[OPINION] Pro League Season XI Preview: Europe

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The Pro League Preview series will be your guide to the upcoming Pro League season. Each article will discuss, by region, the teams participating, the storylines to follow and give our opinions on the final standings. Today we will be discussing Europe.

The Pro League Preview series will be your guide to the upcoming Pro League season. Each article will discuss, by region, the teams participating, the storylines to follow, and give our opinions on the final standings.

Note that the final standing predictions are the author’s alone, but can serve as your guide to form your own opinions (which you are free to share with us on Twitter or in the comments section below). Today’s preview will cover the European region.

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Season 10 saw Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) place first in the region with 30 points, narrowly beating out the runner-ups of Giants Gaming by a single point. G2 Esports placed third for the second season in a row, signalling to many that their dominance in the scene is now long past. G2 was only a single point ahead of Team Empire (fourth) and Team Vitality (fifth). Chaos Esports Club managed to latch onto the sixth spot, avoiding relegation while PENTA and GiFu eSports rounded out the bottom, and were later  relegated.

We saw Giants Gaming acquire the roster of Looking For Org (formerly LeStream Esport) halfway through the season, while mousesports parted ways with its roster early in the season, bringing about the return of GiFu esports. We also witnessed one of the first international roster moves in Siege, with Gomfi and SlebbeN leaving GiFu to join the Susquehanna Soniqs in North America. After the conclusion of Season 10, Alphama followed suit as well, joining eUnited, marking the second major cross-region move from EU.

This upcoming season will feature these 8 teams from across Europe:

  • BDS Esport
  • Chaos Esports Club
  • forZe
  • G2 Esports
  • Giants Gaming
  • Natus Vincere
  • Team Empire
  • Team Vitality

In the section below, you will find a collection of each teams’ prediction, roster moves and current roster, and a storyline to watch for the team as the season progresses.

Natus Vincere

Prediction: 1st

Roster: neLo, CTZN, Kendrew, Saves, Pie

Coaches: jahk

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: GiG (coach, FA)

What about Doki?

For the coming domestic season, Na’Vi look to be in a decent position to make a run for winning the region again. Their closest competition from last season, Giants Gaming, seem to be stuck in neutral. While Europe as a region is stronger than ever, Na’Vi will definitely be aiming to come out on top of the pile. Still, 1st place is very much open, and Na’Vi will have to ensure they are at their top form every playweek to lock up the top spot.

The player I think we should keep an eye on is CTZN, because when he’s hot the team is unstoppable, as we saw at the recent Season 10 Grand Finals. CTZN seemed to win every single gunfight, finishing with 82 kills and a +27 kill/death, head and shoulders above anyone at the competition. However, he is susceptible to a slow start as we saw in their match against Wildcard Gaming, when they were very nearly on the receiving end of a massive upset. In best-of-1s, there is no time for a player to “heat up” over the course of multiple maps, therefore CTZN needs to ensure he is ready each week to play. If he and the rest of the team can ensure that, 1st place and another season final will be within reach.

It's no secret, Na’Vi may have some real deliberating to do towards the end of the season. For those out of the loop, Doki is a member of the Na’Vi roster, but was banned near the end of Season 10 for toxic behavior. ESL upheld the ban, and thus Doki missed the Season 10 finals, which Na’Vi went on to win. His substitute, Pie, played well in the matches, and speculation started arising. While the team has made a statement that Doki will return to his role with the team when his ban is lifted near the end of Season 11, if Na’Vi are in position to again attend the finals, it’s difficult to imagine that the roster would want to make a switch right before the event. While that may give the team time to contemplate their decision into the offseason, it's not an easy decision to make, because either choice can and will be met with valid criticisms. There are many scenarios to consider, and each one will likely have an indirect influence on Doki’s future with the team.

Team Empire

Prediction: 2nd

Roster: ShepparD, JoyStiCK, karzheka, Scyther, Dan

Coaches: RayzerGM

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

Empire at Raleigh Major via Ubisoft

Krabby Patty Team Empire Secret Formula

Team Empire have what the other teams want. They have flexibility. That flexibility comes from a roster of 5 players who can all individually dominate in any gunfight, no matter the operator or role. That flexibility is still there, despite the poor results last season (if you call winning the Six Major poor). Up until winning the Major, they had performed well domestically. In the second half of the season however, it just wasn't good enough. My theory why: after the Six Major, teams devoted even more time than before to figuring out how to counter Empire. Empire had a fairly unique playstyle, a bit different from watching other teams. Once teams began devoting more time specifically to Empire, they were able to neutralize and use some of that flexibility against the team. Another contributing factor is definitely the guaranteed Invitational spot after winning the Six Major. The Invitational is a much bigger stage than the Season Finals, and I’m willing to bet Empire are holding onto some things to show here. 

