The sixth season of the ESL Pro League, CS:GO's most professional and longest-running eSports league, ended last weekend after a turbulent 10 weeks. Across a total of 26 match days, the best teams from Europe and America fought it out for entry into the LAN finals, which will be held from 5 to 10 December 2017 in the Sparekassen Fyn Arena in Odense.
The final weekend of the ESL Pro League Season 6 was characterised by explosive and tightly fought games, while also providing some surprises for the audience. The initial scene on the final match-day offered plenty of suspense as, due to table positioning, entry into the finals was still a possibility for several teams. In the European division, NiP, G2 and HellRaisers fought for the last two tickets, while in America five teams – Misfits, CLG, NRG, Cloud9 and Luminosity – competed for the final three spots. For the Season 6 Finals, Fnatic, North, FaZe Clan Clan, Astralis, NiP and Hellraisers (ranking after placement) ended up qualifying on the European side. Their American counterparts in the finals are OpTic, SK, Team Liquid, NRG, Misfits and Luminosity.
Incredible first place ranking
Most surprising of all, it is likely that last year's winner G2 will not be able to qualify for the offline event, despite strong performances at this year's Dreamhack Malmö. In addition to the departure of G2, another particularly incredible highlight is OpTic placing first in the American season. However, it should be noted that due to a schedule clash with the WESG qualifier, SK could not play in their home country of Brazil.
FaZe Clan, SK and Astralis as tournament favourites
Despite the strong final placings of OpTic and Fnatic during the online season of the ESL Pro League, other teams are the favourites for this year. For while in previous events Fnatic has proven themselves strong online and weak at LAN-based events, OpTic was directly confronted with the difference in level between Europe and America in the Boston EU Minor, and had to accept bitter defeats against supposedly weaker opponents. As usual, the undisputed tournament favourites include FaZe Clan, SK and Astralis, all of whom currently lead the HLTV ranking.
Over the past few months, FaZe Clan has proven to be the CS:GO team par excellence. Their achievements this year include winning the ESL One New York, as well as the ELEAGUE CS:GO 2017. Particularly impressive was their winning streak, in which FaZe Clan won 15 consecutive maps. In the ESL Pro League, the team built around karrigan and Co. could definitely build on these successes and shine through using a team strategy built around knowing how best to utilise their many individual player talents.
SK Gaming is arguably the most dominant team of the last two years. This long-lasting success remains unbroken because, even though the Brazilians around FalleN weakened a bit in the middle of the year, they nevertheless were able to secure first place in six tournaments in 2017. The recent player change from felps to boltz appears to have had a more positive than negative impact. Just one week after the change, SK won the EPICENTER LAN tournament in St. Petersburg. As a result, the team has continued to appear confident during the EPL thus far.
Astralis signed their new in-game leader gla1ve at the start of the year, then going on to win the ELEAGUE Major as well as the IEM Kattowitz; however, following these successes they unfortunately seemed to fall back into old habits: Although they always perform very well at tournaments, something goes awry at the most important moments. As a result, the remainder of their final placements this year came in at second, third, and fourth places. If dev1ce's team can build upon the achievements from early in the year, they will definitely be a candidate for the EPL title.
New seeding system ensures joint decision-making in teams
EPL favourites are well-known CS:GO greats, and their performance is not only decided by their results on the day – the IEM Oakland and the winning mindset that results from it will also play a central role. The new group seeding system for the finals in Odense ensures variety in the EPL. Unlike before, online season placement will decide allocations in the finale – this time, participating teams have the right to joint decision-making. From each of the top two finishers a group is created, which in turn selects the first opponent for the other group. That group may then appoint two more teams for the other group. This pattern continues until both groups are filled. This system introduces another level of strategy, promising even more excitement.