The competitive Counter-Strike calendar has hit its stride, with the action moving away from Katowice over to season 11 of the ESL Pro League, the last S-Tier competition for sides before the year’s first major in May. From March 16th to April 12th, twenty-four of the world’s best sides will compete across a demanding group series and knockout-styled playoffs for a chance to claim $175,000 of the $750,000 prize purse, as well as hoovering up to 1,300 ESL Pro Tour points.
Here’s our take on some of the biggest stories to look out for as the action unfolds in this unmissable event.
Can NA’VI Keep The Momentum?
Russian/Ukrainian team Natus Vincere had been seen as one of CS:GO’s biggest underachievers heading into IEM Katowice. Blessed with immense individual talent, they were so often a roster that let promising situations slip through their fingers because of their way-too-common bursts of arguments and in-fighting.
That all changed in Poland where the stars aligned and the Black and Yellow truly let rip. Blasting through Faze Clan, NiP, and former world number one side Liquid, NA’VI well and truly saved their best performance for the semi-final against current top seed Astralis, vanquishing the Danes 16-5 on Dust II and then Nuke. It was a brutal, spellbinding display as S1mple and Perfecto carried their side with 39 frags between them. A 3-0 humbling of G2 in the Grand Final capped off a truly dominant performance at Katowice for NA’VI, but the question on everyone’s lips has to be whether they will be able to bring the same level of performance with them to the ESL Pro League.
G2 The Surprise Force
G2 have been the surprise in competitive Counter-Strike throughout the year, reaching their peak at Katowice following a run that saw them past sides 100 Thieves, Mousesports, Liquid, and Fnatic. Though the Grand Final proved a step too far on this occasion, G2 could certainly be one of the sides to watch out for in these esports betting markets at the Pro League.
Over the past three months, G2 have won 36 of their 50 maps at a K/D ratio of 1.14. For context, Astralis has played significantly fewer maps (19) at a K/D of 1.09, NA’VI is at a K/D of 1.11 from their 48 maps and Liquid is behind at 0.96 from 26 maps.
How Will The Online Format Change Things?
The spread of COVID-19 has meant that the initial plan to host the tournament offline from a studio in Malta has had to change to an online format. With Malta closing their borders due to fears of infection, the tournament’s changing layout could be pivotal in how certain teams perform. Astralis in particular have become known for their big performances in the offline scene, so it might be interesting to see how the Danes handle the changing scope of an S-Tier competition online.
Will Dust II Overtake Inferno As Everyone’s Favourite Map?
Dust II was easily the most played map at Katowice, with the map being picked 17 times throughout the competition. Inferno, which had been the dominant map in the months leading up to the event, was the next popular pick in the pool with 13 plays, with Nuke coming up behind in third with 11.
It’s no surprise that Katowice’s two top sides both have better-than-average records on Dust II, with G2 sitting on a map win rate of 64% and NA’VI at 62%, whilst disappointing showings by Liquid and Evil Geniuses might be related to their reasonably low win rates on the map. It’ll be interesting to see whether sides opt to pick Dust II as a way of grabbing a map of these rosters at Season 11.