Even a few months later, some of PGL Kraków's results remain mind-melting oddities, from FaZe Clan's early elimination to Immortals earning an appearance in the finals to SK Gaming's quarterfinal exit to Gambit Esports' title-clinching run.
But BIG's entry into the playoffs still stands out as one of the tournament's largest looming question marks.
How did BIG have a better result than FaZe, G2 Esports and Natus Vincere, and do just as well as SK and Fnatic? How did a team that barely scrapped through the minor system and the major qualifier have a perfect opening to earn "legend status" and the reach the playoffs at the de facto world championship?
They made it thanks to one map: Inferno. They won on it in all three games to advance through the Swiss. But BIG's Inferno is not a scenario like SK on Train in late 2016 or Gambit on Cobblestone in early 2017, where a team was able to consistently surpass its overall level of play and dominate on one specific map.
Overall, BIG's Inferno isn't that great. Before the PGL Major, BIG had just a 3-2 record on Inferno in LAN matches. And its wins on the map at the major qualifier only look worse in context. BIG beat some very subpar teams in Epsilon, ALTERNATE aTTaX and Ghost, but lost on it versus two teams who were better but still pretty middling, PENTA and Team Dignitas. Additionally, just three days after their run in the PGL Major's Swiss, BIG lost on Inferno versus Immortals in the first game of the quarterfinals, and BIG lost on it again after the major and the player break at ESG Tour Mykonos.
So how did BIG beat two of the top three teams in the world and Cloud9 who were fresh off of a second place finish at ESL One Cologne? What made BIG great on Inferno in these three games?
First of all and most obviously, the "jump crouch" bug did reap substantial benefits for BIG. Not only did Nikola "LEGIJA" Ninic give the bug widespread public attention when he used it to peak over the white box on Cache at the major qualifier, BIG also used so frequently and to such effect in the first two rounds of the Swiss rounds at PGL that it was even dubbed as the "German jump bug."
And in its game against FaZe particularly, BIG's use of the bug reaped huge dividends. For example, it gave Johannes "tabseN" Wodarz the information necessary to flank through banana and grab an easy double kill during Round 17. In Round 21, it helped Johannes "nex" Maget win a one-on-one duel against Håvard "rain" Nygaard. And in the very next round, tabseN was able to pull off a double kill thanks to information gleaned from peaking over the half-wall with the bug, and Fatih "gob b" Dayik grabbed the last kill of the round after using the bug as well.
In addition to the more immediate kills and informational benefits, there is also the added psychological advantage of playing a team heavily using or even abusing this bug.
But the bug wasn't BIG's only source of success. A lot of its strength seemed to come from the preparation of in-game leader Fatih "gob b" Dayik and coach Alexander "kakafu" Szymanczyk.
On the T-side, BIG generally favored very slow default-based rounds that build into unique executes or approaches. For example, in BIG's second-round match against Cloud9, BIG moved into either bomb site under the minute mark in six of its nine buy rounds, with four of those executes coming in with 30 seconds or less left on the clock.
But BIG also pulled out a few very interesting maneuvers that played with pace. In the Round 12 of the same Cloud9 game, BIG abused the fact the many CT-sides will have three players on the B-side of the map early to stop rushes and lay out of the carpet of grenades used to control Banana. BIG gambled and rushed to wrap around to the B-site from the arch side/CT spawn route. The move surprised Cloud9 with BIG killing all three of its B-side defenders on its way to taking the site and winning the round.
During the game, Daniel "ddk" Kapadia noted that the wrap was another round from BIG "we haven't seen" and that shows "the amount of strategies that they can bring to the table."
In the fifth round of BIG's game against FaZe, BIG threw a full smoke wall in the the front of the site in addition to a deeper CT-spawn smoke instead of the typical one under the boost spot. This smoke set isolates the possible boosted player, cordons off defenders in the back of the site, and allowed BIG to pinch onto the site with an additional route through graveyard. Following the play, Henry "HenryG" Greer called the attack "avant garde" and argued that it was exactly these sorts of strategies that allowed BIG to win rounds.
"What I think helped us the most was gob b and kakafu making a very good game plan before matchday," LEGIJA said. "We found a lot answers in the game of our enemies and used them in our advantage. Also, we found some key grenades that made our executes very strong. That gave us an advantage in our late-game. And also in general both CT- and T-side, we had very good communication, teamplay and grenade usage."
That said, it was the CT-side and not the T-side where BIG did especially well in two of their three playoff-clinching wins. And if you look at the SK game, BIG won 11 CT rounds even without the bug. For their defensive side, you have to credit BIG's clear best player TabseN who had another monster tournament in Kraków. There were also some over performances and rare highlight plays from BIG's less reputable members, but again BIG's success seems to have revolved around its approach and preparation. In the SK game specifically at several times throughout the half, BIG either read SK or gambled correctly to stack the right bombsite, even doing so in the last two game-deciding rounds of the game.
But perhaps these specific strengths BIG showed on the CT-side also explain why its success on Inferno did not extend backward to previous events or forward to its quarterfinal match versus Immortals or group stage game versus EnVyUs at ESG Tour Mykonos 2017. Risks can backfire, highlight rounds are not regularly going to come from anyone on BIG's roster other than TabseN, and bugs can't stay in the game forever.
That said, BIG's apparent inability to retain its greatness, on Inferno or elsewhere, is exactly what makes its run in the Swiss of the PGL so memorable and commendable. For three days in July, with limited stopping power, paltry previous achievements, and next to no positive predictions, BIG did what the should-have-beens could not. It caught fire and became Legend.