With the new-look APAC North Division underway once more 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 and what to expect from the second week below!
The first day of Stage 2 saw a little sleepiness carrying over from the long gap between the last official game for each team, but there was no shortage of excitement.
While not usually the kind of match that gets neutrals going, Fnatic's game against Cyclops Athlete Gaming (CAG) was certainly one to have watched. Playing on Coastline, a map that Cloud9 had mounted a seven-round comeback on against them, it was unsure what kind of Fnatic would turn up. After all, thanks to COVID-19, Fnatic could not leave Australia to play in Asia and was thus at a ping disadvantage and had a tough time mentally due to various close losses in Stage 1.
This time around, role changes meant that Jason "Lusty" Chen was no longer on support but on entry and Tex "Tex" Thompson was on support and hard breach, for starters. Sure enough, there was an immediate impact. Where fans expected a close game against the former Japanese champions, the complete opposite was to be found. The Australians crushed their opponents in a 7-0 fashion, as Lusty secured a 2.18 rating and three of his teammates were also rated 1.40 or above.
Soon after, a similarly anticipated game between Cloud9 and GUTS Gaming surprised many by how quick it had been. After the two teams had finished second and third, respectively in Stage 1, Cloud9 had gone on to win the Six Major over Giants Gaming. A victory was thus always favoured for the Koreans, but the game on Oregon saw Cloud9 start off 0-2 down before roaring back to a 4-2 lead.
Once in the lead at the half, Cloud9 stayed with it. While losing the first attacking round immediately after the role swap, after having a two-man advantage at the execute wiped out by the anchors, the close 1v1 nature of the round loss meant that their fundamentals were not the issue. The two teams were rather closely matched, with all three remaining rounds ending in a 2v1 or 1v1, but Cloud9 came ahead all three times to take the game 7-4.
Elsewhere, Qconfirm shut Nora-Rengo (NR) down 7-2, Giants Gaming and FAV Gaming found the going tougher than expected in 7-4 wins over Talon Esports and SCARZ, while Xavier Esports, too, took 11 rounds to beat Electrify Esports 7-4.
The second day dragged on far longer than the first had -- and not just due to the various rehosts. While games were reasonably rapid on the first day, Thursday saw two games go to 12 rounds and another two go the full 15-round distance.
The first of these was the Japanese derby between Nora-Rengo and Cyclops Athlete Gaming, played on Clubhouse. Starting off on defence, NR was looking to shake off its 2-7 defeat to Qconfirm and use the defensive side to get a strong advantage. Sure enough, while CAG briefly took a 2-1 lead, Nora-Rengo was doing well at 4-2 and even made it 5-2 right after the role swap.
However, CAG, too, was keen to showcase that its 0-7 loss to Fnatic was an anomaly and struck back with four defensive round wins in a row to get to match point. But the match was yet to finish, as the NR players found their teeth to force overtime. Meanwhile, CAG seemed undeterred, winning the first overtime round despite having to attack, but NR responded exactly in kind.
Now on Round 15, Nora-Rengo finally looked poised to actually take the win, up 3v1 in the post-plant on defense. However, poor communication allowed CAG to clutch things out and snatch victory away in a situation that should certainly have led to their opponents winning.
Right after, Xavier Esports and FAV Gaming would keep the blood pumping, going over to Oregon instead. Here, Xavier started off on defense by taking the first two rounds. While FAV Gaming struck back, the Thai team went on an absolute tear, taking the next three rounds on the trot to go up 5-1. Unfortunately for them, it seemed like defense was the name of the game.
Four in a row now from FAV meant that they would tie things up, but Xavier finally responded in Round 11 to get match point in a tense almost-1v2 clutch. FAV was not out of it yet, though, as they took the game to overtime and then got to defend there. Taking full advantage, FAV Gaming got to match point, and while Xavier Esports won their own defense, they would not win the match. The Japanese were more than happy to seize on Xavier's mistakes to clutch a 1v2 from a 3v5 and take the map 8-7.
This week, keep your eyes peeled for more APAC action, with special attention warranted to the game between Cloud9 and Xavier Esport. Also, don't miss the repeat matchup between Qconfirm and Giants Gaming as well, with Giants historically having struggled against them.
Keep an eye out here on SiegeGG for further updates from each region as the games continue for the next four weeks, and be sure to follow us on Twitter for instant updates.