Another month, another bunch of plucky newcomers and seasoned veterans competing for a shot at Contenders Trials. We’re one week into the two week process, and there are eight teams vying for four Trials slots. The format has changed slightly since last season:

  • Following feedback from OD Season 3, winners and losers finals are now Best of 5 rather than Best of 7, with only the grand finals being Best of 7.
  • Each Trials season will now comprise of:
    • Top 4 OD teams;
    • Bottom 2 Contenders Teams from the previous month;
    • 3rd and 4th place teams from the previous Trials season.

With middle-of-the-pack Trials teams holding on to Trials positions for the following month, we now have a much more stable “Tier 2.5” scene, and a more competitive Tier 3 Scene. I think this more stable system is a net benefit for the scene, even if it means the barrier is harder for OD teams to breakthrough than it was last season

Before we get into the OD results, a quick refresher on August Contenders Trials:

  • Sheer Cold, Angry Titans, Avoided and The Ultimates all grabbed one of the coveted Contenders slots;
  • VASTA Gaming, Vox Nihili, Morning Stars, and Shu’s Money Crew all did sufficiently well earning a spot in September Trials;
  • Four teams went back down into Open Division:
    • ASMR Esports;
    • 01_esports;
    • Ach Keine Ahnung;
    • StopToxicity.

Of these four teams, only two have resurfaced in Open Division:

  • Ach Keine Ahnung, who are now playing with an updated roster under the name “ach keine yep rooster” (Thanks guys, I love the consistency, makes it really easy to track your progress across seasons), and;
  • StopToxicity, whose roster has not changed much since we saw them in Trials.

ASMR Esports not returning is surprising, given that they competed in the regional Gamer’s Hub tournament less than a week ago, where they even secured a victory over The Ultimates.

We also have two teams returning from Open Division Season 3:

  • Cold Bath (Top 16 in OD S3, previously “Hot Bath”);
  • OTPog (Top 16 in OD S3, and 1st in the EBC Central group tournament).

The full breakdown of teams reaching the Top 16, including seeding coming into the tournament, is given below. Top 8 teams are given in orange, 8-16 placed teams given in blue.

Unfortunately for our teams in blue, the OD run is over and we’ll hopefully be seeing them in a month for Season 5. For our teams in orange, we have some familiar names, and some not so familiar names.

Let’s spend a little time going over each, shall we?

Stop Toxicity (1st Seed)

Stop Toxicity return to Open Division after a less-than-stellar performance in Contenders Trials August, having only taken one series win. Admittedly, this was their series against Vox Nihili, but a 1-4 record wasn’t a scorching Trials performance. Their only roster move in the off-season was to pick up Disclosure (previously of Juicy Hobbits, and another Arena Clash alumnus), who comes on board as a support player, bringing the total to four.

So far, they’ve done a good job defending their number one seeding, handily beating number 8 seed KuaXingbieXi 3-0 in their last game of the weekend. Their first match next week will be against Cold Bath (13th Seed), and if they’re successful there, they will make it through to the winner’s finals against either Dark Mode EU (62nd Seed) or ach keine yup rooster (2nd Seed).

If we’re going just off of seeding, this should be Stop Toxicity securing the top spot in Open Division. However – OD is a wild and lawless place, and anything could happen in the final week. Either way, my money is on seeing Stop Toxicity take a top four position and moving up into September Trials .

Cold Bath (5th Seed)

Cold Bath are a team who I have publicly admitted to having a fondness for, because their name sounds like a meme or a joke that I’m too old to understand, and I respect that. They had a pretty good crack at Open Division last season, finishing in the “9th-12th” bracket, just shy of making Trials under the old Top 8 rule set. They were ultimately knocked out of the bracket by ASMR Esports, who went on to qualify for Trials.

As far as I can tell, they haven’t made any changes in the offseason, and are coming in with the same lineup as we saw for Season 3, but looking on GameBattles (the awful tournament system being used to run OD) it seems like they replaced Oranj with Lime, but… the Hot Bath social media presence is dense and multi-layered and confusing to an old man like me, so this may just be an alt account, who knows? (Editor: Can confirm that Lime is NOT Orang, and has previously played with Reported in the Echo: Flash Ops tournament, and Avoided in Breakable Barriers).

They’ve managed a strong run through the August bracket so far, taking out the number 4 seed OTPog amongst others. Their biggest test will be in the next round as they move on to play number 1 seed Stop Toxicity at the start of next week’s games.

Dark Mode EU (62nd Seed)

Dark Mode EU represents the EMEA expansion of the South American T2 org, Dark Mode Esports, into the EMEA region.

