CSGO Esports: IEM Katowice 2019 Americas Minor Recap

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CSGO Esports: IEM Katowice 2019 Americas Minor Recap

With the regular minor events complete, we’ve successfully established eighty percent of the Katowice newcomers. While there’s still one last chapter to be written with the third-placed playoffs, we can already decipher most of the interesting storylines of the Americas minor. This tournament has clarified a lot of domestic hierarchies. Established that NRG and karrigan are just as good as we thought, and also marked the final nail in the coffin of Project Destiny, an endearing but ultimately flawed enterprise helmed by Bravado Gaming.

NRG ain’t no mouz

Unlike the (former) number four in the world, NRG completed their assignment with flying colors, winning the minor without dropping a single map to the opposition. It wasn’t even close: the closest anyone got to them was FURIA with 12 rounds on Cache. It was the Brazilians’ map pick. Clearly, daps and co. have exorcised the demons of their London misadventure and are coming into the major in great form. They should be odds-on favorites to move on from the New Challengers Stage as well come February 13th.

Now the run-up to the major becomes an exercise in expectation management. NRG are clearly expected to make it to the last sixteen at Katowice – potentially even beyond that stage – and it’s going to be very interesting to see where they will end up in the player selected seeding. What would constitute a success for the side for their first shot at arguably the greatest prize in the CS:GO circuit? As of January 21st, HLTV puts them in ninth place, sandwiched between Fnatic and ENCE. With HellRaisers and compLexity playing the role of stowaways in the top eight last time around, there’s certainly room to pip rivals to the post even in the New Champions Stage. The rule changes should also remove the chances of undeserved qualifications. While expecting a top-eight finish from them might be a stretch, NRG are fully expected to become a regular participant of the major cycle going forward – anything else would be a disappointment.

Karrigan: the new pronax?

One of the biggest surprises of the Americas minor was just how effective a unit Team Envy has become off the back of karrigan’s surprise loan move. Not only that, but the Dane seems surprisingly committed to this enterprise, and while it would be a truly exciting story to see him steer this squad to the major, you have to wonder whether he’d be better off by coming close and failing, with no further obligation to continue with this loan role and likely taking on the IGL mantle at a bigger side going forward. Needless to say, he third-placed playoffs are going to be incredibly consequential.

It has to be pointed out that his fragging output left a lot to be desired so far. Some of the numbers – like the -25 K/D posted against NRG in their 0-2 defeat – were almost pronax-esque. To be fair, karrigan didn’t try to hide this fact at all and his argument that he had to micro-manage his new teammates a lot more than what he was used to making a lot of sense. Still, performances like this are bound to drag the team down in the third-place playoffs and the major, and one can only hope he can sort out the heuristics needed to unleash his own rifling potential in the server.

The story of the second strings

The Americas minor also helped clear up some confusion about the domestic hierarchy of certain territories. Despite their unexpected win over NRG the last time around, eUnited failed to make any kind of a mark here – and lest we forget, Rogue didn’t even make it to this stage after a commendable display in London. The gap between Team Liquid, NRG, Cloud9 and the rest of the North American field looks insurmountable at the moment. This is, of course, just as much a testament to their improvement over the last few years as the relative stagnation of the rest of the field.

Perhaps the same could be said about the state of Brazilian Counter-Strike, though it’s perhaps, even more, telling that MiBR opted to bring back their former players instead of taking a gamble on any of the up-and-coming talents of the region. FURIA has clearly emerged as the second-placed side of the country in this tussle, and with Envy cutting down Brazilian squads left and right throughout the minor, it was only fitting that they were finally stopped at the hands of arT and company. Not once but twice did they give them a whipping, winning the two series with a combined score of 64:36, deservedly moving on to the major. Still, it has to be said that they also failed to put NRG to the test, indicating that FURIA are just as far from the top tier as the rest of the contenders in this category.

Farewell, Bravado

As expected, the South Americans’ failure to qualify for the major coupled with the lagging returns of their crowdfunding project led to the cancellation of the Indiegogo campaign and likely the end of the organization as we know it. If you look past the pathos and the narrative, it doesn’t come as a surprise at all: if you need to e-beg for three months’ worth of revenue to cover expenses, your odds of turning things around is extremely low even if you did manage to luck into a bit of sticker money. Sharing the same one post over and over again on social media – yet not taking the time to fix the glaring grammatical errors – doesn’t indicate a well-thought-out campaign, and while third-party initiatives like FalleN’s stream helped them somewhat, even a deadline extension sanctioned by the crowdfunding platform wasn’t enough. The players put on a good show, and I don’t expect them to fade into obscurity: a project like this is indeed exciting, and this might be the cleansing fire required for them to end up with a more competent organization moving forward.

Luci Kelemen
Luci 'YelloRambo' Kelemen is a veteran writer mostly focusing on the industry side of esports and the design specifics of card games like Hearthstone and Artifact. His work is featured on PC Gamer, Tempo/Storm, Rivalry.gg and many other gaming sites. Twitter @luci_kelemen.