Stories to Watch at ESL Pro League Season 13 Playoffs
The ESL Pro League Season 13 Playoffs are about to begin. Twelve teams will be competing for the prestigious ESL Pro League title and a $750,000 prize pool. The winners of each group will start their run next week in the play-in matches to determine who gets a spot in the semifinals and who starts in the quarterfinals. Meanwhile, the other eight squads will be battling it out in a single elimination bracket.
Groups A and B were pretty all over the place. Multiple favorites ended up not performing well such as BIG and Team Vitality. In their place rose some more unexpected squads like FunPlus Phoenix and ENCE. On the other hand, groups C and D went completely as expected. The strongest teams have made it through with Gambit and Astralis topping their group.
A Straight Shot for Liquid
On the top half of the bracket, we have Team Liquid. North America’s last hope at ESL Pro League clocked in at second seed in Group D, beating out Virtus.pro 2-0 on the final day of play. This win was crucial as it allowed Liquid to slot into a much easier path.
There are no other teams inside the top 10 worldwide on Liquid’s side of the bracket until the quarterfinals. Their first match is against G2 Esports. While G2 is only at rank 13, their recent roster changes do appear to have the squad moving in a positive direction. A true breakout hasn’t happened quite yet for G2 as they narrowly made it out of Group B in third seed, but they are no pushovers.
In the matchup above them in the bracket, we have FURIA Esports vs FunPlus Phoenix. FPX was a bit of a surprise, qualifying from Group A ahead of both OG and BIG. The former GODSENT roster has always been shifting in and out of being competitive at a high level, so they’re no strangers to facing some of the bigger names.
FURIA being here is no surprise. The top Brazilian team came out of Group C in second seed thanks to a massive head-to-head win over Na’Vi. While they slot in at rank 10, that number is deceiving. FURIA will surely be Liquid’s hardest opponent in the first two playoff matches, assuming they both make it to round two.
Na’Vi’s Revenge Arc
A third-place finish in Group C has Na’Vi with a fire underneath them. On top of having arguably the hardest round one match of the favorites to advance, they have Virtus.pro staring them down from the other side. The ESL Pro League title has evaded Na’Vi every time they’ve tried. Last season, it looked to be Na’Vi’s chance to get their first EPL trophy until Astralis came from the losers’ bracket to take it for themselves.
The top-rated team globally will need to come away with a win if they want to keep their crown. If they can get over Complexity Gaming in round one and Virtus.pro/ENCE in round two, they’ll at least have the loser of Heroic vs NiP as a reprieve. On the other hand, it means that either Gambit or Astralis would be awaiting them after.
Na’Vi has had the issue of consistency for quite a while. Sometimes it appears that a majority of the players just don’t show up on the server at any given point. Even with one of, if not the best player of all time on their team, Na’Vi can have a hard time putting it all together. However, when the stars align and they are playing at their best, Na’Vi are absolutely capable of running through this bracket.
Play-In Matches Shake Things Up
The winners of each group were placed into a random draw to determine who would face who. It was decided that Heroic vs Ninjas in Pyjamas would be match one while Gambit Esports vs Astralis would be match two. The entire landscape of the playoff bracket will shift depending on who is able to take these wins.
The quarterfinals and semifinals seeding has already been decided. The top half of the bracket will get the loser of play-in match two first, then the winner of match one second. On paper, match two is much more stacked. Astralis and Gambit come in as the second and third ranked teams in the world. Whether or not it’s better to face them earlier or later is up for debate, but in order to take ESL Pro League, you need to run through one at some point.
If Gambit ends up winning, we would have a potential Liquid vs Astralis rematch in the quarterfinals. While their first meeting in Group D was a 2-0, both games went into overtime. It would be anyone’s match to win. In that scenario, Gambit would be the gatekeepers of the bottom side of the bracket with both other CIS teams in Na’Vi and Virtus.pro. Considering Gambit have decisively beaten both multiple times, this would be a favorable situation for them.
Heroic vs NiP is interesting because both squads are leaning towards the unknown variable side. They each sit just outside the top 10 and haven’t had many impressive recent results to speak of. Aside from a DreamHack Spring Qualifier, this has been the first test of Heroic’s new roster. They looked strong enough to go undefeated in their group, but Group A was the weakest group overall.
NiP are going through their first surge in performance in a while. After an opening loss to G2, they won every game including sweeping Vitality in match five to deny them playoffs. The Swedish squad will certainly be looking to break into their first top four finish in over five months. A single win against Heroic would have them across that line instantly.
The ESL Pro League Season 13 Playoffs begin on April 2 at 9:30 A.M. EST. Day one features the matchups of:
FURIA Esports vs FunPlus Phoenix
Team Liquid vs G2 Esports