With ESEA Season 36 Premier kicking off right now, Dust2.us has compiled a preview of the teams and their expected form heading into the newly-formatted season.
As a reminder, 20 teams will be split into two round-robin best-of-three groups, with the top four from each making playoffs at the end of the season, while a to-be-determined number will face relegation from the league. The seeding for the season was determined using a mixture of the ESL World Rankings, HLTV Ranking, and results from teams for the previous season.
This second preview will take a look at Group B, including the teams destined for deep playoff runs and those who are likely to face relegation.
High Coast (djay, PwnAlone, ben1337, bew, RCF // Muenster)
While High Coast are not as clear favorites for Group B as Extra Salt is for Group A, based on their recent form they make a compelling case to go deep in playoffs. Recently High Coast have claimed wins over Triumph, Bad News Bears, and Rebirth, and traded series against Secret Club. The decision to bring back Brandon "bew" Roberts on loan from Yeah and to seemingly replace Ramal "Rampage" Silva with Rodrigo "RCF" Figueiredo has worked out great for the team thus far as the duo have been strong performers for High Coast in the first events of the year.
The longevity of the team's quartet is an important intangible factor compared to the new Triumph and Secret Club lineups.
High Coast is currently facing off against Levitate in their Season 36 debut.
Triumph (Shakezullah, Bwills, Cooper, cxzi, viz // tacitus)
Although they only feature two players from the 2020 Triumph lineup, this new formation will likely be a force to be reckoned with as the team gains more experience throughout the season. Looking at recent results, Triumph are one of the strongest teams in the division despite a close best-of-one loss to Secret Club and a relatively comprehensive best-of-three loss to High Coast. Of the new additions, Austin "Cooper" Abadir will likely be the most influential, bringing a wealth of experience and firepower to the lineup and putting up strong numbers in his first seven maps with Triumph.
This is of course not to discount Wesley "viz" Harris and Danny "cxzi" Strzelczyk as they both have the potential to be strong additions to the team. However, it will be up to Alan "Shakezullah" Hardeman and Cooper to show them the ropes as they have scant experience at the top of the North American scene.
Unfortunately, Triumph will not be in action until Week 3 when they are set to take on Rebirth on February 9th.
Secret Club (jitter, CLASIA, WolfY, v1c, SLIGHT // Gatr)
Secret Club are likely poised to be the biggest surprise of the season as the team looked like a write-off after losing Collin "wrath" McSweegan and Ethan "reck" Serrano. However, since bringing on Victor "v1c" T. and Keller "SLIGHT" Nilan, Secret Club have been on the warpath, taking down Triumph and Mythic while trading series against High Coast.
While the team will likely taper off a bit once teams began prepping for them, the fact that Adam "WolfY" Andersson's lineup is already challenging top-level Premier teams after only a few weeks together is promising. The recent addition of David "Gatr" MacAulay as coach should also be a plus as the team look to practice and overall take the game more seriously than the pug-star Secret Club of Season 35.
Secret Club are set to face off against Levitate tomorrow at 9PM EST.
Recon 5 (kobruh, RZU, cynic, JazzPimp, cJ)
Placing Recon 5 this high up will likely be a contentious decision as the recently signed lineup do not have the results to back up their rankings. However, this group of players is highly skilled and has a wealth of experience in Premier. A similar lineup - with cxzi in place of Dominick "JazzPimp" Dimpfel - almost bested 2020 Triumph and Chaos during DreamHack Masters Winter, taking a map off both of them in the process. While it isn't a 1:1 analogue for this new Recon 5, it suggests a peak for the team that if reached should easily see them make playoffs.
Recon 5 will start their Season 36 campaign against ImPerium tomorrow.
Rebirth (retchy, nosraC, curry, XotiC, Inseaniac, phantom, wrath)
Since being signed by Rebirth in July, this lineup has performed above expectations, claiming maps off the likes of Triumph, Yeah, and Mythic. The main issue holding them back is their inconsistent roster, with their starting lineup being unknown at the time of publication. While the lineup has a number of strong players, the loss of Kevin "4pack" Przypasniak hurts Rebirth as well the decision to continuously bring back Zack "Xotic" Elshani and Sean "Inseaniac" Morrison after they have stepped down multiple times. While Rebirth should make playoffs, they will likely concede maps to teams ranked below them due to an ever-changing roster.
Rebirth is currently facing off against Big Chillin.
RBG (Walco, HexT, wiz, chop, Wolffe)
For RBG, while they still have the strong core that saw them make playoffs during Season 35, the loss of their coach and IGL in the off-season will likely take some time to recover from. Despite these losses, the team does show the potential to be an outside pick for making playoffs, having taken a map off of Triumph in the Mythic Winter Cup while taking Secret Club to overtime in ESEA Winter Cash Cup 3. Their future prospects depend on whether Kyle "Wolffe" Greenfield and Connor "chop" Sullivan can elevate their game and provide more firepower after decent performances last season.
Third Impact (DaneJoris, insane, hyper-, walker, grape // Lucid)
Third Impact's potential is hard to gauge as they only have two official matches against Premier-level opposition, a 16-6 win against ImPerium and a 16-9 loss to GGPR. Under the leadership of Noah "insane" Eheart there is a potential chance for this team to do well in Season 36 if he can get the most out of the new trio, although it will be a team effort as none of them are star fraggers. After a massive rebuild, Third Impact should focus on gaining experience and holding onto their spot in Premier, as playoffs is unlikely for this new squad.
Third Impact's first match will be against Levitate on February 2nd.
Levitate (hate, Noxio, yohan, rin, Wilky // voo)
Levitate is another completely new lineup heading into the season, having emerged from the dissolution of ex-Polar Ace. While the team is still early in its development, they've had some positive signs, taking down SKDC and playing a close map against Secret Club. Like Third Impact, they may have to take this season to focus on holding their spot, but if the team can click a 5th-6th finish in their group should be within reach.
Levitate are currently playing High Coast.
Big Chillin (FrostayK, micro, bron, Minus, icy // Axed)
Big Chillin's new lineup is something of an enigma heading into Season 36 as they have played no official matches. There are concerns for holding onto their spot as among the three dark horses, Big Chillin's lineup head into the season with the least Premier experience and the youngest lineup, with this likely being a difficult season as a result. With so little known how they will play in official matches, they have the chance to surprise although they are probably the weakest of the three dark horses.
ImPerium (sherps, JDubs, valens, seziwana, Ryze)
The biggest issue for ImPerium is an overall lack of firepower, as no one player sticks out as having the X-factor needed to challenge the stronger teams in the division. In particular, while Soham "valens" Chowdhury is no doubt a skilled IGL and experienced player, he greatly struggles on the server, with only a handful of games above a 1.00 HLTV rating over the past year. If the team want to last in the division, the remainder of the lineup will need to step up their impact in the server while accepting that valens can't be relied on as a fragger.
ImPerium are set to play Recon 5 tomorrow, and this initial series should set the stage for their ability to compete against the better teams in the division.