EL Major preview: The Underdogs
The ELEAGUE Major is four days away, kicking off on January 22 with the Swiss group stage. Here is the first part of our series of previews, featuring teams ranked from #16 to #20: GODSENT, Liquid, FlipSid3, HellRaisers and fnatic.
The ELEAGUE Major will take place at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia, from January 22-29, with a $1 million prize pool up for grabs once again, as has been the case since MLG Columbus 2016.
This Major will be the first to use the Swiss format in the group stage, which we saw in play at several Main Qualifiers as well as ESL One New York. Teams with the same win-loss record will be randomly matched in each round before they reach three wins (at which point they advance to playoffs) or three losses (and exit the tournament in groups).
The first round match-ups are the following:
|Sunday, January 22nd|
|21:00||Natus Vincere||vs. MOUZ|
As always, the upcoming Major will be one of the most stacked tournaments of the year, featuring 16 of the top 20 teams according to our ranking.
* Ratings used are from the past three months on LAN
|Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||23||1.10|
|Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson||23||1.09|
|Andreas "znajder" Lindberg||23||1.09|
|Jesper "JW" Wecksell||21||1.05|
|Markus "pronax" Wallsten||25||0.79|
|Alexander "rdl" Redl (coach)|
First of all, who would've thought after the last Major that all players from the old fnatic would be considered underdogs at the next one? That's how things stand at the moment, as both of the Swedish teams have so far failed to live up to their previous standards. GODSENT have been the better of the two up to this point, although mostly because the new fnatic squad have been absent at most events.
After a disappointing couple of months, pronax and co. qualified for the Main Qualifier (as Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson left for fnatic and GODSENT lost the spot at the Major). However, even against lower-tier competition, the Swedes faced issues and barely escaped some of the matches with their lives, playing overtime battles with numerous teams on their way to the victory in Bucharest.
GODSENT skipping WESG due to little practice doesn't bode well
When it mattered most, flusha's team showed up, cruising through the Main Qualifier with three wins in a row, against Dignitas, G2, and HellRaisers. It seems Lekr0 fits in quite well, showing solid individual form at the aforementioned two events.
Their newest member Lekr0 took an extended vacation until the end of the first week of January, which gave them zero time to prepare for WESG. A loss to PRIDE in the DH Masters Las Vegas closed qualifier made GODSENT realize they wouldn't stand a chance at the Major without practice and controversially skip the $1,500,000 event only two days before the event started.
As the Major approaches, GODSENT's chances at advancing to playoffs are in doubt, not only by the community but quite obviously by the team itself. While most teams played for a solid portion of a month, the Swedish roster will have had one week of practice, which is simply not enough for a Major.
|Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski||19||1.14|
|Nick "nitr0" Cannella||21||1.00|
|Spencer "Hiko" Martin||26||0.89|
|Josh "jdm64" Marzano||26||0.89|
|Jacob "Pimp" Winneche||21||0.88|
|Wilton "zews" Prado (coach)|
Another team who haven't quite been able to live up to some of their past results are Liquid. After a disappointing group stage exit at ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals, the American-Danish team brought in zews for much-needed guidance, as they were back in their in-game leadership shenanigans since Luis "peacemaker" Tadeu's departure.
At their first event with the new Brazilian coach, Liquid didn't show too much improvement. Northern Arena Montreal saw the North American squad exit in 5th-6th place, losing to both European teams (Heroic and G2) in the group stage.
zews had two months to work with in Liquid
Their IEM Oakland showing was significantly better, even though they still finished just below the playoffs teams. Liquid couldn't stand a chance against Astralis, but they destroyed Natus Vincere and TYLOO and lost narrowly to Immortals and G2.
That being said, zews barely had a chance to make significant changes due to very limited time and already seemed to have some sort of effect in Oakland. If that curve keeps going upwards, we might see a very different Liquid at the Major, especially as they have now had more than two months to figure out their flaws.
|Georgi "WorldEdit" Yaskin||25||1.14|
|Denis "electroNic" Sharipov||18||1.13|
|Jan "wayLander" Rahkonen||22||1.00|
|Yegor "markeloff" Markelov||28||0.94|
|Andrey "B1ad3" Gorodenskiy||30||0.84|
Last-minute visa issues prevented their new member from attending the event in Costa Mesa, however, and the team went out in last place with a stand-in, Owen "smooya" Butterfield.
