If you were to look at just the finals of Intel Extreme Masters Chicago 2018, it would seem like another Tier 1 final with Astralis beating Liquid in a quick 3-0, seemingly without breaking a sweat. However, Chicago gifted us with some storylines that are more intriguing that the average tournament. Below are synopses that go team by team in the most interesting takeaways of this year’s stop at the Windy City:
Perhaps the biggest surprise factor of the tournament was the French team LDLC, who went above and beyond the call of duty and achieved a quarterfinal finish. They had a chance at beating Liquid but failed to secure more than 3 CT rounds despite a massive 11:4 half on Cache. After that, their chances of beating the eventual runner-ups faded after being demolished on Mirage.
The team consists of players that are relatively unknown to the average viewer, though AmaNEk and devoduvek are the most well-known, who both played for Misfits as a French duo that supplemented the American core (devoduvek has also played briefly for EnVyUs). The other three are even less recognizable, but despite that LDLC managed to upset some teams of reputable calibre. In the lower bracket they beat both North and NRG in best-of-three matches, the latter of which is an impressive feat considering NRG’s steady ranking in the HLTV top 10 since June and their reputation as North America’s second best. Their win over North is also notable, although this squad is in flux with new leadership along with a penchant for losing against lower-ranked opponents.
What is most interesting about LDLC’s shock performance is not only their rise to the top-ranking French team but also about the players who did it. It seems like the old clique’s endless shuffling of the same players is greatly contributing to the French scene’s instability and reduced state. Vitality, while suffering from the same problem, has at least taken a chance on the first real young French star since bodyy in 2016, and we eagerly await to see what they can do. Even more so is G2’s experiment failure of bringing the “old boys” Ex6TenZ and SmithZz back to the forefront as they have replaced them with 3DMAX players Lucky & JACKZ. While LDLC’s success might be temporary, recent events show that things finally might be transitioning to fresh faces being given a chance. This might be what the French scene needs to revitalize itself.
Natus Vincere (13-16th)
If LDLC was less than a dark horse of doing well at IEM, then Na`Vi was the complete opposite. Having just won CS:GO’s previous Tier 1 event of Blast Pro Series Copenhagen 2018, they seemed to be on a steady streak of playing second fiddle to the world’s best team, something they have done before in previous iterations. And yet, Natus Vincere’s run at Chicago lasted a pitiful 3 maps — all of which they lost.
They started off with a 6-16 loss on Mirage against NA team eUnited, one of the weakest competitors on paper. A failure to regroup resulted in a 0-2 loss against BIG, in which the German squad managed to scratch out a close 16:13 Inferno win over Na`Vi with a strong T side performance after winning their own pick.
The irony of Na`Vi’s lack of success is that s1mple still managed to be the top rated player of the tournament without a single map won; his 1.27 HLTV rating with a 0.86 KPR and a positive kill/death is still superstar numbers. This performance only helps to bring questions for the current lineup, as Edward and Zeus have long been criticized, with the former taking the brunt of public opinion. Edward especially is seen as a relic of the past who, while pulling decent stats occasionally, is plagued by strange decision making in game and not a lot of impact.
IEM Chicago’s disappointment for the CIS team can be the canary in the coalmine for finally making changes to the team, with replacing Edward as an opinion as well as booting both him and Zeus to make room for a new in-game leader. It is hard for an outsider to know how much the two aforementioned players add to the team psychologically (as Zeus is known to be a strong captain and a “leader of men”-style IGL), but Chicago certainly seems to be the start of a worrying trend for Natus Vincere.
The Swedish fivesome surprised many by how far they got in IEM Chicago 2018. It was the debut for their newest pickup Brollan, who proved himself as a capable player for one who is only 16 years of age. While they managed to beat the eventual runner-ups Liquid in a Bo3, the highlight for them was a very close series against Astralis. All maps went to double digits, with Astralis’ amazing B-take with utility driving Inferno into overtime.
Their IGL Xizt has long-been criticized for a lack of tactical prowess and relying on an outdated “loose style” that relies on individual picks akin to Fnatic 2015, but the lineup seems to be on the upward trend of performance. Brollan’s and twist’s fresh faces bring a welcome upgrade to Fnatic’s performance, but the question remains whether Krimz and JW can keep up their impact in the game in the following months and make the looser playstyle work.
This article was written by @ArthurMeusRex
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