ELEAGUE Major quarter-finals preview
The ELEAGUE Major is set to move to Boston's Agganis Arena for the playoffs (New Champions stage), which will begin with the first three quarter-finals on Friday. Here is our in-depth preview of the quarter-final matchups, its best players, and the veto processes.
|Ratings used are from the ELEAGUE Major group stage|
|RobbaN (coach)||lmbt (coach)|
mousesports look for revenge, business as usual for FaZe
ELEAGUE Major playoffs will start of with a quarter-final full of storylines, as two European mixtures take on each other in a rematch from ECS Season 4's mouth-watering grand final in Cancun, Mexico, where FaZe and MOUZ played three full maps before the former were crowned champions.
After a shaky start, FaZe were quickly back in great form and passed the qualifier (New Challengers stage) and the group stage (New Legends stage) with little trouble. Only SK could contest the superteam in the groups, where the Brazilians started 9-1 on the CT side of Cache, but FaZe managed to pull it back and secure the 3-0. MOUZ were up-and-down in both of the previous stages, having garnered four losses, most notably to Quantum Bellator Fire and Space Soldiers.
The first quarter-final will come down to which of the stars show up and what maps will be in play, but seeing as FaZe are in good shape, it should be business as usual for one of the tournament's favorites.
Which side of the spectrum will oskar be on?
You can pick and choose between all of FaZe's players except for karrigan, who have all been in solid form throughout the qualifier and the Major group stage, with rain dominating the first stage and GuardiaN the second.
Whether MOUZ do well or not seems to hinge on oskar, who averaged a beastly 1.75 rating across his team's six wins during the previous stages, but he dropped massively in the four losses, to a measly 0.84 rating. chrisJ and STYKO dipped quite a bit as well, even if the difference was not as noticeable as with the star AWPer, but you should expect nothing less than consistency from suNny and ropz, who have been able to keep their performances fairly level thus far.
|MOUZ||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|140 - 61||+79||101.6||1.75|
|114 - 79||+35||86.7||1.37|
|102 - 65||+37||81.3||1.29|
|101 - 86||+15||78.9||1.19|
|79 - 73||+6||75.3||1.16|
|Stark contrast between mouz's trio's performances in wins (above) versus losses (below) during the qualifier and groups|
Nuke to be played for the second time at the Major
We all know that FaZe has three world-class maps, if nothing changed from the last tournaments of 2017: Overpass, Inferno, and Mirage. FaZe could have simply played those three over and over throughout the groups and the qualifier, as no one ever banned all three against them, but, as usual, karrigan stayed away from his opponents' best maps even if it meant falling back on one of FaZe's less played maps.
In the end, FaZe played both Train and Cache twice across the previous stages and seemed comfortable enough, apart from the poor start on the CT side of Cache against SK, which suggests that the European squad reinforced their map pool during the break and could very well be one of the world's best on five different maps.
Nuke is, however, the problem when facing MOUZ in series. chrisJ & co. are quite possibly one of only two teams in the playoffs that would happily play Nuke whenever they get the chance. As Cobblestone is FaZe's permaban, Nuke is surely where MOUZ will direct the pick-and-ban phase once more, having beaten FaZe on it in the final of ECS Season 4 Finals at the end of last year.
That incredibly close series featured Inferno and Mirage as the other two maps, which is where the veto could go again, although it's possible that FaZe will instead look at Cache as an option due to the lack of experience MOUZ have on the map. The question is whether karrigan is convinced that their opponents' 16-2 win on Cache over Astralis in the groups was a sign of mouz's strength, or whether it was the Danes' weakness that played a factor.
|Natus Vincere||Rating||Quantum Bellator Fire||Rating|
|Kane (coach)||iksou (coach)|
Can QBF continue to surprise?
Quantum Bellator Fire's run at the Main Qualifier and especially the group stage of the Major becomes less and less believable the more we look at it. Just look at one simple fact: before the qualifier, three of QBF's players had never competed at a level anywhere close to this and the remaining two have but a few of such experiences under their belt.
Yes, they had a favorable route at the qualifier, beating Flash, Envy without Cédric "RpK" Guipouy, and AVANGAR for a spot at the Major. However, they then added impressive wins over well-oiled machines, Gambit and MOUZ, in the Major's group stage, fighting through an overtime in the former matchup and up against a 2-13 deficit in the latter.
The question now becomes whether they can still compete and continue to surprise in series, where their map pool will be truly tested, but it almost doesn't matter how they do now given how far they already got against all odds. The pressure is instead on Natus Vincere, who are looking to 2-0 this quarter-final to maintain momentum and confidence from their dominant group stage finish, after an up-and-down start at the qualifier.
The s1mple show
It was no surprise to see s1mple topping the charts for Natus Vincere throughout the qualifier and the group stage, as he had been doing for the entire 2017. This time he was joined at the top by flamie, who also contributed greatly to his team's six victories.
On the other side, Quantum Bellator Fire's players took turns shining for their team, with each player having a couple of great performances throughout the two stages. Personally, I'd keep an extra eye on Kvik, who hit his peak in the comeback against MOUZ with several round-deciding AWP sequences, and waterfaLLZ who kept a good level throughout the entire group stage.
It's hard to fully assess Quantum Bellator Fire's depth considering they only had to play best-of-one matches up to this point, but it was clear throughout the qualifier and the group stage that they really wanted to play Inferno as much as they could, with Train as their second favorite. On the other hand, they always banned Nuke and Overpass whenever their opponent didn't, and Cobblestone looked like a no-go as well.
Given that Natus Vincere would like Overpass very much and Nuke went wrong for them earlier in the tournament against Gambit, Quantum Bellator Fire should open up with an Overpass ban and Na`Vi will remove Cache as usual. s1mple & co. also love Inferno and have no reason to be scared to pick it against QBF, whom Na`Vi already beat once, which opens up a chance for their opponents to pick Train. waterfaLLZ's team can then remove Nuke while Na`Vi surely prefer Mirage over Cobblestone, which Zeus banned eight out of nine times so far (excluding the FaZe matchup).
|SmithZz (coach)||valens (coach)|
G2 have yet to sweat
G2 are yet to be properly tested this month with six wins and zero losses to their name from the previous two stages and only one close match behind them, an overtime battle on Overpass against Vega Squadron.
Sweeping the qualifier in convincing fashion, Cloud9 also started off well, but then the American side kicked off the Major with two losses in a row, including one to G2 on Cache. With their backs against the wall, tarik & co. eliminated Virtus.pro, Astralis, and Vega Squadron without breaking a sweat.
Both teams, who previously struggled with making playoffs at the Majors, thus come into the playoffs with plenty of confidence and are set to clash once more, for the eighth time since April last year.
The unsung heroes shone in groups
While other players enjoyed their time in the spotlight during the Main Qualifier, especially shox and the trio of autimatic, Stewie2K, and tarik, during the Major's group stage it was G2's recently appointed secondary AWPer NBK- and Cloud9's RUSH leading the way for their respective teams.
It's never a bad thing to keep an eye on kennyS, of course, and you won't regret following the likes of shox (who returned to lurking for the Major) and Stewie2K, who like to make plays on their own and so far performed very well.
A Cache rematch as a decider?
Throughout the best-of-one stages, G2 have been consistent in banning Train — their usual permanent ban — and Mirage, which they used to ban before dropping Train from their map pool, altering their third ban based on the opponent.
Cloud9 naturally always vetoed Nuke, which will definitely be the case here again. Their pick must then be Mirage, one of their best maps and certainly not a favorite of G2. The Frenchmen have an option to pick Cache after their success on it against the Americans in groups, although G2 might be one of the teams that do not like to play a team twice on the same map, in which case their most likely pick would be Inferno.
The second round of bans could get interesting, as it will be based on what Cloud9 feel most comfortable on. Overpass has never been much of a strength for them, but they also stayed away from Cobblestone for the most part during these past two weeks, and then there is Cache that C9 lost to G2 earlier in the tournament. It all depends on what the American side prepared for, but my best guestimate is that they'll remove Overpass and leave the choice of Cache and Cobble to shox & co., who would probably like nothing more than a rematch on Cache.
Can fnatic punish SK for the lack of practice?
This is where we start wondering just how far SK can go with felps and whether they've been able to improve enough throughout the tournament to be a legitimate contender at the ELEAGUE Major. Even if they only lost to FaZe in groups, so far the Brazilians have seemed fairly shaky, with some of the individual players struggling to perform at one point or another.
This time, they should still be able to pull through, as they're up against fnatic, who have been improving steadily but obviously aren't an elite-level team just yet. The Swedes were up and down in the group stage, but in the end they managed to keep their Legends status, closing out the group stage with a massive win over a team they've been trading blows with for a long time, Gambit.
Like JW said in our interview, it'll be all about being on fire individually if fnatic want to go far, and they'll definitely have to punch above their weight to beat SK, who may not be at their best but still are a team to fear.
fer has plenty of room to improve
fer didn't put up the individual performances we've grown used to in the group stage, but coldzera was on fire in two of the team's three wins and FalleN made up for the best player in the world when he went missing throughout an entire half against Space Soldiers.
fnatic have the veto advantage
Whether SK face a team known for playing Nuke or not, they have always vetoed Nuke first in series and it's unlikely that has changed for the Major, which will give fnatic the chance to take away one of their least successful maps and an SK favorite, Overpass.
The Brazilians haven't played Cobblestone thus far at the tournament — not for a lack of trying as everyone vetoed it against them —, but it's always been a strong map for SK and a likely candidate as their pick for this series. On the other hand, Inferno has always been their weakness, which plays right into the hands of fnatic who like the map.
The second round of bans should then see SK taking away Train, which they vetoed every time they could in groups alongside Inferno, and fnatic getting rid of Cache to play Mirage as a decider, the perfect map that both teams like for a big finish of the series, if necessary.