MLG Columbus Main Qualifier preview
With the MLG Columbus 2016 Main Qualifier kicking off tomorrow we take a look at the groups and teams to give you an idea on how they should fare at the prequel to the $1,000,000 major.
The Main Qualifier has gained quite a bit of prestige with Valve's announcement of the majors' prize purse boost, as after seven previous majors MLG Columbus and majors to come will give out $1,000,000 in prizemoney, plus sticker money on top of it.
At the start we only knew names of the bottom eight teams from the previous major, DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca, with the other eight coming from an extensive three-month qualifying process, which included the newly introduced Minor system and Last Chance Qualifiers in four different regions (Americas, Asia, CIS and Europe).
Those 16 teams have been distributed across four GSL-style groups, each of which will hand out two spots at the major. All matches—except for the decider, the match for the second spot in each group—will be played in best-of-ones.
|Group A||Group B||Group C||Group D|
We will take a look at all teams' chances within their group, as well as ponder over the changes made—both willingly and unwillingly—prior to the qualifier and how it could affect their level of play.
G2's 2016 has been somewhat up and down so far. Having attended three offline events—SL i-League StarSeries XIV Finals, Game Show Global eSports Cup and ESL Barcelona Invitational—, the French-Belgian team has a 7th-8th, a 5-6th and a 3rd place in their resumé.
In terms of the end result, StarSeries was underwhelming from the squad that had just been left out in the cold by Titan, although it needs to be said that they met three of top five teams in the world in the same group, and neither of their matches were too one-sided.
shox's men have to be extra careful vs. Tempo Storm, whom they face first
There are positives to take away from their two latest events however, especially their performances against Astralis. A three-map thriller in Vilnius and two close maps in Barcelona versus the Danes are a good sign going forward.
Without shox this team seems to be half of what it is with him performing, especially when ScreaM or RpK aren't having a solid game, although it needs to be said that their competition at this event is much below the usual level.
G2 have much more experience as well as firepower over everyone in their group, and are expected to take one of the major spots. They have to be very careful facing all of them however, especially on the best-of-ones, where a few slip-ups can cost you a match and there is a lot of added pressure.
B1ad3 and company started the year at GEC, at least in terms of offline events, but it was a disappointing start at best. In Vilnius the team showed signs of inability to adapt on the Terrorist side, as they kept running super-slow-paced defaults that nearly never worked unless they got opening kills.
While their Counter-Terrorist sides were fine, the offence was often so underwhelming that they simply didn't have enough space to come back, even though they had a fair chance against Dignitas despite only getting two rounds as Terrorists on two maps in a row.
WorldEdit needs to be consistently great for FlipSid3 to qualify
A second place at Acer Predator Masters (with markeloff missing in the grand final), which mostly featured lower talent to what we'll see at the qualifier, was a sigh of relief, however it wasn't without its issues once again.
Looking at the competition in their group, it'll be hard for the North American team to get out in one piece, but not completely out of the question.
Potentially one last event with Sefless for koosta, better make it count and make it another one
The two teams they have a decent chance to beat, FlipSid3 and Tempo Storm have a bit of a question mark flying over their head. Selfless have quite a bit of experience playing the latter online, and it seemed to have depended on which of the two AWPers carried their team to victory.
Last but not least in group A, Tempo Storm have certainly been a nightmare for all North Americans and they are looking to extend that to teams from other continents, Europe especially.
Shortly after switching from Games Academy the number two Brazilian team made a name for themselves by defeating nearly every top team in NA on their way to IEM Katowice, including Liquid, CLG and Cloud9, in a qualifier that handed out a single spot.
If hen1 can keep up with the same form, Tempo Storm could very well qualify for another huge tournament
Another qualifier, that time for DreamHack Masters Malmö, handed out three, maybe fortunately for teams that didn't have to try and make peace with HEN1's rage. There his team managed to qualify as well after taking down the likes of OpTic and Cloud9 again.
HEN1 has been a monster in North America, with only very few slip-ups in terms of statistics. Two of his performances against Echo Fox (45-11 on de_mirage, 27-3 on de_dust2) could very well go down in history as the most dominant ever when it comes to online matches.
mousesports are going to the Main Qualifier fresh off a victory at Acer Predator Masters Season 2 Finals, which will provide with a significant boost in confidence up against the level of teams in their group, barring Liquid.
There the team used Niclas "enkay J" Krumhorn as coach as some of you might have noticed, although it seems to only have been temporary since he will not be present in Columbus this upcoming weekend.
Before that, mousesports participated in DreamHack Open Leipzig, where chrisJ and co. decimated Virtus.pro, who are in a huge slump at the moment, and came very close to taking first place in the group over Astralis, but couldn't close de_overpass out.
Despite a few issues of late, NiKo and company should go through quite comfortably
In the end they didn't advance at all, which could be in the back of their heads seeing as a similar situation occured in yesterday's match up against NiP, where the Germany-based team threw away two big leads at the start to lose both maps in ESL Pro League in a narrow fashion.
