In just a few hours pashaBiceps will enter the Intel Extreme Masters Season XIII – Katowice Major 2019 stage to announce the start of the playoffs, which promise to be colorful.

Indeed, thanks to the updated tournament format, there are no extra teams among the legends. Everyone had to give everything to get there. Everyone who made it this far deserves to be here. However, the most important test for all is yet to come.

The main favorite of the tournament are, of course, Astralis. Their closest competitors were Team Liquid and Natus Vincere, but they are more likely to compete among themselves than with Astralis. Despite the January loss against Liquid at the iBUYPOWER Masters IV, the Danes are still the favorites. Having earned seven titles in 2018, they set a very high bar, but they are clearly not going to stop there. And the value of iBUYPOWER is clearly incomparable with the Major. For Astralis, that tournament was clearly just a warm-up.

As for the lost map during the New Legends Stage against Renegades, here the situation can turn around in two ways. On one hand, a given map could become a good slap in the face for the Danes, which would bring them to their senses. Currently, the Danish team lost one map out of five they played, and then on overtime. For the remaining Astralis, they only lost 17 rounds, 11 of which went to the very same Australians.

It is worth noting that one of the key players of the Danes, device, fell ill with the flu before playing with Renegades, and dupreeh’s father passed several days before the tournament began. In spite of this, Astralis managed to show a very confident and good game, although their rivals were not the strongest: compLexity Gaming , Cloud9 and Renegades.

The second contender for the championship title, as well as the main rival of Astralis, are Team Liquid. At the end of 2018, there were two replacements in the team: the Brazilian legionnaire and coach went to Made in Brazil, and the Boston major champion Stewie2K and a new coach adreN joined Liquid. Like Astralis, the Americans ended the group stage 3-0, but their opponents were more serious. First, they beat AVANGAR , then Ninjas in Pyjamas and, most importantly, their closest competitors NaVi.

On the whole, the squad plays smoothly: there is no strong difference in fraging ability within the team, the team game is not without problems, but at a good level. The only one who causes questions is the coach, or rather his competence. adreN at the time was the captain of Liquid, but with him the team did not achieve any outstanding results. However, even this is not the worst. The main reason for doubt is his lack of coaching experience.

That is, a player, without many achievements, who has never trained a team before, comes immediately to Liquid, the second best team in the world. The credit of trust rendered to him, of course, is huge. Yes, he most likely has good relations with the majority of players, and for the first time this may be enough to maintain credibility, but will it be enough when the first problems begin? Do not forget that zews (former coach) worked with Liquid for more than two years. At the same time, when he came to the American organization, he already had coaching experience, and not just anywhere, but in Luminosity and SK-Gaming. With him, these teams (in fact, of course, it was one composition under different tags) twice became major champions.

Most likely, Liquid is now playing on their old tricks. So far this is bearing fruit, but is this enough for a champion title, and can adreN help in a difficult moment? The big question. In addition, some of the players often fall out at a crucial moment, for example, the team captain nitr0 . If he can fix these issues, we’ll see soon.

In theory, both Natus Vincere and MIBR can compete with Astralis and Liquid. Let’s start with the Ukrainian team. In 2018, they became the second best rated team in HLTV ranking. Also, the main star in Navi, s1mple — the best player of the past year, and his teammate Electronic entered the top 4. The team is headed by a major champion, as well as a winner of multiple championships of all that is possible in Counter-Strike 1.6 — Zeus. And with that the advantages of the team end.

In addition to s1mple, none of NaVi is stable. Even incredible talented electronic and Flamie periodically fall out of the game. But Edward and Zeus cannot always contend with the youth in terms of shooting. Lately, NaVi is a team of mood: they swing at first, losing the first matches of the championship, then gaining a good shape and go to the playoffs, where slowly their rink starts to slow down. In their last matches, they lose pretty unprincipledly.

Judging by the Zeus’ vlogs, the situation in the team is not particularly changed. There are a number of differences that prevent the players from being on the same wavelength. In the post-match interview, they noted that sometimes they have problems with communication. In particular, this was noticeable in their second game in the tournament against Vitality , which ended during the third overtime.

But the French did not even reach the final stage, and in general they did not have good teamwork. NaVi will not be able to get away with it in a playoff match. If they are not able to get it together, then their path can quickly end. To be more precise, it is already in the quarterfinals. Yes, FaZe is not the championship-winning FaZe that we used to know, but even so, they can beat NaVi.

The situation with MIBR is also not unambiguous. On one hand, the team returned to the entire Brazilian line-up, with which they had already played in 2016. Also they were joined again by their former coach zews. So on paper, the composition looks strong.

