IEM Katowice Americas Minor
With the first Major of 2019 coming up in just under a month, it is yet again time for us to take a look at the Minors and figure out which teams will be moving onto the main event. All four will be taking place in Poland, and two teams from each minor are guaranteed a spot at the Major. On top of these two spots, there is a new stage called the “Minors' 3rd Place Play-in”. Each team that finishes in 3rd place will have one more chance to battle it out on the 27th of January. There are many promising teams spread out across the different Minors and the level of competition will be even higher with this new 3rd place stage of the Major process. Over the next 11 days we will be watching teams from all over the world compete and I will be informing you of the competition and who to expect to make it out of each Minor.
Discussing NRG and minors instantly gives me flashbacks to the FACEIT Minor they attended in 2018... Fearing that the NA curse will strike again and cause one of the few flourishing teams the scene has to fall short despite being handed a golden ticket to a seemingly free spot at a Major. On the bright side, this time around eUnited are a completely different team (without a coach for obvious reasons) and compLexity managed to snag themselves a fancy legend status spot after their run of Inferno wins at the previous Major. On top of some of their NA foes being weakened/taken out of the Minor, it's obvious the team quickly took note of their flaws and managed to turn things around quite nicely. Immediately following up their FACEIT Major failures with a 1st place finish at IEM Shanghai. Since then, they have only had two incredibly bad LAN finishes, most recently at the EPL Season 8 Finals. The team finished 9-12th after a 2nd place finish at the SuperNova event. Losing to MIBR who went on to place 3rd-4th and Ghost who went out in 7-8th. Two teams that then went on to make changes to their rosters a few weeks ago.
The loss to MIBR was strange to say the least, nahtE carried by a large margin and the NA team even got to play Overpass and Inferno, 2nd and 3rd best LAN maps this year. Yes, the once Brazilian/American mixed team is much more experienced and individually skilled then NRG. However, that hasn't stopped them from beating the team in the past, in scenarios that didn't include some of their best maps as well. Their loss to Ghost pretty much came down to the map veto, which I won’t be going into detail about. To sum it up, the EPL finals were incredibly strange and nothing like what NRG had been demonstrating since the FACEIT Major. It definitely wasn't the way the fans or the players expected 2018 to end for the NA team. Despite their weird finish we saw nahtE continue to dominate the playing field, dragging his team far enough to at least not get 2-0ed by either MIBR or Ghost. NRG will be looking to start out their 2019 season on a good note, which also hopefully means Brehze is able to continue to pick up the pace alongside nahtE. It will be weird for them to be facing mostly Brazilian talent, opponents they aren't so used to practicing or playing against, but as long as they don't let their emotions get the best of them again NRG should pass this test with flying colors.
It has been a little over a year since Bravado relocated their team to North America, and they’ve grown tremendously during 2018. They ended the year with a 1st place finish at the DreamHack Invitational in Mumbai, taking home $21k against Signify, eNergy, and Entity. Not the most impressive competition, but they did get to face ex-teammate bLackKpoisoN as well as part of the controversial ex-OpTic India lineup, which was fun to watch. Bravado ended up losing to the later team, Entity, in the upper bracket but they redeemed themselves in the final winning 2-1. Despite placing first it was quite messy. However, seeing how close it was to the holidays as well as how small the event was I wouldn't be too worried. To get a real grasp of what the team is capable of just take a look at what they managed to do at DreamHack Open Winter at the end of November. Most notably taking down both G2 and OpTic. They may not of been facing these two in their best form, but Bravado was still considered an underdog by many. Their time at the event truly showed the world the level the team is capable of reaching.
This was the first time we had really seen them compete at a LAN event in 2018, and they went well beyond expectations. Only losing maps against ENCE, one of the teams most favored to win the event in the end. The stats behind the tournament are fairly misleading, especially since most of the teams played less than five maps. The South African players didn't place within the top 10, but they came close. Sonic, one of the best players on the team, ended with the highest rating at 1.08. Quite a low performance compared to his online numbers. Given who they played, and how close the games where it came as no surprise that nobody on the team had numbers close to a top 10 performance. Claiming a spot at the upcoming Katowice Major would be a dream come true for these young players, and a well deserved one at that. They have proven they can beat teams much more experienced than those they will be playing this week, Bravado has yet to play NRG in a game, but they most certainly are capable of putting up a good fight against the NA team. Especially if they can recreate what they did in Sweden.