MLG Columbus 2016: Preview
Posted 2016-03-28 Dare_Dev1L
Behold! On the 29th of March the biggest CS:GO Major to date arrives! Since the launch of CS:GO, there have been seven Majors played in total. What makes this the biggest one? This marks the first Major since Valve announced the changing of the prize pool to $1,000,000 for all future Valve-sponsored tournaments. For this preview, I’m going to present the teams and find out how they directly relate to or challenge Fnatic. The boys are attempting their 7th win in their impressive streak since the acquisition of Dennis “dennis” Edman, and their fourth Major title. The attendees will be split into two categories, the challengers and the hopefuls. I will discuss their position on the rankings and how they performed against Fnatic at LAN events. Let’s begin!
When the event on the line is a Major, it is hard to predict who exactly will perform when the time is right. A Major is where all teams bring their A game and upsets are most likely to happen, as well as dominating performances by teams with a lot of talent on their roster. As it stands, there are a lot of challengers that can tip the balance against Fnatic at this event, and I think it’s best to start this category off with the teams who qualified by being top eight at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca.
First up is Astralis, a team full of dreams and an organization built out of trust. The roster has now been together for quite some time since the roster changes between Philip "aizy" Aistrup and René 'cajunb' Borg, and the latest acquisition of Finn "karrigan" Andersen in December 2014. They are now a veteran lineup and they have proven that by co-founding Astralis after leaving the North American organization TSM a few months ago. Unfortunately, the only times they’ve seen gold was in their short spur in the summer of 2015. At Majors they have managed to become semi-final heroes over the past 3 years with variations of their current lineup, always managing to dominate in the group stages and then struggling in the quarter-finals and semi-finals, even when they were considered favorites or had a fantastic start of their matches. This actually started the legendary title of “chokers” at Majors since they were always “just this close” to becoming finalists or were favorites to win the entire thing but somehow managed to let go of their leads during the playoffs. As usual, Astralis will be here trying to break the curse that they’ve held on to for years and are looking for their first Major title. If there was ever a good time, it would be for a 1 million dollar prize pool. Unfortunately for them, the kryptonite they had over Fnatic stopped working in 2015 and they will need to bring back their old form to defeat Fnatic’s current form in the playoffs if they want to stand a chance of winning their first Major.
Natus Vincere is one of the two shining beacons in what many consider the top one gap between Fnatic and the rest of the teams in 2016. Na’Vi was known as a consistent but not a title-threatening team in 2015 and was in a way related to Astralis while not being in the spotlight as much. However, they have been vastly improving in the past few months. In terms of ranking they are currently on par with Astralis with both battling for second place and their performance has certainly excelled to deserve that placing. I believe they have a real chance at winning this Major if they have tricks up their sleeve and they are definitely a team Fnatic should be looking out for.
NiP and FaZe have a lot riding on them in order to reach the playoffs at this event. The now fully Swedish Ninjas in Pyjamas are still fresh off their roster change that brought in Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi and with their recent debut fail at IEM Katowice 2016 there are question marks all over the place for what was once considered a godlike team in CS:GO’s history. With the majority of the same legends under the same banner, you can only wish them well and hope they return to a sliver of their former glory. FaZe, on the other hand, had a great run in 2015 under various names such as “Kinguin” and “G2”, and surprised a lot of teams by winning 16-0 against Virtus.Pro on cache and by reaching the playoffs at multiple events. With the loss of Dennis "dennis" Edman to Fnatic and the introduction of Philip "aizy" Aistrup from Dignitas, they are striving to bring back their prime. Whether they can beat Fnatic? Of course they can, but not with their recent form. They must pull out all the glorious performances possible out of their superstars Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad and co.
Virtus.Pro and EnVyUs are running on emergency fuel at this point as both teams are in a slump they are struggling to overcome. Virtus.Pro has managed to keep on the same path mentioned of them in my preview and recap of IEM Katowice 2016, but you can never count out the Poles for long. They might be in a slump as of this preview but can always surprise at a big LAN such as a Major. EnVyUs on the other hand have decided to act on their slump, with ex-teammate Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey blaming team chemistry as his reason for departure from the team. With the new roster change bringing in Timothée "DEVIL" Démolon, many question whether this change was a gamble on EnVyUs’ part. This marks DEVIL’s debut in a Major and his nerves might get the best of him here. I don’t see EnVyUs or VP take Fnatic head on just yet, at least not without some motivational momentum from another match and Fnatic has also proven capable of making a comeback at any time when an opponent starts to relax in their leads.
The name on everybody’s mind lately is Luminosity. Unlike other teams who appear to be in a slump, they will soon be requiring a larger storage place for their magnitude of achievements. As a team that literally seems to have gone from zero to hero, they have gone from looking to gain international LAN experience to becoming one of the best teams in the world within the span of a year. With a storyline that resembles the legendary Na’Vi lineup in 1.6, the path of Luminosity is uncertain but they have prevailed so far. The only thing that remains on the Luminosity to-do list is to start winning trophies and with 2nd place finishers and close matches against Fnatic in the grand finals, that’s only a step away. Winning a Major title would definitely be a giant step forward for them and with how fast they progressed thus far, I wouldn’t put it past them to attain that goal. I am interested to see what they will pull out of their bag of tricks. Either way, they will be a guaranteed pleasure to watch at this event as their gameplay is definitely unique in style.
The only thing that really separates the challengers from the hopefuls is having proven their team’s ability to reach deep into the playoffs. The teams I have placed in this category are definitely capable of reaching the playoffs or even beating the top teams but they struggle to pull it off at events such as a Major, which is the biggest concern of this preview.
Mousesports and G2 are two names that everyone knows, but nobody is sure where to place them. They are both capable of winning against tier 1 teams but never seem to manage to reach further than the quarter final of an event. G2 seems to be considered forever second in their domestic rivalry with EnVyUs, who also aren’t performing up to par lately. I believe that if G2 are to succeed, they must use their underdog status to their advantage. They should use their star aimers Richard “shox” Papillon and Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom in an efficient way against other second tier teams in order to get out of the groups and then depend on a monster team performance to reach the playoffs.
I have placed all four of the teams representing NA (that aren’t Luminosity who originally hail from South America but attend NA qualifiers) in the hopeful list because as much as they are challenging, they have not performed that well at international LANs, let alone Majors. CLG, Liquid, and Cloud9 have had strong results against Europeans who attended North American events, but not to the point of winning the trophy. The list of longest running disappointments starts with Cloud9, whose short spur of greatness in 2015 which gave birth to the “adderall” witch hunt of being behind their success. That insinuated the beginning of a very dark tunnel for the team, as they haven’t been able to recuperate ever since. Liquid has acquired the services of Ukrainian player Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev, who didn’t have the greatest of debuts but is still Liquid’s highest profile player. Splyce on the other hand, was given a harsh treatment on social media for being at this event, especially after being given Fnatic as their opponent in the group stage. There’s always a chance of being the unlucky one in the draw and unfortunately for Splyce it was them who got the short straw this time around.
Splyce is not the only question mark at this tournament. There’s also FlipSid3 and Gambit attending the Major, but in terms of experience and quality of players they are both related and completely different. Players such as Yegor "markeloff" Markelov from FlipSid3 and Dmitry “hooch” Bogdanov from Gambit are both legends in their own right. In CS:GO however, neither team has managed to achieve much of anything. FlipSid3 has taken part in multiple Majors these past few years but have not made an impact at any of them. If I were to place these two teams anywhere in the group, it would be in the lower half. Not to take away anything from the rosters though, they both have very capable players but at this point capable players are simply not enough to win a Major. They will have to bring out a lot more to make a dent in the confidence of their opponents in this competition.
With one million dollars on the line whoever wins this Major will go down in the history books. I am curious to see how the North American teams will play on their home turf, especially considering the number of times there have been upsets on North American soil in the past . At a Major anything can happen and as I’ve mentioned there are a lot of challengers looking to take down Fnatic and the team’s winning streak. Will this be the 7th tournament in a row for them? Will this be yet another Major victory for Fnatic, especially now with this new and improved prize pool? Why not!