We have put together a preview ahead of tomorrow's ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals grand final between fnatic and Cloud9.
Unlike the previous statistical previews we have prepared for earlier matches, this one will have to be different simply because fnatic has never played this new Cloud9 team at any tournament.
As a result we have no data whatsoever from their head-to-head matches, because none exists. We will still focus on statistical analysis, but will also take a look at other aspects.
To make sure everyone is aware of the high stakes of the grand final, the winners will walk away with $100,000 in prize money, while the runners-up will have to do with $60,000.
Only two remain in competition at ESL TV studios
Recent player performances
This is the one area where Cloud9 really aren't a match for fnatic, but luckily for the North American team's fans, Counter-Strike isn't only a game of skill - the team factor is hugely important.
In Cologne the team has been led, in fragging, by the world's best player Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer, who has a staggering 1.24 rating so far - good for best in the world.
fnatic's player statistics at ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals
The Cloud9 camp's best performer has been the team's best player Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham, whose AWPing has to be in key role if Cloud9 are to put up a fight tomorrow.
Perhaps the most important point is that so far Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert has had a fairly consistent showing, which has definitely had a big impact on the team's play.
Cloud9's player statistics at ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals
Let's then compare these ten players' ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals performances to their ratings for the past three months, to see what kind of form they've all been in this week.
Naturally most players - as well as the average, by 0.03 - have a negative differential, as the level of competition is tougher at ESL ESEA Finals than overall, when including online play.
So far three players from Cloud9 show up in the four most improved players, a mark that helps explain their incredible performance, but also one that raises doubt over whether it can be sustained.
|Player ratings||ESL ESEA||3 months||Differential|
|Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham||1.21||1.12||+0.09|
|Ryan "freakazoid" Abadir||1.01||0.94||+0.07|
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||1.24||1.20||+0.04|
|Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert||1.13||1.09||+0.04|
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||1.05||1.07||-0.02|
|Mike "shroud" Grzesiek||1.11||1.16||-0.05|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||1.06||1.12||-0.06|
|Markus "pronax" Wallsten||0.85||0.93||-0.08|
|Sean "seang@res" Gares||0.78||0.88||-0.10|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||0.96||1.14||-0.18|
Rating differentials to show the players' current form
As mentioned above the biggest underperformer of this tournament has been fnatic's KRIMZ, and it's something to keep an eye out on tomorrow - if he plays well, it'll be next to impossible for C9 to keep up in this department.
fnatic as a whole have a combined differential of -0.30 at ESL ESEA, while Cloud9 boasts a positive differential of +0.05. Some is explained by scores in matches, some by pure performance.
A strong performance from KRiMZ could make the series easy for fnatic
Preparation for this game in particular
The one big difference between ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals and other tournaments in 2015 - and the past years in general - is the very lax schedule allowing for proper preparation between games.
As Cloud9 were already through to the grand final at the time of fnatic versus Virtus.pro, they could view the game through the lense of figuring out weaknesses in each team's game plan.
fnatic were surely watching as Cloud9 thrashed CLG earlier in the day, but their full focus had to still be on the Virtus.pro semi-final, and due to the nature of the match it hardly offered much intelligence.
An issue of sorts has also been raised regarding the availability of POV streams at the event - fnatic's in-game leader pronax even admitted being able to watch - and understand - Cloud9's POV stream is a clear advantage.
@RNGHavoc Actually i take that back, we could watch the NA vods today with comms and that would give us a big advantage if we make the final— Markus Wallsten (@pronaxCSGO) July 3, 2015
In addition, flusha stated in the post-match interview that his side planned on watching some VODs tonight to prepare some anti-strats for the grand final - safe to say they are taking C9 seriously now.
He also added that they've never had issues with C9 in the past, but the team has made strides even since last week. This time the will find out how Cloud9 plays, as opposed to letting pronax sleep their preparation off.
The North Americans, led by seang@res, likely are going to be better prepared by the virtue of watching fnatic play way more than fnatic watching Cloud9 play year-round.
n0thing added that he believes the outcome of the grand final itself will come down to the preparation that his side puts in tonight - and tomorrow, before the grand final.
We spoke to pronax after their semi-final
Map veto process
The Black and Orange side boast a clear advantage when it comes to the veto phase of the series. They are one of the few teams who play all of the seven maps, while Cloud9 does not.
On top of that, they can - and have, in the past - play all maps at a very high level. They are capable of defeating elite teams on any of the seven maps. Cloud9 is yet to prove the same.
In the table below we have included the unplayed decider maps in best-of-three series that were not played, as they were still selected, with vetoes in the brackets beside them.
As you can see, Cloud9 has banned de_cobblestone - a map fnatic is likely the world's best on - in every match so far. That means they must, most likely, do the same tomorrow.
|Played maps (vetoes)||fnatic||Cloud9|
|de_cache||1 (1)||2 (-)|
|de_cobblestone||- (-)||- (4)|
|de_dust2||2 (2)||2 (1)|
|de_inferno||1 (-)||- (3)|
|de_mirage||1 (3)||- (2)|
|de_overpass||2 (2)||1 (-)|
|de_train||1 (1)||1 (-)|
The map breakdown for both teams in Cologne so far
For fnatic, they have a choice to make. They could continue getting rid of de_mirage - which they have done after the disappointing CLG loss - or adjust for Cloud9, which is what I expect them to do.
Cloud9 has removed de_mirage in the games where their opponents haven't, and fnatic are still a good team on it. Rational thinking suggests fnatic will therefore remove de_cache.
fnatic's in-game leader pronax went on to state that he's super impressed by how Cloud9 plays de_cache, that he hasn't seen other teams play as they do, adding it's amazing to watch.
