DRX DRX Korea Rank #1 stax Kim Gu-taek (김구택) Rb Goo Sang-Min (구상민) Zest Kim Ki-seok (김기석) BuZz Yu Byung-chul (유병철) MaKo Kim Myeong-gwan (김명관) Foxy9 Jung Jae-sung (정재성) and ZETA DIVISION ZETA DIVISION Japan Rank #1 Laz Ushida Koji crow Maruoka Tomoaki Dep Yuuma Hisamoto SugarZ3ro Shota Watanabe TENNN Tenta Asai will return to the international stage to represent Korea and Japan, following their playoff wins over On Sla2ers On Sla2ers Korea Rank #8 Cloy Pooky Blueming Lee Ji-Ho (이지호) Has1ra14 Lim Hyuk (임혁) Sk9Na Yoon Ji-woo (윤지우) and Crazy Raccoon Crazy Raccoon Japan Rank #2 popogachi Souta Morita Meiy Ibuki Seki Medusa An Min-cheol makiba Miyamoto Akatsuki neth Yusuke Matsuda respectively.

A 3-1 ZETA DIVISION victory in the Japanese grand final ended Crazy Raccoon's streak of representing Japan at every single international tournament so far. Over in Korea, longstanding titan DRX defeated their new challenger On Sla2ers in 3-0 fashion.

Japan

ZETA DIVISION underwent some sweeping roster changes following their disappointing last-place finish at Masters Berlin. The team retained Ushida "Laz" Koji and Maruoka "crow" Tomoaki but brought in former NORTHEPTION NORTHEPTION Japan Rank #7 Maufin BlackWiz Kohei Mikami TenTen Derialy Daichi Doi Moothie Yoo Seung-Woo (유승우) players Shota "SugarZ3ro" Watanabe and Tenta "TENNN" Asai, as well as Yuuma "Dep" Hisamoto, formerly of REJECT REJECT Japan Rank #27 Allen ЯIA Flax Skyfull Kosuke Nishida BRIAN , to complete an all-star lineup.

Regional rivals ZETA and Crazy Raccoon met for the first time in the group stage, where ZETA came out on top in the seeding final with a 2-0 victory. The teams found themselves facing off again in the second round of the upper bracket, where ZETA took the win for the second time in a closer 2-1 series, sending Crazy Raccoon down to the lower bracket.

In the upper bracket final, ZETA took on IGZIST IGZIST Japan Rank #8 Norisen Yusuke Shima GangPin Chae Jung-moo thiefy Masato Tsujita oitaN Masayuki Takahashi poem Yumeki Shibasaki RIPablo Shuma Ikeda , who had hoped their latest pickup – Korean superstar Kim "Lakia" Jong-min (김종민) – could lead them to the international stage. However, IGZIST's run ended with a top-three finish after suffering convincing losses to ZETA in the upper bracket and CR in the lower bracket.

The highest stakes encounter of Stage 1 took place in the grand final between ZETA DIVISION and Crazy Raccoon, which would determine the Japanese representative at Masters Reykjavik.

The first map of Bind started well for Crazy Raccoon, who won the first seven rounds. ZETA finally got on the board by winning a thrifty and two subsequent rounds, but CR answered with two more rounds and closed the half out 9-3.

ZETA opened the second half with three desperately-needed rounds. Munchkin taking the heads of three players with Jett knives helped CR to a thrifty win in round four, but ZETA were unfazed. They kept a firm grasp on the match as they collected another four rounds to even up the score at 10-10.

Having just seen their entire lead rapidly crumble, CR took a timeout to try and stabilize. This mental reset was enough for the team to win two of the next four rounds and send the game into overtime. However, the 9-3 curse struck for Crazy Raccoon, with ZETA winning the next two rounds and closing out their opponent's map pick 14-12.

ZETA kept the momentum of their win going on their own map pick of Split, only losing three rounds on their attacking side to go up 9-3. This was largely thanks to a monster performance from TENN, who put up 22 kills in the first half on his Raze.

It was now Crazy Raccoon's turn to attempt to come back from a 9-3 deficit. Despite starting well by winning two rounds, lightning did not strike twice, and ZETA won four of the next five rounds to close out the map 13-6.

Crazy Raccoon now needed to win three maps in a row and reverse sweep their rivals to book their tickets to Iceland. A strong start on Haven helped their cause, as CR won the first five rounds on attack. A light buy round win helped ZETA get on the board, but they only managed one more round in the half, going into the break with a 10-2 deficit.

After winning the pistol round, ZETA took a timeout. This pause seemed to help, as they mounted a comeback by winning eight of the next nine rounds, putting the game well within reach again at a scoreline of 10-11. However, Crazy Raccoon were determined to not go down in a sweep; they took a timeout to reset and win the next two rounds, closing out the map 13-10.

On Icebox, both teams played a close first half for the first time in the series, with Crazy Raccoon eking out a slight advantage at halftime with a 7-5 lead. They further extended this lead to 9-5 by winning the first two rounds of the second half.

After winning the bonus round, ZETA seized the advantage, going on a streak of six unanswered rounds, which put them in the lead by 11-9. In a nail-bitingly close post-plant, Souta "popogachi" Morita survived on just 5 HP to grant CR their tenth round, but this scrappy win came at the cost of the team's economy. With superior weaponry, ZETA were able to win the next two rounds to book their tickets to Iceland.

Korea

Over in Korea, Vision Strikers – now rebranded to DRX – were still the titans of the region, but a new challenger had emerged. Former DRX sentinel Lee "k1Ng" Seung-won (이승원) had left the team, and he and his new team On Sla2ers were aiming to dethrone the longstanding kings of Korea.

On Sla2ers proved they were serious contenders when they defeated DRX 2-0 in group play, delivering them their only loss of the group stage. DRX evened the score by winning 2-0 in the upper bracket final of the playoffs. On Sla2ers were able to easily dispatch their opponents in the lower bracket, which meant that a Bo5 grand final would decide the winner of this new top-level rivalry and determine who would represent Korea at the international stage.

The first map in the series started with a back-and-forth affair, as On Sla2ers managed to pick up two rounds to DRX's three. DRX was the first to build up a significant advantage, winning all but one of the next seven rounds to put them 9-3 ahead at the half.

Winning the first two rounds helped ONS close up the gap to 9-5. A tightly contested sequence saw both teams pick up three of the next six rounds. ONS needed much more than to be matching their rivals for rounds though, as they now found themselves down 8-12. However, they kept their cool and overcame four match points to send the match into overtime.

In overtime, DRX was able to finally ward off the On Sla2ers momentum, and despite a close shave with a comeback, closed out the map 14-12.

Another strong start saw DRX going up 6-1 on their own map pick of Fracture, a map they hadn't played since Champions. Their opponents slowly started waking up near the end of the half, and ONS picked up 3 more rounds of the remaining five, but they were still at a deficit of 4-8 at halftime.

Over on their defense, DRX proved to be a step ahead of their opposition, winning five rounds in a row on their way to a 13-4 victory.

The third map of the series was Ascent. Despite being back on their one of their own map picks, On Sla2ers were again outclassed by DRX, with in-game leader Kim "Zest" Ki-seok (김기석) and his squad building up a substantial 10-0 lead. After so many unanswered rounds, ONS finally found their footing again by winning the last two rounds of the half, but the damage had already been done. DRX won three rounds in the second half to cruise to a 13-2 victory, retaining their spot as the champions of Korea.