Friday, 24 January 2020

Online Tournament #1: North American Major Qualifier Predictions ft ALGS Onscreen Talent & EMEF



The Apex Legends Global Series has finally arrived and between the 25th & 27th January, the first regional tournaments begin with the online qualifiers #1. After going through our European qualifier predictions yesterday, today we will look at the teams from the North American region who will be playing over the three days, in an attempt to make it through the single-elimination tournament to the finals and earn a spot at the ALGS's first Major tournament in March at the Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

While you may have seen EMEF and I's previous prediction posts for the Apex Legends Pre-Season Invitational and Global Loot League Finals, we have decided to add another level for our first official tournament of the ALGS season and have been joined by ALGS onscreen talent Andy "Bravo" DudynskyWade "Dreadnaught" PenfoldJames "Jamerson" LeeBil "Jump" CarterDan "Gaskin" Gaskin & Mark "Onset" Hatcher to provide you with their opinions of the teams to look out for this weekend.

Our guide to the North American regional qualifiers is simple, we will be choosing one team for our 4 categories. Wildcards are the teams we can see coming from nowhere to place well, Dark Horses are the teams who we fell are currently in the low top to mid-tier bracket and can cause an upset with a good performance, Standouts are the teams who have the best performance but not win and finally our Winners of the event. Now we have the parameters set, it is time to get into the predictions.




Wildcard

Bravo - Lunch Money

I’m really excited about this team. This squad includes 2/3 of the Yungins and Frexs roster (the “Yungins,” naturally) who qualified for the top GLL NA spot by quite a margin, and then went on to place 4th overall, with two wins - the only team aside from TSM to do so in NA (TSM would go on to get three total). Once Frexs made the move to NRG (more on that in a moment), Nafen and Rocker have looked to FlyQuest’s Lou, who is coming off a respectable 6th place at GLL and rounds out the roster nicely. They’d have to put up some big games to threaten the top 3 in the first ALGS online event, but I’m looking forward to seeing if they can pull off a strong competitive debut after several days of promising scrim results.

NRG

I’m also putting NRG in the Wildcard bucket. They may not match the traditional definition of a wildcard team, as we’ve talked about them extensively due to their high-skill and high-profile players, but we haven’t seen the results we (or they themselves) want to see. Their 13th and 12th place finishes at X Games and the Preseason Invitational were undoubtedly viewed as disappointments given the talent on the team, and I liked the decision to skip the GLL event until they had a roster they were confident in. I’d ask what the “post-Dizzy” era holds for NRG, but this wording seems wildly unfair to Frexs, who has established that he can put up big numbers and compete with the best of them. He could just be the missing piece of the NRG puzzle.

Dreadnaught - Fnatic NA

Fnatic NA has been one of the more consistent teams in the middle of NA. I have always appreciated their playstyle because they clearly have a lot of focus on thinking about how to play the game as smart as possible. This seems to sometimes come at the tradeoff of not being aggressive enough when it is needed, but because of the smart play of this team, they always have a chance at having great placement tournaments. I think it is only a matter of time before this smart and methodical play clicks for the roster and they have a better gauge of when-to and when-to-not push.

EMEF - Team Secret

To me, Secret is a team that has never been in a logistical position to truly show what they are capable of. With Liemek subbing for Krakow, they were able to achieve a convincing 26th/80 finish, but with Cornpops subbing at GLL NA, they were only able to achieve an underwhelming 18th/20 placement, and have yet to play a tier 1 tournament with a full-time roster. With some more stability in permanent new recruits, world-class fragger Noted and notorious free agent IGL Grego, the team may be able to create a consistent identity and achieve the success they’ve shown glimpses of in an official event. Alternatively, the substitute situations could never have been a factor, and Secret never had the capability of replicating their Krakow success, to begin with. Either way, I’m hoping for the former and looking forward to seeing what direction the team will have taken come the qualifiers.

Jamerson - Lunch Money

Fly Quest’s Lou joins the Yunguns of Nafen and Rocker, a team that made a splash during GLL. Each member of this roster is a strong dueler with dynamic play styles and a sound understanding of the late game. Don’t be surprised if they creep up the scoreboard during the qualifiers.

