While many players seem to still be stuck in Las Vegas due to issues with their flight, the dust is slowly settling down in the desert after an action-packed weekend at the MGM Grand and it is time to take a look at the key takeaways from the $450,000 DreamHack Masters tournament.
Na`Vi have issues, but they could be fixable
While most interviews offer little content of interest, GuardiaN’s post-game interview after their thrashing of Renegades included great insight to Na`Vi’s issues. Spectators could see s1mple all-but giving up in their mousesports loss, and in a tweet after the loss that has since been deleted, the team’s in-game leader seized said “**** **** was a mistake”, which many interpreted as “kick Zeus was a mistake”. GuardiaN confirmed their issues, stating they sometimes fight like you do with relationships. I will not comment on that, but Na`Vi did bounce back from that, and they did not look too shaken even after the disappointing quarter-finals loss to SK that knocked them out of the tournament. They have all the skill in the world, GuardiaN seems to be returning to form, and seized continues improving as a leader. If they can get over their issues to get along as a team, Na`Vi can still reach the kind of success many expected for them after the ESL One New York championship in their second event together with s1mple.
UMP-45 needs nerfing
Prior to Las Vegas, HLTV’s article on ever-increasing UMP-45 use, which reached a new record at DreamHack Masters with 8% of kills scored with the SMG, highlighted the issue many have been talking about for a while – the UMP-45 needs nerfing. A weapon costing $1,200 and awarding $600 per kill is fine to have in force buys and against saving opponents, but it should not be a go-to choice for gun rounds. SK were smartly maximizing the utility derived from the weapon, often keeping five UMPs for the first weapon round and then playing aggressively to close out the distance advantage of an AK-47. Furthermore, in the quarter-final against Na`Vi, SK’s newcomer felps actually kept his UMP-45 at a 12-2 lead in the final round of the half, despite having over $6,000 in the bank. How many more signals can you possibly need that a change is needed?
fnatic are not ready to compete just yet
With the lineup featuring twist and disco doplan surprising at the ELEAGUE Atlanta Major, and fnatic quickly finding success online against a weak mousesports roster and the G2 team that even more obviously is not quite there yet, fans had high hopes for the legendary 2016 fnatic roster in Las Vegas. Unfortunately for them, Zeus’s Gambit rolled over them on inferno in the opener, and after the same team upset Virtus pro, the Poles lived up to the words of TaZ and beat fnatic, sending the core of olofmeister, KRiMZ, flusha and JW packing for the first time in the team’s history in the group stage, and only the fourth time before the semi-finals. However, I would not sell my fnatic stock just yet – they showed signs of the old days with olofmeister perking up, and could be back in contention sooner than you think.
16K MR3 is the superior overtime ruleset
For a while now there has been discussion online regarding the optimal overtime ruleset – mainly arguments between 10K and 16K starting money, with most tournaments nowadays agreeing on the use of max rounds three in overtime, i.e. needing four round wins for victory. When discussing this in July, JW of fnatic suggested as a fix to the possibility of teams abusing sniper buys for picks on the terrorist of dust2 that presumably eBot would lock players to one weapon purchase a round, effectively eliminating money. I think that is the superior solution, if we can only get it coded in. The economy should not play a factor in overtime, because 3 or 5 rounds is simply not enough to play the economy-game. As for arguments as to why the game is more entertaining that way, I leave you with the overtime VOD of SK versus Na`Vi on mirage from DreamHack Masters Las Vegas – which is also my closing statement for this.
New inferno is ready for competitive play
I agree the banana can likely be improved, and I do not doubt those who have played the maps in serious practice have more problems they would like to take up with Valve with regards to the new version of inferno. But the map was badly missed, and we saw good Counter-Strike on it once again in Las Vegas. No one would come out to call the map perfect, but if you think about it, would you give any other map that title? All the current maps are flawed to an extent and depending on who you speak about them, they would change different things. New inferno is in solid shape, and seems to play just fine. Give teams more time to practice it and figure out way to stop terrorists abusing banana, and they will. The entire point of meta-game is that it evolves, changing over time. Inferno is one of the all-time best Counter-Strike maps, and we should all be glad to have it back in the active rotation.
