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The Battle for Toronto: Who will be King in the North?

May 12th-14th. Mark those dates on your calendars. The last four giants of CSL 2017 Counter-Strike. We will see hopes and dreams, tears of joy and tears of heartbreak in Toronto. I can’t wait, and I know you can’t wait either. While the best of 3s we’ve seen so far were amazing to watch, nothing beats a good LAN. LAN, baby, is where boys become men, and we get to see where teams can truly perform under the highest levels of pressure.

Unfortunately, I am not a time wizard and I can’t make the middle of May arrive sooner. What I can do is remind all of us of the grandeur of these four big teams; their success stories, their backgrounds, and their latest victories. I’ve also got a cool graph at the bottom to showcase these teams map pools based solely off of CSL results. Some of these big names have had interviews done by our writers, so be sure to check out the links I put on their titles!

University of British Columbia:

Before the substitution of ‘ChuanKhaiWOW-CKW-` for `bing`, British Columbia hadn’t looked as good as they do now. Sure, they were winning games, but not as convincingly and as dominantly as we saw later on, even in a series against RMU. `Chuan` was a huge upgrade to their firepower, dropping consistently high frags each game. With a great co-ordination and the strategic mind of `Mahone` (who has contributed to our YouTube channel, and was a guest on The Quad) they quickly made a name for themselves as a team that was not to be trifled with. One by one, foes as great as UCSC fell beneath their might. 

Although the game against RMU was a 2-1 outcome, that result might be a bit misleading to those who haven’t seen the 3 matches. It was not very close to either Nuke or Cache, although Mirage was a great win for RMU in that they caused UBC their first loss on the map. Before this best of three, UBC had slain each playoffs competitor 2-0. `Mahone` and the Columbia Crusaders showed time and time again they weren’t messing around. I like to think, now that Montreal was surprisingly kicked out of the first round of playoffs, that British Columbia might in some ways be seeking vengeance for their fallen comrades of the North. But you’d have to ask them that in person at Toronto.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63Kzo6jG1Wo]

Playoffs Ro8: British Columbia vs Robert Morris – Map 1 

Since the rework Valve made out of the old Nuke, controversy has spread among the ranks of the elite like the plague of 1665. Thankfully for UBC, a team which has been revered by its competition all season as a huge contender for first place this season, they look pretty much comfortable on all maps. Indeed, they smashed Robert Morrison 16-5, with RMU`s CT-side faltering and their T-side completely failing.

It gets crazier when you realize Robert Morris won the first pistol round. Can you imagine that? The score was 3-0 to RMU at one point because they had taken the pistol round, which some people may argue can go either way regardless of strategy. 3-0, and UBC decided they weren’t giving RMU another chance to build an economy. Back to back T-side executes and solid fragging from all of `richie`, `strata`, and the rest of the gang ensured the CTs couldn`t get enough gun rounds to make a difference. Some rounds they would give up a 2-man advantage and yet somehow, through intelligent and patient plays coupled with teamwork, they got the job done.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=93svC9rp3jI]

 Playoffs Ro8: British Columbia vs Robert Morris – Map 2

This time, a pistol round win on T-side meant that Morris University took the first gun round and maintained a pressure on the CT-side economy of British Columbia. The warriors of Pennsylvania did well on anti-eco rounds and played off each other to ensure great trades and not many casualties. Again, here we saw the fragility of money on the Counter-Terrorist side; it`s a huge deal losing gun rounds, players have to eco more often, which means rounds are easier to spiral out on the T-side.

After a force buy rush into mid where RMU was caught off-guard, UBC got a few more chances to even the score, ending the round at an unsatisfactory, yet ok, 5-10 half. Losing both pistol rounds in a game can mean devastation. Thankfully, for the last remaining Canadians, it only meant a solemn defeat. The comeback factor seemed to be there when they got rolling after a force buy with tec9s and armor (classic) and an attempted boost into sniper`s nest gone wrong for the CTs (classic).  RMU was not going to give up this one, however, as they remained calm, waited for a buy, and changed up their setups accordingly to prevent any more bomb plants (that`s actually a big deal, that bonus money can be a big factor). Other than that, `BoomBoom`was huge with those 1vX scenarios.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nfrDzr2V2m0]

 Playoffs Ro8: British Columbia vs Robert Morris – Map 3

Honestly, I am not sure why this match was uploaded and not flagged by Youtube for inappropriate content. Viewer discretion advised. Any RMU fans should cover their eyes. RMU was not just any team coming into this, they had a great record against some really great teams, one of which was the harbinger of death for the Falcons of Montreal. And yet, despite `LenNox`s best efforts, they couldn’t break 4 rounds. The inconsistency of Robert Morris was deeply disturbing and it made me wonder if the maps played were really that bad for them or if the UBC players were utter gods.

