Image: Ubisoft/Joao Ferreira
The APAC South Division will be halfway done for Stage 3 this week, with its seven-team complement resulting in just six play days and a one-week break. Here’s a rundown on what to expect this week:
- 4:45PM SGT -- FURY vs Elevate
- 6PM SGT -- Dire Wolves vs Gaimin Gladiators
- 7:15PM SGT -- Knights vs Wildcard Gaming
Due to the seven-team league, each team has one week where they do not play. As a result, Dire Wolves and Gaimin Gladiators -- who took a break in week one and week two, respectively -- only have played one game so far.
The third play day in APAC South will kick off with a Thai derby between APAC South kings Elevate and the former holders of that crown, FURY. Elevate should take all three points, but FURY have been making steady improvements every stage. They have looked especially potent since signing former Elevate duo Sirasit "BGMan" Ariyasirisopon and Sumate "i9" Srimabut and have already beaten Knights.
Dire Wolves will then take on Gaimin Gladiators in what might now be the only actual fight for the second November Major berth (behind Elevate), with the Taiwanese having attended the Charlotte Major and the Indonesians having been at the Berlin Major. Both are very strong teams, but Dire Wolves have made a recent roster change and may fall just short against a practiced Gaimin Gladiators.
While that will undoubtedly be an electric matchup, attention also should be paid to the final clash of the day -- Knights versus Wildcard Gaming.
There is obviously a star player within SpeakEasy
It is only two games and one-third into this Stage 3, but there are definite concerns over new Knights signing Matin "SpeakEasy" Yunos. The Singaporean spent nearly four years with the Invictus Gaming roster, and for long periods seemed to be the best player in APAC bar none.
In Stage 1 this year, he was unequivocally the best in Stage 1 with a 1.42 Rating -- 0.15 Rating points higher than second-best. He was also the best player by SiegeGG Rating and K-D in Stages 2 and 3 of the 2021 season and was fifth-best by Rating at the Mexico Major (though his team failed to make it to the playoffs).
So good was SpeakEasy that he was even considered by Parabellum Esports in the NAL as a signing in 2022, though they eventually opted for the Frenchman Alexandre "BlaZ" Thomas.
SpeakEasy has been on song in the past even when the rest of Invictus did not perform, so it stands to reason that he should be still capable of breaking out such performances with Knights. However, he has likely never had as significant of a shift in player and playing culture and is likely still adapting after years on his former team -- but the star has not yet been dulled.
Knights are down... but not out
Things are definitely not good in Knights-land. They were a mere 1v2 away from going to the Berlin Major in Gaimin Gladiators' place in Stage 2, before seemingly upgrading heavily with the signing of SpeakEasy from Invictus Gaming.
SpeakEasy replaced Jai "Quiz" Riddle-Browning and Knights should have begun challenging Elevate at the top of the table. Instead, they find themselves languishing at the bottom with no points to their name.
To add insult to injury, Knights have only managed five rounds total across both their games so far this season and it may seem like they are out of the running for a place at the November Major.
But APAC South is one of the most competitive leagues in the world and they only trail Wildcard by three points. Teams have also made crazier comebacks happen, such as G2 Esports and Ninjas in Pyjamas in Stage 2, or FURIA Esports in Stage 1.
The ultimate fate of Knights this stage is not entirely in their hands -- they will need Dire Wolves and Gaimin Gladiators to drop cruicial points against each other and elsewhere -- but they have the quality to bring themselves back into the fight, at the very least.
Both are near-evenly matched, but things have changed
Both Knights and Wildcard have played each other five times in 2022:
- APAC South Stage 1 -- 7-2 to Wildcard on Villa
- OCN Stage 1 -- 7-4 to Knights on Oregon
- OCS Stage 1 -- 3-7, 8-6, 7-3 to Wildcard on Kafe, Border, and Oregon
- APAC South Stage 2 - 7-2 to Knights on Border
- OCN Stage 2 -- 7-5 to Knights on Bank
As far as maps go, Wildcard have won three maps against Knights this year, but Knights have won four maps and three matches in total. Interestingly enough, both teams have also traded wins on Oregon and Border.
However, this historic record may not be an accurate predictor for today's match between Knights and Wildcard. Knights are, of course, in dire form, but they -- and especially Wildcard -- have made roster changes. While the former team only changed one player, the latter changed two.
Wildcard's signings of former Chiefs ESC player Kelton "bouncinballz" Mclachlan and Australian rookie Harry "Tuhan" Wise may have been just the changes they have needed to climb into the midfield pack -- though their loss against Gaimin Gladiators indicates they are some ways off the top.
Regardless, Wildcard's 7-4 win against Tyde on the opening play day will give them hope that they will be able to secure a similar win against a struggling Knights team. Bouncinballz will likely be vital to that effort, as he often was for Chiefs before they disbanded. Conversely, Knights will feel intense pressure to get on the board and find their groove with SpeakEasy.
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