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Esports Arena remains perfect, winning ALGS day 4

Esports Arena continued their unprecedented start to the second split of Pro League on Friday, winning their second matchday in a row to put themselves in sole possession of first place in North America. This week, however, was much closer than their first week exploits, as the rest of the lobby stayed close to them throughout.

The matches for the day began on Storm Point, and those games featured quite a few fights off of drop, as teams still contested landing spots on the map. Two marquee matchups to pay attention to were Sentinels and ESA competing for The Mill, and Cloud9 and Spacestation both landing at Launch Pad. None of those teams faced off in their first ALGS match of the split last weekend, and the first three matches promised plenty of early carnage between some of the best teams in the region.

Game one took the lobby to the east of Storm Catcher, a difficult final zone with plenty of open ground and a massive slope to deal with. With only a single landing pod (lovingly referred to as “eggs” by many pros) in the final zone, it was free agent team Casuals who waited out the fighting in and around the building.

#ALGS time! Casuals win game one, but C9 flexes their fighting ability in the endgame to grab the overall lead with a 12-kill second place finish. pic.twitter.com/Tq5vPjjz9g

— Adam Whittaker Snavely | Mercuutio (@Snaves) March 19, 2022 Casuals showed good patience to grab a safe victory, but it was C9’s fighting ability that shone in the endgame, winning the fight in the egg. They might not have won the final battle, but they made good strides towards winning the war. They sat on top of the leaderboard after game one thanks to their 12 kills and second place finish, while Casuals only mustered five kills of their own.

The final circles of game two brought the lobby nearly to the dead center of the map, and it was ESA who flexed their muscle once again to win the game and vault into second place on the leaderboard, only two points behind C9 in first.

It was the type of victory that’s become standard by now from ESA, as the team found a great spot in the final circles to launch an attack from, and pinning teams down from multiple angles. Fresh off a record-setting first weekend in ALGS, the team seem more determined than ever to prove their early Pro League success was more than the contributions of former member Evan “Verhulst” Verhulst, now apart of TSM’s playoff-winning squad. If anything, the form of the team is a massive compliment to IGL Ira “dooplex” Shepherd, whose ability to guide his squad seems almost preternatural on Storm Point. The map simply agrees with the team and their style of play.

The third game of the day and the last game of Storm Point featured a change of pace in the form of a final circle at the map’s southwest edge, inside of Cenote Caves. It was there that the lobby turned on its head, thanks to C9 and ESA both going out early.

Instead, Optimal Ambition and 100 Thieves found the best spots in the final zone. It looked like 100 Thieves might run away with it, but a well-timed Gibraltar ultimate to force them off the roof of their building allowed Optimal Ambition to reverse conventional wisdom on high ground vs. low ground, winning the final fight from below the year one ALGS champions.

The lobby remained incredibly close through the first three games, with only 12 points separating first and tenth place. For that matter, last place in the lobby was only 21 points behind lobby leaders ESA. First place on the day was not only possible for any team in the lobby, but feasible for every single squad heading into World’s Edge. 

ESA finally separated themselves from the pack in game four, which they won after winning an extremely close three-vs-three fight with Casuals.

The Climatizer endgame led to chaos in the final circles, as team after team was flushed out of the plentiful hiding spots in the POI and out into the open. ESA’s win was perfunctory as usual, finding the right combination of third parties and isolated fights. Casuals also made their mark once again, taking second place in the game and finding themselves in second place overall on the day’s leaderboard. New to Pro League this split, they were proving to be an issue for several more established squads. 

Game five saw 100 Thieves take a walk down memory lane, winning the game in nearly the same exact final zone as the game in which they won the year one championship, when the squad was still competing under the Kungarna banner.

Valkyrie ultimates filled the sky as the final three circles kept surprising the lobby, yo-yoing north and south. 100 Thieves held the almighty high ground, however, controlling the choke between Fragment East and Lava Siphon, and waiting patiently for the final fight to emerge. When it did, the team took the space afforded to them by the rest of the lobby, and executed. ESA still sat atop the leaderboard, but the game allowed both 100 Thieves and C9 to creep within striking distance, leaving the lobby still up for grabs leading into the final match of the day.

In the end, ESA held on to win the day, courtesy of Complexity taking out Casuals and 100 Thieves in a wild ending to the final game of the day.

With the teams that had finished highly in the previous two games holding prime positions with the final ring closing between Lava Siphon and Launch Site, Complexity leader Bowen “Monsoon” Fuller stole the show. From a low ground position, the three teams alternated between fighting each other and trying to stabilize, resulting in one member alive for each squad. Monsoon couldn’t be contained, however, zipping around the battlefield and finishing the game with some stylish Peacekeeper shots to get Complexity a top-five finish on the day.

ESA remained perfect after two matchdays, while 100 Thieves took second place. C9 hung on for third over Casuals’ charge, which ended in fourth place. It was a disappointing day for Sentinels, who began the day by getting bullied out of their preferred Storm Point landing spot by ESA, and ended with a lowly 16th place finish.

It’s a short turnaround for all the North American teams, as another matchday comes on Saturday, followed by the final matchday of the weekend on Sunday. After that, Split Two will already be halfway over. With only the top 10 teams in the region qualifying for playoffs, those teams below the playoff line will need to figure out where they’re going to pick up points, and quickly.

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