From NiP to Vega Squadron, the challengers are ready to fight the top dogs in the New Legends stage of the major, pitting the aristocrats against the new pretenders and the old outcasts: after a cracking if error-filled first stage, it’s time to welcome the heavy-hitters to London. Here’s a little primer on what to look out for if you're looking to bet on FACEIT Major New Legends Stage and the matchups and storylines to pay attention to as the field is whittled down to the final eight.

The boys are back in town

There’s perhaps no better symbol of the seemingly everlasting transitional period of the CS:GO scene than the current list of Legend teams at the major. Cloud9’s roster is a chaotic mess, FaZe Clan are hard at work reintegrating olofmeister, Na’Vi seem to be having issues with flamie, MIBR are trying to get back to the top with YNk, mousesports are still trying to fit Snax into a square-shaped hole, Fnatic haven’t clicked since Xizt and draken were shipped in and G2 still trying to unlock their undoubted potential.

This will be the French team’s first event since June when they’ve lost to Luminosity in the group stage decider of DreamHack Open Valencia. Last time around G2 bossed the New Legends Stage before getting brutalized by the eventual winners in the playoffs – even a repeat of that performance would be an unexpectedly good result in this stacked field. Winstrike Team is, of course, the odd one out from this list, but we’re going to get back to the primary 0-3 candidates later. They are unlikely to make any impact here – of course, this is exactly what we’ve said in Boston.

G2 at ESL One Cologne 2018

Those who have risen

Astralis and Team Liquid had no business being in the New Challengers Stage and they have promptly dispatched their competition. The Danes were rewarded by a blockbuster matchup against Na’Vi in the opening game – though s1mple and co. were nowhere near their sterling best at Stockholm and whispers about internal strife and flamie’s potential departure have not subsided since –, which means that the bracket will be out of whack fairly quickly as one of the strongest teams are guaranteed to be 0-1 after the first round. Similarly, NiP’s rumble against mousesports should also be a really exciting game.

The rest of the challengers have not been impressive enough to consider them favorites for one of the coveted eight spots: on paper, compLexity have done very well, losing only to Astralis, but they’ve only played Inferno so far in the event, suggesting they might get found out by opponents with a deeper map pool this time around. HellRaisers have also cut it fairly close against underperforming teams, just like BIG and TyLoo – in fact, maybe Vega Squadron are the most impressive of this particular bunch as they’ve battled through four matches with at least thirty rounds per map before putting North to the sword fair and square in the decider match.

Keep in mind that the successful qualifiers from the New Challengers Stage have done surprisingly well the last time around: based on our very limited sample size with this format, the teams joining at the second stage sometimes take a while to get up to speed. With opponents like Astralis and Team Liquid in the mix, such complacency can prove lethal.

While we’re at it, you might find a bit disingenuous that the eight qualified teams were occasionally dubbed as “Legends” on the broadcast when it doesn’t in fact guarantee a return to Katowice in 2019. This, of course, should spice things up even further.

Vega Squadron at FACEIT Major Challenger Stage

The 0-3 police

This time, even the underperforming teams have something to play for. This is thanks to a recent rule change that got rid of the automatic re-invites for the teams that go 0-3 this stage, giving an extra incentive for the people in the 0-2 bracket to fight for their lives. On first glance, Winstrike Team – formerly known as Quantum Bellator Fire – are far and away the most likely to fall in such a precipitous manner, hardly participating in any events since their new organization picked them up, barely making any impression at any of them.

The next most likely candidate in line for my money could very well be Cloud9. The title holders are a shadow of their former selves, fielding an odd hodge-podge of European castaways to round out their remaining roster, a team without an identity and likely lacking a long-term future in its current iteration. All ingredients are there for a pure horror show – just recently, they failed to beat eUnited to qualify for IEM Chicago despite having a one-map lead or going through the upper bracket, the latest in a string of embarrassing results. Even if that prediction might be taking it a little too far, the challengers are locked and loaded for sure and some of Boston’s legends are definitely there for the taking: it should be a very exciting stage for us to enjoy at the Twickenham Stadium.

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