NEO and f0rest can widen or shorten the gap between their accoplishments. RobbaN can redeem his past disappointments. GeT_RiGhT can show the hero within and overshine the harsh spotlight of criticism that has always followed him. Finally Delpan, pasha and face can add legendary moments to their own careers and justify emphatically their places in teams with some of CS' biggest names.
Everything is on the line but only one team will leave Busan with gold in their backpacks and a smile on their faces. Will Sweden's search for a second gold go unanswered? Will destiny finally show the Poles the hard shoulder? Will ESC rise to the level of the golden five days and add another chapter to the greatest narrative in CS history or will SK come through strong in the latter days of CS to stamp their dominion over the post-Na`Vi period? Examine the WCG 2011 final from all conceivable angles and preview the maps and matchup in this detailed article.
Experience on the biggest stage
One factor people sometime forget to include when looking at matchups is how deep in the tournament they take place. Upsets are much easier to come by early on tournaments because the pressure for both sides is only at its maximum deep in the tournament, so the better team is more off-guard. Add in that a team with any apprehension in playing a final is facing an opposition who, usually, has to have battled through other teams by playing their best and it's a bad recipe for inexperienced teams to face experienced teams in the final. The final is the ultimate pressure cooker and you never truly know how a player will react to that pressure until he has been there a few times. Some players on the other hand seem able to bring their best game in just those intense moments that matter the most.
Both teams here can boast a solid amount of experience in major finals. Of the 10 who will sit down to decide tomorrow's final seven of them have played in at least one WCG final and five of them have played in at least six major finals overall. In terms of most WCG experience ESC has the edge thanks to four of their members playing in two WCG finals, with only RobbaN from SK being able to match that. Likewise the edge in overall finals is for the Poles, with the same four having seven major finals overall and only f0rest from SK having played in more than four (six is f0rest's number).
In terms of inexperience both teams have green players going to battle tomorrow. Delpan and face have never played in a WCG final, nor has pasha. Two of those three players have also only been in one major final overall, with facing having two ESWC finals to set himself slightly ahead of the pasha and Delpan. Both pasha and Delpan had never played in a major final until 2011, which is significant.
When it comes to winning both WCG and major titles the edge goes to the Poles. ESC's historical foursome have won five majors in total. SK's f0rest has three, GeT_RiGhT has two and the other three Swedes have one to their names. Still pasha having never won a major final does slightly bring things more level, though not entirely. To some degree there is a threshold of experience in terms of winning that once passed makes additional winning less huge as compares to someone who has never won.
ESC certainly has established an incredible legacy of winning, they have just never done it yet with pasha. SK on the other hand has some fresh players who have now tasted winning, a veteran with lots of experience of rough losses, a young star with a solid winning record and an all-time great with a good but not quite stellar winning record. SK has shown they can win, they now have to prove they can do it again.
NEO vs. f0rest - this era's marquee matchup renewed
Every time they are interviewed both of these players and their team-mates will rush to tell you that it's a team game, wins comes as a result of team efforts and that they don't think of the individual battles. Whether that's true consciously or subconsciously doesn't change the fact that the fans and history do think of the individual matchup. NEO and f0rest put people in seats and get moviemakers prepping their editing software. When the stories of CS history are written NEO and f0rest's names will be all over the last six years worth with the most frequency.
It's simply a fact that in the major tournaments NEO has shined more than f0rest. Think back to every major Pentagram won and NEO performances stand front and centre to the win. Think back to f0rest's wins and losses and in some he has played well and in others he has simply been another good player in the server. Sometimes he has played well and his team have lost, others he played well and they won. This is not a judgement call or analysis over who is better, this is simply telling the story of the past.
NEO has won five majors and f0rest has won three. NEO's five come from seven finals appearances while f0rest's three come from six. Three from six is still impressive, it's just hard to put alongside a staggering figure like five from seven.
The real hope for fans and purists of CS competition alike is that regardless of the outcome tomorrow it comes after an epic war which sees both all-time great players, the two best of all time in my opinion, going at it with all of their force and fire. Let NEO be the unstoppable force which wreaks havoc on his side of the map with wreckless abandon. Let f0rest explode in impossibly stunning displays of precision which bend the direction of the game. When the gods war men should rightly tremble as the ground shakes. No matter which of the best players of all time leaves with the silver medal I would hope he can still hold his head up knowing he gave a truly great performance and was part of an amazing final series.
