With the open qualifier stage of the eXTREMESLAND ANZ Qualifier wrapping up over the weekend, four out of the 32 teams who played in the qualifiers have made it through to the closed qualifier.
There they will face the likes of ORDER and Tainted Minds for a spot at the LAN Finals at the Melbourne Esports Open.
For most people however, these teams are but a footnote, always outshone by the Top 4, who for the most part thrash these teams at every encounter. But the qualified teams have the chance to upset, and why not do it during a qualifier for LAN?
Ground Zero have had a tough time of late.
Having crashed out of CyberGamer Premier – Pro in 7th last season and are still fresh out of a major roster change (-willyKS -Kaotik +kyoto +NikkeZ), GZ have been unable to find much success against the higher echelons bar a 16-14 win over a depleted Grayhound lineup in the ESL AUNZ Championships a few weeks back.
Last Saturday however saw a change of luck for Ground Zero, as they defeated both MC Esports and Taboo to claim their spot in the Closed Qualifier, also defeating Surge in the Semis before losing to Avant in the Grand Final.
With a first round match up against the Chiefs, most people are not expecting GZ to make it through to MEO.
However with the changes to the squad now complete, NikkeZ, one of the recently picked up members of the squad said he has “no doubts” in his team to upset someone like Chiefs and that they are aiming high.
“Our goal is to break into the top 4. Our current line up definitely has the potential with some very experienced and proven additions. Coming directly after our bootcamp we are looking to make it through to the MEO.”
My Prediction: It doesn’t look likely for Ground Zero to make it to MEO, especially considering recent history against the Chiefs. But they have the players that can perform well enough to cause an upset so tread lightly before outright rejecting the boys from Perth.
From the depths of irrelevance to AUNZ and beyond, Dynasty ESC have come from nowhere to entrench themselves near the top of Australian Counter-Strike. Starting off the year in CyberGamer – Silver (previously Amateur), they quickly made it to the Gold (Main) division in winter.
From thereon in, they started to explode into relevance, making the Grand Final of CyberGamer – Gold and taking an unexpected AUNZ spot in the first qualifying weekend.
They have also just come 2nd in the ESEA Open league, losing to Avant in the Grand Final. And they continued their remarkable run of performances on the weekend, securing another chance at LAN with a good run during the open qualifier.
However, after losing to Avant in the Semis, Dynasty has pulled the short straw as they will face off against ORDER in the first round, a match which doesn’t bode well for them. But they are going in with their heads held high, with the belief that they can pull off one of the upsets of the year, says jayzwow.
“We’ve shown our potential against some of the better teams and with more time and better scrims/practice against stronger teams, I know we can make this happen. We’re all young, dedicated and motivated individuals who are hungry to win.”
My Prediction: While they come into the game against ORDER oozing with confidence, they are more than likely going to be playing for experience as the former Kings lineup look to make their 2nd eXTREMESLAND Finals.
Surge have had a roller coaster of a year.
From an unexpected ESL AUNZ spot after defeating Avant in the Last Chance Qualifier last season to a respectable placement when most expected them to crash, the squad had seem to have found their groove.
Then, with an unexpected roster swap (+Lyt -Krispy), Surge entered a period of strife, seeing them nearly fall into the MDL (Mountain Dew League) Relegation Tournament and failing to make CyberGamer – Platinum Finals.
For now, Surge has found some success, winning their spot in the closed qualifier with new players Keeyto and Chiswell over teams like Chiefs Academy.
With Chiswell on holiday for the closed qualifier though and a game against Tainted Minds in the first round, it may seem that there will be no lightning come Saturday afternoon.
Still, as with most other teams in this qualifier, Surge are going in believing in victory, if Tensai is to be believed.
“We’re coming into the qualifier with an optimistic mindset and regardless of the outcome.”
My Prediction: To be blunt, I don’t see them making MEO, but being able to play against a team like Tainted Minds will give them some worthwhile experience.
Last but definitely not least, Avant have also been on a bit of a roller coaster as of late, with a 3rd place at CyberGamer Premier League LAN a few weeks ago (knocked out by Legacy) and the removal of HazR for Prodigy, a player that Avant Captain MoeycQ believes “was a great addition”.
Things are looking good for the org, as they have just won ESEA Open over Dynasty and have a winning record in ESL AUNZ. But their record against the invited teams leave a lot to be desired for, with a 0-2 a few weeks back by ORDER in ESL AUNZ and loses to both Legacy and Chiefs at LAN, history suggests that Avant may have a tricky time in making MEO.
History on the other hand is no deterrent to MoeycQ, who believes that his team can reach greater heights.
“I think we’re under-estimated being 3-3 in officials against Legacy and towards the latter end of the year we will be pushing top 4.”
My Prediction: The best chance from the qualified teams to nab a spot at MEO, but they are still the heavy underdog in their first match up.
While there is a lot of talent amidst the qualified teams, it’s likely many will be outshone by the invited teams at the closed qualifier.
Upsets can happen though, but will it for these teams? Or will the region’s best keep their spots near the throne?
Time will tell, but as with anything relating with Australian Counter Strike, always expect the unexpected. Follow Snowball on Twitter and keep an eye out for when these matches go live.