It was the Major that wasn’t really a Major. ESL One Cologne returned this week and as always it delivered incredible action, but this time only $250,000 was on the line instead of $1m and the title of world champions. Still, even without the Major title, this was one hell of a tournament, and one that showed how much things have changed in the last month. The Astralis era is on the rocks and the Brazilians are back on top.
Outside Cologne, teams switched orgs, tournaments announced invites and Valve brought out its biggest banhammer yet.
Match of the Week – Cloud9 vs Na’Vi
A word of warning. This is technically a best-of-one, but it may as well be a best-of-three. It will take you at least two hours to watch, even if you skip the breaks. The reason is that this match went to, oh god, we can’t even count how many overtimes. It ended with 66 rounds played. Fortunately, a lot of these rounds were pretty entertaining, and there were quite a few big plays. It also helps that Anders and Semmler managed to keep the hype going all the way through. Without them this could have been a lot harder to watch.
Winners & Losers
Winner: SK Gaming
With their win at ESL One Cologne, SK Gaming have now won three big events in the last four weeks. First up was DreamHack Summer, where they overcame Gambit, Cloud9 and Fnatic. Then it was ECS, where they beat FaZe Clan, Astralis and G2 Esports, arguably the other three top teams in the world. Then they took the Cologne trophy by beating FaZe, North and OpTic before destroying C9 in the final. Anything less than a win in Krakow would be a disappointment at this point.
Winner: NA teams
Something amazing happened in Cologne. Somehow all three NA teams managed to make it into the top eight. Liquid and OpTic Gaming went out in the quarterfinals, but Cloud9 went all the way to the final after starting 0-2 in the Swiss groups. This meant they had to win every match from that point out to win the competition, and they only fell short at the final hurdle. While two of those teams aren’t at the Major, this does give NA some hope of doing well over the next couple of weeks.
Winner: RankS players
With all the big names in Europe and mostly playing FPL, RankS hasn’t really been on the radar this month. Perhaps ESEA weren’t happy with that, because they’ve decided to change things up and boosted the annual RankS prize pool to more than $600,000. This also comes with a format change. Instead of each RankS season being a month, it will now be a weekly competition. This means pros who have to travel still have a chance to make some cash on the regular. This new system means payouts have been adjusted, with the weekly winner in NA and EU getting $1,250. Not bad.
Loser: Virtus Pro
VP just can’t see to get things going right now, and if the Major doesn’t go much better then we may be seeing the final stages of this roster. In a Facebook post, pashaBiceps said that if the team survives this it will be a miracle. This was just after VP lost all three of their matches in Cologne, to Immortals, SK and Heroic. Two of those teams didn’t even make the top eight. To make matters worse, byali’s mouse was stolen from the practice area.
This week saw the biggest ever wave of VAC bans, with more than 40,000 handed out just after the Steam Summer Sale ended. It seems like every major cheating service was hit, with most of them now totally offline. This also hit the infamous ‘Clara’ cheat, which was the hack used by streamer MissQGemini, who then claimed that someone called Clara had used her PC to install the software. The good news is that we can now play games without having to encounter as many cheaters.
The Singularity esports organization has lost their very promising CS:GO team to Tricked Esports. The move was rumored for some time, but this week it was made official, meaning Tricked once again has one of the most promising up-and-coming Nordic teams under their banner. The team managed to win the Copenhagen Games a few months ago in a slightly different form and has been impressive against the top teams in Europe.
Play of the Week
There were a lot of big plays in Cologne, and most of them seemed to come from Cloud9, who could seemingly win every round where they had a numbers disadvantage. We could easily have included five plays from C9 that would go straight to the top of our list in a regular week, but we settled on this one because of how unlikely it was for C9 to win. We know pistols are pretty strong, but here C9 manage to make them look better than an AWP.
While big plays seemed to pop up in every other round in Cologne, fails were few and far between. It seemed like everyone tidied up their plays and that resulted in a high level of competition. But there were a couple of misplays that could count as fails, and this one was the most painful to watch. North were on the edge of mounting a comeback and it looked like they were going to grab another round, but a failed jump that we have all hit a million times cost them the chance to extend their Cologne run.
SK may have won ESL One Cologne, but in the early days of the tournament FalleN was not a happy bunny. SK lost their opening Swiss match to Space Soldiers and then lost to G2 later in the group stage. This lead to the following tweet.
Swiss format might be entertaining but I hate it and think its way too better for underdog teams. GGWP fnatic we move on to playoffs.
— Gabriel Toledo (@FalleNCS) July 6, 2017
DreamHack has announced the 12 teams invited to DreamHack Malmo. The event is straight after the player break, so they have just decided to invite everyone. SK Gaming, Astralis, FaZe Clan, G2 Esports, North, Na’Vi, Virtus Pro, Fnatic, OpTic Gaming, Immortals, Gambit and Ninjas in Pyjamas are invited, with the final spots going to EU and NA qualifiers.
Rez made his debut on Ninjas in Pyjamas at ESL One Cologne and impressed everyone. In his first map he was the MVP and he pulled off some great plays. Sure, NiP may have only won on Cache and it was clear they still have a lot to work on, but when you pull off these kind of plays in your opening few rounds the future looks bright.