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Monte Stuns Team Vitality in ESL Pro League S18’s Biggest Upset

Zakaria Almughrabi

The ESL Pro League S18 Playoffs are well under way. There are only a few days left until the winners of the last Counter-Strike: Global Offensive Pro League are crowned on October 1. With the first half of the Quarterfinals matches finished, one of the tournament’s biggest favorites has been thrown out by an unlikely suspect in Monte.

Monte ESL Pro League

Image Copyright: Adela Sznajder, ESL FACEIT Group

Vitality’s Reign of Terror

Team Vitality absolutely dominated the Group Stage. They didn’t drop a single map on their way to first seed in Group A. On top of that, Vitalities +54 round differential over the six maps showed that they weren’t just winning, they were crushing everyone in their path.

It wasn’t a huge surprise either, as Vitality has been ranked either first or second in the world by HLTV ever since mid-May following their IEM Rio and BLAST Paris Major wins. Their most recent tournament excursion at Gamers8 10 days prior to Pro League also ended in a first-place finish. This is all to say that Vitality was easily the Goliath coming into the ESL Pro League S18 Playoffs.

There were a couple of strong teams on their side of the bracket standing in the way of a Finals berth. Natus Vincere and Astralis could have been meeting in the other Quarterfinals match, and Complexity Gaming very nearly upset G2 Esports in the Group D finals. Instead, Vitality’s David came in the form of a team that barely qualified from Group B in last place.

An Underdog from the Start

Monte is a Ukrainian team that has mainly played in tier two competition throughout this roster’s tenure. Impressively, their few opportunities to play in tier one events have been very respectable. Most notably, Monte earned a playoff appearance at the BLAST Paris Major.

Monte’s run at Pro League started off on the wrong foot. They lost two of their first three matches to BIG and MIBR, knocking the team down to the last chance bracket early on. Things looked especially grim when it was decided that their first opponents there would be Heroic.

The fourth ranked team in the world had just as bad of a start. And unlike Monte, they wouldn’t recover. Monte’s 2-1 victory put them through to the final qualification match. The rematch against MIBR went completely different this time. Monte ran over the Brazilians with 16-6 and 16-3 scorelines, sending them to the playoffs.

As the last seed, Monte had to start playoffs in the round of 16. Their opponents were no walk in the park either. Even so, Monte kept their hot streak going when it mattered. Their match against Fnatic ended with a 2-1 win with a 16-9 on Anubis and a 16-6 on Vertigo. Complexity was up next. Once again, Monte came out on top 2-1, again decisively winning their map and the tiebreaker.

This run has already been impressive from Monte, going from one loss away from elimination in Groups to a top eight. Now however, most expected this run to come to an end with Team Vitality on the other side of the server in Quarterfinals.

Monte Comes Out Swinging

Vitality chose to ban Ancient in this matchup, giving Monte one of their favorites on Anubis.  The Ukrainian side got to start on the favorable T side. They got off to a hot start, cruising to an 11-4 lead off the back of Sergiy “DemQQ” Demchenko’s 20-6 K-D ratio and 2.00 HLTV rating. Monte won the second pistol round as well, bringing them to 13. Vitality’s comeback was too little too late, allowing Monte to win their map 16-11.

Going up 1-0 was all well and good, but Vitality had Nuke up next. They were on a 17-map win streak on Nuke coming into this match. Odds were overwhelmingly in Vitality’s favor. If they had beaten top teams 17 times in a row on Nuke, what chance did Monte have?

Despite losing the pistol round, Vitality managed to win the force buy on their T side. The result was a 3-1 lead that looked to be compounding. Instead, Monte started a streak of their own off the back of a 4K on Ramp by Alexander “br0” Bro.

Monte entered halftime up 9-6. Now they would need to prove that they could close it out. A fourth consecutive pistol round win helped them out greatly, as that 9 turned into 12. Vitality then got to work, chipping away at the deficit. Eventually, a near flawless eight out of nine round streak put them up 14-13.

The writing was on the wall for Vitality to complete the comeback and send the series to a tiebreaker. Instead, Monte turned on the jets for the last three rounds of the game. After only winning one gun round on T side, Monte found the crack in Vitality’s armor to take three in a row and close out Nuke 16-14.

The Script has been Flipped

Not only did Monte sweep the tournament favorites 2-0, they did so by breaking the longest active map win streak in Counter-Strike. No one could have seen that coming. Now with Vitality out of the picture, the ESL Pro League S18 Playoffs have swung wide open. Other strong contenders like ENCE and G2 Esports are licking their lips at this development.

Both of those teams will play their Quarterfinals matches on September 29. On the other side of the bracket, Monte sits in the Semifinals awaiting a matchup against NAVI. Normally, few would think twice about predicting a NAVI victory. Now, the Monte ESL Pro League campaign is in full swing. They could easily find themselves claiming the trophy if they continue this form.