The first Phase of the PUBG NPL ended on the weekend, with the last few games causing havoc with the leader board and delivering some shock results. We all know that Tempo Storm won, but I wanted to give some grades to all of the teams that competed in the first phase - taking into account not only their results, but also how they delivered against expectations.
Cloud9 - A
They came into this competition with high expectations and they have delivered in spades. Their big name players in Kaymind and PrOphie have supplied the kill count and the so called support players have done more than their share of the load. Nerf finished the split with 41 kills, landing him in the top 25 of the league and Lobes is top 10 in Assists. I predicted they would finish 3rd and they even outdid those lofty expectations with a 2nd place finish overall. They drop centre in both competitive maps, play aggressively and fear nobody, so expect them to shake things up in London
Endemic (formerly Adapt) – C+
As a qualifying team, I predicted Endemic to be the only ones from that group to avoid the relegation battle and finish 10th. While they have done that and more by finishing in 9th, the final position now feels a little disappointing given how well they started the season and the position they found themselves in heading into the last few weeks. Still, the play of Somethang has been a revelation for them (the week one win is seared into my brain) and a 9th place finish keeps them in the league for the next split. Ultimately they stayed in the top 10 the whole time, so they have to get a pass.
eUnited – D
A team with this fragging power should absolutely not be struggling as much as they are. Week 1 was an absolute disaster for them as they finished the first three games of the split with 0 points and never quite recovered. They are a streaky team, and I kept waiting for that one day where they delivered consistent results to put them back on track, but it just never came. The new meta has created a sense that kill points are the only thing that matters, but eUnited’s results have proven otherwise, as their kill count has outdone some teams in the top 10, but their inability to make the late game has let them down.
Ghost Gaming – C-
I think the Ghost woes of Split 1 have probably been a little exaggerated, but in spite of their late surge and 8th place finish, to call this split anything other than a disappointment would be disingenuous. They were one of the favourites heading in given their pre-season form and experience and I personally picked them to win it all, so in spite of how well they have turned things around, more was expected (and still is). Much like eUnited, it was their first week that put them into such a hole. The points system, circle settings and overall meta of the game changed between pre-season and the NPL, and Ghost were slower to adapt than they needed to be. It put them on the back foot and began the narrative that they were in trouble, but if you take out that first week (for everyone) and look at the points gained over the remaining 4 weeks (which still includes week 3 where Ghost finished last for the week) they actually have the 6th most points, while teams like Endemic and Spacestation would be in 11th and 12th respectively. Those teams had strong first weeks and as such their struggles were barely spoken about, but they were (and are) in far more trouble than Ghost in spite of what the leader board said each week*
Lazarus – D
Another team that was a little disappointing. In spite of their low status, they showed enough on the final day of Pre-Season qualifying (while under immense pressure) for me to think that they could push close to a top 10 spot. After week 1 I felt like my predictions were vindicated, but as the tournament went on their week to week inconsistency became a problem. They went into week 4 in 11th spot but this time around when the pressure was on them for the last 2 weeks, they found that this lobby just had too much talent as they could only accumulate 39 points across the final 16 games (the lowest of any team in that period). There are some hungry teams in the Contenders lobby and Lazarus needs to recover their previous form if they are to stay in the NPL.
Noble – F
I predicted before the season started that of the “Established” teams, Noble would be the ones that would have the most trouble staying in the NPL, but even I didn’t expect this. It took them winning the final game of the split to get out of last place and they were the only team that managed to have a whole weekend where they averageg less than 2 points per match – AND THEY DID IT TWICE! They were one of the teams to make a roster change during the season, but I fear that for Noble to become competitive again, it may take a full roster overhaul. The big match experience of Boom and Edakulous may be enough to see them get through relegations and return to the NPL, but beyond that, they really need a shake up if they are to make any noise in this league.
Oxymoron – F
Even with the low expectations of this season, finishing in last place is a bad result. Comfortably the least experienced team in the competition, and while their own form of consistency meant that they never actually had the lowest point total in any one week, they also never had the firepower to have any big weeks. Even with Jsank’s unbelievable 12 kill win to close out the second last day of competition, they finished off by not gaining a single point in the remaining final 4 games. If they can take the experience of the NPL and use it to rack up some solid games in the relegation battles, this is a team that I would actually like to see stay together and try to improve as a group, but that is a big if.
