Tuesday, 7 January 2020

EMEF's 2020 Apex Legends Global Series Pre Season Power Rankings 7 - 1

By Alistair "EMEF" Allum

The announcement of the ALGS has been a funny thing to watch. With the massive success of the Apex Legends Preseason Invitational, many pros and spectators turned to Respawn and EA with eager eyes, waiting for “the big one” that would kick off Apex Legends as an esport, and begin the careers of hundreds of prospects who worked hard during the first year of the game. A lot of the feedback they received was just: “more of the same, please”. And that’s exactly what Respawn ended up doing... The online ALGS qualifiers kick off January 25th, and before they begin I’d like to do a classical power ranking, taking into account performance at Krakow, GLLs EMEA and NA, as well as public scrims, but primarily the opinions of myself and other professionals. I’ll also be giving each team an up, down, or neutral rating based on if I feel they’ve outperformed, deteriorated or lived up to my expectations of them. This particular edition of the speculative ALGS Power Rankings aims only to tilt NA fans, and to be controversial and drive clicks. With that out of the way after yesterday's 15th - 8th ranked teams, here’s 7th - 1st with my honourable mentions. 

7th v MVP Ares
Dong-Hun "Mondo" Na, Won-Jae "Cpt" Park & Hong-Gyun "Ras" Song

In a previous iteration of my power rankings, I discussed the differences between T1 KR, who I rated very highly, and concluded on that basis. But now that Selly has announced his retirement (hope you crush 2020 too Selly), I can’t use my “MVP are the LG to T1’s Na’Vi” line without crowbarring it in. But I’ve just done it now anyway. Where T1 was an extremely, but not overly, aggressive team, at one point managing to achieve what will surely be a legendary 37-kill round across 4 games at Krakow, MVP was an almost perfectly balanced team in their style, bizarrely managing to attain a symmetrical score outline in all but one of their rounds played. Their trio of Ras, Mondo and new recruit Cpt are all world-class at their mechanical and role duties and I’m sure followers of Ras (both in the social sense and the fanatical one) will know the insane clutch value he brings to this team. That “clutch”, intangible sense of calculation in any situation, and the application thereof, is what puts this unproven roster so high in my regard despite the roster change since last we saw them compete at the highest level.

As one of the most wonderful surprises to come out of the Preseason Invitational, I feel that the sheer mechanical prowess to win any 3v3, but the restraint to not rely on it will let MVP take one of the direct ALGS qualification slots for the Korean region.

6th v TSM
MacKenzie "Albralalie" Beckwith, Philip "ImperialHal" Dosen & Jordan "Reps" Wolfe

X-Games won. Krakow won. GLL NA won. What more is there for this team to accomplish? In my eyes, nothing at all. While they’re still a clear top team within the top 6, this is a massive underrating for most people. While they still have world-level talent such as Albralelie, ImperialHal, and Reps, something nonspecific seems off internally, having almost half of an entire day of GLL as ghosts to the scoreboard. This could indicate a stylistic shift for the team in terms of their macro gameplan, but they had a similar flaw at Krakow, taking 4 or 5 games to get into their stride. And with the rapid improvement of other teams since TSM’s dominant days, I can’t see them having the same kind of breathing room to afford such lapses, and even if they do, highly efficient and newly revamped teams such as Luminosity Gaming or Virtus.Pro have every opportunity to run away with the leaderboard if left unchecked, a kind of challenge that TSM has yet to face. If they do manage to make something happen for themselves on a global stage, it would be their unique and inherent ability to have any player pull them out of a dire situation that sets them apart from other top teams, but I don’t think they have enough magic left to make it consistent or long-term.

With nowhere left to go but down, TSM fans should probably be a little concerned for their teams’ dynasty. That way, if they do end up winning like they always do, it’s a nice surprise, and if they deteriorate, you were right. Everyone wins except TSM.

