Now that TF2 is alive once again forever (Welcome back Epsilon) with ETF2L Season 22 under way and a recent spout of Razer cups culminating in $1,500 in prize money given out to the top 4. I think it is time to bring back the Power Rankings, not with any sort of mathematical formula like that nerd Admirable did at Cadred, nope just a brief look at the last few weeks of TF2 with the Razer Cup competitions and the first week of ETF2L games and ETF2L Premiership playoffs. Looking at the skill of the gamers, I am confident to declare this will be one of the best seasons in years with 4 teams fighting for 3 playoff spots, mid-table teams with plenty to prove and new teams wanting to avoid a drop back down. Meanwhile High has a few formidable rosters that we could become more familiar with as the season progresses, a few teams have already caused upsets showing that the skill level is not too different.
|#1: Epsilon eSports|
I have to say it is an absolute pleasure to see Epsilon back together with 4/6 of the "dream team" that dominated European/World TF2 for a solid year and a half playing once more. It seems like Epsilon have picked up from where they left off from when we last saw them after i52, dominating the European scene. A couple of map drops here and there has been their only downside, some have commented it is not the same unbreakable Epsilon of years gone by, however half a dozen map wins versus Serpents in ETF2L and Razer plus wins over major rivals TLR and Reason on Sunday in the Razer Challenger Cup has made KnoXx and co. $900 richer and sent a message to the rest of the league. Despite a lack of practise pre-season, Epsilon are still the best and will take some beating. For the likes of Reason, TLR and Full Tilt looking up, the motivation to topple the kings off their throne will be all the more intense.
|#2: Reason Gaming|
Reason came into the Razer Challenge Cup as number 1 seed ahead of Epsilon, namely due to their dominating performance versus Full Tilt during week 1 of ETF2L, two 5-0 wins gave them all 6 points, the game may not have been a traditional "roll" but Reason were far superior on the night. They took their form into the Razer Cup, easing out Kritzberg for Defence, before winning two tightly contested maps against Full Tilt, the first going into golden cap, an improvement for their opponents after the last meeting, but still Reason did the job required. Kaidus and his boys faced Epsilon in the final and contested the most exciting 1-0 game I have seen for a long time during map number 1, Gullywash. Despite having numerous attempts to push last, Reason could not break Epsilon's strong resolve and lost out by the narrowest of margins. The 2nd map saw Epsilon dominate the beginning stages, going 3-0 up, Reason fought back to keep themselves within a round but the mistakes rolled in and Epsilon were too strong for this new lineup. Reason still have a lot of good to take from the game, but Epsilon have struck first blood in what I am sure will be the main rivalry of the season. Quick look at the Reason roster, you may notice Permzilla on the medic spot, playing his first full season for many years, could this be the start of his quest to kill TF2 from the top down?
|#3: The Last Resort|
TLR have had a turbulent off-season, their i55 roster has disbanded with the likes of Serotone giving TF2 a break, Alfa returning back to Canada and Nico ditching TF2 for Overwatch, leaving a gaping hole in the roster. However WAR, AMS and Herr_P want to rebuild and have had a tough off-season of trialists, going through a legion of gamers before settling on another North American, aptly named Nursey of Highlander fame, making her name in the top scene in both ESEA and ETF2, joining Nursey will be Kiler4fun, the former Epsilon, TLR and Ubersexuals scout has loads of experience and accolades to add to the squad. Only roamer seems to be the lacking position, with the likes of Buttnose trialing, they have settled on an upcoming player from a High team named Concrete, who seems like a solid gamer (I am so sorry). His performance versus Epsilon in the Razer Challenge Cup was convincing enough for TLR, as they took Sunshine off the legends of TF2, before succumbing to a 2-1 map loss, coming joint 3rd with Full Tilt. A routine win over Animate in Week 1 helped TLR get off the mark, even without their main damage dealer WAR, I can see potentially good things from this new roster now they have finally merged a team. Despite losing to Full Tilt a few weeks before, TLR will edge them out in 3rd place off the back of their map off Epsilon.
|#4: Full Tilt|
Perhaps the most exciting range off upcoming players in the league, Full Tilt gaming have had a long pre-season, going off before i55 with a famous win against NerdRage, a summer of Razer tournaments has seen them pick up plenty of scalps, most recent The Last Resort and Reason. But onto the competitions that matter like the Razer Challenge Cup and it's $1,500 plus ETF2L baby, Full Tilt have been hit and miss. A lot of HYYYYPE was expected from this team, going into their week 1 fixture versus Reason, but they were ground out to a 5-0 loss on both maps, losing mids and throwing rounds against the clock. A change in Demoman saw Alle replaced by former Danger Dogs Demoman Spudd, Sideshow's boys earned an invite spot in the Razer Challenge Cup, they cruised to the Semi-finals to face number 1 seed Reason just 6 days after their 5-0. 5-0 pasting. A much more formidable performance came, with a 3-3 draw on cpbadlands, Full Tilt lost out in Golden cap before narrowly being edged out 3-2 on cpsunshine as well. Despite the loss, Full Tilt showed they could play and compete with top teams once again, I expect a recovery in the following weeks especially in their Week 3 fixture versus TLR.
