The first online PG National Finals took place last weekend, following two months of weekly games through April, May, and June. Here's how things went down, with the ex-Challenger League team of Mkers missing from the final for the first time ever.
The Regular Season
Mkers entered the tournament as the continuation of the six-time Italian champions, with Alation and Torok having won every one of these titles. This made them the very obvious favourites, however the competition was hot on their tails.
Last season the team suffered three online losses -- more than it had lost in the five prior online seasons combined -- with Samsung Morning Stars (SMS) and GoSkilla being the main competition. Despite this, they had swept the playoffs and LAN Finals, losing just a single map along the way to assert their dominance in the region.
This season they continued in a very similar fashion. While they were challenged by Cyberground, SMS, and Notorious Legion, they were clearly the better team as they secured a playoff position by week five and had lost just a single game against GoSkilla after they locked in first place.
Below them saw a well-contested fight between three teams; GoSkilla, Samsung Morning Stars and Cyberground Gaming. These teams kept pace with each other throughout the season, as they slowly increased their gap from Cyberground Gaming and Mad Wizards as the season continued on. While IGP lost to both of these teams on Week 7, GoSkilla defeating Mad Wizards 7-4 this week saved IGP's position and allowed them to progress onwards to the playoffs.
The battle for second was also decided on this final week as, while GSK managed to find two wins, SMS lost to seventh-placed Notorious Legion, keeping them in third. This positioning, however, means very little as second and third place was set to meet in the playoffs regardless, with no advantage to the higher seed.
The playoffs took place the following week, which in effect acted as the semi-finals. Seeds one and four faced each other and seeds two and three faced each other, both in best-of-three games, with the winner of each meeting in a grand-final.
- Mkers vs Italian Gaming Project
- GoSkilla vs Samsung Morning Stars
During the regular season, Mkers had defeated IGP twice, 7-3 and 7-2, making this matchup seem like a relatively simple one going in. This was completely put on its head on map one as the opening few rounds saw a 1v3 by Atroci, a 1v3 by HappySimo (which was then lost as he couldn't defuse in time) and an almost flawless round two to give IGP an early lead. Mkers did come back but relied on clutches and multi-kills to take the map.
Torok opened map two up with an ace as part of a flawless round -- quite a statement after the prior struggles -- however, HappySimo found a clutch of his own the following round to tie things up. The teams traded rounds all the way to round eight when the first two round lead came out thanks to a 1v2 by Vex, only for a 1v1 by ATK to pull it back two rounds later. The map eventually ended with in round 14 as IGP took map two.
Finally, map three saw seven players achieve over 10 kills, as a double kill by alanconnors onto Ying and Zofia gave IGP round 15 meaning they won the match, knocked out the six-time champions, and progressed onwards into the grand-finals.
After this shock, we saw another similar scoreline in the second semi-final between GoSkilla and Samsung Morning Stars, which also went to three maps. Just like the game prior, it was decided thanks to a 8-7 scoreline on map two of Clubhouse, as the Welsh player of Keenan secured a quadruple kill in a 2v4 in the space of 14 seconds to make the difference in the match and win the series.
This, therefore, saw the end of Alation and Torok's four year run as Italian champions, which they first won way back in February 2016 -- two and a half months after the game launched -- on dat fLAM3RS. Now, 52 months later, the duo has finally been toppled as they sat two games away from requalifying for the Challenger League.
As a small consolation prize, the Polish Mkers player of Bartek "AueR" Hajma was awarded the league's MVP title, as he ended the regular season with one of the league's highest Ratings of 1.17 on Zofia and Bandit.
MVP of the #PGNATS
And so, that set up Samsung Morning Star and Italian Gaming Project in the Finals, a meeting which had ended 7-1, 7-1 in the regular season.
The best-of-five match was to be on Consulate, Villa, Theme Park, Oregon, and Kafe Dostoyevsky. However, only the first three were needed as we saw one of the most one-sided games in Italian National Finals history.
