PGL Season 1 Finals preview
The PGL Season 1 Finals kick off this weekend and we present our official preview for the $75,000 offline bash taking place in Bucharest, Romania.
Starting on Friday, October 2nd and running throughout the weekend, the PGL Season 1 Finals will see three European teams and one North American team dueling it out at the Grand Cinema & More cinema complex (more specifically inside of the Epika Hall).
With $85,000 on offer in PGL's Season 1 ($10,000 of which has already gone the way of travel support), the four teams will compete for another $75,000 in a double elimination best-of-three bracket with a best-of-five grand final.
PGL's Season 1 Finals kick off tomorrow
You can find a viewer's guide for the event here which will help keep you in tune with any related information regarding the event.
For now however, we will begin our analysis of the four teams competing in Bucharest: fnatic, TSM, Virtus.pro, and Team Liquid. This preview will argue that, all things considered, the PGL Season 1 finals promise to be a tightly contested event that will feature series that go down to the wire.
This preview will be a mix-up of team analysis and a look at the beginning matches, as well marking a return to predictions (despite the high risk of such predictions running aground in a four-team event).
Let us begin with Friday's opening semifinals matches:
Virtus.pro vs. Liquid
Virtus.pro and Team Liquid are two teams who have seen their fortunes rise in recent events.
With the addition of Spencer "Hiko" Martin to its ranks, Team Liquid in particular seems to be on an upswing. However, with not much offline event attendance for this roster, this upswing is not indicated in a side-by-side comparison of recent placings at offline events for the two teams.
|FACEIT Stage 2 finals||7-8th||7-8th*|
|CEVO-P Season 7 finals||1st||7-8th*|
|ESL One Cologne 2015||3-4th||N/A|
|ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational||1st||N/A|
|DreamHack Open Stockholm||N/A||Qual. for major|
*Team Liquid played with flowsicK in these events
The case for a stronger Team Liquid (feat. nitr0, EliGE, Hiko, FugLy, adreN)
With such a comparison, recent placings look a tad grim for the American team. However, considering that Liquid with Hiko have begun to steadily accrue wins, for example defeating Luminosity in two recent online series (including in the iBP Fall Inviational), then we can tease out the shadow of a team that is beginning to appear larger and suddenly much more formidable.
The added confidence boost of qualifying for a CS:GO major at DreamHack Cluj-Napoca (a first for the organisation as well as two of its players) will no doubt inspire; whereas strong finishes in tournaments often lead to slumps afterwards, qualification tournaments such as DreamHack Open Stockholm have not proven to have the same effect.
Three of Liquid's members also took the week in between Stockholm and the PGL finals to bootcamp in Liquid's team house in Utretcht, Netherlands which should help Hiko blend in with the team's overall rhythms and dynamic further.
nitr0 is powering Liquid in the fragging department
All-in-all, Team Liquid is dangerous, understudied, and looking to prove itself in a region where CLG's hold on the number-two spot over the summer has been slipping. Virtus.pro are the great American anti-strat team, so we may have to also expect a loss in the opener, but it's possible to bet on surprising resilience later on against the loser of fnatic vs. TSM.
Man-of-the-match: Nick "nitr0" Cannella. North America has been churning out riflers with steady aim and aggressive pacing along the likes of Tarik "tarik" Celik and Jake "Stewie2K" Yip at a breakneck pace this year. nitr0 is certainly part of that club and likely to impress at PGL considering his up-turn in form at DreamHack Open Stockholm.
Virtus.pro: Hussars coming through (feat. Snax, NEO, TaZ, byali, pashaBiceps)
There is a longstanding scene famous in the Polish nationalistic and mythical mindset. It features King Sobieski III arriving with his "hussars," elite cavalry who used wings on their backs as they charged to rattle the enemy, in Vienna and charging down a Turkish army in order to save the Holy Roman Empire.
In 2015, the Poles of Virtus.pro will be coming through former lands of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, once again looking to repel their opponents, albeit this time in the city of Bucharest.
Since the humbling 7-8th place finish and 16-0 defeat on de_cache to Kinguin at the FACEIT Stage 2 finals, we have seen a scarily resurgent Virtus.pro take titles over rivals (CEVO-P Season 7 over Na`Vi and ESL ESEA Dubai over TSM) as well as taking other teams to their limits (fnatic in Cologne, EnVyus in Birmingham at Gfinity Champions).
The "Snax-CIOS" is the engine to the Virtus.Plow
With Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski playing out of his mind across all the events above, and with Paweł "byali" Bieliński and Filip "NEO" Kubski taking turns assisting in carrying the team as well (although the latter player was severely diminished in form at Gfinity Champions), Virtus.pro are keen to prove that they belong in the top three in the second half of 2015.
