PGL Major Preview

The PGL Major kicks off on the 16th of July in Kraków, Poland and will run through until the 23rd of July. Sixteen teams will be competing for their share of the $1 million prize pool, and most importantly, the title of major champions.

2017 has been an incredibly competitive year for Counter Strike. We have seen extraordinary results from sides like Astralis and FaZe, the formation and subsequent rise to glory of the French superteam, G2.  We bore witness to a rare SK slump, only for them to bounce back and collect accolades such as cs_summit, IEM Sydney, Dreamhack Summer, ECS Season 3 and most recently ESL One: Cologne.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have witnessed teams such as Na’Vi and Virtus.Pro slump, and teams such as Cloud9, PENTA, and Immortals. Each team has a magnificent story headed into the major, which makes it all the more compelling.

To start the list, let’s take a look at the legends, and then the challengers, starting off with:

Astralis

Astralis head into the PGL Major as defending major champions. They kicked off their 2017 in a strong manner, winning the ELEAGUE Major, beating Virtus.Pro 2-1 in the finals of the tournament. The Danish side then headed to IEM Katowice, where they beat FaZe Clan in a hotly contested best of five, which ended with a 3-1 scoreline. They then headed to the StarLadder Finals, where they once again met FaZe Clan in the finals of a tournament, this time losing out 2-1 in a best of three finals.

Astralis then headed down under, to participate in Australia’s first international CS: GO tournament. It was here that the Danes once again fell to FaZe Clan, but this time in the semifinals, losing out in yet another hotly contested best of three. They then headed back to Atlanta, where they won the major, but this time to compete against Virtus.Pro for the all or nothing Clash For Cash. This was Astralis’ first offline best of three since IEM Sydney, and they asserted themselves against the Polish veterans, winning out convincingly. From there, the Danes headed to London to compete in the ECS Season 3 Finals, where they were able to secure themselves another semifinals berth, this time losing out to SK 2-1 in yet another hotly contested best of three.

The Astralis era went as quickly as it came. For a while, it did seem like Astralis were going to continue their international dominance in the following tournaments, however, this was not the case, but not to Astralis’ fault. Other teams, such as FaZe with the addition of NiKo, SK’s rise after their brief slump, and even Virtus.Pro, albeit that too, was rather short. The parity era was present, and now it looks like there might be another SK era, considering their recent run of form.

Astralis have had a run of consistency ever since the addition of gla1ve in late 2016. They have placed highly in events, as well as winning events throughout, most notably the ELEAGUE Major. The boot camp, additional practice and time off from offline tournaments post-ECS could prove to be beneficial for the Danes as they look to add to their run of consistency since late 2016, and potentially win the second major of 2017.

Virtus.Pro

Virtus.Pro’s form has slid to halt ever since their victory at Dreamhack Vegas. They managed to place 3rd at the WESG, losing out to Space Soldiers, 2nd at the ELEAGUE Major and 1st at Dreamhack Vegas, before going on a woeful run that saw them being eliminated at every tier one international event they attended.

The slump is particularly concerning due to the fact that it has lasted so long and could stretch into the major. Virtus.Pro is a side that, historically speaking, have been able to get into the playoffs of the major tournaments. However, this is looking incredibly unlikely headed into the major hosted in their home nation of Poland.

There will be a big question mark over Virtus.Pro headed into the tournament in Poland, considering their abysmal run of form, but also considering the notion that they can never be counted out.

The plow has certainly slowed down for Virtus.Pro and the major will more than likely be a make or break for the veteran Polish side. They need a solid placing at the major to restore confidence, and most importantly, to get the plow rolling once again.

Fnatic

The core of the Fnatic roster was one of the most dominant rosters in Counter Strike Global Offensive history. Since mid-2014 to March 2016, Fnatic was incredibly dominant internationally, placing first or second at the vast majority of international tournaments they attended. The Fnatic era was stretched out for a prolonged period of time until MLG Columbus. It was here, at the first million dollar major, that the Fnatic era seemingly ended.

They were able to place in the top four of tournaments such as the Pro League Finals S3, ECS Season 1, Cologne 2016 and ELEAGUE Season 1. However, any trace of the former Fnatic, the dominant Fnatic, seemingly vanished.

On August 15, 2016, Fnatic and GODSENT swapped players. JW, KRIMZ, and flusha left for twist, Lekr0 and wenton.

Lekr0 and KRIMZ were swapped once again, and Fnatic replaced wenton with disco doplan. In February, after the major, flusha and JW returned to Fnatic, with twist and disco doplan joining GODSENT.

The old Fnatic side was reunited once again, however, they have been unable to surge to the high level of consistency that they were at two years ago. Fnatic has been disappointing throughout 2017, their most notable achievement being the 2nd place finish at Dreamhack Summer.

Fnatic does have the look, roster-wise, to compete and place highly internationally. There is something else that is stopping them, and whether it is internal issues or a mental block, a good placing at the PGL Major could assist Fnatic, and act as a push for them to bounce back and find some form.

SK Gaming

The Brazilians have found themselves once again. After a very, very brief rough patch over the course of IEM Katowice and the StarLadder Finals, they surged back up to international dominance, winning two consecutive offline events, in the form of cs_summit and IEM Sydney. They then went on to place in the top four at the Pro League Finals, but once again were able to claim some more silverware, winning the Dreamhack Summer tournament, ECS Season 3 and most recently, ESL One: Cologne consecutively.

The form that SK has been on recently can be seen as a revitalisation of sorts. During the short slump, we saw that, despite the heavy hitters such as coldzera and fer performing at their usual, monstrously consistent level, SK struggled without the AWP presence of FalleN. During that slump, FalleN was not hitting the shots that he was used to hitting, and as a result, SK looked like they were in all sorts of trouble. Since their return to form, they have looked renewed and refreshed, and thus have returned to the top, winning, or coming close to winning the events they have been involved in.

Headed into the PGL Major, it would be safe to say that SK is the heavy favorites to win the tournament. Their level of consistency since cs_summit has been terrifying. The Brazilians have been consistently placing high throughout the tournaments they have participated in, and have racked up an impressive collection of recent silverware. On top of their general form, fer and coldzera are at terrifying levels individually.

SK will be looking to ride their momentum build up into the major to claim their third major title.

Natus Vincere

Na’Vi are a team that has been disappointing throughout 2017. On paper, their roster is monstrous. This monster, by the looks of things, has little bite. In the past few months, Na’Vi have failed to crack through to the top four of any tournament they have participated in. After ESL One: New York, the thought that this was the optimal Na’Vi side more than likely crossed people’s minds. However, after that title win, the results have been lacking for Na’Vi.

The impact of starix was limited due to the coaching rule implemented by Valve, and furthermore, the lack of natural in-server leadership could be taking its toll on the CIS side. Seized has had plenty of time to adjust to the role, but somehow Na’Vi are still struggling to break through to the top four, and considering the talent available on their roster, it is something they should be challenging for at most of the events they are present at.

This major will be a stern test for Na’Vi. They have had plenty of time for seized to adjust to the role of in-game leader, and they have also had time for their new coach Andi to come in and assess their game, and help them adjust if need be.

Overall, it will be interesting to see if Na’Vi are able to perform at a major that has teams that are all on decent runs of form, as well as teams that have just recently found their form.

Gambit Esports

Gambit has played six tournaments this year. They placed high at cs_summit and won Dreamhack Austin. They were able to secure their legends spot at the ELEAGUE Major, made the playoffs of Dreamhack Vegas and crashed out in groups at the StarLadder Finals. Their most recent event, Dreamhack Summer, saw them going out in the group stage.

During Dreamhack Summer, Gambit did look a little rusty, making mistakes across the maps they played in the tournament.

Their tenure at the major will not mirror their performance at Dreamhack Summer. Gambit should be able to perform well in the major. Their lack of offline events should not hinder their performance at the major, in fact, this gap between Dreamhack Summer and the PGL Major could prove to be beneficial for the CIS side, as they could come into the major with new tricks up their sleeves and throw their opponents off.

