University of Jamestown

Collegiate esports programs: University of Jamestown part 1

While collegiate sports has seen fan-bases that rival that of some of their respective professional leagues, collegiate esports, thus far, has not been able to gather as much fervor. Collegiate esports have seen an insane growth in recent years, with practically every major school in America and Canada clamoring to form some kind of a team. Fans of the scene and esports in general are hopeful the trend will continue to grow. I sat down with head coach of one of the newest esports programs, Josh Knutson of the University of Jamestown. We discussed the program, in its first year at the university, his hopes for the scene and some of the trials and tribulations of collegiate esports.

The program now

The first order of business is always working out the details. Currently, Jamestown fields teams/players in Overwatch, League of Legends, Hearthstone and CS:GO. The usual suspects for any collegiate esport program. However, Knutson also hopes to expand into Heroes of the Storm if possible. “Its an easy add, and Blizzard as a company has been really awesome with working with our association on the corporate level.”

University of Jamestown

Josh Knutson, Head Coach for the University of Jamestown. Courtesy of Jimmies Athletics.

When deciding on which esports to try to enter first, Knutson said they looked first and foremost at what other teams were competing in within their association, NACE (National Association of Collegiate Esports). A focus on hitting the ground running with the program fueled this, as they wanted to get into a regular season from day one, with a good number of fellow colleges involved.

With the physical equipment bought, and an established presence now, Knutson is hopeful for the program’s expansion. Bringing on incoming freshmen to join is easier when you can show them it’s already happening, rather than based on promises. Expanding into other games, too, is an easy step, as with esports it just requires an installation on a computer to play. No need for new stadiums and turfs mean collegiate esports programs can be flexible and more daring with their expansions, Knutson explained.

The program’s future

When I asked about goals for the program, Knutson gave the tried and true hope for his team: “From a coaching standpoint…. I want to put a national championship trophy on my shelf.” Starting off a new program though, Knutson is aware of the challenges they’ll face on that quest. ‘Moving Forward’, is the motto for him and the team. “Every day take practice seriously, take our games seriously, move forward and keep getting better from a skill level and from a player development status.”

More concretely, Knutson discussed hopes for growing the program itself, hoping to (roughly) double the size of the roster from the current 16-30 next year. With a bigger roster comes the usual need for more facility space and more equipment. He highlighted, too, that this year was mostly focused on laying the foundation for success with the program. In the years to come, it’ll be about growing bigger and stronger, along with their chosen league in NACE. “We’re in a really good spot to be in the forefront of that big wave that is coming for esports.”

Alex Huff, one of the Overwatch players for the team, added to the discussion too, from a player’s perspective. Alex notes that two of his fellow Overwatch players are prior friends, so synergy with them was never an issue. However, noting the increase of players that will most likely exist next year, he mentioned his excitement of mixing up that dynamic and learning from his fellow teammates. “It’s going to definitely be able to facilitate growth and to grow the whole program itself. We’re going to have some people who are going to come in who may have more knowledge and teach those who may not have as much knowledge.”

 NACE and a shake up in collegiate esports

I’ll admit, I’m relatively familiar with most of the popular collegiate esports leagues. TeSPA, Collegiate Starladder League, etc. are names I’m aware of. NACE was not one. I asked Knutson why he and the program chose to go with NACE. While being less of a household name as the others, Knutson highlighted how their mission and his program aligned: “To legitimize collegiate esports as a respected athletic activity on college campus’. Really push it to the same level as football, basketball and some of the other traditional sports.”

University of Jamestown

The National Association of Collegiate Esports, or NACE, is the latest league to try and make a dent in Collegiate esports. Courtesy of The National Association of Collegiate Esports

Knutson discussed NACE’s formation frankly, stating that he thinks part of the reason NACE was formed was out of frustration with the other leagues. From league structure to technical help, NACE is attempting to set itself up as something different than the others. Through corporate partnerships with Blizzard, Twitch and Battlefly, to a commitment to ‘doing it right’ from the beginning, Knutson believes NACE has set itself up as a leader in the scene.

