Na’Vi and BIG Clan both pull momentumental upsets to reach the ESL One: Cologne Grand Finals

Monumental might be an understatement when considering the type of day Big Clan, the only German-native team, had at ESL One: Cologne. The team that some thought didn’t even earn the invite to this event are three map wins away from doing the unthinkable and winning the whole damn event. It all comes down to one huge game, in front of a massive crowd of rabid Counter-Strike fans in Germany.

The storylines coming out of this event, aside from an early exit from Team Liquid, were all focused on the insurgence of the German side. The former NRG team, headed by tabseN and gob b, who is looked at as influential leaders on BIG, were certainly not a popular pick to make a deep run. After losing early to Fnatic on day two, BIG came together and strung together a strong performance after another.

TabseN’s and nex went absolutely off in the win: a combined 155 kills, and a staggering +44 that ultimately sealed the deal for FaZe Clan and their hopes of winning the intel grand slam. On all three maps, these two players made it increasingly difficult on Rain to clutch out rounds, and they essentially shutdown Guardian, who was having a strong ESL before the loss. FaZe looked like the team to beat once again, but after gaining momentum in that the third and final map of the match, BIG Clan never slowed down. The 12-3 first half sealed any hopes of a FaZe win.

Who Wins the Finals?

Picking between these two teams is tough considering both are coming off emotional, upset wins. Both teams enter Sunday with an amazing sense of momentum at their backs, and it feels as if the intangibles will make the difference. Natus Vincere definitely has the experience advantage, but it’s going to be a full-house of German fans feverishly chanting for their new German heroes.

For Na’vi, it took all they had in them to get past the Dutch side, Astralis. Seeing Zeus pop-off on Inferno and Electronic play a consistent, frag-heavy game is the main reasons this team was able to pull it off. Astralis is going to overwhelm teams top-to-bottom, but with Simp1e playing, at arguably an MVP level all it takes is a few other Na’vi players to step up. That’s how this team got over the hump and have a serious chance of winning it all.

Now, despite all the hype surrounding BIG Clan, and the crowd support they’ll surely receive tomorrow, Na’vi has to be looked upon as the favorite. BIG Clan looked like the best team overall, but it’s tough to see them duplicating their peak performance like they did on map three against FaZe. If that team shows up, Na’vi’s in for a treat, but with Simp1e playing at his mind-blowingly strong level, it’s going to be tough to shut down that firepower.

Featured Image courtesy of ESL

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ESL One: Cologne Final Four: How We Got Here

Astralis, FaZe, BIG, and Natus Vincere. The Final four of ESL One: Cologne as the final two days of the event approaches. Two of these teams will be going home after today. The least likely to win will easily be played by BIG and Na’Vi, who both had surprising but strong runs all the way through to the semifinals.

Astralis

Let’s take a look back at the past week, Astralis has put up staggering numbers in their five map wins. Of the top five ranked players through the week, Astralis has three of the top five, according to HLTV. The Dutch team has managed to put a hurting on opponents with great accuracy numbers and a low death total. Dupreeh has the highest rating with a +41 kill to death ratio, but Ga1ve and Device have been just as instrumental to their fantastic start.

FaZe Clan

Overall, FaZe Clan strung together the strongest set of games from any time I spectated this week. The team as a whole dominated, but Rain’s sheer carrying mentality came through as he utterly outclassed teams in their six ESL One maps. A +46 K/D ratio and the highest accuracy of any player makes him a threat to win the MVP at Cologne. Guadrian’s also had big performances along with NIko, which is business as usual.

FaZe did drop a game to Fnatic, but outside of that, it’s been business as usual. Sights will be set on Astralis, as this game will serve as a trap game for both FaZe and Astralis. Overlooking these opponents could result in going home early.

BIG

BIG’s path to this point required some bracket luck and despite not finding a player within the top ten of player rating, they’re still playing well enough to pull off the upset. BIG enters the semifinals with a 7-4 record, dropping four maps this tournament. It’s been a hard fought road to this point for BIG. BIG dropped games against Fnatic, Renegades, and MIBR. The margins of victory for this team were narrow, going to overtime in an elimination TWO TIMES this tournament.

Na’Vi

Unlike BIG, Na’vi’s got a less balanced attack and been more reliant on S1mple being an absolute madman. S1imple’s been insane in his last few matches as Na’vi needed it to power through Fnatic in the quarterfinals and ENCE Esports earlier on in the bracket. Similarly to BIG, Na’vi journey had them lose to G2 in round one, and later pass that team that sent them to the losers bracket. If Na’vi gets anything from Edward and Zeus, Astralis could be in for some trouble.

