North American Contenders has had a long, fun, and sometimes wild Season 3. We saw teams enter into an arena dominated by a triple-tank, triple-support meta in which their success banked on coordination and split-second decisions. Many teams failed. As it stands, eight teams remain to battle it out this weekend for national dominance.
Quarterfinal Playoff Predictions
Quarterfinal playoffs begin Thursday, January 10 at 4PM Pacific. These matches are a best of five; all eight teams that have moved on to the postseason will play today. Four of them will be eliminated.
Fusion University vs. Team Envy (4PM PST / 7PM EST)
Prediction: Fusion University 3 – 0 Team Envy
Solid unlucky for Team Envy. After a season full of close call losses that lead to two 4-0 games in the final weeks of the season, they immediately get placed against last year’s champions. While Team Envy has the individual skill to make life extremely difficult for Fusion University, the coordination and mind game capability from the Academy team is top tier.
Individual talent also sways me towards Fusion University. Na1st and Snillo have been a nightmare DPS duo for all of Fusion U’s opponents, and neither Jaru or Sharp are likely to have the level of clutch plays to compete with them. While Envy’s Crimzo has had some shining moments, Fusion University’s Alarm and Elk are having their own personal competition for Most Bloodthirsty Supports. Overall, the talent is just there for this tried-and-true team.
There is one chance for Team Envy, and the highlight of these games should be the main tank mind battles between Envy’s Trill and Fusion’s Changsik. The latter has been repeatedly targeted and easily singled out by other teams. Trill is the better main tank, and if he can get into Changsik’s head, Envy may be able to make some real progress. Envy’s best chance is to drag Fusion U to Dorado, where the Philly boys have never won.
Second Wind vs. First Generation (5:45PM PST / 8:45PM EST)
Prediction: Second Wind 3 – 1 First Generation
Second Wind is getting the breeze back in their sails after their first loss this season to NRG Esports last week, which was a rare drop in form for the unsigned team. Even though they’ve stumbled, I have full faith in them to take down First Generation. While First Generation have had a decent season, showcasing their ability to adapt and out-analyze enemy teams, they may not stand up to Second Wind’s individual talents and coordination.
Offtank FrdWnr and DPS MirroR (who often plays an absolutely terrifying Zarya in GOATs setups) have been true standout players for Second Wind, securing Graviton Self-Destruct combinations that demolish enemy teams. First Generation’s Hooey and Zaprey may be able to compete, but Second Wind has the better coordination to make it work. The more interesting matchup will be between Zenyattas; First Generation’s Robdab hits headshots like he’s gunning to be the next JJonak and Second Wind’s Haku will have to try and keep up.
First Generation will likely be able to take a map from Second Wind, especially a beginning one, as Second Wind often takes a map to get into a groove. First Generation also has this innate ability to truly mess with a team if they can understand their weaknesses. Second Wind is often an impenetrable fortress, but if First Generation plays around often-aggressive main tank Nomy and targets his counterpart Akawa, they may open up opportunities for themselves.
XL2 vs. Uprising Academy (7:30PM PST / 10:30PM EST)
Prediction: XL2 3 – 1 Uprising Academy
Last week, XL2 gave viewers a reminder as to why they’re the top dogs in Group B by shutting down Gladiators Legion and their playoff dreams in one-sided map dominance. Uprising Academy will likely be the next victim of their top tier coordination, but they may be able to capitalize on potential misplays and their own lucky charms.
The DPS fights in this match should be instant highlight reel material. XL2’s Logix and Uprising’s Asking are both terrifying on any hero and their individual battles for dominance should be a treat to watch, as will Mangachu and Klaus’s fights. Uprising has a stellar new offtank in Punk, who can easily go head-to-head with XL2’s Woohyal. Both team’s support battles are relatively even, but the tide turns in the main tank matchups; unfortunately for Uprising, either of XL2’s main tanks (Cloneman16 or sub TiZi) can take down Fusions.
XL2 will likely take easy maps on Assault and Control, where Uprising has historically not been able to make headway against enemy teams. Uprising’s hope comes from huge individual plays, like a 3k Punk Self-Destruct or a huge Swimmer boop, that can put XL2 on the back foot for a few fights or more.
ATL Academy vs. NRG Esports (9:15PM PST/ 12:15AM EST)
Prediction: ATL Academy 3 – 0 NRG Esports
NRG Esports has had some shining moments during their regular season, including a big (and necessary) win against Second Wind last week. However, they’ve been inconsistent with their ability to bring home the win, while ATL Academy has excelled nearly the entire season. It’s unfortunate, but ATL Academy has the better cohesion to make a quarterfinal win happen.
The winning trait about ATL Academy is their existing team coordination and extremely deep hero pools. NRG has a formidable DPS duo in Kevster and Ezire, but they’ve been relegated to Zarya and Brigitte duty (respectfully) so long that they may not be able to stand up to ATL’s Saucy and Sugarfree. Saucy in particular has shown a deep and truly terrifying hero pool, bringing out Bastion, Mei, Sombra, and more. ATL’s Dogman will likely be able to out-Zenyatta Byrem, but NRG’s HelloImHalo has had a better season than ATL’s Ajax. Watching ATL’s Gator go head-to-head with Stand1 will be the most even matchup.
The key for ATL is, honestly, to get weird and stand behind what they do. On Assault maps in particular, ATL Academy has brought out the strangest compositions (Symmetra/Bastion, for instance) and confused their enemies enough to demolish them. The only team capable enough to see through it has been Fusion University. Unless NRG Esports reviews all of the wild things their opponents can do, and plans ahead of time, it’s likely that this will be an easy win for ATL.
Stay tuned tomorrow afternoon for Semifinal and Grand Final predictions!