The season 11 playoffs of Minor League Esports officially get kicks off this Saturday, with the Conference Quarterfinals in Academy League, Champion League, and Master League. Each Quarterfinal matchup will be a best of five, unlike a series of five during the regular season. Knowing how close the regular season is across all leagues, no favorite should be considered right from the outset. So let us do a deep dive into Master League, looking at each matchup in the Blue and Orange Conference and making a claim as to which team may make it through the first round.
#2 Elite vs #7 Shadow: Saturday 8 pm EST on mlesportsgg2
The Elite clinched a second seed with an impressive 46-24 regular-season record. Their three-headed monster of Swellz, Elegance, and Hotwiredbug secured them a 10-4 series record while going 5-1 through divisional play. Elegance led the way with a 30-10 game record while being in the top 10 of OMVPR with a 3.85. Swellz and Hotwiredbug also threw up some impressive numbers. Hotwiredbug leading the team in goals saves, shots, and MVPR (5.15) with Swellz not far behind (4.52 MVPR). Elegance will most certainly be taking to the pitch come this weekend and whoever has the hotter hand between Swellz and Hotwirdbug may be joining them.
The Shadow comes into the playoffs as a #7 seed, with a 39-31 regular season. Their top player for most of the season, M0rg, ranked into the Premier League before week 10. Before their rank out, M0rg was their offensive catalyst, who sat with a 22-8 overall game record, with a 5.95 MVPR and 3.95 OMVPR. Even after their departure, they lead the Shadow in goals and shots at the end of the season. More importantly, they finished with a 17-23 record after M0rg’s rank out, with Akina stepping into some pretty big shoes. Based on salary, their top pairing would be Akina and Nyyankeesrd at a 16.0 each, with Nyyankeesrd coming off the reserve bench mid-way through the season. However, based upon their sub 500 record since M0rg’s rank out, the Shadow may just play the pairing with the greatest synergy, which may be Euronate and Fruity, both being on the main roster since the beginning of the season.
Whichever pairing the Shadow end up going with, they have a tall task ahead of them. The Elite are 2-2 against winning teams, but with those two losses coming from their lower pairings. Knowing they will be sending out a dynamite roster to the pitch, and the Shadow’s struggles to end the season, the Elite look poised to take this one.
#3 Rhinos vs #6 Outlaws: Saturday 9 pm EST on mlesportsgg
The Rhinos were able to grab the third seed, with a 43-27 record. They are a bit of an enigma, going 28-12 against winning teams while going 15-15 against losing squads. We will have to wait and see which Rhinos team takes to the field, but we do know this, their star player RED will not be taking to the pitch. Similar to M0rg, RED ranked out of Master League and into Premier League after week 10. RED left the Master League with a very impressive 6.53 MVPR, averaging over 700 points per game, while not losing a single series. Filling into the top pairing for the Rhinos, alongside Reverse Fridge, will be Xequter001. The pairing of Reverse Fridge and Xequter001 went a modest 7-8 during the regular season. However, they took a close 3-2 series win over the Outlaws’ top pairing only a couple of weeks ago.
The sixth seed Outlaws, with their top pairing of KyleSpanx and Llama, look for a sweet case of revenge against the Rhinos to take the first-round win. The Outlaws finished with a 41-29 record, going 10-4 in series overall. Of some concern is their winning percentage against winning teams, clipping in under par at 45%. This being said, a major bright spot for the Outlaws has been the play of Llama. Coming in at a 16.0 salary, Llama currently sits fourth in the Master League for MVPR at 5.89. Finishing with a 7-1 series record, the Outlaws will continue to look for Llama to carry the offensive workload. He finished the regular season in the 95th percentile, in terms of his involvement in the Outlaw’s offense for the entire season.
With their last series being a close contest and both squads finishing with nearly identical records, this series aims to be incredibly tight. In the previous 3-2 Rhinos’ win over the Outlaws, four out of the five games were decided by a single goal. To come out on top this time around, the Outlaws will need to watch out for Reverse Fridge’s speed. He led the Master League in time spent supersonic at over 3000 seconds. The Outlaws will need to match that speed or look to neutralize it, by not overextending and giving Reverse Fridge space to attack. If Reverse Fridge and Llama can go toe-to-toe and both put up solid numbers, this series may be decided on how Xequter and KyleSpanx perform in crunch time.
