StuChiu’s team-by-team rundown of the Major Qualifier

The Counter-Strike Major seeding system has failed.

The Majors have always ignored all tournaments outside of the Majors and pretended they don’t exist, so the seeding was often anachronistic or entirely problematic if any team had changed rosters. The seeding itself ignores the very nature of how Counter-Strike teams work. The seedings themselves can be random because they are based on the previous Major — the only tournament that forces a map randomizer — thus creating instances where teams can luck their way out of a best-of-one or best-of-three if they get the right maps. The fact that the approaching ELEAGUE Major in January will be a full six months since the last one (ESL One Cologne) has further exposed these problems.

The poor seeding system has, however, resulted in the most competitive Major Qualifier in CS:GO history. The teams in attendance are Dignitas, FaZe, mousesports, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Counter Logic Gaming, EnVyUs, G2, OpTic, Immortals, Cloud9, TyLoo, Renegades, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent and Hellraisers.

Using HLTV’s latest rankings, NiP is third, OpTic fourth, Dignitas sixth, FaZe eighth, Cloud9 ninth, G2 10th, EnVyUs 11th, mousesports 12th, Immortals 13th, Godsent 17th, Renegades 19th, HellRaisers 20th, Tyloo 21st.

The only teams that didn’t make HLTV’s rankings are CLG, Vega Squadron and Team Spirit, all of whom should be shoe-ins to be eliminated. Every other team has an argument as to why it should securely qualify or earn an upset trip to Atlanta next month.

On top of that, the format is a modified Swiss tournament where winning three matches gets a team to the Major and losing three means elimination. This isn’t a perfect Swiss tournament, where teams keep playing, so there are situations where a team can get out if it earns favorable matches as an underdog.

The biggest reason why this tournament will be super competitive is that we are in the parity era of CS:GO. Two things happened simultaneously in 2016. First, multiple teams improved in the midfield and upper midfield. Secondly, the schedule has been packed. It is filled with travel time, tournaments and online matches. Because of that, the best teams’ practice has degraded. It usually takes one or two weeks to improve a map while trying to maintain current status in other ones. That’s a conservative estimate without having the responsibilities of online matches, streaming, travel or playing at tournaments.

So we have a scene with a larger field of upper tier teams and a packed schedule. It has become much harder to stay at the top.

All of these factors make this Major Qualifier the hardest in history and the hardest to predict. Nearly any team could get out; nearly any team could get eliminated. Let’s take a team-by-team look at what to expect this week.

NiP

Recent results: ELEAGUE Season 2 (top 8), IEM Oakland (first), ESL Pro League Season 4 (top 4)

Strengths: High firepower, the most experience and their star players are coming back into form. Also, fucking magic.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: FaZe, Dignitas and Cloud9.

Who they haven’t played on LAN recently: OpTic, mousesports, CLG, TyLoo, Renegades, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers

Notes: If there was a “safe” bet in this qualifier to get out, it would be NiP. They have the firepower, tactics and experience to get out. As I’ve noted, if they go into a gauntlet and meet FaZe, Dignitas or Cloud9, all three have already proven they can take at least one map from the Ninjas.

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Dignitas

Recent results: DH Winter (out of groups), ELEAGUE Season 2 (top 8), ECS Season 2 LAN Finals (out of groups — with stand-in), EPICENTER (first).

Strengths: The most complete team on paper. The only thing they lack is experience under high-pressure situations. They have the highest consistent firepower across the board and their wide map pool allows them to put themselves in favorable positions.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: G2, EnVyUs, FaZe, Cloud9, NiP

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: CLG, TyLoo, Renegades, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, HellRaisers, mousesports, OpTic, Immortals

Notes: Dignitas has struggled to reach the same peaks as when it won EPICENTER. Since then, they were shockingly upset out of groups at DH Winter (though every map was close) and lost to SK in a close series at ELEAGUE. ECS hardly counts as it was with a stand-in.

FaZe

Recent results: ECS (Out of groups), ELEAGUE Season 2 (top 4), IEM Oakland (top 4), iBuyPower Masters (top 4)

Strengths: A lot of firepower and a good map pick-ban

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: OpTic, NiP, Renegades, Immortals, Cloud9

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: CLG, TyLoo, Renegades, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers, EnVyUs, G2

Notes: FaZe is a real team now and not a bunch of stars smashed together. They have a real shot to get out of the qualifier, but they need to avoid OpTic, which has eliminated them twice in recent tournaments.

Mousesports

Recent results: ELEAGUE Season 2 (top 8), IEM Oakland (out of groups), ESL Pro League Season 4 (top four)

Strengths: Firepower in their main trio.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: OpTic, FaZe, Cloud9, NiP, Immortals

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: Dignitas, CLG, TyLoo, Renegades, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers, G2

Notes: They are on a nine-game losing streak. Their last success was beating EnVyUs, OpTic and Liquid to get out of the ESL Pro League groups. They also took best-of-one upsets against Cloud9 and Immortals to make it out of ELEAGUE. Here they need to string only three upsets to get out. Their chances of getting out will probably rely on the draw.

