With the opening round of matches for the upcoming Main Qualifier for the London Major being released, everybody is ready for an enticing appetiser for the Major starting on the 5th September.
Astralis | Magisk, Xyp9x, dupreeh, device, gla1ve
The top dogs of Counter-Strike will be looking to put the cherry on top of their recent success by winning their second Major. Astralis have won four premier tournaments this year and looked dominant in all of them. Recently, however, they fell to North at DreamHack Masters Stockholm; a worrying point going into the Major.
Their standout player has got to be Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander due to his excellent leadership of the team and his unique skill of being able to frag excellently whilst under the mantle of leadership.
BIG | gob b, tabseN, tiziaN, nex, smooya
The new-look international BIG roster will be looking to continue their excellent form from Cologne. BIG finished 2nd at the event, falling to NaVi in a hard-fought final. BIG are #6 on the HLTV world ranking and have hugely impressed this year, especially since the addition of smooya.
The standout player of BIG is Owen “smooya” Butterfield. The 18-year-old English AWPer has burst onto the scene and looked very comfortable. He is yet to have a negative LAN event with BIG, and many analysts expect smooya to have a lengthy career in CS:GO.
compLexity | ShahZaM, stanislaw, yay, dephh, ANDROID
After the double additions of AWPer Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan and IGL Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz, coL have looked revitalised. The team battled past NRG in the Minor, causing a huge upset in the process. After some mediocre LAN placings this year at DreamHack Open Summer and DreamHack Open Austin, compLexity will be back from the player-break with the hunger for victory.
coL’s standout player has to be ShahZaM. After poor spells with Cloud9 and OpTic, amongst other teams, he has found a footing under stanislaw’s system in coL. He has had two great tournaments, the MSI MGA Open then Closed Qualifiers, where has boasted HLTV ratings of 1.59 and 1.36 respectively.
Gambit | mir, Dosia, AdreN, Hobbit, mou
After their victory at the major in Krakow, Gambit have been on a downward spiral. The team suffered from the loss of their in game leader; Danylo “Zeus” Teslenko and it sent Gambit into disarray. The team’s been through role shakeups but after the addition of mir, the team has stabilised. The team have had poor placings throughout the year and has not accomplished anything of note.
Gambit’s standout player has been Abay “Hobbit” Khasenov for a long time, and despite a rocky spell earlier in the year, he appears to have found his mojo once again. He is currently boasting a 1.06 rating on HLTV, and was the sole positive in Gambit’s recent exit at DreamHack Masters Stockholm, where he achieved a 1.04 rating.
HellRaisers | ANGE1, woxic, bondik, DeadFox, ISSAA
With the news of Ozgur “woxic” Eker’s attendance for the Major being confirmed, HellRaisers will be firing on all cylinders. The team has had decent placings throughout the year. They finished runners-up to North at DreamHack Open Tours and were champions of the Bets.net Masters. Notably, the team has struggled with woxic’s visa and health issues, but when he attends tournaments, he is a force to be reckoned with.
Predictably, HellRaisers’ standout player is woxic. He has insane skill and it shows in his matches. He boasted a 1.48 rating at the CIS Minor, making him a large reason why HellRaisers are able to attend the Major. He has a K/D ratio of 1.24, proving he’s a very efficient fragger. If HellRaisers get a decent placing at the Major, woxic will be the reason why.
Liquid | nitr0, EliGE, Twistzz, NAF, TACO
The best team that the Americas have to offer, Team Liquid, has had a mixed 2018. The #3 team in the world have gone as low as a bottom place exit at ESL One Cologne, but have made 3 Grand Finals appearances in premier tournaments this year; always losing to Astralis. The team won cs_summit2 fresh after the addition of Keith “NAF” Markovic, but besides that are yet to taste any silverware. After just missing out on victory at the ELEAGUE Premier, Liquid will be looking to ignite the fire of their young stars and break their longstanding Major curse.
