The upcoming ELEAGUE major qualifier looks to be one of the most difficult qualifiers on paper.

To put it into perspective, 9 out of the top 13 ranked teams on HLTV has to qualify for the major. Those teams are NIP (1), Dignitas (5), Optic (6), Cloud9 (7), FaZe (8), G2 (10), mousesports (11), Immortals (12), and EnvyUS (13).

The other teams include TyLoo, Renegades, GODSENT, HellRaisers, Vega Squadron, Spirit and CLG.

A qualifier like this seems difficult to predict, since all of the teams involved in the qualifier possess a high level of skill. The question that is probably on every CS:GO fan’s mind heading into the qualifier will more than likely be:

“Who will qualify for the major?”

I’m here to try to answer that question.

The teams, in my opinion and in no particular order, are as follows:

  • NIP
  • Dignitas
  • Optic
  • EnVyUs
  • FaZe
  • Immortals
  • Cloud9
  • G2

With all prediction comes reason, or so you would hope..

Ninjas In Pyjamas

NIP’s year has been a rollercoaster, there’s no denying it, and it’s shown throughout the course of their tournaments throughout the year:

  • 5th @ MLG Columbus
  • 1st @ Dreamhack Malmo
  • 3rd @ ESL Pro League S3 Finals
  • 2nd @ Dreamhack Summer
  • 10th @ ESL One: Cologne
  • 8th @ ELEAGUE S1
  • 1st @ Starladder i-League Starseries S2 Finals w/ Maikelele filling for pyth
  • Elimination in the Group Stage @ EPICENTER 2016
  • 4th @ ESL Pro League S4 Finals w/ Maikelele filling in for a soon to be returning pyth
  • 1st @ IEM Oakland w/ pyth returning to the roster after recovering from injury
  • 6th @ ELEAGUE Season 2

NIP have shown, particularly recently, that they are able to mix with the best in the world. Looking back at the last three months (Starladder onwards), NIP managed to top their Starladder group with a 2-0 record, topple opponents like Astralis, Cloud9 and G2 in best of threes in the quarterfinals, semifinals and grand finals to become eventual winners. This was done with a stand in player in the form of Maikelele. Unfortunately this form could not be replicated at Epicenter, where they would unfortunately go out in the group stages.

Coming into the ESL Pro League finals, NIP managed to qualify for the finals from a group consisting of SK Gaming, Cloud9, FaZe Clan, Team Dignitas and NRG eSports. NIP managed to beat SK 16-10 in the group stage, following it up with a 16-14 against NRG and a 16-7 against FaZe. NIP dropped two maps against Dignitas and Cloud9 respectively. NIP managed to overcome EnvyUS 2-0 in the quarters before losing out to SK in the semifinals 2-1.

Their other moment of victory, especially for the returning pyth was the first place at IEM Oakland. Coming third in their group, a group that consisted of FaZe, Cloud9, Heroic, SK and mousesports, NIP may have been overlooked by most as eventual winners of the tournament. After strong BO3 wins over Immortals and FaZe in the quarter and semifinals respectively, NIP managed to overcome, arguably the world’s best team at the time, SK Gaming, to win the IEM Oakland championship.

Coming off of this major victory, NIP finished their ELEAGUE run in the quarterfinals against eventual runners up, Astralis. Whilst it might have been disappointing, it still does not mean that they should be written off by any means. NIP have looked relatively consistent in the last 3 months, and with a few wins under their belt and pyth at full strength, a resurgent NIP should be full of confidence headed into this qualifier.

Team Dignitas

In the last three months, Dignitas’ results have been impressive. Placing top 4 at events such as the Starladder finals, Dreamhack Bucharest and then going on to place 1st at EPICENTER, we can say that Dignitas have come a long way since the arrival of cajunb back in May. Despite being eliminated early on from tournaments like the Pro League Finals, Dreamhack Winter and most recently ELEAGUE S2. Their short ELEAGUE campaign was due to SK eliminating them in the first knockout round of the tournament, and SK are no laughing matter. Being eliminated by FLIPSIDE and losing to Kinguin at Dreamhack Winter was probably the biggest shock of the tournament. Team Dignitas can use ECS as a springboard for their confidence, as a good performance will probably level it out and make them feel good heading towards the major qualifier. Even though Dignitas are playing with a substitute player in the form of valde, due to Magiskb0y completing schooling tasks, they should be able to perform well at ECS, because what they might lack in teamplay during that time, valde can fill with firepower. Dignitas should be able to qualify for the ELEAGUE major considering their performances against top teams have been strong this year, and is reflected in their recent tournament results.

Optic Gaming

Optic have had a very good run of offline form since the arrival of tarik and with stanislaw taking the mantle of in game leader.

