Who Will Make it to the Major From the EU Minor?
The fourth and final FACEIT Minor is upon us, this time we will be seeing EU teams battling it out for one of the two remaining Major spots. To catch you guys up, the Asia Minor is almost over but it's looking like we will see both Renegades and TyLoo at the upcoming Major. As for the CIS and Americas Minor HellRaisers, Spirit, compLexity, and Rogue have also all grabbed themselves spots for the Major. The EU Minor is definitely the most stacked one of the set and will be the most exciting one to watch. Group A consists of 3DMAX, ENCE, LeftOut, and OpTic. Group B consists of Kinguin, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Red Reserve, and Sprout. From returning Major attendees to first-timers, every team here has been looking good and it is gonna be an all-out brawl for the two remaining spots. In my final piece covering the London Minors, I will be discussing which two teams from EU I think will be seeing at the Major this September.
Kinguin is definitely not a team that many will be picking to compete for a spot at the FACEIT Major. However these guys have a lot of potential, and coming into this I feel like Kinguin are gonna be pretty underestimated by their opponents. Since this lineup was formed back in March, they have won 81 games and have had only 49 losses(130 maps in total). Of the 13 events they have attended, 4 of them have been offline and all of them ended as a top 5 finish. On top of that, four of the five Polish players have all played at Majors in the past. Meaning the pressure and competition at minors/majors is comfortable territory for these legends, and I have no doubt that we will see them shine in London. Their group consists of Ninjas in Pyjamas, Red Reserve, and Sprout. Group A is pretty heavily stacked compared to theirs, so the Polish players are dodging quite a big bullet by not having to face the likes of OpTic or ENCE just to make it out of groups.
NiP is obviously in terrible form right now, especially since removing their star AWPer William “draken” Sundin, so I wouldn't even consider them a threat to Kinguins chances of advancing to the playoffs. As for Red Reserve(ex-Godsent players), the Polish lineup has only played against the players under the RR name once and it ended as a 16-9 loss. Before that Kinguin hadn't played against this lineup in several months, so its hard to judge the loss based off of the most recent game. It will definitely be a tough series if these two have to face each other, but as long as Kinguin take the time to prepare it is possible for them to come out on top. Last but not least we have Sprout, the team that Kinguin will be facing in their first match of the minor. Most recently they lost to Sprout during a MDL game, however I would take this with a grain of salt seeing as Kinguin are currently first in the league and it was one of their last games of the season. Especially since they beat Sprout in a Bo3 during the EU Minor Qualifier 2-1 not to long before that, preventing the Danish team from getting double digits on two of the maps played.
All in all, Kinguin has proven they can deal with a majority of the teams attending the EU minor. They also have enough experience under their belts when it comes to playing at a LAN event. Most recently placing first at the ZOTAC Cup Masters EU Finals, only losing two maps during the whole thing. Obviously, the teams they played weren't exactly that challenging, but it showed us that the Polish players can compete offline just as well as they do online. I have no worries for the group stage, however the playoffs will be a completely different story. In group A the only team Kinguin has played is ENCE, who they have yet to beat but understandably so. As for the rest of the teams, the only one I would be worried about is OpTic. 3DMAX, who just a month ago formed, has been playing with the same competition as Kinguin. 3DMAX has looked pretty good, but they lack the experience that the older lineup has. Especially when it comes to playing in a Bo3 environment. Then we have LeftOut who as we all know has been in a very bad slump, and I wouldn't even consider kinguin winning an upset. It is very possible for Kinguin to be successful in the playoffs, but it relies heavily on who ends up advancing from group A.
Before ESL One Cologne I actually pegged ENCE to be one of the first teams out of the Minor. They hadn't played very many impressive games coming into the event and seeing how rare Finnish talent is I was quite skeptical. However, they quickly proved me and everyone else wrong by taking down both NiP and Mouz 2-0 before losing 2-1 to Natus Vincere. Their 7th place finish has proven that they can carry over the same skill and dominance we saw online to an offline environment. Even more impressively, 16-year-old Jere 'sergej' Salo finished the event as the second best player in attendance. Just barely placing below Aleksandr 's1mple' Kostyliev. Qualifying for the major will be no easy task, especially since ENCE have been put into the hardest group of the Minor. They will have to fight their way through the likes of OpTic Gaming, 3DMAX, and LeftOut just to make it out of groups.
Aleksi 'allu' Jalli is the most well-known player on the team, spending time on FaZe and OpTic before returning to ENCE. However he is now accompanied by some very young talent. like I mentioned earlier sergej played out of his mind in Cologne. He finished the event with a 1.31 rating, averaging 22 kills per a game. The 16-year-old Finnish talent really proved his worth against some of the best teams in the world, dropping 30 kills on both maps played against Mouz. It wasn't just at Cologne that he stood out though, this guy has been going off since joining ENCE. averaging a 1.17 rating over the course of 55 maps, in fact I would even argue he has looked better at the LAN events ENCE has attended than the online games we have seen them in. Which is a very good sign seeing as most younger players are impacted negatively by the pressure and intensity of playing on a big stage. With stellar performances from sergej and allu, ENCE as a whole finished Cologne with a 1.07 rating. Making them the 6th best team at the event, placing above BIG who finished in 2nd place.
Their performance at Cologne is more than enough to take down LeftOut (their first opponent of the event), the French lineup has been struggling since well before they got dropped from their old Org. However their other opponents wont be so easy, ENCE is definitely still an underdog for this event. However I am confident in their abilities, in fact I wouldn't be surprised if they playoffs ended up being easier for them than their group stage. On the other side of the bracket, the potential teams they could be facing are Kinguin, NiP, Red Reserve, and Sprout. They have already proven they can beat Kinguin, NiP, and Sprout on numerous occasions. The only team that will be a bit of a question mark for them being RR, nevertheless ENCE will be taking this event very seriously. Qualifying for the Major would be even more rewarding and impactful for the team than their run at Cologne, and they will be doing everything in their power to make sure they are ready to face anyone that comes their way.