What We Learned: ESL One Belo Horizonte
This is going to be the first in a series called What we learned where I will go over how the team did and where the team seems to be heading. The first in this series will be about ESL One Belo Horizonte.
ESL One Belo Horizonte has just wrapped up in Brazil with the FaZe Clan taking it all over Mousesports. The tournament was really one of the strangest tournaments I have ever seen personally. From two teams in the finals with standins, to players getting spat on in the crowd, and the power going out in the middle of a match, Belo Horizonte was certainly one to remember.
The winners of the tournament had a great showing throughout the whole event. Playing with Jorgen “cromen” Robertsen as a stand-in, FaZe managed to top their group after winning best of threes against Ghost and Space Soldiers. By winning the group they got to go straight into the semifinals and eventually played Liquid. After beating Liquid 2-1 they moved into the final against Mousesports in a best of five series. In a long hard fought series from both sides FaZe took it home on Dust2, taking home the trophy of Belo Horizonte and a third title in the Intel Grand Slam Season 1 putting them one win away from $1 million.
FaZe as a whole looked really strong even with a stand-in that they barely had any time to practice with. Nikola "NiKo" Kovac once again shined in the finals taking home the MVP award as well from the event. FaZe’s future is still in question with talks of FaZe possibly looking for a permanent replacement to Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer, and they may have found it in cromen. With the major coming up FaZe will need to make a decision soon and it seems that whoever they bring in won’t matter too much as they have proven they can win with multiple rosters.
The second place finishers also had a great showing in Brazil. With Tomáš "oskar" Šťastný having to stay home because of medical reasons, Mouse had to find a stand-in just as FaZe did. They went with seasoned veteran Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert who has been out of competitive play for nearly a year after being replaced on Cloud9. This really came as a surprise to many as Mouz is made up of all European players that n0thing had not played competitively since the Krakow Major. Even with this crazy stand-in Mouse was able to top their group as well winning best of threes against NTC and Liquid sending them to the semis. In the semifinals Mouse had to play against home crowd favorites SK Gaming on the big stage. While the whole crowd was cheering against them, they took the series in a definitive 2-0 victory. In the finals Mouse had a very good showing lead by Chris "chrisJ" de Jong, but eventually fell in the final map.
In review Mouse is in a strange situation. Viewers have to wonder that if oskar had been there would Mouse have won? Rumors of Martin "STYKO" STyk getting replaced have been floating around for a while but nothing seems to have moved anywhere with that. The biggest winner on the team is definitely n0thing as he showed that he can still compete at the highest level in the game, especially after not playing for such a long time. North American teams will for sure be in talks with him with the upcoming major qualifiers. When oskar returns Mouse should be back at full force and will be a threat to win it all in these upcoming months and are a team to look out for at the major.
One of the third/fourth place finishers was the North and South American mix of Team Liquid. Liquid is still trying to find their way after the recent addition of Epitácio "TACO" de Melo from SK Gaming. While showing lots of potential, Liquid keep failing to win it all. After getting second at both ESL Pro League and ECS Finals, Liquid finished this event with a disappointing loss to the eventual winners, FaZe Clan. Liquid barely got out of groups by only beating BIG in two best of threes and losing one to Mouse. In the semifinals Liquid faced FaZe and took a map but were devastated after the third map loss.
I believe Liquid are getting hot at the right time. Liquid is my dark-horse to win this upcoming major and I believe after the next couple big events coming up they will be able to figure out all of their issues within the team and will come out swinging at the major and will make a deep run for sure. TACO has shown a lot of his skill that was never shown in the SK Roster. While not having incredible stats, he has been an integral player in the team and has been a good replacement for Lucas "steel" Lopes. Everyone else on the team has been putting up good numbers as well and seem to take turns for who will go off each match, and if two or three of them go off in the same game Liquid will be hard to beat.
The hometown heroes SK Gaming have still been fairly disappointing since the addition of Jacky "Stewie2K" Yip. The Brazilian team made it to the semifinals but lost 2-0 to Mousesports. Their run in the group stage was pretty lackluster as well losing their first best of three to Space Soldiers. After the first best of three they dominated Ghost Gaming and then later beat Space Soldiers 2-0 to make it to the semis.
