Counter Pit League S2 Finals preview
Herein is found our official preview for the Counter Pit League Season 2 Finals which are taking place on March 17-18.
While a two-day, best-of-three single elimination bracket for an $80,000 prize purse that will be contested in Split, Croatia may not sound like much anymore as far as CS:GO events go in terms of prize money and prestige, the Counter Pit League Season 2 Finals find themselves situated in an ideal time and place as a tournament.
We will see five outfits compete (four of whom were invited and one who qualified) who will then go on to attend the $1 million Major at MLG Columbus in three weeks' time; as such, these Finals will serve as a gauge for those five teams.
In addition, we have three scrappy up-comers for whom these finals are a culmination of a long qualification process in their respective regions: Europe, North America, and Oceania and who will not attend the Major, thus making this event their lodestar.
While not outright favourites per se, Astralis could regain lost vigour in Croatia
The action will be swift and furious as the bracket immediately gets underway from the quarter-finals with teams unable to afford any opening mistakes due to single elimination rules. The event schedule can be found here in summary:
|Thursday, March 17|
|Friday, March 18|
While some of these teams have already been talked about ad nauseum in 2016, others have had less chance to fall under the analytic microscope.
All however, deserve their moment in the magnifying glass and we will begin the preview with an analysis of the invitees (all of whom are attending the upcoming Major).
Haha, Astralis choking joke. The prodigal team's return to semifinal placings is undoubtedly a dead horse three months into the new year. Yet it is impossible to rail against the steady drumbeat of progress and the Danes' strength is reflected in the fact that they took second place in our current Global Ranking as of yesterday.
The team also happen to be defending champions of the Counter Pit League as they defeated EnVyUs while playing under the TSM organisation to win the first season, which was played out entirely online.
As far as latest results go, Astralis are definitely getting back into the swing of things. The Danes went a commanding 5-0 in the group stage of IEM Katowice and were then unfortunately paired against imperious fnatic, against whom they took a map but ultimately succumbed 1-2 in the semifinal.
Caught in a nimbus of confidence for now
This semifinal loss, the second place finish at ESL Barcelona Invitational (after losing two best-of-ones to fnatic at the end), and an online Betway Fight Night loss to fnatic in three maps are the only unsound footing for karrigan and his men going into the event; luckily their Swedish arch-nemesis will not be present this time around.
Otherwise, the team have appeared confident against other opponents, winning our ESL Pro League Team of the Week distinction, and they are a long way from the lackluster third place at Game Show Finals, 3-4th place at DreamHack Open Leipzig, and 5-6th place at StarSeries XIV Finals (as questionmark) finishes that painted such a dreary picture in early 2016.
They are one of the two favourites to make the grand final and win the event. Facing off against the significantly less experienced Torpedo lineup on Thursday should be mere warmup for bigger battles in the coming day.
The other strong favourite to win Counter Pit League Season 2 are Natus Vincere, in this author's humble opinion.
Although the Ukrainian-Russian-Slovak team have slipped to third place now in our Global Ranking, they are undoubtedly much more of a powerhouse team than they were at this same point in time in 2015.
The results back up this claim: second place at StarSeries XIV, first place at DreamHack Open Leipzig, and a 3-4th place finish at IEM Katowice (losing only to Luminosity in a semifinal already considered one of the best series in CS:GO history).
Na`Vi member spotted trying to channel his inner Eugene Onegin
It was flamie who made the greatest impact at IEM Katowice, the team's latest event, marshaling a virtuosic 1.27 rating at the event, the third best there overall behind Bosnian enfant terrible Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, who currently plies his trade on mousesports, and the Swedish Michael Jordan of Counter-Strike.
Assuming the team's other impact player GuardiaN has recovered further from a mysterious hand injury, and if the rest of the spokes in the Na`Vi machine can turn as effortlessly as the gears on a T-55 tank do, then this event could even be a cakewalk for the team.
