PGL EU Minor preview
With the European Minor around the corner, we analyzed all of the competing teams to put together a preview combining their recent results, the form of their players and map pool to find out what we can expect at the tournament.
The PGL European Minor Championship for the ELEAGUE Major in 2017 will feature eight teams, four invited and four qualified, split into two groups. The group stage will be played using the GSL format, with best-of-one matches except the decider and elimination matches - which will be played as best-of-three.
After the group stage is done, the two best teams from each group will advance to the double-elimination best-of-three playoffs, with $50,000 and two spots at the Offline Major Qualifier up for grabs.
The groups are as follows:
|Group A||Group B|
With a few teams being forced into roster changes right before the tournament, the level of competition will probably be a bit lower than what it was expected - as teams will not be as prepared as they could've been.
But that also adds to the unpredictability of the tournament - especially as even teams with stable rosters haven't played many official matches recently, making it hard for anyone to know how they will perform in Bucharest.
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||23||1.20|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||21||1.09|
|Andreas "znajder" Lindberg||23||1.02|
|Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson||23||1.00|
|Markus "pronax" Wallsten||25||0.86|
* Ratings used in this article are in the past three months
The first team on the list are the Swedes from GODSENT - a team featuring three triple Major-winners in flusha, JW and pronax, a single-Major winner in znajder and Lekr0 - the least experienced part of the roster.
The Major history alone makes them a team to watch in Bucharest, but the fact that they are at the Minor due to a last-minute player swap with fnatic which saw Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson leaving and taking the Legends spot with him - makes the GODSENT storyline one of the most interesting ones we have seen in the Major qualification cycles yet.
The team had less than impressive results since the big Swedish offseason shuffle, failing in online qualifiers for ESL Pro League and ELEAGUE, and disappointing offline at the GFINITY Invitational and SL i-League StarSeries Season 2.
flusha's GODSENT will be looking for a strong start with Lekr0
Their win over Astralis at WESG secured them a spot at the Global Finals and was a rare good result for the team, but even that was a very narrow victory - preceded by losses to Ukraine and Kinguin at the same event.
Following WESG, we saw the swap-back between GODSENT and fnatic, resulting in Lekr0 returning to the team in place of KRIMZ. Since then, we haven’t seen them play a single official match, so we can only speculate on what kind of an impact the change will have on the team.
It’s hard to see Lekr0 improving GODSENT a lot in the fragging department, even role-wise things should stay pretty much the same - but GODSENT will be hoping that the roster finally clicks, as something intangible was obviously off with KRIMZ in the lineup.
If it happens, GODSENT still lack firepower to help out flusha against the elite teams of the world, but should get out of the groups here easily - and be one of the favorites for the tournament overall.
|Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş||23||1.28|
|Ahmet "paz" Karahoca||19||1.14|
|Çağatay "DESPE" Sedef||23||1.03|
|Engin "ngiN" Kor||23||1.02|
|Tugay "TuGuX" Keskin||25||0.94|
Space Soldiers have been tearing the lower tiers of European Counter-Strike for quite some time now, but have still not attended a big international tournament, often failing in the last rounds of the online qualifiers.
This time around they have been invited directly to the Minor, giving them a good chance to prove themselves without having to navigate the dangerous waters of online CS. Getting a top two finish in Bucharest is the first step for the Turkish squad if they want to finally break into the higher tier and become a team we see more of at offline events.
Even though his impressive 1.26 rating over the past three months is boosted by playing online and against lower tier opposition, XANTARES has used his rare LAN showings to prove his worth offline and against teams of a similar caliber to the ones that we will see in Romania this weekend.
Space Soldiers are still extremely dependant on XANTARES
An interesting thing to watch out for regarding the Turkish rifler is the strong correlation between his Kill-Death Difference and the outcome of the map. In almost every match in the past couple of months, if XANTARES is positive, his team wins, if not - they lose.
It’s not uncommon to see a link between the performance of the star player and his team, but Space Soldiers are more dependent on their star than the average team.
Like most of the teams present in Bucharest, Space Soldiers attended ESWC 2016, but despite feeling like favorites they couldn’t beat Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans’s LDLC - leaving them with a 3-4th finish in the end.
That match revealed a hole in their map pool - as they rarely play both Overpass and Nuke, teams with proficiency in either of the maps can get a good start in best-of-three series.
As of now, Space Soldiers rely mostly on Cobblestone, Cache and Dust2 to get wins, with their Mirage and Train being strong as well.
Despite their loss at ESWC 2016, the Turkish side should still be favored against LDLC in a rematch in Romania on the basis of individual strength, and have overall shown more on LAN than ALTERNATE aTTaX - making them a strong candidate for the second spot in the group.
|Kevin "keev" Bartholomäus||24||1.16|
|Tizian "tiziaN" Feldbusch||20||1.00|
|Christian "crisby" Schmitt||24||1.00|
|Oliver "kzy" Heck||26||0.99|
|Florian "syrsoN" Rische||20||0.98|
The German side has been a hot topic for a number of reasons over the past couple of months: after defeating GODSENT in the ELEAGUE qualifier ALTERNATE aTTaX bombed the group stage at WESG with losses to Envy, Astralis and dd. Crucially, the one sided defeats were possible due to their star player keev going totally missing on LAN.
With the reputation of being onliners, they attended ESWC 2016 and ended up taking the title over LDLC. keev was their strongest performer overall, ending with a 1.34 rating, but the victory doesn’t look as impressive when their opposition throughout the tournament is taken into consideration.
After defeating FTW 16-12 and squeezing past a Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen-less Tricked with a 16-14 win, ALTERNATE aTTaX moved on to the playoffs where they took down Preparation and then two teams who managed upsets in the previous rounds - fnatic Academy and Platinium.
Can keev keep his form from ESWC 2016?
If his game is off or they don’t have the economy to get him on the sniper rifle, ALTERNATE aTTaX will struggle against GODSENT and Space Soldiers in their group. Even their recent win over LDLC might work against them if the Belgian mastermind uses the experience to figure out how to beat them in Bucharest - where it matters the most.
|Antoine "to1nou" Pirard||21||1.12|
|Alexandre "xms" Forté||19||1.06|
|Kévin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans||26||1.05|
|Alex "ALEX" McMeekin||21||0.97|
|Valentin "mistou" Balbastro||22||0.93|
The last team from Group A is the French-Belgian side LDLC, that also features the UK-born but French speaking ALEX. The team's main strenghts are the up-and-coming AWPer to1nou and rifler xms, while the legendary in-game leader Ex6TenZ has also picked up his individual game a bit since departing from the G2 roster.
The team hasn’t played many LANs besides attending ESWC 2016 where they ended up second, defeating Space Soldiers 2-0 in the semi finals. Throughout the tournament, they only dropped two close maps to ALTERNATE aTTaX in the grand final and got taken down pretty easily by Heroic on nuke - a map they are now 0-2 on and will probably avoid in the future.
Ex6TenZ stepped up his individual play, but will it be enough?
LDLC prefers to play Cache, Dust2 and Cobble, and with Overpass as a pocket pick, they match up against Space Soldiers and ALTERNATE aTTaX nicely and have an outside chance to take down either of the teams despite their lack of firepower.
The fact that they played against both teams just last weekend combined with a strong tactical in-game leader such as Ex6TenZ gives them a shot to get out of the groups if they prepare well and their players manage to put up solid individual performances.
However, even if they go through, the bracket play will be a big challenge and it’s hard to see them making it through to the ELEAGUE Major Offline qualifier.
|Nikolaj "niko" Kristensen||18||1.12|
|Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså||21||1.11|
|Andreas "MODDII" Fridh||27||1.07|
|Michael "Friis" Jørgensen||27||0.99|
|Marco "Snappi" Pfeiffer||26||0.94|
Heroic started stringing good results together in the second part of the year, reaching as high as #10 in the HLTV ranking in early September. The high placing came as a result of winning Power-LAN, getting top three at Northern Arena and 5-6th and 5-8th finishes at DreamHack Zowie Open Bucharest and SL i-League StarSeries Season 2.
Thanks to those results Heroic got invited to the Minor, but their results have not been as strong since. In recent online play, the team has looked incapable of reaching the form they had in Septemer, struggling against opposition that finally recovered from the summer break.
With Astralis deciding to remove Finn "karrigan" Andersen and to look for a replacement to put a stop to their horrid form, it was obvious that the Heroic roster was in danger of being picked apart in search for a fix.