Their achievements this year include:

  • 5th @ ESL One NYC (first LAN w/ tarik)
  • 5th @ ESL Pro League S4 Finals
  • 1st @ Northern Arena Montreal
  • 8th @ Dreamhack Winter
  • 1st @ ELEAGUE S2

Optic have shown that they are able to mix with some of the best teams domestically and internationally. Optic were able to eliminate both Astralis and G2 at ESL New York, and lost in a close match against VP 16-14, their first offline tournament with their new player, tarik.

Optic managed to qualify from their ESL Pro League group, 16-2ing Team Liquid and beating Immortals 16-4. Losing to mousesports 16-10 and nV 16-5, Optic managed to qualify from the group stage and came up against Cloud9 in the first knockout stage, where they lost 2-0 in a best of three.

Whilst the Northern Arena tournament did not boast the best teams, Optic beat who was in front of them in order to secure their first international LAN win in such a short amount of time since their roster inception. Their notable wins at the Northern Arena tournament included a BO3 victory over Heroic in the semi-finals and a 2-1 win over G2 eSports in the finals.

Optic suffered losses at the hands of Gambit and Cloud9 to be sent home early from Dreamhack Winter.

Optic’s first place finish at ELEAGUE was similar to that of Cloud9’s first place finish at the Pro League Finals – unexpected, yet refreshing. Optic managed to conquer the likes of nV and Fnatic in the group stage, mousesports in the quarterfinals, managed to beat FaZe in the rivalry that stemmed from Call of Duty and then beat a resurgent and fresh looking Astralis in the finals.

Optic are a very strong side, and have definitely made roster moves that has benefitted their team, since the arrival of mixwell, to the addition of tarik and the return of stanislaw in replacement of daps. Mixwell, NAF and tarik are all handy with both a rifle and an AWP, RUSH is a very impactful and skilled rifler and stanislaw is a player that can offer quality in game leadership and simultaneously contribute to the firepower.

RUSH performed like an absolute monster throughout the tournament, so much so that he won the HLTV MVP award for that tournament. We also saw NAF-FLY perform on another level in the finals, with tarik and mixwell performing consistently and well throughout the tournament too. Teams coming up against Optic should be wary of this teams capability to have any or all of their players perform at a high level at any given time.

Optic are a team that possess massive amounts of skill, and one of the most important factors is that their firepower isn’t compromised by stanislaw’s in game leading. Optic are a team loaded with star firepower that can be unleashed at any given time and turn the tide of most matches in their favor.

Team EnVyUs

EnVyUs have had a really strange year. After deciding that kioshima was the problem, they announced the addition of DEVIL to the starting roster. This move obviously did not work out for DEVIL personally, despite some achievements, such as winning the Gfinity Invitational and placing in the top 4 at Dreamhack Bucharest. The addition of SIXER has yet to yield any great results on his part, but the team look better as a unit, and was evident in their ESL Pro League finals performance, beating teams like Optic, Immortals and Liquid quite easily.

A player that has been critical in nV’s last three offline events is kennyS. At the Pro League finals, kennyS had an overall 1.24 rating, 122 kills/87 deaths (1.40 KDR) over 6 maps played (148 rounds total). More of the same over at Northern Arena Montreal, where kennyS had an overall rating of 1.07 with 87 kills/74 deaths (1.18 KDR) over 4 maps (108 rounds total). ELEAGUE could have been considered somewhat of a disappointing event for nV, but kennyS was still the best player over their tournament duration.

If nV are going to qualify, the rest of the team needs to step up behind kennyS in order to seem more solid all round and thus allow kennyS to relax a bit and not feel like he has the team on his shoulders. I do think this will be the case come major qualifiers, and hence why I think EnVyUs will qualify for the ELEAGUE major.

FaZe Clan

Ever since the arrival of karrigan, FaZe has looked to be a more structured, well rounded side. Despite a poor performance in the Pro League finals with jkaem instead of kioshima, FaZe managed to make the most of their upcoming events:

  • 4th @ IBP Masters (wins vs. Renegades and TSM, loss to eventual winners IMT)
  • Undefeated in Group B @ IEM Oakland (5-0 record) 3rd place finish (elim in semifinals)
  • 4th @ ELEAGUE S2 (2-1 defeat to eventual winners Optic in the semifinals)

FaZe have only had karrigan in their active line up for about two months, and they already look like a better, well structured side. With a player like allu, who is more than capable of putting in star performances with the AWP and players like aizy, kioshima and rain, FaZe are capable enough to go toe to toe with the best teams in the world and come out on top. This FaZe line up looks significantly stronger than what it was a few months ago, without a solid in game leader. Now that they have one, the team looks more structured and stronger, and is evident against their results in matches against some of the stronger teams that North America, South America and Europe have to offer.

