ESL One Cologne Group D preview
Our pre-event coverage for ESL One Cologne 2015 concludes with a preview of Group D, in which Virtus.pro, Immunity, Cloud9, and mousesports are contending.
ESL One Cologne will run from August 20-23 and the first day will unfold with characteristic GSL-style groups. Teams will play the two opening matches and then the winners will play an Upper Bracket match—from there the winner moves into the quarter-finals and the other three teams will be part of the remaining 12 to be reshuffled into new groups.
A full overview of the ESL One Cologne schedule can be found here. Group D will begin after the winners matches for Groups A & B have played out, approximately around 18:15.
We are now going to inspect the teams that will be fighting on day one that are in Group D, a group which features three extremely strong candidates for a playoff run, as well as an Australian question mark.
Cologne, Germany will host a major for the second time
Virtus.pro, winners of 2014 EMS One Katowice as well as the third largest first place payout of 2015 ($70,000 at the ESEA Season 18 Global Finals), believe in the mantra of exhaustive travel. Whereas teams such as NiP, TSM, and fnatic chose to miss events over the summer for admittedly legitimate reasons (e.g. school, holiday), it took Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas's wedding to force the Poles off of the event-attendance grind.
As one might expect, this kind of commitment to the luxury of being a top level esports team is not without its drawbacks. It comes as no surprise then that Virtus.pro also perform below expectations as an elite team (although this classification is debatable these days) and sometimes bomb out in groups.
Following the abovementioned trip to Dallas, Texas for a first place defeat of fnatic at the ESEA S18 finals, VP's next event was the FACEIT Stage 1 finals in London where a Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund-powered NiP edged out VP in the semifinals, making the team finish in 3-4th place.
The team returned to London two weekends later for the Gfinity Spring Masters II event and advanced to the playoffs, even defeating Na`Vi in the semifinal (the Poles have a slight edge over Natus Vincere overall), but they were ultimately routed by fnatic in the grand final with a 3-0 concisive defeat.
Virtus.pro returned to winning ways at the team's latest event
VP's next event was the Gfinity Summer Masters I, with the team hoping to put the back-to-back attendance of Gfinity events to good use and win the third edition of the Gfinity tournament.
The team managed to defeat a weak Cloud9 roster (who were still getting used to roster changes) but VP were then stumped not once, but twice by mousesports, which forced a group stage exit and opened up the floor for debate in earnest on the team's fall.
Unlike this team's core in CS 1.6, Virtus.pro have developed a solid reputation for their online matches, which includes qualifying for important offline finals when necessary. Obviously, this improvement is not definitive, with the Poles failing to qualify for the four-team Fragbite Masters Season 4 finals.
However, a strong run in the ESL ESEA Pro League meant a visit to Cologne, Germany in the beginning of July where Virtus.pro easily cleared the group stage, defeating Luminosity and Cloud9 in the process.
In the semifinal however, Virtus once again came up against fnatic and lost the duel of giants 1-2, finishing in 3-4th place with $25,000 in prize-money.
This tendency to crush second tier teams and then lose the all important matches to the highest calibre ones (i.e. fnatic, TSM) is characteristic of this summer's Virtus.pro, and gives the team a similar affinity to other struggling outfits of the mid-year season such as NiP.
The ensuing event came two weeks after in Valencia, Spain: the FACEIT Stage 2 finals. After an unlikely best-of-one loss to Na`Vi in their opener, Virtus.pro went into a group decider match against Kinguin that many favoured them to win.
Then, the 16-0 game happened. The one that people still talk about in forum comments when Virtus.pro is mentioned. The one where soulless and vacant expressions take over for the usually upbeat Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski.
Kinguin came back in map three with a 16-0 de_cache boxing of Virtus.pro, and took the Poles out in groups. Something was awry.
