Pro Circuit

DotA Pro Circuit: Balanced or broken?

By now the new DotA 2 Pro Circuit system probably feels familiar, as if it has always been there. Finally though, we have a system that transparently dictates which teams receive invites to The International. Invites in previous years have been met with a wide range of criticism from fans who follow the scene closely. “But what about X team?” they ask. “They’ve won two of the past three tournaments they’ve participated in! Surely they are worthy of an invite.” Conversely, fans have questioned the inclusion of teams they considered unworthy of skipping the highly competitive qualifiers. The question now becomes, is this new Pro Circuit system the final solution? Perhaps it is just a step in the right direction.

Transparency is good

Pro Circuit

Image courtesy of dota2.com

Fans like to be kept in the loop. It is plain and simple. The lack of visibility into Valve’s previous selection criteria was problematic. It put some fans in a sour mood before the opening ceremonies even began. Though they undoubtedly enjoyed some high quality DotA in the end, Valve never wants their 20+ million dollar tournament to start off on the wrong foot. The new system definitely addresses these concerns. By the end of the final tournament before TI8, or maybe even before that for a few teams, the masses will know exactly who has earned those coveted invites to the biggest tournament of the year.

There are other benefits to this new system as well. Because the Qualifying Points are awarded to players and not to organizations, rosters are incentivized to stay together if they are performing well. Too many times in the past have we seen a team win a tournament only to immediately drop players for unknown reasons. Team Secret dropped Aliwi “w33” Omar and Rasmus “MiSeRy” Filipsen after winning the Shanghai Major in 2016. Perhaps the most memorable instance of this behavior is when Evil Geniuses dropped Kurtis “Aui_2000” Ling shortly after taking the Aegis at TI5. When points are attached to these winning players, these kinds of changes are far less likely. Hopefully this change will make the competitive scene less volatile, and thus easier to follow.

But there are always problems

Of course there are two sides to every argument. One could easily argue that despite good performance, any player creating friction in a team game can be mentally exhausting for all involved. This will undoubtedly hurt a team in the long run. Peter “PPD” Dager eventually went on to explain that no amount of winning was worth the stress he was going through working with Aui. Now I know that after TI, the point values will reset, but let’s play pretend for a second. If Evil Geniuses had just won a Major with Aui instead, would they have let him go? A DotA 2 Major is worth a whopping 750 points per player on the winning team. A loss of that many points could take a series of wins to make up for. This brings me nicely into my next point.

A victory at a Major is worth a full five times the amount of Qualifying Points as a Minor. This disparity seems incredible, especially considering that points are never awarded below fourth place no matter the event. Any team would have to win five Minor tournaments to even catch up to a team that has won a single Major. This disparity seems a little extreme, especially considering that many of these competitions see the same competitors.

Pro Circuit

Current Qualifying Points standings courtesy of wiki.teamliquid.net

Say that Team Liquid, who has two first place Minor finishes and one third place Major finish, never win a Major this season. They need to win at least two more Minors to even tie Virtus.Pro, who won that first and only Major so far this season. Virtus.Pro is bound to continue participating in tournaments for the rest of the year, and their lead seems difficult to surmount. While a team of Liquid’s caliber might be up to the task, plenty of other great teams may fall short.

A great start

I am certainly not trying to say that this new Pro Circuit system is bad. Far from it! The Qualifying Points system makes seasons easy to follow, and informs viewers of tournament stakes outside of prize pools. However, the point disparity between Majors and Minors is alarming to me. Granted, the season is still young. We still have no idea how the greater part of the season is going to turn out. Everything could turn out fair and balanced, but I worry talented teams that succeed in Minors will find it hard to qualify without a Major win.

At the end of the day though, teams failing to earn Qualifying Points are not completely lost. Even if they do not manage to secure direct invites, they will still be able to work their way up through the Regional Qualifiers, or even the Open Qualifiers. Maybe that will be enough to balance the Pro Circuit. Only time will tell.


Featured Image from blog.dota2.com

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Na`Vi

Na’Vi sign electronic

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

Will electronic fit in?

