SK Gaming began 2017 as one of the top teams competing at the Eleague Major 2017. The Eleague Major was the first premier tournament of 2017 and the CS GO leaderboards were quite different than what we see today. With Virtus Pro in spectacular form at the start of the year; SK, Astralis and Virtus Pro formed the top teams in the scene.The Poles were always able to come out victorious against SK Gaming in the playoffs of multiple premier tournaments. SK Gaming simply had no answer to Virtus Plow as amazing individual performances from Pasha, NEO saw Virtus Pro to victory. Often times it was Virtus Pro that stood between SK and the trophy.
The first tournament of 2017 was the Eleague Major held in Atlanta. The Eleague Major used a Swiss format which was the norm for most of the premier tournaments in 2017. Making their way through the group stage, SK Gaming reached the semifinals of the Major where they had to face Virtus Pro. It was a close series, but Virtus Pro eventually won the series 2-0. Both the maps went the distance of 30 rounds but Virtus Pro had the resilience and the patience to see themselves through to victory.
The storyline repeated itself in the next tournament with the Dreamhack Masters Las Vegas 2017. The tournament which saw poor public attendance due to its remote location crowned Virtus Pro as the eventual winners. SK Gaming had a strong finish at the tournament reaching the finals before losing out to Virtus Pro. The team looked strong and definitely a favorite for future tournaments in their current form. But this loss sparked a decline in their performance as they were unable to replicate the same form for some time.
They got knocked out in the group stage of IEM World Championships XI & Starladder I League StarSeries Season 3.This was a period of turmoil within the team and it was clearly evident in their results. Several players have mentioned in interviews about internal problems within the team during this time period. The team fell into a slump, one which seemed to complicate matters for the team going forward.
The rebound of the Brazilians
Following these two losses, however, SK came back strong in the subsequent tournaments with victories. They won their next three tournaments / league titles with considerable ease. Most of these tournaments however were against only North American teams. With the absence of their former rivals in Astralis and Virtus Pro in some of these tournaments, SK had a easy route to the trophy.Tournaments such as the cs_summit, Subaru Invitational, IEM Sydney SK Gaming did not feature strong teams amongst their attendees. The tournament wins were marred by the quality of opposition, which definitely puts a rider on the quality of these matches. SK Gaming, however were consistently good in their performances upto the next major. They won Dreamhack Open Summer 2017, ESL One Cologne 2017 as well as ECS S3 Championship Finals. Coming into the next major, SK were one of the favorites to win the tournament.
The PGL Krakow Major brought out several problems with the Swiss system. With most of the top teams being matched against each other as early as the quarterfinals, we saw SK Gaming & North being eliminated early in the tournament. In retrospect, these two teams were definitely not the worst amongst the eight quarter finalists. But the Swiss system rewards underdogs and we eventually saw a Gambit vs Immortals finals in the Major.
Post PGL Krakow 2017 – The Slump
The period following the major saw a player break with several of the teams undergoing roster changes. When the former NaVi roster lost Guardian and the new Faze superstar roster came into existence, the CS GO landscape changed in a big way. SK Gaming lost their touch in the meantime and they ended up with really poor results in the next few weeks. The lack of results definitely haunted the team as they decided something needed to change within the roster. The Immortals – kngv drama and the team breaking up proved to be a boon for SK Gaming. They were able to secure Boltz on Loan from Immortals to help bolster their roster. With Boltz on the roster, SK Gaming look to reclaim much of their lost glory. They have already won several tournaments with Boltz and are looking strong for the No.1 rank in CS GO.
SK will not practice with Felps
SK will play with Felps at the Eleague 2018 major. This puts them at a big disadvantage, since most of their recent practice sessions and tournaments have been played with Boltz. The roster lock rules which prevent SK Gaming from using Boltz at the major means that the team will be playing with Felps going into Eleague Major.
The team has already announced that they will only be practising with Boltz and not with Felps. This puts into question their preparedness for the upcoming Major and whether they will be providing it their best. Some players from the team have mentioned the fact that Majors have lost their prestige along the way with bigger third party tournaments dominating the CSGO landscape.
The Major rules are outdated
The rules for the Major are outdated along with the aging Legend system. The rules mention that any players who competed in the minors or the Qualifiers to the minor cannot compete on a team that would participate in the major. Boltz had already played in the Immortals team for the Americas Minor. There is a huge time gap between the Minors and ultimately the Major. With Immortals team being forced to disband following the controversy surrounding three of their players, Boltz moved to SK gaming on loan. However this meant that SK Gaming were in violation of the ruleset and would not be able to play with Boltz on their Major roster.
Players that participated in a minor including the Americas Qualifier cannot change to any other team participating in the LAN qualifier or major in any capacity.
