Oceanic Counter-Strike has never been better
The Oceanic CS:GO scene has been a slow burn. With a lack of sponsorship and viewership interest in the early stages of Global Offensive’s release, we saw very few opportunities for the region’s best to compete in offline and even online events and, thus, there was not enough incentive for a skilled player to devote the time needed to rise to the top. The recent influx of events and revenue streams, however, is now elevating the level of competition in Oceanic CS.
One major problem for the scene from 2013 to mid-2015 was that it was stagnant. Of the few LAN events that happened in this period, almost all were won by Vox Eminor and Team Immunity. And with the way these teams made their intermittent roster changes, that meant that just 11 different players occupied the top of the scene for over two years. One of the only times we saw these two rosters fall on LAN was at the CyberGamer Premier League Season 3 finals where Immunity, on the eve of losing yam to Vox Eminor, were beaten 2-0 by Streamline, featuring their future member USTILO, in the grand final. But if you look at that event as an example, the top-heavy nature of the scene is very much apparent with the likes of Sneaky Assassins, Team Steelseries, Noxious Gaming and Team VB Mate being highly outclassed by Chiefs, Immunity and Streamline.
2016 was when we first saw the meteoric rise of Australia and New Zealand’s young, inexperienced talent. While cases of lesser-known players joining top teams were certainly prevalent, such as with Vox Eminor adding jks, the scene never really saw a full team make their way from lower leagues to the top as quickly as the likes of Athletico, Corvidae and Incept would in the early stages of the year. With Renegades moving to North America and Immunity deciding to skip domestic events and leagues, Oceanic CS experienced a shift in hierarchy. It was anyone’s game, and while the rivalry between the super team of Legacy and the ragtag mix of Chiefs seemed to occupy the top echelon of the scene, these young teams would find many upset wins and deep finishes in tournaments. Most of the players on these squads now make up the cores of the top 3 teams in the region.
2016 is also the year where online and offline events picked up significantly. CyberGamer’s Premier League remained a staple of the Oceanic scene, but the revival of ESL’s Australian division brought many new events and leagues, such as the ESL ANZ Championships, EB Expo Sydney and the ZEN League qualifiers. Additionally, international tournament organisers hosted events that provided the region with chances at playing overseas. These included WESG’s national qualifiers, including a LAN finals for the top four Australian teams, the ASUS ROG Masters league, with the top two advancing to the finals in Malaysia, and the IeSF World Championships qualifier, which featured a televised BO3 final between Athletico and SYF Gaming.
The rise of young talent and the influx of these tournaments and leagues now sees the Oceanic scene at its best. The gap between the top lineups and the remainder of the scene is shortening significantly and, like with Incept, Corvidae and Athletico in 2016, young and inexperienced teams are rising to the top and creating the deepest level of skill the region has seen to date. Dark Sided, Funky Monkeys, Athletico Black and The Trash Pandas, just to name a few, are teams populated by young talent that are finding wins against top teams and earning spots in premier leagues and events, such as Dark Sided in the ZEN League and ESEA Finals and Funky Monkeys in the ESL ANZ Championship.
Wedged between these teams and the powerhouses of Chiefs, Immunity and Tainted Minds, squads like Legacy, Avant Garde and Athletico house talent that have seen their share of events in the past few years and, while they haven’t found a great deal of success in the current climate of Oceanic CS, have the players and experience to win events and possibly cement themselves as the scene’s elite. Additionally, with the third season of the ESL ANZ Championships nearing its conclusion, the CyberGamer Premier League Season 10 offline finals on the horizon, the ZEN League, featuring 4 Australian and 4 Asian teams, underway, and the IEM Sydney qualifier reaching its final stage, the first three months of 2017 have been filled with events. Teams in the region are being given far more opportunities than even a year a go to play official matches and, thus, the skill level is rising. With more events on the way and Chiefs set to play against the world’s best at IEM, Australian and New Zealand Counter-Strike is thriving. The level and amount of play in the scene has never been better and, looking forward, it’s exciting to think about how it will continue to grow.
Photo source: HLTV