ESL Pro League

ESL Pro League Season 6 playoff predictions

Coming into this tournament, it looked like it was going to be a thriller, and there have been some fantastic games through the group stage. While the playoff stage is perhaps not as stacked as it could be, there are some interesting fresh matches, and I think we could get some more good games out of this tourney yet. Here’s how I personally think the rest of the tournament will shake out from here.

Quarterfinals

Fnatic vs OpTic

This is a very interesting matchup, as there really is no clear winner. Other than the final, I think this could be the match of the tournament. In terms of likely four banned maps, I’d predict for Cache, Nuke, Overpass and Train to be removed. This one is a real wildcard though, as a team could switch things up easily. I would expect seeing a combination of Mirage, Cobble and Inferno for this match. Picking a winner is really tough, but I think I have to side with the Swedes on this one.

Fnatic 2-1 OpTic

Hellraisers vs Misfits

I expect this to be a white-wash. I personally love an underdog story, such as Gambit at the major; however, I don’t see Misfits, no matter the maps, finding a way to win against a good Hellraisers team. They are just thoroughly out-manned. Then again, that’s what we’ve been saying about them all tournament. There may be some dark horse potential here, as they have played well thus far, but the chances are so incredibly slim that I don’t see it happening.

Hellraisers 2-0 Misfits

Semifinals

FaZe vs Fnatic

To begin this tournament, Fnatic upset FaZe in thriller fashion on arguably FaZe’s best map, Inferno. While that match was awesome, and Fnatic competed very well in that game, there really is no chance that Fnatic beat FaZe two out of three times. Again, maps don’t really matter here as FaZe should just overpower Fnatic on firepower alone.

FaZe 2-0 Fnatic

SK Gaming vs Hellraisers

I’m going to be very clear, SK will not lose to Hellraisers. However, I actually think in a weird way this could be a close one. SK will remove Nuke, which isn’t a good HR map anyways. HR will remove Mirage. From there, I’d expect a Cache pick by SK, followed by an Overpass pick by HR. While I expect the Overpass pick, I think it will be a huge mistake for them too. The third map will probably be Inferno, but I don’t think we will get there. I expect a close 2-0, with a potential to go to a third map; although even if it does go to three, SK should be able to lock it down.

SK 2-0 Hellraisers

Finals

SK Gaming vs FaZe Clan

I expect an insane final here. This could go down as one of the best matches in Counter-Strike history. From the gate, FaZe and SK should stick to their guns and ban Cobble and Nuke respectively. After that, things get interesting. An Inferno pick by FaZe to start is not unlikely, and SK picking Cache wouldn’t surprise me in the least. From there I would expect FaZe to pick Overpass, and SK to follow that up with Mirage, leaving map five, Train.

The first map should be a stunner, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go overtime. I’m going to say that Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo has a big game on the AWP, and Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David does coldzera things, and SK take a 1-0 lead.

Map 1: SK 16-13 FaZe

Second up we have Cache, which should be another close one. I’m saying Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač, Håvard ‘rain’ Nygaard and Olof ‘olofmeister’ Kajbjer, all fantastic Cache players, turn up and FaZe win SK’s pick.

Map 2: FaZe 19-16 SK

The pivotal game three, and it should be another thriller. While I don’t think it will be as close as the first two, I still expect to see a sick performance from these two teams; however, I think SK take the series lead with this one.

Map 3: SK 16-11 FaZe

As a fan and viewer I want map five. While realistically, you would expect SK to be able to win this map, FaZe certainly will have their chances, and because I love when best of fives come down to map five, I’m taking FaZe to edge out the Brazilians in this one.

Map 4: FaZe 16-14 SK

While I think Inferno would have been the best map five, I can’t complain about Train. This should be another tight one, but I expect a terrific performance from coldzera, which should push SK over the line, to win the ESL Pro League 3-2.

Map 5: SK 16-12 FaZe

Final: SK 3-2 FaZe

MVP: Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David


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best csgo player

Who is the best CS:GO player of all time?