The spectre of finals past - The revenge factor
This may seem a small issue but for RobbaN, f0rest and GeT_RiGhT they have unfinished business against the four golden Poles they'll be facing in this WCG final. RobbaN suffered at their hands in the WCG 2006 while f0rest and GeT_RiGhT were on the wrong end of the soul-destroying WCG 2009 final which famously got away from them and was won with incredible clutch play by the now ESC men.
It's not that these players can win a WCG gold medal, they can do it while denying those very same players, almost, the very same medal and settle the score for those past years at the same time. It's rare that people get a second chance, especially under similar circumstances.
The battle for 2011 concludes
The first criteria which should be considered when deciding who the best team of 2011 is is the team's record across the three majors of CS (IEM WC, ESWC and WCG). If AGAiN wins WCG then they will have a 1st at WCG, 2nd at IEM V WC and 4th at ESWC to their names. That would beat out SK's 2nd at WCG and 1st at ESWC. Now if SK wins WCG then they would lead with 1st at ESWC and 1st at WCG, that should be obvious. SK holds the advantage in majors right now due to having won one but ESC's second place means they will take the lead there by winning this one.
Medium and small events
Going beyond the first criteria takes us to the smaller events and here each team has their own disadvantages. SK didn't form this lineup until the Summer, so they can't count any before then. ESC counters with their own problem in that their organisational difficulties mean they didn't attend a bunch of events this year that they otherwise might have. So when SK won Dreamhack Summer, GameGune and IEM VI New York there was no ESC in sight to challenge them. Likewise this SK lineup did not exist when ESC won Xperia PLAY, placed 3rd at IEM V European Championship and 2nd at ICSC7.
Putting the medium size events side by side I have SK winning Dreamhack Summer, GameGune and IEM VI New York in comparison to ESC taking Xperia PLAY, e-Stars Seoul and SEC. SK winning ICSC8 and ESC winning ASUS aren't significant enough so with ESC getting 2nd at ICSC7 also I just take those out of the equation. So on the strength of that trio vs. trio battle I think AGAiN has the better of those events. Xperia PLAY and SEC both had three of the elite four teams in attendance, while only Dreamhack Summer did out of SK's. IEM VI New York doesn't compare to SEC in terms of competition. e-Stars and GameGune were both double elim single map tournies and the field at e-Stars was tougher at the top end. So in terms of the medium events ESC holds the advantage right now.
Overall everyone can put all of the above factors out of their mind because ultimately we will have our answer tomorrow morning. The team who wins WCG is the team of the year for 2011 and ends the year as the strongest team in Counter-Strike over that 12 month span.
Cementing legacies - history's pen awaits
Major finals define the careers of the great players. It is not enough to simply be incredibly skilled or produce amazing highlights. It is not the goal only to win a lot of money and to gain the respect of your peers. Ultimately it comes down to whether you could play your part to a high enough level in the most intense and pressure-filled moments of your career. Those who manage this can see their names etched into the stone monument of CS history, never to be removed regardless of public opinion. Those who cannot may live a short while in people's memories for their flair or personality but ultimately have no assured place in the pantheon of CS gods.
The Polish side - Building the pyramid higher
The easiest legacy to figure out based on tomorrow's results is that of ESC. In the last two years this team has never fully left the shadow of LUq's departure. Both in theory and in practice it was the right move, and history has shown us that conclusively, but unless these Poles can win another major people will always look back to their glory days as the golden five. They will go down as all-time great winners regardless of tomorrow's upset, but if they can add another major title then they can add extra weight to their legend and a new chapter to how they became CS' greatest winners. To win with one lineup is incredible, to add a radically different type of player and win in a different era would be even more incredible. For pasha this would also be the culmination of everything in his career, the chance to play with legends and finally claim to be one in his own right.
f0rest's challenge - moving up the ladder
f0rest is the man with the most to lose and gain for SK tomorrow. He could never win another round of CS and he would likely go down in history as one of the two best players to ever touch the game. That much is assured but beyond that the question will always lie: who was better out of NEO and f0rest. That NEO has five majors to his three is an immediate setback for the Swede in such arguments. If NEO can take a second major at the expense of f0rest (WCG 2009 and WCG 2011), in comparison to the one f0rest took (IEM III Global) then that would would add even more to the Polish monster's side of things.
