Article By: Remington "R700" Rossignol
With the thirty-fifth season of ESEA leagues finishing, we here at Counter Nature have amassed all you need to know about season thirty-five. The classic "what you may have missed" recap. Who are our winners? What are the key storylines going into season thirty-six? Both of those questions, and more, will be covered. Take my hand and walk with me as we run down season thirty-five of ESEA.
Table of Contents (in order)
1. Division Winners - MDL
2. Division Winners - Advanced
3. Division Winners - Main
4. Division Winners - Intermediate
5. Division Winners - Open
6. Key Stories - Cuz Makes Advanced (AGAIN)
7. Key Stories - OCEAN Back to MDL
8. Key Stories - Repit Falls Flat in Playoffs
🏆 MDL - Team oNe (Maluk3, prt, malbsMd, pesadelo, b4rtiN)
Coming into the playoffs as the second overall seed, Team oNe went on to win the division without dropping a single map in the post-season. Heading into the final from the upper-bracket, Team oNe garnered the one map upper-bracket advantage over the New England Whalers.
Map one was a swift 16-6 on Dust II, thanks in part to prt, who had a monster game; finishing on 116 ADR. Map two, Mirage, was a much closer affair; Ending on a 16-10 scoreline. And thanks to the default map one win from the upper-bracket, Team oNe took the series 3-0. As a result of their decisive post-season run, Team oNe has earned a spot in EPL.
🏆 Advanced - Yeah Gaming (dumau, bew, Swisher, RCF, f4stzin)
The heavy favorites of the division this season, Yeah Gaming, took no time in showing us why they were the favorites. Finishing the regular season undefeated, Yeah entered the playoffs with the number one seed.
In round one they swiftly 2-0'd Lux Gaming. Round two saw the same scoreline as they took down Counter Nature (our team in the Advanced division, not our website, don't worry guys). We finally got to witness Yeah lose their first map in round three against GSG9. However, Yeah closed out the series 2-1. Yeah then faced GGPR esports in both the upper bracket finals, and the true division final after GGPR got the forfeit win over Rise ESC in the lower bracket final. In both occasions Yeah swept the series. As a result of winning the advanced division we will see Yeah Gaming in season thirty-six of the Mountain Dew League.
🏆 Main - UGK Esports (catez, n0name, zebra, LukeK, gir)
Arguably the most labored playoff run of the season, UGK managed to pull the upset in the Main Grand Finals. Ending their regular season at 11-5, UGK moved into playoffs as the eleventh overall seed.
After picking up the win in their first round matchup against Team Kakashi, UGK was promptly knocked down to the lower-bracket after taking a second round loss to Skeet Skeet Water Gun. But after that, UGK rallied- going on to win out the lower-bracket where they would find themselves as the heavy underdogs against upper-bracket favorites CohesioN. Despite this, UGK managed to get the clean sweep in the final; winning out 3-0. Maps one and two were close fought affairs. But in map three, UGK enforced the law with a 16-4 stomping. Ending their season with the miracle lower-bracket run.
To learn more about UGK's impressive playoff run and players, check out our interview with the squad and NoVa.
🏆 Intermediate - Fragging for Iris (Cryptic, royalG, f1ukie, xcege, *fype)
The favorites of the Intermediate division this season, Fragging for Iris, went on to win it all without dropping a single map in the regular or post-season. So the question for many became: how is this team in Intermediate? Allow me to explain: In season thirty-four this same roster made Advanced playoffs going 12-4 in the regular-season. However, the team had a lackluster playoff showing; not winning a single series. The team planned on running it back this season, hoping to make up for their previous season's shortcomings. Unfortunately, at the last minute, two days before the start of the season, players f1ukie and koalanoob left the roster to join Third Impact who were looking for two players in their first season in the Mountain Dew League. So after losing two of their starting players last minute, the former Advanced team died; With player fype joining another Advanced team before the season's start, leaving just cryptic and team captain xcege, who decided they may as well pug out this season and have fun with friends. Seeing as their roster was not what it once was, xcege asked the ESEA admins to demote their roster down to the Intermediate division where their friends would stand a better chance and be able to have fun. After all was said and done, the roster of: xcege, prex, cryptic, Sofia, and pengnax looked to take on the Intermediate division. Come mid-season though, players fype and f1ukie were once again free agents. Xcege approached the players and asked if they would be interested in rebuilding their previous roster for season thirty-six. I will let xcege speak for himself on the remainder of the rebuild process:
"With everyone from the previous roster (not including koalanoob) willing to rebuild, we started our journey to win IM. We started to actually practice after we picked up royalg during round 14/15 of regular season. We took the rest of the season seriously since we needed to win IM to get back to Advanced. We were confident in going undefeated in playoffs and that confidence really put us above other teams". - xcege
They certainly succeeded at passing their first hurdle, that being re-qualifying for the Advanced division. Now the roster looks to take the advanced division by storm in season thirty-six. But while I had xcege on the horn asking about how their team found themselves where they did this season, I also found it prudent to ask the veteran Advanced player what he thought about playing in the Intermediate division. His response:
"As for my experience with IM this season, it was a lot easier than the first time I won IM. Teams in IM are really random so it’s very difficult to predict what they are doing compared to Advanced teams. One thing that I do notice about most IM teams is that they have the right idea but aren’t able to execute those ideas properly. This made it easier for us to exploit these teams because of our experience." - xcege
To learn more about Fragging for Iris' impressive season and background, you can check out JAYEL's article and interview from the Final 4 of Intermediate playoffs.
