The Resurrection of Ghost
Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talk about the steep rise of Spacestation Gaming in the NPL – and deservedly so! They were 9th at the end of week 1, dropped to 12th at the end of week 2, rose to 8th in week 3 before finishing week 4 in an amazing 3rd place. In the last 2 weeks, Spacestation has 142 points, which is more than the bottom three teams have for the whole phase. Both Bahawaka and Valliate have gone to another level and currently hold 2 of the top 3 spots in kills for the league. I am not here to take anything away from these guys and this team, but the reality is, they have spent the whole phase getting back to where they were in Phase 1 after the agonising 5th place that saw them miss out on a place in London (when you consider that Hypoc retired afterwards, and he is from London, it make it all the more heart wrenching).
The team I really want to talk about here is Ghost Gaming.
Ghost have a history as a strong PUBG team, and heading into Phase 1, I personally had expected a lot out of them, but they were not able to deliver. The thing is, the poor start masked the improvement that started towards the end of the phase with the roster change to bring Shrimzy on board. The narrative of a lot of these teams can be dictated by the casters and analysts that cover the games, and the narrative was that Ghost were in trouble. When they finished Phase 1 with a second place in the final game, and in 8th place overall, it seemed like they had done enough in that last match to narrowly escape the relegation fight and sneak into the money. This was partially due to the decision to not show the scores for the last few games, but the fact is that Ghost had been putting in work to move up from 12th for a few weeks. I’ve written before that the narrative of Ghost’s struggles came from a bad first week in Phase 1, and that their totals from that point on were much better than anyone realised, but the way that they have continued to improve is the real impressive part.
Before the roster change – in the first three weeks of Phase 1 – Ghost were averaging 34 points per week. Since the change they have never scored less than 39 in a single week and have averaged 56 points per week in NPL competition. That 22 point per week difference is the difference between 2nd and 14th place.
It comes down to a lot more than just a single roster change though. The team is fighting and moving as one way better, which suggests better communication and team work, but also everyone is now confident and playing to their abilities, which is a testament to Jabroni’s coaching and Miccoy’s in game leadership.
DrasseL is leading the league in survival time, 2nd in damage and top 10 in kills. Miccoy is in the top 10 for damage and survival. Shrimzy is top 10 in kills and damage and BALLOC, who is playing the perfect role of fitting in around the team’s needs, still has 33 kills, making Ghost one of only 2 teams in the league where every player is averaging more than 1 kill per game.
They are currently in second place with just 16 points between them and the first place Rumblers heading into the final week, but on the flip side, they are also only 16 points ahead of 7th place PlayerOne so the margin for error is razor thin.
For Ghost fans, there are reasons to feel confident that they can not only maintain their high position and qualify to go to Sweden, but also push for the first place prize. It may be tight on the scoreboard, but they aren’t in the second place by accident. They lead the league in damage done (29,819) so they have shown that they are both willing and able to take fights with anyone in this lobby. They have the most top 4 finishes through this phase (11) so they have shown their ability to get meaningful placement points when it matters. In addition to this they are the only team to have scored OVER 100 points on both maps. So between the balance of both maps, and the balance between fragging and placements, the teams doesn’t have a glaring weakness, meaning that they should be less likely to tank in the final week.
If they can just outscore the Rumblers by 2 points per game on the final weekend, they will put themselves in position to take home the Phase 2 title.
Tiers in the PEL
As the NPL heads into its final week, over in Germany, the PEL has already played more matches, and are not yet at the halfway point. With so long still to go in the 96 game season, it may seem premature to be breaking the competition into tiers, but the scoreboard is telling the story on its own. After 36 matches, the top 5 (Faze, G2, NaVi, Liquid and TSM) appears to have separated itself and put a considerable gap to the remaining teams. Nobody outside of the top 5 leads any of the significant team stats, and even individually the only player from outside of the top 5 teams (Iroh from Digital Athletics who is 5th in damage in spite of DA currently sitting in 10th place) is in the top 5 for any individual statistic that matters. From there, we have a glut of teams from 6th to 11th (NIP, ENCE, CrowCrowd, RYE, DA and Winstrike) that are all within striking distance of each other. Which leaves us with the teams currently fighting for the final non-relegation spot (M19, Knights, Vitality, Reciprocity and UNITY). Such is the strength of the PEL that the teams in this bottom tier feature some of the worlds most experienced and respected players. From Shadow1k who led the winning squad at the first major PUBG event in Oakland back in 2017, to Scoom who lead Liquid to more prizemoney than most players can imagine in their careers, there are no weak spots in this league. I say all of that because there is still plenty of time for these teams to change their fates, but unless there are conscious shifts made to improve, there isn’t going to be much chance to move out of the tiers they are currently stuck in.
Dominance Down Under
At the halfway point of Phase 2 of the ESL AU&NZ Championship, we see a familiar story. Athletico are on top, as they were at the same point of Phase 1. Last time they famously were overtaken by an Incognito team that were storming home to take the sole spot from the OCE region in the Faceit Global Summit. It is basically a meme the Athletico have been far and away the most consistent team in the OCE region for a long time, but have been unable to qualify for a LAN. This time is a little different though. Incognito have not been the same team that went to London and showed the world that there are some truly legit players coming out of Australia. Linksy has (unsurprisingly) been a shining light for Justice since the VISA issues saw his departure from the NPL (for now) but it hasn’t been enough to make a dent on the juggernaut that is Athletico. After just 20 matches they have 256 points and have built a lead of 93 points on their nearest competitor. For some perspective, the gap from 1st to 2nd is the same as the gap from 2nd to 13th. Athletico were already a fantastic team, so having the luxury of adding arguably the best Australian PUBG player in the world to their roster in Xtreme has taken them to an unmatchable level. They will have already booked their flights to Stockholm because there is no way that they will be missing out and the LAN curse can finally be broken, so the only thing left for them now is to prove to the world that they belong on that stage. There’s never been a better opportunity.