ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018 Preview
By Dustin "dusT" Mouret
The 12th Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Major is now well underway in Atlanta with the New Challengers Stage having already concluded. The ELEAGUE Boston Major marks the second CS:GO Major run by Turner Sports and the third to be located in North America. Not only is $1,000,000 up for grabs, with $500,000 going to the victor, but so is the prestige of winning one of the biggest tournaments in Counter-Strike. While CS:GO has grown a lot over the years with plenty of events now filling the calendar, the Major title is the most coveted. Boston offers not only the chance for many players to win perhaps their second or third Major, but it also gives a chance for new faces to cement their names in the history books.
The New Challengers Stage
During the New Challengers Stage, G2 Esports and Cloud9 were the first two teams to book their spots in the top 16 with a 3-0 record under the Swiss system. FaZe Clan was quick to follow suit with a 3-1 record. Outside of FaZe losing to Vega Squadron everything was going according to expectations in the early parts of the Major. However, a big surprise came in with Vega Squadron and Space Soldiers both qualifying with a 3-1 record.
While these two were seen as having a chance to limp into the next stage of ELEAGUE Boston, they certainly weren’t expected to make it through so early. Vega Squadron, in particular, looked very impressive, beating FaZe, taking G2 to overtime, and scoring victories over Team Liquid and Renegades to advance. After a bit of a shock, the New Challengers Stage returned to a bit of normalcy with favorites like Natus Vincere and Mousesports moving on to the New Legends Stage.
To round out the list, we had a few more unexpected names moving on as Quantum Bellator Fire punched their ticket for the next stage. Many saw this team perhaps going out 0-3, but they managed to get the wins needed to give the CIS region another representative in the top 16. Finally, despite a lot of struggles and having to use their coach as a stand-in, Team Liquid were able to secure the last slot, replacing 100 Thieves, who had to pull out of the event due to visa issues.
The New Legends Stage
Of those making it through the New Challengers Stage there are certainly a few names that stick out from the rest to make a deep run. FaZe is the obvious first choice despite a few speed bumps early in Atlanta. This version of FaZe has been considered the best team in the world at times, and at worst remains at the number two position. FaZe Clan
FaZe is an explosive force to be reckoned with, packing tons of skill with four of their players ranked in the HLTV Top 20 for 2017. Their current lineup has already scored three championships since its debut in August 2017, and has several other finals appearances and top four finishes. Outside of consistently coming up short against their nemesis SK Gaming, FaZe is favored against all of the other elite teams on the circuit and at times can completely dominate them. There are so many positives for FaZe when it comes to their firepower and team play that it’s quite difficult to find many weaknesses. FaZe is certainly the top candidate to take the whole tournament provided they can conquer SK or avoid them all together.
Another team loaded with talent entering into the next stage of the Major is the one representing the United States of America, Cloud9. They have more than proven they are the best lineup from North America thanks to taking titles at iBUYPOWER Masters 2017 and DreamHack Denver. They have also demonstrated true grit against the best the world has to offer, taking top four finishes at IEM Oakland 2017, the last season of ELEAGUE Premier, and ESL One New York 2017. Despite lacking veteran leadership, Cloud9 has actually shown some solid tactical depth and are making the most of a lineup full of aggressive prone riflers.
Their strengths certainly lie in swarming and trading bombsites on offense and being dynamic on their CT sides. This lineup seems to be the best chance USA ever had at taking a Major title, but there is one huge obstacle in front of them and that is FaZe. While Cloud9 has routinely shown the ability to be competitive against most of the field, FaZe has likewise consistently dismantled Cloud9 in any series they have met. Cloud9 will either need to finally find the right formula to solve their problems against FaZe or hope someone else does it for them, if they are to be the first North American team to win the biggest title in Counter-Strike.
The Frenchmen on G2 will also be a favorite to have a solid showing at ELEAGUE Boston.PGL Krakow was not kind to G2 as they fell out extremely early. They were able to bounce back with a title at DreamHack Masters Malmo, but since then they have endured some ups and downs, leaving many to wonder just where they stand. Coming into this tournament, in-game leader Richard “shox” Papillon has relinquished second AWPing duties to Nathan “NBK” Schmitt as well as delegated some of the team’s decision making to the rest of the roster. This has thus far correlated to a rise in his performance, which had an instant impact on G2’s overall form. There is no doubt that the tools are there for G2 to be a fantastic team. Time will tell if these adjustments can keep them trending upward as they hope to reach new heights this time around at the Major.
