This weekend, Counter-Strike fans are in for a treat: Two live tournaments spread across two continents will provide plenty of action.
ASUS ROG Winter will be held in Helsinki, Finland, while an American tournament will take place at Cluch Con in Denver, Colorado. Here’s a look at five teams to watch for as the events unfold.
This eastern European squad made a big move earlier this month, simultaneously dropping a young star sniper and a wily veteran of great renown.
The team parted ways with Alexander “Simple” Kostyliev and Yegor “Markeloff” Markelov, choosing to replace the pair with one new talent in Yegor “Flamie” Vasiliev and a returning one in Dauren “Adren” Kystaubayev.
This creates a dynamic similar to the one the team had before, with Vasiliev playing the role of the up-and-comer looking to prove himself on the big stage and Kystaubayev providing veteran leadership to the team. Whether this represents a significant upgrade over Kostyliev and Markelov remains to be seen, though Markelov did admit after the move that his motivation had been lacking and was in need of a spark.
Kystaubayev has the credentials of a top European player and Vasiliev has the skill to make this work.
Counter Logic Gaming
Counter Logic Gaming made big waves when it announced it was expanding from League of Legends into Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with the acquisition of a collection of former Netcode Guides and MouseSpaz players who had been riding a hot streak in the North American scene.
The results that made up that streak of play came in online competition, and fans were eager to see the squad take their talents to a LAN environment. They did just that at MLG’s X Games Invitational, getting off to a promising start with an upset victory over eventual champions LDLC.
But things fell apart from there, as the team closed out the group stage with a blowout loss to Team Liquid and a one-sided defeat at the hands of Fnatic.
The promise this team holds is clear. Peter “ptr” Gurney has shown flashes of play that are equal to that of any sniping specialist in the world. Tarik Celik struggled at times at X Games, but has established a deserved reputation as a top fragger for Counter Logic Gaming.
The big question now is how these players and their teammates follow up an X Games performance that was as dramatic in its ups and downs as could be.
Brazil’s top side came to play at the X Games Invitational. Kabum has made international appearances in the past and always seemed competitive—well short of what it would take to beat the world’s best teams. In Aspen, things initially seemed different than before.
A dominant win over Cloud9 inspired many Brazilian fans to think that this might be the big breakout in Global Offensive they had been waiting for. But those thoughts were quickly quashed as Kabum was thoroughly dominated by Dignitas (now Team SoloMid) and Ninjas in Pyjamas, managing only a combined seven rounds between the two losses.
Having tasted victory over an elite team, the next challenge for Kabum is to string together that kind of result in one extended tournament run.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
The results of the X Games Invitational were a particularly bitter pill to swallow for Sweden’s Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Just as they had at DreamHack Winter, the team put together a compelling run to the grand finals, showing that their mid-late 2014 slump was now well and truly behind them. But just as they had at that tournament, Ninjas in Pyjamas ran up against an LDLC team in that grand final set whom they just couldn’t quite overcome.
The biggest question mark coming out of the event was the consistency, or lack thereof, of sniper Mikail “Maikelele” Bill.
Bill had been brought late last year to help remedy the team’s struggles, and he initially seemed an effective solution. Even while simply being inserted into the squad’s existing strategies and tactics, Bill was able to excel. His performance at DreamHack Winter spoke to even greater potential for the new roster moving forward.
But with more time to prepare with his new teammates, Bill actually struggled at X Games. He missed a number of shots while the spotlight was focused squarely on him, likely giving fans a worse impression of his performance than was deserved. Analysts on site openly wondered whether it was Bill’s style of play that produced such flashy hits and misses.
The greatness that made Ninjas in Pyjamas the name it is today was predicated largely on unmatched consistency, and if the team is to win major tournaments in the future, their star sniper will need to find more consistency in his own game.
One of the biggest questions coming into the X Games Invitational was the performance of Cloud9. The team which was once considered North America’s best and a constant threat to make a deep run at major tournaments was massively disappointing at the ESEA global final, eventually being knocked out by Denial Esports and looking to have finally lost their grip on one of the top two spots in their region.
The loss of Spencer “Hiko” Martin, long a core player for the team, only furthered questions being asked about what the team might do moving forward. The addition of Shahzeb “Shahzam” Khan did little to quell these concerns. Khan is known as a talented sniper, but fans wondered whether his personality would fit the Cloud9 mold.
The results at X Gamers were mixed. Cloud9 began the event with a disappointing loss to Kabum, but then turned right around and cruised to a victory over Ninjas in Pyjamas. This set up an anticipated showdown with Danish side Dignitas (again, now Team SoloMid), but Cloud9 may as well have no-showed the match. The team managed only two rounds in a terrible loss that eliminated them from the tournament.
The question now is which performance is more representative of where the team will be moving forward. Was the win over Ninjas in Pyjamas an aberration or a sign of things to come? At Clutch Con, the former class of the region will have a chance to prove things out one way or another.