Contenders Australia: Week 5 (Final Week) Recap

The final week of the regular season ended with some spectacular matches. Mindfreak unexpectedly upset opponent team Legacy, barely claiming fourth place and a playoffs spot. A tight set of matches saw Blank lose to Athletico and Breakaway lose to Heist, but both teams still qualified. Sydney finished the season with a final 4-0, going an incredible 20 maps without a loss, and Order flexed their muscles by decimating the Melbourne Mavericks. Meanwhile, Kanga and Freshman Class unfortunately ended the season here, unable to make it into the Quarterfinals. Check out the details of each match below!

Monday, Group A

Sydney Drop Bears vs. Kraken Esports Club (4-0)

Sydney made a show of tidying their house in this match, absolutely devastating Kraken. If Kraken (or any other team) is a nippy little hatchback, the Drop Bears are a turbocharged pursuit vehicle straight out of Mad Max. Perfectly coordinated and working like a well-oiled machine, Sydney was simply too good. Furthermore, Shoyo, substitute off-tank for Punk, has slotted into this regiment very well. It’s a testament to the mighty fine job the Drop Bears’ coaching staff are doing of training their players.

As hard as it is to find positives for the teams pitted against Sydney, Kraken did have a few. Most standout among these is that they often had good opening fights on Ilios. Tank Legabril got some surprising picks on support Akraken, and Caramelkoala was again a strong part of Kraken’s occasional ability to swing teamfights in their favor. But against the Drop Bears, one or two fight wins just isn’t enough.

It’s not too much of a surprise to see Kraken fall to Sydney, considering that the former is a Trials team, but it would have been very nice to see an upset. Their closest map win – a 2-3 on Route 66 – is something worth noting. Kraken rocketed out of spawn with a quad DPS composition popular in Chinese and Korean Contenders, using Wrecking Ball as a solo tank to crack open Sydney’s initial defense. The move was completely out of left field and a very intelligent play, so props to them for successfully scattering Sydney for the first time all season.

Legacy Esports vs. Mindfreak (1-3)

An absolutely devastating upset for Legacy that destroyed their chances at qualifying for playoffs, this match may have been one of the best in season. With the win, Mindfreak and Legacy wound up tied in the standings. As tiebreaker rules dictate, whichever team won the previous match moves forward. As a result, Mindfreak will be continuing on to the Quarterfinals, while Legacy must go home. While of course the whole team deserves credit for the win, DPS player Coolwhhip was a critical part of Mindfreak’s success. In current GOATS comps, Coolwhhip is usually pushed onto Zarya – it’s the moments where he plays true DPS, like Pharah on Hollywood’s first point, that he really shines.

Opening map Illios began in Legacy’s hands, but slipped through their fingers. Mindfreak took the lead to win both rounds, a unsurprising result considering Legacy’s historical struggle with Control maps. Hybrid Hollywood was a much better show for Legacy, taking three points to Mindfreaks’ one. DPS Sleepeasy and support Specialkid held strong, Specialkid in particular playing with bloodthirsty aggression.

Halftime was a total turnaround for Mindfreak. The 2CP map was Hanamura, and it was over as quick as could be: Legacy dropped the ball on their SNOATS defense on point A, and were rolled over on point B within a minute. Legacy’s attack was a gamble, but one that paid off. DPS Addy ran Symmetra (who has rarely been seen on the ladder, let alone in professional play) to teleport his team to point A and easily capture it. An incredibly clever play there, though second point saw Addy switch and Legacy taking much longer than Mindfreak to complete the round. Their following attack during Round 3 failed, and Mindfreak easily got the 33% capture progress they needed to win the map. Mindfreak took a leaf out of Kraken’s book for Route 66, opening with a quad DPS defense before switching to the good old reliable GOATS to steady their defense.

Mindfreak’s attack in the next round went into overtime not once but twice, narrowly succeeding thanks to a huge Graviton Surge and follow-up Earthshatter to win the round, the map and the series. A simply incredible turnaround for Mindfreak, who had been relegated to bottom tier all season and will now go into playoffs in their first year in Contenders, straight out of Trials.

Athletico Esports vs. Blank Esports (2-1)

Athletico vs. Blank was always going to be good. As two of the most evenly-matched teams in their group, Athletico and Blank both have veteran players looking to confirm their positions on the ladder rather than duking it out for qualification spots. Both teams passed their dominance back and forth, Athletico taking the lead on Illios but dropping Numbani to Blank without unlocking the payload (though Blank only barely managed that). Roro’s Pharah was incredibly strong on defense, using a single Barrage to nearly wipe the Athletico roster and using another two to similarly end team fights before they even started. Blank’s attack took the 33% required in a quick and tidy fight to even things up at halftime.

By failing to address all the space they’d given Roro to play, Athletico lost point A on Hanamura in a hot minute. However, they made a good job of defense by finally switching USMC to McCree to counter Roro. Things eventually fell apart, but with only 1:44 on the clock left for Blank, Athletico’s defense wasn’t bad by any means. A slightly slower point A and overtime on point B saw Athletico lose any hope of a win, but a Self-Destruct from Athletico’s Xzol in the final round still let them bring Hanamura to a draw. Roro’s Pharah didn’t go entirely uncontested that time, with Xzol reacting more quickly to protect his team. A clutch Sound Barrier from Eevee also calmed things down just before point C, steadying Athletico’s defense and ending the round for Blank. Roro got focused carefully once more on attack, and despite his best efforts, couldn’t quite hold against Athletico. A last-second push got the payload through, and Athletico took the series (and with it, second on the ladder for playoffs).

