IEM Katowice Major 2019: Who's left standing and who are the threats?

Week one of the IEM Katowice Major 2019 has concluded, and we’re already overloaded on storylines, with broken hearts and tears of joy in equal measure. We are sure those players who didn’t make it are plotting their redemption arc already, while the lucky qualifiers now have a couple of days to prepare before being dumped in with the likes of Astralis, Team Liquid, FaZe and other top teams in the Legends Stage. Things are just getting hot, then, and week one gave us a fair few hints as to what direction weeks two and three could take.

The departed

Some of the teams in the Challengers Stage won’t have surprised those folk who watch a lot of CSGO, with teams like Grayhound, Furia and Team Spirit a long way from the standard required for various reasons. The former look like they could do more with more experience, which there is no doubt is true of Furia, if they stay together, while the likes of Spirit and Vega are going to find Majors tougher and tougher in future, with the introduction of more best-of three qualification games.

The presence of Fnatic in Sweden, rather than Katowice next week will come as a surprise to many, especially those at the org who just committed to three more years of JW and Krimz. Defeats to Winstrike and Vici are far from ideal, and when you’ve won as much as they have coming home from what is essentially the minor with nothing more than a win over Grayhound to your name is embarrassing, to say the least. On the other hand, Brollan is so young that he will no doubt bounce back harder, which is great news for CSGO overall.

They were the big story of the ‘have-nots’, alongside probably Tyloo. SPUNJ said on the desk that he feels this team has peaked with their current line-up and set-up, and given the communication issues we know exist for Tyloo that may well be the case. If BnTet decides to leave, he could have his pick of sides in EU or NA, and it may be time to accept that the Tyloo project has run its course, at least this iteration of it.

The survivors

There are a few names in this list that shouldn’t be a surprise, with the likes of NRG and to some extent Vitality too good to lose more than one game at this level. Renegades taking one of the 3-0 spots won’t have been on many radars, but it’s never a good idea to count Aussies out and this group looks like the most coordinated and talented to play under the RNG banner, maybe ever.

There were doubts over G2 and Cloud9 as well, and rightly so, but both of those teams made it through at the expense of less-experienced teams. That was really the story of this part of the event, of experience counting and talent not being enough alone, as Tyloo, Fnatic and others found out. It also works as a fantastic advert for the new format, which did exactly what it was supposed to do, and weeded out the lucky minnows.

That is not to discredit the likes of Vega or Tyloo, but with a best-of three now required to make it into the really interesting bits of the event we are going to see nerves become an issue, and time in the game prevail. Players such as flusha, shox, kennyS and even the old heads on Vitality might not be at their best level historically, but they’ve been here so many times before and know what it takes to get to the next stage, and that counts for a lot once you confront the reality of playing at a Major.

The (very near) future

We’re a couple of days away from the start of week two, when the big dogs are dropped into the mix with all the subtlety and gentle effect of a bowling ball being dropped on to a souffle. After week one, where the number of tier-one teams was pretty low, we are probably going to see a big leap in the quality of play, although with the player break having occurred very recently there might be some rust to shake off first.

Talk of the town is that scrimwatch says MIBR and FaZe look scary as hell, and we already know Team Liquid can beat Astralis given the right conditions, so there are four potential contenders for the last week straight off the bat. The real question is over the always-dysfunctional Natus Vincere, after their IGL zeus gave an interview to Alexei over at HLTV that will have worried fans, with good reason. We can’t wait for week two to start, and the signs are great after the ‘Minor’ week one filtered out a lot of the chaff, leaving us with a decent handful of wheat going forward.