Steven R. September 2, 2019
Only eight teams remain at the StarLadder Berlin Major.
The Legends Stage has officially wrapped up and with that, the Champions Stage playoffs will soon begin. The last leg of the event will be competed under a single-elimination tournament format. The eight remaining teams were seeded and matched based on their Legends Stage records, weighted further by a dynamic ELO used by StarLadder.
The Berlin Major playoffs bracket is officially set, and WIN.gg is here to break down each of the opening matchups.
ENCE Esports vs. Renegades
Renegades is looking like one of those teams that plays best under a bright spotlight.
Despite limping into the major after weak showings at BLAST Pro Series: Los Angeles and ESL One: Cologne 2019, the team has been solid in Berlin. After dropping best-of-ones to Avangar and NRG Esports, Renegades survived and advanced with three consecutive victories over DreamEaters, FaZe Clan, and G2 Esports.
It’s been a great showing from “the boys,” but they have a stiff test here.
While there was some concern over what ENCE Esports would look like after announcing its plans to kick in-game leader Aleksi "Aleksib" Virolainen, they have looked as formidable as ever in Berlin. Renegades won’t be an easy out and do own some victories over ENCE this year, but ENCE has looked strong enough that it’s tough to pick against them.
Prediction: 2-0 ENCE Esports
Team Vitality vs. Avangar
A weak Challengers Stage performance briefly undermined Team Vitality’s status as one of the top contenders in Berlin, but they bounced back in a big way in the Berlin Major’s Legends Stage. They went 3-1 there, and while they didn’t face the stiffest set of opponents, they were quite convincing in each victory.
Avangar has been one of the biggest surprises of the event. Since winning DreamHack Open Rio De Janeiro the team has been on a steady decline, struggling to perform even in regional events.
For whatever reason, a switch flipped for them in Berlin. They navigated their way through the Challengers Stage with a 3-2 record and were surprisingly good in the Legends Stage, going 3-1 with a run that included a shock win over Team Liquid.
While it’s possible that the signing of Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev was a turning point for the team, odds are that they come back down from this high at some point soon. The team is much better than they were a few months ago, but Vitality seems to be back in superior form.
It’s possible that Mathieu "ZywOo" Herbaut’s consistency issues in the Berlin Major will follow him onto the main stage, but there’s no question that this is Vitality’s game to lose.
Prediction: 2-0 Team Vitality
NRG Esports vs. Natus Vincere
NRG Esports have made a number of statement wins throughout the Berlin Major. Despite opening the event with a surprising loss from DreamEaters, they haven’t dropped a map since. That isn’t because of weak competition either, as they beat four of the other teams set to compete in the Champions Stage along the way.
They’re playing like an elite team in Berlin, and it’s hard to pick anyone to beat them.
Natus Vincere hasn't been playing at that same level.
Despite taking a fairly lengthy break and focusing their efforts entirely on winning the Berlin Major, Natus Vincere hasn’t been playing up to their potential to this point. The team fell to 1-2 after dropping two best-of-ones, and their best-of-three performances don’t inspire much confidence. They managed to advance out of the Legends Stage with a 3-2 record, but also didn’t beat a single other team that survived to the top eight.
It’s possible that NRG will cool off in the days between the Legends Stage and the Champions Stage or that Natus Vincere will gather themselves and bring their A-game into the playoffs. Right now though, NRG should be looked at as the favorite to win here.
Prediction: 2-1 NRG Esports
Astralis vs. Team Liquid
Astralis and Team Liquid cross paths once again, but while this rivalry most frequently plays out in grand finals, this time it lands in the quarterfinals.
Astralis consistently got the better of Liquid during the Danish team's run as the top team in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, eliminating them from seven different prestigious tournaments in less than a year. The tide has shifted in more recent months, however. Liquid has taken Astralis’ spot as the consensus best team in the game, and Liquid got the better of Astralis when they faced off at the ESL Pro League Season 9 Finals.
A strong case can be made that Astralis should be the favorite in spite of that recent turn of events. Liquid had a tough time making it out of the Legends Stage, last squeaking past Mousesports in a pair of overtime games. Astralis looked arguably better by comparison, going 3-1 and seeming generally solid outside of a stumble on Nuke versus a surging NRG.
That said, Liquid is the pick here. Their body of work in 2019 has been too strong to ignore and while they may or may not live up to their status as the event favorite, it’s hard to fathom them losing this early in the event and we just can't pick against the dominant number one team until they actually lose an elimination series.
Prediction: 2-1 Team Liquid