Recap: Gears eSports North American Open

The Gears eSports North American Open, the final major event for Gears of War Ultimate Edition, saw the top 30 teams from North America descend on the MLG.tv Arena in Columbus, Ohio, to battle it out for the lion’s share of a $50,000 prize pool and the bragging rights as the top Gears UE team in North America. For over a month, professional and amateur teams alike, battled on a GameBattles ladder and in weekly tournaments for the opportunity to attend the event, with the only other means of entry being a Last Chance Qualifier tournament that took place a month or so before the event. The result? An event featuring new and oldschool players alike, a number of upsets, and one team cementing its status as the top team to ever play the game. Once the dust had settled from the final showdown, The Coalition closed out the event off in explosive fashion, announcing the future of Gears eSports – $1,000,000 Pro Circuit.

Placings Enemy Number 1 | DreamTeam Wins Big, Falls Short | Unenviable Outting For Team EnVyUs | The Kids Are Alright – VexX Gaming Debuts on LAN | The Future of Gears eSports  

 

 

ENEMY NUMBER 1

 Since its launch a year or so ago, Chirstopher ‘Lava’ Anderson, Billy ‘MentaL’ Putnam Jr., and Gilbert ‘Xplosive’ Rojo have been holding court as the team to beat in Gears of War Ultimate Edition, regardless of who their fourth squadmate is. They kicked things off by dominating the ESL Season 1 Pro-League, only dropping one match throughout season play; topping it off by taking the championship in an epic come-from-behind win against a very talented EnVyUs squad. Though they would keep this ball rolling in Season 2, this time reaching the finals as the third-place seed; their long-time fourth, Brian ‘SoLuRs’ Valenzuela would go AWOL for the event, forcing them to sub in their coach, Nicholas ‘Ashes’ Ridgeway. Despite this handicap, they would manage to make it to the Grand Finals, but fell to the top seeded Team EnVyUs in 4 straight maps.

 That’s when Justin ‘Kenny’ Kenny joined the team. Formerly of Team EnVyUs, Kenny was dropped by the Boys in Blue early on in the second season to make room for Jamie ‘ToySxldier’ Rivera. It was a move that surprised many – including Kenny – and although it would benefit EnVy in Season 2, Kenny would get the last laugh. After playing with Notorious for Season 2, Kenny joined the team that narrowly lost to his former squad while playing with their coach as their fourth. With Kenny, the team now known as Enemy would prove to be nearly unstoppable, finishing the qualifying GameBattles Ladder with a 92-3 record, winning 4/5 of the weekly 2000 Series tournaments, and entering the North American Open as the top seed with 35,060 Team Points (nearly 15,000 points of the second place team, EnVyUs). Suffice it to say, Enemy was confident going into the event.

  

And their confidence was not misplaced. Outside of an unexpectedly close match against a young, ambitious VexX Gaming squad, Enemy managed to make it through to the Winner’s Bracket Finals with minimal difficulties. Once there, however, they ran into a familiar foe – an equally confident Team EnVyUs.

Like the ESL Season 1 Finals – the last major event both teams had their full lineups present – the contest between the two winningest teams in Gears of War Ultimate Edition was one for the ages. After winning their respective bread-and-butter maps in convincing fashion, EnVyUs jumped out to a 2-1 lead by handing Enemy a rare loss on one of their best maps, ClockTower. With the momentum against them, Enemy was able to remain composed and tie things up, taking Gridlock in six rounds to force a final, decisive game 5. The final map, Fuel Depot, saw the teams trade the first couple of rounds, with each winning on the strong side – a trend EnVy would continue into the third. nV would then break the trend, however, by also taking the fourth, allowing them to enter the 5th round, on the strong side, with a chance to send the top seeded squad to the loser’s bracket. With their backs once more against the wall, Enemy would answer back, however, and take the next two rounds to force a winner-take-all round 7. Once the dust had settled from the final round, Enemy would be the ones left standing, simultaneously punching their ticket to the Grand Finals, and sending the former reigning Pro-League champs to relegation.