A classic o kurwa expression for the ages
There is something heroic about this team however, and it's the same quality that allowed them to come out as underdogs at Katowice in 2014 and demolish the entire event. This quality has many nicknames among passionate fans, gambling addicts would call it Virtus.pro's "Golden Rule," while wizened Counter-Strike philosophers look up to the sky and ask "Virtus plow or Virtus throw?"
The team made this point quite succinctly at the CEVO-P Season 7 finals, where they topped the group by enacting revenge on Na`Vi first and foremost, a foreboding sign. The team then dismissed Cloud9, another team looking to rise in stock, and completed their pièce de résistance at CEVO by convincingly beating Na`Vi 3-1 in the grand final.
|Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||22||5||31||1.23||Winner (Kat 2014)|
|Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||27||5||31||1.19||Winner (Kat 2014)|
|Paweł "byali" Bieliński||21||5||31||1.12||Winner (Kat 2014)|
|Filip "NEO" Kubski||28||5||31||1.10||Winner (Kat 2014)|
|Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||29||5||31||0.96||Winner (Kat 2014)|
Frankly speaking, Snax is an absolute monster at majors, and has the highest major rating of all the players who will be present at ESL One Cologne 2015. Lurking, holding down sites, winning clutch situations, entrying: Snax will be the ultimate utility player for the Polish team. It would truly take a Poké Flute to keep Snax from performing.
Muscular pashaBiceps is not far behind, and posts a rating that puts similar role players on TSM and fnatic to shame at the majors. 21-year-old byali, at 1.12 rating, has chipped in immensely as well.
In terms of major player rating, this guy is the best
With TaZ officially calling for Cologne, another fact not captured by our major stats is NEO, who has been playing to a much higher level at recent events, often finishing with the highest rating in matches. Freeing up his calling duties will no doubt allow the player to excel at ESL One Cologne.
At an average of 25.6 years of age, Virtus.pro will be the oldest team at this year's Cologne, as well as the oldest team to play a major to date.
In the early days of CS:GO, having one team from the Oceanic region was impressive enough, in light of the grueling travel time and geographic separation that teams from Down Under faced.
Today, with CS:GO growing in regions such as North America, Brazil, South Africa, and Australia, it comes as no surprise that the two teams to qualify for ESL One Cologne 2015 via the Asian qualifier are Australia's two best.
On top of that, Immunity are no Bravado or Team Wolf, and they have already played three tournaments in Europe this year which has given the team a windfall of experience.
The first event for Immunity was the FACEIT Stage 1 finals in London. The opener saw Immunity take NiP to a 14-16 scoreline on map two despite losing;Immunity then disposed of the American-Canadian Liquid team 2-1, an already hopeful result for a team previously untested on the international stage. The decider game against NiP unfortunately saw Immunity crushed on two maps.
Immunity did not return home after this group stage exit, instead the team went to the DreamHack Open Tours BYOC qualifier the next weekend. Things did not play out as expected, with the team losing in the upper bracket to Awsomniac and then in the lower bracket semifinal to beGenius, thereby failing to qualify.
Immunity debuted in 2015 at the FACEIT Stage 1 finals
The Australian Eurotrip was extended for one more weekend as Immunity went into Gfinity Spring Masters II as part of Group B. The team failed to impress however, going out with a 0-4 best-of-three record and losing clean series to Cloud9, EnVyUs, and Virtus.pro (Immunity did take Titan to overtime on one map).
With Australian rivals Renegades (then still known as Vox Eminor) present at the same event, and managing to take maps off of fnatic, NiP, and Liquid, Immunity's showing must have been felt as a disappointment for the team. Renegades followed up on this advantage by defeating Immunity with a 2-0 score at ACL Sydney.
Since then, we have not seen much of Immunity. The team, like Renegades, had to forgo attending the FACEIT Stage 2 finals due to an overlap with the ESL One Asian Qualifier, where Immunity defeated the Malaysians of MVP.karnal to qualify for the major.
|Iain "SnypeR" Turner||28||1||2||0.92||Group stage (Katowice 2014)|
|Karlo "USTILO" Pivac||22||-||-||-||-|
|Ricardo "Rickeh" Mulholland||23||-||-||-||-|
|Chris "emagine" Rowlands||24||-||-||-||-|
|James "James" Quinn||21||-||-||-||-|
ESL One Cologne 2015 will be the Immunity organisation's first major, as well as the first major for four of the team's players.