A topic very hotly debated in all traditional sports, from the Tom Bradys to the Michael Jordans. Whether you’re a die-hard Derek Jeter supporter, or you don’t think anything beats the classic Babe Ruth, there’s something within us that just loves the debate of who is the best. I’ve always been one to break these conversations down into categories; that is exactly what I’ve done here for Counter-Strike Global Offensive. By all means though, feel free to disagree with my picks for each category, this is of course my personal opinion.

Category 1: Winning

Obviously a very crucial thing to consider, as it is the goal of the game we play. The thing I personally enjoy most about this category is that there is really no debating, it’s all proven. There is no ‘well at this point he was better but at this point the other dude was better’ talk. It’s all cold hard facts. At least that’s how it is in traditional sports; it’s a bit different in CS, but the idea still stands.

Robin ‘flusha’ Rönnquist

Notable Achievements:

3x Major Champion

1x Major MVP

5x Big event winner ($250,000+ prize pool, excluding Valve Majors)

Actually there might be some controversy here, as you could argue Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund deserves the top spot as well; although, three time major winner flusha, for me, is the pick. Quite honestly I believe he should be a two-time major MVP as he practically won fnatic that first map on Dust II versus the Ninjas in Pyjamas, which set up the upset. When people are throwing around serious cheating allegations about you, you are either doing something very, very right, or very, very wrong. I’d like to believe the former, as the whole idea of using external assistance in CS:GO makes the game less fun to talk about.

Marcelo ‘coldzera’ David

Notable Achievements:

2x Major Champion

2x Major MVP

5x Big event winner ($250,000+ prize pool, excluding Valve Majors)

The only real reason I push him below flusha is because of that third major. Flusha technically has a slight advantage in amount of big event wins (eight total vs seven total). While cold is unquestionably the better player when comparing individual levels of play, even going back to flusha’s prime, he isn’t the ‘winner’ in my winning category.

Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund

Notable Achievements:

1x Major Champion

4x Big event winner ($250,000+ prize pool, excluding Valve Majors)

87-0 LAN record in first 87 maps

The key here, despite that maddening 87-0 run, is that none of the events he won at the time were anywhere near the size of today’s events. I think it is ridiculous to call him the best winner, considering he has only won one major, and he didn’t even win MVP; although, admittedly he actually was the best player at that tournament, but friberg saved NiP too many times with ridiculous clutches to not have won the MVP.

Category 2: Dominance

Extended periods of dominance by a player, cementing their legacy as one of the all time greats; one of my absolute favorite things to watch in both sports and esports. Consistency is key in Counter-Strike, and these guys are the masters.

Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund

Period of dominance: 2012 – early 2014

It’s really hard to top being the unquestioned best player in the world for two years. He not only had the stats to back up that statement, but he passed the eye test with flying colors. He was the epitome of dominance in Counter-Strike, and not to mention, excluding a period in 2017, he hasn’t been bad at all ever since. In fact he has been a top 20 HLTV player every year.

Olof ‘olofmeister’ Kajbjer

Period of dominance: late 2014 – mid 2015 and ealry 2016 – wrist injury

The thing that is the kicker for me is his incredible return to form of being the best player in 2016, after dominating one of the most competitive eras in Counter-Strike history. In terms of the eye test, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a player turn up so consistently. He wasn’t the type of player that every single map you knew he would turn up, but you know that he would dominate at least one map out of three in a series, and more often than not he would dominate two of the three.

Kenny ‘kennyS’ Schrub

Period of dominance: late 2014 – late 2015

I don’t think I have ever seen a player dominate the way kennyS did. He was the type of player where any round he had a scoped weapon in his hands, you were better off just turning and going the other way. The thing about it that’s utterly unreal to me is he was still very good on the other weapons. He could still play well with a rifle in his hands, and was highly proficient on the pistols. He was one of my absolute favorite players to watch, as he frequently exhibited his dominance, series after series, map after map and round after round.

Category 3: Peak form

This category is the most abstract, as it relies heavily on the eye test for judgement of play. These are the players that fill up the highlight reels and stat sheets. While they aren’t as consistent, if they happen to be on point, there really is nothing you can do to stop them.

