ESL One

ESL One Hamburg: the competition

After Star Ladder and PGL Open Bucharest reintroduced competitive DotA in October, it’s finally time for the first Major of the year.  Unlike Minors which only award a total of 300 Qualifying Points, DotA 2 Majors quintuple that number.  The winning team of ESL One will earn more Qualifying Points than the total point pools of both previous Minors combined.  This will be enough to earn them a comfortable lead until the next Major drops in early December.  But this is a conversation for the future.  For now, let us take a look at the teams that will be competing in the highest stakes tournament of the year so far.

INVITED TEAMS

Team Liquid

Dota 2 Power Rankings Team Liquid, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Lasse “MATUMBAMAN” Urpalainen

Position 2 – Amer “Miracle-” Al-Barqawi

Position 3 – Ivan “MinD-ContRoL” Ivanov

Position 4 – Maroun “GH” Merhej

Position 5 – Kuro “KuroKy” Salehi Takhasomi

Liquid comes into ESL One on the heels of a victory at Star Ladder. Mineski proved themselves a capable team at the tournament, but not capable enough to triumph over the champions. As it turns out, Liquid hasn’t lost their touch in this patch despite taking a break after TI7. After all, they dropped only a single game in the entire tournament. At this point, Liquid seem to be the indisputable kings of the patch, but teams still have one last chance to change that. Regardless, Liquid are doubtless the favorites to win this tournament, and they seem poised and ready to do so.

Newbee

Dota 2 Power rankings Newbee, i-league, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Xu “Moogy” Han

Position 2 – Song “Sccc” Chun

Position 3 – Damien “kpii” Chok

Position 4 – Hu “Kaka” Liangzhi

Position 5 – Zheng “Faith” Hongda

Newbee had a rough tournament at Star Ladder after being knocked out in the group stage by CompLexity and Secret. Though the team is comprised of great talent, Newbee seems to have lost their edge since TI7. Their second place finish there is doubtless what earned them their invite to ESL One, but after their showing at Star Ladder they are the team with the most to prove.

QUALIFIED TEAMS

Team Secret

secret, dota 2, international, i-League, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Marcus “Ace” Hoelgaard

Position 2 – Yeik “MidOne” Nai Zheng

Position 3 – Adrian “Fata” Trinks

Position 4 – Yazied “YapzOr” Jaradat

Position 5 – Clement “Puppey” Ivanov

Though Secret managed third place at Star Ladder, they were eliminated in the group stage of PGL Open Bucharest. Their losses in the latter were to The Immortals and Infamous, South Korean and South American teams respectively.  Perhaps one can contribute their losses there to unfamiliarity with those two region’s playstyles. Regardless, they’re going to have to adapt if they hope to earn the lion’s share of the Qualifying Points from ESL One.

Evil Geniuses

PGL Open, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Artour “Arteezy” Babaev

Position 2 – Sumail “Suma1l” Hassan

Position 3 – Saahil “UNiVeRsE” Aurora

Position 4 – Andreas “Cr1t-” Nielsen

Position 5 – Clinton “Fear” Loomis

Evil Genius showed us a mixed performance at PGL Open Bucharest. They made it to the playoffs, but proceeded to lose to LGD Gaming without taking a single game. More importantly though, EG showed us that they’re not willing to take some risks in the draft to earn a win. In their final game with VGJ.Thunder, an unorthodox offlane Bane pick coupled with a Drow Ranger strategy enabled them to dominate the laning stage.  Once the snowball started down the hill there was no stopping it. VGJ found themselves defeated after just over 20 minutes.

While EG finds wins with these “cute” strategies, they will need consistency to survive in this single elimination tournament.

Fnatic

ESL One

Roster:

Position 1 – Jacky “EternaLEnVy” Mao

Position 2 – Steve “Xcalibur” Ye

Position 3 – Khoo “Ohaiyo” Chong Xin

Position 4 – Djardel “DJ” Mampusti

Position 5 – Johan “pieliedie” Åström

Fnatic is a very different team than they were a few months ago. The departure of Mushi in February of this year lead to a volatile time for the team. After a series of additions and departures, this new roster sees EternaLEnVy taking the Captain’s help from DJ. Depending on how this succession of power occurred, this could be either a good thing or a bad thing for the team cohesion.

Say what you want about Jacky Mao, but he is an experienced player who knows his way around a game of DotA. His aggressive style could be the edge his team needs at ESL One. It could also lead to ill-advised team fights that turn into team wipes.

Keen Gaming

ESL One

Roster:

Position 1 – Jin “zhizhizhi” Zhiyi

Position 2 – Zhai “” Jingkai

Position 3 – Song “dark” Runxi

Position 4 – Jiang “佞臣” An

Position 5 – Chen “Rong” Jingwu

Keen Gaming may seem like an unknown brand, but they are originally an offshoot of the EHOME brand. This isn’t to say that the EHOME.Keen brand was especially popular or successful though. Nevertheless in September of this year the current roster of EHOME.Keen chose to part ways with the organization.

The truth is that some of the players on this team have been playing DotA 2 professionally for less than a year. Most would use that as an excuse to call their talent into question. One has to remember that they earned their spot in this major through the Chinese qualifiers. Now they just have to prove themselves on the world stage.

Virtus.Pro

Virtus Pro VP The Kiev Major, ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Roman “RAMZES666” Kuchnarev

Position 2 – Vladimir “No[o]ne” Minenko

Position 3 – Pavel “9pasha” Khvastunov

Position 4 – Ilya “Lil” Ilyuk

Position 5 – Alexei “Solo” Berezin

Virtus.pro made a surprising announcement that they would not be changing their roster after TI7. Don’t get me wrong, their team is talented, but teams that have actually won major tournaments have dropped players in the past. Their decision to maintain the same roster shows their confidence, and to be fair they had a great showing at TI7.

The key to Virtus.Pros victory at ESL One is going to be young RAMZES. Not since SumaiL have we seen such a mix of youth and execution. While he can be overly optimistic in team fights, he has a tendency to get just the right kills to turn the tide.  He is definitely one to look out for in this tournament.

SG e-sports

ESL One

Image courtesy of teamliquid.net

Roster:

Position 1 – Guilherme “FuckinEh” Costábile

Position 2 – Adriano “4dr” Machado

Position 3 – Rodrigo “Liposa” Santos

Position 4 – Thiago “Thiolicor” Cordeiro

Position 5 – Lucas “Bardo” Bardosa

SG e-sports managed to defeat Vici Gaming 2-0 at Star Ladder before being swept by both Mineski and Liquid. It’s hard to fault SG for those losses though, since Liquid and Mineski look like the two strongest teams so far this season.  While their win’s against Vici were far from one sided, they showed solid teamwork throughout the series.  It seems like they can compete with some of the big players in the scene. Hopefully they’ve been studying their defeats leading up to the biggest tournament of the season so far.

ESL One Hamburg will run from Oct 26th – Oct 29th.


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FaZe

FaZe catch a glimpse of what they could be

Let’s be real here, FaZe have the most skilled lineup we’ve seen in CS:GO. They have everything, from the world’s best to the world’s previous best. To top it off with an IGL like Finn “Karrigan” Anderson who knows how to handle many stars. FaZe have the right pieces to be one of the best lineups we’ve seen, ever.

Shortcomings early on

FaZeFaZe fell short in the decider match against Gambit in Malmö, ending their run quite early. On paper, they probably should’ve made their way out of the group. But they didn’t let the event get to their head and only took it as something to learn from. Using everything they learned, they came back stronger in their later tournaments.

Aside from their performance at Malmö, they had quite a good showing online for EPL, solidifying a top four placing after just one week going 6-2 in matches. Albeit, the matches weren’t against the best in the league, they were able to build familiarity with each other. It also gives a time to practice everything on the battlefield.

ELEAGUE Premier Group A

FaZe started their group playing against the new Renegades featuring Keith “NAF” Markovic, and this is where they surprisingly faced their most competition in their two maps. Surprising FaZe, Renegades took an early advantage but matched the Aussies (and Americans) and took control of most of the game. Renegades was stringing together rounds every now and then but was unable to keep something going. Moving to the TBS broadcast, FaZe meet Na’Vi. Na’Vi seemed to be dismantled right from the start to the end, where FaZe dominated.

ELEAGUE showed that they are definitely working on everything and putting it all on the table. They know what to do and how to do it when it comes to countering any team, shown by ELEAGUE and EPL. It’s just a matter of time before they start winning, right? Right.

ESL One New York

FaZe

Photo by: hltv.org

FaZe showed up to New York with seemingly cold hands, unfortunately letting Virtus.Pro take the advantage with the first three rounds of the map. Thinking that was only warm-up, they made sure that was the worst thing you’d see from FaZe up until the second map of the final.

FaZe absolutely dominated the tournament. Losing the least amount of maps of a winning team of any $250k+ tournament in CS. That’s including tournaments without a Bo5 grand final. To say that’s an impressive statistic is an understatement. The players showed that no matter who you are, they are better. Winning almost every aim duel they put themselves in.

Winning New York is just the beginning for FaZe. They’re showing dominance early on into this new era of CS:GO. With players like Nikola “NiKo” Kovač and Håvard “rain” Nygaard hitting every shot they take, teams have got to be fearful of FaZe. NiKo and rain have both shown in the past that no matter who they’re against, they perform like the best. And that’s just what the team looks like they are going to be.

Featured image via hltv.org.

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liquid

Team Liquid makes two grand finals in a row

Team Liquid has been one of the most confusing teams in the CSGO scene. Having some of the best players in NA, they’ve never lived up to the potential. And outside of issues we may not know, there’s really no apparent reason why. Fortunately, in recent events, they have shown some amazing things. Let’s look through their last two events and see what exactly went right for the team.

