While the winners of IEM Katowice 2016, as with the five previous tournaments they had attended, turned out to be Fnatic, this article will not trumpet them. The article’s title suggests the points brought up here are new — and, frankly, it would be an insult to Fnatic to be surprised by the core four’s greatness anymore. And it seems that with Dennis “dennis” Edman, Fnatic might even top the incredible record it boasted with Markus “pronax” Wallsten.
Having written a similar article about Group A, played completely on the opening day of the event, this article will instead focus on the remainder of the tournament. In case you missed it, you can read the article on the opening day here.
Tempo Storm is a good team
Gone is the disappointment from MLG Columbus qualifier, which saw the Brazilians lose to G2, beat Selfless and get destroyed by FlipSid3 in a disappointingly lopsided best-of-three. Star player Henrique “hen1” Teles was on the receiving end of plenty of criticism, mostly due to his 4-17 cache game against FlipSid3 with a 0.31 rating. Besides that, he scored ratings of 1.11 vs. G2, 1.40 vs Selfless and 1.04 vs. FlipSid3 — despite only winning one of those games.
In Katowice, Tempo Storm looked like a new team. After barely beating E-Frag and losing a winnable game against FaZe in overtime, everyone – fairly so – counted hen1’s team out. No one could have known it would go on to upset Virtus.pro and EnVyUs in one-sided games, only to lose 12-16 versus Astralis — but still advanced out of Group B in second place with a 3-0-2 record. In the playoffs, Tempo Storm went out with a 2-1 loss against Natus Vincere (10-16, 19-15, 13-16) but managed a map win nonetheless and was in the driver’s seat for most of Map 3.
The team’s star AWP hen1 finished with a respectable 1.15 rating, including a monstrous showing of 1.28 rating and 80-58 K-D difference in the Na’Vi series. Overall, he had six positive maps out of eight — and all six came after the E-Frag game. He had a 1.37 rating in the win over Virtus.pro, with 1.14 and 1.11 ratings versus FaZe and EnVyUs, respectively. Columbus might have been unimpressive, but hen1 had a strong bounce back in Katowice.
I did not expect Tempo Storm to break through this quickly – I doubt anyone did. Yet now they have put up the second most respectable tournament finish as a team residing in North America, only behind Luminosity’s. In other words, the two Brazilian teams living in Los Angeles are, per results, the best two teams on the continent, ahead of the likes of Cloud9, Counter Logic Gaming and Team Liquid. That’s some early success, and they should improve over time. Missing out on the major, however, will hurt.
EnVyUs is in serious trouble…still
After being knocked out in 11-12th place – out of 12 teams – I tweeted out the tournament record of EnVyUs, the defending major champions, to showcase just how poorly the Frenchmen have performed since this lineup’s second top two finish at a major, and the core of Happy-NBK-kioShiMa’s second major championship within a year’s time:
Contrast that with their record directly after the duo of Dan “apEX” Madesclaire and Kenny “kennyS” Schrub joined from Titan, to replace Richard “shox” Papillon and Edouard “SmithZz” Dubourdeaux after a similar prolonged slump by the previous iteration of the roster:
Having suffered a clear loss in level of play, I wrote about the likely motivational issues within the team after the first bad event in the list of struggles above – the FACEIT Stage 3 Finals –that you can read here. Today, it seems not only have those motivational issues stuck with the team, but the team itself has lost some of its identity in the process of trying to revive it by letting Nathan “NBK” Schmitt lead in-game over Vincent “Happy” Schopenhauer, the squad’s long time leader. In fact, Happy talked about those issues in my lengthy interview with him.
I am not sure if this team can rebound from these issues — they may be there to stay due to personalities of the team. Looking at their previous form, however, it seems almost a given that they will be motivated to do well at MLG Columbus, especially given the massive $1 million prize purse. Yet even if they were to win it, I doubt they would continue performing well afterward. It seems this lineup of EnVyUs simply cannot motivate themselves to consistently be good, and instead opt for occasional greatness. It is not a bad trade, if timed correctly, but it leaves a whole lot on the table for a team NBK touted was made only for winning.
