Vitality (+1600)

Team Vitality is the second of three teams in the New Challengers group I feel have a chance to make it all the way. Their tournament hopes rest surely on the shoulders of ZywOo, the 18-year-old prodigy who might be making his case for top 5 in the world at this tournament. Vitality winning the Major is a long shot, which is reflected in the +1600 odds, but there is a path for them to make it.

What Needs to Go Right

ZywOo has to be an MVP candidate

ZywOo was far and away the best performer at the European Minor, and has been one of the best performers in all of CS:GO over the past couple months, albeit with a small sample-size against tier two competition. He looks like the next great hybrid player, putting in almost equal time on the AK and the AWP. (He’s only 18 by the way.)

At the European Minor, ZywOo went +81. He had an ADR of 85.2, and a K/D of 1.42, over 12 maps played. He far outperformed his next best teammate, NBK, and essentially hard carried them through the lower bracket, after their 0-2 loss to North in the semifinals.

It won’t just be enough for ZywOo to play great at the Major. He is going to need a historic performance, one deserving of an MVP award. This will be his first event that awards an MVP, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a strong case for it.

Someone Else Has to Step Up

Unlike sergej, the young Finnish prodigy from my last article, ZywOo doesn’t have a top tier support system in place. Where sergej had Allu and Aerial to rely on, ZywOo is left with NBK as his second fiddle. NBK isn’t a bad player by any means, and he is putting up fine numbers for an IGL, he’s really the only help that ZywOo is getting right now, which isn’t going to cut it at the Major.

The biggest disappointment with this team so far, at least for me, has been RPK’s performance. He was one of the best French players in recent years and was a big factor in G2’s success, when he was in the lineup. He was one of the bright spots on Envy last year and seemed to finally be recovering from his health issues. RPK is supposed to bring consistent, reliable firepower, exactly what you’d want if you were trying to build a team around ZywOo. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case, and right now he’s looking like a wasted roster space.

Besides RPK, apEX seems to be the best bet for a player to take a leap at the Major. Traditionally, apEX has been a hard entry, which is another role that, in theory at least, would complement someone like ZywOo. At the European Minor, his entry stats were abysmal, winning only 41% of his opening duels. Perhaps shifting him to play as less of a hard entry, letting him work the map a little more would open the team up? It’s unlikely for them to get much more out of NBK, and ALEX is playing hard support, so their options are limited.

What Could Go Wrong

ZywOo Could Falter

I’ve already talked a lot about how important ZywOo is, but it’s impossible to overstate it. At the European Minor, he was the only player with a K/D over 1, he had the most opening kills and the least opening deaths, the most clutches at the event won, and the most flash assists per round. He is the best entry fragger, the best mid round player, and the best clutch player. Not to mention he’s the teams main AWPer.

Even if ZywOo were to play at a top 10 level, it wouldn’t be enough. He must be the best player at the tournament, by far, if Vitality are to have any chance. The craziest part about it is, that’s totally within the realm of possibility.

The thing that makes me most nervous about ZywOo at this tournament is his lack of experience. This will be the biggest stage and the biggest tournament ZywOo has ever played in. It’s going to be a ton of pressure to lay on this 18-year-old, as good as he may be.

Their Map Pool Could Be Too Thin

Team Vitality best map is Dust 2. They’ve played it 4 times on LAN and have a 75%-win rate. They have played Inferno three times, Mirage and Nuke two each, and Cache once. They have a 66.7%-win rate on Inferno, 50%-win rates on Mirage and Nuke, and a 0%-win rate on Cache. Obviously, none of those numbers are very encouraging. At the Major, most teams will likely ban Dust 2, and in a best-of-three they’ll likely be forced onto Cache or Nuke. They’ll need to prove early in the tournament that they have more than one good map if they want to make it deep.

Elimination and advancement games are best-of-three, while all other games are best-of-one. Vitality shouldn’t have an awful time in the best-of-ones, as they can veto (presumably) Train and Nuke, and likely get Mirage, or something like that. That should keep them afloat through the first couple games, but eventually they will need to play some maps that they don’t like.

In Game Leading Could Fall Apart

NBK is the in-game-leader for Vitality. While that’s probably better than Happy leading the team, it certainly isn’t perfect. Pitting NBK against any other tier one IGL is borderline laughable, which doesn’t bode well for Vitality if they make it into the latter stages of the tournament.

Vitality certainly do not have the strongest argument to win the Major. I’d be more likely to put money on ENCE than I would on Vitality. I’m not even sure I love Vitality as an upset candidate. But, they have ZywOo, and that’s enough to put them in the conversation. If one other guy on the team goes off and has a great tournament, they could be in the running all the way to the end.

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