ESEA Premier Season 36 Group A Preview

Extra Salt and Bad News Bears head up the group as the favorites to make playoffs.

With ESEA Season 36 Premier getting underway, 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.

In our first preview, we'll take a look at Group A, and the teams most suited for playoff contention among the field of ten. 

Playoff Contenders

 Extra Salt (JT, Sonic, motm, oSee, FaNg // T.c)

Extra Salt enter the Premier season as one of the clear favorites to top their group, and one of the most likely candidates for winning the season entirely. The former Cloud9 core have already demostrated their capability in the DreamHack Open January Closed Qualifier, where they made their debut with Justin "FaNg" Coakley and claimed wins over Bad News Bears and paiN to qualify for the main event.

Alongside Triumph, Bad News Bears, and High Coast, Johnny "JT" Theodosiou's troops are top contenders for the ESL Pro League spot on offer at the end of the season, and will make their first appearance in Premier against Eclipse on February 2nd at 9 PM EST. 

United States Bad News Bears (Jonji, ptr, Swisher, alter, Spongey // mCe)

The return of Peter "ptr" Gurney to CS:GO is a welcome one, with the AWPer reuniting with Jonathan "Jonji" Carey to allow Bad News Bears to take over the ex-Chaos spot in Premier. Given the experience of the players, Bad News Bears seem to be a lock-in for a spot in playoffs, but it's not just their tenure that lends credit to that argument.

Despite falling to Extra Salt in the aforementioned Closed Qualifier, Bad News Bears were the ones on the front foot throughout that match-up, leading 10-5 and 12-3 on both maps before falling to a comeback effort from Extra Salt. Although they missed out on qualifying for the main DreamHack event with an ensuing loss to High Coast, Bad News Bears still demonstrated that they are a level above other Premier squads later in the week in the third ESEA Winter Cash Cup,  where they cruised past Secret Club and Rebirth to take the title.

Heading into the season, Extra Salt will be their primary competition during the group stage, with Triumph and High Coast offering further contention during the playoff stage; however, Bad News Bears should be a lock in for a top four spot, and anything less would be a massive upset for the team of seasoned talents. ptr and company are set to make their Premier debut against ex-Recon 5 later today at 9 PM EST.

Challengers

United States Depth (reck, shane, dare, snav, KEL)

timbermen head into the season fresh off being re-signed by Depth, with the addition of Ethan "reck" Serrano offering the team extra fragging power as they look to secure a top four spot. The team previously took part in the fourth ESEA Autumn Cash Cup, managing to take a map off of paiN before falling in a reverse-sweep to exit the tournament in 3-4th place. Still, they remain as one of the primary teams who will contend for a spot in playoffs, but are by no means guaranteed a spot as a number of other MDL sides will be in close contention.

United States Mythic (fl0m, adreN, DAVEY, JoJo, daf)

The ever popular stream team enter Season 36 featuring a retooled roster. With Katie "Keiti" Boop bound for VALORANT and Austin "Cooper-" Abadir no longer able to stand-in due to joining Triumph, Mythic have enlisted former Third Impact member Josiah "JoJo" Jimenez and FPL upcomer Felix-Antoine "daf" D'Avignon.

The trio of Erik "fl0m" Flom, David "DAVEY" Stafford, and Eric "adreN" Hoag still have extensive experience, making them prime contenders to sneak into playoffs below Extra Salt and Bad News Bears. Their new additions will need to prove their worth in in short order as the team are set to take on Eclipse tomorrow at 9 PM EST to kick off the season.

United States Oceanus (vek, KmZ, Melio, J0LZ, castro)

Oceanus, formerly Russian Canadians, reformed mid-way through the off-season as Alex "vek" Voynov decided to return after dodging playoff matches at the end of the previous season, with Dylan "Saturn" Finch in turn departing the lineup for Rise. The team have also re-added Wayne "castro" Einarsson, and will look to replicate their success from the previous season, where they narrowly edged into playoff contention in eighth place. Perhaps, this time around, they will actually compete in playoffs after securing their berth.

United States Eclipse (droid, zeptic, robby, nero, john)

Eclipse are, at this point, a mainstay at the Premier/MDL level, never a team that will top the league but one that can still give others a run for their money. With Robert "robby" Brown rejoining the roster at the end of 2020, the team will once again look to stay competitive and snag a spot in playoffs - an effort that will kick off tomorrow with their match against Mythic.

Dark Horses

United States Rise (Aidan, Domorin, Feedalee, Saturn, consti)

Rise enter Season 36 as a relatively unknown entity. With only one match on record on HLTV, a 7-17 loss to ImPerium in the open qualifier for DreamHack Open January, the team's odds of making a deep run into the season don't look great. However, given more time as a lineup and more practice further into the season, Rise could be a team that surprises as their lineup contains newcomers who are hungry for success, including former Russian Canadians member Saturn. Their first match will see them face off against SKDC later today at 9 PM EDT.

United States SKDC (OCEAN, desi, Hiki, hyun, sensu)

Kyle "OCEAN" O'Brien's name is one that can never be ruled out of Premier contention, although against the opposition his side faces this season, the likelihood of SKDC making a playoffs bid looks slim. The team's recent additon of Chase "hyun" Lewis will change up the dynamic heading into the season as well, and they will have to hope that their performance against their opposition is not "Pepehands KekW" once matches get underway.

Relegation Reservations

United States GGPR (lowrider, jeorgesnorts, Creed, Turismo, 3ARK00Z)

GGPR come into Premier Season 36 as a fresh face, having qualified through Relegation the previous season. Their primary issue lies in the loss of one of their star talents, 16-year-old Victor "v1c" T., and Dust2.us knows that the team have also experienced issues between players during scrims heading into the season.

Although GGPR gave Oceanus a run for their money in the DreamHack Open January qualifier, the team's chances of making playoffs are slim given the changes they have undergone, and they will likely be one of the sides fighting to make it out of Relegation territory. Chase "lowrider" Releford's side will have a chance for redemption as their first match of the season will pit them up against Oceanus tomorrow at 9 PM EST.

United States Watch This (jet-, Delta9, nguyen, VulcaN, DARYL)

Watch This (previously ex-Recon 5) are a team who were expected to disband heading into the season, given that they did not have enough players to hold on to their spot. Surprisingly, Daryl "DARYL" Wang made a return, allowing the team to stay in the league as they restructured their roster; however, they, like GGPR, will be one of the teams fighting to make it out of Relegation territory, and likely will be hard-pressed to fend off teams above them as the season gets underway.

#1(With 0 replies)
January 26, 2021 10:00PM
parks2214
Dust2 Birthday cake!
I am definitely excited to see what this first season of having lots of orgs back in the space and having a group structure is like. Going to be crazy for sure!
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