The Major takes place in January 2018, the online qualifiers for the Major took place as early as October 2017. A player who played for one team in the qualifiers cannot play for another team in the Major. In SK Gaming’s case, they were in a difficult situation since Boltz has already played in the online qualifiers for the Major. According to the rules, SK Gaming could not use Boltz on their team, which left them with Felps as the only option. The community has seen several players come out in support of SK Gaming during this time. They all want the best teams to play in the Major and experience the top level of Counter Strike. But that is not possible with the rules disallowing Boltz to play for SK Gaming.
Players demand changes in Valve rules
It is indeed rare to witness such an outburst on Social Media from multiple members of the SK Squad. Considered humble, the SK Gaming roster has always been positive towards the community , tournament organisers and Valve. However this time, they were quite outspoken in their demands that Valve and Eleague revise their rules for the special case of Boltz.
But enforcing the existing rules is as important as having rules in the first place. The actual validity and usefulness of the rules is a topic for another time. Maybe after this major, we will see a revision in rules regarding roster locks and player transfers from the minor to the majors.
SK were amazing with Felps
If we look past the poor performances towards the end of the SK roster with Felps, we actually see a championship team which won several titles. Indeed the core of SK Gaming has seen itself win in Eight LAN finals in 2017 and winning the majority of these finals. The trio of Felps, Fer and Coldzera provided a strong roster for SK Gaming.The roster changed player roles in order to accommodate the best interests of the team. However even at their worst, one could not easily discount SK Gaming from tournaments.
With Felps on the roster SK Gaming had a huge advantage over their opponents. The one team that was able to consistently challenge them before PGL Major was Astralis. Their loss at the Major was also due to Device playing out of his mind and countering Fallen very hard, especially on Overpass.
SK vs Astralis at PGL Krakow
As we can see Device was not only way above the rest of the players on the server, but his frags were impact kills. Shutting down Fallen, who is one of the best and important players on the SK roster put SK Gaming at a constant disadvantage. Device’s performance was beyond normal and definitely the biggest reason for Astralis’ 2-0 win against SK Gaming.
Roster lock issues are not a new phenomenon in CSGO. We have past examples in the form of Team Liquid who had to use Adren instead of Koosta at the MLG Columbus 2016 Offline Qualifier. Koosta had already played for another team in the qualifiers and this prevented him from playing for Liquid. Danish outfit Astralis had a similar issue at ESL One Cologne 2016, where the team was forced to field a substitute in Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander due to new recruit Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye being locked after competing at the minor qualifier with a different roster.
SK with Felps is a Major Contender
From winning continuous tournaments with Felps, SK were strong due to Felps providing them a trinity of aggressive fraggers. The team suffered due to Felps being unable to perform at the same level as when the year started out. With the other players on the team taking a back seat , this affected their team composition and their gameplay.
The player has maintained a consistent performance throughout the years. His kills were also huge impact kills and along with Fer, he provided a very strong performance for SK Gaming. With Coldzera transitioning into a very supportive role, a lot of the focus fell on Felps to deliver. When his individual performance struggled in the past few months, the team failed miserably.
The statistics might not be flattering for Felps in the last three months, but we can see how he has not fallen way below the average. SK’s high standards as a team means that they want to ensure the best possible roster always. They are not afraid to make roster changes just to be the best team. We have seen them win majors off a roster change in the past.
The ‘X factor’ is the fact that Coldzera is one of the best players on the big stage. His performance during Majors shines through in his career.
Other factors favoring SK
There are also several other factors helping SK Gaming in their Eleague Boston Major run. The top teams apart from SK right now are Faze and Astralis. There is a big chance that Device will not be playing for Astralis in the upcoming major. The Danish roster is a different version of themselves without Device. Since most of their gameplay is Device-centric, the absence of Device hurts them the most.
Faze on the other hand do have their full roster. But there is a mental block for the team especially when they are up against SK Gaming. SK recently won the ESL Pro League finals 2-1 against Faze Clan. This mental block of playing against SK definitely shows itself in the way Faze play cautiously against SK.
Coldzera and Fer form the core of SK Gaming’s Major runs. These two players perform above their normal selves especially when it comes to majors. Coldzera consistently outperforms himself during CSGO Majors, irrespective of his form prior to the Major. Fer will be able to resume his aggressive performance with a lot more freedom in the team. SK Gaming are not practicing with Felps and will be using Boltz to practice in January 2018. This means that Felps will have to acclimatize to his role as a replacement for Boltz with the same style and team roles. This provides a lot of freedom to Fer and Coldzera during the match.
While not favorites for the upcoming Major, SK Gaming have a lineup perfectly capable of winning the Major. With some of their rivals handicapped due to roster issues, SK Gaming come in as the most experienced team.
SK will not practice with Felps : https://cybersport.com/post/tacos
Eleague rule handbook : http://www.eleague.com/news/2016/11/9/eleague-major-roster-rules