This year’s Legends Stage is stacked. Add to the fact that this is the last ever CS:GO Major, and the stakes are higher than ever. Here are my predictions for which teams will qualify for the Legends Stage.
G2 have looked strong so far throughout this year. The only exception would be ESL Pro League, where they did not meet the expectations they set for themselves earlier in the year. At the RMR, they lost a close game to 9INE in the opening match, where they had the lead two times in the second half of the game at 11-12 and 13-14 before losing the game 16-14. They then clawed their way back after wins over iNation and Aurora before taking down Cloud9 2-0. Their last game was against Vitality where they lost without taking a map off of the French organization. If they are firing on all cylinders they should be able to challenge for not only a Legends Stage spot but the trophy itself. They had a bit of a slow start in the first game of the RMR, as mentioned before, which they should aim to avoid. Despite everything, they are still one of the favorites to go through, and their low seeding should be beneficial for them considering some of the higher seeds in the Challengers Stage.
At the RMR FaZe were a shadow of the team that we all know and are used to seeing. After wins over OG and Apeks in the Challengers Stage they lost three consecutive BO3s to NAVI, BNE and MOUZ. In these games, they played a total of seven maps and only won one against MOUZ. With a week to gather themselves and recuperate, where some of the members of the team went home, according to Robin “Ropz” Kool; they then managed to grab wins against Aurora and Cloud9 in the LCQ to qualify for the Major. They then participated at IEM Rio where they got knocked out after being handed losses by FURIA and Vitality where they, once again, did not win a map in the BO3s. After being knocked out of the tournament, Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken took to Twitter and talked about the fatigue and stress that he has experienced the weeks before the event. He spoke about the RMR being so close to IEM Rio and blamed this as one of the reasons for not performing up to their usual standard. Despite all of this, FaZe are expected to qualify for the Legends Stage. However, they have a tough first match against Monte.
Monte are still a bit of an unknown entity. Despite not having many games against tier-one opposition under their belt, they still had an impressive showing at the RMR. They managed to win games against ENCE and Cloud9. They did lose to Heroic in the 2-0 game but managed to pick themselves up for the 2-1 game and beat FORZE in a convincing fashion. They then lost against Vitality in the 3rd place decider match, where they were close to taking Vitality’s map pick - Nuke. After the RMR, they have played some online events and have shown solid results there, only losing to HEET thus far in the final of CCT Central Europe Series 6. The main key for Monte qualifying will definitely be Mohammad “BOROS” Malhas, who really showed up during the RMR and put up impressive numbers that made the whole community put their eyes on him. They have a tough first match where they face off against FaZe who, despite their performance at the RMR and IEM Rio, are a team to be reckoned with. Just yesterday, news broke that coach Serhij “lmbt” Bezhanov will not be able to travel with the team due to new regulations from Ukraine that were made during the ongoing war. This might affect them negatively, or perhaps it’ll have a similar effect as it had on Team Spirit in the Antwerp Major when Sergey “hally” Shavayev was not able to attend as their coach and the team used that as fuel and reached the Semi-finals. If Monte continues to play the same way they did at the RMR then they should be able to clinch one of the tickets to the Legends Stage.
Liquid have been inconsistent this year. They started off the year by not qualifying for the BLAST Spring Finals at the BLAST Spring Groups and being sent to the NA Showdown, where they were given another chance at clinching a spot at the US-based event. Before the NA Showdown started, they participated in IEM Katowice and ESL Pro League. At IEM Katowice they managed to reach the Semi-finals where they fell to G2 after wins over the likes of FaZe and Vitality. At ESL Pro League they were knocked out in the first game of the Playoffs after losing 2-0 to paiN. Coming into the BLAST NA Showdown event Liquid were the favorite alongside FURIA beforehand to clinch the North American spot on home soil. They ended up losing to paiN once again and therefore missed out on representing their nation in Washington. As usual, Liquid were a favorite alongside FURIA coming into the BLAST Americas RMR. They managed to get a spot in the Challengers Stage after beating Nouns. They have the experience that is needed to make it through the grueling stage, which is the Challengers Stage and grab a spot in the Legends Stage.
Ninjas in Pyjamas
I know what you all might be thinking… NiP haven't had the best results lately, which is correct. They were on the brink of knockout in the RMR after being handed losses by Vitality and FORZE before they managed to grab wins in the BO3s against Astralis and BIG. In IEM Rio they lost to the two heavy hitters in their group; NAVI and Heroic, while they did get a win vs 9INE who managed to go 3-0 in the RMR. The team has the firepower to take them into the Legends Stage. And while Daniil “headtr1ck” Valitov lacks experience, the rest of the team does not. Regardless of the results that the lineup has shown so far, they have a good chance of qualifying for the Legends Stage. They have a tough task ahead of them in their first game on Monday where they are facing off against MOUZ, who have had some ups and downs throughout the year but are still a tough team to play against.
