“We are here to stay, and the era has just begun” – Dupreeh
There were a few shocks at ELEAGUE Premier 2018, but when all was said and done the team everyone had down as favourite had come out on top. Astralis were widely slated as the best team in the world coming into this event, and the potential caveats that some thought may apply turned out not to be factors after all, with those possible contenders falling long before they had a chance to take on Denmark’s finest.
Olof back, FaZe absent
First, to the disappointments and ‘could do better’ teams, and there is only one place to start, at FaZe. Many people will have had high expectations for the team coming into this event, with Olof back in the saddle after a long hiatus, and the fears that the Swede would be dead weight were clearly unfounded, but the superteam could not deliver, and not for the first time.
Ranked third in the world, behind only Na’Vi and Astralis, FaZe found themselves in what looked to be a relatively simple group, facing the team often known as ‘FaZe-lite’, in mousesports, and the former best in the world and Olof’s old mates at Fnatic. Even if mous are a top five team, they are bedding in a new arrival, and things looked good for FaZe as they opened things up 1-1 in their best of three versus the German org, but map three was Mirage, and mous flexed to take a 2-1 and put FaZe on the brink.
In the series versus mous, Olof was the second highest rated player on his team, and only FaZe man other than NiKo to enjoy a positive K/D, so it’s hard to point the finger at him. In fact, if anyone it was rain who fell by the wayside in that series at 46-71 over three maps, and the Norwegian continued to struggle against Fnatic, going 37-45 and only outperforming his in-game leader of his team-mates.
Against the Swedes it was NiKo who led the way, with Olof again backing him up, this time breaking even on 47 kills, slightly ahead of GuardiaN. It’s too soon to judge their level with Olof back, and there are good signs in the way NiKo has played of course, but it’s fair to say if this continues there may be necks on the chopping block at FaZe in the wake of the London Major. Who goes is tough to say, but it’s not likely to be NiKo or GuardiaN unless they so choose, meaning the other three need to step it up. A one-off aberration at ELEAGUE is possible to write off if FaZe bounce back, but continuing this form into the major would be fatal.
Evolution of Na'Vi?
The other team slated to challenge the Danes was Na’Vi, and they made a better fist of it than FaZe did at least. They were able to beat both the sides that took FaZe out, although only by two games to one, before taking on Team Liquid in the semi-final. The last time the two met, it was a 2-0 win for the American mix, and we ended up with the same result here, albeit in slightly different circumstances, with Liquid inspired by some terrible news that had befallen one of their own.
That should not be down as the sole reason that Na’Vi lost the series though, as it was a team effort from the Americans. Twistzz, nitr0 and NAF all had positive ratings across the best of three, which ended 2-0 in their favour, while not a single Na’Vi player could kill more than they were killed, an obvious recipe for CIS failure. Even s1mple, such a staple at the top of the player ratings charts this year, could only manage a measly 37-38, being outfragged not just by electronic, but also his old pal flamie, for the first time in ages.
One tournament is nothing to worry about, but the rise of electronic and to some extent his other team-mates has coincided with something of a drop-off from s1mple individually. Whether that is simply the evolution of the team, or a conscious decision is tough to know, but there is a detail that might make it more interesting. In a recent post-game interview, following a tremendous read on CT side of Inferno where Na’Vi stacked A site and won the round, s1mple revealed that had been his call, rather than that of in-game leader Zeus.
It is possible that s1mple has ascended to the role of in-game leader as well as chief killer, which would make sense in some ways. You might say it makes no sense for him to sacrifice his own ability for the team, but on the other hand, they have started to win of late, and if that’s what it takes it seems that is what s1mple will do. Let’s just hope he can bring his finest form to the major, guns first.
Five matches, ten maps, no losses
But, as we said at the top, there could only be one winner, and that winner was Astralis. They played five matches, each in a best of three format, and it took them ten maps to win the event. Other than NiKo, who only played three maps, dev1ce was the best rated player at ELEAGUE Premier, which is not that surprising in itself, but what is worth comment is the presence of his mate and in game leader gla1ve in third overall, ahead of Dupreeh, s1mple, NAF and many more.
Gla1ve’s form has been a revelation in recent months, trending from a .88 rating at the end of 2017 to a 1.12 for July 2018, and that has so often made the difference in big games. Similarly to the SK Gaming side that dominated for so long, it seems as though Astralis have reached a level of team play that actually frees their designated captain to some extent, allowing him to be more of a factor in game, and given the talent on teams like mous, FaZe and Na’Vi, that is a very useful extra to be able to call upon.
Overall, though, the event went as planned, and really just underlined how far ahead of the rest Astralis are today. Liquid deserve huge credit for their performance, but we’ve known what they can do for a while, and they still need to show they can do it regularly. As for the rest, FaZe still have to get back up to speed, and mous should benefit from a player break, but right now the Astralis era is obvious for all to see, and this time it looks like it’s here to stay.
Image credit: Astralis