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APAC North 2021: Cloud9 Wins Stage 1 over CAG, Fnatic & GUTS Qualifies for Playoffs on Final Playday

With Stage 1 of the APAC North Division ending earlier today, here's a summary of the season and a quick look at the teams to watch in the upcoming APAC Playoffs.

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APAC North came to a close this week following five weeks of play. As the top four teams all prepare to face the best of APAC South, here's a rundown of all the action since Stage 1 kicked off.

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The Teams

The four "Japanese based" teams from the 2020 APAC North League were joined by two returning and two new Korean teams to form the new eight-team APAC North 2021 League for Stage 1:

  • Cloud9 -- EnvyTaylor, Static, Nova, Harp3r, SyAIL, RechoTZ, and OniChan (two coaches)
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  • CYCLOPS athlete gaming -- Anitun, SuzuC, gatorada, BlackRay, Ayagator, Fuji3 (coach), and Hybrid (analyst)
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  • FAV gaming -- Taipon, Afro, ShiN, No2, K-RAISER, OdeNMiso (coach), Tatsukin, and Nata (two analysts)
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  • GUTS Gaming -- CrazyPapiyoN, Lily, Li9ht, Yura, JJ, Cloud, Joghurt (coach), and OUDON (analyst)
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  • Fnatic -- Mag, Lusty, Tex, MentalistC, Stigs, Alphama, Dizzle, and Crapelle (two coaches)
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  • Talon Esports -- LabyRinth, AzzyyyS, Tomorrow, Soldier, Kanos, and Zelgadiss (coach)
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  • T1 -- iLeven, r3plicA, Vamos, Yeti, Revi, Howard, and VBM (two coaches)
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  • DWG Kia -- Chanzo, CATsang, yass, Woogiman, coted, RIN, Gotti, and HoundBird (coach)
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While the four Japanese teams above saw no change in organisations, Nora-Rengo's spot was given to T1, who picked up a Korean roster that includes two ex-SCARZ players, while DWG KIA joined the scene by picking up the newly promoted GC Busan Spear roster.

Shortly after these pickups, both orgs saw sudden player changes with T1 terminating Demic's contract and putting their coach on the starting roster while DWG dropped four players due to a contract dispute with the organization over allegedly 'undesirable' behavior of some of its players.

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The initial T1 roster. From left: Demic, iLeven, Vamos, Yeti, r3plicA, Howard.

As well as these changes, Fnatic saw Alphama join and Acez leave, Talon saw Kanos join, GUTS had Cloud join their starting lineup from a coaching role, and, K-RAISER joined FAV Gaming.

In total, these mid-table changes were somewhat tame compared to other regions, with the top two teams of C9 and CAG seeing no player changes whatsoever.

The Season

Week 1

The league began in mid-March, with an extremely close game between Fnatic and DWG in Oregon. Starting with Fnatic on defense, APAC-debutant Alphama responded to a 4k from yass with a post-plant 1v2 win, with Tex then adding to this a round later with an ace on Jager to give Fnatic a strong lead.

By the half FNC was ahead 4-2, a lead they quickly lost due primarily to Woogiman before a 1v2 by Lusty brought them back and into overtime. A third clutch kept FNC in it, but their luck ran out as a very slow attack was punished leaving Lusty and Tex in an unwinnable 2v5 on round 15.

Next up were the two favorites of CAG and C9 in action against FAV and GUTS.

Starting with the Japanese derby, the somewhat short game saw a lot of action with two of FAV's three-round wins coming from a 1v1 clutch from Raiser, and a quad kill from Afro.

CAG, meanwhile, had standout plays of their own, most notably a 1v2 4k from BlackRay on their way to a 7-3 victory:

Cloud9, meanwhile, also started off well as a 1v2 and a 10-kill round both went their way to get a 5-1 defensive half on Club House. A few rounds into the second half C9 pushed onto map point as GUTS continued their march forwards towards overtime. Their comeback was, however, cut down at the last moment on round 12 ending the match, 7-5.

Finally, T1's pro debut didn't end well. Even with two clutches and the majority of opening kills, they lost against their fellow Koreans of TALON Esports, 7-3 on Villa:

Week 2

Play day two kicked off with Fnatic once again as they took a very strong lead against FAV. After just suffering four deaths across the opening four rounds they looked to be cruising towards a win before FAV suddenly woke up. Rounds five and six were fairly comfortably won by FAV leading to a 4-2 half.

Now we had an actual game on our hands as FAV gained on FNC. A 1v1 by Alphama put FNC on map point only for Taipon to win a 1v2 pushing the game to overtime. Here, for the second week running, Fnatic lost in overtime -- this time in a 6-8 scoreline -- after a strong map opening.