The phrase I keep hearing is “mechanically gifted ladder warriors”, and whilst I can’t speak to this myself, as I am several echelons and a platform away from playing in their region, they do have some pedigree to the team: Meeps, Reqlxss and Owen all played together on Disciples of Shadowman for the Echo: Flash Ops tournament, Tabu has played in both NA Contenders under Malibu. Meeps and Tabu also played in OD together last OD season under Anno Domini. Interestingly, they’ve also recruited B3cky, previously of APAC Contenders team Cyclone Coupling.

They’ve been putting up good numbers so far this season, and the following weekend will show how far they can take their run in OD.

ach keine yup rooster (2nd seed)

ach keine yup rooster [sic], formerly Ach Keine Ahnung, formerly Team Teebeuteln come into the tournament as second seed. They struggled somewhat in Contenders Trials, partly as a result of the meta requiring a long range hitscan player (or Ashe OTP), for which their main DPS player, Trqstme did not seem well suited.

The team for this current season is, however, substantially different from what we saw from them in Trials. and now includes Trqstme and EgZo from the original roster, Grapha and GForce from OTPog, Invin from Avoided, and Squishy (who I believe is from the South Africa 2019 World Cup squad, but again, this is just me reading names off of Liquipedia, so I could be wrong). I personally don’t have any footage of this new iteration, so I couldn’t say for certain how they are likely to perform, but we should be able to see what their power level is like when they face Dark Mode at the start of next week’s games.

KuaXingbieXi (8th Seed)

Another new entry to Open Division Season 4. The only player who immediately stands out as someone I’ve seen playing elsewhere is Braven, previously of ROAR Esports, but some digging shows that both Olly and Snoopy played for Anno Domini last season.

cba (38th Seed)

What would Open Division be without plucky new teams we’ve never seen before making it to the top eight? Except that, whilst they’re a new team, for the most part they’re not new players, existing as a sort of fusion roster between Team Reality (Top 16 in OD Season 3) ROAR Esports Academy, and False Alarm. Definitely punching above their seeding here, as they beat number 6 seed Team W before being knocked into the lower bracket by Ad Astra Per Aspera (11th Seed). They’ll be playing KuaXingbieXi as their opening game next week, and whilst cba have beaten higher seeded teams before, KuaXingbieXi seem like a flexible squad, so we need to see some gumption from cba.

Ad Astra Per Aspera (11th Seed)

Ad Astra Per Aspera (lit. “Through hardship to the stars”) are another team that have been bouncing around in the T3 for a little while now, having competed in both the CastersNest Cup and MonkeyBubble Invitational back in 2019. After a hiatus, they’re back and ready to tackle Open Division with new roster picked from a core of the old Dreadlords Roster (Teemo, Hazox, MeiDay) supplemented by DPS players Eli (ROAR Esports + Arena Clash Alumnus <3), Scyle (Team Reality, NoUOTP) and Emp3r0r (Who played for GenesiX in the EBC tournament recently).

The majority of their run through the bracket has been relatively gentle so far, having received a first round BYE, and then playing 54th Seed PraiseTheSun, 22nd seed N3M’s, and 38 seed (and now fellow top eight contendender) cba, eventually falling into the lower bracket at the hands of Dark Mode EU. Their opening game of the weekend will be against 9th Seed w7sh, which on paper is a close match up, as they’ve had a similar run through the bracket, but we’ll have a better idea of how this looks once we talk about w7sh and their roster in the next section

w7sh (9th Seed)

I assume this is pronounced “Wish” rather than “Wthsh” or “WSevensh”, but I’m happy to be corrected.

The last entry in our run down is another new team name with some familiar faces – the most interesting of which is Finnish support mainstay Snappe finding a place on a roster that doesn’t have much name power otherwise. From my own contacts, I’ve ascertained that this is one direction that the Team Reality roster splintered just prior to the start of this Open Division, with some players going to cba, whilst DPS players Ace and Jix moved over to w7sh. This is a surprisingly DPS heavy roster, with Kurama (Vox Nihili, Grow uP eSports) and Arca (Dreadlords) joining Jix and Ace to bring us to four total.

Also tagging in from Grow uP eSports is Werty on the tank line, alongside TsuNà of Prophet SKG (Editor: No, not THAT Tsuna, note the capital N and the accent on the a) and Ayanador of AlterEgo. Rounding out the roster is Tyb, who’s previous credits seem to be from local LAN events.

It’s an interesting roster with a lot of options at their disposal, and Snappe’s experience in Contenders is bound to serve them well in their first match of the second weekend against Ad Astra Per Aspera. But a big roster requires a lot of time to generate synergy compared to a small roster, and w7sh have not been playing together all that long, and they’re going to need solid planning and as much scrim time as they can manage if they want to make the jump to Trials.

Games To Watch

This is a much easier segment to write for Trials with it’s Swiss format, but I think I’m going to recommend that you look for games with the highest competing seeds, which by my reckoning is:

Stop Toxicity vs Cold Bath

First seed and fifth seed is the closest numbers match-up that we have this weekend, so this one could come down to a map five finish.