ESL One Cologne is full of ‘BIG’ Upsets, a look at the Grand finals

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The penultimate day at ESL One Cologne 2018 was supposed to be two teams just going through the motions. Astralis and Faze Clan were the heavy favorites to win their respective semifinal matches and face off in the finals. It would have been a perfect ending to the tournament irrespective of the final winner. Astralis & Faze are the two most dominant teams in the CS GO Scene right now. They are competing for the Intel Grand Slam which would be a feather in their hat.

But alas, the penultimate day saw both the teams lose their matches 1-2. It was truly shocking, but there was little luck involved in the outcome of these matches. Let’s take a look at what happened because just looking at the scoreline is not enough.

Astralis could not handle S1mple and Electronic

Astralis is the best Counter-Strike team in the world. Despite being out in the semifinals, they are still way ahead of the competition. So what happened in their semifinal match against Natus Vincere?

It was a combination of various factors and key amongst them was Device being average. It is rare to see Nicolai being ‘average’ in Counter-Strike, but yesterday was just one of those days. We rarely saw a S1mple vs Device battle take place simply because of the positioning and the playstyles of the two teams. However, S1mple had a much more impactful series than Device, especially in clutch situations. His frags had a bigger impact in most of the situations which led his team to secure crucial rounds.

Overpass

Na’Vi took the game to Astralis on Overpass. Astralis is widely believed to be one of the best teams on Overpass. Teams generally tend to give them a lot of respect. In other words, Astralis have a lot of freedom for their movement across the map. This gives them valuable information as well as very quick rotations whenever needed.

Na’Vi had a stellar T side with 9 rounds at the end of the half. Astralis is seldom forced to win so many rounds on their T side in order to win the map. The Danish squad won both the pistol rounds and a subsequent couple of rounds. That is a 6-0 lead right there for the Danish squad, but they were just unable to match Na’Vi in the gun rounds. Zeus had some great tactical reads and Na’Vi were able to capitalize on his accurate reading of Astralis’ gameplan.

Nuke

Astralis picked Nuke for their second map, a choice which Na’Vi usually bans in most of their vetoes. But with Na’Vi’s limited and predictable map veto, they had to ban Cache. Nuke was a very one-sided affair as Astralis never lost control of the map. They had some really precise executions. They knew the timings of smokes and movement through the map so kills through smokes were not an uncommon phenomenon. Astralis were 8-0 at one point in time, which just showed how clueless Na’Vi were on this map.

Securing 10 rounds on the T side would essentially mean a won for any team on Nuke. But Astralis exerted their dominance on their CT side as well. Na’Vi never really stood a chance on this map and Zeus’ leadership on this map seemed lackluster. However, this was not a big deal since Na’Vi still had the third map to fall back on. Astralis won this map 16-6 and were in control right from the beginning

Inferno

Counter-Strike BO3 series in important tournaments always seem to end up on Inferno as the third map. As fitting it might be for the teams to play Inferno, there was a lot riding on this match. For Na’Vi defeating the world’s best team would be an achievement a testimony to their progress over the past few months. For Astralis it would secure their Intel Grand Slam.

Inferno started off with a lot of back and forth between the two teams who were trading rounds. However, towards the end of the first half, Na’Vi was able to extend their lead over Astralis. Winning the last five consecutive rounds of their T half helped Na’Vi end the first half with a 10-5 scoreline. Having 10 rounds on their T side definitely provides a lot more room for flexibility on part of Na’Vi.

While Astralis might have prepared for S1mple and Electronic, they were simply not ready for Zeus. The In-Game Leader has not had many matches where he pops off, but yesterday was an exception. He was the player with the most kills at 31 frags. He was able to shut down Xyp9x and Magisk repeatedly. If we look at the individual kills he got off Xyp9x, it was a 10-1. This means that while Zeus killed Xyp9x 10 times, Xyp9x was only able to return the favor once.

Na’Vi was able to upset one of the best and dominant teams in Counter strike. The CIS Squad has been improving steadily over the past few months. With S1mple being in the form he is, and Electronic definitely turning up in the past few events, Na’Vi does look like a scary team. They have one of the best In Game Leaders in Zeus on the roster and he is definitely aiming to secure Na’Vi a Major victory.

The Home Crowd advantage? Faze at the receiving end once again!

The next semi-final was supposed to not be as exciting as the first. But if anything, BIG Gaming proved their invitation to ESL One Cologne was not a PR stunt. The team which has not really had the best of results lately has definitely stepped up this tournament. They already eliminated teams such as MiBr and G2 esports. However, their match against Faze Clan was one of the best and more entertaining matches of Counter-Strike in a long time.