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As with last week, this followed with C9 and CAG's matchups, this time against the new orgs of DWG and T1. Once again CYCLOPS made much less of a game out of their opponents as, while T1 did manage to take keep up with them to a 2-2 scoreline, CAG then ran away with it ending the game at 7-2.

Most notable about this game statistically was iLeven, who was T1's only player to perform with a 1.42 rating compared to his closest teammate at 0.74:

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C9 also won their game in a closer scoreline as DWG did manage to put up a fight with, for the second game in a row, yass being their star player. The game ended 7-4 in which time yass secured a 1.27KPR, with a 4k, a defuse and two double kills across the rounds he won.

Finally, TALON vs GUTS ended the day with both teams coming in as the second-best teams from their nation. GUTS took the lead on Club House and never looked back as, while the rounds TALON won were dominant wins, they were rare as the game ended 7-3.

Week 3

The final week of regular season play before two super-weeks started with another all-Japanese game between CAG and GUTS, a meeting which CAG last lost during Stage 1 2020. GUTS initially took the lead and looked like a much more organized team, being able to waste time and forcing out very late rushes.

After going up 3-1, CAG brought the game back to a draw before taking the lead with two successful retakes in a row. After this GUTS looked sapped and put up relatively little opposition ending the game 7-3 to CYCLOPS to keep their win streak alive.

Next up was another Japanese win as FAV Gaming faced T1 who, once again, was carried to a somewhat close scoreline by iLeven. A clutch and two triple-kills gave T1 three of their four-round wins in their 4-7 defeat, with the final win being on the hands of Revi who secured four out of five of his kills in a single round.

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Also of note was Fnatic's matchup against C9 after FNC's two very close losses in the prior weeks. While the game wasn't as close as previously, this was due to an amazing performance from Cloud9, which included a quad-kill and 1v1 from EnvyTaylor, two 1v2s from Nova, and a 1v1 from Static to win five of the opening six rounds.

Fnatic did attempt a comeback from this but the game was too far gone with C9 closing it out on an eventual 7-3 scoreline in which EnvyTaylor secured a massive 1.5 KPR.

Finally, TALON vs DWG on Chalet was topped in Talon's favor following two impressive clutches in subsequent rounds:

Week 4

The first APAC North super-week saw a massive result take place on play day four as the undefeated CYCLOPS roster lost to Fnatic, who sat with zero wins to their name.

The game on Villa started as well as it could have, with Tex getting an ace on Jager. From here, they managed to eke out a 4-2 lead in the half due to a 1v1 by Mag. Despite the defense sided nature of the map, the side switch did little to slow FNC down as they added to their count with three more round wins -- two being clutches -- to end the game 7-4.

This loss then cost CAG first place, as Cloud9 followed this matchup by defeating a rather strong-looking T1 roster, 7-5, also on Villa. With zero points in three games, no one expected anything from T1 yet they went up 4-0 before C9 could respond. A 1v1 from Nova meant C9 ended the half in a not-so-bad 2-4 scoreline which they salvaged with a 5-1 half of their own to win the game.

Nevertheless, going to 12 rounds against C9 was impressive meaning T1 was likely happy with the result.

Earlier in the day, Talon Esports had secured the most one-sided result of the league so far with a 7-1 win over FAV in which Talon's Japanese player of AzzyyyS secured the best SiegeGG rating in three years at 2.42 as he got 15 kills to a single death.

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Finally, DWG won their second game of the season over GUTS Gaming in a 8-6 scoreline which, due to Fnatic winning the full three points, pushed these teams down to sixth and seventh place respectively.

The second half of week four went as many expected with C9 continuing their winning streak, and T1 their losing streak.

Starting with the Cloud9 game, they demolished FAV on Consulate in a 7-2 scoreline. FAV had been having a very mixed season which this game certainly didn't help as a clutch from Taipon was the only standout play from the team.

Following this was T1 vs DWG, which was likely T1's only remaining chance to get a win this stage. While T1 did remain in the game with a number of round wins, these were all off of individual plays with DWG working much better together.

Yeti won a 1v1, and Revi got a 3k in the first half to keep them at 2-4 before the two teams started trading back and forth in the second half. Despite iLeven's best attempts including an ace, DWG's two-round lead meant they coasted to victory, 7-4.

Finally, the two remaining games of the week saw CYCLOPS get back to form with a 7-4 win over TALON while GUTS beat Fnatic in 7-5.