Richard ‘shox’ Papilion

He is unquestionably the best Counter-Strike player I have ever watched. He has never really had a period of serious dominance, though he was very good in early 2016. When he is in prime form, you’ll know it. He will impose his presence on you, and there is nothing you can do to stop him, besides try desperately to avoid him.

Mike ‘shroud’ Grzesiek

The story of shroud is a sad one. He had the peak of quite literally the second best player I have ever seen; however, he never materialized into the star player his peak in the summer of 2015 would have suggested. The thing with him is he just never missed. When he was on, he literally didn’t miss, it looked like he was using aimbot.

Nikola ‘NiKo’ Kovač

There are a lot of players who could’ve taken this spot for me. From Patrick ‘f0rest’ Lindberg, to Fernando ‘fer’ Alvarenga, this spot was very much up for grabs. The reason I went with NiKo here was because of his ability to literally win maps by himself. While analysts say that about a lot of players, he actually did it. On a god-awful mousesports team, he was the only driving force. He was dangerous, no matter if he had an AWP, an AK or a Deagle in his hands.

I should say again, this is my own opinion, and really at the end of the day, none of this is hard fact. Depending on what you value, any player could be the best for you. For instance, if you value death threats, Vito ‘kNg’ Giuseppe is your guy. Memes aside, this idea is really abstract, but also really fun to debate.


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fifth ninja

S1mple and the curse of the fifth ninja

At Global Offensive’s beginning, every conversation began and ended with the Ninjas in Pyjamas. The legendary lineup encompassed; the world’s best player by leaps and bounds, Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund; second best player, Patrik ‘f0rest’ Lindberg, dominant entry fragger Adam ‘friberg’ Friberg, in-game leader Richard ‘Xizt’ Landström, and role player Robin ‘Fifflaren’ Johansson. When Fifflaren decided to retire, the Ninjas went with a strategy of keeping a core four, and just finding a new fifth every year or so, until just recently when friberg was removed from the team. As of late, people have been using this same argument that the curse of the fifth ninja suggested, against the young prodigy Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev.

Natus Vincere

People seem to forget, there was a reason that Na’Vi felt they needed a change. Following a highly mediocre start to 2016. The two finals appearances in MLG Columbus and Dreamhack Malmo were impressive; although, their routes to the finals were rather unimpeded. Overall, for an organization with championship aspirations, the year had been unsuccessful. They needed to bring in another superstar to pair with Ladislav ‘GuardiaN’ Kovács, as Egor ‘flamie’ Vasilyev, is a player that tends to shrink as the lights get brighter.

S1mple, after stomping Na’Vi in the quarterfinals of ESL One Cologne 2016, was recruited to the CIS powerhouse. After going out in last place at SL i-League Invitational, they scraped together a win at ESL One New York, off of the back of a fantastic performance from s1mple. A long line of disappointing performances ensued, and the general public seemed to agree that it was the fault of s1mple, despite his stellar play. While this was happening, it just reminded me of the NiP curse of the fifth ninja.

 

Thankfully, the story didn’t have the same ending as NiP’s, as they bought in on s1mple as their franchise centerpiece; they added more firepower and leadership around him. The current Na’Vi roster heavily intrigues me. I cannot wait to see them in action as, on paper, their players should fit fantastically well together. They still have one of the best role players money can buy, the criminally underrated Ioann ‘Edward’ Sukhariev. A leader like Danylo ‘Zeus’ Teslenko only comes around once in a lifetime. Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov is a very good playmaking lurker and flamie when hot can click his opponents face off before he even sees flamie’s shoulder.

 


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Na`Vi

Na’Vi sign electronic

When Natus Vincere picked up Counter-Strike prodigy Aleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev, they were supposed to be the best team in the world. After narrowly winning out in ESL One New York, the team was fairly underwhelming. Na’Vi reacquired Danylo ‘Zeus’ Teslenko and they were primed to be a top five team. This prophecy never came to fruition either; the public seems to be blaming s1mple, considering that Na’Vi, a franchise that was experiencing a lot of deep tournament runs prior to picking up s1mple, are now making group stage exits regularly. The real problem with Na’Vi has been Egor ‘flamie’ Vasilyev, as he has not brought the star power he did in 2016. S1mple needed another true star player to dominate with him, and now he has it.

