Six weeks of regular season play have led to this, as the Pacific Championship Season 2 playoffs are finally underway. Ardeont, Flash Wolves, Hong Kong Attitude and Blank Esports will play in a single elimination bracket, with a bronze final, starting on the 6th of October. The 6th and 7th will be dedicated to the semifinal series whilst the 8th will feature both the bronze final and the grand final.
All matches will be played in a best-of-five maps format. The higher seed in each match up will have the home-team advantage. This provides the home team with the benefit of picking maps one, three, five and seven. NT$6,300,000 ($207,500~ USD) of the Pacific Championship's NT$8,300,00 ($273,500~ USD) prizepool is up for grabs in the playoffs.
A schedule for the matches can be found below, with predictions for each fixture. Joining me in making these predictions is our special guest AVRL. As a caster for Full Circle Esports, providers of the English broadcast this season, AVRL knows these teams as well as anybody. Be sure to tune into matches at Full Circle's Twitch page.
Friday 6th October, 07:00 EDT / 13:00 CEST / 19:00 CST
The first semifinal match is between Ardeont and Blank Esports, the first and fourth seeds respectively. Ardeont went undefeated in the regular season, whilst Blank fought for their playoffs spot in the final week of play. The closest match between the two teams in the regular season was a 3-1 fixture won by Ardeont in Week 6.
Ardeont's dominance has been a well covered topic this season, drawing international attention for ending the regular season without a single loss. On the other hand, Blank have had a somewhat up and down few months whilst adapting to their new roster. The last match up between these teams was close across the first two maps, with Blank managing to take Illios and draw King's Row. With Ardeont picking the first map due to their home-team advantage, Nepal is likely to be the first map that is played. If Blank get off to a hot start they could possibly ride their momentum and take the first two maps, Kings Row would likely be the best option for Blank's hybrid choice as both teams are strong on Hollywood. However, Ardeont haven't shown any major weaknesses this season and I am not predicting a major upset.
Realistically speaking, 4-0 is just as likley the result as you can expect Ardeont to come back stronger after dropping a map to Blank in last week's end of season play. Ardeont's current head-to-head record against Blank now stands at 3-0 and 3-1. That being said, based on Blank's recent upsurge in skill late into the season further ruining Ardeont's near perfect map record, I've got my chips on black to be able to take another map this weekend. The most likely map wins for Blank will be on either of the 2 starting game modes, Control and Hybrid. You can expect Ardeont as the home team to avoid Ilios while Blank with the away pick would be smart to go back to King's Row and take advantage of Hoowoo's Zarya. Overall Ardeont would have to make some very critical errors while Blank would need to play at a level they haven't yet shown for them to upset this match.
Saturday 7th October, 07:00 EDT / 13:00 CEST / 19:00 CST
Flash Wolves secured the second seed by only dropping a single match to their non-Korean opposition. In contrast, Hong Kong Attitude just held onto their third seed due to their two additional map wins over Blank. The first match between these teams was a close affair won by Flash Wolves, with their second match being a more one-sided affair in favor of the Wolves.
Flash Wolves and HKA's matches have actually been remarkably close this season, HKA took the Wolves to five maps in Week 2 and managed to win one map and draw another in Week 5. However, this is a match up of two teams going in opposite directions. Flash Wolves weren't quite themselves after returning to Taiwan. Even while winning their games they failed to inspire confidence, as they appeared to be struggling with the prospect of a changing meta. However, the Taiwanese team has gradually returned to form over the two round robins and has the support staff needed to properly scout out HKA's weaknesses. HKA barely scraped into playoffs, narrowly avoiding a fatal loss to Machi after a win against ahq eluded them. Flash Wolves aren't in perfect form but their map pick advantage and the HKA's recent weakness should allow them to claim this match without too many issues.
Much like Blank, the wolf pack have also had a sharp increase in results during the last week of season play with the only exception being their match against Ardeont last week (more on that later). HKA on the other hand had a reasonably strong start to the season, but with last weak's defining loss against ahq and a power struggle with Machi that saw HKA only narrowly victorious, their finals hopes are looking dim. The head-to-head results between the teams are 3-2 and 3-1, both in favour of the wolves with their most recent victory taking place in week 5. Out of the 6 total times the teams have met since Season 1, Flash Wolves still remain unbeaten by HKA and this weekend will be their final opportunity to do so in 2017.
Sunday 8th October, 03:00 EDT / 09:00 CEST / 15:00 CST
The predictions below seek to predict the teams competing in the bronze final as well as the scoreline of the final. The victor of the bronze final will receive NT$1,000,000 ($33,100~ USD) whilst the fourth placed team will receive NT$800,000 ($26,500~ USD).
Mert 4-2 ( Blank Esports vs. Hong Kong Attitude)
This is the more contentious of my predictions and rests on the assumption that both Blank and HKA drop to the bronze final. HKA smacked Blank in their two matches with 3-0 and 3-1 victories. However, this was before Blank had truly hit their stride with their new roster. Mistakes against Flash Wolves and Ardeont aside, Blank earned themselves a playoffs spot in the final week of the regular season with victories over MEGA and ahq. In comparison, HKA just scraped in on the basis of their strong performance in previous weeks. They may possess the map pick advantage but I do not believe that HKA's map pool is deep enough for them to effectively take control of the bronze final.
AVRL 4-3 ( Blank Esports vs. Hong Kong Attitude)
This prediction is made under the assumption that Ardeont and Flash Wolves win their respective semi finals leaving the aforementioned teams here to claim third. Despite currently being on a 3 match losing streak against HKA extending from season 1, Blank go into the playoffs in their strongest form yet. While the season 2 head-to-head match record stands at 3-0 and 3-1 in HKA's favour, the tables are slowly turning against them with the end of the regular season marking their weakest point across the 6 weeks of competition. They would require a big turn around since their last performance to repeat their success against Blank and further their head-to-head winstreak. Expect this to be a close one nonetheless as it is definitely the hardest one to call of the playoffs matches. With both teams of similar caliber, whoever shows up in form on the day will win.
Sunday 8th October, 07:00 EDT / 13:00 CEST / 19:00 CST
These predictions also seek to forecast both the match score and the participants in the grand final. The champion of the Pacific Championship Season 2 will earn NT$3,000,000 ($99,300~) in prize money whilst the runner up will receive NT$1,500,000 ($49,700~ USD).
Mert 4-1 (Ardeont vs. Flash Wolves)
This is a fairly easy prediction when you consider the following. Firstly, Ardeont have been the clear number one all season and Flash Wolves have been the clear number two. Secondly, In the last week of the regular season the Koreans 3-0'd the Wolves without any significant challenge. Finally, The Wolves suffer from talent and decision making deficits in areas that Ardeont thrive on. This all adds up to Ardeont taking the Season 2 championship with ease. As defending champions, the Wolves should be fighting out of the blocks. However, this will be all for nothing. With their best performance against the Korean's being a single map victory, a new champion is all but certain to be crowned this weekend.
AVRL 4-1 (Ardeont vs. Flash Wolves)
Both teams consistently had the best performances throughout the season with notable improvements to boot while already being at the top. The difference is Ardeont have also been consistenly staying on top of Flash Wolves with head-to-head records standing at 3-1 and 3-0 for Ardeont. The Korean doom squad have been carving their way through to a Pacific Championship trophy right from the Season 2 qualifier. If you include their promotion games, Ardeont have a total OPC match record of 18-0 with 54-2 map record (14-0 and 42-2 for regular season). While not impossible for Flash Wolves to win here, the 1 week turnaround time required considering the 3-0 spanking Ardeont recently delivered make it highly improbable. You can however still expect the Flash Wolves as defending champions to snarl and claw their way through the finals, taking bites at Ardeont at any chance. Despite how strongly favoured their opponents are, you can be guaranteed they won't be taking their paws off the trophy without a fight.