Image: Ubisoft/Michal Konkol
APAC North will effectively mark its halfway point in Stage 3 this week, with just four of seven games left afterwards. Here’s a rundown on what to expect this week:
- 6:30PM JST -- Fnatic vs FAV gaming
- 7:45PM JST -- DWG KIA vs Talon Esports
- 9PM JST -- REJECT vs CYCLOPS athlete gaming
- 10:15PM JST -- SANDBOX Gaming vs Spear Gaming
After the exciting, potential Major-qualification deciding clash between CAG and DWG KIA last week, things have simmered down in APAC North this week. However, things are as tense as ever with six of the eight teams on three points.
Fnatic will start things off with a clash against FAV gaming, with the latter team having struggled all throughout 2021 and 2022. FAV are still looking for their first points this stage, but Fnatic have found some form with a 7-4 win over REJECT last week despite three changes this stage.
CAG, fresh off their win against DWG last week, will be looking to make it a third win on the bounce to build further momentum before their next stern test -- SANDBOX in week six. REJECT, though, will always smell the potential for an upset after they stunned SANDBOX in week one and in light of CAG's weaknesses in Stage 2.
SANDBOX themselves will be keen not to drop further points after that first-week loss, having started with a 7-3 win over FAV last week. Spear should be easy pickings for them, given their hard loss against Talon last week, but cannot be underestimated.
But the match of the day will undoubtedly be the second one, between DWG KIA and Talon Esports. Here's what we can expect from this game.
DWG KIA under immense pressure already
The second play day was particularly devastating for DWG KIA. Not only did they unexpectedly drop points in just their second match of the stage (this after they were 6-0-0-0 in Stage 2), they did so against CAG -- direct rivals for a spot at the November Major.
APAC North (and South) only have two Major spots each, with eight teams fighting over them in each division. Previously, in Stage 2, Jang "RIN" Byeong-uk expressed disappointment at the removal of the APAC Playoffs and revealed his team had felt the pressure despite that flawless run until the penultimate Stage 2 play day.
That pressure will be a lot more from now on and will likely last until the final Stage 3 play day. While CAG could certainly drop points, as they have been wont to do, DWG will want to keep fate in their own hands to stay in the fight and build momentum for their final-day clash against SANDBOX.
A win against Talon Esports will be crucial to those efforts, as they are local rivals and know DWG well. While they have struggled since their pre-Stage 2 changes, they are still a threat and could well prematurely end DWG's Major hopes if they perform and DWG do not.
Yass returns after two weeks away
A key reason for DWG KIA's loss to CAG last week seemed not to be what they showed in the server, but what they did not show. All but one CAG players got more kills than each of DWG's players and the Koreans acutely felt the absence of Yoo "yass" Sang-hoon.
Yass has been missing from DWG KIA for the first two weeks of play, with no clear reason given as to why. However, team coach Park "PJH" Jae-hyun, who had been playing in yass' stead, announced on his stream four days ago that the team had solved its internal issues and yass would be returning to the playing roster.
No official or clear reason was previously given regarding yass' absence, but the star player and IGL returned to action on Sep. 24 in the Korean Open in fine form against Beyond Stratos Gaming.
His skill is well known and will be vital towards DWG's hopes of still making it to the November Major, but the pressure is still on as SANDBOX have beaten DWG 7-5 in Stage 1 and Stage 2, even with yass playing.
DWG are historically better, but Talon are close
DWG KIA have, in 2022, been definitively better than Talon Esports.
- Korean Open Spring -- 7-0 to DWG on Skyscraper
- Stage 1 2022 -- 8-7 to Talon on Theme Park
- Korean Open Spring -- 7-5 to Talon on Skyscraper
- Stage 1 2022 APAC Playoffs - 8-6, 7-2 to Talon on Villa and Clubhouse
- Stage 2 2022 -- 7-4 to DWG on Oregon
- Korean Open Summer -- 7-3 to DWG on Villa
- Korean Open Autumn -- 7-5 to DWG on Chalet
While Talon have taken three wins, including a surprisingly dominant 2-0 in Stage 1, it was with their former roster before they chopped and changed it to what we have now. Since then, Talon have only won 12 rounds against DWG across three games played.
Nevertheless, things are close, especially with the latest game in the Korean Open just 11 days ago. Talon will be ruing their luck that yass is back, but could still cause an upset if they are able to play their map bans right and catch DWG under pressure on a poor day.
On the other hand, DWG will feel a lot more confident with yass back and might be happy to face familiar domestic opposition that are not exactly in best form right now. They have the historical record and have the experience to back it up. All they have to do is keep their heads about themselves.
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