With a lacklustre Groups Stage, the Playoffs were looking like a completely different story. The Top 11 teams all advancing to battle it out to be the 4th Champions of ESNL.
Round of 16:
There were certainly some interesting matchups that changed a few opinions on how the rest of the bracket may pan out.
This was shown with Group 2's bottom-seeded team Reaperz Esports. Going up against TynxGG, it was no real competition on paper. However, the Portugese side came out firing with a 16-6 victory on Map 1. All Reaperz had to do was win one more map to advance to the Quarter Finals in a major upset. But it wasn't to be, as Tynx regained their composure and didn't look to waste anymore time. Winning the final two maps 16-9 and 16-5, booking themselves a spot in the Quarter Finals against BPro Alternate.
Eyeshield Gaming fought off Mouseplayz EU with a 2-0 win, whereas Horax Esports took on CEYA Esports, which went to a 3rd map where Horax showed their perseverance.
Here is how the Bracket was looking after these matches:
The Quarter Finals were made up of 4 great matchups:
Eyeshield Gaming met Warthox Esport, a team they had faced back in the Group Stages and lost 16-4. Into the first match, Eyeshield weren't backing down after taking an early lead on their map pick, Inferno. However, the French side made an impressive first half comeback to then steal Inferno 16-11, as well as the series after a 16-6 win on Map 2.
With both Scape Esports Club and Luxor Esports finishing flawless in their groups, this matchup certainly seemed like a hard one to call. Anyhow, Luxor didn't believe that, after continuing their flawless streak of taking Nuke 16-0. Heading onto Overpass, Scape needed to put Map 1 behind them. It seemed like they had managed to do that in the early rounds of the second half, but couldn't continue the fight after losing Map 2 and the series 2-0.
Absolved vs Horax Esports was different to the rest, being the only series to go to all 3 maps. Absolved took that first map, Nuke, 16-7 and didn't really look pressured. Although it was their own map pick, Dust II, where Horax put up a fight and weren't ready to finish their season. Horax closed out that map 16-13 and we had a 3rd map on our hands. The map was Train and being a map that rarely occurred throughout the season, it was unclear who might progress. With Horax starting the match on the CT side, there was certainly optimism about them causing an upset. However, it was Absolved who finished the first half 13-2 up and only had to find 3 more rounds. Horax tried their hardest once again to fight back, taking the match to 15-7, but Absolved finished out the map and the series to advance to the Semi Finals.
The final Quarter Final match was something of an "absolute banger", according to our very own caster, Strommiz. BPro Alternate, a team unbeaten in Groups, taking on TynxGG, a team that love to cause upsets. Still now, we are unsure where BPro exactly were for Map 1, with Tynx taking a comfortable victory 16-2. Until we got to Overpass, a map Tynx were so consistent on all throughout the season. But did that have any impact of how this match was going to turn out? Of course not. In game that had everything you could ask for in competitive CS, we were left after 30 rounds heading into Overtime. It was BPro who took the first round, but Tynx made sure they were heading onto T side with the advantage. Once again Tynx showed their force by winning the 4th Round and putting themselves on match and series point. BPro did manage to answer back after a nice retake on the B site, however it wasn't enough as Tynx made an impressive take on the A site, leading to BPro's demise and ending their Season.
With Warthox Esport, Luxor Esports, Absolved and TynxGG all confirming their cut of the prize pool, it was just down to who could make it to the Grand Final.
Starting off with Warthox vs Luxor, this was a matchup that was once a no brainer, until an ESEA match which changed a lot of opinions. Earlier in the week of Playoffs, both Warthox and Luxor met in an ESEA Intermediate matchup. The map they played was Nuke and the result ended in a 16-13 win for Warthox. So Luxor showed they could play with the big dogs, but could they replicate that performance here?
