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APAC North Stage 2 Preview: Brutal fight for Major spots on the cards

Here's all you need to know about Stage 2 of the APAC North Division in 2022.

After a tumltuous end for APAC in Stage 1, many changes are afoot ahead of Stage 2. 

After the issues with latency during the Stage 1 APAC Playoffs, Ubisoft has opted to remove the APAC Playoffs entirely for Stage 2 of the 2022 season. Instead, the top two teams from the APAC North and South Divisions will head directly to the Six Major.

As a result, the battle will be extremely fierce in APAC for the Major spots -- particularly in APAC North. Only CYCLOPS athlete gaming from APAC North was at the Charlotte Major, with the latency issues having hit DWG KIA and SANDBOX Gaming.

Here's everything you need to expect from APAC North for Stage 2.

The Teams

Half the field has made player changes in APAC North, while two additional teams have also made support staff changes.

  DWG KIA -- CATSang, Woogiman, RIN, coted, yass, HoundBird (Coach), PJH* (Coach)
  SANDBOX Gaming -- EnvyTaylor, Static, SyAIL, GoodBoy, Arukaze, Nova (Coach), FanXy* (Coach)
  Talon Esports -- Soldier, Kanos, Demic, h3dy, Marb1e*, Misa*, zelgadiss (Coach), DongUk (Coach)
  Spear Gaming* -- CrazyBoy, Mephi, iLeven, RoyBoy*, saeyeora*, NL* (Head Coach), WATB (Coach)
  CYCLOPS athlete gaming -- Anitun, BlackRay, gatorada, SuzuC, Ayagator, Fuji3 (Coach)
  Fnatic -- Chibisu, Li9ht, Lily, Yura, Siru*, Mag, Dizzle (Head Coach), Phenomene (Strategic Coach)
  FAV gaming -- Afro, Shin, Taipon, No2, Ramu, K-RAISER, OdeNMiso (Coach), Tatsukin (Analyst), Nata (Analyst)
  REJECT -- Window, NoTimeGG, Take, tadaNiki, solty, Candy, Pep (Coach)

*Changes are marked with an asterisk

Storylines to watch for

Revenge of the Koreans

The Koreans feel hard done by the events that transpired at the end of Stage 1. In the APAC Playoffs, SANDBOX Gaming and DWG KIA were given four hours and one day notice, respectively, regarding the necessity to use a VPN in their matches against Chiefs ESC.

While it's true that the Chiefs had played all stage long on identical or worse conditions, the Koreans simply had no time to adapt. Chiefs dispatched both teams and qualified for the Charlotte Major.

The result of those playing conditions was widespread anger in the Korean community, with the pros particularly unhappy. Now, without APAC Playoffs and VPNs for them in Stage 2, they will be looking to showcase exactly what saw them attend countless LAN events in the past year.

They got to Japan... now what?

Fnatic has had its sights set on a Rainbow Six team in Japan since 2020. First, they tried moving the Australian roster there for two years, even suffering brutal latency in matches to play in APAC North. Then, throwing in the towel against COVID-led travel restrictions, they signed a Japanese roster itself.

But the GUTS Gaming roster that was second in Stage 3 last year was second-last in Stage 1 this year. The new coaches and new playing style has seemingly not stuck and Fnatic were also bundled out 0-2 in the Japan League Season 1 Playoff by tier-two Donuts USG.

Now they've signed Miyamoto "Siru" Masashi, who will join the team as Tsukasa "Merieux" Asano's replacement. Etienne "Mag" Rousseau is still with the team, but he must make it to Japan to play -- a task that still seems to be insurmountable. And, as Mag himself said to SiegeGG, even if he makes it to Japan this stage, there are many other factors to consider before they slot him into the playing roster.

Can Fnatic meld their Japanese playing roots with their international-focused coaching and strategy?

Chop and change or stay the course?

Six teams made personnel changes this time around, with Spear Gaming having the biggest changes of them all.

Two new players and a new head coach joined the former T1 roster, which had lost one player to SANDBOX and another to a coaching role with DWG KIA. Package it all in a new but familiar organization and there's much instability that will need settling, especially for a team that's never posted an impressive stage.

Comparatively, FAV and REJECT were the only ones to not make any changes at all. The two teams placed fifth and eighth in Stage 1, but were not too far off an APAC Playoffs position. It could be that they just needed time to switch on -- FAV with Ryuki "Ramu" Matsuoka and REJECT in their top-flight debut -- but with top two the goal this stage, each match is much more vital.

CAG will also be ones to watch, having opted to part with their Italian analyst Riccardo "Hybrid" Massimino Font. They failed to make an impact internationally once more and came home to also lose the grand final of the Japan League Season 1 Playoff to tier-two SCARZ.

They've always been domestic powerhouses, but with only two spots for the Major now viable, their choice to stay with the same playing roster may bode ill for them.

When is it starting?

APAC North starts on Jun. 15, Wednesday, with play days every week for the next seven weeks starting at 6:30 PM UTC+9.