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G2’s comeback in Stage 2 showed how much effect the schedule can have on form; who has the easiest and hardest start to Stage 3?

Who will have the toughest first half of Stage 3 in NA, Brazil, and APAC?

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During Stage 2 in Europe, a huge amount of attention was given to the dramatic comeback of G2 Esports from the bottom of the table to a Berlin Major qualification place. While an impressive achievement, it was one somewhat dictated by the fixture order.

After five games, G2 sat in eighth place with losses against Team BDS, Rogue, Wolves Esports, and MNM Gaming. Their massive comeback saw them then beat 10th-placed PWNZ, eighth-placed Outsiders, and ninth-placed Secret in back-to-back games.

In reality, their stage looks much less peculiar when you realise they beat the teams in green and lost against the teams in red:

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It’s clear that although each team must play the same opponents, the order you play everyone makes a significant difference to the storyline and the team itself. If G2 had a different order of games, it is possible Prano would have received a lot less community backlash, for example.

Furthermore, the order of the fixtures allowed SiegeGG to accurately rule out BDS’ Berlin Major chances just halfway through the stage.

Unfortunately, the European region is yet to announce its fixtures, but we already have Stage 3’s full fixture list for the Asia-Pacific, North American, and Brazilian games.

Here’s a look at which teams have it the easiest and hardest:

NA’s hardest start: beastcoast

Across the first five play days of the Stage, beastcoast plays XSET, TSM FTX, DarkZero Esports, Astralis, and Soniqs. These teams averaged 14.8 points in Stage 2.

Three of these attended the Six Berlin Major, while DZ won the title in Charlotte, and TSM’s old roster won the Six Invitational 2022.

What makes this even worse is that bc just lost their star player, Jacob "Sweater" Bravico, kept the league’s third worst-rated player, Anthony "AnthonyMGS" Gomez, and their two new rookie pickups, “Ferda” and “Xeno” will have a trial by fire entering the NA League.

Their “easiest” opponents, TSM FTX, also just added two new rookies and could have also improved compared to Stage 2.

Parabellum’s opponents also averaged 14.8 points. They also play XSET, DarkZero, and Astralis, but play Spacestation Gaming instead of TSM and Oxygen Esports instead of Soniqs. Both TSM and Soniqs finished ahead of SSG and OXG, respectively, and both TSM and Soniqs’ recent changes make them promising lineups coming into the stage.

NA’s easiest start: Astralis

While winning the league does help this metric, as it means the league’s toughest team isn’t on their fixture list, it’s pretty undeniable that they have a softer start to the stage.

Their five games don’t include any other Berlin Major attendees, as they play DZ, Mirage, TSM, beastcoast, and Parabellum.

It’s still not an easy run, as there are a lot of good teams in North America, but you can expect Astralis to rack up the points in these games.

Considering Astralis just made no changes, there is a question of if Astralis would even want the “easier” games up front as taking on SSG, Soniqs, and Oxygen, before they can get their new players properly acclimatised could allow them to take down some of their biggest rivals early.

Also worth mentioning is XSET, who play beastcoast, Parabellum, Soniqs, Oxygen, and Mirage. Soniqs and Oxygen, instead of DZ and TSM, depend on how the newbies fit in, but the latter pair performed worse last stage.

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Brazil: It’s too close to say

Stage 2 in Brazil was a remarkable tournament, as second to eighth-place was separated by just two points.

W7m esports won the league with 22. FURIA, FaZe, and NiP had 15. Team oNe had 14, and Team Liquid, Black Dragons, and MIBR all had 13. Below these were the two teams that couldn’t keep up; 00 Nation on 11 and TropiCaos (formerly INTZ) on just four.

That means it’s close to impossible to pin down an easiest and hardest start, as each team barely has an inch between them.

The numbers, however, imply that NiP will have the easiest time as they play Caos, 00N, MIBR, and Liquid -- all four of which finished in the bottom five. Their fifth opponent, however are FaZe Clan, and there’s a fair chance that Liquid have improved since Stage 2 with Lorenzo "Lagonis" Volpi taking over the team.

As for the hardest run-in of games, that goes to MIBR. They’ll play w7m, NiP, and FURIA -- all of which attended the Berlin Major -- as well as Black Dragons and oNe who were fifthh and seventh.

APAC’s hardest starts: It’s Talon up North and Wildcard down South

Over in APAC, it’s Talon Esports who face an unenviable initial deluge in APAC North. While they and REJECT both play CAG, DWG KIA, and SANDBOX Gaming in their first four games, Talon play Spear Gaming while REJECT play Fnatic.

Fnatic are yet to reveal their roster, so it’s hard to say if they will be weaker opposition than Spear (even though they are making three playing roster changes this stage), so the vote has to go to Talon. DWG and SANDBOX both went to the Berlin Major in Stage 2 and have a lot of international experience, which CAG also boast even though they finished third in Stage 2.

Down South, FURY have an unenviable first half run. They do not have a break in the first four weeks of play and have a tough calendar of games. They take on Stage 1 flawless winners Dire Wolves, a Knights that were a 2v1 away from the Berlin Major (and have signed league-best player Matin “SpeakEasy” Yunos), and then the Berlin Major attendees Elevate (who also made it to the playoffs there) and Gaimin Gladiators.

APAC’s easiest starts: SANDBOX to cruise up North, Gladiators down South

It’s remarkably easy for SANDBOX in APAC North. They effectively only have to key rivals in the league, DWG KIA and CAG, and they play both in the final two days of the league. Last stage, SANDBOX struggled somewhat in their game against Spear Gaming (winning 7-5) and lost to Talon, but they came out ahead of all but DWG KIA in the end.

In APAC South, it’s less clear-cut, but Gaimin Gladiators seem to have the easiest run (on paper) as they face Wildcard Gaming, Dire Wolves, and FURY in their first three games. They also get a headstart on preparation, as they are the team that does not play in the first week.

Since the start of APAC South as a region, Wildcard Gaming has been the worst team in the region. Even though they have made strong changes heading into Stage 3, they will likely pale in comparison to the strength that got Gladiators to the Berlin Major. Dire Wolves, too, played poorly in Stage 2 despite a flawless Stage 1 and look worse than Gladiators right now, while FURY were only sixth in Stage 2 despite signing two ex-Elevate players.

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