ESG Tour Mykonos 2017

Group Stage

Starting in the group stage, TL faced BIG on Overpass. There wasn’t too much on the positive side of things to take out of the match. Both teams made many mistakes and Liquid just so happened to make less of them. They then went on to face Virtus.Pro in the winners match, where VP took down Liquid somewhat convincingly on Mirage. The groups ended pretty uneventfully, as TL took down BIG quite easily in a Bo3.

Playoffs

liquid

Photo by: hltv.org

The semifinal against SK Gaming is where things get interesting for Liquid. Coming into the event, many expected that SK would take it with little to no competition. But, Liquid had something to say for themselves. In a surprising manner, Liquid took down SK Gaming without much competition from the Brazilian side, who, off the back of a few clutches and surprise rounds, only put up 12 and 10 rounds respectively in two maps.

Moving on to the grand finals, Liquid faced mousesports. Unfortunately for Liquid, Tomáš “oskar” Šťastný decided that he wanted to win the game himself and had a pretty easy time doing so. All maps aside from Liquid’s second map win were pretty one sided, with mousesports taking the last map in an even more dominant fashion.

After the event

After the event, a couple things that Liquid could take away were their result and beating SK in a best of three. It was a huge improvement over what Liquid had shown earlier in the year. Everyone, including themselves, knew it as well. Liquid was on the rise.

ESL One New York 2017

Group Stage

The group stage for New York started off with Liquid losing a Bo1 to Astralis and moving into the lower bracket to face Virtus.Pro in a Bo3. In impressive form against the NA killers, Liquid took the best of three, losing one map and moving on to face Astralis once again.

In the second match against Astralis, no one could’ve predicted Liquid beating them in a best of three, but they did just that to move on to the playoffs.

Playoffs

liquid

Photo by: hltv.org

TL ended up in the semifinals against SK Gaming once again. This time though, the Brazilians would put up a much better fight than before in Greece. Liquid took the lead in the series, taking the first map, but SK immediately took the second with dominance. The last map in the series was the most exciting, being close from start to finish. But, in the end, Liquid took the series and moved on to their second grand final in a row.

The final was played against FaZe Clan, who showed absolute dominance in their previous matches, and continued in the final where they took all three maps sending Liquid home before claiming the trophy.

After the event

After ESL One New York, Liquid should be proud of their performance. Winning three Bo3s against some of the hardest teams to play in that format of a match, Liquid is showing to become one of the best teams in the world after a year of almost no success and surprisingly very few roster changes. Liquid has only positives to take from the event and hopefully will come back even stronger at ELEAGUE in two weeks.


Featured image via Dreamhack.

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Mixing up the Counter-Strike calendar

We all look forward to the ESL Ones and the Dreamhack Masters of the year. They provide us with some of the most competitive and intense Counter-Strike. With the number of events from the likes of ESL, Dreamhack and ELEAGUE still on the rise, it’s important that the fans get something different from time to time.

Enter Blast Pro Series, ESG Tour and World Electronic Sports Games. Their various changes to the format and innovative ways of producing Counter-Strike inject some excitement into the scene for long-time fans. This article will take a look at these upcoming tournaments and suggest why you should tune in.

Blast Pro Series

Despite this tournament aiming to switch up the scene, it’s still one of Denmark’s first big LAN events in CS:GO. The venue for the Blast Pro Series will be the Royal Arena in Copenhagen, capable of housing 16,000 people at max capacity.

The Royal Arena will host the Blast Pro Series. [Source: magasinetkbh.dk]

The announcement on HLTV tells us that three matches will be played simultaneously and will all be shown on screens around the arena. Fans will be able to choose the sound of the match they want to follow using headsets.

This type of stage setup was used at the most recent Call of Duty World Championship where they had the Bravo stream setup below the main stage, and they dipped into the Bravo stream during breaks on the main stage to fill time. It was an interesting concept which fans liked, for the most part. However, it was said that there wasn’t really any way of fully engaging with the Bravo stream even if the game was better or closer than the one on the main stage. This looks to be something Blast has already covered with fans being able to choose the sound of the match they want.

The Call of Duty World Championship had four teams on stage at once. [Source: Reddit u/theesportstv]

My interest is how Blast will be able to translate the thrill of watching three matches at once in the stadium to those watching at home. Will it just be a simple three stream setup? I’m hoping there’s something a bit more exciting. There’s the potential to have something like the Final Score football show, where we have live feedback from all the games going on and show all the best plays from each game as they happen.

Unfortunately, the $250,000 tournament isn’t until November 24th so we’ll have to wait until then to find out.

ESG Tour Mykonos

A new series of tournaments called the Electronic Sports Global Tour starts on September 7th on the Greek island of Mykonos.

The beautiful island of Mykonos. [Source: The Telegraph]

One of Greece’s many party destinations may seem like an odd place for a Counter-Strike tournament. However, Stamos Venios stated in their press release that “ESG Tour | Mykonos 2017 will not just be another ordinary event. The stunning view, relaxing atmosphere and great service will make it special and memorable for the players, who are the ones making esports what it is today: fascinating, enjoyable and fun.”

