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The Kraków Major Staff Picks

by theScore esports Staff Jul 14
Thumbnail image courtesy of PGL

With The Kraków Major just a few days away, theScore esports decided to put together a panel to come up with staff picks and predictions for the last Major of the year, breaking down everything from who the champion will be, to biggest potential disappointment and many other topics.

The experts:

  • Dennis Gonzales
  • Bernard Malijan
  • Colin McNeil
  • Paul Park

Who will win the Major?

Gonzales: SK Gaming. They showed weakness in the early parts of the pre-Major season, specifically in their group stage exits during IEM Season XI Katowice and SL i-League Season 3, but this was notably after the introduction of ex-Immortals player felps. The team have long since gotten over their growing pains and took five championships, three of which were premier events, while placing no lower than the semis in the rest of their events.

This level of consistency is unprecedented among the other Major participants. Nothing less than the title is expected of them.

Malijan: G2 Esports. It’s the age of superteams. A lot of teams are more than capable of raising the trophy. There are no true guaranteed victors. If Cloud9 can freeze a fully ignited Na`Vi, then any team can put up a challenge.

With that in mind, I have high expectations for G2. While they consistently failed to showcase their peak potential in multiple events — yes, even the tournaments they won — we have had glimpses of G2’s zenith, and it is absolutely beautiful. G2 will win this Major, because they can, and anything else would be a disappointment. They’ll bring new strategies as expected from SmithZz.

McNeil: SK Gaming. It’s not a particularly controversial answer, but the Brazilian boys just seem unstoppable lately. Since sending fnx to Immortals and picking up felps in February, SK have placed first at cs_summit, IEM Sydney, DreamHack Summer 2017, ECS Season 3 Finals and ESL One Cologne. If they come into the Major in form, it’ll be vamos SK all the way.

Park: SK Gaming: The Brazilians are back! After a slip in performance following the departure of fnx, SK are looking as strong as ever. With FalleN's return to form and the rock that is Coldzera there's little doubt in my mind who will be crowned champions this Major.

Fantasy Grand Finals

Gonzales: FaZe Clan vs Astralis. It’s a rivalry that was largely forged in the beginning of the pre-Major season. They met in the Grand Finals of IEM Season XI Katowice, the Grand Finals of SL i-League Season 3 and the semis for IEM Season XII Sydney. All sets were master class.

It’s a matchup we haven’t seen on LAN since Sydney, over two months ago, and fans are pining for another match between a karrigan-led FaZe and his former team. It’ll be a bloody bout regardless of the stage of the tournament, but a Grand Final meeting would be that much better

Malijan: Fnatic vs SK Gaming.

Imagine this.

Turn back the time to early 2016 when olof was healthy and Fnatic were gods. Doesn’t it feel nice? Now imagine this: Fnatic comes home to Olympus. How will that go? Close your eyes. Imagine the energy of the crowd, one half chanting “Fnatic,” the other half? Brazilian. The energy is electric. Olof and FalleN have reached the pinnacle of CS:GO.

It’s 15-14 in favor of Fnatic — it’s final game on Inferno. SK rushes B killing JW. Flusha lifts his mouse and dies. Krimz gets picked off crossing mid. dennis bunny hops through banana and picks off 3, but felps shuts him down. The crowd gets louder. The atmosphere, tense. Olof is alone — but his nerves are calm, his fingers ready, his mouse steady. He peeks down felps with a one-tap. Next corner. Eyes on FalleN. He shoots, it misses. FalleN doesn’t — his AWP clips olof, taking down the Swede to 5 health. FalleN retreats with his pistol, expecting olof to recollect, but he expects wrong. He peeks right into olof’s crosshairs. Olof clicks. Tears fall. He picks up JW’s AWP bunny hopping to the site. The crowd is silent — time doesn't exist. Then, in unison, the crowd explodes with one thunderous roar. Fnatic wins 16-14.

McNeil: Cloud9 vs. Astralis. A guy can dream, can’t he? The only North American squad at the Major, the hopes of NA CS:GO fans everywhere rest on the shoulders of C9. The boys from Fragtown, USA are coming in hot after a second-place finish at ESL One Cologne, where they ultimately lost to SK, and and ECS Season 3 Finals where they fell to FaZe in the semis.

With a seemingly re-oriented emphasis on team cohesion and strats, as opposed to just pure aiming, how cool would it be to see them scrap it out to the finals, only to face the reigning, defending Major champions? Any red-blooded American (or Canadian, for that matter) would be hype to see that grand final matchup.

Park: SK Gaming vs. Astralis. Not only are Astralis the defending champions but I think, on paper, they match up the well against SK Gaming. A grand final between the two is bound to be good and you can't be the champion without taking the belt directly from the champs, right?

Dark Horse

Gonzales: mousesports. Ask any would-be analyst to take a team with a player like NiKo and make it better by removing said player and they’d tell you it’s impossible, however, that exact thing seems to have happened with the latest iteration of mouz. And it’s the perfect case to point to when arguing for chemistry and compatibility over raw firepower.

That’s not to say mouz don’t have firepower — they have it in spades between oskar and ropz, and even denis when has really good days. But there’s definitely other factors at play, ones that can’t be quantified that make that team work. However, all of that hinges on whether they can handle the pressure.

This is the first Major for both ropz and oskar, both whom have shown their fair share of mental weakness when the going gets tough and even mouz’s veterans are guilty of this. chrisJ himself has been to six Majors and every single time he’s failed to make the playoffs.

Choking will be the team’s biggest threat, more so than others. But they have the biggest chance of surprising if they’re in form.

Malijan: Virtus Pro. The plow. The Polish kings. This team shouldn’t be the dark horse, but alas, they are. This team is one of my favored teams going in — I’d even be willing to say they’ll win but their recent inconsistencies forced me to classify them as a dark horse. Yet I know, deep down inside my plow-loving heart, that the occasional poor form is one of VP’s only consistencies. I know that they will show up. Their ability to just find their form and look virtually unstoppable is absurd — it’s like flipping a switch. That switch is a quantum tear in the universe, operating in pure random energy. Yet, once it’s flipped, it’s pure CS:GO pornography.

McNeil: mousesports. It’s my favorite CS storyline of the last few months: mouz, the lackluster team supposedly dragged along like a deadweight by superstar player Niko, more than holds their own in his absence. mouz’s recent encouraging results (they downed FaZe and Fnatic at Cologne and cruised to the quarterfinals at ESL Season 5 Finals) are in no small part thanks to 17-year-old ropz. The guy is younger than CS itself, but look for him, oskar and co. to do work. Don’t be too shocked if we see them in the Top 8.

Park: Cloud9. Laugh all you want but I'm sticking to my guns (America gun joke pun intended). Cloud9 are one of the most inconsistent teams on the planet but their recent performance at ESL One Cologne has me quite optimistic about what they can do in Kraków. At Cologne we saw Skadoodle, automatic and even shroud step up and if, and yes, this is a big if, but if they can figure out a way to close out a goddamn match or two they might have a shot at top eight-ing the event.

Biggest potential disappointment

Gonzales: Fnatic. The late-2015 super star lineup has all the ingredients needed for a top team, but since their reformation earlier this year, they still haven’t found their bearings.

We’ve seen signs of life from them, such as their Top 8 finish at SL i-League Season 3 and their second place finish at EPL Season 5, but they don’t make up for the five group stage exits they’ve had in other LAN events. And we may see the same for them at the Major.

Malijan: I would be extremely disappointed if Valve still haven’t announced a TI and Major system for CS:GO — like Dota’s. It’s already evident to everyone that CS:GO is Valve’s foster child. The middle child, despite having only two children.

Look, Kraków is the final Major this year. In July. Yup. Last major.

They have to announce a new competitive system. Announcing it would make a lot of sense scheduling wise since TI is in August, and CS’ new TI can be 6 months later. It also makes sense considering there’s no Valve CS:GO events in the later half of the year.

But, it’s a pipe-dream.

McNeil: North. The “other” Danish team at Kraków, North are usually mentioned in the same breath as teams like G2 and FaZe, but their results have been far less consistent. With a disappointing outing at Cologne, where they failed to make it past groups, and a bitter ESL Pro League final loss that forced the team to eat k0nfig’s own trash talk, North are on very shaky ground.

Faltering in the group stages is an unfortunate possibility for the Danes.

Park: G2 Esports. This is probably the toughest question of the tournament. We know someone's going to come up short but who? My best guess is G2. Although this team was originally heralded as the newest iteration of the French super team, I think they're going to have a tough time finding their way past both the likes of Astralis, SK and even FaZe for that matter. And for a "super team" anything aside from a grand final appearance has to be considered a disappointment.

Biggest question mark or X-factor

Gonzales: Will Valve announce changes to CS:GO’s circuit? Valve works in tandem on both Dota 2 and CS:GO. Dota 2 had the international, while CS:GO had the Majors. Dota 2 adopted the Majors, while CS:GO got the Minors. And now, Valve recently announced the Minors for Dota 2, along with a somewhat unprecedented points system.

RELATED: Valve announces sweeping changes to Major system, reworks TI qualifiers for 2018

Not counting the switch to the Swiss-system and the changes to the map veto system, the last significant change to Valve’s CS:GO tournament series has been the prize pool being raised from $250,000 to $1 million, but the Major count per year being lowered from three to two. Those changes occurred over a year ago and we’re due for some revamps.

The International for CS:GO is an idea that’s been floated many times before and it’s one that’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Malijan: Which G2 will show up? Will the underwhelming and flaccid G2 show up? The uncreative G2? Or will France’s finest show up? Can kennyS find his groove early enough, and fire on all cylinders until G2 grabs that match point in the grand finals? The questions of performance extend to everyone on the team.

This team, while ticking every box of all the necessities to win the Major, are still coming into Kraków a question mark. We already know that this team is capable, yet they still need to show that they can run at the same pace with every team, and overtake them at the end. While their success is questionable, their potential to raise the trophy isn’t.

McNeil: The Swiss system. Kraków’s group stages are being played in a 16-team, best-of-one Swiss structure. Playing Swiss not only means the early rounds are less impactful on the group stage results, but that it could actually be advantageous for teams to have poor results in their first few games, and thus get easier matchups when it matters more. Throw in best-of-one matches, and that’s how you get results like FlipSid3 beating SK at ESL One Cologne. Upsets are fun, but one map is simply not enough to test a team.

As SPUNJ recently told theScore esports Podcast, Counter-Strike is a game of seven maps, not one.

Park: Fnatic and Virtus.pro. There are so many X-factors this tournament, it's absolutely absurd. From the usual suspects in Magisk, Niko, s1mple and olofmeister to your lesser-known but completely capable players like ropz, keev and hen1, the tournament can turn on a dime depending on who shows up. But, the biggest question marks in my mind, are both Fnatic and Virtus.pro.

Both teams are completely capable of a deep run at the Major — we've seen both lineups show up multiple times in big tournaments — but their recent form is really quite concerning. Although I'd probably never put my money on them going out in groups, I'm just wondering which Fnatic and/or Virtus.pro we'll end up seeing at Krakow — the ones that are capable of winning it all or the ones that'll barely make the Top 8.

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