Saturday, 14 December 2019

Halo & EMEF Predicts: The Global Loot League North American & European, Middle East & African 25k Apex Legends Grand Finals

By Alistair "EMEF" & Arran "Halo" Brown

GlobalLoot League Apex Legends Series marks the first non-EA/Respawn-hosted event in Apex Legends’ lifespan, and the first online event with qualifiers to be played on custom servers. For a couple of teams, this event marks their first tier 1 Apex pro experience, after coming up in the unofficial T1 Scrim League, Apex.Pro League, or for some teams, the game’s in-game ranked ladder as their first competitive successes. Other teams will be looking for redemption after a poor and unrepresentative performance at the Apex Preseason Invitational in Krakow, and are finally getting a shot at redemption, and to the world the talent they had all along. For either kind of player, this event will define have extreme hunger in its competition, being the only big event in months, and we could not be more excited to see how it all unfolds.



From the 14th to the 16th of September, 40 of the best professional Apex Legends teams will be battling it out using Respawn’s whitelisted IPs, similar to those used at Twitch Rivals, for a share of the $50,000 prize pool that is on offer. The North American invitees/qualifiers and the European, Middle Eastern, and African invitees/qualifiers will battle it out over the weekend for a share of the £25k prize pool for each region. The concept is simple, it's the exact same point-scoring format as the Preseason Invitational. For those unfamiliar:


12 matches will be played

1 Elimination = 1 Point

1st place = 12 points
2nd place = 9 points
3rd place = 7 points
4th place = 5 points
5th place = 4 points
6th place to 10th place = 2 points
11th place to 15th place = 1 point
16th place to 20th place = 0 points

The event will be broadcasted by Global Loot on their twitch channel, and will feature the talent of returning guests GlitterXplosion, Bravo, Dreadnaught, and Onset, and will be conducted by a newcomer to our scene, but certainly not to esports, Counter Strike’s Pala.

For our guide to the Preseason Invitational, we will be choosing two participants (one from NA, one from EMEA) for our 5 categories. Dark Horses, lesser-known teams with great potential, our Wildcard for the event, teams with high peaks and low valleys, Apex Predators*, individual players on a statistical warpath, Standout Squad, ones to look out for near the top, and of course, make a definitive prediction on who will come out Victorious.

*The Apex Predator award or anything like it is not officially endorsed by GlobalLoot, it’s just an honorary metric we are using for the sake of this article.


EMEF

Dark Horse NA - Pittsburgh Storm (Dcop - Solveful - Hodsic)

Pittsburgh Knights Tempo Storm Pittsburgh Storm, as the name may suggest, are a short-notice amalgam of the old Tempo Storm roster’s duo of Dcop and Solve, with the addition of Pittsburgh Knights’ IGL and mascot Hodsic. Despite their extremely recent assembly, the team made an incredible Day 1 qualifier run straight to first place, however relevant that may be in an entirely different format. To watch their run, however, showed an incredibly quick cohesion between the three, seemingly retaining the identity of ex-Tempo, but benefiting greatly from the addition of Hodsic. Despite the potential clash of IGLing roles between Hodsic and Dcop (not least in style), Hodsic seemed less to be more of an emotional mediator for the team, while Dcop retained the fast, loud and aggressive direction of the three, as was both successful and destructive for Tempo Storm. 

However, this style (and the level at which it is executed) of play is one that can be completely dismantled if faced with overwhelming and direct 3v3 opposition. Fresh teams will obviously have interpersonal weaknesses that only time can solidify, on top of the already tempestuous ex-Tempo duo. But if they can find their feet early in the finals, this team could quickly find themselves in extremely good standing in terms of score, with a good chance to carry that momentum all the way. Besides, after predicting Tempo Storm to make big waves at Krakow, shortly before their meltdown, I need some return on my prediction investment.


Dark Horse EMEA - COOLER Esport (Jaazz - laggeRR - Xqkfuu)

COOLER Esport has been known to be a fantastic team for a long time within the EU pro scene. They have consistently excelled in scrims ever since their inception alongside a similarly notoriously talented Amaazz. Amaazz has since been dropped from the roster, but the loss of his talent does not seem to be reflected in the teams’ results, still being an incredibly consistent team on the cusp of cementing themselves in the tier 1 echelon of teams in the region. 

At Krakow, COOLER achieved 34th, falling in the same wave as FNCNA, FNCEU, and LazarusEU. While they lost both around and to very talented teams, still achieving a placement within the top 25% of teams, most people familiar with the team would call that an unrepresentative performance of the team at the time, being a solid sleeper team similarly to finalists K1CK Esports Club or SUCCUBUS. While for the GLL finals COOLER will not be fielding ASKYY in their roster, the teams’ historic ability to be unphased in results after losing great talents should work very well in their favour compared to other teams that are not able to use their regular trio.


Wildcard NA - Rogue (Huskers - Sweetdreams - Dropped)

North American esports is obviously a storied affair. But I cannot think of a more representative microcosm of it than the NA Apex Legends scene. TSM and Sentinels are, of course, incredibly talented teams, but past them, the North American region is more sparse for consistent talent. I have no idea what it could be, but something about the region seems to make it extremely top-heavy in its talent pool, with the high tier sticking together and shuffling amalgams of the same set of players, rarely taking chances on players a more barren tier 2 scene. This results in only usually around 1 or 2 globally competitive teams per scene, as seen in CS with Liquid/EG currently, or Cloud9/Liquid in earlier years.

Anyway, concerning my pick, I would argue that Rogue are the fabled “third great NA team”. They’ve gone through a few roster changes, to varying success, but the Krakow finalist roster that they’re fielding for GLL has had some incredible showings, winning 2 separate group stages at the previous event, a feat only statistical leaders Fnatic EU and eventual victors TSM achieved. While they had a definitively mediocre performance in the finals, at 10th place, the journey they took to get there had some genuinely world-beating performances. They enacted some impressive chokeholds against the best teams in the world using zones, it remains to be seen how the new map will affect their performance against those same calibre teams, weighing how the longer-range engagements benefit them compared to the less predictable zones. Regardless, this is a team looking to cement their place in the pantheon of North American talent, and break the curse of 2 competitive regional teams.


Wildcard EMEA - Fnatic EU (Badoli - Dids - N1kola)

Fnatic EU are a team that may have had the most impactful tertiary player pickup of any team since the Preseason Invitational. The previous duo of IGL Dids and jet-fueled fragger N1kola had a phenomenal performance at Krakow, being the team with the highest number of points per round on average, even higher than the winners TSM. Despite their fantastic performance in the early games, they were not able to perform in Loser’s Bracket Round 3, falling just short in the same place as their Fnatic NA counterparts, at 32nd/33rd.

However, since then, they have acquired previous free agent Badoli, notorious among EU pros for being one of, if not the most deserving free agent in Europe. Adding a wealth of game knowledge and cohesive presence from time spent subbing for almost every top EU team under the sun, his potent talent set should bring FNCEU’s focus to a more centred and balanced style as opposed to the mechanical aggression whose risk and inconsistency cost them at the Preseason Invitational.


Apex Predator NA - Zombs (Sentinels)

Zombs is one of those archetypal players who has been competing in online cash cups in similar formats for years. However, what sets him apart is the degree to which he turns up at them, with the mechanical talent and drive he has for these events, earning him a spot on FaZe Clan in Overwatch near the start of his pro career. Honestly, it’s a toss-up between Senoxe, Zombs, and Retzi for my Apex Predator prediction, but I expect one of the players on this team to have far and away the best statistical performance if they find their footing as a team.

Apex Predator EMEA - iPN (SoaR)

SoaR is a team I would have loved to include somewhere into my predictions (among many others) as iPN and rpr are one of my favourite post-Krakow duos working in Apex today, going all the way back to when it mattered that they were the world record holders for the most kills in a single match. I believe that iPN outperformed rpr at the Preseason Invitational, so I will give him the prediction, and given recent personal circumstances seemingly giving him incredible drive for this event, I really want him to succeed this weekend. One of the most mechanically talented European players currently playing, and one of my personal favourite to watch since his time on Angry Titans in Overwatch contenders, iPN will be supported more so by Overpowered than he ever was by Mofferz (not to Mofferz discredit), and I believe that if he is ever to have a career-defining performance, this is the event.

Standout NA - Sentinels (Zombs - Retzi - Senoxe)

Definitively the 2nd best team in North America, the Sentinels brand have a discernible pedigree for battle royale talent. Despite having a previous fantastic performance on LAN at Krakow’s Preseason Invitational, no team in Apex Legends’ tier 1 scene encapsulates the “NA online warrior” persona more so than Sentinels. Both Zombs and Retzi have a wealth of experience in Blizzard’s online tier 2 competitive scene for Overwatch, so competing at the highest level online is literally business as usual for the duo.

As long as they can play as they usually do and avoid other teams adapting and countering that method of play, their lack of respect for opponents on the server should lead to an early lead, especially under the circumstances of their opposition. Their naturally fast and punishing style is only compounded further by what some would call a smaller talent pool after the disqualification wave that claimed 4 strong teams that made it out of the qualifiers. Regardless, this team will be making a great impact on the standings come Sunday, and will especially be looking to dethrone a recently shaky TSM to claim the title as the best team in North America.


Standout EMEA - Virtus.Pro (Taylor - Noth - Pjeh)

For my money, VP was the best team at the Preseason Invitational’s first and second days. They had a phenomenal performance in their initial group stages, being 1 of 3 teams to beat TSM in a group, statistically. From there they only went up, managing to not only survive, but thrive in the bloodbath of a Winners Bracket Final that saw top teams like Rogue, Gamersorigin, and MVP in the bottom 10. However, this did not last, and they had an extremely poor statistical performance on their last day, as shown in this analytical breakdown of the team: https://bit.ly/2LTPucl

The trio of Taylor, Noth and Pjeh have been competing together for almost 3 years across online PUBG events, with their surgical and controlling playstyle to show for that experience. Being undoubtedly the most restrained team in their play, every player is not only willing to do the supportive dirty work that other teams tend not to, but they are proficient in it. Never a death untraded, the synergy that the squad has built over their time together will give them an incredible head start compared to the swathes of freshly made teams that made it into the finals post-DQ wave, as well as the invited teams that are playing without their usual trio.


Victorious NA - TSM (ImperialHal - Albralelie - Reps)

It’s a fairly safe prediction to say that the team with 100% win rate in S-Tier events will win yet another. While I have previously mentioned that I do not believe TSM to be the best team in the world (which I still wholeheartedly believe), and even in this article have referred to them by “shaky” as of recent, there’s still no doubt in my mind that they’ll emerge the victors of this event. It’s important to mention that the GLL finals will be played online, and therefore will have 2 separate events for the NA and EMEA regions, with no crossover. And as such, their dominance of the NA scene, which even I cannot play down, should alone carry them to a win.

One obstacle I do see for their victory is the aforementioned presence that they have, and how teams will react in-game to identifying TSM. I would absolutely not be surprised to see some questionable rushes by their opponents in the name of keeping the games competitive by eliminating TSM as early as possible. The identity of TSM is an iconic one, as while they were not the first team to use Gibraltar professionally, they were absolutely the team that popularised it in NA, and the way that wildfire of ideas torched the scene just goes to show the influence that they have competitively. The shakiness I spoke of was about their internal workings, as it seems recently the trio has had problems with the exact issue I mentioned, being rushed unpredictably by teams with high mechanical talent, of which there are of course many in the competition. 

These are, of course, the most minuscule nitpicks of the best performing team in the history of the game, and in a sensible world, TSM will walk away with their third non-Twitch hosted event win.


