Road to London - Asia Minor 2018
Expectations of a Renegade
Cologne, Katowice, Jönköping, Cluj-Napoca, Columbus, Atlanta, Kraków, Boston.
The list of major host cities will grow in September with the addition of London at the FaceIt 2018 Major in the United Kingdom. In a first for the highest echelon of competition in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the once region-hosted qualifiers will be held in tandem at Twickenham Stadium before the main event moves to the SSE Arena in Wembley. Due to start in mid-September the 24 teams that make it to Wembley will battle it out for a coveted top eight Legends spot in order to guarantee themselves a direct invitation to the following major, as well as a shot at the lion’s share of $1,000,000 USD.
Sixteen of these teams have already secured their position in history, but the remaining eight spots are up for grabs in what will be nothing short of a bloodbath at Twickenham. 32 teams from four separate regions will challenge through their respective region’s Minor Championship. With only two spots per region up for grabs, it’ll take nothing but the best from each squad to survive and move forward to glory.
With the Detroit Renegades’ elimination in the Challenger Stage at ELEAGUE’s Boston Major back in January, the team must once more battle Asia’s finest in order to return to this year’s Challenger iteration. However. once again their opponents are a mixed bag of squads that RNG have either crossed paths with before, or have little to no history with.
The Renegades have had a rocky mid-2018 season to say the least. In most cases RNG have battled against NRG for event qualification and thus the third best team in North America behind Team Liquid and Cloud 9. For events like IEM Katowice and Dreamhack Masters Marseille, RNG came out ahead but outside of the main stage appearance at IEM Sydney RNG have yet to convert qualification into a super-strong finish at an event, let alone a win.
After IEM Sydney the team slumped; with a number of opportunities like qualification to ESL One Belo Horizonte and great chances at ESL Pro League S7 & Dreamhack Summer going begging, a change was warranted. It came, with coach Aleksandar “kassad” Trifunovic making way for analyst Steve “Ryu” Rattacasa to move into the role.
It’s still early days for Ryu and the team, but their first showing at ESL One Cologne was decent - a loss to MIBR and eventual runner-up BIG meant elimination but in all matches they were competitive and at no point looked like getting blown out.
RNG’s Key to Victory: Consistency. It’s a bit of a moot point but to become a top team the players need to be performing at their best in every match. We’ve seen glimpses of RNG’s potential with performances like Noah “Nifty” Francis’ 50-frag effort in Sydney and Karlo “USTILO” Pivac’s 1.57 +18 KDR effort against B.O.O.T-Dreamscape in Cologne. Outside of Justin “jks” Savage and Joakim “jkaem” Myrbostad the team is mildly inconsistent. Together, all performing at maximum, they’ll challenge even the very best let alone the teams attending the Asia Minor, and a lot of their consistency issues stem from their mental game. They should cleave the Asia Minor but it’ll be a confidence boost to head into the Challenger stage in 1st position.
Expected placing: 1st
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For the fourth time TyLoo qualified with RNG to Boston but unfortunate circumstances in securing visas meant Flash Gaming flew the flag for China in Boston. Together for over three years, the Tyloo core of Ke "Mo" Liu, Hui “DD” Wu and Haowen “somebody” Xu was interrupted following a femoral neck injury to Mo. This brought about change in the form of Yue “AE” Yu for the foreseeable future. Their 12-14th spot at StarSeries i-League Season 5 in Kiev looks mediocre but their opening match best-of-three win came against Natus Vincere, who most recently took out Astralis and BIG to claim victory at ESL One Cologne.
A bulk of their firepower rests with the two Indonesian players in AWPer Kevin “xccurate” Susanto and hybrid rifler Hansel “BnTeT” Ferdinand. BnTeT in particular remains arguably the best player in the Asian region over the past three months, with a 1.21 average rating and 84 ADR. General expectations are for TyLoo to join RNG once more in London as the top two squads from the Asian Minor.
TyLoo’s Key to Victory: Clear communication and getting all five players involved. Early on AE was playing a very dubious role as the team shuffled to cover Mo. Combined with an improved but still noticeable language barrier TyLoo still have issues communicating clearly enough to challenge the top teams. Oh, and a little BnTeT magic wouldn’t be too bad either. The Asia Minor shouldn’t trouble them despite these issues but it should act as even more time for the team to prepare for the harder opponents to come.
