[OPINION] Pro League Season XI Preview: Japan

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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 Japan.

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 Japan subregion.

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The Season 10 Finals, held last November in Tokoname, Aichi, was a monumental event where the whole Japan community got into the Rainbow Six spirit. However, while it is true that the event was the biggest one yet in APAC, the community cannot gloss over the fact that two of Japanese teams Cyclops Athlete Gaming (CAG) and NORA-Rengo (NR) missed their chance to appear at the event.

The Japanese region is yet to see any success internationally, however many believe that this is just the beginning for the region. The question still remains -- how to fill the gap in strength between overseas teams and Japan, and how to achieve a better understanding of esports in Japanese society? These remain many urgent matters for all Japanese teams and their whole community.

While old giants such as G2 Esports of EU and NR of APAC falling from grace, there will be a future flagship that leads the community in the eight teams in Pro League Season 11.

The well-experienced squads of GUTS Gaming and FAV Gaming keep showing off their prowess, while DetonatioN Gaming (DNG) is also improving to work towards some eye-opening results. Yoshimoto Gaming Lamy (YGL), having barely avoided relegation last season also seems to have improved. On the other hand, though Unsold Stuff Gaming (USG) was on the verge of leaving the PL scene, they succeeded in showing their skill in their Challenger League matches. Also, the much-awaited team Takumi Festival, which merged with LBX to form Takumi Festival LBX (TFL), will appear in the upcoming Pro League season.

As such, this upcoming season will feature these 8 teams from across Japan:

  • Cyclops Athlete Gaming
  • DetonatioN Gaming
  • FAV Gaming
  • GUTS Gaming
  • NORA-Rengo
  • Takumi Festival LBX
  • Unsold Stuff Gaming
  • Yoshimoto Gaming Lamy

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.

Cyclops Athlete Gaming

Prediction: 1st

Roster: Anitun, SuzuC, gatorada, BlackRay, Ayagator, Mocho (substitute)

Coach: XQQ

New Arrivals: Ayagator

Departures: Shokei (FA)

Unquestionable Strength in Japan, But Struggles at LAN

It is safe to name CAG as the Japanese favourites in the prediction of the upcoming Season 11 online matches. Taking into account of their overwhelming strength to have finished Season 10 in first place last year, some point out their heavily aggresive style is symbolized by Anitun and BlackRay. However, with the acquistions of SuzuC and gatorada from the team of Sengoku Gaming Extasy, which disbanded after Season 9, CAG has finally become a team that produces ingenious performances rather than a simple search-and-destroy strategy. If opponents underestimate this team as just a passing trend, it will play directly into CAG's hands.

Shokei, who had been leading the team for a long time, left the team due to the expiration of his contract last December, leading to some concerns. However, in the Six Invitational Closed Qualifier held shortly after that, Ayagator joined the team from KLIEN, a team that had competed in Season 10 of the Challenger League. With him, CAG climbed up the winners bracket easily, knocking DetonatioN Gaming down in the Grand Final, and secured a spot in the APAC Qualifier scheduled to be held on January 5th. CAG, having shown their outstanding fragging skills and dexterity, is the team to watch for new viewers of the Pro League.

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From left to right: Shokei (ex-roster), gatorada, BlackRay, SuzuC, Anitun (as of August 2019)

What is still unclear however, is their performance abroad, especially its toughness when playing against higher graded teams. The CAG team is good at trapping opponents in their strategical traps where they’re sure to win, but in the previous APAC Finals, CAG allowed Wildcard Gaming to reverse a 6-3 situation, which ended up in a 0-2 defeat. Though they had technical difficulties, losing five rounds in a row was an unacceptable fault. Nobody is still certain whether it indicates "they’re stuck" or if the team "will grow up from here" so far. Watch all the CAG matches on Season 11 and check out what happens.

DetonatioN Gaming 

Prediction: 2nd

Roster: Yura, MarineSky, febar, YahooN, reira

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

Expectations are Soaring

Originally, DetonatioN Gaming had been in third place in Season 9 of the Challenger League and was not supposed to be in Season 10 of the Pro League. However, when the SengokuGaming Extasy disbanded after the conclusion of Season 9, it had allowed DNG to move up into Pro League.

