You must look back over a year for the last best-of-five that either of the Charlotte Major grand finalists played in. DarkZero's Pro-Am event in March 2021 ended with Disrupt (which would later become Astralis) beating DZ themselves, 3-0.
Now, the core of both teams are set to meet in a much more important tournament for a Six Major title. While the fan base in Charlotte has been firmly behind Astralis, DZ's newest additions has evolved the roster into a much better suited side for Sunday's game.
Traditionally, straight BO5 map games and Troy "Canadian" Jaroslawski don't go hand in hand. A reverse sweep at SI 2018, once of Siege's most-watched games ever, and a 2-6, 2-6, 2-6 demolition at the Paris Major both are highlights of his career he has since moved well past. In the years since, almost every best-of-five he's played has included map advantages, which hindered his team at the OGA Minor, but then helped him to his second SI title in 2020.
Later today, Canadian will play the highest profile straight BO5 competition since the 2018 failures, and Canadian will be confident in his chances.
More so than any other team in North Carolina this week, DarkZero needs time in each game for their star players to shine. Whether it's their four overtimes they reached in the group stages which included 8-7 and 8-6 victories over G2, or the comebacks against Team oNe on Friday and Team Liquid on Saturday, DZ can be trusted to kick into that top gear… eventually.
After their win against Liquid, Paul "Hyper" Kontopanagiotis talked about the team's ability to get past losses and reset between maps, something which will probably be needed if Astralis play as well as they did against Oxygen. Canadian, meanwhile, admitted that DZ had come in slow against oNe but simply "just kinda reset" between maps, "it is what it is".
Teams do tend to get in their own heads in games as big as this. DarkZero's ability to not let this phase them, and adapt to each loss is the reason they got further than the quarter-finals. After nine straight events, it's something experience has beaten into them.
Now the upcoming grand final's format gives them time to relax into the game and respond to what Astralis brings to them. Even if Astralis takes the first map, early losses won't derail the whole journey, something that definitely can't be said for prior Canadian-led rosters. Best-of-fives gives the most time possible for a comeback, and DZ are the kings of comebacks.
For Astralis, meanwhile, five possible maps mean possibly up to a six-hour-long game, even without technical issues. The team has been feeding on and playing up to the crowd more so than any team since Nora Rengo in 2019. Can they keep the hype going for so long to feed off of?
Even if they can, you can guarantee DarkZero won't be negatively impacted by it while their experience playing against each other in the NAL means David "iconic" Ifidon won't be able to get in their heads as he might have been able to with a team less familiar of him.
For Astralis to win, they need to start off strong and never stop. Rob "Panbazou" Feliciano already showed Liquid just how hard that is to do.