What Went Down at the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers Stage

And just like that, the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers stage is finally over.

After a week of back-and-forth action, we’re finally moving on to the New Legend stage. From February 20 to 24, 16 teams — the 8 teams who survived the New Challengers Stage and another 8, the Legends, who received an invite based on their performance at the FACEIT London Major –will battle it out to see who will move on to the New Champions stage.

So far, we’ve already seen quite a few interesting games, and even more intriguing matchups. Even more surprising was the turnout. Whether this was the intent with the introduction of the new format for the IEM Katowice New Challengers stage is not yet known. But, what we do know is that there were plenty of surprises at the first leg of the IEM Katowice Major, especially in terms of which teams dominated and stood out from the rest of the competition.

Which Teams Made It Past the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers Stage?

IEM Katowice Major New Challengers Stage

ENCE eSports are one of the five Minor Challengers who dominated at the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers Stage. (ENCE eSports)

Easily the most delightful surprise of the Katowice Major so far, Australian team Renegades were one of the first to advance to the New Legends stage with a 3-0 performance. The team’s in-game leader, Aaron ‘AZR‘ Ward led the way for the boys from the down under with a 1.24 average rating in 4 maps. Renegades were joined by North America’s NRG eSports as the two undefeated teams of the first leg of the tournament, with Vincent ‘Brehze‘ Cayonte going absolutely ham as he led the entire tournament with a 1.58 average rating.

The two were not the only surprises of the tournament, however.

Fnatic, for example, posted a disappointing 1-3 record. This means that the prestigious organization will have to chart unfamiliar territory going forward, and it won’t come easy. To qualify for the next CS:GO Major, Fnatic will have to find a way to qualify via the stacked European Minor.

Other teams who also failed to make the cut are TYLOO, ViCi Gaming, Winstrike Team, Furia eSports, Vega Squadron, Team Spirit, and Grayhound Gaming.

Here is a complete list of all the teams who made it out of the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers stage alive:

  • NRG eSports
  • Renegades
  • ENCE eSports
  • Team Vitality
  • AVANGAR
  • Ninjas in Pyjamas
  • Cloud9
  • G2 Esports

Hard as they may have already fought, the war has only barely begun for the 8 teams. Now, the real battle starts.

As the likes of Astralis, Team Liquid, MIBR, and FaZe Clan enter the fray, the attention of the entire CS:GO world will be on the New Legends stage from February 20 to February 24 at the International Congress Centre in Katowice.

What’s Next for Fnatic?

IEM Katowice Major new Challengers Stage

If it’s any consolation, KRIMZ did become just the fifth player to reach 800 headshots in CS:GO Major history at the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers Stage. (Fnatic)

Of course, the headline story of IEM Katowice 2019 is Fnatic’s elimination with a 1-3 scoreline that guarantees the need for a change — whether it be in playstyle or in personnel — for the team going forward.

It’s a shame that Fnatic had to go through this after what was a good showing at the iBUYPower Masters IV. But, then again, Fnatic have no one to blame but themselves. More than half of the team finished the tournament with a negative rating. They’ll all have to step up and give Freddy ‘KRIMZ‘ Johansson some much needed help if they want the current lineup to go somewhere in the next complete of months.

Hopefully, the Swedes don’t decide to shuffle the roster based on this single turnout. Although disappointing, it’s clear that this lineup can still work. After all, Fnatic spent the latter half of 2018 successfully proving to everyone that they have what it takes to become a top team once again.

Perhaps, with a Major appearance now under his belt, Ludvig ‘Brollan‘ Brolin can learn to assert himself more and take over games more consistently so as to give Fnatic someone who can frag consistently from round to round other than KRIMZ.

The Major of Aces

IEM Katowice Major New Challengers Stage

One of the elder statesmen of CS:GO, Patrik ‘f0rest’ Lindberg proved that age hasn’t dulled his skills one bit by getting the last ace of the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers Stage. (Ninjas in Pyjamas)

10 different players had themselves an ace at the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers stage, which is already a lot more than the number of aces in all but two of the previous CS:GO Majors. The only other CS:GO Majors with more aces are EMS One Katowice 2014 (13) and the FACEIT Boston Major (15).

Not a single player have had more than one ace so far, although TYLOO did find themselves involved in more than half of them, either as the team who get ace’d or the team with a player who got the ace. Perhaps the most impressive of their aces belonged to Haowen ‘somebody‘ Xu, who gave TYLOO a glimmer of hope against AVANGAR as they tried to come back from a 15-5 deficit on the CT side on Inferno to force overtime and split the series 1-1.

Although the ace came in a losing effort — AVANGAR would take the map 16-14 and the series 2-0 — somebody can at least take solace in the fact that he did his part in trying to keep TYLOO’s dreams of making a deep run at IEM Katowice alive.

Interestingly enough, TYLOO are the only team to have had an player get an ace at the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers stage to not advance to the New Legends stage.

Final Thoughts

The AUG certainly seems to be making its presence felt on the CT side. Several months after its price was lowered to $3,150 from $3,500, more and more pros have begun to use the AUG exclusively in favour of the M4A1 and M4A1-S and for good reason — it’s just better and the $50 premium is well worth the added cost.

Given how successful the AUG has been so far, however, we should expect a price nerf to come soon, or at least, a buff to the M4A1 and the M4A1-S.

Either way, expect AUG to continue to dominate the conversation as we head to the New Legends stage, where 16 more teams will take center stage as they fight for a spot in the new Champions stage at the Spodek Arena from February 28 to March 3.

Feature image  courtesy of Helena Kristiansson for ESL.

What do you think was the biggest takeaway of the IEM Katowice Major New Challengers stage? Do you think the young upstarts like Renegades, Team Vitality, and ENCE eSports, will be able to keep their momentum? Or, will their inexperience get the better of them? Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments down below.

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