Liquid’s standout player undoubtedly is Jonathan “EliGE” Jablanowski. The Polish-American powerhouse himself has been dragging Liquid through matches and tournaments for years. He has had 11 negative LAN events with Liquid since he joined in May 2015. Since the ESL Pro League S4 Finals, he’s had one negative event, which was IEM Katowice 2018. He’s the definition of consistency; something Liquid needs to embody as a team.
NiP | Lekr0, GeT_RiGhT, f0rest, REZ, dennis
After Jonas ”Lekr0” Olofsson’s recent appointment as IGL, NiP have looked more and more like their former selves. Christopher “GeT_RiGhT” Alesund has been steadily improving, Patrik “f0rest” Lindberg is showing his old fire from 1.6, and everyone else has just been outdoing themselves. NiP are back at the Major following a victory at the EU Minor; something nobody saw coming. Besides that, they’ve been poor, but under Lekr0’s captaincy they won the Minor and reached the semi-finals at DreamHack Masters Stockholm.
NiP’s standout performer has got to be Lekr0. The Swedish super talent joined to ignite some fire into the roster but ended up taking the burden of captaincy. He is still fragging well, boasting a 1.13 rating at the EU Minor where he masterminded NiP’s victory. In Stockholm, he had a 1.07 rating which is amazing for an IGL on LAN against good opposition.
North | MSL, aizy, valde, Kjaerbye, niko (stand-in)
North have found their feet again in 2018. After some rocky spells, a couple of trophies, and some bombing blows, North seem to be back. North have gone through a roster shakeup favouring a 5-rifle setup, where MSL picks up the AWP when necessary; a system very similar to Team Liquid’s. North have won DreamHack Open titles in Valencia and Tours this year, and have won DreamHack Masters Stockholm, upsetting the top two teams in Astralis and NaVi, both in a bo3 series beating Astralis twice.
North’s standout player, someone who I think deserves large credit for their recent success, is Philip “aizy” Aistrup. He is yet to have a negative LAN event after IEM Katowice 2018. In Stockholm, he averaged a 1.17 rating and he carried his team through to the semi-finals. Against NaVi in the quarter-finals, he got an inhuman 1.64 rating. Performances like these from aizy have been missing for a long time; North’s upturn in results show the impact this guy has on the team. They wouldn’t have won the trophy without him and his crazy performances.
OpTic | Snappi, JUGi, k0nfig, cajunb, gade
The team vying for the title of Denmark’s 2nd best team haven’t been doing themselves any favours to get there. They scraped through the EU Minor at the expense of ENCE, despite a loss to NiP which was largely unexpected, and recently crashed out of DreamHack Masters Stockholm early. However, make no mistake. This roster is packed with youthful Danish talent, who are all overseen by Rene “cajunb” Borg, the veteran of the roster. Jakob “JUGi” Hansen and Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke are two of Denmark’s best players; those two alone could propel OpTic to the next stage at the FACEIT Major.
I think OpTic’s standout player is JUGi. He has been the light in the dark for OpTic, and he’s only had one negative LAN event with OpTic at the ZOTAC Cup Masters 2018. He achieved a 1.03 rating at DreamHack Masters Stockholm despite the team’s early exit. If JUGi and the rest of the team’s players can step up, then OpTic can go a very long way indeed.
Renegades | Nifty, AZR, jks, jkaem, USTILO
After unsurprisingly topping the Asia Minor, Renegades will be looking to improve on their poor LAN results in 2018. Apart from being a few maps short of a Cinderella run at IEM Sydney, Renegades have been poor. They’ve bombed out of ESL One Cologne 2018, ESL Pro League S7 Finals, and StarSeries i-League S5. Renegades have talent in their roster, with North America’s most exciting young AWPer Noah “Nifty” Francis as a player that can step up to a very high level. For example, on Inferno against mousesports at the IEM Sydney quarter-finals, he dropped 51 kills to carry Renegades to victory in the map. If he activates that monster inside of him again, Renegades can easily advance.