Citing a few reasons for this, too, Knutson pointed to the similar level of dedication and regulation that exists already in collegiate sports as one of the reasons. Setting up a league with a similar structure to the NCAA, say, or some other established form of competitive league, was something attractive about NACE for Knutson. “We really bought into that idea of ‘if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do this the right way.’ We want to legitimize it right away, and have it as respected as any other program is on our campus. We wanted our student athletes to be in the same vein as the football player or the basketball player.”

Knutson deeply identified with this notion of putting newly minted esports programs on the same level as the traditional programs offered by Jamestown. His players are held to the same requirements as their fellow athletes at the school. From attending the All Athletes meetings to community service requirements in their community, his players check all the same boxes as the football and basketball players. “I think that our administration and our coaching staff really brought in that idea of let’s legitimize this and do it the right way.”

 

This is part 1/2 for an interview with the University of Jamestown’s esports program.

 

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Featured Image courtesy of University of Jamestown Athletics.

immortals

Achieving immortality: a look back on the Immortals saga

This probably wasn’t what the organization had in mind with regards to its name, but it’s pretty much guaranteed now that the major-finalist roster of Immortals will forever be etched in the annals of esport history – not as a world-beating, unstoppable team, but as the one that’s associated with some of the most unprofessional behavior since the major system kickstarted the rapid growth of the pro CS:GO scene. It’s a sign of its growing pains in more ways than one – and honestly, I’m surprised it took so long for something like this to happen.

Are you sure you want to quit?

Perhaps the most explosive news of the whole CS:GO scene as of late involved the complete combustion of the Immortals lineup at DreamHack Montreal with three members of the Brazilian outfit failing to show up in time for the finals, thereby forfeiting the first map of a best-of-three series against North. They promptly lost the match right after in the following map. The events were juicy enough that they even made it to the Daily Mail, probably alongside a dozen new causes of cancer and a few adorable pandas.

And just as if it were a cheap paperback novel, this is where the death threats began. Vito “kNg” Giuseppe didn’t take a fellow player’s tweet about the situation particularly well, and proceeded to reclaim his lost honor by… threatening to kill the colleague in question.

No, not on the servers, but in real life. Apparently, he had to be restrained in the hotel where they were both located for the event. The justified outrage soon followed, and kNg was first benched and then released from the team. Normally, this would be the end of our juicy little story, but we do have an extra twist in the tale: thanks to the way the major spots are distributed, if at least three of the qualified players join a new organization, they automatically take their Legend spot with them.

Guess who joined ranks with our little harbinger of doom? The other two alleged partygoers, of course. At least some elements of this story are predictable!

Progress and perfection

There’s always been this weird allure of “professionalism” in esports circles, the idea that increased exposure and stability would somehow automatically mean a more mature environment and playerbase. (Of course, the literal definition of the word “pro” is already fulfilled once you’re playing your chosen game for a living, but people generally use it to refer to something more, be it behavior or gameplay quality.)

Thing is, we’re living alongside what I like to call the 0th generation of pro players: young people who haven’t grown up with esports as a viable and reliable career path, they sort of stumbled upon it and created the opportunities on their own.

There are no Williams brothers yet, who conquered women’s tennis basically on the orders of their father: the people in the highest echelons of CS:GO are players who have been playing the game for fun as kids. While this can add some sort of charm to the proceedings, it’s nonetheless important to note that whatever we think of “professionalism” is likely going to be more present in players who were purposefully nurtured to become the best of the best as opposed to those who liked playing a game so much that they turned their hobby into a career.

Can you imagine any other well-paying job where communication is so key and almost everything is organized in English where basic grammar is sometimes beyond the employee’s capabilities and so-called journalists are ramming their tweets into Google Translate to figure out what they really were trying to say? Just because we have six-figure prize pools flying around, that doesn’t mean we’re past the Wild West-period of esports.

