MLG Major Columbus Recap
The 2016 MLG Major, held in Columbus, Ohio, between March 29 and April 3 consisted of two different stages. From Monday to Thursday group games were broadcast over Twitch as they were not accessible to spectators. Friday to Sunday were dedicated to the playoffs held at the Nationwide arena of the Blue Jackets NHL team. As a venue, the arena had a very interesting circular layout including multiple evenly distributed food places. Because the venue was an oval ring turned into a flat stage, half of the venue’s seating area was out of bounds behind the stage. Staggered seats facing the stage for usual NHL spectators were available to general admission passes and the seats close to the stage (on the converted rink) were reserved for VIP and media passes.
Three group stage games took place on the first day, meaning that three of the teams had their last chance to play on the arena stage. People were talkative and excited, enjoying the accessories that could be bought with full wallets in addition to the free monsters that were handed out by venue staff. Fnatic and EnvyUs held aim competitions at their stands with prizes for whoever was willing to participate.
The first game was between Ninjas in Pyjamas (NiP) and Natus Vincere (Na’Vi). NiP was the popular fan favorite for this matchup although Na’Vi was expected to win confidently. GeT_RiGhT had a flashy auto-sniper ace that received a standing ovation from the crowd. Even THREAT had an extremely strong performance considering the team’s circumstances. Either way, Na’Vi took the series convincingly with wins on both Inferno and Mirage, carried by seized with an impressive 1.45 rating.
The second game promised to be the highest-level and closest matchup of the day. Astralis won both maps with convincing scores, starting with 16-10 on Inferno and ending with an overwhelming 16-5 on Cache. Fnatic’s unexpected blowout lead to an interesting atmosphere in the arena including worries about tournament illegitimization because the favorite was knocked out unexpectedly early. At this point the venue reached high spectator numbers as people were flowing in for the game between Counter Logic Gaming (CLG) and Team Liquid. It is worth noting that during the Fnatic-Astralis game Liquid’s player s1mple walked out into the VIP area and threw T-Shirts to the seated fans. As soon as some of the spectators spotted him the noise of excitement made everyone drop their focus on the game to start and chant for “s1mple” and “U.S.A.”. One could tell that the American crowd was waiting to see their newly acquired European star lead North America to the Major finals, even if at the cost of another American team.
Adren was a very strong fragger on both maps of the series. The interview he gave for DailyDot that same evening shows how confident he felt throughout the matchup. In general, the crowd was very riled up yet divided between both teams. Although CLG had a commanding lead in the first map, their composure quickly fell apart from the success of very risky run boosts by EliGE and s1mple coupled with an ever increasingly Liquid-sided crowd.
Some people had their first day off for the weekend so the venue was jumping in numbers and energy.
Scheduled first on the second playoff day was the last quarter-final game. Virtus Pro (VP) was on the receiving end of most crowd chants because of paszaBiceps’ incredible fanbase. The first map, Cache, went to VP against all speculation. The second map, Cobblestone, started off in their favor but shortly slipped through their fingers along with their match-up momentum. Similarly, the third map on overpass, one of Luminosity Gaming’s (LG) best maps, lead VP to fall in similar fashion. This is the only series from the playoffs that came to a third map, so despite VP’s slump leading up to the major they managed to put up some very respectable results.
The first semi-final matchup set Na’Vi against Astralis. People were expecting Astralis put up a struggle for Na’Vi because of their amazing performance against Fnatic the day before. Na’Vi took the series convincingly with wins on both maps which Thorin, Moses and Richard Lewis attributed to an over-focused anti-strategy for Fnatic, leaving them unprepared against other strong teams in the tournament. Without a set game plan Astralis was left to rely on their star player device who was completely outplayed by GuardiaN on the second map, Dust2.
Excitement was uniform for the third game of the day. It was North America’s last chance to make it to the finals of a Major for the first time in CS:GO history. “Liquid” and “U.S.A.” chants filled the arena in all sorts of shapes and forms, helping S1mple land all the outrageous shots he is known for. Even Hiko clutched some extremely crucial rounds on their CT of Cache. However, Taco’s gutsy Auto-Sniper purchase halted Liquid’s efforts on their T side, leading to a complete melt-down and come back for LG. Despite Liquid’s devastation they managed to start strong on the second map, Mirage. Again, they closed out 15 rounds in the second half by managing to exploit some crucial weaknesses in LG’s CT defense. Against all expectation, LG managed to edge themselves back into the game with Coldzera’s [https://youtu.be/cjOVXdarUTs] now famous AWP jumpshots on B site Mirage. Even more distraught, Liquid crumbled more and more after every round, giving LG the ability to close out the series in overtime. Seldom has there been a more shocked and disappointed crowd.
Spectators were engaged with many activities in the last day of the venue. There were long lines of people waiting to meet their favorite players and people buying merchandise which made the venue seem less active than on the other days. In addition, the people watching the games seemed tired because MLG ran out of the free Monster that had fueled everyone on Friday and Saturday. One could notice on stream how some of the Na’Vi players were drinking coffee instead of monster for their final match.
For the earlier part of the day, an all star game including the most popular european and american players occupied spectator’s attention. Nuke is a map that was recently redesigned by Valve and was chosen by MLG to be used for the game. This caused the game to feel slow, which added with the hilarious commentary by Thorin, Redeye and Richard Lewis worked into a nice combination of background information and play-by-play casting. Unfortunately, it was hard to hear the casters from within the venue, especially by the bleachers on the club level and therefore turned out to be more enjoyable over the stream than in person.
Despite most seats being occupied, the crowd was still relatively quiet compared to Saturday’s Liquid games. The final was a best of three, which is often criticised to be too short of a series for Major finals. Either way, it did make the schedule far more manageable and seemed appropriate because of LG’s dominating performance. Mirage, the first map, was a tense 16:19 for the Brazilians with a comeback so devastating that it left young Na’Vi rifler flamie in his seat between maps. LG’s incredible momentum lead them to their final win on Overpass which turned out to be more one-sided than expected. This may have been in part because Na’Vi didn’t use the innovative strategies they displayed at ESL Katowice. LG’s rigorous map control stopped Na’Vi from performing any late round executes which are generally considered their strategical bread-and-butter. LG had an extremely strong showing, especially during these last three days of the tournament and ultimately took the title.
MLG did a great job organizing this event. Considering that it was their first CS:GO major and was only planned by a group of 20-40 people they did a fantastic job. Fortunately, fan favorites NiP and VP remain Major legends despite all expectations of failure. Also, LG finally managed to use their strong form in combination with a favorable situation to close out their first Major title - an achievement that they have been steadily approaching since their last roster change.