In a way, losing just Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander is not as bad as it could’ve been, as the main components of the team still remain intact: their star is valde, Friis is on the AWP, MODDII does the lurking and Snappi remains in the IGL role. To replace gla1ve, Heroic decided to pick up another young gun - niko.
niko will have to prove his worth against tough oposition
Even though their first event with the new roster didn’t go as planned, as they were eliminated in the quarter-finals by fnatic Academy, the young niko appeared to be following valde’s path - he seized the opportunity and showed up individually on LAN and against solid opposition.
The questions for the Danes is whether Snappi counteract his weak individual performance by creating a system that will let his young stars valde and niko carry the game, supported by the consistency and experience of Friis and MODDII.
He has proven himself capable of doing so in the past, but the short amount of time since their last pickup could mean that we will see an unprepared Heroic in Bucharest.
|Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow||27||1.08|
|Vladyslav "bondik" Nechyporchuk||23||1.03|
|Martin "STYKO" Styk||20||1.02|
|Patrik "Zero" Žúdel||18||1.00|
|Bence "DeadFox" Böröcz||21||0.98|
Currently in a more frag-heavy role, the 27-year-old Ukranian is surrounded by the dependable bondik, the young Slovakian duo STYKO and Zero and their latest addition DeadFox - who replaced their star player Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný.
Even though DeadFox had big shoes to fill, as oskar was putting up big numbers before him, his addition turned out to be a positive one as he added stability to the team’s results. The Hungarian took over the AWP, but uses the weapon in more of a utility role - resulting in numbers far less impressive than those that oskar used to have.
ANGE1 and their coach Johnta are the ones calling the shots for HellRaisers
With the current roster, HellRaisers won the CIS qualifier for EPICENTER: Moscow and went on to have a solid showing at the event - taking maps off Virtus.pro and fnatic before being eliminated by a 2-0 loss against SK.
Map wise, they are looking solid on Cobblestone and Cache, avoid Dust2, and play other maps with some success - depending on the opposition. The decision to not play the infamous upset map could play into their favor, as they are surely the most stable team of the group and favorites to make it out.
In the playoffs, they have a good chance against any opposition and look like the most obvious pick for a team that we will see in the offline qualifier in Atlanta.
|Miikka "suNny" Kemppi||22||1.17|
|Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen||19||1.04|
|Roope "tomsku" Simpanen||22||1.04|
|Tony "arvid" Niemelä||19||0.91|
|Niko "naSu" Kovanen||26||0.91|
The Finnish hope ENCE had finally gotten into good form after picking up new talent in arvid and Aleksib, as they won IESF over TYLOO and managed to qualify for the Minor through the first online qualifier.
Unfortunately for them, the trip to Paris for ESWC 2016 ended with a tragic group-stage exit to paiN and fnatic Academy that not only affected their morale, but also resulted in Juho "juho" Lampinen quitting the roster, forcing the pick up of tomsku as a stand-in for the Minor.
juho was tasked with AWPing after allu's departure
juho was one of their stable contributors, and cited AWP hardships and pressure as reasons that lead to the decision to quit the team. With a new player coming into the roster so late, it’s hard to see ENCE performing at the same level as in Indonesia - and who knows if even that would be enough to make it through.
If we are looking for a potential bright side, they still have suNny - their main star, and a strong history on Mirage (10 wins, 2 losses). If they can end up on it in one of the matches, or if suNny goes off - the Finns can conjure an upset or two.
|William "draken" Sundin||21||1.08|
|Fredrik "REZ" Sterner||18||1.08|
|Fredrik "freddieb" Buö||22||0.98|
|André "BARBARR" Möller||26||0.97|
|Karl-William "kalle" Haraldsen (stand-in)||25||1.11|
Epsilon arrive in Bucharest after an early exit from ESWC 2016 - losing 2-0 to one of the less known French teams Platinium. Following that, the Swedes had an opportunity to replace FaZe at DreamHack Zowie Open Winter 2016, but were unable to defeat Kinguin in the end - losing the series 2-0 in two heartbreaking overtimes.
The dip in form comes at the worst time for the Swedes - the same team that recently played Virtus.pro close at WESG and had a competitive best-of-five series against Envy is failing against lower tier opposition with the Minor around the corner.
REZ has been slowly stepping up his game
With three strong maps in Mirage, Cache and Cobblestone, a playable Overpass, and a lot more time to prepare compared to Heroic and ENCE, Epsilon can surely make it out of the group - especially if disco doplan shows up in good form.
Professeur writes for HLTV.org and can be found on Twitter.