The stakes are high as teams battle it out to join the very best teams in the world, in the first CS:GO Major of 2016, and the very first major on American soil, MLG Columbus. While the tournament already features the likes of Fnatic, Natus Vincere and EnVyUs who are some of the favorites to win the tournament, simply qualifying for the event is an achievement in and of itself, and would be the biggest achievement for some of the participants in this qualifier. Not only do you qualify for a chance to win the title and thus make a claim to be the best team in the world, you also get a chance to earn your share of the now 1.000.000$ prize pool and the sticker money which in some cases feature even higher sums of money. 16 teams have made their way to the Offline Qualifier either through their spot at the previous major, Dreamhack Cluj Napoca, the Minors or the Last Chance Qualifiers. The teams have been divided into 4 groups of 4 teams, with 2 teams from each group advancing to the MLG Columbus Major. Another thing to note is that the entire tournament will be played in a Best Of 1 format, giving a bigger chance for upsets to happen.
Group A – G2 Esports, Flipsid3 Tactics, Selfless Gaming & Tempo Storm
The first group of the Offline Qualifier features a mix of teams from various regions, as we have teams from both Europe, CIS, North America and South America. While the Europeans are perhaps the favorites, a lot of people are looking at the Brazilians of Tempo Storm to deliver an upset and make it to their first Major.
It is safe to say that the French team of G2 Esports (Ex6TenZ, SmithZz, Shox, ScreaM & RpK), is the overwhelming favorite to win the group, since their players have the most proven track record when it comes of offline events. Just within the last couple of months they have managed to take maps off some of the best teams in the world, beating the likes of Fnatic and Astralis. While the core of this team, previously known as VeryGames and Titan have been prone to upsets at times, you have to go all the way back to ESL One Cologne to find an offline match in which the team was favored and ended up losing, as they were beaten by Renegades. While G2 isn’t considered to be a team with much firepower compared to the top teams, they should have more than enough firepower to beat their opponents at this event. This combined with their experience should be enough to secure them their spot at MLG Columbus.
Flipsid3 Tactics (B1ad3, WorldEdit, Markeloff, Shara & Bondik) is the other team in this group who qualified through Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca. Since that tournament, they made a roster change, swapping their former AWPer DavCost for the Ukrainian rifler, Shara. While this alllowed Flipsid3’s star player, WorldEdit to be the permanent AWPer of the team, it doesn’t seem to have changed a whole lot in terms of their overall performance. They still rely heavily on the tactical mind of their ingame-leader B1ad3, and they can’t seem to get multiple players to perform at the same time against the top teams. While their line-up doesn’t seem skilled enough to beat the very best teams, they still have the ability to perform against lesser teams which they showed only a few weeks ago at Acer Predator Masters Season 2, finishing in 2nd place, only losing to Mousesports. I would consider Flipsid3 the favorite the take 2nd place in this group because of their proven track record on LAN. With that said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team get upset, especially considering the BO1 format.
The team formerly known as Enemy, now known as Selfless Gaming (Koosta, Lucky, MAiNLiNE, Relyks & Uber) are the champions of the Americas Minor, but still comes into this tournament as an underdog. The team relies heavily on their AWP’er Koosta to get the frags for the team, while the rest of the players don’t seem to be able to put on a consistent performance on LAN. While they put on a good performance at the Americas Minor, the competition wasn’t exactly anything to write home about, with their biggest victories being against Tier 2 American teams like Splyce and Winterfox. Their only other notable result on LAN was a BO1 win against a slumping CLG at the RGN Pro Series in November. If lack of experience and lack of firepower wasn’t enough of a problem for the team, I also have my doubts about how much they have been able to practice, considering Koosta recently left the team to join Team Liquid (although he is still playing with Selfless at this tournament due to the roster rules). Selfless will have to hope for a monster performance from Koosta if they are to have a chance at this tournament, and it’s certainly going to be interesting to see how he matches up with the likes of SmithZz, WorldEdit and Hen1 in the AWP duels. On a positive note Selfless can play without a lot of pressure since most people don’t expect a lot from them at this event.
The Brazilians of Tempo Storm (Hen1, Boltz, Felps, Lucas1 and SHOOWTiME) have been getting a lot of attention lately due to their upset wins in big online qualifiers, beating the very best teams in North America to qualify for big events like IEM Katowice and Dreamhack Malmö. One player in particular has been getting a lot of attention, namely, the AWP’er Hen1 who has been putting on crazy performances in online matches against the likes of Cloud9 and Team Liquid. While the team has been on a tear online, their offline record tells a different story. We only have to go back a few months to find a massive disappointment for the team, as they failed to make it out of the group stage at the Brazilian only LAN, the MAX5 Invitational. Even though it looks like they improved since January, losing to AlienTech and tying Keyd Stars in a tournament where you are expected to make the final is not exactly a good sign. It also has to be said that several of the North American teams they managed to beat in online matches looked significantly weaker than before the NA shuffle. With all that said, if they are able to put on the same performance offline as they are online, beating Flipsid3 in a BO1 does seem like a possibility, since Flipsid3 seems to be around the same level as the likes of Cloud9 and Team Liquid. A key matchup in that regard is Hen1 vs WorldEdit. If either one of these players is able to neutralize the other it significantly weakens one of the teams, as their star AWP’er would be taken out of the equation.