 

EnVy, cast down to the Loser’s Bracket, would go on to lose their next match, which sent DreamTeam to the Grand Finals to take on Enemy. The match ended up being fairly anti-climatic, however, as Enemy made quick work of their opponent and went on to win the match in straight sets.

With Gears UE wrapped up, and their legacy cemented, Enemy is already poised to continue their success into Gears of War 4, announcing over the weekend that the squad has officially added Alex “SuMuNs” Ascencion – the all-time points leader for Gears UE on MLG’s GameBattles – as their 5th member.

Although we’ll have to wait and see if their reign continues into Gears 4, Enemy proved that they were undoubtedly the best squad in Gears Ultimate Edition, and should be considered the current favorites ahead of the next title’s release.

 

DREAMTEAM WINS BIG, FALLS SHORT

It goes without saying that every team who travelled to Columbus did so with the intent of winning the event, or at least getting as close to first place as possible. With teams like EnVyUs and Enemy in the mix, this was a fairly lofty goal for many, but for the revamped DreamTeam, this goal was well within reach.

After replacing longstanding members SleepyTime and SiCaMoRe, as well as recent pick-up Xcells, with former Notorious members Dizpensa, Kyle, and Red Icy; the perennial contender, DreamTeam, would accumulate over 19,000 points in qualification play, and be one of the only two teams to win a weekly 2000 Series tournament (which they did at the expense of tournament favorite, Enemy). Going in with a veteran line-up and the third seed, dT was poised for success. For Edwin ‘Demo’ Perez, however, a championship winning trip would be bitter-sweet if it didn’t also come at the expense of his biggest rival, Team EnVyUs, and; after cruising through to the Winner’s Bracket Semi-Finals, including a 2-0 win over Team Kaliber, Demo would get his chance.

Unfortunately, retribution would not be in the cards this time, as the reigning champs would make quick work of Demo’s squad, only dropping 3 rounds in the entire series. Relegated to the Loser’s Bracket, DreamTeam was down, but certainly not out. The road back would not be an easy one, with only top-10 teams remaining in the bracket, but; after taking out the tournament’s Cinderella-story, VexX Gaming, and an equally impressive GOONS squad, Demo would get another chance at vengeance in the Loser’s Bracket Final.

Coming off of a double match point round, come-from-behind loss to the top seeded Enemy in the Winner’s Bracket final, Team EnVyUs would need to recover quickly for their rematch against DreamTeam. Despite the loss, EnVyUs entered the match with the composure of a seasoned team; picking up right where they had left off in their first match with dT, swiftly taking the first map 4-1. Unlike the first match, however, DreamTeam would fire back. After trading the first 2 rounds on ClockTower, DT would take the next 2 to go up 3-1. Although EnVy would manage to grab the next round by shifting their strat to focus on Frags, it wouldn’t be enough, and DreamTeam would go on to take the frame 4-2.

Tied 1-1, DreamTeam went into the next map with, what appeared to be, all of the momentum…  Momentum they would need if they were going to trump EnVy on their best map, Canals. After once more trading the first couple of rounds, dT would again catch fire, with Red Icy and Demo leading the way. After taking rounds 3 and 4 to go up 3-1, the reigning Pro-League champions appeared shaken – and after round 5, the map was done, with DreamTeam taking it 4-1.

Down for the first time in recent memory, and with their backs against the wall, Team EnVyUs would have to accomplish the unenviable task of derailing a fired up DreamTeam squad if they wanted to defend their title. Unlike the rounds before it, where the teams traded games to start things off, this time the team that threw the first punch would not stop swinging. After a first round that saw Dizpensa take out all 4, and a second that saw Red Icy clutch a 1v2; the final 2 rounds saw an on-fire DreamTeam decimate the former champs, losing only a single man for the remainder of the match.

Unfortunately, that’s when the dream ended for dT. Up against Enemy in the final round, the top seed would simply prove to be too much to for them to handle, as they cruised to a quick 3-0 victory and championship crown.

