Last time we looked at the Russian contingent. The conventional wisdom says Art Chaos rises quickly to the Champions bracket and stays there. Red Storm remains largely an unknown quantity and RL looks to be in decline.
This time around let's talk top four. Top four from 2013. Dynasty. Impact. Damage. Heat. Will we see the same teams dominating the Champions again next season? Given that peeps likely aren't done moving just yet and some sponsorship hangs in the balance it's conceivable that some critical moving parts might change the current balance of power. But, as things stand today Heat is the most likely candidate to slide. Not that their remaining roster isn't capable--they are--but untested in some key areas when it comes to carrying the whole load. They will need to shore up their D-wire attack--can Dizon play the doritos?--and perhaps reevaluate their style of play going forward.
Damage and Impact are similar in many ways. No strangers to success neither team lived up to their own expectations in 2013. Impact has the All-Star roster and Damage has nearly the same roster that won Cup three seasons ago. Damage is more aggressive off the break while Impact's players tend to be more aggressive pressing for their secondaries. Once in their primaries Damage has developed a tendency to slow play points which, to my mind, doesn't take full advantage of the team's skill set and Impact's tendency to cautious breakouts likewise can slow their attack. Against all but the other top teams it's a recipe for success simply because they are better teams but when they match up against the other top challengers it can result in their opponent gaining the momentum. Both teams are capable of winning any and every event they enter. The question is will either of them learn to unleash their best game in the most pressure packed of situations? Even if they don't they remain top four teams.
What to make of Dynasty. Love them or hate them they continue to earn respect. Dominating the first half of 2013 they survived the back half to take the series title. While the environment is completely different I am reminded of the season Ollie came back joined by Hinman & the (mostly) ex-Aftermath kids. Dominating start that faded as the season progressed. Last year it was new players and (kinda) new coach Rusty Glaze. In recent years change has energized the team but it hasn't been sustained. It isn't for lack of desire but when the core of the team has more than a dozen years of championship level play behind them the hand writing is on the wall. They put in the work last year and will need to do as much or more again this year. I'm not suggesting they are too old. I'm saying the hardest thing in sport is to maintain the level of excellence required to be champions and after doing it better and for longer than any team in paintball history Dynasty will hit that wall too. Will it be in 2014? If Art Chaos and Ironmen have their way it might be.