At the same time, their performance on major began with the defeat against Cloud9 with a crushing 3:16 score. This was not expected by anyone. Either MIBR didn’t get enough sleep, or they didn’t understand that this is already a tournament, not a training session, but it was a failure. However, later they managed to rehabilitate themselves. They stomped compLexity, snatched the victory from G2 Esports and confidently played against NiP. Of all their rivals, only Ninjas looked competent, and even then they weren’t the strongest.

Whether they will be able to get in shape for the playoffs is unclear. Yes, they have an uncomfortable opponent: Renegades cannot boast famous players such as, for example, Coldzera and Fallen, but they compensate for this with talent and thirst for victory. If the Brazilians will be able to get the best shape, then the chances of the Australians will be little, they will have to show an impeccable game. Still, on the side of the Brazilians is a great experience and high skill. You just need to play and establish communication. However, this is hardly enough to beat the same Astralis and Liquid, which sometimes show a transcendental skill.

And so, back to the Renegades, which have already become the main discovery and sensation of the tournament. They beat ENCE eSports, FaZe and Vitality, and were able to squeeze a map from Astralis. Looking at their way to the playoffs, it’s not easy to say that it was easy or they were just lucky. They deserve each of the victories. Renegades were able to show not only a high level of individual skill, but also teamwork, tactics and preparation for the tournament as a whole. With due effort, Australians can really enter the top 5.

In the meantime, to get to the semifinals, they need to prepare very well for MIBR. Disassemble their old demos, new ones, as well as the latest Liquid matches in 2018. It is unlikely that zews will give up all his ideas and developments that he used in the American team. Of course, they will also need luck, because MIBR is the second strongest opponent after Astralis, with whom they will meet at the tournament. But, even if Renegades manage to reach the semifinals, then there will be Danes waiting for them. However, the top 4 will be an incredibly successful result for the Australians.

As for ENCE, their ceiling is top-8. They didn’t manage to show their best game during the group stage: the absence of allu, who flew home on the occasion of the birth of a child, probably affected them. But this could only affect the team game, and as it was seen during the tournament, from time to time there were different players on the team.

If we consider that their opponent in the quarter-finals will be Liquid, one of the main favorites, the Finns have a very small chance to go further.

NiP was pleasantly surprising: not without problems, but the old men in f0rest and GeT_RiGhT again came out as legends. If you look at their way into the playoffs, you can say that it was very logical: they beat those whom they had to beat, and lost to stronger teams, although they were able to impose a fight there.

If they were in the playoffs against someone other than Astralis or Liquid, then one would be wondering how far they could go. Now it is obvious that they will be able to go to the semi-finals only if all the stars converge in a row. However, this semi-final is unlikely to become a kind of repetition of last year’s Boston major final.

By the way, the participants of that unfortunate match for them, FaZe at this tournament became the main disappointment. Yes, they went to the playoffs, but what they showed, even the faintest shadow of their own name, is a completely different team, and a few worse heads. FaZe lost to AVANGAR and Renegades, twoo teams that they would not even “feel” before. Yes, the Kazakhs and Australians improved greatly, but this does not mean that they were favorites of the matches. And the match against comLexity almost became the last nail in the coffin for the current star squad.

Even in the latest confrontation against Cloud9, FaZe almost missed the victory on the first map. And knowing how the same NiKo easily goes into tilt, FaZe could merge the second one too.

Despite the fact that FaZe is a team of stars, now they clearly have a period of eclipse. The team is looking for itself, but it seems that in the process it got lost between three Christmas trees. One of the best players in the world, NiKo, moved to the captain position, the team took AdreN to replace Karrigan. And now it is generally not clear what is happening. If a Kazakh, surprisingly to many, in general, shows a decent game, then the situation that happens to the team tactically is just awful.

In FaZe obvious are problems with communication, the players “float” in psychological terms, and their skill drops. Of course, they still have ghostly chances of winning against NaVi, but they are very faded. It is obvious that after the major they will have to make the next roster change. The most correct of which will be to take an intelligent captain, and return NiKo to a fragging position.

Anyway, very soon we will find out the name of the champion. And this time undeniable. Thanks to the updated format, the result of any team will be undeniable. In turn, this will clearly lead to a number of reshuffles in the teams after the tournament.

And in general, Katowice Major 2019 opens a new era of Counter-Strike, where the teams will no longer hope for “maybe”, and will begin to approach training and rearrangements in training more seriously.

Before the playoff matches start later today, head over to Vie.gg and place bets on your favorites to win IEM Katowice Major 2019.

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