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CS:GO

PGL Major Stockholm: New Legends Stage Preview

Zakaria Almughrabi

The first stage of the PGL Major Stockholm has come to a close. Eight New Challengers Stage teams have already been sent home, while the other eight have advanced. The top 16 in teams left in the biggest tournament CS:GO has to offer have just one day off to prepare for the New Legends Stage starting on October 30.

PGL Major Stockholm NAVI

The NAVI train is still going strong coming into PGL Major Stockholm. Can s1mple and NAVI claim their first Major titles? (Image Credit ESL)

The New Legends Stage is formatted the exact same way as the previous stage. The 16 teams will meet in a Swiss system with three wins required to advance. The first two rounds are best-of-ones, while all elimination and advancement matches are best-of-threes. Three match losses mean elimination from the Major. The participating teams are:

Legends

Challengers

Ninjas in Pyjamas FURIA Esports FaZe Clan Copenhagen Flames
Natus Vincere Team Vitality Entropiq Virtus.pro
Team Liquid Gambit Esports ENCE Heroic
G2 Esports Evil Geniuses Astralis MOUZ

The round one matches were decided based on RMR standings. They are:

Evil Geniuses vs FaZe Clan

G2 Esports vs Copenhagen Flames

Gambit Esports vs ENCE

Team Liquid vs Entropiq

Team Vitality vs Virtus.pro

Natus Vincere vs Heroic

Ninjas in Pyjamas vs MOUZ

FURIA Esports vs Astralis

The Clear Favorites

One team is on everyone’s minds as the favorites to claim the PGL Major Stockholm. NAVI have been on a complete roll throughout 2021. The most prominent CIS team has dominated the vast majority of events they have attended this year. Aside from a couple of rough performances at IEM Katowice in February and ESL Pro League S13 in April, NAVI’s results have been about as good as possible.

In total, NAVI has already won six trophies this year, including the coveted Intel Grand Slam following their first-ever ESL Pro League trophy at S14 in September. They’ve made a total of eight Grand Finals appearances, their only two losses coming to their regional rivals Gambit. NAVI have also recently passed 30 consecutive weeks as the top-rated CS:GO team worldwide according to HLTV.

Their extensive resume and impressive trophy cabinet are one thing, but how has NAVI maintained this level of play and consistency? Firstly, Aleksandr “s1mple” Kostyliev is as good as ever. The best CS:GO player of all time has not slowed down at all and is more often than not the driving force for NAVI’s victories. S1mple is no stranger to Majors, having played in 10 already with two runner-up finishes at best. This is his best chance ever to earn the biggest achievement in Counter-Strike.

However, a team cannot be just one player. NAVI’s struggles in the past have been due to the rest of the team not being able to rise up and match s1mple’s level. That has all changed over this past year.

Denis “electronic” Sharipov is as electric as ever. He easily has enough skill to rival the best in the world and serves as a dual carry threat alongside s1mple. Kirill “Boombl4” Mikhailov and Ilya “Perfecto” Zalutskiy have truly come into their roles on NAVI and provide expert in-game leadership and anchor power. Lastly, the young gun Valerii “b1t” Vakhovskiy has provided explosive play-making and clutching prowess after moving up from NAVI Junior permanently at the start of 2021.

As an organization, NAVI have made a total of three Major finals. They’ve come up just short every time. This roster are the clear frontrunners here at Stockholm and they will do everything in their power to bring home the trophy and the $1 million first place prize. The question is, can anyone stop them?

Supporting CIS Squads

The teams that know NAVI the best are the three other teams hailing from their region. Gambit Esports have been NAVI’s greatest rival all year. The young team came onto the scene with their win at IEM Katowice in February and have carved a place into the CS:GO ecosystem as a clear title contender. Gambit also have six trophies to their name in 2021.

These two cores have played a total of 37 maps against each other since June of last year. The total map score is 19-18 with a series score of 9-5 in favor of Gambit. Additionally, Gambit have won five of their past six meetings since June of this year.