Jump - NRG

While few would expect NRG Esports to be considered a wildcard team, this is not the NRG we knew and loved back at X Game. Dizzy has retired and a new face will be playing beside Ace and Mohr this weekend — Frexs. With high fragging potential and the ability to take control with shot-calling, this could be the missing link NRG has been searching for lately. Ace now has the ability to not think and simply just shoot, with Mohr having someone else he can’t trust in the clutch moments. Frexs has big shoes to fill as he steps in this weekend, but I expect him to fill them well. 

Gaskin - Complexity

Monsoon. That is all.

Halo - CLG Wigg - Dcop, Nicewigg & Solveful

Wildcards purely due to their time together as a team, CLG Wigg as I am referring to during their time together have the potential to do damage in these qualifiers. While CLG will have their players participating in online tournament #1, they will be represented by 3 rosters after ImMadness, Nokokopuffs and Nicewigg all decided to go their different ways and form their own rosters. Out of the three CLG teams, CLG Wigg has looked the most threatening so far in the North American private scrims and him teaming up with former Tempo Storm players Dcop & Solveful, seems to have not only put Nicewigg in an environment to thrive but also created a very dangerous team. Despite only playing as a roster for a month, their placements and performances have caught the attention of many and the trio are looking this a roster who have been together for a lot longer than they actually have.

All three can frag, make standout plays and after only a short time, their communication is clear and decisive. My only cause of concern is that while they rotate well, they are hit and miss with their positioning at the end and it can cause them to finish lower than they actually should. This is one of the most exciting rosters in the North American Qualifiers and if they decide to stay together for a long period, they could well rival the likes of TSM, Sentinels and Rogue as one of the best teams in the region. 

Onset - eUnited

No household names in the word of Apex Legends, however consistent scrim performances have left me thinking the ceiling is incredibly high for this squad. Experience will be a factor in their tournament performance, however, they have already shown they are a team to watch as the season progresses. They may have some big performances in the locker when it comes down to the crunch in big matches.

Dark Horse

Bravo - Rogue

As I mentioned during December’s GLL Apex Legends Series event, the Rogue story was only going to go one of two ways heading into 2020.

Coming into the event, they had placed 7th at the X-Games, and 10th at the Preseason Invitational – respectable placings, but placings that kept them well outside of the Top 5 conversation. Another finish around the Top 10 would have quietly continued that story, but I argued that a respectable placing at GLL could begin to change that, and their 3rd place finish proved that they are on an upward swing and ready to write a new narrative in the ALGS. They’ve had some solid private scrim results, and Rogue fans will be looking for another top placing in Online Tournament #1. The real test will come in the March Major, where they’ll need to carry recent momentum back onto LAN. 

Dreadnaught - Complexity

I think Complexity may be the darkhorse of NA because of their spicy new pickup in Monsoon. Meerko and Reptar have been a pretty solid squad when they had GabeisMoney, but I think this new acquisition may be just what the roster needed. I think they may show some new signs of life because of the new blood and it doesn't hurt to have another guy who is solid with snipers on this roster.

EMEF - Lunch Money

Amateur only by technicality, the roster of ex-Yungins & Frexs duo Rocker and Nafen, hot off the back of their breakout 4th place GLL NA finish, join up with Gib-jailed Pathfinder superstar and 100% confirmed cheater Lou, formerly of FlyQuest. While the loss of Wraith IGL Frexs has forced a role shift within the team, moving Rocker from the team’s Gibraltar player to their new Wattson player to make room for Lou’s Gibraltar, the loss of Frexs was nowhere near as impactful as it could have been. The team has still been performing excellently, and at least in terms of contribution to the teams’ aggressive style and genuinely world-class mechanics, Lou’s addition could definitely be argued as an upgrade. Regardless, the pre-existing environment and style of Nafen and Rocker were what originally attracted me to this team, and the addition of perhaps the best North American FA can only bolster the squad.

Jamerson - T1 NA

With the exception of their early exit during the Preseason Invitational, T1 has been a relatively consistent top of the middle of the pack squad. It seems with their addition of Assert, they’ve found a clearer voice for the team and have been showing steady improvements. This may be the tournament that T1 breaks into the top 3 with a good opportunity to win.

