The Cathedral of Counter-Strike, ESL One Cologne is currently underway at the Lanxess Arena. The tournament comes after a short break as we see several top teams with new rosters attempting to secure their place in the CS GO rankings. We are already down to the last four teams for the tournament and these feature two of the top teams and two challengers.
The four teams remaining in the quarterfinals for the tournament are Astralis, Faze Clan, Na’Vi & BIG Gaming. Let’s take a look at each team, their progress so far in the tournament and their strengths as they head into the final couple of days at ESL One Cologne 2018.
The Danish lineup has not lost a single map at ESL One Cologne. They are the dominant team in Counter-Strike so far in 2018. The initial months saw them competing with Faze Clan as they attempt to secure the advantage and become the best. However, as Faze Clan faced ‘Olofmeister problems’ Astralis was the runaway leader in Counter-Strike.
The Astralis core has been together for a long time. Four players have been together since 2016, with even their coach being associated with the players for a long time. Zonic has been with the team since January 2016 and we cannot stress how important his role in establishing Astralis as the best team in the world. By now, the players understand their coach fully and have a clear understanding of their own playstyle. This is important especially in the current scene where there are constant roster changes and movements across teams. Astralis might have lost Kjaerbye in a surprise move, but that has only propelled them to becoming a stronger force, one that is truly the favorites to win London Major.
But as we talk about ESL one Cologne, Astralis has not lost a single map so far. They won their matches against Ence, Cloud9, and G2. While Cloud9 might not be a strong team anymore, especially with the current lineup ENCE and G2 have proven themselves in this tournament. Ence has managed to defeat teams such as NIP, Mousesports. They also took Na’Vi to three maps with two of those maps being extremely close. Device and Dupreeh have been extremely consistent and this consistency is one of the reasons why Device is always a contender for the best player in the world award. His ability to carry the team in crucial situations be it with the AWP or a rifle is unparalleled in the CS GO Community.
The deep Map pool gives Astralis a huge advantage
The team has had so much time together that they have worked hard on their map pool. With the removal of Cobblestone from the map pool, it just worked out in favor of Astralis. Right now, they have one permanent veto, Cache. They did ban Train against Ence instead of Cache, but that was only because they know Ence vetoes Cache themselves. This big map pool comprising of six maps gives Astralis a huge advantage when it comes to map veto. Most of their matches are won in the veto stage itself, at least against the much weaker teams.
Faze Clan was one of the contenders for the spot of the best team in Counter-Strike for much of the first half of 2018. But even as they managed to scrape together titles with Stand-ins the absence of Olofmeister was crucial to the team’s progress. When Faze Clan roster was first formed in the aftermath of PGL Krakow Major, there were doubts how well the team would perform
At the time, there were not many examples of International rosters built on pure firepower to be successful. The previous version of Faze Clan itself was one built on pure firepower, but they had failed to achieve the success that they should have. Faze Clan has some of the biggest names in Counter-Strike. With veterans such as Karrigan and Guardian on the team, they also have young blood and extremely skilled players such as Niko and Rain on the team. In addition to this, they have Cromen on the team to replace Olofmeister
While the veterans on the team need little to no introduction, Cromen as a new addition to the team has stepped up to the challenge. There is little to nothing that the player has missed in this tournament taking down strong rosters with ease. The young Danish player was relatively unknown playing for Team Noreg & Team Dignitas in the past. However, he has managed to step up to the occasion and face off against teams such as MiBr and Fnatic. What is important is that the rest of Faze Clan have not had to adjust to Cromen’s playstyle and he has seamlessly integrated with the roster.
The real test begins now
However despite their success so far and including tournaments such as Belo Horizonte, the team will be facing off against the relatively stronger BIG Gaming in the semifinal of ESL One Cologne 2018. Cromen will be put to test in these matches as he is still a stand-in for the team.
Faze Clan needs to start climbing now
Faze Clan always have had one objective to become the best team in the world. They have been winning tournaments but that still has been eclipsed by the Danish Astralis team. As Faze Clan look towards a future potentially without Olofmeister, they will need to adjust themselves and find the right balance on the roster. With players such as Guardian and Niko, and especially in their current form, they can definitely become a strong team.
Guardian has found himself in great form of late with amazing AWP Shots and a new found confidence on his team. He has been able to hold down certain sections of the map. This provides a lot of space for the rest of the team as they are able to utilize this to gain information. Faze Clan has great synergy with each other as well as firepower. Is it enough to propel them to become the best team in the world? ESL One Cologne is the first step en route to glory for the team.
The Na’Vi team is one of the legendary organizations in Counter-Strike. The current roster has the world’s best player, S1mple on the team. Coupled with Electronic, they have some serious firepower in the roster. S1mple has not yet had a bad game, and even his worst games are above average at the most. The legendary player has received composure and an understanding of team-play after joining the CIS squad. While his aggression often fetched his previous teams a great advantage, he has developed a lot of patience and focus on team play has made Na’Vi a stronger team.
The Na’Vi roster is led by Zeus, the player who led Gambit to their PGL Krakow Major. In the past few months, this team has won CS GO Asia Championship and Starseries Season 5. They have also placed deep in several tournaments. They have, however, always been a contender but never a champion when it comes to the top teams in Counter-Strike. There is always something that holds them back from winning tournaments featuring Astralis and Faze Clan in their prime form.
By now, it is just an accepted fact that S1mple will be a force to reckon with on any map that he plays. This is irrespective of the situation that Na’Vi is in, they might be losing the map 16-1, but S1mple will always be a strong factor on the server.
Na’Vi need the other players to step up if they truly stand a chance to challenge the best
Natus Vincere has always been a contender to the top teams in Counter-Strike. But reaching the top is going to be difficult for Na’Vi in their current form. They cannot rely on S1mple and Electronic to carry the team all the time. The other players, notably Flamie and Edward, need to step up their performance as Na’Vi competes in the semifinals of ESL One Cologne.
A predictable veto might prove to be NaVi’s undoing
Na’Vi has had a standard map veto of Cache since quite some time. You might say that having one map left out is not uncommon, especially as Astralis also does the same. However, Na’Vi has not really mastered the rest of the maps like Astralis. They need to start dominating on more maps or improve their map pool. Ensuring versatility on various maps is obviously a better choice, but unless Na’Vi makes some changes to their map pool and form, they will have a tough time withholding the assault from the top teams in Counter-Strike.
The Home Team – BIG Gaming
ESL One Cologne, despite being one of the most recognized CS GO tournament is also famous for not having a home team. That is bound to change as BIG Gaming has smashed their way into the semifinals. Much like Uruguay surprised Brazil yesterday, BIG pulled off a spectacular performance against G2.
Throughout the tournament, BIG Gaming is the team with the best grenade usage. Their smokes and flashes as timed to perfection and you could see their effectiveness yesterday. They secure a huge advantage cause of their nade usage. The BIG Clan is led by GoB B. Despite being a leader with a heavy focus on strategy and tactics, he tends to surprise his opponents a lot. With Tabsen and Smooya stepping up their performance, BIG has been able to win their matches.
ESL One Cologne at the Lanxess Arena has never had a home team to cheer for. They have always seen the Swedish, Danish and Brazilian rosters take home the trophy. But this year, as BIG makes a splash onto the stage, we could see the crowd coming alive. The energy and the support from the crowd is bound to have an effect on the players. Smooya has been really strong with the AWP and he has hardly missed shots yesterday. The best part of BIG Gaming is that the kills are spread out through the roster. It is unlike G2 yesterday, which saw a strong performance.
BIG Gaming’s Map Pool might be a problem
The team is known for their grenade usage and their strategies. Gob B will have definitely studied their opponents for their upcoming match in detail. The team, however, does not have a definitive map pool. While they did win on Cache yesterday, it was shaky for much of the first half. Their win comes off G2’s mindset going downhill as well as their own performance. G2’s mindset was definitely a big factor as Dust 2 was a total whitewash for the team. This is reminiscent of the 2015 era when KennyS would constantly have huge numbers, but the team would have a meltdown.
BIG Gaming is the unknown factor in the final four teams. They have a very tactical approach to the game, however, the individual players have definitely stepped up. It is up to Smooya, Tizian, and Nex to put up ‘Big’ performances for them to proceed further. Even GoB is longer BOT B as we have seen him pick up the AWP to great efficiency at Cologne.
The ESL One Cologne quarterfinals will get underway at 15:00 CEST. You can watch the matches live on the ESL website.