Good, Bad and Ugly: Pro League S10 EU (Group B)
The Good: Heroic
It probably comes as no surprise that the team that won the group would receive the top praise, but they truly deserve every bit of it. This lineup played its first official match 15 days ago. The turnaround this team has gone through in such a short period of time is a testament to Marco ‘Snappi’ Pfeiffer’s abilities as an in-game leader. Helping him tactically is the offensive-minded AWPer and ex-North caller, Casper ‘cadiaN’ Møller. These two have been able to fill the tactical hole left from Benjamin ‘blameF’ Bremer leaving for Complexity. The strategies implemented by the minds have led to greater team success complemented by strong individual play between what looks to be the big three for the team. CadiaN appears to have found himself individually after an underwhelming stint with North. After being relieved of primary AWP duty by cadiaN, Patrick ‘es3tag’ Hansen looks reformed as a rifler. Lastly, promising talent Martin ‘stavn’ Lund only continues to increase in skill with each passing day. At only 17-years-old, stavn looks like yet another Danish talent with an incredibly high ceiling.
To start the group stage, Heroic was firing on all cylinders against NiP. They blew NiP out on their map pick of Vertigo 16-7 and played a stellar defensive game on NiP’s pick of Nuke. After winning the CT-side 13-2, they only needed to muster three offensive rounds. After trial and error, they were able to end the series with a 16-12 victory on Nuke. Potentially the most impressive showing for Heroic ironically came in the form of a loss. Their only loss in the group stage was to No. 5 ranked Vitality, and although Heroic lost 1-2, they made their French foes fight tooth and nail for the victory. To start the series, Heroic, and Vitality engaged in a 30 round brawl on Vitality’s instaban, Train. After Heroic made it out with the 1-0 lead, they took to Dust 2. Heroic’s defense was obliterated by the Vitality’s firepower, and when it came time to return the favor Heroic did just that. They were able to win eleven of 14 T-side rounds, but at that point, the deficit was too great and three was all Vitality needed to take Dust. In map three, Heroic was able to compete with Vitality through three-quarters. Heroic had a 13-9 lead and seemed poised to close it out, but instead gave up seven straight to lose the series in heartbreaking fashion.
Although they lost to Vitality the day prior, Heroic was in a position to take first place in Group B and the last task was beating the German squad, Sprout. Although Sprout was sitting at 0-2, the team took both NiP and Vitality to map three and were not to be underlooked. Sprout took it to Heroic, starting the series off with a 16-4 stomping. Heroic was able to bounce back on their pick of Inferno and take that one with ease 16-8 which led to Overpass to close the series. The final map was closely contested in the first half, but when Sprout got on offense they looked comfortable in full-buy rounds and appeared poised to take the series. However, Heroic was able to win six straight rounds from down 10-14 to pull out a miraculous victory and claim first place in Group B. After such quick success, many will want to define whether the team is legit or merely a victim of the honeymoon phase. Luckily for us, we will not have to wait long to find out. Heroic is attending DreamHack Open Rottenham and StarSeries Season 8 back to back starting the 18th and ending the 27th of October. This window of time will serve as a legitimate trial for Heroic and will give us more information on the squad to better figure out where they belong in the rankings.
The Bad: NIP
NiP’s performance at Pro League is a mixed bag. They did place second and had another opportunity to qualify for the Finals. They also scored a dominant series victory over Vitality, winning 16-6 and 16-7. However, the workload throughout the entire stage was mostly handled by riflers Fredrik ‘REZ’ Sterner and Patrik ‘f0rest’ Lindberg. The rest of the team did not produce in the same way they did, and if that is an issue long term they are going to struggle to find success in high profile events. The worst part for NiP is that they dropped the opening match against Heroic 0-2. As an individual loss, it is an upset for the team. When you put context to it though, it makes the loss hurt way worse. Had they won their opening series against Heroic, they would have ended 3-0 and secured a Finals spot. It did not work out that way, and if NiP fails to qualify in the second round of group play we may be looking back at that 0-2 loss to start the group stage.
The Ugly: Vitality
Before Group B started, it was fair to assume Vitality would have success similar to mousesports in Group A. On paper, there was no reason to believe the No. 5 ranked team in the world would struggle against these teams. Even in victory, Vitality did not look like they were in form. In the opening matches, Sprout took them to map three which is a strong say in how poorly Vitality was performing. Vitality at No. 5 should never expect to be taken to three maps by a fringe Top-30 team. After making it out against Sprout, Vitality limped through their series against Heroic. The maps hosted 30, 29 and 29 rounds each and three of Heroic’s players out fragged Mathieu ‘ZywOo’ Herbaut. Needless to say, Vitality were pushed to their absolute limit by Heroic. A valiant performance by the Danish squad, but again, a top-five team should not expect to struggle against these opponents. To end their Pro League woes, they were taken in the back alley and straight mugged by NiP. They got beat like a bongo drum, only winning 13 rounds in two maps. They also smothered ZywOo, keeping his impact as a minimum. He ended the series with a .88 rating, something we almost never see out of someone of his caliber. It is possible Vitality ran into some growing pains as a lineup. Whatever the case may be, not placing first in Group B is nothing but a disappointment for the lineup. They have another opportunity to qualify, and failure to qualify in the second group would be an even bigger disappointment.