The PGL Major Antwerp is entering its Champions Stage. Once again - thanks to an inefficient seeding system - we have a Major quarter-final bracket that honestly looks... Rather flat.
With teams such as Cloud9, G2, and Vitality failing to qualify for the Champions Stage, the Sportpaleis will not be graced by Nikola "NiKo" Kovac or Mathieu "Zyw0o" Herbaut.
But we will get to see Leonid "chopper" Vishnyakov's Team Spirit, so at least aizyesque will be happy with his prediction:
But what about the other teams? Who can we expect to see in the semis? Let's take a look, shall we:
Can the Ninjas stop FaZe?
Image: BLAST Premier
Ninjas in Pyjamas vs FaZe Clan. This should be a very good match. But you can bet it won’t be.
Maybe if Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz had returned, would this match be worth its salt, but this NiP lineup is inarguably flat without him. Patrick “es3tag” Hansen on the AWP isn’t the same.
Man for man, this NiP team can’t match anyone on FaZe, especially with the form the current world number 1 team is in. Even Havard “rain” Nygaard is frightening right now, but maybe that’s because he knows he’s under threat the moment a particular member of Outsiders starts looking for a new team.
FaZe is buoyed by a star trio who do not die. NiP is anchored by a star who loves the bench. This one’s easy: FaZe Clan is the clear favorite.
The Brazilian dream lives on
The match that has the potential to be the best game of the Major. Team Spirit vs. Furia pits two of the most fun teams in Counter-Strike against one another, and I can not wait.
Chopper has been a favorite since the Vega Squadron days, and as far as AWPers go, Abdul “degster” Gasanov is up there with the best on the Big Green. His battle with Rafael “saffee” Costa will surely be interesting.
But the real treat of this series, as with any that involves these plucky Brazilians that stole our hearts, is more Andrei “arT” Piovezan. Never has a player made aggression more fun, more exciting. This man will be in the other team’s spawn ten seconds into the round, half of the rounds in a game. He’s fantastic.
He’s also Furia’s most significant win condition. An unleashed arT can annihilate a round before it even begins. Keeping him quiet will be most important in Team Spirit’s game plan. Keeping him fragging will be most important for Furia going ahead.
This will be close, and the Brazilians will be tested, but ultimately I expect them to win and find themselves in the semis. So we probably won’t get to see Chopper do this.
Clash of the underdogs
I’ll say it, so you don’t have to: This one is fucking dull.
Okay, maybe dull is the wrong word.
Sure, ENCE is somehow likable even despite that damned song being burned into my memory, while Copenhagen Flames have become most peoples’ favorite underdog LANimals. But we have to be honest with ourselves: Neither one of these teams really should be in a Major Semi-final.
It doesn’t matter how fun the match itself is - and it could be very fun with Pavle “Maden” Boskovic in the server - the whole thing is overshadowed by the fact that both of these teams are considered ‘underdogs.’ Two underdogs playing each other isn’t fun. It makes the latter stages worse too.
Copenhagen Flames have done exceptionally well to find themselves in the Champions Stage. It’s hard to see this 5-man being together for too long once the Major concludes. Will the stage be too much for them? Can they handle that pressure? Maybe.
Even if they can handle the pressure of the arena, there’s a pressure they likely won’t be able to touch: Lotan “Spinx” Giladi. The star rifler at the forefront of the wave of young Israelis we see breaking into the tier 1 of CS, Spinx, is having a monstrous Major so far - the second-highest rated player with a 1.28 HLTV rating.
He alone should be enough to power ENCE through. ENCE takes this one.
The best and the pest
Natus Vincere vs. Heroic. The best player in the world vs. the most annoying player in the world. This is the big one—the best till last.
Na’Vi entered this year as by far the best team in the world, but circumstances outside of esports and the arrival of Robin “ropz” Kool at FaZe Clan certainly put this in disarray. However, at Antwerp, the Na’Vi players are beginning to look back at their best. The current highest-rated player at the event is Valeriy “b1t” Vakhovskiy. This is still just his second major too.
On the other hand, we have Heroic. Arguably the biggest profiter of the Online era, Heroic is home to young Danish stars that seem destined to be the successors to the fallen giants of the old Astralis core.
What makes Heroic interesting is the fact that Casper “cadiaN” Moller is both the reason they’re good and the reason they’re not good enough. His performance in the series will be vital to whether they stand a chance against the titans of Na’Vi, even if we all have to mute the stream whenever he’s on it.
Of course, Heroic also has Martin “stavn” Lund - a man they can rely on. Currently boasting a 1.22 rating, coincidentally the same as the aforementioned ‘best player in the world,’ stavn has established himself as the new star of Danish CS.
This match will be the best match of the Quarter Finals (bar Spirit vs. Furia not being the greatest swashbuckle ever to exist), and some incredible Counter-Strike will be played. This could be one of the last times we see the Na’Vi that won the previous Major without dropping a map play together. They’ll want to go out with another success.
It’ll be close. It’ll be exciting. But in the end, one AWPer will drop forty. The other will drop fourteen. These teams are not equal. Na’VI will go through.
A Look Ahead
Even if there are a couple of teams that maybe shouldn't be there - at least compared to those who aren't - all of these teams can be fun in some capacity.
While it's a shame not to see all of CS's premium faces in the Major play-offs, we should still be given our fair share of entertainment from the weekend's Counter-Strike.
I expect FaZe to roll Furia the same way they'll roll NiP. The same goes for Na'Vi with ENCE. The final might be good, providing all goes to plan, but we have an obvious favorite here:
It's time for FaZe Clan and Finn "karrigan" Andersen to finally win their Major.
I'll even stake my diamond coin on it.
"I can’t believe NiKo won’t be here… actually it’s kinda funny. Still should be good though. A Chopper thumbs up from me."