It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick, but Cloud9 are the champions of the ELEAGUE Major. Facing their rival FaZe Clan, the fan favorite North American team managed to score a dramatic comeback win in a three-map Grand Final that concluded in double overtime.
The first set, contested on Mirage, opened with an absolutely dominant 8-1 run by Cloud9, largely built around a white hot start by Tyler "Skadoodle" Latham. Just when it seemed as though C9 was poised for a rout, however, FaZe roared back to finish the first half with an ace by Ladislav "GuardiaN" Kovacs and a 9-6 score.
While the first half of Mirage was defined by one big momentum swing, the second half was much less back-and-forth. After taking three of the first four rounds Cloud9 shut down and allowed FaZe to break off eight straight rounds. While Cloud9 rallied back to nearly force overtime, FaZe managed to regroup and take the first set 16-14.
After losing on their own map, Cloud9 exacted revenge on FaZe’s home ground, Overpass. After amassing an early lead (8-1, no less), Cloud9 seemed ready to slip, ceding three of the last four rounds of the first and six straight in the second half after hitting 15 wins. Ultimately, though, the crowd favorites managed to push things to the third map, Inferno, with a 16-10 win.
The final set, unsurprisingly, started with an early Cloud9 lead, who rebounded from a loss in the first round to go up 5-1. From there, however, things were all FaZe as it took the 8-7 lead by halftime and kicked off its run on terrorist side with six wins in the first seven rounds, eventually advancing to 15 wins to Cloud9’s 11. Cloud9 would not cede an inch, however, and managed to force overtime with a huge rally led by Jacky "Stewie2K" Yip.
The game was in Cloud9’s hands entering OT and it played like it, too, as OT was opened with three wins for the American team. With its back to the wall, FaZe battled back and broke off three of their own, extending the series further...but they wouldn’t be able to force a third-round OT.
After stealing the first round with a clutch defusal, FaZe was unable to keep up with Cloud9’s smooth play, and dropped four straight, giving Cloud9 the dramatic win.
The series was quickly labeled as one of the best in the history of Counter-Strike Majors, and it’s hard to argue. From the pure CS:GO action to the out-of-control crowd, the ELEAGUE Major finals were a sight to behold.
This may or may not be the beginning of a renaissance for North American CS:GO teams and it may or may not be the beginning of a special run for Cloud9...but there’s no question that this is one of the greatest esports moments in recent memory.
Pro Players Get a Dose of Reality
While the ELEAGUE Major was going on, a small reckoning took place that carries big implications for the entire gaming industry.
For years on end, esports players benefitted from the lack of mainstream spotlight on the field. With no financial stakeholders to be damaged by their actions and no serious scrutiny from fans, players were essentially free to do or say whatever they wanted with no enduring repercussions.
On occasion, punishments were handed out, sure. Riot would crack down on players that did something blatantly across-the-line and Noel Brown was banned from the Capcom Pro Tour in 2016 for sexual harassing a female fan during a tournament, which was caught on camera. For the most part, however, players could do or say whatever they wanted.
That’s not the case anymore.
On two separate occasions in January, players from different titles have been slapped with punishments for insensitive remarks regarding homosexuality. Last week, Felix "xQc" Lengyel from the Overwatch League’s was suspended for making a quip about Austin “Muma” Wilmot, OWL’s only openly gay player, during a Twitch stream. During the ELEAGUE Major, a similar situation played out.
Entering the event, news surrounding Brazil’s 100 Thieves was supposed to be limited to the team’s unfortunate absence from the event, which saw them cede a “Legend” spot due to visa issues. That changed when rifler Vito "kNg" Giuseppe made a homophobic remark towards esports journalist Duncan "Thorin" Shields that caught the attention of many in the field.
In any other year, there would have been a fleeting bit of outrage. In 2018, though, kNg was fired on the spot.
Many will likely lament the death of esports’ days as a video game-themed wild west
Quantum Bellator Fire Steal the Show
While they ultimately didn’t come close to winning the ELEAGUE Major, and their underdog story was forgotten about with all the excitement surrounding Cloud9’s win, Russia’s Quantum Bellator Fire were one of the biggest stars of the entire event.
If that name doesn’t sound familiar, don’t worry! That’s completely justified.
QBF hasn’t really taken part in any noteworthy tournaments since its inception in 2016, with most of its pro games taking place in qualifiers and most of its greatest successes coming in small events hosted by esports betting sites.
It earned its way to Boston in the CIS Minor, going from the open qualifiers to second-place. From there, it squeaked through the Challengers Stage, rallying from a 1-2 start and nearly being eliminated in Round 4 by EnVyUs.
Nothing really indicated that QBF was poised for a serious run...but when the Legends Stage came, a switch flipped with the team.
After steamrolling Virtus.Pro in its first series, QBF scored a hardfought overtime win over Gambit to vault towards the front of the pack. It fell short of a first-place finish, losing to G2 Esports in the third round, but sealed up a spot in the playoffs by defeating Mousesports.
Ultimately, the team’s Cinderella story ended in the first round of the Champions Stage, falling to Natus Vincere. Still, there’s no diminishing what QBF did as the Russians became the first team in CS:GO Major history to go from open qualifiers all the way to a Major’s top-eight.
Disclaimer: The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.