Remembering IEM Katowice

This past weekend wrapped up another successful stop in Valve’s Major Championship series with global heavyweights, Astralis, taking first place and matching Fnatic’s record for most Major wins in CS:GO history with three title finishes. Though the Danish superteam’s dominance has cast a large shadow as the dust settles, there’s plenty of reasons to remember IEM Katowice 2019.

Astralis find third Major stripe

After every milestone achievement the Danes reach, another wedge of their legend becomes cemented; we tend to look back after every victory and think to ourselves that surely this is the pinnacle – and then there’s more.

The slow and methodical playstyle of Astralis and its group of lethal players has proven to be a recipe for greatness – a combination that no team can seem to figure out. Astralis outdid themselves last year in winning the FACEIT London Major, a handful of international tournaments and with that, the inaugural Intel Grand Slam.

The start to 2019 couldn’t have been better for the Danes – silencing naysayers who thought a player break would build some rust or any type of weakness within the star squad. From the Legends Stage and on, Astralis would only drop a single map in a tight overtime showing against Renegades. As they transitioned into the playoffs, the titans would only barely let teams get close on a map before Astralis was able to turn on the heat and close out a series in commanding fashion.

The Grand Final pit the Danes against ENCE in a clash of strategic maestros; ultimately, Astralis would prove to be too much, trouncing the Finnish side 2-0 and securing their third Major stripe and back-to-back title finish.

ENCE: From the Minor to the Grand Finals

Any IEM Katowice recap would be simply incomplete without at least touching on the story of ENCE at this tournament; fans of the Finnish team had rode the most unbelievable rollercoaster from the European Minor all the way to the Grand Finals against Astralis.

Ever since their first place finish at StarSeries & i-League Season 6 in October of last year, we knew this team had potential. A slow and systematic approach to rounds mixed in with strong cohesion between the players had made ENCE a true force to be reckoned with, and in Katowice, we saw their full potential.

It wasn’t until the Legends Stage that things began looking grim for ENCE as they went down 0-2 and faced a cold elimination in the midst of their spectacular run – this is where we saw the team shine. Post-tournament, many players, analysts and fans discussed ENCE’s composure – nerves of steel which helped them remain sturdy under this pressure and advance in the final decider round in the Legends Stage.

The Finnish story got sweeter and sweeter in the playoffs – to many’s dismay, ENCE debunked the forecast of a Liquid vs. Astralis Grand Final by sweeping the star studded team 2-0, sending a tremor through the competitive CS panorama. In the Semifinals, ENCE furnished one of the most exciting sets of the Champions Stage against Na’Vi – going the distance with three maps and edging past the juggernauts.

Though, the battle-worn group wasn’t able to compete on the same level as Astralis, we give ENCE the highest commendation for their efforts in Katowice and we can’t wait to see what comes next.

Renegades break out

Flash in the pan success stories are overrated – but what isn’t, is teams coming into themselves and raising the skill gap in CS:GO. We’re of course talking about the dynamite performance from the Asian Minor qualifier, Renegades.

After advancing to the Legends Stage 3-0 in superior fashion, many pondered Renegade’s prospect amongst this amplified team pool – which again they stunned us. We won’t say that this group was unstoppable in their performances leading up to the playoffs, but they were damn good. Even managing to take a map off of Astralis thanks to superhuman games by Jay “liazz” Tregillgas and Sean “Gratisfaction” Kaiwai, no one was taking this team lightly, and they deserved to be treated as such.

Renegade’s toughness earned them a spot in the Major playoffs, a first for the organization and a huge achievement for the players. Despite their time in the Champions Stage being short-lived, Renegades had shown us they are a top competitor and not just an overnight success story.