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

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

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

Implications

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

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

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


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Virtus.Pro finally bring back their plow

Virtus.Pro have been plagued with issues over the course of the last year. They went from being in the final of a major and winning Dreamhack Masters Las Vegas to making six group stage exits, only making it out twice. Meeting EPICENTER was a whole different story. It’s almost like we saw the old VP who showed dominance over the best in the world. Let’s take a look at their tournament run.

Group Stage

vs SK Gaming

VP left the starting line at a slow jog. They showed almost nothing of what they did later in the tournament, being short work for SK. Honestly though, this was more a win for SK than a loss for VP. They performed at the same level in this match as they have the last months, nothing new here.

vs Gambit Gaming

Virtus.Pro

Photo by: hltv.org

Although this match could have gone either way from the get-go, Gambit were still favoured to win. From what we saw in the first map, VP looked like the clear favourites, but throughout the rest of the series they had troubles closing out. The second map went to Gambit but had trouble themselves closing out as the economy for both teams were in the dump. Cache, the deciding map, also had the same story going along for it. Neither team really impressed but eventually VP came out on top. While this wasn’t necessarily the best win for VP, it is still a win against a top eight team. Not the most common things that they have seen.

vs FaZe Clan

The number one team in the world was about to make short work of the Polish team and make their way to the semifinals… right? Well, the first map definitely said so. 16-2 in favour of FaZe, but VP shook it off and came back. Stronger than we’ve seen since they were in Las Vegas. While the second map wasn’t exactly a comfortable win, it wasn’t hard either. VP won Cobblestone 16-11 with Inferno being the deciding map. Surely FaZe wouldn’t lose on their best map. I’m not too sure about what I should be sure about anymore, after VP took the map eliminating FaZe and sending themselves into the semifinals.

Playoffs

vs G2 Esports

Virtus.Pro

Photo by: hltv.org

G2 had an impressive tournament all things considered, dismantling both Astralis and especially North in the group stage. Compared to FaZe or Gambit at the event, G2 looked fantastic and were clear favourites to win the series against Virtus.Pro. But is anything allowed to make sense anymore? Throughout the entire series G2 struggled to stay alive. Almost losing the second map in the process which would have given VP a quick 2-0 victory. G2 showed some individual brilliance in the series, but other than that there were no more pros to pick out of the team. Losing rounds they had advantages in or a round they should win in the first place. The same can also be said about VP. Both teams made plenty of mistakes, but VP were fortunate to make the least.

vs SK Gaming

A classic match between the Polish and Brazilians, and what a match it was too. Dubbed as one of the best grand finals to date, both teams fought their hearts out. VP started out with the map lead but were immediately traded by SK taking Inferno. Train was probably a kick in the face for VP. Starting out with a 12-3 lead on the CT side, SK Gaming brought it back into Overtime and took the map 19-16. VP then took Cache, not letting the previous map affect them, and after that came the magic. A grand map to end a grand series. Cobblestone. One of the greatest maps for either team happened to be a decider, and what better than taking it to double overtime? Unfortunately for VP they weren’t able to manage a round on the second overtime, but they showed brilliance that a fluke-run would never be able to show. This is Virtus.Pro coming back telling everybody to watch out, they’re here to win. Even if they weren’t able to lift the trophy.


Featured image via hltv.org.

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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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underperforming

Why are some teams under-performing?

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

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

Astralis

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

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

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

Virtus.Pro

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

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

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

SK Gaming

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

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

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

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


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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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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

 

ESL One Cologne 2017 predictions

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

Mousesports vs Fnatic

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

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

FaZe vs Heroic

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

Immortals vs Virtus.Pro

via http://www.gosugamers.net/

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

SK vs SpaceSoldiers

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

NiP vs Cloud9 

via http://mashable.com

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

G2 vs TyLoo

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

Liquid vs Na’Vi

via http://wiki.teamliquid.net

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

North vs OpTiC

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

Playoff Predictions

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

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

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Featured image via HLTV.org

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive’s Greatest Dynasties

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive first released August 21st, 2012, and since then the competitive scene has went from strength to strength. The game followed on from the already popular Counter-Strike series and the newest release sparked even more interest than its predecessors.

