The great global shuffle: Where’s NA?

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you know about the insane roster moves lately including teams such as FaZe, fnatic, mousesports, Na’Vi, Gambit, and many more. It’s a surprise to not see any North American teams on that list. Today, I’ll go through some teams that should make some changes and explore some possibilities for players they could pick up.

Cloud9

shuffle

Photo by: hltv.org

The big dog of the North American scene, rarely not holding the title of the best, is currently uninvolved with the shuffles. While they may be looking for a new organization, they aren’t looking to change their roster. As far as we know of course. Cloud9 may have had recent international success, making the semis of ECS Season 3 finals and a 2nd place at ESL One Cologne. But, don’t let that distract you from the fact that the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead Cloud9 has done this before. Making the finals of, or even winning, a tournament and being content with their roster for six months.

Mike “shroud” Grzesiek has underperformed to a huge extent for the last year, aside from ESL One Cologne. One tournament has been enough to stop C9 from making a change, but it’s about time that they make one. Even replacing Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert would be a welcome, although saddening, change. Both players are inconsistent, and there are a few players that would definitely be good replacements in place of these two.

Skyler “Relyks” Weaver: A consistent player who seems to be able to play in almost every situation thrown at him. He can AWP, he can clutch, and he can entry. He’s versatile and it seems like that’s a role that needs to be filled if Shroud or n0thing need their shoes filled.

Adam “Friberg” Adam: An entry combo of Friberg and Jake “Stewie2k” Yip sounds awesome. Two people who are absolutely dedicated to running out and doing their job, what more would you want? This would also solve the issues of n0thing not wanting to take an entry frag role.

Derek “Desi” Branchen: Another consistent player, but unfortunately doesn’t seem to be much of a choice for the top teams due to toxicity issues. Cloud9 could use a player like Desi, especially if n0thing were to go as he’s an improved copy and paste of the player.

OpTic Gaming

You can say that OpTic was technically involved with the roster shuffles, having Oscar “mixwell” Cañellas almost being snatched up by mousesports, along with James “hazed” Cobb being removed from the roster. Though, the move with hazed was well known to happen beforehand. Unfortunately for OpTic, they’ve been stuck in this situation since January. Trying a player and dropping him, rinse and repeat. Not to mention the issue with mixwell not even wanting to AWP and being very open about that. This roster has many problems and they’ve made it seem impossible to fix them. Fortunately, there are a couple of free agents out there that OpTic could very well take advantage of.

shuffle

Photo by: hltv.org

Aleksi “allu” Jalli: A great AWPer, not the best, but definitely not the worst. He also happens to be a good rifler along with his AWP. That could fix the issue with mixwell, allowing him to be the most comfortable.

Adam “Friberg” Friberg: He seems like the biggest possibility as they’ve already seemed to contact him. Much like Cloud9, a Friberg and Will “RUSH” Wierzba entry combo sounds awesome.

Michael “Uber” Stapells: A decent player. He hasn’t completely proved himself as a player but on a team like OpTic could prove to be a great platform for the player to build himself on. He has potential, and while that’s not the best justification, I feel it’s worth a try for OpTic.

Renegades

shuffle

Photo by: hltv.org

The honorary NA team. Renegades have recently showed that they’re willing to play with international talent. First trying out Simon “atter” Atterstam, and then picking up Noah “Nifty” Francis and Nemenja “nexa” Isaković. With recent underwhelming performances and a rumored removal of nexa, trying out some of the new free agents around doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Especially with what Renegades needs the most: consistency. Obviously, this team doesn’t really need to change much. If their core roster begins to become more consistent, this team could be great. Unfortunately, they’ve been waiting too long for that to happen and it seems change is the only way to go right now.

Adam “Friberg” Friberg: Again? Well, if you look at Renegades in terms of roles, they don’t have a proper second in. Or even first at some times. Friberg would instantly fix that, making it his mission to get out there and do damage at the least.

Michael “Uber” Stapells: Formerly Uber stood in for Renegades in a time where they didn’t have a proper fifth. Performing at a decent level in his time with Renegades. Added with some built up chemistry, Uber seems like one of the best, if not the best, options for Renegades.

Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi: Once upon a time pyth actually played in North America, so this isn’t as far fetched as the other international players. Not only that, pyth can play the positions that Renegades seems to be needing.

The Rest

For the other teams, it doesn’t seem like it’s much of an option to change their rosters. Other than NRG removing Peter “ptr” Gurney and him replacing Desi on compLexity, nothing much has even happened in the first place. Liquid seems even more content with their roster than Cloud9 ever has with theirs. CLG just doesn’t have many options for any roster moves. Misfits are in a weird place with their roster and it’s hard to say that they should make a change. It’s hard to say whether or not any NA team will take advantage of any of the free agents out there, but hopefully in the end they do.


Featured image via ESL Gaming.

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North America Overwatch Contenders preview

These are exciting, albeit uncertain, times in the Overwatch esports scene. Overwatch League has been announced, the World Cup is underway and Contenders Season 1 is kicking off in a week. This upcoming weekend will have the OWWC take place in Santa Monica and then on the 14th of August Overwatch Contenders will begin. The teams were decided through Contenders Season 0, and two teams were invited.

In a strange turn of events, Team Liquid dropped their roster due to three of their players moving onto (or going back) to other games. This is an interesting wrinkle in the upcoming tournament as the spot needs to be filled within a week. But how does Blizzard resolve this issue? Do they sell the slot to another team or do they give it to a runner-up?

There is no confirmed news regarding what Blizzard chooses to do with this free slot. However, it would be consistent with Blizzard if they were to sell it to the highest bidder. Realistically, there are only three teams that could afford that slot: Cloud9, NRG and CLG. NRG doesn’t even have a full roster so it is unlikely that they would be able to take the spot. Cloud9 is only missing one tank since Kaiser went back to RunAway due to “visa issues”. CLG has a six man roster that they could compete with. Technically, Cloud9 also has a six man roster but Mendo is not a tank player so they wouldn’t be able to play with tanks.

Speculation about that slot aside, this promises to be a highly competitive Contenders Season. Two months ago, there were a couple of teams that dominated the rest, but the gap between Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams has been closing rapidly.

Let’s have a look Contenders Season 1 North America and make some predictions.

The teams

EnVyUs (invite)
Faze Clan
FNRGFE
Immortals
Kungarna
Renegades
Rogue (invite)
Replacement for Team Liquid

Overwatch Contenders

EnVyUs

  • Taimou
  • Mickie
  • Chipshajen
  • HarryHook
  • Cocco
  • Effect

One of the teams that got invited to compete in Season 1. EnVyUs and Rogue were both in Korea for Apex Season 3 where EnVyUs lost to KongDoo Panthera. This isn’t a bash on nV. The fact that they made it so far is a testament to how strong this team is.

However, I do have one reservation. How good are they against Western teams? There is a difference in play style between the West and East. And while the best in the East are unequivocally better than the best in the West, the different play style could hurt nV.