🏆 Open - paiN Gaming (PKL, NEKIZ, hardzao, biguzera, saffee)
I really don't think this came as a surprise to anyone. Professional organization paiN Gaming swept the Open division this season. With their only losses coming from two forfeits due to them not being in the country and ready to play yet. This has caused the admins of ESEA to come under some heavy scrutiny from the community. In similar past situations the admins have bumped pro teams into higher divisions. Think back to Old Guys Club; Despite them only going 2-1 in open playoffs, they were bumped up to the Advanced division seeing as the players were all retired professionals. Since then however, ESEA has made it publicly known that they will no longer be doing division move-ups (well aside from those who qualify for a higher division through playoffs). This decision left this team to run riot in the amateur division of ESEA league. But through winning it, they have earned their slot in season thirty-six of Advanced. Where I would argue, they are the division favorites yet again.
Key Storylines of Season Thirty-Five
📰 Cuz Makes Advanced (AGAIN), Proves Haters Wrong
Let's start with the recap. In season thirty-four, Cuz placed first in the main division with GGPR esports after taking down Random Twitter Org in the grand finals. Despite their dominant performance in the Main division, the team completely restructured for their first season of Advanced. Cuz was dropped before the season began. Now if the team had been losing, a roster move would likely have been expected. But to Cuz, his removal from the team seemed to come out of nowhere. Leaving him feeling like he got jipped out of something he worked hard for. But now ladies and gentlemen; would you believe me if I told you that this was not the first time?
In season twenty-seven Cuz qualified for the first ever season of Advanced. For those of you new to ESEA: the divisions prior to season twenty-eight did not include an Advanced division. It went from Open to Intermediate to Main to MDL. As a player for Riot Squad that season, the team qualified for the brand new Advanced division. However, the team captain wanted to take his team from an online-only into a LAN team. In doing so, Cuz was removed from the roster to make room for a new fifth who would be able to attend LANs with the rest of the squad. On the subject of his removal from the Riot Squad roster Cuz had to say:
"I had no choice but to accept it… Plus I didn't care too much and I just wanted to compete. I'm a competitive player, always been like that". - CuZ
Now flash forwards to the present. Playing with Rectify Esports; Cuz has qualified for season thirty-six of Advanced. And by the looks of things, is actually going to get to play this season! And on the subject of this roster Cuz had to say:
"As for my team, if we don't make playoffs this season we will make playoffs next season". - CuZ
And for those of you who are not familiar with the full "Cuz lore", he was a former 1.6 pro and has played in every season of Main playoffs since season twenty-six. Seeing as he has played through multiple iterations of Counter-Strike; I decided to ask him what, if anything, has changed from old-school to new-school. Or is it just the same shit, different day? His response:
"The game has definitely changed but I'm still able to headshot these zoomers… Basically same shit different days". - CuZ
Cuz also wanted to give a shoutout to lowrider for his support and shared knowledge. Now Cuz looks to season thirty-six to prove all the haters wrong and show his capabilities in a higher division.
📰 OCEAN Back to MDL
North America's favorite stoned mastermind (well unless you're a ptr loyalist) has made it back to MDL. After being relegated to Advanced after season twenty-eight, the return to glory is finally upon us. Now for those of you that don't understand the significance of this, allow me to explain.
What historically has been North American Counter-Strike's biggest crutch compared to Europe? A lack of dedicated in-game leaders. And anyone with a traditional sports background will tell you: team success is top-down. Without the proper coaching staff and team leaders, any talented player may simply fall through the cracks. However, the contrast to this point is that a less talented player in the right system can shine. OCEAN as an IGL has brought so many up-and-coming talents through his rosters over the years that we really should be thanking him. With so many players vanishing from CS to pursue careers in Valorant, the fact we even have an old school player who is still working to develop talents is a godsend for our scene.
Some may scoff at what I'm about to say, but I truly believe OCEAN is our region's Hunden. At any time he could simply walk away and leave, so be thankful for him while we have him. He truly is one of the few talent developers of our scene. Now let's wait and see what they have to show us in season thirty-six.
📰 Repit Falls Flat in Playoffs, Tinderellas to Rebuild
Hopes were high for the Tinderellas heading into the season thirty-five Open playoffs. After just slipping into the playoffs with a 10-6 record, They found themselves in a round one matchup against Corrupted Esports. Map one was a close affair, but Corrupted Esports ended up taking it 16-13. Now down a map, the Tinderellas rallied- pulling out the reverse sweep. Finishing the series with a 2-1 victory. Thanks in large part to momentous performances by Tony in map two, and Dougie in map three.
With the first hurdle passed, the team looked to lock in an intermediate slot with a win in the following playoff round. There they would meet 100 szn of exp combined. Despite the best efforts from the Tinderellas own 850- they could not lock in the win, losing the series 2-0. Now in season thirty-six the team looks to rebuild. With goals of picking up where they left-off--as playoff contenders. Only time will tell what this new looking Tinderellas can bring to the table. But know this, you will be seeing them this season.
Thanks for reading, and hope you found the information interesting. Season thirty-six is coming up fast upon us. Keep your eyes tuned here to Counter Nature for updates throughout the season.