Previewing The New Challengers Stage, Part 1
Previewing The New Challengers Stage, Part 1

The ELEAGUE Major: Boston is almost upon us. Before the eight best teams swarm the Agganis Arena in Boston, the 24 teams will duke it out at the G-FUEL ELEAGUE Arena in Atlanta for a shot at the big stage. The action will start off this week with The New Challengers stage before transitioning into The Legends stage next weekend to set up The New Champions stage on January 26.

Before The New Challengers gets underway this Friday, Brandon Martin is here to break down the 16 teams that will battle it out for the eight remaining spots in The Legends stage.

Rollercoaster year for Cloud9

The North American squad didn’t have the greatest start to the 2017 year, missing the ELEAGUE Major: Atlanta and following that up with a 9-12th finish at DreamHack Las Vegas. The team limped through most of 2017 before finally breaking their nagging offline troubles in Cologne by reaching the grand finals, but a strong SK Gaming shut them down to pick up the title. Ten days later at the PGL Major Krakow, the momentum didn’t last as they were bounced from the group stage at the hands of Virtus.pro. Needing a drastic change, the team switched out Jordan “n0thing” Gilbert and Michael “shroud” Grzesiek and brought in more firepower and leadership in the form of OpTic Gaming’s Tarik “tarik” Celik and Will “RUSH” Wierzba. The pair immediately made an impact on the team with consistent results and domestic wins. Cloud9 will now duke it out to claim their three wins in Atlanta to make the trip to The Legends stage.

Liquid struggles with leadership

To kick off the new year for Team Liquid in 2017, with a 9th-11th finish at the ELEAGUE Major: Atlanta before failing to qualify for DreamHack Las Vegas. With immediate results being lackluster, the team looked at the roster for changes as Spencer “Hiko” Martin stepping down from the roster and Jacob “Pimp” Winneche requested a transfer. The team pegged in-game leader Peter “stanislaw” Jarguz and the young gun Russel “Twistzz” Van Dulken to fill those spots, but the results were far from immediate. After a string of miscues, Liquid finally caught a break with back-to-back runner-up finishes at ESG Tour Mykonos and ESL One: New York. Unfortunately, Liquid continued to struggle offline and the team’s issues became transparent with internal problems, which led stanislaw to step down as in-game leader just days after helping his team win the Americas Minor Championship to earn New Challenger status. With limited options and time, Liquid picked up Lucas “steel” Lopes from the depleted Immortals roster in the hopes that his leadership will get the team back on track in Atlanta.

Team EnVyUs couldn’t find their groove

Immediately following the ELEAGUE Major: Atlanta group stage exit, the French Counter-Strike scene shuffled things around in a major way. G2 Esports and EnVyUs made one of the biggest swaps of the shuffle that saw Kenny “kennyS” Schrub, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire, and Nathan “NBK” Schmitt leave for G2, while Cedric “Rpk” Guipouy, Alexandre “xms” Forte, and David “devoduvek” Dobrosavljevic joined EnVyUs. However, devoduvek didn’t seem to fit the nV system and moved to the backup position to allow the signing of Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom. On paper, the roster carried depth and the ability to close games, but the team was far from earning that status with numerous lackluster performances online and offline. Despite having many group stage exits throughout the year, EnVyUs managed to pick up a few wins, including their first title as a team at DreamHack Atlanta. Rounding out the year, EnVyUs picked up a runner-up finish at the Europe Minor Championship to Space Soldiers to earn their place in the New Challenger stage. The team ended the year with a 3rd-4th finish at DreamHack Winter being the best finish since taking the crown in Atlanta.

TyLoo’s out, Flash Gaming’s in

Unfortunately for TyLoo, nagging visa problems will prevent Hansel “BnTeT” Ferdinand from coming to the States, forcing the team to withdraw from the Major. Flash Gaming was chosen to take TyLoo’s place despite being relatively unknown. Flash Gaming have completed the previous year with numerous qualifiers and a few domestic online titles. The biggest title came to Flash during the eXTREMESLAND ZOWIE Asia with a close win over Eclipse Gaming. It’s worth noting, however, that the team began to slip away towards the end of the year as the roster underwent some changes as the team now has Zhe “Ayeon” Yang on trial and Weijia “INNOPY” Guo acting as a stand-in for their first international tournament in the states.

Misfits ends the year on a good note

In early January, Misfits signed the former Team SoloMid roster, acquiring Sean “seangares” Gares, Hunter “SicK” Mims, and Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan in the deal. The team managed to pick up a few qualifying placements but also flunked in many tournaments with group stage exits and general lackluster play early on. With inconsistency on the rise, Twistzz left for Team Liquid and Skyler “Relyks” Weaver was moved to the backup position. The team then signed Francois “AmaNEk” Delauney and picked up devoduvek from Team EnVyUs. The changes paid early dividends with a second place finish at the Americas Minor Championship. They ended the year with a semifinal finish at the ESL Pro League Season 6 Finals and will look to continue that run this weekend in Atlanta.

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