They should still be quite confident going into the tournament, NiKo's leadership seems to be working despite him being the biggest impact player alongside chrisJ. Overall mouz have an upper hand over both HellRaisers and YP significantly, although probably not over Liquid, who received a massive boost in firepower in Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev since these two last met at the last major's qualifier.
Liquid will use adreN after all, which is probably the best decision they could have made considering the circumstances, as it will barely affect the team due to the in-game leader having been part of the starting roster until recently.
s1mple will be eager to play at a LAN after exactly five months
Reportedly there were issues between him and s1mple, who all but confirmed it by a couple of criticizing tweets that have been deleted since and comments during his streams, but it will likely not have a huge effect at the qualifier itself.
Liquid have improved with s1mple on the roster in the couple of months they've been together, and are widely regarded as the best North American team at the moment, even with adreN on the roster temporarily.
They are clear favourites to advance alongside NiKo's squad, and I would even put Liquid ahead of mousesports, albeit slightly, unless they end up on de_dust2 or de_cache in the winners' match. It should still be a close affair no matter what the map will be however.
After putting together the new lineup, HellRaisers have attended two LAN events, the first of which being the PGL Minor thanks to which they will be present at the main qualifier.
It became obvious that the team has a long way to go to become stable, as all their matches there were very close and in a few cases they were up against a big deficit before they came back, which was understandable considering a language barrier and the little time they've spent together.
Nevertheless they won without losing a single match and attended Acer Predator Masters Season 2 Finals after two more weeks of practice, which didn't seem to help all too much with the issues.
Have HellRaisers removed their barriers at the bootcamp?
Sometimes it works purely because of his skill, but when it doesn't it can cost HellRaisers a key round, which can become detrimental in a best-of-one scenario. Some of those questionable decisions include unnecessary peeks, especially when oskar seems to feel pressured to make a play when he doesn't need to.
All in all they do have a slight chance to beat one of mousesports and Liquid in a best-of-one, but to advance they need to defeat both, and I don't see them being prepared on enough maps to come out on top of the best-of-three decider against either of them.
There isn't much innocent can do with the little time YP have had together
After contacting the team we found out that this lineup had zero practice together, which only makes sense seeing as the stand-ins were announced less than three days before they had to travel to Columbus.
They will likely only go over the basic layout of how they will play right before actually playing, which is why they will simply rely on individual plays, especially with innocent being the in-game leader who has never played with the three original players before.
Once the other teams realize that and are careful of YP's individualistic style, there shouldn't be a way for them to even win a map, let alone have a chance to qualify. The only team I could potentially see to become a victim of this mix are HellRaisers, who are quite individualistic themselves.
Group C's clear favourites are CLG who have so far in 2016 been on an upwards trajectory. After a year of struggling to improve their results the North American team swapped Pujan "FNS" Mehta for Liquid's former player FugLy and more importantly brought in Faruk "pita" Pita as coach and in-game leader.
Especially the latter has made a big difference in CLG, who almost immediately after found success at GEC at the start of February by defeating FlipSid3 and G2 on their way to a fourth place, as well as taking Envy to three maps twice in the group stage.
CLG's latest addition is paying dividends
Thanks to the change in leadership reltuC was allowed to transition into a lurker role, but the biggest difference in terms of individual performances was made by jdm64, who was beyond impressive in Vilnius, especially in the first series versus Envy.
In the initial round CLG are facing Splyce, whom they haven't met with the new lineup. There could be some added pressure due to the match-up being domestic, but at the moment tarik's boys are the number two North American team, while Splyce are somewhere down the ladder at number six or so.
The second match should be the harder test to pass, as I assume they'll clash with SK, who could prove to be a tough nut to crack.
Fortunately for Vexed in this case, Hyper hasn't been his old self in the last few months as he dropped in form significantly, while Furlan rose to the occasion and is now considered the best in Vexed.
oskarish, on the other hand, could take this opportunity to try and prove himself after having been expelled from CSGL due to not getting better quickly enough. There will be little pressure on him, which he could use to his advantage.
Furlan has been looking up lately, pun intended
However, the whole change also means that he will not be able to catch up in time with the team's style of play and the role he will likely take after Hyper.
The team hasn't been very good lately, maybe because of everyone but Furlan not playing well enough. At ESL Barcelona Invitational the only match the Poles won was against by far the worst team at the tournament, x6tence, while falling victim to Dignitas twice and G2 in one-sided encounters.
At the start of the year, SK looked more than competitive against Luminosity, who dropped a map versus the Danes in the elimination match of group A at DreamHack Open Leipzig, although they got blown out of the water by Natus Vincere in the initial round.
Since then they've been looking solid online. The Danes earned a place at the main qualifier via the Last Chance CIS/EU qualifier, as they had to skip the Minor system due to Pimp having competed at the previous major.
