We are just hours away from the first event of the Majors circuit of 2016, the MLG Columbus Championship. The 16 best teams on the planet will be facing off over the next six days in what will be the biggest tournament in the history of Counter-Strike, with a staggering $1 million on offer. Majors are always a special time for CS fans, and this one will be no exception. Will EnVyUs repeat their Cluj-Napoca title, against all odds, or will a new champion emerge? Read on for a preview of Group D as we take a look at our opponents during the opening stage – Na`Vi, Cloud9 and Virtus.pro.
Schedule (all times CET):
The 16 competing teams have been drawn into four groups of four teams. Each group will be played in a double-elimination bracket with best-of-one matches up until the decider phase, which will be played in a best-of-three format. The top two from each group will progress to the single-elimination, best-of-three playoffs.
We start off this preview by taking a look at Virtus.pro, ou first opponent. Out of all the teams in the group, Virtus.pro is the only one with a Major title under its belt, but that was a long time ago, and a lot has changed since then. The truth is that Virtus.pro has been a far cry from the side that won EMS One Katowice, back in 2014, and they enter this tournament with hope, rather than expectation.
Since the start of the year, Virtus.pro have finished 7th-8th at DreamHack Leipzig, 5th-6th at IEM Katowice and 3rd-4th at the Counter Pit League Season 2 Finals. It is still too early to talk of crisis on the team, but the fact is that they need results quickly. Virtus’ fans are getting impatient and, judging by the recent comments from Wiktor ‘TaZ’ Wojtas in an interview with HLTV.org, so are the players.
If Jarosław “pasha” Jarząbkowski and Janusz “Snax” Pogorzelski do not turn up, then Virtus.pro will be in trouble and will risk going out of a Major in the group stage for the first time in their history. But as one of the most experienced teams in the scene, Virtus.pro can never be written off, and they will surely go out to prove their doubters wrong. It is do-or-die time for the Poles.
Natus Vincere is not just the favourite to win the group, but one of the favourites to contest the title. That says a great deal about how strong this team is at the biggest stages and how consistently they have been able to grind out results, regardless of opposition.
Na`Vi did not let the runners-up finish in Cluj-Napoca get to them and came back stronger than ever, winning three international events – IEM San Jose, DreamHack Leipzig and the Counter Pit League Finals – and taking second at the ESL ESEA Pro League Finals and third-fourth at IEM Katowice. And it is impossible to look at these results without mentioning the stunning form of their AWP player, Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovács, who continues to impress everyone, week-in, week-out.
MLG Columbus may just be the opportunity that Na`Vi needs to cement its place at the top of the pile. The group is not easy, far from it. But if they are able to pass this test with flying colours, then they get one considerable boost heading into the playoffs.
Cloud9 stunned the community when they decided to recruit Jake “Stewie2K” Yip after the departure of their longtime ingame leader, Sean “sgares” Gares. The move surely brought them more firepower, but many wondered how on earth they would be able to function without a proper leader calling the shots and getting this talented group of players to work as a unit.
After some questionable results, both domestically and abroad, Cloud9 turned to Andrew “Irukandji” Timmerman, the mastermind behind compLexity’s and Evil Geniuses’ line-ups in 2009 and 2010, to solve the leadership issue that had become apparent. Under his wings, Cloud9 have been able to put in improved performances, and they enter the Major on the back of a first-place finish in the iBUYPOWER Invitational and a successful qualification campaign for DreamHack Austin.
MLG Columbus will be the first real test for this new version of Cloud9. In best-of-one matches, they are surely be able to cause an upset or two, but the quality and the experience of the teams they are about to face may prove to be too big a challenge for a side still trying to adapt to life without sgares.