Many big names will be missing from the arena and there is no guarantee that they will ever return. Don’t fret: their replacements are worthy and exciting at the same time.
It’s the Major where Xyp9x lost his top-sixteen streak and where NiKo failed to make the playoffs. The Major where zonic, dupreeh and Magisk also missed out on the arena as Team Liquid dried up completely. The Major where the secondary jewels of the CIS crown, Cloud9 and Outsiders also fell short, the latter on the verge of disintegration if reports are to be believed. Imperial had the rhythm but couldn’t dance the dance, falling short at the hands of an emerging Copenhagen Flames side.
They aren’t the only ones who seized the mantle: ENCE and Team Spirit, a new-look NIP and a younger, leaner, meaner FaZe squad all made it to the top eight. It feels like the pandemic-era confusion of rankings, motivation, age, location and all the other beautiful mess is finally beginning to crystallize into a new status quo, one where we can clearly see the green sprouts of a generational change.
It seems more and more likely with each passing day and interview that NIP will continue without dev1ce, and there’s little reason to argue against this approach based on all that’s (not) happened in- and outside the server. This NIP side is strong and devve is sulking, spamming CS:GO matches on FACEIT. We can’t even know for sure if he will be back at all.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking for Vitality and Team Liquid to figure out what’s next. It’s possible that the brutal events in the outside world will rip apart the NAVI roster and the Outsiders squad. Whether G2 will be patient enough with their current quintet to keep them all on board remains to be seen. This could be a Major of many lasts and quite a lot of firsts. Could this also be the case with the eventual winner? We will know the answer in just a couple of days.
Photo credit: brcho_ via HLTV
A rare rematch from the Legends Stage: the CIS side scored a comfortable 16-12 win on Nuke against FURIA, who clearly put a lot of stock in their play on the map but had inconsistent showings on it so far. Spirit’s clean passage to the top eight was one of the biggest surprises of the event and they’ve arguably got the easiest opponents they could face from the remaining field. A mirror of TI10 is still inconceivable but there’s no reason why the story should end here. Prediction: Team Spirit
Look, I love the karrigan story as much as the next guy, and it would be criminal if he retired without a Major title. FaZe looked like the arguable favorites heading into Antwerp but their Legends stage run felt a bit like Vitality’s Challengers Stage: it ended too early for us to figure out what’s going on. An early stumble against ENCE, a free win against BNE and what was essentially another free win against Cloud9 on Nuke before a best-of-three against Copenhagen Flames where the smoke only cleared up on map three? That’s a lot less impressive than NIP’s smashing of FURIA and the run they gave NAVI for their money. An upset is in the air, crowd boost or not. Prediction: NIP
Two teams that endeared themselves in the community through a combination of underdog runs and memes, it’s either EZ or Falmes going forward. Another rematch from the Legends stage, the Danes have a comprehensive 16-8 win on Ancient to lean upon, but they are still the clear underdogs for this one. It’s quite clear now that this iteration of ENCE is legit, and though neither team has a lot of experience with the cauldron of the arena, one would expect the cooler heads of Snappi and sAw to prevail. Prediction: ENCE
Though cadiaN would love this to be a grudge match, it isn’t just yet, and it would be a real shock if the Danes could buck the trend again. Their path to the Champions Stage was a bit rocky and their problems in playoffs are well-documented. Meanwhile, NAVI’s players are firing on all cylinders, any lingering doubts about their readiness and mental resilience resoundingly answered with their 3-0 run. Back-to-back titles are still definitely on the cards. Prediction: NAVI
May 19 – May 22
Day 1: Quarterfinals 1 and 2 (Team Spirit vs. FURIA and FaZe Clan vs. NIP)
Day 2: Quarterfinals 3 and 4 (ENCE vs. Copenhagen Flames and Heroic vs. NAVI)
Day 3: Semifinals
Day 4: Grand final