Afterwards they came out victorious from 99Damage Masters #4 after defeating domestic rivals Dignitas twice in a row. A day later Natus Vincere fell victim to Magisk's beastly performance on two maps, for which he earned player of week one and a comment by Denis "seized" Kostin on Twitter.
The qualifier is Magiskb0Y's chance to prove many wrong
The Russian player wasn't wrong however, if what I'm about to say is what he was getting at. Magisk's rating in online competitions in 2016 is 1.31, but at Fragbite Masters Season 5 Finals and DreamHack Open Leipzig he averaged a measly 0.89.
Provided, that's still a small sample size and those are the only two LANs he has attended, which is understandable considering he is one of the youngest players being 17 years old.
If there is an event where he could break out as a clear star of SK, it's this one, as it has significantly lower competition (in comparison with Na`Vi, Luminosity, fnatic and Astralis).
DAVEY's SPLYCE have had a rough month
They lost most of their online matches in February, including one versus AGG, with whom they also exchanged maps in a best-of-two in Counter Pit league, in which Splyce were clearly favoured.
That type of resumé makes me believe they will not be all too ready to compete at the main qualifier, especially seeing as they will have close to no preparation for that tournament specifically, but they could surprise a Hyper-less Vexed and take some experience away by playing CLG and possibly SK as well.
Cloud9 have been posing as a target of critics ever since Sean "seang@res" Gares departed the team, leaving a void behind waiting to be filled. The community piled on when youngster Stewie2K joined the team, but the pressure reached the highest point after they actually played at a LAN tournament.
Game Show Global eSports Cup was a clear example of why a solid leader is needed in a team, not only because of actual leading in-game, tactics and strategy, but also to guide the others in the right direction.
n0thing took up the in-game leader role, but it is clear as day that the role isn't quite fit for him, being a player who used to have (and to some degree still has) constant issues with decision-making.
S0mething needs to change for Cloud9 to start working properly
Vilnius was a proof of that, as Cloud9 were completely distraught on the Terrorist side and desperately needed opening kills to be able to enter a site or Skadoodle to make insane plays such as the 1-on-4 vs. G2 to bail them out.
Every match will be a mine field for the North American team, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Cloud9 shredded into limbs when the weekend is over. That doesn't mean they don't have a chance to qualify, just that they will have a very hard time trying to do so.
In 2016 the Danes have been consistently proving that they have what it takes to compete against the best. DreamHack Open Leipzig was Dignitas' breakout tournament as much as it was Kjaerbye's and since then the team has climbed to seventh place in our ranking.
During their grand final finish at Game Show's Global eSports Cup it was k0nfig who stepped into the spotlight with a great 1.15 rating overall, and he has been playing very well online too.
Can Kjaerbye continue on the path he's been on for two months?
Unfortunately we didn't get to see Dignitas playing Envy at ESL Barcelona Invitational. However we did see the Danes taking fnatic to their limit on de_cbble, and build two big leads over Astralis, both of which Dignitas weren't able to capitalize on, much like mousesports.
k0nfig dropped off a bit in Spain, however one could assume that's because of the pressure the CS:GO community has been placing on him with cheating accusations in the past few weeks.
Dignitas is the only team I would put money on from group D, since they are the best team present at the event, while the remainder is open for interpretation.
The team's way to the CIS Minor victory was a bit bumpy. Rebels' prodigy Denis "electronic" Sharipov carried the team to four overtimes on de_cbble, as well as thirty rounds on de_inferno, which was by far Gambit's hardest match at the event.
mou carried Gambit to the qualifier, can he carry them to the major?
Somehow they allowed Method to come back from a 1-14 deficit with a perfect CT side on de_train in the semi-final. It didn't matter much in the end, as Gambit advanced to the grand final anyway and destroyed Rebels in the re-match.
As I said above, you can't count this team out even if they might look like the biggest underdog in the group. They can give anyone a run for their money and have a slight chance of making it out in my eyes, if mou replicates his Minor form.
Renegades have been a similar team to CLG in terms of improvement over a long period of time. reltuC's team solved it with a lineup change and a European coach, but whether just a lineup change will do the trick for the Australians is to be revealed.
An underwhelming Luke "Havoc" Paton was shown the exit door a mere two weeks ago to bring in Immunity's USTILO, who already showed some promise in Renegades' Pro League matches, namely in one of the encounters with CLG.
We'll have to wait and see if this man is what Renegades needed to improve
Will that come to fruition in Columbus over the next three days? It's still early to tell, the newest addition has still been quite up and down and it is only online, after all.
Overall Group D is the toughest group to call. Dignitas are very clear favourites, but they won't have it easy, and the second-placed team could be anyone. On paper, Cloud9 are the most likely to advance alongside the Danes, but it might as well be the Australians. Time will tell.
Who are your favourites to qualify for the $1,000,000 major? Let us know in the comment section below.
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