Now that the dust has settled after three days of competition in Anaheim, it’s time to look at some of the biggest takeaways from the Esports Championship Series Season 2 Finals. While Astralis ended up taking the win in a pretty lopsided grand final, there is still plenty to unpack from this past weekend.
SK Gaming continues to struggle
Outside of Astralis winning the whole thing, the biggest storyline from this tournament has to be the fact that SK Gaming came up short yet again. Since winning their second straight major at ESL One: Cologne in July, they’ve yet to win a tournament. They’ve made the grand finals twice in that span, but it’s been a challenge just to get over the hump. They tried to get things going by bumping Lincoln “fnx” Lau off the roster, yet, for at least this tournament, the results remain the same. That being said, with such talented players on the roster, you have to assume that the team will right the ship eventually. But as of now, it’s a bit tough watching them falter over and over. Especially when the latest falter was an absolute dismantling at the hands of Astralis. The silver lining in all of this is that despite these miscues, SK has now finished in the top-4 in each of the last seven tournaments they’ve played in since winning Cologne. They’ve now got about a month and a half to practice up with stand-in Ricardo “fox” Pacheco before the ELEAGUE Major at the end of January.
North America is here to stay
There has been a lot of talk in the last few weeks about the surge of the North American Counter-Strike teams. It started with Cloud9 winning ESL Pro League Season 4 Finals at the end of October, and continued with OpTic Gaming winning Northern Arena Montreal and ELEAGUE Season 2. In each one of those grand finals the NA teams beat very strong teams, with Cloud9 defeating SK and OpTic taking down G2 Esports and Astralis. Prior to the North American momentum, the regional scene was more or less considered a joke, but that’s just not the case anymore. With Cloud9 and OpTic Gaming hitting the stage in Atlanta this weekend for the ELEAGUE Major qualifier, there’s a good chance North America will have yet another chance to impress in the coming months.
Continuing resurgence of old favorites
Much of the drama that took place throughout the ECS Season 2 finals was thanks to a handful of teams who had fallen out of the limelight in recent months. That starts with Astralis, the overall winner’s of the tournament. Shockingly, this was the first tournament of any kind they have won all year. Not only that, but they’ve now made it to two straight grand finals, also finishing as runner-ups at the ELEAGUE Season 2 finals. They’ve already qualified for the ELEAGUE Major by virtue of finishing in the top-8 at ESL Cologne, which means they’ll be looking to make it to three straight grand finals appearances come the end of January.
This tournament also saw Team EnVyUs insert themselves back into the narrative. The Boys in Blue haven’t really been contenders for some time now, but after a strong performance at the ECS Finals, they certainly turned some heads. While they did run head first into the Green Wall of OpTic Gaming in the semifinals, they still put together big wins over Immortals and Team Dignitas to get into the playoffs in the first place. They will be taking part in the ELEAGUE Major qualifier this weekend, and will assuredly be looking to build upon this top-4 finish to crack their way into the Major.
Overall, the ECS Season 2 Finals was the perfect tournament to send off 2016. While the ELEAGUE Major qualifier will take place at the end of this week, the ramifications of the qualifier won’t be felt till the start of the new year. As a result, the ECS Finals certainly left the Counter-Strike community with plenty to chew on as they eagerly await the 2017 season.