Jump - LAN

With CLG’s decision to keep their players, but allow them to pursue different rosters, it has been an interesting observation on where their three players decided to go. After breaking up with his teammates, NiceWigg and ImMadness, Nokokopuffs has since joined forces with Lurtea and ACEKTM7 with one thought in mind — qualifying for the Texas Major. Consistency and early game skirmishes were always the problem with the CLG of old, and it seems like this new squad Noko has assembled has had no issues with that. Finishing high in the North American scrims with their point placing, I see potential in this squad. What lays before them is a tall task, but if they keep up their consistency, I see a qualification in their future

Gaskin - Nicewigg, Dcop, Solveful

Any roster with Nicewigg on is going to always have the potential of upsets. He is not only an asset to this community but he also brings so much enthusiasm and belief to any team he's on. They've been performing really well in scrims and I am excited to see what they can do as they gel more as a squad

Halo - eUnited

eUnited has arrived in the professional Apex Legends scene and may well be one of the most underrated teams in North America by signing Crust, Lyric and Teenage. The trio joined forces after they were released from Immortals, CLG and 100 Thieves respectively, just before the Apex Legends Pre-Season invitational and they instantly clicked. After making the upper bracket final at the Apex Invitational, Ringers seemed to either lose their focus or form and not only dropped to the lower bracket finals but then out of the tournament entirely in 25th place. While they didn’t participate in the Global Loot League online tournament, they have shown progression and in the T1 Apex Private Scrims, they have had a good set of results and look more coordinated than before. Having just become eUnited’s first roster in Apex Legends, Crust, Lyric and Teenage should be able to transfer their scrims form into the regional qualifier finals and produce a good performance to use as a foundation step to start the season.

Onset - T1 NA

GLL was a real look into what this roster is capable of moving forward. 5th place overall was a solid performance from this squad, with multiple games having this trio competing for the champions banner. However, a lack of clutch factor in the big moments left everyone thinking of what could have been. If they can tighten up their late-game decision making, and not let the adrenaline get the better of them, we could be looking at a big season ahead for this squad.

STANDOUTS

Bravo - Sentinels

Sentinels have long been touted as one of the most confident and aggressive squads in NA, not to mention the biggest threat to stopping TSM’s run. Their 2nd place finish at GLL further cemented that fact, and they head into Season 1 of the ALGS with even higher expectations. Retzi is decisive and confident, and also hard on the team. He isn’t afraid to call out things like rotations that took too long, late zips that could’ve been placed better, etc. I’ve coached esports teams that have tried to have similar conversations mid-game, and things can break down quickly. The fact that Sentinels are able to very clearly have honest conversations about their gameplay tells me they’ll only continue to show up in big ways, and if you ask me, the question is not if they can win a tournament, but rather how soon. 

Dreadnaught - Rogue

I have always been rather critical of Rogue, since their first major victory at TwitchCon EU 2019. This victory really put them on the mark because it was one of the first real coordinated competitive Apex Legends events. But, since this victory, Rogue has gone a bit….well... rogue? I had not been too impressed with their play after that victory and some of the communication seemed to be off for the roster. At GLL, I was pleasantly surprised by Rogue and felt that they were starting to find an upward trend that they have been needing since the TwitchCon EU victory. I am hoping that Rogue has been able to continue those positive trends and we really will be able to see them come to fruition this weekend.

EMEF - TSM

In what is likely a surprise to nobody at all, Team Solomid take my Standout slot for North America. Despite my historic distrust of TSM’s placement when regarding their skill as a team, it is impossible to argue that they are dominant within their individual region. Not least because of their experience and mental fortitude in such a stressful and dangerous format, something which will no doubt claim multiple other teams with high expectations on them going into the event. The teams’ record speaks for itself, and their inherent and intangible ability to squeeze out as much value as possible from games seemingly lost on unfortunate loot, circle movement, or the previously mentioned event issues is a necessity for all teams in a competition like this. For a team stylistically anchored around that ability, it should be business as usual. 

