Garena Premier League: Winter 2014 Preview

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The Garena Premier League, Southeast Asia's pro league circuit has resumed in earnest.

The Garena Premier League, Southeast Asia's pro league circuit has resumed in earnest. The winter season changed up the two-year-old format, expanding the tournament roster to include 12 of the region's top teams.


The winter season boasts a prize pool estimated at $200,000, and features circuit points that lead into the 2014 season World Championship. The tournament itself is split in two phases: a five-week group stage followed by a knockout round. The 12 teams will be split into Groups A and B during the group stage, guaranteeing two games between each team of their group. The two worst performers of each group will be disqualified from the final elimination stages.

The knockout round will be composed of best of five, single-elimination series between the remaining eight teams with the first place team taking the lion's share of the honors at $80,000 and 400 circuit points out of a total pool of 1,250.

However, with the next World Championship so far away, the winter season itself has less say on who ultimately represents the multinational SEA region on the final stage. Although the prize money remains the same between the winter, spring and summer seasons, the circuit points increase in value over time.

The 2014 season World Championship qualifier takes its cues from the Korean scene: the top four teams at the end of the regular season are seeded into a staggered bracket. The fourth place team will need to survive a three-team boss fight to the top for a chance at the Summoner's Cup while the first place team only needs to win one series to clinch a spot at the World Championship.


Traditionally, the teams representing Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau are heavily favored, with the Taipei Assassins and Hong Kong Attitude picking up early wins so far. But even the consistently strong Taiwanese bloc has had its disappointments: the Taipei Snipers, captained by Season 2 world champion Chen “Mistake” Hui-Chung, stumbled out of the gates as did ahq e-Sports Club.

The Snipers racked up an impressive record in the Taiwanese televised league, but their Season 3 qualifier defeat at the hands of the now-disbanded Gamania Bears paired with a recent early loss to a relatively new Hong Kong Attitude team doesn't bode well. Still, their troubles pale in comparison to Thailand's Team Infinite, whose two-game debut ended in crushing defeats. Their 10-man roster was likely formulated to guarantee scrim partners as the SEA region has numerous regional servers.

“The split servers are one thing," commented GPL caster Elliot Tan. "More importantly, it's the players who have issues organizing these scrims. Take SGS [Singapore Sentinels] for example -- most of them are juggling more than just their gaming careers. It's not as 'all-in' as other regions.”

But the expanded 12-team roster may have already shifted these factors in the teams' favor. Vietnam, the largest non-Taiwanese bloc in the GPL, boasts three teams between the Saigon Jokers, Saigon Fantastic 5 (SF5), and newcomers Neolution E-Sports Full Louis. The Fantastic 5 are still struggling, but the Full Louis squad is another story, ripping out a healthy 2-0 start from the likes of SF5 as well as the Bangkok Titans.

"Multiple teams per region means that they do have readily available and interested partners to scrim with,” confirmed Tan, and Vietnam may now produce the results that the region's craved since the Jokers' surprise ascendance in Season 2.

But with SEA Season 3 representative Mineski in their group, the road to the 2014 season cup is fraught with perils. Mineski's already translated the lessons they learned on the world stage into an early victory over the Jokers, and are eager to get another taste of the international spotlight.

The Garena teams' failure to perform in Season 3 has been a massive pain point that needs to be addressed. But as reported by Facebook correspondent The K League's translated interview, the company's made headway towards bolstering the SEA region's international competitiveness. They've recently enlisted the aid of Xenic's founder Lee In-Chul as instructor and consultant to coach their teams to a new level of play. His first stop: Vietnam, where the Saigon Jokers, Fantastic 5, and Full Louis await.


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