It’s a good sign that players throwing around death threats are swiftly removed, but unfortunately we can’t treat this as a total aberration. Especially considering how a very specific group of people actually consider the presence of “bad boys” a positive in the scene: usually casters and commentators who would like to spice things up. Of course, their desire for a unique voice is understandable in a scene where a team can completely migrate from one organization to the next without any change apart from their branding (just imagine if something similar happened in football), but actively hoping for disruptive elements is simply self-defeating, no matter how good copy they would make.

Also, the perceived oversanitization of the esports scene – oh please, you haven’t seen anything yet – is due to most of its participants’ lack of social and interviewing skills. While this usually amounts to awkward silence and boring discussions, tweeting out threats and generally behaving like a twelve year-old is due to the same root cause and should likewise not be celebrated by any responsible member of the community.

On the spot

Putting all the drama aside, the real consequential element of the Immortals controversy is undoubtedly the fate of the coveted major spot. As things stand, the top 8 teams from the previous major are automatically invited to the next one as “Legends”, provided they keep the majority – at least three players – of the lineup. The issues are obvious: if some of the players want to leave or force a better contract, they can essentially hold the organization hostage.

There isn’t really a good solution here: do we prefer orgs hosting players hostage, or vice versa? The implementation of the current system is quite telling as it seems to imply that the organizations seem to be more expendable in the eyes of Valve. If we look at the checkered pasts of the VP or SK rosters, you could actually make a persuasive argument for that.

As things stand, Immortals will be refreshing their roster with Caio “zqkS” Fonseca (recently of Ghost), the trialist Lucas “destiny” Bullo and their summer signing in the form of João “horvy” Horvath who has been held back by visa-related issues until just recently. Is this going to make up for the brothers – Lucas “LUCAS1” Teles and Henrique “HEN1” Teles – requesting to leave? Will the organization get the million dollar bounty they are reportedly asking for them and the major sport? How will they cope without Boltz and Steel? We will have to see.

One thing is for sure: no organization will back a player that may or may not have spent the night before a final partying, then proceeds to show up late to the event and then follows all this up with death threats. No number of in-game frags can make up for even the possibility of a real one.

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mlg csgo major

Why MLG should be host to the first major of 2018

MLG Columbus was one of the best majors to date, if not the best. They didn’t have any ridiculously long delays or technical problems. They also had amazing community interaction, fixing anything a viewer found as an issue. On stream or live in person, it was great, MLG was great, and they deserve to come back.

Another MLG Major

MLG hosted their major in 2016 in the city of Columbus, Ohio. It’s a city that is easy to travel to from any city on the east coast and central area of the United States as well as the most populated area of Canada. It’s also not a hard place to get to from the most western parts of Europe. It’s probably the best location in North America for a CS:GO major, next to New York, Toronto or Atlanta, the latter of which happened to be the host of ELEAGUE’s major in January.

Aside from being an easily accessible city, MLG already has the Nationwide Arena in their hands for another event this year and they have plenty of equipment in Columbus. Granted they can reserve the space, it would take the least amount of trouble to host an event. They’ve also proven themselves to deserve another major with their production value, community interaction and respect for the CS:GO scene.

Photo by: hltv.org

One of the communities main concerns was the fact that MLG almost only hosts Call of Duty events. “Will they even know how to host a CS:GO major?” was a question a lot of people had. They answered with a “Yes”. Capital Y, of course, to answer it even better. MLG’s Adam Apicella was always asking questions and listening to the CS:GO community ahead of their 2016 major. MLG made sure to listen and take notes to get good feedback from the community.

The last point to mention is that North America has been host to some of the best crowds. Take IEM San Jose, ELEAGUE’s Atlanta, and of course MLG Columbus, as examples. Even outside of Team Liquid or Cloud9, the crowd always cheered, even roared. Virtus.Pro, Astralis, NiP, and Na’Vi have been favorites in not only Europe but in North America. They’ve been welcomed with open arms, and crowds would be absolutely ecstatic to watch these teams. And aside from Dreamhack Masters Las Vegas, venues were packed. North America has the audience, and they are willing to travel from all over to watch a major.