Jamerson - Nicewigg, Dcop & Solveful

It seems the duo of Solve and Dcop is a turn-key duo that just can’t be stopped. After a strong showing with Hodsic during GLL, they plan to enter the qualifiers this time with Nicewigg. Garnering a lot of attention during the scrims, this is a team that can hit high highs, which will surely impress, but I fear what happens if they find themselves in a slump. I expect many high kill games from this team.

Jump - Sentinels

Sentinels vs. TSM. A storyline we’ve known since the beginning of Apex competitive and one that will not be finding closure anytime soon. Everyone knows the kill potential of Sentinels and what they can do, but everyone is also aware of their lack of consistency early. While they fully believe in their ability to win their skirmishes, that relentless attitude has got them into trouble with 3rd party situations and left empty-handed back to the lobby. Still, it’s impossible to write off their exciting gameplay, so I look for them to continue to make waves this weekend. 

Gaskin - T1 NA

Just an all-round solid team that will be feared by all. Like a lot of NA teams - despite being so good at this game and having the ability to win tournaments, they are often overshadowed by TSM. They will want to show the Apex world why they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath.

Halo - Rogue

Although 2020 is the first year of the ALGS, it is also a very important one for this Rogue roster. The level of talent on this roster is high and they have the potential to contest both Sentinels and TSM for the title of the best team in North America. However, they aren’t there yet and it has taken them longer to get to the point of being a consistent top-three team in the region than most thought. After what should be seen as a disappointing 7th place at the X-Games, the trio bounced back with an impressive 10th a the Apex Legends Pre-Season Invitational in Krakow after going through a gruellingly 13-hour final day by winning the lower bracket final and then producing a solid performance in the Grand Finals. They then followed this up with an even better performance in the North American Global Loot League Finals finishing 3rd, just a few points off of Sentinels in 2nd place.

Rogue's biggest problem in my eyes is their level of consistency, and how they can flip from hot to cold far too easily. This seemed to have improved in the last tournament and if they can eliminate this they should be able to reach the levels of Sentinels and TSM.

Onset - TSM

It feels crazy to not write 'Team Solo Mid' and 'champions' in the same sentence!

They are unparalleled as far as tournament performance is concerned, winning everything that they have competed in. Clutch factor, consistency and ice in their veins in the final circle means they will certainly be at the top of the leader boards when the dust settles. So why not 1st? I don't think that TSM has dropped their level at all. They are still the team to beat. However their rivals just seem to be getting better and better, and I feel it just could be time for TSM to settle for second place.

TOURNAMENT WINNERS

Bravo - TSM

It’s tough to bet against a team like TSM given the run that they’re on. They completely owned 2019 and will look to do the same in the ALGS. What impresses me the most about this roster isn’t just the three wins in a row, but rather what they’ve had to do to close the last three tournaments out:

Their X Games win was anything but secured heading into Game 12 – they were tied with Reciprocity on points, and Sentinels were only four points away in 3rd. They needed a big final game, and they did just that – a 2nd place Game 12 to close out the tournament in a convincing fashion. 

Poland’s Preseason Invitational saw them working hard for the first-ever match point victory, and even when Hal failed to secure the tournament win in the dramatic 1v1 against wSerious of GamersOrigin in Game 8 – a moment that could’ve easily deflated less resilient squads – they stuck their heels in and pulled out the win 3 games later. It was a messy 3-team final circle against MVP and GamersOrigin (who was also now on game point at this stage), and they managed to perfectly time their final push from the low ground to secure the trophy and the largest Apex cash prize to date.  

In December’s online GLL event, TSM had the most un-TSM Day 1 we’ve seen yet. Earlier-than-usual exits in the first three games along with two 12th place finishes started to cast doubt on whether this would be another win for the trio. Hal’s miraculous solo finish in Game 5 lit a fire, grabbed them some points and perhaps momentum, but they still ended Day 1 tied for 6th place. In Day 2, they roared back into action, winning the first game of the day, secured two 2nd places in Games 8 and 9, and essentially sealed the deal with a Game 11 win. They’d end the tournament not only in 1st place but by an 18 point margin. 

