Alex “Waldo” Waldherr, a Luckbox community member and CS:GO connoisseur, shares his Berlin Major Pickems for the New Challengers Stage of the StarLadder event, which starts on Friday
The Berlin Major schedule is set and we're almost ready for action at the second CS:GO major of 2019. Remember, in the New Challengers stage, only matches that could result in the advancement or elimination of a team are best-of-three - all others are best-of-one.
Waldo's Berlin Major Pickems (HLTV rank, as of August 18th, in brackets)
Team Vitality (2): There's not a world in which any of the teams in this Challengers pool should be able to beat Vitality in a best of three. I expect them to ease past Syman. If they win their 1-0 matchup then I think the 2-0 series should be comfortably theirs.
NRG (5): Another team that will be a favorite to 3-0 through the New Challengers stage, NRG are debuting a new brand and hopefully with it a new mentality to get them into the later stages of the tournament. Make no mistake, anything less than the New Champions stage will be a failure to the NRG squad. I don't expect them to falter here against these teams.
G2 (8): Despite G2's top 10 rank, I have a hard time putting them through because of their lack of consistency. If they show up like they did for the Pro League Finals in Odense, then we should see two French teams into the New Legends stage.
Furia (9): Expect to see some Nuke respect bans against the new top dogs (or panthers) in Brazil. They'll have shored up their map pool in anticipation of that very possibility, with their fast and hectic playstyle applied to some new backdrops. This is another potential 3-0 team, but I think they're safer as an advance pick unless something goes horribly wrong.
Mousesports (10): Some seriously solid results in the last three months have made me a believer in the new iteration of a storied CS franchise. Under Finn "karrigan" Andersen's leadership, Mouz has 2-0 wins over Fnatic, FaZe, and North. David "frozen" Čerňanský is looking for an event to shine and come into his own, and Berlin just may be the place to do it. Expect Mousesports to benefit from some huge performances from the young gun as well as their deadeye Özgür "woxic" Eker.
CR4ZY (17): Things are about to get CR4ZY in Berlin (couldn't resist). This team isn't here by some fluke, they're as real as it gets. The old Imperial core of Rokas "EspiranTo" Milasauskas and Nemanja "nexa" Isaković that won DreamHack Open Summer 2018 linked up with the Valiance and Co. lineup and became a contender that's been quietly climbing the EU ladder ever since. This team is definitely one to keep an eye on for late stage surprise potential and a near lock for the New Legends stage in my opinion.
forZe (21): The CIS Minor champions are looking to get their foot in the door as the new unquestioned second best team in the CIS region, and outperforming AVANGAR in Berlin gives them a golden opportunity to do exactly that. They qualified for IEM Chicago over a Heroic team that is arguably the strongest team that missed out on the major, only to lose that opportunity to visa issues. Expect them to be hell bent on capitalizing on this chance to prove themselves and look for Bogdan "xsepower" Chernikov to be melting the opposition on the server.
Complexity (27): This is a team that took down MiBR with just one week of practices together at ECS Season 7. They're surely going to be more refined now after their first real bootcamp together, and they've already assured that they'll make history in Berlin by sporting the youngest player in the history of CSGO majors. Owen "oBo" Schlatter will be just 16 years and 58 days old when the action kicks off, taking over the honor previously accomplished by Markus "Kjaerbye" Kjærbye at DreamHack Winter 2014. But COL have a lot on the line here. Having struggled in domestic qualifiers, they need a solid performance here to try to assert themselves as a worthy NA competitor when it comes to receiving event invites.
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Will not advance
North (12): Like G2, North have some really high highs and really low lows. Making the major is certainly better than they fared in the buildup to Katowice, but getting 2-0'ed by CR4ZY should be a wakeup call to this squad. They eased by MVP PK to get through the 3rd Place Play-In, but they still don't have me convinced.
Grayhound Gaming (23): The boys are back and absolutely stomped through the Asian Minor. I think that they're seriously improved from Katowice. I can't see a world in which they'll be in the 23rd-24th slot again, but I don't know if it'll be enough to get them through to the New Legends stage.
AVANGAR (26): If there's a team that's on upset alert based solely on the initial matchups, it's AVANGAR. Their recent results have been shaky at best, winning through the BLAST Pro Moscow Play-In, but dropping out of the ESL One New York Invitational in groups, and getting their clock cleaned by Furia in Hong Kong 3-1 in a BO5 at the EMF CSGO World Invitational. They've had trouble with CIS competition, it'll be interesting to see how they fare in Berlin, but I expect to see them on the wrong side of a 2-2 BO3 at the end of the New Challengers stage.
HellRaisers (29): This team is a mystery to me. They have so much talent, but they're struggling against many of the teams they'll see in Berlin, including Mousesports, forZe, and G2. A first round matchup with Furia doesn't make things easier. This is a team I expect to be on the bubble, but unless there's a serious production change, I don't see the CIS stalwarts maintaining their status as a Returning Challenger for the Spring 2020 CSGO Major.
Tyloo (31): Dominant against Asian competition, I'm not convinced that this newly compiled lineup is ready for what waits in the heart of Germany. I'm fully prepared to eat my words in the event of another Tyloo tear through to the New Legends stage, but I need to see it to believe it first.
DreamEaters (36): Survivors of both the CIS Minor and the 3rd Place Play-In, the Russian squad is surely scrappy. Surprise winners to many over INTZ in that Play-In, they're still likely to occupy many 0-3 picks. However, though they may not line up well against these teams on paper, they're definitely a team that may be down, but is never fully out until the match is over.
Syman (44): Making it this far is a great story for the diverse team of CIS rookies, but the slugfest of a CIS Minor is still a class below the talent they'll see in Berlin. They're a potential 0-3 team but they've had the edge against DreamEaters, so they should have at least one good matchup to try to keep them from filling that slot.
INTZ (30): I have a hard time seeing INTZ winning against the vast majority of teams in this stage, especially seeing their struggles against some solid but non-major NA teams in the Pro League relegation series. They were one BO3 away from not being here, and their recent form sadly shows just that. Brazil might be tied (with Russia) for having the most players coming to Berlin, but a third of them might be among the first to leave.
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