The final ECS season of 2019 is about over, and the playoffs look to be one of the most exciting tournaments in recent memory. Who should you pick to take home the trophy?

Another season of the Esports Championship Series is drawing to a close, which means we get another LAN finals. If you’ll cast your mind back to June of this year, you’ll recall Vitality beating FURIA decisively in the LAN Finals, netting ZywOo his first S tier LAN win. Unfortunately, Vitality won’t be around this time to defend the title, but the field is still plenty stacked.

This season ECS have changed their format once again, making the regular season excessively difficult to follow. While the regular season still consists of five online series, each with eight teams playing the best of three series, the requirements to qualify have changed. Rather than the winners of the first three series qualifying outright, this time the winners of the last three series qualify directly. Over the first two series, the team that wins the most money qualifies.

This season NiP, Astralis, and Fnatic qualified through winning series in Europe, with Evil Geniuses, Liquid, and MIBR doing the same in North America. The two final teams to fill out the eight-team field are AVANGAR and Sharks.

“Trophy" Astralis (-118)

There’s no other choice for the favorite at this event. Just last week I gushed (LINK IEM BEIJING RECAP HERE) about how improbably dominant Astralis was at IEM Beijing, which you should go back and read if you missed it the first time. If you’re too lazy to click the provided link, allow me to provide you with a quick recap:

  • They won the event without dropping a map
  • All five players were in the highest rated at the event
  • Wins on five different maps
  • Device had a 1.66 K/D
  • Held opponents to an average of 5.7 rounds per map
  • 16-0’d a FaZe team with wins over Fnatic, Vitality, and Evil Geniuses
  • Went 5-0 in maps against 100 Thieves

If your jaw isn’t on the ground right now, I don’t know what to tell you. Like I said in my recap, that might be the single most dominant tournament performance I’ve ever seen. So yes, I like them a lot to win this event. They have three maps with win rates at or above 75%, their worst loss in six months is probably their 2-16 loss to FaZe at BLAST Pro Copenhagen (which I’d say they’ve made up for), and they have three players rated over 1.10 over the last six months on LAN.

They’re at -118, and rightly so, which doesn’t provide a ton of value. But unless I can come up with a convincing case for someone else in attendance, this may be the best bet.

“Trophy" Evil Geniuses (+375)

Well wouldn’t you know it, it’s (maybe) the best answer the CS scene has to Astralis, Evil Geniuses. Since IEM Sydney 2018, the EG core has a winning record against Astralis, nine map wins to Astralis’ four (granted, that’s not a huge sample size, but still). These two teams go into overtime quite frequently, with three of their 13 meetings going into overtime. In fact, their match on Train at the StarLadder Major is one of the longest games in Major history, going 59 rounds.

The two teams last met at ESL One New York, where EG stomped Astralis 3-1, dropping Astralis’ map pick Train in a double-overtime slobber knocker. While that’s certainly encouraging for EG, the two teams have gone in rather divergent directions since. While Astralis’ form has picked up (like we’ve talked about), EG has been coming back to Earth with losses to MIBR, FaZe, and Mousesports in the last month. Not to mention the fact that device has been red hot while CeRq has been on the decline, which doesn’t bode well for the North American dream team.

One of the key elements of EG’s dominating performance in New York was CeRq’s AWP. Here are CeRq’s head to head AWP stats against each player on Astralis: against gla1ve, 11-0; dupreeh, 10-0; Magisk, 17-0; device. 12-7; Xyp9x, 6-0. CeRq had the most AWP kills on the server by far at 56, which trumps device’s 39 easily. If CeRq can’t replicate a performance like that, EG’s job gets significantly harder.

A bet on EG to win the ECS finals would be a bet on this matchup. It would say “I think that Stanislaw and co. have Astralis’ number, and I think they can beat the Danes regardless of the form the two teams are in.” I just don’t think I can make that call, although +375 is pretty juicy for a team that’s supposedly top three in the world.

“Trophy" Liquid (+500 )

I’m sure you’re tired of me saying it, but I say it nonetheless. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. After a spectacular first half, Liquid have limped through the remainder of 2019. They don’t have a tournament win to their name since IEM Chicago, and have yet to make Grand Finals at an international LAN. While they have only attended three S Tier offline events since the Berlin Major, their placements have gotten increasingly discouraging.

