Article and video by: Noah "NoVa" Vaknin
YouTube video: ESEA S35 Main Preview by NoVa
My name is NoVa, and I'm going to go over a few of the standout teams this season, highlighting some of the bigger storylines, and what teams I’m personally going to be keeping an eye on. I have ranked all of the 115 competing teams this season. The rankings are based on numerous factors I took into account, and while I expect that certain teams will end up surprising me, I think it’s generally quite accurate. Teams which kept their rosters intact between seasons, teams that practice, and teams that have shown success in the past have been ranked higher than those who changed out a lot of players, or don’t practice. Finally, let's get into the list, starting with the top 10 teams in my rankings.
NOTE: The full rankings for all 115 teams can be seen at the bottom of the article.
AdAstra is my highest ranked team this season. The only advanced relegated team to actually play out this season of main, and despite their lacklustre advanced season, ending with a 5-11 record, I have high hopes for them to spring right back. They have mainly the same roster, picking up tactile between seasons. Last season Sensor did a lot of work for them, so I expect more of the same from him. If they have done their work in the off season, I would expect a deep playoff run. Lets see if there are any teams that can overtake them!
#2 tNt is Dynamite
The second highest ranked team on my list, tNt is Dynamite has just come up from open season 34. However, don't be deceived, these guys have a lot of experience backing them up. Most importantly, they tout Eley as their coach, who is no longer a player on the roster. An ex analyst for NRG and coach for both Splyce and Envy, this guy brings a lot of experience to the mixed roster of Main and ex advanced players. They practice pretty consistently and their coordination is near unmatched in this division. I see these guys tearing through the newer main teams, and overwhelming even the more experienced teams.
#3 Lucky Reapers
Next up we got Lucky Reapers in the third spot. Last season they came just one game from making Advanced, losing to ex-Counter Nature and bringing them to the brink on the first map. They have since replaced AndrewS05 with Scarecrow, which will bolster their firepower, and with an entire off season to practice, they will probably end this season with a much stronger record in the regular season. I predict these guys will find a lot of success this season.
#4 UGK Esports
4th ranked team is UGK Esports, featuring Catez, N0Name, gir, zebra, and LukeK. Some combination of these players have been playing together for multiple seasons now, coming close to making Advanced every time. I think the raw skill on this team is one of the higher in the Main division, and they've been together long enough that their team chemistry will be there to back it up. Assuming they have been practicing, these guys will probably repeat their performances of the past few seasons, but I think this will finally be the season they make Advanced.
#5 Ferda Bois
My own team is up next. I am going to be brief as I want to let our gameplay do the talking--but we have kept the same 5 as last season, practiced every day since we lost out of playoffs, and are finding consistent success against other Main and Advanced teams. The pieces are in place for a very deep run, it's just a matter of seizing it. Moving on...
#6 VCU Esports
If you have followed the main scene AT ALL in the last few seasons, you probably know about these guys. This will be this teams 7th season of main, and though they’ve made playoffs each time, they’ve also lost out each time. Season 30’s 13-3 record was the best they've done in a regular season, but their regular season performances have failed to convert to playoff success. I think that this will be the season to end that trend. They have all the tools to make playoffs, as they’ve proven time and time again. They will be one to watch in playoffs. Will they break the curse? Only time will tell.
#7 Team Villainous Academy
The 1 seed of main season 34, boasting a new, Umar-less roster. This team was one of the more difficult teams to place. As I mentioned, Umar, who was a huge part of their success last season, is no longer on the roster. In his and two others place are MD, supa, and g0ne. TooSmart is starting this season, and Cakes remains on the roster. If the system which worked so well for this team can be replicated with these new players, I believe they can get close to their success last season. However, if the firepower hole cannot be filled by the new players, they could easily slip lower.
#8 CSGO LEGENDS
CSGO LEGENDS is the highest ranked pug team this season; At least, I'm pretty sure they are pugging out the season. Their roster features a couple ex-advanced players, and others boast main playoffs. Their lack of practice did not stop them from coming one game from advanced last season, ending playoffs with maps taken off of two advanced moveups, and wins over other teams in my top 30. For this reason, despite their unknown practice situation, they are ranked 8th.
#9 Ryder esports
The winners of main season 33 are found in 9th on my list. The only reason they are this low is because of their seemingly too-sudden ending to their IM playoffs run. I don’t know if they were simply content with getting back to main to try to win it all again, or if they truly ran into some trouble between their losses to a different Cyberstorm roster than is featured in main this season, and Intervention Esports. Regardless, their mechanics are top level in main, and if they practice this season, they may end up surpassing their placement on this list by the end of the season.
#10 Goomba Gang
Rounding out my top ten is Ex-Hostile Actions, now called Goomba Gang. This team, as of writing this, only has 4 players paid, so their placement in the 10th spot is dependent on who their fifth ends up being. If it's bunny, these guys should definitely be fine in this spot, as he performed considerably well last season, and it would make their roster more similar to last season, meaning less work into reteaching strategies and more practice overall. That isn't to say that this team will be bad without bunny, but we will just have to see how they do this season.