Should we start worrying about Virtus.pro?
I wrote about the issues within the Polish team recently, though my prognosis was that they should be able to work through their issues and come out of it a strong elite team, as they have so many times in the past over the long careers of Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas and Filip “NEO” Kubski. However, now that the rumors of oskar having received an offer from one of the MLG Columbus teams have come to light, there is a realistic chance it could be the Polish side ready to make a change to the longest standing roster in CS:GO, having been put together roughly two and a half years ago in late 2013.
Prior to Paweł “byali” Bieliński and Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski joining Virtus.pro, the team had tried playing with Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács, current superstar of Na`Vi, as a replacement for Mariusz “Loord” Cybulski with Jakub “kuben” Gurczyński rounding up the roster. While that roster move never materialized and the Poles went to have plenty of success with a team composed of Polish speakers, there is a precedent to the core playing with a foreigner.
In addition, they might view that as a missed opportunity, considering how great GuardiaN has been since those days. Since joining HellRaisers, GuardiaN’s former 3DMAX teammate Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný has also put up great numbers – with his most notable game being the overtime loss in Columbus against Liquid, where he finished with a 33-14 K-D difference and an outstanding 1.68 rating. But his HellRaisers team fall short of a spot at the major in yet another disappointing finish in a seemingly never-ending fall.
It is entirely possible oskar may join one of the other teams, but maybe not. Allowing NEO to go back to rifling from AWPing would make sense on paper, though the veteran has been a good sniper as well. In addition, Snax has had oddly weak performances recently, suggesting something may be off in the team. byali has only gotten worse since joining the team – a development suggesting laziness, considering he had plenty of room for development aside from his aim – and Jarosław “pasha” Jarząbkowski has never been able to replicate his superstar form of early 2014.
Virtus.pro has not had a strong international showing since winning ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational, where they overcame all of Ninjas in Pyjamas, EnVyUs, Fnatic and now-Astralis en route to a $100,000 pay day. NEO has also struggled in his role since then, which suggests a move away from the big green might make sense. Whether or not oskar winds up joining the Poles, it is an intriguing situation. Will this mark another top team going the international route?
Current map pool is not played out
Every now and then you hear who I can only presume to be fans who started following Counter-Strike mere months ago complaining about the current map pool of seven being played out with nothing new ever coming up. In fact, this could not be further from the truth – but the casual observers simply are not trained to catch the minor nuances that swing the way maps are played and tactics are formed, unless they come with complete reversals of half scores that are near-impossible to ignore.
If you were lucky enough to catch overpass in Luminosity’s series against Na`Vi live, you will agree with this. As a map, overpass has been played for a while now, yet these new three-man boosts showcase only minor details that are yet to be used. Na`Vi players are right in the sense that Valve should probably block the view in these boosts now – they alter game play in a way that would not make it fun to watch teams using those in Columbus, because of how the defenders would setup for them – but how exciting was it to see it happen? For those who missed it, below are screenshots of the boosts.
— based (@zBasedflores) March 4, 2016
These easily noticeable plays, as well as ones that take more of an eye to notice, do and will keep happening on old maps. I do not have data available to show this now, but in Counter-Strike 1.6 – which had no meaningful updates for nearly a decade – the map balance of certain maps kept varying based on how teams at the time were playing those maps. Teams went from playing nuke in the sites, to playing passive retake setups, to using odd double-vent retake setups such as the one my team successfully used to upset teams such as NEO’s Pentagram at WCG 2007.
CS:GO has not been out for nearly a long-enough time that maps would be played out. Clever teams will come up with new ways to play maps, and with the tactical side of Counter-Strike slowly again becoming more prevalent, you can count on more of this happening in the future. NiP can no longer out-skill Fnatic or EnVyUs, but you can count on Björn “threat” Pers figuring out ways to upset the status quo in games against more skilled opponents. With more money on the line, there will be more and more invention. And fans should finally realize seven maps are plenty, and no map is played out in five years, let alone three and a half.
Cover photo by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com