CSGO: What Went Down at the IEM Katowice 2019 CIS Minor

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CSGO: What Went Down at the IEM Katowice 2019 CIS Minor

IEM Katowice 2019 EU Minor Recap

While the European minor and its incredible upsets stole the spotlight, the CIS competition also had quite a few interesting storylines to offer: the “usual” suspects will be making a return to the big stage in the form of AVANGAR and Team Spirit as the old guard of the community failed to live up the hype. Could this mark the end of an era in the region’s lower tiers or is this merely business as usual? The next few months could very well provide a seismic shakeup depending on the results of the main event as many teams failed to live up the lofty expectations at the Katowice minor.

Runtime error and a failed gambit

I must confess I was one of those who bought into the hype: the idea of the ex-Na’Vi veterans making a big play or two seemed like a compelling concept, and I wrote that starix and seized “likely rank among the top of the list of players to whom a return to the major stage would mean the most”. Even if that were the case, it absolutely didn’t show. They only managed to pick up a single map against pro100 – a team that, lest we forget, was forced to play with their coach as a stand-in –, going out in last place in their group. For what it’s worth, the team only spent less than two weeks with their new organization at the time of this event, and despite seized’s veteran status in the CS:GO community, he’s still only 24 years old and could very well prove to be the future of this lineup.

Despite making it further in the event, no such optimism is warranted for Gambit. An opening round upset against Syman Gaming seemed to set the tone for the event, and even though they’ve managed to climb out of their group with an emphatic win over the same side in the decider, their performances in the playoff matches left a lot to be desired. To put things in context, Team Spirit is currently ranked 36th in the world per HLTV: a comprehensive defeat to them does not bode well for an organization that has reportedly tried to offload its entire CS:GO division.

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With four players and a coach swapped out over the course of 2018, this project looks more and more dead in the water. It’s only a matter of time until the slow trickle of event invites completely run out, no matter if you were a major winner once: just ask NiP and see how long it took them to return to a reasonable stature after their complete collapse. There are no signs that Gambit Esports is interested in putting in the same sort of legwork, and Dosia memes aside, they don’t have any players whose past results or marketing potential could be leveraged the same way as a GeT_RiGhT or a f0rest was while they try to carve a path out of the wilderness.
Many happy returns

Team Spirit and AVANGAR are confirmed to return to the major stage, and both sides clearly put in the work to deserve this reward: while Spirit missed out on the New Legends stage last time around, they were unfortunate enough to run into Astralis in the fourth round and made a decent impression overall in London. Their only stumble came against AVANGAR in the minor, and with both teams making it through the closed qualifier in an undefeated fashion, it’s fairly clear that they were a cut above the rest of the field here.

Many considered AVANGAR the true favorites of the CIS minor, and for what it’s worth, they’ve been quite close to the fire for a fairly long time now. Their journey through the playoffs must have been cathartic if you consider the fact that these were the sides that denied them previously on their way to the major stage: it was the then-Quantum Bellator Fire team that beat them in the 2-2 series at Boston, clinching the Legend spot for themselves. Not only that, but AVANGAR would then lose to Team Spirit in the decider series at the London CIS minor. While Winstrike got first blood in the group stage, Jame and co. came back with a vengeance when it really mattered and deservedly qualified in first place. It will be really interesting to see whether they can kick on from here: the New Challengers Stage seems to be a lot more stacked this time around than it was at either of the last two majors, but finishing in the top half could nevertheless be achievable for both sides.

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Three-strikes law

In the end, Winstrike bowed out gracefully: while this roster doesn’t have that much in common with the heroes of Boston anymore, the ex-QBF side symbolized the problems of the major’s current format for many. There’s a reason why the rule change knocking the 0-3 New Legends sides to the minor was derisively dubbed the “Winstrike rule” by the community, but there would have been no valid complaints had they managed to get over the final hump in the CIS minor here. Topping the initial group and falling down from the upper bracket final, taking a map off of both qualifying teams along the way was fairly impressive, and while no one could have expected this at the start of the Katowice minor cycle, they are now one of the favorites for picking up one of the consolidation spots in the third-placed interregional playoffs based on these performances.

It’s an odd quirk of the CIS region that some of the unexpected performers at the major don’t even try to capitalize on their showing: just like Vega Squadron, Team Winstrike hardly even attempted to compete at other events in the intervening period between the London Major and the Katowice minor. Nevertheless, they may just make it back to the big stage with yet another upset. If this turns out to be a viable business strategy in the long run (just consider the sticker money!), even more questions will be asked of high-profile yet failure-ridden organizations in the region. Here’s looking at you, Gambit…

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Image Via: IEM

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.