Reactions from the teams, talent and the community

When MLG hosts an event, players and talent always have something nice to say about the organizers. Duncan “Thorin” Shields actually said in one of his recent videos titled “Events worked in 2016” that MLG adapted and handled every problem like a boss and along with that said that MLG Columbus could possibly be the best major ever.

Whether it be in CS:GO, Call of Duty or any other game, MLG has always had positive feedback from those attending the event in any manner. They treat the players and talents like kings, they take note of problems said by the community, and always keep in touch with the community as well. What more do we need from a tournament organizer?

MLG deserves another major. They were host to one of the best to date and fans would like another.


Featured image via Major League Gaming

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Fnatic add Lekr0 and Golden: A few cons

The Fnatic roster of Freddy “KRiMZ” Johansson, Jesper “JW” Wecksell and Robin “flusha” Rönnquist announced their new pickups this week. Filling in the two spots are Maikil “Golden” Selim and Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson. Looking at the roster, you can tell exactly why they picked up who they did. They wanted a proper in-game-leader and young players. The duo of flusha and JW also played with Lekr0 when they were with GODSENT. Here we will discuss some cons of this roster move.

For more information about shufflemania, check out my articles on FaZe Clan, mousesports and Cloud9.

1. Inexperienced players

fnatic

Photo by: hltv.org

Golden has never played in an event with multiple tier one teams. He’s never had to call against players of the caliber that he will face while on Fnatic. While Fnatic may have found one of the few up and coming IGLs of the Swedish scene, it is very hard to predict that he will do well. Coming from Fnatic Academy, he led the team to a peak of #20 on HLTV.org. They didn’t get there due to the tactics, they got there because of the firepower coming from the young talent. While he is one of the best players to pick up to give them structure, much like Alec “Slemmy” White’s time on Cloud9, his inexperience on the top level will show.

As for Lekr0, aside from a few Dreamhacks and the Major in Atlanta earlier this year, he hasn’t had much experience at the top level. He’s definitely shown to be a huge player for GODSENT, winning rounds essentially on his own. Unfortunately, he’s just not used to playing at a high level consistently. Fnatic is attending Dreamhack Masters Malmö in just less than week, and then the ELEAGUE Premier 2017 just two weeks later. Time will tell how they do on the big stage against some of the top players in the world.

2. Overall less firepower

 

fnatic

Photo by: hltv.org

Together, both Golden and Lekr0 are steps down in terms of skill compared to Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Dennis “Dennis” Edman. While Golden can potentially make it up with his calling, Lekr0 will need to become a god to live up to what either player has done for the team. Known for his deagle, maybe he can replace the pistol god Dennis. For now though, the two have huge shoes to fill. Not to mention flusha who may come into form as he no longer has the pressure of calling.

Another issue is that in the past, KRiMZ has proven to have issues without olofmeister to play around on sites. His short stint with GODSENT was by far the worst of his career, and that can be attributed mainly to not playing with olofmeister. Afterall, they are known as the most legendary duo of CS:GO. Hopefully he can prove us wrong, but history shows that it can become a problem.

3. Fleeting motivation

fnatic

Photo by: hltv.org

It’s easy to tell that the trio left over are tired of not winning. They were on the most legendary lineup in CS:GO, winning two majors in a row. Then, after one roster change, won tournaments left to right. Anyone would miss that. Not winning anything for well over a year can take a toll on their motivation, and can negatively affect the newcomers. Of course, it could definitely be said that their motivation is most likely going to get a boost having two new and young players alongside them.

