APAC South had a really solid Stage 1... up until the Charlotte Major itself.
Prior to the Major, it seemed like the Oceanic and Southeast Asian teams were flying. Invictus Gaming looked to have assembled a functional 'super-team', Dire Wolves went 7-0-0-0, Elevate qualified for another LAN, and Chiefs beat their own expectations by qualifying after changing their roster.
At the end of the day, Elevate couldn't even make it to Charlotte, while both Dire Wolves and Chiefs had far less impact than fans were hoping. But Stage 1 is done and it's time to look forward.
Here's everything you need to expect from APAC South for Stage 2.
Most of APAC South stuck together with no changes, with only two teams making additions to their rosters. Wildcard were a third to make a change, but only to part ways with their coach, Wille "r0usty" Turunen.
Dire Wolves -- Ed, JackyWu, Pikan, Souffle, HARAM3E, Odin (Coach)
Elevate -- DCH, Sapper, Onigiri, MrPuncH, markshortboyz, DrBestsiaer (Coach), nanoKidz (Analyst)
Chiefs ESC -- Dgtl, Worthy, Ethan, Boydy, Bouncinballz, Todd (Coach), Hell (Analyst)
Knights -- Jsh, Juicy, Sageon, Stigs, Quiz, pikniq (Coach), Sketchy (Analyst)
Invictus Gaming -- HysteRiX, SpeakEasy, MentalistC, Jigsaw, naate, GiG (Coach)
Gaimin Gladiators -- Ape, Hovenherst, Rixx, Tolji, Jo*, Sunan (Coach)
Wildcard Gaming -- Oj, Kyro, Pat, Vincere, Milostka
FURY -- Darkk, Hajime, Lycolis, SpaceHead, Nay..Pew*, BGMan*, DomeDominic (Coach)
*Changes are marked with an asterisk
FURY had quite literally the opposite Stage 1 to Dire Wolves; 0-0-0-7. The zero point haul they had was only seen in APAC once before; T1 in APAC North in Stage 1 2021. Much was necessary to change in the FURY camp and much has changed.
Chayakorn "Producerboom" Tsai and Chawit "Mopee" Whangkijthum left the team and signed in place were Elevate Sumate "Nay..Pew" Srimabut and Sirasit "BGMan" Ariyasirisopon. They were regularly within the kills at Elevate -- something FURY struggled with immensely in Stage 1 -- and will hopefully start FURY on the road to recovery from rock bottom.
Three teams qualified for the Charlotte Major, two made it there. Now they're back after the rest of the APAC South field watched them gain vital experience stuck at home.
Both Dire Wolves and Chiefs were clear in their goals for the Charlotte Major. They were there to learn and there was much knowledge to be found. Odin Hempel, the Dire Wolves coach, said it quite simply: "I think it depends how we come back from [the Major]". Chiefs captain Ethan Picard echoed his thoughts, saying that "[the Major was] just another way to improve the team".
Dire Wolves' main goal this stage will be to ensure that their Charlotte qualification does not look like a fluke; they need to be top two. Of course, it's hardest to improve when you're at the top and it's harder still to improve when playing online and against a play style very different from what was seen internationally.
While Dire Wolves got a win in Charlotte, Chiefs came away empty handed -- but not for lack of trying. The Oceanic team looked fairly impressive for its first outing together, especially with two top-flight rookies in tow. The team knows its games were close and that they need to close out games properly.
The Team oNe play style gave the Dire Wolves players a “shock”. Can they and Chiefs deliver an international shock back home in APAC South with what they learnt?
Without the APAC Playoffs, APAC North teams have their main bugbear of having to play Oceanic teams on high latency gone.
But the teams in Oceania have to deal with high ping when playing any of the Southeast Asian teams every single time -- in fact, all of the APAC South teams must play each other on VPNs so as to level the playing field by "balancing latencies". Unfortunately for Oceanic teams in particular, the bad experience got worse midway through Stage 1.
According to Chiefs ESC coach Todd, latency issues had surfaced during the team's APAC South game against Elevate and have persisted. Chiefs players have apparently been playing their matches with 160ms to 220ms ping, said Todd, and were barred from using "personal VPNs" that "could reduce the ping".
But ESL has now relented on that ban slightly; ExitLag has now been approved for teams to use. ExitLag is a gaming-focused VPN that improves internet routing to game servers. With it, estimated Todd, his players will have latencies down to 90ms to 130ms instead -- still not ideal, but a far cry from the previous figures.
Ping will be a perennial problem for APAC, especially across such vast geographical distances, but ESL's move to ameliorate playing conditions is only a step in the right direction. The only question is; how well will it work?
APAC South starts on Jun. 16, Thursday, with play days every week for the next seven weeks starting at 3:30 PM UTC+8.