After seven grueling weeks of competition, the ETF2L regular season has finally come to a close, and we now head into the most exciting part: the playoffs, where top teams will clash for the right to call themselves Europe's best team for the next few months.
As always, ETF2L Premiership playoffs will use a bubble bracket, where a team has to beat the seed below it and all the seeds above it to take the title. This, of course, is a huge reward for a team finishing with first seed, which only needs to win one series to take the title, whereas a team barely sneaking playoffs has a long road ahead.
New this season, however, is the number of teams invited to dance. ETF2L Head Admin Sonny Black has granted the people's wishes for more playoff action, with the top four teams now participating in the action instead of three. This means that playoffs will have four teams instead of three, dividing the division neatly in half between competitors and spectators.
The season was a tight one, by all means—well, except for the top two teams. nerdRage and Perilous Gaming were a class above the other teams in the division and were comfortably secure in their playoff spots heading into the final match of the season against each other. nerdRage brutally beat down Perilous Gaming to take the first seed.
The final two spots were much more of a brawl, with no teams out of contention and both spots still not guaranteed until the final week. dd + 5 abs took the third seed away with a comfortable win over Foreskings in the final week, while Publiclir very barely survived a challenge from LEGO to hold on to the final spot.
nerdRage: a legendary name from Insomnia55 now attached to a team becoming legendary in its own right. Their dominance in Europe, while not as perfect as the fabled Epsilon eSports of old, is amazing in such a fiercely competitive era. The team has already taken titles for Season 21, Season 22, DreamHack Winter, the ZOWIE 16 Cup, and the Sunshine Cup—a win this season would close out a year of online dominance and secure them as European favorites looking forward to Insomnia58 in August. Their run in Season 23 has already been perfect so far, except for one inconsequential point lost in a golden cap (well, inconsequential to them—remember it, because it will be important later).
The team's core has remained kaidus, kaptain, and Hafficool for well over a year now, and they are regarded now as nothing less than masters of their classes. Picking up Starkie, who is widely considered the best scout in Europe, from the old nerdRage team has allowed them to be even more dominant. Permzilla and Drackk round out this super team.
As the newest addition to the roster, Drackk surely has to be viewed as a weak point for opponents to exploit, but securing that frag doesn't mean much when you have to deal with five other best-in-class players. In days gone by, kaidus might have seen his own performance suffer as he micromanaged some of his greener cadets, but they have all blossomed into fully-formed Premiership gamers. To top it off, he even has Starkie to share the cognitive load now. The level of consistency offered by the kaptain-Permzilla-Hafficool triumvirate is both testament to kaidus' team-building ability and the very thing that has unburdened him as a player. He has been unleashed this season to remind us that he is not just Europe’s #1 captain, but its #1 demoman too.
Perilous Gaming: while not the best, they are the team that has won the public's hearts through their antics. Unfortunately, they have had to be content with second place as nerdRage sits on the throne. Their run in Season 23 was also comfortable, with a playoff spot well secured before the season's end, though it was a bit shakier—a map loss to LEGO and a point loss to Team Infused could certainly have been avoided.
The team certainly has the talent to back up their position. kos has been a medic with an insane couple of seasons. spudd does the unfathomable task of leveling with kaidus and still has talent left unexplored. Astt and Thalash have been a scout duo appearing from almost nowhere, but they certainly are wreaking havoc as they continue to rise. Silentes is an aggressive pocket soldier that has developed quickly to be one of the best in the league even during his debut in Premiership during Season 22. To round out the roster, we have the lovable Sideshow on roamer—while his talents in contributing to the community are unquestionable, many are still wondering how he found himself in Europe's highest division.
