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The second Stage of the North American League is upon us, and who knows what surprises are in store. Last Stage, three new teams entered the top four, including Astralis, by far and away the best team in the regional stage.
The NAL teams entered a truncated Charlotte Major on home soil, and all of them advanced to the playoffs. When the dust settled, DarkZero Esports took home their first international LAN title – and three NAL teams were in the top four.
Here’s everything to expect going into the next few months of play.
Only two teams opted to make any player changes between Stages as Mirage hopes to improve on their 10th place finish and Parabellum fits NA’s newest European import into the team:
Astralis -- Dpfire, iconic, J9O, Shuttle, Forrest, Callout (coach), and Mango (analyst)
Oxygen Esports -- FoxA, LaXInG, VertcL, Nuers, Dream, HOP3Z, and Redeemer (two coaches)
DarkZero Esports -- Hyper, Ecl9pse, njr, Panbazou, Canadian, and Mint (coach)
XSET -- DiasLucasBr, GMZ, Kyno, SpiriTz, Yoggah, Vivas (coach), and PFernandes (analyst)
Spacestation Gaming -- Rampy, Bosco, Fultz, Hotancold, Skys, Lycan, Sov, and Luke (three coaches),
beastcoast -- AnthopnyMGS, Drip, Slashug, Surf, Sweater, Mark, RaMz (two coaches), and Krux (analyst)
Parabellum Esports -- Eskaa, KoolAid, P3NGU1N, BlaZ, Gunnar, VBM, and SmiTaSous (two coaches)
Soniqs -- supr, Gryxr, Kanzen, Rexen, Yeti, and Goddess (coach)
TSM FTX -- Achieved, Beaulo, Merc, Geometrics, Chala, Pojoman, Deada, and Gotcha (three coaches)
Mirage -- Benjimoola, Marmalade, Melted, Kento, Nyx, Guerra (coach), and DnA (analyst)
DarkZero finally have a title under their belt – and the Charlotte Major title-holders will assuredly be looking to repeat the performance. SiegeGG Major MVP Rob “Panbazou” Feliciano leads the charge statistically, and DarkZero is the third organization IGL Troy “Canadian” Jaroslawski has led to a title. Major title aside, DarkZero barely slipped into the Major qualification scenario, they needed a final day victory over Spacestation to slip into Charlotte. With TSM FTX, Soniqs, and Spacestation on the up-and-up, and the younger teams looking strong, nothing’s going to be guaranteed.
The sky’s the limit for this young, talented squad. They dominated the first regional stage with a creative, aggressive brand of Siege, and utilized the new Year 7 game mechanics faster (and better) than any other team. Time will tell whether other teams catch up, but you can’t deny Astralis’s prowess. They impressed at the Major with their grand finals run, and thumped multiple very good teams in the NAL. David “iconic” Ifidon and Roman “Forrest” Breaux impressed at the Major and in the regional stage. Look to them to lead the charge again.
Out of the perennial NAL contenders, Oxygen were the only ones to make it through to the Charlotte Major. The addition of Ethan “Nuers” James and Mitch “Dream” Malson was just what the doctor ordered for this team, and they came within spitting distance of a grand finals appearance, but were thumped by Astralis in the semifinals. Oxygen continue their stellar performance against international teams, but getting over teams from their own region in international competitions still seems to be their kryptonite.
Matheus “Budega” Figueiredo’s project will have to move forward without Budega’s direct support. During the Charlotte Major, Budega was suspended for 12 months following rulebook violations. In the server, his squad seems to be humming along well. XSET placed in the top-eight of their first international Major, despite being together for only two months as a team. They’re a young, strong team, but we’ll have to see how they fare without their emotional leader behind them during the regular season
Shaun "Gunnar" Pottorff and Alexandre "BlaZ" Thomas enter this young team, presumably to upgrade their firepower. Parabellum had a decent first stage of the year, but three regulation wins and five regulation losses isn’t enough to make a Major and get this organization back into international competition. With this roster, Parabellum will have a decent shot this stage, but will still need some breaks to make the Major. Improvement is the name of the game. With the perennial powers rested and the new blood Charlotte teams getting needed experience, it’s a tough road ahead.
NAL’s “superteam” was a mere pair of round wins away from making the Charlotte Major and perhaps having a much different perception. This is an extremely talented team, filled to the brim with potential and experience. Conventional wisdom says that this should be a perennial contender – not just in the region, but internationally. They haven’t lived up to their lofty billing yet, and might be running out of time to make everything come together.
The former NAL villains were the second-most disappointing team in all of Stage 1. After their solid run at SI, where they finally put everything together, they slumped early in the year, but are looking to come back strong. Pablo “Gryxr” Rebeil was the top-rated player at SI, and he and the Soniqs will be looking to rebound in a big way.
TSM FTX were the most disappointing team in Stage 1. They had lofty expectations after winning SI, and severely slumped out of the gate. However, this team needed rest, same as Soniqs, after SI. Now that they’re amped up and ready to go, expect another run at the top. When TSM FTX is on, they’re a top-three team in the world.
They were extremely, extremely close. Without a slip-up against Mirage, they would’ve qualified for Charlotte. All the same, this stage might be a little bit rougher. If beastcoast have steadily improved, they’ll have a puncher’s chance in the running for the next Major. The NAL field is tougher than ever, and for beastcoast, every round will count this stage.
Mirage had their moments – but ultimately struggled out of the gate after losing Dream and Nuers to Oxygen. This offseason has been particularly rough for Mirage. They ended up parting ways with Tomas “Tomas” Kaka, brought back Zach “Nyx” Thomas, and added Tyler “Kento” Ross. There’s some solid players here – but Mirage is still on the outside looking in as far as the standings are concerned.
While its dates have yet to be confirmed, the North American Challenger League will run as normal during this stage. 11 teams will compete for a total of $40,000 in prize money with the 11th placed team being automatically relegated before Stage 3, and the 10th place playing in a relegation match.
Stage 1’s relegation game ended with Leftovers -- a team which includes the ex-Tempo Storm duo of Alex "Butterzz" O'Campo and Xavier "Filthy" Garcia -- winning a spot in the NACL for Stage 2.
The Stage 1 victors, Wichita Wolves, have both left their organization and changed one player as “Splash” now moves to Nokturns. Third placed 1shotLFO has added in two very recent NAL players, Christian "Prod" Gauch and Razorr and fourth-placed Elyssar has replaced Mirage-bound Kento with the ex-beastcoast player, Alec "yungalec" Bhatty. Finally, the Stage 1 runners-up, Arial Arise, opted to make no player changes.
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