Next-Best Bell-Weather: Looking Back at ESL One Cologne
The 2016 ESL One Cologne Main Qualifier was the best qualifier for a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive major in history. It had the best format. It had the best competition. As a tournament, it was the best gauge of competition for tier 2 and tier 3 teams we’ve ever had.
I hope all major qualifiers after this one pick up the Swiss system. It provided a variety of well-paired and interesting match-ups. And overall, this structure feel more fair than even a double-elimination bracket, since a good team can get two unlucky matchups and still qualify. Just win three out of five, and you qualify, simple as that.
The Cologne qualifier was also a testament to how much CS:GO is growing beneath the elite level. One might think CS:GO’s competition is becoming deeper, but “broader” is more a accurate word. Why? Because the number of championship-caliber teams is lower now than it was a year ago, but the number of good teams is much larger. Many a desperate squad is jockeying for a chance in the limelight, and this made quality of play at Cologne much better than previous qualifiers. It was tough to say that any roster was a shoo-in to qualify; even G2 had to sweat to reach Cologne. In the end, some promising sides like Cloud9, Immortals (ex-Tempo Storm), and TyLoo were eliminated, while others like Gambit, FaZe, and mousesports qualified with strength we didn’t expect. Most importantly, no true clunker teams qualified for the major.
Since I’m a perfectionist, and this tournament was too full of juicy plotlines, I will not refrain. I will paint my thoughts, brief but earnest, on every team in attendance, focusing your eye on the must-learns and tracing with the lightest strokes the must-remembers.