Good, Bad, Ugly: New Legends Stage
With the New Legends Stage done and dusted at the StarLadder Major, it's time to dig into the storylines that emerged in the New Legends Stage, particularly focusing NRG, G2 and NiP.
The Good: NRG
After a round one hiccup on Overpass against CIS underdogs DreamEaters, NRG blew through the New Challengers Stage. They carried that momentum to the New Legends Stage, where they were tasked with facing some of the strongest teams at the Major.
Round one was a Dust2 slugfest against Renegades that ended in a round 30 victory, thanks to a 4k by Vincent "Brehze" Cayonte. They returned to Dust2 next round in their match against Liquid. NRG made quick work of the No. 1 ranked team, winning 16-9. AWPer Tsvetelin "CeRq" Dimitrov manhandled NRG’s North American rivals, ending the game with a 25-15 K-D, 94 ADR and 1.44 rating over 25 rounds.
After beating Liquid, NRG were matched in a qualification best-of-three against Katowice champions, Astralis. Facing Liquid and Astralis back-to-back would be too tall of a task for most teams, but not NRG. Their pick, Train, was an absolute brawl. The two teams battled for 59 rounds before NRG ground out the tough victory.
By the time Nuke rolled around, NRG were feeling far too confident. They started on the CT-side and absolutely put the clamps on Astralis’ offensive tactics, limiting them to three T-side victories. When they switched sides, NRG made quick work of the Danes by winning four of five to close out Nuke 16-4 and qualify for the playoffs.
Coming into the Major playoffs, it's hard not to pick NRG as a favorite to win it all. All three of the teams they beat in the New Legends Stage qualified for the playoffs, and three of their players are rated in the top 15 at the Major. CeRq and in-game leader Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz are tied at No. 8 with a 1.22 rating, and Brehze is at No. 13 with a 1.15.
The NRG lineup is in peak form, and currently look like one of the most skilled lineups in the world. However, NRG’s road to glory only gets harder from here. They start their playoff run with a quarterfinals matchup against Na`Vi. Should they survive that, they are guaranteed a rematch against either Liquid or Astralis. NRG appear poised to endure the playoff grind and make a championship run, we will have to see if they are up to the task.
The Bad: G2
After skating through the New Challengers Stage 3-1, G2 looked like a favorite to make it into the top eight at the Major. Although they received a semi-unfortunate first-round draw facing Na`Vi, they pulled out the victory on Overpass and even more so looked ready to make it to the playoffs.
Legendary AWPer Kenny "kennyS" Schrub was firing on all cylinders in game one, ending with 29 frags and a 1.18 rating. It seemed obvious that kennyS and company would carry that momentum through the rest of the stage. Unfortunately, that was pretty much every G2 players’ best game. They dropped a game to Astralis and ran over MIBR. When it came time to the best of threes, they actually had favorable draws, facing AVANGAR and then Renegades.
Although G2 looked like favorites on paper, the only map they had success on in those best of threes was Dust 2. Even in those two map victories, neither kennyS nor Richard "shox" Papillion were able to stand out as star players like you expect them to. When it came time for them to take over in these two games, they stayed silent. Besides the opening match, the two stars were pedestrian at best. Without either of the star players showing up, the team was incapable of earning the three wins necessary to advance.
kennyS spoke highly of his team before the player break and had high expectations coming into the Major, saying "we are absolutely confident in ourselves as a team and we know that if we come fully prepared to the Major we are going to win it." Based on the results, it's obvious their preparation was not enough. Inconsistent results continue to plague this team. If G2 continue to perform at a level that cannot defeat the likes of AVANGAR and Renegades, the only option left is to change the lineup.
The Ugly: NiP
NiP has had a terrible past couple of months. They’ve been accused of being a shady organization and their CS:GO team has been wildly underwhelming for some time. Coming into the Major, there was little to no reason to be excited about NiP.
When it came time to play, they proved there was no reason to be excited for NiP. They never had a strong lead, they didn’t make their opponents sweat and they certainly never looked like they were going to win anything. The team never bought into Maikil "Golden" Selim’s system, which made bringing him to temporarily lead an unnecessary move.
If nothing else, NiP and CS:GO fans could always look forward to watching legendary CS player Patrik "f0rest" Lindberg play at the Major. Unfortunately, f0rest was a shell of himself at Berlin, finishing the Major as the lowest rated player with a 0.54 rating, which also happened to be the worst event of his career.
It is hard to predict what is next for NiP’s CS:GO division, but it's safe to say this is rock bottom. All five players are abysmally low in rating. Out of the 80 players at the Major, NiP players are ranked 60th, 63rd, 74th, 76th and 80th in rating. The only positive to this nightmare of a situation is that it's one step closer to being over. They got through the embarrassment that was their performance at the Major, and now they can look forward to possibly rebuilding the roster.