With StarSeries coming to a close, it’s time to take a look at the fallout. Some teams impressed, some did not, and Na’Vi went home with the trophy.
StarSeries is over, and what an event it was. An all best of three group stage is always a treat to watch, and this tournament produced more than it’s share of highlights. With this much tape to analyze, there are plenty of things to learn, so let’s take a look.
Fnatic Are on Their Way Back
Fnatic’s rebuild has been a long and arduous road. Ever since they dissolved their three-time Major winning core, they’ve been through a plethora of rosters, including a second try at their Major winning lineup of olof, dennis, KRIMZ, flusha, and JW. After breaking up their core, Fnatic went over two years without a tournament win, finally taking first place at IEM Katowice 2018 and WESG 2017.
Several more roster changes followed the win, including swapping out their young IGL golden for Xizt, which didn’t lead to a considerable improvement. It appears they finally have a roster they want to stick with, which should hopefully lead to them climbing the ranks. After a disappointing finish at the Katowice Major, they’ve managed to bounce back at StarSeries with a strong second-place finish. They dominated the group stage with a +24 round differential in an almost perfect sweep of all three group stage games, dropping a map to NiP in a domestic slugfest.
In bracket, they dispatched North and NRG with relative ease. Ultimately Fnatic found themselves staring down Na’Vi in the grand finals of the tournament, and put up a valiant fight against the overpowering might of s1mple and co.
This tournament is some desperately needed good news for the Swedes. They have been treading water for a long time, sitting at the bottom of the top 10 at best. This tournament could be the beginning of a run for them, one where they can legitimately contend with the best five or six teams in the world.
Is NRG Back?
This is more like it. After an unprecedented collapse at IEM Katowice, NRG needed a rebound. After retooling their roster, adding one of the most highly sought-after free agents in tarik, the team was ready to go out and claw back what was theirs.
The event began with a best of three between North and NRG, which NRG took in a dominating fashion. Their 2-1 victory included a 16-0 win on the deciding map, which is something that doesn’t happen every day. They ended the group stage 3-2, barely squeaking into the playoffs.
Their quarterfinal matchup was against Vitality, and they played one of the longest overtimes I’ve seen in a while. 48 rounds total, which is almost two full games. They took care of Vitality rather handily in map two, which sent them to the semifinals to play Fnatic. NRG managed to take Fnatic into overtime on both maps, but lost them both, knocking NRG out in 3rd/4th place.
This tournament was a marked improvement for NRG. They needed a big boost like this, and hopefully, they’ll be able to play at this level consistently. The top five is pretty wide open right now, after Astralis, and NRG has as good a case as anyone else right now.
Renegades Are Undeniable
As a general rule, I try to be cautious with teams like Renegades. You only need to look back as far as London to find an overperforming team of young guns, who then proceed to fall off the map after Major season is over. I am, of course, talking about compLexity, who I was unfortunately high on after their absolute trouncing of the New Challengers and New Legends stages.
After Katowice, I figured Renegades would take a similar path over the coming months. They’d have a couple of poor placings, then blow up their roster and start anew. Renegades and compLexity even had similar paths at their respective Majors. Both teams starting as Minor Challengers before smashing their way through both group stages, then falling at the hands of MIBR 0-2.
It seems, however, that that will not be the case for the Aussies. The stand out performer so far has been Gratisfaction, who is coming into his own as a tier one AWPer. He is the most recent addition to the Renegades lineup, having been poached from the second best Australian team Grayhound, similarly to liazz who was stolen from Order. Gratisfaction has been showing out against some of the toughest teams in CS:GO in the past two months, which is impressive given his age and his relative lack of experience playing CS at this level.
Not to say that the rest of the team isn’t contributing of course. Renegades are playing some of the best team-oriented CS I’ve seen in a while. They look like ENCE East, which is a hearty compliment. Everyone on the roster has been putting in work, likely due to the work of their new old coach Kassad.
Kassad left Renegades May of last year, before rejoining the team after their acquisition of liazz and Gratisfaction in late September. Kassad is spoken of highly by people in the scene, especially YNK, who he played with on iNation along with NiKo in 2013.
Renegades don’t look like they plan on fading any time soon, and they’re easily one of the most exciting teams to watch in the coming months.
What’s Eating MIBR?
The Brazilians have fallen on hard times. Get it? FalleN? After an encouraging showing at IEM Katowice, they stunk up the joint in Sao Paulo in front of their hometown crowd, with coldzera putting in the worst performance of his career. StarSeries held much of the same for FalleN and co., as they went 1-3 in the group stage, 2-0ing Panda Gaming before losing the next three best of threes, against Renegades, NRG, and North. MIBR managed to take one map from these three teams combined, with a 16-8 victory over Renegades on Cache.
The worst part of this loss is the 0-2 trouncing they received at the hands of North. If you watch any CS at all, you’d know that North aren’t very good. Losing to Renegades and NRG is at least close to excusable, as those two teams both have a (semi) legitimate case to be in the top five. But North? That game is a must win for MIBR if they consider themselves real contenders for a slot in the top five.
The most confusing part of this is their best of three against Astralis at IEM Katowice. While it was an 0-2 loss for MIBR, the series was deceivingly close, with the first game of the series Overpass becoming an instant classic. How could things go so right for MIBR, only to have them collapse this dramatically just a month later?
FalleN has his work cut out for him if he wants to figure out this roster. Finding where felps fits into the team is going to be crucial, as well as making sure coldzera is playing at his absolute best. An in-form FalleN wouldn’t hurt either, as the team is, somehow, lacking for firepower.
ENCE Keeps On Trucking
While a quarterfinals berth sounds pretty disappointing for a team of ENCE’s caliber, it should be noted that they were placed up against the eventual champions Na’Vi, and that they were just a handful of rounds away from sending Na’Vi home 2-0. If it hadn’t been for an unbelievable ace clutch by s1mple in round 21, with ENCE up 11-9, we could be talking about ENCE, StarSeries champions.
Unfortunately for the Finns, they were felled in the end by Flamie and his compatriots. (Not that Flamie played all that well, to be honest. He had the least kills on the server over the whole best of three. I just liked the alliteration.) But all is not lost for Allu and pals. ENCE had one of the best round differentials in the group stage, albeit against Team Spirit and Vici Gaming. They trounced FaZe in round 4 to get out of their group and dropped their one series to Vitality in a close 1-2 loss. Sergej continues to impress going +36 throughout the event, the best on the team. Allu followed close behind, with xseven bringing up the rear.
Regression from xseven could be a problem for this team, as they relied on him rather heavily during the Major. The more pressing problem for ENCE however, is Aerial’s poor performance from the Major through now. It isn’t terrible, but he is supposed to be the second or third option, depending on the game and map, backing up sergej and allu. If Aerial continues to disappoint, I wouldn’t be surprised to see ENCE snag sunny from Mousesports.