After four days of intense play, the bracket for the quarterfinals of the 2017 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) ELeague Major has been set. The eight teams remaining are Natus Vincere (Na'Vi), Astralis, Fnatic (FNC), Gambit, Virtus.pro (VP), North, FaZe Clan, and SK Gaming (SK). The games kick off on Friday at 10am ET live in Atlanta, Georgia and broadcast on Twitch.
The field is stacked with former world champions and aspiring hopefuls alike, but every team stands a realistic chance to hoist the major's trophy. Will it be a team with high skill like Na'Vi? Or maybe it's a team that's played together for an astounding three years like VP? Maybe it's a wild card lineup with upcoming star players like North. The bracket stage will be electric and it's anyone's guess which team will emerge from the rubble as the best-of-the-best.
Quarterfinal 1: Natus Vincere against Astralis
This winner of this matchup could determine the tournament favorite for the rest of the major. Na'Vi looked unstoppable during the group stage with dominating victories over mousesports (16-3), EnVyUs (16-6), and SK (16-3). The two players that shone the brightest on a lineup of all-stars were Egor "flamie" Vasilyev and Oleksandr "s1mple" Kostyliev. Between the two of them, Na'Vi relied less on the heroics of their franchise player Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovács and more on balanced play to stomp through the opposition.
Astralis entered the major as tournament favorites and exited the group stage on shakier ground with a 3-2 record. Despite the uneven record, Astralis suffered only one convincing defeat and showcased many of the things that made them powerhouses in CS:GO: wide map choices, strong T sides, and a bend, not break defense.
The favorite on paper should be Na'Vi after its ridiculous group stage, but the choice here remains Astralis. The three-headed monster of Nicolai "dev1ce" Reedtz, Markus "kjærbye" Kjærbye, and Peter "dupreeh" Rasmussen remains the strongest trio in competitive CS:GO and it will be their consistency that powers Astralis through the set.
Quarterfinal 2: Fnatic against Gambit
Both Gambit and FNC surprised in the group stages with their performances. Gambit relied upon its veteran rifler, Dauren "AdreN" Kystaubayev, to carry each and every game for the team. AdreN's play, arguably the best in the tournament thus far, has been nothing short of incredible regardless of his opponents. But, for Gambit, the key is consistency. The talent is there within the lineup -- it's just whether or not more of the key players will show up.
FNC's history and story were all about consistency and glimpses of this were shown throughout its group stage. The former world's number-one player, Olof "olofmeister" Kajbjer, and his trusty running mate, Freddy "KRIMZ" Johansson, made up the perfect 1-2 punch for FNC's 3-1 group record. For FNC, it's not a lack of skill that worries them, but whether or not the team chemistry or the map pool is favorable.
FNC's issues start and end with the once-reliable Dennis "dennis" Edman, who is having a rough major. Unfortunately for all the throwback efforts of olofmeister and KRIMZ, the team's third wheel may be its reason for losing. Gambit just needs a second player to hold some of the weight from AdreN and it's the team's series to lose.
Quarterfinal 3: Virtus.pro against North
VP plowed its way through group stages with a 3-0 record and looked every bit the part of title contender. This team is armed with a wide pool of maps, an aggressive and signature T side, and some of the best teamwork in competition -- the book's been written about this team. North, on the other hand, are the younger and inexperienced version -- potential major winners with a strong pool of maps and high skill scattered throughout its lineup.
The major started shaky for North with a 0-2 start, but the team righted the ship behind the strength of its flashy 18-year-old rifler, Emil "Magiskb0y" Reif. The reemergence of its star players in Magiskb0y and Kristian "k0nfig" Wienecke may be all the confidence boost the team will need for the upset.
The task is not an easy one. VP and the strong showing from its star player, Janusz "snax" Pogorzelski, only spells further doom for the upstart team. This is a battle of establishment against potential and, unfortunately for North fans, the machine will take down another victory.
Quarterfinal 4: FaZe Clan against SK Gaming
The former world's number-one team, SK Gaming, did well with a stand-in player during the group stages. The core for the elite team was still intact with Gabriel "FalleN" Toledo's in-game calls behind the rifles of Marcelo "coldzera" David, Fernando "fer" Alvarenga and Epitacio "TACO" Filho. The team's best victory, a 19-17 win over Astralis, could be the beginning of another streak toward the top of the rankings.
FaZe needed to win out against EnVyUs and did so to qualify for the quarterfinals. This was a team with arguably some of the best skill in the world, but no real identity or game plan behind its attacks. After four days of play, the consensus only changed slightly -- it's still a team with high skill, but no overarching identity or plan to complement it. The star player could change from signature player Håvard "rain" Nygaard or Philip "aizy" Aistrup to Aleksi "allu" Jalli, but it's a crapshoot as to to who will be the top dog.
This may be a trap game, but SK look like the easy favorites to move on. FaZe's inconsistent hierarchy of skill looks to be inferior in comparison to the set core of a top team.