While G2 and Selfless seem like they are either above or below the level of the rest of the group, the likely battle for 2nd place between Flipsid3 and Tempo Storm should be close. Flipsid3 edges it for me since they have a lot more experience and have been able to perform up to their own standard in offline matches.
- G2 Esports
- Flipsid3 Tactics
- Tempo Storm
- Selfless Gaming
Group B – Mousesports, Team Liquid, HellRaisers & Team YP
This group tells a similar story to Group A, as we have a heavy favorite, a big underdog and a close battle for 2nd place.
Mousesports (NiKo, ChrisJ, Nex, Denis & Spiidi) are coming into this tournament fresh off of a win at Acer Predator Masters Season 2. Mousesports is a team that features a lot of firepower from the likes of Nex, NiKo and ChrisJ and are considered a big favorite to take 1st place in this group. While they have always had trouble against the bigger teams, it doesn’t seem to be a big problem for them to perform against lesser teams. The key for Mousesports is to get 2 or 3 of their previously mentioned star players to perform at the same time. Particularly it has been a problem to get NiKo and Nex to perform at the same time, ever since NiKo joined the lineup. That factor did seem to change at Acer Predator Masters, as both NiKo and Nex put up fantastic numbers and beat the likes of Flipsid3 and E-Frag without much of an issue. Mousesports should be able to advance from this group even with a performance that doesn’t quite live up to their normal standards. The firepower they have should be enough to simply brute force their way through the other teams. The only question mark for me when it comes to Mousesports is how they will do at the major itself, as some of their players have a tendency to choke at big events.
Team Liquid (Hiko, Nitr0, EliGE, s1mple & adreN) seem to be in a messy situation when it comes to this tournament. Although they recently recruited Koosta they aren’t able to use him at this tournament due to the roster rules. After seemingly going around to different players like Allu, Moe and even Natu, they ultimately had to go with their former IGL, adreN. With adreN seemingly not being the first choice, you have to question his motivation, how much he has practiced with the team recently and how it will affect their performance. If they had the opportunity to play with their new lineup I would consider them to be a big favorite to make it out of the group along with Mousesports. However, if you simply look at the level of talent on this team, they should still be able to make it out of this group, as it features some of the most skilled players in the world. They still have the entry combo of EliGE and Nitr0, the amazing skill level of s1mple, as well as the incredible clutching of Hiko. However their lack of synergy might cost them against teams like Mousesports and HellRaisers.
HellRaisers (ANGE1, kUcheR, Oskar, STYKO & Zero) have continuously underperformed at majors and major qualifiers, failing to make it to several majors or getting out of the group stages when they were expected to. However this iteration of HellRaisers is very different from the other ones, as it doesn’t exclusively feature players from the CIS region. Instead they have brought in players from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in the form of FPL talents Oskar, STYKO and Zero. Especially Oskar and Zero have seemingly been able to translate their skills to LAN play, with their good performances at the European Minor. Combining this new blood with the CS:GO veterans ANGE1 and kUcheR, should make for a pretty good team on paper, but is still far away from the level of earlier iterations of HellRaisers. While they did manage to win the European Minor, they had a very disappointing performance at Acer Predator Masters Season 2, losing to Flipsid3 and Alternate, only finishing 5th-6th in a tournament they were expected to at least make the top 3. Normally I wouldn’t expect HellRaisers to make it out of this group, but they do get a lifeline from Team Liquid’s roster issues. It will be interesting to see if they are able to shut down their former teammate s1mple and take a spot away from North America.
The final team in the group is Team YP (DavCost, Kibaken, Arch, Innocent & SZPERO) who are coming into this tournament as massive underdogs. Not only does their regular lineup look weaker on paper, but 2 of their best players S0tF1k and Dima will not be able to make it to the tournament due to VISA issues. Instead they are bringing the Polish duo of Innocent and SZPERO. While both Innocent and SZPERO are competent players, it seems like there will be obvious communication issues between the Russian/Ukrainian and Polish players. While bringing in stand-ins could make the team play more of a FFA style without much pressure, I don’t think the players in the team have skill ceiling high enough to pull that off and beat the other teams in the group.
