Last week was certainly a valiant one for one of Counter-Strike’s most popular premier series, ELEAGUE. Our latest showcase of a seasonal premier ended last week on Friday the 13th which we know as the day which pertains the unexplainable capability of unleashing masses of misfortune. And for Astralis, misfortune undoubtedly was sent their way. After a strong showing of superiority in both the quarterfinals and the semifinals, Astralis was paired against none other than Counter-Strike’s most popular phenomenon, Faze eSports.
Across a standard best of three series, Faze took all, winning out 2-0 over Astralis, labeling them as the Premier Champs for ELEAGUE’s latest season. Rain had a killer performance across the two maps, dropping a total of 43 frags and an average KDR of 1.34. Likewise, Guardian held his ground effortlessly, hitting a multitude of cheeky and seemingly impossible shots, adding overall demise of Astralis half way through the second map.Though Astralis nearly pulled the victory on Cache, only losing by 2 rounds, the team’s morale seemed shattered once Faze showcased their dominance on Overpass. It’s also worth the mention that Fnatic and EnVyUs (both of whom were considered popular contenders to make it deep into the playoff bracket) were victorious up until the quarterfinals, when they were shut out by Astralis and Faze respectively.
European Minor Qualifier
The European Minor Qualifier concluded just a few days ago, and the lineup for the actual Minor has been finalized. After a single day and 33 matches, eight teams got an inch closer to the Major in Boston.
Team EnVyUs were invited to this qualifier, and effectively started their road to the next Major with a leg up. Unfortunately, they began on the wrong foot with a surprising loss at the hands of Ex-Outlaws. The Bulgarians locked a strong first half on Cobblestone with a 10-5 score on the CT side, and, despite a valiant attempt to equalize from EnVyUs, secured the match 16-10.
Happy’s squad didn’t look rattled one bit after that first loss, as they proceeded to their next match and put on a clinic against Team LDLC on Cache. Dominated throughout, most notably by ScreaM, Ex6TenZ’s men were completely powerless and could only garner a meager three rounds in the whole game.
The next round would unfold in a similar manner as EnVy steamrolled over the Balkan team Binary Dragons. huNter, Faze Niko’s cousin, could do little to stop xms from spearheading the offensive.
In round 4 of the Swiss format, EnVyUs sat at 2-1 with two chances to qualify for a Minor spot. Heroic, who were fresh off a victory over Ninja in Pyjamas, were now barring their road. Starting on the terrorist side, EnVyUs secured 7 rounds in a row and denied the Danes from catching a single break. Though Heroic managed to reply with a few rounds, EnVyUs closed their T side with a comfortable 11-4 score. Heroic hit back with the pistol and the succeeding two rounds, but EnVyUs would not let them have more. They closed the game swiftly as the gun rounds ensued, and soon scored a third victory to secure their Minor spot.
Despite a stumble in their first match, this was a job well done for EnVy as they made progress towards the Major. They did it effortlessly at times, with only 16 rounds conceded in their three straight wins. Healthy contributions from every single player should give the squad confidence for the next challenge to come: the European Minor.
League of Legends
After a month long grind, the eight best teams in the world were finally determined last week. SKT T1, Longzhu Gaming, Royal Never Give Up, and Team WE claimed top seeds in their groups, while Cloud 9, Fnatic, Samsung Galaxy, and Misfits survived behind them.
The most dramatic group, without a doubt, was Group B. Longzhu Gaming dominated proceedings, but the three other teams fought into a stalemate after 6 gruesome rounds of games. Fnatic were left in a deep hole after match day 3 as they had failed to score a single win.
That would not be the end of their losing ways as they were matched up against Longzhu for their first game of matchday 4. Their 4th loss in as many games could have broken the squad, but they somehow maintained their composure. Fortunately, IMT and GIGABYTE Marines had split their series and lost to Longzhu as well, putting Fnatic’s fate in their own hands. Fnatic avenged their close defeat against Immortals to set a do-or-die final game against GAM, but the Vietnamese team failed to show up — resulting in a three way tie.
With momentum on their side, Fnatic would not look back. The first tiebreaker was a comprehensive thumping as all 5 Fnatic players out-farmed their foes on the back of an 8-2 kill score. With playoff point secured, Fnatic needed one more win to secure an unlikely comeback — but it would not come easy. The Europeans were put on the back foot early on as GAM razed all Top towers within 26 minutes, with Bottom towers following soon afterwards. Yet Fnatic held firm by focusing on winning team fights and farm until Rekkles and Caps could go online. A 3 to 1 trade followed by a 4 to 2 trade quickly turned into an assault on the nexus, and GAM threw all their bodies into the Fnatic fire to punctuate an impressive turnaround.
Fnatic will now face Royal Never Give Up in the first game of the Top 8.
StarLadder i-League Invitational Season 3
The StarLadder Minor was the first tournament of the new season. Expectations from fans were high for Team Liquid coming off their victory at The International and coming into the event as the defending champions. While the team had not played any official matches since claiming the Aegis in Seattle it was hard to imagine their skills could have declined during the break. Along with Team Liquid in Group A was Vici Gaming. VG struggled during the group stage due to some uncharacteristic play and some off-meta hero picks that didn’t work out for them. They were eliminated without making it to the playoffs but put up a strong fight in nearly all of their games, pushing their opponents to the edge of defeat multiple times.
Team Liquid’s group stage on the other hand set them up in the semi-finals without losing a single game. Their Chen picks caught teams off guard and complemented their pushing and survivability-focused drafts. Captain KuroKy looked great on the hero as they thrashed Mineski and SG e-sports. The South East Asian team feared Chen so much that they banned him in every single grand finals game later on in the tournament, leaving other important heroes in the pool for Liquid.
The Semi-Finals was another showcase of Liquid’s adaptability and ability to recover when games aren’t going well. With Liquid up 1-0 in the Best of 3 against Secret they found themselves up against a wall in Game 2. Down 10 kills to 1 after an abysmal laning stage, Team Liquid managed to claw their way to victory on the back of a fantastic team effort centered around MinD_ContRoL’s Doom and Matumbaman’s Lifestealer. Their victory secured their place in the finals against Mineski. While Liquid dropped their first game of their entire tournament, Kuroky showed he had a clear plan in mind for each consequent game while Mineski struggled to keep up. A surprise Naga pick for Kuro in game 3, and the shuffling of MinD_ContRoL and Miracle-’s lanes in game 4 took away Mineski’s laning advantage from the draft entirely and lead to a very one sided finals. Team Liquid retained their seat as StarLadder champions and earned 150 qualifying points for TI8.