ESL ANZ Champs is back, and the stakes have never been higher. A record $20,000 prize pool, sixteen of Oceania’s best and brightest CS:GO squads and one of the region’s most professional broadcasts awaits us.
Well, “professional” is putting it lightly.
Order proved too strong in Season 12 back in May, taking down a previously undefeated Dire Wolves 3-1 in the best-of-five grand final.
Both squads return as heavy favourites for Season 13, but all eyes will be on the next crop of young stars out to prove the pundits wrong.
Despite the long format, the Swiss stage matches (outside of the final round) will be best-of-one, meaning very little room for error for teams who struggle to begin their campaigns with early wins.
We checked in with Snowball Esports’ very own Round-Up Gang of Luther “2sBs” Minshull and Ashley “Shhlee” Whyte for their thoughts on who might trouble the favourites, and their teams to watch this season.
Luther “2sBs” Minshull
Top Two Dark Horse — Vertex
After watching them come very close against the top teams over the last few months, there’s no doubt in my mind that Vertex will continue turning heads. After finishing top four at the last iteration of ESL ANZ Champs, they backed up the result with a huge upset over Order at ESEA Premier, ultimately falling to Renegades.
With more time and practice being put in by this roster, plus their ever-infectious positive attitude, I feel as if we’ll be seeing a massive push from Vertex to go beyond expectations and aim even higher this season.
Team to Watch — 8Ballers
If there’s one team in this tournament that is out to buck the trend, it has to be 8Ballers. A project formed from players in LPL’s Amateur League, complete with the structure of a team well beyond their experience, 8Ballers has emerged to now be competing in one of OCE’s top events. Add OCE veteran Mohammed “MoeycQ” Tizani as coach, and you’ve got yourself a potent mix that will be out to upset the very best.
One year and four straight LPL division promotions, 8Ballers have surpassed all expectations and now, they find themselves in the thick of it at ESL ANZ Champs. As they face their biggest challenge yet, I’m excited to see what they are capable of.
Ashley “Shhlee” Whyte
Top Two Dark Horse — Paradox
Paradox have built themselves a solid portfolio in 2021. A top four finish at ESL ANZ Champs last season included an overtime loss to Order in the third map — just four rounds the difference between eliminating Order and a potential Paradox championship.
They dropped to Vertex at ESEA-P — a Vertex that would go on to challenge Renegades in the final — then followed up with a second place finish to Dire Wolves at LPL Pro League, where they only dropped maps to DW.
Now that they’ve had a little more time with Charlie “zeph” Dodd on the server, if they can get out to a strong start like at Season 12, I think they’ll have the chops to take it to those top two favourites.
Team to Watch — Ground Zero Gaming
GZ returned to CS after almost a year away from the esport, and this roster sees pieces combine from R!OT Gaming (7th-8th @ ESL ANZ Champs S12) and Bizzare Gaming (12th-14th @ ESL ANZ Champs S12).
A great bunch of lads with mastermind Lachlan “Fiend” Geron at the helm as coach, I’m really excited to see their results as time goes on and they build up some experience. The squad struggled to get going against Paradox at LPL Pro League but given just how deep the format of ESL ANZ Champs is, there will be plenty of time for the unit to mesh together.
The action begins tonight 6pm AEST, with Order out to defend their Season 12 title against Caught Off Guard.