Due to Team Liquid’s roster, Mousesports seem like the clear favorite to take 1st place. I don’t think Team YP has much of a chance, especially considering their VISA issues. HellRaisers should have a shot at beating Team Liquid for 2nd place, but due to their unconvincing performance at Acer Predator Masters, I’m definitely not sold on HellRaisers.
- Team Liquid
- Team YP
Group C – Counter Logic Gaming, Vexed Gaming, SK Gaming & SPLYCE
Considering the recent change to the group with SPLYCE replacing The MongolZ, this arguably looks like the weakest group in the tournament. However, it is one of the few groups where it looks likely that we will have a new team qualifying for the Major.
Counter Logic Gaming (Tarik, Jdm64, Cutler, Hazed & FugLy) have looked up and down recently. While they had a good performance offline at the Global eSports Cup, taking 4th place, they haven’t exactly had a good time in the ESL ESEA Pro League, losing 2-0 to both Cloud9 and Renegades. The most positive note for CLG recently has been the performance of Jdm64, who has been having very good performances against some of the best teams in the world, like EnVyUs and Luminosity. The issue for them recently against the top teams has often been the rest of the players not being able to perform on a consistent basis. That issue has mainly been against the top teams, and against the lower tier teams, like the ones in this tournament, a player like Tarik usually performs very well. Considering the opposition in this group they are definitely one of the favorites to advance, and if just one of the other players can come close to the level that Jdm64 is at right now, they shouldn’t have much trouble with the teams in this group, with the exception of SK Gaming.
Vexed Gaming (GruBy, Furlan, Rallen, Repo & Oskarish) has surprisingly made it into the past two majors, ESL One Cologne and Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca. At the ESL One Cologne qualifier they delivered two massive BO1 upsets, defeating both HellRaisers and Titan in close games, even going into overtime against Titan. While a lot of people considered that qualifier a fluke, they managed to qualify for yet another major, Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca, once again beating HellRaisers, this time in a BO3. While they haven’t managed to win a game at any of the Majors, it is impressive for a previously unknown team to even qualify for a Major twice. With all that said, those results were months ago, and recently Vexed haven’t been looking good. At Acer Predator Masters, they didn’t manage to win a single series, losing to HellRaisers and CSGL, who are considered the 3rd best Polish team, and going out in last place. It didn’t go much better for them at the ESL Barcelona Invitational, where they only managed to beat x6tence, but essentially had no chance in their games against EnVyUs and Dignitas. When you combine that with the fact that their regular starter Hyper isn’t able to make the event, and has to be replaced with Oskarish, it isn’t looking good for Vexed. Perhaps they can deliver an upset in the Major qualifiers once again, but even though they are the 2nd seed in the group, they are certainly not the favorites.
The team I would consider the favorite to get out of the group along with CLG is SK Gaming (Pimp, MODDII, Friis, AcilioN & Magiskb0Y). SK have been looking pretty good on LAN in recent months, beating Astralis (then known as Team Questionmark) in a BO3 at Fragbite Masters Season 5. They have also been able to take maps off of certain top teams, beating Fnatic on Overpass, and Luminosity on Mirage. While we haven’t seen a lot of offline matches from SK, those results are certainly impressive for a team of SK’s caliber. Particularly SK’s AWP’er Friis seems to have had a bit of resurgence, and has impressive performances in every single upset SK have managed to pull off. It will be interesting to see if Friis can match up with Jdm64 in the direct AWP duel against CLG, although it might not be necessary for SK to beat CLG to advance from the group. Another player to watch for SK, is their newest addition, Pimp. If he is able to get back to his old level that he was at in the summer of 2015, SK suddenly looks like a team that can do even more damage. At this stage SK should certainly be able to beat both Vexed and SPLYCE which would secure the organization their first spot at a Major since 2013.
SPLYCE (Arya, AbE, JasonR, DAVEY & Professor_Chaos) is a late replacement in this tournament for The MongolZ, who weren’t able to get visas and participate in the tournament. SPLYCE were close to making it to the event through the American Minor, upsetting OpTic Gaming along the way, but lost out to Enemy (now known as Selfless Gaming) in the finals. SPLYCE had another chance to make it to the event at the Americas Last Chance Qualifier, but once again lost to the eventual winners, Tempo Storm (known as Games Academy at the time). While those results don’t sound too bad, you have to be able to beat teams at the level of Selfless and Tempo Storm on a relatively consistent basis, if you want to qualify for the Major. If you look at SPLYCE’s recent online results they have even dropped series to teams like NRG and AGG who are nowhere near top level teams in North America. Ultimately I don’t expect them to do much in this tournament. Maybe they can have a decent showing against Vexed, but I don’t expect anything beyond that.
Due to Vexed’s recent performance, this group looks very straight forward. CLG and SK seem like the favorites, while Vexed and SPLYCE will have to deliver some upsets if they want to advance out of the group. Vexed might be able to take a BO1 against CLG or SK if one of the two teams underperform, but as previously mentioned, I don’t expect much from SPLYCE.
