CS:GO: What we Learned from StarLadder Season 3

The Counter-Strike world was shaken this week when Faze Clan triumphed over Astralis in a best-of-three that carried the intensity we expect from a grand final. Unexpected results give way to new expectations, and the tournament in Kiev had no shortage of upsets. Virtus.pro seemed to not have shown up in Ukraine after playing fairly well for the past few months, and their only victory was in the group stage over MVP Project’s new CS:GO team.

Group Stage

The teams from the Chinese league performed as we all expected: unable to compete well with the more experienced regions. Tyloo was able to take twelve rounds off SK Gaming on Mirage, but that speaks more to how SK has been playing recently. The Brazilians played a poor tournament, not ready for how well-prepared the European teams (aside from VP) would be. SK seemed to be caught entirely off guard by G2 on Overpass, a map that SK historically dominate. The French team was on a mission to prove their country is to be feared, going 3-0 to make it to the quarterfinals, only to be eliminated by Faze. Faze’s victory was not without struggle, losing early on in the group stage to Hellraisers, a team no one expected to go as far as they did.

Until their results at this tournament, Hellraisers never did anything worthy of fear from the top teams, but beating Faze and NiP in the group stage and then defeating North in a best-of-three Quarterfinals set demands respect from the entire CS:GO professional scene. The Hellraisers squad even played well in defeat, going frag for frag with Faze on Mirage and Train, two of Faze’s favorite maps.

Natus Vincere, the biggest hope for the CIS region, convincingly won their matches with  Aleksandr “S1mple” Kostyliev and Ladislav ‘GuardiaN’ Kovács playing one of the best LANs in the past few months until their semifinal match versus Astralis. S1mple and Guardian seemed to be in excellent form, but Na’Vi were unable to win even 10 rounds on their map pick. Sergey “starix” Ischuk recently stepped down from his role as Head Coach of Na’Vi, leaving Andrey “Andi” Prokhorov to fill the roles of analyst and head coach for the team, which could have been a contributing factor in their semifinals defeat.

The North American presence would have been looked over, but CLG made it to the Quarterfinals with the leadership of Pujan “FNS” Mehta. As exciting as the Group Stage, Quarterfinals and Semifinals were, the best-of-three for the trophy outshined them all.

Finals

Faze have proven themselves to be the most dominant team with pistols, losing only one pistol round across all three maps. The finals was a battle of wits: could Finn “karrigan” Andersen lead his roster of stars to victory over CS:GO’s top mind in Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander?

Though neither team won their map pick, Faze dominated Astralis on Nuke; not a single member had a negative K/D ratio. Aleksi “Allu” Jalli made flashy plays with the AWP on Nuke, and Nikola “Niko” Kovač’s AK-47 was impactful on Inferno, but the real MVP of the series was Fabien “Kioshima” Fiey. Kioshima carried Faze through Nuke with 102 Average Damage per Round and a 24/11 K/D, and almost single-handedly won the fifth round of the first half of Inferno to keep them in the final. Faze Clan lost in the Grand Final to Astralis in IEM Katowice, and their desire for revenge was too much for the Danish team to hold back.

CS:GO has never been as competitive as it is now. Underdogs are doing the work to catch up to the top tier teams, who will in turn need to continue tightening up their form or become history.

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