ESL Pro League’s Season 3 Finals took place this past weekend in London, and mostly amid peace and quiet paid out the second largest sum of prize money for a tournament winner in the history of Counter-Strike. The $200,000 that FalleN’s team pocketed is second only to their loot from MLG Columbus, meaning the Brazilians now have the two most lucrative wins to their name. Let’s take a look at the other key lessons from London.
Luminosity is the world’s best team
The title of the world’s best has been – to some extent – up for grabs due to Olof “olofmeister”Kajbjer’s injury, and the trio of Fnatic, Natus Vincere and Luminosity splitting all the titles so far in 2016. Luminosity’s poor showing at DreamHack Masters Malmo fueled the conversation, but it is time to let it go – coldzera and company have now proven they are the world’s best Counter-Strike team. They were already a top-three side before MLG, due to their incredible consistency, but now that they are actually winning titles, there is little question left.
Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo is likely the world’s best in-game leader, and there is a strong case for him also being the world’s best sniper. The team’s superstar, Marcelo “coldzera” David is definitely a top-five player – maybe even better. Not to draw any more comparisons to Na’Vi team in 2010, but Luminosity does remind one of them in terms of composition. They did not win in a dominant fashion, but that does not matter – all that matters is the end result. Not every victory can be picture perfect, and Luminosity proved in London it can grind wins out, too. Now, let’s see how long LG can remain in throne.
G2 played its best CS:GO in years with ScreaM and shox in peak form
En route to a second place finish at ESL Pro League Finals, Gamers2 upset Luminosity on train in the opening round, took care of business versus OpTic to top their group, and defeated Fnatic in the semifinals. In the grand final, G2 was rounds away from winning and in fact remain tied at 3-3 in overall maps against the champions (including the group stage match). Both Richard “shox” Papillon and Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom played MVP-level Counter-Strike, marking their best events in a while – both individually, and as a team.
The mostly-French team needs to keep up this level of play to prove it was not a fluke, but early signs in online play suggest this new monster-G2 could be to stay – as I predicted in January. This was already a better placing, all things considered, than EnVyUs has managed in the past six months, and proves the team was right in the controversial move to remove Kevin “Ex6TenZ” Droolans to make room for Alexandre “bodyy” Pianaro. Going forward, G2 will be a team to watch out for – at least for the time being.
Fnatic may need to face the reality soon
Early on, Fnatic dealt with olofmeister’s absence by slapping Niclas “PlesseN” Plessen in all of his spots and hoping for the best. That never seems to work out, and now Dennis “dennis” Edman said in an HLTV.org interview that the team has now tried to adopt their play to make John “wenton” Eriksson fit better. But it has already been six long weeks since olofmeister took a step back, and there is no sign of his return. It is entirely possible – though Fnatic has not commented on it yet – that he could also miss ESL One Cologne, the next major scheduled for early July. That means Fnatic need to make further adjustments.
If there is a chance olofmeister might not return, or that it could take months for him to recover, Robin “flusha” Rönnquist’s team needs to rethink its game altogether. They are good enough to beat anyone with wenton as the fifth wheel, but it will – inevitably – change the power dynamics in the roster. Some will need to step up to fill the void left by olofmeister, and Fnatic has plenty of people to do just that, as flusha’s willing them to a comeback with a 28-3 score in 15 rounds that included seven assists against G2 on inferno reminded us. Still, going forward we need to see how fnatic adapts. Style-wise, this team could look noticeably different in a month or two.
The model of consistency, Astralis, knocked out by inconsistency – again
At DreamHack Masters Malmo, the Danes were knocked out by Ninjas in Pyjamas – a legitimate top five team now – but only after losing to Dignitas earlier. Similarly in London, you cannot fault Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz’s team for not beating Luminosity, the world’s best team – but losing to OpTic was not only unacceptable, it went against seemingly everything we thought we knew about Astralis. While they struggled in big games, they never lost to weaker teams before – especially not against clear underdogs in groups. So, how much should we read into this?
Frankly, I do not see there being any real cause for concern. Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth and company have looked good in their matches against the top teams, so it seems easy – for the time being – to simply chalk up the upset losses to underestimating their opponents or shifting too much of their focus on their main competition. Also, device is completely over the hump of performing when it matters – just take a look at his ridiculous stat line of 81-50 for +31 K-D, 99.5 ADR and 1.41 rating against Luminosity. I have them winning a title before the end of the summer.
North America is in limbo
Cloud9 has looked better with Alec “Slemmy” White than before, but it does not seem like he truly brings answers with him. His system will give the team much-needed structure, and their overall level will increase. We already saw that to be the case in Austin a week earlier. But the 25-year-old likely has no massive development spurts left in his career and possesses one of the most depressed statistical sheets in the game, suggesting he may impose a lower ceiling on the team overall. Future will tell how C9 continues developing, but Slemmy’s presence – even as an in-game leader – is clearly a trade off from elsewhere in the game.
Liquid, on the other hand, looked fairly good – until they did not. In a fashion not unlike their disastrous 15 map-point losses to Luminosity at MLG Columbus, Liquid threw away a 14-2 lead, as well as nine map points, before losing to NiP in the opener. It also seemed the team, severely lacking in leadership, took the easy way out when facing a must-win situation in both NiP dust2 and Fnatic mirage games – rushing B. The addition of new coach Luis “peacemaker” Tadeu will help, and Liquid might escape victorious from the three North American top teams. But this team will not compete for titles – not now, and not in six months.
Finally, OpTic did not look bad at all. It upset Astralis in the opener and played two close maps against Luminosity. Needless to say, the addition of Oscar “mixwell” Cañellas is working out well. Yet their upset win, and one of the close games against the Brazilians, came on inferno – a map they will not be seeing in the near future. We should keep an eye out on further development of Keith “NAF-FLY” Markovic and Will “RUSH” Wierzba, as well as the team as a whole – but keep in mind those inferno wins mean nothing going forward.
The Ninjas are elite, but not as close to the top as one might think
GeT_RiGhT’s team is back to elite status, something even the most passionate fans must have doubted at some points in late 2015. They have taken not only map wins but series against most of the teams out there, and generally looked on point. At ESL Pro League Finals they added another top four placing to their resume. So, why would NiP not be contenders at every event they attend from here on out, for the foreseeable future?
But Malmo had an asterisk next to it, given how close it was to MLG, and in London NiP merely defeated Liquid and an olofmeister-less Fnatic team. NiP’s sole map win over Luminosity was dust2, a map the Brazilians are only now beginning to play again. NiP is elite, as I said – and its online results have been great – but looking at offline play objectively, it has been borderline elite, and nothing else. Still, they will continue developing under threat’s leadership, so do not be surprised if NiP wins more titles as 2016 progresses.
coldzera was my ESL Pro League Season 3 Finals MVP
I wanted to find a reason to pick FalleN as the MVP because of the intangibles he brings as the team’s leader. But objectivity prevails, and coldzera’s performance in the grand final would make it criminal to pick anyone but him as the tournament’s Most Valuable Player. Right now, coldzera is playing at an incredible level, and his play is not only limited to one aspect of the game, as he has stepped up his game as Luminosity’s second sniper as well. What an incredible journey he has been on since joining prior to ESL One Cologne last year.
All photos courtesy of Helena Kristiansson/ESL, eslgaming.com