The first leg of the PGL Arlington Major 2022 is now over. All twelve playoff participants have been selected. The Arlington event was full of surprises and disappointments. Some of the favorites left us with even more questions after their games. The teams that hadn't expected to make the playoffs before the start of the major would start off from the upper grid. Here's a look at who surprised everyone and disappointed the tournament crowd.
The Russian bear picked up speed
Outsiders came to the major as a dark horse. Before the tournament, analysts had said that the team needed to be in the top six of the PGL Arlington Major 2022 to get a direct invite to TI11. However, it was hard to believe in the team's actual success.
Outsiders were lucky with a group that featured only PSG.LGD, OG, and RNG as the clear favorites for the tournament. From the first map, the "bears" stuck to a "greedy" style of play by using the three heavily farmed characters with a hard carry.
Why does this squad succeed in tournament play? Outsiders players skillfully distribute farming on the map, and the supports are not tied to lanes until midgame. Yamich, as a freelance artist, can sometimes start the first minutes of the map on a tri-lane or near the midlaner. The team skillfully takes advantage of its numbers and takes the lead through pre-creep kills and subsequent kills right after teleporting. The opponent's midlaner or offlaner, exposed to the "bears'" attacks, spends a lot of time in the tavern during the initial picking phase.
Outsiders' actions are coordinated, and players rarely make critical mistakes. Another factor in the success of the squad was the signing of RAMZES666. Roman occasionally stands the line poorly and sometimes lets himself "go wild," but his characters consistently have many items and can play in the late-game. Outsiders' carry is also an in-game leader of the roster, and many decisive calls are made on his initiative.
The Russian team lost only to PSG.LGD. Outsiders earned a complete victory in the series in a crucial encounter with OG, the two remarkable matches against Team Liquid turned out to be the tier-1 level performance with turn arounds, good smoke detentions and personal feats of gpk.
The RAMZES666 team will face Team Spirit in the Eastern European derby in the playoffs. If they win, Outsiders will get closer to a direct invitation to the TI and secure the title of the best in the region.
Can the stand-ins be considered a reinforcement? Fnatic, OG and Entity in the upper grid
More than 10 eSports players couldn't make it to the major due to issues with entry to the United States. One of the Chinese teams decided to withdraw from the tournament. Other teams searched for replacements.
As a result, Fnatic was strengthened by three players from the American Team SoloMid at once, and the global collaboration of five international cyber athletes surprises everyone. According to analysts' predictions, it was difficult for this team to fight for the playoffs due to the lack of chemistry between the two parts of the team and switching Jabz to the offlane position. Even more outrageous was the very precedent of massive substitutions.
Fnatic was allowed to play a tournament with 3 substitutions. I don't really understand why they weren't allowed to play with 5 substitutions in that case, they could have done without visas altogether. Imagine that EG can't go to the next tournament in America and Fnatic can't get their visas, so EG players just change their uniforms to Fnatic's and play for them. Nice scheme.
Fnatic only lost one series to PSG.LGD for the entire group stage. TSM's stand-ins drove the team to the upper bracket, and if they beat Team Aster they will secure a place in TI for their current organization. In that case, Timado, Bryle and DuBu would become the only players in history to have contributed to two teams reaching The International in one year.
The community was in doubt about Entity's stand-in SabeRLight-. Offlaner TSM replaced Pure, who couldn't get a visa to the tournament in America. The Czech fit in perfectly with Fishman's team, and Entity went from potential underdogs to playoff's favorites as the event progressed.
SabeRLight- at the major is contributing to yet another revolution in the game. He's shown by example that a meta with two semi-carries and an active midlaner is more relevant now than the usual play pattern. Hard-carries rarely stand their lanes well, they need to stack a lot, and they will have an impact 20-25 minutes into the game. As the tempo speed increased, greedy heroes became more difficult to play, and carry heroes with the ability to take a fight early on became more and more common in the meta. These included Juggernaut, Bristleback, Pudge and Dawnbreaker. In the offlane there were more greedy heroes with a mid-game orientation going into deep late-game.
So what is SabeRLight's fault, and how has he contributed to the new approach to the game? It's simple: they give him the usual offlaners. Pure was able to play standard carries like Faceless Void, Templar Assassin, Sniper, sometimes diluting with non-standard Necrophos and Leshrac. Entity's stand-in doesn't get a hard-carry at all, but plays equal heroes focusing on the midgame activity. In the very first game against Natus Vincere a huge Night Stalker burst into the rows of the "born to win", the "evil geniuses" did not come up with anything against carry Doom. And there is a chance we will see Pangolier, Nature`s Prophet, and Viper as carries.
OG as always couldn't bring captain Misha to the major and replaced him with Ceb. Sebastian feels right at home in this roster as well. Remember the public hype for Windranger on the 5th after ESL Stockholm Major 2022 after the Frenchman's performance? Don't worry, after the major in Arlington, picking Earthshaker at position 4-5 will become mainstream.
The Frenchman neatly moved Taiga to the 5th position and showed a five-year-old meta on Io, Earthshaker, diluting with occasional picks of other heroes. Sebastian also takes the lead and directs the moves of the teammates. He still tends to use trash talk during official games, but that doesn't stop OG from making it to the upper grid. The team only lost to PSG.LGD (which is not surprising) and Outsiders (Ceb put in the fatal bracket that gave the "bears" the first map and were left with no chances in the second one).
