The ELEAGUE CS:GO Premier came at an opportune time. The break after the PGL Krakow Major gave some teams time to cool off before going into the next season and in that interim, teams have risen and fallen in form. Once the new season started, the CS:GO tournament circuit went at a blistering pace with DreamHack Malmö, ESG Tour Mykonos, ESL One New York and DreamHack Montreal. Teams have risen, teams have fallen and the ELEAGUE playoffs are set to have the rising teams collide.
The two finalists from DreamHack Malmö, G2 Esports and North, are stronger now than they were before the player break. G2 made no changes to its roster but addressed multiple issues that plagued the team during the nascent months, specifically its economic management on CT-side. G2 no longer shorts future rifle rounds with the pleasure of immediate forcebuy rounds, as if they were investment bankers in the early 2000s. This has given G2’s sides more stability, as the players can close out games comfortably instead of granting multiple chances for opponents to make comebacks. Meanwhile, North made a critical roster change in recruiting Valdemar “valde” Bjorn for Emil “Magisk” Reif.
His introduction to the team shifted roles within the team as he became the lurker, which put Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke back into his entry role alongside Mathias “MSL” Lauridsen. That in turn put Philip “aizy” Aistrup into a more supportive role. In accordance with the swap, North has embraced more structure on both sides of the map, making the team more stable. North might have lost to G2 in the finals, but it still has potential to grow as a roster.
The other two big names in the playoffs are FaZe Clan and Astralis. FaZe made one of the biggest blockbuster moves in CS history by acquiring Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs and Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer in place of Aleksi “allu” Jalli and Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey. It made FaZe the biggest all-star team on paper, but at first doubts circled. There were no clear defined roles and superteams had self-destructed in the past. FaZe struggled in its debut event (Malmö), but quickly rebounded to win its ELEAGUE group and ESL One New York in one of the most dominant performances all year. It was such a display of destruction that only one team managed to win double digit rounds in a map. FaZe looks to be the most dangerous team in the field.
Astralis as a team is still strong, but the individual forms of the players have declined across the board. The system and the tactics remain phenomenal, and Astralis showcased that in its ELEAGUE group as it perfectly prepared against Liquid in their best-of-one match. Astralis trounced its opponent in that match but also showed flaws characteristic of its form since the break. Astralis lost power play rounds in situations where going AFK could have resulted in victory, but instead Astralis played over-aggressive and gave Liquid a shot to come back. Among the four favorites in the playoffs, Astralis’ form is the shakiest, and therefore this team has the most to prove.
G2, North and FaZe look to seize bragging rights early as the best team in the world. G2 won DreamHack Malmö; North took second at the same event and then buttressed its reputation with a small win at DreamHack Montreal; FaZe destroyed ESL New York; Astralis lags behind as a formidable challenger that hasn’t won an event since IEM Katowice more than seven months ago. The lack of a championship here could mean the end of this particular lineup. I think Astralis as individuals are too ambitious to accept being also-rans.
Those four are the clear favorites, but others have shown signs of being able to upset. Cloud9 and Fnatic stand out as newly formed rosters that drastically changed the makeup of their teams. Cloud9 added more skill with Will “RUSH” Wierzba and Tarik “tarik” Celik, and both have played better than they have all year on this new roster. Fnatic completely changed its look by recruiting two younger talents in Maikil “Golden” Selim and Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson, with Golden now the in-game leader. Heroic proved it has some potential after surviving the group of death. EnVyUs is the weakest in the playoffs, but Cedric “RpK” Guipouy is a ray of light as whenever he turns up, EnVyUs has a chance to win.
The ELEAGUE playoffs will be a battle royal. We finally have a tournament where the big winners of the last few tournaments look to be on a collision course to finally meet. G2, North, and FaZe look to collide, Astralis is looking for its first win in months, and then there are a slew of other teams trying to stop them. Welcome to the thunderdome. Eight teams enter, and only one will leave with the glory.