As mentioned earlier, VP have a scary ability to dismantle North American teams far more convincingly than their European compatriots (except perhaps against the old iBUYPOWER lineup, which defeated the Poles more than once). Team Liquid may be on point, but Virtus.pro are on plow.
Man-of-the-match: The aformentioned Snax: godlike performances coupled with the second best all-time rating at majors have turned this player into a bit of a carry in a team where all are capable of doing the carrying. With AWPer NEO somewhat cooling in form lately, Snax will have to do his fair share of lifting this time around.
fnatic vs. TSM
The second match-up on Friday brings together the two biggest rivals of 2015, and the top two teams in the world according to our new team ranking. Each team has shown signs of vulnerability at certain events, but both the Swedes of fnatic and the Danes of TSM continue to score top four consistent placings, as can be seen in our recent results table below.
|FACEIT Stage 2 finals||3-4th||1st|
|ESL One Cologne 2015||1st||3-4th|
|ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational||3-4th||2nd|
|DreamHack Open London||N/A||2nd|
Testing TSM (feat. device, dupreeh, karrigan, Xyp9x, cajunb)
"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride" is a prhase that has been said of TSM recently, which the Danish side will doubtlessly view as a disappointing assessment.
Despite Nicolai "device" Reedtz coming into his own as a star fragger and the rest of the team still playing to a high level of finesse, TSM have had to put up with second place and semifinals finishes lately, a streak that brings to mind a similar fate of this Danish core in the leaner 2013-2014 years.
Part of the reason for this dip in form is that TSM are no longer "fnatic's kryptonite." This question was settled once and for all at the fragbite Masters Champions Showdown, where the Swedish powerhouse took four maps convincingly to a single TSM map.
Back to the gym for karrigan Balboa and crew
Another problem is that TSM have not shown an ability to play well against two other top three contenders, EnVyUs and Virtus.pro. The Frenchmen in particular have flattened Finn "karrigan" Andersen and co. at two finals recently: IEM Gamescom and DreamHack Open London (where Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer's heroic deagle antics at the latter are quickly passing over into legend).
Man-of-the-match: device. In a world where you're an elite-level team who is consistently beating lesser teams and finishing 2nd-4th at events, the extra ingredient can often come from your star player taking flight on his own accord and wrecking the server. device will have to be the pointman in this best-of-three.
fnatic: Easy peasy lemon squeezy (feat. JW, olofmeister, pronax, flusha, KRIMZ)
There's an old English saying that reads: "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." fnatic have paid the price for going into events with too much confidence before, and the danger is an ever present problem that lurks beneath the surface for any number one competitor.
That being said however, fnatic should still feel like they've lucked out in this tournament as far as things stand. With the "EnVyUs problem" removed (giving the Swedes time to figure out why the French squad have been on fire as of late), fnatic can turn their attention to a team which they've recently soundly defeated in the PGL opener.
fnatic's players continue to shine. Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer is still showing the world what an all-around, complete package player consists of in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson has been muted as of late but remains sound whereas Robin "flusha" Rönnquist is hitting a newfound peak in his career form. Jesper "JW" Wecksell still takes unthinkable peeks and wins, and Markus "pronax" Wallsten has remained the Superglue that holds this team down.
Additionally, assuming the likely outcome of VP taking down Team Liquid, and then fnatic playing their game and routing TSM, the Swedes should be confident about the match-up against the Poles. Virtus.pro domination is not seen on a per-tournament basis and there is a chance the Poles may be worn out from such a gruelling schedule (but don't bet on it) which means that fnatic will be able to pace the game correctly if given the chance.
In any case, chances of fnatic making the grand final in two best-of-three series wins are probably the highest among these four teams.
Man-of-the-match: flusha. This choice is arguably against the grain but the beleaguered flusha has been going on a tear lately, looking to fill the righthand man role in fnatic after its star olofmeister.
What are the chances of these predictions going haywire and being ultimately wrong? Quite high unfortunately.
In a four team, double elimination event where best-of-three pacing and map selection play a huge role, players may appear and vanish at various points in the match. With only four placings to choose, and three of the teams fitting into the top four of our current world team rankings system, variance is inevitable.
All things considered however, these predictions ring true in regards to the previous weeks' history: a fnatic team that continues to lead the pack, a stronger and resurgent Virtus.pro, a slightly faltering TSM lineup, and Team Liquid, a dark horse who have recently stepped up their game. It's going to be a crazy weekend.
stich writes for HLTV.org and can also be found on Twitter