Six Aussies (and one Kiwi) entered the IEM Cologne Play-Ins, and despite the odds, all seven have progressed to the main stage of Counter-Strike’s first top LAN in almost two years.
For Mousesports’ Chris “dexter” Nong and Complexity’s Justin “jks” Savage, while it wasn’t a sure bet, both survived with convincing series wins in the lower bracket.
Thought to be tournament minnows and there more for valuable experience against the top sides, RNG defied all odds and expectations.
A competitive loss to Team Vitality in the opening best-of-one threatened a day one elimination, before a 2-0 over Brazilian squad MIBR featuring two comebacks gave OCE fans hope of a miracle.
It would take a miracle, given their final opponent of OG have shown strong form in Europe, including a victory at Spring Sweet Spring #2 over BIG and finishing runners-up at a stacked IEM Summer.
But at 7-9 down on the opening map of Nuke, something clicked for Joshua “INS” Potter’s men. A second round forcebuy out of the blue netted a round win, and from there INS (21-17, 89 ADR, 1.36 rating) and Alistair “aliStair” Johnston (24-15, 82 ADR, 1.36 rating) combined to see RNG take nine from the next eleven rounds.
It was an emphatic victory on OG’s Nuke pick, but what followed next was mind-blowing.
OG were out for blood after dropping Nuke, and wasted little time on the T side — sprinting to an 8-2 lead and keeping RNG’s economy low.
But RNG adjusted; aliStair (23-19, 15 AWP kills, 1.16 rating) opened rounds up with the AWP, and back-to-back clean CT rounds rebuilt the lost money whilst simultaneously breaking OG’s bank. RNG would finish down one at the half, but with all the momentum.
Simon “Sico” Williams (27-21, 79 ADR, 1.21 rating) tied up the game in the T pistol with a crazy four kills, but in the following anti-eco and forcebuy rounds RNG dropped both in heartbreaking post-plant losses that could have gone either way.
OG strung together four in a row before RNG hit back, but another subsequent one-versus-one clutch to OG broke Renegades again. At 9-13, many prepared for map three’s Mirage.
The Renegades captain (32-22, 111 ADR, 1.58 rating) took total control of the map. Outside of individual fragging, INS’ mid-round calling and rotations were impeccable.
With Jordan “Hatz” Bajic hunting for opening kills and Liam “malta” Schembri finding major impact lurking across the map, the entire lineup ascended to another level and while OG broke through to reach map point first, RNG weren’t having any of it.
A fast B double tied the game up and forced overtime, before three more perfect T rounds ended OG’s hopes of a group stage berth.
19-15 on Inferno and 2-0 for the series, Renegades cause one of the upsets of the year. But their job doesn’t get any easier, as they now face s1mple’s Natus Vincere in the opening round of the second stage.
Mousesports, Complexity through with relative ease
Mousesports dropped to rivals Ninjas In Pyjamas in the upper bracket but a 2-0 (16-12, 16-8) over Evil Geniuses was enough to qualify them for the group stage.
“We communicated well, everyone talked about every situation. It helps when ropz gets 38 kills – he should have gotten 40 though, terrible,” joked Dexter in the post-game interview.
Dexter had admitted he was struggling with the initial move to Europe, but now he’s looking far more comfortable at Mouz’s helm.
“I’m feeling really good now — the first few months weren’t so good for my mind, but right now the team trusts me, everyone [on Mousesports] knows how we want to play and how we translate information.”
Complexity’s 0-2 (13-16, 6-16) loss to FaZe Clan came from left of field, with FaZe’s struggles over the past three months a key note heading into this tournament.
But COL bounced back impressively against EG. Kristian “k0nfig” Wienecke (52-30 in 2 maps, 1.47 rating) led the way for Complexity in their 2-0 (16-13, 16-6) win over LDLC. Jks (33-27, 1.20 rating) had plenty of impact in the series, particularly on Dust 2.
There will be no time for rest, with IEM Cologne’s group stage starting tonight. Dexter’s Mousesports face world number one Gambit at 9:30pm AEST. Jks’ Complexity will meet G2 at 12:45am, while Renegades face a true challenge in Natus Vincere at 4:00am.
All matches are live on Twitch.