However, they are still a top team and considered one of the favorites for winning the whole event. They have one of the best Ana’s in the world in Chips and one of the best DPS in the world in Taimou. On top of this, they have Effect who tore up in Apex, carrying the team at some points. It will be exciting watching Effect use his Tracer in the West. Here’s hoping for a Soon vs Effect matchup.

Sadly, we can’t do proper predictions because the groups haven’t been made and we don’t know who they will be playing against. But, I would be shocked if they didn’t get a top three finish.

FaZe Clan

  • ShaDowBurn
  • Lui
  • FCTFCTN
  • SPREE
  • Rawkus
  • Joemeister

FaZe Clan is one of the more interesting teams in this competition. They have the parts in place to have a stunning DPS but lack a core backline and tanks. You can have as many star DPS as you want, but if they don’t have space to work with then you will lose. Always.

This happened with Cloud9 a while ago. They had Mendo, Gods, and Surefour. Three players who play DPS but they weren’t able to perform. Gods wasn’t actually a bad tank, but he preferred playing DPS and so he had to learn Winston.

This is sort of the same situation faced by Faze. The Clan lacks a strong supporting unit. But if ShaDowBurn can pop off and deliver insane Genji play on low ping, like he did at the World Cup, then Faze could make it out of groups.

Overwatch Contenders

FNRGFE

The All American Rejects. Except for one Canadian, this is an All American team that was formed from the pieces of other teams. This is true of a lot of teams, but these guys decided to make it a part of their personality. Their name FNRGFE is an acronym of the teams that they came from including NRG and FaZe.

  • buds
  • clockwork
  • Muma
  • coolmatt69
  • Boink
  • Bani

If this team takes the tournament seriously then they may make it out of groups, but even that would be a surprise.

Overwatch Contenders

Immortals

  • GrimReality
  • Agilities
  • Fate
  • hyped
  • envy
  • KariV
  • Verbo

This is one of the strongest teams in the West right now. Anything less than top two will be a disappointment. Immortals has two of the best DPS combined with a solid support and tank line. Their kryptonite may turn out to be communication as they have three Koreans and four North Americans. If the Koreans have put in more effort to learn better English than this team could take first.

Agilities is one of the best Genji’s in the world, he went toe to toe with ShaDowBurn at World Cup. During the match against the Netherlands, he had one of the most insane Genji plays that I have ever seen. Back this up with KariV who is a great support and some solid tanking who can give Grim and Agilities the space that they need and you have a scary team. At the BEAT Invitational last month they took Rogue to within two fights. The score was 3:1 but it doesn’t reflect how close that match actually was.

They did better against Rogue than EnVyUs did.

Overwatch Contenders

Kungarna

  • mYkL
  • babybay
  • iReMix
  • Bischu
  • Dogman
  • Pookz

Kungarna barely qualified for Contenders, beating out Cloud9 with an Overtime BO3 on Oasis. I don’t think that they have the firepower to make it out groups. They don’t have any superstars and their basic gameplay isn’t that strong.

If they have taken their time off to practice and grind then they could surprise some teams, but I don’t think that they will be able to go deep into the tournament.

Overwatch Contenders

5-Hour Energy Detroit Renegades

  • Mangachu
  • J3sus
  • PrimoDulce
  • ZachaREEE
  • Sherlockey
  • Jer

Renegades managed to surprise a lot of teams during season 0 of Contenders. Tying Kungarna and beating Cloud9 3-1 was a huge surprise to many people, including me. They qualified first in their group and looked solid doing it. Then seeing Mangachu represent Canada at the OWWC gave me some hope that they may make it out of groups if they got lucky. He is a solid player and a great Pharah. But I don’t think that they have enough players with a good enough base level to qualify out of groups.

Look at them to get a win or a tie but not quite make it out of groups.

Overwatch Contenders

Rogue

  • soOn
  • uNKOE
  • aKm
  • KnoxXx
  • winz
  • NiCOgdh

The French all star team, their World Cup team and one of the best, if not the best, teams in the West. They have dominated during the dive meta and looked unstoppable. Until Korea. Then they didn’t make it out of groups as the Koreans managed to out think them.

However, it doesn’t look like there are any teams in the West except for maybe nV and Immortals that can beat them. Look to them to take first place.

SoOn is a Tracer god and aKm is top three Soldier in the world. Back both of these up with a Korea level Winston in KnoxXx and a top three Zenyatta in uNKOE and you get an unstoppable force.

But they aren’t unbeatable. As I said in another article, they have a weakness. A glaring weakness, in fact. They lack depth. If you can find a way to neutralise dive, you neutralise a lot of Rogues threat. Rogue will always compete for a top five finish, but if you can shut down dive, then you can shut down the biggest reason Rogue is dangerous.

Easier said than done.

Formerly Team Liquid

Team Liquid qualified for Contenders Season 1 but AZK has decided to go back to CS:GO and two of their other players are switching to Quake which means that they will not be able to compete in Season 1. I can’t make any predictions on where they will end up because we don’t know who is going to replace them.

I hope Cloud9, but we will see. They do seem to be the most logical choice, or ARC6, which would also be a lot of fun.

Conclusion

I think Rogue will take first place in a close match against Immortals with nV coming fourth and FaZe coming third. But FaZe and Renegades could easily switch.

The way Blizzard has done this has been really good. Most of the teams are very closely matched in skill and it is hard to pick the best. Except for the top three which are Immortals, nV, and Rogue. Without a doubt.

That doesn’t matter Overwatch Contenders will be a lot of fun to watch and I am glad that we now have Apex and Contenders at the same time.


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TI7

The Game Haus’ TI7 Regional Roulette – The Americas

 Welcome to day three of the TI7 regional roulette. Today we are looking at the land of the meme, home of the flame, the Americas.

THE AMERICAS – THE TEAMS

It came as no surprise when Valve announced that fan favorite EG would be receiving a direct invite to the International. What may have come as a surprise, however, was the level of competition in the North American qualifier. For the two North American Qualifier slots Cloud9 and Digital Chaos prevailed over TI6 runner up Planet Odd, and each came close to losing their spot to Team Freedom. On the other hand, Team Infamous stomped all their matches in the South American Qualifier, even against SG Esports who eliminated top seed Team Secret at the Kiev Major. In total, there are three North American teams and one South American team attending and they’re all going to be a pleasure to watch. Let’s take a look at who will be heading to Seattle.

Evil Geniuses – Direct Invite

TI7

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Arteezy

Position 2 (Mid) – SumaiL

Position 3 (Offlane) – UNiVeRsE

Position 4 (Support) – Zai

Position 5 (Support) – Cr1t-

 

This is a team built to win TI7, and we already know more-or-less what to expect from them. Arteezy has successfully adapted to playing carry sans-trilane, Sumail is consistently putting out superstar performances, Zai is perfectly suited to this meta, Universe remains the best offlaner in the world, and Cr1t is proving to be a masterful drafter. The question is, what surprises lay in store for them and will they be able to adapt in time?