Shoot to Kill – A
The most well drilled team in North America rarely put a foot wrong, and while they may not be the most dynamic team, they certainly know how to take advantage of what is in front of them. They finished the split with three members in the top 15 for kills, and those points are a big reason that they have qualified for London. For a team that relies on their discipline and consistency to maintain their advantage, it may be a slight concern that when the pressure was on for spots at the international event in the final week, they were only able to get 34 points including just 10 points from the final 4 games. It was almost enough to see them miss out and will no doubt be something that Coach Didz will want to address. Overall it was still a very impressive split from the highest ranked unsigned team in North America
Simplicity – D
They survived the relegation cut off by the skin of their teeth, but for the team that came out of nowhere and absolutely dominated the Pre Season qualifiers, 10th is not an unacceptable position. It was unfortunate for the team to lose their great coach (Afflux) right before the start of the season as he took up an opportunity in Europe, but even taking that into account, it was a big fall to end up where they have. It is disappointing to see Woo1y let go from this roster after what he has done to get them here, but it is a cut throat business, and the results were not what was expected. Linksy was the star of the pre-season (and I expected him to get even better as he got used to playing on LAN rather than with OCE ping) but while his performances were still very good, the difference between a top 20 and top 5 place in kills is about 20 points on the leaderboard – enough to move them up to 7th alone - not to mention the opportunities getting those extra kills would open up for the team. It’s no secret how much Linksy means to their success, and if he can recapture the form of the pre-season, look out for Simplicity again in Phase 2
Smokin’ Aces – A-
I sit here today, happily ready to eat my words. I thought the this team was too inconsistent to make any noise with the level of teams in these lobbies, but they have proven me wrong. Every time that they looked like they were going to crumble, they fought hard and came out with some excellent results. None more so than the penultimate game of Phase 1 which meant they were safe regardless of the final match, and the relief on the faces of their players told the whole story. Soapylicious spoke in the post game interview of the growth in the team over the course of the phase and how they are looking to stick together and continue it moving forward, and there is no reason that they can’t do it!**
Spacestation Gaming – D
For a lot of people, Spacestation dropping into relegation in the final game of the phase was a shock, but the signs were there. They play a conservative style of game which doesn’t suit the new meta and their strong start to the league meant that they played even more conservative than usual as the weeks went on, attempting to save their spot rather than earn a higher spot. I predicted that they would miss out in this first phase in 11th due to exactly this reason. To make matters worse, they finished on equal points with Simplicity, but due to having less kills did not make it through. This team is capable of playing aggressive and they need to start doing so in phase 2 (which I have no doubt they will qualify for)
Team Envy – A
This team came into the competition with a lot of ability, but lacking the experience that playing in a lot of big international tournaments provides. That is no longer going to be the case after they had a stellar first split and finished in third, doing better than even my lofty expectations for them. A lot has been made of the impact that Moody has had since joining the roster, and to be fair they had the best individual week of any team as soon as he arrived, but the reality is that they were in 4th with CAD3N and moved up one spot after the change. The truth is that this team is full of fire power. All 3 of their remaining members finished over 1 kill per game with Venerated in the top 10 overall, and while Moody’s small sample size averages are impressive, they came back to the field after his explosive start. Even if they don’t get the results in London, expect them to come back to Split 2 with a new level of confidence
Tempo Storm – A+
How could it be anything but A+ given that the ran away with the Phase 1 title by almost 70 points! There are so many things that can be said about their performance that it is hard to know where to start. In the kill count, there were 4 standout players who got 62 or more kills – with a huge drop to 5th place (52 kills). 2 of those top 4 were from Tempo Storm. Their statistically “worst” player finished in 22nd in the league for kills, but 2nd in the league for assists! Sharky is the undisputed MVP of the first split finishing 4th in kills, 4th in knocks, 1st in assists, 1st in damage and 1st in average time survived. They won the money in the Pre-Season best of 4, they won the NPL Royale and now they have won the First Split of the NPL proper. They literally couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year! They have no weak spots and they are a huge threat to the European teams in London.
Vicious Gaming – C-
It might seem strange to give a (sort of) passing mark to a team that failed to get out of the relegation zone, but when you consider that through the whole Pre-Season tournament they didn’t have a single game with more than 6 kills, the new meta doesn’t favour low kill matches and they only just scraped into the NPL in the first place, finishing in 13th is not a bad position! I had picked them to finish last but I clearly underestimated the fragging power of shuhroo, who in spite of his teams lower position, managed to finish in the top 10 for kills in the league. The first split of the league separated the teams into 3 distinct sections - the top 5, the middle 7 and the bottom 3. But that only adds up to 15. Vicious are the odd ones out as they have distinguished themselves from the bottom 3 teams, but have also shown to not quite be good enough to push the middle 7. If they get the chance to come back they have to find a way to maximise the rest of their players to jump into the next group.
Why Tempt Fate – B+
5th is a great finish for a team that is looking for an organisation after Optic moved on from them, but it turns out that having a great first and last week, is not quite enough to get you to the top 4 (unfortunately for London native Hypoc). I worried prior to the start of the season that WTF’s tendency to just cruise through quietly when they aren’t taking out the entire lobby might hurt them, and the complacency of the strong early start saw them needing more than they were able to deliver when they re-engaged their aggressive mode last weekend. Special mention to Hetror who finished the split with the most kills and the most revives. This on top of his excellent post win interview early on in the tournament and the team video released on Twitter really should everyone cheering for WTF to get back to their best in split two
Wildcard Gaming – B
This result is a slight let down for me, but not so much for the finishing place of 6th, but for the fact that they left their worst performance (and one of the worst performances of any team) for the last weekend when they had a chance to really push for a spot in the top 4. They had some big plays (none bigger than Pride holding off the full 4 man Ghost push in week 4) but they finished 2nd five times and 1st just two times. In the end there was a big point gap between Wildcard in 6th and WTF in 5th and it leaves them with some work to do to bridge the gap and find their way back into the top tier of NPL teams. Shout out to the undisputed best PUBG player to come out of Australia, Xtreme (at least until TGLTN can get into the NPL to challenge him) who showed that he is not out of place at this level.
The PUBG European League starts in a week where will see some of the biggest power players in the PUBG scene finally get to play in some proper competitive matches for the first time in several months. I will be interested to see what they have learnt from watching the NPL about the new meta!
*Just a note, Frolicer may not have been playing all that poorly by the numbers, but the improvement in the team since Miccoy took over the IGL is noticeable. They won their first day of the NPL Royale, and then for the final 2 rounds of the NPL proper, with Shrimzy on board, they accumulated the 5th most points, comfortably. He may be a controversial figure, but Miccoy put his money where his mouth is and has backed it up, so he deserves the credit for it.
**I spent the whole post match interview trying to figure out who Soapylicious looks like, and it finally dawned on me that he is a baby faced Jeremy Renner. I will not be accepting counter arguments