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EnVyUs

Recent results: ELEAGUE Season 2 (out of groups), Northern Arena (top four), ESL Pro League Season 4 (top 6), ECS Season 2 LAN Finals (top four)

Strengths: Fairly consistent in what they do at LAN. They won’t underperform, and if KennyS or apEX goes off, they have a chance to beat any team.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: OpTic, Dignitas, G2, NiP, mousesports,

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: FaZe, Cloud 9, CLG, TyLoo, Renegades, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers

Notes: A gatekeeper team. They lack something that stops them from reaching the next level but are still competitive enough to possibly threaten an upset against a better team. Especially in a best-of-one.

G2

Recent results: IEM Oakland (top 6), Northern Arena (second) ELEAGUE Season 2 (out of groups), EPICENTER (top 6)

Strengths: Extremely explosive if firing on all cylinders.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: Immortals, OpTic, NiP, Dignitas, Immortals

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: FaZe, mousesports, Cloud9, CLG, Renegades, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers

Notes: G2 was one of the best teams in the world before the last Major. They have since fallen off and — though still good — are a gatekeeper team. Their loss to OpTic at Northern Arena finals was one of the signals that raised OpTic’s status in the world.

OpTic

Recent results: iBP Masters (second), ESL New York (top 6), ESL Pro League Season 4 (top 6), Northern Arena (first), DreamHack Winter (out of groups), ELEAGUE Season 2 (first), ECS Season 2 LAN Finals (second)

Strengths: Their fast-paced swarmy aggression mixed in with their raw firepower has caught teams off guard. In addition, they change their pace well on T side.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: FaZe, Cloud9, G2, EnVyUs

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: Dignitas, mousesports, NiP, CLG, TyLoo, Renegades, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers

Notes: The rise of Rush and Naf has made this team’s firepower go four players deep. Stanislaw’s leadership and tactics have also made it hard for teams to play against, and he has great impact as a support player for his team. They still have yet to test all of the top teams and before their ELEAGUE run were prone to tilt if they lost too many rounds early in the first half.

Immortals

Recent results: ECS Season 2 LAN Finals (out of groups), Americas Minor (first), IEM Oakland (top 6), iBP Masters (first)

Strengths: Strong but inconsistent firepower. They have a loose system and seem to feed off emotional energy.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: NiP, OpTic, EnVyUs, FaZe, Cloud9,  mousesports

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: Dignitas, G2, CLG, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers

Notes: This team was favored to go through the previous Major qualifiers but failed. This is the hardest qualifier yet, so the pressure is even higher. In addition to that, they have an Achilles heel in TyLoo, which could very much upset them.

ELEAGUE

Cloud9

Recent results: ECS Season 2 LAN Finals (out of groups), Americas Minor (second), DreamHack Winter (out of groups), IEM Oakland (out of groups), iBP Masters (second), ESL Pro League Season 4 (first), ELEAGUE Season 2 (out of groups)

Strengths: A fast paced aggressive team based around their leader. When it works, it rolls over the competition.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: OpTic, FaZe, Immortals, Renegades, mousesports, NiP

Teams they haven’t played on LAN recently: Dignitas, EnVyUs, G2, CLG, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers

Notes: They had a great run at ESL PL, but pundits like Moses and Thorin were more skeptical of prolonged success. This has so far turned out to be true as they then dropped out of the group stages in their following three tournaments. This will be a difficult tournament for Cloud9 to get out of as their auto-win against OpTic is gone, and Immortals has a favored matchup against them.

TyLoo

Recent results: WCA (second), IEM Oakland (out of groups), iBP Masters (top four) IesF (second), Asia Minor (first)

Strengths: A lot of skill and fast executions. Sadly they were very predictable.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: G2, Immortals, Cloud9

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: Dignitas, FaZe, mousesports, NiP, EnVyUs, OpTic, CLG, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers

Notes: After a few international appearances, teams out and crushed TyLoo. At IEM Oakland, they went 0-5, but that loss showed some promise in that TyLoo was changing. I don’t think they will have improved enough to get out of the qualifier, but they do have some fun upset potential against teams that don’t study them. They could also ruin the days of Immortals or Renegades if the past is any indicator.

Renegades

Recent results: DreamHack Winter (second), iBP Masters (out of groups), Asia Minor (second), ELEAGUE Season 2 (out of groups)

Strengths: Good firepower and tactics. Lack something extra to take them to the next level, though.

Teams that have taken maps from them who are here: FaZe, Immortals, TyLoo, Cloud9

Team they haven’t played on LAN recently: Dignitas, EnVyUs, OpTic, G2, mousesports, NiP, CLG, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, Godsent, HellRaisers

Notes: Even though the team upgraded the roster with Rickeh, the results remain largely the same. They seem to be stuck in a rut but have the skills to upset teams here. The problem is they seem to be unable to win under pressure situations.

Wild Cards

CLG, Team Spirit, Vega Squadron, Godsent, Hellraisers

The rest of the teams have been to very few international LANs in recent memory. As this list only uses LAN data, that means there isn’t much — if anything — to digest. This could be a good thing, as all these teams have had the most time to practice and scout their opponents.

All photos courtesy of Turner Sports/ELEAGUE

Slingshot senior columnist. StarCraft and CS:GO expert who pushes narratives over numbers.

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