BIG’s Cinderella run to the final of ESL One Cologne is among the best underdog stories of the year: taking down the new look G2, MIBR and FaZe - just off their title in Belo Horizonte - along the way. BIG were denied a movie-esque ending on home soil as they fell to Na’Vi with a map score of 1-3. This proved to be the last match that the German side would play before FACEIT London and a little over two months later such a matchup would be repeated on the Major stage.
Battling through the New Challengers stage with a 3-2 record, BIG looked clinical in their victories and throughout their following games, gob b’s side continued to impress. Reaching the playoffs BIG dropped only one additional map where arguably the veto in large part decided the game before it had even begun. Meanwhile, in Na’Vi's camp, s1mple and company had cruised to the playoffs after their unlucky draw of Astralis in the opening round. With both sides showcasing impressive play during the earlier stages, opinion was split going into the quarterfinal and anticipation was running high for the potential blockbuster on the horizon.
Such a blockbuster was far from realised as Na’Vi stormed to the semifinals leaving BIG with only eight rounds to their name. Proving to be one of the most one-sided playoff series in Major history questions pervaded the community on why such a result occurred. Aiming to answer some of these questions we interviewed Na’Vi’s coach in kane and with his insight we look to dissect the happenings in this one-sided affair.
Ace up their sleeve
The opening map of the series was BIG’s pick of Dust2 and when asked whether Na’Vi expected this choice kane replied, “Dust2 is the worst map within our pool so we knew that our opponents were going to pick into this map, you can see the stats: we played six Dust2 games in a row and lost all six,” also saying “we were ready to lose this map because we knew that within the series it would not be a big deal for us.”
It was obvious from the outset that Na’Vi had made plenty of changes to Dust2 including swaps of CT positions alongside adopting the recent innovation of allocating four players early towards the A site to ensure early long control. When questioned about Na’Vi’s practice and changes on Dust2 coming into the event kane responded, "we understood that this was our weakness and this is why we practiced this map more than others," and that, "we analysed our previous games on Dust2 and found some weaknesses and we were talking a lot about our positions on this map, we listened to our players as they talked about how they are not confident on this part or that part of the map." Throughout the Counter-Terrorist half Na’Vi displayed refinement in playing a single player on B during the early round as both s1mple and Edward understood the importance of seeking out a single kill before falling into playing for the retake and waiting for the mass of players towards A to make their way over.
During the match s1mple displayed some heroic defenses of the B site, on two occasions the AWPer became isolated with players swarming around him but s1mple defied the odds and punished the slight timing errors from BIG holding his team in the rounds. When asked about s1mple’s importance towards Na’Vi dominating the CT half of Dust2 kane said, “in this match we gave more freedom to s1mple and other players to realise what they wanted to do and this was our main feature in this game and it worked for us, s1mple got some important rounds and we are happy about this.”
Despite the scoreline, BIG found Terrorist entries across multiple rounds, however, the German’s made little of these advantages as small errors that were absent during the group stages cost the German side. In addition, BIG appeared uncomfortable with calling versus the revamped style that Na’Vi brought to the table and when asked where he thought it went wrong for BIG on Dust2 kane replied, “I think it is all to do with the map, it is a really hard map to play so I think that many teams still do not know how to play the map properly and we learned a lot from our previous loses and seeing how others play the map.”
An unexpected pick
Throughout 2018 Na’Vi has always been deceptively good on Nuke with only the likes of Astralis and mousesports consistently outclassing them. However, for the CIS team to pick into Nuke is unusual having only played the map only a few times in recent months and this likely came as quite the surprise for BIG.
Appearing out of sorts on the Counter-Terrorist side of Nuke BIG again would fall flat. Na’Vi met little resistance in executing their desired plans on the T side regularly finding success in the outer area or B site. BIG were not confident in contesting outer or secret control embodied as smooya only posted up in secret during the very latter stages of the CT half whereas the majority of AWPers well versed on Nuke favour secret due to the difficulty for the T’s in zoning the sniper out with utility.
The Terrorist half had Na’Vi displaying chaotic rounds where they managed to force many isolated duels and in taking the fight to BIG individually the CIS team regularly came out on top. When asked where he thought across the series that Na’Vi found their advantages kane responded, “we abused some weaknesses of theirs, I think we won both as a team and individually. They just played bad against us and I don't know the reason why,” and when questioned on whether BIG played as he had expected, “They did not surprise us, we knew what they were going to do and they did so and we knew how to play against them.”
The latter choice
With the interview taking place before quarterfinal between compLexity and MIBR had been played we questioned kane about his prefered team to face in their following match, “we think compLexity is a weaker team compared to MIBR so in that sense we want to play against coL because it would be an easier game for us, but of course we are mainly preparing for MIBR, we will see who wins, we are ready to face either opponent.” MIBR would emerge as the victors in the aforementioned game and outside of some hairy moments on Inferno fer’s side were in fantastic form. With both teams picking the perfect time to peak during the Major playoffs we are set for fireworks in their upcoming semifinal.
Who will win the semifinal between Na'Vi and MIBR? Comment with your thoughts below!