It seems like a fair suggestion fnatic will get rid of Cloud9's best map and take the series to de_dust2, de_inferno, de_mirage, de_overpass and de_train instead - all good maps for them.
Otherwise fnatic could go the other route and watch all three of C9's de_cache games, if they think that will allow them to adjust fully, and remove the element of surprise from Cloud9.
Either way, de_inferno is as close to a sure-thing as there is for fnatic, and they're also clear favorites on de_overpass. Other maps are closer, but could you favor C9 on any of them?
freakazoid's team proved they can play de_dust2 versus EnVy and CLG, but fnatic is a different animal on the map. On de_mirage they are unproven against Europeans.
Finally, de_train is likely Cloud9's best chance to steal a map here, and should be their pick if fnatic removes de_cache. As long as they don't let olofmeister walk out from middle every round.
de_dust2 will be a key map in the series tomorrow
The leadership factor
This tournament has - in large thanks to the criticized POV streams - led to fans giving much more credit to teams' in-game leaders than usual, as they've been able to hear the actual calls.
Due to the overwhelming skill difference and the ability of their roster to make plays, pronax has a huge margin for error when it comes to his shot calling.
Some great late round calls by pronax there on the later rounds. 👍— Joona Leppänen (@natuCSGO) July 4, 2015
On the other hand, seang@res has called near perfect games after slow starts to get his team here. What if he slips at all tomorrow? Can Cloud9 compete without him at 100%?
.@c9seangares did a really good job in game leading against us. I really think he's a big part of the reason C9 does well. Impressive stuff~— tarik.... (@noshirt_tv) July 4, 2015
It seems like a given that seang@res must be calling a damn near perfect series for Cloud9 to truly compete for the title, and the first place prize of $100,000 tomorrow evening.
So far he's done an amazing job - reading EnVy like an open book - but as freakazoid said, C9 had prepared for the Frenchmen already for Gfinity, so now the timeframe is much shorter.
Still, even n0thing made sure to give props to his in-game leader in the post-match interview, giving an example of where a call gave Cloud9 nearly a free round win.
seang@res's calls have been on point, but enough to lift the trophy?
There has been a ton of talk about the best-of-one group stage that saw three upsets take place on round one, and ultimately sent TSM packing after a match versus fnatic.
Despite the case for best-of-one made in our day one wrap-up, basic mathematics proves that it's significantly harder for an underdog to win a best-of-three series - let alone a best-of-five.
fnatic has an incredible record in best-of-three and best-of-five series, as pointed out earlier today on Twitter by CS:GO analyst Duncan "Thorin" Shields.
FNATIC have only lost 8 Bo3/Bo5s offline in 2015: NiP TSM (x5) Titan VP It will be incredibly difficult for Coud9 to win a Bo5.— Duncan Shields (@Thooorin) July 4, 2015
In the end, even if Cloud9 starts off strong, the format may be their doom. Not only is it harder to win multiple maps, it also makes the veto phase significantly harder for them.
In the past no non-European team has defeated fnatic in a best-of-three. Their only map losses of the kind have been versus KaBuM.TD (now Keyd Stars), Liquid, Vox Eminor (now Renegades) and on Thursday CLG.
Days after indicating no North American is a match to them, flusha stated in an interview with ESL TV that the region as a whole has improved heaps, and cannot simply be out-skilled easily any longer.
Unless you're karrigan's TSM, you don't want to play a long series versus fnatic
The case for each team
Look, fnatic may have dropped their opener to CLG on Thursday, and been on the verge of being eliminated versus TSM, but since then they've been near perfect in Cologne.
They dropped de_cache to Virtus.pro today, but one must remember they can - and should - remove the map against Cloud9. Plus, pronax stated in our interview he already knows how to counter that style, too.
fnatic are the world's best team, and when put in a best-of-five series - against a team who are fighting for a place in the top ten - they are obviously going to be heavily favored.
The squad coached by Viktor "vuggo" Jendeby has now won over $500,000 in prize money since this roster was created a year ago, and with a win tomorrow that figure could get close to $600,000.
|fnatic||19-16||vs. Keyd Stars||de_train|
|fnatic||16-5||vs. Keyd Stars||de_inferno|
fnatic's match record at the ESL ESEA Finals
I believe this preview has made the case for fnatic - judging by all the evidence available to us from the past, they have proven to be a better team overall, over a longer period of time.
Cloud9 on the other hand has had a showing where they have seemingly improved their level of play continuously as the tournament has continued, though they also had an easier semi-final opponent.
After bowing out in London a week ago against EnVyUs and Virtus.pro, the team took down the Frenchmen on three maps in Cologne - though still dropped the sole map played versus the Polish side.
Cloud9 looked dominant today versus CLG, but that had always been the case - they boasted a 7-1 record with these exact line-ups, the one dropped map coming as a part of a best-of-three series they won.
Cloud9's match record at the ESL ESEA Finals
The grand final will be the biggest match so far in the careers of all of Cloud9's players. Part of how they do will naturally come down to how they cope with the pressure.
The case for Cloud9 is the ultimate cinderella story happening. No one thought they'd make the grand final, and fewer would have ever bet money on them to win it all.
Tomorrow they have a chance to do just that, but it will require a perfect performance - strong individual play, great calls, and some luck. And a few mistakes by the Swedes.
The minds behind fnatic have good reason to smile
ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 Finals' grand final will go live around 18:30 on Sunday and will be broadcasted on ESL TV with additional POV streams available for each team.
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