#4 Pandas vs #5 Demolition: Saturday 10 pm EST on mlesportsgg
The “pan // das’’ come into the season 11 playoffs sporting a 39-31 record, with dan720 looking to carry them on a deep playoff run. Dan is the man, leading the Pandas in every meaningful offensive category including shots, goals, assists, and MVPR. Who will join dan720 this weekend is uncertain. Both Unforgiven and Zona finished with nearly comparable numbers. Unforgiven with a 4.26 MVPR while Zona finished with a 4.28 MVPR. Zona finished with an overall game record slightly above 500 and Unforgiven was slightly below 500. Knowing this, along with Zona’s lower OMVPR, Zona may be the one to start alongside dan720. This is good news for Panda fans, as the pair went 9-1 across two series this season.
The fifth-seeded Demolition, alongside the Rhinos and Shadow, also had their star player rank into the Premier League. GoldenLuigii, who was drafted first overall this past Master League draft, posted impeccable numbers. Posting a 28-12 game record, with a 5.89 MVPR and smothering their opponents with a 3.75 OMVPR. GoldenLuigii was also a massive aerial threat, leading the Master League with time spent high in the air, at over 700 seconds. Losing a player of GoldenLuigii’s caliber is a tough loss for the Demolition, but they hope to fill that void by bringing in Dye, a previous reserve for the Bears. Dye is an unknown, not having played in a single series all season, nor is there any relevant 4mans stats that can be gleaned off of. Joining Dye will be Miko, who ended the regular season with a strong 4.71 MVPR.
Many unknowns surround this series. Who will be joining dan720 and will they be able to contribute offensively? How will Dye fair in their first MLE series? Will Miko and Dye be able to develop the chemistry quickly enough, to the levels that Miko and GoldenLuigii exhibited? The answers to these questions will be made known come Saturday.
#2 Sabres vs #7 Knights: Sunday 8 PM EST on mlesportsgg2
The Sabres come into playoffs as the #2 seed in the Blue Conference, securing a 44-26 record. A welcomed but surprising bright spot for the Sabres this season has been the play of Godkitty. Godkitty started the season on the bench but got onto the starting roster a little over halfway through the season, after the departure of their previous star player, JSMR. Since then, they have been on an absolute tear, going 18-2 with a 5.90 MVPR. Joining Godkitty will be Phoenix, a prior starter on the Bears who was released after week 6, and subsequently picked up by the Sabres on waivers. The pair of Godkitty and Phoenix have done well in two series, finishing with a 9-1 record. Just as impressive, both players finished top 10 in the league in shooting percentage.
The Knights were declared the number one team in the Master League, by the Power Rankings Committee, at the start of the reason. Such high favor, before any games were played, was given out for good reason. The Knights sported a highly balanced team filled with incredible talent. Therefore, coming into the playoffs as the seventh seed may not have been the regular season results they were hoping for. Regardless, they qualified with a 41-29 record and are poised to make some noise. Their offensive juggernaut, Prosperity2K, will look to lead the way. They finished top 5 in goals, top 10 in shots, and posted a solid 5.73 MVPR. Now who will be joining Prosperity2K is more uncertain, simply based on the strength of their collective roster. Anyone of Galaxy, Barry Allen, or MikeisMyIke, could step in and put up stellar numbers. Galaxy led the team with a 3.81 OMVPR, which means the Knights could look towards Galaxy shutting down the Sabres’ offense while Prosperity2K keeps the offense moving forward. However, Galaxy also posted the lowest average opponent salary on the team, with a 15.79 average opponent salary. MikeisMyIke has a 16.5 salary, like Prosperity2K, so sporting their highest salary pairing may be the play. There is also Barry Allen, who finished with a 4.40 MVPR, with his average opponent salary coming in at 15.96.
Whoever the Knights end up fielding this weekend, the Sabres have a difficult task ahead of them. The Sabres can hold faith in the fact that the Knights this season finished with a sub-par record against winning teams, only going 14-21. Compound that fact with Godkitty’s lights-out performance down the stretch, this one looks to be an incredibly close contest.
#3 Jets vs #6 Aviators: Sunday 9 PM EST on mlesportsgg
The Jets go into these playoffs wielding a three-headed monster of Bond Brother, Ripperr, and Indy. All three of them put up impeccable numbers. Bond Brother and Ripperr both finished top 10 in MVPR, with a 6.52 and a 5.82 MVPR, respectively. Indy finished not too far off with a 5.31 MVPR and a 18-7 game record. The Jets were second in the league in total goals and third in winning percentage against winning squads. The Jets were flying high most of the season and look to continue their ways with any pairing they decide to field.
The Aviators clinched the sixth seed with a 42-28 record. Like the Jets, their offensive output was executed by committee, with Mario, Jdubbz, and Craymin all playing key roles. Mario led the team in goals, Jdubbz led in assists, saves, and MVPR, while Craymin led in shots, demos, and OMVPR. Their well-balanced attack resulted in 252 goals, which was good enough for fifth in the league. They may go with the more winning pair, considering their team balance, meaning Craymin and Jdubbz would suit up on Sunday. Both players finished with a commanding 5-2 series record. However, is that both losses for both players came from the hands of playoff-bound teams.
The Aviators and Jets both have well-rounded squads, which is key to achieving regular-season success. Come playoff time, that necessity becomes less meaningful, with teams looking to field their ace line ups each series. What makes the Jets scary is they can legitimately claim two “ace” line ups, which puts the Aviators in a tough spot. Craymin will need to continue to his defensive stance for this Aviators squad and try to neutralize the Jets’ offensive chances. The key to this series is Jdubbz, who had the second-lowest opponent average salary (among starters) at 15.57. If the speed of the higher salaried Jets’ catch them off guard, with it being something they are not used to, the Aviators’ hopes at a deep playoff run may be short-lived.
#4 Hurricanes vs #5 Hawks: Sunday 10 PM EST on mlesportsgg
The Hurricanes were able to clinch the fourth seed, with an overall record of 40-30, while going 9-5 in series played. They had a sub 500 record against winning teams but were able to make the playoffs with their divisional play, going 20-10 against their divisional opponents. Everything the Hurricanes do goes through Privileged Pear. Coming in at a 16.5 salary, they finished top 10 in the league in goals, saves, and shots. A very impressive campaign for Privileged Pear, who looks to cap off a successful regular season with a dominating playoff run. To make that a reality, their 16.5 counterpart, Nerr97, will need to match Privileged Pear’s play. Nerr97 looks poised to do so, leading the team in assists at 37 and demos with 39, going 5-2 across all series played.
As we have seen with other playoff-bound Master League teams, the Hawks had their star-studded player rank out during the regular season. Pletheros led the league with an astonishing 6.82 MVPR, going 6-0 in series played while scoring 2.5 goals per game. To replace Pletheros, the Hawks grabbed Plumato from waivers after the Wizards moved them to reserves. Plumato has had a more disappointing season, going 5-15 with the Wizards and 2-8 with the Hawks in games played. This does not paint a full picture, necessarily, for Plumato went 2-3 against the Aviators, a series that went to three overtimes, and a sweep at the hands of the top pairing from the number one seeded Hive. Plumato will look to have a strong playoff start alongside Bandi, who finished with a 5.17 MVPR.
The #4/#5 matchups in both conferences are surrounded by unknowns. Will Plumato be able to step up and be that offensive catalyst the Hawks need them to be? Will the Hurricanes be able to perform at a higher level against a winning team? Both Plumato and Bandi finished with an OMVPR over 5.0, so will they be able to neutralize the pressure Privileged Pear will bring? This series aims to be an absolute barn burner, with the Conference Quarterfinals wrapping up Sunday night.
No matter who you’re rooting for, you can catch all the playoff action on both twitch channels MLESPORTSGG and MLESPORTSGG2. Support your favorite teams and MLE by watching the stream. And good luck to all the playoff teams.