Victorious EMEA - Gamersorigin (Mpe - wSerious - Osnazeni)

GO are a team with very little public presence, but what little exposure they do have is that of pure success. I’ve made my opinions known previously that across the majority of multiverses, the final showdown at Krakow between MVP, GO, and eventual winners TSM, GO are the winners in the majority of those replays, just to put my view of them into perspective. 

Former coach MpĂ© is, in my eyes, the greatest IGL currently playing Apex. In their internal environment, wSerious and Osnazeni play the game in such a clinical and controlled way, similarly to teams like TSM and Virtus.Pro, with absolute restraint in their play, in a way that will eventually be the norm for top teams 2 or 3 years down the line. The fact that these teams have reached the heights that they have so quickly in the games’ lifespan is testament to their internal structure and the efficiency of their practice, something which they will have had a looooot of time to do since their 4th place finish at Krakow, now so far in the rearview mirror, and I could absolutely see a world in which they do it again. Or better.

Halo

Dark Horse NA - FlyQuest (Zach - Lou - Monsoon)

Fly Quest come into the GLL finals with a point to prove and should have a chip on their shoulders throughout this weekend. While they managed to make it to the Grand Finals in Krakow with an upper bracket run, they did not seem like they were at all comfortable throughout the entire tournament where they squeaked through every round and outside of 2 top 5 finishes just didn’t seem to get going. Fly Quest has since gone through what happened and has used the T1 Apex scrims to their advantage to improve as much as they can. 

Fly Quest has the potential to be a top team in Apex Legends and if they can take their form from the online Pro League, into the GLL finals. They will show that their performance in Krakow was one of those out of sync weekends and that at least when it comes to online tournaments, they can be a force to be reckoned with.


Dark Horse EMEA - Luminosity (Exens - Xaniya - Esdesu)

The rise of Luminosity Gaming over the last 6 months is nothing short of an esport fairytale. After originally running through everyone as Team S.E.X (GodspeedNeko, Esdesu & Xaniya) in season 6 of the Apex.Pro League, the team were forced to replace Senyia for Exens at the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational as Senyia was unable to attend. The trio absolutely stole the show under the name of 789 in Krakow, with 8 top 4 finished in 10 upper bracket games to reach the grand finals. While a lack of LAN experience showed in the finals after a strong start, the trio performed well and made a name for themselves to those who do not follow the European/CIS scene.

Now under the Luminosity Gaming banner, LG picked up a direct invite and look to show that the Apex Invitational wasn't a flash in the pan performance. Xanyia showed that even in disadvantageous situations, LG can't be ruled out of any fight and while he will be the key man for a deep run at GLL. Thinking that Esdesu and Exens are unable to put the team on their backs at any given moment would be a grave mistake to those they are facing.

If LG improves on their performance in Krakow and uses their past LAN experience, they have every chance to win.

Wildcard NA - Team Liquid White (Mendo - Kellar - Wonderfuls)

It has been an interesting last few days for Team Liquid White after a poor day one in the qualifying tournament, they came out strong in day two with the 4th highest points total. Originally this would have left them in 11th and just missing out on the finals. However, after Team Fire, Susquehanna Sonics, VOL & RPC were all disqualified from the tournament for using the wrong config settings, Team Liquid White gets a second shot being the 8th team to make it to the finals. 

This is a strong roster that has plenty of talent in the likes of Keller and Wonderfuls being the core in this tournament. While Cali played with the team in the qualifying stage, former Overwatch League professional Mendokusaii will be playing in the finals in his place. Mendo has taken to Apex well, using his skills from Overwatch to his advantage, so it will be interesting to how he does playing in place of Cali. I do not believe that this is Team Liquid White’s strongest roster, as I would love to have seen Mendo, Cali and Wonderfuls be playing as a trio but it is one that if they get it right on the day, a team that will turn heads. It will be interesting to see if there are any communication and playstyle issues with the late replacement of Cali in the North American Finals.