OG will face Entity in the quarterfinal of the upper bracket. The team secured their place in TI before the major, they don't set any particular goal for themselves and only want to stretch their winning streak to six majors. Is it possible? With Ceb, it could be.
Something to think about - Tundra Esports missed the playoffs
In Group B, Tundra Esports was in contention to advance to the next stage via the upper bracket. The offlane genius 33 joined the team in Arlington, the full squad could only face problems with Team Spirit and Team Aster, but instead the spectators saw 0 won series and a drop from the last place of the tournament.
The leaders of the European region could survive a bad start to the tournament on the first day. On the second game day, Sneyking and teammates fell victim to Natus Vincere's only good day, losing both maps to them. Tundra Esports also lost to the favorites without fighting, and gave up at least one map ???. Most likely, the team will go to TI11 and so they aren't worried about the prospects for the fall, but what happened in the U.S.?
First of all, we must mention the squad's dismal individual play. The total KDA of all the team players is 1.8 (for comparison - the Natus Vincere that dropped out has a KDA of 3.15, Team Aster and PSG.LGD - 5.06 and 4.86 respectively). Tundra Esports had problems with kills (16.6 per game), the team steadily lost the laning stage and couldn't make a comeback afterwards.
How will this affect the team? It probably won't affect their morale. Tundra Esports can only miss TI if some insane circumstances arise, and the players will take a rest after the drop from the major and start to prepare for the main event of the year. But the European team needs to spend a lot of time in the pub games, to improve their mechanical skills and wait for the new patch. And then, Nine will probably come up with a couple more wild ideas.
South Americans on the decline
Thunder Awaken and beastcoast will definitely be in Singapore in October, the South Americans need this major only for extra playing practice and to fill their wallets. But, strangely, the first team to secure a spot in TI gets blown out by PSG.LGD in two 30-minute maps without any resistance.
Beastcoast made the playoffs thanks to the failure of Natus Vincere. The Ukrainian team didn't win a single map in the derby against Team Spirit, allowing the Peruvians to stay in sixth place in the group. Now they are waiting for the loser of the Team Aster/Fnatic match.
There are fewer questions about the Beastcoast's game: they lost only to the CIS teams, managed to fight all the leaders, and took away one map at a time. They have already adapted to the third greedy core on the offlane, and sometimes Wisper almost solo wins a hopeless game for the team. K1 is good at killing creeps at an average of 400 per map. Beastcoast can play a solid first map, then feed until the throne is lost.
Thunder Awaken lost to OG and all Chinese teams as expected, and in the rest of the series didn't turn the second matches in their favor. Moreover, the Peruvians can start the series with a win: in three of the five draws, it was the "thunders" who opened the score. They share the same problem with their compatriots: in the next map after the lanes the chaos begins, and key fights are lost.
In the series with Outsiders Thunder Awaken had an incredible comeback to the game and a victory on the map, and then a smashing defeat in the second match ensued. Almost all of the series went like this, and the team failed to get two points in any of the encounters. As a result, they finished 8th in the group and went home.
The poor play from the South Americans was also due to the other tournament participants' strong motivation. All of the teams in 7th-16th place in the rankings are in good shape and are currently trying to make it into the top 12 teams of the season. It's not surprising that in the meetings against RNG, Outsiders, Team Liquid and Fnatic, the South Americans didn't look like a team that got a direct invite to TI11 in Singapore.
Did the Chinese get in shape for TI? Team Aster and PSG.LGD went in the playoffs at the top of their respective groups
Autumn is coming, and that means The International is coming soon. The Chinese teams have always been ranked very high, but they are focused, disciplined and productive in the last major of the season. PSG.LGD gave up one map to Sonics as a consolation prize and never lost again in Arlington. Team Aster didn't look like a formidable invincible machine; their opponents couldn't take a single series away from the team.
In PSG.LGD it is difficult to isolate a single personality that influenced the victory. It plays stable drafts with XinQ as initiators and with y` as healers. It's impossible to ban all the heroes for Faith_bian, Ame and NothingToSay - the player's character pool is very large and the Chinese play them steadily. They plan their drafts well, and if they lose on the lanes, they know how to turn the game around with a single fight.
In the playoffs PSG.LGD won't have any psychological or mechanical difficulties. The experienced squad has gradually gained the form they needed, winning a tournament in Riyadh in July and taking home $1.5 million. "Director" on the coaching slot is preparing for another The International, scaring all opponents back in the majors with the team's form.
And lastly, Team Aster also performed well in the group at the major and will start playing from the upper bracket. The organization, created in 2018 by the famous BurNIng, has always been known for stellar rosters. The team has had an easy time qualifying in China but always flew home after losing in the majors. In August 2022, that tradition was broken.
The Chinese teams are in optimal playing shape and will look to win the major with as few losses as possible in the playoffs. Aegis hasn't been to China since 2016, despite consistently having favorites from there. The knockout games in Arlington will be a general rehearsal before the TI11 in Singapore.