The only reason that a lack of motivation would be an issue is that the players wouldn’t take the game 100% seriously. Especially with two new players coming in, one being an IGL. He’s not going to want three players he probably looks up to not listening to what he has to say. Of course, the players are probably a lot more mature than to do anything similar to this, but it could become an issue. Whether it be right away or weeks even months in the future. Hopefully it never becomes an issue and the team can find some sort of success with this new roster, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Featured image via hltv.org

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RUSH and tarik to Cloud9, a jaw dropping roster change

Cloud9 opened eyes and dropped jaws Tuesday morning after announcing the additions of Will “RUSH” Wierzba and Tarik “tarik” Celik. This move is one of the most surprising of all the shuffles, and also one of the best. This lineup cements itself as one of the most, if not the most, skilled lineups of NA CS history.

For more information about shufflemania, check out my articles on FaZe Clan and mousesports.

A much higher team-wide skill ceiling

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

In the past Cloud9 has had players on the roster who were much less skilled than the rest. Not only that, Cloud9 has always had the problem of having a player or two not “show up”. While we haven’t yet seen how this roster can change the past issues, it’s almost obvious that it should be fixed. Not only that, but the constant confusion about who is playing what role is now gone. Everyone has their own place, and aside from everyone contributing to the IGL role, everyone knows what to do.

Having, in my opinion, the top three North American players on one team also contributes to the massive jump toward the skill ceiling. As well as having the best AWPer in NA, it helps a lot in the overall skill. Adding tarik into the mix adds a player who rarely has a bad event. Unfortunately in the case of tarik, he does sometimes have a moment where he does something that loses the round. If this can be fixed, there are almost no flaws in this lineup aside from no proper leadership.

Prebuilt chemistry

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

Looking at the players of Cloud9, it’s obvious to see the chemistry already built up among players. The most obvious case is Jake “Stewie2k” Yip and tarik, as they PUG together and joke around a lot. Another example, though less known, is between RUSH and Tyler “Skadoodle” Latham, who both played together at CEVO Season 6 Finals on eLevate, leading to some familiarity.

The mix of players also looks to be quite a good mix on paper. Whether it be in game or out of the game, the players all seem to fit together like a puzzle. Of course it is possible for the players to not get along, but we will just have to wait and see.

Good choice in replacements

 

Cloud9

Photo by: hltv.org

While it’s sad to see the original Cloud9 roster gone, you can’t deny that the replacements are well made and make sense. Mike “Shroud” Grzesiek is now able to do what he loves full time and Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert is able to pursue something else in esports, whether it be playing or being an analyst or caster at events. Unfortunately for the case of n0thing, his benching was a team decision opposed to Shroud’s benching where he stepped down himself.

Role wise, the replacements make sense. Having a 100% dedicated entry in RUSH fixes the problem with n0thing not wanting to entry every now and then. On the other hand with tarik, he is a consistent player. And, despite the peanut-brain meme, as a player he makes smart decisions with the rare occasion of messing up a round for the team. This was an issue with n0thing as well, but opposed to tarik he did it more on a consistent basis.

Overall this move seems to be a win for the organization and players. Having a more skilled roster, players who might fit better together, and having roles make sense for once, there’s few flaws in the move. We’ll just have to wait and see how the roster all together will perform on the 22nd with the kick off of ESL Pro League Season 6.


Featured image via hltv.org

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suNny and STYKO to mousesports is a risk vs reward move

Mousesports has been a team with a lot of roster changes in the last year. First putting Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný back into the roster and then picking up rising star Robin “ropz” Kool, they’ve been doing everything right since losing Nikola “NiKo” Kovač after the ELEAGUE Major in January. Hopefully this next move will be the best one yet. Mousesports has now picked up suNny and STYKO.