Rounding out the favorites from the New Challengers Stage is the multinational squad of mousesports. Similar to FaZe, mousesports packs a huge amount of firepower and explosiveness by combining players all across Europe. Outside of a couple of poor results at DreamHack Masters Malmo and ELEAGUE Premier, mousesports have been highly impressive. A prime example was their amazing performance at the ECS Season 4 Finals, where the managed to take out Astralis in the semi-finals and push FaZe to their limits in a best-of-five in the the grand finals to take a respectable second place finish. Mousesports also were able to win ESG Tour Mykonos 2017 and placed second at DreamHack Winter 2017. Mousesports has never placed higher than 9th-12th at a Major; however this time around they are set up nicely to achieve Legendary status and depending on who they face they could easily find themselves in the top four of this tournament.
A team with a bit of uncertainty around them heading into the New Legends Stage is Natus Vincere. On paper Na’Vi should be an easy pick to make a deep run. For starters, they house one of the most versatile and talented players in the world, Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev. They also made an incredible pickup in rising young talent Denis "electronic" Sharipov.
Their debut at DreamHack Winter 2017 went well, as they took home the trophy by beating mousesports in the finals. However, Na’Vi has looked quite shaky thus far at ELEAGUE Boston. While their losses were to great teams and therefore understandable, an issue lies in the fact that they didn’t even look competitive in those matches. The potential is certainly there, but Natus Vincere will need to get their act together if they ever hope to realize it.
Other Teams With Potential
Moving away from the more notable names, eyes will certainly be on some of the underdogs. Thanks to their solid performance so far this Major, a lot of attention will be directed towards Vega Squadron. If they can keep up the form and keep making their CT aggression work, they could be a real darkhorse to make it to the playoffs. Space Soldiers are also a team to watch out for. Thanks to some great play in the Mountain Dew League as well as winning the European Minor, there is definitely some hype surrounding the Turks. All eyes will be on star player Ismailcan “XANTARES” Dörtkardeş to see just how far he can take Space Soldiers at their first ever Major. However, lying ahead are several teams that have a strong case for being the ones holding the trophy in Boston when it’s all done.
The Legend Teams
Among the teams already holding Legendary status, one name truly stands as a favorite to take it all in Boston; SK Gaming. The core of SK: Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo, Fernando “fer” Alvarenga, Marcelo “coldzera” David, and Epitácio “Taco” de Melo have proven themselves to be amazing competitors countless times over the past couple of years. Having secured two Majors already as well as several titles, finals appearances, and top Four finishes, SK come into ELEAGUE Boston with a long track record of success. Not only does SK pack a ton of strong versatile players, but they also brandish one of the best strategic systems CS:GO has ever seen. The leadership of FalleN and coldzera has always pushed the limits of perfecting the methodical default style of play, as well as bringing crafty executes and at times innovating tactics.
Coming into Boston, SK is without their usual fifth Ricardo “boltz” Prass; however, they have secured the services of a former member in João "felps" Vasconcellos. Felps is a brilliant young talent that offers a lot of options for fast-paced play in particular. While SK had some lackluster results with felps in the final days of that lineup, they also had plenty of success throughout the early and middle portions of 2017. SK certainly seems to be a strong favorite to take the crown in Boston as they simply bring so much to the table tactically and individually.
Another favorite to monitor are the Danes from Astralis. Though Astralis has been without a true international title since March of 2017 when they took IEM Katowice, the Danish squad have found themselves in the top four through most of the year. Astralis had to spend the last couple of months without star player Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz due to health concerns, using stand-ins at their last few offline appearances. This caused Peter “dupreeh” Rasmussen to shift to the AWP role for the team during dev1ce’s absence.
According to a recent interview with dupreeh at Dust2.dk, it appears he will keep the AWP as dev1ce will move into a dynamic and at times lurking rifle position. This will be an interesting change, as dev1ce has been often regarded as one of he most mobile and versatile CT AWPers in professional CS:GO. However, dev1ce is no stranger to rifling duties and has been a super consistent performer throughout his entire professional career. All in all, Astralis prides itself on strong strategical play that is grounded it the fundamentals and teamwork. The last time ELEAGUE hosted a Major marked a great moment for Astralis, as they won their first and only Major thus far.
