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The New Challengers — Predictions and Problems

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As we approach the Eleague Boston Major 2018, it is time to look at the teams that will be taking part, who they will be facing and more importantly who I personally expect to progress.
As the Major is technically 24 teams this time, I thought I would start by taking a look at "The New Challengers" section, which used to be called the Major Qualifier.

The teams taking part in this portion of the Major come from two different avenues, some were the bottom eight in the PGL Major Krakow Group Stages, whilst some qualified through the Minor systems.

Before we get into this, it is important to keep in mind the problems this event is already marred by before even getting underway. We have a missing team, Tyloo due to Visa issues that often come with events held in America. We have missing players in Ricardo "boltz" Prass and Lucas "steel" Lopes though it finally looks as though Nicolai "device" Reedtz may be back in action just in time for the Major.

With the recent break, its going to be a little tough to accurately gauge the form of some of these teams and even more so for others who you just don't see play at the same level on a regular basis. But I thought it would be fun to take a look at the opening games, and then the teams I expect to make it out of "The New Challengers" stage.

Opening Matches

Vega Squadron vs Renegades
The opening match will see the first place team from the Asia Minor, Renegades, take on a bottom eight team from PGL Krakow, Vega Squadron. At the most shallow level, Renegades would be favourites on world ranking alone sitting at 20th versus Vega Squadron's 24th. However, I believe they are favourites on more levels than that as the recent events of Vega Squadron is mostly poor performances at qualifiers whilst Renegades have been playing against top tier teams. Granted, they haven't been winning everything, but their second place at the iBuypower Masters up against teams such as Cloud9, Misfits and Liquid showed their ability to contend. More importantly their individual performances from players such as Keith "NAF" Markovic I believe should give them the edge in this particular match-up.

Mousesports vs Avangar
The second game of the day should be one that fairly easily goes the way of Mousesports with their recent performance at the cs_summit 2 qualifier seeing them beat teams at a similar level in order to secure the spot. Avangar also attended that event, being knocked out in 9-16th, with their only real achievements of note being the first place at the CIS Minor. This side of unpredictability can sometimes play into the underdogs hands, however this should still be a straightforward opening match for Mousesports who, currently ranked 8th in the world, recently took 2nd at the ECS Season 4 Finals and Dreamhack Winter.

Faze Clan vs Team Liquid
This match would have the opportunity to be more close run if Team Liquid could have their full lineup, however, with Lucas "steel" Lopes missing and Wilton "Zews" Prado playing in his place, Faze should have more than enough firepower to take this.

Flipsid3 Tactics vs Misfits
Next up are two teams who have a very different recent past, with Misfits showing some of their best performances compared to Flisid3 losing their most deadly player to Natus Vincere and being very quiet from then on out. Both teams have experience in the side, however Misfits pair theirs with more young talent. Misfits recently showed their potential at the ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals, only falling in the Semi-Finals to the eventual winners SK Gaming. I would personally back the North American side to take this initial match-up, however much Flipsid3 tend not to miss majors.

Sprout vs Space Soldiers
One of the hardest of the initial match-ups to predict in my mind, as normally I would give it automatically to Space Soldiers however their recent form has been less than would be expected of them. Neither team has particularly played much outside of what would be considered the second tier of Counter-Strike. Out of the two, at a push, I would have to pick Space Soldiers as the side most likely to take the match simply down to being the most prepared in terms of recent game time, and the possibility of Ismailcan "XANTARES" Dörtkardeş playing a big role with his fragging potential.

Natus Vincere vs Quantum Bellator Fire
Just judging from the reputation of the organisations alone you would give this one to Natus Vincere and looking at their past achievements, recent form and firepower there is honestly nothing that could convince me otherwise. Any one of the Natus Vincere team should be able to shut this match down on their own and it would take a rather catastrophic mistake on their part or an out of this world performance from the Quantum Bellator Fire side to overcome that.

G2 Esports vs Flash Gaming
With Flash being such a late addition to this tournament due to Tyloo missing out because of Visa issues, they have had even less time to prepare for this and the teams they will be facing. There is little question that they should trouble the bigger names at this portion of the event and G2 are no exception to this. This should be a fairly straightforward victory for G2.

Cloud9 vs Team Envyus
Possibly the most exciting of all the initial matches, neither of these teams are using a stand-in and they are both from the top tier of Counter-Strike with players on both sides being capable of turning the match on its head at a moments notice. It is the North Americans I believe should have the advantage this time around, with the home field advantage and good placements at their most recent LAN events. If both teams turn up at their best, it should be a close run match with both teams perfectly capable of winning.


My top picks for qualification

Faze hold the number two spot in the world currently and have shown they are more than capable of challenging for the number 1 spot over the second half of 2017. A roster filled with star potential is unlikely to be overpowered enough times to fall out of the qualifier, even if they are only best of one matches. With Nikola "NiKo" Kovač and Håvard "rain" Nygaard taking it in turns to light up the game, supported by three more incredibly strong players, a safe bet would assume they would come out on top of this qualifier.

G2 are a team who have high potential but often mixed results, often having periods or events that make fans and analysts alike predict that they have finally found consistency before falling out of form once more. This makes them a difficult team to judge and a difficult horse to back in the race, however if their pattern of strong results, poor results and then strong results once more is followed, they are due a period of wins. They certainly have the personnel to outclass opponents with Richard "shox" Papillon and Kenny "kennyS" Schrub being deadly on their day, I would personally expect them to make it out as one of the eight, albeit possibly not with a perfect record.
Kenny
Kenny "kennyS" Schrub will be important for G2


Cloud9 are one of four (technically Renegades came through the Asia Minor, however play in North America) North American representatives at this portion of the event, and also the highest ranking out of the four, especially as the other most notable name, Liquid, are forced to use coach Wilton "Zews" Prado for this event as Lucas "steel" Lopes is not eligible. Cloud9 are ranked fifth in the world and certainly have enough ability to push on out of the qualifier, seemingly performing well on home soil. Likely looking for Jake "Stewie2k" Yip and Timothy "autimatic" Ta to turn up at their best to make progression most likely, Cloud9 are my most likely North American side to progress.

A team who have finally shown some of their potential in their last two events, albeit not huge fields, are Natus Vincere with a win at Dreamhack Winter 2017 and three out of the five taking part in a win at WESG 2017 Europe and CIS Regional Finals. One man has been an incredible force for them, especially at Dreamhack, and that is Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev who hit an unstoppable form capable of outplaying opponents almost single-handedly. However when your team performance relies so heavily on one player it is hard to expect consistency. If he shows up, they are in with a real strong chance of progression.
Oleksandr
Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev has been on fire for Natus Vincere of late.

Lets get it started

So with that being said, I'm no fortune teller, I can't tell you the future lottery numbers and likewise I can't predict these matches with 100% certainty. But I thought with the fresh start to the year it would be an interesting way to kick off the Major. Feel free to let me know your predictions on Twitter or the comments section below.

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