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

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

The European minor was littered with fallen giants and upsets in every stage of the event: while no one can say that ENCE or Vitality didn’t deserve their spots, it has to be said that their performances were overshadowed by the failings of those better-known names that failed to show up. Questions will be asked of mousesports and OpTic Gaming – one has to wonder whether they’ll have the right answers anytime soon.

London’s Fallen Fall Even Further

Unless North manages to live up to expectations and clinch one of the two consolidation spots, none of the European teams that got eliminated early at the first stage of the FACEIT London major managed to make it back to the main event. Virtus.pro are a husk of their former selves and didn’t even make it to the minors while the ex-Space Soldiers side and OpTiC failed to win a single map. While there are mitigating circumstances in both cases and neither of these sides featured the lineup they’ve bombed with at London, that just makes it even harder to posit a merit-based argument for their presence at this stage of the qualification process.

It’s safe to say that none of these teams would be invited even to this stage if the majors were also factoring in their performances at third-party events in the circuit, DOTA 2 style: as it is, their collapse seems inevitable nevertheless, even if it takes a lot longer to cull them from the pack. Even with Europe being the most competitive region by far, their earl and comprehensive elimination is the least they’ve deserved after their limp showings.

Which, of course, brings us to the main story of the Katowice EU Minor…

Of Mice and Men

It goes without saying that the elimination of mousesports is one of the biggest shocks in the history of CS:GO minors. It wasn’t entirely out of the question – I’d like to claim at least some credit for raising the possibility in my preview of the tournament –, but it is a massive shock nonetheless that the fifth-highest rated team per HLTV won’t feature at the next major mainly off the back of a truly unfortunate set of matches in the New Legends Stage in London. Lest we forget, the FaZe-mouz match in the elimination round was only possible due to a lack of seeding for that bracket: a ridiculous oversight, especially considering it was used for other portions of the field.

This doesn’t at all excuse their lackluster performances and lackadaisical attitude. Supposedly, they haven’t practiced properly for the event, and it never seemed like they were even interested in getting out of second gear. While there are many mitigating factors, you can point to – including the ‘antistratting' campaign waged by Valiance, which we’ll get back to later –, the fact that they couldn’t even be bothered to give it a proper go could very well indicate that this roster has run its course.

The same could be said about OpTic: no matter how many lineup changes and seemingly exciting iterations are made on the formula, the team just fails to deliver results. Their current all-Danish roster is regularly touted as a potential destination for karrigan: one has to wonder why he would even consider taking on this car crash of a squad. For a side that’s falling so far down the list domestically, the future is quite bleak. At least mousesports has an impressive set of showings in the third-party circuit to fall back upon – just ask how this worked out for NiP, at least for a little while.

Format Concerns

Barring some understandable compromises, the formats of the minor are fairly nice and skill-testing: all but the opening matches are best-of-three plus both the groups and the playoffs feature a double elimination. In fact, the opening matches are also seeded based on the results of the closed qualifier! In fact, there’s a good argument to be made that they’re more representative of the participants’ skill on display than the high-variance mess of the major’s multiple best-of-one Swiss brouhaha rounds. However, there’s one important concern that was highlighted by how mercilessly Valiance managed to target and counter mousesports, beating them twice, only to go on to lose against every other opponent in the tournament.

As Sean Gares put it: there’s really no reason to reveal your opponent in the first round so far ahead that you can establish a specific playbook for that one particular game. That sounds like a fairly easy fix, and one of the few things you could do in order to make the minors even more representative of the teams’ skill set – apart from getting rid of the faux-equality between the different regions, of course. It’s going to be very interesting to see how the third-placed playoffs will play out: conventional wisdom implies that the recipients of the CIS/Asia bronze medal are very much in the “also-ran” category.

Lower the Bridge

Fascinatingly enough, both of the qualifying teams came from the lower bracket of the closed qualifier – in fact, only one of the teams with a seeding advantage even managed to make it out of the groups. That happened to be North, and even they only made it off the back of a win against another seeded team in the form of Windigo Gaming in the decider match. Just as a comparison: were this trend to hold in the Americas minor, then Team One, Bravado Gaming and Imperial e-Sports (seriously, a capital S and a hyphen?!) would be the ones in contention of the top two spots.

One has to wonder how much if this has to do with the antistratting potential described above: clearly it’s not just a regional turnover considering the higher-seeded teams managed to go through the closed qualifier without a loss. This clearly needs to be looked at in case it turns out to be a recurring occurrence – however, the fact that anomalies like these warrant attention is a sign of a good core setup in and of itself. To put it a different way, the iBUYPOWER folks would kill for having things like these as their top problems with their LAN event…

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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.