Invite Preseason Power Rankings & Week 1 Predictions
With a lot of the uncertainty surrounding invite (teams, rosters, format) seemingly being actualized over the past few days, how the division looks to play out has become more concrete. With our 6 teams confirmed, let’s take a look at their rosters. Teams will be listed in order of subjective strength, so consider this a power ranking, if you will. Keep in mind, this is of current strength, not projected finish.
1. Galactic Kids Next Door
Sniper: Space Ghost’s Coffee
KND makes the jump to RGL hot off of a 2nd place UGC Platinum finish, taking dK to the final map of the 2nd Bo3 before ultimately missing their shot to take down the dynasty. They maintain the majority of their roster, with arekk, obliv, and Kresnik replacing sandblast, billysaurus, and zuchima respectively. There’s a strong argument to be made that all of these are upgrades, if not sidegrades, meaning KND’s ready to pick up where they left off. While it’s true that IRENE has a roster consisting of many of the dK players that beat KND a few weeks ago, roster upgrades combined with the fact that they’ve been scrimming puts them as the clear team to beat moving into week 1. Whether or not they’ll be able to hold onto the 1 spot as the season progresses and the newer teams gain synergy remains to be seen.
The key pickup here is arekk, a top-class scout looking to add a little more raw DM to the more coordination-focused KND. While sandblast certainly had DM in spades last season, arekk might be something of a more controlled aggression, pairing well with Etney’s steady presence to create a fearsome flank that can play in all manner of varieties. KND’s combo last season was already one of the toughest to gain advantages off of, and with top pyro obliv and ye hallowed Kresnik returning to the lineup, Jacob seems to have created himself an even stronger safety net to stabilize Bowl and his antics. As with last season, their only immediate weakness seems to be Space Ghost on sniper, who finally showed up in finals last season after a very lackluster 10 weeks prior. Should Mr. Coffee be able to continue his performance from the very end of last season into this new one, KND has no reason to fear any team.
Players to Watch: arekk, Bowl, Jacob
IRENE, also known as dK without Karl, comes in ranked 2nd. There’s not much to say about their roster; they’ve got invite or top-plat talent on every class with the exception of Jarrett on Spy. b4nny, bo4r and habib are absolute monsters at the top of the game, singlehandedly capable of winning games, and when a team’s “second-string” players consist of carcin, speedy, and Jordan, you know you’re dealing with a pretty stacked roster. The reason I give knd the edge in this case is the fact that their roster hasn’t even played together yet. I don’t know if IRENE plans on doing pregames only or more frequent scrims, but the rest of Invite better hope it’s the former. If KND’s like a well-oiled racecar, IRENE is like some legendary anime spaceship that can tear the fabric of space, except that it’s been lying dormant in a cave for the past 1000 years (in this case the offseason). I fully believe this roster has the potential to compete with and beat KND, but it’ll all be dependent on the effort they put in to grow as a team.
With the amount of raw talent on this team, IRENE has two main tenets: hit ‘em hard, and hit ‘em fast. B4nny, bo4r, and h4bib are three of the most impactful players in the game right now, and if they can work together to subjugate the opposition on the back of their raw skill, there’s a very good chance of IRENE picking up where dK left off. Whereas a KND with SGC turned on has very few apparent weaknesses, there are a couple of more exploitable players on IRENE. Billy’s performance last season with KND wasn’t the most solid, and Jordan’s definitely showing some rust (or at least age) as his DM is nowhere near the god-like levels it once was. Skye’s an extremely talented 6s medic who’s extremely unfamiliar with HL, and Jarrett offclassing on Spy speaks for itself. To continue the analogies, KND’s like a regiment of swordsman on horseback charging at the phalanx of IRENE: the spears are plenty sharp, but how well the rest of the team are able to shield the spears of their power players remains to be seen.
Players to Watch: b4nny, habib, bo4r
3. Fast Forward
Sniper: Fallen Lord
Spy: Mr. DelDongo
Fast Forward and 4th ranked DENNYS fall into a similar paradigm as KND and IRENE, where >> gets the nod over DENNYS despite a weaker roster on paper as they maintain players from last season in addition to having a few weeks of scrims under their belt already. Rain moves to soldier to replace mirrorman, wish fills the scout spot, while triiiple and Fallen move in for chinatown and watterson. I’d argue that all of the moves are roughly sidegrades with the exception of rain soldier being a downgrade to mirrorman, but his familiarity with the team should help to ease the transition. Overall, the identity of the team really shouldn’t change all that much from what they were last season in UGC, but it’ll be up to them to use the lessons they’ve already learned as a team to try to contest the teams around them.
