Thursday saw four more teams eliminated from MLG Columbus, leaving just eight teams in the tournament, which will now move to Nationwide Arena, the sports arena that is home to Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL. Now, let's take a look at what actually went down in Thursday's elimination matches, all of which were played using the best-of-three format.
The veto part of the map selection in mousesports versus NiP went as many expected, but NiKo's team shocked everyone by picking Cobblestone over Dust2 -- the map it played five overtimes against FlipSid3 on the day before and has a shaky history on. For context, mousesports has in March beaten the likes of Astralis, Fnatic, FaZe and G2 on it. Its record on Cobblestone, on the other hand, is spotty, at best. Furthermore, NiP had definitely seen yesterday's game and would be well-versed in the tactics and tendencies of mousesports, regardless of its final-minute adjustments.
As expected, NiP wiped the floor with mousesports on the opener, with threat's tactics notably gaining praise in the 16-5 victory. Map 2 saw mousesports start down 2-6 as Counter-Terrorists, and later 0-5 as Terrorists, only to finish those halves with 6-1 and 8-0 runs. That suggests it was, in fact, the team that adjusted to its opponents better -- something we have come to expect from NiP under threat's leadership. However, in hindsight, it is safe to say some of NiP's attention was focused on trying to play around threat's weaknesses (he is not an active player) to effectively hide him from opening duels, in a fashion similar to how bad defenders are hidden in the NBA. Tied at one game apiece, the series went to Overpass.
Neither team's record is impressive on Overpass, though NiP remained slight favorites. GeT_RiGhT wound up having a vintage performance on the decider, finishing with a 24-17 score, 1.46 rating and a 113.5 Average Damage per Round (ADR). NiP's coach and stand-in threat also shined, getting 20 frags on the board, while mousesports's star trio finished with a combined Kill-Death differential of -25. NiP moves on to the playoffs to take on Na`Vi on Friday, with four of its players still having made the playoffs of every major. This is an elite club, which does not accept new members and only boasts 11 members as of right now: device, dupreeh, f0rest, flusha, friberg, GeT_RiGhT, JW, KRiMZ, olofmeister, Xizt and Xyp9x.
- MLGArena (@MLGArena) March 31, 2016
In the match that could have been described as the world's best team against a worse version of themselves, Fnatic handily took down FaZe 2-0. On Mirage, the Swedes reached map point 15-6 before dropping a couple of rounds. Cobblestone was much more one-sided, with Fnatic finishing on a 16-3 run following a 0-3 start. Looking at the score would not mean much anyway, given olofmeister's wrist injury, but even the combined 32-16 score suggests FaZe was closer than it actually was. Fnatic go on to face Astralis, a team it not only has good history against -- aside from a brief three month period last spring -- but that is known for choking in big games.
Interestingly enough, FaZe had only ever played one official match before on cobblestone, and its players -- aside from former Dignitas member aizy -- barely had any match experience on it. But when a team reliant on skill is facing a team that has more skill, no language barrier and better teamwork, taking risks is not only understandable, it is the only sensible way forward. I am not sure whether this was the risk FaZe should have gone for, but its record against Fnatic, with an aggregated round differential of 17-64, shows it is not much of a threat to flusha's team, in any case.
Gambit's Kazakhstani duo AdreN and mou paved the way to a 16-13 win for the CIS side on Cache to begin the series against CLG for a playoff spot. The Americans, led by jdm64's sniping, were clear favorites on Cobblestone, and despite losing some rounds in the second half, they looked comfortable throughout. After tying the series at one each, the final map was Mirage. The decider was dominated by tarik and jdm64, who were a level above all other players in securing CLG it first-ever playoff spot. Perhaps most importantly -- at least to North American fans -- CLG will face Team Liquid in the quarterfinals, guaranteeing the return of a North American team to the semifinals of a major 2½ years after compLexity's run at DreamHack Winter 2013.
Finally, in a rematch of the opener in group D, Virtus.pro battled G2. The Polish side scored another win on Train, but its permanent Dust2 veto effectively cost it map two, as it was completely outplayed on Inferno. With a playoff spot on the line -- and Virtus.pro having been Legends since the second major onward -- the series came down to Cobblestone, a map neither team had had encouraging results on earlier in 2016, and one that would never have been played had the event not used the random map draw that is customary at Valve-backed majors. In the end, it wound up being a one-sided affair, with Virtus.pro clutching onto its Legend status with a 16-7 win that will pit it up against Luminosity in the quarterfinal.
Friday at MLG Columbus will feature the first three quarterfinals between Na`Vi and NiP, as well as Astralis and Fnatic, along with the North American clash between Liquid and CLG. The fourth quarterfinal between Luminosity and Virtus.pro will take place on Saturday morning, followed by the two semifinals. Sunday is reserved for the grand final, where the winner of the $500,000 in prize money will be determined.
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