As it is, not much can be said about Gambit aside from the fact that they are an incredibly talented side with a solid leader, and hopefully, they have used this off-time to develop and practice further.

North

North is a team that, like Na’Vi, should be constantly challenging for the top 3-4 spots at events, but aside from the ESL Pro League Finals, they have failed to do so. They are a side that has incredible talent, both in terms of knowledge for the game, in the form of MSL, and talented riflers, in the form of k0nfig and Magisk.

Unfortunately, the Danish side has been unable to perform as well as they should be performing at international tournaments and, as mentioned previously, it is somewhat of a mystery as to why they are not performing well.

FaZe Clan

FaZe Clan has had a phenomenal turn of events within the last year. They were a team that was not in contention for any international titles whatsoever, let alone a playoff berth at an international tournament. After many changes, the most important one being the addition of karrigan, FaZe Clan found structure for their firepower and subsequently started placing highly in tournaments. The addition of NiKo was definitely a significant firepower boost for the European side, and it seemingly elevated them to a side that directly contended for titles. This was particularly evident throughout their recent run of form, starting at IEM Katowice, where they placed 2nd. They then placed 1st at the StarLadder Finals, 2nd at IEM Sydney, 2nd at the ECS finals and secured a top four finish at ESL One: Cologne.

FaZe’s roster possesses an incredible amount of talent, and by looking at their run of form, it is safe to say they are being utilized correctly and playing at their optimal level individually.

In the events that they have played at, FaZe have looked incredibly strong and will be looking to extend the strong run of form that they have been on for the past four months at the major.

We’ve covered the legends – the eight teams that secured their spot at this major due to their performance at the last major. Let’s take a look at the challengers:

mousesports

Mousesports has surprised many. They have gone from a team that many predicted would suffer without NiKo, to a team that has impressed with some solid performances at the tournaments they have played in. They have shifted from one of the most frustrating teams to watch in Counter Strike, to one of the most exciting and promising teams.

The return of chrisJ to the active lineup, the benching of Spiidi and the subsequent addition of ropz to the now mixed European team proved to be the fresh injection that mousesports needed. With a young, fresh injection of talent, mousesports started to look refreshed and revitalized, instead of the frustratingly stale side that many of us were used to.

This reflected in their international offline results, their first being Dreamhack Tours. The team as a whole performed well, and they managed to place in the top four at that event. This also marked the international debut of ropz.

The next stop for mousesports was the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals in Dallas. It was here that the European side was able to qualify from the group with a 4-1 record, only to meet SK Gaming in the first knockout round of the tournament. They were quickly dispatched of by the Brazilians, but this time mousesports were able to give a better account of themselves at a tournament that boasted some incredibly talented lineups.

Disappointment followed at Dreamhack Summer, where they were knocked out in the group stages after losing the group decider match 2-0 to SK Gaming. Mousesports then headed to ESL One Cologne, where they were able to give a good account of themselves against teams such as FaZe and Fnatic, but failed to qualify from the group stages once again.

Mousesports have been on an upward trend and will look to the PGL Major to make their mark against the teams attending the event. Overall, it will be interesting to see how they perform as a collective at the major, and how ropz, as an individual, will perform at the major. He has shown that he is capable of performing against high tier teams, but it will be interesting to see if ropz can cope with the pressure of performing at a major.

G2 Esports

The French super team formed in February, and, as with most new teams, it took a while for them to get the ball rolling, but once it started rolling, they gathered some good momentum. The top four finish at Dreamhack Austin seemingly gave them the springboard they needed, as they were then able to then travel back to France to participate in Dreamhack Tours. It was here that the super team was able to claim their first accolade together. This event served as another springboard, and the French side was then able to claim their first tier one accolade, the ESL Pro League Finals.

The next offline event was ECS, and it was here that the French team was put in the group of death, with FaZe and SK Gaming. Both of these teams have had stellar runs of form on the international stage that had spanned for months, so it was a difficult task for G2 from the start. Unfortunately, they were unable to qualify from the groups and were eliminated by FaZe Clan in the final group decider match.

G2 have all the tools necessary to be a successful side. They boast an incredibly talented side from top to bottom – kennyS is magnificent with the AWP, apEX is a solid entry fragger, bodyy is an extremely solid rifler, NBK is a talented rifler, as well as an all rounded player who can play aggressively and defensively, and shox, who has incredible aim and also in game leads the side.

As mentioned previously, G2 does have the tools to succeed, and could very well go deep into the major’s knockout stages.

BIG

Qualifying for the major was a big achievement for the predominantly German side. BIG is a side with tactical depth as well as adequate fragging power, most notably in the form of tabseN.

BIG have their work cut out for them, but considering the work ethic of this team, they will be heading into the major prepared, and considering this is their first high tier international event as a team, a good amount of preparation would be required to put up a fight against their opponents, and potentially cause some upsets.

For BIG to truly thrive in the tournament, players such as keev and/or nex need to turn up on the day and put up the numbers alongside tabseN.

Cloud9

Cloud9 are a team that has really shifted into gear after their early exits at the ESL Pro League Finals and Dreamhack Summer.

The North Americans were able to turn around and upset Astralis on Mirage after being down eight rounds, as well as besting fnatic to qualify for the semifinals of ECS, where they were taken down by FaZe Clan.

Cloud9 then traveled to Cologne and displayed utmost resilience as they clawed back from a 0-2 record to finish 3-2 to qualify from the group stage of the tournament. They then bested teams such as NIP and Na’Vi in the quarter and semifinals respectively to meet defending Cologne champions SK Gaming in the finals, in what looked like a repeat of ESL One Cologne: 2016 – North America vs. South America.

Unfortunately, Cloud9 was not able to beat the Brazilians and lost 3-0. The last two maps, Train and Inferno, were hotly contested by the North American side, but SK prevailed, and Cloud9 took second place at the tournament.

Cloud9 are not necessarily a tactically deep team. They do have valens assisting them and preparing them for their upcoming matches, but most of their plays and results rely on individual performance and skill.

Skadoodle and shroud have also been performing at a higher level as of recent, and both of these players have bailed Cloud9 out of some sticky situations. Shroud has come up clutch many times for Cloud9, particularly throughout their ESL One: Cologne tenure. If these two can carry this level of form through to the major, it will not only make the lives of Stewie2k and autimatic easier, but it will also significantly increase Cloud9’s chances of qualifying for the playoff stages of the major.

 

PENTA

To put it simply, PENTA is a big question mark. It is unclear how they will perform at the major against elite teams, but there is no expectation for them to qualify past the group stage.

The PGL Major will act as a learning experience for the European side.

Immortals

Immortals were finally able to prevent another heartbreak scenario by finally qualifying for the PGL Major. Following their qualification, they crashed out of ESL One: Cologne. They were able to qualify for the playoffs of Dreamhack Summer, only to cop heavy losses from Fnatic on the last two maps of the best of three – with the first map being a close affair. Immortals are a good side, but lack consistency.

They do have talented players on the roster, without a doubt. HEN1 and kNg are both incredible players. LUCAS1 fills his role of support rifler well and boltzz does cover the in game leading role. Steel has struggled lately, despite relieving the in-game leader duty to boltzz. Overall, Immortals are capable of causing upsets, or at least headaches throughout their tenure in the tournament, but a key factor in their performance will be their emotions. Their coach, zakk stated in a recent interview that the Immortals are a highly emotional side, and whilst a display of emotions is generally healthy, and more than likely something we need to see every once in a while in Counter Strike, it has the possibility to hinder performances, particularly thought processes if the mood is great one round and then falls off the next round.

Vega Squadron

Vega Squadron will forever be known as the team that beat NIP 16-2 to end their qualification hopes for the ELEAGUE Major. Outside of that, they seem like a relatively unknown side. In 2017, they have only played three offline tournaments – Dreamhack Leipzig, the CIS Minor and the Major Qualifier.

The predominantly Russian side head into the major with little to no top tier international experience behind them, and whilst it was an impressive feat that they qualified for the major, it is safe to say that they may not make that much of an impact in Krakow.

FlipSide Tactics

FlipSide Tactics have only attended one proper tournament since the ELEAGUE Major, which was the major qualifier for Krakow.

FlipSide is known for their slow, tactical style of Counter-Strike. They are a side that is generally well prepared for the tournaments they do play in. They do lack that element of explosiveness.

Now that we’ve covered all 16 teams that will be present at the PGL Major, there’s another question that should be addressed:

Who Will Advance To The Playoff Stages?

  • SK Gaming
  • Astralis
  • G2 Esports
  • mousesports
  • FaZe Clan
  • Cloud9
  • Gambit Esports
  • Virtus.Pro

 

Why?

SK Gaming –> To put it simply, they are my personal favorites to win the PGL Major. The form, collective and individually, has been phenomenal over the last few months. They have won 5/6 of the offline events they have played in since the end of their slump (cs_summit, IEM Sydney, Dreamhack Summer, ECS Season 3 & ESL One: Cologne). They are looking incredibly strong headed into the major, and it would not surprise me if they won the whole thing.

Astralis –> Astralis have continued their strong run of form from late 2016 through until the ECS Season 3 Finals, which is the last tournament they played since taking a break to prepare adequately for the major. They are, without a doubt, one of the strongest teams present at this tournament, alongside G2, SK and FaZe.

G2 Esports –> Despite their shortcomings in Cologne, G2 are another team that has the potential to go deep into the major. They are an incredibly skilled and overall solid roster. Although, at times they may seem like they are a side that lack tactical depth, the overall skill of the team generally compensates for that.

mousesports –> The European mix are a side that has been on the up. Their performances in offline tournaments post-NiKo era have been impressive for the most part. Most importantly, their young gun ropz now has some degree of international experience and has proven that he can hold his own against the best. Overall, mouz look more coherent and are forming into an exciting, solid side to watch.

FaZe Clan –> FaZe are a team stacked with talent from top to bottom. They have a brain behind the firepower, something that was lacking for the vast majority of 2016. On top of the already existing firepower, they added superstar firepower. This meant that FaZe became contenders for any international title on any stage. Their run of form has been hot, placing highly throughout the tournaments they have participated in since the arrival of karrigan and NiKo. There simply is no reason for FaZe to not make it past the group stages.

Cloud9 –> This selection may surprise many, but given Cloud9’s recent form, they can qualify past the group stages provided Skadoodle and shroud show the form that they have been showing throughout this European summer run. Stewie2k and autimatic are always consistently high performers, but when coming up against the elite teams, the rest of the team needs to put in work, and that has been proven by Cloud9’s run at both ECS and ESL One: Cologne. If Skadoodle and shroud can continue this run of form, combined with autimatic and Stewie2k’s consistently high level of performance, Cloud9 can certainly do some damage.

Gambit Esports –> Gambit is a solid side. They have a solid in-game leader and all round solid players. The fact that they have not played in an offline tournament since Dreamhack Summer could come into play, but hopefully, they have used this off time wisely and will head into the major full of new tricks and surprises.

Virtus.Pro –> This pick is probably the most surprising of them all. Virtus.Pro’s slump has been mind boggling. A team that won Dreamhack Vegas suddenly fell off, and to be quite honest, few know why. This tournament will more than likely be make or break for the veteran Polish side, and given the major is in Poland, we could potentially see a resurgence of the plow.

To conclude

This will be an interesting major to spectate. Most of the teams headed into this event are either coming from a long run of form, are just hitting their form, or are in desperate need of form. The PGL Major is a high stakes tournament for a lot of the teams involved, and it definitely will be an intense affair from start to finish.

The PGL Major will run from the 16th of July – 23rd of July

 

 

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