Immortals

Immortals looked good when zews arrived in place of SHOOWTIME. They had won the Northern Arena Toronto tournament in controversial circumstances and played a solid Pro League Season online. Somewhere, something went wrong and it all went downhill, with a short stint at ELEAGUE, going out in their group without a win and failed to make a mark at the Pro League Finals, losing three maps and picking up only one win, which was a 16-14 victory against mousesports.

Immortals then made another change, replacing zews with the Brazilian steel. For those of you who are unaware, steel played for Luminosity in 2015 and went to the Cluj-Napoca and Cologne major tournaments with the side.

The change was announced on November 4, which was a week before the iBUYPOWER Masters, which did not seem to matter since they won that event, conquering the likes of Immortals, Renegades and the winners of the ESL Pro League finals, Cloud9.

Then came IEM Oakland, and the Immortals did not disappoint in the group stage, placing 2nd with a 4-1 record. They managed to beat teams like G2 (16-4), Liquid (16-14), Na’Vi (19-15) and TyLoo (19-17), only to be eliminated by eventual winners NIP in the quarterfinals 2-0 (BO3). IEM Oakland was an event that had a lot of teams that are highly skilled and are by no means pushovers, and the new IMT roster managed to give a good account of themselves at this offline tournament.

Now that steel has had a bit more time to settle in with the team, they should definitely be able to improve on their offline performances with steel at the helm of the team, which has already been impressive.

There is a high possibility that Immortals can claim some big scalps in this qualifier, thus setting them up for a spot at the ELEAGUE major.

Cloud9

Discussed in detail previously, the rise of Stewie2k and the arrival of autimatic have been key in Cloud9’s recent success. After a string of top 4 finishes at overseas tournaments after a 2nd place finish at Northern Arena Toronto, Cloud9 won the ESL Pro League Finals in Brazil after beating the likes of SK Gaming, Optic, mousesports (playoffs) and FaZe, NRG, NIP and Dignitas (Group). Cloud9 then finished 2nd at the iBUYPOWER Masters but failed to keep up the string of good results at IEM Oakland, going out in groups.

Cloud9 have a team that is filled with talent, and it has shown throughout the last three to four months of offline tournaments. They have played with confidence since Stewie started his in game leadership, and like stanislaw, he is able to call and frag at the same time, which means Cloud9 are not lacking in firepower. Their confidence levels rose when autimatic arrived as their new teammate too, and through a string of top notch performances from him, Cloud9 were able to reach new heights. Now that n0thing is free from the burden of calling the shots, he too is able to contribute to the team more and has made an impact since Stewie started his in game leadership role.

Cloud9 do look stronger than ever, and it has been shown in their offline results, their victory in Brazil was no fluke. We know what Cloud9 are capable of, and they are definitely capable of qualifying for a spot at the major.

G2 eSports

Going to make this one short and sweet – G2 can qualify for the major, but it would be dependent on a hard shox/ScreaM carry. Shox and ScreaM are renown for their incredible aim, and whether or not they will be able to turn up at the qualifiers will be key during the duration of their lifespan in the qualifier. Whilst the other players on the team are able to perform at a good level, it feels like shox and ScreaM will need to be at the top of their game in order for G2 to have a chance in a qualifier that is this stacked in terms of team quality.

Who are the other stronger teams that could pose a threat?

It would be mousesports and Renegades. It was a toss up between mousesports and EnVyUs to qualify in the predictions, but it feels like EnVyUs would make it. Mousesports are a good team and are capable of winning – but in the last few offline tournaments we have not seen that. A really poor performance at IEM Oakland after a very good performance at the ESL Pro League finals certainly would have raised some eyebrows as to why mousesports performed so poorly at IEM Oakland. They also fell short to Optic in the ELEAGUE quarterfinals. Mousesports can definitely challenge for a spot in the major. They’re not necessarily a dark horse in this sense, but they’re definitely a team that can qualify and if they do, it will be them instead of EnVyUs.

As for Renegades, they have shown that they are a quality team throughout their life span. With the addition of Rickeh in place of SPUNJ, who is now retired, Renegades have a dedicated AWPer that has a significant impact on the game. Due to this, Renegades have looked really good recently, and it showed in their 5th place finish in the online portion of the ESL Pro League, and instead of attending the finals they elected to attend the Asia Minor, in which they finished 2nd to TyLoo. At the iBUYPOWER Masters, the Renegades were able to give a good account of themselves against teams such as IMT (losing 12-16 in a BO1) and losing 2-1 in a BO3 to Renegades (L 7-16 Nuke, W 22-19 Mirage, L 10-16 Train). Renegades went on to Dreamhack Winter and placed 2nd, going 2-0 in their group (16-14 W vs. C9 and 16-8 vs. Gambit). The Renegades were able to give a good account of themselves overseas and look significantly stronger now that they have an impactful AWP player. It is because of this that they are going to be labeled a dark horse in the qualifier.

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Photo credit: HLTV, Liquidpedia & EPICENTER

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