Will electronic fit in?

One key problem I’ve noticed within Na’Vi has been how s1mple and flamie play. They are both very volatile, aggressive players. Well, flamie is supposed to be, but it looks like he is lacking confidence, as he is playing more passively. Either way, that should change with Denis ‘electronic’ Sharipov on the team. Electronic plays his best Counter-Strike as a passive player and rotator. His style of play reminds me a lot of former Na’Vi member Denis ‘seized’ Kostin, whom electronic is replacing. He is the perfect secondary star to pair with s1mple, as electronic is the type of player who can find ways to win clutch rounds.

Na’Vi now has the ideal team built around s1mple, with electronic, Ioann ‘Edward’ Sukhariev, Zeus and flamie. S1mple can now play almost the style of Counter-Strike Jesper ‘JW’ Wecksell was able to play in 2015; being able to make plays at will, knowing if he dies it isn’t detrimental to the round. This team reminds me of the Team Liquid that made it to the finals of Cologne. With flamie drawing comparisons to Nick ‘nitr0′ Cannella, Zeus being similar to Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin, Edward looking like Josh ‘jdm64’ Marzano and electronic playing up to Jonathan ‘EliGE’ Jablonowski’s level. That last comparison is pretty loose though. My point is that they’re secondary playmakers for their respective teams.

In an ideal world, I would cut s1mple loose, and let him do whatever he wants to, basically, as long as he communicates it. He has played his most dominant Counter-Strike when cut loose (see MLG Columbus, ESL One Cologne 2016). While we don’t live in that ideal world, I foresee a lot more playmaking from s1 in the future.

Implications

In terms of rankings, I would personally slot Na`Vi back into my personal top 10, looking something like this.

  1. FaZe Clan
  2. SK Gaming
  3. G2 esports
  4. Astralis
  5. North
  6. Cloud9
  7. mousesports (edgy, right?)
  8. Na’Vi
  9. Liquid
  10. Virtus Pro

The Virtus Pro ranking is probably a bit questionable, but the potential is there as seen in previous classics. I stand fully behind the rest of the rankings though. Realistically, this team should be better than mouz, C9 and North on paper. However, I’m not falling back into the Na’Vi trap too quickly. I think it’s fair to put them at eighth in the world, just considering the firepower. Also, none of Na’Vi’s new big three are even 21 yet, and oozing with potential. I love their upside, and I would predict within the next three to five months that they creep into the top five in the world.


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Timberwolves

To beat the Warriors: Timberwolves

Right now the NBA is seen as the Warriors, and everyone else. Despite a rather sluggish start, nobody thinks there will be a contest come playoffs time. Quite frankly, there are a lot of teams a move or two away from being able to compete, and these moves aren’t unrealistic. So here are a few moves that certain teams could make, to really be able to compete with the Warriors.

Minnesota Timberwolves

A lot of people would argue the Wolves are too young to really compete for a title; however, I look at the level of play to determine who can compete, rather than using lazy narratives such as ‘they need to learn how to win’. The fact of the matter is that the Wolves are looking scary, without a point guard who can really create. Jeff Teague is a very solid guard, but I think he would be most effective as a sixth-man, like Derrick Rose. The Wolves big three has been looking scary. While at the moment they are ranked 29th in fast break efficiency, with the way these guys have been able to run the floor, once they get used to each other, they could be one of the best teams on the break in the league. Tom Thibodeau’s magic has begun to work already, as the Wolves defensive rating is slowly climbing.

The reason I think the Timberwolves can compete with the Warriors, Karl Anthony-Towns, has not been as good as advertised. He isn’t scoring as often (21.8 PPG in 2017-18 compared to 25.1 PPG in 2016-17), which would be forgivable, considering the Wolves have more offensive options; However, he isn’t significantly more efficient (59.1 eFG% this season vs. 57.6 eFG% last season). My personal problem is when watching him he doesn’t look like the dominant center everyone was saying he would be. Of course, the season is still very young.

Assuming everything else comes together, they really only need a point who can defend, and create on the offensive end.

