ESL PUBG MASTERS AMERICAS GRAND FINAL: SHOOT TO KILL BACK ON TOP

by Ty Brody • May 4, 2021

Following two weeks of action starring the region’s best players and teams, the ESL PUBG Masters Americas Grand Final has wrapped up in spectacular fashion. In addition to the event’s $50,000 USD prize pool, PGC qualification points have also been awarded to the sixteen teams, beginning the race towards the 2021 PUBG Global Championship.

The best eight teams from North America and Latin America met in a best-of-twenty-four Grand Final that awarded the first place team with $12,500 USD and 200 PGC points. Cash prizes are one thing, but the qualification points towards PUBG Esports’ biggest event of the year are the real prize for these teams. Following six days of competition, one squad undeniably positioned itself to be crowned champion. Meanwhile, the other teams continued to fight tirelessly for the best possible placement behind our clear front runner.

Shoot To Kill

In a league of their own, Shoot To Kill secured the first-place position early and refused to concede their lead as they progressed through the second half of the tournament. Less than a month ago, the team returned home from PGI.S achieving less than they had sought out to - despite their strong showing on the international stage. Entering the event recognized as one of North America’s notable powerhouses, they watched as two of their regional rivals stole the spotlight at PUBG Esports’ biggest event to date. Not to mention, the team made a sudden roster adjustment in the midst of an event that was already presenting its fair share of hurdles.

Accompanying the prize money and PGC qualification points that come with the victory could be a new level of confidence and peace of mind for this team. At least from an outsider’s perspective, winning the ESL PUBG Masters Grand Final has solidified the roster in their first complete event together and showcased their dominant potential as we look towards events later this season. Shoot To Kill’s rock-solid core of PurdyKurty, Luke12, and aLOW played some of their best matches in this event, which is only amplified by the hard work from their coach MachineGunnar behind the scenes. That said, perhaps the biggest difference in their performance was the team’s fourth member. Right now, their decision to bring on Penta appears more brilliant than ever. It’s no surprise that the entire team lit up the killfeed, however, the individual play from Penta impressed throughout the event and felt as if they’ve been playing together for years, as opposed to weeks.

Spicy Fish

Once we accepted the fact that STK would ultimately be crowned our champions, our attention focused on those fighting for placement and PGC points throughout the standings. Numerous teams shined as we continued down the stretch, including the most talked-about roster since PGI.S came to a close, Spicy Fish. The group of notable players who made names for themselves competing under the banners of previous teams united to form a squad with the skill and experience required to win at PUBG Esports’ highest level. In their first event, battling all the way through open qualifiers, Spicy Fish managed to climb their way up into second place against the region’s best teams.

Everyone was aware of this roster’s potential heading into the ESL Masters. The in-game leadership from Roth and Uncivil, supported by the firepower from Sharpshot and Keenan made Spicy Fish a dangerous team, on paper. The only question surrounded their unfamiliarity with one another and how that would be their biggest obstacle considering the lack of time between events to iron out any issues. I’m sure the team feels that their communication and synergy could improve, which will happen naturally as they compete in more events together. The exciting part is that Spicy Fish still managed to take second place against great competition in their first event. We’re moving towards a new scoring system that will affect teams in various ways, but I feel better about Spicy Fish than some other teams knowing that Wooly is their coach. There’s no doubt that he had an impact on this group and contributed to their success in such a quick turnaround and I’m eager to see what they accomplish next together.

Soniqs

Only a few weeks removed from their championship run through one of the most challenging tournaments we’ve witnessed, the Soniqs entered the ESL Masters without M1ME. Someone tasked with a unique role who played a major part in the team’s success at PGI.S. His absence left the team with only a couple of days to find a replacement. Luckily, the team managed to recruit someone with comparable success in the esport. On short notice, the Soniqs enticed the retired and former three-time NPL Champion, Zanpah back onto the battlegrounds for another go at it.

The team’s play started off slow, which was to be expected in the absence of their fourth member. As the games progressed, the team began finding its rhythm. Towards the end of Week One, the Soniqs collected 72 points in five matches that included one win and four top-three placements. This was by far their best stretch of the tournament, but it was their 20 point Chicken Dinner in Week Two that sent them back towards the top of the leaderboard. As we’ve come to expect, TGLTN put on a show for those spectating while leading his team in Kills and Damage dealt. Shrimzy also found himself towards the top of individual stats this tournament, collecting 32 Kills and averaging 290 Damage over twenty-four matches. Of course, without direction, these points would not be possible. Their in-game leader, hwinn, guided the team to a top-three placement where they secured $6,000 USD and 95 PGC points.

Three Hundred

Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the entire event, Three Hundred. This team battled their way through open qualifiers and placed themselves at number four inside an incredibly competitive lobby facing the region’s toughest competition. It was unexpected and exciting to watch throughout the event, especially the individual play from Neferhor, who really made himself known during Week One of the Grand Final.

