In this edition of CS:GO Staff Picks, our staff made several bold statements about the first million dollar CS:GO Major and gave some predictions on how the tournament will play out.
Who will win it all?
Dennis Gonzales - Fnatic
The Swedes are currently on a rampage and there's no indication of them slowing down. They may have dropped a map to NiP and mouz in the ESL Pro League following their convincing win at IEM Katowice, but those were online matches. At the Major, switches will be flicked on, walls will be boosted and tactical pauses will be taken en route to Fnatic’s seventh tournament win.
Nicolas Doucet - Fnatic
This should come as no surprise as Fnatic are the winners of six straight LANs and are showing no signs of slowing down. I've spoken about it before, but when Fnatic are down, they're not out — as IEM Katowice proved — and right now they're the furthest thing from down. They're a juggernaut set to mark their place in the history books as one of Counter-Strikes' most dominant rosters.
Paul Park - Fnatic
I doubt there’s any argument to be made against a team that’s been undefeated at every LAN they’ve participated in since late November. Sure, their road won’t be easy with the likes of Natus Vincere and Luminosity Gaming in their way, but that’s never stopped them from winning and I don’t see any reason why that would change now.
What will be the biggest surprise?
Dennis Gonzales - Luminosity Gaming won't make it past the Group Stage
The Brazilian squad is considered the fourth best team in the world according to HLTV.org, third if you ask Thorin, but they’ve been dropped a number of maps that they simply shouldn’t have.
They lost a best-of-three series against Selfless during the iBUYPOWER invitational and in ESL Pro League, went 3-16 on Train against Winterfox and 11-16 on Mirage against Team SoloMid. Sure, it’s an easy excuse to say that they were just sandbagging, but against these teams in particular you’d have to be sandbagging pretty hard.
Mouz and NiP will be going into the group with LG in their sights. Both teams took chunks out of LG during IEM Katowice's group stage: NiP took them down 16-13 on Mirage while mouz came close with a 14-16 score on Cobble. If there’s a chance of a major upset, during the best-of-ones, is where it will happen.
Nicolas Doucet - The Group A Race
Of all the groups at the Major, this one that has the most potential to surprise — especially when it comes to the second slot. Although LG likely has the top seed sown up, it's far from a guarantee given their tendency to play nail-bitting matches.
The real action will heat up for the other three teams, as the NiKo and ChrisJ led mousesports and the strong looking FlipSid3 are more than a match for NiP. In fact, this is one of the most competitive trios of teams in the entire tournament, and only a few rounds could dictate who goes home and who moves on.
Solely on upset potential and the possibility of defying all predictions, Group A will be a shocker.
Paul Park - Team Liquid
Heralded as North America Counter-Strike's new hope when first assembled, Team Liquid have yet to fully live up to that name. However, the Major seems like the one tournament where that’ll all change.
Considering their group, Liquid will only have to beat Splyce (a team that they should have little difficulty defeating) and a struggling FaZe Clan meaning they have a great chance at their first ever Top 8 appearance at a major.
But by far the biggest surprise here is that they’ll do it with adreN in the lineup.
Who will be the tournament's MVP?
Dennis Gonzales - olofmeister
It almost feels like a cop out when you pick someone like olofmeister for MVP. Among the players that made it to the playoffs for IEM Katowice, olofmeister had the top HLTV player rating, as well as a slew of other accolades. He’ll do the same at this tournament and the ones after it.
Nicolas Doucet - FalleN
Yeah, it might not be an original choice, but this is a huge moment for Luminosity and FalleN to claim the title they've been craving. As both a key fragger and the in-game leader, FalleN has always had double the weight on his shoulders and so far he has surpassed all demands.
In Columbus, expect FalleN to not only make a stand, but lead his team deep into the tournament with a performance that will add to his already impressive legacy.
Paul Park - flusha
flusha loves to turn up at major events.
Statistically, Fnatic’s in-game leader has never had a negative rating at a major event and his worst statistical one was DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015 with a final +/- of +12. His second lowest +/- at a Major is a +24 which is double that of DH Cluj-Napoca.
Although his role as in-game leader will inevitably be a slight detriment to this statistically performance, history is bound to repeat itself, and the flusha we see at Columbus will definitely be his best.
Who will be the tournament's X-Factor
Dennis Gonzales - flamie
Natus Vincere’s youngster was IEM Katowice's unsung hero. Outshone by NiKo’s monstrous group stage performance and olofmeister, flamie was the third highest rated player according to HLTV. The 18-year-old wunderkind particularly shone during the playoff match against Luminosity Gaming, being responsible for taking numerous rounds, including his five headshot Ace during a pistol round.
flamie’s stats during online matches is just above par at 1.04, but he turns it on during LANs, averaging a 1.14 rating across IEM Katowice and Counter Pit League Season 2.
