Christmas might still be a few weeks away, but we all know the most exciting weekend of December is just around the corner. One that could define an entire year for the franchises involved. And one that will conclude with four trophies being lifted aloft and names being etched into esports history.
Strap yourselves in, gang – the Season 4 Grand Finals of the Gfinity Elite Series, Delivered By Domino's, are here.
Compressing what used to be several weeks of playoff matches into three days makes for an easier to follow set of matches and a festival atmosphere, with each game having one dedicated day of competition, all to themselves – FIFA 19 on Friday, Street Fighter V on Saturday and Rocket League on Sunday. The former two have the potential for the first ever back-to-back champions in Elite Series history, and Rocket League is guaranteed a new champion after the shock elimination of Renault Team Vitality in the group stage.
There's a huge amount to break down – so before we get underway, let's delve into all the action and analyse each matchup.
Should you do nothing else before this weekend, read this and keep it close to hand; this is your one-stop guide to Gfinity Elite Series Season 4 Finals Weekend.
Friday 7th December - FIFA 19 Finals
- QF1: exceL vs AS Roma FNATIC (S3 Champions)
- QF2: Hashtag United vs Method
- SF1: Team Envy vs QF2 Winner
- SF2: Man City Epsilon vs QF1 Winner
- GF: Winner SF1 vs Winner SF2!
Just like in Season 3, our group winners advance into a guaranteed semi-final spot, and 2nd and 3rd in each group do battle amongst each other in the quarter-finals to earn a chance at joining them.
First up on Friday evening, it's the battle to decide who will face the all-conquering Group B winners Man City Epsilon, as exceL take on reigning champions AS Roma FNATIC. The latter come into finals weekend in the strange position of being underdogs; they snuck into Playoffs off the back of an unconvincing record of 2 losses, 1 draw and just 1 win. Added to that, one of those losses was inflicted by potential semi-final opponents Epsilon.
Opponents exceL finished 2nd in Group A after a clutch win over Dream Team Gaming in the final week of group play, with the battle-hardened duo of Klutch and Spaceeh ready to do battle across both consoles as they have done regularly this season. FNATIC will do the same with Zimme and Damie tackling both Xbox One and PS4 legs, so these two duos will play all four games against each other. With both lineups adept at hitting their best form under maximum pressure, this contest is too close to call – and whoever prevails has the unenviable task of trying to hand Man City Epsilon a first defeat of Season 4.
Over in the second quarter-final, we have a fascinating clash as Hashtag United take on Method. After a shock elimination in the group stage last season, Hashtag have bounced back and fought past reigning champions FNATIC last week to make their first appearance in Elite Series Delivered By Domino's Playoffs. They enter this contest as ever so slight favourites; Method had an anxious wait last week to confirm their place in Playoffs, and come into this one on a similarly patchy record to FNATIC. However, they took the fight to Envy pretty well in their group stage match, and Riptorek and Venny will be looking for consistency across both legs; contrast that to Hashtag who will be fielding Ryan and Shawreyy on the Xbox and DreamR and Harry on the PS4. Whoever prevails here will feel reasonably confident of toppling Envy in the semi-finals, but Envy's great strength has been their patience and clinical performances across both legs – win the first leg, and either Hashtag or Method could be in with a shot of making their first Grand Final.
Overall, the favourites to lift the FIFA 19 trophy have to be Man City Epsilon – how can they not be? Unbeaten in the group stage and taking a mammoth 20 out of 24 points available from their four games, the quartet of Mence, Connor, Deto and Gotzery will feel nigh-on unstoppable. But this is the Elite Series Delivered By Domino's, and much stranger things have happened.
Saturday 8th December – Street Fighter V Finals
- QF1: Vitality vs Hashtag United
- QF2: FNATIC vs Method
- SF1: exceL vs Winner QF2
- SF2: Nordavind vs Winner QF1
- GF: Winner SF1 vs Winner SF2!
With former champions Envy not even making it out of the group stage, the landscape of Elite Series SFV has shifted dramatically. But the more things change, the more things stay the same; Season 1 champions exceL and Season 3 champions Nordavind won their respective groups with 100% winning records, and start as huge favourites to both make the Grand Final and set up a potentially huge matchup between two of the greats of Elite Series SFV. However, four teams will want a say in that – and they do battle first up in the quarter-finals.
