The most characterising narrative of the tournament was that of its regional gladiators.
Grayhound, ORDER and Renegades dominated which way the atmosphere shifted on-the-ground and social media. Each side proved their worth on an international stage sunken in home soil.
Maybe the most noticeable of these results was Grayhound scoring a Bo3 upset over SK and a close series against FaZe. The hounds showcased what overwhelming impact a cohesive domestic unit can have against a fractured star-studded international core. ORDER also furthered the Australian case. The band of Australian stars proved themselves to be one of the most talented riddled, high skill-ceiling sides in all of APAC with their close series against C9. If Australian fans with eyes turned abroad ever thought they lacked truly homegrown heroes, they now have them - and with momentum.
Grayhound will go on to Dallas in a week to compete at the EPL Finals while ORDER have their sights set on Leicester for the ESEA Global Challenge. If IEM Sydney 2018 was the foot in the door, the consecutive international stages is the chance to open up to a world of opportunities. Grayhound have a reasonable chance of actually making it to the EPL playoffs. One Bo1 upset over Liquid - a big, but possible ask - would put them in a Bo3 against Space Soldiers/Renegades to qualify. A well-rounded performance from all members with a strong showing on maps like Overpass and Cache will be huge for Grayhound. In Dallas, they will have to prove more than one-trick Mirage ponies.
Likewise, ORDER has the runt of the regional litter to compete against in England, with their toughest competition looking to be the top teams from premier sides around the world. If they can match sides like Torqued or Team Spirit on an individual level, their chance for a deep placing on a much quieter stage is within reach. Liazz will have to continue to demand his stature as one of Australia’s brightest talents as brooding star Alistair needs to quickly find his place.
Outside of the bounds of ESEA premier level play, Australia’s poster boys, Team Renegades earned their stripes as a top 15 team in the world in Sydney. With Nifty at the helm and the laser-focussed Norwegian, jkaem, in their ranks they showcased a devastating CT-side and incredible ability to find and roll from picks. Renegades were able to beat C9 and play FaZe close - defying expectations and solidifying their potential in-front of frenzied fans.
But our expectations for a breakthrough top ten performance from Renegades should be tempered first. We can speculate almost carelessly with ORDER and Grayhound due to their relatively small sample size of success against a range of international competition. Renegades although they have three Australians, is very much a different international beast.
We can quantify their growth better and have to be more accurate with placing optimism on their evolution as a team because we’ve been down this road before.
Undoubtedly, the shift of jks towards a more central star role has proved immensely positive. The once quiet lurker, then more active fragger is now back in his old, late-round clutching role with the space brought from jkaem. He is anything but shying away from the spotlight though. From picking up the secondary AWP to beginning a transition into a secondary calling role as well, jks is evolving into the next step of his career. His plotted growth alongside the sustained superstar performances of Nifty will be the backbone of Renegades’ international success.
As for jks’s two Australian counterparts in AZR and USTILO though, the future remains not as solid. Both look to be the pillars of Renegades’ T-side, AZR and Ustilo have both historically been defined by an inconsistency in results. Their Sydney run was so great largely because both players - AZR more-so - could boast big performances on important maps. IEM Sydney 2018 has been AZR’s highest-rated ‘big event’ tournament since Dreamhack Malmo 2017. Ustilo hasn’t had a huge tournament run since the end of last year.
Capturing the lightning in the bottle of IEM Sydney 2018 for AZR and Ustilo will almost entirely define the results moving forwards of Renegades. Fortunately for them, the biggest takeaway from Sydney will be that of Renegades T-side. So most of the time spent in practice until Dallas will be spent actively improving their most important side of the map.
An overall improved T-side, especially, as jks mentioned, in the mid-round, combined with continued star-level performances from Nifty and jks and a solid fragging core should be enough to bring Renegades over the line internationally.
Do they have enough firepower to be a top five team in the world? No. But they are a side totally capable of competing at the level Gambit has historically floated around at and with some more defined elements to their game, this is not out of reach.
With FaZe upsetting Astralis 3:0 in the grand finals of IEM Sydney, the top end of the scene has never looked more unstable. And as they saying ‘as above, so below’ - the level at which Renegades, ORDER and Grayhound want to be competing is much the same. Volatility might be the defining element in the atmosphere of their play, but to transcend it they need to be anything but that.
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