Following the previous brief article summing up the key takeaways from the opening two weeks of ELEAGUE’s inaugural season in Atlanta, this column takes a look at the four weeks of play that have taken place afterwards. Now 14 teams remain out of the initial 24, with six having already booked themselves spots in the playoffs – and eight more competing for the final two spots in the week after ESL One Cologne.
Fnatic proved they still dominate FaZe when it matters
Many doubted the form Fnatic would come into ELEAGUE with, considering they had not announced olofmeister’s return to the active roster far in advance. Once there, the close map against TSM in the group stage, and dropping one to FaZe, raised further questions. KRiMZ and company made it to the bracket play’s final after a 2-1 win over Semphis’s TSM, and again people expected FaZe to finally overcome fnatic… Only they were absolutely destroyed by the Swedes, who started the maps up 13-5 and 14-1, respectively, before FaZe could put some rounds on the board to make it look less like a blowout.
Previously the world’s best player olofmeister was in form, finishing group D with a 1.30 rating, +70 K-D difference over 11 maps, and 87.4 ADR to go with 0.87 kills per round. In hindsight the close maps versus TSM make more sense as we have seen them play well at ECS Season 1 Finals, and as I said at the time, fnatic’s 16-0 win over FaZe was the reason they never got into the second group stage map. Prior to ELEAGUE fnatic had never lost against FaZe, or been outplaced by them. The latter still holds. The reason this matters is because they are sharing the Group of Death – capitalized because it must be known as that from now on – at ESL One Cologne. And trust me, Fnatic will not have an issue with FaZe there.
Magiskb0Y had a breakout performance
Perhaps the most promising youngster in the game currently, Magiskb0Y broke through late last year with the legendary overpass performance against Fnatic, but then struggled for months to regain similar form in an offline setting. CEVO Gfinity Professional Season 9 Finals in London were a step towards the right direction, but the play the 18-year-old Dane showcased in Atlanta was truly his coming out party to the big leagues. After nine maps of competition, Magiskb0Y tops the charts with an otherworldly 1.40 rating, 0.94 KPR, 93.6 ADR and +78 K-D differential – with all nine maps with a plus-1.10 rating.
As of now he remains teamless with FalleN’s ex-Luminosity team having knocked his SK Gaming team out of their organization, with Magiskb0Y choosing to depart from the roster shortly after. But I would be surprised if that is still the case as we enter August, as he is simply too talented – with no reported issues elsewhere in his personality – to not be competing at the top level. Do not expect Astralis to make another change at this point, but he would be a nice upgrade to Dignitas, giving them more firepower. Alternatively, how many more international top players can FaZe hoard under one flag?
North Americans looked better than expected
The kind of Counter-Strike that is being played across the pond has come to be epitomized by plays such as summit’s failed one-on-zero clutch at DreamHack Open Austin, and one famous round of play in KKona’s match against CLG online. But ELEAGUE marked perhaps the first time in recent history that the North American sides – and I mean plural, not just the occasional good showing from one of them – outperformed everyone’s expectations. TSM took a map from fnatic, and got into double digits in all but two of their eight losses. And of course, ECS Season 1 Finals confirmed to us that it was not a fluke.
Meanwhile, Cloud9 made Luminosity – now SK – work for their win and could have scored the unimaginable upset on TV, and CLG pushed Astralis to a third map in the final of group C. OpTic continued their stellar play from the major qualifier with close games against the likes of NiP and G2 – including a map win against the Ninjas – and finally seangares’s Echo Fox took maps from Na`Vi and FlipSid3, and were very competitive against mousesports. Sure, compLexity were entirely outmatched, the pre-jdm Liquid were a joke, and Selfless should not have been there. But this is real progress for the forgotten continent, and could be a sign of further improvements to come.
FlipSid3, finally, took a step forward
The mostly-Ukrainian FlipSid3 roster has been a mainstay at the majors since markeloff joined from HellRaisers in early 2014 together with young prodigy s1mple. But not only have been unable to move up in the world rankings anywhere beyond the borderline-top 16 range, which is good enough to make the majors, but at times it has looked like they have been content just being along for the ride. Then in April long-term member bondik departed the squad for HellRaisers, leading to Russian-Finnish wayLander, previously from Gambit, joining the roster. And finally it seems as if FlipSid3 are headed in the right direction.
