3 things we learned from the ELEAGUE Major group stage

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Thumbnail image courtesy of ELEAGUE

Though the ELEAGUE Major 2017 is only half done, with the end of the Swiss Group Stage, we've already seen significant results from the first Major of 2017.

The Danes made history as they are, for the first time ever, the primary representatives at the Major. While on the other side of the spectrum, the French teams continue to falter as they've now failed to acquire a Legend spot for three Majors in a row.

Here are a few of the things we learned from the Major so far.

The Viking Age

As the Top 8 for the ELEAGUE Major has been decided, history has very quietly been made in Atlanta as we've seen a changing of the guards in which region is the king of CS:GO.

As a whole, the Nordic teams have always been in the upper echelon of Counter-Strike, which has stemmed back a decade during 1.6 and continues in CS:GO. Currently we have the most Nordic players in the Top 8 of a CS:GO Major since the DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2015 Major at 19 players.

An overwhelming majority of those players at the Katowice 2014 Major were Swedish (15), rightly so as the country is the big reason for the Nordic team's CS dominance. However, for the first time ever, at the ELEAGUE Major there are more Danish players than Swedish players in the Top 8 at a Major.

Major Top 8 Nordic players

TOP 8 EL CGN '16 COLS Cluj CGN '15 KTW '15 DHW '14 CGN '14 KTW '14 DHW '13
Denmark 11 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5 5
Sweden 5 5 10 11 11 9 10 10 15 15
Norway 2 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
Finland 1 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Total 19 10 15 19 18 15 15 15 20 20

Looking at the Swedish representation at the Major, their reign goes back for years, and further still before the Major system was implemented. However, there's been a drop from the Swedes at the tail end of 2016 at the ESL One Cologne 2016 Major and a sharp rise from the Danes at the start of 2017 for the ELEAGUE Major.

The core of the Astralis squad, which were part of Team SoloMid before that, which were part of Team Dignitas before that and were part of Copenhagen Wolves even before that, were the sole Danish representatives in the Majors prior. That core was Peter "dupreeh" Rothmann, Andreas "Xyp9x" Højsleth and, of course, Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz.

They've now been joined by the rising Scandinavian squad North, formerly part of Dignitas, whose only non-Danish player is Ruben "RUBINO" Villarroel. The FaZe Clan lineup have nearly the opposite scenario of North's as they have two Danish players in Philip "aizy" Aistrup and Finn "karrigan" Andersen, the latter notably being the team's in-game leader and a big reason for the team's resurgence.

The ELEAGUE Major has already been a watershed moment for Danish CS:GO, but the event has yet to really begin as the bracket stage kicks off tomorrow on Friday. Fans have been pining for an Astralis versus North matchup, but with the way the bracket has been set, this will only be possible if they both make the Grand Finals. A scenario that's not outside the realm of possibility.

Fall of the Wall

After the conclusion of the group stage a number of teams have broken expectations. We've seen a number of teams returning to form, such as Natus Vincere and SK Gaming, as well as under performances, such as Astralis and North being forced in Round 5 of the Swiss format. However, the biggest shocker from the group was clearly OpTic Gaming's early exit. They ran into bad luck in the matchups during the Swiss group, but apparently their bad luck began well before the start of the Major itself.

Oscar "mixwell" Cañellas was apparently stuck in Spain due to visa issues, which hampered the team's preparations, as said by Will "RUSH" Wierzba in an HLTV interview.

"We did what we could, we practiced online, but obviously [mixwell] has really high ping online to NA servers," RUSH said in the interview. "We did what we could, but right now our preparation was pretty limited."

At the Major, OpTic's Round 1 match was against Virtus.pro, a heavy favorite for the event, and lost 16-13. OpTic's bad luck continued into their Round 2 Low Seed match as they were paired against Astralis, another favored team, and lost 16-12.

OpTic stayed afloat in Round 3 Low Seed as they eliminated FlipSid3 Tactics and were matched against GODSENT in Round 4 Low Seed. While much of OpTic's elimination could be blamed on bad luck, there were no excuses against the broken lineup of GODS, even though the Swedes did step up for the Major. On Cache, one of OpTic's best maps, it should have been in the bag.

Both mixwell and Tarik "tarik" Celik, the big guns on OpTic were apparently asleep at the wheel. Though the team overall have gone into the event unprepared, this shouldn't fully account for mixwell's 0.83 HLTV player rating, or tarik's 0.74 rating.

