Yes, yes, it’s been too long since I’ve written on the Shield. I’ve prepared some excuses. Junior year sucks; I started watching Game of Thrones; I’ve been fighting this terrible disease called laziness; I get distracted easily; et cetera. Speaking of getting distracted, last week, which was our midterm week, was also the week of the Counter Strike ELEAGUE Major Championship. This was the second Major in America and broke multiple viewing records throughout the week, with a peak of 1.1 million viewers on the streaming service Twitch. It was also by far one of the most contested major championships in CS history, with many underdog wins and shocking losses. Here’s a quick recap on the ELEAGUE Major Championship in Atlanta.
The ELEAGUE Major began with 8 Legend teams, who had been in the top 8 of the last Major Championship, and 8 Challenger teams, who had gone through Major Qualifiers to make it to Atlanta. At a glance, this seems to be a reasonable system, but has proven to be pretty unreliable in trying to procure the best teams in the world. The Legends coming into this Major seemed questionable: although they placed in the top 8 of the last Major, that Major was over half a year ago. That’s a pretty long time in professional Counter Strike. In half a year, top level teams can make drastic changes and drop off in skill level severely. Perhaps the most questionable Legend was Fnatic, who had had a huge roster shuffle later in 2016 and dropped off in form quite a bit. The only reason they maintained Legend status and qualification for the Major because they kept three of the five players who had placed in the top 8 of the last Major Championship. Another questionable team was Team Liquid, who had a miracle run to the grand finals last Major largely due to a Ukrainian player named s1mple managing a ridiculous performance throughout the tournament. In between the last Major and this most recent one, s1mple left the Liquid roster to join Na’Vi, and the rest of the team has been somewhat in shambles. The last questionable Legend was Flipsid3 Tactics, who squeaked out of the group stages of the last Major through a major upset (no pun intended) and have been far from the level of Legend for a long time.
In addition to all of that, most teams looked to be in poor form going into the Major. SK Gaming recently dropped one of their most reliable players, fnx, and had to pick up an unreliable fifth player in the form of fox. fox has been in the pro scene for a while, his most recent top level-team being the old G2/Faze lineup around a year or so ago. He is not a player you would ever see being picked up on a top-tier team unless in dire emergency, which SK definitely was. SK played with him in the ECS Season 2 Finals and bombed out hard against Astralis in the semis, losing the series 0-2 against them with a total of 13 rounds between the two maps. This was a disappointing result leading up to the Major for SK, who had won the last two CS Major Championships and a slew of other tournaments as well. Also looking not so bueno was Fnatic, who had a catastrophic roster change and lost almost all of their team chemistry leading up to the Major. Na’Vi looked extremely promising with some of the best players in the world in the form of Guardian, their sniper, and the aforementioned s1mple, but seemed to fall off of the face of the earth after going out in the group stage play 0-2 of the StarLadder StarSeries Season 2 Finals. Virtus Pro looked to be in somewhat good form, but had a disappointing 0-2 loss against Kinguin, an extremely low-ranked team, in the semis of the WESG World Finals. The only team that looked very strong and seemed to be the favorite was Astralis, who had recently won at the ECS Season 2 Finals.
Knowing all of this, I had almost no idea what was going to happen in this tournament. There were so many questions! Most teams had not played a real match in a few weeks’ time, so I had no idea what their recent form was like. Fortunately, I was not disappointed on Day 1 of the Major. In all honesty, I spent more time watching the Major than studying for my Calculus exam the next day. There were upsets left and right, multiple overtimes, and ridiculous plays in every single game, even in the games with the two worst teams, Flipsid3 and HellRaisers. At the end of the group stage play, Na’Vi stunned everyone by going 3-0 to qualify for the playoffs, beating the formidable SK Gaming roster 16-3 on Dust 2 in the process. Virtus Pro also came out 3-0 after some close matches against the likes of Optic Gaming, G2 Esports, and Gambit Esports. The two biggest surprises were Fnatic and Gambit Esports, who both came into the tournament in unexpectedly good form and qualified for the playoffs with a 3-1 scoreline. SK also qualified for the playoffs with a respectable 3-1 record. Amongst the shockers were the teams that barely qualified and went 3-2, being Astralis, North and FaZe Clan. FaZe was not as big of a surprise, but Astralis was a favorite to win the whole tournament and barely even qualified for the quarterfinals after losing to GODSENT horribly on Train in their first map. North, too, was considered a top-tier team but had lost their first two games in a row, digging a ditch that they could only get out of by winning their next three games in a row. They somehow were able to do this, barely eeking out a win against GODSENT on Overpass by winning 19-17 in overtime. As for those who did not qualify, the majority of them were not projected to do so. However, there were a few surprises. I was somewhat confident that the French roster of G2 Esports would be able to qualify, but went out 1-3 after losing against the two future finalists of the tournament, VP and Astralis, and North as well. Optic also faced VP and Astralis, but unfortunately lost in very close fashion to both and were blown out of the water unexpectedly by GODSENT. It wasn’t surprising, but Team Liquid, the only North American team with a chance left to qualify for the playoffs, unfortunately got destroyed by Astralis in their last game of the tournament by losing 3-16 on Mirage.
Overall, the group stages were exceptionally fun to watch and produced some of the best CS I’ve seen in a while. Next issue, I’ll give you guys a quick recap of the playoffs of the ELEAGUE Major Championship, but for now, I’ve got an AP Bio test to study for. See ya!