DH Open Cluj preview: 'Legends'
With CS:GO's seventh major upon us, we present part two of our two-part preview series for DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca: in this second part we examine the 'Legends.'
DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, running from October 28-November 1 and with $250,000 on offer as CS:GO's seventh major, promises to be CS:GO's most competitive major talent-wise.
With 14 out of 16 teams also being previous attendees of ESL One Cologne 2015, Cluj is also a fairly conservative major in terms of its composition and it will be a chance to revisit story-lines and rivalries that have been brewing in the two months since the last major.
The 'Legends' are all heavy-hitters as far as majors go
Cluj-Napoca will also introduce a fair amount of reforms to the major system: the veto process has been changed, the decider match in each group will be a best-of-three, and spectators can now play a new Fantasy Team Game.
Regardless, the major will offer us five days of breathtaking CS:GO action, with groups that are worth salivating over.
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
As such it is time to take a look at the 'Legends,' the eight teams who survived the group stages at ESL One Cologne and have thus been assigned second and first seeds.
Second Seed Teams
Since Greek epics are in fashion as far as CS:GO previews go, we should this time compare the challenge facing second seeded teams to that facing the Trojans in the final year of the Trojan War, i.e. the setting of the Iliad.
The four teams who made quarter-finals at ESL One Cologne and then faltered are fighting a war of attrition for their very survival and there is an ominous sense that the fates may be stacked against them in varying ways.
After all, it is the first seeded teams who possess the Achilleses of the bunch, players such as Robin "flusha" Rönnquist and Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski who are ratings titans in majors; second seeded teams can bring the fight all the way to the shore for these elite rivals only to find a god sending them scurrying back.
Luckily for these teams however, Counter-Strike is not divine warfare but rather a game of micro-victories and intangibles that allows even the least likely to have a significant impact in a match.
On the topic of those who were once considered unlikely, we should begin with Luminosity, a team whose preparation, drive, and ambition at each major belies belief and has kept the team's core on a consecutive streak of top eight major finishes in 2015.
The beauty of Luminosity is that the team plays classic CS, relying on teamwork and coordination to score round wins.
While everyone from leader Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo to main carry Fernando "fer" Alvarenga do know how to dominate a server, Luminosity's power comes from their anti-stratting ways and telepathic ability to achieve crossfires and retakes.
Luminosity are a players' team, rather than a team of players
Overall the Brazilians continued performance on North American shores is optimal, with a majority of victories scored over opponents. Three of the top dogs of North America however—Cloud9, Liquid, and CLG—have proven that they can defeat Luminosity on multiple occasions.
The offline loss in the grand finals of the WinOut Championships to CLG is the most eyebrow-raising, although both teams did engage in a lot of meta-sparring over map picks and momentum control.
However, Luminosity have surely done their homework and discounting the tenacious Brazilians in their opener against Cloud9 will be the doom of many pixel punters.
|Marcelo "coldzera" David||20||1||5||1.08||1/4 final (Cologne 2015)|
|Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||24||2||11||1.03||1/4 final (2x)|
|Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||23||2||11||1.03||1/4 final (2x)|
|Ricardo "boltz" Prass||18||2||11||1.01||1/4 final (2x)|
|Lucas "steel" Lopes||21||2||11||0.76||1/4 final (2x)|
Although many of the teams attending Cluj have had a quiet two months since the last major, G2 Esports have instead had a hectic time.
The European conglomerate, whose name and brand has been tossed around more than a hot potato, kicked off September by becoming G2.Kinguin following Kinguin's decision to restructure and shy away from its ties to esports teams.
dennis has had a stellar major performance record so far, considering his hiatus
A cheeky grand finals win over Na`Vi at Gaming Paradise around the same time helped build confidence in the roster (to be fair, it was Gaming Paradise) although it was around this same time that many catcalls demanding the replacement of Portuguese Ricardo "fox" Pacheco began to ring out clear and loud.
The team then suffered a surprise defeat to Copenhagen Wolves at DreamHack Open London and thus exited humbled in groups. This disappointment was somehow meshed up with NiP's own troubles, leading to a firestorm of speculation and potential roster upheavals.
Although the actual reality was far more tame, witnessing the departure of Belgian Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom to Titan and the acquisition of Norwegian Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad from CPH Wolves, there is still an air of uncertainty about the team's future.
A win in the opener against mouz, which is arguably weaker across the board in terms of average skill, would certainly reinvigorate a team whose very life may depend on how it performs at Cluj.
|Dennis "dennis" Edman||24||3||19||1.08||1/2 final (Katowice 2014)|
|Mikail "Maikelele" Bill||24||3||22||1.02||Final (DH Winter 2014)|
|Håvard "rain" Nygaard||21||3||10||0.98||1/4 final (Cologne 2015)|
|Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad||21||1||3||0.91||Group stage (Katowice 2015)|
|Ricardo "fox" Pacheco||29||1||5||0.74||1/4 final (Cologne 2015)|
The other team to have been involved in September's speculation was NiP, the legendary outfit whose decline has been in equal measure amusing and saddening.
