After almost two months of play, 16 teams have become four as the ANZ Championships Season 12 finals begin.
Paradox stand out as the underdogs who managed to sneak in over Chiefs, and will face Order for a spot in the finals, while Vertex and Dire Wolves meet again on the other side.
The first two stages of ANZ Champs Season 12 have now wrapped up, and the final four teams are all set to begin their finals campaigns. Of the final four, Vertex is the only team who qualified through the open qualifiers, while Order, Dire Wolves, and Paradox received direct invites.
The path for Dire Wolves and Order has been straightforward as they are yet to meet each other at any stage in the event. Both teams went undefeated in the swiss stage with almost identical round differentials.
They were therefore seeded into opposite sides of the bracket in Stage 2, where once again both squads managed to comfortably make their way into the finals.
Dire Wolves are yet to drop a map in this season of ANZ Champs but have managed to avoid matches against both Order and The Chiefs, who each handed Dire Wolves a loss in the ESEA Premier S36 Finals.
“We’re going into it thinking we can win it but we’re focusing on not putting any pressure on ourselves as that’s been our downfall to some of the losses,” said Jay “Soju” Jeong.
They will be playing against Vertex in the Semi-finals, a match-up that stirs some rivalry between Soju and his former team. Despite a lot of banter from the Vertex side, they have lost both series against Dire Wolves since James “Rolfko” Lytras returned to the team.
Vertex has had a very disruptive year so far off the back of Roflko’s ESIC ban, which has since been adjusted. Toward the end of the January when the bans were handed down, Vertex at the time had to field their coach, Soju.
In March, Benny “Tensai” Pham stood down from the lineup, citing an indefinite break from CSGO and Soju was picked up by Dire Wolves shortly after. They have since fielded a handful of substitutes before forming this current iteration of the squad including the return of Roflko and the signing of Tom “Apocdud” Henry from The Chiefs.
Despite all the moves, Vertex has managed to maintain form with a 5th-6th finish in Premier and a 2-1 series victory against Paradox in ANZ Champs. Vertex will now have to put results on the board if they want to build on the progress they’ve made as a squad and push further in the Oceanic rankings.
Order are the favourites going into the finals, having not lost a series in 2021 so far. Off the back of their recent ESEA Premier title, the team will be looking to add another trophy to the cabinet.
In a recent interview following their Premier victory, Ricky “Rickeh” Mulholland has said Order will not be satisfied with anything but a 1st place finish.
Order will face off against Paradox who have been on the rise in 2021 in similar fashion to Vertex last year. A big piece of their success has come from their star AWP player Luke “Ekul” Blakey, who in the last six months has averaged a 1.25 HLTV rating.
Paradox has shown incredible growth and proficiency on many maps, besting teams like the Chiefs and taking maps against Order and Dire Wolves throughout the year.
Much like their game against the Chiefs that qualified them into the finals, Paradox will need to bring their A-game if they want to stand a chance in the Order series.
“With Renegades not playing in the comp, Order are definitely the team to beat and most people’s choice for winner. I definitely think that we can beat them though based on our past performances against them,” Harry “Bedonka” Hayes said.
“[Our] biggest learning curve has been maintaining our calm in these close games. Recently lost to a team we all think we should be beating and mental factors were one of the contributing reasons to that.”
The winner of this season of ANZ Champs will not only pocket $8k, but also a seed into the upcoming ESL National Championships Global Playoff, which is a stepping stone into other big events like ESL One Cologne and IEM Summer.
Both semi-finals matches are due to take place on May 8, starting with Vertex and Dire Wolves at 4pm AEST. That opener will be followed by the Order vs. Paradox series.