Trades:

The only person the Wolves should go after is Eric Bledsoe, as the Suns are basically forced to move him at this point, and there really are no other starting caliber point guards on the block.

Wolves receive:

PG Eric Bledsoe

2018 second round pick (via Toronto)

Suns receive:

C Cole Aldrich

PG Tyus Jones

SG Marcus Georges-Hunt

2018 first round pick (via Thunder)

Overall the Suns would probably feel pressured into making this deal; considering they would get a decent enough replacement guard in Tyus Jones, that has some potential. The pick is also a nice addition, and Cole Aldrich has shown potential to be a decent backup center and has a good amount of experience under his belt. The Suns would certainly lose on this deal. However, I’m not too sure what better offers they would really get.

The Wolves have one of the scariest young duos in the league in KAT and Andrew Wiggins, both are electric offensively, and have the tools and length to be dominant defensively. So even if they decide to wait and not try to compete with the Warriors, barring any sort of major front office collapse and/or heartbreaking injury, it’s likely the Wolves will be NBA champions within the next decade.


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beat the Warriors

To beat the Warriors: Cavaliers

Right now the NBA is seen as the Warriors, and everyone else. Despite a rather sluggish start, nobody thinks there will be a contest come playoffs time. The way I see it, there are a lot of teams a move or two away from being able to compete, and these moves aren’t unrealistic. So here are a few moves that certain teams could make, to really be able to compete with the Warriors.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs already will be able to compete with the Warriors, so long as they have the King. To beat the Warriors, though, is a different story. The first thing the Cavaliers need is to cross their fingers and hope that when Isaiah Thomas returns from injury, he’s the Isaiah that played his heart out in Boston, not the handicapped one they faced a year ago. If Isaiah Thomas comes back full strength, the Cavs will be a serious threat to the Warriors.

Something that would most definitely not hurt the Cavs is starting faster. Cleveland ranks 25th in the league in first-quarter scoring. For context, last year they ranked third. Going down early has been their downfall in most of their losses.
Another key for the Cavs is the need for a big man to lock down the center. I’m not convinced that their defensive woes on the perimeter will continue; however, I do think they have a serious problem when it comes to the paint. Not only will getting a defensive beast big man help the interior defense, but by extension, it will elevate the perimeter defense, as there will be less defensive collapses.

As for who they should go after, I would say either DeMarcus Cousins or Jahlil Okafor. Of course, the latter would be much easier to obtain, maybe making the blockbuster move for Boogie is what they should do, considering the concern of star power on the team. Here’s what I would predict each trade look like, hypothetically speaking of course.

Trades:

Cavs receive:
C DeMarcus Cousins
C Alexis Ajinca
Pelicans receive:
SG Iman Shumpert
C Tristan Thompson
2018 1st round pick (via BKN)

Explanation: This is, of course, assuming the Pelicans drop off like I personally expect them to. Basically, with this trade, they’re going younger. They get a nice defensive two-guard in Iman Shumpert to pair with the offensively electric Jrue Holiday. Tristan Thompson is only 26 and still, has some serious potential. Not to mention a lottery draft pick that could just land them someone like Michael Porter.

Cavs receive:
C Jahlil Okafor
76ers receive:
PF Channing Frye
2018 1st round pick

Explanation: Philly seems to just want to be rid of Okafor, and a stretch forward who could provide some decent minutes off the bench for them, accompanied by a late first rounder could just do the trick. While it isn’t a blockbuster trade, the Cavs need someone to hold down the paint, and Okafor has at least been decent (1.1 BLK career average).

All in all, the Cavs are going to be able to compete, but I’m not too sure if they have what it takes to beat the Warriors right now.


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The Celtics’ season is not over

A tragic event occurred on Tuesday night. The Celtics new star forward, Gordon Hayward, suffered a brutal injury to his ankle.

Many people are counting this year as a complete loss for the Celtics, and while it is certainly not ideal, the Celtics could still make something out of this. Obviously, the Celtics rally in the second half was electric. Call me an optimist, but I saw enough from that second half team to be able to say they could yet be a top two seed in the Eastern Conference.

