Previewing The New Challengers Stage, Part 3
Previewing The New Challengers Stage, Part 3

With the ELEAGUE Major: Boston’s The New Challenger stage about to kick off, Brandon Martin is back to look at the final six teams that will take the stage in Atlanta.

Renegades finally find footing late in the year

Renegades was another organization that was riddled with nagging roster changes and inconsistent results throughout most of 2017. The organization started the year on a downer with group stage exits at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas and IEM Sydney, to go along with a handful of failed qualifiers to add-on. Renegades did, however, manage to best Team Liquid over two DreamHack Masters events, including Malmo, while also beating TyLoo in two Asia Minor Championships for PGL Major Krakow and the ELEAGUE Major Boston. While it took some time, they finally found their footing towards the end of the year when the team finally completed its roster with the signing of Keith “NAF” Markovic in September. The Aussie-based team also made their mark after beating in a best-of-three to secure the Starladder i-League Invitational, providing that their lineup can still compete at a high-level. Renegades looked strong towards the end of the year and the team will plan to work their magic headed into Atlanta to secure one of the eight spots left for the Major.

Hard work pays off for AVANGAR to reach Major qualifier

Another CIS-based team to join the mix is a roster that has only been on the competitive radar since July. On July 17th, AVANGAR signed LoG putting the team on the competitive map, finishing second at their first offline Minor of Binary Dragons Cup Season 7. AVANGAR closed out July by taking home the Gauntlet over BPro Gaming, but a string of bad performance riddled the team throughout August, setting the organization for a roster change. The addition of Ali “Jame” Djami came in the chaos of the team struggling to find ground, which helped the team qualify for the Binary Dragons Prestige LAN, finishing runner-up. The organization then picked up several qualifiers, including the StarLadder i-League Invitational and besting FONTAN during the CIS Minor Championship Boston Open qualifier. AVANGAR finished the year on a high-note, taking down Quantum Bellator Fire to earn their ticket to Atlanta in the CIS Minor Championship, debuting for the first time in the states.

G2 Esports fails to live up to the “super” team expectations

G2 Esports’ rocky start to the year resulted in a dismal performance at the ELEAGUE Major: Atlanta, concluding the Major with a 12th-14th place finish. G2 also missed a chance to attend DreamHack Las Vegas with a sweeping loss to Fnatic in the qualifier. As a result, the French team decided to shake things with one of the biggest roster shuffles of the year. G2 picked up Nathan “NBK” Schmitt, Dan “apEX” Madesclaire, and Kenny “kennyS” Schrub from Team EnVyUs in exchange for Cedric “RpK” Guipouy and Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom. The new “super” team picked up two offline wins at DreamHack Open Tours 2017 and the ESL Pro League Season 5 Finals, but the organization trailed off towards the end of the game. As a result, G2 found themselves with several group stage exits and falling short in the playoffs of most Major events. The last notable LAN G2 Esports claimed was the EPL Season 5 rematch with North in the grand finals of DreamHack Masters Malmo. Now, the organization will make one more stop in Atlanta to duke it out with 16 teams to earn a spot at the Major in Boston.

Sprout set to kick off the new year with a new look

Sprout Gaming is a new face to the competitive Counter-Strike scene, however, the players are far too familiar to miss. Sprout Gaming will debut its green colors in Atlanta after earning a shot during this stage at the PGL Major Krakow as PENTA Esports. In early October, PENTA Esports came to a mutual agreement to terminate the remaining players contracts, which then the players formed Seed. Seed didn’t have the greatest run, missing most online qualifiers andn falling short at domestic events. Through thick and thin, the players pushed through and eventually signed with Sprout on December 11. Sprout then finished the year with a top finish at Championship and the MID.TV Challenge Cup. Timo “Spiidi” Richter, Denis “denis” Howell, and Kevin “kRYSTAL” Amend will have another chance to attend the major but the core three will fight for the one of the eight spots through the qualifier.

Na’Vi can't shake the weight

Natus Vincere had quite the unprecedented Counter-Strike year in the team’s history. The organization struggled to make it through the playoffs at the ELEAGUE Major Atlanta, followed by a fluke at DreamHack Masters Las Vegas. After being with the team for nearly seven years, Na’Vi’s coach, Sergey “starix” Ischuk, left after internal issues arose. Na’Vi continued to struggle tournament after tournament with sparing results and no light at the end of the tunnel. It wasn’t until late July, after the team exited the PGL Major Krakow group stage, that Na’Vi placed Denis “seized” Kostin and Ladislav “GuardiaN” Kovacs on the transfer list due to internal issues and lackluster results. After winning the Major with Gambit, Daniil “Zeus” Teslenko decided that Gambit was no longer fit for him and returned to Na’Vi in early August hoping to fix the organizations issues. Easier said than done, Na’Vi still did not show up rounding out the year, but the CIS-based team did end the year on a high-note by claiming DreamHack Winter on a first name basis.

Quietly taking the competitive scene by storm

Vega Squadron have been flying under the radar in the past year and despite the results being a bit lackluster, the organization has been building great success with its core members. The year didn’t start as planned as they exited a handful of domestic tournaments and only were able to claim a few qualifiers most notably for the DreamHack Tours. The organization did, however, claim their rightful spot for the PGL Major Krakow, besting Tengri in a best-of-three at the CIS Minor Championship. Unfortunately, Vega Squadron could not live up to the expectations going into the Major with a last place finish in Krakow. A couple months later, the organization announced the signing of Artem ”Fierce” Ivanov as the organization's new head coach, relieving the strain on the in-game leader Dmitriy “jR” Chervak. With the addition of Fierce, the organization ended the year with two big domestic wins at China Top: Kunshan and Shenzhen. After joining the other fallen eight from the Krakow Major, Vega Squadron will now look to attend its second Major.

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