With the new-look APAC North Division finally underway and the top 12 teams from Asia pit against each other, there was just as much new to see as there was the old. Find out what happened in this fifth and final week below and what to expect from the upcoming mini-major!
The penultimate day of play was a particularly rapid, with only half the games reaching double-digit round counts. While each result was meaningful in its own right, only two games saw pitched battle between the teams involved, starting off with GUTS Gaming and FAV Gaming.
The domestic derby, fought for the title of the best Japanese team in the APAC North Division, would be played on Consulate. FAV drew first blood with an attacking victory, but GUTS equaled the score immediately on a different site. However, FAV was clearly the superior team on the offense, stringing together three further attacking wins, while all GUTS could do was repeat its garage defense win to go into the second half with a 2-4 deficit.
FAV then extended its lead to three rounds, but GUTS would show slightly stronger promise after taking an attacking win right after. However, the FAV players were determined not to let their opponents build any momentum, getting onto match point right after. While GUTS would delay things by taking the 10th round, FAV would march onto site in a mad rush and close things out to take the map 7-4.
The Japanese feature continued right after, with NORA-Rengo then taking on SCARZ on the same map. The first half, though, was very simply summed in one word: massacre. Round after round went to the Japanese and the Season 11 Korean Pro League champions of SCARZ could do little but be passengers in their own game. In a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, NORA-Rengo had a 6-0 lead.
Defense seemed to be the name of the game, though, as SCARZ suddenly came to life in the second half. One round seemed initially to be a consolation for the Koreans, but then it became a second, and absolutely snowballed into a whopping five. All of a sudden, only match point stood between a NORA-Rengo victory and overtime. The Koreans were certainly feeling the momentum, but the Japanese finally found their teeth on attack and closed out a flawless offense to take the win and stave off an embarrassing Fnatic-like reverse sweep.
Elsewhere, Cyclops Athlete Gaming (CAG) defeated Talon Esports 7-3, but Fnatic swept past Electrify Esports in a 7-1, and Cloud9 batted Qconfirm aside 7-3. The most surprising result, however, was Xavier Esports demolishing Giants Gaming in a stunning 7-1 to break the Singaporeans' 8-0 win streak.
The final day of play in the first stage of APAC North competition stretched out much longer than the previous one had, featuring three 12-round games and two 14-round ones.
The first was between the top-two in the region at that point -- Cloud9 and Giants Gaming. A rematch from their first phase game, the first had ended with a 7-4 on Kafe in favour of the latter team. This time, the two teams took it up a notch on Consulate. Giants drew first blood on defense, and while Cloud9 pulled things back, Giants Gaming opened up a two-round lead. A quick back-and-forth later, Giants had a 4-2 lead at the half.
This soon became match point, as Giants kept the momentum going on the attack with two quickfire wins. However, Cloud9 had more than enough bite -- as it had demonstrated against Fnatic in the past week. A first defensive win was all the impetus that was needed for the Koreans, and before they knew it -- overtime was at hand. Perhaps mentally resetting, though, the Giants broke their four-round duck on attack, before Cloud9 was put to rest on defense, as the Singaporeans won 8-6.
Soon after, in the penultimate game of the entire stage itself, FAV Gaming took Xavier Esports to Coastline -- a map on which the Thai excelled at. However, FAV got off to a lightning start, taking four rounds in a row to stun the Thai National champions. Xavier did get a defensive win in round five, but the Japanese made it so that they had a commanding 5-1 lead for the second half.
Now on attack, it was Xavier Esports' turn to build up momentum. The 5-1 lead for FAV evaporated as fans watched the Thai pull back four rounds. However, despite losing their lead, the Japanese wrested it back and got onto match point. Xavier was not done, however, as it fought back to force overtime, before taking both rounds on overtime as well -- in only the third defensive win of the entire game -- and win the match 8-6.
Elsewhere, GUTS Gaming was ran close by SCARZ in a 7-5 victory, while Talon Esports and CAG beat their opponents of Electrify Esports and Qconfirm, respectively. The only game not close that day was the formerly titanic battle between NORA-Rengo and Fnatic, in which the Australians won two games in a row for the first time in the season after a 7-3 over the Japanese.
As such, the league table saw Giants Gaming become the first stage APAC North champions, while Cloud9 followed slightly behind. GUTS Gaming, Xavier Esports, FAV Gaming, and Cyclops Athlete Gaming followed in that order, with the six headed to the APAC North mini-major. Just losing out was Fnatic, having had a slow start to the season, while Qconfirm had disappointed as well.
Talon Esports and Electrify Esports followed, with the latter surprisingly ahead of NORA-Rengo despite a worse win-loss record thanks to the Buccholz scoring system, designed to rate teams’ wins based on who they beat. Finally, rounding out the table was SCARZ at the bottom in a greatly disappointing stage that puts the team at risk of relegation come the end of the season.
The mini-major will thus see the top-six teams from this first stage go through. The favourites will certainly be Giants Gaming, but with local Southeast Asian rivals Xavier Esports having decimated Giants 7-1 in the Singaporeans’ only loss, the Thai could be key to stopping them. On the other end of the top-six, though, CAG will be looking to go back to the drawing board for some of its strategies and come back swinging, as expected of the standing Japanese Pro League champions.
The event will have a single-elimination format, much like the inaugural Six Invitational, with Giants Gaming and Cloud9 given a first-round bye. GUTS Gaming or CAG will face the former after their quarter-final, while the winner between Xavier Esports and FAV Gaming will play Cloud9.
Keep an eye out here on SiegeGG for further updates from each region as the mini-majors get underway, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for instant updates.