MOUZ is yet another team that have been inconsistent throughout the season so far. They ended last year off by reaching the Semi-finals at the IEM Rio Major. After that, MOUZ have been struggling to put up the same performances at LANs this year. Their only top-four placement came at the BetBoom Playlist Urbanistic event where they were invited directly into the Quarter-finals and won over Apeks before being handed a loss by FORZE in the Semi-final. At the RMR, they had a shaky start with one loss against B8 and one win over SAW to end the first day. On day two, they fell to Falcons, and when it came to the BO3s, they managed to grab wins against VP and FaZe, putting FaZe down into that LCQ bracket. They did show at the Rio Major, as well as in the BO3s at the RMR, that they are a team to still count on, despite grabbing wins against VP and FaZe sides that are not in form at all. The question is, can they recreate the magical run that they had at the last Major?
ENCE has been on the rise since Guy “NertZ” Iluz joined. The team played their first event together at ESL Pro League where they managed to reach the Semi-final after wins against the likes of G2 and Vitality in the Playoffs before eventually falling to a Cloud9 who was far from the Cloud9 that we saw at the RMR. They showed some great resilience at the RMR where they clawed their way back from 0-2 with their backs against the wall to a 3-2 score. This qualified them for the Challengers Stage. It is still the early days for this ENCE squad, and this is just NertZ’s first Major cycle with the team and his first-ever Challengers Stage. While ENCE’s results in terms of achievements were greater with Valdemar “valde” Bjørn Vangså in the team, finishing second at ESL Challenger Rotterdam and the IEM Rio RMR last year as well as winning CCT North Europe Series 2. Their run at the Major itself was not the worst. They managed to grab a 2-0 win against Vitality in their 1-2 match but fell to MOUZ in the 2-2 game and therefore missed out on a spot in the Playoffs. When talking to Pavle “Maden” Bošković at the RMR, he said that NertZ brings positive vibes before the games and more hype during the games, which was something that they were lacking with valde, who is a more quiet guy compared to NertZ.
But what are the negatives for this ENCE team, then? Well, as it is still early days, it is hard to say what there is that might hinder them from reaching the Legends Stage. NertZ’s experience, as well as the limited time that the team has had to play together, are the only things that do come to mind. However, the limited time can also be something that can be used to their advantage as there is still a lot of room for coming up with new things, and there has been time for them to change things from the past events.
Many people will probably disagree with us on this.. why in the world would we put OG in when there are the likes of GamerLegion and Apeks for example? Well, they have shown progress under Nikolaj “niko” Kristensen at the RMR. They had a very rough start to the event, with two losses in the BO1s on the first day. The BO3s seem to be their comfort zone as they made a comeback to 3-2 and qualified for the Challengers Stage. After the RMR, they took a flight to Brazil to participate in IEM Rio. Over there, the team were able to secure an overtime win against Vitality and a BO3 win over fnatic. They were then eliminated by Vitality, who they won against in the opening game, taking a map from them. Going into the Challengers Stage of the Major, the team might be in a honeymoon period still, as it was only a few months ago since niko joined the team as a stand-in. They might get a performance boost by this as well as by the fact that they have not played a lot of games with their full squad. There is a small sample size of games and therefore it might be tough for other teams to try and predict what they will do. There has also been some time since the RMR and IEM Rio so they have had a little bit of time to do some adjustments to their strats and plays.
In an interview with BLIX.GG, Abdul “degster” Gasanov talked a little bit about how it has been with niko so far. He had the following to say about the new in-game leader: “I think he’s a good support player and he’s also an experienced person who knows what he can offer to his teammates. This thing is really important in my opinion because everyone’s feeling it — he’s the man who can support them with nades, with peeks, in clutches, in executions.”.
But what is the difference between this OG and previous iterations? Well, for starters niko is the IGL this time around which he talked about in an interview with us. Talking about his IGLing the Dane said that he’s getting a lot of help from the coaches Casper “ruggah” Due and Alexander “kakafu” Szymanczyk with the entry rounds while he takes care of the mid-round calling and gets some help from his teammates if needed. He also mentioned that the team needs to work on their consistency and on playing together. Consistency has been one of OG’s biggest issues for quite some time and perhaps niko can help the team turn that around and become a bit more consistent.