When it comes to personnel, I am only going to break down players I think will play an integral role in replacing Hayward in Boston.

Coaching

Brad Stevens

There is a legitimate argument to be made that this man is a better head coach than Steve Kerr, which would make him the second best head coach in the league. That exemplifies just how good he is at his job. While the GM’s of the league may think otherwise, I would say Brad Stevens is the best coach in the league at making adjustments, and he’s only getting started.

The team defense he has designed has even been able to hide Isaiah Thomas on that side of the ball, so Kyrie Irving’s lack of defensive skill should be no problem. With more offensive weapons at his disposal, it will be interesting to see what he comes up with on that side of the ball.

Personnel

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart was the biggest surprise to me on Tuesday, as he stepped up on the offensive end once Hayward left. His post work looked very good, like a budget Chris Paul almost. Not to mention his high effort, high-level defense and pretty decent court vision. A stellar performance from the young man, the Celtics are gonna need a lot more where that came from.

Jaylen Brown

Welcome, Jaylen Brown. A fantastic performance from the second-year man, leading his team in scoring with 25 points. His outside shot still needs work, however, his athleticism really overshadowed his lack of an outside shot.

He looked fierce in this outing as he carved up the inside, with 14 of his 25 points coming off of layups or dunks. His defense was also pretty good in this one, as he was putting up a good fight on every possession, and came away with two steals. He can step and make a difference in Boston.

Marcus Morris

While Gordon Hayward is gone, Marcus Morris should be back soon. Morris is a solid defender, and decent 3-point shooter, with a career 35.5 percent from beyond the arc. He is a great asset, especially for a team like the Celtics, as floor spacing for Kyrie Irving is key. He also brings that toughness when defending on the low block that someone like Al Horford just doesn’t seem to have.

Jayson Tatum

His offense looked very good in the second half of this game after a shaky start. I hope he blossoms quickly, as he has a similar skillset to Gordon Hayward, and could be a great sixth man, or a decent starter.

Aron Baynes

He showed some real value on Tuesday, playing decent interior defense, and grabbing quite a few offensive rebounds. He could log some serious minutes.

This Celtics roster cannot take another injury. With one more hit, even to a role player like Aron Baynes, could be enough to kill them. Though at the moment, I think they still have all they need to seriously challenge for the East crown, even if they will almost certainly fall short.


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college esports

College esports could be helpful to NA Counter-Strike

College esports have not been welcomed with open arms by everyone. In my personal opinion, an ideal world would have no traditional sports or esports using the collegiate system; however, we don’t live in an ideal world. Collegiate esports can help players prepare for the professional scene. It takes time for people to mature, to “grow up” if you will. This is the reason why the NFL and NBA require young athletes to play some college ball: in order to mature themselves and their game.

Positives

Listening to coach

One thing I have seen that certain teams are trying to implement is the idea of using their coach in the way NBA teams do: making in-game adjustments during timeouts, managing egos and designing the game plan. From my point of view, the ideal style of coaching in CS:GO is adhering to those three duties.

Whatever you might think, having players coached on a college team will make players more coachable later on. They can learn to respect the voice of the coach earlier in their career; while it won’t make everything perfect, it should help coaches be more respected, specifically in the North American scene.

Quite honestly, I think organizations are part of the problem with this. An easy fix to the lack of effective coaching without having to bring college esports into the equation would be having a clause in players’ contracts that prevent them from being paid while listed as ‘inactive’. Then, allowing coaches to demote players to ‘inactive’ status should they choose not to cooperate. Basically, the orgs just need to give the coaches more power to make changes in the lineup, even something as simple as benching players outright could work.

Practicing properly

It’s been rumored that most North American teams have not made the most of practice time. While we can’t know exactly what happens in their practices, there has been a lot of buzz from the Brazilians about how bad the practice is in the NA scene. Playing under a proper coach in a defined system with proper practicing, as we see in college football, will help prepare the next generation of players for success. After all, perfect practice makes perfect.

Maturity within the scene

One major thing lacking in the NA scene is professionalism and maturity. Teams are often built on personal relationships rather than trying to win. This has led to many possible super-teams falling out, just based on personality clashes.

Chemistry in CS is important, I’m not discrediting that, but at a certain point, egos have to be set aside. Admittedly, this dives a lot deeper than just Counter-Strike, at this point we’re going into the culture of the region, specifically the United States; so fair play if you call me out on that.

After going through the college system, players will be much older when they come into the professional scene, meaning they will be adults rather than 16 to 18-year-old kids. Specifically, it should help the work ethic within the scene, which seems to be a problem.

With more mature players in the scene, more teams will be formed with intentions to win. This would be an enormous step for NA; it could be the stepping stone into having a team capable of dominating.

Fall back

This is an aspect that could apply to the entire world of esports, as players don’t last forever at the top. There are some exceptions, like Henry ‘HenryG’ Greer, a former Counter-Strike: Source professional, but having a college degree to fall back on is always useful. So in general, going to college would not only help the quality of Counter-Strike being played but also give the players a plan for after esports; not to mention, should esports get big enough, large amounts of college could be paid for if playing for a college esports team via scholarship. In fact, there already are some scholarships for college esports out there.

Negative

Talent comes/goes too quickly

For the most part, talent comes and goes pretty quickly in terms of the top level. There’s a reason we point to people like Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund, or Filip ‘NEO’ Kubiski, as special cases. Spencer ‘Hiko’ Martin was just a few years ago in the argument for best player in North America, and now he’s playing for a team that should probably be in ESEA premier. This can be the downside of requiring collegiate experience before recruiting; however, I don’t think we would need to require college experience. In my mind, the best system for the college system is to make it optional, and just a good thing to add to your resume when applying for a team.

Overall, I personally think the positives outweigh the negative, but who knows if we’ll ever find out.


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Coaching

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s greatest years are still ahead

It has been quite a meme within the Counter-Strike community to poke fun at the game dying. While some are joking, others actually fear for the future of the game. I am here to explain why Counter-Strike hasn’t even hit its stride yet, in terms of the competition level anyways.

Coaching

This is the reason Counter-Strike is only going to be going up. The coaching we currently have in CS:GO is decent. There are a few coaches that are very good tactically, people such as Björn ‘THREAT’ Pers and Chet ‘ImAPet’ Singh. They are few and far between these days though. Very soon, some of our older players will eventually have to retire. While it will be sad to see such legends like Filip ‘NEO’ Kubski and Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund not playing, their storied work ethics, experience in high-pressure situations and knowledge of CS:GO’s meta specifically, should make them fantastic coaches once they do step away from the mouse and keyboard.

The incoming generation of Counter-Strike players should have some of the best coaching our game has ever seen. This will allow talent influx to be more fundamentally sound, and thus giving us more competitive Counter-Strike from teams deeper in the rankings. A number ten ranked team getting an upset over a number two ranked team in a best of three might be plausible in two years or so. The main point I want to get across is that the coaches that could come will have experience specifically within Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, which I believe will help our scene expand and the competition level grow even further.

What the scene could really use, is a Gregg Popovich or Phil Jackson type coach, and I believe that people like GeT_RiGhT or NEO could get there.

Talent Level

The release of CS:GO for free in Asian countries, specifically China, could be enormous for our scene. Known as some of the best in other esports such as Starcraft and League of Legends, the Asian scene could really raise the bar for CS and bring some phenomenal players into the mix. Call me an optimist, but I believe the Asians will catch up to the Europeans, and bring us more talent. This, of course, is thinking a couple of years in advance; but it is nice to know we have almost an ‘insurance policy’ if you will for the level of talent in our game down the line.

The overall talent level within the Counter-Strike scene is only getting better, and a key detail is that players are starting to really figure out the spray control within the game. Certain players like Jonathon ‘EliGe’ Jablonowski, have nearly perfected the spray. Players will only be getting better as time goes on as well. Other players, of course, are becoming godlike in terms of their first-bullet accuracy. Look at people like Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire as an example. Obviously, there are still problems within the game that need to be fixed in order to raise the skill ceiling of the game in general. Nonetheless, the skill of the average pro player is on the up and up.