From the information, I’ve seen the tournament seems akin to cs_summit of early last year. That tournament was very popular with fans, with their favorite professionals casting the games and comedic content to fill breaks. Summit replaced the intensity of competitive Counter-Strike and replaced it with entertainment all while still delivering what we crave most, top level CS. I believe fans have been waiting for another tournament like that for a while. If you missed cs_summit, below is one of the highlights.

It will be up to ESG Tour to try to match, or even better, out do the unforgettable cs_summit. With a Greek island and the stunning Destiny Villa at their disposal, it’s definitely possible. We’ll be able to find out soon as popular teams such as SK Gaming, Virtus.pro and Team Liquid will touchdown in Mykonos at the beginning of September.

World Electronic Sports Games

This tournament is essentially a normal tournament, much like an ESL or Dreamhack one, with a single exception: anyone can sign up for the $1.5 million dollar tournament.

Everyone loves a good upset from time to time and there’s no better time than at a tournament of such caliber. It’s always a pleasure to watch new talent rise up. Hopefully some players will set themselves apart from the rest of the pack. There are qualifiers all across the world, so grab a few friends and you never know what could happen. Even if you get deep in the qualifier and end up losing to one of the top teams such as Cloud9 or Virtus.pro, who’ve already signed up, that in itself is an experience.

Last year Team EnVyUs hoisted the WESG trophy. [Source: HLTV.org]

The main event isn’t until March 2018 but the qualifiers are already underway so get yourself a team as soon as you can and see what you can make happen.


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Ranking the biggest events in esports

In honor of it being the week of the International, I wanted to discuss the events that have helped legitimize esports. From DOTA to League, all the way to fighting games and Counter-Strike, each game has pushed the scene forward with events that not only grab the attention of esports fans, but even more importantly the general public.

The five events mentioned below have all played an important role in building up their respective scenes. They have not only been great for publicity but have also made careers in esports a reality. They have partially changed the communities in which these events take place. Here are the five most essential events today.

5. Call of Duty World Championships

Activision has made serious strides into making Call of Duty a premiere title within the esports landscape. The creation of the Call of Duty Championship, with prize pools over $1 million, along with the creation of Call of Duty World League, is the support this game needed.

It’s not only given fans more to watch each weekend but also gives them a reason to follow along as the season moves closer to the World Championship. In a short time, Call of Duty has become the premier console shooter and it’s thanks to this.

4. ESL CS:GO

Counter-Strike is different than the other esports. The scene doesn’t have one championship event that takes priority over the others. It’s an open landscape with many different events that offer plenty of payouts.

However, there’s one league that consistently puts together the most competitive and prestigious events. ESL has always been a major contributor to Counter-Strike dating back to 1.6, but in Global Offensive they’ve stepped up significantly. The one other event to rival ESL is Turner’s ELEAGUE which brought in a million unique viewers on Twitch alone.

For this reason, I have to mention Counter-Strike in this discussion. While it doesn’t have a keystone tournament like The International or Evo, the largest events in CS surpass any other event in terms of general interest. ESL is a great example of this, but there’s plenty of other tournaments that also take precedent in this argument.

3. League of Legends – Worlds

League of Legends wasn’t the first game to popularize the esports age, but it’s mostly responsible for the boom in popularity since the creation of the League Championship Series. The LCS has been a major success, in terms of growing esports, and has kept players interested in the game since release.

Continually, the League of Legends season culminates into the World Championships, a month long tournament that brings together all the regional champions. League is essentially the only title currently that has a system that funnels into a championship event. 15 days of competition while a litany of the best teams compete for millions in prizes on the big stage of Madison Square Garden and other stadiums.

2. Evo

By the same token, no other event comes close to the history of the Evolution series. Dating back to 1996, Evo has been the linchpin for all the growth in the fighting game community. Evo has single handily brought the underground community into the Mandalay Bay Stadium.

It’s hard to say that any other event matches the intensity that Evo cultivates. Once a player gets on that grand stage, it’s almost a guarantee that something amazing will follow. It’s also the one event that doesn’t require any knowledge coming in because of the simplicity of fighting games. Anyone can enjoy it and more importantly, anyone can feel the hype generated from the world’s most prestigious fighting game tournament.

In spite of the fact that Evo has a significantly lower prize pool than these other events, it’s still considered by many to be the most meaningful tournament for the players. Coupled with the history, an Evo trophy means something more than just a check. It’s a chance to cement a legacy as one of the greats.

The International 7. Photo courtesy of GosuGamers

1. The International

Finally, we reach The International. It’s an event responsible for bringing in a new generation of esports fans. It not only has the highest prize pool in esports, but in a short time has become the most sought after trophy in the entire scene.

It’s a life changing event. The rush of playing for millions of dollars amps up the intensity levels. Even as a fan, the adrenaline begins to pump. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, and not one event has been a let down in seven years. Valve’s responsible for making it an event in every sense of the word. It’s no longer just a DOTA tournament, it’s a happening in the Seattle area.