While AzzyyyS once again performed well for Talon, the team clearly wasn't well-practiced on Chalet leading them to lose both halves while on Club House, a 5-1 defensive lead from GUTS was too much for Fnatic to overcome with a 1v1 by Li9ht ending their comeback.

Week 5

And so, we reached week five and the final two play days. At this point, there were still six teams in the running for three remaining playoff spots, while just C9 and CAG were in competition for first place.

Keeping this status quo in check, CYCLOPS and Cloud9 once again won their games as CAG vs DWG ended 7-3, and C9 vs TALON ended 7-4. The CYCLOPS game saw them go up 5-0 on their defense of Oregon which includes standout plays from SuzuC and Anitun on their surprise duo of Aruni and Frost before they closed this out with a 1v1 from Anitun and a triple kill from Ayagator.

The Cloud9 game went somewhat similarly as they went up 4-0 on their own defensive half before a 3k from AzzyyyS and 4k from Kanos ended run at a 4-2 half. The second half was fairly even but with C9 already in the lead, they looked to cruise to victory. The game eventually ended thanks to a 4k from SyAIL in the space of 20 seconds:

Following this was FNC vs T1 with these two teams sitting at the bottom of the standings. Fnatic needed to win this game to stay in the running for playoffs and they certainly did that with a 7-0 victory including a Lusty 4k, and both a 4k and 1v1 from Mag.

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Finally, Talon's season ended as they lost 7-4 against GUTS on Chalet. This came after what was initially a very close game descended into a GUTS sweep as FAV was unable to gain any traction on the defense. This result meant FAV lost any chance of making the playoffs with two wins in six games:

And so the final play day saw a number of key games. C9 vs CAG for the APAC North Stage 1 title, Fnatic vs Talon for a playoff spot, GUTS vs T1, in which GUTS needed just a single point for a playoff spot, and DWG vs FAV in which DWG needed to both win and see a number of other results go their way to qualify for the playoffs.

Starting with the most important game, after initially going up 2-0 with a clutch from Static in round two, CYCLOPS then came back to draw it up with Gatorada clutching on round four. This parity between the rosters stayed throughout the match which was an issue for CAG as their loss earlier in the season meant they needed all three points to go first, an overtime win isn't good enough.

This pattern broke on round 10 in Cloud9's favor as, while up 5-4, a very late-round push onto Oregon's Laundry site was quickly stopped. Finally, the following round, Cloud9 ended the game as their roamers and peakers on round 11 consistently hit CYCLOPS when they least expected it whitling them down to a win meaning Cloud9 won Stage one of the APAC North League.

In another decider game, Fnatic vs Talon really showed that Fnatic was back. After a 7-0 win last week, this week ended 7-1 on Chalet -- the third time Talon's gone here in the seven matches -- where Stigs showed up with a 2.11 rating as he secured 15 kills in three rounds.

Most notable cross these rounds was a quad and then triple kill to end the map as well as an Alphama 1v1 -- his fourth clutch of the season -- as Fnatic secures a spot in the APAC playoffs.

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The final playoff spot was up for grabs between GUTS and DWG with DWG needing a win against FAV and for GUTS to lose against T1 to win the spot, neither of which were likely outcomes.

While the game was close, No2 returned to his fragging prowess after a few difficult weeks to win the game for FAV with 15 kills to just six deaths. This loss from DWG Kia put them out of the running meaning GUTS got the final playoff spot before their game was even played.

Just for good measure, GUTS did beat T1 in a 7-2 scoreline, meaning the Korean side did end the season with 0 points.

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What's Next

With this league now over, the top four teams will progress to the APAC Playoffs taking place next weekend from the 23-25th of April.

This playoff will see two separate tournaments take place. Firstly, the winners of the APAC North and APAC South League -- Elevate and Cloud9 -- will face off in the Stage Championship where the best team in APAC will be crowned. This tournament is worth a massive $93,750 and offers 900 SI Points meaning the victor will get a spot at SI2022 even with mediocre results for the rest of the year.

Secondly, the second to fourth-placed teams in APAC North and South as well as the top two South Asian teams will play in a double-elimination playoff for $43,250 and a further 1265 SI Points.

At the moment six out of eight teams are confirmed; Knights, Chiefs, and 7th Heaven from APAC South as well as CAG, GUTS, and Fnatic from APAC North. The final two teams will be decided at the South Asia Playoffs happening this weekend.

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Finally, the two APAC North teams of Cloud9 and CYCLOPS will compete at the upcoming Six Invitational in May which they both qualified for last November.

Keep an eye out here at SiegeGG for full coverage of these games over the next few weeks as Stage 1 comes to a close in APAC.

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