The team earned themselves a decent share of the prize pool, and of course, points towards qualification for PUBG Esports’ biggest event of the year. That said, their toughest challenge still lays ahead of them. Along with their rewards for a strong performance in this event was a direct invite to the PCS4 NA Group Stage. If they’re able to move beyond that, and I believe they will be, an unfamiliar ruleset for those who were not in attendance at PGI.S awaits them in the PUBG Continental Series 4 Grand Finals. This team has been impressive in their first major event together, but will they be able to recreate their success in the coming weeks?

Durany Esports

Did we witness the emergence of a new flagship for the LATAM region? Are the best performances still ahead for Durany Esports? The team was inconsistent at times, but what’s that really mean when we’re talking about four-match game days and a Bo24? Their play towards the end of the Grand Finals really picked up, and their highlight moments were unmistakable. Despite their struggle to get things heading in the right direction early on, but the team recovered quickly and found success during Week Two.

The team’s leading player in Kills and Damage dealt was Em1hh, credited with 40 Kills and an ADR of 251 over the twenty-four matches. He was certainly a standout player in this event, not only for Durany Esports and the LATAM region but as one of the strongest fraggers in the lobby. Heading towards PCS4 LATAM Group Stage, we’ll be paying extra close attention to this roster and their play through those matches.


ROUNDING OUT THE TOP EIGHT

This may not have been the top five we envisioned heading into the Grand Final, but it’s representative of the parity throughout the Americas region right now. Behind these five teams were numerous squads with higher aspirations, but for various reasons, their play did not come together during this event.

Placing just outside of the top five were two North American rosters with high expectations coming into this Grand Final. Like a handful of the teams in this event, Zenith Esports were playing in their first event since PGI.S came to a close. Unfortunately, the team lost two of its members following that event and began this final while still building the team’s synergy behind the additions of Vegas and Meluke. The roster looked intimidating on paper, but replicating their performance at PGI.S would be difficult considering the team’s unfamiliarity playing with each other. Still, they managed to finish inside the top eight and collect 40 points towards their PGC qualification. While it’s clear that Zenith made the most of the roster’s debut in a major event, I think it’s fair to say that they're capable of placing at least a couple of spots higher in the overall standings.

Perhaps the roster I was most excited to watch perform in their debut event, Oath Gaming picked up Kickstart prior to the ESL Masters following an outstanding performance with Zenith Esports at PGI.S. Each team manages a roster adjustment in their own way, but Kickstart appeared to almost immediately fit in with this group. It didn’t hit me at first, but I was reminded of the connection between Snakers and Kickstart going back to 2018 as members of Ghost Cadets. The familiarity and natural synergy with one another, not including games played together away from official events, was apparent in-game from the start.

Outside of their roster adjustment, getting settled back into an Americas lobby had to be tough for Oath and the rest of the teams that played in Korea for three months. Call it the PGI.S hangover, but there’s a certain amount of unexpected plays that occur compared to a lobby like the one Oath and other PGI.S teams became accustomed to. Thankfully, the team was able to secure a spot inside the top eight and have a solid first event under their belt with this new roster. All signs appear to be positive, the only question is the same one that goes for every squad, how will they adapt to the new scoring system coming with the PCS4 Americas Grand Final?

The ESL PUBG Masters Americas Grand Final presented a stage for HazeteN to make his name known beyond his current region. His performance with 22 Esports was a bright spot throughout the tournament and took the center stage towards the end of Week Two when he helped the team climb up the leaderboard. In their final two matches, 22 Esports placed first and second with eighteen kills collectively. HazeteN was credited with six of those, with his teammate rogiw0w adding another seven. If the team keeps their starting four players together for the PCS4 Americas Group Stage, I would keep an eye out for this roster in the Americas Grand Final.

SOLID WITH ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT

Thankfully, we will not be forced to talk about the Guadalajara Gascans placing at the bottom of our leaderboard following their impressive Week Two rally. Unfortunately, we’re still going to talk about this team’s failure to reach its full potential during the ESL PUBG Masters. I had this team sitting towards the top of my regional power rankings considering their success towards the end of last season. Sadly, the team was not invited to Korea, but I felt confident in their ability to pick up where they left off once ESL rolled around. I’m a massive believer in HoneyBadger and Adam and their ability to direct this team, and I hold Nicoos and oldless as two players with exceptional form.

Over the course of Week One, I could not have been more wrong about this team. They were lost, they didn’t look like themselves, and their stock was plummeting right in front of our faces. That said, I am happy to celebrate the team’s resilience and fight to pull things together and make a climb up the leaderboard during Week Two. Considering the team’s early struggles, it’s a massive accomplishment to see them sitting at number nine once the dust settled. Looking ahead, I hope we see the Gascans learn what they could from this event and return to the top of our leaderboard.

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