ESL PUBG MASTERS AMERICAS GRAND FINALS: WEEK TWO PREVIEW
Stock up on the energy drinks, toss the chicken dinner into the oven, and get ready for an intense three-day finale of the ESL PUBG Masters Americas Grand Final! A handful of teams that have positioned themselves within striking distance of the first-place position during the opening twelve matches of the tournament, but which team will come prepared to finish out the event above the rest?
Our lobby features eight teams from North America and Latin America fighting amongst one another to earn a share of the prize pool, and most importantly, varying amounts of qualification points for the PUBG Global Championship later this year. Each of the sixteen teams has a 'best case scenario' envisioned for the final weekend of action, but which of them will walk away pleased with their final performance?
100-CLUB: FIGHTING FOR FIRST PLACE
We’ve grown to expect the unexpected during these final weekends of a major event where a twelve-match series will determine our ESL PUBG Masters Americas Champion. Despite the parity throughout this region, there are four teams entering this weekend with more than 100 points. Within these four teams, in my opinion, lies the winner of this event and the team taking their first step towards the PUBG Global Championship 2021. Each of the sixteen teams will earn themselves PGC points this weekend, but the winning team is awarded 200, second place earns a considerable amount less with 120. Battles for position on the final leaderboard will be for much more than extra cash. Everyone wants to attend and play against the best teams from around the world at PGC 21’. That's where the real prize money will be made, and it's what teams are really playing for this weekend.
At the top of our leaderboard sits Shoot To Kill with a seventeen-point lead over Three Hundred in second place. STK begins the three-day finale with the largest lead between any two teams in the lobby and will aim to extend it as we progress through the weekend. Penta served as the team’s lynchpin last weekend, collecting 25 Kills and dealing more than 4,000 damage over the first twelve matches, followed closely by Luke12 who contributed another 21 Kills and 6,500 damage. PurdyKurty and aLOW contributed 20 and 19 Kills respectively, supporting the team’s lobby-leading kill count during Week 1.
Three Hundred exceeded many of the expectations I had for them during the first weekend of action. They maintained their strong play throughout and positioned themselves just behind STK in the top spot with twelve matches to overtake them. I believe this roster has the ability to continue their success through the final three days and challenge for first place, however, they’re surrounded by experienced and powerful teams on the leaderboard with the exact same goal. Can the team who’s already surprised us with their play in this event get the better of STK, Soniqs, and Oath? I’m willing to bet that headkick, Lataa, Neferhor, Vox, and their coach CompanyMan are confident that it’s only a matter of time.
Considering that the Soniqs entered ESL PUBG Masters with Zanpah standing in for M1ME, it’s no surprise that they opened the Grand Finals at a slower pace. After their quiet twenty-point performance on Day One, the Soniqs posted 40 points on Saturday and Sunday to close out the weekend in third place with 101 points overall. Well within reach of the first-place position, the Soniqs now have twelve matches to chase down STK and 300, who sit just ahead of them in the standings.
Similar to the Soniqs’ gradual Week One climb, Oath Gaming bounced back from an average opening day with 40-point performances on Saturday and Sunday. Our fourth and final member of the “100 Club” will start the final three days of the Grand Final trailing first-place by 21 points, but certainly have the firepower to close that distance in a hurry. Kickstart has played exceptionally well in his Grand Final debut as a member of Oath, leading the lobby over the first half of this event with 25 Kills and 5,200 Damage dealt. Additionally, the team’s carryover trio of Relo, Snakers, and Balefrost have combined for 36 Kills.
IN THE HUNT: MIDDLE OF THE PACK
Due to how close the standings are through the middle of our leaderboard, you could label a large portion of our teams as 'middle of the pack' or 'in the hunt'. Out of the eight teams sitting between 5th and 12th, any one of them could have a breakout performance and finish towards the top of the leaderboard. With that said, I think a few will have their best opportunity to do so this weekend. Let's start with a couple of teams ranked just outside of the top four.
Spicy Fish has made the most of their highly-anticipated premiere as a newly formed squad, climbing into 5th place overall with 81 points. The team started off slow but collected nearly 60% of their current point total on Day Two alone. We are all well aware of the talent and experience that makes up this roster, but an adjustment period when playing with new teammates is virtually unavoidable. Perhaps the team feels differently about the first weekend, but whenever four players combine to create a new team, mistakes will be made as you begin learning each other's tendencies. Keeping the team's unfamiliarity in mind makes you realize how far ahead of schedule Spicy Fish are if they're still adjusting to playing with one another. This team is sitting in a top-five position after twelve matches, with another twelve to ascend the leaderboard in their first major event together. The Spicy Fish stonks are soaring.
Just one point back with a similar outlook on the final twelve matches, Zenith Esports will enter Friday's lobby with 80 points residing in sixth place. Poonage and Shinboi welcomed Vegas and Meluke to the team prior to the start of ESL PUBG Masters, and their production as a new squad has been fairly consistent. Zenith's two newest members haven't competed much at this level in the past year, Vegas more so than Meluke, despite both players having a prolific career in PUBG Esports previously. As of now, all four sit within the top-25 of players in Kills and Damage dealt, a great sign for a team that just replaced half of its runner-up roster at PGI.S.
22 Esports are currently our seventh-place team with 75 points coming into the final weekend. If they're able to string together a couple of matches and play more consistently, 22 Esports will quickly ascend our leaderboard. Right now, half of the team's points have come from two matches, a chicken dinner and a second-place finish with twelve kills to close out last weekend. HazeteN leads the team with 21 Kills and 264 ADR over the first half of the Grand Finals, which is good enough to rank him fifth overall in our lobby. Playing behind him, 22 Esports is a team I can picture making a run for the top of our leaderboard as we play down the stretch.
POTENTIAL DARK HORSE TEAMS
Unfortunately, many of the teams towards the bottom of our standings are too far behind to compete for the first-place position. However, there is still increased prize money and PGC points to battle for, making the battles towards the bottom of our leaderboard almost as important as the ones at the top. Of the teams resting near the bottom of our standings, there are a couple I believe could salvage their event with a strong performance on the final weekend.
The first team that jumps out to me is Dodge. They're a strong roster still adjusting to the competition but could easily find themselves within the top-eight after a couple of productive matches. Hikerman has been a pleasant surprise for Dodge and the fans, as he currently leads the team in kills at this stage of the Grand Final. Overall, Dodge has been an extremely balanced team that's just been average thus far. Point contribution via Kills is coming from all four members, they've split their 62 total points evenly across both maps, and they're eighth in total kills through the first twelve matches. If they can build upon their Week One outing and find their first Chicken Dinner of the Grand Final this weekend, Dodge could be a team we see creep into the top-eight, potentially even higher.
After winning the opening match of this Grand Final, Enrage Gaming went missing in action until we neared the end of last weekend. This team has already proven they're capable of securing a win against these teams, but they need to secure points from placement and kills more frequently if there is any hope of them placing inside the top-eight. I would love to see them pull together and begin posting more consistent point totals, but it's only going to be more difficult as we approach the final matches.