Winners and Losers of StarSeries
There is lots to be drawn from the latest big event, SL i-League StarSeries Season 3 Finals, that came to a close on Sunday with FaZe picking up their first big trophy. Read on as we recap the event and take a look at the Winners and Losers of StarSeries.
For the first time, an SL i-League event utilized the Swiss format, which saw 16 teams fight for eight spots in the playoffs over the first four days of the Kiev event.
The semi-randomized best-of-one group stage wasn't without its upsets. Some of the most notable surprises included HellRaisers beating FaZe in the first round, as well as CLG eliminating Gambit (stopping their perfect record on Cobblestone) and Immortals.
On their quest to prove they're not OnlineRaisers, Kirill "ANGE1" Karasiow's squad continued to surprise in playoffs, taking down North 2-1. FaZe survived the dangerous prospect that was the new G2, while Na`Vi and Astralis filled up the semi-finals with victories over fnatic and CLG respectively.
FaZe and Astralis then gave us another fantastic grand final after their mouth-watering best-of-five in Katowice last month. A back-and-forth Mirage ended with the Danes taking the lead in the series, but FaZe's strong showing on Nuke forced the deciding map, Inferno. There, regulation wasn't enough as both teams put up a great defense, and in the end it was FaZe taking revenge for their loss in Poland with three rounds as Terrorists in overtime.
|Swiss group stage||Map (VOD)||Stage|
|North||19 - 16||Astralis||Inferno||1-0 pool|
|FaZe||16 - 13||Gambit||Cache||1-1 pool|
|Natus Vincere||16 - 11||North||Inferno||2-0 pool|
|CLG||16 - 14||Gambit||Cobblestone||1-2 pool|
|North||16 - 13||FaZe||Cache||2-1 pool|
|HellRaisers||16 - 14||North||Cache||Quarter-finals (Map 2)|
|Astralis||16 - 14||FaZe||Mirage||Grand final (Map 1)|
|FaZe||19 - 17||Astralis||Inferno||Grand final (Map 3)|
It took the European mixture nearly two years and countless lineup changes that saw only Håvard "rain" Nygaard remain as the sole member of the original Kinguin, but we have finally got proof that multi-national teams communicating in English as their second language can win big events, with FaZe hoisting the trophy in Kiev.
The two main changes that got FaZe over the hump were Finn "karrigan" Andersen and Nikola "NiKo" Kovač coming into the picture, which gave the squad their first true leader and a playmaker that can turn matches around on his own.
FaZe's form in Kiev was impressive. It wasn't NiKo carrying all the way through (even if he did receive our MVP award in the end); Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey and Aleksi "allu" Jalli were their best players in the final and rain was a consistent contributor throughout the entire playoffs.
FaZe are looking to threaten Astralis in the fight for #1, still a ways to go
It didn't hurt that FaZe had probably one of the best records in pistol rounds we've ever seen, winning 14 out of 16 pistols in the playoffs, but that wasn't all there was to it. They showed resilience and ability to adapt to tough situations, especially at the end of the final's decider.
Overall, there was little one could find fault with FaZe at StarSeries aside from their stubborn approach to the double AWP on the CT side of Inferno. They also had issues against ecos and forcebuys, but then again most teams do and FaZe often win a few low buys themselves thanks to their capable pistoleers.
While several of the top10 teams didn't seem to improve in the month they had after Katowice (Virtus.pro, SK, Gambit, and Immortals all failing to make it past groups), HellRaisers were hiding in the shadows, waiting for their opportunity to strike.
That they did at StarSeries, more than two months after their last offline appearance at the ELEAGUE Major. Not only did ANGE1's five surpass expectations by advancing from groups with wins over FaZe and NiP, they took it one step further by adding a series triumph versus North in the quarter-finals and posing a threat to karrigan's team in semis.
With their first top four at a big event, HellRaisers jumped from #15 to #7 in our ranking for this lineup's first entry into the top10. They even have a chance to continue to climb the ladder with two DreamHack Open stops ahead of them, in Austin and Tours.
HellRaisers climb to #7 after their first top four at a big event
Due to the lack of the superstar performances we used to see from him prior to his injury in early 2016, the Slovakian sniper had been a target of criticism in this version of Na`Vi that had struggled for several months.
With the AWPer seemingly getting back to his old self, he is on the right path towards his goal to become the #1 player in 2017.
It's been a year since CLG were last considered a team capable of playoffs finishes at important events or even one of the best teams in their region. With their qualification for StarSeries and the subsequent top eight finish, Stephen "reltuC" Cutler's men could soon regain the status they had in early 2016, when CLG placed fourth at Game Show GEC and 5th-8th at MLG Columbus.
En route to their best result since then, Pujan "FNS" Mehta & co. got Astralis to double digits three times (earning kudos from Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen), eliminated Gambit on Cobblestone of all maps, and sent Immortals home with a confident win on Cache.
CLG surpassed all expectations at StarSeries
Their recent addition of Ricardo "Rickeh" Mulholland has paid off so far; the Australian was CLG's best-rated player at StarSeries (per rating 2.0) without him focusing on the AWP and rather being the secondary sniper.
His and Kenneth "koosta" Suen's double AWP setup played a big part in some of CLG's CT sides (most notably the 9-6 half on Cache vs. Astralis), but Rickeh was interestingly better on T sides, on which he did not hold the Big Green as often.
We'll have to wait for CLG's next appearance before we can draw conclusions as they had the surprise advantage in Kiev, but there are positives to be taken from their showing there.
Another winner to come out of StarSeries was us, the viewers, who had the pleasure to see innovative in-game camera angles and graphics no other organizers had ever utilized in their production.
This last week was a breath of fresh air when it came to production value. On top of that, there were few issues that disrupted the viewing experience, which made for an even more enjoyable week of Counter-Strike.
Famed for their original ideas in production, PGL could have something to say when their Major in July comes along. Until then, props to StarLadder for showing us the newest perks.
The Poles came into StarSeries to prove that their group stage exit on home turf at IEM Katowice was nothing but a one-time mishap.
However, Virtus.pro fell at least one level lower at the $300,000 event, beating just MVP Project and failing to show up against the better teams, only winning nine rounds across three matches (vs. SK, NiP, and fnatic).
Looks of sadness in the VP camp as they head into a long break from offline events
Filip "NEO" Kubski's roster has a lot to think about before their next event. That is most likely at least two months from now, or three if they can't qualify for the big leagues' finals — not an unreasonable assumption considering their reputation in online competition.
Similarly to Polish fans, the Brazilians' supporters had nothing to be delighted about during the Ukrainian tournament.
For the second time in a row after Katowice, SK struggled in the groups, with Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo adding another sub-1.00 rating showing, his fifth in a row and his worst since the KaBuM.TD days in early 2015. Whatever the in-game leader is trying right now is not working for him and for the team, and he only has a week to figure it out before cs_summit rolls around.
In Poland, Brazilian fans had Immortals to cheer for when SK exited the tournament early, but this time Lucas "steel" Lopes's team followed suit and disappointed against CLG in the last round of the Swiss group to finish 9th-11th alongside their compatriots.
FalleN still couldn't find his groove
Prior to the event, the in-game leader praised North's level of play when Philip "aizy" Aistrup is on his game and that much was true in Kiev; the 20-year-old played great in the groups, especially in the overtime win against Astralis, and his squad advanced with a 3-1 record.
However, when he disappeared in the quarter-finals, the Danish side was missing a crucial piece to overcome HellRaisers. On top of that, they haven't quite been able to fix all of their CT sides (which was also their focus during practice), notably winning just four rounds on the defense of Inferno twice in a row.
It's time for North to go back to the drawing board and see where the issue lies, which they have more than enough time for as their next event is IEM Sydney, from May 3-7.
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