The ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier playoffs begin Tuesday, and here are the major takeaways from each of the four groups that got us here:
Easily the group that resulted in the most predictable outcome, with two of the best teams in the world advancing to the playoffs. Everything played out as expected, including the struggles of Natus Vincere. When the group took place, FaZe Clan had not yet won ESL One New York but as of today, this team has won nine maps in a row. I’ve labeled FaZe as one of my favorites to win in Atlanta at the finals; it’s just a no brainer. 2-0 FaZe in the quarterfinal.
If one team is going to give FaZe a bit of trouble, I’d pick G2 Esports. The French lineup dropped a single map to Na’Vi before winning 2-0 later in the event after trouncing Renegades. G2 has the best AWPer, and the team will need Dan “apEX” Madesclaire to bring his “A” game consistently if G2 wants to win it all. Leading off against Cloud9 won’t be particularly easy, but I have them beating the North American squad 2-1.
Na’Vi looked flat throughout its time at ELEAGUE. I can’t say it enough: the team needs to buy Denis “electronic” Sharipov. Replace Ioann “Edward” Sukhariev or Denis “seized” Kostin and give it a go. Every time Na’Vi loses with Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev dropping 30, the Counter-Strike gods cry. We can’t let that continue.
The most balanced group of the four, though Immortals did have a stand-in. Fnatic desperately needed to advance to the playoffs for an opportunity to legitimize this new lineup. It persevered through the lower end of the bracket and qualified for the finals after a close opening loss to North. In the playoffs, Fnatic will meet Astralis. I hope they spent the break between appearances studying demos.
North squeaked through two maps of very close play, winning by a total of four rounds in the group. I put more weight into this team’s semifinal win in Malmo than I do for winning DreamHack Montreal or having trouble beating Immortals with Cogu. North added Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså to win big events instead of finishing second, meaning the pressure will be high. I can’t confidently say North will cope well in Atlanta if it has to play the likes of G2, Astralis or FaZe. North has been given a bit of a gift with Heroic as its opponent in the quarterfinals. If Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke is on point, North will take that matchup 2-0.
This was an interesting yet severely disappointing group. I expected Cloud9 and Ninjas in Pyjamas to advance, but Cédric “RpK” Guipouy had other ideas. Every few months, RpK puts in a throwback performance and seemingly carries EnVyUs through matches. Could it have been a result of Happy openly criticizing the players? Or was it just coincidence? We’ll find out in the quarterfinals against FaZe.
Cloud9 defied logic if you look at its two maps. This lineup is talented but has hardly had enough time to mesh properly, as evidenced by its performance at ESL One New York. Still, Cloud9 handled both NiP and EnVyUs. I’m still not convinced this team can get it done outside of single maps, though. Cloud9 has only beat Na’Vi and Luminosity in best-of-threes while losing to North, FaZe and SK Gaming. If you spend the cash to cultivate this talent, then you have to win best-of threes.
There is no excuse for NiP to miss the playoffs of this event. Absolutely none. Different lineup, yet same mistakes. Poor vetoes and anti-eco blunders riddled the performance and overshadowed Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund’s’s impressive run of form. Henrik “REZ” Sterner joined almost four months ago and I’ve yet to see much improvement. NiP needs to change something and bounce back immediately.
Virtus.pro is dead.
Arguably the toughest group of the tournament, with SK Gaming, Astralis and Team Liquid all being teams you’d expect to qualify for the playoffs. With that said, naturally two of those three would advance, right? Wrong. On queue, Heroic decided months of dreadful performances meant nothing and exploited SK Gaming on Train early in the weekend and later on Inferno and Mirage. Andreas “MODDII” Fridh had arguably the best series of his career against Tier 1 competition in the best-of three. What do we call that? An anomaly. I can’t envision him doing the same against North.
If Team Liquid wins in overtime against SK Gaming on Mirage, I think it would have qualified for the playoffs instead of Heroic. With that in mind, Liquid’s performance wasn’t as heartbreaking as it appears. I expect Liquid to bounce back and show up to its next event in top form.
Astralis cruised through the group and won its two maps convincingly. It was extremely encouraging to see Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye topping the scoresheet against Team Liquid. I expect to see Astralis in the final against FaZe when all is said and done.