I placed Team Empire in 2nd because they will undoubtedly be looking to get off to a strong start in Season 11 to build momentum before the Invitational. What happens after the Invitational is where it will get interesting. If they win it all, we may watch them lay-low yet again, and potentially slide in the standings. If they have a poor performance, they’ll likely look to push onwards for the rest of the season, and rebound by winning the Season Finals. I really don’t believe the storyline that Empire have regressed to the point of being a mid-table team. I think they have the ability to flip that switch anytime they need to, and with what’s likely to be an even bigger prize pool than last year, I bet Empire will be set to destroy.

Giants Gaming

Prediction: 3rd

Roster: Hicks, risze, AceeZ, korey, +1 (TBD)

Coaches: Crapelle

New Arrivals: TBD

Departures: Alphama (eUnited)

LAN Struggles and the Unknown Player

Giants are a different team at LAN compared to online, and not in a good way. After making it out of the group stage at the Raleigh Major, they were knocked out in the first round by forZe. At the Season 10 Finals, they were knocked out first round by Aerowolf. It was frustrating to watch as a spectator, and I imagine even more so for the players. This lead to Alphama and the team parting ways. With not much time left until the start of the season, a replacement still has yet to be announced. While logically they must have a player lined up and are just waiting on one or two things to finish up before making an announcement, it is slightly concerning to me. The new player may have a lot of catching up to do, and there’s not much time before the season starts now. A weak start to the season could really hinder the Giants, to the point where top 2 is out of their reach completely. This is going to be a really tough season for the Giants to reach their former heights online, and even harder to raise their performances offline.

When placing the Giants for this season, I really debated knocking them down another spot. My reasoning for that consideration is that there is significant pressure from behind them in the table coming from every single team, including the newly promoted BDS and forZe. On top of this, we still don’t know their entire roster. A strong 5th player can be what they need to secure 3rd, and potentially push into the top 2. While these are compelling reasons to drop them further given what we know, I kept them 3rd. In the end, they still have 4/5 of the team that placed second last season. While it's definitely true the competition around them improved, I have no doubt the roster is still continuing to improve as individuals and as a team. My biggest concern at the end of the day, will be their offline LAN performance.

Team Vitality

Prediction: 4th

Roster: BriD, BiBoo, Stigi, Goga, Hungry

Coaches: Lyloun

New Arrivals: Goga (G2), Hungry (Penta)

Departures: Quaal (Benched), Spark (Benched)

The EU Shuffle

Team Vitality are the only team that made 2 moves this offseason, the most in Europe. These were no small pick-ups either. Goga is a former world champion with loads of experience and talent, and Hungry is an experienced player in his own right, with lots of flexibility. While the EU shuffle may not be a real thing, these roster changes are potentially the answer for Vitality. While I personally am a huge believer in the impact these players will have on the team, it is really tough to gauge just where the team will be at when play starts up again in Pro League. Unlike North America, where you can use the US Nationals to get a peek at a handful of teams, there’s not really much opportunity to see the teams in Europe save for online qualifiers and such.

Vitality should be a better team overall after these moves. Because of this, I really considered pushing them up a spot. On top of this, Pro League is the team’s biggest focus this season after failing to qualify for the Six Invitational. So I could definitely see Vitality performing much better than my prediction. One thing I definitely do not see is them falling short of 4th, unless another team really over-performs expectations. Granted, with the region being closer than ever before, anything can happen this season. All in all, Vitality are in the right mindset and have a number of things working in their favor this season. BiBoo gave us a statement about his thoughts and expectations for the upcoming season, and I couldn't agree more: 

“Our goals are clear; with the addition of Goga and Hungry we are aiming for the win. We failed to qualify at the Six Invitationnal 2020 but the team was still really young. At the moment we are training a lot to be prepared for the PL Season 11, we want to finish in the top 2 of the regular season to go to the PL finals.”

Vitality definitely have the talent to make top 2, particularly if other teams’ attentions are focused elsewhere. Expect Vitality to keep it very close at the top-end of the standings.

G2 Esports

Prediction: 5th

Roster: Pengu, Fabian, Kantoraketti, UUNO, Cryn

Coaches: Shas[O]Udas, Sua

New Arrivals: Cryn (OrgLess/Ex-Na’Vi)

Departures: Goga (Vitality)

Highest Highs and Lowest Lows

G2 are a team that have experienced some of the greatest triumphs in competitive Siege. Unfortunately, what goes up must come down. 

Winning the Six Invitational 2019 marked the final peak of G2’s reign. Since then, the team have been on a steady decline, and it seems to have yet to reach an end. The team finished Season 9 in 3rd. At Six Major Raleigh, G2 managed to come in second, but were clearly outclassed in the grand final by their opponents, Team Empire. The team then closed out Season 10 again in 3rd place, missing the Season 10 Finals, which they needed to attend to qualify for the coming invitational. Then the invitational situation grew dire when G2 lost in the first round of OGA PIT, and thus missing out on yet another chance to qualify for the invitational. The final blow to G2 was losing in the European online qualifiers for Six Invitational, losing first to Team Secret and then to MnM Gaming.

Now G2’s chance to attend rests solely on the invite spot for the tournament. While it seems reasonable that the defending champion would receive the spot, there is still a large amount of uncertainty in the end. G2’s recent performances have not made the decision any easier, and have opened the door even wider for debate about who should get the invite.

