This is fourth and last part of the ESL One Cologne group stage preview, featuring an analysis of group D.
ESL One Cologne 2015 will take place in 20-23 August in Cologne, Germany. Because of the number of participating teams(16), the prize pool(250,000$) and the support of Valve through stickers this event is considered one of the biggest and most prestigious events in CS:GO, a major.
Full group list:
Group D: Virtus.pro, Mousesports, Cloud9 and Immunity
Expected group winner: Virtus.Pro
Yeah, Virtus.pro being the expected winner is by no means a safe bet, I actually think that this group is one of the most difficult groups in terms of number of teams that could theoretically top the group. VP, Mouse and C9 are all top6 teams in the world and I think that any of these teams can beat the other ones on a good day. However, there is an interesting historical context here: Virtus.pro have beaten Cloud9 every single time they’ve met (in three BO3’s and one BO1), but lost to Mouz in two BO3’s respectively. (just LAN results are considered). The other way around, Mouz beat Cloud9 three times (one BO3 and two BO1’s) and lost once, at ESL Katowice main qualifier, in a BO1. If we are to go according to these results, Virtus.pro are the kryptonite of Cloud9, but Mouz is able to beat VP and have a slight advantage against Cloud9. This means that the order of the games is very important. As of right now, HLTV released the full schedule of the major, and it will have Mousesports and Cloud9 facing, and the winner will face the winner of VP and Immunity.
This leads to a bunch of interesting situations: if Mouse can beat Cloud9 in the first match, they should have the advantage going into the VP match. However, if C9 can take the win over Mouse they should (in theory) lose to VP once again. However, enough statistics, let’s start with the Virtus.pro lineup.
Virtus.pro have been slowly but surely declining since the EMS One Katowice 2014 days, going from being the best team in the world to being a good top4 teams(around Cologne last year), that could on a good day win an event, to a top6 team in the world, as they seemed to not be able to adapt to the likes of TSM, Fnatic and Envy. Their worst moment was at Dreamhack Valencia, where they got smashed by Kinguin on Cache 16-0. Their problems were clear: conflict inside the team, no coordination, people missing their shots and not good enough strats was the recipe for disaster. However, after the event they have acknowledged their mistakes and won their next LAN event, CEVO, in a typical Virtus.plow manner, only losing two maps over the whole event, and crushed Na’vi in the finals.
The one big change in terms of lineup that VP had undergone was the fact that they gave Neo the awp, and Pasha became a full time rifler. I really like this idea, as Pasha was never going to be a top tier awper, compared to the like of Guardian or KennyS, but his main strength is with the rifle. What is also interesting is the fact that Neo was godlike with the awp. For a guy that has never been a primary awper he was hitting insane shots, beating even the likes of Skadoodle or Guardian sometimes, and Pasha also stepped up by getting a bunch of very high impact frags. The only cause of concern is whether Neo’s performance was a one-off, or whether he will be able to remain at the same level. Personally, I think that Neo will drop off a bit as an awp’er, but it shouldn’t really matter if the likes of Pasha and Byali can step it up. The one question mark for me is Snax. When the new VP team formed, they relied on the likes of Snax, Pasha and Byali to carry. However, Snax has been in a pretty bad slump over the last few months, but did have some good plays at this CEVO. If he can step it up and Neo remains in god-mode, then I personally think that they will top their group.
As for their map pool, VP is known for being very good on the likes of Overpass, Mirage, Train and Cache, as they managed to beat Na’vi , the team that is considered the best on Overpass, in the finals at CEVO, while also taking wins off them on Mirage (a Na’vi traditional map too) and Cache. However, they did lose to Cloud9 on Cache in the semifinals, so they still need to go over a few things on the map if they want to pick it.
All in all, I think that if C9 beats Mouse, VP should be able to beat C9, as they have always been very strong against NA teams in general, but if they face Mousesports there is a possible chance of upset.
Speaking of Mouse, these guys have been on a streak ever since they formed, getting top fours at all the events they have taken part in. At formation, no one thought that Mouse could ever crack the top8, but they have proven themselves as one of the best teams around. Their rise to the top is based on two major things: Nex’s breakthrough as a god-tier rifler, one of the best in the world, and Gob B’s very tactical approach to the game.
First things first, their lineup. Apart from Nex being a god, the fact that ChrisJ has been able to finally also break through(on a lesser degree) on lan definitely helped mouse take so many series against the top teams in the world. Because, when you look into the lineup, skill wise they don’t have much, and this is one of their biggest problems: apart from Nex, no other player is even close to being a top10 player in the world (maybe ChrisJ on his best day, but that is rarely going to happen). We’ve all seen the Nex highlights on Dust 2 (if not there is a video below), and this guy is a god at holding down the B site, even solo. Him being able to remain at the god level is crucial for the success of Mouse.
