The Group stage at ESL Pro League finals has come to an end. The $750,000 tournament has been reduced from 16 teams to just 6 teams in the Playoffs. A very straightforward group stage which saw most of the matches end with a 2-0 scoreline has already set a few surprises. All the six teams in the Playoffs do stand a chance at potentially claiming the trophy. A lot depends on the ultimate performance of the top teams as we head into the final few days of the tournament.
As we head into the Verizon theatre, we can be assured of a lot of support for NA based teams such as Team Liquid and potentially SK Gaming. However, the audience has shown a maturity and applauds Counter-Strike as a whole. So Faze Clan, Astralis are definitely going to find fans at the venue.
The six teams in the Playoffs are:
Let’s take a look at the four quarter-finalists of the tournament. They are Mousesports, Team Liquid, SK Gaming and Faze Clan. It’s a surprise to see some of these teams in the quarterfinals instead of the semifinals. But there are also some teams which are rebuilding their roster and playing with differing roles and strategies.
The quarterfinal matchups are going to be extremely interesting as we see the teams battle it out at the Verizon arena. Astralis and Na’Vi sit pretty in the semifinals awaiting their opponents. This tournament is not just about the prize money but also several months of qualification and online matches.
Mousesports has looked stronger and better with each passing month. The team which has players from five different countries has come together really quick and in a strong manner. The new core of the team is the reason why we see the overall performance see a significant uptick. Players such as Sunny and Oskar are complemented really well by the likes of Ropz and ChrisJ. Each player has the potential to be extremely flashy and carry the team on it’s back. However, the team has integrated their synergy into their playstyle and that is their strength right now. Despite being one of the most overlooked teams early in the tenure, they have climbed their way back into the top.
The team does not have a fixed map that they try to avoid. Several professional Counter-Strike teams prefer to choose one map and constantly ban it for their matches. This strategy ensures that they can focus their preparation on just six maps. However, they also become extremely predictable in their vetoes. Mousesports has seen itself veto maps based on their opponents best picks For them, the team prefers maps such as Mirage, Inferno. They can also play on Nuke, but that is only against teams weak on Nuke. We have not seen them in a dominating performance against strong Nuke teams. The former Mousesports roster was known for its proficiency on Dust 2. This is obviously a new roster, but each of these players has been stronger on Dust 2 than other maps.
The Mousesports roster has the potential to reach the finals if they can adapt themselves based on their opponents. Their first match in the quarterfinals will be against Team Liquid.
Speaking of Team Liquid, they are the only NA roster in the Playoffs. The team missed out on IEM Sydney and that probably means that they are well-prepared coming into the tournament. So far their performance in the Group stage has been splendid with their only loss coming to Astralis in the Upper bracket match. However, prior to their Danish encounter, Liquid had to play against teams such as Grayhound and Space Soldiers. These teams are definitely not strong in their current form, especially with Space Soldier fielding a stand-in for the team.
It is relatively difficult to truly understand Team Liquid’s performance in comparison with the rest of the teams. They faced much weaker teams in the early group stage and crumbled at the first mention of a strong team in Astralis. The scoreline for the Liquid-Astralis match does not really inspire confidence in the NA team. The team does have a lot of potential on paper with the addition of Taco to the team. However, the playoffs will be their first true test as they look to get North America in the finals of the tournament.
The SK Gaming roster has seen changes to the team and the lack of results. They had a poor performance at IEM Sydney 2018 where they were unable to make it past the groups. However, it was their opposition quality which definitely surprises us as they lost to relatively unknown teams. So far in the Pro League finals, they had a close overtime win against Ninjas in Pyjamas. They barely made it past Optic Gaming in the lower bracket.
The team is still changing things around on their roster which includes Fallen and Coldzera taking turns in shot-calling on the team. While Fallen leads the team on certain maps, it is Coldzera on some others. What is interesting in this setup is the different playstyles involving the two IGLs. While Fallen prefers a strict playstyle, Coldzera lets the players loose. So Fallen wants to base it on the team chemistry and synergy while Coldzera wants to use their firepower and not much else. Ofcourse the two playstyles are quite different from each other and it is unsure how the rest of the team adapts to these different styles.
SK Gaming does not look strong right now and they should not be able to make it past Faze Clan in the quarterfinals. But we have seen bigger surprises involving the two teams. SK Gaming play against Faze Clan on May 18th, 1600 PDT at Verizon Theatre.
One of the biggest favorites coming into this tournament, the international roster has already garnered a lot of fans. We can see the huge support for the team on social media as well as live at the venues. The audience was definitely supportive of Faze Clan at IEM Sydney. Faze Clan won their first International CS GO tournament in 2018 at IEM Sydney despite being one of the best teams for a long time. Despite showing an impressive victory over Mousesports, Faze fell to Na’Vi. The match which resulted in a 2-0 loss for Faze was definitely a shock as the CIS roster did not have a one-man performance in Simple. The Faze Clan roster will see XIzt on the team yet again, but the team does look much stronger right now.
Xizt might not be on the same level as Olofmeister, but it seems he is the right kind of player that the team needs. He definitely stepped it up during the Overpass match in the finals, when it mattered the most. For the rest of the tournament at IEM Sydney, he has been a consistent player for the team.
Coming close on the heels of the IEM Sydney 2018 victory, Faze will be looking to add yet another tournament in their backpack. Each tournament holds more significance for the teams as we edge closer to the FaceIT London Major. Peaking at the right time could mean the biggest difference between a Major title holder or a runner-up in the tournament.
Facebook’s deal with ESL is definitely an unpopular one amongst the community. We are seeing extremely low viewership numbers in tunes of a few thousand live viewers. This is definitely unexpected, but Facebook and ESL will be working hard to develop the streaming platform and ensure it reaches the expected quality levels.
The lack of clips and inability to share crucial gameplay moments is definitely a big let-down for the fans. For now, however, you can also watch the stream via HLTV, or the ESL website. The first match of the quarterfinals begins with Team Liquid and Mousesports at May 18th, 1200 CDT.
Images are courtesy of HLTV.org