By day two in the Lower Bracket of Agents Rising, the afternoon had seen a plethora of teams kicked out of the tournament. Still left hanging on were Team Eggplant, who won in a very tight game against Winky Face, and (fittingly) Still Here, who managed to overcome GamerSensei. Eggplant then faced a huge challenge in the Lower Bracket Quarter-Final against Gale Force Esports, while an incredibly close game seemed ready to be unveiled in Still Here vs. Colorado Clutch.

Lower Bracket Quarter-Final

Still Here got knocked into the Lower Bracket earlier in the day by Gale Force Esports, but were now against the weakest of the seeded teams in Agents Rising. Action kicked off on Nepal, with Still Here using double Lucio and double Soldier76 for a huge amount of sustain, and Colorado Clutch running a doubles combo of Lucio, Zarya, and Reaper. Still Here got off to an insane start before Clutch could react and ticked 86% onto the point, but Clutch was able to reply whenever their ultimates were primed. They took the first stage and the action carried on with similar compositions in the second stage. Still Here adapted to bring in double Zarya and a Tracer to try and evade the Reapers and make use of the synergising ultimates; the point traded hands like a Pokemon card, with both teams ticking up their percentages piece by painful piece, until Still Here took control of a defining teamfight and took the second stage.

The final stage of Nepal would decide who went up 2-1 into the second map, and both teams gave it their all. Colorado Clutch whipped out the Bastion play, but weren’t able to set him up properly to control the area and Still Here went up to a large advantage. Still Here’s play on Nepal seemed far above their level on the Escort maps, and they wiped the floor with Clutch in the final few moments to take the first map.

Colorado Clutch on the left Picture credit: @EsportsArena

Clutch began on the offense on Dorada, 2-1 down, and came flying out of the gates to quickly down Rapha on Junkrat and break through the first choke-point. That one pick onto Rapha, falling foul to a stray flashbang, ruined their entire forward defense and Still Here were forced onto the back foot. They couldn’t stabilise at all, and the payload kept trundling forwards untouched as Still Here desperately tried to sync their spawns for one decent fight; it never happened and Colorado Clutch pushed the payload across the line in a very good time of under 6 minutes. Still Here could have won the map if they capped in a better time, but when faced with Clutch’s defense they were unable to even get through the second checkpoint.

Back to KOTH for the final map, and Still Here was feeling good about their chances on Lijiang Tower despite being 3-2 down overall. After the first stage that feeling had been reversed though, as the boys from Colorado pulled out a dominant round with excellent use of Graviton Surges and Sound Barriers in combo with point presence. They carried on that momentum and superlative ultimate usage in the second round and destroyed the Quake legends, knocking them out of the tournament.

Lower Bracket Semi-Final

In the opposite side of the Lower Bracket, Gale Force Esports dispatched Team Eggplant with relative ease, breezing past the best unknown team at this tournament, and progressed to face Colorado Clutch in the Lower Bracket Semi-Final. It was all on the line, and as the first time that #3 seed Gale Force had faced #4 seed Colorado Clutch, the analysts couldn’t call which way it would go.

Despite pushing into a McCree and Soldier76, Gale Force started off the first map, Kings Row, with a Pharah Mercy combo to gain aerial control and pushed Clutch out in a good time. Tork also played an extremely good Junkrat, slamming damage into Clutch to batter them out of choke points and steamroll the payload all the way through the streets and onto the final checkpoint in under 4 minutes. Clutch’s attack was much more of a ground-out affair as they slowly navigated through the streets of King’s Row, taking multiple teamfights along the way. At the final moments, with mere seconds left on the clock, Lui got four frags with expert McCree play, only leaving * Harbleu alive on Reaper. Incredibly, Harbleu managed to delay the payload, pick off three players, and utterly save the defense for his team. Gale Force Esports went up 2-0 on the first map.

Gale Force Esports came out on Nepal with a ridiculous strategy: five Tracers and a Lucio. It worked straight from the beginning, causing complete havoc and using the sustainability to baffle Clutch, but they adapted quickly to counter. Clutch cooked up a double Winston, 76, Pharah comp to reply, and focused Tracers down one by one to take the first round. The gimmicks didn’t work, despite showing promise initially due to shock factor, and so Gale Force swapped over to a more reasonable composition for the second round.

