Na’Vi moves to second in European ESL Pro League

Natus Vincere made a big move Sunday in ESL Pro League’s European division, sweeping four matches as the second of four weeks of group play in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament concluded.

Na’Vi climbed into second place with 47 points, two points back of leaders Astralis, who were idle Sunday.

BIG, which split its two Sunday matches, sits third at 44 points. No other teams have more than 33 points.

Fourteen teams are taking part in round-robin online group play in the CS:GO league that began Oct. 2 and runs through Nov. 14. Teams in the top seven places advance to the $750,000 offline finals, which will take place Dec. 4-9 at Odense, Denmark.

The top 11 teams are guaranteed spots in the league next season. The 12th and 13th teams are sent to a relegation tournament, while the last-place team is directly relegated to ESEA Premier.

All teams play each other in consecutive one-game matches. Regulation wins provide three points, overtime wins two and overtime losses one. Regulation losses result in no points.

Na’Vi rolled past Heroic 16-9 on Dust2 and 16-6 on Train, then posted two wins over Windigo Gaming, 16-8 on Overpass and 16-11 on Mirage.

One other team, mousesports, posted multiple victories Sunday. Mouse bounced back from a 16-13 loss to FaZe Clan on Inferno to top FaZe by the same score on Mirage, then swept Heroic 16-13 on Train and 16-3 on Nuke.

Worlds 2018 quarterfinal predictions

After eight straight days of group stage games at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship in South Korea, the field has been cut down in half.

Goodbye, Vietnam and Taiwan, who saw all their teams eliminated from the knockout rounds.

North America, who was primed to join them with zero teams in the quarterfinals, found solace in an org who has made the top-eight its home over the years — Cloud9 — making their fifth quarterfinal appearance in six years.

Europe feels confident sending its two dynastic organizations, G2 Esports and Fnatic, to the knockout stage, the latter having the best chance for a western team to make the finals since 2011, where it won the inaugural title.

South Korea expected to send its trio of teams straight to the quarterfinals but, following a flubbed run by defending champion Gen.G and a near-disaster by the Afreeca Freecs, will only send a pair of teams to the next round. Still, KT Rolster, the country’s champion, stands nearly spotless following the group stages, only losing a single game to its Chinese rivals.

And finally, the only region to keep its numbers intact through play-ins and groups, we have China. The most dominant region over the course of 2018, the only thing left for China to do is win the Summoner’s Cup for the first time in the region’s history. At the forefront, Royal Never Give Up, the winners of the Mid-Season Invitational and both Chinese domestic seasons this year, will have its sights only on the final at the beginning of November in Incheon.

Before the action resumes in Busan, let’s take a look at the matches that will determine the quartet who will be advancing to the semifinal stage in Gwangju.

Black Ops 4 tourney, Code Red, reviewed: ‘We just got Shrouded on, bro’

Jack “CouRage” Dunlop was unstoppable for most of Code Red, Guy “Dr Disrespect” Beahm’s inaugural Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 tournament held on Thursday. The CoD caster turned Fortnite aficionado returned to his first love in style, fragging out for the better part of seven hours in the game’s new battle royale mode “Blackout” on the way to the grand finals.

The championship was within reach. But that was before a legend had his say.

“We just got Shrouded on, bro,” CouRage said in shocked tones to his duos partner Tyler “TeePee” Polchow. Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek’s 14-kill masterclass in Game 1 of the grand finals was filled with outplays and shots that left CouRage and TeePee screaming in disbelief.

It was a performance that not only won Code Red, but announced to all newcomers that Blackout might be just another realm for Shroud to conquer.

Code Red marked the first competitive event for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, released less than a week ago amid rabid anticipation. The venerable series’ newest iteration completely eschewed a campaign mode; developer Treyarch preferred to go all-in on the battle royale phenomenon that has swept through the shooter scene. Blackout has all the markings of the genre popularized by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and launched into orbit by Fortnite: circles, random loot, points of interest and a battle to the death. Code Red put its differences — both good and bad — on display in a tournament that acted as a positive first step for Blackout’s esports future.

Hosted in partnership with Esports Arena and, Code Red offered a $20,000 prize pool to 32 of the scene’s biggest names ($12,000 of which was allocated to the winning duo). Shroud and Dr Disrespect were the marquee pairing, but the field also featured CoD statesmen Hector “H3CZ” Rodriguez and Matt “Nadeshot” Haag, as well as a bevy of popular streamers like Jaryd “summit1g” Lazar, Tim “Trick2g” Foley and Jesse “RealKraftyy” Kraft. Each of the 16 duos were required to complete a four-game preliminary round to determine who would advance to the bracket stage.

Kills, of course, were the determining factor.

The prelims best showcased Esports Arena and’s contribution to the event, the latter acting as a hub page where player streams and kill scores were readily accessible. The ease of switching from stream to stream was a stylistic alternative to Esports Arena’s broadcasted stream from Santa Ana, California.

Casters Bil “Jump” Carter, Nathan “Nathanias” Fabrikant and Jacob “MvPR” Arce did their best to buttress the proceedings with engaging commentary as they hopped between player perspectives, but most viewers flocked to the player streams, with Shroud and Dr Disrespect easily outpacing the others by tens of thousands.

