The South Asia sub-region's format has remained unchanged from last year, meaning this stage had qualifiers over the last four weekends to determine the eight teams which will play in next weekend's South Asian Playoffs.
The top two teams at these playoffs will compete with the 2nd-4th placed teams in APAC North and South in the APAC Playoffs a few weeks later.
Now, with these qualifiers over, here's what's been going on in South Asia and what to watch out for in next week's playoffs.
2020 Season Summarised
The South Asia region, comprising the nations of India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives first joined the pro-circuit at the start of the 2020 season last June as part of the APAC South league.
Since then, the sub-region has been pretty much isolated from the rest of the world due to its distance from the rest of APAC and the coronavirus pandemic cancelling all planned LANs.
This led to almost all tournaments culminating in a local final, which saw the two teams of Union and MercenarieZ battle throughout the year. While Union won the first Regional Major and finished top two in every other tournament of note, it was MercenarieZ who won virtually everything else -- both sub-regional Stages, the November Major, and the SA Finals in January.
As well as sub-regional dominance, MercenarieZ also beat Union during the Six Invitational Closed qualifiers (the only APAC-wide event either team played in) before MRCZ then lost to CYCLOPS during the semi-finals in a 3-7, 6-8 scoreline.
In the months after, Union made no changes while MRCZ replaced NINJAFREAK, TaHa, and DOC7ER with SnoowW and Fatar, making it unclear if they will continue their winning ways into the new R6 year.
Four open qualifiers took place over the last four weekends, with the grand-finalists in each progressing onwards onto the upcoming playoffs:
Week 1 saw a number of early upsets as KIRA lost in the RO32, MRCZ in the Ro16, Union in the quarter-finals, and eSamurai in the semi-finals. Two of these rosters -- MRCZ and eSamurai -- were both knocked out in a very impressive run by Team LFO.
On the other side of the bracket, Virtual 5 took down the fifth-best team during the 2020 season, Deimos, who themselves had defeated the August Major winners of Union Gaming beforehand.
This led to a V5 vs LFO grand-final that V5 won in a 7-5, 7-5 scoreline, making themselves as the region's top-seeded team.
- 1st - Virtual 5 e-sports
- 2nd - Endangered Esports
- 3-4th - Deimos Force
- 3-4th - eSamurai Esports
The following week had some awkward seeding, as Union and MercenarieZ faced off in their opening Ro32 game, in which MRCZ increased their series win record over Union to 7-1 with a 7-5 victory on Villa:
Despite this, MercenarieZ went on to lose to the Sri Lankan team of Extraordinaire Esports, who had also defeated Deimos Force in the previous round to qualify for the grand-final.
Here, they met KIRA, who had lost just five rounds across the prior three games thanks to a forfeit and two 7-0 wins. The grand-final went on for the full three maps, which EXT eventually won, 4-7, 7-4, 7-4.
- 1st - Extraordinaire Esports
- 2nd - KIRA E-Sports
- 3-4th - MercenarieZ
- 3-4th - Mischief Gaming
After losses to the eventual winners during both prior qualifiers, Deimos was once again stuck on the same side of the bracket as MRCZ and Union for qualifier three. They did catch a break, as, after an initial bye, they beat Victrix Esports who had just first-rounded MRCZ, only to then get a forfeit win in the quarter-finals as well.
This set up a semi-final against Union which, after two 3-3 halves on Villa, saw Deimos break the deadlock with an attack win in overtime to win 8-6 and qualify for the playoffs.
On the opposite side of the bracket, Team Heat only narrowly won their first match 8-7 before taking down MonkaS and Valiants to reach the grand-final as well. Here, they lost to Deimos, who took the seed for themselves.
- 1st - Deimos Force
- 2nd - Team Heat
- 3-4th - Team Valiants
- 3-4th - Union Gaming
Finally, in the last chance for all teams to qualify for the playoffs, Union fell on Saturday in a 7-4 scoreline against eSamurai Esports to round out what had been a series of disappointing weekends for the team.
eSamurai themselves then went on to lose their semi-final against Mischief Gaming, 7-3, in their second third-place finish across the four qualifiers.
On the other side of the bracket, MercenarieZ had a very clean run, losing just five rounds across four games, including a win against MonkaS in the quarter-finals, to meet Mischief in the grand-final and qualify for the Playoffs next week.
Finally, MRCZ ended the qualifiers with another impressive performance as they took seed #7 in a 7-2, 7-4 scoreline to end their weekend strong.
- 1st - MercenarieZ
- 2nd - Mischief Gaming
- 3-4th - eSamurai Esports
- 3-4th - Team 9MM
And so, with these results, the following eight teams will play in next weekend's playoffs:
- Virtual 5 e-sports -- Shreesha, NOstalgia, ExTerR, Kurosaki, N1PUN, Hussain, and Musicjay (analyst)
- Endangered Esports -- MightyAli, Nany, Skullex, NoSkill, and PR0FES0R
- Extraordinaire Esports -- BL4NK, FaTaLz, Jayv, Mellow, and Nos
- KIRA E-Sports -- Invi, R4ttl3r, Ratz, amarhbk, and Atharv
- Deimos Force -- Asterix, L3VI, Poseidon, SniperwanTCandY, TsukishimaGOAT, Kobra, Notorious-09 and Sr7 (Coach)
- Equinox Heat -- AMST, Ashrithebaniya, Cxyph3r, Eagleye, GSTER, and BAT
- MercenarieZ -- Mii7, Hasib, M4KER, SnoowW, and Fatar
- Mischief Gaming -- Pxycho, ZePanda, Vortex, AviM, Avidwi, and ROUND
This, therefore, means Union Gaming will not be playing in the 2021 Stage 1 playoffs and will have to wait till Stage 2 to qualify for the event. This is a colossal blow for them, as they had aimed to be the ones to take South Asia into the wider APAC world and yet have failed to make it to the top-tiers of their local league.
On the other hand, considering Union made no roster changes, this likely shows an increase in skill from their opponents, which is clearly a good thing for the sub-region.
Most of note is V5 who, despite being the top-seeded team in the playoffs, include just a single player from previous South Asia Playoffs, showing that they include significant upcoming talent.
Also of note is Mischief Gaming's Pxycho, who is one, if not the first, female pro from the region.
MercenarieZ, meanwhile, shouldn't be written off yet. While it did take them to qualifier four to make these playoffs, they had to wait until qualifier three in Stage 1 of 2020, but they eventually went on to win the event.
These eight teams will play in a double-elimination best-of-three bracket from April 16-18th with a Bo5-map grand-final for seeding purposes and to see who gets the most of the $6,000 prize pool.
It is, however, currently unknown how much of the tournament will be streamed, with it being completely reliant on community streamers. Follow the southasiar6community Twitch channel for notifications on the streamed games.
The top two teams from these playoffs progress to the APAC Playoffs on the 23-25th where they'll fight for their share of the $43,250 prize pool and 1265 SI Points.
Currently, South Asian teams have only played teams from outside their sub-region during the Six Invitational qualifiers, where MercenarieZ lost CAG, and during the World eSports Challenge, where eSamurai Esports defeated the tournament favorites of Hate Shield, which included the current DWG player of yass and ex-Pro League Finalist of KhaZiX.
This means no matter what, a new team will get a shot at taking down the best teams Korea, Japan, Oceania, and South-East Asia have to offer.
Check back here for further updates on the tournament here at SiegeGG as it continues in the following weeks.