The one question mark here is the team's quarter-final match against FlipSid3, who could be dangerous both because they are the most experienced of the qualified teams and because, as a regional rival, they may have insights and edges over Na`Vi that other teams cannot muster.
A true aficionado of Counter-Strike will watch the Counter Pit League Season 2 finals for many reasons of course, but many more who may only watch for the largest moments might also tune in to see the new Envy roster debut in an offline format.
The rapid denouement which saw Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey leave the storied nV roster and then DEVIL of LDLC White get signed as the team's new fifth left many in a state of vertigo, as one of the supposedly elite teams (currently #5 in our ranking) had just undergone such a short notice roster change in the same month as the MLG Columbus Major.
"Is it hot in here? Anyone else feel like they're inside a crucible of pressure?"
It will be do-or-die time for DEVIL, with a whole panoply of unforgiving analysts, spectators, and Twitch chatters watching the 21-year-old play from the sidelines and following his every move in the server.
And aside from the intense focus that will be trained on the team's new addition, the Frenchmen are overall in a wretched state. In addition to the disastrous 11-12th place finish at the $250,000 IEM Katowice event, nV's 2016 has also included a fifth place result at ESL Barcelona, a 3-4th place finish at StarSeries XIV, and winning the significantly under-stacked Game Show GEC Finals.
But Katowice was the pinnacle of failure for nV. With coach Mathieu "Maniac" Quiquerez apparently not having been able to instill discipline in his team ahead of the Polish event, with the team not possessing a single strong map of play, and with NBK- giving multiple interviews afterwards signifying the weak state of the team's practice regimen, Envy were somewhat rightly destroyed in Katowice.
Although DEVIL is a hasty addition and may not have had time to truly mesh with the team, all involved know any result can be better than that accursed Polish humiliation. A quarter-finals opener against a NRG team using a stand-in should help restore battered French spirits.
Your author may or may not have Polish roots, but flimsy nationalistic pretenses should stop not even an author from saying that this lineup is currently the biggest joke in elite level Counter-Strike.
When 2016 rolled around, some may have viewed Virtus.pro's 7-8th place finish at the DreamHack ZOWIE Open in Leipzig as a fluke, the result of a hibernating bear waking up to face the light of a new era with sloe-eyed dopiness.
No more can anyone make excuses for this sadly faded Polish team, who now sit seventh in our Global Ranking after having spent much of the latter half of 2015 sitting between second and third place.
Snax gets an early premonition of the endless suffering that must be Hell
In the ESL Pro League, TaZ & co. hold a woeful 2-14 record and in Katowice, the home country favourites struggled to make it out of the group stages and were then promptly spanked by fnatic in the quarter-finals in a series which (whether the result caused this exodus or not is of course debatable) literally emptied the stadium.
It should be unlikely for the Polish team to lose their opener to the Australians of Immunity (although an earlier version of this lineup has taken VP to overtime in an offline setting before), however at this point in time "hope" is certainly a word with little stock in it when we talk about Virtus.pro.
FlipSid3 are currently ranked #15 in our Global Ranking, the only one of the four qualified teams to be in the Top 20, and are also the only qualified team who will also attend the MLG Columbus Major later this month.
The Ukrainian team went 2-2-1 in Group B of the European division of the Counter Pit League and mainly qualified as they crushed CSGL and SK dropped out, with both of the latter teams possessing the same amount of points by the season's end.
markeloff will have to be more than a nice guy if he wants to crush Na`Vi in the opener
B1ad3 and his team had their offline debut in 2016 at the Game Show Finals, where they finished a dismal 7-8th place, but since then the team have been steadily improving with a second place run at the Acer Predator Masters Season 2 Finals and a successful qualification via the MLG Columbus Main Qualifier as the high watermarks of this latest epoch.
FlipSid3's take-down of the red-hot Tempo Storm team during the Major qualifier was particularly impressive and showed that the Ukrainian team possess the kind of tactical insight and discipline that more aim reliant teams may struggle to develop in the current age of CS:GO.
