After eight days of rivalry, the StarLadder i-League Finals ended an intense face-off between between mousesports and Natus Vincere. It’s been a long time since we saw an event where neither SK Gaming or FaZe Clan made it to Finals. The event was full of surprises, because both mousesports and Natus Vincere were almost eliminated from the league in the group matches. They somehow managed to stay in play by winning their last matches in the group stage.
Natus Vincere had defeated mousesports 2-0 at the Finals of DreamHack Open Winter this year, and many fans expected them to do it again. Well, history didn’t repeat itself here. However, one thing didn’t change. S1mple was MVP then, and he was chosen the most valued player again today. Just how many MVP medals does he have, anyway?
What happened in the group matches?
Natus Vincere and mousesports had a tough time qualifying for the playoffs. They both started out very well, oddly enough. Mousesports first faced Virtus.pro, and after defeating them, went up against SK Gaming. They defeated SK Gaming against all odds, and went on to their third match, against G2 Esports. G2 always do exceptionally well in the group stage of an event, and they crushed mousesports. They then went up against Team Liquid, and were defeated once again. Mousesports were on the verge of being booted from the event when they went up against Cloud9. The stakes were high, but mousesports played exceptionally well, winning the match and making the playoffs.
Natus Vincere experienced a similarly difficult march to the playoffs
While mousesports struggled to make the playoffs, Natus Vincere put down HellRaisers and Gambit Esports fairly effortlessly. They then went up against FaZe Clan, and were brutally crushed. Their next match was against SK Gaming, and they were crushed once again. Like mousesports, they were one loss away from missing the playoffs. They were pitted against Heroic, and though Heroic did put up quite a fight, Natus Vincere put them down to enter the playoffs. Note that neither mousesports nor Natus Vincere were favourites to win the event at this point, as most fans and commentators still thought that SK Gaming or FaZe Clan would put out some dominating plays in the playoffs. That’s not quite what happened there.
Mousesports and Natus Vincere dominate the playoffs
In the quarterfinals Mousesports went up against their nemesis G2 Esports once again, and Natus Vincere faced Astralis. G2 Esports seem to have made a regular tradition of losing their initial playoff match. We could point to quite a few events where this has happened, and tradition ruled here once again. G2 Esports seemed completely bogged down and helpless as they went up against mousesports, with mousesports countering their every move, defeating them 2-0.
Astralis, going up against Natus Vincere, played in excellent form, but were unable to counter s1mple and his squad, and lost the best of three. Mousesports and Natus Vincere then went up against other teams that had defeated them in the group matches, with mousesports pitted against Team Liquid, and Natus Vincere against FaZe Clan. Oddly enough, both teams put down their opponents effortlessly, with quite a difference in scores, and with no match going into overtime. How is this even possible? This sort of turnaround reminds us of the WWE. Anyone guessing the implications of that?
Team Liquid and FaZe Clan face-off for third place
FaZe Clan and Team Liquid duked it out for third place at the event, and the thirty thousand dollars that went with it. Team Liquid were out to an astonishing start here, giving FaZe just three rounds as they took the first map. The second map, Inferno, went into an exhausting five overtimes before FaZe finally took the map. FaZe Clan were really groggy on their pins as they went into the third map, Mirage, and they scored just four rounds against Liquid before folding. Liquid took home thirty thousand dollars, and third place in the event.
Bans and picks for the StarLadder i-League Finals
The bans and picks are where half the battle is won or lost in CS:GO. A small misjudgment here could have serious consequences. Mousesports were never very good at this, but they have either learned from their mistakes, or have played against Natus Vincere so often that they now know which maps to ban. Natus Vincere got the first choice, and banned Cache, while mousesports banned Inferno. Natus Vincere decided to pick Overpass, while mousesports chose Mirage. In the next ban phase, both Nuke and Cobblestone were banned, and Train became the decider map for the StarLadder i-League Finals.
Natus Vincere utterly dominated mousesports in Overpass
Natus Vincere proved here that they are as effective in Overpass as they are in Inferno and Cobblestone. They started out very strong, hardly giving mousesports time to breathe. They won the pistol round, and took the first six rounds, as well as detonating the bomb three times. Natus Vincere were flush with cash, and mousesports had to go eco so that they could try to hit back in round seven. They did win round seven, but Natus Vincere managed to detonate the bomb again in the next round. In the remaining seven rounds, mousesports managed to win three, once by defusing the bomb, once by eliminating all their opponents, and once by successfully defending the base until the round timer expired. Overall, Natus Vincere dominated the first half by winning eleven rounds.
The second half
In the second half, Natus Vincere once again started out winning the pistol round and the anti eco. Mousesports took the next round, and at this point Natus Vincere just needed three more rounds to win. They quickly reduced that to one by winning round nineteen and twenty. Mousesports had their backs against the wall here, and they went for a buy with all the finances they could muster. They then fought back with a display of aggression that took Natus Vincere by surprise. Mousesports successfully detonated the bomb twice, but then Natus Vincere hit back, taking out all the mousesports players, defusing the bomb, and winning Overpass by nine rounds. S1mple took twenty two kills and died ten times, making him the most effective player of the map.
Both the teams played well as counter terrorists in Mirage
Of course, it was rather a mistake for mousesports to pick this map, as both teams are just about equally competent in it. Mousesports almost lost the match and the event, but they went eco, and dragged the match into overtime in the last round. The first overtime ended in a draw and mousesports finally managed to completely overwhelm Natus Vincere in the second overtime.
The match was quite interesting, and mousesports won the first pistol round, with STYKO taking triple kills. They used this to their advantage, but in round four flamie clutched the round in a 1 vs 2 situation. This could have been the start of a comeback for Natus Vincere, but it didn’t happen. They then went eco until round seven and did a full buy in eight. Natus Vincere went on the offensive here, and s1mple took a quad kill. They went on to win the next round as well. But chrisJ showed some serious sniping skills, and twice took triple kills, single-handedly holding the bombsite, and stopping Natus Vincere from planting the bomb in time. Natus Vincere somehow took four rounds in the first half, but that was all.
The second half
In the second half, s1mple went on the warpath in the pistol round itself, with a triple kill. However, Natus Vincere were not able to hold the next round. Both teams kept trading kills and rounds, until s1mple went berserk once again with a triple kill. He then did it again in the next round, with another triple kill, and again in the next round as well. Yes, s1mple took a triple kill in three consecutive rounds. He was all but unstoppable, and Edward and flamie provided excellent assistance in the next rounds.
At this point, mousesports needed just two rounds out of the remaining five rounds. They did a full buy and won that round, but lost the next one, as well as all their cash. They saved as much as they could in two rounds and took Natus Vincere down in the last one to push the match into overtime. ChrisJ took the most AWP kills, and did the most damage to the opposing team, and was the best player in Mirage.
Natus Vincere were crushed in Train
Even though s1mple played twice as well as any other player here, Natus Vincere still lost the map and the StarLadder i-League Finals. In something rather similar to what happened in Mirage, mousesports slaughtered Natus Vincere in the first half of Train. But this time they started out as terrorists. This was the first map out of the three in which mousesports started out as terrorists. After winning the initial rounds, mousesports went for their double AWP tactic in Train. The combination was quite effective, and they took down their opponents quite fast. On the other hand, sunNy and ropz were taking out opponents using a sort of circling lurker strategy. Perhaps the best moment in the match came when sunNy and ropz won a 2 vs 5 firefight. The first half ended with mousesports winning eleven rounds out of fifteen.
The match was as good as in the bag
Natus Vincere didn’t lose hope, like the pro team that they are, and they staged an amazing comeback in the second half, winning the first five rounds as terrorists. Edward and zeus backed up s1mple, and each took four kills in two rounds. However, that’s all that they were able to accomplish before mousesports adapted, and hit back hard. Natus Vincere lost the next round, and continued to lose as mousesports took round after round to win the match. The audience were audibly disappointed that their home team lost the StarLadder i-League Finals, but mousesports’ gameplay was nothing short of exceptional.