Expected placing: 2nd
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In mid-April Chinese esport giants Vici Gaming announced they had acquired the Flash Gaming squad that attended the Boston Major. Results for Flash in Boston were to be expected; a last minute replacement for TyLoo who failed to acquire visas in time for the event, Flash finished at the bottom of the Challenger qualifier and crashed out in losses to G2, Quantum Bellator Fire and EnVyUs.
Following the major Vici Gaming opted to combine their two rosters into one squad from the remnants of Flash and then-main squad VG.CyberZen. Initially, the team led by YuLun “Summer” Cai blew their Chinese opponents out of the water, losing just one series and six total maps of 31, including a win over eventual top four placing TyLoo at the CS:GO Asia Championships. From here the squad made it to StarLadder i-League S5 in Kiev but despite a 16-1 start against Brazilian superteam SK Gaming they failed to make an impact.
From the outside it looked that their result in Kiev took its toll on on VG.Flash. Their return to China for the Asia Championships playoffs ended in big losses to NiP and EnVyUs, before the team missed a chance to qualify for IEM Shanghai with two losses to 5POWER.
VG.Flash’s Key to Victory: Experience with youth. Hong Kong based WingHei “Freeman” Cheung is making waves for the team at just 18 years of age. His 1.23 rating 85 ADR career performance over 370 maps is impressive and coupled with some international LAN experience he’s sure to continue his rise in the scene. Even better for him is the experience from his teammates; WeiJie “zhokiNg” Zhong & YuanZhang “AttackeR” Sheng together bring over 1000 maps of experience from attending events overseas, and it’s this that he’ll have to draw from and build upon to help provide for his team. By no mean will he solo carry the team to the Challenger stage but if they want to close, he’ll have to be at his very best.
Expected placing: 3rd-4th
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Up there as one of the most exciting upcoming regions, the Oceanic CS:GO scene is bustling with teams constantly putting out to qualify for big events. More opportunities have arisen; ESL now have an Asian qualifier for each event, and this Asian qualifier almost always has an Oceanic spot up for grabs, thus meaning teams from Australia and New Zealand have a chance to make it to the biggest events on offer worldwide.
On home soil teams like Grayhound Gaming and ORDER took maps and series off the world’s best at IEM Sydney. ORDER went one further and booked their spot at IEM Katowice but like VG.Flash were eliminated without as much as a whimper. This experience, however, is brought back to the region and as a whole the scene has seen a rise in able competition to the point where the scene has a solid top four squads.
Tainted Minds is one of these top four, and the sole survivor of a brutal, relatively unseeded Oceanic qualifier for the Asian Minor. Their wins over Corvidae, Dark Sided and top four team ORDER eventually netted them the spot at Twickenham.
Tainted’s 17-map win streak in their ESEA MDL run and in the Minor qualifier solidified them at the top spot but in true AU scene fashion the wheel of the four teams turned once again, with Chiefs and Order netting their own wins, while Grayhound’s attendance at the Asia Summit proved fruitful with a best-of-three win over TyLoo.
Tainted’s Key to Victory: Cohesion & opposition. TM’s core of ex-Renegade Yaman “yam” Ergenekon and ex-Winterfox’s Chris “ofnu” Hanley & Ryan “zewsy” Palmer have put out impressive numbers across the Oceanic league season but against more difficult opponents (especially the other top four teams) TM have struggled slightly. From their previous 9 series against the other top four (Chiefs/Grayhound/ORDER) Tainted have only won three (W v ORDER @ Asia Minor Qualifier, W v Chiefs @ ESL Pro League OCE Qualifier, W v ORDER @ IEM Katowice OCE Qualifier). Like RNG they’ll need all five to come to the table against the top teams in Asia in London, and after seeing top performances previously from Joshua “INS” Potter and Callum “bURNRUOk” Henderson in other teams it’s most certainly possible that TM could provide viewers with a dark horse opportunity to back.
