The 22nd of January will be an exciting day for fans of Competitive CS:GO because the next Valve-sponsored Major, this time organized by ELEAGUE, will start at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Sixteen teams have qualified to play in the tournament, eight through a gruelling offline qualifier, eight by placing in the Playoffs of ESL One Cologne 2016. While the lineup of the teams to compete in the tournament is a who’s who of Counter-Strike Global Offensive with two or three exceptions, only a few of the teams have a real chance of winning the $500,000 prize for the first place. Let’s look at those teams in no particular order.
The first team that must be talked about is Natus Vincere. Not because they are the overwhelming favorites to win, but because the team is performing way under what they could do. The CIS team has massive potential. Oleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev is probably the most talented CS:GO player in the history of the game. He has great history of carrying performances at the Majors. The rest of the roster has enough firepower to blow away any opponent as well. The problem is that Valve forbid coaches from acting as in-game leaders, which hit Na’Vi the hardest out of all top teams, because their coach, Sergey “starix” Ischuk was relied upon to hold his team’s hand when s1mple was signed. A situation where Na’Vi doesn’t really have an in-game leader was created. Fortunately, the team took a break from competing, they could have figured something out. If they have… They have a great chance to win the whole tournament.
The second team to talk about is much more obvious—SK Gaming. Yes, they have recently let go a long-time teammate Lincoln “fnx” Lau due to his personality, getting Ricardo “fox” Pacheco to stand in. Despite this, SK Gaming still has a good chance to threepeat in the Major, after winning MLG Major: Columbus and ESL One Cologne 2016. After all, they still have a strong leader in Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo and a firepower wonder Marcelo “coldzera” David. With a (probably) better atmosphere in the team after fnx was removed, they should be able to get up to scratch and at least place in the Top 4.
Up next, the unchanging beast, Virtus.pro. The Polish team is one of the most stable in CS:GO. They don’t really change, they always perform well. There’s no reason why they would fail in the ELEAGUE Major. While Virtus.pro isn’t one of the most exciting teams in the world, there are words to be said for consistency and experience. The Polish have those in spades, making them safe contenders for the top spots at the ELEAGUE Major.
Treading some more dangerous waters, we have to mention Astralis. After they removed Finn “karrigan” Andersen, replacing him with Lukas “gla1ve” Rossander, Astralis experienced a big upswing in performance, placing second in ELEAGUE Season 2, where they lost to OpTic Gaming in a huge 1-2 upset, and winning the ECS Season 2 Finals after defeating the same OpTic Gaming 2-0. Unless the team starts having health problems just like they had at ESL One Cologne, they should go quite far.
The final team we would like to talk about is North. Just after qualifying for the Major as Team Dignitas, they left the organization and joined an eSports team established by F.C. Copenhagen, renaming themselves North. After Emil “Magisk” Reif joined the roster, they won EPICENTER 2016, coming out ahead of Virtus.pro, SK Gaming and Natus Vincere. While results dipped after that, not placing highly at the EPL Season 4 Finals, that could be laid at the feet of a stomach bug Magisk caught at EPICENTER. This will be a true test for this former Team Dignitas roster. If they rise up to the challenge, we might have something great on our hands. Plus, their name is just cool.
Gun to our heads, we’d say that Virtus.pro should win the ELEAGUE Major, with SK Gaming, North, Astralis and Na’Vi next in line. It’s extremely hard to tell, however. What a difference this will make from the WESG 2016 Grand Final, where, pending major upsets, first place will go to Virtus.pro, while Team EnVyUs will take second.