Tuesday, Group B

Heist Gaming Club vs. Breakaway Esports (3-0)

Breakaway ran into Heist like a car into a brick wall, with Heist coordinating very well to open the series. Tank Bus didn’t give an inch to opposing tank F0R during their first match on Illios. Breakaway were left scrambling over and over, totally unable to plant themselves on the point. Great showings from both teams led to a draw on Numbani, though Breakaway came within spitting distance of capturing the 33% needed to take the map.

A few failed attacks on Hanamura gave Breakaway the ultimate bank required to clean Heist up on point A. However, they couldn’t quite roll through to claim point B, even with a time advantage in their time bank. Breakaway made some clumsy plays on their defense (SlidZorJ wading into the point rather than using his Rip-Tire being a significant one), and they lost out fairly quickly soon after. Breakaway aimed for redemption on Dorado, hoping to gain a single map at least. Though historically they’re strong on Escort, Heist was stronger still. The map went for nearly a half hour, with Heist eventually taking five points to Breakaway’s four to end the series.

Though he’s been given honours here repeatedly, Bus was, without a doubt, the biggest part of Heist’s success today. On Illios, he died not a single time; it’s telling that whenever he fell in a team fight, so did Heist. Support JungleJazz also earned himself high praise by continuing his streak of well-timed Sound Barriers and boops – his growth since last season has been really impressive. Breakaway got some good moments as well, as they usually do, particularly the draw on Numbani and near-victory on Dorado. Escort is obviously their strength, and if they can improve their play on other map types, they’ll have good odds next season.

Kanga Esports vs. Freshman Class (3-1)

It’s a sad end for these two teams. Neither Kanga nor FMC have made it to playoffs, stuck at the bottom of the ladder for most of the season. On the bright side, Kanga finally picked up their first match of the season by taking the Freshmen to school with this firm 3-1 win. Kanga was easily up 2-0 at half-time, after rolling through Numbani on offense and hiding near FMC’s  spawn on defense. Abusing every advantage they got, Kanga made the most of FMC overcommitting to fights. Several times Kanga would drop a player, only to turn the fight on FMC by capitalising on their attempts to stagger.

Halftime changed the game for FMC, with an excellent defense thanks to Virginya’s Junkrat, Qoy’s Bastion and Sham’s Orisa. Kanga never made a real effort to deal with Qoy, allowing him to run all over his opponents. FMC’s attack was just as great, with a double Self-Destruct from Virginya winning them the map. Qoy kept up the off-meta act with Mei on Dorado defense, switching to Brigitte to hold Kanga into overtime. Kanga eventually cracked it, however, slowly but surely rolling through and making the most of a scattered FMC. FMC’s steam seemed to run out in the next round on attack, with Kanga decimating FMC right out of spawn and letting the payload move only a few meters. Kanga, of course, easily pushed those last few meters in their own attack round, and took the series 3-1.

Melbourne Mavericks vs. Order (0-4)

Melbourne’s only loss of the season wasn’t too surprising. Order have been the dominant team in Group B and will likely be Sydney’s strongest challenger, but to see the Mavericks lose so thoroughly is sobering. Melbourne usually won the first fights on Illios, even solidly winning Well in the second round (a double boop from Fluro that unfortunately wasn’t caught on camera was an especially great moment). However, once ultimates were built and used, Order would take the lead again. For instance, Quatz on Reinhardt had an incredible Earthshatter for one fight, then another ready by the next fight less than a minute later.

That relatively shaky first map for Order was something of a warmup, it seems. Order went on to so totally dominate Melbourne that the Mavericks finished the series with only a single point: the one they got on Illios. Over the entire rest of the match, they captured zero points on Hollywood, Hanamura and Route 66. Simply put, the Mavericks got clapped on. Order as a whole did absolutely fantastically. Quatz landed four or five man Earthshatters, Jordation had similarly impactful Gravitons, Adam ate his opponents’ Gravs like breakfast, Unter and Meritt were the perfect balance of aggression and support, and Yuki (unfortunately relegated to Brigitte) got plenty of stun assists. If Order can keep this up, they’ll have a good chance against reigning champions Sydney if they’re matched up in the finals.

What’s Ahead

Quarterfinals begin in January 2019, with Grand Finals being played on January 20th at the Sydney ESL studios. Both Quarter- and Semifinals are best of five, while Finals is a best of seven. The first few matchups will be:

  • Sydney Drop Bears vs. Breakaway Esports
  • HEIST Gaming Club vs. Blank Esports
  • ORDER vs. Mindfreak
  • Athletico Esports vs. Melbourne Mavericks.

The remaining four teams – Legacy, Kraken, Kanga, and Freshman Class – will move back down to Trials. They’ll have to qualify again to compete in the first season of 2019. After the finals, Contenders Australia season four will begin in 2019.

Billy
Billy "Korjubzot" Walker is a journalism student with a newfound passion for esports, based in Queensland, Australia. He spends most of his time playing RPGs, competitive shooters and platformers, and he always thanks his healers.
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