>>’s biggest operative is how well their flank players are able to contest the flanks of the other top invite teams. Compared to the high level of the flanks around them, I question wish’s gamesense and rain’s DM. They’re not bad players by any means, but compared to combos like arekk/Etney, b4nny/speedy, and syath/Dongus, there’s a clear gap in top-level experience. It’s why I feel there’s such an importance on >> being able to build off of last season, starting ahead of their peers and snowballing that advantage into a decent seed for playoffs and finding ways to improve during that time. If Jordan was the one-time King of Engineer than Spamfest is certainly the Queen, and exile, Fallen and DelDongo have the potential to tear through teams if given the opportunity. The rest of the pieces are in place for >> to rise to the top, so I’m writing the narrative now: flank or fail.
Players to Watch: wish, exile, Fallen Lord
Heavy: eerie person
Full disclosure: I fully expect this team to surpass >> and be competing with IRENE and KND by season’s end. However, similar to IRENE, they haven’t yet played a game with much of their current roster, and with a lot of the big names and personalities on this roster, I think there’ll be somewhat of a transitional period before this team can fire on all cylinders. Nearly every player on this roster is or has been considered a top player on their class, in addition to having a large presence in all the teams they’ve played on. This means that scrims for DENNYS are of utmost importance in order to establish something of an order in their comms, and scrims are currently something they lack. I don’t doubt that DENNYS has the talent and drive to upset this season in a big way, but if IRENE is trapped in a cave waiting to be discovered, Joe and co. are currently high-end parts scattered across the workshop floor waiting to be assembled.
DENNYS roster is honestly really impressive, with all of their so-far-confirmed combat classes having carry potential, something I don’t feel any of the teams above share. Syath in his prime was contesting top invite scouts, and Dongus is the biggest up and coming soldier in the last ever for HL. The rest of the combo all love to be aggressive and fight for every inch of ground on the map, while andrew has some of the best raw aim in the game and Joe has the capability to roll teams like few ever could on spy. The issue is that there are only so many frags to go around, and DENNYS needs to find out who the carries are and who the role-players are. There’s a possibility for them to match IRENE in the fact that their second stringers are all top tier players, but early on I feel there’ll be some growing pains, something that not scrimming this past week I feel may bite them in their early matches. Personally, I’d lean towards letting syath, Joe and Dongus be the vanguard while the combo slowly proceeds in a slow-yet-inevitable death march, as that trio is not one I’d like to fight on Ashville batts.
Update: DENNYS has indeed scrimmed since writing this, having a close scrim against >> and one less so against the Penguins. The result against >> is encouraging, telling me that they may have less trouble than I initially thought piecing their play together. Watch for them to be on the rise in coming weeks.
Players to Watch: syath, Dongus, Joe
Engineer: nip nop
Medic: Moose? xbs?
AD enters RGL-Invite after a surprisingly successful season of Platinum, coming 4th after an upset win against the now-defunct team spu and a heart-wrenchingly close loss to dK that saw them a half away from upsetting the dK dynasty in playoffs, something only KND could do last season. On paper, I’d say that there’s a clear divide in terms of raw skill between the top 4 teams and the bottom 2, yet AD inherits the chaos factor of its spiritual predecessor DpM as despite being near-perennial underdogs, the team has such wildly varying performances you can’t count them out of any game they play. With most of their roster from last season being maintained I fully expect this variance to continue, as the league’s resident Shadow the Hedgehog looks to Chaos Control their way to upsets against higher ranked teams.
How does AD manage to always contest teams that should be rolling them on paper? It’s hard to tell. There’s not one single carry, but the team plays aggressively, capitalizing on any mistake made and ravenously pushing their advantages. It’s a thematically fitting playstyle for a lot of the personalities on the team, refusing to show respect or fear to their opponents regardless of whether it’s a low-tier team of relative no-names or half of froyotech on the winningest HL team of all time. From RonnieJ’s “tumor heavy” on lakeside to Madringme’s lobby-lord decloaks, AD’s willing to fly in the face conventional gameplay if it means getting a leg up or capitalizing on a mental slip-up from the enemy team. Shaayy has quietly been becoming one of the better snipers in the game as of late, with Arzt and River gradually becoming stronger and stronger. In the long run, I have my doubts that AD will be able to crack the upper teams consistently enough to matter, but for a higher-ranked seed in week 10 looking to lock in a better seed, that may not matter.
