PGL Major Krakow playoffs preview
The PGL Major Krakow playoffs kick off tomorrow with Gambit taking on fnatic in the first quarter-final, before the Astralis-SK banger takes over at the Tauron Arena. Here is our preview of the playoffs, in which we delve into each quarter-final in depth and highlight players to watch.
The group stage of PGL Major Krakow saw countless surprises, such as BIG and Gambit securing 3-0 records, while FaZe bombed out with zero matches won and G2 followed with losses to Gambit, Astralis, and fnatic.
The bracket draw gave us a banger already in quarter-finals in the form of a match-up that had initially been touted as a strong possibility for the grand final, Astralis versus SK, who each had a 3-1 record to their name.
We'll also see two rematches of ELEAGUE Major quarter-finals as Gambit are ready to take their revenge on fnatic, who have since changed two players, while Virtus.pro will be looking to repeat their triumph versus 4/5 of the current North line-up at the previous Major.
Here is our preview of the playoffs, in which we go over each of the aforementioned match-ups, their history, maps, and the best players judging by the group stage.
|Rating used are from PGL Major Krakow groups|
|Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev||1.66||Jesper "JW" Wecksell||1.05|
|Abay "Hobbit" Khasenov||1.26||Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer||1.04|
|Rustem "mou" Telepov||1.19||vs.||Robin "flusha" Rönnquist||1.00|
|Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko||1.09||Dennis "dennis" Edman||1.00|
|Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov||1.05||Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson||0.93|
|Mikhaylo "Kane" Blagin (coach)||Jimmy "Jumpy" Berndtsson (coach)|
Group stage results
|16-10 vs. MOUZ on Inferno
16-6 vs. G2 on Cache
16-11 vs. Virtus.pro on Train
|16-12 vs. FlipSid3 on Mirage
11-16 vs. Virtus.pro on Cache
14-16 vs. Astralis on Nuke
16-12 vs. Natus Vincere on Mirage
16-10 vs. G2 on Overpass
The quarter-finals will kick off with Gambit and fnatic squaring off, with the two teams having faced each other in the ELEAGUE Major quarter-finals, at the beginning of the year, although the Swedes have since released Joakim "disco doplan" Gidetun and Simon "twist" Eliasson, and brought back JW and flusha.
The CIS-based side has so far looked fantastic, despite the fact that their form had looked shaky ahead of the Major. With three straight wins on three different maps, AdreN's men secured the first seed and kept Legends status from the ELEAGUE Major.
fnatic had a tougher journey to playoffs as they conceded maps to Virtus.pro and Astralis, but in the end, they eliminated long-time Legends Natus Vincere and crushed G2's dreams of playing on a Major stage again.
With the exact same lineups, these two teams have met a total of three times offline, with each side claiming one best-of-one affair on Inferno, and fnatic sending Gambit home after a tight series in DreamHack Open Summer's group stage last month.
This upcoming series will not include Cobblestone and Mirage, the teams' usual bans. Gambit have also religiously stayed away from Nuke, which could open up a path for fnatic to pick it if they so choose, as they seem to be more willing to play on it, judging by their down-to-the-wire encounter with Astralis.
However, it's much more likely that the Swedes will pick Overpass, a map Gambit have historically been quite successful on but haven't had many opportunities to play. Zeus will probably be torn between Cache and Train, both of which have been shaky for the Swedes in recent times. The last map seems destined to be Inferno, as the two teams have faced each other on that map in every match they have played.
Players to watch
The Kazakh star put in sensational numbers in the group stage, averaging a tournament-high 1.66 rating, a 106.3 ADR, and 0.23 opening kills per round. There doesn't seem to be any stopping to AdreN, who by and large led the way, figuratively and literally, for his team throughout the groups to secure Legends status.
JW may not have been as dominant as the "king with a 100 ping" at the Major, with a 1.05 rating in groups, but he was arguably fnatic's most consistent player, and he has been so for some time now, while his teammates have struggled to keep up good numbers tournament-to-tournament.
|Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen||1.32||Marcelo "coldzera" David||1.58|
|Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye||1.16||Fernando "fer" Alvarenga||1.20|
|Lukas "gla1ve" Rossander||1.11||vs.||João "felps" Vasconcellos||1.15|
|Nicolai "device" Reedtz||1.08||Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo||1.09|
|Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth||0.97||Epitacio "TACO" de Melo||0.90|
|Danny "zonic" Sørensen (coach)|
Group stage results
|19-17 vs. Immortals on Overpass
8-16 vs. SK on Inferno
16-14 vs. fnatic on Nuke
16-6 vs. G2 on Inferno
|16-13 vs. PENTA on Inferno
16-8 vs. Astralis on Inferno
14-16 vs. BIG on Inferno
16-9 vs. Immortals on Overpass
While all quarter-finals are seemingly as close to even as possible, the Astralis and SK showdown will almost certainly garner the most focus. After all, the two giants were supposed to meet in the semi-finals at the earliest, but fate had planned it to go down in the first round of the playoffs.