Another factor in OpTic's elimination could be their mental state. The American squad went into the home soil Major as one of the most favored teams of the entire event. They were our number four team in our power ranking and were HLTV's second ranked team, below Astralis and above reigning champions SK.

While this was likely a boost to their confidence, too much of it could have been a detriment. But regardless of whether overconfidence was actually an issue, after a hearty serving of humble pie in Atlanta, it surely won't be an issue for OpTic going forward.

The French Resolution

2016 was not the year for French Counter-Strike and with not a single French team achieving Legend status at the ELEAGUE Major, at this rate 2017 won't be a good year for French CS either.

After the conclusion of the group stage for the ELEAGUE Major, a French team has not achieved a Top 8 Major result for three Majors in a row. This is a far cry from how the French have performed in literally all Majors prior. In fact, since the Major system has been implemented at the end of 2013, until the end of 2015, there has always been a French team in the Top 8.

French squad Team LDLC.com won the DreamHack Winter 2014 and Team EnVyUs won the DreamHack Cluj-Napoca 2015 Major, which was the last time a French team was Top 8 at a Major.

Rumors of a French shuffle have been flying around well before the start of the ELEAGUE Major, but even rumors aside, the results of the French team speak volumes. Something drastic needs to happen.

While the French slump has been apparent for a majority of 2016, piecemeal changes were made to revitalize the French rosters. nV replaced Fabien "kioShiMa" Fiey, ironically the only Frenchman in the ELEAGUE Major Top 8, with Timothée "DEVIL" Démolon and later Christophe "SIXER" Xia. While G2 acquired Alexandre "bodyy" Pianaro, replacing Kevin "Ex6TenZ" Droolans who is currently leading the third best French squad, Team LDLC.

While the Top 3 French teams definitely have talent in their own ways, the teams in their current form has the stars players scattered. And while a shuffle, French or otherwise, is certainly juicy drama, something drastic has to happen to revitalize French CS.

No more half measures, or else the French teams will find themselves perpetual Challengers at the Major.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

IEM Katowice CS:GO groups finalized

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Thumbnail image courtesy of https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C4QNMMWW8AA7UAE.jpg

Intel Extreme Masters has its CS:GO groups set, and the countdown to the $250,000 tournament has begun.

The groups were drawn during a livestream of ESL Pro League, between the Virtus.Pro against Kinguin game and EnVyUs' match against G2 Esports.

The first group, dubbed the "Red Group", features ELEAGUE Major finalists Virtus.Pro, as well as Brazilian powerhouse SK Gaming and the recently changed North. Heroic, Cloud9, and Natus Vincere round out the competition in Red.

The second group, known as the "Blue Group", is notable for its inclusion of ELEAGUE Major winners Astralis, and a Fnatic squad that recently reunited its former superteam. The group also features two other teams with likely roster changes, as OpTic Gaming comes into the tournament with a new member, along with FaZe Clan bringing in a recent addition.

The tournament will run March1-5, with group stage matches for the first two days. The first place team in each group gets seeded directly into the semi-finals, while the second and third place teams get seeded into the quarter-finals.

DreamHack Masters Las Vegas groups revealed

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Thumbnail image courtesy of http://masters.dreamhack.com/vegas/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2016/10/Masters_WP_Vegas-1000x1000.jpg

Sixteen teams will be hitting the MGM Grand to compete at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. The Group Stage begins Feb. 15, with the four groups broken down like so:

Group A Group B Group C Group D
Astralis Virtus.pro SK Gaming FaZe
North Fnatic NIP Na'Vi
OpTic Gambit Cloud 9 mousesports
CompLexity Misfits TyLoo Renegades

Las Vegas will be the first premier CS:GO tournament to feature the reworked Inferno instead of Dust II in its map pool.

Kristine "Vaalia" Hutter is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find her on Twitter.

3 storylines to watch at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas

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Thumbnail image courtesy of DreamHack

DreamHack Masters Las Vegas will be the first premier tournament since the end of the ELEAGUE Major 2017 and the first LAN event since the first big roster shuffle of the year. The event will serve as the proving ground for many revamped rosters as they will face every Top 8 team from the recent Major.

Here's a few storylines to keep an eye on at DreamHack Masters Vegas.

Minor Rebuilds

Of the 16 teams participating in the event, over half of them have recently made changes to their active roster. A majority of those changes only involved a single player, but even those should have a significant impact on the team's in-game dynamics, for better or worse.

