*This one is going to be personal
To me, “controversial” is the perfect way to describe the StarLadder Berlin Major, in terms of the teams’ performances and the fans’ expectations.
At the beginning of the Major, I couldn’t have imagined the Champions Stage brackets would look the way they do. The same goes for my Pick’Em. But it happens so often that one’s expectations never even rub shoulders with reality. It’s devastating when you have to choose between your heart and common sense. Sometimes, these two coincide, but, unfortunately, that doesn’t happen often.
However, a choice had to be made. So here is my StarLadder Berlin Champions Stage Pick’Em.
ENCE vs Renegades
Common Sense: ENCE
Finnish magic meets the Australian miracle.
No hesitation when picking the winner.
For the second time since Katowice Major 2019, Renegades have somehow managed to earn Legends status despite their poor performance throughout the rest of the year. In Berlin, to make it to the New Champions Stage they had to summon the ghosts of ENCE’s Katowice Major 2019 also overcoming a 0-2 deficit. That says it all. The dream ends here, though.
Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. That describes ENCE perfectly.
I had no faith in the Finnish side at the beginning of the tournament due to the issue with Aleksib’s replacement after the Major. But it feels like knowing that beforehand relieved all the pressure and let the team breeze through the New Legends Stage. According to Twistaa’s interview, the atmosphere is friendly, and Twistaa doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who’s capable of lying to the team’s fans.
With those facts combined, it made my pick in this quarterfinal pretty clear – ENCE.
Vitality vs AVANGAR
Common Sense: Vitality
Both of these teams’ performances at the Berlin Major were unexpected.
AVANGAR did unexpectedly well, Vitality, unexpectedly, faced lots of issues (especially with the CIS teams during the New Challengers Stage).
AVANGAR have earned Legends status for the first time, which is an awesome achievement. However, that adds pressure. And I can’t see them handling it. I’d love to see them in the Semis at least but that seems unlikely.
At this point, Vitality is a much more experienced team that seems to have worked through the mistakes they made during the previous stages. I can’t see AVANGAR stopping ZywOo.
And, as I see it, AVANGAR are already satisfied with what they’ve achieved, Vitality are not.
That makes me pick Vitality.
NRG vs Natus Vincere
Common Sense: NRG
This one is tearing me apart.
With all my heart I want Na’Vi to be as dedicated, motivated, psychologically ready, and prepared in terms of individual and team in-game skill as they say. But the performances they showed throughout the New Legends Stage leaves much to be desired.
Everyone has to perform at his peak in the playoffs, just like electronic and, in some respect, s1mple did during the group stage. Plus, they need to forget about all the Major disappointments in their past, which is easier said than done. 15 Majors. Three Grand Finals. Zero titles. It’s so hard to forget all that.
Some say that Na’Vi have a psychological advantage over teams like NRG. But it’s hard to rely on intangibles in the Major Playoffs.
As for NRG, they are a machine with the objective to win. And by beating Astralis and Team Liquid in the group stage, they’ve proven that they’re able to do that.
With a broken heart, I’ll pick NRG. I hope I’m wrong.
Astralis vs Team Liquid
Common Sense: Team Liquid
Six months ago this would’ve sounded like heresy, but I think Astralis are the underdogs in this matchup. That’s why my heart favors them.
They’ve got methodology, they’ve got skills, they’ve got all the experience you could ever want. They’re looking for their fourth Major title. They’ve got zonic. But…
I think they also have this feeling that they need to take back what was “stolen” from them – they want to shake the throne under Team Liquid so badly that their strategy and execution might suffer.
Team Liquid, on the other hand, seem confident in this matchup. Last year, they had a 1-6 record in tournament finals vs. Astralis. This year, the situation is totally different. And it feels like they’re not afraid to lose. Plus, they have three terminators on the roster – EliGe, Twistzz, and NAF.
The match won’t be one-sided, but I think that there are more things going for Liquid both mentally and technically. That’s why I’m picking them.
ENCE vs Vitality
Common Sense: ENCE
I can’t see AVANGAR stopping Vitality. But ENCE have allu, sergej, and Aleksib. They’ve already been there, stopping both Team Liquid and Na’Vi in Katowice. So stopping a powerhouse like Vitality won’t be anything they haven’t done before.
Besides, these two already met in the New Legends Stage where the Finns swept aside the French side 16-10, and 16-7, respectively.
A lot will depend on the match’s map pool, which isn’t terribly predictable to me at the moment.
ZywOo will shine, but in CS:GO, a one-man wrecking ball isn’t always enough.
I’m picking ENCE.
NRG vs Team Liquid
Common Sense: NRG
NRG’s first advantage.
I totally agree with ImAPet who said that when you regularly practice against the top team, the #1 squad loses its fear factor and mystique.
NRG’s second advantage:
Even if NRG were a weaker team (which is disputable at the moment), this matchup is a regional rivalry, where anything can happen. And stanislaw’s squad has already proven they know how to handle this kind of rivalry, as they beat Team Liquid in the New Legends Stage 16:9 on Dust2.
This time, my heart is adding to my pick.
I was very impressed with what I saw from NRG in the New Legends Stage. The thriller vs Astralis on Train… CeRq was godlike. I don’t think Astralis deserve to beat Team Liquid. NRG do.
I’m going with NRG.
The Grand Final
ENCE vs NRG
Heart: can’t decide
Common Sense: NRG
One part of me wants ENCE to finish what they started last year.
It would be amazing to see Aleksib lifting the StarLadder Berlin Major trophy before leaving the team. That would make for one hell of an emotional moment: for Aleksi, for his teammates, for the organization, and, especially, for the team’s fans.
On the other hand, I want the same story for NRG. Who could’ve imagined that they’d reach the top 8 after their loss in the New Challengers Stage opener to DreamEaters? Plus, NRG can replicate Astralis’ story, when replacing a player resulted in an enormous boost in team performance. That’s what I love.
So, I’ll go with my gut and couple that with what I’ve seen from these teams during the tournament thus far.
I think NRG are better as a team, have a deeper map pool, and have had more in-game practice recently.
The trophy goes across the Atlantic and home with NRG.