Wildcard EMEA - Alliance (Lowley - Vaifs - Hakis)

Alliance are a team that confuse me personally as their original roster of Lowley, Vaifs and Lazxr looked strong on paper and had a good amount of success in the early days of the Apex.Pro League and the Faceit Weekly series. However, after an average 11th place finish at the X-Games the team parted ways with Lazxr before the Apex Invitational where Badoli stood in for them and they ended up with a very disappointing 54th place

After taking some time out Alliance have come back for GLL and this time has former AeQ and Herbania player Hakis as their 3rd, coming off the back of a T1EU League victory, and it's a move that I like. Lowley has the potential to be a star player in the EU region but he needs his team to take the load off his shoulders. While Vaifs should be in his element with the current support meta, Hakis can come in and be the second fragger that Alliance needs and after winning the qualifying, Alliance look like they could now be at the point where this trio will be good enough to make a deep run and take a few unexpected names on Worlds Edge.

Apex Predator NA - Retzi - Sentinels 

As I mentioned, former Overwatch DPS Retzi has managed to move from Overwatch’s tier 2 scene and made a name for himself as one of the best and most aggressive fraggers in Apex Legends right now. With the backing of Senoxe and Zombs, who not only match his playstyle but his overall mentality, Sentinels playstyle may be the perfect approach in the current meta and Retzi will likely be more than happy to kick, punch or use the weapon of his choice to earn the most kills in North America.

Apex Predator EMEA - 9impluse - Na’Vi

While I haven’t mentioned Na’Vi as a team to watch for the GLL finals one of their main carry 9impluse is definitely a player to watch for the Apex Predator award. Having already done it earned the title once at the Apex Invitational were he shared the title with teammate Clawz and now T1 Korea player Selly, I expect 9impluse to be close at the very least. Na’Vi is one of the best teams in the scene right now and 9impluse’s ability to pick out targets quickly and deal with them efficiently and effectively is one of the key reasons for this. Since winning his last Apex Predator award, Na’Vi has received quite an influential roster update, trading the overlapping fragging abilities of Pkmk for the supportive capabilities of Winstrike’s Fyzu, giving 9impulse even better odds of having the best stats at the event. If he gets his signature sporadic, “lightning in a bottle” games of incredible statistical significance, not only do I expect him to pick up this title, but Na’Vi will be a very serious threat to everyone else in the standings.   

Standout NA - TSM (Reps - ImperialHal - Albralelie)

The 2x Apex Legends LAN winners are coming into the GLL tournament as the team to beat and it is easy to see why when you look at their moments of brilliance during both of the X-Games and the Apex Invitational. However, what if I tell you that I don’t believe that TSM should have won in Krakow and that I also do not believe that they are the best team in the game right now?

I get it, you will probably think that I do not have a clue with what I am talking about, but hear me out a moment. Round 11 in the Grand Finals, TSM won a 3v3 vs Penta. Penta had the advantage with not only their positioning but the fact they downed Albralelie early in the team fight. Penta then completely misplayed the situation and rushed into a follow-up fight that favoured TSM and resulted in the 2v3 win for TSM. Then later in the same round when GamersOrigin, MVP and TSM were the last three teams remainings, they benefited from a rush of blood to the head by MVP, who charged GO and allowed TSM to mop up the remaining players from GO to win the tournament. 

TSM’s consistency in the longer format is what raises the most questions for me. At the Apex Invitational Grand Finals, they were non-existent in rounds 1 through to 4 and didn’t get their first-round win until round 6. When they were constantly under pressure and teams knew where TSM was most likely to be, is when they struggled the most and I do not see many of North America’s top teams letting them slip past them and go under the radar. North America looks tough in these Grand Finals and teams such as Sentinels, Fly Quest and Rouge have seemed to have shown improvement since then. TSM has every chance to win their 3rd meaningful tournament in a row, but I believe that this time their inconsistency might get the better of them. In spite of all this, the fact that TSM is still a part of my “Standout” prediction goes to show how dominant this dynasty has been in the Apex Legends pro scene.


