What you need to know heading into the ELEAGUE Major playoffs
After four riveting days of action, we are finally heading into the playoffs of the ELEAGUE Major. Eight teams will now be competing for the lion’s share of the $1 million prize pool at the Fox Arena in Atlanta.
The path to the playoffs was arduous, however. Fan favorites stumbled and we saw some of the most unlikely comebacks unfold.
The spectacle of the event has been even more impressive thanks to the ELEAGUE production, with minimal delays and seamless transitions between desk segments and the games. With little to no technical hiccups, it’s safe to say that the ELEAGUE Major has, so far, delivered an incredible viewing experience both in terms of the games being played, and the standard of the production.
But let’s look at some of the major happenings from the group stage’s final day:
There are no more legendary teams from North America
The ELEAGUE Major will see no North American teams compete in the playoffs. A shocking result, especially given how dramatic OpTic Gaming’s rise to the top of the international circuit in December last year was. Yesterday, however, the team’s two final appearances didn’t seem to count for much as the Swedes from GODSENT dealt the final blow to OpTic, and sent them packing.
Team Liquid were also unable to advance. What makes it slightly more worse for Spencer “Hiko” Martin and his men is that they had multiple chances at actually taking home maps against teams like EnVyUs and, in particular, FaZe Clan. But despite the team’s best efforts, Liquid were never able to close out the majority of maps they’d established leads on. A decisive victory against mousesports at the start of the final day saw the team off to a promising start, yet that wasn’t enough to see them achieve victory against tournament favorites Astralis.
With only three rounds to their name, the end to Liquid’s run at the ELEAGUE Major was brutal, and ensured that there would be no North American team among the top 8 at the event.
The French shuffle looks all but certain
Rumors have already been circulating about potential roster shuffles in the French CS:GO scene. But given the fact that neither G2 Esports nor EnVyUs were able to advance from the group stage, that could make this not a matter of “if,” but “when.”
G2 Esports in particular looked all but done during its last game of the tournament. After falling four rounds behind North, the Frenchmen went for a questionable buy consisting of three SMG’s, which was quickly shut down by the Danes. A move the analysis desk describes as reminiscent of the former EnVyUs roster’s final game, in which multiple players went for absurd strategies aimed at simply getting the game over with faster.
With the prospect of a French superteam seeming all the more likely, it will be interesting to see if that roster can achieve the same success as previous iterations.
Only five players have attended all Major playoffs
With GODSENT’s elimination yesterday, the exclusive club of players that have attended the playoffs of every single Valve Major got even smaller. Robin “flusha” Rönnquist and Jesper “JW” Wecksell, famed for their success with Fnatic, were unable to hold on against North in one of yesterday’s elimination games, meaning that only five players have now competed at the 10 Valve Majors that have taken place since 2013.
Those players are Fnatic’s Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson, as well as the core of Astralis’ roster: Nicolai “device” Reedtz, Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen, and Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth.
The ELEAGUE playoffs begin
Now is the time to get truly excited, as only three more days remain of the ELEAGUE Major. The quarterfinal match-ups have already been drawn.
Na`Vi vs. Astralis - Jan. 27, 10:00 EST
While Astralis ended up getting off to a slow start, Na`Vi have looked unflinching. Crushing their way through mousesports, EnVyUs, and SK Gaming, the Eastern European team also fields the two top players at the event in terms of statistics. Having only lost 12 rounds in total throughout the entire group stage, the team has few weaknesses as it heads into the playoffs.
This is not to say that Astralis isn’t without hope, as the Danes have still shown signs they’re one of the strongest teams at the event. With a dominant record on Train, and ever-consistent star player Nicolai “device” Reedtz playing up to his usual standard, Astralis have undoubtedly performed at a strong level overall. But will that be enough to take down the best that is Na`Vi?
Gambit vs. Fnatic - Jan. 27, 12:30 EST
In late 2015, current Gambit in-game leader Danil “Zeus” Teslenko led Na`V to an unbelievable amount of grand finals. The only downside? They would usually encounter Fnatic once they got there, and would have to settle for silver.
Now things are a bit different. Zeus’ Gambit roster has looked like a well-oiled machine for the majority of the ELEAGUE Major’s group stage. Playing a style very reminiscent of Na`Vi during its peak, Zeus’ leadership seems to have enabled his new teammates to shine brighter than ever before.
But Fnatic are rising to the occasion just like Gambit. After months in obscurity, they’re looking to finally challenge international competition again. Granted, Fnatic’s performances now are nowhere close to that of its glory days, but the Swedes’ style of focusing on individual skill and less rigid strategies looks impossible to stop once they get rolling.
Gambit should be the favorites in the match-up nonetheless, and it will be a treat to see Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev at a career high take on Swedish legends such as olofmeister.
Virtus Pro vs. North - Jan. 27, 15:00 EST
Of all the quarterfinal matches, the confrontation between North and Virtus Pro looks to be the most one-sided on paper.
While the Danes have shown they are a world-class team (against Virtus Pro, no less) North are still in a serious predicament. At the moment, Virtus looks like a team that simply can’t be defeated or broken. No matter the situations the Poles find themselves in, they find hope through the most unlikely of scenarios and the consistent star performances of Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski.
North are certainly a strong team. After all, they made it through the group stage by winning three straight maps while constantly staring down potential elimination. But considering the opponents North has faced and struggled with to those of Virtus Pro, it’s clear the Polish side is playing at a level far above that of North.
FaZe Clan vs. SK Gaming - Jan.28, 10:00 EST
Reigning Valve Major champions SK Gaming have not looked like the strongest team at the event. And that is to be expected, given the fact that they’re playing with a stand-in: former FaZe Clan AWPer Ricardo “fox” Pancheo. The uncanny thing about SK Gaming is how they possess the ability to dig deep when put in a disadvantageous position, which was exemplified during the team’s two overtime victories against FaZe and Astralis in the group stage.
But the fact that FaZe has already played SK Gaming so close at the event should tell you something about the Scandinavian super team’s current level. Having expanded its map pool and strategical repertoire to a pretty large degree, FaZe have showcased that they are able to give any team in the world a run for its money.
The ELEAGUE Major will resume on Jan. 27 at 10:00 EST.