ESTNN's Slava Britvin breaks down last weekend's ESL One Cologne and highlights key takeaways from Germany.
ESL One Cologne celebrated it's fifth anniversary this past weekend, and it was an electric affair. Almost every top team traveled to Germany to fight for the trophy in the "Cathedral of Counterstrike." Liquid cemented themselves as the number one team in the world and took home the crown in Cologne, winning the IEM Grand Slam along the way. More importantly, however, is that only one month remains until the Berlin Major. Cologne gave fans a sneak peek into how Berlin could play out. Here are our five key takeaways from ESL One Cologne!
Liquid is the best in the world, but they've got to keep the momentum
The Americans proved everyone that they are the best team in CS: GO right now. After the first season of Intel Grand Slam (IGS), which took Astralis over 15 events to win, Liquid won four tournaments in a row and grabbed $1M USD within two months of the start of Season 2.
They're insanely good. For now, nobody can compete with them, especially in best-of-threes. Liquid found a solution to their inability to win grand finals with the addition of coach Eric "adreN" Hoag. Additionally, if we take their individual shape and slow (but also smart) playstyle, their lead right now, in my opinion, looks much more confident than it was with Astralis ten months ago.
And while Astralis keep struggling, Liquid is across the bracket doing amazing things. Now the problem is motivation. Can Liquid keep their focus to the Berlin now that they've reached the top? They are best, indisputably, and the only thing that might motivate Stewie2k & co. to win the Major is its’ status.
But is it enough?
ENCE's early exit doesn't make them weak
After a few successful months during which Ence looked like a top contender, they suddenly failed in Cologne and took last place in Germany. That said, they are still strong. It’s not about tricky Ence hiding their strategies before the Major, they simply came to Germany without a proper focus and it showed.
Ence underestimated Heroic and it cost them a whole event. The hotshot Finnish team tried to play their defaults, but they were easily countered by a Danish team that came to Cologne motivated. Unfortunately for Ence, they fell to the lower bracket where they came face to face with Vitality in the first round.
It was a decent match from both sides, but Vitality (and ZywOo!) are just too good now. Fortunately for ENCE, their early exit might lure their opponents into a false sense of security and cause them to underestimate the Finns. That, however, would be a huge mistake.
Na`Vi showed nothing Despite Their Semifinal Appearance
Sometimes a team show good plays but the results simply aren't there. This time, it was Na`Vi's turn to miss out on the results. Regardless, they still managed to make it to the semifinal of ESL One Cologne.
Na`Vi clearly decided to change their game plan with the addition of Boombl4 instead of the newcomer simply taking Edward’s position. Kirill is trying to play as entry-fragger now, electronic creates more space and play a support role, while flamie seems to be lost (he’s not that flexible).
The CIS team is ok versus chaotic teams that can’t bring anything new (Furia) or recently formed teams (NiP with Plopski), but the semi-final vs. Liquid proved that Natus Vincere can’t fight a real team that has structured play and fantastic comms in key matches.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem that Na`Vi can solve this issue until the Major. I’m not even sure that the current roster will work well. I’ll repeat once more: flamie cannot adapt to the new responsibilities and playstyle, it will continue to affect the whole team.
FaZe should play smarter. And they can do it
A couple of events that FaZe have already played with NEO before Cologne brought some decent results for them. Unfortunately, something went seriously wrong for FaZe in Germany.
I'm not sure what NEO is even doing on this team. Their play in Cologne was obvious and straightforward, completely devoid of any tactical prowess or in-game leadership. It was like they thought, “What would happen if we return to our old playstyle?”
Nothing good, FaZe, nothing good, as their exit at ESL One clearly shows. The European stars have one more month to improve their tactical play. That's not a ton of time, and with Niko clearly frustrated, don't hold your breath that FaZe can pull it off.
MIBR can’t get out of the swamp. Is it the end?
MIBR's performance in Germany was, quite frankly, embarrassing. There really isn't much more to say than that. Now, MIBR's best player, Coldzera, has benched himself. But how long will the agony continue for the Brazilian fans that have supported this team since the beginning?
The downturn started last year and instead of improving their game, MIBR keeps trying to fix problems that don’t exist. Eternal transfers, psychologist, new coach, none of it has worked. All they need is to learn how to focus in game and work on their communication and teamplay. When you continue to trade out fifths and the problems continue, then the fault lays at the top (looking at you, FalleN).
When they were at the top for almost three years, it looked like they were just playing CS: GO and enjoying it. Now, however, every match looks like MIBR would rather be anywhere else than in a server together. They can’t grow up, and it doesn’t seem like they will do it in the nearest future.
Image VIA: Helena Kristiansson for ESL