Domestically, G2 still do potentially have what it takes to get results this season, and a top-half finish would not entirely surprise me. What I don’t think will be possible for them, is making the season finals. G2 have had their time on top, and while I respect their accomplishments, the days of complete dominance are probably behind them. The team seems lost as to what is going wrong, and keep making roster changes to find the answer. Overall the roster moves haven’t been able to stop G2’s slide, and I don’t know if Cryn will be any different. 

BDS Esport

Prediction: 6th

Roster: rxwd, Shaiiko, Renshiro, Panix, RaFaLe

Coaches: fiskeR

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

Shaiiko Revenge Tour

Shaiiko is probably one of the most polarizing players in Siege. Depending on who you ask, he’s either an ex-cheater with little remorse, or one of the best players in the world who was wrongfully banned. Regardless of your personal feelings, I think we can all agree on one thing: Shaiiko is back, and better than ever. Over the course of his ban, the amount of raw mechanical talent he possessed gradually faded from my mind. When his ban was lifted, and he returned to the scene with BDS Esport, I was quickly reminded of just how good he is. I can count on one hand the amount of players who I consider his equal or greater in terms of his aim and reflexes. After showing us flashes in all the tournaments and qualifiers, we will now get to see if Shaiiko and BDS can put together a string of results over the course of an entire Pro League season.

Winning the European Invitational qualifiers was a big first step for the team. My concern is if it will hinder BDS in the first half of the season. If the team make the decision to try to hide strategies leading up to the invitational, their results could quickly slip. The team as a whole does have a good amount of experience throughout, so the adjustment to Pro League will be much easier and quicker for them. As to their placement in the standings, it was fairly easy to place them over fellow Challenger League arrivals forZe, as they’ve had a relatively consistent string of results over forZe. They did not beat out G2 in my ranking however, as they’ve been unable to consistently find wins over them. So, taking into account their results against teams around them, and the possible slow start, I think they land in 6th.

ForZe

Prediction: 7th

Roster: wTg, Rask, Shockwave, KaMa, p4sh4

Coaches: Korben

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

ForZe at Raleigh Major via Ubisoft

The Other Russians

For as long as they’ve been in the global eye, ForZe have been the “other Russian team”. While Most Wanted Esports were technically the original Pro League Russian team, competitive Siege wasn’t in the mainstream yet. If you ask someone to name a Russian Siege team, Empire is almost always the first. ForZe are not just the second Russian team either, they tend to be second in a lot of other things recently. The team placed second overall in Challenger League, the Russian League Group Stage, and the Russian League Finals. They fell just shy of reaching the finals in the Six Major, being knocked out in the semifinals. They were eliminated from the OGA PIT qualifiers by fellow Challenger League team BDS. Right now, it feels like ForZe are coming up just short every time.

Don’t get me wrong, ForZe are not an inherently bad team. After all, their result at the Raleigh Major was against Pro League competition. Placing second in the Russian League was to Team Empire. If you’re a ForZe fan and reading this, don’t panic. With no teams being relegated this season, a 7th place finish does not place the team in any immediate danger. I think ForZe do have a decent future, as evidenced by their run at Raleigh. I just think it will take the team some time to consistently find their footing against Pro League teams. Lower expectations will do the team good anyways, and with no pressure in the back from relegations, a full season of play will help the team gain needed experience.

Chaos Esports Club

Prediction: 8th

Roster: Secretly, REDGROOVE, Renuilz, VITO, SHA77E

Coaches: Syred, Hyperino

New Additions: SHA77E (GiFu)

Departures: Kripps (FA)

Expectations Versus Reality

Chaos are a team that are somewhat disappointing to me. While I never expected them to become the next “big thing” in Siege, it feels like they have yet to find results. The team has existed for a long time in Siege, under a bunch of names.Yet after all of this time, some of their biggest accomplishments are a 4th place finish at DreamHack Valencia and the Allied Esports Vegas Minor. It’s a letdown overall. There are some things I like though: the team’s branding and org, the continuity and experience. But clearly as the competition improves year after year, Chaos are still not up to par.

The biggest thing Chaos have in their favor this year is the acquisition of SHA77E. He is a proven talent, despite the struggles of GiFu the past season. He has more experience winning than the rest of the roster, and I really hope he can bring some of that winning mentality to the rest of the team this season.

I have said that the lack of relegation this season will help a number of teams. For Chaos though, I think it will do more harm. Many teams in the bottom two throughout the regions are teams with a high ceiling that lack the requisite experience. Chaos, though, have a lot of experience, they just need a spark to actually push them to go higher. Without the need to avoid a bottom 2 finish, and the two talented promoted teams entering Europe this season, Chaos may be pushed to the very bottom of the pack this time.

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We encourage you all to use this as a launching point for forming your own opinions, and hope this will serve as a guide for all viewers, new and experienced! Be sure to tune into Pro League Season 11 when it kicks off on January 6th to see how these predictions hold up as the season progresses.