University of California, Irvine:

A team that did not make it to last year’s playoffs, UCI has definitely made a number of improvements this year, one of which was bringing in `Strawberry`to captain and discipline the squad. A leader not just when calling but also on the scoreboard, the recent addition to UCI has aided in vanquishing Ryerson, and recently Ottawa after the De Anza scandal, meaning that they would be disqualified. They are definitely one of the closer group of players and, as my co-writer Carlo puts it, one of the friendlier teams to chat with. That they made it this far this year, is a combination of grit and a love of Counter-Strike.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I_u6ejs3HmI]

 Playoffs Ro8: Ottawa vs UC Irvine – Map 1

They say Mirage is all about mid control. Taking that area of the map can mean lots of entryways for the Terrorists wearing sunglasses so they can AWP properly without the sun bothering them. Well, it makes sense then that UCI tried to make it difficult for Ottawa to gain any mid control. ‘Spaz’ was in sniper’s nest spotting and peeking when the enemy least expected it (he also moved around the map a lot with his AWP), ‘Strawberry’ was supporting from Cat and there would be another player in Connector. The key thing UCI kept in mind was that they could give up Mid as long as they didn’t die and as long as Ottawa wasted ‘nades and, maybe even players, to get it. Every small advantage pressed Irvine further to victory.

Rarely was UCI ever down in numbers. Ottawa’s T-side was shut down and even unconventional strategies like grouping up in B-Apps on gun rounds failed to catch UCI off-guard. ‘XinKong’ came up big, not just for his frags, but for staying alive most rounds. That really did help maintain the CT economy and his safe style of play helped ensure more round wins. I would give ‘XinKong’ the MVP for this map, not for his kills but for his lack of deaths.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gPM_yxEujtw]

 Playoffs Ro8: Ottawa vs UC Irvine – Map 2

I love Train as a map, and I’ve always said the possibilities on it are endless in that there is so much outplay potential. It takes care and skill to be able to maneuver around the many ladders and locomotives, not to mention to check every possible spot CTs might be linger in. UCI were so dominant on this map that they won both pistol rounds and took full advantage of their anti-eco rounds. There were glimpses of excellence from Ottawa, 3Ks from both ‘MAR10’ and ‘Prompt’, but they weren’t consistent as Irvine quickly made note of their skill and played more cautiously against them. Add to that an expensive double AWP setup that only worked once or twice and you are left with more save rounds that are doomed to fail. There were some great 1vX clutches from both ‘Strawberry’ and ‘Spaz’, and as usual the captain dropped great numbers. The impact he had was tremendous. Ez for UCI. They look to face UBC in the semi-finals.

 

University of California, Los Angeles:

‘gimp^’, ‘raxa’ and ‘Snoopy’ (now called ‘SCOTT_STERLING’) return to fight for glory, and they’ve already surpassed their last year run where they ended up losing to Ohio State 2-1. The additions of ‘Oniichan’ and ‘cjen’ solidified UCLA’s roster and they grinded their way back to playoffs. The entire season has been nothing but wins for the Bruins, and the only maps they’ve lost on were Nuke and Cache. Their path thus far was not easy as they’ve had to face former champions SJSU, the deadly forces of Illini Esports, and more recently, the formidable UH Premier. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M8SEVRrc1Dk]

 Playoffs Ro8: Houston vs UCLA – Map 1

Taking the pistol round gets the Bruins a 3-0 scoreline before they are mowed down for the last time by the Counter-Terrorists in round 4. That was one of two rounds they gave up that half. What came after was a series of stunning blows to the defending side. UCLA did great: their players split into parties of 3 and 2 and took map control together, trading off each other and creating distractions all over the map and not just in one obvious area. None of the Houston players could get rolling, while each one of the Bruins was playing his part. You could see anti-ecos were no problem when  ‘Oniichan’ was dealing with 3 pushing players alone in mid. You could call it the UCLA plow, if you were a VP fan.

13-2 at half-time meant that Houston was desperate. Even after scraping together a round win they were hard reset by aggression and insane aim from the Los Angeles side. All they really needed were pistols. At this point, UH decided rightfully to force buy and just when they looked to get another round, ‘raxa’ clutches a 1v2 and makes sure it doesn’t happen.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAIOAv1NtI0]

 Playoffs Ro8: Houston vs UCLA – Map 2

One of the only close scorelines in any map of the round of 8s. This map showcased Houston’s persistence. It was an absolute grind for both teams, but a delightful outcome was that we got to see the UH players come alive finally in the series. 5-0 was attained after some slow and methodical play from the Premier (UH) team that won them anti-ecos and fast paced gun round that saw ‘coolkidss’ getting two entries. UCLA had to answer with 4 rounds of their own. Back and forth the rounds went until the half ended at 6-9. It was so close that there were plenty of situations where a UCLA player could have made a bigger impact by staying alive or getting one more frag. If one more thing had gone the way of the Los Angeles team, it would have been overtime and the series could have ended 2-0.

