ESL’s ZEN League is set to begin shortly, and will see four Australian and four Asian teams battle it out for the lion’s share of $100,000 AU. While many spectators will be aware of the likes of Tainted Minds and Chiefs in the Australian camp, some might not be so familiar with the Asian teams present. JYP Gaming, MVP PK, Recca Esports and The MongolZ all host a wide range of talent and will be looking to do damage in their ZEN League campaigns.

Recca Esports (Indonesia)

Players: BnTeT, Sys, FrostMisty, xccurate, roseau

This Indonesian super-team formed when BnTeT, FrostMisty and roseau left Team nxl, a 3-man core which had accomplishments such as Top 8 finishes at the eXTREMESLAND ZOWIE Asia Championship and IeSF World Championship, and an attendance at the ELEAGUE Atlanta Asia Minor. Recca, and previously nxl, have floated around the second tier of Asian Counter-Strike for quite some time now, never being able to crack into the upper echelons of the scene. In fact, their qualification for the ZEN League might be the core’s biggest accomplishment to date, with a very convincing grand final win over fellow league members JYP Gaming in the grand final.

Before joining Recca, the team’s biggest problem was a lack of skill to back up star player BnTeT. And to say BnTeT is the star player is a complete understatement. This player boasts an insane 1.40 rating on HLTV and rarely dips below 20 kills per game. Even on LAN, BnTeT is a monster, as seen in their BO3 elimination match against Athletico at the Asia Minor, where he dropped 64 kills in an 0-2 loss, 30 above his next best teammate and 12 above Athletico’s top fragger. Recca will likely live and die by BnTeT in the ZEN League. If he’s not on point, despite Sys and xccurate being far more capable than previous teammates, it’ll be tough for Recca to find wins.

JYP Gaming (Malaysia)

Players: acAp, clickzai, pzKiD, kaze, xevR

JYP Gaming could be seen by many as the strongest Asian contender in this league. The team placed Top 4 at the WESG APAC Finals and 5th-6th at the WCA World Finals, and has taken maps off strong competitors such as VG.CyberZen, Epsilon and .Ukraine.

JYP’s 2 X-Factors would have to be star player kaze and captain pzKiD. kaze first become known outside Asia during his carry-level performance at the ESL One Cologne 2015 Asia Qualifiers, where he lead MVP.Karnal, which included xevR and acAp, to a Top 4 finish, with a close loss to Immunity for a spot at the major. kaze possesses a deadly AWP flick and a great ability to find opening kills, especially on one of the team’s best maps, Cobblestone. pzKiD, on the other hand, is the team’s in-game leader, with a wealth of experience from playing in the Australian scene. Captaining Alpha Sydney at the CGPL Autumn 2016 finals, pzKiD led his team to a top seed placing in their group, with convincing wins over Vox Eminor and Trident, before being eliminated by Legacy in the semi-finals. If JYP are to perform in the ZEN League, kaze and pzKiD will have to perform in their roles.

MVP PK (South Korea)

Players: termi, solo, peri, glow, zeff

MVP PK are a revival of the famous Project_kr 1.6 team, which saw success in both the Asian and International scenes. With the team’s youngest player being 26, MVP PK are attempting to rekindle past achievements with pieces of the roster that all played 6-7 years ago. Based on results leading up to the ZEN League alone, however, this team is easily the weakest in the tournament. Their qualification process saw them narrowly take down fellow Koreans Team Yetti and defeat UAE’s Risky Gaming, with not much else known competition participating. In recent memory, PK went down to Chinese teams FIVE and Born of Fire in the group stage of the StarLadder i-League qualifiers, and got bodied out of the ZOTAC World Cup by the intercontinental Splyce roster.

solo, the main star of the Project_kr rosters and a player considered to be one of the best 1.6 players of his era, is looking like a very stable player in this roster, performing well in the majority of the team’s games of late and topping the scoreboard in a few. zeff and permi, two solid players during their time on Project_kr, are also looking quite good in their matches, with peri putting in a 51 kill performance in their 2-0 victory over Risky to qualify for the league. However, despite these players being CS legends and rising up in Global Offensive, it’ll be extremely tough for them to find wins in the ZEN League, as the competition will prove to be more difficult than what they’ve faced recently.

The MongolZ (Mongolia)

Players: dobu, Machinegun, ncl, tsogoo, kabal

The MongolZ, especially star player Machinegun, burst onto the scene at IEM Taipei in early 2016. With an easy dispatch of Renegades in the grand final, winning 16-9 on Cobblestone and 16-2 on Inferno, The MongolZ cemented themselves as a massive threat in the Asian scene and set their sights on the MLG Columbus Major qualifier. Unfortunately, due to visa issues, the team were not able to attend, but got their international chance again the form of a place at the IEM X World Championships in Katowice. With this experience under their belt, recent top placings, such as 1st at the ASUS ROG Masters, 3rd-4th at the eXTEMESLAND ZOWIE Asia Championship 2nd in the Mr Cat Asian Masters, and Machinegun back in the roster after a stint in NA with Splyce, The MongolZ look ready to do damage in the ZEN League.

As mentioned earlier, Machinegun is this team’s X-Factor. With an extremely deadly AK-47 and the ability to pick up the AWP, the Mongolian player is a threat in almost any situation against any opponent. Backing him up, however, are dobu and kabal, two young players who have both been instrumental in their side’s recent achievements. Previous lineups for this organisation have relied heavily on the star power of Machinegun and departee Zilkenberg, with not much output coming from the other members. But with dobu and kabal in the lineup, who provide a consistent fragging ability, The MongolZ have a good chance of finding a top placing in the ZEN League.

The four Asian teams join Tainted Minds, Chiefs eSports Club, Dark Sided and Team Immunity to compete in a prize pool of $100K. The ZEN Esports Network League 2017 kicks off early March.