Miikka “suNny” Kemppi

When suNny was picked up by ENCE Esports in the first quarter of 2016, he had a nice platform to build himself as a player. Under the leadership of Aleksi “allu” Jalli, suNny emerged as a rising star in the tier two European scene. Consistently outperforming his opponents and showing that he can perform on a semi-high level of CS, people knew that he would get his chance on a higher skilled team one day. Unfortunately, it took almost a year for him to find a home on a new team.

mousesports

Photo by: hltv.org

After quite a bit of turmoil on ENCE after losing allu, he left the team and joined PENTA Sports a month later. While PENTA may not be the highest tier team, it gave suNny a chance to build a new team with Kevin “kRYSTAL” Amend. Picking up fellow Finn Jesse “zehN” Linjala, consistent players Kevin “HS” Tarn and Paweł “innocent” Mocek, this team was brand new and was built from scratch. This gave suNny a team that he could build himself further on, and he showed that he can be a star even at a high level.

Along with HS, suNny consistently performed well to earn the team a spot at the PGL Major in Krakow, qualifying off of the back of wins against OpTic, Liquid, and Vega Squadron. At the major, suNny achieved HLTV ratings above 1.05 in each of the matches he played. With the closing of the major, suNny had the fifth highest rating of the event. Mousesports couldn’t pick a better player.

Martin “STYKO” Styk

STYKO has been stuck on the tier two scene for years. HELLRAISERS has been his best chance to step into the tier one scene. They’ve had hot streaks but it’s been very inconsistent. STYKO himself has also been quite inconsistent, at least in 2017. Joining mousesports creates a huge question mark. How will he perform?

mousesports

Photo by: hltv.org

Looking at STYKO’s performances since joining HELLRAISERS is a huge contrast to how he performs now. He was quite consistent, getting ratings above 1.10. But, coming into the latter half of 2016 and so far throughout 2017, he’s been underperforming. HELLRAISERS as a whole, aside from Starladder Season 3 and Dreamhack Tours, has been underperforming as well.

Mousesports is taking a gamble picking up STYKO, and in place of Denis, he’s not much of an upgrade. Unless of course, he’s taking the IGL role. This would not only free up Chris “chrisJ” de Jong and allow him to focus on his game, but it would most certainly take a toll on STYKO’s performance.

Is the move worth it?

In my opinion, I do think the move is worth it. Bringing in suNny and STYKO in place of Christian “loWel” Antoran and Denis is a firepower upgrade in suNny alone. But, as I said above, unless STYKO becomes the IGL for mousesports, he is not much of an upgrade. Mousesports are taking a risk or reward move with these two. And while the reward could be huge, the risk could be even bigger.


Featured image via mousesports.com.

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A FaZe roster with GuardiaN and olofmeister sounds spicy, but…

Amongst the rumors and speculations of roster shuffles post-major, FaZe is likely to make changes. To fix unknown problems, FaZe feel they need the services of Olof “olofmeister” Kajbjer and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács. This could cause more problems than it might fix, at least on paper.

I’ll look through some reasons as to why they might want to change, and some reasoning behind it.

Bad performance at the PGL Major

It came as a surprise to many that FaZe went out 0-3 in the swiss stage losing to BIG, mousesports, and FlipSid3. A loss to mousesports isn’t far fetched, but the gap in skill alone between themselves and the other two should be enough to win them a match easily. Whether it be NiKo’s curse in majors or the massive under-performance of Fabien “kioShiMa” Fiey, FaZe underperformed as a whole.

FaZe

Photo by: hltv.org

Now, to say that FaZe should make changes after a bad major isn’t necessarily the right thing. Out of the last 6 tournaments they have made the finals 4 times. Going out Top 4 at Cologne and last at the major. The positives heavily outweigh the negatives in that equation. One bad tournament shouldn’t end a team, unless everybody was ready to explode at each other.

All-in-all, FaZe shouldn’t change rosters with the reasoning being a bad major. Not every Tier 1 team is going to consistently be winning every match or making Top 4 every tournament.

In 2017, the only team who has made Top 4 every tournament is Astralis, not even SK Gaming. SK didn’t change after Katowice or Starladder. FaZe could very well win Malmö in a month, but maybe we’ll never know with this roster.