UH played better on Nuke, moving together and trading their frags well. They weren’t the team that had lost 16-3 on Mirage. They did well to get the rounds they did on their T-side because their CT-side was shakier. In fact, they were lucky to get both pistol rounds, because they did make the difference. If UCLA had won either it was game over. It’s also crazy to think about how close UCLA were to winning Nuke even when they had lost both pistols. Not only that, clearly ‘Oniichan’ was off his game… until Cobblestone.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=II5_zG8xCZk]

 Playoffs Ro8: Houston vs UCLA – Map 3

It seems starting off on T-side was a huge advantage to the UCLA roster, and it helped that Cobble could be a fairly T-sided map given the right circumstances. ‘Rush B’ is a common tactic on this map. As they’ve shown on Nuke, UCLA didn’t need to win the pistol round to get results. In fact this time they won in round 3 after a bomb plant that gave them money for AKs.

‘Oniichan’  and ‘gimp^’ performed consistently, with ADRs of over 120. The AWP was not needed, as UCLA resorted to a 5-man rifle setup that moved as a unit and was diverse in the bomb sites they attacked. ‘cjen’ was an anchor in the sense that while he didn’t drop lots of frags, he won his 1vX scenarios. 

Fiven: City University of New York, Baruch College:

I’ve said before and I’ll say it again; when I think ‘Fiven’ the names ‘Toy’ and ‘food’ come to mind. ‘Toy’ is a name that you can see on YoutTube, competing with famous ESEA rank S players such as ‘DaZed’ and ‘Stewie2k’. Not to mention he is practically a pro player now. ‘food’ himself has played in ESEA main and premier teams. Together they form a very heavy hitter list, one that has had every team they’ve faced shiver and quake in their boots. I would also add ‘sStance’ to that list but in the latest series against RIT, the third star was absent. Speaking of which, fiven caused a major heartbreak to RIT fans everywhere. A team that was on a perfect winning streak, a team that showed so much promise and resolve, was completely wiped by Baruch College, as if they never existed. If UCLA doesn’t fear Fiven by now, they should.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyS_qb94pqo]

 Playoffs Ro8: Waterloo vs CUNY Baruch – Map 1

Before they faced Waterwoo, ‘Fiven’ was 3-0 on Nuke, but I feel as though Waterloo University was in trouble no matter the map. They did win the pistol round, but a force buy from Baruch was successful. Why? Well, because ‘Toy’ and ‘food’ got 2 headshot kills each. From then on, CUNY Baruch had their way with Waterloo. CT aggression was present across the map and no respect was given to the defending T-side. I say defending T-side because it really did look like it was the Terrorists that had to be the defensive side this time. Waterwoo was able to capitalize on a very small amount of these pushes but overall ‘fiven’ was outplaying the Canadians by mixing up their positions. Or just aiming better.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r88tJRwu_YQ]

 Playoffs Ro8: Waterloo vs CUNY Baruch – Map 2

Map 2 was definitely closer. This time winning the pistol round for Waterloo also meant getting those bonus anti-eco rounds in too. Once gun rounds came around, fiven was able to take the lead but Waterwoo exhibited smart choices in handling their economy. They frequently saved when the round looked like it was already lost and because of that they had more buy rounds then they should’ve. It’s just unfortunate they didn’t come out ahead in most of those gun rounds and eventually, the economy crumbled.

‘Vers4ce’ and ‘Yudickmesiter’ were up there next to ‘food’ and Toy’ on the scoreboard, which is not surprising but something cool to note. After a timeout on round 10 from the Canadian side, ‘Meeoh’ was able to win a 1v1 and defused a bomb. His team went on to make the score 5-6. Unfortunately, that was it for their CT-side. Again, Waterloo won the pistol round in the second half but they couldn’t win the anti-eco this time. Another classic case of winning both pistols, yet losing the match because your opponents are just that much better. A back and forth winning of rounds saw Waterloo stringing together a couple of rounds after ‘Meeoh’ came up big with a 4K on one of them and reset the CT economy.  Alas, ‘fiven’ were already ahead and only needed a couple more rounds to end it all for the Waterloo boys. And so, ‘Toy’ and friends shatter more dreams of victory at Toronto. They will face UCLA, one hell of an opponent even for them.

The Four Horsemen:

UBC vs UCI. ‘fiven’ vs UCLA. Those are some exciting names to see performing on LAN. Maps are a key component of gaining an advantage for your team, and the graph I posted above showcases some of the favorite maps these teams have. For instance, both Baruch College and UBC clearly love Cache and Nuke. Imagine them facing off on those maps (oh, what a battle that would be). But, it all depends on the skill level difference between the teams and whether their map pools overlap. 

If you are in the neighborhood on May the 12th, I wholeheartedly encourage you to plan ahead and attend the Scotiabank LAN that will host these four great teams. I promise you exciting and competitive matches between rivals and rosters that have proven themselves the ultimate CSL E-athletes. Hate them for beating your favorite teams, love them for being the teams you are cheering for, but you better respect them, because they’ve earned it. All eyes are going to be on you, now, lads. Good luck.

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