With the LCO in the rearview mirror and the Mid-Season Invitational ahead, it’s time to take a look at our representative, Pentanet.GG, as they strive to pick up the Oceanic mantle Legacy left behind post-OPL.
Here’s my predictions for PGG: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
One thing I want to do, before we get underway, is preface this by saying I think it’s the hardest year to accurately predict how an OCE team will do. In past events, I looked at how the last team did, tried to judge their comparative play to the current representative, and then try to bring that forward into the current opposition we can expect to see.
But, with The Great Oceanic Exodus, comparing last year’s domestic play to this year’s is even more apples and oranges than I would normally expect. My usual method is far from scientific, but would give me a ballpark-baseline of expectations that I would adjust based on how I saw the teams play early on. Right now all I have to work with is the “comparing all the other regions to how they’ve looked previously” but I don’t have a handle as to how that matches up against PGG.
How much more effectively will RNG and the Unicorns punish them?
Doubtlessly more, but by how much is harder to tell than ever, and it will change the way you look at Pentanet.GG’s prospects at MSI 2021.
Let’s start happy.
There are two main sources of strength I see in Pentanet.GG’s gameplay that gives me hope for a path to some form of success at MSI.
The first lies in the play of Brandon “BioPanther” Alexander.
BioPanther was the consensus MVP among both the award voters and basically every expert and pundit I saw, and he richly deserved his honour. He was Pentanet.GG’s best player by a distance, and was — for my money — the obvious league best since Week 2.
BioPanther is good in a way that very few other top laners are – he is exceptional at still being relevant and impactful in games where the game is not about him.
He manipulates the lane to his advantage better than all but a select few in the history of the region. He has exceptional team play in every way you can possibly be – he team fights, teleports, and is prepared to go hungry so that the rest of the team can feast – all with his trademark smile and not showing even a hint of discontent in the ranks.
BioPanther is the heir apparent to the weakside titan, Brandon “Swip3rR” Holland.
The second part of PGG’s success that’s a little harder to quantify and nail down is in the way they fight as a team.
I think they’re among the most complete, top-to-bottom, teamfighting teams we’ve ever assembled, right up with the MSI-qualifying Bombers, and the way they identify situations to fight their way out of early deficits must be respected.
Most of all, I really like the way they (usually, but not always) correctly identify who the most important member is to keep alive during fights and play to their strengths. It allows them the best chance to fight on their terms, which may be one of the only ways they’ll be able to take it to the LCL and LPL winners.
Against quality opposition you really want to be minimizing the ways that you lose to yourself. So one of the main concerns I have for PGG is that they don’t seem to understand when to force the issue as well as I’d like to see.
It’s a recurring issue among LCO teams, and Pentanet.GG found themselves less than immune on more than one occasion.
Forcing dives when they shouldn’t or didn’t need to, and not forcing when they had advantages leading to longer games which in turn hands out more dire consequences for mistakes. Arguably the first half of the problem is a risk I would be more willing to stomach without the second half, as it’s just the cost of doing business when you play aggressively and decisively. However, when you have both it just becomes harder and harder to gameplan around.
There are other issues that hopefully PGG can smooth over as the tournament progresses – against more objective/macro-oriented junglers, Jackson “Pabu” Pavone has historically not been his usual dominant self.
As Pabu goes, often, so too the team goes.
If he’s on top and in his swagger, his confidence fuels the team and on occasion, its absence can be felt in team-wide tentativeness. As this split wore on, this issue became less and less of an issue – the turning point I felt came against the Dire Wolves, and in a matchup that Jordan “Only” Middleton usually feasted, Pabu was able to reverse an early deficit and expertly teamfight PGG back into ultimately another win for his team.
However, against a titan like Royal Never Give Up and a star jungler like UOL’s Kirill “AHaHaCiK” Skvortsov, who has starred in previous international events, Pabu will need to show us his absolute best.
I don’t want to dwell too hard here but there are two points that have me terrified for this event that I just can’t ignore.
As much as PGG dominated the region this year, it cannot be overstated that they dominated a shell of the former Oceanic region’s strength. This was always going to be a down year in quality of competition, and the level that PGG had to be at to crush the LCO does leave questions as to how big a jump they’ll need to make just to compete with the Unicorns, let alone RNG.
This isn’t a year where the bot lane had to go through players like Calvin “k1ng” Truong and Quin “Raes” Korebrits just to even show up to international play. With time, the strength of the region can recover, but that still leaves me fearful about the sheer amount of learning and levelling up the team will have to do from their scrims in order to find success on the stage in Iceland.
And speaking of bot lanes, this is by far the worst one we will have ever sent internationally. And that includes the unfortunate incident that led to this infamous segment:
The laning phase of the Mark “Praedyth” Lewis and Daniel “Decoy” Ealam was iffy early, and at times bordered on diabolical. They regularly underperformed or outright lost lanes, sometimes in inexcusable fashion.
As much as I have optimistic hope for the top half of the map, I’m petrified that the bot lane is just going to collapse beneath Pentanet.GG.
They teamfight well enough, as I mentioned earlier, but this is not the type of tournament where they can put up the level of performances they have against the likes of Order, and expect that to cut the mustard against the likes of the Unicorns or RNG.
The realist in me thinks that they only have a puncher’s chance of progressing.
This is among one of the best, if not the outright best, non-major regions in the CIS, and the new juggernaut of the world in the LPL, and it is but a fool’s hope to have expectations of more than a token win here or there.
With that said, I am ever more the optimist than I have ever been, and Legacy showed last year Oceanic teams can win games that they shouldn’t on paper. It is definitely not hopeless, and they are not without paths to victory. Oceanic people have put forward their best when the chips have been at their most down, and they have the personalities among the squad to answer the challenge when their backs are against the wall.
So when it comes time to hit the Rift, I’ll be telling the realist in me to cram a sock in it as my koalas assume their raised position.
Raise hell, boys (and girl).
Follow Reece Perry on Twitter.