The FACEIT Major New Legends Stage is over, and It’s crunch time: after much drama and excitement, we’re down to the “new champions” – the quarter-finals are ready to go and the field was halved with many big names missing out on the playoffs. We’ve seen quite a few interesting games and unique matchups, though the whole experience is slightly marred by the format of the tournament.

Supreme commanders and major beatdowns

In the end, most of the usual suspects made it through in the end. Astralis and Liquid deservedly topped the charts, serving up a barnburner of a game against one another in the 2-0 bracket while BIG, HellRaisers and compLexity have expertly dodged their way around the heavyweights of the arena (with the notable exception of the Germans’ win over FaZe which spiraled the brackets out of control) to make it to Wembley. Na’Vi’s 3-1 record is only marred by an incredibly close defeat to gla1ve and co. (16-14), which seems to indicate that they are going to be very formidable in the business end of the major even with their rumored internal strifes.

FaZe Clan have now become one of the very few who have managed to make it back from the pits of the 0-2 bracket – Cloud9 famously winning the entire Boston major in similar fashion –, recording a well-deserved win over a resurgent G2. With fnatic’s limp elimination, olofmeister is now the only player who managed to make it to the last eight of every single CS:GO major – and with the way Fnatic’s been looking since the removal of Golden, one has to wonder if this team will even make it back to the next major, at least in terms of its roster being intact.

The final match of the day marked a meeting between two fascinating sides in transition on the rise towards their former glories. Despite their defeat, NiP can hold their heads high based on their performance after their long-awaited return to the major stage, and Lekr0’s insertion as an IGL seems to be a masterstroke so far: both of their veteran players have seen a serious uptick in performance and there’s quite a lot of potential for this side: their return to Katowice is guaranteed and they have a very nice foundation to build on, especially with their main domestic rival’s recent regression. The potential sticking point is their reliance on their new in-game leader in the fragging department – especially as dennis was quite disappointing in the tournament – but if they can patch up that particular hole while keeping f0rest and GeT_RiGhT going, they should be looking at a long-term top ten placing.

It’s still hard to gauge how MiBR stock up against elite opposition – Astralis cracked them both in Stockholm and London, the latter in spectacular fashion with the first 16-0 in major history, which is the only team with any real pedigree they’ve played against since YNk’s arrival – but their improvement since the player break in indisputable. They are not the favorites to lift the trophy in London but they also seem to have found a rhythm, much like their opponent for the last playoff spot.

MIBR at FACEIT Major New Legends Stage

The Swiss cheese is full of holes

Of course, the headline story is mousesports’ shocking elimination with an 0-3 scoreline that made them forfeit their right for a guaranteed return to Katowice. It serves as an unfortunate highlight of the continued issues with the format of the majors, which are turning them into more of an interesting carnival than the pinnacle of competitive Counter-Strike.

The continued expansion of the tournament circuit coupled with the reduced frequency of these events both reduce their impact and the increased gap between the majors means that the Legend re-invites don’t reflect the present state of the scene (as many have mentioned, DotA 2’s circuit-based point system would fit CS:GO uniquely well).

The persistent issues with the format also reduce the clout that comes from winning what used to be the ultimate CS:GO accomplishment. While the introduction of the Buchholz system is an objective improvement on the format’s previous iteration, the high variance of the best-of-one games is still a big issue. We’ve seen multiple examples both in the Challengers and Legends stage where the upset winners were “rewarded” by an underperforming giant itching for a comeback. Every major featuring the Swiss system has led to upset eliminations – mousesports in London, Astralis in Boston, Na’Vi and FaZe in Krakow and Liquid in Atlanta – and two out of three produced upset winners that failed to live up their billing later in the more consistent tournament formats.

Astralis ELEAGUE Boston Major 2018

It is impossible to argue that mousesports are not a top-sixteen team worldwide or that three best-of-one defeats are enough to rebrand them as plucky underdogs. Similarly, the fact that FaZe were a single map away from losing their Legend seed, put in the same bracket as a collapsing Cloud9 and Winstrike Team is a nonsensical aberration. Not only that, but there is a clearly established pattern now of Legend teams being slow to get out of the game, likely due to the fact that they are a lot less familiar with the venue and the equipment than their opponents who made it past the New Challengers stage, which has a major (pun intended) impact on the proceedings when you only have best-of-ones to work with until the 2-2 decider.

The lack of differentiation between the different minors in terms of offered spots and Valve’s many other decisions clearly point to the notion that the major is now meant to be more of a global celebration of Counter-Strike than the pinnacle of competition – more of a World Cup than a Champions League to use a football analogy – and the continued rise of initiatives like the Intel Grand Slam could very well mean that the importance of the major could continue to diminish over time unless drastic changes are made to the format.

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