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Could have been graffiti plays from past majors

It’s an odd time for Counter-Strike fans at the moment. With the top teams agreeing to take a month off after the major there’s little professional CS to be watched. A rarity considering the esports’ usually hectic schedule. This makes it the perfect time to reminisce over some of the best major moments we’ve had. Some of the fondest will be Coldzera silencing the crowd with his jumping AWP or Olofmeister’s burning defuse, both of which have been commemorated by in-game graffiti. This article will pick out some of the best major plays that could have made their mark with graffiti.

Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski sneaky beaky like – EMS One Katowice 2014

Probably the most memorable play from Katowice 2014, Snax’s triple kill almost guaranteed Virtus Pro the first map of the final. The play not only demonstrated impeccable decision making but also nerves of steel. Snax kept his cool in the grand final in front of a packed home crowd at CSGO’s biggest event in history at the time. If anyone ever asks how to describe him as a player just show them this.

For the design of the graffiti, I would take inspiration from Stuart “TosspoT” Saw who was casting at the time. I like the idea of the repeated use of “he waited, he waited, he waited” or a picture of a CT walking around in a “Snax wonderland”.

Josh “jdm64” Marzano’s 1v5 clutch – ELEAGUE Major 2017

This clip has all the makings of a perfect AWP highlight, flashy flicks and wall bangs. Partly allowed due to a Team EnVyUs blunder, there were calls for this play to receive a commemorative graffiti from pros such as SK’s Fallen. Had Liquid gone on to win the game in overtime or the feat occurred in the playoffs it’s likely that JDM would have left his mark on Cache.

As everyone would agree, the best way to honor the play would be with JDM’s signature playing position, better known as lounging.

Adam “friberg” Friberg’s ace – ESL One Cologne 2014

The King of Banana hit Fnatic hard when he single handily destroyed his rival’s three man stack. Not only is the clip a display of marksmanship but the context of the play was important in NiP’s only major win. Fnatic had a great start on the favored side of Inferno with NiP not looking too hot. Friberg took matters into his own hands earning the Ninjas’ second terrorist round, which seemed to be the catalyst for the rest of the half.

The newest iteration of Inferno has included a small testament to Friberg by including a sign which reads “Via Adamo”. In Italian, via means road and Adamo translates to Adam meaning that the sign reads Road Adam.

Håvard “rain” Nygaard’s 1v5 clutch – Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca 2015

This clutch says everything about Rain and his monstrous aim. The play is even more memorable because at the time G2 was the first international super team with many skeptical whether the team could make it to the top. The roster proved doubters wrong by reaching the semi-finals of Cluj-Napoca only losing to eventual champions Team EnVyUs in three maps. G2 even had the chance to sweep the series 2-0 but lost on Inferno in overtime. Had the team made the final it’s likely they would have won the tournament which would have made the play even more deserving of a memorial.

An idea for the Rain graffiti could have been something to do with raining terror down on the B bomb site or a white flag with Rain on it considering the play was against the French.

Abay “HObbit” Khasenov’s quad kill 1v3 clutch – PGL Major Krakow 2017

While Krakow did gift us with a graffiti for Dosia’s grenade into pit, there is certainly an argument that Hobbit’s clutch should have received the honor instead. While the grenade was huge in context because of the way it damaged Immortals’ economy forcing them to re-buy after a single round win, Hobbit’s play also had its own merits.

The Brazilians won the second half pistol bringing the map back into close contention. Gambit looked as if they were about to lose another round before Hobbit opened up his backpack. Similarly to Friberg’s ace, this opened up the floodgates for more terrorist rounds with the play filling his team with confidence.

At the time people started nicknaming the drain area as the “Hobbit hole” which would make for an appealing graffiti.

Unfortunately, Photoshop isn’t my forte so I can’t bring any of these ideas to life. So I’ll leave that part to your imaginations.

 

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. Thanks to The Demo Vault, HLTV and the other respective uploaders for the clips. Feature image courtesy of gamesync.us

 

A look back at the last week in CS:GO

This last week was full of surprises and upsets. From Gambit winning the major to the ex-iBUYPOWER and Epsilon players being unbanned. Today, we’re going to take a look at what we learned from this week and possibly look to the future.

Gambit can no longer be underrated

Who would have guessed on the first day that Gambit and Immortals would be in the grand finals of the major? Well, maybe Gambit was a possible prediction but them winning the major was probably the biggest surprise. Especially considering SK’s dominance in Europe, FaZe’s consistency, Astralis’ preparation and Cloud9’s rise. There were a lot of factors pointing against Gambit winning the major.

Gambit

Photo by: hltv.org

The biggest story-line from Gambit’s victory was by far Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko’s long and hard journey to a win. He lead Na’Vi to two major grand finals at Dreamhack Cluj-Napoca and MLG Columbus. After that, he accomplished a quarterfinal finish at ESL One Cologne 2016 before being kicked from the team in place of Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. Zeus then went on to join Gambit in the fall and has been on a steady rise ever since.

