What we learned from DH Las Vegas
With DreamHack Masters Las Vegas coming to a close as Virtus.pro clinched their first title in five months following a thrilling final against the new SK, we recapped the $450,000 event and found lessons we had learned last week.
After a highly successful first edition of Masters in Malmö back in April 2016, DreamHack opted to run the second tournament of that series in Las Vegas, Nevada, with an identical format.
16 teams, including the entire top 10 of our Team Ranking at the time, met in four GSL groups on the first three days of play at one of the largest hotels in the world, the MGM Grand.
The groups saw few surprises: Gambit making it to the top of theirs over Virtus.pro and mousesports besting Group D thanks to marvelous performances from Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný. Only two other debuting lineups made it to playoffs, North and SK, while the remaining seven first-timers exited early.
In the quarter-finals, the favored teams came out on top, with arguably one exception being SK passing Natus Vincere after a thrilling first map of the series, Mirage. Two more quarter-finals had the potential to go to three maps, as North had to go through double overtime against Gambit on the new Inferno, and NiKo almost single-handedly pushed mousesports to 14 rounds on Mirage versus Virtus.pro.
SK continued to show great form in the new lineup with Fernando "fer" Alvarenga and Marcelo "coldzera" David powering through North in the semi-finals. On the other side, tournament favorites Astralis barely made a dent against Virtus.pro, who took their revenge for ELEAGUE Major's final on the same three maps.
SK's perfect run then came to an end in the grand final, where they clinched Cobblestone before the Polish side topped Train and survived a 8-12 deficit as Terrorists on the decider, Mirage, thanks to clutch play for their first title in over five months.
|Group stage||Map (VOD)||Stage|
|Cloud9||16 - 14||NiP||Overpass||Initial round|
|mousesports||16 - 12||Natus Vincere||Cobblestone||Initial round|
|FaZe||16 - 13||Natus Vincere||Nuke||Decider (Map 2)|
|North||22 - 20||Gambit||Inferno||Quarter-finals (Map 2)|
|Virtus.pro||16 - 14||mousesports||Mirage||Quarter-finals (Map 2)|
|SK||25 - 22||Natus Vincere||Mirage||Quarter-finals (Map 1)|
|SK||16 - 14||North||Cache||Semi-finals (Map 1)|
|Virtus.pro||16 - 13||SK||Mirage||Grand final (Map 3)|
SK get a head start and form The Big Three with Astralis and Virtus.pro
With SK adding João "felps" Vasconcellos only two weeks prior to DreamHack Las Vegas, we could only speculate whether Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo would be able to find a fitting role for felps and adjust the team's strategy accordingly.
At the event itself, we saw the fruits of the change already. felps was a stable player throughout and added another layer to SK's already incredible system with his highly aggressive and yet smart and sneaky playstyle, not unlike that of Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski.
His smarts and game sense allow him to time his little flanks and plays to perfection, which makes it one level harder to counter what SK are doing.
FalleN was able to incorporate felps into SK's system very quickly
Out of all the teams that recently changed lineups, SK got a head start with their fantastic showing in Las Vegas. If FalleN was able to incorporate such a player this well and this quickly, it'll be interesting to see how good this lineup can become further down the line while the other new teams play catch-up.
Na`Vi are running out of time
After the month-long break at the brink of 2016 and 2017 which Na`Vi spent training hard and fixing their troubling map pool, they added two quarter-finals finishes to their resumé with losses to Astralis and SK.
That is better than exiting tournaments in groups and somewhat unlucky as both of the teams that surpassed them were in great shape, but it is still not enough for players of Na`Vi's caliber.
How long can Na`Vi keep packing up early?
Judging by a post-match interview with Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács, Natus Vincere are back to the times with Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko still in charge, when the squad tended to start arguing despite leading in the match to a point where they threw it away. That, according to the Slovakian sniper, happened again in their match with mousesports, which is a bad sign going forward.
What bodes well for now is that it looked like Natus Vincere didn't take their following loss to SK in quarter-finals too hard and s1mple went as far as to call it his favorite match of his career. It's also helpful that they'll have another month to work on their issues after IEM Katowice, where they still have a shot at making top four.
However, if they aren't able to take series off some of the best teams in the near future (which they haven't been able to since their triumph at ESL One New York in October), it's only a matter of time before the players start thinking that this lineup can't work.
mousesports have tough times ahead
We got to see again what NiKo can do nearly on his own at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, where he garnered an excellent 1.58 rating across four maps including a solo carry performance that got mouz a win over Natus Vincere in groups.
Due to NiKo's departure, mousesports will have to restructure and basically start from scratch. They do have a couple of solid players to base their style around, oskar on the AWP and Christian "loWel" Garcia Antoran on the rifles, but the question is whether the remaining players can step up to make up for the lack of firepower.
oskar had his moments, but others have to step up to make up for the lack of NiKo
When oskar entered the roster the first time and Chris "chrisJ" de Jong was put on rifles, the Dutchman struggled to find his mark. It is possible, however, that Denis "denis" Howell and Timo "Spiidi" Richter will find better form without the pressure, without the threat of NiKo's wrath hanging over their heads.
Leadership is naturally another issue. At the moment it's Sergey "lmbt" Bezhanov making the calls, which won't hold up when the new squad starts going to offline events where Valve's coaching rules are in place.
It's hard to see the NiKo-less mousesports matching the level they had before, when they weren't exactly favored to make playoffs at big events but sometimes managed to do so when the Bosnian prodigy went off. At best it'll take them time to figure out how to play without their superstar, at worst they'll eventually have to make roster moves.
Inferno will quickly make its way into teams' map pools
Despite Inferno having been added to the Active Duty map pool a mere two weeks prior to DreamHack Masters Las Vegas, most teams looked into it according to several players we interviewed.
We also saw six teams letting it through, including North — who admitted they did it to scare their playoffs opponents away and get an advantage in the upcoming vetoes in case they won —, OpTic, fnatic, Gambit, NiP, and Astralis.
North and Gambit played Inferno twice at DreamHack Masters
That makes Inferno much more promising than Nuke, which took months before top teams started playing it regularly after it was re-added in April (and it is still by far the least played map offline, by the way).
Perhaps it's because Inferno was well-liked before its removal and the new version allows for the same old approach to work, and as such it's easier to incorporate into teams' map pools.
Thanks to that we should see the map in play very often, very soon. Teams will hopefully take a good look at the changes to try to get ahead with new tactics and setups so we can see whether there's room for innovation. So far, we haven't seen too much of it and it's hard to say if significant changes to how the map is played are even possible.
Las Vegas makes for a poor location for big stages
While I'm sure the players had a great time having fun in the sin city, Las Vegas was clearly not a great choice of location for a large-scale Counter-Strike tournament in hindsight.
Being a fairly small city in the middle of a desert, the accessibility of Las Vegas is poor at best, which is possibly the biggest reason why we saw only hundreds of spectators at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, a venue that can fit in well over 15,000 people.
The crowd wasn't up to par with what we've come to expect from stadium events
I could see a more casual, behind-the-scenes, Acer Predator Masters type tournament working in Las Vegas where you have a lot of entertainment to work with, but it's unlikely we'll see a stadium tournament taking place there again anytime soon.
That being said, DreamHack shouldn't see the event as a failure overall. The second edition of Masters drew a lot of attention online despite the time zone difference for Europe, everything went quite swiftly, and we saw how great a 360° stage can look.
Hopefully, we will see all of that again with a large crowd in August in Malmö, which was a huge success all-around last year.
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