One thing that is on EG’s side is history. Irrelevant of the players, in the last seven Valve events, EG have finished top four at six of them. EG are a championship team that show up when they need to. Cr1t- and the boys will be hoping to add another trophy to the cabinet. They have the skill, all they need to do is apply it.

Cloud9 (Formerly Team NP) – North American Qualifier

TI7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – EternaLEnVy

Position 2 (Mid) – FATA-

Position 3 (Offlane) – MSS

Position 4 (Support) – Aui_2000

Position 5 (Support) – pieliedie

If you have been living under a rock in the last month, the above picture will confuse you. Cloud9 have picked up team NP for their trip to The International. In what some are calling the most elaborate kick of all time— Eternal Envy has essentially recreated their 2014 lineup with MSS instead of Bone7. Joining them as a coach will be the brains behind Team Freedom, Stan_King. Hopefully he is able to help them step up their game and keep them in the running as long as possible, because there are few things more entertaining than watching Eternal Envy play.

Since replacing 1437 and SVG the team has been showing decent results, taking 3rd at the Manila Masters, 2nd at ZOTAC, and 4th at The Summit 7. An improvement over the past roster for sure, but not enough to warrant a direct invite— now they have a chance to cement themselves as one of the top teams in North America, deserving of direct invites to future Majors.

Digital Chaos (Formerly Team Onyx) – North American Qualifier

TI7

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Mason

Position 2 (Mid) – Abed

Position 3 (Offlane) – Forev

Position 4 (Support) – Bulba

Position 5 (Support) – DuBu

Team Onyx have now been picked up by Digital Chaos after they beat out Complexity and NP (now Cloud9) in the North American qualifier for the Kiev Major. After a last place finish at Kiev, changes had to be made, Bulba moved to support, Forev joined as offlane, and Demon was let go.

Mason is known for his independent carry play style, well suited to making an impact after being left alone while his team plays around their star-player Abed. Now that the pressure is off of Bulba, with the addition of one of the best offlaners in the world, he is able to focus on finding opportunities and making calls for the team. If they manage not to out-draft themselves we might just see them place better than several established teams and direct invites.

Infamous – South American Qualifier

TI7

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 (Carry) – Benjaz

Position 2 (Mid) – Timado

Position 3 (Offlane) – Kingteka

Position 4 (Support) – Matthew

Position 5 (Support) – Accel

After stumbling in the Kiev Major playoffs, Infamous kept their safelane duo of Benjaz and Accel and brought in Timado, Kingteka, and Matthew. Up until their elimination from the Kiev Major qualifier Timado had been playing with Team Freedom and showing a lot of promise as a young and up-and-coming player. Kingteka on the other hand has been around for a while and is known as one of the best offlaners in South America, and for intentionally feeding in pubs.

Infamous are going into TI with a distinct advantage, since they are not seen as a big threat they are a favored practice partner of many top teams and those who don’t scrim them will probably choose to focus their study on teams they deem more dangerous. They are the jewel of the South American scene and as a result of the Valve’s decision to hold a separate SA qualifier have been given a chance to come in as the underdogs and show what the region is capable of.

THE AMERICAS – SUMMARY

Of all the regions, the Americas have the most interesting story-lines heading into Kiev. Firstly, it will be C9 vs Secret. Sure Puppy and EE may have moved on from their past disagreements but in the heart of fans the drama is still alive.

Secondly, EG come into the event with questions about the current roster. Results show they can put up a fight against the best of the best, but even top 6 is not a foregone conclusion. Will Arteezy and Zai get that TI win they missed out on when they left EG? Will Sumail and Universe be the first repeat TI winners? Will Cr1t outperform his former team, OG?

Where do you think the American teams will place when it’s all said and done? Let me know in the comments below.

Featured image courtesy of Dotabuff.

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Cloud9

Cloud 9 needs a change

Over the past few months, Cloud 9 has again hit their almost routine summer peak. Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip and the boys managed to make the finals at ESL One Cologne and were the only North American team to qualify for the major. However, if Cloud 9 wish to have sustained success, the current five-man roster they have will need some tinkering.

Leverage

Cloud9

Stewie2k at Global esports cup – via HLTV

In terms of ‘winning’ roster shuffles within your scene, your team needs to have all the leverage. The aforementioned ‘leverage’ is results. Cloud 9 have exactly that going for them right now. As I said, they were the only NA team at the major, not to mention they were one win shy of the playoffs; they also made the finals of Cologne. Cloud 9’s problems as an organization in the past have shown through, not leveraging into roster changes while they had the chance. Instead, they usually wait too long, hoping the roster they have at the time will resolve their issues. In other words, the ‘GM’ of Cloud 9 hasn’t ever really put his foot down and forced a change, but they could redeem themselves post major with some intelligent roster moves.

C9’s needs

Cloud 9 has one of the best duos in the game currently, with Stewie2k and Timothy ‘autimatic’ Ta. They are not lacking in star power, they are lacking in role players. It is possible that Jordan ‘n0thing’ Gilbert, Michael ‘shroud’ Grzesiek or Tyler ‘Skadoodle’ Latham could be moved. However, it is likely only the latter two will be removed if any change is made at all. They need a consistent, bomb site anchor, who can place themselves on the back burner for the good of the team, and play fundamental CS in after plants. The idea of a dedicated AWP player has lodged its way into their minds, but they don’t necessarily need to target one. Most famously they need an in-game leader, who can help them coordinate on both offense and defense.

Their options

Cloud9

North aizy – via theScore

The players in OpTic should be locked up tight after what happened with Peter ‘stanislaw’ Jarguz. So players from OpTic are most likely a no-go. If they could manage somehow, Will ‘RUSH’ Wierzba would be an ideal replacement for n0thing. Team Liquid’s stanislaw would be a good target, but I doubt he would be on board. CLG to me is the most obvious team to take from. C9 have made it clear they want to stay an all NA team; although, an interesting addition to their lineup would be Philip ‘aizy’ Aistrup in place of n0thing, assuming he’s on board with moving to NA. North and aizy’s future is completely undetermined, but it would be an interesting move.

Aizy brings basically everything you get from n0thing, and more. He is an inconsistent player playing an inconsistent style. Although, he has more flexibility than the 1.6 legend, as he can take a role on the back burner and still be semi-effective. It is a real long shot, unfortunately, and has less chance of happening than Gambit winning a major. Oh, I meant it has less chance of happening then the iBUYPOWER guys getting unbanned. Wow, this has been a crazy week for Counter-Strike huh.

Cloud9

Rickeh at SL i-League Season 3 – via HLTV

Terrible jokes aside, let’s take a look at CLG, and what they could give to Cloud 9. The most obvious plus right away would be Pujan ‘FNS’ Mehta. He is an in-game leader, whose style of play actually reflects that of shroud. The man can play fundamental CS, in post plants, or when soloing bomb sites. He is also willing to be the last priority of the team in terms of individual agendas. One player I think Cloud 9 should and will consider is Ricky ‘Rickeh’ Mulholland. He is really the only suitable replacement for Skadoodle within the region, despite not being from NA.