SnypeR, at 28 years and 342 days of age, is the second oldest player at this event and also has previous major experience, having been part of the Vox Eminor lineup that went out in groups at EMS One Katowice 2014.
18:15 Virtus.pro vs. Immunity
Much like what Immunity player James told us in his interview, the team's underdog status favours them going into this major. However, in that same interview, James admitted the team's preparation was not as sufficient as they would have liked, a worrying sign going into one of CS:GO's most prestigious events.
However, as should have been said in the first line of this portion of the preview, Virtus.pro remain tremendous favourites, having more skill, more experience, and more teamwork. Expect odds of over 90% on betting sites.
For awhile the piñata of the North American Counter-Strike team, Cloud9 were easy to pick on and even easier to destroy in the server.
Accusations and memes about performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) aside, the team's playstyle in the spring was spazzy and subpar, making trainwrecks such as that seen at the ESEA Season 18 Global Finals a standard affair.
Even after signing AWP wunderkind Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham and the charismatic, untested entryfragger Ryan "freakazoid" Abadir amid much speculation following these results, the team continued to struggle at first, such as failing to make it out of groups at Gfinity Spring Masters II (with 0-2 losses to EnVyUs, Virtus.pro, and Titan).
Cloud9 hunkered down, with leader Sean "seang@res" Gares working on team tactics and cleaning up messy in-game communications. Winning the North American HTC Reborn Invitational helped C9 put a stamp of dominance on its regional rivals.
Cloud9 flew to London in late June for Gfinity Summer Masters I, and once again went out in groups with losses to Virtus.pro and EnVyUs. However, extremely positive signs were in the air with the Canadian-American team sorely testing EnVyUs in a three map thriller and even challenging Virtus.pro on de_overpass.
The next weekend, at the ESL ESEA Pro League Season 1 finals (which Cloud9 had topped in the online North American group stage), was the team's breakout moment. Wearing tank-tops suggestive of the heat both in the ESL studio and in the team's desire to win, Cloud9 broke out in their opener with a 16-13 defeat of nV on de_cache.
Cloud9 are among teams like Na`Vi and mouz who have strongly improved this summer
The team could not beat Virtus.pro in the winners match on de_overpass (it should be noted the Poles seem to possess a mental advantage over all North American teams, possibly due to a similar haphazard playstyle), and hence went into a decider match against a hungover EnVyUs squad.
The team obliterated nV's hubris with a 2-0 sweep and advanced to the playoffs. A favourable draw saw them paired against the fellow North Americans CLG, and Cloud9 have proven to be rarely tested and defeated by their regional rivals as of late.
And hence the team went into the grand finals with $100,000 for first place on the line, already an above-expected finish for Cloud9. In a memorable game that will no doubt be cited by the analysts at ESL One Cologne 2015, Cloud9 took world champions fnatic to the wire despite losing 1-3. Stars Skadoodle and Mike "shroud" Grzesiek in particular showed off the ability to shine on the international stage.
Finishing in second place with $60,000 won and having taken de_cbble off of fnatic, as well as taking de_overpass to 30 rounds and de_dust2 to overtime, Cloud9 had exerted a newfound strength on the scene. Even Markus "pronax" Wallsten seemed impressed in our interview with the fnatic captain.