Despite a few controversies along the way, the esports scene for CS:GO has boomed, with ELEAGUE’s season 1 and 2 having a combined prize pool of over $2.5m.

With such prizes out there, it is no surprise to see many teams competing and training hard to slug it out over these massive cash rewards, not to mention the sponsorships and contracts that come into play in modern day Counter-Strike.

Some teams, however, have went above and beyond the competition experiencing an extended period of time at the top. Many of these teams went months in domination, others went a lot longer with long unbeaten streaks still lauded over rival teams to this day.

The following list will break down just some of the teams who dominated Counter-Strike for a period of time following the game’s release:

[This list is in no particular order]

5. Fnatic – November 2013-June 2014

photo by AftonBladet.se


Fnatic were the first team to ever win a major in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, something that places them in the history books. This lineup consisted of JW, Flusha, Schneider, Pronax and Devilwalk, and they put their stamp on the scene by beating the odds and coming from nowhere to placing second at MSI Beat IT.

This was just the beginning as the team continued to place high in tournaments consistently before the lineup burned out in the summer of 2014 after failing to progress from the DreamHack Summer groups.

4. Virtus Pro – October 2013-February 2017

Virtus Pro are a team that traditionally blow hot and cold, the terms Virtus Plow and Virtus Throw go hand in hand depending on how the team performs. It is, however, undeniable that they have been one of the most consistent long term teams the game has seen.

The team has featured the charismatic lineup of TaZ, NEO, Pasha, Byali and Snax, and have been a thorn in the side for nearly every team attempting to establish a tier one dominance since October 2013. With one Major win and seven international titles, they are without a doubt one of Counter-Strike’s most successful dynasties.

photo by GINX eSports TV

Virtus Pro are one of the teams that have been able to forge a legacy that will out last this iteration of the game as their longevity at the top remains admirable to even the biggest rivals of the Poles.

 

3. Ninjas in Pyjamas – August 2012-November 2014

Ninjas in Pyjamas are another team that will forever hold a legacy within Counter-Strike. Their run to the fabled 87:0 winning streak is still talked about to this day, a feat that will likely never be replicated.

The line up is still largely the core of modern day NiP, featuring GeT_RighT, F0rest, Friberg, Xizt and Fifflaren. That team has amassed one Major win amongst 18 international tournament wins. This coupled with the fact that they reached the last eight in 31 of their 32 tournaments in this time frame cements them as one of Counter-Strike’s best teams ever.

photo by Liquipedia

Their success can be attributed to the clear nature of each of their roles, every player knew what they had to do and executed it with lethal precision for over two years. It seemed as though no team could touch them before Fifflaren’s retirement, which NiP could not recover from, replacing their fifth member consistently over the years until Friberg left in June 2017. Only time will tell if this will help NiP get back to where they once were.

2. LDLC/EnVyUs – September 2014-July 2015

photo by Liquipedia

Shox, KioShiMa, NBK, Happy and SmithZz came together in September 2014 to create a team that worked wonders. They emerged in the shadow of a deflating Fnatic team whose era was coming to a close. They won one Major and six international titles in a run enviable to many teams today.

One of the main reasons for this team’s success was the expressive nature players were allowed. Rather than focusing on a highly tactical game, they focused on allowing players’ decision making and individual skill to find the openings in games.

One of the cruxes of many teams throughout competitive Counters-Strike has been the sacrifice of skill in lieu of an IGL’s tactical ability. This was a notion that this team grabbed by the scruff of the neck and disobeyed, Happy was arguably the team’s best player despite being their IGL, which allowed for the team’s firepower to exceed that of other teams. This run is typified by the run of 17 top four finishes from 19 tournaments, which is to this day unchallenged.

1. SK Gaming – August 2016-Present

This is a team that needs no introduction even to the most casual Counter-Strike fan. SK are the hot topic within professional CS:GO at the moment; there doesn’t seem to be a tournament that goes by that SK don’t make the finals. Since August 2016 they have made seven finals, winning four of them. A recent poor showing in the ESL Pro-League is the only blip on the scorecard for the Brazilians, which has seen them pick up almost $1m in prize money in 10 months.

