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Savage, Dick and Attacker in action: Asia Minor Preview

Updated: Aug 27, 2019

Photo Credit: Dreamhack

The fifteenth CS:GO major is a mere two months away, but standing between the community and the major are the minors. Considered the weakest of the four minors, Asian Minor teams struggle to prove that they add value to the competition, with some calling for a decrease of the minor’s qualification spots from two to one. Nevertheless, the Asia Minor will decide the two competing teams from a wide variety of regions including, questionably, South Africa.

Of the eight teams competing at the Asia Minor, the fan-favorite team Grayhound Gaming are the only team ranked in the HLTV top 30, currently holding the number 29 spot. Their most impressive LAN performance with this roster occurred at IEM Sydney 2019, where they defeated FaZe Clan and Heroic in best-of-three matches to place 7th-8th. With an opening match against the lowest ranked team in the tournament, international LAN experience, and a broad map pool, Grayhound seem primed to reach playoffs.

The lowest ranked team in attendance is eNergy, the squad from South Africa, currently ranked 123rd on HLTV. They qualified after coming from the South African qualifier’s lower bracket final, defeating Goliath, who they had previously lost to in the final of the winner’s bracket. Unfortunately for them, they have been sorted into Group A, where they will face Grayhound in a best-of-one to begin the event. Based off of skill and LAN experience alone, Grayhound are easy favorites to win the opener. eNergy have a weak map pool, with win rates above fifty percent on only Inferno, Train, and Overpass compared to the six maps above fifty percent for Grayhound. Without decent experience or a wide map pool, eNergy have virtually no chance of making it out of the group stage.

The third team in Group A, 5POWER, qualified from the Chinese circuit. Lack of recent LAN experience harms them, but their lineup includes players with plenty of experience in the game, including Bin “Savage” Liu and Lei “Bottle” Mao from the disbanded CyberZen lineup. Their first opponents are AVANT, the second Australian team at the minor. The experience of their players causes me to favor 5POWER, in addition to the explosive playstyle that Chinese teams often employ to overwhelm unprepared opponents. Grayhound will most likely beat 5POWER in the winner’s match. Their lineup has competed in more events than 5POWER’s, and against harder, international competition. Upset losses in recent Chinese qualifiers do not make 5POWER out to be a team strong enough for best-of-three matches, and their chances of making the playoffs are questionable.

AVANT’s lineup might be inexperienced on an international level, but this second Australian lineup attending this Minor experiences a higher level of competition by virtue of competing in the Australian scene. Both AVANT and 5POWER have few maps played in competition, so level of practice will factor heavily into this match. In spite of their limited competition, AVANT have solid records on both Nuke and Overpass, and must be able to secure one of those maps to stand a chance in a best-of-three. Unless they compete on a map that favors AVANT, 5POWER will most likely succeed in the opening match. The Australian unit will rely on stellar performances from Jared “HaZR” O’Bree and Euan “sterling” Moore through the best-of-three stage, and with strong games from their talents they should be able to bring about a playoffs appearance.

Group B features neither the highest-ranked team nor the lowest-ranked, but it does feature teams with questions surrounding them. Looking to have those questions answered are MVP PK and TYLOO, both of which have made significant roster moves in recent months. MVP PK removed two of their veteran players, Keun-Chul “solo” Kang and Min-Soo “glow” Kim, who had been competing since before the release of Global Offensive. Replacing them were two younger players, Gu-Taek “stax” Kim and the returning AWPer Hae-Sung “HSK” Kim. With the retiring of the veteran players and an esports scene largely devoted to games such as League of Legends, Overwatch, and Starcraft, the situation is dire for MVP PK. They are the only hope for Korean Counter-Strike, and success at the minor could have a serious impact on their scene. Qualifying could generate more player interest and investment, but failure could mark them as the last major Korean lineup. Their opening match pits them against the Thai team Alpha Red, who frequently compete on Overpass, Mirage, and Inferno. Fortunately for MVP PK, they have higher win percentages than Alpha Red on all three of those maps. While MVP PK’s 13th-16th placement at ESL One Cologne casts doubt on their ability to compete internationally, they stand a decent chance of qualifying for playoffs.

TYLOO removed Kevin “Xccurate” Susanto prior to the ESL Pro League Finals, but they are expected to compete with him in spite of his replacement by WingHei “Freeman” Cheung. If TYLOO fail to make the major, it would cement his removal from the team, but if they succeed, his return to the active lineup could remain a possibility should their new team perform poorly.

Photo Credit: ESL

With experience from multiple international events, TYLOO are in an entirely different class from their first opponents, FFAmix. FFAmix have shown their ability to compete on maps such as Mirage and Dust 2, where terrorist-side structure is less important, but TYLOO have displayed proficiency on more complex maps such as Inferno, Train, and Overpass. While their roster has undergone some editing, TYLOO have some of the most talented players that the Asian scene has to offer, and they are undoubtedly favorites to make playoffs.

Alpha Red qualified through the Southeast Asia qualifier by reverse sweeping the favorites, BOOT, after a lengthy run through the loser’s bracket. In spite of their impressive performance in the qualifier, their considerable lack of international experience throws their performance into question. Whether or not they will succeed against teams from other regions with different styles of play is difficult to tell, but their strong records on Overpass and Mirage show that they are not to be underestimated, especially in a best-of-one. When it comes time to play best-of-three matches; however, their specialization on those two maps will not be sufficient to provide them with a victory. Either they will need to strengthen their map pool, or they will need to be extraordinarily lucky. Alpha Red are most certainly not excluded from the possibility of playoffs, but they have few achievements to support the idea that they will make it.

The final team of the Asia Minor is also possibly the most interesting team at the event. FFAmix, coming from the Middle East/North Africa qualifier, lineup includes players from Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Albania. Potential communication issues aside, the team’s lack of LAN experience and shallow map pool should make them easy victims to TYLOO in the second best-of-one in Group B. While their team includes individual talents such as Dionis “sinnopsyy” Budeci and Flatron “juanflatroo” Talimi, the team’s incredibly short time together and incredibly small map pool places them as the least likely team to advance to the playoff stage.

Regardless of which teams do make the playoffs, the Asian scene as a whole has a poor history with majors. They might see upset victories in best-of-one matches, but almost always crumble when faced with a three-map series. The Renegades have had the most success in the history of Asian teams at majors, having made it to the quarterfinals of IEM Katowice 2019, and every team from the minor will give their all to reach similar glory. At the major, two or three of these teams may face their toughest challenge yet, but none of that can happen until the talented teams from the minor go toe-to-toe in the server.

This article was written by Sean '@RandomNational' Alderson, drop a follow and any feedback on Twitter!