DreamHack Masters had been described as a fight for the honour of facing Australian Counter-Strike powerhouse, Renegades – but tonight’s battle very nearly raised the question of the team’s superiority.
A strong showing from Avant throughout the event, beating rival Order twice, culminated in a nail biting best-of-five facing off against Australian institution, Renegades.
And while tonight’s grand-final had real upset potential not many would have predicted Avant running away with the first two maps, Dust II 13:16 and Nuke 9:16, making for some top-tier Counter-Strike.
But the titans couldn’t be toppled, beating back the challengers on the final two maps of Mirage (16:10) and Inferno (16:11). The Renegades’ automatic one map advantage from the upper bracket ended up being the decider.
Speaking to the analyst desk following the match, Avant’s Peter “BL1TZ” Athanasatos said he was happy the team could “put on a good show”.
“I don’t think we choked,” he said.
“They have a really strong map pool and we need to up ours.”
The bookies’ odds were against Avant on their first map-pick, Dust II, despite Renegades dropping the map to Chiefs 7:16 in round one of the series and Avant 25:21 in a triple-overtime slog in round two.
Dust 2 set the tenor for the night with a close first half – Avant coming from behind at the tail end of the match to secure the W.
Renegades, starting on the T-side of their own map-pick, Nuke, didn’t seem to have an answer to Avant’s Mike “ap0c” Aliferis who was popping domes left and right and seemed to be winning every aim duel he took.
Avant’s offense was too strong for the CT-side, only conceding two rounds in the first half on the way to claiming a 2:13 scoreline. Renegades’ stronger showing in the second half managed to hold off the attacking Avant on match point for five rounds before finally giving up the ghost 9:16 to the underdogs.
Renegades must have had a locker-room pep talk, because on the third map, Mirage, they changed the script, taking control on their CT-side and ending the half 11:4.
Renegades’ Christopher “dexter” Nong, speaking with the analyst desk post-match, said in the early maps the team wasn’t their confident selves.
“Literally a week ago we changed our CT-side. It used to be our strongest side,” he said.
Avant clawed ground back on the CT-side but were ultimately outplayed, their previous inspiration appearing to have been spent with the second half and map ending by knife – 16:10 tied up the series and taking the teams to the final deciding map – Inferno.
The deciding map’s first half was a brutal back and forth, with Renegades T-side not looking particularly convincing but peppered with some nutty kills and it was enough – RNG taking the half 8:7.
But Renegades strong CT-side, and potentially, the marathon stint, shut down Avant’s usual cheeky antics with the side unable to make rounds stick – even their usual top-fragger ap0c near the bottom of the table.
Renegades took the match after an INS 2-man spraydown claimed Inferno 16:11.
“It’s very different playing offline,” Nong said. “For us, it’s our experience getting used to that.”
“Shifting to online-only can take a toll.
“It’s a mind game right now. Everyone is playing incredibly well. I wish there were more teams in Australia to have the opportunity in the top four.”
He said the team was pumped with their win.
Elsewhere in the tournament, the battle for the grand final position and the honour of facing Renegades was a rollercoaster as well – with the script straight from an Aussie soap.
The nail-biting best-of-three between Order and Avant last night was their second match up in the series.
The semifinal went 2-1 in favour of Avant with the teams clashing on Train (13-16), Inferno (16-10) and Nuke (16-13).
It was marked by massive comebacks, tight scorelines and dominant T-sides.
Order, who was invited to the competition, had decent odds against qualifier Avant despite recent poor showing against the team.
But Avant’s upset loss against Rooster last week put a big question mark on the competition.
The first half of Train set the tempo – Avant screaming out of the gate and posting a 12:3 half.
A titanic effort by Order in second half – winning 11 consecutive rounds on their T-side and conceding only 1 – saw them muscle out Avant and take the W on the map.
Any sighs of relief were short-lived for Order fans.
Order’s strong start to Inferno, on the T-side, was cracked in the eighth round – two key kills from BL1TZ on the B-site and a deadly crossfire shutting down the push and spelling the end Order’s run.
Once Avant had their number, Order appeared to have run out of ideas, and their plays started looking one-dimensional while Avant took the economic advantage.
Order’s Jireh “J1rah” Youakim’s search for information often found himself torn up, alone, on the B-site and top-fragger Ricardo “Rickeh” Mulholland couldn’t keep the wheels on alone with the half going to a close 7:8.
Avant’s strong T-side hit Order like a bus in the second half, with Avant conceding only two rounds.
The final map, Nuke, didn’t follow the script in terms of T-side dominance.
Avant starting on the T-side saw another close half, 8:7. Order’s T-side showed promise, but once the loss bonus had built up for the CT-side, and buy rounds started coming out from Avant, Order’s run was all but over.
Avant took seven consecutive CT rounds to close out the final map 16:13.
The new-look Chiefs ESC showed some promising early development from their new roster in the event – even picking up a map against Renegades in the first round.
And now, a match up between Order and Renegades will have to wait for the ESL ANZ Champs.