Coldzera in particular has gained a lot of attention, gaining a majority of tournament MVP’s for 2017 so far. This has lead to claims that he could be one of Counter-Strike’s greatest players ever. With this level of success it’s hard to debate the legitimacy of these claims.

Fallen, Coldzera, Fer, Taco and Felps have all been writing history over the past year and will likely place themselves high in the history books of Counter-Strike. Only time will tell how long this period of success will go on for, but they will have at least secured a dynasty to be fondly remembered.

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Feature image courtesy of Game Skinny

Virtus Pro: It’s Time to Move On

Virtus Pro have been one of the stand out teams since the release of Counter-Strike Global Offensive, and as such amassed a sizable fan base. The team most recently succeeded in the Dreamhack Masters tournament held in Las Vegas netting a $200,000 prize this February.

From there it has been a consistent line of under-performances in each tournament, exiting IEM Katowice (2017) in the group stages in front of a bewildered home crowd. Just as many experts were placing the crown on VP, it seems as though they faded into obscurity.

This descent into oblivion is highlighted especially through the 16-1 loss to Heroic in their disastrous ESL Pro-League campaign which saw them relegated. Among these results there were also 16-2 losses to Ninjas in Pyjamas, a 2-0 relegation series loss versus BIG and a further 2-0 relegation loss against PENTA.

photo by: DreamHack

Many Virtus Pro fans, and neutral fans, will be hoping that this is a slump. The often overlooked fact is that there are many up and coming young teams who have the power to outplay Virtus Pro. The hunger that up and coming teams have is a vital aspect of any professional team. It is the desire to get better that drives them towards minor tournament wins, as BIG have recently done with their EU Minor win. It may not be long before we see teams such as Immortals, BIG and PENTA reaching the final/semi-finals of a major over the next few months.

The bigger question remains though, will VP? The reluctance for companies and organizers alike to drop Virtus Pro insists that they should still be competing at the highest level. Their performances say something different however. It is the contrast between fans bringing in money with the likes of Virtus Pro compared to the draw BIG have that completely is not fair on fans at all. Teams, by right should earn their way to tournaments rather than being handed spots due to status over skill.

photo: @nexcsgo

The prime example of this is the most recent Clash For Cash series which has seen Virtus Pro and Astralis fight it out in a best of three for $250,000. This sum by rights could field an entire prize pool for a whole tournament, yet a team who, at this point in time can barely make it out the groups gets a free run to the ‘final’.

Regardless of past meetings I’m sure anyone would rather have seen a team like SK, FaZe or G2 take on Astralis in what would have been a more relevant matchup.

That is not to say that VP are not a bunch of insanely skilled players, it is just that at this moment in time they are not performing. How many times do they get a chance to play over a team that actually deserves it. Invitational tournaments usually end up missing one or two teams that by right should be there in lieu of teams that have been underachieving. There came a time that NiP stopped getting the invite in their slump, so when do Virtus Pro hit that wall?

 

photo by: Dexerto

 

There are many more teams waiting in the wings that would stand a better chance than Virtus Pro currently do, teams that deserve their shot on the big stage and their time to gain more fans in the way Virtus Pro have done over the years. Without adaptation and evolution we will see a harsh reality banking on the cash cows of yesteryear.

As previously mentioned, we have seen BIG win the EU Minor. Gambit have also won the DreamHack Astro Austin Open, Immortals topped their group at DreamHack Open Summer beating SK in the process. Even Liquid made the semi-finals of the ESL Pro-League Finals. Is it fair to stand in the way of these teams purely due to the ‘legacy’ a team has? Surely not.

Virtus Pro can always make a miraculous comeback, but CS can’t wait forever. There has to be progression within the scene and that inevitably means the teams who once dominated will either retire or fade back into folklore. Clinging onto the past has never done anyone any good and it certainly won’t help the professional scene of Counter-Strike develop in any positive way.

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Featured image courtesy of ESL One.

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