The CIS region’s Road to Rio has concluded. The short six team playoffs have been conquered by Team Spirit as they completed their undefeated run. Including their perfect Group Stage run, Spirit boast a 7-0 record while only dropping a total of two maps throughout all of Road to Rio.
Spirit Suit Up
As the first seed in Group A, Spirit earned a first round bye. The Quarterfinals had to be played first to determine their opposition. First up was Virtus.pro against Nemiga Gaming. Nemiga started off well with a 16-10 on their own Mirage pick. Inferno was much closer, with both teams taking an 8-7 T half. Overtime went in VP’s favor, sending the series to a tiebreaker. Nemiga looked to have ran out of steam as VP rolled them on Vertigo 16-6 to secure their Semifinal berth.
The matchup between Spirit and Virtus.pro was locked and loaded. Spirit came out firing on VP’s map pick of Inferno. After a relatively normal 9-6 CT half, Spirit’s attack took a while to get going. VP took the initial rounds off of a pistol win, then built their way to a 13-11 lead. With economic control on the line, Nikolay “mir” Bityukov pulled off a 1v3 clutch to propel Spirit forward.
The momentum shift allowed Spirit to take five rounds in a row for the 16-11 win.After taking VP’s map pick, Spirit looked to close the series out on Mirage. However, the VP defense was ready. In the biggest showing of dominance over Spirit throughout the entirety of Road to Rio, VP mounted an impressive 12-0 start. They only allowed two bomb plants during this streak. Spirit did manage to get the final three rounds of the half, but it was all for naught. A quick 4-0 T side from VP ended Mirage 16-3.Despite the utter thrashing they just took, Spirit remained composed. They were keen on dishing out the same punishment on Overpass. This time, the Spirit CT side stonewalled VP to earn a 11-4 half time lead. To add insult to injury, Spirit also mounted an undefeated T side to secure the map 16-4 and a trip to Grand Finals.Their opponent would be Winstrike Team, who came out of Group A in second seed. On their way to finals, Winstrike took clean 2-0 wins over Syman Gaming and Hard Legion Esports. They certainly looked strong coming in to their match against Team Spirit, but their last meeting didn’t inspire much confidence. Spirit won their day five Group Stage matchup 2-0 which included a 16-7 routing on Winstrike’s Nuke. Winstrike would have to bring something special if they wanted a shot at glory.
Stealing the Show
Winstrike’s adaptation to the map veto was an interesting one. Instead of taking their most-played Nuke, they opted into a Dust2 pick. Even so, Spirit had a 75 percent win rate on Dust2 with 16 games played in the past three months, making it a gamble if anything. Spirit’s response was taking Winstrike’s old Nuke pick for themselves as if saying “we’ll beat you on it again.” Train was chosen as the decider if needed.
Winstrike’s Dust2 was up first. The map actually looked very promising for the underdog squad. Their CT side showed great understanding of how to play against Spirit’s usual attacking style.
The rounds stacked up for Winstrike, allowing them to take a 10-5 half time lead. The prospect of a one map lead in Grand Finals was certainly on the cards.
However, Spirit came prepared with a strong CT side of their own. After taking the pistol round, they launched into an unstoppable defensive campaign. Push after push was denied by multi-kills from their anchors.
The lead Winstrike made for themselves vanished quicker than it appeared as Spirit won 10 of the first 11 rounds in the second half. The ending came soon with Spirit taking their opponent’s map 16-13.
Now on Nuke, Winstrike got to choose the favored CT side. While it did help them to take a small 8-7 lead at the half, Spirit’s attack was more than sufficient. Winstrike even won the second pistol round, propelling them three rounds closer to victory. However, those three rounds would be all their offense could muster.
Upon entering their first full buy round, they had already decided to end the match. The next nine rounds went by in a flurry of CT dominance. The bomb was only planted by Winstrike one time in that streak. With this display, it was clear that Spirit deserved the Road to Rio crown. After closing out Nuke 16-11, it was theirs.
Team Spirit has walked away with $15,000, 1600 RMR points, and 350 ESL Pro Tour points. This wild CIS scramble for the top was certainly an entertaining watch. The usual suspects in Na’Vi and forZe being eliminated so early made for a very wide-open field. Despite that, Spirit has risen above the rest. They now sit in third place in the CIS regional major rankings. The future looks bright for Team Spirit if they can keep up these results.