Winners and losers of ELEAGUE Major 2018
The ELEAGUE Major 2018 has come to an end, so it's time to take a look at the results and figure out which teams started the year as winners and which ones weren't quite as successful.
Sixteen teams competed in the New Legends stage of the Major, with different squads having different sets of goals in front of them. As SK's roster was incomplete, it was FaZe who were the main favorite at the Major, while squads such as Astralis and G2 were expected to make playoff runs based on their status in the scene.
The Swiss group stage, which was held in Atlanta, saw highly rated teams such as Astralis, North and Gambit eliminated, with the massive underdog Quantum Bellator Fire making it through in one of CS:GO's biggest Cinderella stories.
After the action moved to Boston for the New Champions stage, we witnessed some memorable maps and series. The bracket play saw FaZe and Natus Vincere face off in the semi-final after dealing with MOUZ and Quantum Bellator Fire, respectively, with Finn "karrigan" Andersen's men running out comfortable victors.
On the other side of the bracket, Cloud9 took down both G2 and SK to make the final. The match against FaZe went to all three maps, with the decider, Inferno, going to overtime. In the end, the home crowd was delighted as Tarik "tarik" Celik's MVP-worthy performance led Cloud9 to the first North American Major victory.
|Group stage||Map (VOD)||Stage|
|Astralis||16- 14||North||Train||Group stage|
|BIG||16- 12||North||Cobblestone||Group stage|
|Quantum Bellator Fire||16- 14||MOUZ||Train||Group stage|
|FaZe||19- 16||MOUZ||Nuke||Quarter-finals (M1)|
|Natus Vincere||16- 4||Quantum Bellator Fire||Mirage||Quarter-finals (M1)|
|SK||16- 12||fnatic||Mirage||Quarter-finals (M3)|
|FaZe||16- 14||Cloud9||Mirage||Grand final (M1)|
|Cloud9||22- 19||FaZe||Inferno||Grand final (M3)|
This squad has been trending upward ever since they shuffled their roster in August, but they weren't considered anything more than a solid dark horse leading up to the Major. Cloud9 started their journey to the Major title in the New Challengers stage, beating Envy, Sprout and MOUZ to move on to the next stage with a perfect 3-0 record.
In the second Swiss system phase, Cloud9 found themselves on the edge of elimination after losing to G2 and Space Soldiers. The North American hope held it together and eliminated Virtus.pro, Astralis and Vega Squadron after one-sided games to get to the playoffs.
Cloud9 were rising in form with every map played, which they showed by exacting revenge on G2 in the quarter-finals as well as by defeating the ever-dangerous SK in the semis. It all came down to the grand final, where Cloud9 had to not only defeat the main favorite for the title but also break their eight-map losing streak against FaZe to earn a victory.
Thanks to the emergence of Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham in the grand final, who had been the team's least impressive performer up to that point, Cloud9 were able to take the win after an intense three-map series. Cloud9 exceeded expectations and made history as the first North American team to lift a Major trophy, which obviously makes them the biggest winners of the event.
By making the playoffs of the ELEAGUE Major 2018, fnatic have silently gone on a streak of five consecutive playoff appearances with Maikil "Golden" Selim. The run actually started in Atlanta, at ELEAGUE Premier in September, and continued over WESG EU&CIS Finals, ESL Pro League S6 Finals and ECS S4 Finals.
In the New Legends Stage of the Major, fnatic went 3-2, which could look deceiving, as their only losses were to FaZe and an infamously hot-and-cold Natus Vincere side who had everything go their way on Inferno. The Swedish side picked up three pretty confident wins to get to the playoffs, taking down Virtus.pro (16-6), Astralis (16-8), and Gambit (16-2).
Their main carry throughout the New Legends stage was Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson, who seems reinvigorated under the new leadership, while Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson hit his peak in the quarter-final match against SK. fnatic were not able to make it past Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo and co., though, as the Brazilians came out on top of a thriller series (19-22 Inferno, 16-14 Overpass, 16-12 Mirage), but fnatic's level of play was impressive, and will give the fans of the Black and Orange a positive outlook moving forward.
Quantum Bellator Fire
The team that had barely earned a second place at the CIS Minor and impressed no one with their online performances was fairly labelled as a big underdog heading into the ELEAGUE Major 2018 Main Qualifier. The majorly-Russian roster still managed to scrape through to the Major, though, with wins over Flash, a Cédric "RpK" Guipouy-less Envy and AVANGAR.
As a team whose only goal in Atlanta was to "not go 0-3 in the New Challenger stage", the Russians had already exceeded their expectations, by far, when they met Virtus.pro in the second Swiss group stage. The victory over the Poles was somewhat put down to the struggles of Filip "NEO" Kubski and co., but Quantum Bellator Fire earned another victory on the following day, taking down Gambit in overtime.
Gambit didn't really seem on point in that game, or in the tournament overall, so Quantum Bellator Fire remained hard to figure out for many. However, the comeback win over MOUZ, which made Kirill "Boombl4" Mikhailov, Aurimas "Kvik" Kvakšys, Gregory "balblna" Oleinick, Nikita "waterfaLLZ" Matveyev and Savelii "jmqa" Bragin Legends in their first Major appearance, showed that, if nothing else, this squad certainly has character and resilience.