Expected placing: 3rd-4th
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SIGNATURE GAMING / 5POWER GAMING
Signature Gaming as an organisation have history in the Asia Minor with their attendance at the Krakow Major iteration of the event, where they came close to defeating and eliminating the Renegades in the final series of the group stage. The then-all Thai lineup had great form to make and attend these local qualifiers but could only on occasion upset the top teams in South-East Asia.
After a number of roster changes including the addition of NSPR Gaming’s Phaibun "j9" Saengsermsub & Phakhin "PPOverdose" Jaroenthanajinda, this iteration of Sig have at times taken matches over the other region’s top teams but are yet to really make their mark. They’ve been drawn into the easier group and will face VG.Flash - a win out of the gates would be the start Sig need if they hope to survive groups.
5Power have a little more pedigree and firepower since their decision to go global in August 2017. Gan-Erdene "dobu" Batbold & Batbayar "kabal" Bat-Enkh joined from The Mongolz, Thai Kititkawin "PTC" Rattanasukol came over from Boston Asian Minor qualifier team 7642 and previous 5Power Chinese members Wei "shuadapai" Wang & Peng "XiaosaGe" Song combined and compete from a team house based in China. 5Power had previously hosted a number of players from Europe, including Estonian Kristjan “FejtZ” Allsaar and as seen with this lineup, were not afraid of mixing players from multiple cultures and nations to form a squad.
5Power have shown a little more of recent with a surprise 3-0 over VG.Flash to qualify for IEM Shanghai. Their qualifier for the Asia Minor also came as a shock with a win with stand-in coach Daryl “insanity” Chua over a more heavily favoured and in-form B.O.O.T-Dreamscape.
Signature/5Power Key to Victory: The CS:GO basics & research. These teams have competed at the top of their regions on numerous occasions and at times have looked threatening against teams they are familiar with, but now they’ll face squads one step higher. Proper research into these teams and becoming as familiar with these teams as the squads they regularly face will allow for more opportunity to post an upset. Along with this is ensuring that their basics are studied and executed to a tee - basic utility usage, trade mechanics, clutch scenarios.
Expected placing: Groups (5th-6th)
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SZ ABSOLUTE / UNIQUESTARS
While not completely unknown to the scene, SZ Absolute now find themselves with the best opportunity a Japanese team has had in CS:GO to date. Many viewers may remember an iconic 14-16 loss to Swedish giants Fnatic at WESG 2017. Hosted by SCARZ, the squad have yet to find a chance as lucrative as this for some time, and while they dominate their local scene in Japan they’re a step behind a team like Signature as they’re yet to drop a massive performance against another major team in the region - their 2-0 win over MVP PK shows progress but their later loss to GOSU at the DH Stockholm qualifier shows there’s still a lot more to learn, particularly given that the squad’s ages range from 17 to 22.
No, if you want an unknown quantity for an underdog, Uniquestars has you covered. Outside of their Asia Minor qualifier shock win in the Middle East, this Israeli team have just 18 recorded maps on HLTV and outside of a couple of decent performances at IeSF World Championships in 2017, this iteration of the lineup hasn’t sufficiently played as many maps as even SZ Absolute.
SCARZ/Uniquestars’ Key to Victory: Utilize the unknown factor. Even teams like Signature and 5Power have an abundance of resources and VODs to study and learn. To a lesser extent, so do SCARZ. But now even though they qualified for the Asia Minor, the Middle East is a scene unto itself; very rarely are there chances for an Israeli team to attend an event against the world’s best. With the right preparation these teams could very well use their mystery to their advantage. Much like the SEA qualifiers, the basics to competitive CS:GO are essential.
Expected placing: Groups (7th-8th)
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It wasn’t a win in Cologne as a whole for the Renegades but in another transition period with coach Ryu and their elimination to eventual runner-up BIG has them the very clear favourites in London. At the same time, the drawcard of a permanent position in history for the team and their players through the form of in-game signatures and team stickers, plus the shot at esports grandeur, you can be sure they’ll be fireworks at Twickenham later this week.
Written by Nicholas “Taffy” Taifalos.
Statistics provided by Liquipedia and HLTV.