The Japan Invitational 2023 is a tournament taking place between June 22 and August 12, featuring Japan's top teams along one European invite. Along with the pressure of being a showdown between Japan's teams post-Copenhagen Major, it serves as the region's only high-level championship during the APAC off-season.
In terms of potential storylines, the two teams to keep an eye on are Japan's best team, SCARZ, and EU invite MNM Gaming. As both squads finished top eight at the BLAST Major Copenhagen, they can be expected to do some damage and perhaps even meet in the grand finals.
Format and Team List
The format of the Japan Invitational 2023 will see the eight Japanese teams vie for three spots in playoffs in a double-elimination bracket, where they will be joined by MNM — the sole European squad invited to the event.
The Japanese match-ups were determined based on their rankings in the first stage of the 2023 Japan League: 1st place versus 8th place, 2nd place versus 7th place, 3rd place versus 6th place and 4th place versus 5th place. As a result, some intense confrontations are set to occur right from the first round, and possible exciting matches may unfold in the qualifier game.
In the first round, we’ll have SCARZ facing Fnatic, and CYCLOPS facing Crest Gaming Lst, the team who eliminated CYCLOPS last season. In the second round, we could see SCARZ facing CYCLOPS, or even a match between NORTHEPTION and Varrel, two of the Japanese teams that qualified to the Copenhagen Major.
The hope is the match between NORTHEPTION and SCARZ doesn't happen in the first phase, but if both teams lose one of their matches, they will inevitably meet in the lower bracket for the last spot in the finals. The Lower Bracket system gives teams a chance to recover from a single loss, making it a fight for survival to secure the final spot but it would be nice to see NORTHEPTION and SCARZ both potentially have chances to face MNM.
The full team list is as follows:
- MNM Gaming (EU Invite)
- SCARZ (1st Place Japan League)
- NORTHEPTION (2nd Place Japan League)
- IGZIST (3rd Place Japan League)
- Crest Gaming Lst (4th Place Japan League)
- Cyclops athlete gaming (5th Place Japan League)
- Varrel (6th Place Japan League)
- FAV gaming (7th Place Japan League)
- Fnatic (8th Place Japan League)
What Happened in 2022?
The 2022 tournament was played in a slightly different format, but ended without any Japanese teams making it to the grand final.
The first phase featured four teams competing for a spot in the MD5, with Fnatic facing FAV and Crest Gaming Lst facing Donuts USG. In this mini-tournament, Crest emerged victorious, securing their duel against CYCLOPS in the MD5 for a spot in the Japan Invitational playoffs.
In the playoffs, the qualified teams SCARZ and Crest Gaming Lst joined South Korean team DAMWON and European squad Team BDS, who were invited to participate. Unfortunately, and to the disappointment of the Japanese fans, their representatives didn't have much of a chance against the invited teams, failing to even take a map to overtime.
However, the highlight of the 2022 tournament was Team BDS, winning their second in-person and international event right after Gamers8. This coincided with the debut of their new lineup, which now included Théo "LikEfac" Mariano in place of Adrien "RaFaLe" Rutik. In the same season, Team BDS went on to claim their first Tier S+ tournament, the Six Major Jönköping; it’s believed their good performance in the Japan Invitational contributed to the team's increased confidence in the global stage.
What could we expect in 2023?
With a long off-season interval this year, teams have had plenty of time to address internal issues and strive to bring their best game. It's as if everything that happened before doesn't matter; some players may have relaxed their training, while others may have dedicated themselves to the grind even harder. Coaches who were previously questioned now had time to work and could change the course of their teams towards more effective and efficient playstyles. Anything could have happened in the off-season.
Despite the cautious approach to predicting game outcomes, the region's aggressive playstyle is expected to continue. After watching CYCLOPS' matches in Gamers8, it’s evident that the team still seeks an aggressive playstyle. Despite the negative results against W7M and Oxygen, the team showed that there have been changes. The aggression remains, but they’ve also prepared for late-round gameplay.
One of the main expectations for the APAC region this season is to understand not every round requires aggression. At certain moments in the game, it’s necessary to "tire out" the opponent by taking them out of their comfort zone in the bombsite, force early utility usage, and more, as relying solely on offensive play has not been effective for current teams.
Another exciting expectation for this tournament is how the teams that competed in the Six Major Copenhagen will perform. The star players Riku "Rec" Katou of SCARZ and "nina" of NORTHEPTION come into this tournament with high expectations based on their performances in the last global event. The same goes for CYCLOPS, a team who, as mentioned earlier, qualified through APAC's Gamers8 and now faces the pressure of reaching the finals.
The invited team for this season, MNM, arrives with a clear objective; to boost their confidence. Similar to Team BDS last season, MNM heads to Japan tournament with good momentum after finishing in the Top 8 of the Copenhagen Major. However, to take the next step, the European team needs to get used to winning important tournaments. Despite their strong group stage performance at this year's Six Invitational, the team couldn't secure any victories in the playoffs. As invited participants, MNM carries the pressure of aiming for the title. The task won’t be easy, but if they succeed, it will bring many positive outcomes for the organization, boosting the confidence of its players and coaches throughout the year.
Concluding the Japanese teams to watch, we have Fnatic, who are in the doldrums currently, but every Rainbow Six: Siege fan has nostalgia for the organization's golden times in the game. Despite failing to win any major titles, the team has achieved remarkable feats; like reaching the semifinals in Pro League S6, where they played with coach Jayden "Dizzle" Saunders filling in for the Australian legend Etienne "Mag" Rousseau. Additionally, at Six Invitational 2020, they secured a 5th-6th place finish in the competition, defeating FaZe Clan in the group stage, with an incredible comeback in the 3rd map after being down 5-1, and Team Empire, the current Six Invitational runner-up and Six Major Raleigh champion.
The tournament will kick off on July 22, still in an online format, and on August 11, it will take place in-person in Tokyo at the Shinjuku Sumitomo Hall.