Academy teams head to the Arctic Circle for Heroes of Lofoten
You might associate The Arctic with polar bears, but for the next few days it will also host the future stars of Counter-Strike.
It’s not often that players can say they have been to a LAN event that was hosted inside the Arctic Circle, but those playing at MistGames Heroes of Lofoten certainly can. Located at the northern reaches of Norway, Lofoten is an archipelago that features breathtakingly dramatic scenery, a population of only 24,500, and for the next few days it will also feature some of the future stars of Counter-Strike doing battle.
As one might expect from a LAN in such a unique corner of the world, the vibe itself is far from the traditional LAN experience. The playing area resembles a converted barn rather than the large sports halls lesser LANs often inhabit, rough wooden beams and low ceilings abound, complete with plenty of nautical-themed decoration. The cozy environment is at odds with the wild and untamed scenery surrounding the venue, brutal snow-glossed mountain peaks rising high above frigid arctic waters.
If the gorgeous location isn't enough to wet your whistle, there are a fascinating batch of teams gracing Norway’s shores for the event, especially if you are the kind of viewer who likes to get ahead of the curve when it comes to the stars of tomorrow. With the WePlay Academy League not taking place for the time being, LAN events like this are utterly vital for the development of young players. Five academy rosters are amongst those doing battle in Lofoten, and with the current propensity for top-20 teams to look to their academy rosters when making roster moves, some of these young talents may be featuring at elite events in the future.
Astralis Talent are the highest ranked squad in attendance and thus should be considered the favorites, and what’s more they count a four-time Major winner among their number, Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth. The Danes have been on an outstanding run of form in recent times (a wobble during CCT Central Europe Series 5 aside), having won modest online competitions like POWER Ligaen and SDTV Invitational as well as the more prestigious CCT North Europe Series 4, which featured impressive wins over Copenhagen Flames and Paris Major attendees GamerLegion. Alexander "Altekz" Givskov was their best-rated player for the year but his promotion to the main squad has left Mikkel "MistR" Thomsen, Alexander "br0" Bro and Patrick "Patti" Larsen as the firepower trio to keep an eye on.
ENCE Academy arrive in Norway having recently risen to become the second-highest ranked Finnish team in the world rankings, taking that spot from Aleksi "allu" Jalli’s JANO squad. They have achieved this thanks to solid placings in online events such as their third place finish in European Pro League, during which they defeated JANO twice in series play. Paavo "podi" Heiskanen has been the main man driving their success, his 1.20 rating for the year comfortably outstripping his closest teammate – the 18-year old is definitely one to watch for the future.
The most exciting individual prospect in the event may very well reside on MOUZ NXT. Quite probably the most renowned academy division in top-level CS thanks to alumni like Ádám "torzsi" Torzsás, Dorian "xertioN" Berman and Kamil "siuhy" Szkaradek, the current iteration of MOUZ NXT hasn’t quite been able to match the top-30 level of that previous squad. Nonetheless they have shown potential, such as in a third place finish at European Pro League Season 6 that included a 2-1 series victory over Monte, and due in large to the superlative talent that is Jimi "Jimpphat" Salo. Younger brother of ex-ENCE star and one-time top 20 player Jere "sergej" Salo, 16-year-old Jimpphat has emerged as one of the hottest prospects in CS having posted a 1.20 rating for the year at such a tender age. It would be a safe bet to assume a top team will take a chance on the young Finn in the coming years.
PROSPECTS might not have a history of promoting players to the main team, but considering the fact they eliminated Young Ninjas with ease on the opening day, it would be foolish to discount them. In fact, they are actually the second-highest ranked team in attendance by a decent margin, and should be taken seriously as a contender for the trophy. They recently won European Pro League Season 7 ahead of many of their opponents in this very event, and so will compete in Norway full of confidence. AWPer Johan "hype" Engblom is the team's main carry with a 1.14 rating for the year so far, but it was Olle "spooke" Grundström who stole the show in their win over Young Ninjas with a whopping 105 ADR in a 1.88-rated performance.
MASONIC are the only team ranked outside the top 100 in attendance, however the team has been home to many young Danish talents over the years, including current Astralis members Christian "Buzz" Andersen and Altekz, so don't be surprised if one of their young guns lights up the server in Lofoten. According to the stats said young gun will likely be Anton "Anlelele" Huynh or William "sirah" Kjærsgaard , but Theis "J3nsyy" Jensen is also a capable fragger and Sebastian "Tauson" Tauson Lindelof is not far behind.
The action in Norway continues on April 26 at 17:00 as MASONIC take on MOUZ NXT in the quarter-finals. You can catch the action on the MistGames Twitch channel, with Joshua "Dweg" Nathan and Jamie "EternalJay" Martin on casting duties.
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