With ESEA Premier Season 37 set to start tonight, Dust2.us has returned with a preview of the teams and their recent form heading into the second season of 2021.
As a reminder, 18 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.
In our second preview, we'll take a look at Group B, and the teams most suited for playoff contention among the field of nine.
Extra Salt (JT, Sonic, oSee, FaNg, MarKE // T.c)
Extra Salt are by far the favorites for a top finish in ESEA Premier Season 37, having been the prime contenders for earning a spot in Pro League the previous season before they chose to withdraw from playoffs ahead of a trip to Europe and a gamut of top events overseas. The Johnny "JT" Theodosiou-led-side showed that they were far and away the best North American lineup in the first three months of the year, with only Bad News Bears and paiN offering them contention in a majority of their event appearances. Add to that the European practice that the team have been getting under their belts and the increasingly elevated level of Justin "FaNg" Coakley, and you have a team that are all but guaranteed a top finish in their group, and have a strong case for a flawless bracket run when playoffs get underway.
Triumph (Shakezullah, Cooper, bwills, cynic, motm)
Triumph, who swapped Wesley "viz" Harris for Ian "motm" Hardy ahead of the season's start, are likely a lock-in for playoffs as well, given Alan "Shakezullah" Hardeman's track record of creating top-contending North American teams; however, this time he will need to do so without Marcos "tacitus" Castilho as his coach. motm had a decent debut with his new team despite them falling short to O PLANO, offering the Brazilian squad strong competition on both Dust2 and Nuke before they were eliminated. The only team likely to give Shakezullah's side a hard time in their group are Extra Salt, and anything other than a top four finish for Triumph would be a massive disappointment. The team's Premier debut with motm will be against Big Chillin on Wednesday at 9 PM EDT.
Recon 5 (SATURN, AAustiN, tweiss, Wilky, SLIGHT // LAJT)
Recon 5 were on the come up at the end of the previous season, putting up close scorelines against the better teams in the region; however, with the loss of Koby "kobruh" Higgs and Dominick "JazzPimp" Dimpfel, the team head into the season part-way through a rebuilding phase. Still, among the teams competing in their group, Recon 5 remain strong contenders for one of the two remaining playoff spots, with their strongest competition outside of Extra Salt and Triumph likely to be the likes of Secret Club and ChocoCheck.
Secret Club (WolfY, v1c, jitter, wrath, Wolffe // FIN)
Secret Club are one of the more difficult teams to gauge in the league given the changes that have affect them in the last few months - from losing Keller "SLIGHT" Nilan to Recon 5, as well as adding and removing Jordan "jitter" Ruggiero, the team's roster has shown volatility. On top of that, with Collin "wrath" McSweegan heading off to vacation towards the end of the previous season, ahead of the team's final matches, their overall commitment to fighting for a spot at the top of the league is questionable. Still, the players on the roster, especially Victor "v1c" T., pose strong threats to the teams on the same playing field, making Secret Club one of the contenders to sneak into playoffs.
ChocoCheck (cJ, cxzi, stamina, reck, JazzPimp)
ChocoCheck slide down near the bottom of our Challengers ranking as the team have lost the core of their former lineup, most notably with Zack "XotiC" Elshani stepping down from competitive play. The loss of the team's most impactful player is sure to be felt, despite the firepower brought on with the addition of JazzPimp and the individual prowess of Danny "cxzi" Strzelczyk. Additionally, the team will need to entirely rebuild their structure as they have added Bobby "stamina" Eitrem as in-game leader to fill the gap left by Sebastian "retchy" Tropiano's ban and removal from the lineup, meaning that practice and time together will be crucial for the team to begin competing against the more tenured lineups in the division.
Big Chillin (dvl, Munk, Xzen, Melloh, Elk // Switchy)
Big Chillin arrive in Premier having impressed in Season 36 of Advanced and Relegation, booking their ticket into the semi-pro league following wins over PDHM and Levitate in the latter event. The team's true test still awaits though, as they have yet to consistently compete against top Premier squads, leaving them as a relative unknown in the field of more familiar faces. One advantage the lineup has heading into the season is that they have not changed players, something that can't be said for many of the other Premier lineups. The team's addition of former Third Impact coach William "Switchy" Locher is also bound to offer them some welcome help against a new level of teams, but the lineup will need to immediately have an impact as their first matches are against Secret Club and Triumph, with a win over the former all but needed if they hope to book a spot in the playoffs by the end of the season.
QcClan (INCRED, smL, miLLe, Melio, YuZ)
QcClan are likely facing down one of the Relegation spots towards the end of the season, given the changes their roster was forced to undergo heading into Season 37. The addition of Samuel "smL" Bertrand, who last played the game at a semi-pro level ten seasons ago, is a worrying sign for a team that locked in a playoffs spot in the previous season. With the other teams in their group boasting stronger rosters, or ones that have more tenure together, QcClan's prospects look grim, with the most likely scenario seeing them finish in sixth or seventh place in the group, overall.
GGPR (lowrider, Inseaniac, Jdubs, BeaKie, ? // quick)
GGPR enter Season 37 featuring a heavily modified version of their previous roster, retaining just Chase "lowrider" Releford and Sean "Inseaniac" Morrison. The team have yet to finalize a fifth player despite the season now being underway, and although they managed to finish Season 37 in 5-6th place after replacing Extra Salt and OCG in playoffs, their prospects in holding on to their spot for Season 38 look grim.
SKDC (desi, Hiki, yohan, SEMPHIS, ?)
SKDC are in a similar position to GGPR, given their roster's composition relative to the other teams in their groups. A win over a majority of other competitiors during the group stage would be a hard-fought one, and the likelihood of the team managing enough wins to move themselves out of Relegation territory are slim, let alone enough to sneak into playoffs contention.