Their most recent outing was DreamHack Masters Malmo in early October, where they lost in embarrassing fashion to OpTic and Grayhound, which resulted in a 9-12th finish. While EliGE has been a consistent bright spot for them, the rest of the team is hovering around replacement level, if that. Perhaps most disappointing is Twistzz, who has gone from emerging all-star to a 0.97 rated player, being outperformed by guys like malta (he plays for Grayhound, which you may not have known, which only serves my point even better).

The Bright Side:

Liquid have been in the dumps before, with this very roster in fact. They had a disastrous finish at the Katowice Major in February of this year, and managed to turn things around after working with their coach Adren.

This improvement was heralded by a brief time off in early 2019, which they (presumably, I wasn’t there) spent working out the kinks. An optimist, or a die-hard fan, might assume that this month long break was spent doing something similar. They were secreted away in a Team Liquid branded facility somewhere in Santa Monica, chowing down on burrito bowls and studying Astralis’ tape to fashion the spear that will gut the Danes, reclaiming their spot as the number one team in the world.

…Did I talk you into it? That’s probably the best case I can make, and I still don’t know. Astralis are very, very good. Actually hold on, let me grab the thesaurus. Astralis are a superlative Counter Strike team. I don’t know if there’s any lineup in CS history that could’ve beaten the Astralis we saw in Beijing.

Still though, +500 is pretty good. I’ll think about it.

“Trophy" Fnatic (+700)

Boy is this team weird. They barely qualified for the EPL Finals, snagging the last spot alongside North, which is never good company to be in. Their recent losses include FaZe, EG twice, Renegades and Astralis. Still, they came in second at StarSeries Season 8, and won DreamHack Malmo last month. Golden has really whipped these guys into shape in short order, and they win games despite no one on the team having a rating above 1.12 on LAN in the last six months.

By all accounts, Fnatic should be a tier two team. It’s weird that they have such excellent results in their last two S tier events.

I wouldn’t be mad about a (small) bet on Fnatic here to be honest. They’ll likely be fighting with MIBR for the second spot in the playoffs, assuming Astralis doesn’t suffer some catastrophic collapse, which is a fight I think they can win. +700 is pretty juicy for a team that won a bigger LAN than this one last month.

“Trophy" MIBR (+1000)

Another weird one. At the Asia Championship this past weekend MIBR beat EG 2-0, lost to TyLoo 0-2, beat AVANGAR 2-1, then lost to ENCE 1-2. I don’t know if I could come up with a more confusing set of results. kNg played awful, putting up a whopping 0.95 in 10 maps, which is contrasted pretty heavily by FalleN’s 1.10 and fer’s 1.08.

Their map pool is a mess, with two of their most played maps, Mirage and Inferno, sitting at 35.7% and 55.6% win rates respectively. Their Train is solid, with an 80% win rate over 10 maps, but that won’t be enough to beat a team like Fnatic, much less Astralis.

It pains me to be so down on MIBR, but I get paid to be an objective journalist, going to any lengths to give you, the customer, the absolute best betting advice I can. For that reason, I must tell you to stay away from MIBR. Shocking, I know. While I will continue to watch them with interest, as I do like this lineup, they have yet to put it together in such a way that will help them win games of Counter Strike against Tier One opponents, which is pretty important for an aspiring Tier One CS team.

“Trophy" NiP (+1000)

Did you guys hear that f0rest might be leaving NiP to play with Friberg and Xizt?

It’s true, I guess. I don’t know. Anyway, NiP kind of feel like they’re on their way up, for now at least. Wins over G2, BIG, EG, and Vitality in the last three months are encouraging signs for a team mostly comprised of young(ish) talent, which still feels weird to say when talking about NiP.

That being said, no way do they win this event. I could see them making a cheeky playoff appearance, stealing a spot from Team Liquid, but I wouldn’t put any money on it. Just enjoy what might be our last glimpse of NiP.f0rest.

“Trophy" AVANGAR (+2000) and Sharks (+10000)

Quick, name a player on AVANGAR and a player on Sharks. No cheating.

I was able to name qikert on AVANGAR, but I have no idea who Sharks are. There’s a reason they’re +10000, people.

“Trophy" In Conclusion

If I had to pick a non-Astralis team here, I think I’d go with Fnatic. I like them a lot, for the sole reason that they look very competent. They’ve shown they’re a tournament winning team, which is not something to laugh at. If anyone has the potential to catch Astralis by surprise it’s them, and I feel pretty comfortable saying they’ll make playoffs. Once they’re there, all they have to do is beat Evil Geniuses, assuming they get the first seed, and then they’re in the Grand Finals. Stranger things have happened.

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