With the second season of the Gfinity Elite Series done and dusted, it’s almost been a case of deja vu. Melbourne Order snagged another two championships, including a second straight CS:GO title.
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Some teams go decades without tasting the ultimate success in sport.
Only two years ago, we saw the Western Bulldogs and Cronulla Sharks crack premiership hoodoos half a century in the making.
That year also saw the Chicago Cubs claim baseball’s World Series for the first time in more than 100 years.
While the world of professional esports isn’t quite old enough for teams to have been starved of success for that long, the chance to play for a title is still something everybody cherishes.
But the teams – esports or otherwise – that do feel success has eluded them would have to be green with envy at the feats of Melbourne Order.
For a team that only came into existence late last year, Order have been on an absolute tear – putting together world-class League of Legends and Counter-Strike rosters in the blink of an eye.
Their meteoric rise to the top of the Australian esports scene has been best exemplified at the Gfinity Elite Series where, of the six championships played out so far, they’ve claimed five.
This past weekend saw two trophies added to the cabinet, with dominant performances in both CS:GO and Street Fighter V seeing the Melbourne-based outfit go back-to-back in those tournaments, as well be awarded their second Club Championship award for having the best aggregate success across the three Elite Series titles.
With two grand finals in as many days – both against their arch rival Sydney Chiefs – esports fans were treated to two dominant displays by the Melburnian outfit.
The Counter-Strike matchup was a rematch of the decider won decisively by Order 3-0 a season ago.
In the early goings, it looked as if we’d be on track for a repeat of that whitewash.
Thirteen straight rounds went Melbourne’s way in the first match. For the uninitiated, CS:GO is played in best-of-30, or first to 16, matches – making a 13-0 score borderline historic.
The Chiefs pulled back with two of the next three rounds, but it was a 16-2 win in Order’s favour before the audience had even been allowed to settle.
The second match in the best-of-five series started just as ominously, with the visitors racing out to an 8-1 lead before withstanding a mid-match rally to go 2-0 up with a 16-7 win.
Fans, commentators and analysts were in awe of how Melbourne were playing – and rightly so. They had Sydney on a string.
It was sheer dominance from the get go. The relaxed and almost lackadaisical demeanour on stage juxtaposed both the rigid discipline they were playing with, but also the strained and frustrated vibe their opponents were emitting.
They regularly put the Chiefs back into their shells with wondrous displays of on-the-fly tactics and accuracy – leading one commentator to remark they were turning the normally fast-paced shooter into a “point-and-click adventure”.
Fans were gushing to tell me just how dominantly their team was playing too, with one remarking it was like watching “the All Blacks, Man City and [the NFL’s New England] Patriots combined.”
Sydney were able to put together a magnificent third map to take a 16-13 win and move the series score to 2-1, but Order flicked the switch once more with a 16-5 shellacking in the fourth map to wrap up the series and secure the championship.
It’s hard to put into words what makes Order such a fearsome proposition for any opposition – especially if you’re not well-versed in esports terminology – but, to use traditional sporting terminology, they really are just a class above the rest.
They know how to stay relaxed off the screen while playing with surgeon-like precision on it.
They run with some of the strongest and best rehearsed strategies around, but are just as dangerous when the playbook’s gone out the window are playing on instinct.
They may not win every round, but they never look out of control and, when they decide to flick that switch, they’re always favoured to go on and win.
For the Chiefs, losing a grand final is never not disappointing, but they can hold their heads high knowing that, in that third map, they were the only team in Elite Series history to actually challenge Melbourne’s top lineup.
Reaching the decider to begin with was an enormous achievement anyway, given they looked done and dusted at the halfway point of the season with two hefty losses and just a narrow win over a minnow outfit to their names.
Their comprehensive takedown of Perth Ground Zero in the semi-finals should also go down as one of the talking points of the season.
In the end, what separated them from Order was that inability to keep level heads when things ran off script.
Chiefs had solid strategies of their own. They had top tier talent in MoeyCQ, Infrequent and Iyen and came out of straight-up firefights with Order a lot better than anyone else has.
But whenever events played out drastically different to how the round had been planned, they just didn’t adjust.
If Order got the jump on their strategy, the Sydneysiders were sitting ducks.
On the flip side of the coin, if the Chiefs got ahead early in a round by surprise, they seemed reluctant to veer off the path and press that advantage.
That strict adherence to the plan rarely served them well in those situations, allowing Order to make losing rounds much closer than they had to be or, in some cases, turn them around completely.
A lot can change between Elite Series seasons – something we definitely saw this season.
What’s quickly becoming a certainty, however, is Order’s top lineup cleaning up. Barring something extraordinary, it’ll be hard to see that changing next year.