Cloud9 topped their group at ESWC 2015, scoring comfortable wins over Canadian Boreal, Brazilian Keyd Stars, and the Spencer "Hiko" Martin-infused FlipSid3. The team once again defeated regional rivals Liquid in the quarter-finals and also defeated the imploding EnVyUs roster at the semifinals (which is not to take away from Cloud9's victory, but this preview's author himself saw how dispirited the Frenchmen looked sitting next to one another).
shroud's awakening on the big stage has been crucial for Cloud9
Another tense grand final followed, with Na`Vi just scraping by in the end, meaning C9 would have to wait another day to win an international title in 2015. In our interview with players Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert and freakazoid, they expounded at length about the team's map-pool and improved chemistry.
Two more events lay ahead, the first being the FACEIT Stage 2 finals in Valencia. C9 defeated Kinguin and got revenge on Na`Vi in a best-of-one to top Group A, however the team's greatest success was no doubt the 2-0 semifinal defeat of fnatic, proving to many that Cloud9 could play ball. However, with not much experience playing the disciplined TSM squad, C9 failed to win the grand final.
As a result of these finishes, many expected the team to be a possible winner at the CEVO-P Season 7 finals. Despite losing to the red-hot mousesports team in groups, Cloud9 defeated rivals CLG and advanced to the playoffs. The team were once again blocked from advancing through the semifinals by the Virtus.pro Leviathan, and had to settle with a 3-4th place finish.
The final offline action of the year saw Cloud9 qualify for ESL One Cologne 2015 via the North American qualifier.
|Mike "shroud" Grzesiek||21||3||11||0.97||1/4 final (Cologne 2014)|
|Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert||24||5||24||0.94||1/2 final (DH Winter 2013)|
|Sean "seang@res" Gares||27||5||24||0.84||1/2 final (DH Winter 2013)|
|Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham||22||4||10||0.83||Group stage (4x)|
|Ryan "freakazoid" Abadir||22||-||-||-||-|
Skadoodle, on the other hand, was part of the infamous iBUYPLANETICKETS lineup that failed to exit the groups at four different majors, explaining this normally impactful player's incredibly low rating.
In fact, all of these players have ratings that are depreciated in value in light of the summer's events, where ratings above 1 for at least four of these players are frequent and common. shroud tops the list mostly due to the player's breakout performance at ESL One Cologne 2014, which saw Cloud9 almost make the semifinals over NiP.
mousesports are what may be called a coup d'état team, having earned a major qualification due to acquiring three of PENTA's players in one of 2015's most complete roster overhauls in a high-tier team.
However, unlike what may be expected during the coup of, say, an African general, where infrastructure is left unattended and internecine destruction engulfs a nation, mouz have worked hard to earn the reputation as a team deserving of the major slot. Bringing together the talent of these PENTA players with the leadership of Fatih "gob b" Dayik has in fact proven to be akin to bringing together tin and copper to make a fine bronze product.
The organisations first summer event, Gfinity Summer Masters I, was already quite a breakout for the team despite gob b telling HLTV.org that the team were not yet ready and the event was mere practice.
mouz defeated Virtus.pro in two separate best-of-threes (including 2-1 in the group decider) and lost to EnVyUs 1-2 in a game where the majority-German team cetainly put up a fight. It wasn't until NiP beat mouz 2-0 in the semis that the team's run was ended.
gob b has helped mould an exemplary German team
The team's next event, the CEVO-P Season 7 finals, saw mouz top its group over Cloud9 to make the playoffs with a higher seed. However, the team were outplayed by Na`Vi in the semifinals where Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács went into god-mode and shut down the mouz blitzkrieg.
At the Acer Predator Masters Season 1 finals, mousesports showcased a dominant Upper Bracket run and were widely expected to win the best-of-seven grand finals if not for the immense stamina and skill that HellRaisers unexpectedly showcased at the event. Regardless, the event was another time where players such as Johannes "nex" Maget began to shine with insanely high individual skill.
