Takeaways from ESL One: New York

With ESL One: New York coming to a close today, it’s probably safe to say that this is the best Counter Strike I’ve been able to watch since the end of the Cologne major. Obviously there has been good Counter Strike matches at LANs such as Starladder and Dreamhack Bucharest and in the EU and NA Pro Leagues, however this has been the tournament where the Counter Strike has been consistently good throughout the tournament.

There were amazing team plays, incredible upsets and spectacular individual plays.

With every LAN event, there are takeaways, something(s) that we learn after the fact. For me, they are as follows:

OpTiC Gaming Started Swinging:

Optic Gaming qualified for this LAN after beating Cloud9 in the qualifier finals to fill the last slot of the tournament just a few days before the LAN. People at the moment would refer to Cloud9 as the strongest North American team, having a 2nd place finish at Dreamhack Bucharest and a 3rd place finish at the Starladder LAN. On top of these offline achievements, Cloud9 are miles ahead of their North American and Brazilian counterparts in the ESL Pro League online matches, currently boasting a 23-1 record, with their only loss coming from Echo Fox on Dust II.

People referring to Cloud9 as the strongest North American team at the moment is more than justified, so the surprise would be natural when Optic qualified over Cloud9.

The real surprises came when they played their matches. Optic had played a total of 5 matches in this tournament. Losing their initial match up to SK and then losing to Fnatic put them at an 0-2 record in the first two rounds of the competition. In Round 3, Optic were fighting for survival, and their true colours started to show. Under the leadership of Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz, Optic sought out to make a difference against G2 in front of the Brooklyn crowd in the Barclays Center.

They did just that. Every single player on the Optic squad had HLTV rating of above 1, with the lowest rating being Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz bringing in a 1.04 rating, and the highest being Oscar “Mixwell” Canellas, who had a 1.42 HLTV rating. Each Optic member performed individually in that game, which was crucial for them to claim their first scalp of the tournament. This was not only a huge victory for the newly formed Optic side and their first LAN, but they were the team to send G2 home.

Then came Optic against Astralis in Round 4. More of the same, individual players performing at the times the team most needed it. The players were able to pull through and win the clutch rounds that they probably shouldn’t have won, such as this clutch by Tarik “tarik” Celikthis 3k by Will “RUSH” Wierzbathis incredible site hold by Keith “NAF-FLY” Markovicanother clutch play by tarik and another stunning display by NAF. These players were able to run around and play out these phenomenal clutch rounds and win them. The Optic lineup is just five very skilled individual players who work well as a team, and it showed in their two games against G2 and Astralis respectively. Statistically speaking, in this match against Astralis aside from Mixwell, the players had an ADR (Average Damage per Round) of the high 70s (78-79) to mid to high 80s (85 and 89 respectively).

We have seen Optic perform well in the ESL Pro League, but seeing them perform on LAN and seeing them take the scalp of a team like G2 and Astralis shows that Optic have made significant process in the short amount of time that their new roster has been together, and that things can only look up from here for Optic Gaming.

Individual Inconsistencies in Astralis?:

On the 19th of May 2016, Astralis made the decision to trade René “cajunb” Borg to Dignitas for Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye. Astralis had two substitutes during Cologne due to Kjaerbye’s ineligibility and later on dupreeh’s injury. So, we fast forward a little bit.. Past ELEAGUE because you could argue that the team is still trying to gel and so forth. Then you hit the Starladder LAN. Make no mistake, losing to NIP is nothing to be ashamed of, but the gap in which they lost by is something to observe. They managed to beat NIP 16-6 on Cache. Then lost 16-12 on Dust II and 16-6 on Overpass. Keep in mind that NIP actually won this event with a ringer player, in the form of Maikelele. Many would have expected, by now, to see Astralis placing in the top four of an event like this. Instead, we see them place 7th (based off of HLTV placements) in the event.

Statistically speaking, throughout the duration of the best of three, the players could have had a better event for sure. In the best of three vs NIP, only one player had a positive k/d ratio (see statistics below)

 

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Kind of a poor showing. Then you fastforward to this LAN. Picking up a win against G2, and then losing to SK, Fnatic and Optic.

The statistics, from HLTV, are as follows..

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In the 16-13 win against G2, they looked fine, all pulling in decent ratings and ADR.

Then comes the game against SK. Despite the score being 16-13, it didn’t really look that close when you bring up individual stats. Nicolai “device” Reedtz and Kjaerbye were the only two players with an ADR above 80, while the rest were mixed in the 50s and 60s. ADR stats aside, it looked close on the scoreboard and then you see Andreas “Xyp9x” Hojsleth dropped 9-19 with a 0.56 rating.

One would assume that perhaps it’s individual inconsistencies that are setting the team back. Looking back at the bo3 against NIP, it was Finn “karrigan” Andersen that looked really inconsistent in the differences between kills and death, and ADR wise while the rest of the team seemed to perform relatively well statistically. Under-performing against SK was Xyp9x.

Then you look to the 16-9 loss against Fnatic, who are definitely not looking like a championship winning side in their own regard. Even here against Fnatic, Astralis looked statistically poor. There were two outsiders in device and kjaerbye. Both of them had a difference of -5, while the bottom three players had an ADR average of 65(ish). It only looked like Xyp9x and dupreeh were performing, followed closely behind by karrigan.

To me, it looked like, again, there were two inconsistencies this time that affected the Astralis side’s performance.

Finally, in Astralis’ loss (16-12) against Optic saw more or less of the same thing statistically in one individual under-performer, this time it was Kjaerbye.. Pulling a total of 12 frags for 22 deaths, with a 36.7 ADR.. Nearly as bad as Wenton’s 20ish ADR in the Team Liquid rematch. Just based off of statistics, it seems like individual outcasts on the scoreboard are affecting Astralis’ performance greatly. The scorelines may look close on occasion but it does seem like one player, and it changes from player to player in different matches doesn’t show up and affects their performance. Now it could be this, or something tactically but something just isn’t working for Astralis’ players, and whatever it is, it’s affecting individual performance. This unfortunately cost Astralis their place at the event and sent them home early.

Everytime it’s someone different, and the stats show it. It’ll be interesting to see how Astralis push forward, and whether or not they decide to make another change.

A “s1mple” gamble for Na’Vi:

Na’Vi are strong, strong Counter Strike side. They’ve been in 7 grand finals all up in 2016. The two grand final wins before this one were for 40k and 50k prizes respectively (their share of winnings). Finishing as runners up at MLG Columbus 2016, Dreamhack Malmo 2016 ($1,000,000 and $250,000 tournaments), they haven’t had an opportunity to grab a headline tournament’s trophy, like ESL, for example. This year they were able to do it as they triumphed over Virtus Pro at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn. Coming first place, winning $125,000 and a nice trophy to take home. However, they couldn’t have done it if they hadn’t gambled with their roster.

Na’Vi made the decision to cut Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko from the active roster and replace him with Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. Admittedly this new line up had a very poor finish to the recent Starladder LAN, but came to play in Brooklyn. Na’Vi had to make the decision to make a change to their roster. Whilst top four finishes consistently are nice, they’re not wins. A team like Na’Vi, filled with legends at the game are hungry for a high tier tournament win. Considering seized, Guardian and Edward have been there since 2013, with flamie joining in 2015, the team has been together for a long time and are surely tired of placing 2nd-4th (I know some teams would be very happy with those kinds of consistent placings).

S1mple himself is no stranger to finals. Having placed in the semi-finals at MLG Columbus with Team Liquid, and then placing 2nd at Cologne 2016 with the same team shows that s1mple is indeed a talented player that can take teams to new heights. After his departure from Team Liquid, his hunger to win never subsided. Bringing in someone familiar with finals, bringing in someone who could make gutsy plays was the change that Na’Vi needed to make.

Na’Vi needed a hero to play and enter the ranks amongst legends. Enter s1mple. Winning 16-9 against Liquid in Round 1, 16-9 against VP in Round 2 and winning 16-6 against SK, the best team in the world, put them on their way with a nice 3-0 start and they booked themselves into the semi finals early.

Then beating Liquid 2-1 in the BO3 series in the semi’s and overcoming a resilient and battle worn VP in the finals 2-1 meant that Na’Vi were champions of Brooklyn.

I definitely do not need to pull out the statistics for this, but s1mple performs very well on the big stage and it was visible throughout the tournament. He put up great numbers, especially in the semi finals and finals. Winning crucial clutch rounds and hitting insane shots, s1mple is indeed the hero that Na’Vi needed to guide the legends to a big tournament win.

Injecting this team with the new blood was the correct step forward for Na’Vi. As said before, by the numbers that he put up throughout this tournament, it was indeed a s1mple gamble for Na’Vi, and one that will reward them.

The Old Guard:

Virtus Pro. The old guard. The roster that has been together for over 30 months. The longest living CS:GO roster.

They came to play too. Extracting revenge from the Cologne 2016 major by beating SK 2-1 in the semi finals of this event (SK beat VP 2-1 in the semi’s in Cologne), VP set themselves up for a match up against Na’Vi.

The SK VP match up felt like a match worthy of the finals of the major. Outstanding Counter Strike. Overtime on Mirage won by SK, TRIPLE overtime on Overpass won by VP.

Queue Nuke.

I feel like they put on a clinic on Nuke on how to play T and CT side. Well played to beat SK.