Consistency is greatness, and SK fit the bill
Since TACO and fnx joined then-Luminosity in November 2015, now-SK have attended 19 international offline tournaments. Their record stands at 4 wins – including two Majors – 7 second place finishes, 6 semi-finals exits, zero quarter-final exits, and two group stage exits. Of the latter, one is a 5-6th place finish at ESL ESEA Pro League Season 2 Finals, where they only lost to Na`Vi, and the other is the infamous DreamHack Masters Malmo event, which they should have never attended – or, at least avoided cache versus mousesports and TyLoo. Of all historical CS:GO cores, they are tied with that of fnatic with the most top-four finishes at big events, as determined by HLTV, at 15 each – followed by Virtus pro and Astralis at 13, NiP at 12 and Na`Vi at 10.
Las Vegas was felps’s first event in SK, and not only did he look like the integration is going well, but SK were instant contenders, taking out Na`Vi and North in best-of-three series before barely falling short in the grand final. FalleN has not yet returned to his fnx-era level individually, but he may not even need to. SK look poised to be competing for more titles this year – the only thing that matters to them – an arguably look like they have an even higher ceiling than before. Simply put, this team’s consistency is near-impossible to replicate in today’s competitive landscape in Counter-Strike.
Astralis are great, but it is too early to call it their era, yet
Losing a hard-fought semi-final to the Virtus.pro team that TaZ promised in the aftermath of the ELEAGUE Major grand final would destroy Astralis the next time they met is not the worst fate one could face. Astralis destroyed their group stage opponents – despite losing all four pistol rounds – and NiP in the quarter-finals, with a cumulative round score of 64-27. Their previous events include wins at the Major and ECS Season 2 Finals, and a grand final loss to OpTic at ELEAGUE Season 2. They remain the top dogs in the world for the time being, and if it were not for the strength showcased by the two finalists, would be heavy favorites to clean up the offered silverware in 2017. Astralis are still favored going forward, so incredible is the consistency of high level of play they bring, but this weekend they were ran over by the Plow™. It is not their era, yet, but it could turn into one. But only if they can stop both Virtus.pro and SK, and new-old challengers fnatic and G2, and do it all consistently. 2017 is going to be great fun to watch unfold.
Virtus.pro are the final bosses of Counter-Strike
Safe to say Virtus.pro lack no self-confidence. The Poles came into DreamHack Masters Las Vegas with TaZ promising they would take down Astralis first on Twitter, and later in the post-Misfits match interview. Following their win over mousesports, superstar Snax simply stated he thought “at the Major [they] threw the game like noobs, and [in the semi-final] they gonna smash [Astralis].“ That of course was only after he said they would win the tournament, a sentiment TaZ confirmed in his post-Astralis game interview. And, naturally, they followed through with all of their promises, knocking out fnatic, Astralis and finally SK – the latter with an unlikely comeback from an 8-12 score on the final map, thanks to NEO’s call and TaZ’s later clutch – en route to another big event win, their fourth in four years.
Having never made a roster change since adding the Snax and byali -duo in late 2013, Virtus.pro excels no matter what. First it was pasha ascending to becoming one of the top three players in the world in early 2014, followed by Snax – who has been ranked top five in each year since then by HLTV – becoming a superstar, and is now considered by “some” the best player in the world. Somewhere in-between TaZ raised his level of play back up, and NEO became a primary AWPer to pick up an MVP trophy at DreamHack Open Bucharest last fall. They never change personnel, but nothing else is off-limits, as perhaps best explained by Snax’s comment in his top players -article. Virtus.pro always find a way to win, and as stuchiu put it, are the rare side that thrive under pressure. They were the best last weekend, and are still capable of unleashing the Plow. They are the final bosses of Counter-Strike.
Photo credit: DreamHack