The future of the team is uncertain. After announcing a few tournaments ago that Marcelo "coldzera" David would in game lead most of the maps, they announced after Belo Horizonte that Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo would go back to in game lead on all of the maps. Their english has been the hardest challenge for all of them. Trying to callout and comprehend the language quick and efficiently in the game is a big change for anyone that isn’t a native english speaker. SK went to Moche XL Esports and Adrenaline Cyber League 2018 playing against some lower tier teams and were able to take first place at both tournaments. They were trying to use these events to work on their communication but after the result in Brazil it may have not improved that much. With the upcoming move to mibr/Immortals, some players may be on the chopping block. Before picking up just Stewie, the original plan had been to replace Ricardo "boltz" Prass as well, so his future on the team may be in question.
Space Soldiers have been a team on the rise for a while. After winning at DreamHack Austin just over a week ago they have started to show that they can perform on LAN as well as online. Starting off their group they were able to take the first best of three against SK which matched them up against FaZe Clan where they were shut down and sent back to face SK again, which they lost.
Space Soldiers are already confirmed for the next major as they will play in the new challengers stage after passing it last year. They may not play under the Space Soldiers name by that time as disagreements about their contracts may cause them to make a move to another organisation. Can "XANTARES" Dörtkardes has shown to be an extremely skilled player throughout the past year but some other players like Ahmet "paz" Karahoca and Bugra "Calyx" Arkın have shown lots of promise and have potential to develop into dangerous players in the near future.
BIG was one of the teams that I enjoyed the most watching at this tournament. While BIG only managed to win one best of three against NTC they put up multiple good maps against Liquid and probably could have beat them if taken to a third. The team has a big task ahead of them heading into Cologne in a month being the only German team there and will have to give it all they have to make it to the BIG stage.
The best part about this tournament was Owen "smooya" Butterfield. Smooya was a very questionable pickup from BIG as he hadn’t played on any tier one teams before and it was very unknown if he would be able to play against the best teams at a big LAN. In the final map against NTC smooya boasted a crazy +18 KD difference going 25-7 and allowing the team to make it to the stadium the next day. Against Liquid in the first map he was the best player by far and showed that on a large stage he can perform and against some of the best teams in the world. The team has lots of room for improvement and it will be interesting to see how they perform at the major.
Não Tem Como
Oh boy NTC, where do I start. This team is just a jumble of problems. A mix of ex-100Thieves, SK Gaming, Team One, Luminosity, and Immortals attended their first LAN as a team. Playing in their home country, the NTC guys were all extremely excited to show their country what they were made of and for sure wanted to make it onto the stage to play in front of the crowd. Their journey at the tournament was over almost as soon as it ended losing 2-0 to mouse and 2-1 to BIG.
After their losses no one on the team really even said anything for two days and even now haven’t said much about their results. Even without their comments anyone can tell that their disappointment has really crushed the mentality in the team. After having to forfeit the 100Thieves legends spot at the last major, this team will have to go through the major qualifiers and it is uncertain whether we will see some of these players at the major. This is pretty crazy to think considering they have 2 time major winner Lincoln "fnx" Lau on the team, major finalist Vito "kNgV-" Giuseppe, and two time major semifinalist João "felps" Vasconcellos.
Unsurprisingly Ghost Gaming went out last in their group just like NTC, but unlike the Brazilians, Ghost Gaming really had nothing to lose. After qualifying for the LAN under Torqued, the trio of Joshua "steel" Nissan, Kenneth "koosta" Suen, and Matt "Pollo" Wilson made the switch to Ghost Gaming teaming up with Yassine "Subroza" Taoufik and Matthew "WARDELL" Bowman Yu. The team certainly had very little time to practice and lost two best of threes against FaZe and SK. Their draw couldn’t have been worse and unsurprising were out very soon but no doubt gained some good experience.
Belo Horizonte was WARDELL's first international LAN and he definitely got to see what the competition is like facing SK Gaming and FaZe. All of the players were pretty abysmal with koosta being the only player to have a positive K/D in any of the games which was in one map against FaZe. The team will compete in the upcoming ESL Pro League Season and it will be interesting to see what steel can do with these young talents in his first season of Pro League after some proper practice.