Even after the first few weeks of action, there's still far more questions than answers for Gfinity Elite Series Season 3 – fascinating and must-watch, just how we like it. So just who can help us break down the big storylines for the season going forward? Who else than those who watch these players week in, week out, and know these teams better than perhaps anyone else; the casters.
So with that in mind, we sat down just before the start of the season with some of the finest minds in esports casting and picked their brains about what the season ahead holds. Our panel includes:
F-Word - the long-standing Elite Series SFV caster and GINX TV host who you may remember did a great job of breaking down the Season 3 rosters on our live roster deadline day show.
Damascus – Capcom Pro Tour and Elite Series SFV/Rocket League caster who is also a member of Rival Esports.
MythSky - a veteran of ESL Benelux Rocket League and RLC, he also casted Rocket League in the most recent Challenger Series, giving him a unique perspective on the Challenger Series draft picks coming in for Season 3.
Richard Buckley & Brandon Smith – the popular casting duo tasked with bringing you all the Season 3 FIFA 18 action, having previously casted together at the FIFA Interactive World Cup and Ultimate Team Championship Series.
Which rosters stand out the most for you this season?
F-Word: 'Envy, Excel, Method and Nordavind are the stand out squads for me this season. Excel and Envy have kept the heart of their teams and added significant strength in depth. Nordavind and Method are compiled of some of the best and recognised and hidden talents in the EU FGC. They also have character variations that compliment each other really well. The balance in character variation is very strong in both of these squads.'
Damascus: 'There are a lot of strong teams in SFV this season, and while we will as always have to look out for the previous champs, Excel and EnvyUs, whose rosters barely changed, two of the newcomers are looking very strong: Fnatic, led by Shakz, Akainu and Brick, a very strong team with rising star players who will be able to cover virtually any match up thanks to their characters! The second one is Nordavind, who will finally bring one of the very best players in the world, Phenom, to the Elite Series! He is joined by players we all know, and I'm especially looking forward to see MoMi, who was very successful back on SFIV but is just getting started on V!'
Damascus: 'The teams are looking very strong on Rocket League this season, and I am pretty sure all eyes will be on two newcomers bringing well-known star RL players to the table: Fnatic and Vitality! Both have world class players for their team, who will surely bring us amazing action on a weekly basis! Let’s not forget Excel as well who after a great season added an amazing player to their team: Markydooda. I am looking forward for his prowess, not only in game, but also on the mic!'
MythSky: 'The teams that stand out for me are Team Vitality and Excel eSports. They have the strongest and most established line ups, given their individual appearances in the RLCS/RLRS. However, they are facing a new line up of Method, who won the last Elite Series under Reason Gaming (2/3 players).'
Richard Buckley: 'For me you have to look at that Hashtag United roster. Such strength thoughout the roster was already there before the draft, and in the draft they've only built picking up FerPerry and DreamR. They have to be favourites for me before a ball has been kicked.'
Brandon Smith: 'Firstly I think you have to give massive credit to all 10 teams, they have drafted/recruited very well! However stand out rosters as Richard said are Hashtag & Unilad! You look at the strength in depth Hashtag have, it's just pure class, then Unilad with big names such as Gorilla, Shellz, Tass and Bill...these guys will have big followings who will be supporting them from home and in the arena.'
Which Challenger graduates, or players new to the Elite Series, do you think people should look out for? Which players could fly under the radar and make a big impact this season?
F-Word: 'I love this question. Why? Because I've asked it to myself a hundred times already. Needless to say I think I have the answers! Momi NL; a prolific SF4 player who left the scene for a few years but seems to be well and truly back. Will2pac has maybe not been the force he was in the early stages of the SFV release but he's never one to count out. With a decade of solid representation in the SF franchise, VegaPatch is my third and final mention. Loads of other new and dangerous guys but this guy is a problem. He is easily the most deadly Fang in Europe and playing a character that isn't represented often can play to his advantage.'
Damascus: 'Obviously as mentioned earlier Phenom is the one to look out for, as he will have the best tournament record among all the entrants this season! Another player we were all waiting to see on the Elite Series is Will2Pac, who’ll surely bring an extra bit of fun to the series! As for the drafted players, the one people were most surprised to see is Valmaster. He was one of the very best SFIV players in the world, but his competitive activities shifted to Overwatch later. Seeing him getting back to the SFV scene is definitely amazing news!'