Act now or regret later

An addition of Rickeh would instantly make this team very scary to play against, even without removal of n0thing. While it is also unlikely, it would be in C9’s best interest as they seem to be committed to the idea of a dedicated AWP player. The ideal lineup for Cloud 9 in my mind would be Stewie2k, autimatic, Rickeh, RUSH and FNS.

Cloud9

Stewie2k being interviewed by NadeStack’s Ammar

If Cloud 9 try to roll with their current roster, they will almost certainly end up in the purgatory of being third, potentially even fourth best in NA, and only being able to choose players from the likes of Misfits or NRG. Think of this as a ‘letter’ to the key holders to the beaten up, old Ferrari that is Cloud 9. Stewie and autimatic, either drop that bucket of rust off at the dump or fix it up, give it a new paint job and care for it. Don’t let your vision of what this car once was blind you from what it is right now. What is it right now? It is a project, a project that needs a makeover, and soon.


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A fan’s journal of ESL One Cologne – Part Two

Link to part one in case you missed it.

Day 3 – Saturday – Semifinals

A chilled morning

Damn I miss their pizza and doughnuts. [Source: backwerk.de]

Since the semifinals didn’t start until four o clock local time we slept in till our hearts were content. We left to go out for breakfast at about ten – we’d had enough of cereal bars and waffles already – and went to a place called Back Werk which for you Brits is pretty much identical to Greggs except here they have more on offer.

For the remainder of the afternoon, we went back into town to return a t-shirt Lewis bought that was too small and got Subway, which while the menu was in English is quite an awkward thing to order in a foreign country because of the number of questions you get asked.

Game of the tournament

The first semifinal was Natus Vincere vs Cloud9 which was undoubtedly the best series for us, particularly the second map on Overpass. The last five rounds or so were hectic and it felt as if the entire arena was just waiting for Cloud9 to win it. The fact that it went right down to the wire made the ending even better. I’m a sucker for the underdog story so it was thrilling to see C9 make it to the finals.

After the SK/FaZe series, we headed back to the hotel to chill out and have a few drinks. When we reached the lobby of the hotel we saw s1mple lounging in the reception area and with some newly built confidence, I decided to approach him. I’m a big fan of s1mple simply because of his outrageous playstyle and his outlandish attitude which kind of reminds me of myself sometimes. However, because of this reason I was anxious to ask as I thought he might be contentious, but surprisingly he was willing to. I would even go as far as saying that he seemed happy to but we’ll never know, after all, it is s1mple.

Not much else to say about semi-final day as we spent most of our time at the arena. I did forget to mention that I got a picture with MrTweeday which I was particularly pleased about since his old NiP frag movies were one of the reasons that I became really passionate about the esports side of CSGO and NiP as well.

Day 4 – Sunday – Grand Final

I’m not avoiding you Tweeday, the sun was just blinding.

Sunday started out much the same shower, waffles and head out. If you’re interested in another awkward lift story, this time we got cozy with the Brazilians Lucas, kNg and their coach Zakk from Immortals. We exchanged greetings whilst waiting for the lift, but the whole way down to the lobby they were joking around in Brazilian with us having no idea what they were saying. The two of us were more interested in the black and brown Yeezys Lucas had on. We felt like we were hanging since we had our Ultraboosts on. Again the grand final didn’t start till later on in the day so we had a walk around Cologne to try and get some nice pictures.

On our walk around we found the signing area, where fans can obviously meet the players and take pictures or have things signed. You’ve probably been wondering why we had never been before but we didn’t feel the need to since anything like that we could have done at our hotel. The queues were quite long, we were in the area an hour before FaZe Clan were due in and the line was already a hundred people thick. If you have the time I don’t think an hour is too long to wait, I’ve waited longer to see concerts so if having your mouse pad signed or getting a picture with your idol would make your trip I would definitely say it’s worth your time.

A short time later was the grand final. We had our nachos and our cheeseburgers and we were ready to go. The series was opened with a performance of the theme for the event Fly Away by TheFatRat on stage. It was expected but I enjoyed it more than I anticipated. A prop I have for ESL is that they put on a good show all weekend long whether it was entertaining us with fan interviews or the opening ceremony or the various booths around the venue. They certainly made it a lot more enjoyable than just watching CS on a huge screen. Regardless of whether you are a fan of electronic music you have to appreciate the lights show that was put on, mesmerizing was the only way I can describe it.

As for the actual grand final itself, it depends on entirely what you define as entertaining Counter-Strike as to whether you enjoyed it or not. SK Gaming put on a clinic and you could see some of the adaptations they’d made to catch the Americans off guard. It was a shame C9 couldn’t pick one map up for the crowd. The stadium was a beautiful sea of blue and white with a few fishes of other jerseys swimming around. At least they gave us a couple of amazing plays to cheer for, the Autimatic deagle round on Train, in particular, had me jumping out of my seat. At the end of the day, SK deserved to win and the crowd recognized that and cheered many congratulations as they picked the trophy up.

Day 5 – Monday

Time to Leave

The realization that I no longer had to plan my days around watching the best Counter-Strike on one of the most alluring stages was depressing. I actually felt as if there was a piece of my heart missing. It might only have been five days but it was some of the best five of my life. Walking around Cologne for the final time, you could tell that the event was all said and done. The streets were desolate once again, you could tell because you could actually step foot in the Subway near the Lanxess. There were next to no people walking around in mousesports or Cloud9 jerseys or people with ESL lanyards. I wanted to hear the crowd roar. Just one last time.

The trek home was tiresome. Our flight was delayed, meaning that we missed our train. It took us seven hours to get from Manchester to Hull which would usually take two hours. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world though. I discovered esports when it had just started to walk, now I’m watching it run and I believe that it’s only going to get stronger. All I ask is that you give it a chance, be part of it.


You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles. You can find me on Twitter at @JackWrightIGL. Credit to Affen mit Waffen’s YouTube for allowing the use of his recording of FatRat’s performance.

 

A fan’s journal of ESL One Cologne: Part one

Esports has been a huge part of my life ever since I discovered it. Playing games competitively was an escape from the many trials and tribulations I’ve been through over the past four years. For the entirety of the game, the only outcome that mattered was the win.

My journey started with Call of Duty, which was a game I had already been playing for many years and had an ability in. Counter-Strike, however, was different. Everything was new to me. I’ve seen myself climb from the bottom of the ranks to the top. All the learning it took to reach that point fuelled my competitive drive even more.

Pivotal in that climb was the amount of time spent watching professional players and tournaments. Although, in spite of my four-year love affair I’d never been to an event, that was until ESL One Cologne 2017. I’m writing this journal to convince anyone with even a remote interest in esports why they should attend an event. There’s a lot of waffle but I hope that there are a number of points I expand on that budding fans might be wondering about, most of all I hope you enjoy the read.

Day 1 – Thursday

Where it all began

Our travel day started with an early four o’clock start. My friend Lewis and I had to catch a two-hour train to Manchester Airport and then an hour and a half flight to Cologne. We’d brought an abundance of things to pass the time but we mostly spent hours talking about how excited we were.