Still, Gambit are a young team. This is the first ever Major for four out of five Gambit players. The exception is Abai “Hobbit” Hasenov who won the PGL Major Krakow with Gambit. If Hobbit and the rest of Gambit can ensure that they perform up to their standards in the Swiss system, Gambit are a likely candidate to make a run late into the Major.

PGL Major Stockholm Gambit

Gambit are the toughest competition NAVI have faced all year. How well can the young players do in their first Major? (Image Credit ESL)

Joining Gambit and NAVI from the CIS are Virtus.pro and Entropiq. These two teams both advanced from the New Challengers Stage with 3-1 records. VP is a team with strong fundamentals and a distinct playstyle. However, Mareks “YEKINDAR” Galinskis and stand-in Evgeny “FL1T” Lebedev have helped raise the ceiling for VP.

As for Entropiq, the ex-Winstrike squad was picked up in May and has performed well regionally. Their biggest international showing came at ESL Pro League S14 where they narrowly missed qualifying for playoffs in a tough group. Their performance has been steadily ramping up, and with wins over Astralis and Heroic in the previous stage, they look primed to cause some damage.

The Ninjas are Back

NiP are a legacy CS:GO organization that has sat outside the top tier of competition for far too long. Their last trophy was earned at IEM Oakland back in November 2017, making for a drought of over three years. NiP have since been shuffling around their roster, trying out young Swedish talent in order to find their next superstar roster. The pieces finally began falling into place over the past year.

NiP had their best performance in a while at ESL Pro League S13, earning a top four finish before being eliminated by Gambit. Two weeks after that, NiP made one of the biggest signings in CS:GO history. Legendary AWPer Nicolai “dev1ce” Reedtz left his long-time home of Astralis to represent the Ninjas.

Fast forward six months. NiP finally broke their title drought by winning IEM Fall, earning them enough RMR points to qualify for the PGL Major with Legend status. Now, the Ninjas are looking to continue their trophy-seeking form with a run at the org’s eleventh Major.

Vitality’s Resurgence

Team Vitality are also hunting for a Major title. The French squad had been a staple of top-tier competition in CS:GO ever since their introduction to the game in late 2018. They came into the year ranked at number two worldwide and had plenty of trophy aspirations. However, Vitality started to struggle quite a bit.

From February to June, Vitality had a streak of disappointing performances. They had failed to break into the top six at six consecutive tournaments. They even fell out of the top 10 for three months. Vitality finally broke their top six drought at IEM Summer. A couple of clean sweep victories over Gambit and Virtus.pro moved Vitality into the top four. A close loss to OG ended up keeping them out of their first Grand Final in six months.

September rolled around as did ESL Pro League S14. Vitality showed up to play, sweeping Gambit again before getting revenge on OG to qualify for the Finals. Unfortunately, Vitality couldn’t stop NAVI from taking the five-game series and claiming the Intel Grand Slam. A top three finish at IEM Fall a month later earned Vitality enough RMR points to qualify for PGL Stockholm with Legend status. They will either continue their rise back to power, or will their resurgence be a short-lived one.

PGL Major Stockholm

Vitality are one of Europe’s strongest teams going into the Major. (Image Credit ESL)

NA Counter-Strike Struggles

North American Counter-Strike has fallen far from its peaks. Long gone are the days of multiple competitive rosters of entirely NA players on the international stage. There are many reasons for this decline, but that’s a talk for another time. Right now, there are only two North American teams and eight total NA players present at PGL Major Stockholm.

Team Liquid is the region’s greatest hope. They come in as the ninth-rated team worldwide, fielding a roster that has two previous Major winners in Jake “Stewie2K” Yip and Gabriel “FalleN” Toledo. The move of Brazilian legend FalleN to Liquid at the start of the year was an interesting one. It would allow for Stewie2K to relinquish his permanent in-game leader status and support their star players Jonathan “EliGE” Jablonowski and Keith “NAF” Markovic.

Liquid have had some alright showings throughout the year, notably a top four at IEM Katowice and a top eight at ESL Pro League S14. However, they have had their fair share of inconsistencies and have not been able to take that final step towards being a title contender. Liquid will have to show something special if they want to ensure advancement to the New Champions Stage.


PGL Major Stockholm’s New Legend Stage begins on October 30 at 4 AM CT.