Renegades’ standout player is Justin “jks” Savage. He’s stepped up recently after poor performances at StarSeries i-League S5 and DreamHack Open Summer 2018, wherein both events he had a negative HLTV rating. At ESL One Cologne he achieved a 1.08 rating despite the team bombing out of the groups, and at the Asia Minor he achieved a monstrous 1.37 rating; if he can continue that form then Renegades will be closing in on the New Legends Stage.
Rogue | Hiko, cadiaN, Rickeh, SicK, vice
Rogue is a team vying for experience against top-level competition and that hunger could push them over the line. They’ve only attended two proper LAN events in 2018; the North America Minor and DreamHack Open Austin. They finished runners-up in both tournaments, famously upsetting NRG at the Minor in a result nobody saw coming. They lost out on the top spot at DreamHack Open Austin, losing to Space Soldiers 2-1 in the final. Rogue have veterans in Casper “cadiaN” Moller and Spencer “Hiko” Martin, with young guns Hunter “SicK” Mims and Daniel “vice” Kim to provide firepower. This team can perform upsets, such as the match against NRG in the Minor, so don’t write off Rogue.
Rogue’s standout player is Ricardo “Rickeh” Mulholland. The 26-year-old Australian hybrid has stepped up his performances under Rogue. At the North America Minor and DreamHack Open Austin, he achieved 1.17 and 1.24 ratings respectively; a huge step up from past performances under other teams. I think this step up has happened because cadiaN’s system allows Rickeh to show off his flair more than other systems have in his past teams. When Rickeh shows his flair, Rogue can definitely progress.
Space Soldiers | MAJ3R, XANTARES, Calyx, paz, ngiN
The Turks have shown a lot of promise and skill online, but offline they’ve been unable to replicate their talent. They finished runners-up to fnatic at WESG, arguably their best placing this year, but poor placings at the ESL Pro League S7 Finals and ESL One Cologne 2018 followed. Space Soldiers bounced back, triumphing over Rogue to win DreamHack Open Austin. They next attended ESL One Belo Horizonte, where they failed to make it out of groups. The last time we’ve seen Space Soldiers on LAN was in June at Belo Horizonte, so a factor of unpredictability favours the team. They have skillful players but are yet to shake off the label of onliners. The Major would be the perfect place to shake that off and move forward, something they could easily do thanks to their skill.
Space Soldiers’ standout player, without a doubt, is Ismailcan “XANTARES” Dortkardes. Despite negative HLTV ratings at the ESL Pro League S7 Finals and DreamHack Masters Marseille, he’s been the rock of the team. He achieved a 1.33 rating at WESG, where Space Soldiers narrowly lost out to fnatic, and he achieved 1.21 and 1.20 ratings at ESL One Belo Horizonte and DreamHack Open Austin respectively. XANTARES is known as a player with excellent aim, and that alone could carry Space Soldiers to progression through the Main Qualifier of the Major.
Spirit | DavCost, Dima, S0tF1k, COLDYY1, somedieyoung
The Russian team who surprised many by finishing runners-up at the CIS Minor at the expense of AVANGAR will be looking to surprise many. They’ve been missing from any relevant LANs, falling in the Closed Qualifier for DreamHack Masters Stockholm as an example. Their sense of surprise could make them outsiders to sneak into the next stage; something that nobody would predict.
Spirit’s standout player has to be Dmitriy “Dima” Bandurka, who in their LAN events of 2018 is yet to have a negative HLTV rating. At the age of 21, he’s got room to grow, and the Major could be the place he showcases his skill and helps Spirit shock the world.
TYLOO | Mo, somebody, xcurrate, BnTeT, DD
TYLOO finished runners-up at the Asia Minor to secure a spot at the Major and will be looking to live up to any hype they’ve received; something they’ve failed to do for a very long time. Despite an amazing top 4 finish at IEM Sydney and a 2nd place finish at IEM Shanghai, bear in mind on home turf, TYLOO have been poor on LAN. They’ve earned some suitors, but basic mistakes have held them back, as player turned analyst Jacob ‘Pimp’ Winneche said this on Twitter:
I think it’s safe to say TYLOO is the team with the worst understanding of Counter-Strike that are playing on such a high level!
