Good, Bad, Ugly: New Challengers Stage
Updated: Aug 30, 2019
The New Challengers Stage in Berlin saw 16 teams battle it out for eight slots into the New Legends Stage. Things got heated up through five rounds in this stage and the storylines throughout can help paint a picture of what to expect from the next stage. Although the New Challengers Stage gave us loads of storylines, these are the three that stick out:
The Good: mousesports
The international squad came into the Main Qualifiers with high expectations and they absolutely met them. Mousesports far and away looked like the best team coming out of the New Challengers Stage, advancing with a clean 3-0 record and doing it in impressive fashion. After running through forZe 16-6 in the round one matchups, they edged out AVANGAR in an overtime brawl on Inferno. In the round three matchup, Mouz and G2 both came in ready to make a statement heading into the Major. After each team lost on their map pick, Mouz stomped G2 out on Vertigo 16-7 to move onto the next stage. Both teams look poised to make it to the Major playoffs, so it is a big tell as far as where mouz are in form.
Mousesports have plenty of weapons at their disposal, and two of them came alive during the 3-0 run. Star players Robin ‘ropz’ Kool and David ‘frozen’ Čerňanský placed No. 13 and 15 in rating at 1.16 and 1.14 respectively. With ropz and frozen performing as well as they are mouz is a scary team, but if they can get explosive AWPer Özgür ‘woxic’ Eker playing up to form then this team could make a seriously deep playoff run. Right now, in-game leader Finn ‘karrigan’ Andersen has his team playing well as a unit, they have a strong map pool, they have three star players and massive amounts of veteran knowledge karrigan and Chris ‘chrisj’ De Jong. Right now, Mousesports are looking like a top three or four team and are heavy favorites to make it to the Champions Stage.
The Bad: Vitality
The No. 2 HLTV ranked French squad came into Berlin ready to smash every team in their path en route to the New Legends Stage. No sane person would have bet against French phenom Mathieu ‘ZywOo’ Herbaut making it to the next stage. Somehow, they almost did. In round one, they took Syman to Dust2 and did not even put up a fight. ZywOo looked incredibly human at 20-19 and Syman walked all over them 16-8. After being essentially handed a W by playing INTZ, they played DreamEaters on Inferno where ZywOo once again looked very tame. With nobody else to step up in a tight match, Vitality lost the map in round 30 and needed two best of three victories to make it to the next stage. They performed much better in the best of threes, largely because ZywOo played significantly better individually. After closing out the Grayhound series 2-1, Vitality closed out the New Challengers stage as the last team to qualify.
By itself, being the No. 2 HLTV ranked team and not qualifying early will be a disappointment, but Vitality struggling has much as they did against such lower ranked teams is unacceptable. Vitality, for many, looked like a team capable of making a playoff run. In their current form, they might not make it to the playoffs at all. In the few instances where ZywOo played down to Earth, Vitality looked like a shell of themselves. In the New Challengers stage, entry-fragger Dan ‘apEX’ Madesclaire was not able to find impact. His .97 rating lands him worst amongst his teammates. In this lineup, apEX should be consistently sitting as the No. 2 most efficient performer. Instead, he is playing even worse than Cédric ‘RpK’ Guipouy who is definitely their worst player.
Vitality managed to make it to New Legends Stage even with the performance issues they faced. They cannot have the same problems they had last week if they want to make it to the playoffs. In their current form, if ZywOo does not consistently put up 1.30+ rating and +12 in +/- they do not look like a team that can compete with the world’s best.
The Ugly: FURIA
Calling FURIA’s 1-3 departure from the New Challengers Stage underwhelming would be an understatement. With five young Brazilian talents, the lineup looked like a team fully capable of finishing the stage at 3-1 or even 3-0. With a round one matchup against HellRaisers, they had the green light for a good start. They cleanly beat HellRaisers on Inferno 16-6, and got a tough draw against CR4ZY. CR4ZY shut down FURIA’s T-side on Train and walked out with a relatively easy 16-11 victory. Although FURIA were sitting 1-1, they were still sitting pretty thanks to a favorable third round draw against forZe. Once again, FURIA won two rounds on their T-side and they dropped Nuke to forZe 16-10. In their final lost opportunity, they got blown out by Syman 16-9 and 16-7.
Their showing was overall pathetic. A team that was revered for its explosiveness was kept to two T-side wins on THREE of their five maps played. A team this explosive historically was the complete opposite of that. Through the five maps, FURIA finds themselves -9 in total first kills. Every player finished in the red in rating besides Yuri ‘yuurih’ Santos and he is sitting at merely 1.09. FURIA have lost touch with their map pool and their identity. This has to be a huge blow for the confidence of the lineup, and certainly is rock bottom for the team. This will serve as a defining point for the FURIA organization and the five players in the lineup. Will they crumble after the terrible showing or will they find ways to grow from it? Only time will tell.