Faze Clan was the unopposed favorites to win their match against BIG Gaming. After all, BIG does not really have much to show for themselves in terms of results. There were also analysts predicting that BIG would be ‘banged’ in the semifinals.

The three maps for this series were Dust 2, Train and Inferno. BIG picked Dust 2 while Faze Clan picked Train as their map.

Dust 2

Dust 2 started off like most of the people had predicted; with a dominant Faze Clan performance. They ended up having 11 rounds on their CT side effectively crushing the home crowd’s dreams and support. The second half started with Faze Clan winning the pistol round, in what seemed to be the last straw for BIG on the map. But one thing that we have learnt about BIG is that they have never given up. They continued to play for the win and managed to get the map to Overtime.

The momentum clearly in their favor, it would not be unexpected for them to win the map. Nex and Tabsen led the way for the Germans as they were able to hold off Astralis irrespective of what was thrown at them. Karrigan would often be at his wit’s end and just call out a plain and simple B rush. Of course BIG were always ready for any push and they easily stalled Faze Clan.

However, they were not so lucky in Overtime which is when Faze Clan took the map 19-17. Despite Faze Clan winning the map, BIG was clearly in charge of the momentum. Moments like Niko being knifed didn’t help the players’ mentality either.

Train

‘Train’ was Faze Clan’s map pick, a pick that baffled many analysts and the desk hosts. While Faze is a decent team on Train, picking Train against BIG seems to be a very risky move. This is especially since Gob B has a great mind on Train, and his read of Faze Clan on the map proved to be lethal for Faze’s chances of moving forth in the tournament.

BIG started Train with a strong 6-1 lead on their CT side. However, it was far from over since Trian is a map where one side can dominate only to be leveled up later. Faze Clan bounced back and actually won the half with a 9-6 scoreline. As we head into the final 15 rounds for the map, it was a tussle between the two teams. One round, in particular, would have been the make or break round for either team. Big was playing with a substandard buy, yet they managed to win the round following some epic performance by Smooya. The British player has definitely earned a name for himself at Cologne with some really strong AWP performances. BIG was able to mentally break the Faze Clan defense and you could see the frustration written large on Niko’s face.

Despite Cromen’s heroic attempts, including an Ace in a full buy, BIG was able to take the map in a thrilling comeback once again. The match went to Inferno as the decider, a map which heavily favored Faze Clan according to statistics.

Inferno

By the third map, Faze Clan looked defeated and had little to no impact on the outcome of the match. BIG was in control of the map since the beginning, and this was surprising since Faze is a very good Inferno team. Gob B had some amazing calls including B stacks and some amazing individual clutches. Of course being as ahead as they were, the site stacks made a lot more sense for the team.

The series came to a tepid end as Inferno proved to be too much for Faze to handle. Their dreams of winning the Intel Grand Slam were shut down by BIG.

ESL Cologne has never had a home team to cheer for. This is partly because none of the German teams have ever been strong enough to compete for the title. Till the start of Cologne, this would have been true for 2018 as well. But with BIG performing the way they are, and Na’Vi spurred by a rare Zeus performance, Cologne might just see their first German team winning the trophy.

The Grand Finals of ESL One Cologne

The Grand finals of ESL One cologne is a Best of Five affairs. The two teams have toiled their way onto the finals after defeating some of the stronger teams in Counter-Strike. The Finals will be exciting, especially since BIG know the veto for Na’Vi. The CIS team has been consistent in banning Cache in their matches, which leaves the fate of the map pool to BIG Gaming. BIG have also been removing Mirage as their standard veto.

Assuming the teams would continue with their standard vetoes, the map pool for the finals is as follows ( not necessarily in that order)

  • Dust 2
  • Inferno
  • Train
  • Overpass
  • Nuke

Since mirage is the best map for Na’Vi by far, BIG’s veto is much more impactful than that of Na’Vi. The teams are pretty good on Inferno and Overpass. These two maps will be very close for the teams.

Source: ESL

However, when it comes to Train, Na’Vi holds the clear advantage. They have won nearly 90% of their matches on Train in the past three months. This dominance on Train is, however, balanced by the absence of any matches on Dust 2. We know BIG feels very comfortable on Dust 2 as their map pick, so we expect BIG to pick dust 2 very early in the veto. This would provide them with a headstart in the series, one that can prove to be a momentum builder.

The fact that the series is a Best of Five series is what makes this match more exciting. Both the teams know the map pool and they will prepare accordingly. This match will be a test of the two accomplished In Game Leaders. Gob B and Zeus have displayed tremendous individual as well as leadership qualities in this tournament. Can they keep it up in the finals?

You can watch the finals live on the ESL website at 16:00 CEST.


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