#14 Undesired Prophecy
Now that the top 10 has been discussed, i'd like to talk about a few other teams to keep an eye on this season, starting with my 14th ranked team, Undesired Prophecy. This team sounds really confident about their growth over the off season, with Kismer beginning to become a really scary AWPer, according to Flixxy on that team. In addition, their acquisition of Snoozi and Spek are upgrades over their previous players. For these reasons I think that these guys will be one to watch.
#15 Team Surkz
Team Surkz, my 15th ranked team, rose from IM 2 seasons ago to end regular season barely squeaking into playoffs on a 9-7 record. However, once they reached playoffs, they found a bit of a stride, taking down Goomba Gang, a much higher seeded team, as well as the zookeepers, getting knocked out by Skeet Skeet Water Gun and an advanced moveup, Windstorm. This team could honestly go either way, but they have practiced hard and kept mainly the same roster, so with a season of main under their belt, I think they will only be stronger.
#17 Atlas Esports
Hibou’s team Atlas Esports comes in at 17th, a surprisingly high placement for an IM moveup. I think that this teams practice in the off season, consistent bo3s and server work, will propel them further than teams that didnt take advantage of the time they had. Mark did a lot for them in the fragging department last season, but the team seems more well rounded than before. One to watch!
#20 Voltage Esports
Probably one of the more contentious placements, Voltage Esports comes in at 20th. They ended with an underwhelming 8-8 record, but I personally believe that these guys will find a lot more success this season than last. They are succeeding in scrims, making impacts in the esea cash cups, and kept a very similar roster to last season. Not much else to say other than I will either be really right or really wrong on this one.
Dexa’s at 22nd. They got some new blood on the team, and have already started proving themselves in cash cups and scrims. I know scrims shouldn’t be read into too much, but I think that these guys, with the addition of a really solid aimer in Stx, can find some great success.
#24 Team Verum
Team Verum is placed at 24th, despite being another IM moveup. I think that this team has a great idea of the fundamentals of the game. They have been practicing a lot, and are attempting to make mdl within a year. I can’t speak to their success regarding that, but I think that they will do pretty well in main. Their only weakness is that they don’t have a season of main as a team under their belt yet.
A very different roster than the Cyberstorm that competed in IM last season, I expect that these guys are going to be better the longer the season goes. I am tentatively putting them at 35th, but I think that if they can keep working through the season they will end up higher.
#36 Last Picks
36th place is Last Picks. This team has a mentality similar to “there’s always next season.” They have had a very long time to build up chemistry and an extensive strat book. They added Jachro to the roster, who I think will bring another level of depth to their team. If Jachro performs well on the team, I think these guys could end up slipping into the 32 team playoffs. If not though, they might be doomed to wait another season for their chance, but it might finally be their time to be picked.
Right below the two prior teams, Dignitas finds their home on the list at 37th. This team has also had a long standing roster, and I am personally curious how Showliana will do. I view Dig as somewhat of a gatekeeper team for main, however they might break away from that with a good run this season. Their first matchup of the season is against AdAstra, which will be a very telling match for the future of this Dig roster, and AdAstra. Excited to see how it goes.
#42 Freestyle Gaming
Freestyle gaming finds its home at 42nd on the list. I am really interested in this team. I feel like they could end up being nothing in main, but something is telling me they have a shot at surprising people. They have a really confident AWP in vTR, and I feel like with the right schedule they could make a run. The conditions would need to be right though.
#43 Sinai Village
The 43rd ranked team, Sinai Village, features a roster that just got moved up from open. However the players on the team have more experience than that. Tribute has been around for quite some time, and I have a feeling his experience will rub off on some of the younger players. Similar to Freestyle Gaming in my opinion, if they get the right schedule, they could make a run to playoffs, but they should definitely be safe to keep their spot.
#50 Cz and the boyz
The second place team in open last season, and the last team to face the Yeah Gaming meat grinder, Cz and his boys did really well last season. Coming in at 50th on my list, I am curious; How will their open run translate to main? I'm not sure. Shock has really good mechanics, but considering how fresh this team is, it will almost certainly take them some time to acclimate to main.
Rounding out my notable teams list is Gemini. Initially ranked much higher, I was forced to lower their rank to 66th after their roster basically fell apart hours before the season began. They managed to field a roster, miraculously, but I think that with so little time before the season starts, they will have to settle for keeping their main spot.
Dieza, Animorphs, Budsquad, Kinship Black: The last thing I’d like to discuss is a few notable teams that died in the off season. 3 of the 4 teams I’m referring to are all advanced relegated teams: Animorphs, Team Budsquad, and Kinship Black. They all failed to get a roster together for main this season, leaving AdAstra without any competition from their old division. Finally, Kingslayer and Tem’s Dieza squad is also missing from this season.