The road to France for our Oceania Counter-Strike squads narrowed this past weekend, with Grayhound and Vertex emerging to contest for the Challenger Stage at the APAC RMR in early April.
It was business as usual for the IEM Rio Major representatives, who put away Killzone Gaming, Antic Esports and Encore on their way to the top seed.
Encore gave the ‘Hounds a grand scare on Nuke in the opening map of the best-of-three qualifying final, bouncing back from a 9-6 half to lead.
With the penultimate round of regulation Encore snatched away and held map point, but GH held their nerve and a 4-1 overtime secured the map steal — meaning Encore would need to overcome Grayhound on Inferno.
But nobody was going to stand in the way of Joshua “INS” Potter’s men.
INS and Jay “Liazz” Tregillgas combined for 45 kills in the 16-10 victory, which featured a 12-3 T side drubbing.
Grayhound will look to reunite with former member Erdenetsogt “erkaSt” Gantulga at the APAC RMR, with the ex-Hound currently battling for the final spot in the Asian Qualifier with NKT.
GH themselves will be looking to attend their second Major in a row as an organisation, with the squad’s core gunning for their fourth straight since COVID disrupted affairs in 2020 and 2021.
In a more tightly-contested lower bracket, it was Vertex who emerged as second seed for the APAC RMR.
Despite resistance from last-minute replacements eLEMONators and a formidable Antic Esports outfit, the Wolfpack met Encore in the lower bracket qualifier seeking revenge after their 16-7 defeat in the upper bracket.
A narrow opening half on Vertigo was quickly forgotten as Vertex turned up the heat on their map pick. An all but flawless 8-1 T side led from the front by captain Toby “BRACE” Barnes (28-10, 1.69 rating) wrapped up the Wolfpack’s map pick.
A rattled Encore rallied behind Sean “Gratisfaction” Kaiwai (19-20, 1.07 rating) but at 6-6, Vertex left their rivals in the dust.
Vertex would finish the series with a 15-2 T side record, going 7-1 on Mirage to book their tickets to the Mongolian capital for the all-important Major qualifier.
In his first event with his new team, Jared “HaZR” O’Bree (1.22 rating, +37) was spectacular for the Wolfpack, combining with Christian “ADDICT” Pendleton (1.25 rating, +45) and Liam “malta” Schembri (1.25 rating, +24) on the way to the RMR.
It is Vertex’s first international appearance at an RMR/Major qualifier, but it won’t be easy by any means.
By popular demand (and honestly, out of necessity), the APAC RMR has been expanded to eight slots — but only two squads can qualify for the Paris Major Challenger Stage.
And with the likes of Katowice surprise packet IHC and a rampaging Rare Atom among the attendees, both Vertex and Grayhound will have their work cut out for them if they hope to move onwards to the Major.
The BLAST.tv Paris Major APAC RMR begins April 4 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.