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3 things we learned from the ELEAGUE Major group stage

by Dennis Gonzales Jan 26
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.

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