The New Challengers stage has drawn to a close, and we now have our eight teams moving on into the New Legends stage. There were a few surprises, and some important takeaways for the next stage. Most of the teams were at roughly the level we thought they were at, except for maybe Renegades.
China Almost Had It
It looked good for TyLoo there for a day or two. They went up 2-0 and had three chances to win a best-of-three series to make it to the next stage of the tournament. As they fell 2-0 to NRG, ViCi gaming joined them at 2-0 with a win over Cloud9. This was one of the best positions Chinese CS has ever been in, with two Chinese teams poised to make the New Legends stage at Katowice.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. ViCi and TyLoo won two maps combined in their last two best-of-threes, with TyLoo falling to Avangar and G2, and ViCi losing out to Vitality and NiP.
It appears the Chinese teams still can’t get over the hump and win best-of-threes against even tier two opponents. Which is a shame, I personally love watching TyLoo play. I hope that they move to NA, like Renegades did. Getting consistent high-level practice turned Renegades into a real force to be reckoned with on the international stage.
Renegades Did Have It
Speaking of Renegades, wow. They were the team that surprised me the most at the event. Every other team that made it through was pretty much expected (except for Avangar, but their bracket was kind of fluky and there’s always a CIS team that makes it in for no reason).Renegades have been buoyed by AZR and jks, who both rank in the top 10 for players at the New Challengers stage. Their most impressive win was over ENCE, who they beat 2-0 in the 2-0 round to go 3-0, along with NRG. In that best-of-three against ENCE, jks had an ADR of 97.8 and went +17 over the two maps, which is one of the best performances in the event over the course of a series.
Renegades also tied NRG for the best round differential at the event, +22 over four maps. Not only did they win all their maps, it wasn’t even all that close. In two of their four games, they held their opponent to under 10 rounds, which is especially impressive considering that one of those games was a stomp on Nuke over ENCE, one of the better teams at the event.
During their game against ENCE, Aerial had one of his worst games in a while, and it clearly showed in their results. That shouldn’t take away from Renegades result though. I don’t know if they’ll be able to replicate this success in the next stage, but their play in the New Challengers stage, and their confidence, should carry over to the New Legends stage.
G2 Doesn’t Look so Good
G2 probably should not have moved on to the next stage. They essentially stole a win from Vega on Cache in the first round, pulling it out 16-14 on the back of several crazy clutches. G2 lost to Avangar, and dropped maps to Fnatic and TyLoo, which isn’t a good look for a team with “championship aspirations.”Their T side is weak, garnering only 42 T side rounds over their 216 rounds played at the event. The current meta seems to be pretty CT sided, likely due to the more prominent position held by the AUG, but their T side isn’t strong enough to close games even when they have a solid CT side.
This is likely due to the in-game-leadership on G2, which I have been a vocal critic of for quite some time. This roster has a fair amount of talent, especially if everyone on the team is playing up to their level, but they haven’t been able to maximize all the players on the roster. They don’t really have much of a system to speak of and tend to force-buy themselves out of games and scrim out onto sites haphazardly, which doesn’t allow them to take full advantage of a player like KennyS.
NRG Is Incredible
I figured that Ethan and Brehze were going to have good tournaments, but wow. They were the top two players in the New Challengers stage by far, topping the charts in kills per round, damage, damage per round, KAST. Brehze and Ethan dominated almost half of the statistical categories at the event, putting up unbelievable numbers, which bodes well for this team. If they can keep up their statistical excellence, daps, their in-game-leader, should have no problem wielding them in game as scalpels to pick apart their opposition.
One of the notable aspects of NRG’s run at the New Challenger’s stage is the relative absence of CeRq. He didn’t crack the top 20 best performers at the tournament and hovered around the bottom-middle of the scoreboard in most of the games. Even with his underperformance, NRG still stomped through their four maps with an event best round differential, without dropping a map.
This worked fine at this stage, but it worries my that CeRq was so quiet. Ethan and Brehze are looking incredible, but I still don’t think they’ll be able to push past the top tier teams without CeRq. He could very well be the difference between them going 2-3 in the next stage or making a run into the playoffs.
The other notable factor of this run is the quality of opponents. Obviously, I can’t fault them for who they played, as they went 2-0, were the highest seed in every round, and they can only play who’s in front of them. But they did only beat Winstrike, ViCi, and TyLoo, none of whom made it through to the next stage. All three of those teams picked up a good win or two during the event, but they all fell in the final round 2-3. The competition in the next round should be considerably harder than what they faced in the New Challengers stage, which is something to keep in mind as we move on through the tournament.