With a decent fifth place finish in Season 10, it seemed like it was luck that allowed the team to ride a wave of opportunity at first, but recently it is becoming apparent that they are a worthy PL team. With their incredible fraggers of Yura and YahooN, as well as MarineSky, reira, and febar (who had come from ex-PL team SCARZ) able to support them in every match, the team has been able to rotate through roles easily.

SiegeGG spoke to Yura about the upcoming season.

Recently we have been a team that has improved even by viewers' perspectives after a roster change made last year. We will keep trying to improve for upcoming seasons to become a team that can compete with any team, from Japan to overseas. I would appreciate your support.

Compilation of recent DNG by Yura, including S.I. 2020 Closed Qualifier 

As said, DNG won the Alienware Autumn Final in the second half of 2019 and was in 2nd place in the Japanese closed qualifier for the Six Invitational 2020. While CAG and other old guards have been perched at the top of the Japanese competitive scene, DNG has also been secretly improving its play style with wins against NR, GUTS, and FAV in the qualifiers, and they will be certainly a team to watch.

FAV Gaming

Prediction: 3rd

Roster: ShiN, Afro, Taipon, ChloroForM, shu, ZAKO

Coach: OdeNMiso

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

A Fight to Make it back to the Top

FAV Gaming is one of the oldest R6 teams in the Japanese competitive scene, originally born as eiNs and subsequently acquired by the current organization in 2018. Living legends such as Taipon and Afro, as well as an exemplary office-working ShiN, continue to play actively even in the current scene.

While “office-working” may sound conservative, FAV is known as a team to pull out unusual tactics and surprising operator picks, surprising their opponents and the viewers as well. This may reflect their IGL ShiN's philosophy to take a risk in form of unconventional tactics when playing against close rivals. FAV members such as ChloroForM and shu have enough talent to consistently pull that off, making them an enticing prospect for viewers.

From left to right: Tatsukin (analyst), shu, ChloroForM, Afro, ShiN, OdeNMiso (coach), Taipon, ZAKO (photo from FAV)

Despite lacking opportunities to make it to international events in 2019, results from local tournaments were clearly strong. After winning the Spring Alienware Japan League in June, they also won the Akihabara Kandamyoujin Cup  in August. What's more, in December, they triumphed at the Kuroutoshikou Cup #10 as well. Moreover, with a one-place improvement to fourth place from Season 9 to 10, it is likely they continue the pattern this season.

NORA-Rengo 

Prediction: 4th

Roster: Merieux, Papilia, ReyCyil, YoshiNNGO, Maavi

Coach: Kizoku

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

Always in the Spotlight

There is no reason not to pay attention to the giants of Japan, NORA-RengoIn 2018, they were crowned as a top-four team at the Season 8 Finals, repeated that feat at the Six Invitational 2019 -- even giving Team Empire trouble in the semi-final. At that time, NR was not only a famous team in Japan, but spread their fame to all over the world. However, they lost in their first match of the Season 9 Finals, going out in a less than stellar fashion. What's more, in Season 10, they could not perform as expected and fell behind CAG. Nevertheless, they managed to make it to the APAC Finals but couldn’t do anything against the Singaporean team of Aerowolf.

However, it is true that NR doesn’t have any plans to leave the competitive scene with such a small footprint internationally.  Fortunately, they have potentially earned huge revenue from the Pilot Program and gained sponsorship from Sankei Digital Inc, a subsidiary of Sankei Shimbun Co., one of the largest media companies in Japan. Now, they have many more financial options to help them improve. At the OGA Pit Minor, their attempts at improvement thus far were in vain as they were disqualified in the very first round. However, many fans account this being due to the fact this was the first time NR had ever conducted a boot camp in Europe.

From left to right: YoshiNNGO, ReyCyil, Kizoku, Maavie, Papilia, Merieux

Members of the roster such as Merieux and YoshiNNGO are not only tremendous fraggers, but can also switch their roles depending on the situation. Well-experienced players, such as Papilia and ReyCyil, can earn a comeback victory even when on the backfoot. What's more, Maavie, who was promoted from the junior team, has already shown his skill and enhanced his position on the team. Also, though their work has rarely been disclosed, many analysts and other staff support the whole team. Keep an eye on their matches in Season 11, though it is likely they will miss the APAC Finals for the first time.