Nicolas Doucet - s1mple
The moment is finally here for s1mple to prove that Team Liquid's decision to bring him over was the right one. We've seen what s1mple can do during his time with teams like FlipSid3 and Hell Raisers, but whether he can continue to perform while in the spotlight remains to be seen.
That pressure will be doubled considering the MLG Qualifier was one of the only LANs where s1mple held a sub-1.0 rating. While that goes to prove that Liquid doesn't necessarily need him to show up to win maps, the Major itself is a completely different animal, and one which will require the Ukrainian superstar to be at his absolute best if Liquid are to become NA's next great hope.
Paul Park - NiKo
After heavily debating which Luminosity Gaming member I would choose, I decided to go down a completely different rabbit hole.
The Bosnian CS:GO phenom has exploded into the scene as of late and he looks poised to take mousesports to a potential Top 8 finish. NiKo’s been fantastic at every LAN event he’s participated in this year and ESL One: Katowice was his official “coming-out party”.
With NiKo performing at his highest level, and the Ninjas in Pyjamas unable to field pyth for at least the first match of the group stages due to visa issues, mousesports and Luminosity Gaming are now favorites to make it out of Group A.
Dennis Gonzales - Three Challengers teams in Top 8, two will be from NA
The group stage will be one of the more contested ones seen at a Major. The power struggle from the middle of the pack is higher than ever, partially because of a few teams slumping. There’s only ever been at most two challenger teams in the Top 8 of a CS:GO Major, partly because some Majors had less the eight legend teams.
Team Liquid, Counter Logic Gaming and Cloud9 all have strong chances to pull off upsets in their groups, if you can even call it that. Liquid can take down FaZe and Splyce, CLG can defeat Gambit Gaming and Team EnVyUs and Cloud9 can beat G2 Esports and Virtus.pro.
Nicolas Doucet - EnVyUs don't make it out of Group C
Post roster change, pre roster change, it makes no difference - the Frenchmen have looked completely out of sorts lately. An abysmal last-place finish at IEM Katowice followed up by another early exit at the hands of NRG eSports from Counter Pit Season 2 means EnVyUs is in a free-fall.
I'm certainly not discounting the team's star power, who can pull it out in the clutch, but given their current form it wouldn't be shocking at all to see Gambit or CLG surpass EnVyUs and move into the Top 8. Perhaps failure to launch in Columbus will signify a dramatic shakeup on a team which has fallen so far since being crowned kings just a few short months ago.
Paul Park - Team EnVyUs will not make it out of the group stages
Unlike the last time the all-French lineup made changes, the addition of DEVIL does not get me excited to watch this team perform at a Major.
Although four-fifths of the members remain, they're still the same four players that have had the same internal struggles and I doubt that team will have had enough time with either DEVIL or themselves to get through whatever their struggles are.
Considering that Gambit and Counter Logic Gaming both look like they have the potential to upset in Group C, I find it hard to believe that the French will make it back to Legend status.
Storylines to watch
Dennis Gonzales - The Coach Meta
Of the teams competing in the Major, only one does not have a dedicated coach —FlipSid3 Tactics. But if you looked at these same teams before the start of 2016, that numbers jumps up to seven teams, roughly half. Nine if you count CLG's Faruk "pita" Pita and Astralis' Danny "zonic" Sørensen, who were brought into their teams on December.
The most notable coach going into the Major is, of course, Björn “THREAT” Pers, who took a slumping NiP and helped them achieve their top ranking in ESL Pro League. However, since Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi has run into visa issues, THREAT now take on a more hands-on approach to his coaching a will act as the team’s stand in.
Nicolas Doucet - Changing of the Guard
Based on the groups and the current forms of many of the teams in question, MLG Columbus may see as many as four of the "Legend" status teams removed from their posts and supplanted by fresh faces.
While a shift among the invited teams is by no means a guarantee, there are more than a few opening to force a changing of the guard among the Top 8. Group A could see mousesports or a surging FlipSid3 challenge NiP for a spot, the lackluster play of FaZe leaves the door open for Liquid to make a play, the already discussed free-falling nV gives CLG and Gambit hope and Virtus.Pro could take a spill to the Frenchman on G2 or even Cloud9.
Yes, it's possible all these teams pull it together on the biggest stage of 2016 and hold their spot, but the fact that these possible shifts are in the conversation is exciting as it is.
Paul Park - North American Counter Strike on North American soil
C’mon guys, get hype! The first ever Major event on American soil features the highest number of North American teams any Major event has seen and it could be the first time in history that more than one North American team makes it into the Top 8.
Considering everything goes well for North America, I can see both Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming making it out of groups.
Sure, we’ve all been hurt before but it’s time to make the leap towards believing once again, and I for one, can’t wait to see history unfold in Columbus.