 

Unenviable Outting For TEAM ENVYUS

 Team EnVyUs came into the event as the reigning ESL Pro-League champions, and on the heels of a dominant showing at the European Open hosted by Gfinity and Am2Pro in the UK earlier in July. Despite this success, and being widely considered as one of the favorites to win the $20,000 bounty, the tournament’s second seed came into the event with much more to play for than just cash and glory.

Gears of War Ultimate Edition’s tenure in eSports, while having a number of noteworthy players and teams, will be generally remembered for two teams, and eight players: Praized Z, FraNChiS, Soto, and ToySxldier of Team EnVyUs, and; MentaL, Lava, Xplosive, and Kenny of Enemy (formerly GLory, and Denial eSports). Outside of the drama surrounding Kenny, who joined Enemy after EnVyUs let him go to make room for ToySxldier; the two squads share a storied rivalry going all the way back to Hype 4. Things really heated up, however, when the two teams met in the ESL Pro-League Season 1 finals. With EnVy up 2-0, Enemy (then Denial) would mount an epic comeback, and take championship in the final round of the final map.

The teams then met again in the grand finals for the second season of the Pro-League, this time with EnVy getting the better of the Enemy squad. This win, however, came with Enemy’s coach, Nicholas ‘Ashes’ Ridgeway, playing in place of Enemy’s usual fourth, SoLuRs, who was AWOL for the competition. With the series technically tied 1-1, both teams entered the North American Open with plenty to prove. And in the Winner’s bracket finals, the two titans would clash one final time.

 

Once more, EnVy would jump out to a lead – and once more, Enemy would storm back. Then, after a back-and-forth map 5, the teams would find themselves once more tied up with one round to decide who moved on to the Grand Finals, and who was relegated to the loser’s bracket. Like the Season 1 finals, the last time both teams had their full rosters, Enemy would win this final, deciding round, sending EnVy to the Loser’s bracket. Although many expected EnVy to make it back to the Grand Finals for a chance at redemption, they would be sent home early, upset by a fired-up DreamTeam. 

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT – VEXX GAMING DEBUTS ON LAN

Although VexX Gaming was involved in Season 1 of the ESL Pro-League, picking up the former Notorious squad; their was one major difference with their new squad. Unlike the former team, this team had never been to a LAN event.

Coming in as the 9th overall seed, and in a bracket that put them through veteran teams like PR and The Funky Bunch, E6, and Enemy, no one expected the squad of “GB Kids” to make it very far in their first LAN outing. After their first match, however, they showed they came to play. In straight sets, they sent PR’s squad into the Loser’s Bracket, and; then did the same to E6 – a team many estimated was going to finish in the top 6. Although they would fall in the next round to Enemy, VexX would manage to take a map off them, a feat only EnVyUs would also accomplish during the event.

Though in the Loser’s bracket, the “online warriors” were not done yet. VexX would roll through 2 more veteran squads, No Nam3 Noobz and Strictly Business (who had just knocked out Team Elevate), without dropping a single map. In fact, it wouldn’t be until they ran into DreamTeam that they would be stopped, when the future runner up knocked them out 2-0.

Despite this loss, it would be hard to say that the trip wasn’t a success. Coming in as the 9th seed, then taking out a handful of veteran teams on route to a top 6 finish; VexX Gaming proved that they were a force to be reckoned with, and we should expect to see more of them come Gears 4.  

 

THE FUTURE OF GEARS ESPORTS

Although the Grand Finals match couldn’t be considered explosive, what happened immediately after it certainly was. Following the trophy raise, Jack Felling introduced The Coalition and Xbox’s plans for eSports with Gears 4 – an international pro circuit, featuring an enormous $1,000,000 prize pool.

 

The circuit, operated by world-class tournament organizers Major League Gaming (MLG) and Gfinity, will see teams from around the world compete in events in London, Paris, Columbus, Mexico City and Las Vegas, with the top tiered squads from each region – North America, Europe, Latin America, and Oceania – being flown out to compete in the event. Full details are available here, but with 5v5 action, an exciting new competitive game mode, and now an international pro circuit, things are just getting started for competitive Gears of War.