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Statistically they played very well too. Scoreboard, ratings, ADR was tight. The team put in a collective effort and occasionally individuals had to step up in order to secure rounds but it was a show of good, entertaining Counter Strike that also focused on winning the game. Where other teams sit down, VP tend to stand up. After four overtimes (1 in the first and three in the second) you’d think they’d be tired but they took it to SK on Nuke and then took it to Na’Vi in the finals.

The first finals map Virtus Plow mode was in full effect. Cobble was VP’s playground. Cobblestone was Snax’s playground. Two 4-1s including this insane pistol round, it looked like Na’Vi were mentally checked out. Come the second map, Train and it was the complete opposite. Train was VP’s stop as Na’Vi just turned on their own Ukrainian Plow and just choo choo’d their way through VP on this map. Then came Mirage, and that was a battle. Exciting Counter Strike where it looked like either team could’ve won the overtime, and then Na’Vi ran away with it.

Virtus Pro have been in two top tier LAN finals after the major – ELEAGUE (which they won) and Dreamhack Bucharest (they won that too). Based off of finals to success ratio, you would have been rooting for VP based off of those numbers alone. 2/2 as opposed to Na’Vi’s 3/7 (or whatever it is/was). Na’Vi came out on top but if anything, VP’s performance at this event served as a reminder that there is still a lot of individual talent left in this team, and that their ability to perform as a collective unit is still there.

Virtus Pro’s performance served as a reminder to never count them out of a top tier event.

The Old Guard looked very new at this event, and I’m excited to see them play more in the future.

 

Team Liquid are headed in the right direction…

but still have a bit of work to do. Besting Fnatic (albeit a weaker lineup) x2, besting G2, losing to eventual winners Na’Vi (once in a bo1 and then in the semi’s bo3) and losing to VP, who were the runners up. It really, in hindsight wasn’t a bad tournament for Team Liquid considering they lost to the top two teams of this tournament.

Liquid still have to iron out a few issues here and there, but if they manage to do that and do their homework more carefully on teams like Na’Vi and VP, then Liquid certainly have the potential to go up from here, and maybe recreate their runs from the last two majors at the upcoming one, hosted by ELEAGUE.

Not much to say here, except that this team did look shaky, and then came to New York and put on a decent enough performance to get themselves to the semi-finals. It was a good run by Liquid and hopefully they can carry it on.

The top three teams are a toss up…

Sure, you know, LG/SK won back to back majors, LANs like ESL Pro League S3, Dreamhack Austin and placed 2nd in ECS. SK (formerly LG) are a great team, no doubt about that. Still best in the world? For now, absolutely. However, considering how Na’Vi and VP played this tournament, the consistency in Na’Vi’s finals appearances and the ratio of finals appearances to finals won, in my eyes means that VP and Na’Vi will be chasing SK for the top dog spot, and are hot on their heels.

Both Na’Vi and VP have stepped it up massively recently, and it reflected in their results of this tournament, and their match up in the finals. Both teams played great Counter Strike in all of their match ups, and when the two teams met, we got a really, really good Counter Strike Grand Final in terms of entertainment value and the teams playing for the win. If SK are not careful, we could see a change in the top team in the world, with either one of Na’Vi or VP claiming it soon.

These teams have been playing solid, solid Counter Strike and would be eyeing up that “best team in the world” spot sometime sooner rather than later. I feel like it’s going to happen eventually, but for now, expect to see these three teams compete with each other and produce some very, very solid Counter Strike should they meet in match ups in the future.

The top three rankings could definitely fluctuate and move in between these three teams. We will have to wait for the other CS:GO events to roll around to see if this level of competition can be maintained, and whether or not the rankings will fluctuate between these three teams.

HenryG and Sadokist

I usually like to try and focus on the players and the teams and so on at events like this, but my final point will be directed at HenryG and Sadokist. For a long time I have wanted them to cast a final of a big tournament, and they were able to this time.

For an already hype grand final, the hype level increased when these two hit the casting desk.

Give these two any game in the world to cast, and it will be better. This is a guarantee. The opportunity to cast a match up in a grand final, especially when it’s teams like VP and Na’Vi and these two just flourished. I really enjoy all of the casters, but I feel like that in this particular match up, Sadokist and HenryG were able to raise the hype levels to new heights. I know for a fact that it woke me up after going through the games that VP played. I felt like I was playing with VP in their strenuous overtimes. I was tired, and then I heard the hype duo.

They smashed the casting for this event, especially in the grand final and I am so glad that they got to cast this final. I hope they get more.

I love all of the English casting talent that ESL provides (because they’re the only ones I can understand), but I feel like HenryG and Sadokist just brought a new level of hype to the last bo3 of the tournament.

Closing Thoughts:

Great CS played throughout this tournament. Looking forward to what the rest of the year has in store if Counter Strike game play levels will be the same or near the standards that we saw at ESL One New York. A tournament I really enjoyed.

 

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