Of course, an argument can be made that Gambit didn’t have to face the big dogs, SK, making it easier for them. But, Gambit did face G2 and VP in the Swiss Stage, then fnatic and Astralis in the playoffs. Their only relatively easy matches on paper were mousesports and Immortals. Given all of this, Gambit deserved the win with their work ethic and motivation. The huge question mark that now stands is if they can keep it up by the time Malmö rolls around.

ex-iBUYPOWER and Epsilon players unbanned by ESL

An unexpected announcement made on Monday was the unbanning of match-fixers by ESL. While no one is certain about how or if ELEAGUE, ECS, Starladder or other big organizers will change their rules, the unbanned players are able to play in EPL, ESL One and IEM events. ESEA leagues will also be available.

Gambit

Photo by: hltv.org

This is huge for the North American scene. Young players will now be able to build themselves under the leadership of Sam “DaZed” Marine and Joshua “steel” Nissan. Star players like Brax and Joye “fxy0” Schlosser will be able to play at a professional level once again too. Not only that, the return of Keven “AZK” Lariviere is all but confirmed. A team with a core of DaZed, Brax and AZK is supposed to become a thing. There’s also a chance of fxy0 joining them as their AWPer.

James Bardolph also made a tweet saying: “As far as ECS is concerned, watch this space.” Implying that ECS is considering unbanning them from their league as well. This would give a chance for the players to actually have a career in CS:GO. This chance would be even more extended if ELEAGUE and Starladder choose to allow them to play. Unfortunately for the players, Dreamhack spoke with ESPN’s Jacob Wolf stating that they will stand by the current ban. Whether or not this will change is undetermined but as far as we know for now, they will not be able to play Dreamhack events.

What the unbanning means for the scene is overall unknown. Maybe if the team led by DaZed goes far in a tournament such as EPL Season 6 finals or ESL One New York (if they qualify) more organizers may be pressured into unbanning the players.

Featured image by hltv.org.

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Red Reserve’s recent coming

Red Reserve initially started as a sub-group of the notorious FaZe Clan in order to satisfy fans of their roots in Call of Duty sniping as FaZe began to branch out. However, they made waves in the esports scene earlier this year after Swedish organization Orbit acquired all rights to the Red Reserve brand. It was a smart business move that utilized Red Reserve’s mass following in supporting their various esports teams.

Although the move was finalized many months ago, the organization has recently hit the spotlight following their Counter-Strike and Call of Duty teams results at events across the globe.

For you fans in need of a team to root for, I’m going to give you a couple of reasons as to why this organization is an exciting one to watch.

Counter-Strike and DreamHack Valencia

The team headed into DreamHack Valencia as an unknown – everyone knew they had acquired former major finalist Mikail ‘Maikelele’ Bill but were uncertain on the team’s level as they had not yet played on LAN or faced this type of opposition.

Their group matched the Swedes against fellow countrymen Ninjas in Pyjamas as well as two North American teams in CLG and NRG. My sole reason for tuning into the series was because I was an advocate of Maikelele when he played for the Ninjas and I wanted to see what he saw in this new squad. I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

A fragging leader

Hampus had some of the best stats at Dreamhack. [Source: HLTV]

Leading Maikelele and crew was eighteen-year-old Hampus ‘hampus’ Poser. The teenager seemed to be something rarely found: a fragging in-game leader. He was fantastic against Heroic in the semifinal and almost single-handedly took the game to a third map. On the map in question, Overpass, Hampus anchored the B bomb site, earning an array of multi-kills and boasting an ADR of 103.9 and a KAST* of 83.3%. Even in their previous series against CLG, he was only out-fragged by the team’s main AWPer.

A note I made on the strategic side of Red Reserve was that they had a heavy focus on Molotov based executes. As opposed to saving the Molotov’s for post-plant they would use four or five to safely clear the site. This meant that they were taking less 50/50 aim duels. They also seemed to have flashbangs left on players late in the round, making it possible for them to clutch many 2vX situations.

A deadly duo

The man in charge of the AWP was one of Red Reserve’s twins, Joakim ‘Relaxa’ Gustafsson. Unlike most top level AWPers such as KennyS or Fallen, Relaxa isn’t flashy but consistent down range. A trait mostly overlooked nowadays, he never missed shots he was supposed to hit. Similarly to Hampus, Relaxa was also an anchor on their favorite map Mirage. The player was quintessential in their CT side setup playing from CT spawn. Not only did he lock down the A site but also sniped down the tunnel into mid with deadly effect. Below is a clip of him popping off a little bit.

Now everyone loves a set of twins and this time is no different. Tipped by analysts as the next big Swedish player, Relaxa’s brother Fredrik ‘FREDDyFROG’ Gustafsson is a strong well-rounded player who is particularly good in the clutch. Although his performance dropped off as they faced tougher opponents, he was influential in their series against the Americans. If he can start to bring some of those plays to the worlds’ best he’ll definitely catch the eye of the top Swedish teams.

Right-hand men

The final two players to discuss are Alfred ‘RuStY’ Karlsson and Maikelele. These two seemed to be Hampus’ right-hand men. Whatever he needed them to do, they would do. RuStY, in particular, was impressive because of his ability to dedicate himself to entrying when needed. All though it had varied success, I believe one of the hardest things to do in Counter-Strike is fully dedicate yourself to entrying. On the CT side, he would provide utility for his star players to garner opening frags.