Such an advantage will of course be nullified against Natus Vincere, who themselves are an elite and tactically adept team. However, for reasons mentioned above, FlipSid3 probably have the best chances of the qualified teams to survive the quarter-finals due to the advantage of regional rivalry and experience.
As we begin to move down this list, the pool of overall experience on the big stage and talent begins to thin, although this phenomenon is by no means going to be harmful to these competing teams. If anything, with less to hide strategically due to no Major attendance and more to gain due to exposure, these three teams could play all-out against their favoured opponents.
Swedish team Torpedo went 3-2 in Group A of the European division to qualify for the offline finals, doing so over the likes of Aleksi "allu" Jalli's ENCE and Orgless. With CPL Season 2 Finals being a big opportunity for the Swedes, the team have bootcamped ahead of the event (which probably cannot be said for all teams attending).
Chances are not so decent versus Astralis
Previous offline results for this team, the core of who were signed by Torpedo in August of 2015, read like the handbook of a Nordic fairytale as they have mainly attended tournaments in that region.
These results include winning the ESL Nordic Nationals, a third place finish at the Nordic Masters Season 2 finals, and a 7-8th place letdown finish at the Pantamera CS:GO Challenge 2016.
That last and latest result does not bode well for atter & co., nor does the fact that they happen to be playing against Astralis in the quarter-finals, a team known for eating fellow Scandinavian competition alive.
Regardless, attending the finals in Split will be a positive learning experience for this second tiered European team.
NRG have surprised many in North America with some of their results in recent online games (the team are currently 6-4 in the ESL Pro League and they topped the NA division of CPL Season 2 quite easily) as the combination of bringing in gob b and LEGIJA from Europe and settling some of the players in a team house in Las Vegas has created that ultimate rarity in the United States: a disciplined team.
However, Peter "ptr" Gurney, the unintentional Bad Luck Brian of CS:GO, was unfortunate enough to experience the reality of 1-2 g-forces that Clear Air Turbulence can rarely create while walking around the airplane on his flight to Europe, and thus fractured his ankle.
Does this look like the face of a guy who's going to lose to EnVyUs?
As ptr had to undergo surgery, the international team decided to settle with an old mousesports teammate of gob b and LEGIJA's, tabseN, to act as a stand-in at the event.
A stand-in can theoretically be assumed to almost always represent a downgrade for a team, even if the stand-in could be a superior player, because of the effect on a team's tactics and chemistry that a sudden change may have.
When all things are considered though, NRG could have a slight chance in their series against Envy, with the latter team having to contend with a new fifth who may buckle under pressure and an overall lack of motivation that will have to be regained before they can play with the same fearsome style of the past.
Immunity, who have often had to contend with the distinction of being "Australia's second best team" after the heavyweights that are the Renegades, qualified for this event seemingly eons ago back in early December of 2015.
The Australian team have recently undergone a major roster overhaul after first losing star player Karlo "USTILO" Pivac to the Renegades team and then moving longtime veteran Iain "SnypeR" Turner to a coaching position.
The Oceanic struggle to have a deep tournament run offline continues
Recent signs for Immunity have not been promising, as the team were stomped by TYLOO in the Asian DreamHack Masters Malmo qualifier despite all five players playing from an offline bootcamp in Singapore.
However, that loss can also be chalked up to the rising dominance of that particular Chinese team and the recent struggles of Immunity's sparring partner in Split, Virtus.pro, must feel like a relief especially considering that the Australians had taken the Poles to overtime on one map of the Crown's Invitational (when USTILO was on the team). This is yet another potential underdog match to keep one's eye on.
Will the Spaladium Arena empty out like Katowice 2016 v. 2, let alone fill up? Does CS:GO's return to the Balkans represent a return to Gaming Paradise or a move away from such fiascoes? Can DEVIL perform with EnVyUs in an offline setting? Are Virtus.pro finished? Just how strong is Astralis' current form?
Many questions such as these and more will be answered by the action of two days in Split, Croatia and the best way to find out is by tuning in, which you can do at twitch.tv/counterpit.
stich writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter