Cologne is over, and Liquid stand victorious. They’ve won the second Grand Slam, following Astralis’ win of the inaugural prize, and look like they’re chasing after an NA era at this point. They are strong competitors headed into Major season, and they have a couple weeks now to work out the kinks in their game and prep for the biggest challenge of the year.
They don’t however, look unbeatable. Several teams in attendance were chasing them hard, and the Major should be an absolute bloodbath.
Well, it looks like Liquid have officially solidified (hah) their first place position. They’ve won four tier one tournaments in a row, bringing home the gold at IEM Sydney, DreamHack Masters Dallas, the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals, and finally ESL One Cologne.
Liquid taking this tournament shouldn’t come as a shock to long time readers/watchers. The Americans have been looking like one of the best teams in the world for a couple months now, and were the prohibitive favorites in Cologne. I don’t often recommend CSGO betting on them, as the odds generally don’t return much value, but nothing about this result comes as a surprise.
What does come as a surprise, and a favorable one at that, is Liquid’s lack of statistical dominance at this event. Now, that sentence may sound weird, and understandably so. But it’s actually a good sign for their continued excellence.
Liquid had just one player in the top five, and three players in the top 15, which is lower than you’d expect for a team that just crushed an event like this. What this means is that Liquid aren’t relying on pure firepower to take these events. Instead, they put faith in their system, and in everyone’s ability to do their job at the highest level.
The biggest positive indicator for me is Stewie’s impact on the server. I was worried when this roster move was announced that he wouldn’t be able to mesh with the rest of the team, and luckily for them I ended up being wrong. While his stats have suffered since joining Liquid, he has shown up for them time and time again and has been the catalyst to take them up the last level to world beaters.
ZywOo was the highest rated player at this tournament, and it wasn’t close. He dragged his team to a Grand Finals appearance, despite none of them having a rating over 1.0. If he had won in Cologne, it would have gone in the history books as one of the best tournament performances ever.
Vitality are starting to put together a pretty nice resume for themselves. This year they’ve won cs_summit 4 over Liquid, as well as the ECS Season 7 Finals. They’ve gone from a fringe tier one team to a legitimate championship contender, all in the course of a couple months. Compare their trajectory as a team to that of ENCE or Furia, and they start to look even more impressive. ZywOo is a generational talent, and these guys are a good team to put money on.
This was not a strong showing for the CIS giants, not to me anyway. Almost dropping multiple games to Mousesports, taking one of six possible maps against Liquid, squeaking by Furia, none of that is ideal. They didn’t pick up any meaningful wins in Cologne, at best they treaded water.
Perhaps the least encouraging part of their tenure at the tournament was their performance against Liquid in the playoffs. The game was not as close as the score line might suggest, and Liquid was in the driver seat throughout the best of three.
It’s hard to place Astralis. Their last four tournaments they’ve been eliminated by ENCE, Furia, Liquid, and Vitality, which are all probably top five teams. (You could argue that certainly, Furia probably doesn’t belong in the top five, but my point is that they’re all very good.) All of the individual players on Astralis continue to put up great stats. Xyp9x was the second highest rated player at the event, and everyone on the team except for Gla1ve had a rating over 1.10.
So what’s the problem then? Maybe they’re still shaking the rust off, although they’ve played three tier one events since returning from their hiatus. If I had to wager a guess, which I guess is what I’m paid to do, I’d argue that Astralis are actually underperforming their underlying metrics. Over the course of the next couple months, I wouldn’t be surprised if Astralis return to take a tournament or two, based on their raw firepower alone. While Gla1ve and Zonic may have to reengineer their system to some degree, the bones of a top five team certainly still remain.
A team in turmoil, looks like FaZe are making another roster swap, which makes anything I had to say about their performance in Cologne rather moot. Guardian had a good tournament, which is cool. This team is a mess though, and I have no idea how to grade them.
Mousesports are going to break through soon, I can feel it. All three members of their young core were in the top 15 in rating at Cologne, and they had a solid run. Not great, but solid. A 14-16 opening match against Na’Vi precipitated their losers run, where they beat MVP and FaZe before falling 1-2 in a very close best of three against Na’Vi.
As the young guys continue to get more experience, and as Karrigan continues to feel the young guys out and learn how to use them most efficiently, this team will continue to get better and better. By the time the European Minor (LINK TO PREVIEW HERE) rolls around, we should know if they are going to be real competitiors or not.
ENCE had some terrible bracket luck at this event, which is pretty consistent with their luck in other tournaments. Yet again they were eliminated early by the eventual champions, only this time it was in round one of losers bracket.
The sample size for this tournament isn’t really big enough to say anything definitive about the Finns. They lost to Heroic in round one but it was a best of one, and those kinds of things happen. They did take a map off of Vitality, which is more than Fnatic, Heroic, and NRG can say.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this kind of match is when you need Aerial to step up. Allu performed poorly, which will happen. Sergej is the only player on ENCE that went positive, which can’t happen in an elimination game.
This was NRG’s first tournament with Stanislaw, and it wasn’t a bad showing by any means. They took care of Furia and FaZe Clan with ease, then gave Liquid and Vitality a run for their money in their final bracket game and only playoff game. Obviously they weren’t able to hold up to the immense power of ZywOo, but who could?
I’m giving these guys a pretty long leash for the next couple tournaments. They likely won’t have as much practice time as they might like, and Stanislaw is going to be rehauling their whole system. I’d be surprised if they starting ripping off top three placements immediately, as it’ll take the team a little while to acclimate.