5th ^ Sentinels
Nathan "Retzi" Telen, Adam "Senoxe" Lau & Jared "Zombs" Gitlin

Pretty much the only team to rival Natus Vincere in terms of shared mechanical skill, Sentinels have long been the second-best team in North America, only recently gaining on TSM’s lead. Therefore, telling the story of Sentinels’ performance is less about describing the team themselves, as people should have seen highlight reel after highlight reel from them already. It is instead easier and more effective to discuss their comparative performance to TSM. And after TSM’s massive stumble at GLL compared to the steady rise of Sentinels, barring an outright internal breakdown of TSM, which isn’t out of the question, I’m expecting TSM to plateau and be surpassed by Sentinels in the coming months. Going even further, despite predicting a TSM win at the aforementioned GLL, looking back at the play of both teams, I feel that Sentinels would win more in a majority of replays, just barely failing to close out both individual games and sets which TSM are famed for. 

An already stellar team that has risen alongside most other top teams, I expect them to leave their North American rivals in the dust very soon at their current rate of improvement. 

4th – Reciprocity EU
Herman "Nesh" Kobrin, Matthieu "Oraxe" Ribiere & Jack "Wacko" Middleton

In a season so long, with a point-based system for a Worlds-equivalent qualification, the team with the highest degree of consistency will likely be those taking home the most cash. And no team encapsulates the buzzword of “consistency” more than Reciprocity EU. Helmed and stylistically anchored by former G2 PUBG player Wacko, and rounded out by severely underrated mechanical muscle Oraxe and Nesh, the team had a dominant start to the game, forming early and becoming one of the most synergistic teams over time. As one of the more successful ex-PUBG cores in Apex, their experience and proficiency in their respective background titles make them among the smartest teams in the game, while actively hampering other teams’ decision-making ability with their constant griefing and permanent fixture in any given zone’s best position.

REC never miss out on score in the long term with their incredibly high-performance floor, and I would not be surprised to see them with the most ALGS points at the end of the year for their sheer consistency, even if they aren’t a team at the peak of overall skill or potential.

3rd - Luminosity Gaming
Elvira "Esdesu" Temirova, Maxim "Exens" Dmitruk & Anton "Xaniya" Shkuratov 

I have never believed in LG as a story, with the overarching narrative of their “out of nowhere” performance that most people pushed could not have been further from the truth for those following the game before its first event, which I will admit, caused an inherent bias for me. And by extension, I have never believed Luminosity Gaming as a team, as while all 3 of their players are world-class (Exens plays Gibraltar like nobody else right now), and the necessary synergy to be a top team, there never seemed to be anything special about their play at Krakow or prior. But after an attempt at spending an event with a clearer mind, I noted 2 unique aspects of the team that while not entirely responsible for their success, are absolutely contributing factors. The first being their complete absence for the first half of the game. It’s impossible to identify LG early in the game to stop their score or position acquisition before it begins, as they somehow just disappear off the face of the Earth before zone 4, getting double-digit placements only once at GLL. The second being the clutch factor alluded to earlier with TSM, there is never a moment where any player on this team can’t turn even the most dire situations around. 

With the amount of individual skill on the team and a magic touch for closing out games, I don’t see this team not winning an event throughout the year, especially with the continuation of the Match Point Rule for ALGS.

2nd – Virtus.Pro
Martin Heggoy "Pjeh" Aamyri, Alexander "Noth" Selfwin & Johan "Taylor" Taylor

If you’ve read a single one of my articles before and you didn’t see a second-place VP prediction, then I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not just going to regurgitate what I always say, I come bearing stats this time. They play the game the right way in terms of the tournament format, being most famous for their manipulation of the ring to force mid-game ranged kills giving them a consistent score increase without sacrificing position. They threaten every other team in the server to the point where, at GLL, 0% of the teams that extended far enough to kill VP outside of zone 7 went on to win the game, a stat which is nearly inverse to other top teams, as were killing them would provide an opening on the map, dealing with VP requires exposition. A big problem I had with the team at Krakow was their inability to have 1 player clutch up, as it seemed that they completely crumbled once they lost the ability to 3v3, unlike other top teams like TSM’s ImperialHal or Luminosity’s Xaniya. That player has emerged for VP, in Taylor, and if GLL had an MVP award it should absolutely have been given to him for his exceptional play as both a rat and team fragger, netting VP countless points they wouldn’t have gotten with their Krakow form. If they can solve their day 3 drop-off, they’ll be a definite frontrunner for the best team in the game.