With the expected lifespan of 1.6 f0rest is the only person who can potentially take the title of best player of all time from NEO in my book, but to do so a win tomorrow is a must. It's still not assured but it will even things up a little more. That would give f0rest four major titles to NEO's five. Losing would of course see NEO go up to six and f0rest stay at three, likely an insurmountable lead in realistic terms. As a result there is everything to play for in terms of legacy for f0rest.
GeT_RiGhT's moment arrives - Hard work pays off
GeT_RiGhT has been the best Swedish player in his teams overall for the last two years in my opinion, and that's despite playing with the best Swedish player of all time. That is an incredible feat and especially for someone so prone to huge emotional highs and lows. GeT_RiGhT has his weaknesses and mentally he can sometimes be pushed aside, but he has some of the hero in him also. He wants so badly to win and he pushes so hard for it that in spite of everything which has been set against him from the beginning of his career up until right now he still continues to push the boundaries of how great a player he is. Where he has gotten so far is further than any of us could have known even 2-3 years ago.
Cast aside numerous times GeT_RiGhT's chance seemed to have come and gone a number of times, yet he persisted and prevailed. Even the dejection of being cut, or almost cut, by famous strat callers has not permanently scarred him. In time the wounds have healed and he continues ever forwards towards his goals. Now is a chance to do something that goes beyond criticism or questioning and stands on its own right in the sight of even the most hardened GeT_RiGhT hater. For GeT_RiGhT he may personally feel the sting worse than the others if he loses but I actually think he has the least to lose of all in his team. What he has done already is amazing and regardless of whether he thinks it or not it does not all lie on his shoulders.
A win tomorrow sees him help f0rest make another step towards greatness but would see GeT_RiGhT take a huge leap in that direction. Na`Vi may have blown our minds with how many majors can be won in a short space of time but outside of the Ukrainians GeT_RiGhT is the man who dazzles the most. Since joining fnatic at the beginning of 2009 he has been in four major finals and won two. With a win tomorrow he gets into the category of the likes of elemeNt and whiMp in terms of all time great figures who were also legendary winners.
In terms of the whole perspective of history it seemed even a year ago as though Swedish CS to some degree began and ended with Potti and f0rest. A gold medal tomorrow and GeT_RiGhT can put his name alongside HeatoN's just outside of that duo. It's not quite the holy of holies, but it's the chamber room which opens into it.
RobbaN's redemption - Two golds one year
Playing with walle took some of the flack off RobbaN when they weren't able to win the big titles but there's no doubting he has his own demons to face tomorrow. After losing in his first four major finals RobbaN got his dream lineup, f0rest and GeT_RiGhT, and now he has a major under his belt. If he can win tomorrow he will match cArn in terms of major titles. Add in that RobbaN could help paint over those bad memories of the previous two WCG finals by putting a gold next to those silvers and the former Begrip and NiP player has much to gain from a potential win. I think if SK lose his legacy probably takes the biggest hit, since he has played for so long and suffered so many disappointments.
face and Delpan - Nothing to lose, everything to gain
For face and Delpan they didn't even know two years ago that they'd be playing for a major title. Back then their trajectories were far from set and they could easily have been in the second or third best Swedish teams their whole careers, due to the political aspect. Instead they now reach a second major final for 2011, and a third for face's career. If they win then they add a big stamp of approval on what are relatively young careers at the elite level. If they lose then the fact they would be losing to all-time great winners in CS doesn't really bring too much of the sheen off what they have done so far. When you haven't gone that far yet there's only so far you can be pushed back.
Head-to-head for 2011
For the first third of 2011 ESC were firmly in control of the matchup against SK Gaming, who had yet to acquire Delpan from fnatic. The Poles put an SK lineup, being hailed by some as a potential dreamteam, out of the IEM V European Championship in group play. SK lost allen to retirement and took in dennis as a stand-in for the World Championship and Xperia PLAY events.
At IEM the two teams clashed in the semi-finals and SK were painfully close to making the finals, victory cries on their very lips but for one of the all-time great clutch CT comebacks by the Polish team. With no room to put even a foot wrong ESC's men overcame all odds to bring that dust2 decider back and deny SK a finals spot. The dominance of ESC, who were still under the FX name, over SK seemed solidifed as they outplayed the Swedish side in the Xperia PLAY finals, following up an epic semi-final war with mTw by rolling over SK in a disappointing final held at 4am local time.
Everything changed for SK when Delpan brought his sniping skills over to the blue and white side of Swedish CS. SK not only became a winning side, taking down every event in the first two months of the new lineup, but also crucically began took their first wins against the Polish titans. ICSC8 was a clinic for SK as they beat ESC in four straight maps, two in the group stage and two in the semi-final.
At the end of the Summer e-Stars Seoul saw both teams at the forefront of CS competition, and it seemed only fitting they would decide the South Korean title between themselves. In the upper bracket final ESC brought a monster game on dust2 to reach the final, but were far from safe due to the maps there being tuscan and then inferno, if necessary. With both of those being maps ESC had had varying degrees of difficulty on the final seemed to be dead even overall, despite SK needing two map wins to ESC's one. SK took tuscan comfortably but inferno was a nail-biter for both sides. Reaching overtime the Polish side didn't take the victory until the very last round of the game.
Since that e-Stars Seoul final on August 21st the two teams have not faced each other again, the SEC showmatch withstanding. Both have split all of the remaining titles except for the last two, BEAT IT Russia and Dreamhack Winter BEAT IT. The team getting in the way of each has been the Ukrainians of Na`Vi, who made their own resurgence as an elite team. Na`Vi took out SK at SEC but then fell to ESC in the final. At ESWC Na`Vi this time took out ESC only to lose to SK in that final. At Dreamhack Winter both teams managed to fall in the quarter-finals, denying the fans a semi-final between them.
Both teams have won events but ultimately have rarely met. e-Stars Seoul was the only final they met in and that tournament's, now, unorthodox double elimination single map structure meant it is hard to gauge what the two teams form against each other will be in a major final, essentially leaving it wide open to speculation.
The maps, the matchup and the odds
The main reason which makes this pairing one of the most entertaining and exciting matchups in professional Counter-Strike is that there are no obvious maps for each team to drop, making even the selection process one of strategy, psychology and confidence level. The maps which each team chooses to drop will be very telling as to their estimations of the level the other team is at on the map they could have dropped instead.
SK's drop: tuscan
For SK I think the logical map to toss would be tuscan, since it has been the main map to torture SK all year long. They've had good moments on it and they've made a concerted effort to improve on it but it also remains a fact that it is their weakest map of the five. With the two additional customs, forge and mirage, not in the map pool here I expect SK to come to the logical conclusion that tuscan should be tossed, and purely on the basis that SK have shown weakness on it in specific moments.
Now it is the case that SK have had good results on tuscan against ESC, beating them on it in the e-Stars final and even the somewhat meaningless showmatch in Warsaw. Still with the strength of SK on all the other maps it doesn't really make much sense to gamble on tuscan, being as ESC have also had their own troubles with the map and made similar attempts to reduce their weakness on it. It's also worth throwing in here that based on the description GeT_RiGhT gave of the map throwing system it's possible both teams could pick to throw tuscan here, which would certainly leave for an interesting third map.
It is possible that the e-Stars Seoul loss to ESC on dust2 and the Na`Vi loss at Dreamhack Winter might play on SK's mind and they'll opt to throw that map, but I don't think that is the way they should go. To me they've had enough good performances on dust2 that they should be willing to clash horns with the Poles on it. ESC were scary on it at SEC but that was against Na`Vi, so SK have to consider the matchup purely against themselves and trust that they can come up with the right counters.
ESC's drop: inferno, perhaps nuke
For ESC I could see them throwing nuke, which might initially seem like a strange thing to say. Historically this core of players have produced some of the most impressive nuke performances of all time. On the terrorist side they have worked wonders even against some of the best nuke CT side teams of all time. The issue for ESC is that firstly I have heard them state a number of times that they feel as though Swedish teams are really strong on this map, and there's also the factor that since they rely so often on their incredible T side play that they might not want to be forced to come up with such a performance to win this map, being as SK have the ability to completely lockdown the CT side. That SK have also shown themselves to be pretty nifty on the T side makes throwing nuke an ok choice in my opinion.
With all of the above said I think the map ESC might choose to go for, and in my opinion should, is inferno. Firstly if you look at the rest of ESC's games in WCG so far they have chosen to play nuke, and not inferno, in all of their Bo3. inferno has been the problem child of ESC throughout 2011 in my opinion. Everytime they think they have a good handle on it they suffer a loss which causes them to bring everything they thought they knew about their play on the map into question. This team's confidence on inferno hangs by a thread at every moment, and the stiff breeze of a wind of change threatens to cause a collapse with each run their opponents can put on.