Damascus: 'As new players to the series, but also some of the most established faces in Rocket League, the Vitality and Fnatic players will face huge expectations – and smash them! As for drafted players, Ollie is the one that comes to mind. By definition a drafted player selected by Gregan himself has to be good, and Ollie confirmed it after winning the Rocket League tournament at EpicLAN23 a few weeks ago!'
MythSky: 'With FNATIC being close to the three teams I mentioned earlier, the teams that are most likely to impress are Envy and Epsilon. Envy got a new roster, basically with the players from the well performing EnvyUs Academy, who have shined during several Gfinity Events. In addition to them, Epsilon is another team to keep an eye on with their newly acquired roster of D7, Faykow and Pugsay. Although relatively unknown to the big stage, D7 and Faykow managed to win the ESL Benelux Winter Championships in November 2017 under the name Game Fist RL. This put them on the radar and were then acquired by Epsilon. They made a lot of improvements in the last few months, so they are a force to be reckoned with.'
Richard: 'I'm looking forward to seeing Mo Al Bacca in action once again in a huge FIFA Event. The former 2016 World Champ is back in action as part of ARES Esports, I want to see how he is gonna mix it up. Also in that ARES roster you're looking at Janoz, a legend of the FIFA scene will be competing, plenty to watch on that roster. Also one player to watch out for is Rannerz, he was a pick up for Roma FNATIC in the draft, he's had a great 2018 so far competing in the stage 1 playoffs in Barcelona he can compete at the highest level and Iook forward to seeing him week in week out at the Gfinity Arena.'
Brandon: 'I think for me, ive also been a fan of the underdog - i would love to see one of the more unknown drafted players go and do well! Such as EXCEL Klutch, Nordivand BeastTekkerz & xVennyy for Method. i think these guys could go out there and be fearless! Which could work in their favour. However the most exciting players will of course be those with the big followings, such as Unilad Gorilla, Hashtag Harry, Vitality Brian, FUTWIZ Zelonius...the list goes on!'
What combinations/starting lineups for you look the strongest, and what rosters have the best supersubs who could make a difference when rotated?
F-Word: 'Same 4 teams I mentioned earlier look strongest. Latter part of the question is interesting. I've had a look and honestly this could be an issue for a load of the teams this season. For me Excel and Method boast some fairly decent strength in depth. But the standout in this area has got to be Envy. They have JonesArcade and Real Menace to add to that championship winning starting line up. What a squad!'
Damascus: 'I really like the character variety shown by the teams this season. A lot of them will be extremely dangerous mainly due to their ability to cover so many match ups! In terms of strongest main players, Excel is probably the one standing out right now: three extremely strong players who already proved they worked great together. It’s hard to only name one super sub, but I’m really interested in seeing how Apollo Steed (Vitality) will do in the Elite Series. He’s a player we see a lot in London tournaments, plays a character we haven’t seen yet in the Elite Series, Kolin, who also got stronger after the Arcade Edition update, and showed great stuff at our last tournament! Isam (Excel) also was a very strong SFIV player and I’m looking forward to see him here!'
Damascus: 'Strongest rosters are easy to spot: the seasoned RLCS teams will surely be a big threat! Fnatic and Vitality definitely stand out. As for supersubs, I’m looking forward to see how well Faykow (Epsilon) and Al Dente (Nordavind) will do. We see a lot from these two in weekly online tournaments and I’ve personally seen them lead their team to victory in the Rival Cup, a weekly EU tournament happening every Saturday!'
MythSky: 'The starting trio of Team Vitality catches my eye straight away. They will be setting out the top 3 with Fnatic and Excel eSports. However with the competition being this close, I expect 2 out of these teams to make it to the top 3 in the end. When it comes to substitute players, most teams have a reliable stand in. The most notorious sub however plays for Envy under the name of Deevo. He has shown multiple outstanding appearances on the big stage and could easily help his team when in dire straights.'
For FIFA specifically: Will the Elite Series format change anyone's play styles, and how will players adapt to the league/playoff format? Is it that different to FIFA competitions elsewhere?
Richard: 'I think the format being a weekly competition could help some players who like to analyse their gameplay. Unlike other FIFA tournaments, with this being set over many weeks players have time to watch their games back and sort out mistakes - but also prepare their gameplay for their opponent the week after, and have time to get their mental state correct before their matches in front of a jam packed crowd at the Gfinity Arena.'
