ESEA S35 Intermediate Playoffs: Final 4

November 26, 2020
Article written by: John "JAYEL"

This season’s Semi-finals for the Intermediate division consists of four very different teams. However, all four of them have one thing in mind--win the division and get the auto-bid to Advanced for next season. Another common denominator between these teams, is that they have had dominating playoff runs during this holiday season. Only three maps have been lost between these four teams during their playoff conquests. Time will tell if anyone will be able to continue their domination in these highly competitive Semi-final match-ups.

#1 Fragging for Iris (16-0) v #60 YeniCherry (10-6)

The #1 seed, Fragging for Iris, is composed of a heavy-hitting roster that dropped itself down from Advanced to Intermediate for this season. The devastating five of cryptic, fype, royalG, f1ukie, and xcege are a line-up that sounds familiar with a team who could potentially still be in the Advanced playoffs right now. Fragging for Iris will be looking to do what ryder esports could not do, complete a perfect 16-0 regular season and finish it off with an Intermediate championship. Up to this point, the team has also won every map in playoffs.

Stand-out Playoff player: Cryptic ( 99.95 ADR // 0.95 FPR // 0.22 HSP // 16.04 RWS )

YenniCherry, the lowly #60 seed, is only ranked so low because of their last two regular season matches being overturned for competing with a player who was account sharing. This probably worked to their favor as they climbed through the bracket and have been beating higher seeded teams in most of their matches during this playoffs. YenniCherry has been on our radar (and especially R700’s) since last season however, after a solid 11-5 regular season, they went 0-2 to fall out of S34 playoffs disappointingly. This Turkish-American team has worked hard to get themselves back in position to make Main (and possibly more) this time around, as they have had impressive playoff wins over #5 Team Veloz Academy (2-0), #21 Alpha Chads (2-0), and #13 Big Chilling (2-0). YeniCherry will be looking to make their name known throughout the community by taking down the #1 seed in the Semi-finals and ride an easier wave in the Grand-finals--if they can find the right opportunities. 

Stand-out Playoff player: KaKi ( 94.46 ADR //0.93 FPR // 0.25 HSP // 14.06 RWS )

Interview with Fragging for Iris' xcege:

Your team Tidal Esports was one of the biggest hypes of Advanced at the start of this season. Some things happened and the roster didn't survive the pre-season. How has the transition from the Advanced grind to Intermediate been and how has that storyline evolved during the season?

Well during the pre-season, we were one of the first few teams to start grinding. We grinded for a good 1-2 months with the core roster. Two days before the season started, two of our players decided to leave for an MDL team. This took a huge toll on our motivation--especially since this happened last minute with very little time to find two new players who would fit their roles. With little to no motivation from me and my team, I decided to just move down to Intermediate where I could chill and play with some friends for fun. As the season went on, f1ukie was cut from his team and fype’s team died so I asked them if they wanted to rebuild the same roster for next season. They were both more than excited to do so and with that, we began our search for a 5th to replace koalanoob. We decided to pick up RoyalG and began practice right away.

Have you guys been pugging most of this season or do you practice and run actual strats during your matches?

We pugged out the whole regular season with multiple people on the roster. As for playoffs, we’ve been practicing with the core 5 for next season. We’re taking playoffs seriously since we need to place 1st place to get back into Advanced.

Does the end of this season have an impact on you and your team's future? For example, if you win IM and go back up to Advanced, is this team back in grind-mode and going for MDL next? Or is this team still gonna be keeping it chill?

This season, mostly playoffs, is basically our early preparation for next season. We’ve already been grinding and most Advanced teams already know how much work we are putting in. To answer your question, the end of this season has a huge impact on the team's future and we believe that we will make top Advanced playoffs easily next season.

#3 DONT THINK JUST BINK (14-2) v #15 Arora Gaming (12-4)

The other Semi-final match-up is between Arora Gaming and DONT THINK JUST BINK. The #3 seed, DTJB (Previously known as Prestige Worldwide), was an ESEA Open favorite in Season 34, but they disappointingly fell out of playoffs before qualifying for a Main spot. This huston and madcow led team has seemingly transitioned over to Valorant and are just playing league matches to fill in time. Their playoff statistics consist of seven total players, proving the assumption that they have pugged their way through the regular season and all the way to the semi-finals of playoffs. They have already outdone themselves from last season’s attempt at Main, and will be looking to out-skill themselves into Advanced. I’m not betting on it, though. 

Arora Gaming, the #15 seed, has been one of the most noticeable teams from Intermediate within the Twitter-verse. After starting the season with a mediocre 4-4 record, they strung together 8 wins in a row to finish the regular season (including two FFW). While this team has only dropped one map in playoffs, they have had a number of close matches--which should bode well for the squad in this Semi-finals. Having played close games always grants experience that is necessary to win important series like the ones that are coming up. Arora will be looking to play to their strengths and hope their teamplay is the difference versus this confident and loose-playing DONT THINK JUST BINK team.