Early in 2011 ESC seemed to have a good handle on inferno, with even their nail-biting losses to mTw in their wars at IEM V EU and Xperia PLAY having merits to how the Polish team had played. The problem the Polish team suffer from is that they rely too much on their ability to execute into the A bombsite as Ts, so when they are totally unable to even threaten B attacks then they become too predictable and face the absolute hardest possible defense in A, with rotations being made even before they engage. Their CT side is too variable, with their lack of consistent results meaning they switch up positions and degrees of aggressiveness with each passing map. That CT variance means the Polish side have a lot of pressure placed upon their ability to execute on the terrorist side. As a result I think the right strategical move is actually for them to remove inferno and instead trust that they can get a chance to win on nuke.
With all of the above said I'll break down each team's chances on all five of the maps, in case different maps are thrown, and then using the most likely scenarios try to gauge a winner.
train - A balance of opposites (ESC 55:45)
I start with train because both teams like this map and have proven to be amongst the top 3 teams in the world on it, regularly beating everyone but a Na`Vi team who the best in the world on the map, and likely the best of all time. What makes this a very fun matchup for me is that not only are both teams confident on the map but both are polar opposites. SK are known for their incredibly tough defense, which seems them lower a seemingly impenentrable wall once they have established a run of wins. Getting more than five T rounds against SK is a tall order for every team in Counter-Strike right now. Switch over to the other side though and SK suffer from being shaky in execution against the elite teams. If they strike early then they can grind 1-2 rounds, but if the game gets late and they need more than two then the SK chests get very tight and their breathing becomes shallow.
SK suffers from momentum drain at times as terrorists on this map, slowing down and becoming more hesistant with every gun round loss. They are still successful in clutch round situations but they will have runs where they can't even get into those situations due to being massacred at choke points. Against teams whose speciality is the CT side of things SK can out-do any of them. Against teams who are very good on the terrorist side SK have to be at their absolute best to be sure of a win. In this final they face the best terrorist team of all time on this map.
ESC are a phenom on the T side of train. They are so good that only the inherent natural map bias stops T side being their best side in terms of numbers and approach. This team can take 7-8 rounds as T against anyone in the world, including the mighty Na`Vi. Their ability to execute onto the outside bombsite is pretty much unparalleled, as they make the most of the collective close range spraying abilities of their players by covering ground quickly and rushing the key positions. Most teams in the world wilt under that kind of pressure, pounded to oblivion as they are overrun by Polish aggression at every standard CT fallback spot.
For SK their CT side can be so very good that they are one of the teams capable of taking 9-10 CT rounds against ESC, even when the Poles are firing on all cylinders. The problem for SK is that their defense can't have a hole anywhere, they need everyone's aim to be fully operational when it comes to their CT side. Ensuring a big CT half takes more pressure off the variable T side SK brings and means the psychological game becomes less of a factor. Needing as few T rounds as 4-5 means that when the likes of f0rest, GeT_RiGhT, face and Delpan develop a three kill round out of nowhere it can put the team practically at the finish line. If SK struggles eartly in their T half though then it's going to get very difficult, even against this Polish team.
Now just as the Swedes have a variable T side but a killer CT side so the opposite is true for the Poles, their T side seems to always bring the heat to a certain degree but on CT side they can be squeezed a little. It's this teams 8-9 round halves as CT that sometimes forces their excellence on T side to be what wins them games. Now a lot of those do come against all-time great T teams, which SK is not necessarily right now, but if SK come with everyone aiming well then ESC are unlikely to score a massive CT half and so 9-10 rounds is more likely their range.
As one can see by adding up all of the above train should be a very close map, but I give the slight edge to ESC at 55:45. My main reasons are that I think the CT side is more forgiving overall at this level and so as long as they don't leave themselves needing something ludicrous like 8-9 to win the map then they have a good shot at getting this one. At their best I think ESC are the only team in the world who are not underdogs to Na`Vi on this map.
inferno - potentially predictable Poles face a challenge at B (SK 60:40)
I already explained some of ESC's tendancies on this map in the selection section so I won't repeat those observations in the same level of detail. Rather I'll tie them into SK's qualities on the map. ESC's execution into the A site will see them able to get in there and get bombs planted against SK, though SK have been using different CT setups this time around. The key for both teams is the play of face in B. If face has one of his high level performances ESC can get easily discouraged from going B. When that happens then they feel like their default into A is their best chance, even in spite of knowing SK will start overloading it. ESC's excellent abilities in the clutch mean they often go to that well a little too often. A strong T side is a must for the Polish team on this map, they can't afford to get less than 6 rounds.
