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IEM Katowice: Out with the old? Not just yet

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Expert
18th February, 2019
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The qualifier is over and, apart from Fnatic, most of the big boys made it through. Your pick-‘ems were safe all along. Well, apart from the 3-0 slot but Renegades? Really? Who could have seen that coming?

Boy, they left it late though, didn’t they? Cloud 9, G2 and NiP all waited until the final round of best-of-threes to confirm their spots in the major proper.

The America-based team at least had the decency to make it a 2-0, even if it did take them overtime to finish the job on map two.

Meanwhile, both G2 and NiP put their fans through the wringer, going to three maps in both series. Cardiologists all over France must have been inundated with worryingly young cases after map one of the G2-Tyloo series.

Nerves were calmed on Dust2, however, as G2 tied things up with one of most dominant showings of the tournament so far. Vintage KennyS showed up to steady the ship, putting up 22 kills in just 18 rounds.

A 16-7 win on Cache made the earlier panic seem silly, but, in fairness, G2 had not looked good up to that point.

Speaking of not looking good, what on earth are we supposed to make of Cloud 9’s showing thus far? Their match against Furia perfectly typified their qualifier as a whole. Starting out 1-16 on Mirage, the former-champions looked to be out at the first hurdle. Instead, they retaliated with a 16-1 win on Inferno.

I’m fairly sure that’s the first time there has ever been reverse 16-1 games in a major, but weirder still is the fact that both teams on their opponent’s map choice. Madness.

Will "Rush" Wierzba of Cloud9

The prestige of big names like Cloud9 draws us in. (Photo by Norbert Barczyk/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

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Overall, the fact that C9, NiP and G2 so narrowly made it to the legends stage left me with mixed feelings.

During the C9-Winstrike game, casters HenrgyG and Sadokist made reference to the new format helping to eliminate what they called “the best-of-one specialists,” but I have a lot of sympathy for the teams that narrowly missed out (and not just because Winstrike’s stickers look hot on my Galil skin).

I agree that the format is definitely an improvement, making it harder for a team to get lucky or to simply anti-strat their way through the qualifiers by playing a single map, but it would be nice to see some new blood coming through.

And yeah, I get it: if you can’t qualify for the major under this format you probably don’t deserve to be there. On the other hand, I didn’t come away from the last round of the qualifiers thinking that C9, G2 or NiP really deserved to be there either.

Then again, Cloud 9 will probably go on to win the whole thing again now, right? (Wrong).

G2 owner, Ocelote mentioned on Twitter that his team’s performances early in the qualifier did not reflect what he saw in practice.

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Maybe he was right. Maybe they have shaken off some cobwebs and can really make a dent in the legends stage. I remain unconvinced, but the talent on the team is enough that, if they do get their heads together, a deep run is not impossible.

On top of that, the fact that they have already had to struggle through two best-of-threes could work in their favour. Or it could have exhausted them mentally before they have to play stronger teams like Faze and Astralis. Only time will tell on that one, I’m afraid.

Then there’s NiP. Oddly enough, apart from their 16-6 loss against Winstrike, their results don’t actually look too bad in retrospect. They pushed Renegades close, which doesn’t sound that impressive, but since Renegades went on to 3-0 the qualifiers we have to give NiP some credit here.

Their class and experience really showed when it came to the best-of-threes. Even a difficult overtime loss in the opening game of the Vega Squadron match wasn’t enough to stop the Ninja Train (how awesome/terrifying would that be to ride?)

Katowice is fast becoming an international hub for esports. (Courtesy ESL)

To the surprise of exactly nobody, f0rest led the way for NiP – the only player on his team to make HLTV’s top ten rated players of the tournament. Indeed, if you arrange the ranking by K/D Difference he is number one, with an extraordinary +52. Brehze in second had +45, to add some context.

The next NiP player on the list is REZ with a decidedly less spectacular +11.

This is where NiP will struggle when they come up against better teams: fragging power. F0rest is doing his best to prove that old-timers can still hang with the youngsters, but he’s fighting a difficult battle against his teammate Get_Right, who has struggled to keep up.

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With every passing major, the balance of power shifts away from the veterans and towards new talent. This is borne out across individuals and whole organisations, with the Chinese teams continuing to knock on the door of the big boy’s club.

It’s great to see names like NiP and G2 back at the major, but Winstrike, Vici and Tyloo are just waiting for a slip-up. Maybe next time, boys.

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