Actually, their lineup reminds me of the Titan lineup(s): a genius IGL who is a very weak fragger, with a superstar, two supportive players and a hybrid that is kind of inconsistent. Admittedly, Spidii has played way above his level lately, but I highly doubt he will be able to reproduce the same showing at the major. Which means that Mouse are left with ChrisJ as the wildcard: if he can stept it up and play like a top tier awp’er, Mouse are very strong; but if he starts missing even simple shots (as he sometimes does), then Mouse are in a world of trouble, as they simply cannot match the skill of the other top teams in the world. After all, you can have the best strat in the world but it will be useless, if the enemy is much better at clicking heads than you.
What is interesting about the Mouse-VP matchup is the fact that they have been able to beat VP on their best maps: they beat them on Train, Mirage and Cache (also on Cobble but that is not too great of a map for VP), but lost on Dust2, which is a home map for Mous and not that much from VP. If we do get to see a Mous vs VP decider match, I think that the map veto will be very important, as both teams like to play the same maps: Cache, Overpass, Mirage, Train, but, because of the three maps randomizer we might end up seeing the likes of Inferno or maybe Cobble, which is a 50/50, depending on which players turn up.
Lately, Mous has struggled a bit at IEM Gamescom, losing to TSM once on Dust 2 and to the new Envy lineup three times and winning once. I am not actually surprised about the Envy matches, because we all know that Gob B being able to read the enemy and counter-strat the opponent is a key factor to Mouse victories, so if there is nothing to analyse, as this was the first official Envy lan event, they are at a disadvantage. What kinda surprises me is the fact that they keep losing on Dust 2 against the likes of TSM, Envy and Na’vi, so maybe they should start moving away from that map.
One big advantage that Mous has over Cloud9 is the fact that last time these two teams met Gob B was able to counter everything that Seangares had, beating them very convincingly on Cache, a home map for C9, with a 16-5 scoreline and also taking the win on Dust2 16-12. For some reason, Sean struggles against Gob B, and if he can’t find out how to fix this issue they might not be able to beat Mouse, even if they have the raw skill advantage.
Risen from the ashes of the NA scene, Cloud9 have been able to surprise everyone with a very strong three second-place results in a raw, taking everyone by surprise. Shroud, a player that was always good but seemed to fall off a bit suddenly once again became a star player, and together with Skadoodle they have a very strong duo, which gives them the individual skill to get to the level of top European teams. That, combined with the very strong shotcalling from Sean and the fact that Freakazoid is a very serviceable entry-fragger means that Cloud9 has a lot of good tactics up their sleeve to support their fraggers. They are very good at Molotov and smokes usage, and I think that if they can keep this level up they might be one of the most dangerous teams at Cologne. Because everyone except N0thing now has a set role, this gives him a bit of more space to work with, as he can play in the position he wants to without affecting the team dynamic; and if he can also step up and give his team a few rounds on the bad then they do have a chance, even against VP.
Their map pool is pretty good: Cache, Train and Dust 2 are among their best maps, but they can also step it up on maps like Cobble or Inferno. I feel like against Mouse it is a 50/50; as it will depend on the map picked and whether Sean is able to read Gob B or change his leading style, as he is currently focused on hard anti-stratting the opposing team, something that Gob B was able to read perfectly the last time these two teams met. Skill-wise, they have the advantage, as long as Skadoodle can kill ChrisJ. Their problem is against VP, as they have historically always struggled; not knowing what to do and basically being lost, even on their best maps. Still, Cloud9 should be favorites to get out of the group stage, if not in the first place, then at least after the groups get redrawn.
Not much to say about Immunity, really, as they have not been active lately. Their last result was the win at the ESL qualifiers, beating the likes of MVP.Karnal, Skyred and The mongolz, which are nowhere near top teams. At Gfinity spring Masters 2 they got crushed pretty badly by pretty much everyone (VP, titan, CLG and Cloud9). Domestically, they have beaten Streamline, Avant Garde and Exile5, but, once again, not much to say about the level of these teams. Overall, they are one of the weakest teams at the event, along with eBettle, and it will take a miracle for them to actually be able to upset any of the teams in their group, as they are all above their level, by far.
This was it for the ESL One Cologne Group stage, thanks for reading.
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Photo credits go to: esl, CEVO,99Damage,Gosugamers