Luci Kelemen | Esports Writer

Luci Kelemen | Esports Writer

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.

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CSGO Esports: IEM Katowice 2019 Asia Minor Recap

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Beyond the Anatolia-related puns, the Asia minor always felt like the odd one out of these qualifiers, and this iteration proved no exception. Even with the lack of TyLoo – who have finally managed to crack the code and make it to the New Legends Stage –, the competition still felt like “Renegades and the rest,” and none of the participants apart from Grayhound felt like anything but also-rans in the broader context of the scene.

Renegades do what needed to be done

Qualifying for the major has always been the bare minimum for the organization considering the region they reside in, and while they’ve once again managed to do so – winning the competition outright –, there’s a good argument to be made that they nevertheless failed to meet expectations. The difference in quality was so stark that a dropped map to ViCi and a surprisingly close series against Greyhound in the upper bracket final has to be a concern going forward.

Keep in mind that their fellow soon-to-be major participants also managed to knock them off balance in the closed qualifier upper bracket finals as well, indicating they’re more than capable of giving them a good game. Seeing how stacked the New Challenger Stage is going to be this time around, it seems relatively unlikely that the Renegades will manage to break their curse and make it past the first round this time around as well.

Auzzies everywhere

The real question of this minor was the identity of the team that could take advantage of TyLoo’s success in London – and it turned out that we’re going to see even more Australians in Poland as Greyhound deservedly took the second spot behind Renegades. Not bad for an organization created just a year and a half ago: they’re already heading to the most prominent CS:GO event with all the benefits that will imply.

Of course, there’s a Dick-shaped elephant in the room: I’d love to see some stats on how much sticker money they’ll end up with off the back of DickStacy’s innuendo-filled username, especially compared to the other teams. That’s truly going to be a collector’s item one day, regardless of whether they’re going to become regulars on the major stage or not.

Let’s not forget the people from the land down under – in a minor of firsts where multiple countries sent their first-ever representatives to the major, New Zealand also joined the club thanks to sterling’s heroics. Valve are clearly emphasizing internationalizing the Counter-Strike scene even further, and every such occurrence indicates they’re on the right path.

The “group of death” delivers

One has to wonder how different it would have all gone had the two eventual qualifiers not ended up in Group A to start things off. CyberZen certainly could have at least had a puncher’s chance going further (especially considering they managed to win against Renegades’ old lineup at StarSeries & i-League CS:GO Season 6). There’s also the interesting quirk of the format that one of Group B’s top two made it all the way to the lower bracket finals – and eventually the third-placed playoffs – without being able to beat anyone that wasn’t in their initial group. That said, ViCi certainly showed their fangs against North, but the stark differences between the teams in this minor underscore some of the issues with an otherwise excellent format when certain sides are simply so much better than the rest of the field.

No depth in Asia

This ties us into the other, more important consideration: even after all these years and a concerted push, there’s still nothing to show beyond TyLoo in the Asian mainland that would come anywhere close to top-tier Counter-Strike. With multiple prior minor participants no longer in business and seemingly “noname” sides coming and going at this stage, a distinct lack of stability remains the name of the game. That’s not saying there aren’t talented individuals around: ViCi have impressed in the third-place playoffs and Freeman has posted fantastic stats throughout the Asia minor, posting a 1.32 rating over thirteen different maps and an astonishing +81 K/D per HLTV. Not bad at the tender age of nineteen!

However, some of the organizations still seem shockingly amateurish. Spare a thought for Beyond Esports: they got rid of four of the players that let them reach the Asia minor before signing an agreement that two of them can return for the event. Predictably, they got butchered by the competition, and it would indeed be a shock to see them return to this stage ever again. “We can only hope that their guns will function better than their spellchecker” – this was our sentiment going into the minor and it looks like their weapons ended up jammed. Two sides only confirmed their coaches less than ten days before the event, and Aequus Club changed two players and a coach (not to mention their org) in the run-up to the tournament. Clearly, there’s still a lot of work left to be done on the business side of things.

All in all, there’s still nothing to suggest that the region warrants the same amount of spots as the rest of them – especially judging by its almost complete absence from the top-tier third-party tournament circuit – in terms of performance, but if you subscribe to the theory that every esport event is marketing, it makes sense that Valve wants to push on with the Asian audience. Nevertheless, the fact that the region’s esport scene seems to fail to grow despite this support is a discouraging sign. Keep in mind that the “expansion” of the major basically only means that what was formerly known as the qualifier now counts as part of the main event: just a single team managed to make it to the last sixteen from this region, and even that seemed like a bit of an upset. Will ViCi turn out to be shining light that illuminates the darkness? Only time will tell.

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