Stand-out Playoff player: StiLLeD ( 97.86 ADR // 0.86 FPR // 13.74 RWS ) 

Interview with Arora's JACHR0:

How did this team come together and what were you goals for this season?

It’s actually a little odd for how we came together. The core 4 of this team (Jerm, StiLLed, Marv, and IzunE) had actually played last season in IM together and had a 9-1 start. They ended up going 10-6 and 0-2 in the playoffs, which led to a brief disband. Luckily, Jerm and StiLLed rebuilt and you can see how the pieces came together. Marv rejoined the team after some poor results early in the season with the Main team he was trialing with. Around that same time, I was competing in Main... After choking individually really hard early in the season, I found myself once again LFT in 2020 haha. It kinda seems like I was doing that a lot this year with a lot of failed teams/results and people moving to Valorant. I ended up opening myself to IM teams with the goal in mind of being the IGL. After yet another experience with an IGL who couldn’t do the job of being a leader--not just calling strats; I was just about fed up with not being the IGL. The thought being, if I've never played with a good IGL that can really motivate a team, then I would just become what I was looking for. The offer came from Jerm to try out and I joined the team shortly after.

After just one week of practice we went from close league-wins and getting dominated by low tier IM/Main teams in practice, to blowing out pretty much most of our opponents in matches and scrims. Everyone was talking and being open with one another about our skyrocketing progress as a team--more than any team I had been on prior. The final player who completed our five, IzunE, brings a very positive and fiery energy like mine with a lot of hunger and motivation. With the rest of the team being fairly quiet or kinda passive personalities, he seems like the perfect final piece.

The original goal was to win as many matches in the season as we could and make at least 2-0 in playoffs for Main. When I joined, we were 2-3, and since then, we ended up only losing 1 match for the rest of the regular season. And in this moment, we've only dropped 1 map in playoffs. As a 5 only losing 1 map to date in officials is a bit weird for us to think about, but I don't think its gone to anyone's head just yet. If anything it just makes us more excited to practice and improve to do even better.

I've seen you guys on Twitter a lot during this post-season, I feel like you are one of the harder working teams in this post-season of Intermediate. Have you guys been practicing more or about the same during this post-season?

We finished the season knowing we had a BYE round in playoffs, leaving us 2 and a half weeks to practice and change anything that was causing issues before we’d have to play again. Generally, practice during the regular season was 5 days, maybe 6 (if needed) days a week to make up for lost time. I feel happy seeing our hard work in those 2 and a half weeks pay off. I have to give big props to StiLLed, who was diagnosed with COVID-19 and hit by a car in the same week right around when we picked up IzunE, but continued to grind and put up good numbers regardless. We knew we had the potential to go deep and were aware that it would come down to how bad we wanted it if we really wanted to go for it all. After making top 4 though, we decided since we have 10 days between matches to take the holiday weekend off because burnout and exhaustion was really showing in our quarter-final match. I think some time off with family will rejuvenate the team and have us ready for the Semi-finals. Especially with Jerm getting sick this week (potentially with COVID-19), it's something we take seriously and want him to rest before anything else. 

I feel like your team has some of the best teamwork and organization of these final four teams. Would you agree or disagree and why?

I think out of all 4 teams, the best and well rounded teamplay or system rather is between us and YeniCherry. The other 2 teams seem to just be players either taking a break from Advanced/MDL or leaving for Valorant and trying to make a few bucks on the way out. Our org is a bit of a meme in the team, but we love their support and how they’ve interacted with people following and supporting our run. I personally feel like it's between us and YeniCherry who are really putting in the work and want it the most. Everyone is really good individually at this point so someone doing poorly and stepping up can be a huge factor for any team. I’m really excited to truly show what we’ve been working on since most teams haven’t pushed us to our limit yet. We had one scare in the round of 16 against free frugz. A mix of us choking/them overperforming with confidence from taking down #2 seed Regency.

What do you think about your chances versus DONT THINK JUST BINK?

It won’t be easy considering how random they can be changing out at least 1 player per match. The experience alone on that team paired with them hitting their shots could overwhelm us quickly if we aren’t careful. I think we’ll be the winners of that match, but it will be a true test of our team and how we can deal with our nerves being in a Semi-final (for pretty much everyone but myself) for the first time online or LAN. I’m personally more excited than nervous for these high pressure best of 3’s because it brings out the best in my play, calling, and the energy I bring will help boost our team to fight and win. The end goal is win, but we’re taking it one game at a time. Focus on the present moment so we can enjoy the win at the end.

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