ESL Impact is set to make its way back to Dallas, Texas for the Season 3 Finals from June 2nd to 4th. It will feature reigning champions Nigma Galaxy, who will look to defend their ESL Impact crown against the latest batch of the world’s best women’s Counter-Strike: Global Offensive teams.
The prospective teams looking to dethrone Nigma Galaxy include NAVI Javelins and 9 Pandas Fearless from Europe, Black Dragons Female and B4 Esports Female from Brazil, HSG from Asia, and ex-CLG Red and Shimmer from North America. Such a field includes an intriguing mixture of seasoned veterans and exciting newcomers that will set foot in the Lone Star State for the chance to become the ESL Impact Season 3 champions.
Before we look forward to what kind of action these teams will bring, let’s look back at what led up to this point in the form of listing the five biggest takeaways from Season 3. All stats mentioned below were cited from HLTV.org.
Nigma’s toughest challenge yet?
At this point in Nigma Galaxy’s trajectory in women’s CS, their dominance can’t be denied. They have been far and away the best team in the scene for nearly the past two years. However, it can be argued that they have not played like their usual selves in recent ESL Impact events.
The team for the first time in ESL Impact, after a run of 30 consecutive wins, fell 2-0 to NIP Impact early on in the Group Stage. NIP also turned out to be the same team that bested them in the semi-finals of the Gamers Without Borders tournament. Additionally, both matches were preceded by their grand-final victory over NAVI Javelins in Katowice 2023, which featured a tight 22-19 double overtime win in Vertigo.
It is clear that NIP have cracked the code behind defeating the best women’s CS team in the world, and although they are not competing in Dallas, they provided the rest of the field a blueprint on how to beat Nigma Galaxy. With that considered, the challenge is on Nigma to ensure those losses aren’t repeated on LAN.
Europe’s upper brass remains in top shape
There’s no denying that Europe enjoyed a large influx of organizations entering the women’s CS scene this past ESL Impact season. Some notable examples include Guild Esports signing the OUTCASTS stack, G2 Oya, which features the return of Julia "juliano" Kiran following her retirement from Valorant and Team Spirit Female, which was previously known as MostValuablePlayers.
With them joining an already stacked region, it was believed a change in the hierarchy was due to happen for this split and that sentiment only increased in magnitude when NIP Impact took down Nigma 2-0 and broke the latter’s unbeaten run.
However, by the time the dust settled in European divisional play, it was those three familiar faces, Nigma, NAVI Javelins, and 9 Pandas Fearless, who came out on top, unfettered by the challenges set forth against them. From that loss to NIP, Nigma roared back by winning their next three games with a round differential of +43 to secure an automatic invite to Dallas.
For NAVI, after bringing in a new player Martyna "LETi" Owsik, the team went undefeated in group play all the while dropping one map (16-14 loss on Nuke to G2) throughout that stage.
Their display was done in part by the contribution of IGL Wiktoria "vicu" Janicka, who recorded a league-best rating of 1.45, K:D differential of +102, 93.2 damage per round, 0.94 kills per round, and an impact rating of 1.58.
As for 9 Pandas, though their loss to NAVI meant they had to face BIG EQUIPA in the Play-In Stage for the third and final EU slot for the Finals, they breezed past their opponents 2-0 to make the trip for Texas.
So long FURIA, Hello B4 & Black Dragons
While the best European teams stayed at the top of their game domestically, over in Brazil, a changing of the guard was exhibited in the region. FURIA, the team that finished as runner-up in three out of the last four ESL Impact events and had gone 6-0 in the group stage, failed to qualify for the Season 3 Finals after losing to Black Dragons Female 2-0 in the playoffs.
As for the team who would take their place at the top of Brazilian women’s CS, one can look no further than B4 Esports. Since parting ways from the Black Dragons organization in late June of 2022 and joining B4 one month later, the lineup featuring Giovanna “yungher” Yungh, Lara “goddess” Baceiredo, Julia “julih” Gomes, Nataly “nani” Cavalcante, and Nadjila "poppins" Sanchez have made the gradual climb to the apex of the region by winning numerous events like MEG Female 2022, Gamers Club Masters Feminina VI, 1xChallenge and Gamers Club Liga Serie Feminina: 1st Edition 2023 as well as placing relatively high in the ESL Impact Season 2 Finals and Katowice 2023.
