ECS Season 6 League Recap
We’re just inches away from the end of the sixth season of ECS, and while the Americas have seen their fate decided, Europe is still a few matches away from certitude as to which teams exactly will make it to Arlington, Texas, to compete in the soon to be inaugurated Esports Stadium.
While their first weeks in the league were fantastic, Team Liquid slowed down and struggled a bit more in their online matches, with losses to rivals NRG, and to a surprisingly potent Renegades lineup. But Liquid’s huge string of victories in the early weeks earned them a nice lead, and by trading maps with compLexity, they made the cut and acquired one of the spots at the offline finals, where they will represent North America alongside MIBR, NRG and Renegades.
Meanwhile, the league still has a couple matches remaining on the old continent, and the standings are still too close to determine exactly how the season will pan out overall. With all the teams but two still fighting for their respective objectives, be it qualifying for the LAN finals, or avoiding relegation, these two upcoming weeks promise to be interesting given what is at stake.
So far the only locks for the finals are Rogue, and more importantly, the nemesis of Team Liquid and current champions of ECS, Astralis. Fnatic are among the other eight teams whose fate is still undecided, and although their start to the league was underwhelming, the team has undergone some changes since then. The whole squad has seemed reinvigorated by—and benefited from—the arrival of veteran Simon “twist” Eliasson and promising youngster Ludvig “Brollan” Brolin to replace both William “draken” Sundin and Robin “flusha” Rönnquist. While this hasn’t transformed into a complete sway in the league, their record has already seen improvements, thanks notably to a solid 2-0 win against OpTic. While their situation looked grim earlier in the season, they came back from the bottom and slowly edged their way out of relegation territory. Their remaining match against NiP should be a tough one given the form of their Swedish compatriots, but they’re armed to do damage and cement their spot in the next season of ECS.
BLAST Pro Series
This weekend another installment of the RFRSH Entertainment brand of tournaments took place, the BLAST Pro Series, in their home country of Denmark. Suffice to say, this weekend was the theatre of quite some historic moments, and on two different levels. First off, with the moving speech by the Prime Minister of Denmark about esports recognition and secondly, with how the tournament unfolded given the playing field. Indeed, this was the first tournament since ESL One Cologne where Astralis, and on home soil even, didn’t make the finals, which instead pitted Na’Vi against the Ninjas in Pyjamas. Let’s rewind and recount how this happened.
Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko and his crew entered the tournament as logical favorites. They were nonetheless still the challengers in one specific matchup, against the best team in the world, Astralis. Yet when the dust settled after the round robin that saw Cloud9, Astralis, FaZe, MIBR, NiP and Na’Vi brawl for the two spots in the finals, the CIS squad had claimed the top spot in the group. Starting off against Cloud9, Na’Vi simply took care of business by taking down the now-international lineup 16-9, before conceding a map to a reinvigorated FaZe Clan. That would be the only map they’d let go, as they won all their remaining matches, including a very convincing 16-9 victory against Astralis, on Overpass nonetheless. And thus Na’Vi toppled the group with a 4-0-1 scoreline—BLAST counted draws instead of playing overtimes—but the biggest surprise was to come, as Astralis failed to reach the finals, instead making way for the Ninjas of Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson.
With no Astralis in sight, this was the chance to pounce and snatch a trophy in their absence for Na’Vi. Yet, while a cursory glance at this matchup would let one think this would be one-sided in favor of the black-and-yellow lineup, this is still a NiP that had also just beat Astralis, and they were gaining steam. With the exception of the role distribution, these two squads looked like mirrors of themselves, with the young new guard of Sweden and the CIS region facing each other, both backed by some of the most experienced players in the scene.
The hunger for the trophy was stronger for Na’Vi. While each map went above 25 rounds, it still was Na’Vi’s show, and in such a dominating style, as they closed the finals 2-0. Inferno was an especially strong statement from the team. After a balanced 8-7 half, Oleksandr “S1mple” Kostylev and his team mates completely outclassed the Ninjas. Even though the Swedes seemed to always get the opening pick, always choose the right bombsite, always made the most appropriate and optimal decision, it never panned out in their favor as Na’Vi won retake after retake, or otherwise stopped the set pieces NiP would attempt with an individual heroic play, even from Zeus, who posted his first tournament with a positive ratio since the PGL Krakow Major more than a year earlier, adding to the already ridiculous firepower of his squad.
In conclusion, another big trophy for Na’Vi, the fourth this year, and their eighth final as well, notably including the Faceit Major. While this still was a best-of-one format group stage, it feels like the lines have moved ever so slightly, and that the number one spot might be inches closer to being contested. Something that wasn’t contested though, was the MVP Award, which S1mple won as is now customary, on the back of an extremely solid tournament performance which included, and it’s as crazy as it looks, a 1.90 rating in their game versus Astralis.
DreamLeague Season 10
Team Liquid and Na’Vi both qualified for the first Minor of this year’s Dota Pro Circuit, DreamLeague Season 10. Unfortunately, tournament favorite Team Liquid was forced to withdraw from the event citing health reasons. Hopefully Liquid will be up and running in full force when the next qualifiers roll around. Once the tournament began in earnest, we saw Na’Vi make it to the upper bracket with a 2-1 match score in the group stage. While they were taken down 2-0 by Complexity, they were able to easily 2-0 both Infamous and Vega Squadron to secure second place in their group. Most interesting were Na’Vi’s draft choices in the final series of the group. When Na’Vi went into crunch time against Infamous, they drafted nearly the same lineup twice in a row. They swapped out Crystallize’s hero, pulling their last pick Huskar for an Ursa, continuing their theme of lane dominating and fast paced carries.
Na’Vi’s first matchup in the upper bracket would be against 1437’s Tigers. In the end the Tigers were too fierce and Na’Vi was sent to the lower bracket all too quickly. You know the old saying though, “Whatever doesn’t knock you out makes you stronger.” Na’Vi proceeded to run the table in the lower bracket, not dropping a single game en route to the Grand Finals. In the finals Na’Vi met the Tigers once again, this time with everything on the line. The winner of this best of 5 would qualify for the Major, while the loser would be forced to watch from home. It was a nail biting 3-2 series, favoring Tigers in the end. Na’Vi put up a good fight, but in game 5 they drafted an extremely teamfight heavy lineup and were never quite able to come online. Meanwhile Tigers drafted an aggressive lineup and punished Na’Vi before their ultimates and teamfight could come online. Tigers may have taken home the trophy, but this was an excellent showing from Na’Vi. A great improvement over their form from last year. Hopefully we will see them at the next Major, along with a healthy Team Liquid.
IEM Chicago 2018
This past weekend, explosive Counter-Strike action was at its highest as Astralis took down Team Liquid during the grand finals of IEM Chicago 2018. The weeklong tournament provided for some extremely exciting competitive play, as a total of 16 invited teams went head to head in contention for the title of IEM champions.
Through a spectacular group stage and an early playoff run, Astralis fought their way to the very top, and in doing so, made it incredibly entertaining to watch. With a nailbiter semi-finals series against a powerful Fnatic, which was refreshing to see, and an overall fluid adventure throughout the entire tourney, Astralis looked to be in tip-top form.
On the opposite side of the IEM spectrum, Team Liquid were boasting an even more exciting expedition, with a volatile victory over FaZe Clan in their very own semifinals, guaranteeing them a swing at Astralis in the near future. Similarly to Astralis, Liquid also took to winning early in the group stages. Though Fnatic would stop their momentum during the Round Three Upper Bracket, the young squad shook it off quite easily, as LDLC and FaZe would fall to TL with ease during the onset of the playoffs.
When it came time for the grand finals, for that of Liquid, their momentum wasn’t worth much to the former world champions of Astralis. Yes, Liquid looked extremely sharp on Mirage, losing by just one around, and surely weren’t counted out for the maps following. However, Astralis did EXACTLY what they do best, and that’s exposing every flaw of their challengers, and turning it against them. Map two of Nuke turned out to be an utter disaster, and frankly Inferno was no better. Astralis used IEM Chicago 2018 to add to their evergrowing legacy, and once again, proved why they remain the best Counter-Strike team in the entire world.
Super Smash Bros Melee - Hbox wins GTX
Hungrybox has been the best Melee player for the better part of two years now, nearly undefeated and taking down every opponent that stands in his way with his signature character, Jigglypuff. GameTyrant Expo was no exception as Hbox made a great winner bracket run all the way to the grand finals where it turned out to be a battle of the Gods of Melee, Hbox vs Mango. Hbox saw redemption in his run to the finals for his loss to Zain at Shine 2018 as he sent him to the lower bracket in a well fought 3-2 victory to make it to the winners bracket finals. From there Hbox took down Mango in back-to-back series, winning all three of his rounds in the finals with 2 stocks (lives) remaining.
Hbox playing against Mango in the finals of tournaments can be seen as far back as 2009, when Mango would regularly get the upper hand while Hungrybox was emerging as a challenger in the Melee scene. Over the years we’ve seen their positions flip, as Hbox is now the one who controls the pace of the games and comes out victorious in the end. Both of them may be Gods of Melee but there is no question that Hbox stands just slightly out of reach of Mango, a player who is considered by many to be the GOAT. If Hbox can continue his incredible string of tournaments (winning thirteen tournaments this year so far) he will certainly challenge Mango to that title.
Hbox status as one of the 5 Gods of Melee continues to be solidified by stellar performances one after another. His performance at GTX is only the appetizer as Smash Summit 7 begins shortly and brings with it another opportunity for Hbox to demonstrate his incredible abilities against the best players in the world.