Code Red was played entirely on live servers, and was therefore subject to the foibles of such a setup. Some players suffered connectivity issues that in one instance necessitated a full replay. Then, there was the question of lobby fairness. As Shroud correctly pointed out on his stream, the format had no equalizer for some teams getting easier lobbies versus others being drawn into high skill games, which unfairly impacted their kill scores. For their part, Shroud and Dr Disrespect easily qualified for the bracket stage with 35 kills, second only to CouRage and TeePee.

Brackets were standard double-elimination fare, with matches completed in two games sets. Competing duos played squad games with all four players in the same party, each trying to record the most kills they could. Strict sabotage rules prohibited friendly fire with vehicles or grenades, but often opposing teams kept their distance from each other (better to maximize kills) as part of an unspoken honor system. Players also refused to use a well-known Exo Suit movement glitch that could quickly close the gap. Map markers were used sparingly to keep the other team uninformed of potential kills, or creatively dropped as a mind-game to mislead. Having both teams in the same lobby ensured a level of fairness the prelims lacked, yet the results stayed the same, calling into question how large of a competitive balance issue it actually was.

Thank you Cloud9 for bringing back hope to North America

It was a hazy day in Guangzhou, China during the 2017 League of Legends World Championship quarterfinals. On the slate that day was hometown favorite Team WE — hoping to make its country proud by making it to the semifinals — and its opponent Cloud9, the lone North American representative left in the tournament, a team that barely made it out of the group stage.

Standing out like a 6’5″ sore thumb, I was asked by a group of Chinese teenagers seated in front of me where I was from. When I replied “Los Angeles,” they asked what I did and who I was rooting for. After telling them I was a journalist and had an affinity for C9, a team I’ve covered weekly for two years at that point, their faces shifted into smirks, with even a few laughing.

They weren’t malicious, just matter-of-factly. To them, North American League of Legends was a joke. I later learned some of them were fans of European squads like Fnatic and G2 Esports, Korean teams like SK Telecom T1 — even Flash Wolves, Taiwan’s lone hope, was given some credence. North America, though? They were the region of funny players and memes that never amounted to anything at international events.

When the games started, a mocking “T-S-M!” chant broke out in pockets across the sold-out arena. Although C9 would show up on the day and push the Chinese favorites to their absolute limit, going the full five games in the set, it was the same result, per usual.

They were eliminated in the first round of the knockout stage; and though amusing, they were no threat to the better teams in the competition.

A year later, this time in South Korea, C9 once again stood as the last team for North America at the world championships. Once again, they were fighting against a hometown favorite, this time in the form of Afreeca Freecs, the last team standing from South Korea, the region with winners from the last five worlds. In fact, even in its worst year at worlds in season two, South Korea still sent a team to the final, and the victory (Taipei Assassins over South Korea’s Azubu Frost) to this day is seen as one of the greatest upsets in the game’s history.

Unlike the last year, though, C9 would not be denied this time. It only took three games for it to dispatch of the final South Korean from the tournament, and there was no question which team was better on the international stage. In its fifth quarterfinal in six years, finally, C9 and North America by proxy, made it to the semifinals. It marks the first time North America has made it to the top-four of a League of Legends World Championship since the very first iteration of the competition back in 2011 when there were only eight teams invited, three from North America and squads from China and South Korea not invited.

For the first time, maybe ever, I’m proud to cover North American League of Legends.

Does this mean NA is a better region than South Korea? Of course not. C9 has always been the outlier for the region at worlds, and that didn’t change this year, albeit with the team going further than it ever has.

What it does do is show a blueprint in which other North American teams can hopefully work off of in the coming months as the 2019 season begins. In an offseason where the newly christened North American franchises opened up the bank accounts to pour money on prized free agents, C9, by many accounts, “lost” the offseason, its biggest moves being the signings of Eric “Licorice” Ritchie, a minor league top laner, and Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen, the maligned former jungler of Team SoloMid who was the scapegoat for the top North American seed failing at the 2017 world championship.

Compared to other teams, it felt like a joke. Why Svenskeren? What could Licorice do that Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong couldn’t? Why didn’t owner Jack Jack Etienne care about the team? Where the hell was the signing of South Korean jungler Han “Peanut” Wang-ho to bolster the starting lineup?

For years, North America has been the region where if the infrastructure, coaching and team chemistry weren’t working, the quickest fix was a blank check to a high-profile player. It has become the region for splashy signings and even splashier drama.

The reason why the region became a joke was because it’s impossible to ignore North America if you’re from another region. The headquarters to Riot Games, the game creator, was nestled right across the street from the North American League Championship Series. A lot of the production international fans see come from the NA broadcast. The promo videos played in Busan for the quarterfinal had English subtitles for Korean players (and we were in South Korea). Team SoloMid, win or lose, were the most talked about franchise in all of League of Legends right there next to SK Telecom T1, who has been to four world finals and has three Summoner’s Cups to their names. TSM hasn’t even made it out of the group stage during that same time period while SKT T1 has been winning trophies.

Who wouldn’t make fun of a region that gets more attention than its more successful and talented brother in Europe or other regions across the world? If anything, from the outside, NA should be mocked. They spend a lot of money. They take players from better regions. And for the most part, they fail to capitalize with all their advantages, routinely losing to minnow regions and getting outperformed by teams with a fraction of the payroll.