Both players sit at a combined -30, but the rest of Na’Vi are a combined +197 kills so I’d say that evens out.

Prediction: Astralis over Na’vi, FaZe over BIG

Astralis> FaZe in the finals

Featured photo courtesy of reddit user Skaronator

Element Mystic Open the Overwatch Contenders Season with a Razor Thin Victory over Seven

Element Mystic opens up their second season of Overwatch Contenders pretty much the same way they started season one: winning with style. In a matchup between the two of the higher placing regular season teams in season one, Mystic Element got bigger performances and ended up taking the match by the thinnest of margins.

By no means was Seven overmatched at any point in the match, as they pushed the team who finished 18-2 last season. It took a ridiculous Widowmaker performance out of Xzi and the many intelligent plays from Doca on D.Va that led to this victory. Outside of those two, finding the right times to unveil Torbjörn on defense.

Both Numbani and Watchpoint: Gibraltar displayed a strong showing and understanding from Element Mystic on how to play Torbjörn. Rapel, who’s primarily a Zenyatta-main, and a very strong one at that, surprised everyone with his bait on Torb. Setting Xzi far behind on point A with Widow and playing the turret in the hallway allowed on the Numbani high-ground prevented any attempts at dive-pressure from D.va or Winston.

The Torbjörn pick was fun, but the heart of the Element Mystic lineup returns again to the presence of Repal, Doca, and Xzi. These three came through in a big way today. Each one contributing in diverse ways and adding value all over the map. In fact, Doca deserves the MVP for constantly moving and shooting. Doca was a pest on the Seven snipers all game.

However, it’s hard to say Xzi didn’t deserve the recognition for his insane Widowmaker plays. Doca essentially protected Xzi with strong frontline play, but Xzi wasn’t missing many shots onto squishy characters. In the Widowmaker duel category, Xzi had an overwhelming advantage in kills. And Overwatch being a team game means both players helped each other immensely.

Seven Come Back Strong

Yes, Seven would’ve preferred to start the season off with a win, but let\s remember how both these teams ended season one. Top three in the regular season only to fall quickly in the first round. Seven to Meta Bellum and Element Mystic to O2 Ardeont. Falling that early after a strong season can do irreversible damage to a team and leads to questioning a teams talent when it’s often times just one bad game. It’s good to see both teams come out firing.

For Seven, Fr3e gave Doca on the other side a run for his money in terms of overall team value. In losing situations for Seven when Xzi was getting picks, Fr3e was the one Seven player turning disadvantage situations with his ability to drop tons of damage. Mika (Mercy) and Adora (damage) also looked on point, but that wasn’t enough to stop the three-headed wrecking ball of Mystic Element.

Featured photo courtesy of GSL

Leenock with a strong showing as he qualifies for GSL Code S Round of 16

Leenock finished his day in impressive fashion over Dear after falling to Maru in the winner’s match of the group. The four straight wins over Dear in the group stages pushed him back into the round of 16 in a Code S. One of StarCraft 2’s most talented and dedicated individuals is looking like much more than just an average player. More performances similar to tonight will lead to a deep playoff run.

Now, Dear is absolutely no joke as a Protoss player. One of the few players to a royal road a Code S in GSL, and at one point in time the best player in the world. Leenock had his hands full with the matchup but still managed to win both sets quickly. Dear tried different things, working in some all-ins and more macro intensive strategies, but each time it was sniffed out by Leenock.

The first map, Leenock fell into a small deficit with Dear’s macro being so efficient, but once he noticed it, it only took a few effective baneling busts to flip the worker count heavily in Leenock’s favor. The metagame surrounding Protoss vs. Zerg is geared heavily towards constant pressure with Zergling run-by, Overlord drops and spreading out a Protoss army between three bases. Leenock did this to perfection on the map Lost and Found.

Taking out 28 workers with two baneling’s is quite the impressive feat. It was clear, that despite having somewhat of a lesser army, in terms of composition, Leenock still found ways to win with his harassment. It was essentially the perfect way to play Zerg in this matchup especially in more of a macro-game.

In the last game, Dear was feeling the immense pressure of losing four straight to Leenock. Entering that game it felt as if Dear’s spirit was broken and the proficient Zerg player completed the full-sweep holding a last-ditch charge all-in.  As the video entails, Leenock held strongly by taking out the warp prism early, shutting down any possibility of the attack working out.

It was a quick 2-0 of Dear and must have had the same effect of mouthwash: it got the bad taste of barely losing to Maru out of his mouth. If Leenock plays anything like he did today, he will make a deep playoff run in this season of Code S.

Featured Image courtesy of GSL

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Maru Sneaks by Leenock to move into GSL Code S Round of 16

Leenock looked dominant tonight up against the worlds best in Maru. As Artosis put on the broadcast, he looked like a god even in the loss and with a few minor adjustments, he walks away as the top dog in group B.

Let’s focus directly in on map three, a map that Leenock had the clear advantage for almost the entirety of the map. Maru simply outclassed him in some of the late game engagements, and with better handling of the hellion harassment early on, Maru is probably the won in losers.

Here’s the exact moment the match turned from Leenock’s favor over to Maru’s side. Two siege tanks parked on the high-ground, with Leenock not having an overlord or anything else to help spot those tanks. In all likelihood, if Leenock can spot those tanks sooner than it’s a complete wipe of Maru’s base.

However, that’s the brilliance of Maru. Fighting into the base like that gave Maru positional advantage. He will move on, as expected, to the round of 16. Leenock still has a serious chance of making it into the next round, but it will take a win over either Dear or Forte. Leenock already found success against Dear, and he showed his ability to fight against Terran so he seems to be the heavy favorite of moving on.

Featured image courtesy of GSL

GLL PUBG Season 2 European Finalist: Pittsburgh Knights Win Big

Season two of the Global Loot League has come to an end with a number of different regions qualifying for the Grand Finals in August. The North America season ended last night with Team Gates winning week six overall, but Totality placing first.  Europe’s finals ended this afternoon and the top seven teams have been decided:

GLL.jpg

The Pittsburgh Knights ended the tournament as the top squad, earning nearly five thousand points. The Knights also led the European division in overall kills with 147. The next three qualifying teams hovered around 4,100 using different approaches.  FaZe Clan finished second relying on aggressive pushing on enemy teams and fighting as much as possible. Team Vitality is a more patient group, winning round four in week six. Team Liquid understands how to place high without engaging better than anyone.

The next four teams to fill into those bottom four spots: Moonwolf in fifth (3,810 pts, 131 kills), Penta Esports in sixth (3,757 pts, 99 kills), and in the last qualifying spot Team Extra from Germany grab it wth a staggering 138 kills. Method missed out by a measly 48 points, meaning each one of those 138 Extra kills mattered in the end. G2 also missed out by a few hundred points. Razor thing margin up-and-down, with the Knights sperating themselves at the top.

 

The Real Winners of CEO 2018

Sure, Fujimura tore up the losers bracket and won an absolutely stacked Street Fighter V bracket or Kazunoko pulling off something similar in his win over Go1 on the Dragon Ball Fighter Z side. No, the real winner was us: the fans. We got quite the show at CEO 2018, including a literal wrestling match on Saturday that led into a bonkers Sunday and finishes to the tournament.

As a longtime patron of fighting game tournaments and events, Community Effort Orlando 2018 had a different feel to it. Yes, it’s always had the similar wrestling theme with the individual player intros for top eight, but this year seemed to have more pomp and pizzazz. On top of a ridiculously entertaining tournament, filled with many memorable endings, we also got what could honestly be considered one of the greatest moments in fighting game history.

Now, Infiltration’s always had this hilarious side to his personality dating back to his famous streams back when Street Fighter V was just released. His personality is infectious and that’s why he’s built such a loyal following alongside his incredible talent in Street Fighter. I can honestly say that I was in tears watching this intro. It’s not the only Infiltration, but the announcer’s reaction, Tasty Steve’s reaction, and the crowds all culminating together. A helluva moment that completely overshadowed Infiltrations performance.

On a side note, here’s a number of the most intense sets of the weekend. The most often talked about set of the entire weekend was easily the unbelievably close set between Go1 and Leffen in DBFZ. Hearing Yipes scream the top of his lungs, as the adrenaline from the match takes over is entertainment at it’s highest. Include Go1’s comeback’s in that set and it’s one for the hall of fame.

The next best match, maybe to the behest of Tekken fans who got a show in grand finals or SFV fans who saw a monster run from Fujimura to beat Xiaohai, but the set I’ll remember most is MKLeo somehow clutching out a win against Raito’s innovative Duck Hunt play. The use of the can and his projectile timings brought MKLeo to the brink, but in classic fashion, he adjusted in time to take a close set. However, it was not before putting on a show from the crowd favorite

Featured Image courtesy of CEO’s Official twitch page