3 Storylines to watch at MLG Major Championship: Columbus

by Dennis Gonzales Mar 29 2016
Thumbnail image courtesy of Benjamin Cotton / DreamHack

With only a few hours left before the MLG Major Championship: Columbus kicks off, we took a look at some of the more compelling storylines to look out for at North America's first CS:GO Major such as the rise of NA teams on home soil and the potential fall of many Legend teams.

Case for coaches

Only one team is going into the MLG Major Championship: Columbus without a dedicated coach—FlipSid3 Tactics. But before the start of the year, six of the participating teams have picked up coaches within the past four months — nine if you go back to December when Counter Logic Gaming picked up Faruk "pita" Pita and Astralis, then Team ?, picked up Danny "zonic" Sørensen.

A dedicated coach can make or break a team, not by directly affecting aim or individual player performance, but by affecting just about every other aspect of the game. The most obvious contribution is additional strategies and analysis, as well as taking on the in-game leader role. But coaches can also affect the mental state of the team, bringing calm where there’s chaos, which can be crucial in high pressure situations such as competing in a tournament with a $1 million prize pool.

Sergey "starix" Ischuk with Denis "seized" Kostin in the Spodek during IEM Season X World Championship Katowice. starix has been the coach for Na`Vi for over a year, but has been with the team since 2009

It’s not a question of whether or not coaches have an impact, but how much impact. Largely it’s based on two factors, the efficacy of the coach and the willingness of the players.

The one new coach that stands out above the rest is Ninjas in Pyjamas’ Björn ”THREAT” Pers, who has already been praised to the high heavens by a number of analysts, but you only need to look at NiP’s current first place ranking in ESL Pro League to see the fruits of his labor.

The team’s performance at the Major is still in question however, moreso now that THREAT is forced to take a more hands-on approach, standing in for Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi who ran into visa issues.

Jacob "pyth" Mourujärvi during IEM Season X World Championship Katowice. He is unable to compete in the MLG Major Championship: Columbus due to visa issues

Also worthy of mention is mousesports, who have picked up, not one, but two coaches in Niclas "enkay J" Krumhorn and Navid "Kapio" Javadi. While enkay J acts as an analyst, Kapio will support the team’s in-game leader, Nikola "NiKo" Kovač, during high pressure and late-game scenarios.

Like an A-10 Warthog is just a giant gun with a plane built around it, mouz is a team built around NiKo and it’s a setup they encourage. In our interview with, Chris "chrisJ" De Jong, he says that the team has been experimenting with Kapio being more involved as an in-game leader, taking more pressure off of NiKo. This could play a big part for the team at the Major.

RELATED: mousesports' chrisJ on the Major: 'I hope to finally be in the big arena'

Other coaches worthy of mention are FaZe Clan’s Robert "RobbaN" Dahlström and CLG’s Faruk "pita" Pita, but let’s talk about them in the next sections.

Fall of Legends

Looking at the Legend teams going into the MLG Major, there are clear divides in power. Fnatic is at the top, looking untouchable, followed by Natus Vincere and Astralis, who would be at the top if it weren’t for the Swedes. Then there Luminosity Gaming, who are undoubtedly a top team, but have dropped a number of questionable maps recently. Then there’s the rest.

This sudden drop off in performance also comes amidst the rise of a number of Challenger teams, creating the conditions that can threaten the Legend status of numerous teams.

FaZe is probably the biggest question mark among the Legend teams. The team finished in the Top 4 at the previous Major, DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015, under G2 Esports. Though it’s worth noting that that was a performance when Dennis "dennis" Edman was on the lineup, but he picked up by Fnatic right after that Major.

Mikail "Maikelele" Bill during IEM Season X World Championship Katowice

Despite the change, the team maintained Top 4 finishes for the remainder of their tenure with G2, but since being picked up by FaZe Clan they haven’t been able to make it past the group stage of any tournament.

Their new coach Robert “RobbaN” Dahlström has not been able to stop the bleeding and since the conclusion of IEM Katowice, FaZe have lost every single one of their ESL Pro League matches, except for one map against SK Gaming.

Other slumping Legends include, who are currently in last place of ESL Pro League with a 2-14 record, and Team EnVyUs, who never made it out of the group stage during IEM Katowice and were upset by NRG eSports during Counter Pit League Season 2.

Team EnVyUs after winning the previous Major, DreamHack Open Cluj-Napoca 2015. The team has not maintained their performance since then

And though LG are far from slumping, some of their recent inconsistencies are worrying considering their group with NiP and mouz, who have given them a run for their money before.

Though mouz is definitely one of the Challenger teams to look out for, there are a number of hometown heroes with chips on their shoulders.

Rise of NA

Even before the start of the event, the MLG Major has already broken a number of boundaries. It’s the first Major in NA, which is fitting because it also features the most NA teams to ever participate in a Major. And given the aforementioned slumping of a few Legends teams, we could see an NA team in the Top 8 of a Major, something that hasn’t happened since ESL One: Cologne 2014, nearly two years ago.

Spearheading this charge are Team Liquid’s Spencer "Hiko" Martin and Cloud9’s Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert and Mike "shroud" Grzesiek. The three players are noteworthy because they were part of the C9 roster that finished Top 8 at ESL Cologne two years ago.

Jordan "n0thing" Gilbert during IEM Season X San Jose

C9 made a big statement for the NA region ahead of the MLG Major by winning the iBUYPOWER Invitational, where all the top American talent competed. There they swept OpTic Gaming; Selfless Gaming, who took down LG; and Liquid, who took down CLG. It may be too early to call them the top team in NA, but results speak volume.

Also worthy of mention is Counter Logic Gaming, who have made huge strides integrating Faruk "pita" Pita into their lineup. Along with it, they’ve become more passive and methodical, adapting a playstyle that’s a hybrid between NA and EU.

Speaking of EU talent, we can’t forget about Liquid's Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev. Though the idea of cross pollination may draw the ire of regional purists, but s1mple has been appropriating to North American culture.

Not mentioned yet is Splyce, who are a dark horse of their group, let alone the tournament as a whole. Their prospects don’t look too good, but that was likely the case during the qualifiers as well. Anything can happen, but they’ll have to make it through the group, which includes their NA brethren in Liquid, as well as FaZe and Fnatic.

Cloud9 and CLG are in separate groups, which gives even more chances for an NA team to make it into the playoffs. The home court advantage should push them over the top.

Dennis "Tarmanydyn" Gonzales is a news editor for theScore esports who enjoys whiskey, Dungeon & Dragons and first-picking Timbersaw Windranger Abaddon Slardar Clinkz Medusa Oracle a P90. You can follow him on Twitter.