One of the bigger changes was SK Gaming trading fnx to Immortals in exchange for felps, while the latter was arguably Immortals' strongest player. Skill-level aside though, since felps has a pretty similar playstyle as fer, it's not quite clear how he will be worked into the roster. But it's likely that either felps will become more of a support player or TACO will transition into more of a support player while felps retains his role as an entry-fragger. The latter scenario seems more likely, but both will be adjustments for the team regardless.

North are in a similar situation as SK, as they've brought in a strong fragger in aizy to replace support player RUBINO. Between k0nfig, cajunb, Magiskb0Y and now aizy, someone will have to step down as a fragger. k0nfig seems the most likely candidate as he's a fairly hot and cold performer, whereas aizy is the more consistent option. This should lead to k0nfig transitioning into a more supportive role, but that remains to be seen.

Another team that's made a deceptively big change is Cloud9, as they've added well-respected North American coach valens, who formerly coached Team SoloMid. Stewie2k has done a valiant job as the team's in-game leader, but his inexperience in the role has begun to show as he seems to struggle with mid round calls. valens can strengthen the team's set plays, assist during mid round calls and could be a calming presence within the team.

SK, North, C9 and the other adjusted lineups will be interesting teams to watch as their future potential could be gleaned from their matches in Vegas.

Several other teams have also made changes, such as FaZe Clan and OpTic Gaming, but they are in odd situations at DreamHack Masters as they are attending the event with only temporary or trial lineups.

Transition Phase

FaZe Clan's acquisition of NiKo will likely remain the biggest pickup of the year, as he has been one of the scene's most highly sought after players, second only to s1mple. NiKo has carried mouz through a number of messy situations, all the while acting as the team's in-game leader. But now under the leadership of the likes of karrigan with FaZe, he should be fully unleashed, or at least that's the hope.

NiKo will indeed be in attendance at DreamHack Masters, but not as part of FaZe. He will play his last LAN event with mousesports, while FaZe will attend with jkaem serving as a stand-in. That leaves these two teams in an awkward transitional phase, but this could be to their benefit.

With little pressure to perform and few expectations on them, this tournament could lead to a better environment and looser playstyle, but alternatively the teams could also see this event as a wash.

OpTic Gaming and TyLoo are in similar situations, at least from how much they've let on publicly. Hiko will play as a stand in for OpTic, replacing stanislaw, while and TyLoo's AttackeR has returned to a lineup and that will also feature HZ, who is on loan from All Gamers.

Though OpTic sorely underperformed at the ELEAGUE Major, they were still a strong team, however that strength will be put into question now that their IGL has left the roster. Hiko was Liquid's IGL before he left, but it's not a role that he excels at, or even chose for that matter.

Instead, NAF will be the one to take up the IGL mantle. It's an unfamiliar role but one that he should be eased into by Hiko and well-known Brazilian coach peacemaker. The team has a lot of transitions to make, but, on paper, should be one that works.

TyLoo looked to be a lot more broken a month ago as they fired their coach and suspended three of their players on Jan. 10 as punishment for seeking out other teams while under contract. However, somebody and AttackeR have since returned to the lineup, with the latter being tenuously on the team.

It's not quite clear what's happened within the TyLoo roster, but it may be fair to say that their interpersonal relationships may not be the same before the suspensions. TyLoo will also be attending with HZ, who they've used during World Electronic Sports Games 2016, though HZ was the team's weakest link at the tournament with a 0.96 HLTV rating at that event.

Phoenix Rising

The removal of Dust II from the Active Duty map group and the return of Inferno was a shock to the professional CS:GO community. Dust II has a been a Counter-Strike mainstay and its removal will have a big impact on the competitive scene. As DH Masters is the first LAN to feature the latest map group, we will get a glimpse at how teams will adjust to the map pool.

The most immediate reaction to the map pool change was undoubtedly, "Fnatic's back." They've reformed the roster that dominated the tail end of 2015 and the beginning of 2016, and much of that was thanks to their prowess on Inferno.

Other teams should see a similar benefit to Inferno returning, such as Astralis, Natus Vincere and TyLoo. However, the opposite should be true for teams like Cloud9 and mouz, who have both a strong Dust II and weak Inferno.

However, these assumptions are made based on the old Inferno. According to Team EnVyUs' Happy, there are a number of changes to the map that he doesn't agree with and a few that could change the map's meta.

"I already thought it was a mistake to remake that map, I felt it was the best map. It could be so tactical and it also allowed raw aim to express itself on certain timings. But so be it, I think the main concern to me is the fact that the sky box from Arch/CT spawn to Banana is blocked," Happy said in an interview theScore esports. "They should open it again to allow more game play with the smokes, especially now that they buffed the T-side with 10 more seconds, and a more open world map.

"I think the meta game will retain some aspects of the old one, but it will be a huge change and teams that used to be really good on it might feel completely lost now."

Only six matches on Inferno have been tracked on HLTV, giving a miniscule glimpse into how the map will be played and none of those games featured high-tier teams. We'll likely see some very new things come out from the map, that is, if it manages to make it through the map veto.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

Fnatic, Na'Vi, Heroic and Immortals qualify for IEM Katowice

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After an intense three days of competition, the final four teams heading to the Intel Extreme Masters Season XI World Championship in Katowice are locked in.

Fnatic, Natus Vincere and Heroic from Europe have qualified alongside Immortals from North America.

During the European Closed Qualifier, Fnatic and Na'Vi dominated their brackets. As invited teams, both received a seed into the second round of play to start. Na'Vi had a clean run of 2-0 victories to qualify, playing on Mirage and Nuke in both of their sets.

Fnatic's grasp of CT on Overpass proved successful against mousesports, and they moved on with a 2-1 victory. Against G2 Esports, Fnatic began with a dominating T side performance on Train and ended the series 2-0 to qualify alongside Na'Vi.

G2 were sent to the lower bracket to face Heroic, the victims of Na'Vi's qualifying set. Heroic were the only team in the top four of the Closed Qualifiers to have earned their spot through the first Open Qualifier instead of attending via invite.

Heroic took a quick 10-5 lead on Cache and swept the map 16-8. The second map choice was Overpass, and while G2 had yet to encounter it this tournament, Heroic had already shown CT dominance against mousesports. In an incredibly close final round, Heroic took the map 16-13. With a 2-0 victory over G2, Heroic qualified for IEM Katowice as the final team from Europe.

In North America, only four teams competed for slot at IEM Katowice: invited teams Immortals and Team Liquid, and Open Qualifier teams Counter Logic Gaming and Misfits.

Though TL showed strength on CT side against Misfits in the first round, Immortals proved they were the superior CT team after knocking CLG down a bracket. Though they took a close win on the set's first map, Cobblestone, TL was taken down by Immortals with a dominating 16-2 score in the final two rounds of their set.

The lower bracket saw Misfits eliminate CLG with a close 2-0 series. Misfits then faced TL and, with two more strong CT showings, TL knocked Misfits out of the tournament.

The Finals between Immortals and TL saw the teams return to Cobblestone. Immortals looked like a different team heading into the map, dominating on CT 12-3 and picking up a devastating 16-4 win. The second map, Cache, saw life return to TL but their efforts were in vain.

With a superior CT performance, Immortals took the series 2-0 and earned their spot at IEM Katowice.

The teams heading to Katowice for the IEM XI World Championship are as follows:

  • Invite — Astralis
  • Invite — Cloud9
  • Invite — FaZe Clan
  • Invite — Ninjas in Pyjamas
  • Invite — North
  • Invite — OpTic Gaming
  • Invite — SK Gaming
  • Invite — Virtus.pro
  • EU Qualifier — Fnatic
  • EU Qualifier — Natus Vincere
  • EU Qualifier — Heroic
  • NA Qualifier — Immortals

Kristine "Vaalia" Hutter is a news editor for theScore esports. You can find her on Twitter.

Report: ScreaM to join EnVyUs

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Thumbnail image courtesy of SL i-League

Adil "ScreaM" Benrlitom will join Team EnVyUs, according to a report from HLTV's Lucas "LucasAM" Aznar Miles on Wednesday.

The reported move comes after ScreaM's release from G2 Esports on Feb. 3 and amidst reports of the player receiving offers from FaZe Clan. However, according to Flickshot.fr founder Guillaume "neL" Canelo, ScreaM's negotiations with FaZe fell through.

ScreaM has already played 11 maps with nV as a stand-in, while David "devoduvek" Dobrosavljevic was attending Assembly Winter 2017 as a stand-in for Vexed Gaming.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, D&D and first-picking Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90 my Souvenir Negev Discipline Priest Pharah. You can follow him on Twitter.

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