We’re so close to the FACEIT Major in London you can almost hear the commentators abusing the metaphors already, with the echo of Machine’s banter just filling the peripheries of your aural spectrum.
The main event is weeks away, of course, but the Challengers starts on September 5th and has a huge amount of talent on show. We've picked out five of the names who could make their way up a notch or two on the ladder at this event, some from teams that few will be expecting to do well, and see who the stars of the Challengers phase might be.
Xantares - Space Soldiers
We start with an old name, at least to those of you who have followed CSGO online in recent years, and one that many folk have talked up for a while. The Turkish star has the sort of numbers in online games that suggest he’s toggling god mode, but it appears that is not the case, and the reality is that Space Soldiers have some insane fragging power in their team, led by Xantares.
The problem for Space Soldiers is twofold. First, they consistently struggle to get visas sorted for travel, being as they are from Turkey, and often trying to travel to ‘Murica. The second may be a product of that lack of LAN experience, but often when they do finally arrive at an event the magic has gone, and they look average.
If Xantares and co can get into this event early, they have serious upset potential, but many have predicted that Space Soldiers would shoot for the moon, only too see them crash back to earth. Any success they have will depend on Xantares showing up, as he is truly a beast on top form.
w0xic - HellRaisers
There may seem like a theme here, with another Turk, and another player who struggles to get his visas sorted out on a regular basis. He was only able to attend the latter stages of Dreamhack Masters after a passport and visa situation, but when he arrived he made an impact. The HellRaisers man is dangerous at all times, but on some maps he becomes almost unplayable.
For example, with dust2 back in the map pool, the art of the mid-door bang has come back, and w0xic is so top-tier at that it’s frankly ridiculous. Crossing in smoke, behind flames or an HE grenade, it makes no difference. He’s probably going to snipe you, and possibly kill you, and it doesn’t matter who you are, there is nothing you can do. He brings that sort of threat to many situations, and if HellRaisers crash out there should be a lot of teams breaking down their door to speak to w0xic.
NAF-FLY – Team Liquid
In the words of the immortal Dave Grohl, one of these things is not like the other, and that one is NAF. Like Snatchie, NAF plays for a team that has won titles, but unlike his Polish rival NAF has won some of those titles himself. Now, the Canadian turns up on a team that many people think might actually be too talented to succeed, if that is even possible.
The problem for Liquid is that NAF, Twistzz and EliGE are all world-level talents, with the other members of the team a major winning support (TACO) and nitr0, who is something of a black sheep in the team in the eyes of a few pundits. With this much firepower, the feeling is that NAF, EliGE and Twistzz occasionally just wait for one of the other two to carry the game, but if they all turn up Liquid could be a contender for the title overall, and be far too good for the Challengers Stage.
Snatchie – Virtus.pro
This is the first really big event Virtus.pro are attending with Snatchie in the side, and they’re already half-torpedoed before they start. One of their best players, Byali, has announced he intended to leave VP after the Major, to do who knows what, and their new signing Snatchie has been plunged into an (albeit lucrative) pit of faeces, that he must turn into gold.
As an AWP player, he is stepping into the shoes of Papa Biceps, of course, but statistically he is an upgrade on the much-loved beefcake. This is the first chance for Snatchie to prove he is a legit world star in the making, and if he plays well, it will make it that much easier for VP to continue the rebuild around him when the likes of Byali and Neo inevitably step back.
BnTeT – Tyloo
If the major were decided purely on who has the best name, then Hansel ‘BnTet’ Ferdinand would be s1mple x coldzera levels of unbeatable, but sadly for the Indonesian it’s not a competition to see who got the best handle. Luckily, the Tyloo star is able to effect games in other ways than just by screaming his awesome moniker, like clicking on faces fasters than most people can even register their existence.
There has been some talk that Western teams should look at signing the Tyloo star if his team continues to disappoint at LAN, but recent results suggest they may have turned a corner. The chances Tyloo win the Major are basically nil, but every good performance is more power for the scene in China, and BnTeT is the sort of player who will inspire a generation to drop Dota and come over to CSGO.