- Counter Logic Gaming
- SK Gaming
- Vexed Gaming
Group D – Cloud9, Dignitas, Gambit Gaming & Renegades
D for death is arguably accurate in this case. This might be the only group where every single team has a decent chance of advancing. While I would normally favor Dignitas and Cloud9 a lot, Cloud9 has been looking very shaky lately after their roster changes, while Renegades have been looking better after their roster change. Gambit is a very unknown factor as we have only seen them in one tournament, the CIS Minor.
Cloud9 (n0thing, Shroud, Skadoodle, Freakazoid & Stewie2k) are looking like a shadow of their former self. Ever since their former IGL, Seangares left the team and got replaced by Stewie2k, the results have been below what you would normally expect from a team like Cloud9. It is hard to point to Cloud9’s issue as simply coming down to one factor, but one major factor is certainly the change of IGL. The new IGL after Seangares left the team is n0thing, and ever since he took over their Terrorist sides have looked like a mess, only winning very few rounds on T side in their games. N0thing even admitted on twitter that he needed assistance as an IGL, after a loss against Tempo Storm in the Dreamhack Malmö Qualifiers. When you combine this with a slump from their star AWP’er, Skadoodle it doesn’t look good for Cloud9. They have only been to one LAN with their new lineup, where their only series victory was against the Russian nonames, Method. Ever since returning from the LAN they have lost several online matches to the likes of Tempo Storm, CLG and even NRG. While you would normally expect Cloud9 to make it out of a group like this, it is definitely not a certainty, considering their recent performance.
A team that has been performing beyond expectations recently is the Danes from Dignitas (MSL, k0nfig, Kjaerbye, Tenzki & RUBINO). After losing their star players Aizy and Pimp, most people didn’t expect a lot from Dignitas. But in 2016 they have proven everybody wrong, with their strong performances at both Dreamhack Leipzig and Global eSports Cup, making top 4 and top 2 in the respective tournaments, taking wins off top teams like EnVyUs and Virtus.Pro. Their win over EnVyUs was particularly impressive, as they beat them on EnVyUs’ best maps, Cobblestone and Inferno. Dignitas has shown themselves to be a very good team tactically and they have also shown good individual performances, particularly from Kjaerbye and k0nfig. These factors have made them able to compete with the very best teams in the world, and they can certainly make the claim to be the best team in this entire tournament. Because of this I don’t see any of the teams in this group beating Dignitas. As long as they come prepared and their players don’t have any major underperformances, they should take 1st place in the group.
Gambit Gaming (Dosia, Hooch, AdreN, Mou & WayLander) is perhaps the most unknown team in the tournament, as we have essentially only seen them play at the CIS Minor. The core of the team is the former HellRaisers trio, Dosia, AdreN and Mou. While Mou is a newer player, we have seen Dosia and AdreN play ever since the beginning of CS:GO. In the beginning of CS:GO, Dosia was one of the best players in the world, but he hasn’t been able to get back to his former level ever since. Although he is still one of the stars of the team, the real star player is the AWP’er Mou. Mou had perhaps his best tournament at Acer Predator Masters Season 1 when HellRaisers managed to surprisingly win the tournament. At that event Mou proved himself to be a very good AWP’er and if he is able to replicate that performance, combined with a good performance from Dosia, this team does have a chance. A lot of things will have to go right for Gambit to advance, but I wouldn’t count them out.
Renegades (SPUNJ, USTILO, Yam, AZR & Jks) have definitely had their issues recently. Their issues particularly showed at IEM Taipei where they lost to The MongolZ in two different BO3’s. Since that tournament they did change their lineup, swapping out Havoc for USTILO. This change has allowed the otherwise underperforming Yam to play the AWP role on a permanent basis. USTILO is also looking better than Havoc on an individual level, as Havoc was heavily underperforming, while seemingly taking up key roles in the team. With that said, ever since Renegades made the roster change, it hasn’t exactly been a bed of roses. While they stomped both CLG and TSM in the ESL ESEA Pro League, they did lose to Team Liquid and tied Selfless Gaming. If Renegades are going to advance they are going to need great performances from their star player Jks as well as either AZR or Yam. If those players are able to perform up to their maximum potential, they certainly have a good chance to advance.
This group is going to be very close. Dignitas is definitely the favorite to advance in 1st place, but the battle for 2nd place will be close. A lot of it will depend on the performance of key players from the different teams, particularly the star players like Shroud, Skadoodle, Dosia, Mou, AZR and Jks. If Cloud9 have been able to fix or improve their T sides, I will definitely consider them the favorite to take 2nd place, although I have my doubts about that. Because of that factor I will go with Renegades taking 2nd place, but it’s going to be very close. This is definitely the group to watch.
- Gambit Gaming