Decision-making was a problem I used to see a lot of pros face, which has gotten better. Economically, decisions are awful, but I feel we can pin that one on Valve just as much as the teams. In terms of mid-round decision-making, it seems like the average pro is a lot better at being decisive. One key problem within some professionals was indecisiveness; being indecisive is the worst mistake you can make in Counter-Strike. At least, that’s how I see it.


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underperforming

Why are some teams under-performing?

The Counter-Strike scene is in a state of flux like we’ve never seen before. Truly, there are about eight teams who can at any time win a tournament. The tier below the ‘top tier’ (teams that could win a big tournament) is as strong as it has ever been. Team Liquid, per HLTV, was rated as the ninth best team in the world. A fringe playoff team, who could maybe make the semis of an international tournament, with a lucky bracket draw. That was their situation before they made the finals at ESL One New York, beating the best team in the world in a best of three to get there.

However, there are some teams under-performing given their stature and talent level. I’m going to try to analyze why these teams are under-performing, one by one. My definition of ‘under-performing’ is a team that isn’t playing up to their standards or expectations. Keep in mind, some of my analytics will be related to the eye test; therefore, there will be opinions. I know, opinions in 2017, an absolute deathtrap.

Astralis

Astralis is a team everyone has noticed under-performing. From IEM Oakland in 2016 until DreamHack Masters Malmo 2017, Astralis did not fail to make the semifinals once. During this span, they made six finals and won three tournaments. Falling out in the group stage is unacceptable for a team of their stature, I don’t care the format. It is not okay to lose to Team Liquid in a best of three match when best of three’s are supposed to be your bread and butter.

To theorize why Astralis are playing poorly, by their standards anyway, let’s look into the individual performances of players, as I think they still play one of the best brands of Counter-Strike in the scene today. When looking, Lukas ‘gla1ve’ Rossander is really the only under-performer (0.99 HLTV rating in the last three months on LAN).

All that said, I’m not worried about the Danes. Their style of Counter-Strike is highly proficient, and they have some of the best players in the game. I believe they will return to their winning ways very soon.

Virtus.Pro

I will admit, you can never really say what form VP are in. They can bomb out in groups of one tournament, and win the next one; however, the reason I say they are under-performing is that those peaks haven’t been there. The last time they made a finals appearance at a notable tournament was DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, six months ago. For reference, this is their second-longest finals drought, since their drought at the end of 2015 into 2016. This drought is still in full effect, and I’m not sure I see it ending soon.

Noticeably, VP doesn’t seem to have that same sort of chemistry we are used to seeing. Usually, VP looks like a ‘hive mind’ sort of team, as if they know exactly what one another will do next; I haven’t seen that VP as of late. The under-performance of Wiktor ‘TaZ’ Wojtas, Filip ‘NEO’ Kubski and Janusz ‘Snax’ Pogorzelski doesn’t help (0.91, 0.93, and 0.97 HLTV ratings over the past three months on LAN, respectively).

At the end of the day, the poles are in serious trouble right now. If they don’t put it all together and do something, the unthinkable might happen.

SK Gaming

Let me be clear, I do rank SK as the best team in the world; they just haven’t been dominating the way we grew accustomed to since cs_summit. Following a group stage exit in SL i-League Starseries Season 3, they failed to win only one tournament until the PGL Major. From the PGL Major onward, they have yet to make a final, much less win a tournament.

Watching them play, they don’t seem to have that same discipline as the SK of 2016. They seem much looser, which I suppose has been to their benefit up to this point. In terms of individuals under-performing, there’s not much to speak of besides Epitacio ‘TACO’ de Melo not playing well (0.96 on LAN over the past three months). Although João ‘felps’ Vasconcellos is coming off his worst performance since joining SK at ESL One New York (0.89, negative 22 K/D), I personally am not concerned.

It’s likely SK will turn it around; on the off chance they don’t, my money is on G2 to take over their world number one spot.

I suppose we are in ‘the parity era’ so these under-performances are sort of warranted in a way. The nature of the game and the scene does tend to lean itself towards less dominance from teams, so you might think I am overreacting; the way I see it though, these teams have too much pedigree to not be performing.


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