Cover by HLTV
This weekend was all about Counter-Strike with the final stage of the ESL One Cologne 2018 in the Lanxess-Arena once more where 15,000 roaring fans made A LOT of noise in the CS cathedral.
Ask anyone that knows a bit about the game to predict who the finalists would be prior to the event and most would probably give you the same answer: “Err probably Astralis and FaZe”. I was thinking the same before watching the final stage. Both Astralis and FaZe Clan had made it to the semis from the upper bracket and as the two favourites to take the title, it seemed clear that they would clash in the finals.
Having won ESL One: Belo Horizonte, FaZe Clan had a shot at securing their fourth premier event win out of ten total for the $1M (USD) prize awarded from the Intel Grand Slam. Astralis where sitting at two event wins coming to Cologne and knew they had a great chance to defeat FaZe in the grand final, spoiling their run for a $100K bonus and giving themselves five remaining chances to complete the grand slam. However, Na’Vi and BIG had other ideas.
Both proceeding to the quarterfinals from the lower bracket, the Ukrainian and Russian squad lead by the best player in the world, Oleksandr ‘s1mple’ Kostyliev and the German BIG squad with their latest addition of 18 years old Owen ‘smooya’ Butterfield as their primary AWPer had to respectively face Fnatic and G2 to advance. Na’Vi made quick work of the Swedes to move up to the semis and BIG continued their Cinderella story with a 2-0 over the French, making the home crowd ecstatic.
With two titans waiting in the semifinals, something special needed to happen for Na’Vi and BIG to win their series. Na’Vi took the lead over the Danes on Overpass and an impressive performance from their second star player Denis "electronic" Sharipov and despite a controlled comeback on the second map Nuke, something was missing for Astralis, perhaps it was Deviceor Xyp9xwho didn’t manage to put up their expected numbers.
On the other side, BIG played like they could win it all against the stacked roster of FaZe. Having convincingly defeated G2 in the quarterfinals and the former SK Gaming squad in MIBR (Made in Brazil) before that, they gave FaZe a run for their money. Going to overtime on the first map Dust 2 and lifted by the home crowd, BIG exceeded all expectations by defeating FaZe 2-1 thanks to their great utility use from the calls of their IGL gob b, their German stars in nex and tabseNas well as an awesome performance from smooya, besting Guardian several times for his first time on the big stage.
Nothing had prepared the casters, the crowd, the analysts nor the viewers at home for a Na’Vi vs. BIG final. Two great storylines, two similar styles of play facing off on the most iconic CS: GO stage.
The first map went Na’Vi’s way but a BIG win on Dust 2 revived the series. Train was next and the analysts had a feeling the map would be fitting for BIG but s1mple was once more the best player on the server. The German dream collapsed on Inferno where Na’Vi were ruthless on the second half, giving up a single round to BIG who had already accomplished more than they should have.
Na'Vi s1mple racks up the most kills and a 1,61 rating in map win against BIG.
One word defined this event for the Na’Vi squad. As said by s1mple and gla1ve, Na’Vi played like a team and had a much more homogeneous performance across its members throughout the tournament than the other teams and sure, s1mple is one hell of a player but this time he didn't have to put his entire team on his back. Nonetheless, the entire series was very disputed as all four first halves ending at 8-7 for either team. Many of us would have been happy to see the underdog pull off such an unthinkable run but seeing as s1mpletopped all the charts this year including kill records and ratings, it seemed rather fitting to see him lift up the trophy for Na’Vi, receive his 5THMVP award of the year and confirm that he is indeed the best player in the world.