What did we learn from DH Winter?
In this article we take a look at the biggest takeaways from the fourth CS:GO major, held this past weekend, DreamHack Winter 2014.
In an article titled "Biggest storylines for DreamHack" we outlined the biggest things to look out for while following the action at this past week's $250,000 major tournament.
Now three days of top level Counter-Strike: Global Offensive smarter, we've received answer to those questions and more, and we take a look at it all in this writeup.
What did we learn from DreamHack Winter 2014?
LDLC are, right now, the world's best
LDLC have been the world's number two team since it was built during the big French roster shakeup in early September. They have finished second to Titan, whose Hovik "KQLY" Tovmassian may or may not have been cheating, at DreamHack Stockholm. They then topped SLTV StarSeries XI Finals over Na`Vi and Titan, before surprisingly losing to iBUYPOWER in the semi-finals of FACEIT League Season 2 Finals. Then the Frenchmen finished runner-ups to fnatic at both ESWC and Fragbite Masters Finals. Now, just under three months after the team was built, they are world champions.
Looking at every team's results since the previous major, the only team whose record is comparable to that of LDLC's is fnatic. The Swedes of Markus "pronax" Wallsten were dominant and won every event but DreamHack Stockholm since the previous major. They were always better than LDLC up until now, but they crumbled when it mattered the most, and a number one finish at a major, combined with constant second place finishes, ranks up higher than a number of wins, and then a quarter-finals exit at a major.
Some will put an asterisk next to LDLC's win unfairly, due to the protest that took place in the quarter-final against fnatic. The fact is LDLC were up 13-3 despite fnatic already abusing a clearly map-breaking glitch in the pistol round, and would have much more than likely cruised away with a win had fnatic not started abusing the boost spot Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer found himself in practically every round of the half - but more on that later.
Nearly nine months removed from being stripped to the title of the world's best, the former VeryGames and Titan trio of Richard "shox" Papillon, Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt and Edouard "SmithZz" Dubourdeaux, together with two LDLC and Clan-Mystik talents Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer and Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey, now get to call themselves world champions, and the world's best team at this time.
Happy is the HLTV.org DH Winter 2014 MVP
Though Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg raced ahead of Happy in the public's MVP vote - probably partly due to his highlight worthy actions in the grand final - the official HLTV.org MVP of DreamHack Winter 2014 is the world champions' in-game leader, Happy.
Happy finished with a plus-1.00 rating in seven of nine maps he played at DreamHack Winter - the two maps with a sub-1.00 rating being LDLC's fairly lopsided losses, 8-16 to fnatic and 4-16 to NiP, in the playoffs. Out of the seven maps with an above average rating, he finished five with a plus-1.20 rating - truly remarkable number. In the first map of the grand final he put up a 28/13 score for +15 and a 1.58 rating, and he was also a huge reason as to how LDLC were able to top their group with a 24/15 score in the group stage battle versus the Ninjas.
Happy was fifth at the event with his 0.81 KPR, and fifth as well with a kill, assist or survival in 70% of all rounds played at the event - which proves the incredible consistency he performed with. He had the most clutch rounds out of his team, and the most multi-kill rounds. Though he didn't engage in too many entry kill battles, he came out on top in 71% of them, or 22 out of 31 times.
That he did all of this while being the in-game leader, a part-time AWPer, and a clutch player, shows why he was our Most Valuable Player at DreamHack Winter 2014. Earlier in the year we have mentioned that Happy was one of the most underrated players in the world, thanks to LDLC's constant growth under his leadership, but after this performance he should slowly gather a big enough following to become properly rated.
Happy is HLTV.org's official DH Winter 2014 MVP
NiP are back
NiP came into DreamHack Winter fresh off a bootcamp at a big mansion in Sweden, trying to rush Mikail "Maikelele" Bill's implementation to the defending major champions. Though most wrote them off coming into the event, their strategy advisor Faruk "pita" Pita expected the Ninjas to win it all - a bold statement from a team who only had three or so weeks to implement a new player to their system.
Robin "Fifflaren" Johansson confided to HLTV.org before the event that he felt NiP's key to success was allowing Maikelele to roam free and build their new game style around him, and according to an interview with us, that is exactly what NiP did. And guess what - it paid major dividends as NiP made it back to their fourth consecutive grand final, despite struggling to perform for as long as five months, save for four days of great play in Cologne.
As I expected in my pre-event article, f0rest once again elevated his level of play after a roster change. He finished the event with the seventh best rating at 1.15, down a little from his career average, but probably at least on par, if not above, his average for 2014. He put up 0.82 kills per round - third best at the event - had a few vintage-f0rest performances against HellRaisers on de_inferno and Planetkey Dynamics on de_overpass, and got himself into a number of highlight clips.
f0rest had either a kill or an assist in 77% of NiP's round wins - nearly 15% more than the team's lowest contributor Maikelele - and either got a kill or an assist, or survived, 89,2% of NiP's won rounds. He scored an entry frag in 31 of NiP's 166 won rounds, and had by far the best rating out of NiP players in the rounds they won - 1.79, some 0.17 above Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund's second best number in their team. He also ranked number two, behind LDLC captain Happy, with a kill in 54% of all rounds played.
NiP will now get to take a well deserved vacation to close out 2014, having been directly invited to MLG Aspen, and then begin preparation for the first big tournament of 2015, to be held in Colorado at the end of January. NiP will get better from here once Maikelele fully adjusts to the team, and vice versa, and that will only make the Counter-Strike scene more competitive in 2015.
Despite the unfortunate ending, NiP are again among the very best
fnatic's questionable antics
It's hard for me to argue for fnatic in their boost drama. For top level players to find out about such an obviously map-breaking glitch two months in advance, and to ask others to keep it a secret from the general public - and Valve, who could have easily fixed it in time for the major - and expect it to fly, seems ridiculous to me.
If fnatic had used that on a single round, such as the second round force buy that saw olofmeister score two Scout headshots to the sewer area from far above, maybe they could have made it fly with the admins. There was confusion as to whether a pixelwalking rule existed for this event, and thus maybe doing it once could have been overlooked.
However, to abuse such a clearly map-breaking glitch for an entire half, to me, is simply unacceptable. I was surprised by Patrik "cArn" Sättermon's tweet, which in my opinion sent a message to the new CS:GO fans following their first matches, that Counter-Strike is all about abusing glitches and finding what seem to be unfair advantages. That obviously is not at all what Counter-Strike is about.
A case can be made that any team would have abused the spot had they known about it, or that there were no rules against it. That's fine. But you can't look at me in the eye with a straight face and tell me that boost was fair. No one, not even fnatic's players, would allow that boost to be used if they were put in the place of the tournament admin, and another team asked them about it.
What for me says that fnatic, in hindsight at least, agree, is their decision to withdraw their protest and to forfeit the deciding map. I think regardless of the community's opinion, unless the decision came from cArn and the fnatic organization, you have to stick by your guns if you think you are right. fnatic changed their mind, and forfeited a chance at a second major win.
olofm's boost caused a huge controversy
The scene wins, thanks to the final day
Though fnatic's now-illegal boost on de_overpass and the drama surrounding it and both teams' protests almost siderailed DreamHack Winter for around eighteen hours, the incredible games witnessed on the final day of competition, combined with fnatic's decision to withdraw their protest and bail out of the event, made up for the issues and ultimately made DreamHack Winter a great event.
NiP versus Virtus.pro quickly made us forget about the issues as the two long-time rivals, with some of their players' rivalries going back more than five years, went head-to-head for three maps, including a double overtime thriller in the opener. Then LDLC and Natus Vincere had a solid two map affair, but none of it compared to the grand final. First two maps were solid - though de_inferno wound up being one-sided - but the third deciding map was simply incredible.
Two of the world's best teams took on each other on de_overpass for $50,000 - the difference between first and second place finish - and had to go into overtime to decide the eventual victors. Considering the stakes, that map may be the best Counter-Strike we've ever seen played. Expect the VOD of the match to live on forever as we re-watch LDLC's triumph from a 4-11 deficit.
Final day of matches was incredible
The group stage format needs a change
Traveling thousands of miles to play two maps simply isn't fun. Ask iBUYPOWER or Bravado, or Vox Eminor - if we look back that far. Not only is it not exciting watching teams only play two or three games in the group stage, it sucks for the teams - though no longer financially - to dedicate their lives to perfecting their craft and then not getting more than two chances to show what they are capable of.
Now with Valve and DreamHack hosting the nearly week-long bootcamp at Inferno Online for all teams, there's no more excuses for not extending the group stage. A number of players in our pre-event interviews stated they wished a group stage format similar to that of The International - one I have also suggested previously - would be used at these events to give everyone more matches to play.
If we simply moved the group stage to a location such as Inferno Online, and removed the bootcamp, we could instead of four groups of four teams, have two groups of eight teams. That would guarantee everyone a total of seven matches, and we could feasibly play them out in best-of-three. Now that would make for an incredible group stage, and ensure the best teams make it out to bracket play.
As an added benefit, it would guarantee the two best teams could not meet in the quarter-finals - no more would one best-of-one upset, such as HellRaisers taking down fnatic, knock the Swedes down enough to have to play a team who in the other group would have surely placed in the top two. It would serve as a better seeding system for the playoffs, and it would be preferred by practically every player, and spectator. It's time for change.
Safe to say teams like Bravado would benefit from more games
dignitas can't perform when it matters the most
Though Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen, perhaps jokingly, said in our pre-DreamHack interview that there would be no more chokerino coming from the Danish side, that is exactly what happened once again once the playoff portion of the tournament started. After two convincing wins over PENTA and iBUYPOWER, dignitas met Na`Vi - an arguably very strong opponent - in the quarter-finals. They lost their map of choice, de_cobblestone, 3-16, and then surrendered a 12-3 lead on de_mirage to lose 13-16, and 0-2 overall.
