The ECS Season 8 Finals brings some early holiday cheer to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive fans this weekend.
The event features four of the top teams in the world and four competent challengers competing for a $500,000 grand prize in Arlington, Texas. The event starts on November 28 and runs through December 1, making the eight-team competition perfect Counter-Strike for a holiday weekend in the States. It’s also a great preview for both the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals and the upcoming EPICENTER Moscow for those outside of the USA.
It’s clear which teams should make it out of groups. EG and Liquid should be the ones to move to playoffs after the best-of-one opening match and the remaining best-of threes. Fans should look to Astralis and Fnatic to trounce Group B.
Burnout and jet lag could be a factor here, as several of these teams played at the CSGO Asia Championships last week. Liquid and Astralis will be entering Arlington fresh while AVANGAR, MIBR, and EG were in Shanghai just a few days ago. That could set the stage for some great upsets.
Team Liquid may have won the second Intel Grand Slam in record time, but their performance both in and after the StarLadder Berlin Major was disappointing. It’s unclear what the exact issue is, but timings look like their main enemy.
This iteration of Team Liquid should easily clear their group, but TL has dropped matches to lesser opponents. Most recently, Ninjas in Pyjamas took down TL at BLAST Pro Series Copenhagen. With the Ninjas in TL’s group, there’s a possibility that the North Americans stumble.
This is the start of a three-tournament sprint with Astralis that includes the ECS Season 8 Finals, ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals, and the BLAST Pro Series Global Final. All take place in the span of a month, and it’s important that TL finishes one of these tournaments in first place. Otherwise, they risk falling even further behind the team they thought they had finally figured out.
First Match: Team Liquid versus Ninjas in Pyjamas 11:30AM EST
Best Maps: Dust 2, Inferno
Worst Map: Overpass
EG comes into the ECS Season 8 Finals after an early exit from the CSGO Asia Championships. That exit sets the stage for some serious upsets in either the groups or playoffs. Fans haven’t seen much from the Geniuses since they made the jump after the StarLadder Berlin Major, sprinkling some doubt over EG.
While fans won’t be able to tell until ECS’ first matches on November 28, they shouldn’t count out EG completely. After all, they’ve earned and kept a place in the top 10 since April 2019. With the veterans Tarik “tarik” Celek and Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz leading a team of young aimers, Evil Geniuses has the capability to take it all the way to the finals. EG on their best days can easily defeat a Team Liquid or Fnatic struggling with their own issues.
That said, EG has to come up with something before their momentum slows overly much. EG likely has too much potential to go that way, but fans will want to see sustained progress from the squad.
First Match: Evil Geniuses versus AVANGAR 9:00AM EST
Best Maps: Inferno, Dust 2
Worst Map: Overpass
With the recent rumors of Digitas’ interest in Patrick “f0rest” Linberg and several other ex-NiP players, it will be interesting to see how the Ninjas’ current roster reacts during the ECS finals. Fans have seen times where players on their way out of a lineup perform fantastically, and NiP enthusiasts better hope this is one of those times.
On a great day, NiP can stand with top-five teams. On an average one, they can hang with the top 15. When the Ninjas have a bad day, though, it’s a really bad day. It’s entirely possible the roster could enter Arlington so checked out after the trade rumors that they fail to win a map.
That’s unlikely, but there’s more firepower and tactical ability on the teams above NiP than there is on the team, and that’s normally a pretty good indicator of how things will end up.
First Match: Ninjas in Pyjamas versus Team Liquid 11:30AM EST
Best Maps: Mirage, Inferno
Worst Map: Nuke
AVANGAR has coasted on its second-place finish at the StarLadder Berlin Major for too long now. It’s time for the team to step up and show that it can actually compete at an elite level. In order to do that, they’re going to have to take down some heavy hitters.
Yes, AVANGAR took home first place at BLAST Pro Series Moscow, but the team is wildly inconsistent. Outside those two notable placements, they’ve also failed to make an impact in small-scale tournaments like DreamHack Open Rotterdam.
Luckily for them, their opening best-of-one is against EG, meaning the team has a strong shot of making the playoffs with a strong opening.
First Match: AVANGAR versus Evil Geniuses 10:00AM EST
Best Maps: Train, Dust 2
Worst Map: Overpass
Astralis are still the team fans knew. With a record three consecutive Major titles, they enter the ECS Season 8 Finals as the clear favorites to win the title. It would take a major collapse for the Danes not to make the grand final, and failing to get out of groups is almost impossible.
With Mirage as their permaban, Astralis removes a strong map for their strongest competitors. Fans can assume that even the recent Vertigo changes won’t faze the world’s strongest team, especially with the break they’ve taken over the last half of November.
While Astralis’ wins haven’t been as complete as they were at the beginning of 2019, they’re wins nonetheless. As long as nothing there are no medical emergencies or stand-ins, fans can assume they’ll see the Danes in the playoffs.
First Map: Astralis versus Sharks 1:00PM EST
Best Maps: Vertigo with a 100% win rate over 100 days, Train and Nuke
Worst Maps: Overpass
Fnatic’s performance to get into the ESL Pro League Season 10 Finals was impressive, and it bodes well for them heading into FACEIT’s ECS Season 8 Finals. While they probably won’t take down Astralis, beating out MIBR and Sharks is likely.
Fnatic is definitely capable of sneaking away with the ECS Season 8 Finals trophy, even if they have to go through TL or Astralis to get there. There’s something snappy about this Fnatic roster, especially after seeing what they accomplished with Rassmus “kreaz” Johanssan standing in for Freddy “krimz” Johanssan.
The return of Maikil “golden” Selim and Robin “flusha” Rönnquist have Fnatic looking sharp, and they have all the pieces to make a run in Arlington. They might not take down Astralis in groups, but they’re certainly capable of making a playoff run against the likes of MIBR and Sharks.
First Match: Fnatic versus MIBR 2:30PM EST
Best Maps: Overpass, Nuke
Worst Map: Dust 2
MIBR isn’t a bad team. In fact, most of the time they place well and play well, but there’s something about MiBR that looks disorganized. Gabriel “FalleN” Toldedo moves AWPing responsibilities around more than French teams move around players, and those frequent changes are indicators of two things.
Either FalleN doesn’t know what he wants to do with the AWP or he doesn’t trust the rest of his players. Both are bad signs. The MIBR roster core hasn’t won a major event since EPL Season 6. While the Brazilian favorites have been on the cusp of reaching grand finals, they’re just not making it to them. For a team with this much experience and talent, that’s unacceptable.
If MIBR drops a game to the Sharks, fans should be very, very concerned.
First Match: MIBR versus Fnatic 2:30PM EST
Best Maps: Train, Overpass
Worst Map: Inferno
As the clear underdogs in Group B, they have a lot of work to do to make it to the playoffs. Their main roadblocks are obviously Astralis and Fnatic, but MIBR might not be the difficult matchup most think.
Unfortunately, their opening matchup is against Astralis. Sharks made it to the ECS Season 8 Finals off the back of an 80% win rate on Mirage, which Astralis will ban first round. It’s too bad that they drew Astralis as their first round matchup, because they have serious best-of-one upset potential against the other teams in their group.
First Match: Sharks versus Astralis 1:00PM EST
Best Maps: Mirage, Nuke
Worst Map: Train
The action all kicks off November 28 at 10:00AM EST with Evil geniuses versus AVANGAR, followed by Team Liquid versus Ninjas in Pyjamas, Astralis versus Sharks and finally Fnatic versus MIBR.
Located at 1200 Ballpark Way, Arlington, TX, The Esports Stadium Arington and expo center will play host to the event starting on November 28.
Several hotels are located in close proximity to the esports stadium, including the Howard Johnson by Wyndham Resorts and the Sheraton Arlington Hotel. While the Howard Johnson is a but a quick ride away, the Sheraton is directly across the street from the ECS Finals venue.
As in most major cities, AirBnBs also offer great rates for groups staying in properties all around the city and are a great alternative to traditional hotels. With prices ranging from affordable to more expensive, there’s something here for every price point desired.
If flying into Texas, the easiest airport to both arrive into and depart out of is the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. DFW is located a quick twenty-minute drive away from the venue and its surrounding hotels.