For years LEGO have been cropping up Prem and topping up High or Division one, the perfect yo-yo team for TF2, these Danes have finally utilized their experience of gaming together to make a new statement, they will no longer be the boys who are beaten around in 7th or 8th spot. This new roster sees the return of Sorex on scout, partnered by Izon who has found plaudits for his performances at his new class. Josh remains one of the most underrated soldiers in the league, alongside long standing Demoman Dr Phil and new Medic CondoM. We see toxic gamer dmoule finishing off the roster. LEGO's premiership playoff exploits were kind of mixed, they took a map of Danger Dogs, but lost out on Gullywash and Process in relatively low scoring affairs. Luckily they were seeded high enough to have another chance, facing off versus Top5rocket they had to edge out an ugly win by 2-1 and 6-5 on Gully and Snake respectively to earn their spot. Since then LEGO have stepped their game up, winning the Razer Challenge Open competition, taking down top5rocket, Serpents and Planet Express in the process. They couldn't make anything happen versus Full Tilt in the Invite stages, but their Week 1 game against Danger Dogs saw a convincing performance on Badlands, winning 6-1 before edging another 3 points off of them on Snakewater, winning 4-3. A good couple of weeks for LEGO, tough games to come versus TLR.
Despite their name, Animate are the least animated side I can see in this top 10 list, only playing two games of merit so far, as they did not enter the Razer Challenge. They managed to book their Premiership place with a close win over top5rocket, who ironically beat them in the High playoffs last season. They ended up coming back from 4-1 down to win 5-4 on a golden cap round on map number 1, before having their own golden cap loss on map number two. On the final map, with French superstar NiCo filling in for Nukkye, Animate picked up a comprehensive 5-0 victory to book their Premiership spot. Onto their Prem debut versus The Last Resort, a relatively close fought Badlands encounter ending 4-3 was followed up by a comfortable win on Snakewater. For Animate their scouts could be considered one of the top combos in the league, along with the Soldier combo of Nation and Natural, there is enough ability in this team to be fighting in Mid Prem, maybe even teasing the playoffs but a lot goes onto Ryder and Fragmented, the new boys who need to step it up and play at a Premiership level. The other question is the commitment of Wltrs and Nukkye, can they bring their best for this side or will we see them crawl along with half an eye open?
These slithering Ruskies seemed to be uncertain about their best lineup, having seen 8 different players switching in and out, before they seem to have settled on the lineup above with exception of the Medic role, which has been alternating daily. Big speculation exists on who they will get on Medic (at least in Russia), there have been many people tried including Lippy who seems to be settling on Soldier. They have not had much to rattle their tails about, losing to Epsilon during Week 1, and again in the Invite tournament in the Razer Challenge. Their main points come from managing to qualify for the Invite tournament, seeded first in the Open bracket, they surged through a number of lesser teams before losing to LEGO in the semi-finals. They managed to overcome Polish team Kritzberg for Defence to save some grace and place third. Overall these guys have played a lot of TF2 together, mixing up classes often and their main man to watch is definitely going to be Shadowburn, one of the best in the world, cruelly denied his place at i55 by the bureaucratic nature of visas. I think for Serpents they have yet to find their best team and this is hurting them in the early stages of the season, they are only marginally behind Animate in my view, week 3 could change all of that as they face the new to Prem side.
|#8: Danger Dogs by tf2pickup.net|
This new roster sees 5 of the 6 Danger Dogs lineup from i55 gone, only Kr4tos remains, switching it up to Demoman, bringing in former Reason players Skeej and Zoob, together with former TLR roamer, Kahlo – Dogs have all the experience they need to play the level. Their scouts are fairly inexperienced, Tonmas has been touted as an upcoming player along with Tseini, a player more known for his sniping skills than his Scout ability, but Dogs obviously trust these two Highlander nerds because they made the cut. Danger Dogs had an excellent start to their life time, winning their promotion playoff game versus LEGO, since then however it has gone downhill fast for them. A loss to Planet Express in the Razer Challenge Cup was not expected, then a crushing 0-6 loss to LEGO has put them into relegation pressure off the bat. Some disputes over maincalling are among the factors that could be a problem, but according to "credible sources" (I basically just went on logs.tf) it seems the scouts are under-performing for Danger Dogs. They are new to the level, but they are lacking experience and they don't pick it up soon, it could be a Lassie ending for the Dogs.
|#9: Planet Express|
It's been a hit and miss start for Planet Express, their Premiership Playoff campaign was a disaster, losing out to Top5rocket, placing the relatively inexperienced team into High. However Sheepy's boys make the top 10 by their phenomenal performance against Danger Dogs, taking them down 2-1 in maps during the Razer Challenge Cup. Combined with a win over Polish team Kritzberg for Defence, they made the final of the Open bracket losing only to Lego. Planet Express may have been higher placed had they not dropped a map to Just a Team in their Week 1 High fixture. Still, a spirited performance versus The Last Resort saw them take a 2-7 and 2-4 loss in the Invite bracket, the likes of Sheepy and Muuki can be happy with their pre-season exploits versus higher opposition.
So close for the High runners-up of Season 21, such an agonizing defeat by LEGO in the ETF2L playoffs left them a couple of rounds away from achieving their Premiership dream. Losing out 2-1 on Gullywash and 6-5 in a golden cap on Snakewater (yes 11 rounds in Snakewater), they took LEGO all the way but just couldn't get over the line. Despite this, they remain one of the favourites for High, they defeated Planet Express in the Pre-season playoffs just to set up the game against LEGO in the first place, performing well over 2 maps, setting up a clash against Animate. If you think the LEGO game was close, Animate game must make you sick if you're a Top5rocket fan. Two golden caps, one loss on Gully and one win on Snakewater saw them set up that 3rd map versus Animate, we already know how that went. Top5rocket ran into eventual winners LEGO in the Razer Challenge Open competition in the early rounds, they must have been sick of the sight of the Danes by this point, losing 2-0 on Gullywash. I like top5rocket and their team spirit, a routine win over Foreskings has put them off to a great start in High, had it not been for sandbaggers like Astt and myself for HKN, these boys could have easily made it into Prem.
Shoutouts must go to Kritzberg for Defence for making it to the last 8 of the Razer Challenge and Just a Team!, could have easily made the the top 10. Tune into TeamFortress.TV for more ETF2L Premiership games folks!