No surprises in Katowice from the Danes, as Astralis took care of business against MIBR to lock up their Grand Final spot as expected. But nobody seems to care, as there is a far more intriguing storyline that has stolen the show. The hype train surrounding ENCE hasn't stopped rolling and shows no signs of slowing down heading into their showdown with the best in the world. They've made it look #EZ4ENCE against the number two and number three teams in the world with comfortable 2-0 victories in both affairs, and now look to take down all of the top three en route to a first Major title.
Watch: IEM Katowice 2019 final live
Viewing party: Join our IEM Katowice Grand Final viewing party in Discord
If you're a listener to The Luckbox Podcast, you might already know that I'm a huge proponent of teams starting to think about incorporating the new generation of talent into their nation's elite teams. Some of the titans of Counter-Strike are slowly stagnating, with Virtus.pro being the unfortunate example of seasoned legends failing to progress into the new era of the game. Other teams such as G2, Fnatic, and mousesports are starting to see the consequences of recycling the same players as well, and are likely trying to figure out how to avoid complete collapse like their Polish bretheren. On the flipside, teams such as Furia and Vitality are already seeing success with their experiments.
Young guns ENCE evolving and adapting
But the team that is ahead of the curve by far? ENCE. They took the approach of incorporating fresh talent to a new level and it's paying huge dividends. Rather than reloading with a promising star in a lineup of veterans already used to playing their own brand of CS, they brought a grizzled veteran to a more malleable team and let them grow together into a dangerous, cohesive unit.
They adapted arguably as well or better than any other team to the new AUG meta and have seen tremendous benefits as a reward for their efforts. allu's experience and leadership have clearly been an unbelievable asset, as ENCE's teamplay and communication in this tournament are second perhaps only to their upcoming opponent in Astralis. And it had to be, because collapsing on s1mple from all sides at once seemed to be the only thing that could stop the best player in the world in the semi-finals.
They are the antithesis to the formation of international superteams, and are the leading argument for the development of squads that share a primary language. They have succeeded on the back of superior, unselfish Counter-Strike made famous by the Danish top dogs. This Grand Final matchup is so intriguing because the similarities between ENCE the Astralis project are so compelling. The formidable Finns vs the dominant Danes. I'm hoping it will be an all-time great, and I think it really could be.
Faith in youth
So in anticipation of IEM Katowice Grand Final, I just wanted to point out just how young the members of the ENCE squad are in comparison to the grand finalists of allu's past. The results may surprise you (hint, they're older than you think despite their youthful presence)! If I'm right, the average age of a lot of top teams will decrease in the next couple of years, and we'll new a lot of new faces.
But huge congratulations to ENCE, and to sergej, the youngest Major finalist in CSGO history! With his birthday present being the 2-0 over Team Liquid, the Finnish rifler will be 17 years and two days old when he takes the stage in Spodek as one of the best 10 players in the world right now. allu, who will be the oldest player in the server tomorrow will make his second Grand Final stage in Katowice tomorrow, the first being in NIP's loss to Fnatic at ESL One: Katowice in 2015. Can you really blame the casters for misspeaking on stream, though? I can't even imagine what the atmosphere was like in Spodek, utter insanity.
This is gearing up to be one of the most exciting finals in a while, I hope that it lives up to the hype and gives us a close series!
Astralis v ENCE player ages
NIP v Fnatic player ages in 2015
Picture: Copyright ESL | Adela Sznajder