B4 would seamlessly translate their fine form to Season 3 by going undefeated in the Group Stage with a +107 round differential, which is tied for the second most of all teams in ESL Impact regardless of region alongside ex-CLG Red, and behind FURIA’s +126 round differential.
In the playoffs, B4 faced a stubborn MIBR side that took them to the brink of overtime on both maps in the series, but it was the former who held their nerves to win 2-0 and seal their place in the Season 3 Finals. Perhaps the best player Brazil had seen in Season 3 was B4’s yungher, who finished with a 1.39 rating, +90 K:D differential, 147 AWP kills, and a 1.44 impact rating, all of which topped the league.
Even though Black Dragons’ journey to prominence was similar in time to B4, the team bore their share of struggles as well. Following the departure of the stack that would become B4, they signed the "Quem sao elas" stack featuring Ana Carolina "annaEX" Brito, Letícia "Le^" Lima, Bruna "Babs" Nycoly and Camila "cAmyy" Natale as their newest lineup for the second half of the 2022 season. They would further retool the team by bringing in Amanda "s1non" Sheronstone in November 2022, who last played for the organization from 2020 to 2021.
From there, Black Dragons took that next proverbial step in their development by taking down FURIA, a team they had not beaten in the last nine matches dating back to October 2021. This win booked them a ticket to Texas, giving its current players their first-ever trip to an ESL Impact LAN.
There’s no better time to rebound than now for NA
With the best of women’s CS convening in North America for the Season 3 Finals, the question ultimately arrives on how the home representatives will fare against the rest of the field. For the Season 3 Finals, the region is represented by ex-CLG and Shimmer.
With the esports scene undergoing a stark recession since last year, Counter Logic Gaming dissolved its esports branch, leaving its players teamless and with no financial support to boot. As a result, the CLG Red division, which had long been revered as a staple in the women’s Esports scene in games such as CS and Valorant, shut down in early April.
Even as the dark cloud of being teamless floated around them, ex-CLG continued performing, going undefeated with a 6-0 record and beating Evil Geniuses Gold 2-0 in the payoffs. Perhaps the player that exhibited the most resounding presence in the region was Vivienne "BiBiAhn" Quach, as her rating, KD difference, kills per round, deaths per round, KAST, damage per round, total kills and impact rating ranked among the highest.
Looking over to Shimmer, they are the latest free-agent team to emerge in NA after defeating Detonate SparX 2-1 to qualify for Dallas. Despite being a team that formed before the Season 3 NA Open Qualifiers and faced far more established teams during their road to Dallas, Shimmer performed well beyond expectations by finishing second in a group that included ex-CLG Red and Saints, who played at Katowice 2023, before taking down SparX.
Despite being vastly different in composition and name, both NA teams encapsulate, in essence, the spirit of their region in women’s CS. Both are orgless, both have little support, and both arrive in Dallas with little expectation to win the trophy at the event’s end. Even so, given that there’s a little buzz surrounding them, it could help them get into their element. With a relaxed mindset, there’s no better time for these teams to make noise other than now when there is little belief in them.
HSG the Wild Card
Of all the teams that are participating in the Season 3 Finals, none have garnered as much intrigue as HSG has. In early March, the team made huge waves in the scene by parting ways with Wu "XiaoWu" Xinni and Zhao "hffo" Nian to make way for the arrival of Olga "olga" Rodrigues from FURIA fe. It is from that move that she would join Ramona "GFi" Azween, Aisya "Argent" Sabrina and Fang "LEO" Dongmei.
By adding a player like olga to the best Asian team in women’s CS, it’s not that hard to imagine what happened to their performance. With her added firepower, HSG was an unstoppable force by the time the Asian Qualifiers began for the Season 3 Finals, where they shut out their opponents.
Regardless of being eliminated in the Group Stage of Katowice 2023, HSG, with a core group of players that placed 3-4th in the Season 2 Finals, not to mention the addition of a player as boisterous in the server as olga, aren’t just seen not just as a notable contender but as a major player for the title outright.
With the ESL Impact Season 3 Finals right around the corner, be sure to keep an eye on our CS:GO portal as we continue our coverage of the Impact scene.