Well Map 1 for this match was Nuke, which by no surprise, made things all that more sweeter. Hoping for that replica of the ESEA match but with a little more spice, many were left disappointed as Warthox convincingly won 16-8. Heading onto Map 2, Inferno, it was do-or-die for Luxor. Although, it was Warthox's pick and a map they had been so consistently great on. With the first half ending 9-6 in Warthox's favour, it was still looking possible for Luxor to take it to a third map. However, it wasn't to be, as Warthox got back to their winning ways and booked themselves a spot in the Grand Finals.
As for the second Semi Final, it was a matchup of revenge. With both Absolved and TynxGG coming from Group 3, it was Absolved's group match win in the back of everyone's mind. Were Absolved going to crush Tynx's hopes once again or were Tynx going to get the revenge they were so hungry for?
The first map certainly didn't disappoint. Being Train, a map Absolved had just defeated Horax Esports on in the Quarter Finals, it was fair to say Absolved were looking to be favourites. And that's exactly how it was at the end of the first half, with Absolved up 9-6 after starting on the Terrorist side. But that doesn't stop a team like Tynx. With some nice executes, they managed to pull themselves back into the match. At 14-14, Tynx had an economic advantage and were looking in good stead to put themselves on match point and that's exactly what they did. Going into the 30th Round, it was Absolved's lack of utility which led to their downfall and losing 16-14. Disheartened and going onto Tynx's map pick of Overpass, Absolved had to pull off something special to take it to a third map. Losing the first half 9-6, Absolved were looking to do the same type of comeback as Tynx did on Train. Unfortunately for them, they fell 16-8 and were eliminated from Playoffs. Meaning TynxGG would go onto face Warthox Esport in the ESNL Season 5 - Grand Final.
The Undefeated Warthox going up against the ever Sporadic Tynx. It was certainly a tight matchup, as both teams had looked so strong all throughout the Season. Were the French side going to stay undefeated? Or were the underdogs going to shock us once again?
The Grand Final kicked off on Dust II, picked by Tynx. Warthox played the veto smart by instantly banning Overpass, a map Tynx had looked so dominant on all throughout the season. This made it hard to call on who would be victorious, as we had rarely, if at all, seen either of these teams on this map. It was Warthox who made the first statement, finishing the first half 13-2 up. Tynx looked shocked and there was no sign of a comeback in the game. Finishing 16-3, Warthox just needed to go onto their map pick, Nuke, and win to be crowned Champions of ESNL Season 4.
It was clear Tynx were the type of team that were able to put that first map behind them and focus on the task at hand. Starting on the CT side, it was crucial they racked up a lead and headed onto their arguably stronger side, the Terrorists side. It was Warthox who struck first, winning the Pistol Round and getting to a 4-0 lead before Tynx even put a point on the board. From there, it swung from side to side with each team winning rounds. The first half ended 8-7 in the favour of Tynx. Probably not what they were hoping for, but by no means were they out of the fight. However, it was Warthox who took the all important 2nd Pistol Round. In no way were Tynx's tactical plays on the Terrorist side lacking. It was just the matter of how strong of a unit Warthox were. Constantly trading kills, using utility with perfection and baiting the attention of Tynx. This inevitably led to Warthox taking the map, series and championship without dropping a single map throughout the whole season.
Warthox are undoubtedly a very strong team that know the game inside and out. However, Tynx also proved their worth with an exceptional performance all round. With only being able to reach the Semi Finals in Season 3, to reaching the Grand Final in Season 4. It shows their perseverance to better themselves and become an overall better team.
ESNL Season 4 was an overall... interesting Season to say the least. A lot of ups, and also some downs. There was plenty to learn from which is exactly what a League needs in its early days. With Season 5 just being announced, the changes will definitely be for the better.
Just in case you missed that announcement: https://twitter.com/ESN_GG/status/1197956632132624385
From all of us at ESN, we just wanted to give a massive thank you to everyone involved with ESNL. We do this to provide high quality competitions for teams/players to show their skill and improve themselves. As well as broadcast some great matchups to spectators. We look forward to the future season and wish to see as many new and familiar faces as possible.