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Group A, Final Match
Fnatic RaidCall vs SlayerS-EG
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One must fall tonight as SlayerS-EG and Fnatic RaidCall compete for a spot in the GSTL semi-finals. On one side we have Fnatic RaidCall, the underdogs who have excelled this season despite having one of the most short-handed rosters. Opposite of them is SlayerS-EG, a team that contrasts with Fnatic in both the depth of their roster and pre-season expectations. Whatever the situation was before the season began, the two teams now meet on even ground. One team will go on to face TSL, the other will be eliminated entirely.
How They Got Here
Both teams have arrived in group A's final match after having gone 1 – 1, both having defeated defending champions Prime while failing to overcome group toppers MvP. However, while the records might be similar, the nature of their victories and losses are quite different.
SlayerS-EG looks like a team that could easily have topped the group if things had gone a little bit differently. They were able to brush Prime aside with remarkable ease on the back of a CoCa all-kill, and they just barely lost 4 – 5 to MvP when Puzzle made an unfortunate mistake in his ace match against DongRaeGu.
FnaticRC had a rougher road getting here. They were almost defeated by Prime in their first match, but aLive pulled through as their ace and was able to close out the series for a narrow 5 – 4 win. Against MvP, none of their players could find a way to overcome the deadly Sniper, and DongRaeGu was able stand back and watch as his team won a 5 – 2 victory.
Though this might suggest that SlayerS-EG is favored in this match, there's one gigantic wrench that has been thrown into the works. With the NASL Season Three grand finals happening this weekend, Puzzle, Alicia, and PuMa will not be available for the series. Though Alicia and PuMa are players SlayerS has shown they can survive without, Puzzle has been absolutely indispensable for SlayerS this season. He's replaced MMA as their ace and backbone, and without him, they would have been knocked out in round one. On the other hand, the FnaticRC is fully intact and more than capable of finishing off their crippled opponent.
The Opening Match
FnaticRC ByuL < ESV Cloud Kingdom > EG.JYP
After one great showing in the first round where he scored a four-kill against LG-IM, Byul has cooled off in more recent matches. Despite being good enough to beat the likes of Seed and Nestea, he went down meekly against Creator and Sniper in his next two appearances. Still, Creator and Sniper are key players for their teams, so it's not a big mark against ByuL that he lost.
Similarly, JYP has lost a little bit of his luster after making an important contribution in the first round. It was his two-kill against ZeNEX that secured SlayerS' spot in the pennant race, but afterward he's only been able to record a loss against Sniper.
We've seen JYP play quite a bit, and we know that he excels at his best match-up of ZvP. We haven't seen nearly as many games from ByuL, and while we know he's good from his wins against SeeD and Yonghwa, it's hard to tell exactly how good. I cautiously predict that JYP will be favored here, but it wouldn't be surprising at all to see ByuL triumph either.
Fnatic RC: Oz, aLive, Moon
Fun fact! Only Moon, aLive, and ByuL have gotten FnaticRC any wins so far. And yet here they are, one win away from making the playoffs. Given the undeniable supremacy of streaky players in the GSTL, it's not a HUGE surprise that they've made it this far as essentially a three man team, but it seems unlikely that they'll make any further progress without getting some kind of contribution from a fourth player.
Yeah, we're looking at you Oz. Oz had a mini-slump in the GSL and abroad during the later months of spring, but he bounced back in July by breaking through the OSL qualifiers and winning his Code A match with ease. There are no more excuses – hell, there weren't any to begin with – for the player who should be FnaticRC's #2 to remain winless in the GSTL. Oz can be the difference between FnaticRC being a team that went on a very lucky run, and being a complete team that can make a playoff run. FnaticRC has won in spite of him so far, and now he needs to show that his team can win because of him.
SlayerS-EG: Crank, Miya, CoCa, MMA, Min
Before last week's games, Puzzle's absence would have presented a really serious problem. However, CoCa stepped up last week and looked like the MLG finalist and elite Code S player we saw last year, the one that unfortunately disappeared for some time after his suspension. Missing Puzzle is still a big blow, but it's not totally crippling as it would have been before.
Despite the boost of a pumped up CoCa, you still have to consider the fact that the rest of SlayerS-EG has been a bit disappointing this season. Before the season began, SlayerS-EG seemed like a team with enough talent and depth to grind out a win against anyone, but they actually ended up being a team that struggled to get 1~2 wins from their roster before Puzzle was forced to pick up the pieces. Even if CoCa can take Puzzle's place as the primary load-bearer, the problem of mediocre performances from mid line-up players like Crank, Miya, MMA and Ryung still needs to be addressed. If those players can pick up the slack, then it will definitely boost SlayerS back into the position of being one of the strongest title contenders.
Now that SlayerS-EG is missing their only consistent player in Puzzle, it's very hard to predict what will happen. Without their anchor, SlayerS-EG actually reminds me a little bit of NS Hoseo: A team with a lot of inconsistent talent, capable of both remarkable success and miserable failure.
While I'm not sold on the consistency of FnaticRC's individual players either, at least their big-three of Moon, Byul, and aLive have been consistent as a collective. Throw in Oz as a player who might finally start carrying his weight, and you've got one scary team.
I think this match is very even, and subject to even more volatility than already your typical, unpredictable GSTL game. It's a dead heat, but in the end I did have to make a pick. I won't lie, I flipped a coin.
Slayers-EG 5 - 4 Fnatic RaidCall