After long seasons of play through the Operation Leagues in Southeast Asia (SEA), Xavier Esports and Team Notorious have confirmed their places in the upcoming APAC North league as the winners of the Thai and Taiwanese qualifiers, respectively.
With competitive Rainbow Six undergoing a sea change, especially in APAC, many were eager for additional details about how the new program would be structured. APAC itself would be split into two divisions, with the Asian APAC North division confirmed to have 12 teams and South Asia and Australia-New Zealand would play in the likely LAN-based APAC South division.
Fans in the SEA region were particularly eager to find out the identities of the four teams that would represent the region in the APAC North league. These teams were later confirmed to be picked from the winner of the Operation Leagues in Thailand, Taiwan, and the combined Malaysia/Singapore/Philippines/Indonesia (MY/SG/PH/ID) region. The fourth and final team would likely be invited and is heavily rumoured to be the Singaporean squad of Giants Gaming.
With the MY/SG/PH/ID Operation League postponed until further notice, only Thailand and Taiwan could complete their leagues and send teams through to the APAC North qualifiers. Read on to find out how Xavier Esports and Team Notorious booked their spots in APAC North through their respective qualifiers.
Thailand: Xavier Esports 3-2 Qconfirm
After having won the Thai Operation League Finals in Season 1 and 2 respectively, Xavier Esports and Qconfirm were set to play the game of their lives.
Despite both teams being exceptionally skilled, finishing third and first in Season 11 of the SEA Pro League, the qualifying format meant that only one would make it to the APAC North league for 2020. The other would have to wait its turn, as the SEA teams will be assigned places in APAC North based on the Operation Leagues (as split by further subregions) and not as per the Pro League standings.
The game started off on Clubhouse, with Qconfirm on the preferred defensive side. However, Xavier Esports' players were no less equal than their more experienced opponents. Try as Qconfirm did, Xavier kept their opponents in check and came away with a very successful 3-3 half on attack. As the roles then swapped, Xavier simply ran away. Qconfirm could do little as round after round went to their opponents, who closed out a 4-0 defensive half to win the map 7-3.
If viewers had thought that the first map had provided explosive action, Consulate would turn things up to 11. With Xavier Esports now starting off on defense, once again the action was neck-and-neck in the first half. But unlike Clubhouse, where Xavier ran away with the second, Qconfirm made sure nothing of the sort happened. Round after round was traded off and despite securing match point, Qconfirm could not initially seal the deal.
Xavier then wrested match point away, winning an explosive round to force overtime and then a second to take match point for themselves, but Qconfirm seemingly wisened up. A strong penultimate round was followed up by a comfortable attack, winning the map 8-7 and tying the match at one map apiece.
With the game then moving to Coastline, Xavier Esports were looking to right what wrong in the previous map, but it would not be an easy feat given the fact that Qconfirm were just as equally proficient on the map. However, it seemed that Xavier had studied their opponents just that much better, taking the first half 4-2 on defense. While Qconfirm then struck back with two rounds to tie things up, Xavier Esports broke the spirit of their opponents with three unanswered rounds to take the map 7-4 and position themselves on the precipice of an APAC North placement.
The momentum refused to carry straight through, however, swining back-and-forth like a pendulum. And this time it would swing towards Qconfirm. While the first two rounds were traded back and forth, Qconfirm seemed very comfortable defending on another of their strongholds of Border. Three rounds would go before Xavier would answer, making it a 4-2 half for Qconfirm.
While Xavier Esports would tie things up to make it 4-4, facing the fearsome Qconfirm attack proved too much in the end as three rounds would go to the Finka-friendly squad to push proceedings to the fifth and final map of Theme Park.
Xavier Esports kicked Theme Park off with style, immediately banishing any notions that the map was inherently defender-sided. One attack round win became two, before a third one was added upon in a flawless fashion. Qconfirm finally arrested the slide in the fourth round, but Xavier restored their three-round lead in the next before making it four with yet another flawless round to close out the half 5-1. Clearly, they were more than comfortable attacking on Theme Park.
Swapping roles, the feeling was that all was over for Qconfirm and Xavier Esports wasted little time making that feeling a reality. Defending the primary bomb site of Throne Room, Qconfirm pulled things back to a 3v3 after losing two members, but could not take the round as their time ticked away.
Now with five match points to play with, Xavier were forced to narrowly give one up, but closed things out in the very next round, taking the map 7-2, the series 3-2, and qualifying to the 2020 APAC North league. Qconfirm, meanwhile, missed out, despite topping the Southeast Asian Pro League table four seasons in a row from Season 8 to Season 11.
Taiwan: Team Notorious 3-1 7th Heaven
Over in Taiwan, both Team Notorious and 7th Heaven had the opportunity of a lifetime. Despite a constant struggle to make it to the Pro League and Challenger League in the old format of competitive Siege, they now had a chance to qualify for the APAC North 2020 season and begin playing against top-tier opposition week-in and week-out.
With 7th Heaven having won Season 1 of the Taiwanese Operation League and Team Notorious Season 2, there was little separating the two. However, Notorious were in somewhat of a pickle -- instead of their core player HappyMinecraft, they would have to play with their coach, ShaZ. Not only that, they had just replaced KiMiTsuyoi with newcomer TankerBM.
The first map of Coastline began with an absolute massacre by 7th Heaven. Round after round went to the defenders, who were being led by Ed. The score was 5 to 0 when Team Notorious finally secured a round but it did not seem that they would be able to stop the march of their opponents. However, that is exactly what they did on their own defense, taking six rounds without interruption to make it a full 5-0 to 5-7 reverse sweep despite Ed's heroic 19-1-8 effort.
Over on the second map of Kafe, though, things would be a little different. Notorious and 7th Heaven both kept each other honest with close rounds, preventing a dominant 5-0 lead like on Coastline. However, Notorious did manage to pull away, establishing a two-round lead to take the first half 4-2. Ironically, in somewhat of a mimicry of the first map, the second half would prove more pivotal, as 7th Heaven came back this time to close things out 7-5 while denying Ace a 1v2.
Tied at one map each, both teams then headed over to Border to play out a near-identical overall pattern. A strong attacking half gave 7th Heaven a 4-2 lead, but with Border playing very much attacker-sided in APAC, this was the bare minimum that needed to be done. Five more close rounds between the two teams then meant that 7th Heaven was on match point, but Notorious refused to back down and took three rounds on the trot to force overtime and then win the map 8-6 and thus take a 2-1 map lead.
Clubhouse then started off as a close contest between 7th Heaven, on defense, and Team Notorious, on attack. The first four rounds flew by in a flash, and Notorious had already secured what is a decent result on attack in the form of two rounds. However, they were far from done. Taking the next two rounds, a 4-2 attacking half meant that qualification to the APAC North league was all but confirmed -- and confirm it they did in short order. Three more rounds went unanswered as Notorious continued their march, winning the map 7-2, the series 3-1, and securing their place in the 2020 APAC North league.
APAC North: What Is Next
As such, nine out of the 12 teams in the APAC North league have now been confirmed. They are:
Cyclops Athlete Gaming
A tenth team is yet to qualify through the combined Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, and Indonesia Operation League qualifier, as it has been suspended due to the COVID-19 crisis. Meanwhile, the allocation for remaining two teams is not yet confirmed, but it is almost certain that Giants Gaming will be invited given the team's pedigree and a recent tease by the captain Lunarmetal.
The distribution of the final slot is less clear-cut, however, with no official intimations made towards its allocation.
For additional coverage about the APAC North division and competitive Rainbow Six, keep checking back here at SiegeGG and follow us on Twitter.