Key takeaways from ELEAGUE
The dust has settled in Atlanta and it's time for us to look back at the ten-week-long ELEAGUE and see what we can take away from it.
Only three days ago we witnessed Virtus.pro take the highest step of the podium in Atlanta's Cobb Energy Centre following a clear-cut victory over fnatic in the grand final, the culmination of ten weeks worth of competition.
Over the last two months a total of 106 matches, or 144 maps, were played in Atlanta, which makes ELEAGUE one of the biggest LAN tournaments we've ever seen in Counter-Strike history.
As such, we decided to step back and take a look at the unique event overall to find out which new storylines it brought us and what we can learn from it:
Virtus.pro still has "it"
Virtus.pro's patience was tested over and over in the first few months of 2016, when Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski's form took an unexpected hit and the Poles posed as a target of much criticism from community and experts alike.
They slowly gained some confidence back throughout the second quarter of the year, but the longest-standing lineup showcased their best level in the playoffs of ELEAGUE.
Dropping zero maps and less than nine rounds per map on average in the bracket stage, Virtus.pro's journey to victory was one of the most dominating performances we've seen at big events.
Snax and NEO each stood out in their own way
The grand final was a spectacle of its own, both in terms of individual and strategical play. The plow emerged yet again with a few added features, such as the brilliant double-fake in an eco on Mirage, Snax's seemingly impossible 1v4 attempt, or the nade-stack onto Jesper "JW" Wecksell in dropzone on Cobblestone.
A huge part of that success was none other than Snax, who kept reminding us of his old self in the past two weeks, recording a monstrously high 1.45 rating due to extreme consistency in the series versus Ninjas in Pyjamas (#6), MOUZ (#9) and fnatic (#2).
While everyone from Virtus.pro turned up and played above their three-month average, there is one other player that stood out from the crowd, and that is Filip "NEO" Kubski. The 29-year-old hit a few highs in the playoffs, specifically on Dust2 against Ninjas in Pyjamas and on Cobblestone versus fnatic. But most of all he stood out because of his huge turn-around doubles and triples, as well as his ability to consistently dish out the most damage across the three series, almost reaching an average of 100 damage per round (98.8).
olofmeister is still not at his 100%
Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer has always been a big-match, big-event player, as shown by last year's stats where he placed first in rating at big events (1.20) and first again in big matches rating (semi-finals and finals) with 1.13.
He has also always been a player who created opportunities for himself and his team seemingly out of thin air, no matter how his teammates played, which is also a big part of the reason why he was considered the best player in the world for a long period of time.
olofmeister's underwhelming display in the grand final reminded us of Columbus
olofmeister returned just in time for the beginning of ELEAGUE to show playing Counter-Strike is like riding a bike. A lot of the time he did play as if he never left to recover from his injury, but that wasn't the case in the grand final against Virtus.pro.
Prior to his injury, there were only very few cases where olofmeister disappeared in fnatic's last match of a tournament, only two in fact: in semi-finals against the Poles at ESL ESEA Dubai Invitational in September 2015, and in another semis when he took ill, against Titan at DreamHack Stockholm Invitational in September 2014.
This year it has already happened twice more: shortly after his injury came to light, at MLG Columbus versus Astralis, and now in the grand final of ELEAGUE where he averaged a 0.68 rating and only played well in the early rounds. Whether or not the injury still affects him, olofmeister has not yet fully recovered from the time he took off to deal with it.
Spots need to be held by teams as opposed to organizations
During ELEAGUE we were reminded of how organization-owned spots in competitions can cause a mess that wouldn't happen in the other possibility we've grown used to over the years.
Following the drama-filled transfer of Luminosity to SK, both the Brazilians (who qualified for playoffs) and the former SK side, now known as X (with a place in the last chance qualifier), were disqualified due to the move not complying with the league's rules.
The only part where the rulebook mentions lineups states that "teams" (which refers to organizations and not the roster, as explained by ELEAGUE after the disqualification) are allowed to use two substitutes, who had to be submitted by May 18th - prior to the start of the tournament.
Apart from the more obvious explanation why teams should own spots, which is that they deserve them by either qualifying or being one of the best in the world and as such shouldn't be replaced by anyone who doesn't, there is another problem with this specific rule.
By setting up this ruleset, ELEAGUE basically expected teams to adjust their contracts according to the tournament's schedule, which is completely unreasonable considering the rosters had signed deals with their organizations months or years prior to the announcement of ELEAGUE.
For example, if Virtus.pro's two-year contract ended during the tournament and the team signed with someone else, they would've been punished for a decision they made in 2014.
SK and Team X were pushed out for seemingly no benefit
It's also unreasonable for ELEAGUE to expect teams to stay with their organizations beyond the agreed time only because of one out of multiple significant tournament organizers, especially because the entire competition took ten weeks to unfold and nearly every team attended other events in the meantime.
Turner and WME | IMG need to address this as soon as possible, as even if teams were to attempt to comply with the aforementioned rules and avoid similar situations in the next season, they have no means of doing so as the details of the second season haven't been revealed yet.
The same issue caused disagreements between select North American players and their organizations, who had signed a petition in an attempt to push the Brazilian team out of ELEAGUE without the knowledge of their players.
Was that one spot in playoffs worth the trouble? What were the benefits of disqualifying potentially two playoffs teams at the cost of a tarnished reputation and bad press?
The ten-week schedule is too long to keep track of
The tournament system made sure the best teams made it out of the groups, and then second-placed teams met each other alongside two third-placed in a separate bracket, which is also a good way to find the last two teams for quarter-finals.
The overall amount of matches (15 per group, or between 18-21 maps) meant the competition had to be spread out into six weeks only for the group stage however, which is simply way too long to be able to keep track of the tournament's story.
By the time you get to week six, let alone the quarter-finals two weeks afterwards, you barely remember anything about the matches you saw during the first week, so the fluidity and storylines within the event are nearly wiped out for spectators.
It was still somewhat exciting to see such a unique format in play and it was worth the try, but with multiple other tournaments happening in between groups, CS:GO isn't the game to appreciate it.
The good news is, the organizers seem to understand that and have already announced that the second season will be shorter, so hopefully this time we'll be able to enjoy the competition in full.
ELEAGUE's Season 2 will be shorter
CSGO + TV = ?
ELEAGUE was CS:GO's first real attempt at making it into the big mainstream media on a consistent basis, having been televised every Friday evening on the American channel TBS throughout the past ten weeks.
One question that hasn't really been answered yet was how many new viewers ELEAGUE and TBS actually attracted to CS:GO, and it probably won't clear up any time soon, unless we get more televised competitions.
According to a release, during the first season ELEAGUE gathered nearly 19 million total viewers on TBS, which sounds high, but to see what that actually means we'd have to see the more telling numbers, such as minutes watched per viewer, unique viewers, the concurrent peaks and more.
Thus far we've only got a solid comparison to other sporting events, but only of week one numbers, accounting to 509,000 total viewers, which is higher than the regular season average of the NHL broadcast on NBC Sports (384,000).
From responses on social media that were shown during ELEAGUE broadcasts, plenty of regular viewers watched parts of the tournament with their parents and friends who haven't been involved with the scene up to that point, which at least shows promise of educating a new audience about Counter-Strike.
What did you take away from the ten weeks of competition in Atlanta? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.
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