be seen among the top powerhouses. Their side-games are exceptional; their Shootout Showdown streak two years back was top-notch (I'd say the best, but for last year's Make Some Noise record for Virtupets, which was simply unbelievable.) Very few expected Terror Mountain to scale such heights so soon and now a lot many will look forward to joining them, which could be both a curse and a boon" proposes a senior member of the Altador Cup organizing committee. From a second last place finish in the inaugural year to an 8th place in the last, Terror Mountain has come a long way indeed. Their fan base has grown exponentially in the last few years. They might not have the typical powerhouse ability of pulverizing weaker teams into submission, but are certainly able enough to generate uncertainty in all opposition ranks!
Rankings in past years – 15, 10, 12, 13, 9, 8
The King of side-games, the freshest dark horse of the cup, Tyrannia's claim over the 6th place last year did not take as many by surprise as it could have. That is because though they were never championship materiel as far as Yooyuball was concerned, when it came down to side games they reigned as champions! Tyrannia's fitness trainer proposes, "The eloquence and ease with which Tyrannia plays its side games, if brought into Yooyuball, will work wonders. Last year we put particular efforts into the key games for Yooyuball. We even laboriously strategized in the finals and it paid off as we beat Darigan Citadel! After such a morale boosting performance last year, we are only hoping to get even better." Carrying plenty of expectations now, Tyrannia will look to promote Yooyuball more than ever if they want to get ahead in standings. With so many teams pushing them from behind, it is a tall order indeed but Tyrannia has managed much more in the past. The TY magic of side games coupled with loads of hard work in Yooyuball can sky-rocket their reputation as also their standings; but then, it is always easier said than done...
Rankings in past years – 11, 11, 11, 8, 10, 6
A rags-to-riches fairytale; a dream come true; Virtupets' meteoric rise to the top simply cannot be put in plain words! Nobody thought it likely that Virtupets would traverse the journey from an apparent underdog, to a slowly developing team, straight up to the top pedestal as trophy holders in just a couple of years. When they jumped from 12th place to 6th in the year before last, everyone thought they had reached their limit; but they made an even more deadly leap, defeating all the teams to beat and shattering most predictions. "Truly a commendable feat; I never thought it was possible... There was determination for sure but to transform it into performance? After peaking two years back, I thought they were down for the count! But their unquenchable thirst and knack of keeping cool has taken them onto cloud nine!" says a stunned forecaster who had ironically predicted Virtupets in the last place! They showed consummate Yooyuball skills and some prodigious side-game talent (especially the unbeaten matchless Make Some Noise streak) last year. But sadly no team has been able to resist the aftereffects of winning the cup, widely termed as the "winner's curse". Virtupets would seem like the last team to break the tradition of going down after winning, but what with Virtupets, we can never be sure!
Rankings in past years – 12, 16, 14, 12, 6, 1
All these teams are just raring to have a go at each other and each one, with its own strengths and weaknesses, wants to put its best performance across the board. The Altador Cup has been a totally unpredictable tournament throughout, and I for one simply cannot wait even the couple of months left, to watch the surprises in store for us this year!
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