OTs, sh1ro's brilliance, and BNE's CT-sides: Key stats from Rio's Challengers Stage
We take a look at the best statistical storylines from the first four days of action in Brazil.
The IEM Rio Major 2022 Challengers stage has concluded, and we have already seen a host of breakout stars, a resurgent Bad News Eagles, and the elimination of two of the home crowd's favourites. This article will attempt to visualise some of the key narratives of the event so far.
Rio's Challengers Stage has been as exciting as any, the best of ones in particular delivering closer matches than we might be used to given the disparity in world ranking among the attendees. With that has come several long matches, with 11 maps already going into overtime. That comes to 20% of all maps played, a sizeable increase compared to the last few Challengers stages. It is the most we have seen at a Challengers Stage since FACEIT London 2018, where 31% of maps went to overtime.
Part of the reason for this amount of overtime maps has been how CT-sided some games have felt. Teams have racked up huge leads on defence, before failing to close the game out on the attack. There was BIG's comeback from 12:3 down against FURIA, Bad News Eagles second-half 12-round CT streak against BIG, and even Cloud9's failure to convert a 10:5 lead against Grayhound.
In fact, there has been as many 12:3 CT leads at half time as 8:7, yet teams that start on T-side have still won 53% of the maps: A statline that shows just how deceptive these big leads have been. These failures to convert the lead are also a result of this being a first-crowd experience for so many players, increasing the pressure on all A stream games. It is doubtless that this experience, in wins and losses, is even more valuable in a scene where LAN and stage experience is far harder to find than in years gone by, with fewer tier-two events in the calendar.
The crowd has also been a talking point when it comes to the home teams, in this case the Brazilians in FURIA, 00NATION, Imperial, and 9z. We found that home advantage was, on average, fairly negligible in the past and so it proved. FURIA qualified, as expected, and Imperial, 9z, and 00NATION's shortcomings were not covered by the fans in the arena.
Instead, the fairytale story would be written by Bad News Eagles. Their run at the PGL Antwerp Major earlier this year was powered by strong CT-sides, and this was even more the case this time round. In their 3-0 run, Bad News Eagles won 82.7% of their rounds on defence, with 1.13 CT multi-kills per round.
Figures that high are clearly not sustainable in future, and there are signs of as much in their T-Side figures: Just 13.5% of their deaths were traded, and they started rounds in a 4v5 situation in two-thirds of T-sided rounds thus far. Their loose, momentum-based style has drawn comparisons to the Virtus.pro team of old, and momentum will be the name of the game once again in the Legends stage.
And, on CT-side at least, that energy is certainly present. Once they get rolling, it takes a strong side to halt the plow, especially with Rigon "rigoN" Gashi in the type of form that leaves him with 0.93 KPR and 1.63 Impact rating.
The other 3-0 team from this stage was MOUZ, who won 90% of their pistol rounds in their five maps so far. Dorian "xertioN" Berman, on his arena and Major debut, is currently sitting at a 1.41 rating. That is high for any player, let alone a rifle as aggressive as xertioN. Meanwhile, David "frozen" Čerňanský, who moved to more passive positions to make room for the Israeli, went up another gear in Rio. At a 1.35 rating this far, frozen has the joint-highest survival rate (56%) and the highest KAST (82.8%), two stats that generally coincide with elite passive play.
New blood also came through at Outsiders in the form of Petr "fame" Bolyshev (1.15 rating), as well as Adam "NEOFRAG" Zouhar (1.13) of OG. However, one player has stood head and shoulders above the rest: Dmitry "sh1ro" Sokolov. His Cloud9 squad had a torrid start in Rio, falling foul of Grayhound and fnatic in overtime to go 0-2, but that did not stop sh1ro averaging a 1.71 rating at the end of day one, posting 73 kills in 72 rounds.
He even maintained his form in the best of threes, finishing the stage as the highest-rated player and with a +89 kill differential. He is averaging 0.90 kills per round, and 0.55 deaths per round: In a 30-round match, sh1ro's average form leaves him at 27 kills and 16.5 deaths, frankly ridiculous figures.
For a player whose mettle has been questioned, it was a performance as good as any AWPers in years gone by. Elsewhere, Florian "syrsoN" Rische also sought to conquer his on-stage demons. He carried BIG — a team many wrote off once Josef "faveN" Baumann's absence became public — into the Legends stage with a 1.41 rating, making the Challenger stage his 13th LAN event in a row that he finished above a 1.00 rating. He was also the highest-rated T-side player so far with a 1.63 rating, largely thanks to him getting an opening kill in 21% of T-sided rounds; as high as most player;'s opening kills and deaths combined.
Kaike "KSCERATO" Cerato is another player who has sometimes looked off his best on stage. But, on home soil, he delivered some of the best Counter-Strike of his career. At ESL Pro League S16 he recorded a 1.39 rating on T-side, the highest of the event, and he was just as strong on attack in Rio with a 1.46 T-side rating (3rd best) and a multi-kill in 24.3% of rounds, nearly a third of FURIA's entire team's multi-frags.
Other than KSCERATO and xertioN, AWPers, as usual, dominate much of the statistical leaderboards. But, there has been a difference this time round, with a notable increase in opening duel activity among the highest-rated AWPers, with syrsoN leading the way. Yet, Santino "try" Rigal, Abdul "degster" Gasanov, Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut all join syrsoN as AWPers who get an opening pick in more than 10% of rounds on both sides of the map.
T-side Opening duels are the one area sh1ro still struggles to stand out in, but that is function of his role rather than a hole in his game. sh1ro actually sits near the top of the flashbang leaderboards with 0.16 flash assists, 44.4% of Cloud9's 0.36 so far.
That figure, of 0.36, is substantially higher than we are used to from Cloud9, albeit with a small sample size. Yet, it has coincided with a far more concerning drop in opening kills (to just 51.4%) and 4v5 win percentage (to 29.3%). While Vladislav "nafany" Gorshkov has always been extremely aggressive in early rounds, Cloud9 are playing worse in man-down scenarios in Rio than they have done historically, something that is surely a factor in their struggles so far.
This might be due to a drop in form from Sergey "Ax1Le" Rykhtorov, who has been one of the best riflers in the world this year but failed to get going at the Major until Cloud9 were staring elimination in the face. For Cloud9 to get through the legends stage, however, they will need both sh1ro and Ax1Le at their best; their first game is against FaZe, and both times Cloud9 toppled the World #1 was thanks to huge performances from Ax1Le.
The charge of relying too heavily on one player can also be levelled at Vitality. sh1ro has picked up 25.3% of Cloud9's kills at the event so far, but ZywOo has 25.4% of Vitality's. A lack of firepower, with Emil "Magisk" Reif and Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen not as consistent as in years gone by, was supposed to be solved by Lotan "Spinx" Giladi's addition. But, since ESL Pro League, that firepower has not materialised just yet.
Spinx is more passive than he was on ENCE, with just 16.7% opening kill attempts on T-side at this event. Where he was once a fairly aggressive lurker, charging out middle on maps like Ancient, his role has now changed substantially, towards plays more like killing rotators from the A apartments on Inferno as his team plants on B. His unfamiliarity with Inferno — he and Dan "apEX" Madesclaire have come under fire for their B hold on that map in particular — is to be expected since it was ENCE's permaban, but Vitality will need more from their star signing if they want to match the firepower of a FaZe or Natus Vincere on stage.