Leonard Schilcher – ESL Gaming
Thirteen teams across both EU & NA battle to claim one of the seven remaining playoff tickets to qualify for the LAN finals in Dallas, Texas on May the 14th.
AGO and LDLC are entangled in a tight battle to avoid direct relegation, whereas Team Dignitas in NA is an almost certain lock for demotion.
Let’s get right into it by looking at both regions more closely.
Space Soldiers, NiP, Na’Vi and Astralis are already through to the playoffs however, for seeding advantages they still want to stay focused and win the remaining matches.
NiP and Astralis clash on Thursday. The Danes can still surpass the Swedes if they manage to take three of the four remaining maps against NiP and EnVy. With the way Astralis played this weekend at the DH Masters in Marseilles, this is a likely outcome. Finally, device & his boys look like their Major-Winning selves again, after complete and utter domination in France.
Space Soldiers square off against FaZe and mousesports. If they manage to take two maps, it should cement their position in the top three. But the Turks had a tough time in France after a run of extremely good form online. In Marseilles, Astralis and Gambit completely destroyed Major & Co. Hopefully this won’t discourage the Turkish Soldiers from Space.
Na’Vi plays Fnatic and G2, who are both still in pursuit of the playoff ranks, guaranteeing spicy matches and no easy wins. The Ukrainians played well in France, continuing on their upward trajectory, only losing to Astralis. There are no more superlatives to describe how S1mple has been playing in 2018. His current peak is arguably even beyond neo’s in CS 1.6.
Now this is where it gets interesting. Ranks five through eleven all still have the potential to drop into/out of the playoffs.
FaZe on fifth face the Space Soldiers and one map win guarantees them Playoff participation. But even if they lose both maps, they most likely go to Texas.
Mouseports sit in the same boat. With matches against Space Soldiers and EnVy, they need one more map to clinch their ticket.
The real tension lies between North, G2, Hellraisers, Heroic and Fnatic. North and Hellraisers clash on Thursday and the CIS mix needs to 2-0 the Danes. Not an impossible task considering MSL’s team is in the worst shape we’ve seen them in for over a year. Before that match, ANGE1’s boys face EnVy in another must win series, if playoff hopes are to stay alive.
G2 only has one series against Na’Vi remaining. A 2-0 here is mandatory for the French and they still have to hope for the other teams to stumble, as 39 points is the most G2 can reach, and all of the other playoff contenders can top that.
Heroic have arguably the easiest route to the playoffs with matches against EnVy and AGO. With four victories here they’ll reach 40 points, which may be enough to qualify. Still, EnVy and AGO won’t be easy to beat, as they themselves are fighting for survival in the relegation battle. I don’t see Heroic winning all four maps, and as a result, I don’t see them qualifying for Dallas.
Last, it’s Fnatic with series against AGO, LDLC and Na’Vi. The Swedes need at least 5 out of those 6 maps. It would be a minor miracle if they can pull it off, especially after struggling in EPL so far. They were great this weekend in Marseilles, but this seems like an insurmountable challenge.
At the bottom of the standings we have EnVy, AGO and LDLC, and they are separated only by three points. EnVy has a tough schedule ahead against Heroic, Astralis and mouz. AGO plays Fnatic and Heroic. And LDLC faces Hellraisers and Fnatic. The race here to avoid direct relegation will be just as tense as the battle for the playoffs. Do not miss!
Match Of The Week – G2 vs. Na’Vi
…or Day vs. Night. Both these teams competed in Marseilles past week, and while Na’Vi look rejuvenated after the botched SK deal, G2 played lackluster, missing a fighting spirit.
The French absolutely have to get the 2-0 in this series on cbble and mirage. They know how to play on both maps, and this is the time to show that bringing in mixwell was a good move.
NBK & Co. seemed to profit off of the move right at the beginning, climbing up the standings after a poor start into EPL, but the performance at the DreamHack Masters leaves much to be desired.
On the other hand we have a Na’Vi that looks to challenge for world number one status. It’s easy to overlook their remaining players with the way S1mple has been playing, but electronic, Zeus and flamie are solid as well. Especially electronic is a huge fragging support.
NBK will have to come up with some convincing strats if he wants to stop the S1mple train dead in its tracks, because winning only one map here won’t be enough. I’m curious to see what G2’s new IGL can come up with.
Team Liquid and NRG Esports have claimed their playoff berths as the only two teams ahead of the final week, with Liquid most likely keeping top and NRG second seed.
OpTic (35 points) and Cloud9 (34 points) sit on ranks three and four, with a comfortable lead to the following teams. OpTic has their chance to solidify their position against Dignitas and C9 play Rogue and Splyce for what should be an easy path to Dallas.
SK Gaming and Renegades, currently sitting on fifth and sixth place, clash this week on Thursday in a season defining series. The Brazilians currently don’t control their own fate however, as they already have 20 maps played. FalleN and his boys desperately have to collect 6 points in their final series against the Aussies and hope for Luminosity to blunder, who themselves are looking to win their remaining four matches. If SK manages to get the 2-0 versus Renegades for 36 points in total, Luminosity can only surpass their Brazilian foes if they win four out of four (against Ghost & NRG), for 37 points.
Renegades play Dignitas and Rogue besides SK, so their path to the playoffs should be manageable. The main battle will be between SK and Luminosity. Again, if SK beats Renegades on both maps, Luminosity needs all four maps.
Rogue also still have theoretical chances with three remaining series against Renegades, Cloud9 and Dignitas. If they win at least five maps, they may get there.
In the relegation battle, as already mentioned, Dignitas only has theoretical chances of moving up the standings with ten points behind Ghost Gaming, who are second to last.
Match Of The Week – SK Gaming vs. Renegades
SK need six points in this series whereas the Renegades have the luxury of gathering the missing points to guarantee playoff participation against Dignitas and Rogue.
SK & Renegades competed in Marseilles past week, and both were eliminated in the group stage. Especially SK hoped for a better start with Stewie in their line-up. The Brazilians lost in a close series against NiP and then got recked by mouz in the BO3 decider.
The inconvenient questions immediately started pouring in. What part did the language barrier play in their poor play? Was it the right move to bring in another fer-like player in Stewie, when in the past SK struggled with two aggressive players on the roster (fer-felps). How will Stewie be integrated socially, out of the server, when his teammates speak Portuguese most of the time? It won’t be good for team chemistry if he feels excluded. SK needs to attend as many LANs as possible to get all the answers.
Renegades had a tough group draw against Fnatic and Na’Vi. Their chances of making it past the groups where slim from the start, but I’m sure they hoped for at least one map win against the favorites.
Train and cache are going to be the battlegrounds for this clash, which means no excuses for FalleN and his boys. They play well on both maps, and while Renegades are obviously a strong opponent, the Brazilians always aim to be number one. In such a dire situation, a victory is simply obligatory for a team like SK Gaming.
Welcome to the final Week of Pro League Season 7!
As always we will be returning with more EPL action from both regions on Tuesday.