Especially disappointing was once again the team's star player, one of the best players in the world, Nicolai "device" Reedtz. Though his career averages make him the tenth best rated player in the world, in big playoff games he constantly disappears, as was the case in Jönköping, where he finished the Na`Vi series at the bottom of the scoreboard for dignitas, with 23 kills in 48 rounds, good for 0.48 KPR, and K-D difference of -17 and a rating of 0.62. For comparison his career averages are 0.79 KPR and a rating of 1.16.
It's unfair to blame just device for dignitas' troubles, but often a team's star player is the most recognized member of the squad and thus gets both credit for its success and the blame for losses. The truth is the problem is team wide, and it may very well take more than added experience to overcome. Only future will tell whether this team will ever get over the hump, and if so, what it will take from them.
What is holding dignitas back?
Americans are missing more than just practice
Before the event we wondered whether practice had been all that Cloud9 were missing, all that was separating them from the team with seemingly tons of unrealized potential, to a potential future world champion. Well, if it is just practice, it's a lot more than you could realistically say is just preparation for an event. More will have to be done before Cloud9 can be expected to be competing for podium finishes at major type event.
The North Americans were in Europe non-stop for roughly five weeks, spending a few days at Logitech's headquarters, attending three tournaments, and bootcamping the rest of the time in Stockholm. If all they needed was a few more weeks of practice to put them over the edge and into contention of titles, they would have been there now. In reality, there's still a sizable gap between them and consistent top finishes, especially after three consecutive group stage exits in Europe.
iBUYPOWER's weak performance was hardly a surprise to anyone, as the roster change from Sam "DaZeD" Marine and Joshua "steel" Nissan to Derek "desi" Branchen and Nick "nitr0" Cannella was by everyone interpreted as a long-term investment; something that would hopefully pay off in 2015 once the team gets used to its new players. iBP went from a legitimately exciting team to the team who had exited three majors in a row during the group stage. Adding insult to injury, ESEA's rules prevent desi from playing at the upcoming Finals with the team, so they're attending with Eric "adreN" Hoag instead.
The North Americans now get to go to ESEA Invite Season 17 Global Finals, where they often do much better than in Europe. This time it may not be the case with four Europeans in attendance and the wind likely blown out of the so-called home teams' sails. Whatever it is missing, North America still have not figured it out.
Cloud9 could be in trouble
CZ-75 must be nerfed
The issue of CZ-75's strength has been almost beat to death by now, but with the tournament calendar done for the year in a week, we can finally expect Valve to act on it and try to again find a way to nerf the machine gun-pistol. Every single player in our pre-event interview series said the gun needs to be nerfed, and the eye-test of having watched all of DreamHack Winter obviously seconds that.
The biggest complaint these days seems to be how the CZ-75's strength actually makes its perfect partner, the AWP, way too powerful. Considering fnatic's Jesper "JW" Wecksell may be the world's most dangerous player with that duo, and even he wants the gun nerfed, there should be no more discussion as to whether it needs to change - only how.
I believe a good way to please everyone would be to make the CZ-75 an SMG, and raise its price to $1,000. That way it could still be a strong weapon for the second round of each half, but it would make the AWP pairing impossible, and make it a much riskier purchase later on in the half. Otherwise Valve will need to find a way to nerf it, either by lowering the damage it does, or lowering its rate of fire, which has proven to be a tough task.
At DreamHack Winter 2014, CZ-75 was number four in terms of how many kills were scored with each weapon - just behind AK-47, Colt M4A1-S and AWP. While the two most popular weapons make up for over 52% of all kills, CZ-75's number was, respectably, over 8% - well above that of the M4A4, which accounted for 5,3% of all kills.
Pistol rounds included, CZ-75 is responsible for 38,6% of all pistol kills. When the comparison is shifted to pistols only, the numbers get even uglier. A staggering 56,5% of all pistol frags, excluding pistol rounds, in Jönköping's major were completed with the CZ-75. For comparison, P250 ranked second with 20,3% while USP-S came in third at 7,1%. The latter goes to show how incredibly popular the CZ-75 is in the game's save rounds.
Valve's goal has been said to be making CZ-75, Five-SeveN and Tec-9 equally popular, but out of that trio, CZ-75 gobbles up more than 93% all kills. There's not much more that needs to be said.
Click to enlarge - CZ-75's usage is off the charts
With only ESEA Invite Season 17 Global Finals left in the tournament calendar for the big teams in our scene, 2014 is all but wrapped up for the top competitive scene.
Coming up next will be our official world ranking for December of 2014, the Top 20 Player Rankings, as well as a new series to reward the year's best individual performers.
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