Apart from their group stage encounter in Krakow, the two shared a total of five maps dating back to April's StarSeries Season 3 Finals, with every single one going to at least 28 rounds, and there's little indication that this time will be any different.
K - D
130 - 97
111 - 97
114 - 108
106 - 106
106 - 116
K - D
130 - 107
107 - 114
93 - 112
102 - 120
89 - 117
|Statistics from the six maps SK and Astralis have shared in current lineups|
In their ECS Season 3 Finals series, which SK won by the slightest of margins, it came down to Overpass, Mirage, and Inferno. The same scenario is not completely out of the question, even though the earlier Inferno loss may sway the Danes away from the map.
SK could switch things up and pick Cache, which Astralis clearly aren't willing to play good teams on, but based on the Brazilians' vetoes here in Krakow, it doesn't look like FalleN is confident enough on the map to have it as their pick. He also doesn't seem like the type of leader who pays too much attention to his opponents' tendencies in vetoes, and rather focuses on his team's strengths.
Astralis could also change their minds and choose Train instead of Overpass, but the latter is still more likely and we're back to the trio that came out in London.
Players to watch
dupreeh, who underwent the change from entry-fragger to semi-lurker upon gla1ve's addition last year, has looked phenomenal so far, especially in the narrow matches that Astralis won against Immortals and fnatic. This tournament, he has actually gone for opening duels more often than usual and ranks second in opening kills per round at 0.20 and fifth in success in opening duels with 68.8%.
coldzera reached inhuman levels in his first three matches, in which he racked up 98 kills total. Despite dropping off in SK's last win over Immortals, in which felps took over with a godlike performance, last year's number one player in the world has the second highest rating of the tournament (1.58) and is in the top three in several other categories.
|Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz||1.46||Lucas "LUCAS1" Teles||1.19|
|Johannes "nex" Maget||1.36||Ricardo "boltz" Prass||1.13|
|Kevin "keev" Bartholomäus||1.07||vs.||Henrique "HEN1" Teles||1.13|
|Fatih "gob b" Dayik||0.98||Vito "kNgV-" Giuseppe||1.10|
|Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninić||0.81||Lucas "steel" Lopes||1.07|
|Alexander "kakafu" Szymanczyk (coach)||Rafael "zakk" Fernandes (coach)|
Group stage results
|16-8 vs. FaZe on Inferno
16-11 vs. Cloud9 on Inferno
16-14 vs. SK on Inferno
|17-19 vs. Astralis on Overpass
16-6 vs. Vega Squadron on Train
16-10 vs. Natus Vincere on Overpass
9-16 vs. SK on Overpass
16-6 vs. FlipSid3 on Train
The third quarter final of PGL Major Krakow will be a battle of underdogs, as two teams who came all the way from the Minors, Immortals and BIG, will face each other. The German side qualified for the bracket play with a 3-0 record, shocking viewers around the world by taking down three top five teams. BIG first took down FaZe, then Cloud9, and they closed the deal by beating the world's number one team, SK.
There are asterisks to BIG's group stage run, though, with the biggest one of them being their usage of the "crouch jump" bug. BIG perhaps weren't the only team using the mechanic, which has been deemed legal, but the extent to which they used it and the setups they built around them certianly helped them to get to their first two victories, over FaZe and Cloud9. Still, gob b's side proved that there is more to them than just the "crouch jump" by taking down the world's best team SK in their last game, after a gentleman's agreement to not use the crouch jump had been reached.
Immortals had a different run to the playoffs, starting with an overtime defeat to Astralis on Overpass. The Brazilians defeated Vega Squadron and Natus Vincere to bounce back to 2-1 before losing to SK thanks to an inspired performance from their former teammate felps—who managed 37 kills in just 25 rounds. Immortals secured a playoff spot with a convincing win over FlipSid3, but all combined makes for a much less impressive group stage performance than that of BIG.
The veto in this matchup will be interesting, as the map pools of the two teams are somewhat similar. Both have been avoiding Nuke and playing a lot of Cobblestone and Inferno, with Overpass, Mirage and Cache following closely. Cache was the map these two teams played in their last meeting, at the Major Main Qualifier, but the Brazilians will probably hope to avoid playing it due to a 16-9 loss to BIG in Bucharest. With such a similar map pool, the veto will probably come down to three maps both teams are comfortable with, which should set us up for a tight series.
Players to watch
tabseN has been a big part of BIG's success, but in this match, the player to watch is nex. Once touted as the new hope of the German scene, nex struggled to perform on LAN and especially at big events for a long period of time. Now back under the leadership of gob b, nex has been able to play like one of the stars of the team. Will he be able to continue his strong form when the matches move from the quiet group stage area to the roaring Tauron Arena? That is the question we will be looking to answer tomorrow.
It's hard to pinpoint a single key player for the Brazilian side, but it seems the team that features two explosive AWPers, HEN1 and kNgV-, relies mostly on the player that was relegated to a support position for so long. LUCAS1 has been on a tear recently, not finishing a single match at the Major with a below 1.0 rating, which makes him someone to look out for tomorrow.
|Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke||1.34||Jarosław "pashaBiceps" Jarząbkowski||1.22|
|René "cajunb" Borg||1.22||Janusz "Snax" Pogorzelski||1.19|
|Philip "aizy" Aistrup||1.12||vs.||Paweł "byali" Bieliński||1.14|
|Emil "Magisk" Reif||0.96||Filip "NEO" Kubski||1.06|
|Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen||0.82||Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas||1.00|
|Casper "ruggah" Due (coach)||Jakub "kuben" Gurczynski (coach)|
Group stage results
|12-16 vs. Cloud9 on Mirage
16-9 vs. PENTA on Mirage
19-15 vs. MOUZ on Cobblestone
16-14 vs. Virtus.pro on Mirage
|16-2 vs. Vega Squadron on Nuke
16-11 vs. fnatic on Cache
11-16 vs. Gambit on Train
14-16 vs. North on Mirage
16-10 vs. Cloud9 on Train
There is a lot of recent history between these two teams, reaching back to EPICENTER: Moscow, when the then-Dignitas team defeated the Poles in the grand final, securing their first big event trophy. The two would meet again at the ELEAGUE Major, where Virtus.pro managed a very memorable comeback on the third map, breaking North on Cobblestone despite an inspired Magisk performance in the first half.
Since Atlanta, the two have met only in group stages, but it was the Danish side coming out on top both times, narrowly defeating Virtus.pro on Cobblestone in Katowice and Mirage here, at the Major.
In the group stage in Krakow, Virtus.pro had a great 2-0 start by taking down Vega Squadron and fnatic, but defeats to Gambit and to their quarter-final opponents North put them in a dangerous situation. To the relief of many Virtus.pro fans who wanted to see the team play at the Tauron Arena, the Poles showed a strong game against Cloud9, defeating them 16-10 on train.
North started their run to the playoffs with a loss to Cloud9 and an inspired Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert, but bounced straight back with a confident Terrorist side display against PENTA. The last two wins were both tight ones for the Danes, but an overtime victory against MOUZ and a 16-14 one over Virtus.pro meant that MSL and co. were able to defend their Legends spot.
Map pool wise, North seems to be in a good spot as they permanently ban Virtus.pro's most played, Train, while the Poles could go for a Mirage ban, seeing that the Danes have had a lot of success on the map recently. However, the fact that the two teams played Mirage in the group stage already could make Snax and co. think that they can use that experience and take the win there, leaving them with an Overpass or Cache ban.
Players to watch
The brightest star of North is k0nfig, the only player from the team who has consistently put in strong individual showings despite his team having a somewhat tough time. The 20-year-old is known for his aggressiveness, on and off the server, and surely won't be thrown off by the whole arena being against his team on Saturday. What is more, k0nfig is a player who will probably be fueled by it, which makes him the player to watch for North in this matchup.
On the other side, it's hard to look past Snax. Playing at a packed 15,000 seater arena in his home town, the swiss-army knife of Virtus.pro will surely deliver an impressive performance this Saturday. Competent with a variety of weapons and comfortable in different roles, Snax shouldn't be affected by taking back the in-game leader role once again.