For Europeans thinking of attending an event the travel was fairly cheap, our return flights were around £60 which I think is a fair price. If you don’t have the money for a hotel I’ve heard good things about the likes of Airbnb so it’s possible you could find cheap places to stay.

Both Lewis and I have decent jobs, and student loan, so we decided to pay more for one of the best hotels in Cologne the Radisson Blu. As the taxi pulled into the hotel we saw three vans marked with ESL stickers which we thought was a bit weird.

Wide open in the shape of an ‘o’

Source – Radisson Blu

The taxi pulled to a halt. After getting our bags we took in our surroundings, the hotel looked like our hometown’s famed aquarium The Deep, but more importantly, THERE WAS COLDZERA HAVING A CIGARETTE. AND THERE WAS THREAT LEAVING THE HOTEL. AND THERE WAS MIXWELL AND HAZED. I tried not to stare too much. I made my way into the lobby cool, calm, collected, on the outside at least. Well, that explains all the ESL vans, I thought.

The entrance to the hotel made me feel even more out of place. It was one of those rotating ones. I might be 19 years old but I look twelve. All these businessmen and people that I looked up to probably thought, “what the heck is that kid doing here?” I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. I caught glimpses of Na’Vi and North but I kept my eyes focused on reception and managed to keep my jaw from touching the floor.

After checking in we headed straight to our room so we could get changed and come back down for a better, more discreet look. Once the elevator doors closed and we were safe, I looked at Lewis, he just stared back. His mouth wide open in the shape of an ‘o’.

I knew we were likely to see players walking around Cologne or the arena but I didn’t expect that sort of emotion to come over me. The only way I can think of describing it is that I didn’t really believe they were real until seeing them. Watching through a tiny screen for years is the only way I’d ever known these people. Being in their presence filled my body with excitement, I was finally seeing those responsible for so many moments and memories.

Rounding out the day

After unpacking we needed to head into town to buy some breakfast. The breakfast at the hotel was an extra twenty-five euro per person per day. You know, I do well for myself but not that bloody well. We ended up in Penny Supermarket which we didn’t realize until after we left was the equivalent of Nettos to us Brits. Our purchases included a fake version of the chocolate Lynx, a two-liter bottle of lemonade for forty cents, about thirty cereal bars oh and some chocolate covered waffles.

We got back to the hotel at about six o clock but ended up dropping dead from all the traveling, meaning that was it for day one.

Day 2 – Friday – Quarterfinal Day

I wanted to ask for a picture but didn’t

Being a Ninjas in Pyjamas fan myself and with Lewis rooting for Cloud9, the quarterfinal we most wanted to see was between NiP and C9. Since the first series also seemed a bit of a thriller with G2 playing Na’Vi we decided to go early so we could get good seats for the second game.

Once we’d washed, dressed and munched on a few waffles we were good to go. We got into the lift to reception. GuardiaN was in the lift. Not going to lie, I played it cool, had to brush past him to get into space and did so without my inner fanboy setting off.

The whole way down he was talking to the Na’Vi manager in what I presume was Russian. My eyes were laser-locked on the back of his head. I wanted to ask for a picture so bad but in the middle of a packed lift didn’t seem like the right place. I decided once we got out at the bottom I’d pluck up the courage, that was until some old guy blocked me with his suitcase the size of a cow. GuardiaN was now a good few meters away and I wasn’t prepared to shout. Some might say I bottled it. However, my claim to fame for the day was that I shared a lift with him so I guess that’s still something right?

Not the best photographer but a decent view of the stage.

Atmosphere

No amount of pictures does it justice.

We got to the arena an hour before game one was due to start and the first thing that hits you is how much bigger it is in person. Looking through a 24” monitor, it’s hard to appreciate the height that esports is in right now. The main reason why I wanted to go was for the atmosphere. Being in the same place as 13,000 other people who love this game as much as you do was an amazing feeling.

I was sporting the white NiP jersey from 2014 and a few seats across from us were a couple of guys who were also out supporting the Ninjas’. For me, it felt kind of natural to start jumping up and down in my seat in support as it’s what I do at home behind the monitor. They looked across at me for reassurance to get involved with the cheering and I gave him a look that said you go for it son. By the end of game two we were fist bumping and yelling together, it’s a shame at the end we had our head in hands. At least Lewis was happy Cloud9 won but I didn’t really care about that.

That’s one point I love to stress about esports fans, in general, is that everyone I have met was friendly and willing to get involved. Traditional sports have lost their way slightly in that many fans go simply to fight or hate on the other team whereas our fans cheer for amazing plays no matter what jersey they’re wearing.

We didn’t watch the next two series as we knew they would be whitewashes and decided to head into Cologne’s city center.

The city of Cologne

You can climb to the top of the cathedral but it takes well over an hour.

For those of you considering making the trip to ESL One if it’s in Cologne next year, you’ll be pleased to know the city has enough to offer to satisfy you in-between being at the arena. There is a multitude of shops to explore ranging from Primark to Louis Vuitton. We were mostly interested in the trainer shops since both me and Lewis have a fetish for a fresh pair of sneaks. It seems Germany is big on the ‘Hypebeast’ trend at the moment with plenty of shops stocking the likes of exclusive Adidas shoes and the clothes to match. The river and cathedral are also very picturesque if you love a good photo.

The transport system in Cologne is amazing with trams, buses and taxis on hand to take you where ever you need, you could even hire a bike for something to do if you have the time. On a side note, the tap water was so nice. For those of you who have ever had the displeasure of being in Hull or England in general, the water is extremely hard, the complete opposite of the soft smooth water there. It’s not a reason to go to Germany but I couldn’t get over how nice it was.

A date with destiny

On the night, we decided to head down to the bar for a drink and maybe get the chance to meet some players. After sitting down I clocked the NiP players sat drinking cocktails a few tables away from us. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t get a photo with them but first I needed a drink to calm my nerves. “Two JD and cokes please,” I asked the bartender, I didn’t even ask Lewis what he wanted, that was far back in my mind. The guy poured the drink in a savvy way but I noticed the drink equated to about two parts Jack Daniels, one part ice and one part coke. So it was strong. It was funny watching Lewis’s reaction since he never really drinks much, it definitely put me at ease.

Click on the photo and look at Heaton’s face, I can’t get over it.

I felt as if I was going to meet the Queen or something but quickly shook the nerves after I’d downed half my drink. I walked over, JD in hand, and asked for a photo politely as I could. Even though they weren’t busy this is supposed to be their downtime. All of GeT_RiGhT, f0rest and Heaton had no hesitation which made me feel better about disturbing them.

One thing I would say about all of the pros I spoke to was that they all try to make you feel comfortable. Especially for younger fans it must be quite daunting to go up to someone you idolize so I found it super comforting that they made the effort to speak with you rather than just stand-up, photo, done. So I would say just go for it if you see them unless it looks like an obviously bad time to ask. Anyways, I did it and I was glad because I know I would have regretted it if I didn’t.

To finalize our second day we were just going to head back up to the room and have a few drinks of our own and most likely stare at the picture for around three hours. I asked the bartender for the bill. Twenty-five euros… for two drinks. I sucked it up and paid with a smile on my face to seem like a baller but deep down I died a little inside.

The last part of the journal will be out within the coming days so keep on the lookout. 


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ESL One Cologne: The tournament for the Americas

ESL One Cologne throughout the years has seen a couple different American teams playing on the stages. Whether it be the stage at Gamescon in 2014 or the stage in the LANXESS Arena. Not only that, but the last two years have only seen American teams in the Grand Finals. An interesting statistic to say the least. Here, we’ll go through the teams who played on the main stages of Cologne. Explaining how they got there, and how far they went.

SK Gaming/Luminosity

2015 was the first year the Brazilian scene met the main stage of ESL One Cologne. Barely making the playoffs over FlipSid3 in 2015, Marcelo “coldzera” David found himself in his first international tournament. And oh boy, did he surprise everyone with how skilled he was.

2016 saw the Brazilians dominate under the the Luminosity banner, before moving over to SK for ESL One Cologne. Finding themselves in the group of death, SK scored wins over G2 and FaZe, moving to the quarters against FlipSid3. For a second year in a row, SK beat FlipSid3 in Cologne. Making their way to the Semis against Virtus.Pro, SK Gaming found themselves struggling to close the match, but ultimately doing so in one of the best matches of Major history. Meeting Liquid in the final, it wasn’t too surprising to see SK dominate the North American side and take their second major title.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

So far in 2017, we’ve seen SK at their worst and at their best, and we’re only seven months in. Coming into Cologne, SK had won two tournaments beforehand. They were by far the favourites for the event. Struggling slightly in the swiss stage, SK made it out 3-2 and met OpTic in the quarters. On paper, a one sided match up but OpTic showed themselves to be strong and took Mirage, but ultimately lost the series. SK moved on to beat FaZe, arguably their rival, and dominated the European team. Going into the grand finals, it may have been a surprise to find Cloud9 there. SK didn’t let the surprise get to them though. SK controlled the entire match and took the match 3-0 and won Cologne for a second year in a row.

Cloud9

Cloud9’s first experience with Cologne was 2014, where they played their first tournament with Mike “shroud” Grzesiek. A situation very similar to Luminosity’s first tournament with coldzera at Cologne. In the group stage, Cloud9 won against Titan, and had their famous comeback against Dignitas on Mirage. Making the quarterfinals, Cloud9 met Ninjas in Pyjamas, a fan favourite. Though, Cloud9 were favoured in the match, they ended up losing due to a very important kill by Adam “friberg” Friberg. Without this one kill, Cloud9 could have definitely made the finals of ESL One Cologne 2014, but talking about what if’s is a bad thing.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

Leading up to Cologne 2015, Cloud9 looked like a Top 4 team, favoured to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, Cloud9 left the tournament in the group stage due to yet another clutch play at 13-13 in a round Cloud9 should have won.

Unfortunately, Cloud9 for the first time were unable to qualify for a major, being ESL One Cologne 2016. In 2017 though, Cloud9 were directly invited as PGL took reigns for the second major of 2017 over ESL. Here, we saw Cloud9 struggle at the beginning but claw their way back to make the playoffs. In the first round of the playoffs Cloud9 met NiP, a rematch of 2014. But, this time Cloud9 took the win and advanced to face Na’Vi in the semifinals. Na’Vi, on arguably their two best maps, lost 2-0 to Cloud9 who went on to play the grand finals against SK Gaming. Unfortunately for Cloud9, SK Gaming were looking for revenge for EPL Season 4, and SK won Cologne over Cloud9.

Team Liquid

Team Liquid first met ESL One Cologne in 2016 as they were directly invited by making the playoffs of MLG Columbus. Using Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev as a stand-in for the event, it wasn’t far fetched to say that Liquid would make the playoffs. They did just that by beating mousesports 2-1 to advance to the playoffs to face Na’Vi in the quarters. After beating Na’Vi, Team Liquid made it to the semifinals to face one of the favourites for the tournament. Liquid decided they didn’t like that title for fnatic, so they took the series 2-0. This put them as the first North American team in the finals of a major. Unfortunately for them, they met SK Gaming and lost 2-0 convincingly against the Brazilians.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 saw Liquid qualifying for the tournament online. Watching the swiss stage of the tournament though, you would have thought they were invited. Going 3-0 in the group stage facing Na’Vi, Immortals and OpTic Gaming, Team Liquid showed the world that the major qualifier was not who they truly were and made their way to the LANXESS Arena. Sadly, Liquid met FaZe in the quarters and were dismantled easily by the European team.

OpTic Gaming

ESL One Cologne 2016 was the first time any player on OpTic made a major. With their inexperience on the major level, OpTic lost to both NiP and FlipSid3 in the group stage, going 0-2 and dropping out of the tournament.

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: hltv.org

2017 was a different story for OpTic, who showed up to Cologne with zero eyes on them, and as little pressure as possible. At this point, every player on OpTic has played at the top level. Even though they went 0-3 at the major qualifier just a week before, OpTic showed up to Cologne on fire, taking down North, Space Soldiers and most notably FaZe. Only losing to Liquid in the swiss stage. Going into the playoffs they were matched against SK Gaming. Being the most one sided matches of the playoffs on paper, OpTic showed up with a little bit of fight in them. OpTic took the first map in the series off of SK pretty convincingly. But alas, SK Gaming are far more experienced in these situations and left OpTic in the dust in the next two maps.

ESL One Cologne 2017

 

ESL One Cologne

Photo by: Helena K @ ESL Gaming

 

This year, Cologne showed that the Americas, not just South America, has a place on the big stage. Admittedly, Astralis weren’t present at the tournament, but it isn’t too far fetched to say that they could have taken a playoff spot over Na’Vi or NiP rather than the North American teams.

Throughout the years though, Cologne has shown to be a nice tournament for the Americas, having an American team on stage every year. Not only just one, but half the spots were taken by the Americans this year. That shows some heavy improvement from the region, and maybe some extra confidence in the city of Cologne.

Featured image via ESL Gaming

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TSM is trending in Rift Rivals

Trending in Rift Rivals: NA v. EU

Rift Rivals is on in full force, as regions around the world battle for bragging rights. This new international event is clashing metas against each other, to surprising effect. The Atlantic rivalry, North America versus Europe, has been particularly exciting.

There was so much speculation coming into the event, regarding which teams would be strongest, which player match-ups would be most intense and which pocket picks might be locked in. Some of this guess-work has followed through on stage, but much of it has been turned on its head. Today, we will be looking at what is trending at Rift Rivals: NA v. EU.

TRENDING UP

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the upswing since playing at Rift Rivals. They may have won a key series against a tough opponent. A teammate may have put their team on their back to keep it together. Maybe a particular champion pick was able to shine.