Standout EMEA - Reciprocity EU (Oraxe - WACKO - Nesh)

The former Penta roster came into the Apex Invitational as one of the most underrated teams in the tournament. Three are all former professional players in other esports (Oraxe and Wacko in PUBG, Nesh in Overwatch) came out of the blocks firing in Krakow, with 5 top 4 finishes in their 10 upper bracket games. They then didn’t stop in the Grand Finals winning round 2 and placing 3rd in round 3 and 5, to be one of the first to reach the 50 point limit and become eligible to win the tournament. While they struggled in the middle rounds, they were in a perfect position in the tournament’s final round when they fought TSM for the low ground around the Farms. Despite getting a 3v3 in their favour, TSM ultimately won the fight and in turn, went on to win the Grand finals.

Since Krakow, the team have been picked up by Reciprocity as their European team and have been given the resources to improve that Penta may not have been able to. I expect RecEU to continue where they left off last time and be a strong contender this weekend even if their aggressive play style may not be the best for the current meta. The key for me will be whether RecEU can execute their set plays, especially when it comes to team fights because if they have learnt from the mistakes made in losing the 3v2 against TSM, RecEU will be a problem over the weekend.

Final Prediction NA - Sentinels (Senoxe - Zombs - Retzi)

Sentinels for me are the best team in all of Apex Legends right now and it comes down to two reasons, the first is because of the wealth of competitive experienced that former Overwatch players Retzi and Zombs have, having previously played in Overwatch Contenders. The second is due to just how aggressive and in-your-face their playstyle is. Apex Legends may be Senoxe’s first esport but he has slotted in perfectly alongside Retzi and Zombs almost instantly. Their “don’t give a damn” attitude may rub people the wrong way, but they play the anime villain role perfectly and at times use it to their advantage in-game, by using feints and pressure to win team fights at either long or short range.

This will be the 3rd major tournament for the team after a 2nd place finish at the X-Games in August which they followed that up with another strong showing with a 5th place finish in Krakow with an upper bracket run and two late runs at both events, Sentinels biggest worry right now is that they are a slow-starting team but once they get going, they will steamroll anyone they come across. While the Twitch Rivals at TwitchCon wasn’t the most testing of opposition for them, they managed to come away with an impressive performance that has allowed them to show that they are still one of the scene’s strongest teams and should be the team that finally ends TSM’s dominance so far.   

Final Prediction EMEA - SoaR (iPN - rpr - Overpowered)

SoaR entered Apex Legends hot after they placed 1st in the qualifiers for Code Red Weekly #3 and then finished 4th in the main event. However, they then seemed to struggle to find their rhythm in the Apex.Pro League. I resulted in myself and others to underestimate them when it came to the Apex Invitational. Rpr, iPN and their 3rd of the time Mofferz, put on a clinic in Krakow and had 4 top 4 finishes in their run through the upper bracket, with 2 of these being 1st place finishes. Despite their good form going into the grand finals, SoaR was not able to find the form that got them there outside of a 4th and 2nd place finish on maps 1 and 5. It resulted in a 15th place finish that showed they were able to hang with the big teams but SoaR as a team felt they could likely do better. iPN and Rpr were retained as a strong core foundation but they have struggled to find a 3rd since parting ways with Mofferz straight after the Apex Invitational and then Bronzey after a month and a half. 

That search may now be over after the team have been picked up former Cloud 9 player Overpowered as their third during the T1 Apex and have been very good during the last few seasons.  SoaR is one of the best positional teams in the game right now and has one of, if not the best trio of fraggers in Europe in my opinion. With Rpr's ability to shot-call and the fact that all three can win any team fight they enter, I think that SoaR should be able to outlast the likes of Gamers Origin, Virtus.Pro, Na’Vi, Reciprocity EU and G2 for the title.

The Global Loot League North American and Europe, Middle East and Africa finals start at 19:00 CET and 10:00 PST over on GLL's Twitch channel. With a talent line up of Pala, Onset, Glitterxplosion, Dreadnaught and Bravo we previously mentioned. It is not a tournament you are going to want to miss.

(You can find more Apex Legends related content on Twitter @haloofthoughts) 
(Picture courtesy of GLL)
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