The group stages are now behind us, Shanghai delivering its fair share of both upsets and excitement. How to make sense of what we’ve seen over the course of the last few days? Here are the key talking points we’ve identified:

Chinese CS:GO is still a long way off

It was a false dawn after all. TyLoo’s progression at the FACEIT London major and ViCi’s promising performances at the Katowice minors and the New Challengers Stage seemed to suggest the Chinese sides might be able to do some damage on home soil. As it turns out, all three sides got immediately eliminated, making no impact whatsoever in the best-of-three format apart from an upset win against the historically slow starters of Na’Vi.

Not just pretenders: ENCE and Renegades are the real deal

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the unexpectedly strong performances from the Finns and the Aussies were no mere flukes, and so is the idea that a stable tactical foundation can propel a team into top ten contention by itself. Ignore them at your own peril going forward.

five things we learned starseries groups

What’s up with Fnatic?

In a way, the Swedes’ performance so far feels like a budget version of how they bounced back from a group stage elimination in Season 4 of the same event last year by winning the next two tournaments in the form of IEM Katowice and WESG. Of course, that was under GoldeN’s leadership, a far cry from the current setup in more ways than one. Xizt still feels like the weak link of the setup and consistency continues to eludes the team that was once atop the CS:GO world. In fact, figuring out this lineup’s floor and ceiling remains quite the conundrum. Prospective bettors with the right answer to this question are going to have a hell of a time over the course of the next few months.

Big roster moves must be coming

At this point, it feels very unlikely that the former juggernauts of FaZe Clan and MiBR can get back on their feet without an extensive shakeup. Whatever magic FalleN managed to weave at the latter half of Katowice, it clearly wasn’t sustainable, and the karrigan-less iteration of FaZe was obviously dead on arrival, especially after their embarrassing elimination. Both orgs are wasting their time and resources right now as they indulge their underperforming stars for no tangible reason.

Whisper it, but NiP are clawing their way back to the top tier

It looks like the Ninjas’ conservative scheduling choices are bearing fruit as they’ve achieved two playoff places in a row at events with skill-testing formats. While it would be a bit too simplistic to chalk it all up to the tangible improvement in the individual performances of f0rest and GeT_RiGhT, the veteran Ninjas have definitely found an extra gear heading into 2019. Perhaps the real concern about NiP is whether they still have room for improvement with this lineup: they rarely can give a good game to the Astralis-Liquid duo, but this iteration of the side is inarguably the best since their precipitous fall from the major cycle.