Conflicting personalities

FaZe

Photo by: hltv.org

One reason may never be seen publicly, conflicting personalities. Liking everyone on your team is hard, and nobody should be expected to do so. One thing that can back this up is the fact that Nikola “NiKo” Kovač has shown to be quite an angry player when he was on mousesports.

The problem with this is that FaZe would be out of their minds to replace NiKo, so they’d have to find someone to replace kioShiMa or Aleksi “allu” Jalli. 

Some of the players might not be much of a fan of how Finn “Karrigan” Anderson leads the team. This may actually be one of the more plausible reasons. Karrigan was replaced on Astralis due to the players not trusting him anymore.

If a player or the team don’t trust the IGL, there’s a huge issue.

Consistency or under-performance

Allu isn’t known for his consistency, hence the meme between GOD allu and BOT allu. One game he’s a BOT, another he’s a GOD. For an AWPer, this is an issue. For such an important position you want someone who is reliable.

GuardiaN is similarly not consistent, much like allu. He’ll show up one game but be completely out of it the next. A good thing with FaZe is that everyone can AWP, so you can always switch out the gun. But, unless Karrigan uses it, it’s a waste of the stars.

FaZe

Photo by: hltv.org

 

KioShiMa had a rather disappointing major performance. Having a 0.61 HLTV rating, he performed the worst on the team throughout three maps. The problem with this is that kioShiMa is one of the most consistent players on the team aside from this tournament.

He may not get 30 kills every map, but he does stick around the middle of the pack and is a huge clutch player. Of course, his direct replacement being olofmeister would upgrade essentially the same traits. But, who knows if olof will perform well in FaZe? He’s no longer one of the best players in the world. You can’t rely on him keeping his form between teams like NiKo did.

Conclusion: FaZe shouldn’t change

Taking everything in to account, and especially looking at the 3rd reason, there’s no pros to picking up GuardiaN and olofmeister. They’re essentially the same players from other countries and different names. The move makes no sense. And, unless there are some serious personality conflicts, there is no real reason to change.

Featured image via ESL Gaming.

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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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NiP sign REZ to replace friberg

It has finally happened. NiP held the longest standing 4-man core in CS:GO history, but it stands no more. The core consisted of Christopher ‘GeT_RiGhT’ Alesund, Patrick ‘f0rest’ Lindberg, Richard ‘Xizt’ Landstrom, and Adam ‘friberg’ Friberg since the beginning of CS:GO. Friberg has been harshly criticized for over two years now, despite NiP having success.

The New Kid

via HLTV.org

REZ has looked like an up and coming young star and does have clear upside. On the defense, he seems to rely on aggression and catching his opponents off guard. His style mirrors the playstyle of Jake ‘Stewie2k’ Yip when he was first brought up. NiP would be extremely lucky if this player even worked out half as well. REZ plays a relentlessly aggressive, entry-fragger style when on the offense. This makes him a good fit for this NiP team, all things considered. It will be interesting to see if he can round out his game at the top level.

His skill is undeniable, and he has looked good against the lower level of competition; although, it is very rare a player can pull off what Tomáš ‘oskar’ Šťastný did, and make the jump from tier two to tier one almost seamlessly. At the end of the day, the org is taking a risk, they needed to bring in a young talent. While they could’ve maybe taken someone like Fredrik ‘freddieb’ Buö, who looks a bit more ready for top level Counter-Strike, this is not a bad signing by any means.

The Future of friberg

via HLTV.org

friberg’s future as a professional player is quite dim, he could likely get onto Epsilon and win a couple of tier two LAN’s. Other than that, there isn’t much hope for the fabled ‘King of Banana’. It is likely he will retire here, and most likely live out his days working in the esports industry. His most immediate options include working for the NiP organization, doing analyst desks, casting professional matches, or coaching younger, smaller teams. He could even follow in the footsteps of former teammate Robin ‘Fifflaren’ Johansson and getting a job at Twitch. While it is sad to see such a long time pro leave, perhaps this is best for him moving forward.