When SK are on CT they can be really tough on this map, often only their rotations cost them. Players like f0rest and GeT_RiGhT routinely whip out top tier performances on this map as CT, so a range of 9-11 rounds is a very real possibility for SK. I think when they are T SK have shown excellent performances over the last couple of months, really taking their game to a higher level than we saw initially with the Delpan lineup, which too often needed huge CT halves. f0rest has always been a straight up killer on terrorist side of this map.
NEO's positions on this map as CT will be a big factor for the Swedish side. When NEO is aggressive with good timing he is capable of doing early damage which puts his team ahead. Sometimes that means pushing up as a unit and using him as the tip of the speer, other times that means him deciding to AWP. What is vital when he AWPs is that he only uses it when it is functional. If he is hitting then he can move around the map and make early picks. When he is not hitting them he sometimes falls into the trap of buying it and wasting a gun and a position, in spite of knowing the risks involved. The only person who stops NEO is NEO.
I give SK the edge on inferno and by 60:40, they're simply too solid on both sides. Their CT side can be scary and they are very capable of tearing off big T halves. Against ESC I think both of those sides will be tempered a bit but it's the CT side for ESC where I worry that the Poles won't be able to stay in the game with an SK team who are going full blast. Even if you survive the SK T side you have to hope f0rest doesn't go ballistic for a handful of rounds on CT, including the pistol, as he so famously has in the past. This is the map I give the biggest advantage to any team on, hence why I suggested ESC should drop it.
tuscan - toss it, don't try it (SK 55:45)
On tuscan I think both of these teams have trouble against Na`Vi and as a result I don't think either can be too confident in their tuscan game. ESC have their problems on T side and SK have their troubles on CT side sometimes. Neither plays the map enough that one can make a really distinct call on it. I give SK the 55:45 edge on the map, though I think both teams would be wise to avoid playing this map. I also think it would less interesting for spectators to see a game on this map between these two teams.
dust2 - terrorist tussles to the end (50:50)
I look forward to seeing these teams battle on dust2 because I think they can both be devastating teams. SK can seem downright impossible as CT on the map at times. When they have their catwalk setup framed correctly it becomes a wall of spray teams walk, run or jump into and never get out of. Throw in some occasional and selective pushing up in lower B and they have a very solid series of setups to put up against any team in the world, though Na`Vi can certainly give them problems.
Against ESC the main thing for SK is that they move Delpan around correctly as CT. He can be deadly if he uses his double doors peek and his aim is on. That really messes with opposing AWPers due to where Delpan shoots his shot, slightly to the side on the door. He can also be used aggressively up mid and for an early shot in B tunnels. Keeping the opponent guessing like that makes them less likely to attack early, even though a counter is actually to do just that and if you see no Delpan to swarm that site.
On T side SK will be capable of getting a good number of rounds against ESC so I think ESC's key is to use their aggression in a coordinated manner. What they did to Na`Vi at SEC may well be a once in a lifetime game in terms of doing it against another all time great team on a good map for them. That said ESC should look to incorporate flashes of that kind of aggressive pushing at key times in this game, especially if SK have even a round or two of weakness or hesitation in mid/catwalk. ESC can't push up alone at mid/cat/lower B, it has to be planned so that someone from the other of those positions is ready to help draw fire, combine onto the same enemy or kill an opponent who is backing up.
ESC's biggest struggle will be in getting a big run of CT rounds, due to their players being less skilled with the CT weapons in stationary positions. This means they either have to win a lot more clutch round situations or they need to get early kills to even that disparity out. I give nobody the edge on this map, so I think it's a 50-50 for both teams. e-Stars was phenomenal in terms of what ESC did to SK but that ESWC performance the Swedes put on Na`Vi made me feel like they had figured some tweaks out on the CT side. It's easy to say if you can keep an AWP out of Delpan's hands that you can beat SK on this map but I think it's more that you have to time your aggression to reduce theirs. That kind of timing can't be done consciously, it's more of an intuitive requirement in terms of reading the Swedish defense.
