It’s the usual suspects in Anatolia: TyLoo and Renegades lived up their billing as favorites, making it past an underwhelming field or rivals en route to the year’s second major. While the contrast between this contest and the other qualification events is massive, there are still a few valuable takeaways to look at from the rumble in the Twickenham jungle.
For most casual observers, the third FACEIT minor was pretty much "TyLoo, Renegades and the rest" – and the other six teams didn’t really show anything to stand out over the course of the event, apart from SZ Absolute’s surprise win over the Australians in the group stage by the narrowest of margins (16-14), an edge they immediately wasted against Tainted Minds in the first playoff round, only to be promptly eliminated by the men down under on their second attempt. Both the upper and lower bracket finals were embarrassingly one-sided, making much of the tournament feel like a foregone conclusion. History certainly was on their side: they have now made it five in a row when it comes to qualifying from this minor. Supposedly, VG.Flash could have had a good chance to break the deadlock – it definitely didn’t show.
Of the two qualifiers, Renegades seems to be the greater enigma based on their performance in the minor. Initially, their stumble in the group stage and the defeat in the final-in-all-but-name against TyLoo after giving up an 11-4 lead made it seem like they have a long way to go if they want to challenge beyond the first stage of the major, but the revenge taken over the Chinese at the end of the even certainly put all of the precedings in a different light. Neither of these teams look likely to make it past the stacked first stage (may I remind you that Astralis are there), but their presence fits Valve’s recent tilt that changed the majors from the pinnacle of competitive CS:GO to a World Cup-like representation of talent around the globe.
Of course, this goal would be much easier to accomplish if players could actually participate in the events. Visa issues have plagued other majors and minors as well, but this particular event marked one of the worse cases in that regard. Thai team Signature has missed the event completely, and their replacement BOOT-d[S] was also forced to field a stand-in, just like Uniquestars – and the same goes for VG.Flash as well, though that one was due to injury. Still, the most egregious case has to be 5Power’s: they were missing three members of their actual roster. It’s tough to take the event seriously with such roster issues, and the diminished team cohesion certainly showed throughout the tournament.
It’s tough to formulate an effective solution for this problem, especially considering how you don’t want to punish otherwise successful event organizers by excluding them based on potential visa issues in their location. Still, this is rarely an issue at the premiere CS:GO events, and as Darwinian as it sounds, maybe something needs to be done about teams that can’t get in due to both skill and bureaucratic difficulties.
The level of play was undoubtedly much lower here than in the other minor tournaments, partly because of the smaller pool the teams were selected from. The current system awards two spots fore each of the four minors, which is pretty perplexing if you consider that 1244 European teams fought for the same amount of major slots as 735 from the CIS region, 357 in the Americas and 244 in Asia.
Representation is a noble goal, but there are better ways to achieve it without sacrificing competitive integrity: it would even be enough for Valve to look in-house for an alternative with The International (a system that is superior to the CS:GO majors in many ways, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion): regional invites are fine, not taking play skill and scene size into account really is not.
In and out
Whatever you may think of the disparities between the different regions, this minor also showed the massive gap the contenders need to overcome in order to displace one of the two perennial qualifiers: TyLoo hasn’t dropped a single map to anyone other than Renegades, who gave up two maps overall to SZ Absolute: a 16-14 and a 16-11, which looks a lot less impressive from the winners of the East Asia qualifier when you consider that they’ve lost the other two maps 16-2 and 16-7. I shudder to think how these teams would do against the contenders of any other minor tournament.
Allu’s suggestion of a unified minor may be a bit too much, and the current high-variance format of the major could even allow the qualifiers from the less-respected regions to have a strong showing – though as we’ve seen from the ex-QBF (now Winstrike line-up), or even the surprise winners of the last two majors, it’s very tough to use this as a springboard. As nice as it is to have sticker money, it no longer makes such a massive difference as the scene continues to grow.