November 17, 2017
Last month, TF2 celebrated its landmark tenth birthday.
Valve marked the occasion with the release of a major update: new maps were added to the Casual rotation, the matchmaking system was overhauled, and Pyro was given a jet pack (and Spy mains a Rainy Day Case of the blues).
However, there’s been another significant birthday in the community – our own!
This week, it’s been ten years to the day since ETF2L first began.
During that time, we’ve overseen twenty-eight seasons of sixes, thirteen of Highlander, eleven Nation Cups and myriad tournaments more. We’ve seen thousands of players compete, frag and frenetically call for Medic, across over twenty-five thousand teams. Join us as we look back at ETF2L’s competitive history, from ctf_2fort and cp_well to the competitive game we play today.
In the beginning, there was Dustbowl
In November 2007, ETF2L was established to provide a competitive ladder for the incredibly new European TF2 community.
To begin with, ETF2L let the playerbase decide how the competitive meta would be. Various votes were had and polls proposed. It wasn’t always a given, for example, that there would only be one Medic per team and no random crits, regardless of how inconceivable anything otherwise might seem today!
Overall, the community’s decisions were sound. It was decided that season one would feature a class limit of two for every class other than Medic and turn off random crits, throwing the game’s most fair and balanced mechanic to the wind.
To complement this, the community were also allowed to choose the maps. Unfortunately – though retrospectively amazingly – the calls here lacked the same degree of prescience. Accordingly, the final map rotation for season one featured:
- and – of last but not least – cp_dustbowl
Of all the season one maps, only Granary has remained consistently in the rotation. Gravelpit was dropped after season twelve, Well after season seven, and Turbine after season eight, with a few intermittent reappearances in later seasons since. Sadly (if not understandably), Dustbowl and 2fort were left behind at the end of season two.
Sixes season one began in January 2008.
However, at the beginning, few teams enjoyed greater dominance than 4 Kings. The team went on to consecutively win all first six seasons of Div 1, and remained unchallenged until season seven, where they placed third behind winners Epsilon eSports and TCM Gaming.
Three and a half years later, ETF2L pushed the cart into new frontiers, and the Highlander gamemode was born.
It’s not a Team Fortress if there aren’t any teams. In the last ten years, ETF2L players have created over 25,000 of them, ranging from national sides showcasing the continent’s greatest talents to groups of friends running Spies to mid.
Though long gone are the days of stealing the Intel and setting up two Engineers on Dustbowl last, two of the oldest teams in ETF2L history still play competitively today!
clanda trace their history back to Team Fortress Classic, and played the very first matchweek of ETF2L season one. Since then, they’ve amassed an incredible 276 competitive matches and played every game of every season to date.
‘We started on day one’, said b0nes, a founding member who remains with the team today. ‘It was very different. No one had a clue how to play. There were no weapon unlocks yet, so it was totally vanilla’.
‘We all started as 8v8, because that was how TFC was played. All of the people at the top of early TF2 came from TFC. We were the people sitting and waiting for TF2 to come out. However, ‘ETF2L started as 6v6. And the rest is history’.
Comparing TF2 then to TF2 now, nothing made a greater impact than the introduction of the Gunboats, b0nes added. ‘By a mile. Now soldiers don’t have to know how to aim. They just bump about the place’.
Closely following clanda in the appearances rankings are HerbsArmy. Another team that came from TFC, they’ve played 222 fixtures, spanning every season of competitive ETF2L but one and five.
Teams with the most appearances:
- 9 Men(195)
- Team 4 Friends(178)
- Per aspera ad astra(177)
- Epsilon eSports(175)
- Insane Dutch Killers(171)
- nervousENERGY BLU(157)
- Guru Gaming(154)
- Team epx^(153)
- vier // red(144)
- who is?(133)
- Who Dares Wins(132)
- Lowpander :-3(131)
- Not Neutral(125)
- The MIPC Organization(123)
- Time 4 Fisting(122)
- Professional Disney Fangirls(116)
And the players
Just as several teams have been in the league since the start, there are several players who’ve consistently been at the heart of the action.
The player who’s made more appearances than anyone else is Hildreth.
After joining ETF2L in October 2010 as a member of LagTastic Gaming, Hildreth’s played 291 games across both Highlander and sixes, with 109 being at Prem level. Most notably, he’s played with teams Highpander©and Lowpander :-3, with whom he continues to create gimmicks today.
Whilst Hildreth’s played the most games, he hasn’t played the most in the Prem. That honour goes to another English Demoman – kaidus.
Though Kaidus joined his first team in 2008 (Shut Up and Play), his league experience began in season four with team FakkelBrigade 2. By season eight, he was starring in the Prem with FakkelBrigade alongside Fisshu, drleånn, Arie, Exfane, and Mirelin.
Kaidus’ success in ETF2L speaks for itself: he’s joint second for the most awards in the league’s history (tying with stefaaan at twelve and behind Mike, who won seventeen). Amongst many other accomplishments, he’s played for Se7en (FKA Reason Gaming and nerdRage), founded, coached and led Se7en, and won multiple international LANs. Most recently he’s played in High for fm-eSports.
- Dr. Phil(92)
Behind the scenes
Running a league for ten years requires a fair amount (read: a small mountain’s worth) of organisation, and – over time – a huge number of users have contributed countless hours to making the league the best it can be.
Alongside the sheer hours of ensuring that everything is ticking over, many admins have dealt with literally thousands of user queries:
- Sonny Black(2409)
‘I didn’t immediately follow or join competitive Team Fortress 2’, said former Head Admin CanFo, who currently plays for HerbsArmy. ‘I only played public and found a neat server with pleasant people. With some players from that server, I founded my first team, which I played with for about four years’.
‘Eventually, the team disbanded but I had no desire to stop playing TF2. I was looking for a team with players of the same mentality and with the same goals, which is just to play a few nights a week and have fun’.
CanFo acknowledged that he didn’t have quite the desire to get to the top of the league. However, he realised he could meaningfully participate in a different way. ‘I noticed quickly that I wouldn’t progress that far’, he said, ‘and figured I could put my skills to use as admin’.
It wasn’t just skills that CanFo put to good use; it was time, too. ‘It required a lot of hours. At times, it was basically like a second job.
However, I enjoyed helping people and felt useful. The community was really important to me and I felt I was making an impact. It gave me purpose.’
The league’s longest serving admin is Sonny Black. Like CanFo, he began playing competitively with a team of players from a community server.
‘My Counter Strike 1.6 and Battlefield 2 community became a Team Fortress 2 community’, Sonny said. ‘Soon I was hooked and spent countless hours on the community’s public servers.’
‘Eventually, around Season 3, I found out about ETF2L and I started watching matches. Soon after, I recruited players from my community and its public servers for my first team and we started playing in four leagues at the same time. Pretty quickly I wanted to be involved more than just as a player and I applied as admin!’
‘Before too long, I found myself taking every opportunity I could get to form and shape the league, even though I was only a trial. This led to over a year as a league admin and four years as Head Admin. It was very exhausting at times, but it felt good helping the community and trying to make TF2 the E-sport it deserved to be’.
For playing your part in ETF2L history. Here’s to the next decade!
Written by joe the brave