Week 1 of the ESL Premiership Autumn 2017 Season arrived with a clear-cut theme: The Old vs. The New. Players and organisations that had occupied the upper echelons of the scene would be matched up against newer squads, hoping to quickly ascend to the top of the rankings.
MnM Gaming, the reigning champions, fielded a lineup that is largely different to the one that claimed victory in the Spring Season, with Candyfloss and Rifty the only holdovers. Their opponents, Barrage, were using a depleted starting five for Week 1, with Sleeping and AguerJoe were filling in at the Top and Mid lane roles respectively.
In spite of this, Barrage were able to make the majority of the game’s early advances. Monk and Shogun in the bottom lane combined very well, punishing the opposing duo of Zhandia and Adam early on and setting Monk up for the rest of the game. Barrage played around this advantage to good effect, with strong teamfighting in the mid game and quick baron calls to push the lead they possessed. MnM certainly made them work for their lead, as Barrage fell on a couple of occasions when their attempts at objectives were a little too hasty.
Barrage eventually managed to wear the reigning champions down and take the victory at 44 minutes. Even with substitutes, Barrage’s micro teamplay was focused and solid. With MnM being touted as the favourites for this matchup, and having defeated Barrage previously, this was a big scalp for them to take in the opening week.
Whereas Barrage had to fight it out with MnM, Team Singularity were significantly more clinical in their opening fixture against Excel eSports. Once again, Excel have been another bastion of the UK scene over the past year or two, with a roster of well-known names for the Autumn Season. They were another team with a stand-in for Week 1, Reclamation occupying the support role for their opener. Singularity were a newer name, a Danish org hoping for success with a UK League of Legends team. Given their opening performance, that success may not be far off.
It became clear very quickly that Singularity wanted to rotate early, and rotate they did. Sezzer was able to apply the pressure in the game’s early stages, and from that point Singularity moved their duo from tower to tower to make pushes and picks, using Shifter’s Tahm Kench pick excellently. Excel were always trying to react to the macro moves made by their opponents, struggling to find the right answer in a lot of instances.
The pace of Singularity’s play gave them a substantial gold lead heading into the mid game, making their tower threat all the more potent. Excel just didn’t have the stats, and Singularity could walk on up and simply kill any champions in their path. A swift victory just under the 30 minute mark for Singularity to open up their campaign, and to put them on everyone’s radar for the rest of the competition.
Week 1 will come with a lot of caveats. The return to the best of 1 format gives more weight to upset victories in a single game. The new patch is still likely being worked through by the Premiership teams. Even so, the opening performances of Barrage and Singularity will be a cause of concern for the league’s old dogs. Enclave Gaming and NerdRage Pro are preparing for their matchups against those two sides, now knowing there is a lot to prepare for. Enclave and NerdRage both benefitted from forfeit victories in the first week, so they’ll be aiming to keep the newcomers down, lest they find themselves in the wings as the league’s new teams monopolize the fight for the title.