In Atlanta WorldEdit had the all-time best map in CS:GO offline history, finishing – statistically speaking, per HLTV.org. Meanwhile, perhaps all-time great AWPer markeloff has begun using the weapon he ruled the world with in 2010, and the team’s true MVP and in-game leader B1ad3 stated they were stuck with bondik due to constant arguments, and that bondik’s departure has opened up the team to further improvements. For those of us that remember Na`Vi’s dominance in 2010 – or who had to compete with it – FlipSid3 has always seemed like the team stuck in limbo. But now, could we see them beginning to move up in the world, and more consistently challenging the tier one teams?
mousesports remain unable to make deep runs
Despite NiKo’s play reminding us of kennyS’s form in Titan in the first half of 2015, this mousesports team remains largely unforgettable, the kind that is barely capable of ruining someone else’s tournament en route to a group stage exit. While simply competing for playoff spots at the majors seems plenty for most organizations, it has been clear for a while that mousesports are not one of them. And if ESPN’s reports are to be believed, former HellRaisers-carry oskar will be joining the team as soon as his contract expires in late September.
Whether the addition of oskar – which might have to come at the expense of chrisJ due to in-game roles – helps Mousesports or not, this team struggles in big games. They took a map from Na`Vi in the groups, and finished with a solid 4-2 record… Yet completely collapsed in the playoffs, scoring just 18 rounds across two maps versus FlipSid3, a team they were clearly favored against. Time is ticking against this team, even with oskar’s addition – because despite his language barriers, there is no way NiKo will spend his entire prime rotting away in a quasi-playoff team. And that, of course, only adds to the pressure mousesports already cannot deal with. Can they ever get out of the catch-22.
Virtus.pro remain impossible to read
The Polish side has struggled in 2016, and it remains unclear whether their performance at ELEAGUE was a step towards the right direction, or simply another lost opportunity en route to a forgettable year of Counter-Strike. Snax’s team took a map from EnVyUs in the group stage, and lost one to Gambit. Despite beating Dosia’s team 2-0 in the semi-finals of group F, the 0-2 loss in the finals against a lackluster EnVyUs team again raises more questions than it answers. Does the Virtus plow, which TaZ again referenced in a post-match interview in Atlanta, still exist? Can it still be summoned at the biggest moments?
Granted, it can be good to lose some games before big tournaments, because it will make you re-evaluate your game and show weaknesses than you might still be able to fix in time. TaZ certainly seems to think so, but we also have to remember that while Virtus.pro have not necessarily become more inconsistent than they were before, their average form has weakened. The Poles are a scary team, and they already won an event this year in Kiev. But their expectations are higher, and while a second place could be enough in Atlanta to make it through in the last chance week post-ESL One, it is another disappointing result NEO’s team will simply have to deal with.
EnVyUs could be bouncing back at exactly the right time
Down 10-13 in the opener in Atlanta, many thought we would see the now-usual EnVyUs team show up and travel home disappointed. But Happy’s team bounced back, finishing the group stage 5-1 after an overtime loss to Virtus.pro, and then won four straight maps in the playoffs to win group F, qualifying directly for the final eight of ELEAGUE’s inaugural season. Given the lack of competition in the Frenchmen’s group it is possible they simply looked better than they truly were, but for anyone who has spent time watching this team in 2016, it will have seemed like a step towards the right direction. And if it is, it is coming at a pretty good time.
Superstar sniper kennyS finished group F with a 1.27 rating, scoring 0.83 kills per round with a +74 K-D differential across nine maps. Considering this team will seemingly never be one that relies on the tactical inventions of Happy, or hours of practice to make zero mistakes in-game, these individual performances are likely the best way we can gauge EnVyUs’s potential at any given moment. NBK had a good showing, as did Happy – who has been unmemorable, at best, so far in 2016. The Frenchmen could be headed for another quarter-final exit once ELEAGUE returns, but this could also be the first sign of a second coming of the team, their first good placing with DEVIL on the roster. Keep your eyes on EnVyUs, because they could be on the way back to being contenders.
You can follow me on Twitter at @lurppis_.
Photo credits here.