Bravado Gaming has only been in North America for a few short weeks. As part of Project Destiny, they’ve been attempting to gain entry into other tournaments and leagues besides ESEA Main. Already, South African fans have a reason to get behind the team. Bravado is competing in the latter stages of a qualifier for a top-tier league in the United States of America.
What are they trying to qualify for?
The Esports Championship Series (ECS) is Faceit’s flagship CounterStrike: Global Offensive league. Now into its fifth season, it is the direct competitor to the ESL Pro League (EPL). Like Pro League, ECS has a North American League as well as a European League. ECS is unique in that they offer co-ownership and therefore profit-sharing to teams playing in the leagues.
Youtube-sponsored ECS is at the forefront of massive prize pools in CS:GO. For the Season 4 Finals in Cancún, Mexico, a rather eye-watering $660,000 was split between the eight teams attending. Grand Final winner Faze Clan walked away with $250,000.
Bottom line is that if you’re Bravado Gaming, you desperately want to make it into ECS Season Five.
How do they get there?
This weekend, between 17 and 19 February, Bravado will be taking part in the ECS Challenger Cup Closed Qualifier. Featuring 13 teams, the top four from the Qualifier will be berthed into the Challenger Cup.
Potentially angerous teams like Rise Nation, compLexity, Ghost and Splyce await the top four qualifying teams. Those that place first and second in the Challenger Cup will make the move up to ECS Season 5. There, they will have the opportunity to gain valuable experience against tier one teams. Among them, Major-winners Cloud 9, the legendary SK Gaming lineup, and current Beyond The Summit winners, Team Liquid. A tantalizing, if slightly scary prospect.
The Qualifier is an online, single elimination bracket. This means that once you lose a best of three matchup, you’re out. You definitely don’t want to stumble at the first hurdle. This is not an in-depth analytical preview as I simply don’t have the space. It’s more of a broad preview that will give you some idea of how good or bad their opponents will be and who they might face as they progress through the competition.
The aforementioned first hurdle for Bravado is Iceberg. I don’t blame you if you’ve never heard of them. While it’s hardly a reliable method of ranking outside of the very top tier of CS:GO, let’s refer to the the HLTV.org team ranking just to get an idea. HLTV puts Bravado at #106 in the world currently, while Iceberg is placed at #116. That would seem to indicate that they’re at a similar level, at least on the surface of it. Iceberg are currently a mid-table team in the ESEA Mountain Dew League (MDL), one level up from Bravado in ESEA Main. That doesn’t mean all that much though as Bravado are competitive with MDL teams based on last week.
To add some context, Bravado’s final opponents from last week, LFAO (ranked #127), are second to last on the ESEA MDL leaderboard. Bravado beat them 2-1. Iceberg should pose a slightly harder challenge for the boys in blue. There are only limited map statistics available, but it’s clear that Iceberg’s map pool and win ratios on the maps they do play is rather lacking in comparison to Bravado. The South Africans need to dispose of Iceberg cleany to gain some early confidence in the competition. They should be able to do it handily.
If they can get past Iceberg, the next barrier to advancement will be Team Dignitas (#56). Dignitas are in EPL. Bear in mind that this is the highest ESEA competition, two divisions above where Bravado currently ply their trade. This Dignitas roster has four players from the SoaR Gaming team that won the ESEA MDL Season 26 Grand Final against Rise Nation in late 2017, thereby gaining promotion to EPL. Their most recent result was a fifth/ six-placed finish at the ESEA Global Challenge in January. They briefly played as ownage before being picked up by Team Dignitas earlier this month.
Worth noting is that one of SoaR’s key players, Ryan “Snakes” Amman was too young (15) to be eligible to play in EPL. He was replaced by former Splyce player Mitch”’m1tch” Semago. That could perhaps weaken the team somewhat, but they are still a formidable roster. With the player change, it might slightly skew their map preferences. Going based on the old SoaR roster’s map statistics, Bravado probably should look to play Cache or Train against the Americans. This will not be an easy victory and is likely a far tougher matchup than the next opponent they might face. I’d say Dignitas are probably one of two best teams in the qualifier, which is slightly ominous.
Once safely into the Semi Finals, all four teams will have qualified for the Challenge Cup. Matches from that point on are purely for seeding purposes and bragging rights. That makes the Dignitas match absolutely crucial for Bravado.
The likely antagonist here should be the streamer team, Mythic (#86) . It’s between them and the Brazilians of Team One (#79). In recent matchups though, Mythic have had the measure of Team One and therefore I’ll back the North America team to get to the Semi Final. While this team have a number of highly recognizable names within their ranks, I’d rate them as a lesser threat than Dignitas. If Bravado managed to dispose of Dignitas, then Mythic will be a slightly easier, though still challenging matchup.
Spencer “Hiko” Martin’s Rogue (#63) are an absolute shoe-in for the Final of the Closed Qualifier. Again, they are a team with players that fans should recognize from past successes. This side will be just as tough as Dignitas to bypass, if not tougher considering the greater experience within the Rogue squad.
Should Bravado manage to push past those opponents, they will then be in the ECS NA Challenger Cup. This would be a big victory for the team and should be celebrated by fans if it happens. While SA readers might not have heard of the teams in the Closed Qualifier, Bravado would be putting on a good showing should they progress through it. If they were to make it to the Closed Qualifier Final or even win it, I’d call their run incredible.
The Challenger Cup starts on 2 March. Of course, the quality of their opponents won’t be any lesser at this last stage. Rise Nation (MDL – #47), compLexity (EPL – #55), Ghost (EPL – #35) and Splyce (EPL – #49) are all good teams. Should Bravado qualify for the Challenger Cup, look out for an in-depth preview.
Stream details are yet to be announced, but I encourage all SA fans to watch in support of the team. Keep checking their Twitter and Facebook pages. Good luck Bravado!