SK Gaming continued its hot streak by winning ESL One Cologne over the weekend, an event that had plenty of moments to discuss. Here’s five final takeaways (plus an extra) from one of the top Counter-Strike events of the year.
Groups were almost meaningless
Other than qualifying for the playoffs, group stage performances at ESL One Cologne largely failed to signal the strongest teams at the tournament. Both finalists in SK Gaming and Cloud9 narrowly made it with a 3-2 record, while 3-0 teams Ninjas in Pyjamas and Team Liquid lost in the quarterfinals. In fact, SK lost more maps in groups than the entire playoffs combined. Although group stage upsets are almost always a guarantee in CS:GO, the lack of best-of-three decider matches is a significant hindrance of this format. I hope this flaw is considered when scheduling events in the future.
Make up your mind, Cloud9
Cloud9 reaching the final in Cologne is a tremendous accomplishment, but I’m still not convinced this is a level they can reach consistently. Michael “shroud” Grzesiek had a one-off clutch performance in the playoffs, and I don’t expect a repeat of that in Krakow next week at the PGL Major. There is nothing wrong with runner-up performances to SK, but we can’t just forget about the recent last place finish at DreamHack Summer. If I had to choose North America’s best team, I’d still choose Team Liquid because I think it can consistently place higher after the player break.
Progress for NiP
After almost every roster change, NiP has improved dramatically and instantly. The Ninjas won StarLadder Season 2 directly after adding Mikail “Maikelele” Bill and then IEM Oakland right after re-adding Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi. Those are both extreme cases, but the trend continued this weekend in Cologne making it to the playoffs. Winning a single map would have been an improvement, but they showed they are motivated with this new roster. I personally believe their map pool is a bit suspect, as they themselves didn’t even realize they’d be a good Cache team. Xizt has historically struggled during map vetoes and I don’t believe they have the form to bail them out of sticky situations quite yet. I have this team winning the odd event here and there in a best case scenario, but nothing more than that.
Expect North to make a change
The early exit by North from ESL One Cologne further solidifies the chance North will make a roster change. Every player on North outside of Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen has tremendous individual skill, but as a team lacks cohesion and role identity. North’s final appearance at the ESL Pro League Finals in Dallas was propelled by a weak field more than anything. I would expect a roster move regardless of the team’s performance at the Major next week.
Virtus.pro on the verge of explosion
After a mediocre attempt at retribution against Astralis at the ELEAGUE Clash for Cash, Virtus.pro looked even worse in Cologne. Its 0-3 performance and recent “hot potato” approach to in-game leading is further proof this team is hurting internally. Whether the struggles are because of age or limited practice time, VP has a lot to prove at the Major. I’d normally refuse to consider a roster change, but Jarosław “pashaBiceps” Jarząbkowski had some telling comments in an recent interview. Could we see them poach players from Kinguin? I’m not sure that’s a proper solution.
Good luck beating SK. They have the two best players in the world and are the clear favorites to win the Major. Astralis and G2 are the only teams that can touch them, and I’m not sure that will happen any time soon.
Cover photo courtesy by Helena Kristiansson/ESL, illustration by Raphie Rosen