This Weekend on LAN: ESL Pro League Finals

Last year’s ESL ESEA Pro League Finals saw the emergence of a globally competitive NA team, Cloud 9, which narrowly lost a Best of 5 against fnatic, the best team in the world.

This year’s ESL Pro League finals might have seen the emergence of a globally competitive French team, G2, which narrowly lost a Best of 5 against Luminosity, probably the best team in the world.

Coincidence? 

The One-Tap Master, Scream. Photo courtesy ESL.

The One-Tap Master, Scream. Photo courtesy ESL.

In full fairness, I will give my thoughts on every team’s performance in Leicester, but my final focus will be on the grand finalists. 

Cloud 9

I mean, what can I say to you? “Write it off, man, this just wasn’t your tournament”? “Stewie2k bottom-fragged, I’m sure that won’t happen again”? Naw, now I’m starting to write off their apparent decency last tournament. I’m starting to write off NA CS:GO in general, actually. 

Astralis

Brothers, brothers, brothers…I just don’t know what to say anymore. Seven rounds against OpTic? OpTic? This team appears unable to make basic adjustments during the course of a map…maybe karrigan truly has lost the ear of his players. Redeeming glimmer: device looks great right now, including a 34-18 on train versus LG. Damning fact: Xyp9x has been bottom-fragging, including an 11-19 on train versus LG. 

OpTic

My compliments: ya done good, boys, all things considered. Spanking Astralis and taking 25 rounds off Luminosity is big-boy stuff. I love your work-ethic and teamwork. I’m even gonna write more about your Spanish talent mixwell and what I think he’s done for you. But my pessimism: this lineup can become an upset team at best, unless it becomes the seeds of another, greater lineup.

Liquid 

Food for thought: shoxie once compared s1mple to his younger self. He was brash and full of talent like simple then, shoxie said (I’m paraphrasing, b/c I can’t find the interview at this moment). And shox just led yet another lineup to yet another big international result. You bombed out. Chew slowly. The sauce: koosta, your rookie AWPer, was your best player this event.

Semifinalists: fnatic

CS:GO math lesson: fnatic minus olofmeister does not equal fnatic. You just changed your team around to accommodate wenton’s lesser talent, and only flusha was able to provide a superstar performance versus a non-European team. It was the comeback versus G2 on inferno—a 28-3 CT half as the Frenchmen floundered in mid again and again. While I await olof the Magnificent’s return, you, flusha, will have to do that more often for fnatic to remain elite. 

Semifinalists: NiP

News flash: this is the best active Swedish lineup in the world right now. In my opinion, the Ninjas are superseding Astralis as the gatekeeper to the elite of global CS. They are everything you want in a gatekeeper. They’ve won a big tournament recently. They consistently get deep. They take maps off of big teams. They are as solid as a dam. There’s no shame in losing 2-1 to Luminosity in the semifinals, including a hard-fought final map. And I just don’t see lesser teams upsetting them like OpTic just upset Astralis. Consider yourselves hired.

FINALISTS: G2

shox, 3rd in line, and Scream, 4th in line, played like the superstars they always were meant to be. Photo courtesy hltv.org.

shox, 3rd in line, and Scream, 4th in line, played like the superstars they always were meant to be. Photo courtesy hltv.org.

RpK was strong on a couple maps in certain positions,but was the worst statistically for G2 overall; bodyy had his moments, but a number of them were bad (were those fatal shoulder peeks on banana accidental?!); Smithzz was…okay, Smithzz was Smithzz, along for the ride; and shox and Scream were undergoing headshot deification, almost game in and game out. 

What a surprise duo—a duo that should have never been a surprise! Scream, the “king of the one-tap,” too early crowned, was only a prince before this tournament; his aim could dominate a round, but he would never rule a match. Now he’s become the throne instead; his consistent fragging was the seat of G2’s power.

And what better man to wage war from that throne in England than the fallen French seraphim, shoxieJESUS? His individuals play in the grand finals was euphoric, revelatory, delicious in every way—full of improbable moments of strength, winning rounds that shouldn’t be won. And he was calling the shots for G2, at least in part! He hasn’t put up main-carry performances like that since the golden dawn of competitive CS:GO—or, at the very least, since leaving EnVyUs, where he could show flashes of his previous self.

One more round on inferno—the map we must now sadly part with—and this duo would have completed the coronation and become ESL champions. As it stands, they must settle for being the dauphin and the best team in the French scene. Strange days when I can call Scream a hard carry with a straight face.

Reality checks must be given, though. G2 had a fairly easy run to the final, as their semi-final opponent, fnatic, is simply not the same team without superstar olofmeister. Beyond their star duo, their individualistic style of play was spotty. Encouraging signs: the team confidence to attack Luminosity’s setups and winning both of Luminosity’s map picks. Discouraging signs: losing both their own map picks, and Scream becoming quiet in the final stages of the final two maps.

WINNERS: Luminosity

FalleN had one incredible performance on dust2, but otherwise relied on his team and coldzera. Photo courtesy hltv.org.

FalleN had one incredible performance on dust2, but otherwise relied on his team and coldzera. Photo courtesy hltv.org.

And yes, these guys are winners. They drop maps that they shouldn’t drop sometimes, but they always seem to find a way to win. Such a contrast from the beginning of this lineup, when the close matches seemed to just slip away from them! Now all the nail-biters seem to fall into their back pocket.

That being said, we must now recognize that LG’s two recent global championships (DH Austin was an NA LAN, and doesn’t quite count) were indeed nail-biters. In both runs, LG was a round away from losing the trophy, only to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. They are winners, but they are not crushingly dominant. 

I think LG has come to rely on their talent a little more than they initially did, and while coldzera and FalleN are superstars, the team does not have a crushing talent advantage in comparison to other top teams. Their play seems looser, and I’m shocked to see them give up the percentage of man-advantage post-plants they did to G2. (Or at least let them go close.) Some credit must go to shox, but I’m afraid being flush with success has made the team relax their dedication to maximum value decision-making at all times. I just saw too many silly positions or peeks that I’m not used to seeing from the likes of FalleN and company.

The loss of their two map choices in the finals worries me, too. But LG’s victory on G2’s two map choices—especially on dust2, G2’s home map and LG’s worst map—was pure class. And coldzera proved this tournament that he is a top 5, superstar, do-anything player. Kill differential in the finals for cold? +41, almost matching shox’s +22 and Scream’s +23 combined. 

An ode to de_inferno

Au revouir, bon inferno. We knew thee well, thy virtues and vagaries alike. We grew close to thee, thy foremost of early maps, thou our steadfast companion through many a meta; each tourney, thou surprised us anew. That the dying shots of ESL should grace thy streets and apts…it all befits thee. Rest, recover, and resisteth the corruptive hands of Valve—until we see thee again.

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