Potential of NiP

I don’t think this iteration of the Ninjas will do anything special. In my opinion, more changes need to be made if NiP wants to be competing for titles again; however, this is a step in the right direction. There will most likely be some improvement from the abysmal showing they’ve been putting on for the past six months. I predict this iteration of NiP to hover around 10th-15th in the world rankings.

via https://www.gfinity.net

In terms of what they can do to really spice this roster up, there are limited options. I would say you move GeT_RiGhT to call the shots and replace Xizt with the long time up and coming freddieb. This guy has flown under the radar for so long, despite playing a supportive style and being very skilled. If you make a move like that, now you’re cooking with gas NiP. It takes a great amount of luck when dealing with unproven talent, but it’s the Ninja’s best hope.

As I said before, this move won’t instantly turn the Ninjas into world #1 spot contenders again, but it shows at least a little bit of drive on their part, to want to win again. It shows the public exactly what they wanted, rather, needed to see, that NiP still care. While they may not be 100% driven to be the best in the world, at least they are putting forth an effort to become relevant again.

It is sad to see NiP, a team that has produced so many incredibly exciting games, and won so many tournaments, lose a long time member like friberg. However, in the end, being a professional isn’t about friendship, it is about winning. NiP are showing they are ready to get back to that.


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Featured image via http://wallup.net

dev1ce: The LeBron James of Counter-Strike

Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz is one of the all-time best players to play the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Ever since his emergence out of the ashes of the failed Counter-Strike: Source, he has been pure fire. The Danish superstar’s career draws quite a few parallels to LeBron James’ career in the NBA.

Consistency

via http://theurbantwist.com

Dev1ce is the CS:GO poster child for consistency. The last time he has had below a 1.00 HLTV rating for an event was at Fragbite Masters Season 5 Finals; an event that took place in 2015. He has only dropped below a 1.00 rating for an event four times since joining Team SoloMid, and none of those four times came in his tenure with Astralis. One of the most consistent players in the world draws parallels to LeBron James’ consistency in the NBA. LeBron has been selected to the All-NBA team 13 times in his 15 season career and did not play significantly worse when he was not selected. Lebron James throughout his career has a monstrous 28.0 point-per-game average.

They just keep coming, both of these guys don’t even seem to be slowing down in the recent times, despite their age in their respective games. Dev1ce is 21, which in CS:GO years, is old to still be a superstar, especially considering his dominance has stretched four years now. LeBron is 32, yet doesn’t look a day over 25. Both of these guys seem to just be getting started.

Raw Talent

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

LeBron James and dev1ce are both insanely talented in what they do, and are oozing with raw skill. In the primes of their careers, these two could do anything that could be wanted of them in their respective game. Dev1ce did literally anything you wanted from him with a rifle in his hand, from opening rounds, to closing them. He could play with the AWP pretty well; he was a great pistol player too. Truly a fantastically rounded player, and a perfect superstar candidate. James could do anything with the ball in his hands from taking jumpers, to driving, to even passing. This guy wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty with the rebounding either. Perhaps an underrated part of James’ game was his impeccable defense. Not only was his on-ball defense sound, but he had a knack for creating turnovers.

LeBron doesn’t still have the outside jumper as a major part of his arsenal, but is still incredible at driving to the basket. A very similar feat, deVVe has lost the entry-fragging explosive side to him, but excels at playing a consistent, AWP style of play. They both create great space for their teammates, with enemy teams game-planning around making things tough for these two superstars.

The ‘Choking’ issue

via https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IalExPzWrkU

Both of these players have been criticized for not having that killer instinct. While LeBron has gotten less heat for it, he still struggles in the most high-pressure situations it seems. Both of them show flashes of brilliance in these situations, making you think they are over it. Then they make a mistake, or disappear for a bit. Both players have looked much better in these situations as of late but still aren’t up to their usual standard of domination in these scenarios. While they draw attention from the opponent just by showing up, they lack the ability to make their foe crack. They lack the killer instinct.

 

Featured image via https://www.hltv.org

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