Finally, FlipSid3 could show what they had in store at DreamHack ZOWIE Open Winter later that month. After losing to GODSENT in the initial round, B1ad3's team eliminated Dignitas in a tight series but couldn't overcome Kinguin and exited another tournament in groups.
FlipSid3's victory in Leipzig is a good sign, but the Major is a whole other level
After the Christmas and New Year's break, FlipSid3 were quickly back in business at DreamHack ASTRO Open Leipzig. The group stage saw them defeating the new German team BIG as well as Vega Squadron following double-digit scorelines. In the playoffs, F3 took down LDLC and BIG in a comfortable manner, clinching their very first international trophy.
That achievement will surely bring some confidence into the CIS camp, although it needs to be said that the competition there was no match to the one FlipSid3 will face at the Major. It is hard to see B1ad3 and company keeping their Legends status over so many big names, but they were able to surprise us before at ESL One Cologne 2016 by eliminating Ninjas in Pyjamas and shouldn't be counted out.
|Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow||27||1.10|
|Bence "DeadFox" Böröcz||21||1.02|
|Vladyslav "bondik" Nechyporchuk||23||1.00|
|Patrik "Zero" Žúdel||18||0.94|
|Martin "STYKO" Styk||20||0.92|
|Ivan "Johnta" Shevtsov (coach)|
HellRaisers started their journey to the Major at the European Minor, where they finished second in their group with series wins over Heroic and ENCE. Defeating Space Soldiers and GODSENT in narrow fashion in playoffs, they earned their place at the Main Qualifier for the third time in a row.
HellRaisers are coming into the Major as one of the bigger surprises of the Main Qualifier. ANGE1's team were up 2-0 after defeating MOUZ easily and Ninjas in Pyjamas in overtime, but they had to fight in three more rounds due to losses to GODSENT and OpTic.
In the end, they survived a narrow Overpass battle with Cloud9 to become the last team at the Major, their first one with this core of players.
Facing the right teams, HellRaisers could make a solid run at the Major
Over the last several months, ANGE1 has clearly become HellRaisers' best player despite also being the in-game leader and entry-fragger, although lately he had more help with DeadFox's addition. The Hungarian turned a few heads at EPICENTER, his first event with the team, and continued to do so at the Minor and the Main Qualifier, where he carried HR in the overtime win against Ninjas in Pyjamas.
Overall, HellRaisers' chances at making it through aren't great, but they showed they could play with some of the best teams in the world at the qualifier. They will need a little bit of help from the randomizer, but if they face the right teams (such as any of the other Underdogs, MOUZ, Gambit...) and their stars play well, they could squeeze in the three wins.
|Dennis "dennis" Edman||26||1.00|
|Simon "twist" Eliasson||22||0.98|
|Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||24||0.95|
|Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||22||0.93|
|Joakim "disco doplan" Gidetun||21||0.90|
|Jimmy "Jumpy" Berndtsson (coach)|
As mentioned above, fnatic have largely been inactive even before the addition of disco doplan back in November. With their previous lineup (with Lekr0 and John "wenton" Eriksson instead of KRIMZ and disco doplan), they only attended two events, ESL One New York and EPICENTER: Moscow, and exited in 5th-6th place at both.
After swapping the two players, dennis went inactive due to personal reasons. fnatic attended ELEAGUE Season 2 with coach Jumpy standing in and, understandably, the Swedes didn't make playoffs with losses to Dignitas and OpTic.
Due to dennis' inactivity, the Major will essentially be fnatic's debut
We have yet to see the current lineup in play offline, which essentially makes the Major their debut, which doesn't help fnatic's case at all.
They also have little to no true leadership, swapping the IGL role around a few times, agreeing to play more loosely. That can work, but only if the individual players deliver. fnatic have a fairly agreeable match-up in G2 to start it off, but the competition will be harder the further they go; with an untested team, keeping the Legends spot will be tough.
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