Gambit, the reigning champions from PGL Krakow, are also among those waiting to compete in the New Legends Stage of ELEAGUE Boston. Soon after their surprising run in Poland, Gambit saw the departure of in-game leader Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko. What followed has been a bit of a mixed bag. The debut of their new fifth Bektiyar “fitch” Bahytov went well at DreamHack Masters Malmo, where Gambit managed a top four finish, tackling elite teams like FaZe and Astralis along the way before losing to North in the semi-finals.
However, Gambit showed some struggles at their next few big events at ESG Tour Mykonos, EPICENTER 2017, and IEM Oakland. At these events Gambit saw the team’s leadership being tested, as the in-game leader role has been bounced between star player Dauren “AdreN” Kystaubayev and Mihail “Dosia” Stolyarov. While they had their issues, Gambit still packs a punch with AdreN alongside the ridiculous revelation that has been Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov. Look out for them to make some noise once they make their way into the server.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Major without Virtus.pro in attendance. The Polish squad has been at every Major and has retained Legendary status since winning their only Major title at EMS One Katowice in 2014. Out of the 11 Majors played so far, Virtus.pro has placed at least top four in seven of them. Despite having a rough 2017, Virtus.pro has shown some life in recent times. They managed a second place finish at the Starladder i-League Invitational in Shanghai and made a fantastic run at EPICENTER before falling to SK in the finals. They also managed to reach the semi-finals of PGL Krakow.
Virtus.pro is such a hard team to pin down due to their tendency to fall into a slump, at times for an extended period leaving you to believe they are done for, yet then they suddenly go into their patented Virtus.plow mode and grab a huge result. This has especially been the case when it comes time to take the stage at a Major. Led by Counter-Strike veterans Filip “NEO” Kubski and Wiktor “TaZ” Wojtas, Virtus.pro enters into ELEAGUE Boston as the longest standing lineup in CS:GO history, having been together since early 2013. The Poles have always served as a fan favorite and they will look to regain their strength in order to provide another great story to follow in Boston.
Another group of Danes in North hope to make waves at ELEAGUE Boston. North is a team with great strategic guidance thanks to their tactician Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen as well as some solid firepower led by star rifler Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke. On paper the potential is there when you consider the rest of their lineup and the fact they have at times achieved some great results. Not so long ago North reached a top four finish in the last season of ELEAGUE Premier and made a finals appearance at DreamHack Masters Malmo. However, there have also been some signs of cracking, an example being their last offline showing, which was an early exit from the EPL Season 6 Finals. The system and tools are there for North to do well, it just all depends on what version arrives to the New Legends Stage.
Perhaps a wild card to keep an eye on is Fnatic. While results had been discouraging for quite some time for the Swedes through various lineup changes since late 2016 and the glory days of the brand now long behind them, there has been some promise emerging in recent times. Fnatic managed to take top four at both the ECS Season 4 Finals and the EPL Season 6 Finals as they head into the Major. They also had a solid showing at the last season of ELEAGUE Premier. making top eight. Their new in-game leader, Maikil “Golden” Selim, seems to be settling in and building confidence as he gains experience from each event his team attends. It also seems as time passes his teammates are buying into his leadership and supporting him as best as they can. We are also starting to see a bit of a return to form by the core players on Fnatic. Combine this with the continued development of Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson and perhaps we could see Fnatic as a name to know once more.
Last but not least is BIG. The German-speaking gentlemen, led by Fatih "gob b" Dayik, usually always comes to the table with well-coordinated tactics and at times innovation. At the last Major at PGL Krakow the team managed to make Legendary status from an underdog position. With that said, they did largely get there from playing one map--Inferno--and partially due to a controversial jump peek that was later patched out of the game. While they certainly demonstrated great play outside of these instances, those factors can’t be ignored. It also must be noted that since the Major, BIG have struggled to put up any results against the top tier of the international scene. Their performance here will have a substantial impact on how they are ranked going forward.
While there is already a lot to discuss surrounding the ELEAGUE Boston the event itself has really only just begun. The action will pick back during the New Legends Stage from January 19th to January 22nd in Atlanta. From there the Major will head to Boston, where the playoffs will commence from January 26th to January 28th. A new Major champion will be crowned, cementing their place as one of the best in the history of CS:GO.
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