The Prodigal Sons Return
The trade between MiBR and Liquid is finally official. Liquid sent coach Wilton "zews" Prado and rifler Epitácio "TACO" de Melo to Made in Brazil in exchange for Jakey "Stewie2K" Yip. There were twitlongers, thank you tweets, and Instagram posts, but in the end, I think all three parties have to be happy with how this turned out. For MiBR, it was a case of "you don't know what you've got until it's gone". Taco returns and will be looking to create the space in-game that lets stars like Coldzera, Fallen and Fer return to their major-winning form. Zews returns to coach a Brazilian lineup and brings with him all the experience he gained from over two years on Liquid. João "felps" Vasconcellos is the widely rumored fifth and with that addition, the MiBR brand name will finally have the real meaning they were looking to establish again all along.
As for Stewie and Liquid, the future is still up in the air. How will Stewie slot into this lineup who had consistently shown that they were on the brink of greatness, but always fell at the final hurdle? How will first-time coach Eric "adreN" Hoag manage a team of players who on paper don't slot into the defined roles of Counter-Strike? Will Nicholas "nitr0" Cannella still be asked to AWP full-time or will Stewie take that role over? There are a lot of questions that must be answered quickly if Liquid want to continue to challenge at the very top of CS:GO.
XANTARES gets his BIG chance
The ex-Space Solidiers lineup had been together since February of 2017 which in Counter-Strike terms seems like an eternity. They had been through it all together, VISA issues, organizational issues and even more recently traveling 2000km overnight just to have decent ping in the Minor qualifier. This can't have been the first time İsmailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş received a tempting offer from an established team like BIG, but the timing and the lineup are right this time. XANTARES put out a statement saying:
"To be able to play with my new team I’ll move to Germany. I know I’m leaving my family, my loved ones and my fans behind but that’s something I need to do to be able to achieve the individual success I’ve been striving for."
This leaves rifler Johannes “nex” Maget as the odd one out for BIG, but maybe not for in-game reasons. He had been suffering from wrist pain for months according to a statement from BIG and they will help get the treatment he needs in Berlin. We wish nex a speedy recovery.
Wish my brother @nexcsgoo a speedy recovery, he will stay in BIG and will get all the Support he needs to get back on track.
— Nikola Ninic (@LEGIJAcs) December 23, 2018
A Revamped Format
ESL announced this week that their Pro League regular season would be played exclusively on LAN in NA and EU in a studio setting instead of the online action we've been used to. This comes as a welcome change after numerous pros and pundits have complained about the number of online matches being played by teams as ECS and ESL seasons were running at the same time this year.
While these means more travel for teams in NA and EU it also means a much more consistent format. The best teams will qualify for Pro League finals by winning on LAN instead of the unpredictable online CS battlefield. ESL will be breaking down each region into smaller groups of four to begin the regular season which will allow the matches to be played over a few days instead of spread out over weeks like the previous format. Eight teams will qualify the finals from Europe, six from NA, and two from the Asia-Pacific region.
There has been no word yet whether ECS will follow suit and go with a LAN based format or remain online, but hopefully, the two leagues are at least split up over the year instead of overlapping each other. This should have been done years ago, but it's a welcome change and I appreciate the two tournament organizers coming together and finding a solution that will work for everyone.