And yet the team's offline record since Richard "Xizt" Landström & co.'s meagre quarter-final exit at Cologne has been stronger than expected. NiP entered the post-Cologne era by dismissing coach Joona "natu" Leppänen, a good choice since the Finn was admittedly not having much impact on the team.
Has Captain Alesund finally spotted land on the horizon for his crew?
This dangerous aspect that the Ninjas had suddenly gained, i.e. to once again compete with the top four teams, reappeared at Gfinity Champion of Champions where NiP took fnatic to the wire in a best-of-five before ultimately losing the final map.
NiP's run at DreamHack Cluj may indeed be an Indian summer kind of situation, as some have claimed, however such indifference gives the team an incredible power, one which will likely sweep away Titan in the opener if the French team are not careful.
|Christopher "GeT_RiGhT" Alesund||25||6||58||1.14||Winner (Col 2014)|
|Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg||27||6||58||1.09||Winner (Col 2014)|
|Adam "friberg" Friberg||24||6||58||1.04||Winner (Col 2014)|
|Aleksi "allu" Jalli||23||2||15||1.04||Final (Kat 2015)|
|Richard "Xizt" Landström||24||6||58||1.02||Winner (Col 2014)|
Na`Vi are another team who went through some turmoil following Cologne, as well as disappointing results at Gaming Paradise and ESL ESEA Dubai, which led to a lot of rumours about lineup chances that the players subsequently dismissed.
The real change that the Eastern European team underwent, as revealed by Denis "seized" Kostin, was relieving team leader Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko of some of the stress of calling and putting that duty into coach Sergey "starix" Ischuk's hands.
"How do we slip Zeus the chill pill?"
With Na`Vi it is not so much the fact that there is new-found friction in the team or that any of its players are suffering a drop in form. The team's overall ratings spread is remarkably balanced around 1.0 and Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács continues to fulfill his role as AWP and carry to a high degree.
Na`Vi's two big issues remain the same: the team is still vulnerable to the meta-game and map dominance of the elite four teams (TSM, nV, fnatic, VP) and as such often lose the crucial deep playoff runs and the team is still vulnerable to in-game passions at times.
Controlling the latter will be critical in the team's opener against CLG.
|Ioann "Edward" Sukhariev||27||5||26||1.06||1/2 final (DH Winter 2014)|
|Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács||24||5||26||1.06||1/2 final (DH Winter 2014)|
|Denis "seized" Kostin||21||6||28||1.02||1/2 final (DH Winter 2014)|
|Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko||28||6||28||0.94||1/2 final (DH Winter 2014)|
|Egor "flamie" Vasilyev||18||3||9||0.92||1/4 final (Cologne 2015)|
First Seed Teams
At this point it would be far too glib to continue running with the Greek analogy for the first seeded teams.
There is no need to speak of Achilles heels or Trojan horses as far as these four teams are concerned: they are all highly functioning elite level outfits with a particular blend of weak points and patchwork attempts to cover up those flaws.
And most of all, they play damn good Counter-Strike. But each of these four teams does so in its own way and yet this does not always guarantee a subsequent top four finish despite the overall stability of the top of the scene.
Previous major champions fnatic have definitely been slacking in the past two months. The Swedes kicked off September with a semifinals loss at ESL ESEA Dubai to Virtus.pro, who would go on to win the tournament.
With all-star support Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson noticeably absent in the game, in one sense it was VP's chance to get revenge after losing numerous semifinals to fnatic in 2015, but in another it would herald a series of middling results at two more offline events for fnatic.
Place too much pressure on your anchor and it may give way
The next begruding rival to come knocking on fnatic's door were EnVyUs, who also enacted revenge for Cologne's grand final humiliation with a 3-2 grind-out win over fnatic in the finals of Gfinity's Champion of Champions series.
Virtus.pro added salt to a wound beginning to fester by taking out fnatic in the consolidation final at PGL Season 1 in Romania and by now it was time to take note.
fnatic's players, while obviously not enjoying losing tournaments, have a wide berth of security and prestige to rest upon. Theoretically, a team could bomb out in the group stages of every online tournament yet go on to win each major and that would still be considered that a legendary feat.
In addition, with players such as flusha and Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer who lift the standard for high level play at majors, the team should not be worried and should at least breeze through its group.
What comes afterward is what will determine if this team deserves to regain the number one spot in the world.
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||22||6||49||1.24||Winner (3x)|
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||23||6||47||1.17||Winner (2x)|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||20||6||49||1.09||Winner (3x)|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||21||6||47||1.07||Winner (2x)|
|Markus "pronax" Wallsten||24||6||49||0.88||Winner (3x)|
We now believe that TSM are the best team in the world due to recent great form.
Despite an unintended loss in the semifinals of Cologne to EnVyUs which resurrected whispers of a curse of choking at majors, TSM rallied in subsequent events and placed second at ESL ESEA Dubai, second at DreamHack Open London, and finally winning PGL Season 1 finals.
All it took was some sex shop memes, and then the form came
In addition, the Danes have since played some superb Counter-Strike in online matches, at one point going up to a 22 map win streak and overall blowing away their competition thanks to a deadly combination of aim and coordination.
While star Nicolai "device" Reedtz seems to not want credit as the highest rated player, he is a crucial component in the well-oiled machine that is TSM. With each player able to yield a stellar performance when needed, expect TSM to therefore exit the groups with ease.
However, making the grand final, let alone winning it, will also require the team to bury ghosts of the past and stay consistent throughout the playoffs. Small wonder that everyone will be watching this team in particular at Cluj.
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||20||6||35||1.10||1/2 final (3x)|
|René "cajunb" Borg||25||6||29||1.09||1/2 final (2x)|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||20||6||35||1.08||1/2 final (3x)|
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||22||6||35||1.07||1/2 final (3x)|
|Finn "karrigan" Andersen||25||5||22||1.02||1/2 final (Cologne 2015)|
Like any big family, the CS:GO scene would be nowhere without a wacky, zany member whose actions are both illogical and yet incredible. This role is where Virtus.pro reigns supreme, both in terms of players and results.
And yet the Poles have recently brought some semblance of consistency to their play as well as to their mantra to attend every and any possible tournament that offers a decent prize-pool.
That feeling when you almost lost your peripherals on the way
VP have recently seemed to have a penchant for winning in tournaments far away from Europe (whether in Ohio or Dubai or Melbourne), while also losing matches closer to home (the lower bracket final of Gaming Paradise, to nV at Gfinity Champions, and in the grand final of PGL S1 to TSM).
The overall story is one of marathon-like tournament attendance and an overall consistency in finishing top four (although at some of these tournaments it was a given).
Snax continues to lead the team in statistics, although he has been usurped in highest major rating by fnatic's flusha, and the only player to have recently slumped a tad is Filip "NEO" Kubski, whose return to finesse in AWPing and leading has disappeared lately.
For Virtus.pro, Cluj will be one of those tournaments where the Poles come into it newly baptized. Any predictions or attempts to glean past results go out the window and with the hardest group in theory for a first seed team to comfortably emerge from, anything remains possible.
|Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||22||6||38||1.20||Winner (Kat 2014)|
|Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||27||6||38||1.15||Winner (Kat 2014)|
|Paweł "byali" Bieliński||21||6||38||1.12||Winner (Kat 2014)|
|Filip "NEO" Kubski||28||6||38||1.09||Winner (Kat 2014)|
|Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||29||6||38||0.99||Winner (Kat 2014)|
Whereas the overall themes for the other three teams have been fnatic's volatility, TSM's consistency, and VP's unpredictability, the one we can focus on for the Frenchmen of EnVyUs is newfound strength.
Cleansing oneself from the brutal beat-down that was fnatic's grand final win at ESL One Cologne can't have been easy, and AWPer Kenny "kennyS" Schrub's tears were seen around the world, a visual shrine to the player's tragic disappearance during the game that really mattered.
Although nV were then admittedly stumped by NiP in the group decider match in Dubai, Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer and his men finally rallied in the team's other two offline events between Cologne and Cluj: winning DreamHack Open London over TSM and Gfinity Champion of Champions over fnatic.
Boys in baguette
The key here has been the return to form of all five players and when you have a table of statistics where Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt has the lowest major rating at .99, you know that all five players can deliver multi-kill rounds when needed.
However, the best bellwether for nV is a group D where it can easily dispatch of its opponents to advance to the top eight and let havoc begin.
Na`Vi has always been particularly weak to nV's aggressive and loose style of play whereas CLG and dignitas should be mere offerings before the altar of Happy's Desert Eagle.
|Dan "apEX" Madesclaire||22||5||26||1.12||Final (Cologne 2015)|
|Vincent "Happy" Schopenhauer||23||6||43||1.08||Winner (DH Winter 2014)|
|Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey||21||6||35||1.01||Winner (DH Winter 2014)|
|Kenny "kennyS" Schrub||20||5||23||0.99||Final (Cologne 2015)|
|Nathan "NBK-" Schmitt||21||6||40||0.98||Winner (DH Winter 2014)|
The Big Day Approaches
We have now briefly covered the 16 teams competing tomorrow at DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca: hopefully the reader has found the written coverage to be enjoyable.
In anticipation of the big event tomorrow, you can check out our viewer's guide for Cluj, and also expect an on-site team from HLTV.org and plenty of up-to-date stats for your fantasy game at this page here.
stich writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter