After a week in which new talent and less-favoured teams seemed to be all the rage, the champions stage of 2019’s first Major looks disappointingly familiar.
Astralis and Liquid filled the 3-0 spots, to the surprise of absolutely no-one and they are followed by Na’Vi and MIBR on 3-1, with Renegades being perhaps the biggest surprise on the same record.
Indeed, The Boys only defeat was a 2-1 at the hands of tournament favourites Astralis.
FaZe, ENCE and NiP round out the top eight, making the quarter-finals look more like an old boy’s club than the meeting of upstarts and rebels we nearly had.
ENCE and Renegades are exceptions, of course, but they each face a mammoth task if they want to go further.
The Finns have impressed massively, narrowly avoiding elimination by 2-0ing G2 and Avangar.
Can I see them toppling undefeated Team Liquid, though? Not in a million years.
Allu and co have been fun to watch, and they have earned their quarter-finals berth the hard way. They were on the brink of elimination numerous times, showing impressive resiliency to keep their dreams alive.
What they haven’t done, however, is beat a team as good as Liquid. They have avoided the real star teams so far (I’m not counting G2).
Tellingly, ENCE couldn’t even take a single map from fellow-underdogs Renegades despite having three attempts. Liquid is on a different level altogether, and they come into the quarter-finals in blistering form. It seems like the plucky Finns will end their tournament in the 5-8th bracket.
Renegades themselves, though, well… they might have a shot. I have doubted the Aussies all tournament long and all tournament long they have made me look silly.
It’s one thing to beat ENCE, but it’s quite another to beat Faze and to take a map from Astralis. The latter of those two feats hasn’t been repeated by anyone since Team Liquid, going back to December 4.
Now, I’ll grant you that after winning that Mirage game in overtime, Renegades collected just 11 rounds total on the next two maps, but it’s still possible they actually have a shot against MIBR in the quarter-finals.
It won’t be easy, though. This is not the dodgy, inconsistent MIBR we had come to expect in the Stewie era. This is an MIBR that, after a shocking 16-3 loss to start this tournament, has gone undefeated through the rest of the legends stage.
This is an MIBR which has Coldzera playing near his best again, alongside a supporting cast of players who can properly communicate again. It’s an MIBR that top teams fear again – an MIBR that has a chance of going all the way.
Renegades are the underdogs again for sure, but, as the cliché goes, that could work in their favour. Nobody gave them a chance of making it this far, myself included. Why can’t they go one further?
They have the map pool go give MIBR a good fight, if nothing else. Mirage will be an interesting one if it comes up. Traditionally, it’s been a good map for the Brazilians, but Renegades are undefeated on it at this event.
Similarly, Inferno was once a place nobody wanted to be against Brazilian teams. But Renegades are 3-1 on that map and MIBR’s Inferno doesn’t put quite the same fear into opponents that Luminosity’s once did.
Dust2, infamously dreadful for MIBR is unlikely to make an appearance, nor is Nuke. MIBR have banned Nuke in every game thus far, and have been happy to see other teams ban Dust2.
Similarly, Cache has yet to make it through vetoes, which leaves Mirage, Train, Inferno, and Overpass as possible battlefields. Any three of those four would make for a great match-up, and Renegades have had success on all of them at this event.
Where Renegades are likely to struggle against MIBR, though, is in terms of raw talent. The Brazilian team is filled with Major winners – players who know how to win trophies.
Renegades, despite currently holding a higher spot on HLTV’s’ ranking, does not have that luxury. They dominate their region, but going deep at a Major is a different kettle of fish altogether.
If it seems like I’m waffling here, it’s because I genuinely think Renegades has a chance. MIBR are favourites, undoubtedly, but it’s not a done deal like Liquid-ENCE. Yes, MIBR has looked solid at this event, but it’s a long time since they were world beaters.
If they want to give themselves a chance, Renegades need to make sure they play the game and not the occasion. They need to ignore the names on the scoreboard and do their own thing. If they can manage that, a semi-final re-match with Astralis is not out of the question.