IEM Katowice 2019: Winners and losers

Which teams exceeded expectations at the major? And which teams have to go back to the drawing board?


Photo Credit: (Adela Sznajder ESL)

The first CS:GO Major of 2019, IEM Katowice, is in the books. The favorites triumphed, underdogs exceeded expectations, and others did not live up to them. These are the winners and losers of IEM Katowice 2019.

Winners

Astralis

Astralis lived up to the status of being the favorites. Starting with the New Legends Stage, they were never really in trouble. After making short work of compLexity and Cloud9, only Renegades were able to take a map off the Danes, after winning Mirage in overtime. Once Astralis got onto their strongest maps, Nuke and Inferno, it turned into yet another easy victory. The playoffs were not very dangerous for Astralis either. NiP and MIBR made it close on Dust2 and Overpass respectively, but the other maps looked easy for Astralis. 

After taking out ENCE in the final with another 2-0, the Danes had managed to go through yet another major playoff without losing a single map. Their teamplay, utility usage, and ability to play a plethora of maps shined through once again, but even their individual players were at the top of their game. You could easily have made an argument for either Emil “Magisk” Reif, Andreas “Xyp9x” Højsleth and Nicolai “device” Reedtz taking the MVP award, and it goes to show how dominant Astralis were throughout the event. With their victory in Katowice, Astralis have cemented their status as the greatest team in CS:GO history, and it doesn’t look like they are slowing down anytime soon. 

ENCE

Despite their loss in the final, ENCE delivered way beyond expectations in Katowice. After going through the Challenger Stage, they started out the New Legends Stage down 0-2. It looked dire for ENCE, but they managed the reverse sweep, defeating BIG, G2 and AVANGAR in BO3 series. In the playoffs, most people didn’t give ENCE a lot of chances in their initial matchup against Team Liquid, but while the North Americans made it close, ENCE proved to be the better team in the series. 

Their semifinal against Natus Vincere was the same story. Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev did his best to keep his team in the series with a monster performance, but the Finns proved to be superior as a team. The playoff performance from Sami “xseveN” Laasanen was a highlight as he delivered way beyond his usual individual level, but it was mainly the teamplay and tactics of the team as a whole that allowed them to go as far as they did.  

Renegades

Renegades was another team that gave us their best performance of all time at a major. Unexpectedly, the Australian squad made it all the way to top 8 and managed to get legends status for the next major in Berlin. If it wasn’t for ENCE, perhaps Renegades would be the underdog story at the major that everyone was talking about. The two teams are similar in some ways, relying on wide map pools and solid teamplay instead of pure individual fragging, but that doesn’t mean Renegades lacks individual star talent. 

Justin “jks” Savage and Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad in particular both seem to be in peak form after prior roster changes to the team. While the playoffs weren’t a big success for Renegades, they absolutely delivered in the swiss stages, beating the likes of ENCE, FaZe and Vitality. On top of that, they were the only team in the tournament to take a map off the eventual winners, Astralis. This Renegades squad is certainly the best Australian team we have seen in CS:GO and it will be interesting to see how they do going forward. 

Losers

Team Liquid

Coming into the tournament, Team Liquid were one of the big favorites to go all the way. After their victory at iBUYPOWER Masters, most people expected a final showdown between the North Americans and Astralis. Everything looked great in the New Legends Stage. Team Liquid went through without losing a map, winning against AVANGAR, NiP and Natus Vincere, all very respectable opponents, but it seems like Team Liquid peaked too early, as the quarterfinal against ENCE didn’t go their way, despite being big favorites to win the series. Team Liquid’s big stars, Keith “NAF” Markovic and Russell “Twistzz” Van Dulken didn’t live up to their usual high level which ended up costing Team Liquid big. It’s particularly noticeable that Twistzz has given up some of his roles ever since Jake “Stewie2k” Yip came into the team, something that might cost them in the long run. It’s going to be difficult for this version of Team Liquid to reach the same levels of consistency as the old Team Liquid, but it has yet to be seen if the new Team Liquid will be able to get to a higher peak level. 

NRG Esports

NRG was another team that was expected to reach the playoffs in Katowice. Instead it went the completely opposite way. After an easy road through the Challenger Stage, the New Legends stage was a nightmare for the North Americans. Not only did they lose BO1’s to AVANGAR and NiP, but they ended up going 0-3 after losing a BO3 to compLexity, sending them back to the minor circuit. Vincent “Brehze” Cayonte did all he could to carry his team, but his performance wasn’t enough to make up for some of the other players. It was particularly noticeable that Cvetelin “CeRq” Dimitrov performed way below his usual level. NRG have already taken the consequences of this result, and brought Tarik “tarik” Celik into the lineup to replace Jacob “FugLy” Medina. If they can figure out the roles within the team, this new firepower upgrade could be exactly what NRG needs to take the next step and truly contend among the top teams in the world. 

Fnatic

Although it seems like a long time ago, the first major disappointment at the tournament was Fnatic. After being among the favorites to advance in the Challenger Stage, Fnatic failed in every conceivable way. After getting the highest possible seed by their peers, Fnatic lost to both ViCi Gaming and Winstrike despite being massive favorites in both games. These losses came after some bizarre veto choices by the team, allowing their opponents to play some of their strongest maps, in the form of Inferno and Train respectively. Fnatic remedied themselves a little bit with a victory against Grayhound before losing to G2 Esports in a BO3 to exit the tournament with a 1-3 scoreline. With both Jesper “JW” Wecksell and Freddy “KRIMZ” Johansson signing 3 year long contracts recently, the Swedes will have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what kind of changes to make internally for a result like this not to happen again. 

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