This is the TSM story so far – they’ve been dominant, and they’ve had to clutch up for their hard-fought victories. While this fact might point to some gaps in the armour, I’m not betting against them until I’m given a reason to do so. 

Dreadnaught - TSM

There really isn’t another name you can think of, in my opinion, when it comes to the winners of NA. TSM is a team that has shown that they can perform under any amount of pressure and do what is necessary to come out with a victory. It is not always in clean and dominant fashion, but they always find a way to rise to the occasion. I think their current win streak is one that, once broken, may not be repeated in competitive Apex Legends for some time. In the last 3 Majors, TSM has attended, it results in 3 TSM Victories. TSM is North America’s Champion and will be until others show they have the teamwork, mental endurance, and hunger that TSM has to be a champion.

EMEF - Sentinels

Historically the 2nd best team in the North American region, within the context of the ALGS Qualifier 1 I believe Sentinels will outperform their peers. The disrespect that Sentinels show their opponents on the server and their absolute mechanical confidence to take any 50/50, which incidentally is far more weighted when Sentinels are involved, puts them at the top of my list of NA teams going into the qualifiers. Their steady progress at enhancing their unreserved playstyle since the start of the game with their consistent roster puts them marginally above their relatively stagnant or inexperienced competition in my eyes, along with the players’ technical and historical affinity for the type of competition that the qualifiers will be.

Jamerson - TSM

Quad-peat? Tetra-peat? I don’t know what you would call it, but this team just wins. They stumbled early on in day 1 of GLL, but they quickly recovered and returned to form to post amazing numbers. The early rounds of this qualifiers will allow TSM to make the adjustments necessary in case of another repeat of day 1 of GLL, in time for them to be the back to back to back to back and earn a spot at the 1st major.

Jump - TSM

Can anyone really go against the B2B2B Champs? Consistency. Kills. Clutch. TSM has it all. Their confidence online is backed up by their results and until someone shows up and can play each game to win the way that they do, I see nothing changing anytime soon. It might be an online qualifier, but I fully expect them to continue to prove that they’re the best in North America.

Gaskin - TSM

Boring prediction, maybe. But you watch these guys in scrims, pubs or even just sat at their desk doing nothing - they still look amazing. They have the mental ability to overcome any problem and any team. The pressure and expectation will always be on their shoulders but I really don't think they feel it.

Halo - Sentinels

Once again I expect it to be another slugfest between the two heavyweight teams from North America in Sentinels and TSM. The two teams feel like they are in a never-ending world championship fight and while TSM has won the first 3 rounds of this encounter at the X-Games, Apex Legends Pre-Season Invitational and North America’s Global Loot League Pre-Season Tournament, Sentinels showed at GLL that they do have the power to stun the reigning champions. At GLL Sentinels looked prime to win the tournament until round 10 double disconnection for Retzi and Senoxe left Zombs all alone in no man’s land. In turn, Sentinels lost all of the momentum they had built up and TSM eventually came through to win the title. 

That would have hurt Sentinels and knowing them, will likely mean that they will come back with a bigger chip on their shoulders than they already have. Their aggressive play style perfectly fits Retzi in-game leadership and the team's no-nonsense attitude, but Sentinels started to show patience in engagements we had not seen before in those GLL finals. If the team continue to show better judgements in their engagements and not let their emotions get the better of them, Sentinels look like they are capable of landing a knockdown punch, on their way to dethroning TSM. 

Onset - Sentinels

This team has everything but the tournament win. Unfortunate circumstances at GLL meant they may feel that first win was taken from them in the most gut-wrenching manner. Looking forward, however, and with the way that Retzi, in particular, is playing at the moment, as well as the motivation that seems to fuel them in taking down TSM, this could well be their time.

Their fearless mentality is what is needed to take down a titan. And that titan is TSM. Sentinels have a chip on their shoulder, which makes them even more dangerous than before.

With the finals being played on Monday 27th January live on stream with the ALGS talent guiding us through the event. The North American Finals are a tournament you are not going to want to miss. There will be action from the start and it will be interesting to see whether TSM can go 1 for 1 in regular-season play or if another team such as Sentinels, Rouge or even T1 NA can match them out of the blocks.
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