Both teams will put up strong T side numbers, it's down to how aggressive ESC can be and if they can contain it within an envelope of teamplay.
nuke - Polish T side excellence under pressure (SK 55:45)
SK are strong enough as CT on this map that ESC has to bring their top shelf game to put up big T rounds. They are the team most capable of just that but it is not just a luxury against SK, it's a must. On the CT side ESC know SK will bring a consistently strong T side, while ESC's players lack a little in skill and must gain it back in positioning and rotation. When NEO locks up ramp room and TaZ is flowing on top of hut then ESC can take enough rounds vs. SK. The real question is the X factor: how pasha can adapt to playing outside. The young Pole's AWPing in that position is really variable and crucically can even become a hinderance if the upper site or ramp is being overrun too quickly.
I feel like SK will bring a solid CT and a good T half regardless of the day. For ESC I know they can bring a good T half but their CT half is the most questionable for me. I doubt even they know what they'll get. Of course history shows us plenty of amazing games from them on nuke but in terms of every game they play I don't think I can put them as a favourite against SK. It is true that Delpan seems somewhat out of place on nuke sometimes, and may even be outplayed at outside by pasha on their respective CT sides, but SK's ability to stop the intial rush is good enough that I give them the 55:45 edge on this map because I feel like they can temper the rush enough to make it doable as T.
To keep things interesting I will give a prediction on paper, in light of history and in terms of the present form of the two teams. On paper I would actually give SK the edge here over the three maps 55:45. They've shown me enough with this lineup that I think if Na`Vi hadn't stopped them at SEC and Dreamhack Winter that they'd have very likely won at least one of those events. They match up so well with all the other teams that I think Na`Vi are the only ones who have an edge with them over a three map series on paper. ESC's edges on the maps that will likely be played put a lot of pressure on their team, meaning that as effective as they can be on those maps when they are bringing their A game that the times they bring their B, C or D game it usually will not be enough. So SK's consistency gives them the slight edge on paper.
The big factor that gives it to SK on paper is that they can almost match the T sides of ESC on some of the maps but that on CT they are much more stable on CT and can rely on being able to take big halves there. On the most fundamental level SK don't need to be as aggressive as CT to make it work and can play more standard due to havign superior individual skill man for man. ESC have the edge over them in teamplay but there's isn't enough there tactically for them to make that a big enough counter and push the overall edge back to them.
Historically everything lies on the side of the Poles and I'd give them the edge 60:40 because history would tell me that they perform at their best under extreme pressure and that when they do bring their A game to a big final like this then they not only do incredible things, such as put up monster T sides on CT-sided maps, but they also seem to break the opponents at key points in the game. When opponents are giving their all but come up just short against this Polish team then it's very hard to recollect and go into the next map without bearing the signs of that mental wounding. Of course ESC can fade away too, they just haven't really done it against teams who go by any other name than Na`Vi.
f0rest's record in the big finals has been spotty in comparison to NEO's. That doesn't necessarily matter in the sense that if he shows up big time then he damages anyone, and if he doesn't then SK can still win. For NEO on the other hand he has to show up, if he doesn't then ESC can't win a huge match like this. NEO has brought it more in the past but ESC has all their eggs in the one basket as far as he is concerned. SK has their skill more spread out, making consistency more achievable even if ESC has one unstoppable player.
As far as form goes I think you have to give SK the nod, so I'll make that 60:40 to SK. SEC is a fair way behind us now and instead the memories of their ESWC semi-final loss to Na`Vi and their disappointing three map exits at BEAT IT Russia and Dreamhack Winter linger on in the memory. Add in that for whatever reason I heard NEO was calling for the team and I think if that's the case then even if he is not currently it suggest some confidence problems for the Polish players. SK feel like this is their tournament whereas ESC hasn't been put to the test at all so far, and still don't necessarily know where they stand. The weight of history leans the way of ESC but the form of the last couple of months doesn't. If they win tomorrow they rightfully set a new standard for WCG history as it would take one of their all-time great performances, and every CS purist should be in awe of those.
This current ESC lineup is not the golden five but tomorrow pasha has his own chance to at least start his own chapter in that tradition, and surrounding him are the big-time winners of this CS generation.
The most skilled lineup in CS goes up against the core most driven by the force of history, outside of Na`Vi at any rate. Whose golden dream will it be when the last round is over and done with? Legacies will be cemented either way and as fans let's hope for excitement along the way.
(Photographs copyright of fragbite)
@Thooorin on twitter.
