After twenty-eight off-season roster change articles, seven dead teams, and five new teams, North America was ready for the 22nd season of ESEA Invite. And with all the roster changes, Season 22 looked to become the most competitive season of ESEA in the history of TF2.
Another season, another run (picture by Austen "tagg" Wade)
Season 22 kicked off with the regular season, where each team would face off against every other team in a double round robin. froyotech topped the regular season standings in 1st place, with rivals Ronin trailing behind in 2nd. froyotech's sister team FROYO BLACK and EVL Gaming's new rookie squadron took 3rd and 4th respectively.
With the regular season wrapped up, the top four teams were locked in for the playoffs and seeded into the double elimination bracket. In the First Round of playoffs, froyotech dominated in their series against EVL Gaming in a 2-0 sweep, while Ronin held on and won a close 2-1 series against FROYO BLACK.
A classy match-up (picture by Austen "tagg" Wade)
With the First Round of playoffs concluded, the El Clásico between froyotech and Ronin in the upper bracket finals was set. The series began on Gullywash, and in the usual Gullywash fashion, it was slow business. But froyotech managed to break through the samurais' defenses and take the first game. Ronin attempted to fight back on Process, but it was too much to handle, as the boys in green swept their rivals in under thirty minutes to send Ronin to the lower bracket while moving on to the grand finals.
Meanwhile in the playoffs, the lower bracket began, with FROYO BLACK and EVL Gaming fighting for their tournament lives. The first map on Gullywash went back and forth, and it would eventually lead to a golden cap, with both teams tied 3-3. After a twenty-eight minute round, FROYO BLACK came out on top and took the first map of the series. The series then went to Process, where FROYO BLACK scored only one round in the first half due to a resilient EVL. Things changed however in the second half, as the black eyed froyotech took a commanding lead over EVL to take the map plus the series and eliminate their foes from the playoffs.
"Be right back making some pancakes" (picture by Getawhale)
Thus, the lower bracket finals would be between Ronin and FROYO BLACK, with Ronin looking to meet up with froyotech in the grand finals, while FROYO BLACK looked to make the finals an all froyo affair. The series kicked off on Badlands, where Ronin charged straight on with their katanas and completed the first half with a 3-0 in under ten minutes. FROYO BLACK tried to make a comeback on the second half, but they only scored one round, and Ronin closed out the first map 5-1 to bring the series one to zero. Moving to Metalworks, both teams struggled to push into a last point. With only three minutes left in the first half, Ronin finally managed to put one round on the board. Ronin kept their posture firm in the second half, and they ended the map 5-2 to take the series and move on to meet froyotech in the grand finals.
The end of Season 22 would be a rematch of the upper bracket finals, with froyotech only needing to win one best of three, while Ronin needed two. It would be the most important series for both of these teams, as froyotech wanted to prove themselves as contenders for the Insomnia58 title, while a few members of Ronin would be playing their last TF2 match in their careers.
The 1st best of three started on Product, and the King of the Hill map saw froyotech and Ronin trade blow for blow, with Ronin holding the lead 3-2 at the end of the first half. The second half looked scary, as froyotech looked like they were going to tie up the scoreline 3-3. Ronin held it together however, and they were able to close out Product 4-2 and bring the series 1-0. Things got more interesting on the 2nd map of the series on Process, where Ronin cruised through their rivals in the 1st half with a convincing 3-0. The second half started to look bleak for froyo, as Ronin were at match point and looked poised to take the series. After a brief pause and some psychological warfare, froyotech started to mount a comeback, making the scoreline 3-4 with only four minutes left. Despite almost having their backs against the wall, Ronin held on, and they ran the clock down to zero to take the map and series. But most importantly, they reset the bracket, meaning their chances of getting revenge looked possible.
Going out with a bang (picture by Austen "tagg" Wade)
The second best of three started on Snakewater, and Ronin kept their momentum going from the last series, cruising through the first half and and putting the score at 3-0 in only fifteen minutes. The second half saw froyotech getting a round on the board for themselves, but it would be the only round that they would get, as Ronin crushed their rivals 5-1, putting the series in their favor. The teams then headed to Gullywash, where froyotech needed to win the map to keep their hopes alive. The first half was a barn-burner, but froyo held on and reached halftime with a 3-2 lead. Ronin gave it their all in taking the lead on the second half, but failed last pushes allowed froyotech to conquer and take Gullywash 5-3, bringing the series to the final map: Sunshine. In a scenario just like Gullywash, froyotech took the first half 3-2, poised to take another ESEA title. The second half saw the lead go to and fro, and with twenty minutes left, both teams were tied 4-4 - one point away from winning the entire season. In the last round of the season, froyotech emerged from the battlefield as the winners, taking Sunshine 5-4 to take the map, the series, and a well-earned ESEA championship.
The final standings for ESEA Invite Season 22 are:
- 1st: froyotech ($5,600)
- 2nd: Ronin ($3,500)
- 3rd: FROYO BLACK ($2,800)
- 4th: EVL Gaming ($2,100)