IEM Katowice grand final preview
ENCE have already greatly exceeded expectations by surviving against the second and third best teams of the world at the Major, but the Finnish team's final boss battle against Astralis on Sunday will be like none other.
CS:GO Major history is filled with unexpected runs, from fnatic's at DreamHack Winter 2013 to Cloud9's at ELEAGUE Boston 2018. And ENCE's memorable campaign in Katowice will certainly go down as one of the most impressive runs, having come through the closed qualifiers and the Europe Minor to reach the grand final after winning five best-of-three series, two of which were against Liquid and Natus Vincere - the No.2 and No.3 teams in the world.
The team that has occupied the No.1 slot for almost 11 months now, more precisely since April 23, awaits ENCE in the grand final. Touted by fans and analysts alike as one of the best, if not the best, team to ever grace the CS:GO scene, Astralis arrive at the grand final as the defending Major champions. Nicolai "device" Reedtz and company tasted defeat at the start of the year as they were bested by Liquid in the iBUYPOWER Masters grand final, but they have looked indomitable in Katowice, losing only one map so far, which came in overtime.
That loss could be a crucial piece of information as it was on Mirage, one of ENCE's best maps. Since picking up two losses on this map in the New Challengers Stage, against Renegades and Winstrike, they have played it four times, they have gone on an undefeated run, beating G2, AVANGAR, Liquid, and Natus Vincere. Still, Astralis' loss on this map came only in overtime and the aforenmentioned quartet that ENCE beat always managed to hit double digits. Picking Mirage doesn't give ENCE a huge advantage, but, then again, what does when you are playing against Astralis?
ENCE must definitely strike out Nuke with their first ban for obvious reasons as Astralis are on a 29-0 streak on LAN on the map. Astralis will almost certainly take out Cache, which neither team likes to play, as it makes little sense to go into uncharted territory when you are the favourites.
After the sides ban Nuke and Cache, we are quite likely to see Train picked by ENCE and Inferno selected by Astralis: the Finns have won the last nine Train games they played, while Astralis are unbeaten in twelve on Inferno. ENCE should then ban Dust2, which they have lost to BIG, HellRaisers, and Natus Vincere in Katowice, and on which Astralis have shown their dominance over the past three months. This leaves Mirage and Overpass as the two options for the final map and ENCE have been quite good on both so it will be a 50/50 for Astralis' final ban.
The veto process is important but because Astralis are great on any given map, ENCE will have to fire on all cylinders when the final kicks off. They can't afford to have in-game slumps like Aleksi "allu" Jalli had against Natus Vincere when he went missing for a period of 35 rounds on Dust2 and Mirage. The Finnish player did come alive towards the end of the series but Astralis will not let that kind of performance slide and will exploit the weak points of ENCE to full extent.
Astralis reign supreme on almost all statistical departments. The Danes have a 58.3% opening duel success rate at IEM Katowice and convert 85.8% of these rounds to round victories. ENCE, on the other hand, have drawn first blood 53.6% of the time since the start of the New Legends Stage and gone on to win those rounds in 72.6% of the cases. The situation is similar when the teams can't get the first kill as Astralis outperform ENCE with a 12.9% difference in 4vs5s.
ENCE's best numbers are in the trading department as they are the third most successful team at IEM Katowice in terms of avenging fallen teammates. allu and company have done it 21.4% of the time, just behind Astralis, who have managed to trade 22.6% of their deaths.
ENCE's performances so far suggest that trouble awaits them in the pistol rounds. They are the second-worst team since the last-16 stage in this department, with only eight pistol rounds won in 28. They are not particularly great at winning the second round after losing the pistol either, having done it only three times in 20 opportunities. Astralis are on the other end of the spectrum with a 61.1% pistol round win rate (third best), and have a flawless round two conversion after winning a pistol.
Be that as it may, numbers aren't everything and ENCE wouldn't be in the grand final if they were. They give us an idea about how a team will perform in average conditions, but the final of the Major, against one of the best teams of all time, is far from being an everyday occurrence. It is worth remembering that ENCE started the New Legends Stage with two losses, which also impacted all of these stats. What is most impressive about the Finnish team is their ability to turn it on even when they look completely out of it. We had seen it against Liquid when they overturned an 8-15 deficit on Inferno to force overtime and we saw it again against Natus Vincere when they were thrashed 3-16 on Dust2 and had a shaky start on Mirage. Then, the cold-blooded Finns went on a 10-2 streak to close out the decider with a 16-14 final scoreline. It is always hard to count them out, making this final a great prospect.
ENCE will make this a tough affair for Astralis, but both the eye-test and the underlying numbers point to a victory for the Danish team, who have looked their dominant selves throughout their run in Katowice. This is a particularly important occasion for Astralis because they could lift the Major trophy for the third time, catching up with Robin "flusha" Rönnquist, Jesper "JW" Wecksell, and Markus "pronax" Wallsten for the most Major wins. The Danes are already the most organized and well-drilled team of all time, but winning IEM Katowice could give credence to the suggestion that they are flat-out the best team in CS:GO history.