By placing top eight, Quantum Bellator Fire have earned a place at the following Major, which is set to take place in August-September. In the meantime, the Russian side will surely play enough games for us to see if their Major run was a one-off or the start of something big and beautiful.
Going back a few years, one wouldn't think of a Major group stage exit as a big failure for the second best team in Denmark. However, things have massively changed since. Not only has Denmark developed into one of the most talent-filled regions, but the country's second best team—Mathias "MSL" Lauridsen's North—faces none of the challenges that teams in that position historically did.
Having a player plucked away by a team higher in the pecking order—in this case Astralis—is something that has not happened to the team since they signed for North, while the organization was able to secure talented members from other squads—getting Philip "aizy" Aistrup from FaZe and Valdemar "valde" Bjørn Vangså from Heroic. The team also has all the infrastructures one would need, as well as a strong support network in the form of a coach and an analyst.
None of that amounted to much, though: North peaked mid-2017 with some respectable results, but have been on a constant decline ever since. Leading the side to good results was Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke, but he has nowhere been near the impactful entryfragger he was at DreamHack Masters Malmö and at the ESL Pro League S5 Finals. The 20-year old finished the Major with a below-average rating, as did all of his teammates, and, after losing three matches straight, North were on an early return flight to Denmark.
What makes it worse is that all of their defeats came from teams who didn't make it through to the playoffs, losing to Vega Squadron, Astralis—despite a 11-4 T-side Train lead—, and BIG. North's Major performance was way below the bar the team had set for themselves, and it has already resulted in changes: René "cajunb" Borg was replaced by Daniel "mertz" Mertz, a talented AWPer from their academy team, while Alexander "ave" Holdt has taken over the first team coaching role from Casper "ruggah" Due.
Virtus.pro finished the Major with a 0-3 record, picking up a total of just 16 rounds over those three games. They were also the worst rated team at the event, their five players averaging a 0.70 rating, and they trailed behind the second worst side by a significant margin. The poor showings and the struggles of the Poles are already well-documented, but this was the first time they were eliminated in the group stage of a Major since DreamHack Winter 2013, which deserves special notice.
The longest-standing roster in CS:GO lost their Major Legend status by going down to Quantum Bellator Fire, fnatic and Cloud9. Even though all of these teams eventually made it to the playoffs, we can't really take that as a massive asterisk for Virtus.pro, who looked flat throughout the tournament and didn't show anything that would lead us to think they would fare any better against different opponents.
The poor results, combined with the overall lack of vigour from Virtus.pro, could see the Polish side finally opt for a player change, with rumours about Wiktor "TaZ" Wojtas being the first on the chopping block already circulating. Even if that one change does happen, it is very questionable if it will be enough to get Virtus.pro back to where they were in the past.
Coming into the Major straight from the break was something that was felt in Gambit's game. The CIS team was visibly rusty, with players such as Rustem "mou" Telepov and Abay "Hobbit" Khasenov performing below a level we had seen them in Gambit's deep tournament runs, and below the level required to make it to a Major playoff. Gambit still beat Natus Vincere and Space Soldiers, but the overtime loss to Quantum Bellator Fire would end up costing them dearly.
On the last day of the group stage, Gambit faced SK and fnatic, with both matches featuring weird veto decisions from the CIS side, to say the least. Mihail "Dosia" Stolyarov and co. faced the Brazilian team on Overpass and the Swedish team on Mirage—both of the maps considered the best ones for their opponents.
Gambit ended up losing both games and going out with a 2-3 score, and, alongside the veto issues and individual underperformances, something that was brought to the light even more in Atlanta was their lack of clear leadership. At times, the team looked lost, calls were being made too late and their decisions were easily read by the opposition. How they plan to deal with that issue is not clear, but their current calling system with Dosia and Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev sharing the workload doesn't seem to be working very well.
With Nicolai "device" Reedtz struggling with illness, Astralis were in a pretty tough spot leading up to the Major. After spending the end of 2017 playing with different stand-ins, they had the 22-year-old come back into the active roster in time for the big event, but faced a big question—how would they use him?
The decision was made to continue with the style they had used at the end of the year and have Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen be the main AWP, while device played a lurk role. One could say that the AWPing worked fairly well for dupreeh, at least on the one map they won against North, but the team didn't put up a great show overall, convincingly losing to MOUZ (16-2), fnatic (16-8) and Cloud9 (16-6).
Astralis surely are not the biggest of the loser when the alleviating device factor is taken into account, but there is no running away from the fact that they are not close to the team that won the Major a year ago.
The German side had been the surprise package of the PGL Krakow Major, going 3-0 in groups and defeating the world's best team along the way, but they did not make the most out of their spot at ELEAGUE Major 2018, though, and were eliminated from the tournament with one-sided scorelines.
In the first game, Fatih "gob b" Dayik's troops got matched against Liquid, one of the easier teams they could've drawn, but were completely overrun on Inferno, securing just five rounds. BIG then received another trashing on the same map from Natus Vincere, losing 16 straight rounds after winning the pistol.
BIG's main duo, Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz and Johannes "nex" Maget, finally showed up in the game against North, earning them the victory on Cobblestone, but the team was once again subdued against Space Soldiers. Overall, BIG's dependency on their two stars was made even more apparent at this event—without nex and tabseN getting in on the action, they can't get much done.