GUTS Gaming

Prediction: 5th

Roster: CrazyPapiyoN, JJ, Simotuki, Lily, Li9ht

Coach: Cloud

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

Not just a NORA-Rengo Reject Squad

In this generation you can easily rank up in phone apps by paying, but the existence of GUTS Gaming makes you understand that a true competitive experience cannot be bought with cash. GUTS can be called a technical sibling of the NORA-Rengo team because most of the current roster either played for NORA-Rengo's main or JCG roster.

After earning a promotion to Pro League via Season 9 of the Challenger League, viewers' attention was focused on the showdown match between GUTS and NORA-Rengo. Eventually, that was left an unfinished rivalry due to CAG’s onslaught outshining both teams, though, in the middle of Season 10, GUTS replaced SixShooter with Li9ht, who came from ex-CL team Nyan Nyan Paradise (NNP) and finished the season soundly in third place.

From left to right: Li9ht, JJ, CrazyPapiyoN, Simotuki, Lily (at e Sports Studio AKIBA)

Having built a long-term fanbase, GUTS are also popular in events outside of the traditional Pro League and Major qualifiers. In September 2019, an exhibition match called "Special International Match @ Nora-Rengo x Team Secret x GUTS Gaming" was held, and in October GUTS featured in a LAN event held by the Japanese branch of “OMEN” to communicate with their supporters at eSports Studio AKIBA. Both of the events were a success for the team, resulting in more fans. 

In the expanding R6 community, arguments to list only “the teams you need to know" go on endlessly, so it is difficult for newcomers to earn such titles. However, for nameless teams aiming to make it to Pro League, playing against the GUTS players -- who have appeared in multiple tournaments frequently -- can be a reliable oracle of their future success.

Surprisingly, GUTS has never won any title in the 2019 tournaments. In the Six Invitational 2020 closed qualifier, they knocked NORA-Rengo down to the lower bracket by a 2-0 scoreline, but subsequently lost to both CAG and DNG, ending up once again in third place. This result is possibly where they will finish in Season 11, but it is possible that GUTS will be outshone by other rising teams in APAC's most competitive subregion.

YOSHIMOTO Gaming Lamy

Prediction: 6th

Roster: Rocon, Kr, memo, Deelo, P3n

Manager, Analyst: Manekin

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

From a Team of Friends to the Pro League

Few international R6 fans know that YOSHIMOTO Gaming Lamy finished in fifth place in Season 9 of the Challenger League. As mentioned above, DNG placed third and moved up to PL in place of Sengoku, and after that, SCARZ, the fourth place CL team temporarily left Japan when they acquired the Korean roster of Ageless, and NNP, and the second place Challenger League team had an unfortunate failure regarding internal procedures for PL. All at once, Lamy Wonderland, as was the name, was asked to participate in Season 10 of the Pro League. 

In our interview, Lamy’s IGL rocon spoke to SiegeGG about that moment:

Lamy is a team made by me and kr two years ago by inviting some of our friends. In the beginning, we were playing R6 with a hazy idea that we would like to win in the local domestic tournaments. However, we were gradually building a wish with each other to get promoted to the Pro League, and then via CL Season 9, we succeeded and participated in the Pro League from Season 10.

I don't remember the exact situation and our reaction at that time, but ESL called us to join around noon of that day and asked whether all of us could play tonight’s match. So, I contacted the other players in haste.

Eventually, Lamy did not end up being a team just to fill the deficiency of participants. Consistently, the team has been able to extract from its players more than the sum of its parts and was signed by YOSHIMOTO Gaming at the end of the season.

Given staying in PL, all we could do on the final match day was just to accept other matches’ results, though we felt confident in having competed with other higher ranked teams just fine in scrims we took. However, I think that the reason why we landed at the 6th is that we failed to achieve robust victories throughout Season 10.

In Season 11, keep your eyes on p3n, our newest teammate who joined in the second half of Season 10. Season 11 will be the time he can finally play properly. His role is aggressive, so expect his fragging skill and look forward to Lamy itself. We’ll be trying to counter even with higher graded rivals and aiming to get to the top of the standings and at local tournaments. Thank you very much!

Unsold Stuff Gaming

Prediction: 7th

Roster: EightBeatBeast, KemicaL, Lapla, SouLBoi, Hukusin, Kohki

Coach: Jooghurt

New Arrivals: N/A

Departures: N/A

The must-buy Roster of the Scene

The current roster of Unsold Stuff Gaming (USG) is composed of three players EightBeat, KemicaL, and Lapla from AFFLICT ReV and Kohki, SouLBoi, as well as Hukusin (a.k.a. NoTimeGG) from Father’s Back, with the latter three having been signed in Season 10.

Although they were demoted to Challenger League due to only three victories throughout Season 10, USG successfully came back to Pro League with a healthy result of 8 wins, 1 draw, and 1 loss. 

In the course of inspection USG, SiegeGG succeeded in obtaining “a secret document” from the coach Jooghurt himself. The duplicate is attached below, but as they’re a true professional esports team, it seems that they are trying to hide their core philosophy for the upcoming season... or we might have been teased by Jooghurt.

- The Secret of Unsold Stuff Army -

written by Jooghurt

“Colonel” SouLBoi

“He is the IGL of USG, determining our philosophy, operator and loadout picks, targeting point in each match, escape routes, and other strategies.

Having received many compliments from “first lieutenant” Kemical and “second lieutenant” SouLBoi is an undeniably essential leader for our Earth Defense Forth to protect the earth against alien invaders.” 

EightBeatBeast

“He is a primary engineer for our cyborg soldier Kohki. As soldier Kohki doesn’t perform well when EightBeat skips his job, his service in USG is important.”

Kohki

“Keep your eye on Kohki! As a matter of fact, he is a cyborg composed of mechanical pieces.

Thanks to the installtion of human emotions and special modeling techniques, he lives as a human. While the cyborg took one month to get an approval from ESL (and barely passed it), he’s the best. Thank you very much.”

Jooghurt

“A cat.

This team mascot sometime speaks like human during match. Basically, he cannot speak anything in daily life except for “meow” or “weep!” . Though he identifies himself as a teacher in daytime, it is possibly a lie.”

Kemical

“Kemical, is involved in the natural sciences and researches structure and nature of various materials, and cross-reaction of materials.”

NotimeGG

“The heart of USG, older brother of USG, a senpai, a teacher, a boss, a professor, a head, a sensei, an angel, a devil, a godlike existence, and Roger Federer in Siege.”

Lapla

“A frog.”

Takumi Festival LBX

Prediction: 8th

Roster: Yunkel, q23, kozakura, No2, Rosaliyboya

New Arrivals: q23

Departures: HoriKeN

Well-Known Newcomers to the Pro League

The name Takumi Festival was well-known in the Japanese competitive scene as a middle-ranked professional team from years ago. However, due to a lack of sufficiently strong results, the R6 division of the team announced they had temporarily disbanded in October 2019. However, a few weeks later, Yunkel and HoriKeN (who had been migrating to LBX), known for participating in "Father's Back × 60 FPS Cup Road to Nico Nico Choukaigi 2019", returned with the players of LBX. Those teams united as a new roster, named Takumi Festival LBX.

Though a new face in Pro League, Takumi is a bit of unique team. Not only are the players well known, but also one of the org’s analyst, Iou, is well-known in the Japanese community. “Sierra Siege Channel” is run by him and he has been uploading informative tips & tricks videos for R6, introduced by its hostess, VTuber Sierra, and has earned a strong reputation even from overseas viewers.

Takumi ended Challenger League Season 10 in second place with 5 wins, 4 loses, and 1 draw. This result reflects that they have some pieces of the puzzle missing, however Takumi knocked ex-Pro League team Father’s Back in a strong result. At the end of 2019, HoriKeN announced that he would leave the team and would be replaced by q23.

It is possible, as seen in past seasons, that a new team promoted from the Challenger League struggles significantly against much stronger opposition in many areas, though, and it is likely they will finish in eighth place. New viewers interested in Takumi from last season can only hope that their great performance is thus replicated in Pro League, otherwise they will be going straight back to the Challenger League.

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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.