Two teams making their Playoffs debuts are up first as Vitality take on Hashtag United. Having sent former team Envy crashing out last week, TKR's men in black and yellow enter this matchup full of confidence with a 3-1 record in the group stage, and their lineup has impressed across the board; Verdoyance has capitalised on his return to Elite Series competition spectacularly. Conversely, Hashtag scraped their way into Playoffs by the skin of their teeth – with just one win all season, they clinched a 3-way tie for the final playoff spot in Group B with a hard-fought losing bonus point against FNATIC last week. The results don't tell the whole story though; DarkMoonHado still has a remarkable ability to turn sets in his favour under pressure, and Naught currently ranks 6th overall in player stats for Season 4 in terms of games and sets won; a fantastic draft pickup for Hashtag. Vitality will likely be too strong across the board, but Hashtag have aces in the pack who could flip the formbook on its head; an intriguing match awaits.
Season 3 finalists FNATIC are up next against Method, who are making their SFV Playoffs debut at the fourth time of asking. The Elite Series veterans needed an assist from Vitality last week to sneak in to Playoffs, but it was rich reward for experienced players like ImStillDaDaddy who has been finding his best form once more this season. You get the sense they will relish going into this one as slight underdogs – and they will be just that against such a strong FNATIC team containing stars like Akainu, Killzyou and Shakz. Having lost again to Nordavind in the group stage, they will be desperate for vengeance and to go one step further in Season 4. This will be an absolute blockbuster of a match.
As for overall favourites? Easy; Nordavind. No team in Elite Series history has ever won back-to-back titles, but it'd be very hard to bet against the Norwegian squad being the first to ever achieve this. For context, this is a team that has only lost once since they debuted in Season 3, a team currently on an eight-match winning streak and a team that contains the unbelievable talents of Phenom, SaltyKid (undefeated in Season 4 so far) and Momi. If anyone can stop them, it will likely be one of FNATIC or the super-experienced exceL squad – but even that seems like a huge ask. Will we see history made on Saturday night? Only one way to find out.
Sunday 9th December – Rocket League Finals
- QF1: Envy vs Epsilon
- QF2: Nordavind vs Reason Gaming
- SF1: Method vs Winner QF2
- SF2: FNATIC vs Winner QF1
- GF: Winner SF1 vs Winner SF2!
Concluding our magic weekend is the Rocket League finals, where after Renault Team Vitality's shock elimination in the group stage, we are guaranteed a new champion by the end of the day's play. And out of all three games, this one could be the most wide open of the lot.
The first quarter-final sees Elite Series originals doing battle as Envy tackle Epsilon. Season 3 finalists Envy had to undergo a serious rebuilding process after former stars like EyeIgnite departed to join We Dem Girlz, who lifted the ELEAGUE Cup last weekend. Faced with losing such talent, Envy could've been in big trouble. But with Mout and Winther still in the side and Oscillon joining, they have if anything only got even better, culminating in a huge 3-1 win over Vitality last week to not only avenge their Grand Final defeat last season, but send the defending champions crashing out. Epsilon by contrast snuck through into Playoffs on a tiebreaker, and will start as slight underdogs for this match. But players like Sebadam and Cheerio have plenty of Elite Series playoff experience, so such a high-pressure clash won't phase Epsilon one bit.
The second quarter-final couldn't be more finely poised, as Nordavind make their Playoffs debut against former champions Reason Gaming. It's been a hugely emotional return to Elite Series competition for Reason; having lifted the Rocket League and Franchise trophies in Season 3, the team departed Elite Series competition before returning at the 11th hour before the start of Season 4. Given such little time to prepare, it's been a tough homecoming for the ever-popular franchise, and at one stage it looked like none of their teams would make Playoffs at all. However, their Rocket League team lead by Season 1 champion Shakahron produced an absolute Hail Mary in the final week, defeating exceL to jump from bottom of the table into 3rd and sneak into Playoffs at the last second. Anything is possible now for the perennial crowd favourites, and they should match up well with opponents Nordavind. Both teams are on a 2-2 record and both have struggled for consistency in Season 4, so this could end up going the distance – expect the roof to come off the Gfinity Arena if Reason can make it back to the Grand Final.
As for overall favourites? Method are probably the team to beat going into the weekend; the Season 3 semi-finalists have been much improved, with former champs Rix Ronday and Borito B bringing onboard Kassio to great effect this season. However, their reverse sweep defeat to Envy in Week 2 proves that they aren't invincible, and Envy themselves will enter the weekend feeling very confident of going one step further than Season 3. Additionally, FNATIC come into Playoffs with an identical 3-1 record to Envy and Method, and a talented roster of their own in Snaski, Mummisnow and Maestro. It's too close to call between those three teams as to who will lift the trophy – and any one of Epsilon, Nordavind or Reason could also spring a huge upset. One thing's for sure; it will be absolutely unmissable.