Players to Watch: RonnieJ, shaayy, Madringme
6. Chill Penguins
Engineer: Niko Jims
Spy: 88 Fingers Eddward
Coming into the season, I think it’s fair to say that Bv will have an uphill battle this season. Arguably the biggest beneficiary of team spu’s death, they secure the last spot in invite despite losing their star demoman from last season, mae. While many on bv certainly have the “grizzled veteran” part on lock, that experience comes with lackluster DM on a lot of classes, meaning that Bv’s coordination will have to be on point if they want to take rounds or games against other teams in Invite. They’re scrimming enough to make that a possibility, but even so, it’s hard to say that this roster would be favored in any match except maybe against AD on steel. The Penguins will likely be the biggest beneficiary of the pick/ban map system that Invite uses for the majority of the season, meaning that if Bv can identify some of their problems maps, particularly on koth, they can focus on scrimming the less-conventional maps and try to take other teams by surprise.
Playerwise, Bv will likely be looking towards zoey and smitty to do a lot of work for them. Zoey’s an old highlander vet that’s been playing for years, and smitty’s more 6s oriented but certainly has the raw skill to make an impact if he can get used to the chaos of HL. Johnny, Paals, whymeo, and the return of ‘large advantage’ Niko Jims keep this veteran theme going, with the three of them probably having as many seasons played as some other teams do combined. While 88 is getting up there in seasons played, Dinko and turkeylips represent the realy fresh talent on this team. I feel that turkeylips on soldier can actually be one of the team’s X-factors, potentially catching teams off guard with her aggression and making it easier on the rest of the team, but also being taken advantage of by the more experienced flanks, so her performance is something I’d look forward to.
Players to Watch: turkeylips, zoey, smitty
Week 1 Matchups: koth_product_rc9
Galactic Kids Next Door vs. DENNYS
While I’d be very, very interested in this matchup later in the season, as of right now I think it’s going to be decidedly in KND’s favor. Product is one of the current KND’s better maps, and I don’t think DENNYS is currently ready to beat KND on this map. While andrew certainly has the advantage over SGC and it should give DENNYS some room to work with, I feel KND’s too practiced on this map to lose a team coming into the weekend with one night of scrims, especially with the pickups of arekk and oblivion. I’d give Bowl the advantage over fygg in both raw skill and combo strength, meaning that he’s going to be setting the pace of the game and KND’s great at nothing if not playing to their own drum. It’s entirely possible for DENNYS to have a wicked weekend of scrims and pull together immediately and work off andrew’s advantages, but I just don’t see it happening. Jacob’s also at his peak with the current state of spy while Joe’s still feeling the effects of the amby/DR nerfs, meaning that the other real X-factor for DENNYS will have to show some serious adaptation if he wants to pull something out for his team.
Gamechangers: Bowl, andrew, Joe
Prediction: 4-1 KND
Chill Penguins vs. Apolodosh
Ironically, despite all of the hype upsets AD was able to pull off last season, they lost to Bv on this same map, early in the season. The similarities end there, though, as this is an AD riding high from playoffs last season against a Bv who lost their star player in mae and are struggling to find their footing. Unless someone’s able to pop off against all expectations, all of Bv’s hopes should be riding on their pick classes this game, hoping to give them enough advantages to offset AD’s aggressiveness. Other than zoey’s veteran presence and 88’s ability to get key picks, I really don’t feel like Bv has much else going for them here, with much of their roster being apparent downgrades from last season. AD’s variance could definitely work in their favor here though, as a couple of overperformers for the Penguins combined with a slow start from AD could be enough to change the game, but again, I just don’t see it happening.
Prediction: 4-0 AD
Gamechangers: 88 Fingers Eddward, shaayy, RonnieJ
IRENE vs. Fast Forward - Match of the Week
This match will be casted by Zagron and myself at twitch.tv/extvesports!
Fast Forward gets the lucky draw of a week 1 IRENE, and they’ll be able to start their season off on a great note if they’re able to snag a win here, as IRENE looks to be a team that’ll only get better as the season progresses. That being said, >> also had the unlucky draw of having to play IRENE on product, one of maps that every player on IRENE should have ingrained into themselves and one that’ll let the repeated combo of bo4r, habib, and b4nny shine. I see this game going two ways, and the ball is in >>’s court to decide which path they take. They can have a productive week of product scrims, really get a solid game plan laid out and come in against IRENE at their peak, ready to counter their DM advantage with strong team play. A well-protected Fallen competes with bo4r, setting the stage, and the >> flank coordinates well with DelDongo to keep exposing Skye’s lack of spy awareness. With momentum on his side, exile’s able to match habib and keep him down long enough for his team to snag enough rounds for a hard fought win. Alternatively, Jarrett’s been a spy prodigy this entire time, Fallen gets farmed, wish and rain still haven’t found their footing, and bo4r and habib combine to not let exile move past his house. As with most things, I’m expecting the actual result to be a mix of these two extremes, but I’d decidedly say that this is IRENE’s game to lose.
Prediction: 4-2 IRENE
Gamechangers: Skye, Fallen, wish