Maikelele had a pretty quiet tournament overall. He ran the second AWP when needed, but other than that usually he’d get one kill before being traded out. However having Maikelele for the future is a huge bonus as he is a player that can come alive at any time. When he’s having one of his days with the AWP he is near unstoppable, which he proved back in his days on NiP. His best map was the one which took them to the grand final where he netted 33 kills, demonstrating his tendency to show up when it matters.

CS:GO conclusions

Although it could be argued that Red Reserve should have never made it past CLG after Koosta’s mishap. The team showed great resilience, playing twelve maps in total, especially after their embarrassing opener against the Ninjas in Pyjamas. It did, however, make them all the more exciting to watch because every time it came down to winning they did so. They even gave NiP a run for their money on Mirage in the grand final. I believe Red Reserve has a bright future with Hampus at the helm and the likes of Freddy and Relaxa leading the charge.

Call of Duty and the Global Pro League

After finishing top eight at one of Call of Duty’s biggest events, MLG Anaheim, it seemed unfair that Red Reserve’s Call of Duty team was pitted against season one champions Splyce and a revitalized eUnited in the Global Pro League. Despite narrowly missing out on the playoffs on map count, they proved themselves to be a menacing team heading into the World Championships.

Europeans on the rise

European Call of Duty, in general, is trending at the moment, with Splyce winning the first season of the Global Pro League and Epsilon blossoming. There’s no better time than now to start getting behind another upcoming EU team.

The Red Reserve roster consists of Urban, Seany, Rated and Joe. Rated is the most recent addition to the squad, though he played with them earlier in the year. The change came as a surprise to many when his former team placed above Red Reserve last season but he still opted to make the move. The deciding factor was his chemistry with Joe, as the pair placed second at the World Championships last year and have played alongside each other for the majority of their careers.

Rated left Elevate to join Red Reserve. [Source: MLG]

Having a team you can rely on is essential in any sort of competition and it definitely showed in their play. In Crusher Search and Destroy versus eUnited, they made numerous plays that required full commitment from the team. In one round, instead of defending the bomb after it had been planted, they made a four man push into the base to catch the Americans off guard. And analysts were also full of praise for their judgment to go for straight defuses whilst there are still multiple players alive. This forces the hand of the opposition rather than allowing them to sit back and wait for the retake to come in.

A balanced roster

One aspect of Call of Duty that’s always been exciting is the trash talk and the hype some players bring to the table, and Rated is another one of those players. Over the years, players such as Aches, Clayster and Killa have gained recognition for their ability to throw opposing players off their game. Rated has had the same effect, it was only recently a Reddit thread with back and forth between himself and Zero of Splyce came to light. Not only does his fiery personality shine through on social media, it is replicated through his style in-game. The aggressive assault rifler does not let up on his enemies, pressuring them into making split second decisions.

His buddy Joe also has his own unique playstyle. The Brit likes to get behind enemy lines to kill multiple opponents from angles they don’t expect. He does so by anticipating their rotations and by picking the fastest routes to get there. Admittedly it’s harder to pull off against well-drilled opponents but it will easily upset some of the teams attending the World Championship.

Their NV4 player Seany has only recently popped up on my radar. Easily their best player over the course of their GPL weekend, Seany was earning killstreaks map after map with his laser like shot. These killstreaks mean that even if they are beat off of rotation they can be used to resecure the spawns for the upcoming hardpoint. If he can bring the same consistency to the World Championship, Red Reserve can rely on those streaks to break some of the more challenging Hardpoints against the most challenging opponents.

Finally, we have Urban. This guy has spent most of his professional career on Team Infused with MarkyB. They had many first place finishes at European LANs but were unable to replicate the same success overseas. During this time Urban has gained a wealth of experience and has started putting it to use on Red Reserve. For me, he can be the star player of this team if he can elevate his play ever so slightly. He’s a danger with any sort of weapon and can clutch up victories in any of the game types.

Call of Duty Conclusions

For you CoD fans this is an entertaining team to watch because of the variety of play styles on display that’s slowly being matched with strong calling. They are a team that goes against the curve and I think they’ll surprise many at CWL Championship. They may just become the giant killers and knock off teams we expect to place top eight.


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*ADR means average damage per round and KAST stands for Kill, Assist, Survive or Trade percentage.

 

CS:GO Rivalries

The greatest CS:GO rivalries

Just as in traditional sports, esports have big rivalries as well. From incredible matches, rivalries are born. A few key elements to keeping our game exciting to watch are the storylines and rivalries between teams. Teams battling it out to stake their claim as the greatest of all time. Here are a few such CS:GO rivalries that transcended the rest.

