We've reached that point in the CS calendar again. The Major Cycle really heats up this week as both the EU and CIS minor will be played out in Katowice. The EU Minor is possibly the most stacked it's ever been and only three of the eight teams will move on. For some teams, it is do or die and for others, it's something they'll just want to get through and never look back. Let's take a closer look at each team's chances to advance.
It's a bit strange seeing a top-five team in the Minor system, but a poor performance at the last major in London that saw Mouz go 0-3 sent them tumbling all the way back to Closed Qualifier for the Minor. The new rule implemented by Valve which means the two teams who go 0-3 in the New Legends Stage are sent back to the Minor wasn't meant for a team like Mouz, but unfortunately for them they were one of the first victims. Mousesports have been drawn in the harder of the two groups, in my opinion, but for a team like Mousesports, they should have no issues. They will face upset minded Valiance in the opening BO1 in Group A on Wednesday.
ENCE were one of the feel good stories last year in the whole of Counter-Strike. They had a mixture of young talent, unproven players and Allu and they proved they could compete with some of the biggest names in Counter-Strike. ENCE won two events last year, but I bet they would have traded both of those wins to qualify for the Major in London that they missed out on. ENCE placed third at the last Minor losing narrowly to OpTic and NIP. Third place will be good enough this year to at least qualify for one last shot against the third place teams from the other regions, but I have a feeling ENCE won't need it this time. Their game has risen leaps and bounds in recent months and if they don't come out rusty after a long break, I believe they can make top two and take one of the direct qualification spots to IEM Katowice.
Photo Credit: (DreamHack) The Battle for Third Place
Vitality have played just the one LAN as a team, but came out winners of Dreamhack Atlanta on the back of tournament MVP Zywoo's performance. They'll be hoping for more of the same from the young French star in Katowice this week. Vitality open up against OpTic in the all important best-of-one. That map might be the most important of entire minor for both of those teams. I think whoever takes that map has a good chance to qualify as a third place team or better. Alex recently replaced Happy for Vitality and they've looked, at least online, a stronger team for it.
OpTic recently made a roster move with young star in the making refrezh coming in to replace niko for the Danish side. The question will be whether or not coach Ruggah and in-game leader Snappi have had enough time to assimilate refrezh into the team for OpTic to be effective. Unfortunately, in the court of public opinion, Snappi has already been given too much time to try and mold this team into something resembling their potential on paper so this must feel like a do or die major cycle for him. OpTic really need awper Jugi to become more consistent and this would be a great week to start. If Jugi can begin to hit the easy shots again and throw in some of his trademark flicks the added firepower of refrezh could turn this team into a contender for top two at the Minor. I think they'd settle for third right now if you asked them, though.
North are still very much a work in progress under newish in-game leader Cadian. The good news is they have been drawn in the easier group, the bad news is Windigo will be looking to start hot and avoiding an upset in the opening game is a must for this lineup. Nicklas "gade" Gade will be looking to have a repeat performance in this years Minor after going a solid +33 at the EU London Minor in July of last year. Valde has been a continued bright spot for this North lineup, but you have to wonder how much more time he will want to spend on a lineup that continues to under-perform. If OpTic and North both fail to qualify for the Major there could be a potential Danish rostermania to find a team of five that can compete long-term with the best teams in the world.
Photo Credit: (DreamHack) Dark Horses
Both Valiance and Windigo have upset potential written all over them, but as always in the GSL Format, so much is riding on their opening BO1 matches. If they find a way to beat the top dogs in each group they could sneak into the playoffs where anything could happen. Ex-Space Soldiers have brought in Yam to try and fill the void left by XANTARES signing with BIG recently, but I don't think this iteration of the lineup will make any sort of impact at all in the Minor. They have lost too much firepower with XANTARES leaving, and if they are even able to make it out of groups it would be massive accomplishment for MAJ3R and crew.
What teams are you excited by? Comment below!