After a lengthy Oceanic Pro League offseason, with plenty of roster swaps, an Oceanic exodus to the Championship Series and the European Championship in the break, and a wave of rookies arriving to take their places, the region’s premier League of Legends competition is back.
With comes a new chance for kings to be crowned, new stories to be told for some of the best League players Australia and New Zealand have to offer, and of course Snowball Esports’ weekly match predictions for the weekend ahead.
Our prediction analysts Emma “ammeplays” Van der Brug, Harry Taylor, and Alex “Alexicon” Leckie-Zaharic break down the biggest matchups of Week 1 as the Oceanic Pro League gets underway for 2020, starting with Avant Gaming vs Legacy Esports on Friday, January 31 from 4pm AEDT.
Emma’s Feature Match: Pentanet.GG (0-0) vs Dire Wolves (0-0)
After arguably the biggest offseason shake-up to have happened in the Oceanic Pro League, it’s certainly an exciting time to be a fan. Pentanet.GG marks one of the biggest changes in the league, with the west coast team fielding a strong roster for their debut.
On the opposite side of the Rift in the opener, the Dire Wolves stand ready to try and paw their way back to the top of the league — the Sydney organisation has also recruited well in the offseason, at least on paper, and mark a strong foe for Pentanet’s first weekend.
First-week matches are always exciting to watch, mainly due to the uncertainty of rosters, and how will they perform at crunch-time. If we look at back 2019’s Split 2 opener, Order lost to Legacy Esports. As history shows, Legacy itself wasn’t that much of a title contender — the squad went on to string twenty defeats in a row.
Casting a look into the crystal ball for this match, it looks like the newcomers may have the rub of the green. They’re a new team, with newfound drive and passion, and they are poised to claim a statement victory in the first round of the season.
One key element for the west coast roster is Scott “Westonway” Farmer, who coached the now-departed Essendon Bombers to a 3–0 grand final victory over Order, and lifted the trophy in 2019. He is joined at Pentanet by another member of that championship squad in captain Jake “Rogue” Sharwood too, which could prove invaluable straight off the bat.
Roster synergy will play a vital part in Pentanet’s early matches. As well as the Bombers leadership duo, they also have two former Dire Wolves in their roster in the form of Jarod “Getback” Turner and Brandon “BioPanther” Alexander. They finished fifth.
This looks like a relatively even game for the Dire Wolves and Pentanet on-paper, but week one matches can always be chaotic. As far as first-round tiebreakers for the matchup, it looks like valuable helmsman experience from Westonway, and pre-built synergy for the newcomer organisation, means Pentanet should claim the win in a volatile opening week.
Harry’s Feature Match: Order (0–0) vs Legacy Esports (0–0)
Legacy Esports and Order will meet to start play this Saturday, in what could shape up as the game of the week — both orgs enter Split 1 fresh off the back of major roster overhauls that have set them up for a tilt at the Oceanic crown.
This game could reasonably go either way. Each team has set themselves up for success in 2020, and the first week of the new lineups could be key for their early Split 1 run. Whoever claims the win could claim the title of “pacesetter” after round one.
Order looks to have the rub of the green, however, off the back of the Chiefs core they picked up in the offseason. The Melbourne squad picked up Bill “Eyla” Nguyen, Jordan “Only” Middleton, and veteran top laner Brandon “Swip3rR” Holland, as well as former Gravitas star Harry “Haeri” Kang, and added them to bot laner Ronan “Rare7” Swingler (formerly Dream).
With Legacy having what can only be described as an abysmal Split 2 in 2019, they spent the time away reloading all five positions. This came in the form of the return of prodigal son Leo “Babip” Romer, former champion Quin “Raes” Korebrits, and Mammoth top laner Kim “Topoon” Ji-hoon. Joining them are two new names in the OPL, former academy support Jonah “Isles” Rosario, and Gen.G and DragonX trainee Jang “EMENES” Min-soo to create a rich lineup.
Despite the stacked squad, however, it is still yet to be seen if they will gel together straight away, or if it will be a process to get the superteam rolling in Split 1.
The first week back after a break is always the hardest to predict. While we can see both these teams could be fighting for the title at the pointy end of the season, Order may win the battle in the first week due to the history most players have together.
It is on paper, of course, but until there are results on the board it’s time to trust the paper — Order’s former synergy should edge it out in the close game, and the Melbourne squad should take the 1–0 record in what could be a key head-to-head this year.
Alex’s Feature Match: Mammoth (0–0) vs Gravitas (0–0)
Success can be a curse. Without the tumultuous offseason we just had, this would have been a cut-and-dry Mammoth stomp of Gravitas, with the defending champions easily expected to brush aside the team that placed seventh in last year’s second split.
However, with four out of the five starting players for Mammoth now overseas playing in the LCS and LEC, and their star jungler now playing for Legacy Esports, Mammoth has had to assemble a squad without a single game of OPL experience between them.
Gravitas had nowhere near the success that Mammoth did, yet almost all of their 2019 squad have also moved on. They were left nearly as destitute as Mammoth, and also had to bring in rookies from the OCS and other circuits to fill their roster.
Despite all that, Gravitas are the ones that have an edge in this week’s game, because that edge’s name is Jordan “Praelus” Fernandes. The GRV jungler is the only player from either team to remain on the respective rosters coming into 2020, and his influence will be a vital and steady hand to ease the rest of his team into their OPL debuts.
By this stage, I know what you’re thinking, and almost all of the OPL armchair analysts agree. On paper, this is a battle of the two weakest teams in the league, a bunch of inexperienced rookies who are more likely to fight over the wooden spoon than over a playoff spot.
However, it’s so much more than that. These are the first true grassroots teams in OPL history.
These orgs aren’t relying on a squad full of OPL veterans to carry them to glory. Instead, their rookie rosters will have to fight tooth and nail for every win that comes their way. A single player out of the ten in this matchup played in the OPL in 2019, and only one other has played even one game in the league.
We’ve seen so little of almost all of these players that it becomes extremely hard to pick a winner. However, because we’ve seen what Praelus can produce on his best day, it’s difficult to pick an entirely unproven Mammoth roster to take the win over Gravitas.
Led by Praelus, Gravitas will reign victorious in this matchup and, hopefully, launch themselves into a productive season.
If you want to be inspired this week, it’s not going to be by watching Legacy vs Order. It’s going to be by watching Gravitas vs Mammoth, because any win is a testament to the effort and passion these players are putting in.
Don’t look at this as an early battle for the wooden spoon, look at this as the beginning of eight OPL careers. These young rookies stepping onto that stage this weekend have got everything to play for, and that’s when the game truly shines. When those dreams finally come true.
The Oceanic Pro League returns on January 31.