NiP vs VeryGames

CS:GO Rivalries

via https://dotesports.com

Quite the rivalry this was; although, due to NiP’s dominance, it took a while for VG to be able to win against them. Despite it being lopsided in terms of results, it was an incredible David vs. Goliath storyline anytime they matched up, despite that VeryGames was actually the second best team in the world. VG made a lot of roster changes just trying to best NiP; when VG finally managed to knock NiP off their throne at ESL Major Series in fall of 2013, it was one of the most memorable moments in Counter-Strike history. This was the first of the many CS:GO rivalries, and both teams helped define the meta for years to come.

Fnatic vs NiP

Fnatic vs NiP is arguably the greatest CS:GO rivalry in history. When the two Swedish teams matchup, it’s nearly always a bloodbath. The rivalry took a very interesting start when Fnatic robbed NiP of Dreamhack Winter 2013, where NiP was the heavy favorite to win. NiP, now had a chip on their shoulder and were thirsty for revenge. The next time they would meet on a grand stage was following Fnatic’s additions of Olof ‘olofmeister’ Kajbjer, and Freddy ‘KRiMZ’ Johansson, at ESL One Cologne 2014. While a much improved lineup, NiP was not afraid. NiP was hungry for a major title, after falling short twice following the loss to Virtus.Pro at EMS One Katowice 2014. NiP managed to edge Fnatic in one of the most exciting runs through a tournament bracket I have ever witnessed. A great final, which saw NiP on top, finally.

CS:GO Rivalries

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

The next time these two would clash on a big stage was at MLG X Games Aspen Invitational. This match is one of, if not the most exciting and closely contested best of threes in CS:GO history. A must watch match for any new viewers, and another one of the great matches these two would produce. The last notable time that these two would meet, was in the grand final of ESL One Katowice 2015. The first two maps were absolute thrillers, but the third map was a bit of a letdown. The only real reason it was very close was that NiP mounted a monstrous comeback but fell short in the end. If it were a bit more back and forth, I think this very well could have been the best matchup between these two.

Fnatic vs LDLC/EnVyUs

This rivalry has a storyline similar to that of ‘Rocky’ as LDLC, in their first major matchup came but three rounds away from winning it on the third map. Then we had the most notorious boost in CS:GO history, that led Fnatic to come back from a 13-3 deficit. LDLC was gifted the semifinal spot; however, as Fnatic just surrendered the win to them, due to the massive controversy that had spewed from the boost. This led the LDLC core to win its first major. They would meet many more times, but the next most notable meeting was at ESL One Cologne 2015 in the grand final, following a French shuffle that saw Kenny ‘kennyS’ Schaub and Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire now on EnVy. This roster fell short of Fnatic that time; however, it would be the last time this team would lose to Fnatic during the era of their rivalry. They last notably met at Dreamhack Winter 2015, in the quarterfinals, where EnVyUs bested Fnatic with no massive controversy. This meeting would mark the end of one of the greatest CS:GO rivalries we have ever seen.

Luminosity vs Na’Vi

CS:GO Rivalries

via https://esports.yahoo.com

Two highly tactical teams meeting to create incredible games? Yes, please. This rivalry was a bit short lived; unfortunately, we never got to see the true end all on the grand final stage of MLG Colombus due to Ladislav ‘Guardian’ Kovács’s wrist injury. It still produced one of my all-time favorite best of three matches to date, in the semifinals of Katowice 2016. This match was the climax of their rivalry, where Luminosity trumped Guardian and Na’Vi. No other CS:GO rivalries had quite the same shock and awe factor as this one did, specifically pertaining to the tactical genius both squads brought, not to mention the amazing AWP matchup in GuardiaN vs Gabriel ‘FalleN’ Toledo.

SK vs Virtus.Pro

Another one of the best CS:GO rivalries was born at ESL One Cologne 2016, a matchup that admittedly could have been better if Virtus.Pro did not make the joker pick of Nuke for the second map, but Cobble and Mirage were still thrillers. In the end, SK emerged victorious on this one, but Virtus.Pro would strike back at ESL One New York in exciting fashion. VP would win out at the ELEAGUE Major as well, but SK was a bit handicapped by stand-in Ricardo ‘fox’ Pacheco; however, that didn’t stop them from making it one of the closest 2-0 best of three matches of all time. The rivalry would come to a bit of an abrupt end after VP would best SK one last time in the grand final of Dreamhack Las Vegas. The end of this rivalry was based on Virtus.Pro’s break from the scene for a while, when they came back, they were nowhere near the level they were at before they left.

Astralis vs FaZe

CS:GO Rivalries

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net/

The most recent matchup that I’ve had my eye on, Astralis vs FaZe could still have a few more thrilling matches to come. The grand final of IEM Katowice 2017 was an incredible first battle, and the follow-up meeting at StarLadder was not a disappointment in the slightest. They would meet a third time in the semifinals of IEM Sydney, where FaZe Clan would again take it in another great match. While the matchup has been dormant for a while, due to Astralis’ taking a break from the tournament circuit, upon the return of Astralis, I’m sure this will still be a great rivalry. This rivalry has only just begun it seems, and I cannot wait for all the incredible matches we should get between these two titans.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive has created many great rivalries throughout the years; while these are not all of the great rivalries, but some of the most notable ones.


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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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