C9 Jensen is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Nicolaj “Jensen” Jensen

Even though Cloud9 has had a 50 percent win rate after three days at Rift Rivals, their mid laner has been putting up quite a performance. Jensen has the second highest overall KDA (10.4), the second lowest overall death share (7 percent), and the highest overall gold and CS leads at 10 minutes (427, 11.3). Critics in the NA LCS suggested Jensen’s performance may be inflated due to the wide mid lane talent pool within North America. Rift Rivals just may convince them otherwise, having withstood Rasmus “Caps” Winther, Luka “Perkz” Perković and Fabian “Exileh” Schubert.

Phoenix1

Heralded by many to be the weakest team coming into the event, P1 has been rocking the house in Berlin. The orange-and-black hold a 4-2 record after three days of competition, higher than Cloud9, Unicorns of Love, Fnatic and G2. P1 has been the dominant early game by far, averaging 1,272 gold ahead at 15 minutes. Maintaining the highest kill:death ratio, 1.87, P1 is also the team going for blood. Their matches have been invigorating for NA LCS fans hoping for a strong showing.

TSM

Analysts are beginning to shed more and more of their doubts about TSM. The defending champions of North America are on a tear, currently sitting 5-1 with the best record at Rift Rivals. The decisive, coordinated playstyle that allowed TSM to dominate the NA LCS in Spring 2016 has re-surged. They are averaging 1,438 gold ahead at 15 minutes against some of Europe’s strongest contenders. The biggest difference between TSM and other teams in the tournament, however, has been their neutral objective control. At 75 percent dragon control and 80 percent Baron control, they are among the highest of all teams.

Michael “MikeYeung” Yeung

Phoenix1’s jungler is making quite a name for himself in his first international performance. MikeYeung has become a playmaker that is not afraid to aggressively invade the enemy’s jungle or contest neutral objectives. His Lee Sin is very slippery, sporting a 9.8 KDA and 100 percent win rate over three games. Rift Rivals is furthering his claim for “Rookie of the Split” in the NA LCS (even if he is the only one currently eligible).

Top lane Gnar is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Top lane Gnar

Gnar has seen plenty of professional gameplay around the world since his release. However, his pick-ban rate has been low for most of 2017: 2.3 percent in spring and 5.9 percent so far this summer. Rift Rivals is seeing a resurgence of the Missing Link in the top lane. Gnar has been picked in seven games, banned in five, equaling 66.6 percent of total games. Teams have won 71.4 percent of games with the champion. This probably signals an increased priority for Gnar for the foreseeable future in NA and EU LCS.

TRENDING DOWN

These are the teams, players and gameplay factors that are on the downswing at Rift Rivals: NA v. EU. They may have lost a series against an underdog. A teammate may have faltered over several games. Maybe the meta is shifting and a playstyle is being left in the past.

Fnatic is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Fnatic

Following an upward trend last week in the EU LCS, Fnatic have slipped up so far at Rift Rivals. Over two days, the number one European team is only 2-4 against TSM, C9 and P1. Doing a complete 180 from the EU LCS Summer Split so far, Fnatic are averaging 2,378 gold behind at 15 minutes, and they have only secured 10 percent of dragons. No one player can take the blame, though.

Jeon “Ray” Ji-won

Cloud9’s top laner is on the decline since competing at Rift Rivals. While Ray has not necessarily put up star performances in the NA LCS, his shortcomings are on full display at this tournament. The third lowest overall KDA (1.6), third lowest overall kill participation (50 percent), second highest overall death share (29.8 percent) and ninth overall lowest damage per minute (261). These all belong to Ray. 

Rek'Sai jungle is trending in Rift Rivals

Image from Surrenderat20.net

Rek’Sai jungle

Rek’Sai saw a sharp up-tick in gameplay last week in NA and EU LCS, since receiving a gameplay update. However, the Void Burrower has not been impactful so far at Rift Rivals. RekSai has only been picked or banned in four games, and only won one game. Zac, Elise, Gragas and Lee Sin have had significantly higher priority in drafts and performance in game.


Featured Image: LoL Esports Flickr

Other Images: LoL Esports FlickrSurrenderat20.net

Champion Statistics: Games of Legends, Oracle’s Elixir

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ESL One Cologne 2017 predictions

One of the biggest upcoming tournaments other than the PGL major is ESL One Cologne 2017. While it is sad that Cologne is not a major this year, as it holds legendary status within Global Offensive, that doesn’t mean this tournament won’t be incredible. Astralis have chosen to opt out of Cologne, leaving the pool of teams slightly weakened; however, this tournament will decide a lot in terms of world rankings still. Today I’ll be giving some predictions as to roughly how the tournament will play out. To keep from getting too deep and convoluted, I’ll keep it simple by just giving predictions for Round 1 of the group stage, who I think will make the playoffs and who I think will win the tournament.

Mousesports vs Fnatic

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

This is an interesting matchup, one that I think will produce a great game. In terms of what map we’ll most likely see, it’s a bit unclear, as both teams make some odd choices in terms of pick/ban. Mouz will permaban Overpass, as they always do. Fnatic will probably remove Cobble, as they have taken to banning it a lot recently. Mousesports will then remove Mirage, as they aren’t huge fans of it and Fnatic are great on the map. Fnatic will rebuttal with a Cache ban; although there is a scenario in which Fnatic let Cache through and ban Nuke instead. If Fnatic does end up banning Cache, Mousesports will most likely ban Nuke themselves. For the final ban, whether it be Cache or Train leftover with Inferno, I predict Fnatic will let Inferno through. This matchup will likely be close, barring any throwback performance from Fnatic where they just stomp Mouz. Mousesports 13-16 Fnatic.

FaZe vs Heroic

This one is much less interesting, as FaZe will likely stomp Heroic on whatever map they end up on. FaZe will remove Cobble, no questions asked. Heroic will likely remove Cache. From there FaZe ban Mirage, due to Heroic’s decent history on the map; Heroic ban Train. The final ban rotation is completely up to what FaZe want, as they could beat Heroic on Overpass, Nuke or Inferno. My best bet would be FaZe ban Nuke, as the Heroic squad has been respectable on the map in the past, and Heroic ban Overpass, as FaZe is on a tear on the map recently. Whatever map it ends up being, I’m certain FaZe will win this. FaZe 16-6 Heroic.