Although it easy to ask questions of Sideshow's death count, he is at least consistent in his disregard for his own life to the point where his colleagues know what to expect. Perhaps his biggest contribution to the team is managing a potentially toxic mix of personalities and attitudes, and somehow congealing a team that has actually managed to improve this season even as their close rivals LEGO floundered. Shaky mental foundations in previous seasons saw the team crumble under pressure. Of course, there is added pressure now: before as Full Tilt they were able to laugh off mistakes, but now they are Perilous Gaming, a sponsored outfit with LAN ambitions—will they be able to hold steadfast?
dd + 5 abs
dd + 5 abs came out of almost nowhere—a true underdog. In this fiercely contested season, however, they have found themselves propelled into playoffs off a key victory against contender LEGO. It's already a huge accomplishment for a team just starting out in Premiership, but it's certain they'll want to do more to prove that they deserve their spot.
Their team is certainly built for success, almost reminiscent of a famous underdog boxer: Honey is the brain of the operation, shappie provides the backbone, qnx is the expected yet effective right jab while dd5f provides the unexpected left hooks from nowhere, and ixy and sjoeberg are the feet which nobody sees until it's too late. The only question becomes whether they have the heart to pull it off.
It’s easy enough to get excited about Honey, a medic who has literally worked his way up from the bottom with apparently no help. He wasn’t plucked from obscurity to join a superstar roster and arguably had much more notoriety in Highlander than 6v6, but in the space of two short seasons has healed and maincalled his way in to the Premiership Playoffs. Perhaps even more impressive (and forgotten) is the tale of shappie who had been toiling season after season, hustling for a break in to the Premiership while other Lithuanian demomen squandered their opportunities. It was seemingly a journeyman's story right up until this season in which the hero has burst out with Herculean performances to help secure his team’s shock third place finish and begin to write his own legend as one of the best demomen in Europe. Some people still ask "who," but don't get into a trap by napping on the shap.
Publiclir were tapped to be a major contender early on, but their journey to the playoffs has been anything but easy. Remember that point that nerdRage dropped? It went to Publiclir, and made all the difference when the team was only able to tie LEGO in the last week, leaving them a single point ahead in claiming the playoff spot. The team certainly has the potential to make a deep run—the only question is actually fulfilling it.
The house that AMS built with Smirre was one based on strong individual players, at least from the pool of talent that was left in the preseason. With the result a hodgepodge of nationalities and experience levels, the premise seems to have been to gather the ability first and pray that the teamwork falls into place before Week 7. The death of top5rocket unchained the beastly pocket Medico from his countrymen, but he flipflopped between soldier roles (which in this team meant either launching first or launching second) as they tried to establish some cohesion in a team of players working from a second language. Fortunately, atomic- is fluent enough in frags and was able to demonstrate to a flabby fl1p what scouts are capable of in 2016 when he replaced Dennia, the hero of DreamHack Winter.
It feels like medics have come in to focus this season—perhaps an effect of legends like KnOxXx finally fading from the scene. Whatever the reason, medics are making visible impacts in the story of the season, from the forum epic of Raptor to the highlight reels of kos. Publiclir's own ondkaja has been part of that trend: pulling solo backcap efforts out of his hat, outstratting kids left, right and center with calls to not even go to middle—and that was just his first game back. His arrival may have changed the fortunes of Publiclir, but the results tell a different story. It has been a turbulent season in which they were barely able to capitalize on the downfall of LEGO, whilst at times looking so one-dimensional they could have fallen flat like a Hollywood movie set.
For the new four-team playoff format, there are now two nights of competition for viewers to enjoy! The action begins today at 21:00 CET, as dd + 5 abs and Publiclir face off in the first best-of-three series. The team that takes two maps will survive the night and move on.
On Sunday, the two heavyweights will join the party. Perilous Gaming will show up first to face off against today's winner at 18:30 CET, and the winner will face off against the titans of nerdRage at 21:00 CET for the crown of Europe.
All of the action will be brought to you live on Twitch by the stalwarts of teamfortress.tv, with some of your favorite names on the microphone. Don't miss it, because it's surely going to be some of the best action you've seen in weeks. If you don't believe us, watch this video by Beater and tell us that you've got something better: