NRG (+1600)

One of just three North American teams, NRG is the last of the New Challengers teams that I feel have a legitimate (albeit slim) shot at taking home the Major trophy.

What needs to go right

Cerq Has to Pop Off

Hopefully you’ve noticed a pattern. All the teams I’ve talked about so far have very similar win conditions, they need their star players to have great tournaments. While NRG probably has the best supporting cast so far (depending on how you feel about ENCE’s Aerial), a strong performance by CeRq is still going to be vital to their success at the Major.

CeRq is a big part of what makes NRG so interesting. Without him, they would likely be a tier two NA team. CeRq adds an extra dimension to their game. His gravity as an AWPer enables his teammates, and he has the star power to go up against the other team’s best player most of the time. He is also the team’s most consistent entry fragger, winning 60% of his opening duels.

While NRG can still play, even when CeRq is having a bad game, they need him to elevate over the very top tier of teams. Without CeRq, NRG has a hard ceiling on them. They could be in the top 10 at best but would struggle to push beyond into the upper echelon. CeRq’s star power is what gives them that chance, and they’ll need him in form at the Major.

The Supporting Cast Has to Stay Strong

The two top performers, out of every player at the European Minor, were Ethan and Brehze. They both had standout tournaments, putting up big numbers in every game on their way to first place. Their firepower is a major (get it?) component of what makes NRG so scary, because of how fluid, mobile, and multifaceted they can be.

Having three players who can play on this level is crucial to making deep runs at international tournaments, especially with an IGL like Daps. The pressure will be on NRG’s big three to make stuff happen while at the Major, as the three of them (Brehze Ethan and CeRq) are really the only three players on the roster who can make plays.

In that way their roster construction is similar to that of ENCE. Both teams rely on their stars, sergej and CeRq, to make big, flashy plays that bring back rounds that should have been lost, while the other two players, Allu and Aerial, or Brehze and Ethan, provide a layer of support, a base upon which rounds can be built.

This is a tried and tested theory of roster construction, seen in teams like Mousesports, FaZe, BIG, even the classic NiP lineups.

What Could Go Wrong

A Repeat of the Minor

This point might seem a little confusing at first. Why would a repeat of the Minor be bad? NRG blew through it easily, without dropping a game. The team played well enough and swept the competition. What’s the problem?

Well, dear reader, the problem is CeRq didn’t play well. In matches against higher tier teams than the ones they played at the Minor, CeRq is going to be NRG’s win condition. He is going to be the one pushing them over the edge, toppling the giants of the scene and pushing on to the championship match. His explosiveness and star power are going to be crucial for NRG moving forward.

Brehze and Ethan playing well isn’t going to be enough if NRG really have championship aspirations. It might be enough to get them through the New Challengers stage, and maybe even push them into the New Champions stage if they’re lucky, but they will not win if CeRq isn’t playing at his peak.

Daps Could Get Abused

In modern Counter Strike, fragging IGLs are all but necessary to be a tier one team. Gla1ve, FalleN, Tarik, Karrigan, all of the best IGLs in recent history have been able to hold their own on the server. Unfortunately for NRG, Daps isn’t one of those IGLs.

He is consistently at the bottom of the scoreboard, which presents an opportunity for opponents. If they can isolate him, hit the site he’s holding, force him to make plays, it becomes a lot easier to nullify the team. He has the worst opening duel success rate on the team by far, at 42.1%. That number is far more favorable to CeRq’s, who clocks in at 60.3%. Daps needs to really focus on hiding himself on CT if they want to play teams like Na’Vi on even ground. He needs to avoid taking aim duels with people like s1mple or NiKo as much as possible.

The same goes for Fugly, although not nearly to the same degree. Hiding the weak links in the chain, and maximizing the talents of their stars is going to be crucial if they want to see the other side of the New Challengers group.

NRG is a longshot. They haven’t been this deep in a tournament this size ever, and that lack of experience is likely to catch up with them eventually. I love them as an upset candidate, but their chances of winning the Major are slim to none.

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