The champion of the first season of the ESL ESEA Pro League will be decided in the grand final between Cloud9 and Fnatic, each representing one of the league’s two divisions.
Road to the Finals
The North Americans, Cloud9, pulled off the improbably on the first two days of the event, toppling Team EnVyUs in three straight games to make it out of the group stage. Their final opponent for their slot in the grand final was division rivals Counter Logic Gaming, each putting their best foot forward to represent their continent.
In the end, Cloud9 firmly reasserted their long-standing dominance over North American Counter-Strike by 2-0-ing CLG in a pair of quick, decisive performances. They now head into the finals with hopes of being the first North American CS:GO team to take home a title overseas and become one of the few teams in the game's history to take an international tournament win.
Cloud9’s path to the final:
|W||16-5||Counter Logic Gaming||Cache|
|W||16-8||Counter Logic Gaming||Dust2|
Their opponents, Fnatic, represent Europe’s finest and have had one of the longest reigns over the entirety of CS:GO in the games short, but heated history. The Swedes came into the event as the most picked team to win the event, but started off Day 1 on the wrong foot, losing to heavy underdogs, Counter Logic Gaming.
The reigning ESL One champions bounced back in time to face their closest rivals, Team SoloMid, in the most heartbreaking and exciting games of the event. The win over TSM meant that Fnatic were the sole favorites left in the competition and also put them into a match against Keyd Stars in the quarterfinals.
The match was closer than many could have expected, but once again, Fnatic came out on top, winning two straight, the second in overtime. Virtus.pro were the only challengers left in Fnatic’s way to the grand final. The Polish squad, despite looking more impressive in the event so far, failed to close the series out after taking Game 1. Fnatic fought their way back into the series and claimed Game 2 and 3 to become the last European team in the event.
Fnatic’s path to the final:
|L||12-16||Counter Logic Gaming||Mirage|
Both Fnatic and Cloud9 have proved that they are undoubtedly the best team from their respective continents and will battle it out to decide which will take home the title of best in the world, at least for this weekend, as well as the $100,000 1st place prize.
Going into the finals almost everyone will be predicting that Fnatic will come out with a crushing victory, but when you take a look at each player’s stats from this weekend there is something very surprising.
Cloud9 has the edge. Three of the top four players come from the American squad, while most of Fnatic sit in the bottom five. Of course seangares is on the very bottom, but considering how proficient and effective his calls have been so far it is hard to argue that he will be detrimental to his team’s success.
On the other hand, the low 1.0 K/D on KRIMZ is a very worrying sight. KRIMZ has been on a level just below olofmeister, who is the best player in the world by a fairly convincing margin for the past couple of months and played a large part in Fnatic’s ability to stay on or near the top of the rankings.
Without KRIMZ firing on all cylinders the extra pressure will sit on JW and flusha’s shoulders.
So far, neither JW nor flusha have really stood out on the level Fnatic will need them to — that is not to say that they are unable to cope with the added weight, just that they haven’t seemed to find the answer yet.
Another issue Fnatic seem to be having to cope with is the extreme heat of the studio in Cologne, where the tournament is taking place. Cloud9, on the other hand, have had no issues with heat as most of the team has been sporting their organization's light blue tank tops.
As mentioned previously, Fnatic will be picked by most as favorite heading into the grand final and that will be no different here, but with hopefully another perspective.
According to pronax, the final match of tournament will adopt a rather unusual map pick/ban format, one where each team will be able to pick a single map before any are banned out. With this being the case Cloud9 will be allowed to pick their seemingly-favorite map Cache, while Fnatic should opt to take either Mirage or Cobblestone as the Americans have not been playing either recently.
The two map bans will likely be the leftover from Cobblestone or Mirage from Cloud9 and Dust2 from Fnatic. Cloud9 have only won on Dust2 and Cache so far which makes either a solid ban, while the only other options for Fnatic could be potentially Train or Inferno.
Keep in mind that the Swedes are likely not worried about facing Cloud9 on any of the three maps. With the POV streams from Cloud9’s three wins on Cache readily available and in English, they might not even be scared of the Americans’ best map either.
Assuming that is the case the map pool will probably be something like:
With this map pool you can expect a 3-1 or 3-2 win from Fnatic. The only maps in which you could consider Cloud9 a potential winner is Cache and Train. That being said, the match will likely come down to whichever team performs better throughout.
If Skadoodle, shroud and n0thing all show up to play, Fnatic will have a very tough time shutting the Americans down, especially if JW, flusha and KRIMZ don’t step up. After all, olofmeister can only out carry so many players at once.
Jacob Julliet writes about Counter-Strike for theScore eSports. Follow him on Twitter.