Double Lucio, double Zarya, Tracer, and Winston were the choices from Gale Force. Clutch took a while to react but decided on a double Zarya mirror themselves, pairing it with Reaper and Pharah to round out their composition and slamming home synergised ults to win again on Nepal. Colorado Clutch amazingly tied up the series 2-2 against predictions on KOTH.

The final map decided everything for this series, and the tournament lives for both teams. One chance. Dorado.

Team Liquid watch in the crowd, as Gale Force takes on Clutch Picture credit: @EsportsArena

Clutch set up in a defensive position on the roof, but Gale Force exploded out of the spawn with Pharah and Mercy, crushing that initial setup and forcing Clutch backwards. The sheer amount of damage they managed to output generate an ultimate advantage for them as well, and they drove forward to win another teamfight and force out a resurrect from Clutch’s Mercy Lumberjack. They continued to press forward, with Nicolas on Pharah and the rest of Gale Force doing an excellent job of pressuring out the opposing double McCree to open room for his rockets, and the payload never seemed in danger of stopping. It took a huge spawn advantage for Clutch to begin defending, but with only a few metres left for the payload to go, they were only able to stall it out for a few more minutes. Gale Force take it across the line in just over 8 minutes.

Colorado Clutch now had the ball completely in their court. If they could beat the time of 8 minutes, and pull out the push of the tournament, they would take the map and the game, and move on to the Lower Bracket Final.

Clutch likewise went for an explosive beginning, with a Pharah Mercy combo and double Winston, but Gale Force didn’t give them an opportunity and only held at the slope chokepoint to play it as safe as possible. Clutch forced their way in, and got the better end of a fight, wiping everybody except Shake. Just then, Shake hit a huge resurrect, reviving all of his team and utterly crushing their first attack, resetting all of the ultimates as well to buy a huge amount of time. Colorado Clutch began to feel the pressure and let it get to their heads, peeking constantly to get picked out by Harbleu’s hooks and Nicolas’ Widowmaker. A flock of Tracers appeared attempting to keep the overtime going by both teams, but when the dust settled it was Gale Force Esports who managed to produce an incredible defense before the second checkpoint, winning the map and the series! Gale Force Esports knocked Colorado Clutch out of the tournament in 4th place, and moved on to the Lower Bracket Finals to face Liquid.

Lower Bracket Final

The Lower Bracket Final was the most hotly anticipated showdown of the entire tournament: Dummy’s Liquid facing off against Harbleu’s Gale Force Esports, #2 seed against #3 seed, a repeat of their matchup in the Winner’s Bracket but this time in a huge BO5. The map vetoes went back and forth leaving King’s Row, Numbani, Gibraltar, Dorado, and Hollywood to be played out.

On King’s Row, Liquid began by successfully attacking in 6:46, committing three of their players to DPS and taking head-on fights. Gale Force on the other hand ran a Zarya and Junkrat, syncing their ults and relying on Nicolas to pick out Dahang and deny Liquid’s resurrects just before teamfights. They swarmed through the map, getting the better end of almost every teamfight right up to Liquid’s spawn, where the superior spawntimes gave Liquid the edge they needed to turn the fights around. Gale Force, after setting such a great time through the majority of Kings Row, fell at the final hurdle and took a lifetime to secure the attack; that final defense from Liquid won them the bonus point and ensured they went up 2-1 after the first map.

Liquid were determined to win on Numbani and keep the pressure on. AZK’s Widowmaker paired with Dummy’s Genji pushed Liquid to a fast capture of the primary point, and they looked to be taking Numbani in a record time. Even after being slowed slightly by a defensive Bastion, they were able to overcome and cracked Gale in 4:17, a crazy time on Numbani. On defense, Mesr’s Reinhart was sublime, using his shield to tank damage at crucial times and catching 3+ people in every Earthshatter. Gale Force Esports were forced to switch to a triple McCree setup to attack, and even though they eventually finished, it wasn’t anywhere near as quickly as the previous attempt by Liquid. Gale Force went down 4-2 before the third map, Gibraltar, and had to win the map to stay in the competition.

This is where they turned it around. Nicolas decided to take matters into his own hands, popping off heads all over the map and creating player advantages through sheer force of will. Along with great play from Tork and Harbleu, they got a great time on Gibraltar to finish in six and a half minutes. Gale Force then turned it up to 11 on defense as well, doing an amazing job in the hangar area to win every fight despite Liquid throwing every strategy in the book at them. They somehow pulled out a perfect defense just when it was needed most, and equalized the score to 4-4 heading into Dorado.