Round one started with a triple kill by j3n4 on Oryx and continued with multi-kills on each round by SMS as they looked somewhat unstoppable. IGP eventually got on the round on round five, as a triple by SirBoss was responded to with a 1v3 by ATK. The rest of the map continued as expected, as SMS took three rounds running to win 7-1.
The next map went better, by IGP as a double kill by alanconnors led to a successful post-plant retake. Three rounds later, they added to this thanks to a 1v1 by Brodello on Wamai against j3n4, with them taking the lead the following round as ATK secured yet another 1v3.
With them now up 3-2, IGP lost their lead quickly as the following five rounds saw their players in a 1v4 or worse situation. leading to them losing map two, 7-3.
And so, finally, we went to map three of Theme Park. in which IGP once again relied on 1vXs to get on the board. A 1v1 by HappySimo on round three was added to following a failed rush by SMS two rounds later. As Samsung switched to attack up 4-2, IGP seemed much more confident winning two quick rounds. Their lead was too much, however, as on round 11 the map ended 7-4 to SMS as they took the map, series and Italian national title.
And so, SMS became the second-ever Italian champions, SirBoss retained his title, Hunter won his fourth title, and Fratelli won the title two years after his first.
Congratulations to both teams for the high level of esports that they brought us today!
Meet Samsung Morning Stars
This Samsung Morning Stars roster was formed after the organisation's first lineup, which included members such as Jess and Voy left, with them picking up another formidable roster with the aim of taking down Mkers.
The lineup included the ex-Pro League player for G2 and PENTA of Ferenc "SirBoss" Mérész, who came in as the most experienced player in the league, the ex-Challenger League and Italian champions from their time on EnD Gaming of Michael "Hunter" Arfanotti, and Davide "Fratelli" Federico, the two-times Premiership Finalist of Keenan "Keenan" Dunne and the Polish champion and Italian runner-up of Michele " j3n4" Strambi.
This made an extremely experienced lineup of champions around the Italian and wider national scenes, while keeping an Italian core lineup.
The team is led by their in-game-leader of Fratelli, with Keenan as the entry fragger, j3n4 as the secondary fragger, Hunter on breach, and SirBoss on a flex role. While these are similar operators which SirBoss played on during his time at G2 Esports, he played them much more frag-orientated on SMS, with him achieving a 1.22 K/D in the main season and a 1.33 K/D during the Finals.
Also on the team is their support staff as they entered the league as one of the best-prepared teams competing with both a notable coach and analyst. Their French coach of Aurélien "Neska" Rabet previously coached an up and coming team to victory over Team Vitality at the Lyon e-Sport LAN event and coached a team to second-place at the 2018 Rising Stars University Trophy.
Their analyst of Michele "MrBox" Scattola meanwhile has worked on teams in the Italian scene for over a year now, joining SMS in April of this year alongside most of the players.
The team now joins the Challenger League as the second-ever Italian team to do so after the Mkers lineup. As such, the five confirmed teams for the league are as follows:
- PENTA -- ENEMY, RevaN, BlaZ, Kaktus, Alive, Janixs and BiOs (their substitute and coach)
- LowLandLions -- Leonski, Avaiche, Deapek, Next1, blas, Sternab and Phenomene (their coach and analyst)
- forZe -- SmashByAsh, Leri, eXoduSS, ViKiNG and Neky
- Sector One -- WishMaster, MXKX, SE7EN, BaasheD, Duco, HughesDS, Darjetii and Okidokie98 (their substitute, coach and analyst)
- Samsung Morning Stars -- j3n4, SirBoss, Keenan, Fratelli, Hunter, Neska, and MrBox (their coach and analyst)
The league kicks off in Stage Two in a few months' time. To find out more about the tournament and qualification to it, read our article about it here.
That's all from our coverage of Season 3 of the PG Nationals! Stay tuned for Season 4 and Challenger League 2020 updates when they come.