Pimp said all that needed to be said; their basic mistakes hold them back. For Hansel “BnTeT” Ferdinand, calling in 3 different languages must be incredibly difficult in terms of organising the team.
TYLOO’s standout player has to be BnTeT. He’s calling in 3 different languages and still performs excellently. Apart from a negative rating at DreamHack Masters Stockholm, he’s been excellent. A 1.28 rating at their top 4 finish in Sydney showcases that when he steps up so does his team. He’s earned many suitors, and I’m sure BnTeT will be desperate to prove his team’s potential.
Vega Squadron | jR, chopper, kibaken, hutji, crush
With their new roster, Vega have failed to improve; they’ve regressed. They’ve won the M.Game League 2, a no-name LAN, but Vega have fallen in Open Qualifiers which is simply awful for a team going to the Major. Vega will be looking to prove to the world that this roster is their improved roster, and if they face Gambit, a grudge match against former star of Vega mir would be a tantalising prospect.
Vega’s standout performer is Leonid “chopper” Vishnyakov. He was one of the best performers in the previous lineup and he’s the only player in the lineup showing any signs of their old form. Despite that he’s been very inconsistent, with mostly negative ratings; and that’s the best Vega has to offer nowadays.
VP | MICHU, snatchie, byali, pashaBiceps, NEO
Virtus.pro are, by their own right, on the hunt for Legends status. That’s a bold target considering their awful results. Michal “snatchie” Rudzki has joined to provide a stronger AWP presence and bring his much-needed skillset to the team; something that Virtus.pro have needed. This is Pawel “byali” Bielinski’s final tournament for the team, and he will want to go out with a bang. The team finished top 4 at IEM Shanghai and will be looking to replicate that decent form and progress into the Major.
The team’s standout player is snatchie. This is because he is the focal point of Virtus.pro, their star AWPer who can convert rounds from nothing. He’s new to the lineup but is already bedded in. This is proved by him achieving a 1.14 rating at his first LAN with Virtus.pro; ZOTAC Cup Masters Finals. He was excellent with AGO prior to this, and his talent paired with his firepower will be broadcast to the world very soon.
Opening Match Predictions:
SS > Rogue – SS have good results against Rogue, notably beating them to the trophy at DreamHack Open Austin. SS will also be desperate to prove their quality; so I predict a comfortable win for them based off of that.
VP < NiP – Under Lekr0's captaincy, NiP have looked revitalised, and I don't think VP's new-look lineup is ready to handle that.
Gambit > TYLOO – I think Gambit will sneak a victory against TYLOO because Gambit will be looking to bounce back from disappointing results.
BIG > Renegades – I think BIG’s talent and organisation will power past a Renegades team who have looked dishevelled as of late.
Vega > Spirit – I think the two CIS underdogs will know each other very well, so the experience in Majors from Vega will push them over the line.
North > HR – This has been a hotly-contested fixture in many tournaments, but North’s promising recent form means I think that they’ll take the victory.
Liquid > OpTic – I believe that OpTic’s awful form matched against Liquid’s hunger for trophies will make this a comfortable win for Liquid.
Astralis > coL – If coL get 8 rounds, it’s a miracle. Astralis are walking the scene, and coL is just a stepping stone to the Major victory Astralis deserves.
Who Will Advance?
I think Astralis, Liquid, North, BIG, NiP, SS, VP and OpTic will advance. Astralis and Liquid are the two big dogs who should 3-0 and advance based on them being levels ahead of the other competition. BIG is a good team with promise, and I believe that they will advance based off of their intelligent play, thanks to IGL Fatih “gob b” Dayik, and explosive talent. NiP will continue to break their curse thanks to Lekr0’s excellent leadership, and the other 3 will scrape it through thanks to their own quality; namely, being better than the other teams on paper.