The team's second-to-last event, IEM Gamescom, is hard to assess due to the format, as has been mentioned in earlier previews. mousesports finished in fourth place however they left the event having defeated the new EnVyUs lineup and Renegades at least once.
mousesports' final event this summer was simply a regional declaration of skill, at the ESL Sommermeisterschaft finals, where mouz defeated PENTA 2-0 to retain bragging rights as the best team in Germany.
|Denis "denis" Howell||21||2||10||0.96||1/4 final (2x)|
|Timo "Spiidi" Richter||19||2||10||0.92||1/4 final (2x)|
|Johannes "nex" Maget||23||2||7||0.84||1/4 final (Katowice 2015)|
|Chris "chrisJ" de Jong||25||1||2||0.79||Group stage (Katowice 2014)|
|Fatih "gob b" Dayik||28||-||-||-||-|
denis and Spiidi draw their major experiences from two quarter-finals finishes on PENTA at two separate majors (ESL One Katowice 2015 and DreamHack Winter 2014), results which put these two players on the map broadly speaking.
Talent nex was part of the PENTA lineup at Katowice 2015, however his second major comes from the doomed Planetkey team that went out in groups at DreamHack Winter 2014. It was only after this latter major that PENTA signed nex.
Fan favourite chrisJ only managed to attend EMS One Katowice 2014 with a wildly different mouz lineup (see here), which put up a dismal performance and went out in groups. Interestingly enough, ESL One Cologne 2015 will be the second-ever major for the mousesports organisation following the aforementioned Katowice 2014 flop.
Veteran and captain gob b, the sixth oldest player at the event, will be attending his first ever CS:GO major.
19:40 Cloud9 vs. mousesports
mouz's decisive victory over Cloud9 in Group A at the CEVO Season 7 finals has suddenly gained a measure of immediate importance. These were two teams that narrowly avoided playing each other at Gfinity Summer Masters I and were in effect meeting each other for the first time in a head-to-head match.
With mousesports out-stratting and out-playing C9, this opener for both teams will see a high level of tactical positioning occur. It will probably be among the openers where the map veto is the most important, with mousesports likely trying to pick maps like de_cache or de_dust2 where mobile players like chrisJ and nex can have maximum impact.
If Cloud9 want to win, their best bet would be another map where the team have proven to be strong against European teams, such as de_cbble or especially de_train (here AWPer Skadoodle and role-player n0thing can really shine). de_inferno is out of the question of course, unless the North American team rapidly overhauled its map-pool.
21:05 Winner D1 vs. Winner D2
Virtus.pro should, by all accounts, defeat Immunity and advance to the winners match. However we will briefly touch on the possibility of an Immunity upset further down.
Should Cloud9 enact revenge on mouz for the CEVO defeat, they go into an uphill battle against the Poles, with VP winning 4 of the last 5 offline matches against C9. However, some of these games have been played close, and since Cloud9 and Virtus.pro rely on similar aggression (it must lie in some statistical correlation of muscles-to-players) on their maps, this game could become a straight-up aim battle. Expect fireworks if these two teams come up against each other.
Should mousesports advance to play against Virtus.pro, an even more strained match is possible. Looking at double-digit scorelines such as those seen in this best-of-three at Gfinity Summer I is enough to make one giddy at the prospect of these two facing off in the winners match.
NEO has cause to worry, but VP remain favourites to leave the group early
With all things considered, VP would have an easier time advancing to the playoffs if Cloud9 pull off the win in their opener. mousesports could be a real headache for the Poles, but expect TaZ to be well prepared for the German efficiency that is mouz.
Should Immunity upset Virtus.pro and fill our forums with "VIRTUS THROW" posts, the Australian team will likely struggle with either opponent. Cloud9 smashed Immunity at Gfinity Spring Masters II whereas the well-disciplined mousesports should not fall for any tricks the Australians may have. However, with the skill ceiling rapidly narrowing in CS:GO, it would not be remiss (though it is boring) to state that "anything is possible."
That marks the end of our extensive preview series for ESL One Cologne 2015. All 16 teams have had their performance over the past few months plumbed to the depths, and while we here at HLTV.org have not given predictions for the major this time around, we believe the information satisfactory enough to allow ample research time for those interested.
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