Liquid started out on attack, picking off Harbleu’s Roadhog to feed their ults and taking the first checkpoint easily. They used that momentum to roll the payload to the final stretch, where Harbleu on Reaper recovered his earlier mistake with some quad-kill Death Blossoms that were perfectly timed to win multiple pushes. It wasn’t enough to stall out Liquid though, and they picked up another point. They moved over to defend, and held for a much longer time than Gale Force at the first checkpoint with Zombs destroying on Widow. This gave them at least the bonus point, and as Gale Force slammed the payload home Liquid could be happy in the knowledge that they had done enough to give them the advantage going into the final map of the fixture. And what a final map it was - Hollywood with Liquid up 6-5.

Liquid’s defense to start was truly incredible. The combination of plays from Mesr and Dahang to support the Torbjorn from Harbleu was fantastic, and Liquid swept the game without even having to attack! Their defensive ability to block Gale Force from even capturing the first checkpoint sent the game into the realms of mathematical impossibility, and sent Liquid flying into the Grand Finals to face Cloud9.

The exciting end stages of Agents Rising Picture credit: @EsportsArena

Grand Final

Cloud9 had a 2 point advantage going into the Grand Final, essentially a map’s worth of points as their reward for making it through the Winner’s Bracket unbeaten. Their challengers, Team Liquid, met them on Lijiang Tower.

Cloud9 burst out with a doubles strategy, Lucio, Winston, and Tracer instantly focusing down Dahang’s Mercy to take the first point and rolling that momentum forward to take it to 3-0. Liquid attempted to adapt by putting both of their DPS players onto McCree and their flex onto Reaper. The composition worked well, and Cloud9 were forced to instantly react and switch a Winston over to Zarya, but still lacked the damage compared to the triple DPS and flashbang potential from Liquid; Liquid managed to get their first point on the board to make it 3-1, and switched up their composition again to a crazy penta-Tracer strategy for the third stage. Although it looked promising at the beginning, Surefour’s McCree destroyed Tracer after Tracer and they took the stage to go up 4-1 after the first map.

Desperate times for Liquid, who found themselves on King’s Row defense. If they failed to get a point on King’s Row, they would be out in second place having handed the tournament victory to Cloud9. After a few great snipes from Zombs, they began to lose control of the first point, getting pushed back further and further. A huge ultimate came in from Surefour on Genji, and he almost wiped the competition before a truly mindblowing and ballsy play from Vonethil led to a teleporter being put down right in the face of Surefour and allowing all of the rest of his team to flood back in and defend the point for minutes more! Cloud9 couldn’t be stopped forever though, and made their way through the streets of Kings Row before being hung up once again by some great flex play from Dummy and the rest of Liquid in the final stretch. Just when it mattered most for Liquid, they delivered with a brilliant defense on King’s Row, denying Cloud9 from being able to attack at all, in a huge upset.

Kyky’s play on Zarya was amazing as soon as Cloud9 got into defense however, and Liquid were slowed massively as they tried to take the first checkpoint and make their way through the streets. Reaver as well had a series of clutches on Widowmaker, picking off key targets at the perfect times for his team, but even with the individual plays they weren’t able to replicate the perfect defense against Liquid. Liquid took control of King’s Row, slaughtering them on the classic map and beginning to catch up: 4-3 to Cloud9, and still a long way to go.

Nepal for the third map - back to KOTH and back to Cloud9’s domain. If Cloud9 could take Nepal in a clean sweep, they would be the champions of Agents Rising.

Cloud9 won the first stage despite strong competition from Liquid, utilising a combination of Winston, Zarya, and McCree play to dominate the point. Attempts at a comeback from AZK on McCree were shut down, and Liquid went down 5-3. On the second stage, Surefour switched over to Bastion once they had control of the point, and ripped apart Liquid. As the time ticked over and overtime trickled away, Cloud9 looked unstoppable on KOTH - the undisputed kings of the hill, and the undisputed champions of Agents Rising: Cloud9 ran away with the competition as expected and were able to win the first ever North American Overwatch LAN.

Cloud9 took away the trophy, and are the team to beat in Overwatch at the moment.

Cloud9 with the winner's trophy Picture credit: @EsportsArena