Astralis took down their 10th tournament of the calendar year as they overcame NAVI 2-1 in the finals of Blast Pro Series Lisbon. The Danes finished a perfect 5-0 in the unique group stage where they played best-of-ones against the other five teams attending. The toughest test in groups came in the form of a Flusha led Cloud 9 who took Astralis to the brink before eventually falling 16-14. If Cloud 9 would have been able to steal a draw against the world's undisputed number one in Astralis, they would have secured their spot in the Grand Finals. It was not meant to be however and NAVI limped into the finals following a 16-2 loss at the hands of MiBR who had Braxton "swag" Pierce standing in for the event.
NAVI started off strong on the first map of the grand finals as they took Overpass convincingly 16-7 with Simple and Electronic leading the way. This only seemed to anger Astralis as the Danes conceded just 13 rounds over the next two maps to secure yet another trophy. Magisk, who finished +68 in the k/d department for the event, took home the MVP honors. Next up for Astralis is some much-needed rest and relaxation going into 2019. Their next scheduled event isn't until the middle of January at iBUYPOWER Masters in Los Angeles.
The end for Virtus Pro as we know them
Virtus Pro could not secure a spot in next season's ESL Pro League last week in Dallas and then bombed out of the IEM Katowice Closed Qualifier for the Minor as well this week. The Polish squad lost a heartbreaking series 2-1 to old teammate TaZ and Kinguin in Dallas at ESL Season 8 Relegation and followed that up with losses to Vitality and fellow Poles x-kom in Closed Qualifier for the Minor. This left VP with more questions than answers, but those answers came very quickly in the form of a statement from Virtus Pro general manager Roman Dvoryankin on Thursday.
“After London Major we were quite optimistic about the potential of the current lineup. Unfortunately, our expectations were not met." The long term strategy for us is to build a competitive team around young players and we will follow it while making decisions. I’d like to ask our fans to be supportive in the next couple of weeks”.
A report from VPESPORTS on Thursday stated that Virtus Pro intend to rebuild around young AWPer Michał “snatchie” Rudzki. Whatever ends up happening with VP, we mustn't forget the memories and legendary moments the core of this lineup created over the years. We wish the players the best of luck in whatever they do in the future.
MiBR for real this time
A report from ESPN on Tuesday stated that MiBR would trade Jake "Stewie2K" Yip to Team Liquid for Brazilian rifler Epitácio "TACO" de Melo and head coach Wilton "zews" Prado. This would return Made in Brazil to a full Brazilian lineup for the first time since the team signed under Immortals as MiBR. Fans will be hoping this will bring a return to form for the Fallen led team who have struggled by their lofty standards this year. Nothing is confirmed yet, but if the deal goes through the popular opinion is that MiBR would be getting the better end of this deal. This trade would seemingly leave Janko "YNk" Paunović as a man looking for a job in the new year. He could always fall back on his talents as an analyst and return to the broadcast team for tournaments, but with a head coaching spot opening up for the second-ranked team in the world at Liquid and with the news that Valens will move on as head coach from Cloud 9 after the Major, YNk certainly has options if he wants to continue his coaching career.
This potential trade would also mean the end of Tarik's run in MiBR and leave him looking for a new home before the Major early next year. Complexity, who have a Legends spot in Katowice, or a return to Cloud 9 seems to be the likeliest destinations, but I also wouldn't be surprised if Tarik found his way onto a team that no one is expecting.
The Bloodbath before the Major
If you saw the likes of Mousesports, North, OpTic, ENCE, and Vitality on the team sheet before a LAN tournament began I could forgive you for thinking you were about to watch the first stage of a Major Tournament. However, this is just the gauntlet you need to run through to even get to the Challengers Stage at IEM Katowice 2019. Those five teams along with Windigo, Valiance, and ex-Space Soildiers will battle it over four days in Katowice in January. There will be only two direct spots to the Major and the third place team will be invited to the last chance qualifier of sorts against third-place teams from the CIS, Asia, and NA regions.
Mouz, OpTic, North and Windigo all went 2-0 in the closed qualifier online on Wednesday and Thursday. ENCE lost their opening match before beating LDLC and Heroic 2-1 and 2-0 respectively to book their place in the Minor. That's right, LDLC and Heroic won't even be attending the Minor. That's how stacked the EU qualifiers are. Vitality, led by the newest bonafide Counter-Strike star Zywoo, lost 1-2 to Mouz in their opening match, but beat AGO and then Kinguin in a nervy affair to secure their chance to make the Major.
The story of the qualifier might be that of the ex-Space Soldiers lineup travelling 2000km to Prague by car together before their important match against x-kom just so they could have good ping. The Turkish lineup took the series 2-0 and will once again be attending the Minor looking to book a spot in their third major in a row as a lineup.
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