Brandon: 'I think the major thing about the Elite Series is every game is a final for a lot of these guys! As they will practice against fellow Pros at home and online! However this time it will be in front of a live audience in London - with major pressure from the fans at home and the ones in the audience! Also i think this is the first time at this level we've seen a tournament format like this. We thought the Swiss style format at Barcelona was a surprise - well this is just another one in that continues to develop the range of ways we can hold FIFA Esports competitions!'
In SFV and Rocket League, which matchups really jump out at you as being the most intriguing/exciting in the upcoming season?
F-Word: 'I like Vitality vs Envy for the Will2pac/Layo concept alone - those guys go way back. A 'the student surpassed his master and now they must meet in battle' scenario. I like it and they both love to pop off too. Excel vs Envy is almost guaranteed to be fireworks too. Two of the favourites for the series, with a history of back and forth results that date back to the first season. Both being previous champions and maintaining by and large the same player base they had from the beginning. That I always look forward to.'
Damascus: 'I’m mostly curious to see how Nordavind and Fnatic will do against each other, because they boast some of the stronger rosters out there!'
MythSky: 'The most interesting match up in the Group Stage is by far Team Vitality vs Excel eSports. Two RLCS teams in a battle, presumably for first place in Group A. If you are wondering about what Rocket League really is about, this is a great moment to tune in and get a feeling for the insane games that lay ahead in the offline Playoffs.'
Damascus: 'Definitely Vitality vs Fnatic! Although I’d like to see how teams like Excel and Method will fare against them. This season is exciting!'
Time for the big one: playoff predictions?
F-Word: 'I predict Method to have a long overdue solid season. No Luffy, No Coblecog, but still Packz and some super strong recruits to join him. They'll definitely qualify. I think it'll be them vs Excel or Envy in the finals. FNATIC and Nordavind have a great chance too with their squads. And with the addition of CCL, Epsilon could put in a shift more reminiscent of their Season 1 performance. All of those names will at least make the play offs, but I think Method may just take the whole thing.'
Damascus: 'The Elite Series has been quite difficult to predict so far! EnvyUs is such a strong team, and I can really see a team like Vitality doing just as well. Method always has a great roster yet narrowly misses play offs as well, and I’m sure they’ll reach them this time! I’d love to see a newcomer final between Nordavind and Fnatic, but I have a lot of trouble not picturing Excel making it!'
Damascus: 'Assuming we see a lot from their main players, I wouldn’t be surprised by a final with Vitality vs Fnatic! Although teams like Excel or Method will definitely be there to take them on. I also like my surprise picks, and this time I think I’ll go with Epsilon. Pugsay, Bananaman and D7 are regular winners in online tournaments and I’m very curious to see how well they’ll do on the big stage! It’s always exciting to watch new players breaking out!'
MythSky: 'In Group A, it will be a tough fight between Team Vitality and Excel eSports as they battle for the group win. With 3 teams in each group advancing to the playoffs, Envy seems most likely to place 3rd. The remaining teams are definitely able to contest them, but I do not foresee any big surprises here. Group B is going to be the most interesting to watch, with four teams that are really close together. FNATIC seem obliged to make it to the Playoffs and Method, with all three players winning at least one Elite Series, are under pressure to perform. They will see some close games though with Team ARES and Epsilon eSports. In the end, I see Method, Fnatic and Epsilon eSports make it through to the Playoffs with Fnatic as the winner of Group B.'
Richard: 'Its so hard to call a final in this format, because all of the rosters have stand out players and players who on their day can be the best in the world, and every roster has players who are less known and for whom this tournament could be their breakout and make themselves a star. We just have to wait and see!'
Brandon: 'Well as we know it could be a Hashtag vs UNILAD final, which every FIFA fan would probably expect! But as we know FIFA as this level, it can be anyone's game - i would love to see a star born from this Elite Series just like a DHTekkz story from Barcelona 'Zero to Hero'. But yeah predictions for me are very hard at this point in the season, after the first few weeks we will be able to really get a feel for how this fantastic tournament is going to go!'
Two weeks down, and still so much to be decided. Don't miss a single second of it! Get your FREE tickets to come and watch all the action in the Gfinity Arena here, and you can watch all the action exclusively LIVE on Facebook.
The Gfinity Elite Series Season 3 can be viewed at: