ELeague Major Round 1 Analysis & Predictions

Mike "Ragamuffin" Ciavarella January 11th 2017 5:25 PM

After the longest and most tumultuous wait between majors ever, the first round of action in Atlanta is only a few weeks away. In part one of this series, I break down the first round of matches with a full analysis of all 16 teams and my predictions for each map.

The first major of 2017, ELEAGUE, in Atlanta, GA is just a few weeks away. This is the longest Valve has waited between majors, and as a result, the landscape of CS:GO has dramatically shifted. Just to name a few examples: The defending champions SK have undergone a roster change due to internal conflict in the team; The runners-up, Liquid, lost their star player s1mple and have subsequently fallen off the radar in even the North American scene; semifinalists fnatic participated in a massive exchange of players, and have been a shadow of their once legendary selves ever since; and fnatic’s olofmeister and NaVi’s Guardian, the 2 unanimous best players of 2015, both suffered injuries requiring time away from the game. This chaos, combined with both the strongest class of challengers ever seen in a major and a swiss format that guarantees each team 3 maps, is all but assured to lead to many electrifying matches.

In the first of this series of articles, I will look at the first 8 matchups. The first round pits a legend (left) against a challenger (right) in each game. In addition to summarizing each team’s current form going into the major, I will give my prediction as to who will take the map. I’ll also keep a tally of my record throughout each round to see how good or bad my predictions were (which I’m sure I will regret come February)! Let’s dive into it.

GambitRoster for Gambit

Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev
Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko
Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov
Rustem "mou" Telepov
Abay "hObbit" Khasenov
<  NORTHRoster for NORTH

René "cajunb" Borg
Mathias "MSl" Lauridsen
Emil "magiskb0y" Reif
Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke
Philip "aizy" Aistrup

Gambit was one of the surprises of the last major for many, particularly in the way they became legends. The Russian – Kazakh mix was put into a relatively easy group in the qualifier, where they stomped a struggling Cloud9 team to make it through to the major. Then at Cologne, they played and won a close map against CLG, who was using their coach, pita, as a stand in. After such a close game against a weak opponent, many thought they would have no shot against Astralis – but they were wrong. Gambit made it look easy against the top seed of the group in a 16-5 romp to assure their legend status for ELEAGUE. The team has only gotten stronger since then, parting ways with veteran IGL hooch and fragger spaze to make room for Zeus, the longtime leader for NaVi, and Hobbit, a breakout player of 2016 on loan from Tengri. They will be riding high into Atlanta off a Dreamhack Winter win back in November.

Unfortunately for Gambit, they run into one of the strongest challengers in this tournament in the first round, and in fact the only team from their last major group that they did not play. The newly minted team North was signed by Copenhagen FC in a blockbuster deal at the beginning of the new year. The Danish soccer club has good reason to be interested in them. MSL has led this team to the most meteoric rise of a team since the last major, ranking them at #2 for some part of the year. He had a lot of help from 2 other breakout players, magiskb0y and k0nfig, who seemingly came out of nowhere this year to consistently dominate other teams. The roster is rounded out well by role-player Rubino and veteran off-AWPer cajunb. Given both these teams’ form recently, it’s going to be a close matchup, but I’m giving the edge to North because their lineup looks a bit more lethal.

fnaticRoster for fnatic

Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer
Dennis "dennis" Edman
Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson
Robin "flusha" Rönnquist
Jesper "JW" Wecksell
 >  G2Roster for G2

Richard "shox" Papillon
Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux
Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro
Dan "apEX" Madesclaire
Kenny "KennyS" Schrub
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt

If the last section was about two teams on the rise, this next one will be the exact opposite. As I mentioned in the intro, fnatic overwent a massive roster swap with fellow Swedish team GODSENT which ultimately saw flusha and JW get traded for twist and wenton. They wound up dropping wenton for young talent disco doplan. The results have not been pretty for them. Olofmeister has been a shadow of his former self after his hand injury, and disco doplan’s performance has tanked ever since joining the big leagues. Only at the beginning of 2017 has the team started to have some semblance of their old selves.

The only saving grace fnatic have right now is the state of the French CS scene. G2 has been on a rollercoaster since they lost to fnatic at the last major. They have been ranked as high as #2 as well as outside the top 10 in a 6 month span. Just when things were looking up, as shox and ScreaM were getting their mojo back and bodyy was adapting to high level play, a French roster shuffle was announced for after this major that left Scream and RpK out in the cold. Teams have been known to have last hurrah moments in big tournaments [See: s1mple carrying Liquid to the Cologne 2016 finals], but given the alleged behind-the-scenes dealings that led to this superteam being formed, this may not be one of them. With fnatic actually looking decent in the new year, G2 will need full support for Scream and Rpk to get a W from this, and I cannot see that happening in a post-superteam world. After fnatic stomped G2 this week in the Dreamhack qualifier, the Swedes get the clear edge in this one.

SKRoster for SK

Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo
Fernando "fer" Alvarenga
Marcelo "coldzera" David
Epitacio "TACO" de Melo
Joao "felps" Vasconcellos
  HellRaisersRoster for HellRaisers

Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow
Vladyslav "bondik" Nechyporchuk
Martin "STYKO" Styk
Partik "Zero" Žúdel
Bence "DeadFox" Böröcz

The two-time defending major champions are in a bit of a rut as of this past Autumn. Due to some internal conflict in the team (there are rumors of fnx flirting with coldzera’s girlfriend), fnx and the team agreed to part ways. With the major qualifier occurring only a month ago, there was not enough time between the events to poach a player from Immortals. So SK decided to go with another Portuguese speaker, fox, as their stand-in. Even though he is a skilled AWPer, FalleN is better, so it remains to be seen how he is going to fit into this team’s style of play. One thing they can count on though is the fragging power of coldzera, currently the best player in the world and the MVP of ESL One Cologne. With him on the team, any match is winnable.

HellRaisers are a team who also made a roster change recently, but in contrast, the new player has had an extremely positive impact almost immediately. DeadFox wasted no time slotting into this lineup and is the highest rated player on the team (currently at 1.08). He was a huge factor in their wins over NiP and Cloud9 that ultimately qualified them for the major. This lineup would be intimidating under normal circumstances – but this is a major. This is the easiest matchup to predict, because even with a stand-in, SK should be able to dominate HellRaisers in this one. Nobody on HR can match up to coldzera or Fallen and they will probably be unstoppable in this game.

Virtus.proRoster for Virtus.pro

Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas
Filip "NEO" Kubski
Jarosław "pasha" Jarząbkowski
Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski
Paweł "byali" Bieliński
 > OpTicRoster for OpTic

Will "RUSH" Wierzba
Óscar "mixwell" Cañellas
Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz
Keith "NAF" Markovic
Tarik "tarik" Celik
Spencer "Hiko" Martin

If you can only catch one of the matches in the opening round, this matchup between the ELEAGUE Season 1 and 2 winners, respectively, would probably be the most exciting to watch. The legendary Polish team Virtus.pro made it to the semifinals at Cologne, and they might be the only lineup that hasn’t changed since then. Their results have been pretty good since the major – An ELEAGUE Season 1 win, a win at Dreamhack Bucharest, a finals loss in overtime to NaVi at ESL One New York, and a finals loss to dignitas (now North) at Epicenter: Moscow. Snax has been unbelievable this year and will probably be in the list of top 5 players of 2016, but don’t discount the dedication other players have put in. TaZ is as good a leader as anyone in the game, Neo is a legend that can go off at any time, and byali is, despite recent events, an extremely consistent fragger who probably just missed out on the top 20 this year. What’s more is that VP have not played a match in 2 months, giving them the element of surprise going into this one.

Meanwhile, OpTic has had a brilliant run since mixwell and tarik joined the team. I’ve written before about how much the Spainard has meant to OpTic, but tarik is the mastermind for this team and an equal part of what makes them so good. Couple those two with the emerging star fragger RUSH, and you have the guts of the #3 team in the world. Their surprise ELEAGUE Season 2 win cemented their status as the best team in North America and a team to look out for in any major tournament. The last time these two met, VP won 16-14 at ESL One New York, and I expect this game to be just as close. I’m picking VP to win because they have so much more experience at majors than OpTic, and these days, the old guys live for major tournaments.

Natus VincereRoster for Natus Vincere

Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev
Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács
Denis "seized" Kostin
Egor "flamie" Vasilyev
Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev
 >  mousesportsRoster for mousesports

Chris "ChrisJ" de Jong
Nicola "NiKo" Kovač
Christian "loWel" Garcia Antoran
Timo "Spidii" Richter
Denis "denis" Howell

While NaVi's current #9 ranking might not show it, they are one of the frontrunners to win this tournament. After dropping Zeus and picking up s1mple, one of the top 5 players of 2016, this lineup has more firepower than any other team. They showcased this at ESL One New York, where the CIS team beat their longtime Polish rivals Virtus.pro in 3 grueling maps. GuardiaN is slowly returning to form after his wrist injury, and Edward has taken more of a support role since Zeus left, but both of these players have the potential to explode in a big tournament like this. And always watch out for flamie, who was still in the top 20 players of 2016 despite his recent performances. If NaVi can again show that their strategy making has not suffered since their old leader's departure, they have a great shot to make at least another semifinal appearance.

Mouseports qualified for this major somewhat easier than most people expected. After getting schooled by HellRaisers on their first map, the Euro mix team completely dominated Spirit, Tyloo, and Immortals in succession. A huge reason for this is their new pickup Lowel, who was one of the highest rated players on the team in each map they played. Pairing him with NiKo should make a team deadly on paper, especially given how efficient the Bosnian is during group stages. But after having a hot start to 2016, NiKo has cooled off considerably – it remains to be seen which version of him will show up at this major. Unfortunately for mouz, no matter which version of Niko shows up, they aren’t going to win this matchup. NaVi is s1mply the better team in every facet of the game. Unless ChrisJ can mastermind a perfect anti strategy, mouz are down to 0-1 quickly in Atlanta.

LiquidRoster for Liquid

Nick "nitr0" Cannella
Josh "jdm64" Marzano
Jonathan "EliGe" Jablonowski
Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz
 <  EnVyUsRoster for EnVyUs

Christophe "SIXER" Xia
Kenny "KennyS" Schrub
Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt
Dan "apEX" Madesclaire
Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer
Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom
Cédric "RpK" Guipouy

No one has fallen off the radar more since the last major than Liquid. When s1mple went back to Ukraine, he took a huge part of the team with him. Replacement Danish player Pimp has been good but not great in his attempt to fill s1mple's shoes - he is capable of dominant performances but they come on an extremely inconsistent basis. This difference in the team shows in their recent events. Liquid has struggled in a serious way in the latter part of 2016. They made the semifinals on their home turf at ESL One New York, only able to beat Tyloo and Immortals - and that's probably their best performance.  They missed qualification for ELeague Season 2 and bombed out of both Northern Arena and IEM Oakland. The potential in this team is still there - Elige was one of the best players in the first half of 2016, jdm was the best AWPer in North America for a while, and nitro is a solid entry fragger. Hiko needs to bring out the best in his team again and find a way to rally for this major, because if he can't, that potential will be wasted and Liquid will be out the door in 3 maps.

EnVyUs has also looked inconsistent, but at least they have a few more things going for them. After a bizarre run with DEVIL which saw them ostracize and ultimately kick the young Frenchman from the team, they picked up SIXER who is not spectacular but is at least an acceptable replacement. Some other positives - NBK has never been hungrier for a major title and will be whipping his team into shape in the next couple of weeks, and KennyS has returned to his 2015 form and has one of the strongest AWPs in the game right now. However, Happy is in the worst form of his career (0.98 rating over the last 3 months), and after the French shuffle announcement which saw him left out of the superteam, I cannot see him playing well at all in this major. That will be a hurdle EnVyUs have to overcome if they want to make it out of groups. As for this match though, NV looks to be in better shape, and unless Liquid has been creating God-tier strats in the past 2 months, they should take this match easily.

AstralisRoster for Astralis

Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth
Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen
Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander
Nicolai "device" Reedtz
Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye

Markus "pronax" Wallsten
Andreas "znajder" Lindberg
Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson
Simon "twist" Eliasson
Joakim "disco doplan" Gidetun

All eyes will be on the #1 team in the world when play begins in Atlanta. Astralis had a rollercoaster of a year, falling as low as #15 in the world, but had an incredible 2 months of play to get them back to the #1 spot. Device, dupreeh, and, after a rough start, kjaerbye are all fragging hard. But Gla1ve has given this team a sense of direction and is the big reason why they are on the top of the world. Astralis is riding high off a recent ECS Finals win, avenging their loss to OpTic at ELeague Season 2 Finals with a clear 2:0 victory. This team has been known to choke at major tournaments – they notably finished 2nd in their group at Cologne and were eliminated in the quarterfinals – but a less stringent Swiss format should give them some leeway at this tournament.

Despite performing extremely well at the end of 2016, GODSENT was the surprise of the major qualifier, walking through the competition to be one of the first teams to move on to the major. JW’s AWP is back and as unpredictable as ever, and the team has been using it to great effect. Pronax knows that it is a staple of any team JW is on and centers some strategies around the surprise aggression. Flusha is also in similar form to 2015 when he won multiple majors with the old fnatic roster. Even Lekr0 shows potential to someday be a superstar by consistently logging positive maps against top teams. GODSENT has a pretty good shot of making it to the knockout stages, but getting to double digits against this Astralis roster will be a great accomplishment for the first round. When these teams met two months ago in ECS, Astralis dominated the Swedes 16-3, 16-7. Expect a repeat, one-sided performance at the major.

Flipsid3 TacticsRoster for Flipsid3 Tactics

Yegor "markeloff" Markelov
Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy
Georgi "WorldEdit" Yaskin
Jan "wayLander" Rahkonen
Denis "electronic" Sharipov
< FaZe ClanRoster for FaZe Clan

Finn "karrigan" Andersen
Aleksi "allu" Jalli
Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey
Håvard "rain" Nygaard
Nicola "NiKo" Kovač

Markeloff is one of the most veteran players in CS:GO, having won multiple titles with the old NaVi lineup in CS 1.6 as a deadly AWPer. His experience is invaluable at big major tournaments, but these days, he prefers to leave the fragging to his teammates. One particular standout is WorldEdit, a frankly underrated AWPer himself. The Russian is sitting at an insane 1.18 rating over the last 3 months and is capable of controlling any map. Other teammates include electronic, who has been consistently above average in his matches, and wayLander, who had a tough time after first joining the team but has shown significant improvement in the Fall. Flipsid3 is underrated (again) at the major, so watch for them to pull off some “upsets” and turn some heads.

Since its inception, FaZe’s roster has been a revolving door of fraggers who could out aim opponents but never had a solid set of tactics to follow. Karrigan gave them those tactics when he joined the team and completely transformed them into legitimate title contenders. The Euro mix not only has rain, the best player from Norway, but a former major winner in Kioshima and another underrated AWPer in allu. They had a close match in qualifying against Cloud9 but otherwise stomped the rest of the competition to get through without a loss. In this particular match, it will be exciting to see two 1.6 legends in markeloff and karrigan face off against each other, and the AWP duel between WorldEdit and allu will be equally as exciting. FaZe gets the advantage because their riflers are a step above F3’s. FaZe should win this map with somewhere around a 16-10 scoreline.

comments powered by Disqus

About Me

Ragamuffin is a Counter-Strike expert who has been following the competitive CS scene since 2004. He has a passion for competitive CS:GO and a severe inability to play it. He is also a computer engineer by day.

Find & follow me on: