Photo Credits: (Dominik Schroeder)
ESL One Cologne is always one of the highlights of the Counter-Strike calendar, and this year was no exception. Highlighted by the German crowd cheering on their local underdog heroes, we saw one of the most surprising tournament runs in CS:GO history.
Yet that was far from the only highlight of the event. We saw everything from the highs of Natus Vincere reaching the top, to the disastrous performance by Ninjas in Pyjamas. These are Five Fates From ESL One Cologne.
Natus Vincere got to lift their third trophy of the year. But this was the biggest one of them all. While they got the job done against BIG in the final, their most impressive feat was already accomplished in the semifinals against Astralis. Most people expected the Danes to win the event without a lot of trouble, but Natus Vincere shocked the world and took them down in a close series. Most of the CIS squad performed as one would expect, but the third map saw veteran in-game leader Danylo "Zeus" Teslenko play one of the best maps of his CS:GO career, allowing Natus Vincere to secure the victory.
Earlier in the year Natus Vincere looked like a one-man show, carried by one of the greatest CS:GO players of all time, Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev. But this version of the CIS squad is a different story. Denis “electronic” Sharipov has become one of the best players in the world in his own right, and in Cologne he was right up here with s1mple in terms of numbers on the scoreboard. At the same time, their map pool has improved, and they look like a much more solid team overall. If both s1mple and electronic can keep up their individual form, Natus Vincere should be one of the absolute favorites going into ELEAGUE Premier and the FACEIT London Major later in the year.
BIG surprised every analyst, and everyone watching at home. Going into the tournament, it was debated whether they should even have been invited to attend. But playing on home soil, not only did they advance from the group stage, but they made it all the way to the final. On their way to the final, they defeated the likes of MIBR, G2 Esports, and FaZe Clan, all in BO3 series.
Individually, one of the most impressive players on BIG was Johannes “nex” Maget. Playing on the big stage has been an issue for him in the past, but he delivered some fantastic performances against both G2 Esports and FaZe Clan in the playoffs, which allowed BIG to advance to the final. Perhaps the most notable thing about BIG during this event was their utility usage. With 33.6 utility damage per round, and 0.33 flash assists per round prior to the final, BIG had much better utility usage than their counterparts. Now the question becomes if BIG will continue their form, or if the home crowd truly made a big impact on their success.
Astralis was the team that everyone was looking towards as favorites to lift the trophy in Cologne. Unfortunately for the Danes, they did not quite get the job done against Natus Vincere in the semifinals. But it is important to remember the context of their loss. Both Overpass and Inferno were close games that could have gone Astralis way if a few things had gone differently. Not only did both s1mple and electronic play at a very high level, Zeus had one of the best games of his CS:GO career on Inferno. At the same time, some of the key players on Astralis had unusually weak performances on some of the maps in the series. In the group stage, the Danes still looked like their usual self, and they should still be favored for the upcoming tournaments. There is no question that Astralis will look towards the FACEIT London Major as their ultimate goal. With that said, a new challenger has certainly arrived in the form of Natus Vincere.
Ninjas in Pyjamas did not have a great time in Cologne. After finally overcoming their curse and qualifying for the EU Minor last week, this week was a different story entirely. Although NiP have not exactly had a great year, this was by far their worst tournament of 2018. The Swedes went out in last place, getting only 11 rounds across three maps against Cloud9 and ENCE. Yes, less than four rounds per map. While ENCE ended up having a good run, they are not the caliber of opponent that should blow NiP out of the water. The same can be said for Cloud9, who were playing with a stand-in. NiP's recent roster change of bringing in Jonas “Lekr0” Olofsson to replace William “draken” Sundin should require a slight adaptation period, as the AWP role has shifted within the team. But a performance like this is inexcusable for players of their stature. The upcoming EU Minor will be a big test for the Swedes as this performance raises a lot of question marks. The quality of competition is not at the same level, but if the Ninjas do not improve their level, we will not be seeing them at a Major anytime soon.
The North American teams Cloud9 and Team Liquid also had a disappointing showing. Despite showing a lot of promise with their new lineup, Team Liquid had issues going into the event. Due to Epitacio “TACO” de Melo being in Brazil to renew his visa, the team had trouble practicing before the tournament, leaving them in a much weaker position than they should have been. As a result, TACO made it clear in an interview that the team was not in the best position to win the event. The result speaks for itself as Team Liquid should be at a level where they do not finish last place at a tournament of this significance.
Cloud9 had a different issue entirely, as they had to play with a stand-in, in the form of Martin “STYKO” Styk. The stand-in situation left the team in a bad position going into the event, and the result was not unexpected. Cloud9 was knocked out by the eventual champions Natus Vincere after losing to Astralis in the upper bracket. Until they get a permanent fifth member, it is difficult to imagine the team putting up any big results. Both of the North American teams should probably get a pass for this event, but they will need to improve their performance soon if the CS:GO scene is not to be solely dominated by the European teams.
Do you agree with our five fates? Comment below your thoughts!