Immortals vs Virtus.Pro

via http://www.gosugamers.net/

I’m just going to leave this matchup as a ‘quite literally anything can happen’ kind of matchup. This matchup could bring anything to the table in terms of map pool. Immortals will certainly remove Nuke and Virtus.Pro will remove Cache. From there, anything could happen due to Virtus.Pro famously being poor in the early stages of tournaments, even those that they win. I’ll take Immortals winning this one. Immortals 16-10 Virtus.Pro

SK vs SpaceSoldiers

Similar to the FaZe vs Heroic matchup, it doesn’t matter what map this ends on, the Soldiers will find it hard to even find rounds in this matchup. The pick ban will have SK removing Nuke followed by SS banning Inferno. SK will remove Cache, as it is the Soldiers’ favorite map at the moment. SS will remove Train here most likely, followed by a removal of Overpass. Whatever SK chooses to ban before the removal of Overpass, will decide the map. I’ll predict the Brazilians remove Mirage leaving us with a matchup on Cobblestone. SK 16-3 SpaceSoldiers

NiP vs Cloud9 

via http://mashable.com

This one is almost as difficult to predict as the IMT vs VP matchup. Based on history, NiP will almost always remove Overpass and Mirage, and we know Cloud9 doesn’t play Nuke and don’t like to play Inferno if they don’t have to. Of the three maps remaining, it’s most likely we see Cobblestone, as I don’t think the Ninjas will want to play Train, and C9 have sort of driven away from Cache in the past. NiP will likely be held back by the freshness of their roster, and all the NiP magic seems to have been exhausted. NiP 7-16 Cloud9

G2 vs TyLoo

Another lopsided one, G2 will take this one every day of the week. G2 will ban Mirage, followed by Inferno. TyLoo will remove Nuke and Train. G2 from here have the pick of the litter, and the map this ends up on could really be anything. The only map that TyLoo even has an outside chance on is Cache, and even that is a huge stretch. No matter which of the three it ends up being, Cache, Cobble, or Overpass, G2 will have this one in hand. G2 16-3 TyLoo

Liquid vs Na’Vi

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

By far the best matchup of Round 1, this one could really go either way. Liquid will likely ban Overpass, followed by a signature Na’Vi ban of Cache. Na’Vi will then ban Nuke, and be forced to remove Cobble, as Liquid will remove Mirage and likely Train due to the beating Na’Vi gave them on the maps at pro league. An interesting matchup on Inferno, as neither team is very good on the map at all, but I’ll take Liquid to win this one in very narrow fashion. Liquid 19-16 Na’Vi

North vs OpTiC

I predict to see the same exact pick ban we saw at Pro League, as I don’t see why either team would change their strategy. North ban Train, Cache and Inferno; whereas, OpTiC remove Overpass, Cobble and Nuke. There is definitely a chance OpTiC ban out Mirage instead of Cobble, leaving us on Cobble or Inferno; although, this seems a bit unlikely to me. North is always super solid in group stages, so they should have this one in hand. North 16-8 OpTiC

Playoff Predictions

The eight teams that I think will get through are SK, G2, FaZe, North, Liquid, Cloud9, Immortals and Fnatic. This one is definitely not said and done though, as basically every team in this tournament besides TyLoo has a scenario where they end up making the playoffs. The winner of the tournament will likely be SK, but G2 will have their chances, and if Virtus.Plow shows up, who knows what could happen.

ESL One Cologne 2017, despite not having Astralis and not being a CS ‘Major’, should make some great Counter-Strike, and will be great fun to watch.

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Featured image via HLTV.org

Value of pro player input in Call of Duty WWII

Scrolling through Twitter this morning, I saw a Tweet by Patrick “ACHES” Price stating that he had been working on the upcoming CoD title with Sledgehammer. He went on to hype his followers up by saying he was extremely excited about the future because of it.

Whilst reading through the replies I noticed two people arguing about how Call of Duty is changing. Changing in its efforts to become a top esport and how the developers are forgetting about the more casual fan base by only inviting competitors to test the new game out. This got me thinking about how esports players helping to develop the game not only helps competitive but also the casual fan base. So here I am writing an article about it.

Why esports players and not casual players?

This argument is mostly redundant since the recent E3 gave many casual CoD fans the chance to test the game out and give feedback. Although many of the attendees might have been YouTubers or celebrities and their feedback is useful, they don’t play the game at the level of esports pros or invest the same amount of time into it.

Esports players are more qualified to give their input on the game than the more casual player. Aches, for example, has been competing in Call of Duty since Modern Warfare and probably played long before that. To reach the highest level someone has to dedicate all of their spare time into playing the game. For most professional gamers I would assume that to be anywhere between eight to twelve hours a day.

ACHES is one of the most successful Call of Duty professionals of all time. [Source: MLG]

In my opinion, someone who spends that much time playing Call of Duty probably knows more about the game than any other player or even developer. Why shouldn’t they have the chance to voice their opinions and concerns? Sadly, the more casual player would most likely disagree, but let me explain.

They only use one gun though?

I have seen players use the argument that professional players only use a minute amount of the arsenal available. However, this is another misconception from the casual community on the competitive scene. On the game’s release, competitive players spend hours upon hours grinding the game in an attempt to figure out the best weapons and attachments. It’s only in recent years that we’ve been restricted to few weapons because they are simply a cut above the rest of the options.

For example, back in Call of Duty Ghosts the main assault rifle was the Remington R5. It was almost pin point accurate with a moderate rate of fire and strong time to kill. For those that can remember, if you ever tried to use one of the other options, such as the SC-2010, against a competent player you would lose almost every time. While the SC-2010 was more accurate and had a faster fire rate it’s time to kill was much longer and therefore was never used in professional play.

Infinite Warfare’s NV4 [Source: thejackalgaming.com]

In Infinite Warfare, we are lucky that we have two competitive assault rifles in the NV4 and the KBAR. They are both used in competitive play because the latter allows for more mid-range gun fights with its higher fire rate, meaning it can be used in and around the hardpoints. Furthermore, the NV4 holds its own place even though it has a slightly lower time to kill it is more accurate, meaning it can easily be utilized to lock down favorable spawns. Although, the submachine gun category is not so lucky with just the ERAD being a viable option.

In public matches, the players who want the best kill death ratio or a nuke will also use the best guns. I’m sure any casual player has been repeatedly killed by the KBAR while trying to use the Karma submachine gun. This is where pro players come into the equation – they also want more variation just for a different reason.

By having these players test the weaponry before the game is even out, we are more likely to end up with a balanced choice on release. Players like Aches will be able to tell when a gun is too overpowered in comparison to another and will be able to suggest realistic changes to balance the weapon.

Having balanced weapons leads to a more competitive game as it means players are on a more even battleground and can use what they feel comfortable with to win, whether that be in multiplayer or competitive.

Competitive doesn’t mean esports

This leads onto another point in that competitive and esports are also two separate things that players confuse. I’m sure one idea pro players are pushing is the addition of a rewarding ranked playlist. We haven’t had a competitive playlist that felt both fun and rewarding to play since Black Ops 2 and is something I think has been sorely missed.

The old League Play system provided some of the most fun I’ve had with Call of Duty and it was with a bunch of friends who didn’t care about MLG or Gamebattles because at the heart of any player is the will to win because winning is fun. Whether that be in Team Deathmatch or on the main stage at the World Championship. Quite an extreme example, but you get the point.

Climbing League Play’s various ranks made Black Ops 2 a hit. [Source: callofduty.com]

Ranked play is somewhere in the middle where you can head into a game easily but know that everyone is playing to win. The professional players can help develop the mode since it leans towards their area of expertise and can input various ideas of their own and ones they have seen from other esports and suggest what would work best in Call of Duty.

These are just some of my thoughts on the situation you can add to the discussion by letting me know some of your own points.


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