Alex “Waldo” Waldherr, a Luckbox community member and CS:GO connoisseur, shares his Berlin Major Pickems and predictions for the New Champions Stage of the StarLadder event, which starts on Thursday, September 5th
No time for losers, these are the (New) Champions. It was a wild and CR4ZY New Challengers and New Legends stage at the Berlin Major, with new threats emerging as serious contenders on the biggest stage in Counter-Strike.
I won't dwell on the past, but would be foolish to not acknowledge how huge of a result the Berlin Major is for CR4ZY, one map from being New Champions in their major debut; MiBR, who maintained New Challenger status and avoided the minors with a coach standing in; and DreamEaters, who made the New Legends stage as a play in team (as did North, but that's less surprising).
Related: StarLadder Berlin Major schedule
Some are walking away proud, others, quite the opposite. But they all walked away at one point or another.
Now for the teams that are still playing. I'll break this up by quarterfinal and then show you my bracket for the New Champions pick ems at the end.
Quarterfinal 1 - ENCE (3) vs Renegades (16)
Thursday, 9am EST/3pm CEST - live stream and bets
It truly has looked easy for ENCE thus far. They're playing with the most lively "dead" lineup I've seen in a major, winning all of their matches (and every map) thus far over AVANGAR, MiBR, and sweeping Vitality 2-0. This could be an incredible story, at the very least Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen is doing himself a lot of favors as a future free agent. He will likely be the most sought after IGL in the post-Berlin shuffle.
Renegades are the only team in either Swiss stage of Berlin to start 0-2 and advance. They know what it's like to play with their backs up against the wall, and in this match it will be no different. Berlin has been a very strong showing for Jay "Liazz" Tregillgas, he's +48 over ten maps with a average rating of 1.19. Look for him to be a difference maker if the Boys are going to come out on top instead of going down under.
Prediction: 2-1 ENCE
Ban prediction: ENCE remove Vertigo, RNG remove Overpass, ENCE choose Nuke, RNG choose Inferno, RNG remove Train, ENCE remove Dust II, Mirage left over.
Quarterfinal 2 - Team Vitality (2) vs AVANGAR (15)
Thursday, 12:30pm EST/6:30pm CEST - live stream and bets
Vitality have had some recent struggles, as evidenced by NBK's post match interview after the Grayhound series to reach the New Legends stage. There may be some rumblings within the team, but I think that's pretty natural for a team that ascends as quickly as Vitality has.
It hasn't even been a year since this team got together and now they're the number two team in the world. Their New Legends campaign was much smoother, so maybe that fight to blow off some steam actually happened. Losing to ENCE in the 2-0 series, they quickly bounced back and swept a very strong Mousesports team. I think they're ready to roll, behind the scenes drama or not.
One of the biggest stories from Berlin for me is just how underrated and underappreciated Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev is in the pro CSGO scene. His addition has gotten yet another CIS squad through to the New Champions stage of a major tournament, statistically he hasn't been stellar, but this AVANGAR team looks entirely different with him and Sanjar "SANJI" Kuliev in the mix. It's bad luck that they drew Vitality in the first round of the playoffs, but I think they're certainly scrappy enough to put up a fight!
Prediction: 2-0 Vitality
Ban prediction: Vitality remove Train, AVANGAR remove Nuke, Vitality choose Mirage, AVANGAR choose Inferno, AVANGAR remove Overpass, Vitality remove Vertigo, Dust II left over.
Quarterfinal 3 - Team Liquid (1) vs Astralis (4)
Friday, 9am EST/3pm CEST - live stream and bets
This is the grand final we had all hoped for. Arguably, the winner of this matchup should take home the whole major. But if I'm being honest, I'm just glad that we get to see it finally happen on a stage as big as this.
The current best in the world: Liquid. Berlin has been messy for them, seeing them fall to a 1-2 record in the BO1s, but finding their form in the BO3s, sweeping both North and Mousesports out of the event via 2-0s.
Luckily for Liquid, there are no BO1s in the New Champions stage. Myself and the rest of the NA faithful are hoping that Liquid come out with the trophy, securing themselves the title of the greatest team of all time. But that's a lot of pressure. Will it cause them to crumble? Or will the combined time and pressure create diamond (prediction coins) for their faithful fans?
Astralis have considerably less pressure on them from the legacy perspective, but much more from the no excuses perspective. They've taken a lot of time off from various events throughout the year for health reasons. That's a noble choice, but it's only defensible if you perform on the occasions that you actually show up for. This has the potential for being an all time great series, I just wish I wasn't going to be working at the hospital when it all goes down.
Prediction: 2-1 Liquid
Ban prediction: Liquid remove Train, Astralis remove Mirage, Liquid choose Overpass, Astralis choose Nuke, Astralis remove Vertigo, Liquid remove Dust II, Inferno left over.
Quarterfinal 4 - NRG (5) vs Natus Vincere (6)
Friday, 12.30pm EST/6.30pm CEST - live stream and bets
NRG are the hottest team in the Berlin Major, no question about it. They were perfect through the minors, dropped their first BO1 to DreamEaters in the New Challengers stage, and have not lost a map since. That includes an impressive 2-0 over Astralis. They don't have a single player below a 1.0 HLTV 2.0 rating in this event or the preceding minor. Peter "stanislaw" Jarguz has this team in top form, and they'll need to be to take out the always formidable NaVi. This Friday's matches will be a real treat for any fan of the game.
NaVi are the enigma of professional Counter Strike. They have so much talent but the biggest victories have always elluded them. But a really good sign for the CIS powerhouse is that Denis "electronic" Sharipov has been absolutely popping off. He is currently +73 over just eight maps and is sporting a 1.42 HLTV 2.0 rating.
They'll need the dual threat of him and Aleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev to shred through what has been a very strong team performance from NRG.
Prediction: 2-1 NRG
Ban prediction: NRG remove Inferno, NaVi remove Vertigo, NRG choose Train, NaVi choose Nuke, NaVi remove Overpass, NRG remove Mirage, Dust II left over.
Waldo's Berlin Major Pickems
The deadline for the Berlin Major New Champions Stage Pickems is 7am BST / 8am CEST on September 5th 2019.
I have ENCE 2-1 over Vitality in the first semifinal, Liquid 2-1 over NRG in the second. Liquid 2-0 over ENCE in the grand final, with EliGE as the MVP. #LetsGoLiquid I believed in Katowice and have a gold coin instead of diamond because of it. Don't fool me twice!
All Berlin Pictures: Igor Bezborodov, StarLadder/Flickr