2001-2002 Pro-cybernews (Editor-in-Chief)
2002-2003 Gamers.nu (Lead Editor)
2004-2005 ESportsEA (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2006-2008 ESportsEA (Editor, Community feature host)
2008 TAO-CS volume 1 (Co-author)
2008 TAO-fRoD (Co-author)
2008-2009 WinOut.net (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2009-2012 SK Gaming (Editor-in-Chief)
2012-2013 Team Acer (Editor-in-Chief)
2013-2014 OnGamers (Senior eSports Content Creator)
Pro bono publico:
2001-2002 XSReality (Site administrator)
2003-2004 Team3D (Editor-in-Chief, Consultant)
2012-2013 fragbite (Blogger)
2013-XXXX [POD]Cast (Co-host)
2005 Down with the s1ckn3ss
2009 fRoD Quick and nasty (part 1)
Events attended for coverage purposes:
2001 CPL London (Pro-cybernews)
2001 WCG Qualifier (Pro-cybernews)
2002 CPL Summer (Gamers.nu)
2002 WCG Qualifier (Gamers.nu)
2002 CPL Oslo (Gamers.nu)
2002 CPL Winter (Gamers.nu)
2003 CPL Cannes (Gamers.nu)
2003 Clikarena (Gamers.nu)
2004 CPL Winter (ESportsEA)
2009 WEM (SK Gaming)
2010 IEM IV European Championship (SK Gaming)
2010 IEM IV World Championship (SK Gaming)
2010 Arbalet Best of Four (SK Gaming)
2010 Arbalet Cup Europe (SK Gaming)
2010 e-Stars Seoul (SK Gaming)
2010 WCG (SK Gaming)
2010 WEM (SK Gaming)
2011 IEM V European Championship (SK Gaming)
2011 Assembly Winter (SK Gaming)
2011 IEM V World Championship (SK Gaming)
2011 Copenhagen Games (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Summer (SK Gaming)
2011 SK vs. FX showmatch (SK Gaming)
2011 e-Stars Seoul (SK Gaming)
2011 ESWC (SK Gaming)
2012 IEM VI Kiev (SK Gaming)
2012 IEM VI World Championship (SK Gaming)
2012 WCS Europe (Team Acer)
2012 Dreamhack Open Valencia (Team Acer)
2012 Dreamhack Winter (Team Acer)
2012 IPL5 (Team Acer)
2012 HomeStory Cup VI (Team Acer)
2013 IEM VII World Championship (Team Acer)
2013 MLG Winter Championship (Team Acer)
2013 LCS Europe Spring Week 10 (Team Acer)
2013 WCS EU S1 Ro16 (Team Acer)
2013 LCS Europe Summer Week 9 (Team Acer)
2013 WCS EU S2 final / LCS Europe Summer playoffs (Team Acer)
2013 Riot S3 World Championship (Team Acer)
2013 Battle of the Atlantic (OnGamers)
2013 Battle of the Atlantic (OnGamers)
2014 LCS Europe Spring Week 5 (OnGamers)
2010 IEM IV European Championship (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM IV Asian Finals (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM IV World Championship (ESL-TV)
2010 IEM V Shanghai (ESL-TV)
2011 ESEA-invite S8 (WinOut)
2011 GameGune (WinOut)
2011 SEC (WinOut)
2013 Dreamhack SteelSeries CS:GO Championship (DH-TV)
2014 Dreamhack Steelseries CS:GO Invitational (DH-TV)
2014 Dreamhack Summer (DH-TV)
2014 Gfinity G3
2014 Dreamhack Stockholm CS:GO Invitational (DH-TV)
Pro bono publico:
2010 ESWC (lvl^)
2010 Arbalet Cup Dallas (lvl^)
2010 GameGune (lvl^)
2010 fnatic PLAY (lvl^)
2010 WCG Nordic (SK Gaming)
2011 Dreamhack Winter BEAT IT (whisenhunt)
2011 EPS Winter (whisenhunt/ESL-TV)
2011 WCG (whisenhunt)
2011 IEM VI Kiev EU qualifier (SK Gaming)
2013 FACEIT Sunday Cup April 28th (FACEIT)
2013 Prague Challenge (District)
2013 FACEIT Sunday Cup September 8th (FACEIT)
2013 FACEIT Monday Cup September 9th (FACEIT)
2014 ESEA Invite S15 LAN finals (NiPTV)
* Winner of the Heaven Media 'E-sports Journalist of the year' awards for 2012 and 2013.
HLTV.org's top players of WCG '11
WCG: CDE win the WCG LoL tournament
WCG: ESC w/ historic golden win, SK silver
Sky into final, seeking historic 3rd WCG gold
WCG: SK outplay M5 as T, final vs. ESC next
THE NEW JERSEY