The kings of the G7 have got a meta that suits them, a map that suits them, and with their hyperefficient score acquisition, I expect them to start lightyears ahead of most teams that have yet to solidify their macro style.

1st ^ Natus Vincere
Kirill "9impluse" Kostiv, Nikita "Clawz" Marchinsky" & Dmitry "Fyzu" Petrov

Natus Vincere is, without a doubt, the best team in the world when they click. I can’t see any argument against that statement, and it has been seen what the team is capable of in scenarios like Poland Day 3, or GLL Day 2. They’re so genuinely dangerous to everyone else on the server, that it seems crazy to think that they haven’t won anything yet. But my prediction for 2020, is that after some time to settle into their new roles after the roster change, and spending more time with their “new” coach Cypher, at some point the team will find the right regime to avoid their day 1 jitters and have their terrifying performances on an even more consistent basis. Their biggest priority as I see it is understanding their score acquisition scheme and adapting their play to best support it, and should they do so successfully and soon, Na’Vi will be the best team in the Apex Legends Global Series.

They’ve always been the best team in the game at when on their highs, but with a yearlong event they have as many chances as necessary to finally put together enough “on form” performances to win big.

Honourable Mentions

As mentioned in my previous post, some teams you may have thought of did not make it to my list. There are so many objectively fantastic teams that I couldn’t fit in, and even more that I couldn’t even fit into the honourable mentions. Anyway, here’s 4 seemingly random teams to look out for that are on the heels of T15. Or they might not be. I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Winstrike Team – After dedicated trades between Na’Vi and new CrowCrowd broke up the original successful Winstrike roster’s synergy and seemed to only benefit other teams, it would be easy to see the new Winstrike Team as the “leftovers” of the tier 1 CIS talent. However, the mutual trade of PKMK (keyword: mutual) hints that they see something in him Na’Vi couldn’t realise in practice. Joining one of the most underrated talents in CIS, Desertuk, and long-time CIS ringer Stanyyy, this hungry team could make a solid dent in the leaderboard and their performance could be a phenomenal turnaround storyline.

Pepega Squadron – The former members of Third Impact is the most consistently placing European free agents on the market right now and if at least 5 T1 orgs haven’t already agreed to sign them regardless of placings then there’s no justice in scouting. They were my previous 15th slot until I realised my rankings were super boring and essentially the same as Halo’s, and entertainment should always come before journalistic integrity.

T1 NA – The new T1 roster was a massive surprise at GLL NA, having a ton of really promising, and for lack of a better word, Tier 1 performances. They failed to close out some really basic fights, however, which was a stark reminder that while the team does flow extremely well in mid-game and can produce really high kill results, the roster is still young in both age and synergy. While they have been criticised for a lack of explosive capability, I not only disagree with that, citing phenomenal previous performances from ZerG and Assert, but the speed at which this team has progressed makes me feel that they still have a ton of room to grow.

Counter-Logic Gaming + Solve/Dcop – As I mentioned in a previous prediction article at some point, the duo of Solveful and Dcop, formerly Tempo Storm are one of my favourite prospective team cores in North America right now. And while they didn’t take over GLL as I’d obviously have hoped, pretty much everything that I expected of them stylistically came into being, and the dynamic worked incredibly well. A very similar team dynamic has emerged during their trials with CLG’s NiceWigg, and despite the big asterisk, should they eventually be signed, they should be the best iteration of the constantly pressured team.

Esports as a whole has a lot to do with performance on any given day, and with the introduction of RNG to the competitive formula, Battle Royale esports is less consistent still. In this bracket of talent, essentially all of the teams are interchangeable on that basis, so I’ve decided to rank the teams based on perceived performance peak. If you have any issues with my power rankings, I’d love to hear your opinions and detailed reasonings for them. Tweet me @TheEMEF. I won’t read them.

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