It was only week 1, and it was only 8 games, but there was still plenty to see and learn from the first two days of play in the PUBG NPL this weekend.

There were new rule settings and a new scoring system that got its first proper workout in competition and the meta from just 3 weeks ago in the pre-season has changed. I’m not sure that it made sense to have teams qualify with 1 set of rules and points and then have the competition proper have a different set of rules and points. I feel like these rules and points could have been worked out just a little bit earlier and put into place at least from the start of 2019.

But nonetheless, there were 8 wild games of PUBG played across the two days, and here are a few of my observations

1.       Circle Luck is real

In 8 matches through the first weekend, we saw a couple of central circles but predominantly the circles moved to the West through both of the maps. That means a bit of difficulty for teams that loot mostly on the East in both maps (though it shouldn’t define your weekend). More importantly than North, South, East or West is teams that don’t have to rotate as much in a match being able to put themselves in a better position to have 4 up in the late game. It’s rare for a circle to finish right where a team loots, so for Cloud9 to have that happen in 2 out of 8 games is incredible. Interestingly, I think that their play style doesn’t really suit having the circle come to them, but they made the most of it in their 2 games with a fourth and first placement

2.       Ghost Gaming will pivot

I had Ghost as the favourites to take out Phase One but they have put themselves in one hell of hole. It started right from the beginning as Miccoy got knocked before he had even looted in game 1 of day 1, but it didn’t end there. There were the mistakes, such as (I presume) a communication error between Miccoy and Frolicer in game 7 that saw what should have been a simple 2v1 in a building end in both of their deaths due to a friendly grenade, but ultimately the lack of points appeared to be a strategic misstep.
In the Pre-Season, Ghost moved to playing an edge game after seeing the success it was bringing teams playing that style, but with the new rules and points system, it doesn’t seem to be as viable an option any more. One of the strengths that Ghost have had in the past has been finding rotations that get them to a somewhat secluded area to scout what is around them while avoiding running into teams. This would then give them the opportunity to move in with the circle cleverly. I don’t know if the new settings have meant that they have had less time for scouting, or if it has meant that they can’t take as many long paths due to damage from the blue, but one thing that has come across from the first weekend is that avoiding fights in the new points system is detrimental. You have to get a top 4 finish just to get the point equivalent of a single squad wipe now, so it pays a lot more to scout a location where a team actually IS camped out, and work to take it from them, than to look for empty buildings to continue to scout from. The good news for Ghost fans is that Jabroni is one of the best coaches in the business, and if I can see it, so can he. Ghost may pivot back to their older strategies, or they may pivot in a different direction entirely, but they WILL pivot.

3.       Endemic are not going away

I wrote in my preview column that I expected Adapt (now known as Endemic) to make the jump into the more established group of teams, but even I couldn’t predict this. They had three third place finishes and three fifth place finishes (in points) out of the 8 games and see themselves in a three way tie for 5th at the end of the first weekend. Somethang has the play of the year (I know, it’s only February, but still) for the decision to get to the roof for the end of game 2, but the teams decision making and ability to switch from passive to aggressive and back again at a moment’s notice has served them well, and will continue to do so if they can keep this form up

4.       Consistency is seemingly LESS important than going big

Having just acknowledged the consistency from Endemic, I have to admit, that I overestimated the value of consistency from match to match in the new scoring system. I wrote last week that Why Tempt Fate can pull out the 20 kill wins when they need to, but when they aren’t doing that, they struggle. Now admittedly they did manage to get 3 chicken dinners in 8 games, but they didn’t place in the top 8 in ANY of the other 5 games. They got 67 of their total 77 points across the first weekend from those 3 wins and averaged only 2 points per match outside of them. Shoot To Kill and Tempo Storm both had a great day 1 and a quieter day 2 (until the final game) and both find themselves in the top 4. Going big looks to be more important than it used to be, and the I think that is what the change in point system was trying to achieve, so mission accomplished so far!

5.       Other notes

·         It is really rare for a match to finish in a building, and this is a feature rather than a bug, but I absolutely love when it happens. More building finishes as far as I’m concerned!

·         Ghost changing it up for their drop on the last game of day 1 was unusual, but the circle favoured it. They couldn’t take advantage of it though and I think it hinged on them not pushing onto WTF after knocking Valliate. Letting WTF get away and avoid the fight potentially cost them 3 kills and meant that when they re-engaged it was a three way fight as they crept closer to everyone else and Lazarus had joined in. It’s a shame because I love to see teams get rewarded for going off script like Ghost did here.

·         Cloud9 expertly sneaking up on eUnited and dismantling them at the gas station in the first match of day 2 was a pleasure to watch. Just fantastically planned and executed.

·         In that same game, watching Cloud9 crash the fence at the Shooting Range right next to Tempo Storm and Tempo Storm not doing anything about it was inexplicable

·         Wiill from Noble lost his whole team super early in the second game of day 2 but did a great job to get to the late game until the circle left him with no options

·         Smoking Aces not finishing a 3v1v1 in that same game was bad, but they are doing well overall

·         Hetror wins the weekend, after his refreshingly honest post match interview on day 2 and going on to finish with 21 kills – more than 5 of the other teams got with all of their players

·         There was a lot of talk after the last game of the day from the players about the game crashing for certain players at key times. I hope this is sorted out for next week because it was a sour end to a great first weekend